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not his brother."-1 John 3-10. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."-1 John 5: 1-4. These passages, understood and pressed to the letter, would not only teach that all regenerate souls overcome and live without sin, but also that sin is impossible to them. This last circumstance, as well as other parts of Scripture, forbid us to press this strong language to the letter. But this much must be understood and admitted, that to overcome sin is the rule with every one who is born of God, and that sin is only the exception; that the regenerate habitually live without sin, and fall into sin only at intervals so few and far between that in strong language it may be said in truth they do not sin. This is surely the least which can be meant by the spirit of these texts, not to press them to the letter. And this is precisely consistent with many other passages of Scripture, several of which I have quoted; such as this: "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."-2 Cor. 5: 17. "For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love."-Gal. 5: 6. "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature."-Galatians. 6: 15. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."-Romans 8: 1-4. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the
glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him; knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law but under grace."-Ro. 6: 1-14.
There is not a greater heresy and a more dangerous dogma than that true Christians actually live a great majority of their days in sin. Such an opinion is in palpable contradiction of the Bible, and absurd in principle. Many persons seem to have the idea, and this idea is often dropped directly, or indirectly implied from the pulpit, that truly regenerate souls may and do often live mostly in sin; that they live by far the greater part of their time in a backslidden state, so far at least as their heart is concerned; that they seldom or never truly and fully obey God and live up to their duty. Now such representations are not only flatly contrary to the Bible, but they are a greater snare and stumbling block than Universalism or almost any form of heresy that can be named. The fact is, if God is true, and the Bible is true, the truly regenerate soul has overcome the world, the flesh, and Satan, and sin, and is a conqueror and more than a conqueror. He triumphs over temptation as a general thing, and the triumphs of emptation over him are so far between that it is said of him in the living oracles that he does not, can not sin. He is not a sinner but a saint. He is sanctified; a holy person; a child and son of God. If at any time he is overcome, it is only to rise again, and soon return like the weeping prodigal. "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall he shall not be utterly cast. down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.”—Psalms 37:23, 24.
I know that it is natural and common to appeal to experience and observation in support of the dogma I am opposing. But how infinitely dangerous and wicked this is! What! appeal to supposed facts in history and christian experience to confront and withstand the express assertions of inspiration? When God expressly tells us who are christians and what is true of them, does it become us to turn round and say, Nay, Lord, for we and our neighbors are christians, and this is not true of us. Who does not see the guilt and danger of this? And yet it seems to be common for professors of religion to tacitly assume, if not openly to avow, that true christians may and do live for the greater part of their lives in sin.
This persuasion seems to be strengthened by the supposed fact that David and Solomon lived a greater part of their time in sin. But this is an unwarrantable assumption. The psalms of David, taking their subject and spirit and dates into view as well as many other considerations, render it evident that he was a highly spiritual man and that his backslidings were few and far between and of but short duration.
The Proverbs, the Song and the Ecclesiastes of Solomon are sufficient proof that most of his days were not spent in sin. Some have supposed that inasmuch as the high places were not removed and that idolatry was openly practised under a great part of his reign, that therefore he must all this time have been away from God. But this may be accounted for if we consider that the high places and idolatry continued through the reigns of some of the pious kings who succeeded him, doubtless for the reason that neither he nor they had political power and influence enough to suppress it. The book of Ecclesiastes gives on the face of it the highest evidence of having been written after his return from a season of backsliding and skepticism, for very much of it is only a statement of his skeptical views at that time. But really there is no sufficient proof that Solomon, who was manifestly a type of Christ, lived a majority or any thing like a majority of his days in sin.
But whatever may have been true of Solomon and of the saints of those comparatively dark days, the New Testament has settled the question that now under the dispensation of the Holy Spirit whoever is born of God doth not commit sin. The passages that I have quoted must settle this point. The sixth and eighth of Romans is the experience of the regenerate soul.
In considering the attributes of benevolence I have shown that stability is one of its attributes, to which I would here
refer the reader (pages 262 and 263.) In respect to the philosophy of christians overcoming sin I would observe that the bible assures us that "whosoever is born of God does not, can not sin because his seed remaineth in him," that is, God's seed remaineth in him. "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he can not sin, because he is born of God." In 1 Peter 1: 23 we are informed that this seed is the word of God.-" Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." God has begotten him (for so the word should be rendered in 1 John 3: 9) by his word and this seed remaineth in him. The truth that overcame his will and subdued or regenerated him remains in him in such a sense that it is said he can not sin. It is so lodged in his memory and so pressed upon him by the indwelling Spirit of Christ as to secure his habitual obedience, and he is only sometimes overcome by force of strong temptation, when for the time his attention is drawn away from the truth or seed of God, which after all is lodged within him. It has a permanent lodgment in his memory although it may not be attended to in some moments of strong temptation. Now whatever the philosophy of this fact may be, it is a declared fact of inspiration that "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him and he can not sin because he is born of God." The connection in which these words are found as well as other parts of scripture, shows that this must respect the general character of regenerate souls; that having been subdued by the word and Spirit of God and the seed remaining in them, they can not consent to live in sin; that they love God and hate sin so much by virtue of their new and heavenly birth that they will not sin, unless it may possibly be that by force of great temptation they may fall into occasional sins and those so seldom that it can be said in general language that they do not, can not sin.
18. The sinner and the deceived professor is the slave of sin. The seventh of Romans is his experience in his best estate. When he has the most hope of himself and others have the most hope of his good estate he goes no farther than to make and break resolutions. His life is but a death in sin. He has not the victory. He sees the right but does it not. Sin is his master to whom he yields himself a servant to obey. He only tries as he says to forsake sin, but does not in fact forsake it in his heart. And yet because he is convicted and has desires and forms resolutions of amendment he hopes he
is regenerated. O, what a horrible delusion! Stop short with conviction with the hope that he is already a christian! Alas! how many are already in hell who have stumbled at this stumbling stone!
19. The Christian is charitable in his judgments.
This is natural to him by reason of his regeneration. He now loves every body and seeks their good. "Love hopeth all things and believeth all things." It is natural to us to judge charitably of those whom we love and whose virtue and happiness we greatly desire. It is also natural for us to interpret the conduct of others by reference to our own consciousness. If we are conscious of uprightness of intention, it is natural to ascribe the conduct of others to upright intentions unless it be manifest that it is not so. Not only the Bible forbids rash and censorious judging of the motives or character of others, but it every where assumes and implies and teaches that truly regenerate persons are charitable in their judgments. This is an attribute of true religion, and there is scarcely any thing in which the difference between saints and sinners is more manifest than in regard to this feature of their characters. A truly benevolent mind can not be censorious. It is a contradiction to say that one who is benevolent can judge and think and speak censoriously of any one. Charity is kind, is courteous, is forbearing. A ruling disposition to promote the good of any one can not lead or allow us to rashly impeach his motives, to judge him in a manner more severe than the circumstances of the case compel us to do.
Again. As a regenerate state consists in benevolence or good-will to all beings, it implies as sacred à regard to the feelings and reputation of our neighbor as we have to our own. Therefore a regenerate soul can not be a slanderer, a tale-bearer or a busy-body in other men's matters. A regenerate soul will not, and remaining regenerate, can not take up an evil report of a neighbor and believe it but upon the strongest evidence. And when compelled to believe an evil report, he will not give any greater publicity to it than to him the interests of religion seem imperiously to demand. This must be universally true of a truly benevolent mind. A disposition to believe evil and to report it of any one is totally incompatible with good will to universal being, so that if we see this disposition in a professor of religion toward any one we may know that his profession of religion is vain. man seemeth to be religious and bridleth not his tongue but deceiveth his own heart, that man's religion is vain."