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moral law always implies faith. As has been said on a former occasion, no being can create law. Nothing is or can be obligatory on a moral agent but the course of conduct suited to his nature and relations. No being can set aside the obligation to do this. Nor can any being render any thing more than this obligatory. Indeed there can not possibly be any other rule of duty than the moral law. There can be no other standard with which to compare our actions, and in the light of which to decide their moral character. This brings us to the consideration of the second proposition, namely:
II. That nothing can be virtue or true religion but obedience to the moral law.
By this two things are intended:
(1.) That every modification of true virtue is only obedience to moral law.
(2.) That nothing can be virtue but just that which the moral law requires.
That every modification of true virtue is only obedience to moral law will appear if we consider,
[1.] That virtue is identical with true religion.
[2.] That true religion can not properly consist in any thing else than the love to God and man enjoined by the moral law. [3.] That the bible expressly recognizes love as the fulfilling of the law, and as expressly denies that any thing else is acceptable to God.
"Therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, (love,) I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains and have not charity I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned and have not charity, (love) it profiteth me nothing.'
Love is repeatedly recognized in the bible, not only as constituting true religion, but as being the whole of religion. Every form of true religion is only a form of love or benevolence. Repentance consists in the turning of the soul from a state of selfishness to benevolence, from disobedience to God's law, to obedience to it. Faith is the receiving of, or confiding in, embracing, loving, truth and the God of truth. It is only a modification of love to God and Christ. Every christian grace or virtue, as we shall more fully see when we come to consider them in detail, is only a modification of love. God
is love. Every modification of virtue and holiness in God is only love or the state of mind which the moral law requires alike of him and of us. Benevolence is the whole of virtue in God and in all holy beings. Justice, truthfulness, and every moral attribute, is only benevolence viewed in particular relations.
Nothing can be virtue that is not just what the moral law demands. That is, nothing short of what it requires can be in any sense virtue.
The common idea seems to be that a kind of obedience is rendered to God by Christians which is true religion, and which on Christ's account is accepted of God, which after all comes indefinitely short of full or entire obedience at any moment; that the Gospel has somehow brought men, that is, Christians, into such relations that God really accepts of them an imperfect obedience, something far below what His law requires; that Christians are accepted and justified while they render at best but a partial obedience, and while they sin more or less at every moment. Now this appears to me to be as radical an error as can well be taught. This question naturally branches out into two distinct inquiries:
(1.) Is it possible for a moral agent partly to obey and partly to disobey the moral law at the same time?
(2.) Can God in any sense justify one who does not yield a present and full obedience to the moral law?
The first of these questions has been fully discussed under another head. We think it has been shown that obedience to the moral law can not be partial in the sense that the subject can partly obey and partly disobey at the same time.
We will now attend to the second question, namely: Can God, in any sense justify one who does not yield a present and full obedience to the moral law? Or, in other words, can he accept any thing as virtue or obedience which is not for the time being full obedience, or all that the law requires?
The term justification is used in two senses.
 In the sense of pronouncing the subject blameless. [2.] In the sense of pardon and acceptance.
It is in this last sense that the advocates of this theory hold that Christians are justified, that is, that they are pardoned and accepted and treated as just, though at every moment sinning by coming short of rendering that obedience which the moral law demands. They do not pretend that they are justified at any moment by the law, for that at every moment condemns them for present sin, but that they are justified by
grace, not in the sense that they are made really and personally righteous by grace, but that grace pardons and accepts, and in this sense justifies them when they are in the present commission of an indefinite amount of sin; that grace accounts them righteous while in fact they are continually sinning; that they are fully pardoned and acquitted while at the same moment committing sin. While voluntarily withholding full obedience, their partial obedience is accepted, and the sin of withholding full obedience is forgiven. God accepts what the sinner has a mind to give, and forgives what he voluntarily withholds. This is no caricature. It is, if I understand them, precisely what many hold. In considering this subject, I wish to propose for discussion the following inquiries as of fundamental importance.
1. If a present partial obedience can be accepted, how great a part may be withholden and we be accepted?
2. If we are forgiven while voluntarily withholding a part of that which would constitute full obedience, are we not forgiven sin of which we do not repent, and forgiven while in the act of committing the sin for which we are forgiven?
3. What good can result to the sinner, to God, or to the universe from forgiving impenitence, or sin which is persisted in?
4. Has God a right to pardon present, and of course unrepented sin?
5. Have we a right to ask him to forgive present unrepented sin ?
6. Must not confession of present and of course unrepented sin be base hypocrisy?
7. Does the bible recognize the pardon of present and unrepented sin?
8. Does the bible recognize any justification in sin?
9. Can there be such a thing as partial repentance of sin? That is, does not repentance imply present full obedience to the law of God?
10. Must not that be a gross error that represents God as pardoning and justifying a sinner in the present voluntary commission of sin?
11. Can there be any other than a voluntary sin? 12. Must not present sin be unrepented sin?
We will now attend to these questions in their order.
1. How much sin may we commit, or how much may we at every moment come short of full obedience to the law of God, and yet be accepted and justified?
This must be an enquiry of infinite importance. If we may willfully withhold a part of our hearts from God and yet be accepted, how great a part may we withhold? If we may love God with less than all our hearts and our neighbor less than ourselves and be accepted, how much less than supreme love to God and equal love to our neighbor will be accepted?
Shall we be told that the least degree of true love to God and our neighbor will be accepted? But what is true love to God and our neighbor? This is the point of inquiry. Is that true love which is not what is required? If the least degree of love to God will be accepted, then we may love ourselves more than we love God and yet be accepted. We may love God a little, and ourselves much, and still be in a state of acceptance with God. We may love God a little and our neighbor a little and ourselves more than we love God and all our neighbors, and yet be in a justified state. Or shall we be told that God must be loved supremely? But what is intended by this? Is supreme love a loving with all the heart? But this is full and not partial obedience; but the latter is the thing about which we are inquiring. Or is supreme love, not love with all the heart, but simply a higher degree of love than we exercise toward any other being? But how much greater must it be? Barely a little? How are we to measure it? In what scale are we to weigh, or by what standard are we to measure our love so as to know whether we love God a little more than any other being? But how much are we to love our neighbor in order to our being accepted? If we may love him a little less than ourselves, how much less and still be justified? These are certainly questions of vital importance. But such questions look like trifling. But why should they? If the theory I am examining be true, these questions must not only be asked, but they must admit of a satisfactory answer. The advocates of the theory in question are bound to answer them. And if they can not, it is only because their theory is false. Is it possible that their theory should be true and yet no one be able to answer such vital questions as these just proposed? If a partial obedience can be accepted, it is a momentous question how partial or how complete must that obedience be? I say again, that this is a question of agonizing interest. God forbid that we should be left in the dark here. But let us look at the second question.
2. If we are forgiven while voluntarily withholding a
part of that which would constitute full obedience, are we not forgiven sin of which we do not repent, and forgiven while in the act of committing the sin for which we are forgiven?
The theory in question is that Christians never at any time in this world yield a full obedience to the Divine law; that they always withhold a part of their hearts from the Lord, and yet while in the very act of committing this abominable sin of voluntarily defrauding God and their neighbor, God accepts their persons and their services, fully forgives and justifies them. What is this but pardoning present and pertinacious rebellion! Receiving to favor a God-defrauding wretch! Forgiving a sin unrepented of and detestably persevered in? Yes this must be, if it be true that Christians are justified without present full obedience. That surely must be a doctrine of devils that represents God as receiving to favor a rebel who has at least one hand filled with weapons against his throne.
3. But what good can result to God or the sinner or to the universe by thus pardoning and justifying an unsanctified soul? Can God be honored by such a proceeding? Will the holy universe the more respect, fear and honor God for such a proceeding? Does it, can it commend itself to the intelligence of the universe?
Will pardon and justification save the sinner, while yet he continues to withhold a part, at least, of his heart from God? While he still cleaves to a part of his sins? Can heaven be edified or hell confounded, and its cavils silenced by such a method of justification?
4. But again: Has God a right to pardon unrepented sin? Some may feel shocked at the question, and may insist that this is a question which we have no right to agitate. But let me inquire: Has God a right to act arbitrarily? Is there not some course of conduct which is suitable in him? Has he not given us intelligence on purpose that we may be able to see and judge of the propriety of his public acts? Does He not invite and require scrutiny? Why has He required an atonement for sin, and why has He required repentance at all? Who does not know that no executive magistrate has a right to pardon unrepented sin? The lowest terms upon which any ruler can exercise mercy, are repentance, or which is the same thing, a return to obedience. Who ever heard in any government of a rebel's being pardoned while he only renounced a part of his rebellion? To pardon him while any part of his rebellion is persevered in, were to sanction by a public act