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from the word of God upon any correct principles of exegesis. The perfectionists are by no means satisfied with the above admission, and seem extremely impatient with their opponents, that they do not utterly deny that perfection is attainable, justly supposing that they virtually do this, by admitting that it is attainable only in a sense that furnishes no reason to believe that it ever has been, or ever will be attained.
Our limits will permit us to proceed no farther in relation to the present state of the controversy. In order to express fully our own views, it would be necessary to notice more particularly the metaphysical theory and the false construction of the sacred Scriptures, upon which perfectionism is made to rest. All that we have attempted at present is, to let history speak upon this important subject. We have seen that the evangelical church has uniformly, with very few exceptions, concurred in the sentiment that perfection is not to be attained in the present life. Why God has not seen proper to grant to any of his people entire sanctification here, is best known to his own unsearchable wisdom. There have not been wanting those who have undertaken to assign the reasons for this. Ridgely has given us a long chapter upon this subject; but his reasons, however weighty and important, may not be God's reasons. These we can know only when, in the exercise of his adorable sovereignty, he shall see proper to reveal them. This he has no where as yet done. Why it is," says Augustine, "I know not; for who hath known the mind of the Lord? Yet, I know not a little when I know, whatsoever that cause is, it is not the iniquity of a just God, nor the insufficiency of an almighty God." Says Turretin, "it is for the wisest reasons, that he might make a distinction between earth and heaven, between the church militant and the church triumphant, between the way and the country to which it leads." Let these general considerations satisfy our minds; nor let us pry into the counsels of God in such a manner as to divert us from our own duty, to foster a spirit of cavilling, and prevent our growth in grace. Let us pray and watch against dangerous and delusive errors. pecially, let us guard against that flattering and false persuasion of our own perfection, which blinds us to our guilt, and prevents the daily confession of sin. Let us watch and pray against every encroachment of temptation and sin. What profane trifling it is with a most sacred duty, to say, If our
notions of perfection are not true, if perfection is not to be obtained in the present life, it is idle and wrong to pray against all sin! How fond must we be of our own opinions, to be willing to make the authority of our Lord stand or fall with them! Is this modest? is this perfection? No, brethren, whatever may become of our little conceits and dogmas, let us still cleave to Jesus as our unerring guide, and let us not hesitate to adopt, without the least amendment, the prayer which he puts into our mouths. This requires us to pray to be delivered from all evil, and, at the same time, requires a daily confession of sin, and a daily petition for pardon. Let not a false philosophy discourage us from giving expression to what must be the promptings of every pious heart. We pray to be freed from all sin, because nothing short of this can fill our souls' desire; nothing short of this can express our cordial reconciliation to the whole law of God. It is thus, we expect to obtain strength to resist all sin. It is thus, we expect to grow in grace, and through grace to obtain the ultimate victory.
The doctrine of perfection lays high claim to consideration on account of the encouragement it affords us to strive after holiness. It is said to furnish the Christian with a definite object at which to aim, and encourages the confident expectation of attaining it. But be assured, the common doctrine has the decided advantage, even in this respect. Does it not hold up to the mind of the Christian the same God to be revered and worshipped, and the same law to be obeyed? Or, rather a holier God, and a more inflexible and holy law? Why, then, say that it presents no definite object to the mind? Does it not, also, hold out the encouragement, that constant progress in holiness during the whole of the present life, is not only possible, but may actually be realized by the Christian? Does perfectionism promise more than this? Does it fix a boundary which cannot be passed? Does it not say that even the perfect man may still make higher attainments? But one great advantage which the common doctrine has over the other, consists in the aid to holy attainment which it furnishes the soul, through the means of godly sorrow. He who asks how this can be, has never understood the philosophy of true penitence; he has yet to learn that perfection is to be reached through the lowly paths of humility, and not through the highway of an arrogant presump
tion. One melting season of heartfelt, penitential sorrow is to the pious soul, what a refreshing shower is to the new-mown grass; when the cloud that has emptied itself is withdrawn, the sunshine of holy joy succeeds, the soul takes fresh courage, and receives a new impulse in her efforts for holiness. What then must be the influence of a doctrine which shuts out penitence from the heart, and substitutes in its stead a delusive fancy, that there is no more sin to be forgiven?
Another advantage of the common doctrine consists in the perfect peace which it affords, immediately upon the exercise of faith. The believer sees in Christ a righteousness commensurate with the demands of the law; he accepts of his atonement and mediation, God is reconciled, and the liberated soul is now in the most favorable circumstances to make attainments in personal holiness. And when the believer finds himself baffled by the tempter, and that even his best efforts fall far short of perfection, he recurs to Christ and his righteousness; he hears the cheering promise, "As I live, ye shall live also," and his courage is renewed. But perfectionism teaches the discouraging doctrine, that there is no perfect peace, no perfect reconciliation, without a perfect fulfilment of the law; that notwithstanding all Christ has done, and all that faith can do, God can still be perfectly reconciled only upon the old legal ground of a perfect obedience. Perfectionists find it not necessary to recur to Christ constantly and every moment for comfort; their settled and perfect peace flows from their own supposed attainmentsattainments which make the mediation of Christ no longer necessary. Christ is exalted, a Prince and Saviour, to give repentance to Israel and remission of sins; but, lo! here is an Israel, needing no more repentance, no more remission. Christ can now be dismissed from their service, this part of his office, at least, being no longer required. May God protect his church, and the numerous young converts now thronging her gates, from this dangerous delusion! Let us, as believers in Christ, cleave to the doctrine of perfect justification, perfect reconciliation, and perfect peace by faith. Let us keep an eye upon the promise, and patiently wait for the crown of righteousness, reserved for us in heaven. It is there we shall be arrayed in white garments; it is there we shall bear palms in our hands, the emblems of victory; it is there alone, that we shall find ourselves among the spirits of the just made perfect.
J. S. M.
OBJECT OF THE WRITERS OF THE GOSPEL HISTORY.
AMONG the interesting topics of discussion in the department of Biblical literature, the aim of the several writers of the gospel history holds a prominent place. Each one of the four evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, had a definite purpose in undertaking a narrative of the life of Christ. Some of them formally announce their design; in the rest, we are left to infer it from the internal character of the books themselves. To this main design, doubtless, every part of each narrative is made to contribute. The events are narrated which conduce to the ultimate purpose of the several authors. In a history of an event where many accompanying circumstances are involved, we shall, perhaps, find that, while some of them are introduced for the sake of verisimilitude, like the back-ground in a painting, others are chosen for the connection which they are seen to have with the author's chief end. And, when some events of a striking character are omitted, it is not because they were unknown to the evangelist; but, because they were less relevant to the purpose contemplated by him in undertaking his narrative. Hence, we perceive that the different selection of events by the several writers is to be accounted for by a reference to the different design of each in the work written by him. Matthew wrote with a different aim from Luke; and Luke, with a different aim from John. The latter, therefore, is not to be regarded as simply expletive of the former, as if he designed only to record that which had been omitted by the others; but as having selected the conversations and narratives of events which he has preserved, without reference to what others had written or had omitted to write; because they were suited to another main end, which he designed to accomplish. Thus the four gospels are not to be viewed as a mere quadruple statement of the same circumstances. On the contrary, though each confirms every other, each was written for a separate purpose; each bears testimony to a separate aspect of the truths recorded. Hence, the gospels
are not to be viewed as a narrative merely. We are accustomed to regard them as such. But they are more. They are an argument. Of the gospels of Matthew and John, this is especially true. They both set out with a point to be proved concerning Christ. The writers propose, to furnish, from materials in their possession, a demonstration respecting the character of the Lord Jesus. They both announce their object, too distinctly to be misunderstood. Each chooses his own point to be proved. They pursue their object to the end. They both select those acts and conversations of our Lord, which affect their several arguments. They often mention with but slight notice those incidents of an event which are of little consequence to their main purpose; and often pass them over altogether. But to him who understands their aim, it is evident that all the parts of their narratives are constructed with reference to it. It is on account of the intense interest with which they aspire to their main end, bending their whole attention towards it, that occasional discrepancies are discovered in their statements. They are so much occupied with that which is principal and vital, that they overlook, at times, that which is merely incidental, and subsidiary, and unimportant. Having ascertained that which is essential to their purpose, in a given occurrence, they are not anxious, in every case, to inquire into all the adjuncts. Or, having related that which is important to their argument, they omit the rest, or seem to confound it, in some of its parts, with some other occurrence; so that we are in doubt concerning the identity of a fact stated by two different evangelists; or, perhaps, on the other hand, we labor to condense into one narrative, that which the sacred writers have given us as two or more. Specimens of the kind here described will immediately recur to the mind of the Biblical student. We indicate only the followingLuke 7: 36-50, compared with Matthew 26: 6—13, and John 11: 1, 2; 12: 3-8. Matthew 9: 18, compared with Mark 5: 23. Matthew 8: 28, compared with Luke 8:27. Matthew 20: 30, compared with Luke 18: 35. Matthew 28: 2, compared with Luke 24: 4. Matthew 24: 44, compared with Luke 23: 39–43.
It is greatly for our interest to ascertain the object of each of the evangelists in writing his gospel. It is more than a mere amusing speculation. It is important as furnishing a