But mark again; it leads the soul to consult the Word, and not self. And here is the great error of the false idea of self-perfection. A man's faith ought to exclude doubt in regard to Christ, but not in regard to self. A man's faith in Christ ought to make him doubt and distrust self, while trusting Christ without doubt. And he cannot even trust Christ within himself, unless by trusting Christ without himself. It is not the inward light, but the outward, that he is to trust; and to try the inward by the outward. That is, he is to trust Christ according to His Word, and to try his faith in Christ by His Word. He is to try the nature of his inward light by trying whether it leads him in accordance with his outward light. If he walks according to Christ in the Gospel, it is proof that Christ is in his heart. How otherwise can he know it? How can a man tell that his clock is right within, but by seeing how the hands go? And how can he tell that the hands are right, but by comparing it with the sun? So we must compare the clock within us with Christ, our sun, Christ, in His Word, THe record.

This delusion, of which we have spoken, may, in some cases, prevail almost unconsciously in the soul. Take, for example, an enthusiast in what is sometimes called the quietism of pure love. Such a soul may feel in itself the most entire and sweet submission to God's will, the greatest delight in meditating upon it, the most perfect and quiet resting of the soul on God's will as its centre. It may have been exercising itself in such a life day by day, exercising itself to a state of rest in God, and self-nothingness. There may be real grace in this, and great personal faith in God. But now descend with such a soul from meditation upon God's will personally, and upon God's sovereignty in regard to self, to the examination of God's word in regard to particular directions of His will, the everlasting perdition of the finally impenitent, for example, and you will perhaps find that such a soul, much as it may believe in God, and rest upon God, personally, does not believe God, in regard to this particular thing. Such a soul may feel sure that in God's love all will finally be saved. And if so, there will be comparatively little distress for a world lying in wickedness, little anxiety to save souls, though there may be, at the same time, a great desire that all should know and love God. Such a desire may grow out of one's own experience of the blessedness of resting upon God, and one's own desire to have God's will obeyed and accomplished; and yet there may be this great defect in such a piety, the detect of not believing God, except where the inward light sanctions the outward. There may be faith in God as a personal thing, but a lamentable degree of unbelief, or a perverse destitution of conviction, in regard to those declarations of God not vouched for by inward personal experience. There may be joy in God, and great love and resignation

to His will, and yet a great want of faith in all the declarations of God's wrath against the wicked.

Something of this deficiency, indeed, a very marked deficiency, we have seen in the character of John Foster. His faith in God, not being sufficiently rooted and grounded in faith in God's Word, degenerated, in some directions, into a perverse, askant regard to his own a priori judgment of what must be, or must not be. Instead of asking, first of all, what has God said must be, or shall be, he would sometimes ask a reasoning unbelief, first of all. Under the delusion of faith in God's benevolence, or rather in his own inward light, judging of that benevolence, he would judge, not ask, God's Word; he would almost condemn, instead of enquiring at, the record. This was a great evil; and yet he had great faith in God; indeed it was nothing but his faith in God, or, rather, it was God's merciful grace, preventing him, that kept him, sometimes, from utterly stumbling at God's Word.

The truth is, his faith in God, apart from God's Word, was mingled with, and corrupted by, a faith in his own reason, as blinded by prejudice. It was the inward light to which he looked, that kept him from a firm, safe anchorage in God's Word. The word should have guided him, and in God's light he would have seen light. Thus, the Psalmist, who by consultation of the inward light, and the judgment of uninstructed reason, in regard to the inequalities of Divine providence, had almost denied God, had well nigh slipped, came to his mooring again only by the word. Faith is to be fed and guided by God's Word, but cannot judge it. Faith is to consult God's Word, not self. "If a man love me, he will keep my wORDS."

Now there may be a wonderful quietism of the soul, which may spring indeed from the soul resting on God's love, but yet be radically defective as to a rigorous, binding faith in God's Word. Such is the aspect which faith takes in some misguided Swedenborgian souls; a faith which permits them to disregard Paul, and exalt a prophet of their own, and which, however lovely the personal character may be, under the quietism of love, is full of dangerous and delusive error.

In a faith thus accustomed (in whatever church it may be found) to refer everything to inward light, and not to the outward Word, the active fervor of a piety like Paul's may be wholly wanting. Such a piety may be good for the cell, but can never be a missionary piety. It is not mere faith in God, but faith in God's Word, that will convert the world. A soul may even be very happy in God, as a personal thing, but, if defective in this faith in God's Word, will be wholly unfitted for the work of saving souls. For that there is something more of experience in the Divine life requisite, than mere rest in God, and self-stillness and submission. And yet, such a type of religion may be held

up in such a way, that by its side a piety like Jonathan Edwards' may appear almost inferior, or discountenanced, while, in reality, Edwards' piety is the most in accordance with God's Word, the most symmetrical; and the other may actually be greatly defective, and especially defective as a model.

Edwards sympathized with God in His Word, not merely with God's will and God's love as supposed to be taught by the Spirit in the soul. Edwards believed God in His Word, studied God in His Word, compared his own views of God inwardly, his own affections towards God, with the exhibitions of God in His Word, as their touchstone. Edwards received, with humble and entire belief, God's most tremendous denunciations of wrath against the sinner, and preached, and wrote, and worked accordingly. Edwards was not merely occupied with annihilating self, but proclaiming God, God in His Word, God supreme in the affections. Edwards had great views of God's holiness, and, therefore, deep and terrible views of man's depravity. Edwards wrote against the self-determining freedom of the will; but it was to enthrone God as the regenerator of the soul, and His grace as the only quickener and holy life of the will. Edwards' aim was to abase and abolish self, but in doing it he would begin with God, he would throw the soul, dead in trespasses and sins, upon God; he would not expect to persuade the soul to regenerate itself by self-denial. Self-denial is not the soul's Saviour, but Christ, and Edwards would almost deny the very power of self-will necessary for self-denial, till the soul was thrown upon Christ, and Christ admitted to the soul. How different from the tenor of those writers and teachers, who, forgetful of man's utterly lost and hopeless condition under the law of sin and of death, and consulting light in the soul, instead of light in the Word, commend men in the work of salvation to an eternal work upon self, to an annihilation of self, forsooth, that God may reign. Just as if self could ever begin to be denied or annihilated till Christ himself enters and begins His reign.

Such teachers, even with the best intentions, are encouraging a very dangerous form of self-delusion. There may be as much self-glorification in self-abasement as there is in self-exaltation. If a man expects by self-abasement to gain Christ and heaven, instead of gaining self-abasement by Christ, though he seems to be going down in regard to self, he is as really going up, as the Pharisee when he went up to the temple. He must go to Christ, and to God in Christ, first of all, and every step of true selfdenial that he ever takes in the Divine life will be taken only because Christ takes it in him, only by the help of Christ. There never was, and never will be, a single act of gracious self-denial in this world taken of a man's own self; never, but by Christ's grace. It is listening to a subtle self-delusion, and THIRD SERIES, VOL. IV. NO. 4. 6

not consulting God's word, it is reliance on inward light and strength, and not on God in His Word and in Christ, if a man dreams and teaches otherwise.

And yet we see, in a book issued to guide souls in the way of holiness, the following maxim, quoted from Molinos, as a maxim of the inward life, so called: "It is impossible for a man to be able to live a life of holiness, if he does not first die to himself by a total denial of all wrong appetites and passions, and by the crucifixion of the pride of natural reason." That is about as to say, It is impossible to lead a life of holiness without first becoming completely holy. If he does not first die to himself! O, who will ever die to himself, or begin to do so, but in Christ? "The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and of death." If he does not first die to himself! As if that were a man's own work, by his inward light, before coming to Christ, or owing anything to His grace! According to such directions the language of the apostle should not be the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, but, the law of the spirit of death in self-denial hath given me the freedom of holiness. This is the consequence of trusting self, man, and the fathers, instead of going to God's Word.

Some well-intentioned, but mistaken persons, seem to make heaven consist in the destruction of self-will, and they set the soul to the work of cutting down and mortifying, destroying and annihilating self in every possible way, as if that, in itself, were heaven, or an entrance into heaven. Sometimes they represent it in such a way as to make the impression that when self-will is thus mortified, God will come into the soul, Christ will be found there, and heaven forever. But it is not so certain, even if self-will could be exhausted by such a process of selfwatchfulness and self-effort, that Christ would be found in its place. Exhaust a receiver of all the air that is in it, and when you open it again, the air immediately around it will rush in, of what nature soever it be. If that air happen to be a stratum of hydrogen gas, the gas will rush in and fill the vacuum, and not a portion of the clear, sweet, healthful air of heaven. And so, if the soul have not come to Christ, it may have exhausted and mortified self by intense self-effort, but the moment it is opened again, so to speak, self, and not Christ, will rush in.

Some talk of self-denial as if it were a ladder downwards, at the bottom of which when the lowest round is reached, the soul will find Christ and heaven waiting for it. Mortify self, abnegate self, die to self, annihilate this self-will, and when you get to the bottom of the ladder, you arrive at holiness and peace! Is this the gospel scheme of salvation? Are these evangelical instructions? O no,not apart from Christ. They may be the same old scheme of self-merit, self-working by and for self, even in

the mortification of self. The more common and gross scheme, the one adopted by the Man of Sin, is that of particular acts of merit, duties done, observances, pilgrimages, scourgings of the body, climbing stair-cases at Rome, the ladder upwards, by particular austerities or penances, by which the soul is made to think that it is climbing up to heaven, and when it has reached the topmost round, it enters heaven by right, saved by that ladder. The more subtle, spiritual form, that of mortifying and annihilating self-will, is just the same ladder turned upside down; climbing downwards instead of upwards, but just the same ladder of self. But neither downwards nor upwards can a man climb one step in true humility, in holiness, in the conquest of self without Christ. The gospel ladder begins with Christ, continues in Christ, and ends in Christ.

Christ does not say absolutely, He that loseth his life shall find it. There is a system that stops with that, and says, Lose your life, die to self, annihilate self-will, and you will find life in holiness; a system that sets a man, as the whole business of Christianity, to the work of self-mortification, watching every moment against self-will, and as fast as it comes up beating it down; employment enough, indeed, for a man's whole life-time; but if you stop there, what is gained? It is just like watching a madman. While you can keep your eye fixed on his, and make him feel that you are watching him, you are comparatively safe; but the moment you turn your eye away, he leaps upon you, a wild, exulting maniac. This losing your life as a self-work, for self, is nothing but self. But Christ says, He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. This one little item, for my sake, makes all the difference between a true and a false gospel, between a true and counterfeit morality, between selfishness and disinterestedness, between hell and heaven. This one little item, for my sake, is the very essence of love, of faith, of humility, of holiness, of freedom. This is the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, not in self-mortification or self-death, or the crucifixion of self-will. Blessed be God, a man has something else to do in religion besides watching that madman self. A man is to watch Christ, and follow Christ, and Christ will take care of self. If a man will trust in Christ, Christ will lead him to the mortification of self, out of love. A man may, if he pleases, by Christ's grace, by Christ's help, by Christ's omnipotence, put self behind him, and then, forgetting the things that are behind, may press forward to those that are before, press forward, looking unto Jesus, not to self, absorbed in Christ's business, Christ's love, and leaving self to Christ.

This is, certainly, the sweetest and the surest way. Christ gets selfishness out of the soul, by filling it with love; he gets self-will out of the soul, by abiding in it himself. Mis

« VorigeDoorgaan »