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pentance consists in a change of ultimate intention, a change in the choice of an end, a turning from selfishness to supreme disinterested benevolence. It is, therefore, plainly impossible for one to be partly penitent and partly impenitent at the same time, inasmuch as penitence and impenitence consist in supreme opposite choices.
So then it is plain that nothing is accepted as virtue under the government of God but present full obedience to his law.
1. If what has been said is true, we see that the church has fallen into a great and ruinous mistake in supposing that a state of sinlessness is a very rare, if not an impossible attainment in this life. If the doctrine of this lecture be true, it follows that the very beginning of true religion in the soul, implies the renunciation of all sin. Sin ceases where holiness begins.Now, how great and ruinous must that error be that teaches us to hope for heaven while living in conscious sin; to look upon a sinless state as not to be expected in this world; that it is a dangerous error to expect to stop sinning even for an hour or a moment in this world; and yet to hope for heaven! And how infinitely unreasonable must that state of mind be that can brand as heretics those who teach that God justifies no one but upon condition of present sinlessness!
2. How great and ruinous the error that justification is conditionated upon a faith that does not purify the heart of the believer; that one may be in a state of justification who lives in the constant commission of more or less sin. This error has slain more souls, I fear, than all the universalism that ever cursed the world.
3. We see that if a righteous man forsake his righteousness and die in his sin, he must sink to hell.
4. We see that whenever a christian sins he comes under condemnation, and must repent and do his first works, or be
WHAT IS NOT IMPLIED IN OBEDIENCE TO MORAL LAW.
I. What constitutes obedience to moral law.
1. We have seen that all that the law requires is summarily expressed in the single word love; that this word is synonymous with benevolence; that benevolence consists in the choice of the highest well-being of God and of the universe as an end, or for its own sake; that this choice is an ultimate intention. In short we have seen that good will to being in general is obedience to the moral law. Now the question before us is, what is not implied in this good will or in this benevolent ultimate intention? I will here introduce, with some alteration, what I have formerly said upon this subject.
As the law of God, as revealed in the Bible, is the standard and the only standard by which the question in regard to what is not, and what is implied in entire sanctification is to be decided, it is of fundamental importance that we understand what is and what is not implied in entire obedience to this law. It must be apparent to all that this inquiry is of prime importance. And to settle this question is one of the main things to be attended to in this discussion. The doctrine of the entire satisfaction of believers in this life can never be satisfactorily settled until it is understood. And it can not be understood until it is known what is and what is not implied in it. Our judgment of our own state or of the state of others, can never be relied upon till these inquiries are settled. Nothing is more clear than that in the present vague unsettled views of the Church upon this question, no individual could set up a claim of having attained this state without being a stumbling block to the church. Christ was perfect, and yet so erroneous were the notions of the Jews in regard to what constituted perfection that they thought him possessed with a devil instead of being holy as he claimed to be. It certainly is impossible that a person should profess to render entire obedience to the moral law without being a stumbling block to himself and to others unless he and they clearly understand what is not and what is implied in it. I will state then what is not implied in entire obedience to the moral law as I understand it. The law as epitomized by
Christ, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength, and thy neighbor as thyself," I understand to lay down the whole duty of man to God and to his fellow creatures. Now the questions are what is not, and what is implied in perfect obedience to this law? Vague notions in regard to the proper answer to be given to these questions seem to me to have been the origin of much error. To settle these questions it is indispensable that we have distinctly before our minds just rules of legal interpretation. I will therefore lay down some first principles in regard to the interpretation of law, in the light of which, I think we may safely proceed to settle these questions.
RULE 1. Whatever is inconsistent with natural justice is not and can not be moral law.
2. Whatever is inconsistent with the nature and relations of moral beings, is contrary to natural justice and therefore can not be moral law.
3. That which requires more than man has natural ability to perform, is inconsistent with his nature and relations and therefore is inconsistent with natural justice, and of course is not moral law.
4. Moral law then must always be so understood and interpreted as to consist with the nature of the subjects, and their relations to each other and to the lawgiver. Any interpretation that makes the law to require more than is consistent with the nature and relations of moral beings, is the same as to declare that it is not law. No authority in heaven or on earth can make that law, or obligatory upon moral agents, which is inconsistent with their nature and relations.
5. Moral law must always be so interpreted as to cover the whole ground of natural right or justice. It must be so understood and explained as to require all that is right in itself, and therefore immutably and unalterably right.
6. Moral law must be so interpreted as not to require any thing more than is consistent with natural justice or with the nature and relations of moral beings.
7. Moral law is never to be so interpreted as to imply the possession of any attributes or strength and a perfection of attributes which the subject does not possess. Take for illustration the second commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Now the simple meaning of this commandment seems to be that we are to regard and treat every person and interest according to its relative value. We are
not to understand this commandment as expressly or impliedly requiring us to know in all cases the exact relative value of every person and thing in the universe; for this would imply the possession of the attribute of omniscience by us. No mind short of an omniscient one can have this knowledge. The commandment then must be so understood as only to require us to judge with candor of the relative value of differ ent interests, and to treat them according to their value, and our ability to promote them, so far as we understand it. I repeat the rule therefore; Moral law is never to be so interpreted as to imply the possession of any attribute or a strength and perfection of attributes which the subject does not possess.
8. Moral law is never to be so interpreted as to require that which is naturally impossible in our circumstances. Example: The first commandment, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart," &c., is not to be so interpreted as to require us to make God the constant and sole object of our attention, thought, and affection, for this would not only be plainly impossible in our circumstances, but manifestly contrary to our duty.
9. Moral law is never to be so interpreted as to make one requirement inconsistent with another. Example: If the first commandment be so interpreted as to require us to make God the only object of thought, affection, and attention, then we cannot obey the second commandment which requires us to love our neighbor. And if the first commandment is to be so understood that every faculty and power is to be directed solely and exclusively to the contemplation and love of God, then love to all other beings is prohibited, and the second commandment is set aside. I repeat the rule therefore: commandments are not to be so interpreted as to conflict with each other.
10. A law requiring perpetual benevolence must be so construed as to consist with and require all the appropriate and essential modifications of this principle under every circumstance; such as justice, mercy, anger at sin and sinners, and a special and complacent regard to those who are virtuous.
11. Moral law must be so interpreted as that its claims shall always be restricted to the voluntary powers in such a sense that the right action of the will shall be regarded as fulfilling the spirit of the law, whether the desired outward action or inward emotion follow or not. If there be a willing mind, that is, if the will or heart is right, it is and must in
justice be accepted as obedience to the spirit of moral law. For whatever does not follow the action of the will, by a law of necessity, is naturally impossible to us and therefore not obligatory. To attempt to legislate directly over the invol untary powers would be inconsistent with natural justice. You may as well attempt to legislate over the beating of the heart, as directly over any involuntary mental actions.
12. In morals, actual knowledge is indispensable to moral obligation. The maxim, "ignorantia legis non excusat" (ignorance of the law excuses no one)-applies in morals to but a very limited extent. That actual knowledge is indispensable to moral obligation, will appear,
(1.) From the following Scriptures:
James 4: 17: "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." Luke 12: 47, 48: "And that servant, which knew his Lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required, and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." John 9:11: "Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth." In the first and second chapters of Romans, the Apostle reasons at large on this subject. He convicts the heathen of sin, upon the ground that they violate their own consciences, and do not live according to the light they have.
(2.) The principle is every where recognized in the Bible, that an increase of knowledge increases obligation. This impliedly, but plainly recognizes the principle that knowledge is indispensable to, and commensurate with obligation. In sins of ignorance, the sin lies in the state of heart that neglects or refuses to be informed, but not in the neglect of what is unknown. A man may be guilty of present or past neglect to ascertain the truth. Here his ignorance is sin, or rather the state of heart that induces ignorance is sin. The heathen are culpable for not living up to the light of nature; but are under no obligation to embrace christianity until they have the opportunity to do so.
13. Moral law is to be so interpreted as to be consistent with physical law. In other words the application of moral law to human beings, must recognize man as he is, as both a corporeal and intellectual being; and must never be so inter