« PrécédentContinuer »
two classes there can be no third. Sins must eitber cancel or not cancel our forgiveness; hinder or not hinder our advance in sanctification; and they will accordingly be mortal or venial.
It is plain, then, that when we speak of sin after baptism we do not mean those venial sins which the holiest of regenerate men have committed. Such sins are, in fact, little more than the remainder of that nature which needed regeneration; and their continued presence in the soul arises from the fact, that God has ordained our restoration to holiness to be wrought not by a single act of His will, but by a progressive probation of our own. We may, therefore, dismiss this class.
Of the other that is to say, of those sins which cancel our relation of present forgiveness, and hinder the sanctification of our souls-this is to be said. There is a distinction to be drawn between the effect of such sins on our relation towards God, and the effect of them on our inward and regenerate nature; or in common words, between the guilt and the defilement of them.
As to the guilt, this we know, that upon a true repentance it shall be absolutely forgiven.
But our present subject is the parallel between the sanctity of our Lord, and the holiness of the regenerate. It is, therefore, the effect of sin upon the inward and regenerate nature that we are now considering; and of this it has been already said, that its effect is, to hinder the advance of our sanctification; and if so, it is no less than a direct antagonist of the grace of our regeneration, and a defeat of the purpose of God in our new birth of the Spirit: it is a resistance to the preventing grace of God, a refusal to be led by Him, and to follow His guidance and illumination. The work of the new creation is brought to a stand; the capacities and powers of the new nature are baffled and thwarted; and, further, the mind of the flesh is thereby released from the power which held it in check. From our first childhood sin unfolds itself by its own energy, and by the deliberate motions of the will, and thereby gains to itself a new condition. From its potential it passes into an actual reality; and by act and reality it directly strengthens its own energies, and confirms itself in its own particular forms, such as lust, anger, pride, falsehood, sloth ; and having become formal, becomes also habitual ; and that raises a two-fold opposition to the Spirit of Holiness. The passive and unconscious state of the fallen being passes into active and conscious sin. What was at first a passive inability becomes an energetic resistance, an excited enmity, and a conscious warfare of the will. By this ineans the soul becomes inflamed, darkened, and defiled. The continual actings of the desires, lusts, imaginations, leave soils and stains, and, as it were, deposit a crust of evil upon the whole spiritual nature. It multiplies its own plague spots in darkness. And the spiritual being inclines to the state and fellowship of fallen angels, to which the regenerate sinner is akin both in nature and in apostacy. How little parents seem to know what they are doing when they make light of their children's early sins! They are doing nothing less than their best to undo God's grace in the regeneration of their children, to make their salvation doubtful, and their future sorrows and losses many and inevitable.
2. And this brings us to a second inference. We may hence learn the true relation of repentance to regeneration. Those who have no faith in holy baptism look upon repentance or conversion as the perfect aim or design of the dispensation of grace. They consider it as the accomplishment of the mind of the Spirit towards us, and place it on
the highest step of our ascent to God. And how can they help doing so, while they believe nothing of the true sanctity of the regenerate? How can they understand that what they put forward as the highest state is but the lower; that which they regard as the perfect work is only the remedy,– blessed indeed, but, at best, no more than the remedy,after the grace of regeneration has failed to work its perfect work in us? In one sense, indeed, all saints need repentance; the holiest, who from childhood grow in light and sanctity, grow also in compunction, tears, and humiliation but this is not what we commonly call repentance. We mean the conviction, sorrow, remorse, and turning of the adult, after falls, from sin to God; that is conversion. Now if there be any truth in what has been said, it is clear that the necessity of this kind of conversion or repentance arises out of the disobedience of the regenerate, and from the falls of those that sin grievously after baptism. That which is put forward as the perfection of the saints is the recovery of fallen Christians. And the reason why this theory mantains itself so strongly and is so popular is, because it is the interest of the majority to hold it. The great multitude of Christians are in that state. Many are called, and few are chosen." All are regenerate, but saints are few. The multitude are at best to be numbered among penitents; and their own case fixes their theology, and sets bounds to their belief. What is true of themselves, they think is true of all, and true alone; parıly, I say, from being bribed, as it were,
I to hold a theory that will make the best of their own case ; and partly because the very nature of their case must make them unconscious of the realities which others know who have never fallen as they have. Besides, the tokens and evidences of repentance are just those that are most perceptible to the world. They appeal to the ear and to the
eye, and force themselves upon the notice of men. The zeal, fervor, activity, which converted or converting men exhibit are so nearly akin to the same qualities in the mind and character of worldly people, that they are more easily understood and appreciated. The character of true saintliness, as it is most remote from the world, and even opposed to it, is least understood and valued by the world. It is either simply not perceived to exist, or it is thought eccentric, weak, and unprofitable. This will explain why the popular religion will always incline to exalt repentance to the position of the leading idea and design of the gospel. But when we pass from the judgment of sight to the discernment of faith, we shall see that it is but remedial and secondary; that it is a painful and laborious undoing of the tangled and stubborn perversity of the disobedient will ; that it is, as it was called of old, a kind of regeneration, implying thereby the freeness of God's mercy, the greatness of the necessity, the dangerous state of the lapsed Christian, the depth of the injury done to the spiritual nature; so that it can be likened only to the original state of sin and death, and healed by a work second only in greatness to the original operation of preventing grace upon the soul. All this shows us that the repentance of baptized men is as the difficult and precarious recovery of those who, after the partial cure of a death-sickness, fall into relapse. The powers of nature are wasted, the virtues of medicine baffled, and the disease grows doubly strong. A sad exchange for those who once walked in white raiment, and were numbered among the children of God. .
3. Lastly, we see in what it is that they who have been kept and sanctified from their regeneration exceed the blessedness of penitents. They have never fallen away from their first estate. The grace of their election, though
it has been resisted and grieved, has never been baffled and reduced to inaction. Not to have fallen into the pollution of the world, the flesh, and the devil, how high a grace ! How unspeakably great is the loving-kindness of Him who has thus kept them! From what has the grace of regeneration protected them ;—from what dangerous familiarity with evil—from what excitements of the carnal mindfrom what defilement of the imagination from what obliquity of the will—from what unfeelingness of heart! To be free from all this, how blessed! To be ignorant of that which must be unlearnt with pain and sorrow by all who will enter God's kingdom! From what hours of bitter remorse—from what years of toil, weakness, and infirmity, are they preserved! and what a delusion is it to believe that the visible fervor and zeal of penitents is evidence of a higher state of grace! What can their zeal or fervor do in comparison with the unconscious strength and steadfast principle of those that have ever walked with God? It is not, indeed, to be denied that we do sometimes see in " righteous persons who need no repentance" a torpor and sluggishness of spirit ; but still oftener the world so judges of them because it cannot read the tokens of their state aright. The depth and inward force of true holiness are beyond the world's ken; the calm and unmoved collectedness with which they set themselves to the greatest tasks, worldly eyes cannot discern from torpor and tameness. Why should they exhibit the noise and excitement of effort, whose very nature is moulded into unconscious obedience? They do great things in silence ; and the world thinks that because they say little, they do nothing. The haste and exertion which penitents must needs use to make up their lost time and ground, has in them long since passed into the steadfast and quiet consist