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- The Theology of Holiness - 10/19 -


The Gentile, it is true, had not been favored with an outward revelation, but he had been permitted to behold the outward universe, and to know that it had a Creator "of eternal power and divinity." He had also had a conscience within him, and so much light as rendered him an accountable being, with a sense of obligation to a supreme power, and furnishing another proof of the existence of a personal God. But the Apostle tells us that they, the Gentiles, did not like to retain God in their knowledge. They wickedly extinguished the light which He had given them, because they were not willing to give up their immoralities. And as their hearts became more corrupt, their intellects also were darkened, and in their senselessness they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the baser image of "birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things." They sank into the grossest idolatry and licentiousness and all wickedness. This picture drawn in colors which shock our sensibilities, in the first chapter of Romans, is confirmed by the authentic writings of heathen historians, and this in all particulars, Paul says, "They are without excuse, because they did not live up to the light which they had received, obscure and imperfect as it was."

And how was it with the Jews? The advantage was, indeed, to them much every way, but chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. They had an outward revelation, and with it a knowledge of that law of God, which is holy and just and good.

But they had failed, if possible, more grievously than the Gentiles themselves. They had received the law by the disposition of angels, as Stephen told them and had not kept it. They had had far more light than the Gentiles, but they had fallen into the same sins as they. They prided themselves on the law, and looked with contempt upon the Gentiles, and condemned them for their immoralities, and yet were guilty of similar immoralities themselves. They talked loudly about the words of the law. "Do not steal." "Do not commit adultery," and yet violated these very commands themselves. Jesus in His scathing denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees, compared them to whited sepulchres, looking well outwardly, but within full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness: and He warned His disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy, and the leaven of the Sadduces, which is infidelity, and the leaven of the Herodians, which is worldly mindedness.

The cause of failure was the same, both with Jew and Gentile. It was something that had occurred long before the division into Jew and Gentile had an existence. It had occurred, in short, when man fell. From fallen parents our entire race had inherited a fallen nature, that is to say, a natural proclivity towards sin. There is a disposition in all mankind to yield to temptation, some in one direction, some in another, and thus to say yes to Satan, while they also say no to God. This bias towards evil is sometimes called depravity or original sin. It is called by Paul "Our old man," "the flesh," "the carnal mind," "the body of sin," and "sin that dwelleth in me." A good and convenient name for it is inbred sin. It is sin in the heart as distinguished from sin in the act. It is the inward cause of which our outward sins are the effects. It is the evil root of which our outward sins are the bitter fruits.

Now, it was the inbred sin in the hearts of the Gentiles which caused them to quench the light of the knowledge of God, which they must have had for, at least, a generation or two after Noah came out of the ark, and which made them blind to the light even of natural religion, notwithstanding before their eyes the heavens were declaring the glory of God and the firmament was showing His handiwork, day unto day was uttering speech, and night unto night was showing knowledge. They forsook the knowledge of God, and He left them to their own reprobate minds, the result being that they sank into the grossest idolatry and the most beastly sensuality.

The Jew had the unspeakable advantage of an outward revelation. He received through Moses the law of God, which showed him what God desired him to be and do, and what he ought to be and do, but which conferred upon him no power for being or doing what it required. It is like a looking-glass placed before a child to show him that his face is soiled, but having no power to cleanse that face. It was like a plumb- line applied to a leaning wall, which shows how far it deviates from the perpendicular, but which has no power to make it upright. Nay, it even comes to pass that in consequence of inbred sin, the law multiplies offences. It causes sin to abound. We find even in most children a disposition that impels them to do and to have just what they are told they must not do and have. That is to say, when the law comes in, inbred sin rises in rebellion against it.

The workings of the sin that dwelleth in us is most vividly described by Paul in the seventh chapter of Romans. Over the real meaning of this chapter, there has been much discussion and wide differences of opinion. Some writers think that this is the best experience of the great apostle of the Gentiles, and they draw consolation from this fact, as well as argument, in favor of continuing to sin in thought and word and deed as long as they live. Others think that the apostle is not here describing a Christian experience at all, but the struggles of a Jew who is seeking the favor of God by keeping His law, but finds his attempts to keep it all in vain, the hindrance being inbred sin. I freely admit that it is not what even a justified experience ought to be, for God has assured us through His apostle, John, that He that is born of God doth not commit sin, and, therefore, notwithstanding the presence of inbred sin in the heart of the justified and regenerated believer, yet such a one, by watchfulness and prayer, may be kept from acts of sin and from becoming a backslider. But in point of fact, the seventh of Romans does describe what, in many cases, is the experience of the converted Christian.

For there are many who even after a clear conversion and a joyful sense of God's favor, with the witness of the Spirit to their adoption, yet do yield to temptation under the pressure of inbred sin, and so pass weeks, or months or weary years in what is called an up-and-down experience, not becoming confirmed backsliders, but sinning and repenting, delighting in the law of God after the inward man, but often yielding to the demands of the law of sin, which is in their members, not losing their sonship, but losing their communion and their joy, often like Peter weeping bitterly over their transgressions, but finding that while the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak.

I said that such a process, unsatisfactory as it is, might go on for years. It ends either in complete religious declension amounting, sometimes, to apostacy on the one hand, or infinitely better, in the entire sanctification of the heart and complete deliverance from inbred sin. And in these days of enlightenment, when the doctrine and experience of holiness are so plainly taught, and so generally diffused among the children of God, it is, at least, doubtful whether a soul can continue long in a state of justification, which means that it will either go forward to the experience of entire sanctification, or else it will fall into back-sliding as did some of the Corinthians, or into legality as did the Galatians.

Now, legality is nothing more nor less than Judaism. It is seeking salvation after the pattern of the Old Testament, and not after that of the New. It is a matter of works, and not a matter of faith. It inquires "What good thing shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" It is the child of the bondwoman and not that of the free. It is Ishmael and not Isaac. It is Sinai and not Calvary.

And so it happens that many Christians are simply good Jews. They may even possess circumcised hearts, and may yet serve the Lord in the spirit of bondage, as did good Jews of old. They fail to realize that they have been called unto liberty, which liberty does not, by any means, signify license; it does not signify the liberty of making our own choices, but the liberty of accepting gladly and submissively God's choices; it does not mean the liberty of doing either right or wrong as we may prefer, but the liberty of always preferring to do right and never wrong, and so to spend our years on earth, doing right in all directions, and doing wrong in none. This, beloved, is the glorious liberty of the children of God.

After the birth of Ishmael, we may well suppose that Hagar's chief employment in Abraham's house was to look after the said Ishmael, to care for him and to restrain him. Mark, it was never her business to care for or to restrain Isaac. He was the child of promise, the child of faith, the son of the lawful wife and the free woman, and when Ishmael's persecuting spirit broke forth at the weaning of Isaac, then the command was "Cast out the bond woman and her son." Both must go together or stay together. Ah! beloved, when inbred sin is cast out, there is no more need of the law either to restrain or constrain. Perfect love casts out fear; it also casts out sin, and becomes the motive power of the whole spiritual man. "The love of Christ constraineth us."

So Paul shows us that both Gentiles and Jews had failed to attain unto the law of righteousness, because of inbred sin, which caused the former to put out the light which they had, and the latter to fall short of keeping the law, which was their only hope of salvation, but which was never intended by its Divine Author to save men, but to show them how utterly incapable they were of saving themselves.

But Paul does not leave them there. After putting both classes of the human family into the same position of failure and condemnation, and declaring that there is no difference, "for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God," he adds, "Being justified fully by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." When man's helplessness and inability have been sufficiently demonstrated, then God comes to his rescue. "For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all."

Thus in the Epistle to the Romans, the apostle teaches the great doctrine of justification by faith and the consequent peace of reconciliation, the "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." But he goes farther than justification, and shows us that sanctification, also, is by faith and not by works. He will not be satisfied with anything less than the death of our old man, and the death of inbred sin is precisely the experience of entire sanctification. "Knowing this that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that, henceforth, we should not serve him."

But we are wholly unable to destroy or do away with the body of sin by any resolution or will-power or effort of our own. Sin will not go dead at our bidding, nor can we become dead to sin by wishing or striving to be so. Again, we are brought face to face with our helplessness, but the apostle solves the problem for us by directing us to resort to the process of reckoning. "Likewise reckon ye, also, yourselves to be dead, indeed, unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord." Ah! now, our help is laid upon one that is mighty. "The things that are impossible with men are possible with God." What we reckon, with the sublime reckoning of faith, Christ can make real and true. We have only, therefore, to reckon ourselves to be dead, indeed, unto sin, and leave to Him to make the reckoning good. But we must not fail to reckon ourselves alive as well as dead. And to be alive to God means, in this connection, to be responsive to every intimation of His will, to love Him perfectly, to be, to do and to suffer joyfully all that He may determine concerning us, in short, to be sanctified wholly. Oh, beloved, what a blessed reckoning is the reckoning of faith! How vastly does it transcend all the reckonings of


The Theology of Holiness - 10/19

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