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the apostle speaks, (whatever may be the measure of their development), is to build himself up in this most holy faith. He cultivates communion with God, and profits, through grace, by the revelations of His love. The Christian has his own proper sphere of thought, in which he hides himself from the evils that surround him, and grows in the knowledge of God, from whom nothing can separate him. His own portion is always the more evident to him, the more the evil increases. His communion with God is in the Holy Ghost, in whose power he prays, and who is the link between God and his soul; and his prayers are according to the intimacy of this relationship, and animated by the intelligence and energy of the Spirit of God. Thus they kept themselves in the consciousness, the communion, and the enjoyment of the love of God. They abode in His love while sojourning here below, but, as their end, they were waiting for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. In effect, when one sees what are the fruits of the heart of man, one feels that it must be His
presents us without spot before His face, in that day, for eternal life with a God of holiness. - No doubt it is His unchangeable faithfulness, but, in the presence of so much evil, one thinks rather of the mercy. Compare, in the same circumstance, what Paul says, 2 Tim. i. 16. It is mercy which has made the difference between those that fall and those that stand. Compare Exodus xxxiii. 19. We must also distinguish between those who are led away. There are some who are only drawn aside by others, others in whom the lusts of a corrupt heart are working; and, where we see the latter, we must manifest hatred to everything that testifies this corruption, as to a thing that is unbearable.
The Spirit of God in this Epistle does not bring forward the efficacy of Redemption. He is occupied with the crafty devices of the enemy, with his efforts to connect the actings of the human will with the profession of the grace of God, and thus to bring about the corruption of the Church, and the downfall of Christians, by putting them on the road to apostasy and judgment. Confidence is in God; to Him the sacred writer addresses himself in closing his Epistle, as he thinks of the faithful to whom he was writing. Unto Him, he says, who is able to keep us from falling, and to present us, unspotted, before the presence of His glory, with exceeding joy.
It is important to observe the way in which the Spirit of God speaks, in the Epistles, of a power that can keep us from every fall, and unblameable; so that a thought only of sin is never excuseable. It is not that the flesh is not in us, but that, with the Holy Ghost acting in the new man, it is never necessary that the flesh should act, or influence our life. (Compare 1 Thess. v. 22.) We are united to Jesus, He represents us before God, He is our righteousness. But at the same time, He who, in His perfection, is our righteousness, is also our life, so that the Spirit aims at the manifestation of this same perfection, practical perfection, in the daily life. “ He who says, I abide in Him, ought to walk as he walked.” The Lord also says, “ Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father, which is in Heaven is perfect.”
There is progress in this. It is Christ risen, who is the source of this life in us, which ascends again towards its source, and which views the risen Christ, to whom we shall be conformed in glory as its end and aim (see Phil. iii.). But the effect of this is, that we have no other aim: “this one thing I do.” Thus, whatever may be the degree of realization, the motive is always perfect. The flesh does not come in at all as a motive, and, in this sense, we are blameless.
The Spirit, then-since Christ, who is our righteousness, is our life - links our life to the final result of an unblameable condition before God. The conscience knows, by grace, that absolute perfection is ours, because Christ is our righteousness; but the soul which rejoices in this before God, is conscious of union with Him, and seeks the realization of that perfection, according to the power of the Spirit, by whom we are thus united to the Head.
To Him who can accomplish this, preserving us from every kind of fail, our Epistle ascribes all glory and dominion, throughout all ages.
LAW. MY DEAR BROTHER, I am not sorry to know with some distinctness what the views of those who maintain the law to be the Christian's rule of life are; and what the arguments by which they maintain their opinions. I desire, but without controversy, to consider the subject, which is really an important one, as calmly as I can. I make allowance, or would endeavour to do so, for theological habits of mind. Taught exclusively by scripture myself, a multitude of expressions which are never found there appear strange to me, while they are at the base of the habits of thought of those whose views I have here to consider. Thus, “the moral law," “Christ's righteousness," and the like which lie at the heart of the subject, are never found in Scripture. But we must make allowance for these theological habits and expressions, see how far they are scriptural in substance, and hold fast the substance while preferring, as surely clearer and more excellent, scriptural forms of expression. I have no doubt that unscriptural expressions are the fruit of and lead to unscriptural habits of mind; on the other hand, it is not good to jeopardise substantial truths by making war on words which express them. The word " Trinity is not found in Scripture; the expression justified by faith only" is not found in Scripture. Yet I need not justify them to you as human expressions of essentially fundamental truths. I have no better words, and I use what I find commonly used, to express what I believe in my inmost soul; and I would not shake the faith of those who hold fast the truth expressed in these words, to quarrel with the words by which thousands of saints have expressed it before me. So with the word “Person" applied to the Godhead. It is not Scriptural; but I have no better word, for one who sends, is sent, comes, goes away, wills, distributes, and does distinctive acts.
The Father sends the Son, the Son does not send the Father. I doubt that anyone will give me a better word than that which has clothed the deep divinely given convictions of faith in saints for ages. If a person quarrels with the word always used to express a truth, without having a better, 'I dread a
better, 'I dread a little his quarrelling with the truth it conveys. I say this, that you may be assured, that I do not seek to unsettle any simple soul by captious difficulties about words, or by resistance to expressions formed in the schools. If a servant of God merely sought to insist on the danger of what is vulgarly called antinomianism, that is the wickedness of making liberty a cloak for maliciousness — and we know from Scripture, that flesh is perfectly capable of doing so certainly he would not have me for an adversary. If they called this the moral law, in urging godliness as the necessary fruit of a living faith, I might have regretted the vagueness of an unscriptural phraseology,—the want of spiritual point and power in not making Christ the substance of moral teaching, as of doctrinal, Scripture surely and blessedly does; but, in the root of the matter, I think I may say I should have cordially joined with what was intended. Such exhortations have their place and their necessity. That a Christian should walk according to the precepts of the New Testament, and all the divine light he can gather for his walk from the Old, be it the Ten Commandments or anything else, no consistent or right-minded Christian could for a moment deny. I could not own as being on Christian ground one who would. I may not be his judge, but I ain bound to be so of the principles he professes. But I suppose such are rare if such are to be found. At any rate he would receive no support from me or from you. I need hardly dwell on it otherwise than to reject it as utterly evil and unchristian. It is one of the distinctive marks between heresy and any advance in true divine knowledge, that the latter always holds the moral foundation fast; the difference of right and wrong, immoveable and fixed, as it is in the divine nature and revealed in the word. The Heretic slights or loses sight of it. This is remarkably shewn in Rom. ii., ver. 6-10, found at the outset of an
epistle where justification by faith and by grace is so largely, methodically, and blessedly insisted on. The Apostle does not stop to enquire there how the good is to be arrived at, or to weaken fundamental principles, by explanations to prove their consistency with other doctrines so as to enfeeble them. Other Scriptures may teach us this, and do, I doubt not clearly, and these we have to compare; but there is the great truth in all its immoveable and unalterable firmness, founded in the nature of God and responsibility of man. The divine fines bonorum et malorum, if I may use a heathen expression in divine things, are not to be overpassed. I may see that, in myself, I must, in my state of nature, be con. demned on this ground, and fly for refuge to the hope set before me, and find a life which does continue in welldoing, as is here demanded, and find righteousness in Christ, and know I can find them nowhere else; but immutable righteousness is there to make it necessary.
I should find them, however unspeakably the grace and glory which I do find may be beyond the measure of the responsibility which has forced me to find them. These will never destroy nor enfeeble that. My objection to the way, in which the moral law is spoken of, where Christians are put under law, is not the maintenance of moral obligations. That is all right; but, that, by using the terin nioral law, and then referring to law as spoken of by the Apostle, the teaching of the Apostle is subverted and set aside, and that, in practically most important points. And as this will lead me to some very vital truths, I desire to take the question up, which for mere controversy's sake I should not. If I speak of moral law (which scripture does not), by the very expression I make it a fatal thing to be delivered from it.
Yet Paul says, the Christian is delivered from the law. If I make of the law a moral law, including therein the precepts of the New Testament, and all morality in heart and life: to say a Christian is delivered from it, is nonsense or utterly monstrous wickedness. Certainly it is not Christianity. Conformity to the divine will
, and that, as obedience to commandments, is alike the joy and the duty of the renewed mind. I say obedience to commandments.