EXPOSITION OF ROMANS VII. 525.
IN the judgment of all who are acquainted with the facts of the case, the main issue, or at least one of the chief issues, between those who advocate, and those who deny, the doctrine of what is called The Higher Life, does and must turn upon the exposition which should be given of the single passage above referred to.
At the outset of our enquiries into the real meaning of this passage, we deem it expedient to correct the following statement made some time since by Canon Ryle upon this subject. We do this because the impression very extensively prevails in the Churches, that this statement represents the real facts of the case. His statement is this: "Arminians, Socinians, and Pelagians, have always maintained that it does not describe the experience of an established believer. Nevertheless, the greatest divines in every age since the Reformation have steadily and continuously maintained, that it is a literal, perfect, accurate photograph of the experience of every true saint of God." Now it must be borne in mind, that, as a matter of undisputed historic verity, up to the time of the later years of Augustine, in the latter part of the fourth century, the entire Primitive Church, Augustine himself includedthat is, from the Apostles on through the entire martyr age understood and expounded this passage as we do; that is, as in fact and form, describing a legal, in opposition to the faith, experience described in the eighth chapter. It must also be borne in mind, that since the time when Augustine adopted and introduced this totally few, and before unheard-of, exposition, the vast majority of the most learned commentators throughout Christendom have rejected the new exposition, and adopted and defended that of the Primitive Church. We have no fear that these statements will be contradicted. If they are, proof is at hand. If the reader will "inquire for the old paths and walk in the same," he will reject this new, and accept the primitive, exposition of this passage. This he will also do in conformity with the united view of the vast majority of the most learned and Christian expositors of all ages. It is a fact worthy of special consideration, that the main basis of the doctrine opposed to that of the Higher Life, is an exposition of a single passage, an exposition started in the latter part of the fourth century, and which has ever run counter to the ocean current of Biblical exposition which has come down directly from the Apostle to the present time. The validity of the above statements will be fully verified in a subsequent part of our exposition of this passage. Nor is the validity of these statements questioned by any individuals who are well informed in regard to the facts of the case.
The Primitive and Post-primitive Expositions of this
I shall assume as an admitted facta fact, also, to be hereafter fully verifiedthat from the Apostles down to the later years of the life of Augustine, in the later part of the fourth century, the Fathers of the entire Primitive ChurchAugustine himself includeddefrnitely and specifically expounded this passage as we do; and that since this period the majority of the learned Christian expositors have accepted and defended the exposition of that Church. As preparatory to a full consideration of the issue before us, let us for a moment contemplate the circumstances under which the Epistle to the Romans was written. In the Scriptures of Truth, Christ is revealed "as made of God" to all believers; and that exclusively, "wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption," and all in common and with equal exclusiveness " through faith in the grace of God through Christ." The one proposition, "The just shall live by faith," presents the sum and substance, and all the distinguishing peculiarities, of this Gospel. Everywhere this doctrine was openly confronted by dogmas of the most subversive characterthose of Judaism on the one handand heathen formalism and false philosophy on the other. With the Jew the law was exclusively, "wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption," and the just are to live, not by faith, but by "deeds of law." The central object and aim of the apostle, in. his Epistle to the Romans, was an absolute verifkation and vindication of the doctrines of salvation, in its entireness, by faith, in opposition to all the false dogmas to which it then stood opposed, particularly those of Judaism. In accomplishing his object, he, in the first six chapters, fully elucidates and verifies the doctrine of justification by faith, as the only ground of acceptance with God. All having "sinned, and come short of the glory of God," the entire raceJews and Gentiles in commonare for ever and hopelessly cut off from the possibility of being justified "by deeds of law." Having answered all conceivable objections to the doctrine which he maintained having shown that it is the privilege and duty of the believer to be "dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord," and that no one can continue in sin without excluding himself from Divine grace, and insuring to himself "the wages of sin which is death,"the apostle then, in Chapters vii. and viii., sets forth specifically, in fact and form, the relations and moral tendencies of the doctrine of sanctification by deeds of law, on the one hand, and of sanctification by faith, on the other. In the commencement of Chapter vii. he lays down the proposition that the believer has become "dead to the law," that "he might be married to another, Christ," and this as a means to this end, that "he might bring forth fruit unto God." The reason and necessity of this death to the law and union with Christ by faith are twofold; that in the former relationfrom no fault in the law, but wholly on account of the power of "the flesh," or of the sinful propensities obedience to the law and will of Godthat is, moral virtue in all its real formsis utterly impossible to man; and that in the second relation, union to Christ by faith, such obedience, with all forms of moral virtue, is not only possible, but becomes actual in the experience of all in whom the Spirit of God, in its fulness, dwells. The exclusive object of the apostle in Romans Vii. 525, is to elucidate and verify the first of the above propositions; to render it a divinely revealed and demonstrated truth, that moral virtue, or obedience to the law of righteousness, through any mental determinations and efforts put forth under the influence of motives drawn from the law, will be utterly fruitless and abortive. His equally exclusive object in the eighth chapter, on the other hand, is to elucidate and verify the second of the above propositions; to render it a divinely revealed and demonstrated truth, that, united to Christ by faith, with "the spirit of grace strengthening us with might in the inner man," the "righteousness of the law will be fulfilled in us," that "we shall not be in (under the power of the) flesh, but in (under the control of) the Spirit," and that "we shall then have our fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life," "and" that in all things we shall be, "not" carnal arid sold under sin, "but" more than "conquerors through Him that hath loved us."
Such were these two passages, as understood and specifically interpreted by the entire Primitive Church from the apostle down to the later years of Augustine. As thus interpreted, both passages occupy places of fundamental importance in the epistle, and harmonise fully with the known plan and purpose of the same. As thus interpreted, Rom. Vii. 525 stands as "the 1~aming sword of the cherubim turning in every direction," not to "keep the way of The Tree of Life," or of the Holy of Holies of faith, love, and full obedience to the law and will of God, but to guard the believer in Jesus against all approach and advance in the direction of legal righteousness, and all forms of its carnal servitudes, hopeless captivities under the law of sin and death, and worse than abortive efforts after obedience to the law of righteousness. This interpretation of these two chapters undeniably moved, as God's pillar of fire in the forefront of the Church, from the apostle down through the martyr age, and was the grand secret of her patient endurances, deeds of righteousness, triumphs and victories, and has been the light of believers in all ages; believers who have, in the fullest and highest forms, attained to "the glorious liberty of the sons of God."
According to the post-primitive exposition, the apostle, after requiring believers to reckon themselves "dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord," after assuring them that "because they are not under law but under grace," "sin shall not have dominion over them," and that they "have become dead to the law by the body of Christ" and "married to another," Jesus Christ, "that they might bring forth fruit unto God," turns round verses 1425, and affirms that under grace, just as under the law, individuals, notwithstanding their faith in Christ, and the power of the Spirit working in them, remain "carnal, sold under sin," "approve and delight in the law of God after the inner man," but never find grace or power to "perform that which is good," and notwithstanding their faith and purposes of obedience, are always brought and held "in captivity to the law of sin in their members." This undeniably is "a literal, accurate, correct photograph" of this post-primitive exposition.
According to the primitive exposition of Chapters vii. and viii., the apostle pursues the identical method of argument in demonstrating the validity of the doctrine of sanctification by faith, that he had (Chapters i.vi.) in verifying that of justification by faith. In the latter case, he first demonstrates the absolute impossibility of any member of the human family, Jew or Gentile, being "justified by deeds of law," and then verifies and elucidates the great doctrine of justification by faith. So in Chapters vii. and viii. the apostle first (Chap. Vii. 525) demonstrates the absolute impossibility to man of attaining to real holiness or obedience to the law and will of God, through legal efforts under law, and then (Chap. viii.) lays open the highway of holiness through faith. This primitive exposition undeniably imparts a glorious unity to this whole epistle, and harmonises Rornans Vii. 525 with all the other revelations of the Word of God. What place this post-primitive exposition can have in this epistle, or in the Scriptures, or what its influence can be in Christian experience, but to "make void" both the law and the Gospel, we may safely challenge " the greatest divines in every age since the Reformation to show." Let us now turn our attention directly to the question, Which of these two expositions, the primitive or post-primitive, is the true one? All agree that Paul speaks of himself in both these chapters, not as an individual, but as a representative man. According to the former exposition, he speaks of himself as representing the legalist under the law in Chap. vii. 525, and as a believer in Jesus in the following chapter. According to the latter exposition, he speaks of himself as representing believers after Chap. vii. 14.
Very needful Explanation.
By some expositors of Scripture, it is supposed that the apostle, in the passage before us, describes the experience of an unconverted person, in distinction from that of the converted man, as portrayed in the next chapter of this epistle. This is not our view at all. If this were the true view, the passage under consideration would be of no use whatever to the believer in any circumstances, or in any state, into which he might, at any time, fall. The manifest object of the apostle is, to guard not merely unconverted persons, but believers especially, against a fatal error to which all, who "seek righteousness" in any form are exposed. Two methods, not only of justification, but of sanctification also, are distinctly set before us in this epistlethat by faithand that "as it were by deeds of law." To the latter, the apostle thus refers (Rom. ix. 3032): "What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling-stone." Before all the world the Jews stood forth as the advocates of the Legal, and the Apostles and their associates as the advocates of the Faith, method of Righteousness in all its forms. Each class held forth their own as the only, and exclusively, valid method. The Churches everywhere swarmed with Judaizing teachers who, under the guise of "apostles of Christ," sought to draw off believers from the Faith, to the Legal, method of righteousness. Under the influence of such "false apostles," some "made shipwreck of the faith," others, "who had begun in the spirit," afterwards "sought to be made perfect in the flesh," and all were in danger of being "corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." The object of the apostle, as we understand him, is to guard all, both Jews and Gentiles, converted or unconvertedto guard all who "follow after righteousness," against "seeking it, not by faith, but as it were by deeds of law." This he aims at by demonstrating the fact that all without exception, who thus seek, will fail of their object. In our day, there are Moralists who repudiate the method of Faith in all its forms, and seek to be "made perfect in the flesh." There are Formalists who, in reality, know nothing of "the righteousness which is of faith." There are sincere believers, also, who seek justification by faith, and sanctification "as it were by deeds of law." All such, in common, read their experience in this Seventh of Romans. "Wherefore? Because they seek it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law." The object of the apostle, as we understand him, is to subvert utterly this Legal method in whatever form men, in accordance with that method, may seek sanctification, or "follow after the law of righteousness." With these explanations, let us turn to a direct consideration of the issue before us: the inquiry, Which of these two contradictory expositions, the Primitive or Post-primitive, is the true one?
The absolute Unanimity of the Primitive Church in respect to this Primitive Exposition.
We have said that, up to the later years of the life of Augustine, the entire Primitive Church Augustine includedattached one fixed and exclusive meaning to this passage, namely, that the apostle here, in fact and form, describes a Legal, in opposition to a Faith, Experience described in the subsequent chapter, and in other parts of this epistle. Two questions here arise, viz., Is this statement true? and, What is its real bearing upon the issue before us? We will consider these two questions in the order presented.
This Unity verified as a fact.
If we should recur to the testimony of learned men who have most carefully studied the facts of the case, we should find an entire unanimity of judgment among them in respect to the perfect validity of the above statements. "It will be admitted," says Prof. Stuart, in his world-renowned commentary on this epistle, "by those who are conversant with the dispute about the meaning of the passage before us, and are well read in the history of Christian doctrine, that Augustine was the first who suggested the idea that it must be applied to Christian experience." No individual has studied the history of Christian doctrine more profoundly, if as profoundly, as Neander. In all his most careful researches he found no trace whatever of this Post-primitive exposition prior to the period designated by Prof. Stuart. Everywhere, on the other hand, that great historian (Neander) found, in most distinct development, the presence of this Primitive exposition. Speaking of the passage under consideration, Prof. Tholock says, "The more ancient teachers of the Church had unanimously explained it of the man who has not yet become a Christian, nor is upheld in the struggle by the Spirit of Christ." So Origen, Tertullian, Chrysostom, and Theodoret. At an earlier period Augustine also followed this view. "Augustine," says Meyer, in his most learned comrnentary," in his earlier days acknowledged in harmony with the Greek fathers since Irenaeus that the language here is that of the unregenerate man." The statement of such authors as the above remains uncontradicted; nor has any individual been able to find in any of the writings of the Primitive Church prior to the period designated, a sentence, word, or syllable in contradiction to "that we have designated as the Primitive exposition of this passage.
Let us now turn to these primitive writers themselves. The following is Augustine's primal exposition as given in his Homilies on this epistle. 'Intelligiter," he says, "hunc ille homo describi, qui nondum sub gratia." That is, "It is understood, that that man is here described who was never under grace." We must bear in mind that Augustine gives the above, not merely as his own view of the passage, but as the accepted exposition of the Church. "It is understood," that is, it is my own and the accepted exposition of the Church. It is a remarkable fact that Jerome, who afterwards accepted the new view of Augustine, had, in his earlier writings, also affirmed the validity of the primitive exposition, so universal was that exposition in the primitive Church.
We must bear in mind that it was in a heated controversy with Pelagius, that Augustine conceived and avowed this new and before unheard-of exposition. The latter rightly affirmed, and the former erroneously denied, the total depravity of the natural man. In his argument, Pelagius referred to the passage under consideration, saying that this was a palpable case, in which, by the universal assent of the Church, the state and character of the unregenerate man is described. He then asked, if approving the right, and hating the wrong, and "delighting in the law of God," did not imply that there was something good even in such a man? Augustine could not deny the fact, the case being so palpable, of the universal agreement of the Church in the deduction that it was the unregenerate man referred to in the passage; nor did he perceive how, admitting the correctness of the universally received exposition, he could meet the argument of his opponent. Under such perplexity Augustine denied the validity of his own and the universal, and adopted the few and before unheardof, exposition, a most needless resort, and a most calamitous one for the spiritual good of the Church. The fact that the sinner continues "carnal, sold under sin,' 'notwithstanding his conscience approves the right, reprobates the wrong, and even "delights in the law of God," presents the strongest possible proof of the intensity and totality of the natural sinfulness of man. We are fully and undeniably justified, therefore, in claiming for what we have designated as the "Primitive" exposition of the passage, the universal assent of the Church prior to the later years of Augustine.
As we have not now space to cite passages from all the various primitive expositions, one or two must suffice. Speaking of the words, "I am carnal" (verse 14), Theodoret says, "He calls that man carnal who has not yet obtained spiritual aid." Another of these Fathers thus explains the words: "I find then a law that, when I would do good, evil is present with me." " I find," i.e., I have considered and comprehended the force and nature of the law. I have discovered for certain it has no power to help me. How does this appear? "Because when I wish to do good, it helps nothing, but evil is equally present, making my will unexecuted." In precisely similar language do Chrysostorn, Theophylact, Ambrose (a Syriac interpreter), and others, explain these words. With similar unanimity do all the primitive Fathers explain the whole passage under consideration, and explain it as referring not to the Christian under grace, but to individuals under law, and acted upon by legal motives only.
The validity of the Primitive Exposition absolutely
verified by the facts before us.
Let us now turn our thoughts to a consideration of the bearing of the facts before us. We refer now especially to the strictly unanimous assent of the Primitive Church to what we have properly designated as the Primitive Exposition of this passage. The great central fact before us we hold to be demonstrably inexplicable, but upon one exclusive hypothesis, namely, the validity of this Primitive exposition. The Epistle to the Romans was written and sent to Rome several years prior to Paul's going there. Such, also, was the nature of its contents as to render it the subject of the deepest interest and enquiry on the part of all believers and their Jewish opponents in the city. During his residence there, his real views throughout the epistle, and especially in the portion of it under consideration, must have been so fully explained that they could not have been misunderstood. Then, through the messengers which constantly visited him from all the Churches, and went from him to said Churches, this passage could not but have been universally and very definitely understood. If it had been his object in this passage to "photograph the experience of every true saint of God," the fact could not but have been well known in all the Churches. 1f on the other hand, it had been his object to photograph a Legal, in opposition to a Faith, Experience, this fact could not but have been equally well and universally understood. The strictly universal assent of the Primitive Church during more than the first three centuries of the Christian Era, to this Primitive Exposition as the true apostolic one, admits of but one explanationnamely, that this exposition was originally received directly from the apostle himself, and has come down to us in its genuine apostolic form.
The circumstances also in which this epistle was written, together with the fundamental bearing of all its discussions upon the great issues then before all the Churches, render it certain, we add, that this one epistle must have been more generally known and read among them than any other written by Paul or other of the Apostles, and render it certain too, that his meaning in so essential a passage as this could not have been at all, and above all universally, misunderstood. No, Reader, the Churches, and primitive teachers, who thus received this epistle directly from its inspired author, did not misunderstand, and could not have misunderstood, him, and this Primitive Exposition must be valid. If in addition to all this, more modern authority is asked for, we have it in superabundance.
The Primitive Exposition confirmed by the highest subsequent authority.
The entire Greek, and a large portion of the Latin Church, as shown by the writers to whom we have referred, rejected the Post-primitive of Augustine, and vindicated that of the Primitive exposition. Since the Reformation, while a majority of the English and American commentators, and a few on the continent of Europe, have accepted the post-primitive exposition, the primitive one has been accepted by a majority of Biblical scholars, and by nearly all of any note at the present time on the continent. "Most of the English Episcopal Churches also for many years," says Professor Stuart, "and not a few of the Scotch, Dutch, and English Presbyterian and Congregational divines, have adopted the same interpretation." Aside from the all conclusive authority derived from the undivided testimony of the Church for more than three centuries after the epistle was written, the vastly predominating weight of Biblical Criticismthe Evangelical especially has ever been in favour of the Primitive Exposition. Among the multitudinous modern interpreters of this class, we specify the following :Erasmus, Raphael, Episcopius, Beausobre, Senifont, Limborch, Turretin, Le Clerc, Heuman, Bucer, Schoflier, Franke, G. Arnold, Bengel, Reinhardt, Storr, Flatt, Knapp, Neander, Thbluck, Olshausen, Meyer, Mant, D'Oyly, Hammond, Whitby, Doddridge, Godwin, Jer. Taylor, Clarke, Stuart, Conebeare and Howson. What a visibly slender and sandy foundation does the post-primitive exposition rest upon, opposed as it is by the united testimony of the entire Primitive Church for the first three or four centuries, and as we have said by the ocean current of Biblical Exposition of all ages since the passage was written! The case will be found still worse for this exposition when we shall, as we now propose to do, come to a direct consideration of the passage itself.
Forms of Thought and Expression not found in this passage verify the Primitive, and falsify the Postprimitive, Exposition.
In reading the New Testament from beginning to end, we cannot find, outside that under consideration, a single passage in which Christian experience is spoken of, in which faith, God, Christ, or the Holy Spirit, is not specifically referred to. In this passage, we have, we are told, "a literal, accurate, correct photograph of the experience of every true saint of God." Yet, in the entire passage no reference whatever is made to faith, to God, to Christ, or the Holy Spirit. The only agencies hinted at are the conscience (law of the mind), the flesh (law in the members), and the human will, or the man himself. Nor do we find in this photograph any one of the revealed results of faith, or of "the fruits of the Spirit," or any one of the revealed elements of Christian experience. We have, on the other hand, the revealed opposites of all these, opposites represented by such terms as "carnal, sold under sin," victories of the flesh, and "the law of sin," broken. resolutions, bondage, and "groaning wretchedness." If it was, in fact and form, the object of the apostle to photograph a Legal in opposition to a Faith, Experience, all is as it should be. In such an experience we have just what we find herea conflict between the conscience ("law of the mind) " and the flesh; the evil propensities (or "law in the members "), and the will (the creature himself) in servitude to the latter, "a doing what we would not," and a "not doing what we would"; "a following after the law of righteousness, but not attaining to the law of righteousness"; the "willing being present, but how to perform that which is good not being found"; "a law that when we would do good, evil is present"; "the law in the members warring against the law of the mind, and bringing the soul into captivity to the law of sin which is the rnembers," the soul being bound under that law as "'the body of this death," and its bondage and wretchedness being rendered complete; and all because there is in the soul, no "faith to be healed," no "God working within to will and to do," no indwelling Christ " saving to the uttermost," and no "Holy Ghost enduing with power from on high." What must we think of an exposition of the Word of God, an exposition which presents Inspiration itself as photographing Christian experience in its universal and best form, and yet leaving out of the presentation faith, God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, without whose presence real Christian experience in any form is impossible!
Their distinct and opposite moral and spiritual
The obvious and undeniable moral and spiritual tendency of this primitive, and we may truly say apostolic, exposition of these two chapters', at once commends it to our regard as the only true one. What believers at that time needed above all things, was an absolute assurance of the utter hopelessness of all purposes, efforts, and confidences in respect to the attainment of obedience to the law of righteousness, but in one fixed direction, faith in Christ and the power of the Spirit on the one hand, and on the other, an assurance equally absolute that through Christ and the power of the Spirit, "all grace may abound towards us, so that we, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound unto every good work." These two fundamental assurances in their highest possible forms, this primitive exposition does, in fact and form, present to every believer. Reading, in its light, Rom. vii. 525, he perceives at once the utter futility of all legal and formalistic methods of righteousness, and the utter hopelessness of all self-originated purposes of obedience. Thus he finds himself, as he needs to be, absolutely "shut up to the faith." As in the light of the same exposition he contemplates the divine revelations of the following chapter, the highway of holiness opens with perfect distinctness and absolute assurance of hope upon his vision. The believer at once sees, that through faith in Christ, and under the available power of the Spirit, he may "be made free from the law of sin and death," may have "the righteousness of the law fulfilled in himself," may be "free from all condemnation," and in every "conflict with the world, the flesh, and the devil," may "be more than conqueror through Him that bath loved us." In short, this exposition presents every conceivable motive to a holy life of which we can form a conception, and that with no opposite tendency whatever.
On the other hand, when this post-apostolic and post-primitive exposition of Romans vii. 525 lifts its form before the mind, and that as a divinely-revealed "photograph of the experience of every believer," a deep eclipse passes at once over the revealed privileges and promises of grace, and all hope dies out of the believer's heart and mind of being anything more or better in this life than can be found in the state represented by such words as "carnal, sold under sin" ; "captivity under the law of sin and death"; "doing what we would not, and not doing what we would"; "willing, but not finding how to perform that which is good," and suffering an inglorious defeat in every purpose of obedience, and in every effort to "perform that which is good." We must bear in mind that nothing whatever, in, the direction of victorythat nothing but defeats and captivity under sinis even hinted in this passage; and these represent the best estate of possible attainment, if this supposition does present God's revealed "photograph of the experience of every believer." We may safely challenge the world to show that we have in any respects misrepresented the case. Should you reply that we do find outside this passage better things than are here revealed, you then admit that we have not in it by any means "a literal, accurate, and correct photograph of the experience of every believer." But this is not all. In this exposition we find, not only an almost necessary cause of backsliding, but an unanswerable excuse for all such sins. No individual can so far recede from obedience to the will of God, that he will not consciously find in his experience every element of the state represented in this passage, and will not confront you with the fact when you attempt to admonish him. This exposition, we boldly say, cannot accord with "the mind of the Spirit," for the undeniable reason that it is the visible pillow under the armhold of every member of the Church who is living in sin and "settled upon his lees."
The Language enemployed by the apostle in Rom. vii. 525, absolutely verifies the Primitive, and falsifies the Post-primitive Exposition.
Let us now consider the language employed by the apostle in this passage, and see if we cannot determine in its light which of these expositions is, and must be, the correct one. That in Verses 513 inclusive the apostle refers exclusively to the sinner under law, and acted upon by legal considerations, all admit. From Verse 14 and onward he, it is affirmed, speaks of himself, not in his former state as a legalist, but in his then state as a Christian. The main reason assigned for this conclusion is that he here employs the present instead of the past tense. Every one well read in the Greek language must be aware that nothing is more common in this and other languages than a change from the past to the present tense when the subject of discussion is the same. In this case, however, such a change was demanded by the circumstances. In affirming the law to be spiritual, he was necessitated to say, "The law is," not was, nor will be, "spiritual." In speaking of himself, in the contrast as carnal, whether he referred to his past, or then existing state, he was required by the known laws of this language, to use the same tense as before. The change from the past to the present tense, therefore, is, in itself, no indication whatever that the apostle refers to his then, or to his past moral state.
The language employed, however, leaves no ground of doubt whatever in regard to his meaning. We refer to such terms as "carnal, sold under sin."; "captivity to the law of sin"; "a law that when we would do good evil is present"; "the good that I would I do not, but the evil that I would not that I do," and "to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not." Such language is fully and obviously in place, if the object of the apostle is to represent a legal, in opposition to a Christian experience, and is absolutely out of place, and can be justified by no usage, scriptural or classic, if his object is to portray the latter instead of the former form of experience. All that such language implies is strictly true of the moral state, and experience of the legalist and the man of the world, and is everywhere and exclusively employed in the Scriptures to represent such state and experience, and that as distinguished from the moral and spiritual state and experience of the believer in Jesus. "Doing righteousness," and "sinning not," are the revealed characteristics and peculiarities of the Christian life and experience; not doing the right, but doing the wrong, and never finding "how to perform that which is good," are the equally revealed characteristics and peculiarities of the state portrayed in the passage before us. We are not in the flesh, but in the spirit," is absolutely affirmed of every believer in Jesus. "Carnal," that is, "not in the spirit," but "in the flesh," is absolutely and unqualifiedly affirmed of all who are in the state portrayed in this passage. "Ye shall be free" ; "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith," and "more than conquerors," are the revealed characteristics of the true Christian. " Sold," in abject servitude, "under sin"; "captivity to the law of sin," and hopeless defeat in every conflict with "the law in the members," are set forth as the immutable characteristics of the state here portrayed. Such language as peculiarises this passage is adapted to one exclusive endto portray a legal and worldly, in opposition to a Christian, life arid experience, and it is a perversion of all Scriptural and classic usage to employ such language to represent the former in distinction from the latter. The words, for example, "I am carnal, sold under sin," do, with perfect correctness, represent the legal and worldly state and experience. To apply such language to the Christian, is to amrm that he, in common with the legalist and worldly man, is totally depraved, and thus to confound all distinction between the latter and the former.
But this is not all. The substance of the language which the apostle here employs, and the exact form of not a few of his expressions, are real copies of the language employed by heathen authors to represent the condition of men as sinners. The phrase, for example, "The good that I would I do not, but the evil that I would not that I do," is a literal and almost verbatim citation from Epictetus in regard to man as a sinner. "He who sins," says this author, "what he would he does not, but what he would not that he does." "What I hate," says the apostle, "that I do." "Many," says Epictetus again, "being indignant at their lusts, and desirous not to excite them, are, nevertheless, urged by their habits to indulgences peculiar to them." "To will is present with me," says the apostle; "but how to peiform that which is good, I find not." "Not one of those things which you advised me have I forgotten," says Euripides; "but nature overpowers me when I have made my resolve." Again, he says, "I am aware these are crimes I am about to perpetrate, but lust is stronger than my purposes." Lactantius represents the heathen as saying, " I will indeed not to sin, but am overcome; I am possessed of a fragile (or sinful) nature, so I am borne onward I know not whither, and sin, not because I wish to do it, but because I am carried captive by my lusts." "I know the good," says Seneca, "and approve it, but do the wrong." All that Paul says about approving the right and hating the wrong, and "delightirig in the law of God after the inner man," but yet being impelled by the flesh, not to do the right, but to do the wrong, and being, notwithstanding such approval and delight, "brought into captivity to the law of sin," are but copies of what is elsewhere amrmed of the Jew in his legal bondage, and of what well-known heathen authors affirm of men as sinners. All such language is wisely selected and in place, on the supposition that the object of the apostle is to describe a legal and worldly, instead of a Christian experience. In other words, all is in place if the primitive exposition of this passage is the true one. But what must we think of this post-primitive exposition, that which imputes to the apostle this absurditygoing to well-known heathen authors and borrowing their representations of man's state and experience as a sinner to represent Christian, in opposition to the legal and worldly, life and experience?
Fundamental Facts wholly inexplicable, but upon the Primitive Exposition.
Permit us, in this connection, to call special attention to three fundamental facts, some of which have been already presented at full length, but which we present together here, that their bearing may be distinctly seen. These facts, which are utterly incompatible with any but the primitive exposition, are the following :
I. In this whole passage, with the exception of verse 25, in which the way of deliverance from the wretched state previously portrayed is indicated, there is no reference whatever to Christ, to the Holy Spirit, or to faith or its effects. In "a literal, perfect, accurate, correct photograph" of a legal experience, of course no such reference should be had, because none of them have place in such experience, and the fact before us clearly evinces the verity of the primitive exposition. A photograph of Christian experience, however, a photograph in which neither Christ, the Holy Spirit, nor faith nor its effects, its peace and victories especially, are designated or alluded to, would be like an amrrned Life of Christ, in which His name should never appear, nor His character, nor any acts of His life, should be so much as alluded to.
2. The leading terms employed in this passage are the identical ones employed mother parts of the New Testament, to designate a legal and worldly, and never to represent Christian, experience. We refer to such terms as these"carnal, sold under sin"; "a law that when we would do good evil is present" ; "captivity under the law of sin, which is in the members"; "how to perform that which is good I find not"; and "doing what we would not, and not doing what we would," etc. Such terms are never employed in the Scriptures to represent the Christian, but always to designate the legal and worldly, life, character, and experience. Such terms are perfectly adapted to photograph the forms of the legal and worldly life, character, and experience, and their unqualified use in the passage before us absolutely evinces the correctness of the primitive exposition of the passage. The apostle, on the other hand, might as properly employ the term, "blackness of darkness," to photograph the light of heaven, as to employ such language as the above to photograph the life, character, and experience of believers in Jesus, believers who "walk by faith."
3. The third fact to which we refer is this : Much of the language found in this passage, and especially the thoughts, are exact copies, sometimes verbatim, as we have seen, of the photographs given forth by heathen authors, well known to Paul's readers at Rome, of the sinful life, character, and experience. Such expressions and forms of thought we refer to as are represented by such terms as the following :"What I do I allow not"; "what I hate that I do"; "what I would that do I not, but what I would not that I do"; "the good that I would I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do"; "I find a law that when I would do good evil is present with me" ; "to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not"; and "I delight in the law of God after the inward man, but I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity (rendering me a war-prisoner, a slave, the exact meaning of the original) to the law of sin which is in my members." There is not a single thought in any of the above forms of expression, a thought which is not copied from photographs scattered through the writings of heathen authors, writings with which Paul's readers at Rome were familiar photographs of the state, life, and experience of men as sinners, while some of the apostle's words are, as we have shown, literal citations from such authors. These statements we have verified in former paragraphs, and have before us any additional number of verifications that may be desired. If the object of the apostle was, what the primitive exposition arnrms it to have been, to photograph man's state in sin, his helpless servitude to evil principles, propensities, and habits, and the utter hopelessness of all self-originated purposes and endeavours to escape "the bondage of corruption," then all the above citations, words, and phrases were most wisely selected, Jews and Gentiles being thus silenced and confounded by their own admissions of the utter hopelessness of their condition in sin, and of the utter fruitlessness of all their legal, formal, and self-originated purposes and efforts for self-amendment. On the other hand, we may safely challenge all "the greatest divines in every age Since the Reformation," and all the world beside to adduce a greater or more palpable absurdity than is involved in the monstrous idea, that inspiration, through the Apostle Paul, has borrowed from heathen authors their most impressive photographs of the condition, hopeless servitude under sin, and wretched experience of men as sinners, in order to present to the Church and the world "a literal, perfect, accurate, correct photograph of the experience of every true saint of God."
Let us now, for a moment, carefully weigh the three fundamental facts under consideration. If it was the real aim of the apostle in this passage, to give a literal, perfect, accurate, correct photograph, of the legal, formal, and worldly life, character, and experience, then, undeniably, all that we find in the passage is in place, and the picture is "perfect and complete, wanting nothing." There should be, in the portraiture, no Christ, no Spirit of grace, and no faith or its victories; but in the stead of these, what we here findmoral and spiritual servitude, purposes of obedience and amendment, purposes barren of everything but defeat, and the triumph of "the law of sin," and hopeless groanings under the weight of "the body of this death." All forms of expression by which this state is photographed should also, what is absolutely true here, be taken from the language of Scripture, and of heathen authors, in which the experience of the legal and worldly life are portrayed. None will question the validity of these statements. What must we think, on the other hand, of a so-called "literal, perfect, accurate, correct photograph of the experience of every true saint of God"? a photograph in which the grace of Christ, the power of the Spirit, and faith and its victories have no place, a photograph all the essential features of which are exclusively portrayed by forms of thought and expression by which inspired writers and classic authors represent the carnal servitude, fruitless purposes, and fatal defeats of the legal, fleshly, worldly, and sinful life aiid experience? It has been said that no absurdity can be named which has not been the fundamental tenet with some leading sect in philosophy. We affirm, without fear of contradiction, that there cannot be conceived a wider departure from the real meaning of a text of Scripture, or from "the mind of the Spirit," who inspired the text, than is involved in this post-primitive exposition of Rom. vii. 525, the exposition which amrrns that this passage presents "a literal, perfect, accurate, correct photograph of the experience of every true saint of God." In the name of every such saint who has ever really and truly known "the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith," we protest against such a subversive exposition.
There are no Forms of Expression found in this passage incompatible at all with the Primitive Exposition.
It is claimed on the part of the advocates of the post-primitive exposition, that there are in this chapter forms of expression which are never employed but in reference to believers. Hence, the inference that Paul must here describe Christian, instead of a legal or worldly, experience. None but Christians, it is said, for example, do "delight in the law of God after the inner man"; and here we have the strongest case that can be adduced in favour of this post-primitive exposition. We must bear in mind that the apostle does not affirm such delight in the absolute sense in which the righteous is affirmed to exercise such delight; but in a specific and restricted sense, and in reference to a certain department of our nature, the department represented by the words "inner man." These words obviously represent that department of our nature which approves the right and reprobates the wrong, and impels even worldly minds to do the one and avoid the otherin other words, our moral and spiritual nature to vhich the apostle refers in the words, "their consciences also bearing witness, their thoughts the meanwhile accusing, or else excusing one another," "the natural conscience "to which, in every man, the truth, when manifested, "commends itself." Ancient classic authors were accustomed to speak of the natural conscience as a soul within the soul. Plato refers to it in the very words of Paul, "the inward man." Philo speaks of it as "the man in the man, the better in the worse." Marcus Antonius speaks of it as "a guide and leader, which God has given to each of us," and Aristotle as "a Divine ruler in us," while Seneca speaks of it as "a Holy Spirit in us," and Epictetus as "God in us." Paul's readers at Rome could not but have understood him as referring, by the words under consideration, to the rational or moral nature, or the natural conscience, there and then generally referred to as "the inner man." To put any other construction upon these words is to forget that this epistle was written to Greeks and Romans who universally understood said words in this one sense. Understanding the apostle according to his obvious meaning, all evidence disappears at once, that the words, "I delight in the law of God after the inward man," refer only to the Christian. Every man has a moral and spiritual, as well as an aesthetic, nature. To the former department of our nature, the conscience, moral law, duty, and moral virtue, are objects of emotive approbation and delight, and vice, and crime, and sin, of emotive hate and reprobation, just as to the aesthetic department, things beautiful, grand, and sublime are objects of emotive admiration and delight, and their opposites of natural disgust. Nor is there any more moral or Christian virtue in the former class of feelings than in the latter. Real moral and Christian virtue, as everywhere represented in the Scriptures and in classic writings, does not consist in merely approving and delighting "in the law of God," but in actual "obedience to the law of righteousness," not in mere willing, or resolving to obey the law and will of God, but in "finding how to perform," and actually performing, that which is "good." Jews who" heard, but would not obey the Word of God," are represented (Isa. lviii. 2) as "delighting to know God's ways," and as "delighting to approach unto God," while the prophet who disclosed to the same unbelieving, disobedient, and reprobate Jews "the law of God" is amrmed (Ez. iii. 33) to have been unto them "as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument," and as being called upon and urged by these same men, to "make known to them the ordinances of righteousness," such was their "delight in the law of God after the inward man." In such passages as the following the wickedest of men are represented as thus "delighting in the law of God and in His truth" (Mark vi. 20, John v. 35, Matt. xiii. 20, &c.). Almost nothing is more common with classic writers than references to the approbation and delight with which the wickedest of men often contemplate the law of duty and moral virtue, which they refused to obey and practise, and of their sentiments of internal disapproval, hatred, and reprobation of the vices and sins which they did perpetrate. Greeks and Romans, to whom the epistle was sent, were absolutely certain not to understand the apostle as referring, in the words under consideration, or in any expressions found in this passage, to believers in Jesus. Nor do we know of an error more unscriptural or dangerous to the immortal interests of men than that which assures individuals that they are Christians simply because they experience sentments of internal approval and "delight in the law of God." Not he that merely experiences inward delight in truth and duty, but "He," says our Saviour, "that bath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me." "He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous."
The Primitive Exposition harmonizes with, and the Post-primitive contradicts all the other teaching of Scripture upon the same subject.
Our last argument is this: The primitive exposition must be true, and the post-primitive false, or the revelations of God on this vital subject are palpably self-contradictory. Take in illustration, the declarations found in this and the next chapter, declarations lying in immediate proximity to one another. "I find then a law (a fixed and inimutable order of sequence) that when (whenever) I would (aim or purpose) to do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." Now read the opposite statement in the next chapter: "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus bath made me free from the law of sin and death." Again, "I am carnal, sold under sin": "Ye are not in the flesh (carnal), but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you"; and "I keep my body (the flesh) under, and bring it into subjection." Unless we can, at the same time, be "under the law of sin," and held in captivity there, and be "free from that law," unless we can, at the same time, be "carnal, sold under sin," and "keep our body under," and not be in the flesh (carnal), but in the Spirit, this post-primitive exposition must be false. The same holds true in respect to the photograph presented in this passage, and all the portraitures of Christian life and experience presented everywhere in the Scriptures. Victory is the fixed result of the action of "the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus," as everywhere presented therein. Inglorious defeat is the equally fixed law of the conflict portrayed in this passage. The Christian, as portrayed by the pen of inspiration, is "the Lord's freeman." The individual here photographed is a bond-slave, a groaning captive chained to a "body of death." It is impossible, we repeat, that this post-priniitive exposition can be true, unless the same thing can, at the same moment, be true and not true of the same individual. "He that believeth in me, as the Scripture bath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." This is Christ's photograph of the real Christian life and experience under this dispensation. Is this the portraiture drawn in the passage before us? Does Rom. vii. 525, present a real representation of "the riches, of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in us the hope of glory"? You wrong your own soul, Reader, and do violence to all the teachings of the Spirit upon this subject, when you make your abode in this passage, and say to yourself; I have here a revealed photograph of "the life which, by the faith of the Son of God, I am to live in the flesh."
Rom. vii. 25 Explained.
The apostle concludes Rom. vii., with these words, in which he states, in brief; the results of his previous discussion: "So then, with the mind, I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin." Prof. Stuart thus expounds these words: "While my mind, that is, my reason and conscience, takes part with the law of God and approves its sanctions, my carnal part obtains the predominance, and brings me into a state of condemnation and ruin." To the same effect is the explanation of Tholuck, Meyer, and others. The original word here rendered mind was, at that time, as shown by Prof. Robinson in his Greek Lexicon of the N. T., frequently employed to represent the moral nature, or conscience, as distinguished from the sinful propensities represented by the term flesh, and so he, in common with the authors to whom we have referred, explains the word in the passage before us. Such an understanding of the word must be accepted from the fact that it is here employed by the apostle as synonymous in meaning with the words rendered "the inward man," which must, as we have shown, be understood as representing the conscience, or moral nature. The original words, rendered, "I myself," demand special attention. According to Tholuck, Meyer, and many others, and that for the best reasons, the words, "I, myself;" mean "the man, in his own personality alone and confined to itself." "I in my own person without any higher saving intervention." Such, as Tholuck states, is the meaning of such forms of expression in. the Greek, Latin, and German. Thus, in the proverb, where a sovereign says, "I myself reign as king, and make my own clothes," the meaning is, "I myself do this, no one helping me." So Paul, in the words "I myself;" means I, left and confined to myself; without any higher aid. What is man's condition, with no resources out of himself? He has a moral nature, a conscience, which prompts him to choose and do the right. Following such promptings, he "obeys the law of God." He has, at the same time, a carnal nature, which is far stronger than the moral, and by the overwhelming force of "the law in his members warring against the law of his mind," that is, his conscience, he is "brought into captivity to the law of sin which is in the members." Thus left to himself; without any higher intervention, he is hopelessly lost and ruined. Such is "the conclusion of the whole matter."
This whole subject was most impressively presented by a leading German scholar and theologian, in a conference on holiness, held in Basle, since that at Brighton, a conference of a wbole week's continuance, and attended by more than 5,000 eager listeners. Our informant was Prof. Paul Vernier, who was present during all the meetings. During the progress of the conference the venerable scholar and theologian referred to, rose and said :Brethren, the whole secret is plain to me now. Compaze the last verse of Rom. vii. with the first of the following chapter. The original words rendered, "I, myself," mean, according to fixed Greek usage, I, in myself, by myself, without any aid from any power out of and above myself. What is the condition of the creature thus left to himself, and depending upon no grace out of himself? He has a moral nature, a conscience which prompts him to "obey the law of God," and following such promptings, he does obey. He has, at the same time, a sinful nature represented by the term flesh. The promptings of "his fleshy nature, being the strongest, wars against the promptings of the moral nature, and overcomes, so that man does "serve the law of sin." To get free from this servitude and captivity all human resolutions and efforts are vain, in himself as "I, ipyself;" man is without hope. Where is the remedy? Read it in the first verse of the next chapter. "There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are," not in the self, acted upon only by legal motives and aided by no grace from without the self; but "in Christ Jesus." In this new and gracious relation we no more "waik after the flesh, but after the Spirit," arid "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus makes us free from the law of sin and death," while "the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us." The great secret after which we are inquiring, then, is to get out of the self, the "I, myself," and "into Christ Jesus." Dead to the self; dead to all self efforts and endeavours, "dead to the law" as a motive power for holiness, no longer standing and acting as the "I, myself," but "married to Christ," that is, "in Him," and "united to him by faith," we shall, indeed, "bring forth fruit unto God," "have our fruit unto holiness and the end everlasting life," "walk, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit," and "in all things, be more than conquerors through Him that hath loved us."
Such are the real reasonirigs and deductions of the great apostle of the Gentiles in the two chapters under consideration, and so, for centuries after this epistle was written, was he understood by all the Churches which he planted, and by all believers who read his writings. For centuries past, "blindness in part has happened" to the Church, through an "eclipse of faith," occasioned by this post-primitive exposition. The time is not distant, however, when the Church universal will read in these two chapters what God designed all should readthe absolute hopelessness of man for moral virtue when standing, unaided by Divine grace, as the "I, myself;" and acted upon only by legal motives on the one hand, and on the other his perfect completeness, and "all-sufficiency for all things," when "in Christ Jesus," and under the power of " the Spirit of grace," and when "the life which he lives in the flesh, he lives by the faith of the Son of God."
THE DOCTRINE OF HOLINESS AS HELD BY THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH.
The Apostolic Age.
WE believe that we have fully verified the fact, that, according to the undivided testimony of the primitive Church up to the time of the Pelagian controversy (A.D. 400430), the apostle, in Rom. vii. 525, describes the state and experience, not of a Christian, but, in the language of Augustine, "of a man who has never been under grace." We will now proceed to prove, what may be a matter of great interest to our readers, that during the period above designated, the doctrine of holiness, as now held and taught by the advocates of Higher Life, is the specific doctrine generally, if not universally, held by that Church. The term perfection, more perfectly than any we know of, represents the primitive doctrine on this subject. We shall trace the doctrine as we find it among the apostolic and primitive Fathers during the four centuries under consideration. Clement, Barnabas, Ignatius, Hermas, and Polycarp, were companions of the Apostles, and next to those of the latter, the writings of the former had place in the regard of the early Churches. From the Epistle of Clement to the Church of Corinth we make the following citations :
"And being full of good designs, ye did with great readiness of mind, and with a religious confidence, stretch forth your hands to God Almighty: beseeching Him to be merciful unto you, if in anything ye had unwillingly sinned against Him."
In the judgment of Clement individuals, in that Church, did "live with a pure conscience," that is, with conscious conformity to all the known will of God. Again, "Ye were sincere and without offence towards each other." But Moses said, "Not so, Lord, forgive now this people their sin, or if Thou wilt not, blot me out of the book of the living." O admirable charity! O insuperable perfection !
From the Epistle of Barnabas we cite the following passages :
"I gave diligence to write in few words, that, together with your faith, your knowledge might be perfect."
"But how does He dwell in us? The word of His faith, the calling of His promise, the wisdom of His righteous judgments, the commands of His doctrines. He Himself prophesies within us, He Himself dwelleth in us, and openeth to us who were in bondage of death the gate of our templethat is, the mouth of wisdomhaving given repentance unto us: and by this means has brought us to be an incorruptible temple."
In his Epistle to the Church at Ephesus, Ignatius uses the following language :
"Being followers of God, and stirring up yourselves by the blood of Christ, ye have perfectly accomplished the work that was connatural unto you."
Again : "They that are of the flesh cannot do the works of the Spirit, neither they that are of the Spirit the works of the flesh. As he that has faith cannot be an infidel, nor he that is an infidel have faith. But even those things that ye do according to the flesh are spiritual, forasmuch as ye do all things in Jesus Christ.
"Ye are, therefore, with all your companions in the same journey, full of God; His spiritual temples, full of Christ, full of holiness; adorned in all things with the commands of Christ. In whom also I rejoice that I have been thought worthy by this present epistle to converse, and joy together with you; that with respect to the other life, ye love nothing but God only.
"That so no herb of the devil may be found in you; but ye may remain in all holiness and sobriety both of body and spirit in Christ Jesus."
"Of all which nothing is hid from you, if ye have perfect faith and charity in Christ Jesus, which are the begnning and end of life."
"No man, professing a true faith, sinneth: neither does he who has charity hate any."
In his epistle to another Church, he says :
"For inasmuch as ye are perfect yourselves, ye ought to think those things that are perfect. For when you are are desirous to do well, God is ready to enable you thereunto."
In his epistle to the Church at Philippi, Polycarp thus writes :
"Into which (the Epistle of Paul), if you look, you will be able to edify yourselves in the faith that has been delivered unto you, which is the mother of us all, being followed with hope, and led on by a general love both towards God and towards Christ, and towards our neighbour. For if any man has these things, he has fulfilled the law of righteousness, for he that has charity is far from all sin."
The work entitled "The Shepherd of Hermas" is one of the very earliest and most highly-esteemed in the primitive Church of all the writings that appeared after the Apostles left the world. It was quoted as of the very highest authority, after the Scriptures, by such individuals as Irenaeus, Athanasius, Origen, Eusebius, and Hierom. The work is in the form of a dialogue between a shepherd and angel visitant and instructor, the angel of the Covenant. The following lengthy extract from this work will well repay an attentive perusal, not only on account of the light which it throws upon our present inquiries, but also upon the way of hohiness by faith as taught in the Apostolic Church :
"And when he had fulfilled these twelve commands, he said unto me, 'Thou hast now these commands, walk in them, and exhort those that hear them that they repent, and that they keep their repentance pure all the remaining days of their life. And fulfil diligently this ministry which I commit to thee, and thou shalt receive great advantage by it; and shalt find favour with all such as shall believe thy words. For I am with thee, and will force them to believe.' And I said unto him, 'Sir, these commands are great and excellent, and able to cheer the heart of that man that shall be able to keep them. But, sir, I cannot tell whether they can be observed by any man.' He answered, 'Thou shalt easily keep these commands, and they shall not be hard; howbeit, if thou shalt suffer it once to enter into thy heart that they cannot be kept by any one, thou shalt not fulfil them. But now, I say unto thee, if thou shalt not observe these commands, but shall neglect them, thou shalt not be saved, nor thy children, nor thy house.'
"These things he spake very angrily unto me, inasmuch that he greatly affrighted me. For he changed his countenance so that a man could not bear his anger. And when he saw me altogether troubled and confounded, he began to speak more moderately and cheerfully, saying, 'Oh, foolish, and without understanding, unconstant, not knowing the majesty of God, how great and wonderful He is who created the world for man, and bath made every creature subject to him, and given him all power that he should be able to fulfil all these commands. He is able,' said he, 'to fulfil all these commands, who has the Lord in his heart; but they who have the Lord only in their mouths, and their heart is hardened, and they are far from the Lord, to such persons these commands are hard and dimcult. Put, therefore, ye that are empty and light in the faith, the Lord God in your hearts; and ye shall perceive how that nothing is more easy than these commands, nor more pleasant, nor more gentle and holy. And turn yourselves to the Lord your God, and forsake the devil and his pleasures, because they are evil, and bitter, and impure. And fear not the devil, because he has no power over you. For I am with you, the messenger of repentance, who have the dominion over him. The devil doth indeed affright men, but his terror is vain. Wherefore fear him not, and he will flee from you.' And I said unto him' Sir, hear me speak a few words unto you.' He answered' Say on.' 'A man indeed desires to keep the Commandments of God; and there is no one but what prays unto God, that he may be able to keep His Commandments. But the devil is hard, and by power rules over the servants of God.' And he said, 'He cannot rule over the servants of God who trust in Him with all their hearts. The devil may strive, but he cannot overcome them. For if ye resist him, he will flee away with confusion from you. But they that are not full in the faith fear the devil as if he had some great po'ver. For the devil tries the servants of God; and if he finds them empty he destroys them. For as a man, when he fills up vessels with good wine, and among them puts a few vessels half full, and comes to try and taste of the vessels, doth not try those that are full, because he knows that they are good; but tastes those that are half full, lest they should grow sour, for vessels half full soon grow sour, and lose the taste of wine; so the devil comes to the servants of God to try them. They that are full of faith resist him stoutly, and he departs from them, because he finds no place where to enter into them; then he goes to those that are not full of faith, and because he has place of entrance he goes into them, and does what he will with them, and they become his servants. But I, the messenger of repentance, say unto you, Fear not the devil. For I am sent unto you that I may be with you, as many as shall repent with your whole heart, and that I may confirm you in the faith. Believe, therefore, ye who by reason of your transgressions have forgot God, and your own salvation; and, adding to your sins, have made your life very heavy, that if ye shall turn to the Lord with your whole hearts, and shall serve Him according to His will, He will heal you of your former sins, and ye shall have dominion over all the works of the devil. Be not then afraid in the least of his threatenings, for they are without force, as the nerves of a dead man. But hearken unto me, and fear the Lord Almighty, who is able to save and destroy you; and keep His commands, that ye may live unto God.' And I said unto him, 'Sir, I am now confirmed in all the commands of the Lord whilst that you are with me; and I know that you will break all the power of the devil, and we also shall overcome him if we shall be able, through the help of the Lord, to keep these commands which you have delivered.' 'Thou shalt keep them,' said he, 'if thou shalt purify thy heart towards the Lord. And all they also shall keep them who shall cleanse their hearts from the vain desires of the present world, and shall live unto God."
In none of the writings of any of these apostolic Fathers do we find it hinted that believers are expected to sin, and do sin, "daily in thought, word, and deed." On the other hand, the entertaining of such a thought is repudiated and reprobated, as one of the most dangerous errors that can have place in the mind. The same method of sanctification, namely, "sanctification by faith," is most clearly and specifically set forth in their writings. Everywhere in these writings we meet with the great truth, that "we are complete in Him," and "can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth us." The teachings in the Oxford and Brighton Conferences, and in all Conferences on Scriptural Holiness, are but repetitions of the fundamental teachings of these apostolic Fathers.
The Post-apostolic Age.
In giving the views of the primitive Church in the post-apostolic age, in respect to the doctrine of sanctification by faith, we will first refer to the sentiments which obtained at the time of the controversy between Augustine and Pelagius. We must bear in mind that very little difference of opinion obtained between these individuals on this subject. This is fully evident from Augustine's own statements. "We should not," he says,and we commend his admonition to the consideration of those who oppose the same doctrine now," We should not with inconsiderate heat oppose those who maintain that man may be without sin in this life. For if we deny the possibility we detract from the free will of man who voluntarily desires this, or from the power or mercy of God, which effects it by His aid." "If I also allow," he says again, "that some have been, or are, without sin, still I maintain that in no other way are they, or have they been able to be so, but by being justified by the Grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord, who was crucified." In respect to the mother of Jesus, "he always held it improper and contrary to the reverence due to Jesus to speak of the sin of Mary." "We know not," he says, "but grace was given her wholly to vanquish sin, who was worthy to conceive and bear Him who knew no sin." "I know," he says, speaking upon the same subject, "this is the opinion of some, whose opinion I dare not censure, though I cannot defend it." in another place he refers to the celebrated teacher, Ambrose, as holding this doctrine.
In the year 415 a council was held at Diospolis (Lydda), a council constituted of fourteen bishops from in and around Palestine, a council called to determine the orthodoxy of Pelagius. This council was called by three opposers of this individual, viz. Heron, Lazarus, and Crosius, who called it with the hope of securing the condemnation of the accused. From the records of the council we make the following citations :
"Charge VII., Pelagius has said a man may be without sin if he will.
"Pelagius: I have indeed said that a man may be without sin, and keep God's commands if he will. For this ability God has given him. But I have never said that any one can be found, from infancy to old age, who has never sinned; but being converted from sin he can, by his own labour and God's grace, be without sin; still he is not by this immutable for the future.
"Synod: As Pelagius has now correctly answered that man, by God's aid and grace, may be without sin, let him also answer to other points."
We must bear in mind that this was one of the most influential councils called in that age. Soon after this convocation, "Bishop John, of Jerusalem, reproached Crosius for teaching that man cannot be without sin even by God's aid and grace." In neither of the four councils subsequently held to try the orthodoxy of Pelagius and his disciple Coelestius, were either of them censured at all for holding this doctrine, while, in two of the most influential of them, their orthodoxy on these and kindred doctrines were specifically affirmed. These facts evince the prevailing sentiment of the Church in favour of the doctrine at that time.
Of all the Fathers after the apostolic age, and prior to the year 400, none were held in more universal esteem, and had a more widely extended influence, than Chrysostom and Athanasius. On this subject their judgments are most explicitly pronounced, and as far as history reveals facts, their views were uncontradicted. Athanasius expresses the absolute conviction that there had been "many in the Church who were free from all sin." He wrote the life of St. Anthony as an example of one who had been thus saved, and had unqualifiedly lived a Christian life, which was "with out spot and blameless." Chrysostom, speaking of that memoir, says, that "it holds forth all that the commands of Christ demand." In his commentary on Gal. ii. 20, Chrysostom says, "By saying 'Christ liveth in me,' he means nothing is done by me, which Christ disapproves." We cite more at length his comment on I Cor. iv. 16, "Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me," and also (xi. I), "Be ye followers of me, even as I am of Christ." Astonishing! How great is our teacher's boldness of speech! How highly finished the image when he can exhort others hereunto, not that in self-exaltation he doth so, but implying that virtue is an easy thing. As if he had said, Tell me not "I am not able to imitate thee," for the difference between me and you is not so great as between Christ and me, and yet I have imitated Him.
On the other hand, writing to the Ephesians, he interposes no mention of himself, but leads them all to the one point. "Be ye followers of God," are his words; but in this place, since his discourse was addressed to weak persons, he puts himself in the way. And besides, too, he signifies that it is possible even thus to follow Christ, " for he who copies the perfect impression of the seal, copies the original model."
To no candid mind can the meaning of the above extracts be a matter of doubt. Chrysostom undeniably believed that Paul, as living in Christ, and Christ living in him, "did nothing which Christ disapproves," and meant in the above passage to affirm the fact. Chrysostom meant also to affirm that all believers may be saved from all sin, because that the weakest could fully copy or follow Paul, who was in his life and character "a perfect impression" of the life and character of Christ.
Athanasius not only maintained that there were "many in the Church who were saved from all sin," but that there were others who hada great errorattained to "angelic perfection." To understand the meaning of such words, we would state that one or two centuries after the Apostles the Christian virtues were divided into two classesthose absolutely required of all as duties, the non-performance of which was sin; and others not thus required, but most highly commended. The former class of principles were called "precepts," the latter "counsels." Those who, by grace, performed all required duties were free from all sin. Those who found grace thus to obey, and from love to Christ and His cause denied themselves of things lawful and right, such as marriage, not only were saved from all sin, but attained to angelic perfection, a form of perfection, in the language of Athanasius, "above law." Speaking of this latter class of believers, Athanasius says: "The Son of God made man for us, and having abolished death, and having liberated our race from the servitude of corruption, bath, besides other gifts, granted to us to have on earth an image of the sanctity of angels." "Nowhere, truly," he adds, "except among us as Christians, is this holy and heavenly profession fully borne out and perfected." To this fact he then appeals, as proof of the divinity of Christianity. Language precisely similar to the above, and almost the same words are employed by such writers as Chrysostom and Tertullian, to express the same doctrine. "Should any one among men," says Chrysostom, for example, "become as virtuous as an angel, that man is in a far higher degree superior to thee (the man of the world) than an angel is." "Because the angel has his home far above thee in distance, and dwelleth in heaven; whereas this man is living and conversing with thee, and giving an impulse to thy emulation." "And there is such a thing as an angel, too, even among men." We here find the welling-out of a great error, that which finally transformed itself into the Popish Dogma of Supererogation. We find, at the same time, undeniable proof of the general, if not universal, prevalence of the great doctrine, that "by God's aid and grace," believers may he "saved from all sin."
We adduce now the testimony of but one other of the primitive writers, Justin Martyr, who, in his early youth was personally acquainted with Polycarp and other of the apostolic Fathers. In his apology to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, A.D. 162, he declares that he could "point out many men, as well as women, who, having followed the Christian institute from their earliest years, had remained to an advanced age, sixty or seventy years, incorrupt." Justin Martyr is here speaking of that form of power which peculiarises the Gospel, and distinguishes it from all other religions and forms of belief, the power of moral and spiritual renovation, the power to save from all sin.
Beginning, then, with the apostolic, and advancing down through the entire martyr age, we find this doctrine of Sanctification by Faith omnipresent in the Churches, and omnipresent in this one formthat "man by God's aid and grace, can be without sin." Not until after the year 400 does there appear to have been any controversy in the Churches upon the subject. This doctrine, like the primitive exposition of Rom. vii., was everywhere the accepted doctrine, and was proclaimed as the crowning glory of "the glorious Gospel of the blessed God." Among the apostolic Fathers and their immediate successors, while we find this doctrine omnipresent, we find no trace whatever of that great error which afterwards arose, the error, not that "by God's aid and grace we can be saved from all sin," but that some have attained to a form of "perfection above law." This doctrine of Sanctification by Faith, of Salvation from all sin in this life, through Christ in us, the hope of glory, and the power of the eternal Spirit, has, as a stream of light, passed down from the Apostles through the ages, has been embraced and proclaimed by the holiest men and women the Church has ever known, and in our day has lifted its Divine form before the Churches throughout Christendom as "the rising of the Sun of righteousness with healing in His wings." It devolves upon those to whom God has committed the responsibility of leading the Church, as, "she walks in the light," while they teach nothing which "limits the Holy One," to guard carefully against any errors which "corrupt the Word of God."