« AnteriorContinuar »
a "babe in Christ," has the love of God in his heart, the love of his neighbour, together with lowliness, meekness, and resignation. But all of these are then in a low degree, in proportion to the degree of his faith. The faith of a babe in Christ is weak, generally mingled with doubts or fears; with doubts, whether he has not deceived himself; or fears, that he shall not endure to the end. And if, in order to prevent these perplexing doubts, or to remove these tormenting fears, he catches hold of the opinion, that a true believer cannot make shipwreck of the faith, experience will sooner or later shew, that it is merely the staff of a broken reed, which will be so far from sustaining him, that it will only enter into his hand and pierce it. But to return. In the same proportion as he grows in faith, he grows in holiness: he increases in love, lowliness, meekness, in every part of the image of God; till it pleases God, after he is thoroughly convinced of inbred sin, of the total corruption of his nature, to take it all away, to purify his heart and cleanse him from all unrighteousness; to fulfil that promise which he made first to his ancient people, and in them to the Israel of God in all ages, "I will circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul.”
It is not easy to conceive what a difference there is, between that which he experiences now, and that which he experienced before. Till this universal change was wrought in his soul, all his holiness was mixed. He was humble, but not entirely; his humility was mixed with pride: He was meek, but his meekness was frequently interrupted by anger, or some uneasy and turbulent passion. His love of God was frequently damped, by the love of some creature: the love of his neighbour, by evil surmising, or some thought, if not temper, contrary to love. His will was not wholly melted down into the Will of God; but although in general he could say, "I come not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me," yet now and then nature rebelled, and he could not clearly say, "Lord, not as I will, but as thou wilt." His whole soul is now consistent with
itself: there is no jarring string. All his passions flow in a continual stream, with an even tenor to God. To him that is entered into this rest, you may truly say,
"Calm thou ever art within,
All unruffled, all serene!"
There is no mixture of any contrary affections: all is peace and harmony after. Being filled with love, there is no more interruption of it, than of the beating of his heart, and continual love bringing continual joy in the Lord, he rejoices evermore. He converses continually with the God whom he loves, unto whom in every thing he gives thanks. And as he now loves God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind, and with all his strength, so Jesus now reigns alone in his heart, the Lord of every motion there.
11. But it may be enquired, In what manner does God work this entire, this universal change in the soul of a believer? This strange work, which so many will not believe, though we declare it unto them? Does he work it gradually, by slow degrees? or instantaneously, in a moment? How many are the disputes upon this head, even among the children of God! And so there will be, after all that ever was, or ever can be said upon it. For many will still say, with the famous Jew, "Non persuadebis, etiamsi persuaseris:" that is, "Thou shalt not persuade me, though thou dost persuade me." And they will be the more resolute herein, because the Scriptures are silent upon the subject; because the point is not determined, at least, not in express terms, in any part of the Oracles of God. Every man, therefore, may abound in his own sense, provided he will not be angry at those who differ from his opinion, nor entertain hard thoughts concerning them. Permit me, likewise, to add one thing more. Be the change instantaneous or gradual, see that you never rest till it is wrought in your own soul, if you desire to dwell with God in glory.
12. This premised, in order to throw what light I can upon this interesting question, I will simply relate what I
have seen myself in the course of many years. Four or five and forty years ago, when I had no distinct views of what the Apostle meant, by exhorting us to "leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ, and go on to perfection;" two or three persons in London, whom I knew to be truly sincere, desired to give me an account of their experience. It appeared exceedingly strange, being dif ferent from any that I had heard before: but exactly similar to the preceding account of entire sanctification. The next year, two or three more persons at Bristol, and two or three in Kingswood, coming to me severally, gave me exactly the same account of their experience. A few years after, I desired all those in London, who made the same profession, to come to me all together at the Foundery, that I might be thoroughly satisfied. I desired that man of God, Thomas Walsh, to give us the meeting there. When we met, first one of us, and then the other, asked them the most searching questions we could devise. They answered every one without hesitation, and with the utmost simplicity, so that we were fully persuaded, they did not deceive themselves. In the years 1759, 1760, 1761, and 1762, their numbers multiplied exceedingly, not only in London and Bristol, but in various parts of Ireland as well as England. Not trusting to the testimony of others, I carefully examined most of these myself: and in London alone, I found six hundred and fifty-two members of our Society, who were exceedingly clear in their experience, and of whose testimony I could see no reason to doubt. I believe no year has passed since that time, wherein God has not wrought the same work in many others; but sometimes in one part of England or Ireland, sometimes in another; as "the wind bloweth where it listeth :" and every one of these, (after the most careful enquiry, I have not found one exception either in Great Britain or Ireland,) has declared that his deliverance from sin was instantaneous, that the change was wrought in a moment. Had half of these, or one third, or one in twenty, declared it was gradually wrought in them, I should have believed this, with regard
to them, and thought that some were gradually sanctified and some instantaneously. But as I have not found in so long a space of time, a single person speaking thus: as all who believe they are sanctified, declare with one voice, that the change was wrought in a moment; I cannot but believe, that sanctification is commonly, if not always, an instantaneous work.
13. But however that question be decided, whether sanctification, in the full sense of the word, be wrought instantaneously or gradually, how may we attain to it? "What shall we do," said the Jews to our Lord, "that we may work the works of God?" His answer will suit those that ask, What shall we do, that this work of God may be wrought in us? "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." On this one work all the others depend. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and all his wisdom, and power, and faithfulness, are engaged on thy side. In this, as in all other instances, "by grace we are saved through faith." Sanctification too is "not of works, lest any man should boast." "It is the gift of God," and is to be received by plain, simple faith. Suppose you are now labouring to "abstain from all appearance of evil, zealous of good works," and walking diligently and carefully in all the ordinances of God; there is then only one point remaining: the voice of God to your soul is, "Believe, and be saved."* First, Believe that God has promised to save you from all sin, and to fill you with all holiness. Secondly, Believe that he is able thus "to save to the uttermost all those that come unto God through him." Thirdly, Believe that he is willing, as well as able, to save you to the uttermost; to purify you from all sin, and fill up all your heart with love. Believe, fourthly, that he is not only able, but willing to do it now! Not when you come to die; not at any distant time; not to-morrow, but to-day. He will then enable you to believe, it is done, according to his word. And then " patience shall have its
* See the Sermon on The Way of Salvation.
perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
14. Ye shall then be perfect. The Apostle seems to mean by this expression, TEλEO, Ye shall be wholly delivered from every evil work, from every evil word, from every sinful thought; yea, from every evil desire, passion, temper, from all inbred corruption, from all remains of the carnal mind, from the body of sin and ye shall be renewed in the spirit of your mind, in every right temper, after the image of him that created you, in righteousness and true holiness. Ye shall be entire, oλoxλnpos (the same word which the Apostle uses to the Christians in Thessalonica.) This seems to refer, not so much to the kind, as to the degree of holiness: as if he had said, "Ye shall enjoy as high a degree of holiness, as is consistent with your present state of pilgrimage." And ye shall want nothing; the Lord being your Shepherd, your Father, your Redeemer, your Sanctifier, your God, and your All, will feed you with the bread of heaven, and give you meat enough. He will lead you forth beside the waters of comfort, and keep you every moment: so that loving him with all your heart, (which is the sum of all perfection,) you will "rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in every thing give thanks,” till "an abundant entrance is ministered unto you, into his everlasting kingdom!"