Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heavenis perfect Matthew 5:48.
In speaking from these words, previously, I pursued the followingorder.
1. I showed what is implied in being perfect.
2. What Christian perfection is.
3. That it is a duty.
4. That it is attainable in this life.
5. Answered some objections, and then gave some reasons whyso many persons are not perfect. Tonight my object is to mentionsome additional causes which prevent the great body of Christiansfrom attaining perfect sanctification. As a matter of fact, weknow that the church is not sanctified, and we ought to know thereasons. If the defect is in God, we ought to know it. If he hasnot provided a sufficient revelation, or if the power of the HolySpirit is not adequate to sanctify his people in this world, weought to understand it, so as not to perplex ourselves with idleendeavors after what is unattainable. And if the fault is in us,we ought to know it, and the true reasons ought to be understood,lest by any means we should charge God foolishly, even in thought,by imagining that he has required of us that which he has furnishedus no adequate means of attaining.
I. The first general reason which I shall mention, for personsnot being sanctified, is that they seek sanctification "byworks," and not "by faith."
The religion of works assumes a great variety of forms andit is interesting to see the ever-varying, shifting forms it takes:
1. One form is where men are aiming to live so as to rendertheir damnation unjust. It matters not, in this case, whetherthey deem themselves Christians or not, if they are in fact tryingto live so as to render it unjust for God to send them to hell.This was the religion of the ancient Pharisees. And there arenot a few, in the present day, whose religion is purely of thischaracter. You will often find them out of the church and perhapsready to confess that they have never been born again. But yetthey speak of their own works in a way that makes it manifestthat they think themselves quite too good to be damned.
2. Another form of the religion of works is, where personsare not aiming so much to render it unjust in God to damn them,but are seeking by their works to recommend themselves to themercy of God. They know they deserve to be damned, and will forever deserve it. But they also know that God is merciful; andthey think that if they live honest lives, and do many kind thingsto the poor, it will so recommend them to the general mercy ofGod, that he will not impute their iniquities to them, but willforgive their sins and save them. This is the religion of mostmodern moralists. Living under the gospel, they know they cannotbe saved by their works, and yet they think that if they go tomeeting, and help to support the minister, and do this and thatand the other kind of good works, it will recommend them to God'smercy sufficiently for salvation. So far as I understand the systemof religion held by modern Unitarians, this must be their system.Whether they understand it so, or admit it to be so, or not, asfar as I can see, it comes to this.
They set aside the atonement of Christ, and do not expect tobe saved by the righteousness of Jesus Christ; and I know noton what they do depend, but this. They seem to have a kind ofsentimental religion, and on this, with their morality and theirliberality, they depend to recommend them to the mercy of God.On this ground they expect to receive the forgiveness of theirsins, and to be saved.
3. Another form of the religion of works is, where personsare endeavoring to prepare themselves to accept of Christ.
They understand that salvation is only through Jesus Christ.They know that they cannot be saved by works, nor by the generalmercy of God, without an atonement, and that the only way to besaved is by faith in Christ. But they have heard the relationsof the experience of others, who went through a long process ofdistress before they submitted to Christ and found peace in believing.And they think a certain preparatory process is necessary, andthat they must make a great many prayers and run hither and thitherto attend meetings, and lie awake many nights, and suffer so muchdistress, and perhaps fall into despair, and then they shall bein a situation to accept of Christ.
This is the situation of many convicted sinners. When theyare awakened, and get so far as to find that they cannot be savedby their own works, then they set themselves to prepare to receiveChrist. Perhaps some of you, who are here tonight, are in justthis case. You dare not come to Christ just as you are, when youhave made so few prayers, and attended so few meetings, and feltso little distress, and done so little and been so little engaged.And so, instead of going right to Christ for all you need, asa poor lost sinner, throwing yourself unreservedly into his hands,you set yourself to lash your mind into more conviction and distress,in order to prepare you to accept of Christ. Such cases are justabout as common as convicted sinners are. How many there are,who abound in such works, and seem determined they will not falldown at once at the feet of Christ. It is not necessary to gointo an argument here, to show that they are growing no betterby all this process. There is no love to God in it, and no faith,and no religion. It is all mere mockery of God, and hypocrisy,and sin. There may be a great deal of feeling, but it is of nouse; it brings them in fact no nearer to Christ; and after all,they have to do the very thing at last, which they might havedone just as well at first.
Now suppose an individual should take it into his head thatthis is the way to become holy. Every Christian can see that itis very absurd, and that however he may multiply such works, heis not beginning to approach to holiness. The first act of holinessis to believe, to take hold of Christ by faith. And if a Christian,who is awakened to feel the need of sanctification, undertakesto go through a preparatory process of self-created distress,before he applies to Christ it is just as absurd as for an awakenedsinner to do it.
4. Another form of the religion of works is, where individualsperform works to beget faith and love.
The last mentioned class was where individuals are preparingto come to Christ. Here we suppose them to have come to Christ,and that they have accepted him, and are real Christians; buthaving backslidden they set them selves to perform many worksto beget faith and love, or to beget and perfect a right stateof feeling. This is one of the most common and most subtle formsin which the religion of works shows itself at the present day.
Now this is very absurd. It is an attempt to produce holinessby sin. For if the feelings are not right, the act is sin. Ifthe act does not proceed from faith and love, whatever they maydo is sin. How idle, to think that a person, by multiplying sins,can beget holiness! And yet it is perfectly common for personsto think they can beget holiness by a course of conduct that ispurely sinful. For certainly, any act that does not spring fromlove already existing, is sinful. The individual acts not fromthe impulse of faith that works by love and purifies the heart,but he acts without faith and love, with a design to beget thoseaffections by such acts as these.
It is true, when faith and love exist, and are the propellingmotive to action, the carrying of them out in action has a tendencyto increase them. This arises from the known laws of mind, bywhich every power and every faculty gains strength by exercise.But the case supposed is where individuals have left their firstlove, if ever they had any, and then set themselves, without faithor love, to bustle about and warn sinners, or the like, underthe idea that this is the way to wake up, or to become holy, orto get into the state of feeling that God requires. It is reallymost unphilosophical and absurd, and ruinous, to think of wakingup faith in the soul, where it does not exit, by performing outwardacts from some other motive. It is mocking God, to pretend, bydoing things from wrong motives, to produce a holy frame of mind.By and by, I shall show where the deception lies, and how it comesto pass that any persons should ever dream of such a way of becomingsanctified. The fact is too plain to be proved that pretendingto serve God in such a way, so far from having any tendency toproduce a right spirit, is in fact grieving the Holy Ghost, andinsulting God.
So far as the philosophy of the thing is concerned, it is justlike the conduct of convicted sinners. But there is one difference;the sinner, in spite of all his wickedness, may by and by learnhis own helplessness, and actually renounce all his own works,and feel that his continued refuse to come to Christ, so far frombeing a preparation for coming, is only heaping up so many sinsagainst God. But it is otherwise with those who think themselvesto be already Christians, as I will explain by and by.
It is often remarked, by careful observers in religion, thatmany persons who abound in religious acts, are often the mosthardened, and the farthest removed from spiritual feeling. Ifperforming religious duties was the way to produce religious feeling,we should expect that ministers, and leaders in the church, wouldbe always the most spiritual. But the fact is, that where faithand love are not in exercise, in proportion as persons aboundin outward acts without the inward life, they become hardenedand cold, and full of iniquity. They may have been converted buthave backslidden, and so long as they are seeking sanctificationin this way, by multiplying their religious duties, running roundto protracted meetings, or warning sinners, without any spirituallife, they will never find it, but will in fact become more hardenedand stupid. Or if they get into an excitement in this way, itis a spurious superficial state of mind that has nothing holyin it.
II. Another reason why so many persons are not sanctified isthis: They do not receive Christ in all his relations, as he isofferedin the gospel.
Most people are entirely mistaken here and they will nevergo ahead in sanctification, until they learn that there is a radicalerrorin the manner in which they attempt to attain it. Take acase: Suppose an individual who is convinced of sin. He sees thatGod might in justice send him to hell, and that he has no wayin which he can make satisfaction. Now tell him of Christ's atonement,show him how Christ died to make satisfaction, so that God canbe just and yet the justifier of them that believe in Jesus, hesees it to be right and sufficient, and exactly what he needs,and he throws himself upon Christ, in faith, for justification.He accepts him as his justification, and that is as far as heunderstands the gospel. He believes, and is justified, and feelsthe pardon of his sins.
Now, here is the very attitude in which most convicted sinnersstop. They take up with Christ in the character in which, as sinners,they most feel the need of a Savior, as the propitiation of theirsins, to make atonement and procure forgiveness, and there theystop. And after that, it is often exceedingly difficult to gettheir attention to what Christ offers beyond. Say what you willin regard to Christ as the believer's wisdom and righteousnessand his sanctification, and all his relations as a Savior fromsin they do not feel their need of him sufficiently to make themreally throw themselves upon him in these relations. The convertedperson feels at peace with God, joy and gratitude fill his heart,he rejoices in having found a Savior that can stand between himand his Judge, he may have really submitted, and for a time, hefollows on in the way of obedience to God's commandments. But,by and by, he finds the workings of sin in his members, unsubduedpride, his old temper breaking forth, and a multitude of enemiesassaulting his soul, from within and without, and he is not preparedto meet them.
Hitherto, he has taken up Christ and regarded him, mainly,in one of his relations, that of a Savior to save him from hell.If I am not mistaken, the great mass of professing Christianslose sight, almost altogether, of many of the most interestingrelations which Christ sustains to believers. Now, when the convertfinds himself thus brought under the power of temptation, anddrawn into sin, he needs to receive Christ in a new relation,to know more of the extent of his provision, to make a fresh applicationto him, and give a new impulse to his mind to resist temptation.This is not fully apprehended by many Christians. They never reallyview Christ, under his name Jesus, because he saves his peoplefrom their sins. They need to receive him as a king, to take thethrone in their hearts, and rule over them with absolute and perfectcontrol, bringing every faculty and every thought into subjection.The reason why the convert thus falls under the power of temptation,is that he has not submitted his own will to Christ, as a king,in every thing, as perfectly as he ought, but is, after all exercisinghis own self-will in some particulars.
Again: There are a multitude of what are called sign of ignorance,which need not be. Christians complain that they cannot understandthe Bible, and there are many things concerning which they arealways in doubt. Now, what they need is, to receive Christ aswisdom, to accept him in his relation as the source of light andknowledge. Who of you now attach a full and definite idea to thetext which says, "We are in Christ Jesus, who of God is madeunto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption?"What do you understand by it? It does not say he is a justifier,and a teacher, and a sanctifier, and a redeemer; but that he iswisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.What does that mean? Until Christians shall find out by experience,and know what that scripture meaneth, how can the church be sanctified?The church is now just like a branch plucked off from a vine;"Except ye abide in me, ye cannot bear fruit." Supposea branch had power voluntarily to separate itself from the vine,and then should undertake to bring forth fruit, what would youthink? So with the church; until Christians will go to the EternalSource of sanctification, and wisdom, and redemption, it willnever become holy. If they would become, by faith, absolutelyunited with him, in all those offices and relations in which heis offered, they would know what sanctification is.
I may, at some other time take this text as the foundationof a separate discourse, and discuss these points, one by one,and show what this means. I will only say, at present, as muchas this: that it means just what it says, and there is no needof explaining it away, as has too commonly been done. And whenthe church shall once take hold of Christ, in all his relations,as here set forth, they will know what it is, and will see thathe is the light and the life of the world. To be sanctified byhim, they must so embrace him, as to receive from him those suppliesof grace and knowledge, which alone can purify the soul and givethe complete victory over sin and Satan. I will mention some reasonswhy Christians do not receive Christ in all his relations.
(1.) They may not have those particular convictions, that arecalculated to make them deeply feel the necessity of a Saviorin those relations.
If an individual is not deeply convicted of his own depravity,and has not learned intimately his own sinfulness, and if he doesnot know experimentally, as a matter of fact, that he needs helpto overcome the power of sin, he will never receive Jesus Christinto his soul as a king.
When men undertake to help themselves out of sin, and feelstrong in their own strength to cope with their spiritual enemies,they never receive Christ fully, nor rely on him solely to savethem from sin. But when they have tried to keep themselves bytheir own watchfulness and prayers, and binding themselves byresolution and oaths to obey God, and find that, after all, ifleft to themselves, there is nothing in them but depravity, thenthey feel their own helplessness, and begin to inquire what theyshall do? The Bible teaches all this plainly enough, and if peoplewould believe the Bible, converts would know their own helplessness,and their need of a Savior to save from sin at the outset. But,as a matter of fact, they do not receive nor believe the Bibleon this subject, until they have set themselves to work out arighteousness of their own, and thus have found out by experimentthat they are nothing without Christ. And therefore they do notreceive him in this relation, till after they have spent, it maybe, years, in these vain and self-righteous endeavors to do thework of sanctification themselves. Having began in the Spiritthey are trying to be made perfect by the flesh.
(2.) Others when they see their own condition, do not receiveChrist as a Savior from sin, because they are, after all unwillingto abandon all sin.
They know that if they give themselves up entirely to Christ,all sin must be abandoned; and they have some idol which theyareunwilling to give up.
(3.) Sometimes, when persons are deeply convinced, and anxiousto know what they shall do to get rid of sin, they do not applyto Christ in faith, because they do not know what they have aright to expect from him.
There are many who seem to suppose they are under a fatal necessityto sin, and that there is no help for it, but they must drag alongthis load of sin till their death. They do not absolutely chargeGod foolishly, and say in words that he has made no provisionfor such a case as this. But they seem to suppose that Christ'satonement being so great as to cover all sins, and God's mercybeing so great, if they do go on in sin all their days, as theyexpect they shall, he will forgive all at last, and it will bejust about as well in the end, as if they had been really sanctified.They do not see that the gospel has made provision sufficientto rid us forever of the commission of all sin. They look at itas merely a system of pardon, leaving the sinner to drag alonghis load of sin to the very gate of heaven; instead of a systemto break up the very power of sin in the mind. The consequenceis they make very little account of the promises. O, how littleuse do Christians make of those exceeding great and precious promises,in the Bible, which were given expressly for this purpose, thatwe might become partakers of the divine nature! Here God has suitedhis promises to our exigencies for this end, and we have onlyto draw upon him for all we want, and we shall have whatever weneed for our sanctification. Hear the Savior say, "What thingssoever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them andye shall have them."
The fact is, Christians do not really believe much that isin the Bible. Now, suppose you were to meet God, and you knewit was God himself, speaking to you, and he should reach out abook in his hand, and tell you to take that book, and that thebook contains exceeding great and precious promises, of all thatyou need, or ever can need, to resist temptation, to overcomesin, and to make you perfectly holy, and fit you for heaven; andthen he tells you that whenever you are in want of anything forthis end, you need only take the appropriate promise, and presentit to him at any time, and he will do it. Now, if you were toreceive such a book, directly from the hand of God, and knew thatGod had written it for you, with his own hand, would you not believeit? And would you not read it a great deal more than you now readthe Bible? How eager you would be to know all that was in it?And how ready to apply the promises in time of need! You wouldwant to get it all by heart, and often repeat it all through,that you might keep your mind familiar with its contents and bealways ready to apply the promises you read! Now, the truth is,the Bible is that book. It is written just so and filled withjust such promises; so that the Christian by laying hold of theright promise, and pleading it, can always find all that he needsfor his spiritual benefit.
Christ is a complete Savior. All the promises of God are inhim. Yea, and in him Amen, to the glory of God the Father. Thatis, God has promised in the second person of the Trinity, in theperson of Jesus Christ, and made them all certain through him.Now, the thing which is needed is, that Christians, should understandthese promises, and believe them, and in every circumstance ofneed apply them, for sanctification. Suppose they lack wisdom.Let them go to God, and plead the promise. Suppose they cannotunderstand the scriptures, or the path of duty is not plain. Thepromise is plain enough, take that. Whatever they lack of wisdom,righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, only let them goto God in faith, and take hold of the promise, and if he doesnot prove false, they will assuredly receive all that they need.
4.) Another reason why many do not receive Christ in all hisrelations is, that they are too proud to relinquish all self-dependenceor reliance on their own wisdom and their own will.
How great a thing it is, for the proud heart of man to giveup its own wisdom, and knowledge, and will, and every thing, toGod. I have found this the greatest of all difficulties. Doubtlessall find it so. The common plea is, "Our reason was givenus, to be exercised in religion but what is the use, if we maynot rely on it, or follow it?" But there is one importantdiscrimination to be made, which many overlook. Our reason wasgiven us to use in religion; but it is not in the proper provinceof reason to ask whether what God says is reasonable, but to showus the infinite reasonableness of believing that all which Godsays must be true, whether we in our ignorance and blindness cansee the reasonableness of it or not. And if we go beyond this,we go beyond the proper province of reason. But how unwillingthe proud heart of man is to lay aside all its own vain wisdom,and become like a little child, under the teaching of God! Theapostle says, "If any man think that he knoweth any thing,he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know." There is a vastmeaning in this. He that does not receive Christ alone as hiswisdom, knows nothing in religion to any purpose. If he is nottaught by Jesus Christ, he has not learned the first lesson ofChristianity. So again, "No man knoweth the Father but theSon, and he to whomsoever the Son revealeth him." The individualwho has learned this lesson, feels that he has not one iota ofknowledge in religion, that is of any value, only as he is taughtby Jesus Christ. For it is written, "And they shall all betaught of God."
I. You see what kind of preaching the church now needs.
The church needs to be searched thoroughly, shown their greatdefects, and brought under conviction, and then pointed to wheretheir great strength lies.
With their everlasting parade of dead works, they need to beshown how poor they are. "Thou sayest I am rich, and increasedwith goods, and have need of nothing, and knowest not that thouart wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."Until Christians are shown their poverty, and the infinite emptinessand abominable wickedness of their dead works, and then shownjust where their help is, and that it is by faith alone, theycan never be sanctified, the church will go farther and fartherfrom God, till it will have only the form of godliness, denyingthe power thereof.
II. When you see the Christian character defective in any particular,you may always know that the individual needs to receive Christmore fully in the very relation that is calculated to supply thisdefect.
The defect, whatever it be, in the character of any believer,will never be remedied, until he sees the relation of Christ tothat part of his character, so as by faith to take hold of Christ,and bring him in to remedy that defect. Suppose a person is naturallypenurious and selfish, and reluctant to act in a disinterestedmanner: he will never remedy that defect, until he receives Christas his pattern, and the selfishness is driven out of his heartby imbuing his very soul with the infinite benevolence of theSavior. So it is with regard to any other defect; he will neverconquer it, until you make him see that the infinite fullnessof Christ is answerable to that very want.
III. You see the necessity there is that ministers should bepersons of deep experience in religion.
It is easy for even a carnal mind to preach so as to bringsinners under conviction. But until the tone of sanctificationis greatly raised among ministers, it is not to be expected thatthe piety of the church will be greatly elevated. Those Christianswho have experience of these things should therefore be much inprayer for ministers, that the sons of Levi may be purified, thatthe leaders of Israel may take hold of Christ for the sanctificationof their own hearts, and then they will know what to say to thechurch on the subject of holiness.
IV. Many seek sanctification by works, who do not know thatthey are seeking in this way.
They profess that they are seeking sanctification only by faith.They tell you they know very well that it is in vain to seek itin their own strength. But yet the results show how conclusively,that they are seeking by works, and not by faith. It is of thelast importance that you should know, whether you are seekingsanctification by works, or by faith for all seeking of it byworks is absurd, and never will lead to any good results. Howwill you know?
Take again the case of a convicted sinner. Sinner! how areyou seeking salvation? The sinner replies, "By faith, ofcourse; everybody knows that no sinner can be saved by works."I say, No, you are seeking salvation by works. How shall I showit to him? Sinner! do you believe in Christ? "I do."But does he give you peace with God? "O no, not yet; butI am trying to get more conviction, and to pray more, and be morein earnest in seeking, and I hope he will give me peace if I persevere."Nay, every Christian sees, at a glance, that with all his pretensionsto the contrary, this man is seeking salvation by works. And theway to prove it to him is exceedingly simple. It is evident heis seeking by works, because he is relying on certain preparatorysteps and processes to be gone through, before he exercises savingfaith. He is not ready now to accept of Christ, he is conscioushe is not, but thinks he must bring himself into a different stateof mind as a preparation, and it is at this he is aiming.
That is works. No matter what the state of mind is that heaims at as preparatory to his coming to Christ, if it is anythingthat must precede faith, or any preparatory process for faith,and he is trying without faith to get into a proper state of mindto have faith, it is all the religion of works.
Now, how common is just such a state of mind among those Christianswho profess to be seeking sanctification. You say you must mortifysin; but the way you go about it, is by a self-righteous preparation,seeking to recommend yourselves to Christ as worthy to receivethe blessing, instead of coming right to Christ, as an unworthyand ruined beggar, to receive at once, by faith, the very blessingyou need. No efforts of your own are going to make you any better.Like a person in a horrible pit of miry clay, every struggle ofyour own sinks you deeper in the clay. You have no need of anysuch thing, and all your endeavors, instead of bringing you anynearer to Christ, are only sinking you down in the filth, fartherand farther from God. It is not so much as the beginning of help.
The sinner, by his preparatory seeking, gains no advantage.There he lies, dead in trespasses and sins, as far removed fromspiritual life, or holiness, as ever a dead corpse was from naturallife; until at length, ceasing from his own works, he comes tothe conviction that there is nothing he can do for himself butgo now, just as he is, and submit to Christ. As long as he thinksthere is something he must do first, he never feels that now isGod's time of salvation. And as long as the Christian is seekingsanctification in the way of works, he never feels that now isGod's time to give him the victory over sin.
V. Multitudes deceive themselves in this matter, by the mannerin which they have seen certain old-fashioned, Antinomian churchesroused up, who were dragging along in death.
Where such a church has been found, that had been fed on drydoctrine till they were about as stupid as the seats they saton, the first thing has been to rouse them up to do something,and that very fact perhaps would bring such a church under conviction,and lead them to repentance. It is not because there is any religionin these doings of professors in such a state; but it shows themtheir deficiencies, and their unfitness to be members of the church,and awakens their consciences. So it is, sometimes, when a carelesssinner has been set to praying. Everybody knows there is no pietyin such prayers, but it calls his attention to the subject ofreligion, and gives the Holy Spirit an opportunity to bring thetruth full upon his conscience. But if you take a man who hasbeen in the habit of praying from his childhood, and whose formalprayers have made him as cold as a stone, praying will never bringthat man under conviction, till you show him what is the truecharacter of his prayers, and stop his ungodly and heaven-daringpraying.
In many cases, where a church has sunk down in stupidity, themost effectual way to rouse them has been found to be, settingthem to warning sinners of their danger. This would get the attentionof the church to the subject of religion, and perhaps bring manyof them to repentance. Hence many have formed a general rule,that the way for a church to wake up, always is, to go to work,and warn sinners. They do not discriminate, here, between thehabits of different churches, and the different treatment theyconsequently require. Whereas, if you take what is called a "workingchurch," where they have been in the habit of enjoying revivalsand holding protracted meetings, you will find there is no difficultyin rousing up the church to act and bustle about and make a noise.But as a general rule, unless there is great wisdom and faithfulnessin dealing with the church, every succeeding revival will maketheir religion more and more superficial; and their minds willbe more hardened instead of being convicted, by their efforts.
Tell such a church they are self-righteous and that there isno Holy Ghost in their bustling, and they will be affronted andstare at you, "Why, don't you know that the way to wake upis to go to work in religion?" Whereas, the very fact thatactivity has become a habit with them, shows that they requirea different course. They need first to be thoroughly probed andsearched, and made sensible of their deficiencies, and broughthumble and believing to the foot of the cross, for sanctification.
When I was an Evangelist, I labored in a church that had enjoyedmany revivals, and it was the easiest thing in the world to getthe church to go out and bring in sinners to the meetings; andthe impenitent would come in and hear, but there was no deep feeling,and no faith in the church. The minister saw that this way ofproceeding was ruining the church, and that each revival broughtabout in this manner, made the converts more and more superficial,and unless we came to a stand, and got more sanctification inthe church, we should defeat our object. We began to preach withthat view, and the church members writhed under it. The preachingran so directly across all their former notions, about the wayto promote religion, that some of them were quite angry. Theywould run about and talk but would do nothing else. But aftera terrible state of things many of them broke down, and becameas humble and as teachable as little children.
Now there are multitudes in the churches who insist upon itthat the way to get sanctification is to go to work, and theythink that, by dint of mere friction, they can produce the warmlove of God in their hearts. This is all wrong. Mere driving aboutand bustle and noise will never produce sanctification. And leastof all, when persons have been accustomed to this course.
VI. You that are in the habit of performing many religiousduties, and yet fall short of holiness, can see what is the matter.
The truth is, you have gone to work to wake up, instead ofat once throwing yourself on the Lord Jesus Christ for sanctification,and then going to work to serve him. You have gone to work foryour life instead of working from a principle of life within,impelling you to the work of the Lord. You have undertaken toget holiness by a lengthened process, like that of the convictedsinner, who is preparing to come to Christ. But the misfortuneis, that you have not half the perseverance of the sinner. Thesinner is driven by the fear of going to hell, and he exerts himselfin the way of works till his strength is all exhausted, and allhis self-righteousness is worked up, and then, feeling that heis helpless and undone, he throws himself into the arms of Christ.But you have not so much perseverance, because you have not somuch fear. You think you are a Christian, and that however youmay come short of sanctification, yet you are safe from hell,and can go to heaven without it. And so you will not persevereand put forth your efforts for holiness by works, till you haveused up all your self-righteousness, and are driven to Christas your only hope for sanctification. This is the reason why convictedChristians so generally fall short of that submission to Christfor holiness which the convicted sinner exercises for forgiveness.You say to the sinner, who is seeking salvation by works, "Whydon't you yield up all your self-righteous efforts, and come rightto Christ for salvation? He is ready to receive you now!"And why don't you do so too? When will you learn the first lessonin religion, that you have no help in yourselves without Christ,and that all your exertions without Christ, for sanctification,are just as fruitless as are those of the wretch who is in thehorrible pit and miry clay, who is struggling to get himself out.
VII. The growth of works in the church is not a certain signof growth in holiness.
If the church grows in holiness, it will grow in works. Butit does not follow, that growth in works always proves growthin holiness.
It may be that works of religion may greatly increase, whilethe power of religion is actually and rapidly declining. It oftenhappens in a church, that when a revival of religion begins tolose its power, the church may be willing to do even more thanbefore, in works, but it will not arrest the decline, unless theyget broken down before God.
I see I must take up this subject again. O that I could convincethe whole church that they need no other help but Christ, andthat they would come at once to Christ for all they want, andreceive him as their wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification,and redemption. How soon would all their wants be supplied fromhis infinite fullness.
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