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by inspiration of God? Zacharias and Elizabeth fulfilled what the Apostle Peter exhorted christians to do; “ Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent, that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless, 2 Pet. ii. 14. So also it is said of Nathanael, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile. From these examples, it appears evident that the precepts of the law are not merely designed to convict people of sin, (although this is one end of them) but that they are also designed for christians to keep ; and that it is possible to keep them.
9. That it is strictly proper to call christians perfect, is abundantly manifest from the numerous passages of scripture which speak of their perfection. Those who object to its propriety, do not consider, perhaps, that they thereby impeach the wisdom of God, who has so frequently denominated his servants perfect. I have already explained in what sense we are to understand the word when applied to christians, to which the reader is referred. That you may be convinced of its propriety, I will refer you to some of those passages where it is used.Noah was a just man and perfect, Gen. vi. 9. Mark the perfect man, Ps. xxxvii. 37. A perfect man and upright, &c. Job i. 1. Be ye therefore perfect, &c. Matth. v. 48. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, Isa. xxvi. 3. Be perfect, &c. 2 Cor. xiii. 11. We speak wisdom to them that be perfect, 1 Cor. ii. 6. That I may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus, Col. i. 28. Let us as many as be
perfect be thus minded, Phil. iii. 15. That ye may stand perfect and complete in the will of God, Col. iv. 12. Perfect love casteth out fear, John iv. 18. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected, ii. 5. Let us go on to perfection, &c. Heb. vi. 1. These are sufficient, (and many more might be added*) to convince any impartial man that we are fully justified in using the phrase, if we use it in the sense which the holy scriptures authorize.
10. You will, without doubt, acknowledge that conviction, justification and sanctification, are all the work of God. And Moses saith, His work is perfect, Deut. xxxiii. 4. When therefore a sinner is convicted, justified and sanctified, he is perfectly convicted, justified and sanctified; for all the works of God are perfect. Any thing is perfect, which answers its END. Thus when God finished his work of creation, he pronounced it all very good, that is, perfect ; because each and every part was fitted for the place it was designed to occupy, and to discharge the duties resulting from its relative situation. When souls are born into the kingdom of God, they are said to be created anew unto good works, which God ordained that ye should walk in them. To say therefore that adult christians do not walk in good works, but in sin, is to pronounce them imperfect; and to pronounce them in this sense imperfect, is to say that God's work is de fective—that he has not so wrought believers, as to answer the end of their new creation. Again; the end for which Christ died for us is, That he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. This then is the end, the manifest design of God in the work of redemption and salvation. To accomplish this end, and fit man for this design, God works in the hearts of those who believe in Jesus Christ. To say, therefore, that obedient believers are not redeemed from all iniquity, and purified from all sin, “properly so called,” is to say that the gracious design of God is frustrated, even towards those who are given to Christ. And that the Apostle in the above passage spoke of being redeemed from all iniquity in this life, is undeniably certain, from his ad-ing, a peculiar people zealous of good works ; unless you absurdly suppose that he meant they should not be zealous of good works until after death.Now, as it is impious to insinuate that the perfect work of God is defective, that his benevolent designs to the world never take effect, so it is absurd to say that believers are not saved from sin. If indeed we were left to ourselves in the work of salvation, we might well despair of an exemption from the curse of the law, and an emancipation from the ihraldom of sin. But when we take into consideration, that he who is omnipotent in power and un
* The word predestinate occurs but four times in all the scriptures, and the word predestination not once.c -Not so the word perfection; it occurs, with its derivatives, as frequently as most words in the scripture; and not seldom in the very same sense in which we take it." Checks. vol. 6. p. 15.
bounded in wisdom and goodness, has undertaken to accomplish this glorious and desirable work, all our fears of its complete accomplishment are dissipated. He who worketh in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure, is fully able and abundantly willing to work in us perfect faith and love, perfect humility and patience, perfect meekness and temperance, goodness and forbearance, which are some of the perfect graces which adorn the soul of a christian, Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it, says Paul, 1 Thess. v. 24.
III. 1. In the third place it seems necessary to notice some of the arguments by which you attempt to show the great utility of sin. I cannot help, however, noticing that, in the catalogue of Old Testament saints you have mentioned, Abraham is brought forward, of whom you say, his “ faith was mixed with unbelief,” which led him among others, in some instances to depart from the living God, P.
84.-whereas Paul saith, Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness—And being not weak in faith-He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in FAITH, giving glory to God, Rom. iv. 3, 19, 20.Is it not rather bold so flatly to contradict the lips of inspiration! But you say these holy men “in some instances departed from the living God.” And suppose it were granted, you would gain nothing by the concession in support of your doctrine ; for you carnestly contend that every christian commits sin every moment of his life! Nay, you go so far as to: say to your audience, that they never were so
guilty and ill-deserving, as you are this moment. You have increased your ill-desert since you came into the house of God, and since you began to hear this sermon," p. 99. And for my part, I am disposed to think you told them the truth; for how a man with the Bible before him, can preach such unscriptural doctrine; and how those who have been enlightened by the Spirit of truth, can embrace it without being “ guilty” of shutting their eyes against the light of truth, is difficult to conceive. Be this, however, as it may, allowing that many of the ancient saints sometimes deviated from perfect rectitude, it no more proves your point, that every sincere christian always departs from the living God, than it does that the sun is always eclipsed, because sometimes the moon intercepts its luminous rays.To have established your doctrine, you should have proved that every saint “always sinned in thought, word, and deed.” But this you never can do.What think you of Daniel, who was a man greatly beloved. No spots, that I recollect, appear in his character of I saiah, after the Angel testified of him, thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged ?--of Jeremiah, and many others that might be mentioned among that list of worthies, whose boly characters are exhibited by the Apostle in the 11th of Hebrews ? But from what different motives does he celebrate these saints ? He presents them as examples of faith and patience, of holy courage