What Saith the Scripture?


Phila delphia > Lectures on SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY by Charles G. Finney (page 6 of 11)

Lectures On Systematic Theology


Page 6

Charles G. Finney

A Voice from the Philadelphian Church Age

  Wisdom is Justified

by Charles Grandison Finney


"SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY" in 12 html pages-

Introduction ---New Window

LECTURES 1-7 of page 1 ---New Window

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LECTURES 17-30 of page 3 ---New Window

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LECTURES 48-57 of page 6 (this page)

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LECTURES 81-83 of page 10 ---New Window

APPENDIX on page 11 ---New Window

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LECTURE XLVIII. -- Natural Ability.
Show what is the Edwardean notion of ability . . This natural ability is no ability at all . . What, according to this school, constitutes natural inability . . This natural inability is no inability at all . . Natural ability is identical with freedom or liberty of will . . The human will is free, therefore men have ability to do all their duty

LECTURE XLIX. -- Moral Ability.
What constitutes moral inability according to the Edwardean school . . Their moral inability consists in real disobedience, and a natural inability to obey . . This pretended distinction between natural and moral inability is nonsensical . . What constitutes moral ability according to this school . . Their moral ability to obey God is nothing else than real obedience, and a natural inability to disobey

LECTURE L. -- Inability.
What is thought to be the fundamental error of the Edwardean school on the subject of ability . . State the philosophy of the scheme of inability about to be considered . . The claims of this philosophy

LECTURE LI. -- Gracious Ability.
What is intended by the term . . This doctrine as held is an absurdity . . In what sense a gracious ability is possible

LECTURE LII. -- The Notion of Inability.
Proper mode of accounting for it

[There is no Lecture LIII in the printed book. The lectures are incorrectly numbered. In the Contents of the printed book, the next five lectures are numbered LIII-LVII. Then there are two entries for 'Entire sanctification is attainable in this life' numbered LVIII and LIX.]

LECTURE LIV. -- Repentance and Impenitence.
What repentance is not, and what it is . . What is implied in it . . What impenitence is not . . What it is . . Some things that are implied in it . . Some evidences of it

LECTURE LV. -- Faith and Unbelief.
What evangelical faith is not . . What it is . . What is implied in it . . What unbelief is not . . What it is,--What is implied in it . . Conditions of both faith and unbelief . . The guilt and desert of unbelief . . Natural and governmental consequences of both faith and unbelief

LECTURE LVI. -- Justification.
What justification is not . . What it is . . Conditions of gospel justification

LECTURE LVII. -- Sanctification.
An account of the recent discussions that have been had on this subject

This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.



We next proceed to the examination of the question of man's ability or inability to obey the commandments of God. This certainly must be a fundamental question in morals and religion; and as our views are upon this subject, so, if we are consistent, must be our views of God, of his moral government, and of every practical doctrine of morals and religion. This is too obvious to require proof. The question of ability has truly been a vexed question. In the discussion of it, I shall consider the elder President Edwards as the representative of the common Calvinistic view of this subject, because he has stated it more clearly than any other Calvinistic author with whom I am acquainted. When, therefore, I speak of the Edwardean doctrine of ability and inability, you will understand me to speak of the common view of Calvinistic theological writers, as stated, summed up, and defended by Edwards.

In discussing this subject I will endeavour to show,--







I. I am to show what is President Edwards's notion of natural ability.

Edwards considers freedom and ability as identical. He defines freedom or liberty to consist in "the power, opportunity, or advantage, that any one has, to do as he pleases." "Or, in other words, his being free from hindrance or impediment in the way of doing or conducting in any respect as he wills."--Works, vol. ii., page 38.

Again, page 39, he says, "One thing more I should observe concerning what is vulgarly called liberty; namely, that power and opportunity for one to do and conduct as he will, or according to his choice, is all that is meant by it; without taking into the meaning of the word anything of the cause of that choice; or at all considering how the person came to have such a volition; whether it was caused by some external motive, or internal habitual bias; whether it was determined by some internal antecedent volition, or whether it happened without a cause; whether it was necessarily connected with something foregoing, or not connected. Let the person come by his choice anyhow, yet, if he is able, and there is nothing in the way to hinder his pursuing and exerting his will, the man is perfectly free, according to the primary and common notion of freedom." In the preceding paragraph, he says, "There are two things contrary to what is called liberty in common speech. One is, constraint; which is a person's being necessitated to do a thing contrary to his will: the other is, restraint, which is his being hindered, and not having power to do according to his will."

Power, ability, liberty, to do as you will, are synonymous with this writer. The foregoing quotations, with many like passages that might be quoted from the same author, show that natural liberty, or natural ability, according to him, consists in the natural and established connexion between volition and its effects. Thus he says in another place, "Men are justly said to be able to do what they can do, if they will." His definition of natural ability, or natural liberty, as he frequently calls it, wholly excludes the power to will, and includes only the power or ability to execute our volitions. Thus it is evident, that natural ability, according to him, respects external action only, and has nothing to do with willing. When there is no restraint or hindrance to the execution of volition, when there is nothing interposed to disturb and prevent the natural and established result of our volitions, there is natural ability according to this school. It should be distinctly understood, that Edwards, and those of his school, hold that choices, volitions, and all acts of will, are determined, not by the sovereign power of the agent, but are caused by the objective motive, and that there is the same connexion, or a connexion as certain and as unavoidable between motive and choice, as between any physical cause and its effect: "the difference being," according to him, "not in the nature of the connexion, but in the terms connected." Hence, according to his view, natural liberty or ability cannot consist in the power of willing or of choice, but must consist in the power to execute our choices or volitions. Consequently, this class of philosophers define free or moral agency to consist in the power to do as one wills, or power to execute one's purposes, choices, or volitions. That this is a fundamentally false definition of natural liberty or ability, and of free or moral agency, we shall see in due time. It is also plain, that the natural ability or liberty of Edwards and his school, has nothing to do with morality or immorality. Sin and holiness, as we have seen in a former lecture, are attributes of acts of will only. But this natural ability respects, as has been said, outward or muscular action only. Let this be distinctly borne in mind as we proceed.

II. This natural ability is no ability at all.

We know from consciousness that the will is the executive faculty, and that we can do absolutely nothing without willing. The power or ability to will is indispensable to our acting at all. If we have not the power to will, we have not power or ability to do anything. All ability or power to do resides in the will, and power to will is the necessary condition of ability to do. In morals and religion, as we shall soon see, the willing is the doing. The power to will is the condition of obligation to do. Let us hear Edwards himself upon this subject. Vol. ii. p. 156, he says, "The will itself, and not only those actions which are the effects of the will, is the proper object of precept or command. That is, such a state or acts of men's wills, are in many cases properly required of them by commands; and not only those alterations in the state of their bodies or minds that are the consequences of volition. This is most manifest; for it is the mind only that is properly and directly the subject of precepts or commands; that only being capable of receiving or perceiving commands. The motions of the body are matters of command only as they are subject to the soul, and connected with its acts. But the soul has no other faculty whereby it can, in the most direct and proper sense, consent, yield to, or comply with any command, but the faculty of the will; and it is by this faculty only that the soul can directly disobey or refuse compliance; for the very notions of consenting, yielding, accepting, complying, refusing, rejecting, &c., are, according to the meaning of terms, nothing but certain acts of will." Thus we see that Edwards himself held, that the will is the executive faculty, and that the soul can do nothing except as it wills to do it, and that for this reason a command to do is strictly a command to will. We shall see by and by, that he held also that the willing and the doing are identical, so far as moral obligation, morals, and religion are concerned. For the present, it is enough to say, whether Edwards or anybody else ever held it or not, that it is absurd and sheer nonsense to talk of an ability to do when there is no ability to will. Every one knows with intuitive certainty that he has no ability to do what he is unable to will to do. It is, therefore, the veriest folly to talk of a natural ability to do anything whatever, when we exclude from this ability the power to will. If there is no ability to will, there is, and can be no ability to do; therefore the natural ability of the Edwardean school is no ability at all.

Let it be distinctly understood, that whatever Edwards held in respect to the ability of man to do, ability to will entered not at all into his idea and definition of natural ability or liberty. But according to him, natural ability respects only the connection that is established by a law of nature between volition and its sequents, excluding altogether the inquiry how the volition comes to exist. This the foregoing quotations abundantly show. Let the impression, then, be distinct, that the Edwardean natural ability is no ability at all, and nothing but an empty name, a metaphysico-theological fiction.

III. What constitutes natural inability according to this school.

Edwards, vol. ii. p. 35, says, "We are said to be naturally unable to do a thing when we cannot do it if we will, because what is most commonly called nature, does not allow of it; or because of some impeding defect or obstacle that is extrinsic to the will; either in the faculty of understanding, constitution of body, or external objects." This quotation, together with much that might be quoted from this author to the same effect, shows that natural inability, according to him, consists in a want of power to execute our volitions. In the absence of power to do as we will, if the willing exists and the effect does not follow, it is only because we are unable to do as we will, and this is natural inability. We are naturally unable, according to him, to do what does not follow by a natural law from our volitions. If I will to move my arm, and the muscles do not obey volition, I am naturally unable to move my arm. So with anything else. Here let it be distinctly observed, that natural inability, as well as natural ability, respects and belongs only to outward action or doing. It has nothing to do with ability to will. Whatever Edwards held respecting ability to will, which will be shown in its proper place, I wish it to be distinctly understood that his natural inability had nothing to do with willing, but only with the effects of willing. When the natural effect of willing does not follow volition, its cause, here is a proper natural inability.

IV. This natural inability is no inability at all.

By this is intended that, so far as morals and religion are concerned, the willing is the doing, and therefore where the willing actually takes place, the real thing required or prohibited is already done. Let us hear Edwards upon this subject. Vol. ii. p. 164, he says, "If the will fully complies and the proposed effect does not prove, according to the laws of nature, to be connected with his volition, the man is perfectly excused; he has a natural inability to the thing required. For the will itself, as has been observed, is all that can be directly and immediately required by command, and other things only indirectly, as connected with the will. If, therefore, there be a full compliance of will, the person has done his duty; and if other things do not prove to be connected with his volition, that is not criminally owing to him." Here, then, it is manifest, that the Edwardean notions of natural ability and inability have no connection with moral law or moral government, and, of course, with morals and religion. That the Bible everywhere accounts the willing as the deed, is most manifest. Both as it respects sin and holiness, if the required or prohibited act of the will takes place, the moral law and the lawgiver regard the deed as having been done, or the sin committed, whatever impediment may have prevented the natural effect from following. Here, then, let it be distinctly understood and remembered that Edwards's natural inability is, so far as morals and religion are concerned, no inability at all. An inability to execute our volitions, is in no case an inability to do our whole duty, since moral obligation, and of course, duty, respect strictly only acts of will. A natural inability must consist, as we shall see, in an inability to will. It is truly amazing that Edwards could have written the paragraph just quoted, and others to the same effect, without perceiving the fallacy and absurdity of his speculation--without seeing that the ability or inability about which he was writing, had no connection with morals or religion. How could he insist so largely that moral obligation respects acts of will only, and yet spend so much time in writing about an ability or inability to comply with moral obligation that respects outward action exclusively? This, on the face of it, was wholly irrelevant to the subject of morals and religion, upon which subjects he was professedly writing.

V. Natural ability is identical with freedom or liberty of will.

It has been, I trust, abundantly shown in a former lecture, and is admitted and insisted on by Edwards,--

Ability, therefore, to will in accordance with the moral law, must be natural ability to obey God. But,--

VI. The human will is free, therefore men have power or ability to do all their duty.

Every command, every threatening, every expostulation and denunciation in the Bible implies and assumes this. Nor does the Bible do violence to the human intelligence in this assumption; for,--
First truths of reason, let it be remembered, are those that are necessarily assumed by every moral agent. They are assumed always and necessarily by a law of the intelligence, although they may seldom be the direct objects of thought or attention. It is a universal law of the intelligence, to assume the truths of causality, the existence and the infinity of space, the existence and infinity of duration, and many other truths. These assumptions every moral agent always and necessarily takes with him, whether these things are matters of attention or not. And even should he deny any one or all of the first truths of reason, he knows them to be true notwithstanding, and cannot but assume their truth in all his practical judgments. Thus, should any one deny the law and the doctrine of causality, as some in theory have done, he knows, and cannot but know,--he assumes, and cannot but assume, its truth at every moment. Without this assumption he could not so much as intend, or think of doing, or of any one else doing anything whatever. But a great part of his time, he may not, and does not, make this law a distinct object of thought or attention. Nor is he directly conscious of the assumption that there is such a law. He acts always upon the assumption, and a great part of his time is insensible of it. His whole activity is only the exercise of his own causality, and a practical acknowledgment of the truth, which in theory he may deny. Now just so it is with the freedom of the will, and with natural ability. Did we not assume our own liberty and ability, we should never think of attempting to do anything. We should not so much as think of moral obligation, either as it respects ourselves or others, unless we assumed the liberty of the human will. In all our judgments respecting our own moral character and that of others, we always and necessarily assume the liberty of the human will, or natural ability to obey God. Although we may not be distinctly conscious of this assumption, though we may seldom make the liberty of the human will the subject of direct thought or attention, and even though we may deny its reality, and strenuously endeavour to maintain the opposite, we, nevertheless, in this very denial and endeavour, assume that we are free. This truth never was, and never can be rejected in our practical judgments. All men assume it. All men must assume it. Whenever they choose in one direction, they always assume, whether conscious of the assumption or not, and cannot but assume, that they have power to will in the opposite direction. Did they not assume this, such a thing as election between two ways or objects would not be, and could not be so much as thought of. The very ideas of right and wrong, of the praise and blameworthiness of human beings, imply the assumption on the part of those who have these ideas, of the universal freedom of the human will, or of the natural ability of men as moral agents to obey God. Were not this assumption in the mind, it were impossible from its own nature and laws that it should affirm moral obligation, right or wrong, praise or blameworthiness of men. I know that philosophers and theologians have in theory denied the doctrine of natural ability or liberty, in the sense in which I have defined it; and I know, too, that with all their theorizing, they did assume, in common with all other men, that man is free in the sense that he has liberty or power to will as God commands. I know that, but for this assumption, the human mind could no more predicate praise or blameworthiness, right or wrong of man, than it could of the motions of a windmill. Men have often made the assumption in question without being aware of it, have affirmed right and wrong of human willing without seeing and understanding the conditions of this affirmation. But the fact is, that in all cases the assumption has laid deep in the mind as a first truth of reason, that men are free in the sense of being naturally able to obey God: and this assumption is a necessary condition of the affirmation that moral character belongs to man.

This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.








I. What constitutes moral inability, according to Edwards and those who hold with him.

I examine their views of moral inability first in order, because from their views of moral inability we ascertain more clearly what are their views of moral ability. Edwards regards moral ability and inability as identical with moral necessity. Concerning moral necessity, he says, vol. ii., pp. 32, 33, "And sometimes by moral necessity is meant that necessity of connexion and consequence which arises from such moral causes as the strength of inclination or motives, and the connexion which there is in many cases between these and such certain volitions and actions. And it is in this sense that I shall use the phrase moral necessity in the following discourse. By natural necessity, as applied to men, I mean such necessity as men are under through the force of natural causes, as distinguished from what are called moral causes, such as habits and dispositions of the heart, and moral motives and inducements. Thus men placed in certain circumstances are the subjects of particular sensations by necessity. They feel pain when their bodies are wounded; they see the objects presented before them in a clear light when their eyes are open: so they assent to the truth of certain propositions as soon as the terms are understood; as that two and two make four, that black is not white, that two parallel lines can never cross one another; so by a natural necessity men's bodies move downwards when there is nothing to support them. But here several things may be noted concerning these two kinds of necessity. 1. Moral necessity may be as absolute as natural necessity. That is, the effect may be as perfectly connected with its moral cause, as a natural effect is with its natural cause. Whether the will is in every case necessarily determined by the strongest motive, or whether the will ever makes any resistance to such a motive, or can ever oppose the strongest present inclination or not; if that matter should be controverted, yet I suppose none will deny, but that, in some cases a previous bias and inclination, or the motive presented may be so powerful, that the act of the will may be certainly and indissolubly connected therewith. When motives or previous bias are very strong, all will allow that there is some difficulty in going against them. And if they were yet stronger, the difficulty would be still greater. And therefore if more were still added to their strength up to a certain degree, it might make the difficulty so great that it would be wholly impossible to surmount it, for this plain reason, because whatever power men may be supposed to have to surmount difficulties, yet that power is not infinite, and so goes not beyond certain limits. If a certain man can surmount ten degrees of difficulty of this kind, with twenty degrees of strength, because the degrees of strength are beyond the degrees of difficulty, yet if the difficulty be increased to thirty, or a hundred, or to a thousand degrees, and his strength not also increased, his strength will be wholly insufficient to surmount the difficulty. As therefore it must be allowed that there may be such a thing as a sure and perfect connexion between moral causes and effects; so this only is what I call by the name of moral necessity." Page 35, he says: "What has been said of natural and moral necessity may serve to explain what is intended by natural and moral inability. We are said to be naturally unable to do a thing when we cannot do it if we will, because of some impeding defect or obstacle that is extrinsic to the will, either in the faculty of understanding, constitution of body, or external objects. Moral inability consists not in any of these things, but either in a want of inclination, or the want of sufficient motives in view, to induce and excite the act of the will, or the strength of apparent motives to the contrary. Or both these may be resolved into one, and it may be said in one word that moral inability consists in the opposition or want of inclination. For when a person is unable to will or choose such a thing, through a defect of motives or prevalence of contrary motives, it is the same thing as his being unable through the want of an inclination, or the prevalence of a contrary inclination in such circumstances, and under the influence of such views."

From these quotations, and much more that might be quoted to the same purpose, it is plain that Edwards, as the representative of his school, holds moral inability to consist, either in an existing choice or attitude of the will opposed to that which is required by the law of God, which inclination or choice is necessitated by motives in view of the mind, or in the absence of such motives as are necessary to cause or necessitate the state of choice required by the moral law, or to overcome an opposing choice. Indeed he holds these two to be identical. Observe, his words are, "Or these may be resolved into one, and it may be said in one word, that moral inability consists in opposition or want of inclination. For when a person is unable to will or choose such a thing, through a defect of motives, it is the same thing as his being unable through the want of an inclination, or the prevalence of a contrary inclination, in such circumstances and under the influence of such views," that is, in the presence of such motives. If there is a present prevalent contrary inclination, it is, according to him: 1. Because there are present certain reasons that necessitate this contrary inclination; and 2. Because there are not sufficient motives present to the mind to overcome these opposing motives and inclination, and to necessitate the will to determine or choose in the direction of the law of God. By inclination Edwards means choice or volition, as is abundantly evident from what he all along says in this connexion. This no one will deny who is at all familiar with his writings.

It was the object of the treatise from which the above quotations have been made, to maintain that the choice invariably is as the greatest apparent good is. And by the greatest apparent good he means, a sense of the most agreeable. By which he means, as he says, that the sense of the most agreeable, and choice or volition, are identical. Vol. ii., page 20, he says, "And therefore it must be true in some sense, that the will always is as the greatest apparent good is." "It must be observed in what sense I use the term 'good,' namely, as of the same import with agreeable. To appear good to the mind, as I use the phrase, is the same as to appear agreeable, or seem pleasing to the mind." Again, pp. 21, 22, he says: "I have rather chosen to express myself thus, that the will always is as the greatest apparent good is, or as what appears most agreeable, than to say that the will is determined by the greatest apparent good, or by what seems most agreeable; because an appearing most agreeable to the mind and the mind's preferring, seem scarcely distinct. If strict propriety of speech be insisted on, it may more properly be said, that the voluntary action, which is the immediate consequence of the mind's choice, is determined by that which appears most agreeable, than the choice itself." Thus it appears that the sense of the most agreeable, and choice or volition, according to Edwards, are the same things. Indeed, Edwards throughout confounds desire and volition, making them the same thing. Edwards regarded the mind as possessing but two primary faculties--the will and the understanding. He confounded all the states of the sensibility with acts of will. The strongest desire is with him always identical with volition or choice, and not merely that which determines choice. When there is a want of inclination or desire, or the sense of the most agreeable, there is a moral inability according to the Edwardean philosophy. This want of the strongest desire, inclination, or sense of the most agreeable, is always owing; 1. To the presence of such motives as to necessitate an opposite desire, choice, &c.; and 2. To the want of such objective motives as shall awaken this required desire, or necessitate this inclination or sense of the most agreeable. In other words, when volition or choice, in consistency with the law of God, does not exist, it is, 1. Because an opposite choice exists, and is necessitated by the presence of some motive; and 2. For want of sufficiently strong objective motives to necessitate the required choice or volition. Let it be distinctly understood and remembered, that Edwards held that motive, and not the agent is the cause of all actions of the will. Will, with him, is always determined in its choice by motives as really as physical effects are produced by their causes. The difference with him in the connexion of moral and physical causes and effects "lies not in the nature of the connexion, but in the terms connected."

"That every act of the will has some cause, and consequently (by what has already been proved) has a necessary connection with its cause, and so is necessary by a necessity of connection and consequence, is evident by this, that every act of the will whatsoever is excited by some motive, which is manifest; because, if the mind, in willing, after the manner it does, is excited by no motive or inducement, then it has no end which it proposes to itself, or pursues in so doing; it aims at nothing, and seeks nothing. And if it seeks nothing, then it does not go after anything, or exert any inclination or preference towards anything; which brings the matter to a contradiction; because for the mind to will something, and for it to go after something by an act of preference and inclination, are the same thing.

"But if every act of the will is excited by a motive, then that motive is the cause of the act. If the acts of the will are excited by motives, then motives are the causes of their being excited; or, which is the same thing, the cause of their existence. And if so, the existence of the acts of the will is properly the effect of their motives. Motives do nothing, as motives or inducements, but by their influence; and so much as is done by their influence is the effect of them. For that is the notion of an effect, something that is brought to pass by the influence of something else.

"And if volitions are properly the effects of their motives, then they are necessarily connected with their motives. Every effect and event being, as was proved before, necessarily connected with that which is the proper ground and reason of its existence. Thus it is manifest that volition is necessary, and is not from any self-determining power in the will."--Vol. ii., pp. 86, 87.

Moral inability, then, according to this school, consists in a want of inclination, desire, or sense of the most agreeable, or the strength of an opposite desire or sense of the most agreeable. This want of inclination, &c., or this opposing inclination, &c., are identical with an opposing choice or volition. This opposing choice or inclination, or this want of the required choice, inclination, or sense of the most agreeable is owing, according to Edwards, 1. To the presence of such motives as to necessitate the opposing choice; and 2. To the absence of sufficient motives to beget or necessitate them. Here then we have the philosophy of this school. The will or agent is unable to choose as God requires in all cases, when, 1. There are present such motives as to necessitate an opposite choice; and, 2. When there is not such a motive or such motives in the view of the mind, as to determine or necessitate the required choice or volition; that is, to awaken a desire, or to create an inclination or sense of the agreeable stronger than any existing and opposing desire, inclination, or sense of agreeable. This is the moral inability of the Edwardeans.

II. Their moral inability to obey God consists in real disobedience and a natural inability to obey.

(1.) In the presence of such motives as to necessitate an opposite choice; and,--

(2.) In the want or absence of sufficient motives to necessitate choice or volition, or, which is the same thing, a sense of the most agreeable, or an inclination, then their moral inability is a proper natural inability.

Edwards says, he "calls it a moral inability, because it is an inability of will." But by his own showing, the will is the only executive faculty. Whatever a man can do at all, he can accomplish by willing, and whatever he cannot accomplish by willing he cannot accomplish at all. An inability to will then must be a natural inability.

We are, by nature, unable to do what we are unable to will to do. Besides, according to Edwards, moral obligation respects strictly only acts of will, and willing is the doing that is prohibited or required by the moral law. To be unable to will then, is to be unable to do. To be unable to will as God requires, is to be unable to do what he requires, and this surely is a proper, and the only proper natural inability.
(1.) In the presence of such motives as to necessitate an opposite choice, and,--

(2.) In the want of sufficient motives to overcome the opposing state, and necessitate the required choice, volition, &c., then his views stand thus: moral inability to choose as God commands, consists in the want of this choice, or in the existence of an opposite choice, which want of choice, or, which is the same thing with him, which opposite choice is caused:--

(i.) By the presence of such motives as to necessitate the opposite choice, and,--

(ii.) By the absence of such motives as would necessitate the required choice.

Understand him which way you will, his moral inability is real disobedience, and is in the highest sense a proper natural inability to obey. The cause of choice or volition he always seeks, and thinks or assumes that he finds, in the objective motive, and never for once ascribes it to the sovereignty or freedom of the agent. Choice or volition is an event, and must have some cause. He assumed that the objective motive was the cause, when, as consciousness testifies, the agent is himself the cause. Here is the great error of Edwards.

Edwards assumed that no agent whatever, not even God himself, possesses a power of self-determination. That the will of God and of all moral agents is determined, not by themselves, but by an objective motive. If they will in one direction or another, it is not from any free and sovereign self-determination in view of motives, but because the motives or inducements present to the mind, inevitably produce or necessitate the sense of the most agreeable, or choice.

If this is not fatalism or natural necessity, what is?

III. This pretended distinction between natural and moral inability is nonsensical.

What does it amount to? Why this:--

It is amazing to see how so great and good a man could involve himself in a metaphysical fog, and bewilder himself and his readers to such a degree, that an absolutely senseless distinction should pass into the current phraseology, philosophy, and theology of the church, and a score of theological dogmas be built upon the assumption of its truth. This nonsensical distinction has been in the mouth of the Edwardean school of theologians, from Edwards's day to the present. Both saints and sinners have been bewildered, and, I must say, abused by it. Men have been told that they are as really unable to will as God directs, as they were to create themselves; and when it is replied that this inability excuses the sinner, we are directly silenced by the assertion, that this is only a moral inability, or an inability of will, and, therefore, that it is so far from excusing the sinner, that it constitutes the very ground, and substance, and whole of his guilt. Indeed! Men are under moral obligation only to will as God directs. But an inability thus to will, consisting in the absence of such motives as would necessitate the required choice, or the presence of such motives as to necessitate an opposite choice, is a moral inability, and really constitutes the sinner worthy of an "exceeding great and eternal weight" of damnation! Ridiculous! Edwards I revere; his blunders I deplore. I speak thus of this Treatise on the Will, because, while it abounds with unwarrantable assumptions, distinctions without a difference, and metaphysical subtleties, it has been adopted as the text-book of a multitude of what are called Calvinistic divines for scores of years. It has bewildered the head, and greatly embarrassed the heart and the action of the church of God. It is time, high time, that its errors should be exposed, and so exploded, that such phraseology should be laid aside, and the ideas which these words represent should cease to be entertained.

IV. What constitutes moral ability according to this school.

It is of course the opposite of moral inability.

Moral ability, according to them, consists in willingness with the cause of it. That is, moral ability to obey God consists in that inclination, desire, choice, volition, or sense of the most agreeable, which God requires together with its cause. Or it consists in the presence of such motives as do actually necessitate the above-named state or determination of the will. Or, more strictly, it consists in this state caused by the presence of these motives. This is as exact a statement of their views as I can make. According to this, a man is morally able to do as he does, and is necessitated to do, or, he is morally able to will as he does will, and as he cannot help willing. He is morally able to will in this manner, simply and only because he is caused thus to will by the presence of such motives as are, according to them, "indissolubly connected" with such a willing by a law of nature and necessity. But this conducts us to the conclusion,--

V. That their moral ability to obey God is nothing else than real obedience, and a natural inability to disobey.

Strictly, this moral ability includes both this state of will required by the law of God, and also the cause of this state, to wit, the presence of such motives as necessitate the inclination, choice, volition, or sense of the most agreeable, that God requires. The agent is able thus to will because he is caused thus to will. Or more strictly, his ability, and his inclination or willing, are identical. Or still further, according to Edwards, his moral ability thus to will and his thus willing, and the presence of the motives that cause this willing, are identical. This is a sublime discovery in philosophy; a most transcendental speculation! I would not treat these notions as ridiculous, were they not truly so, or if I could treat them in any other manner, and still do them anything like justice. If, where the theory is plainly stated, it appears ridiculous, the fault is not in me, but in the theory itself. I know it is trying to you, as it is to me, to connect anything ridiculous with so great and so revered a name as that of President Edwards. But if a blunder of his has entailed perplexity and error on the church, surely his great and good soul would now thank the hand that should blot out the error from under heaven.

Thus, when closely examined, this long established and venerated fogbank vanishes away; and this famed distinction between moral and natural ability and inability, is found to be "a thing of nought."

This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.

LECTURE L. Back to Top


THERE are yet other forms of the doctrine of inability to be stated and considered before we have done with this subject. In the consideration of the one before me, I must--




I. I am to state what I consider to be the fundamental errors of Edwards and his school upon the subject of ability.

Had he not sat down to write with the assumption of the Lockean school of philosophy in his mind, his Treatise on the Will, in anything like its present form, could never have seen the light. But assuming the truth of that philosophy, a mind like his could arrive at no other conclusions than he did. He took upon trust, or assumed without inquiry, an error that vitiated his whole system, and gave birth to that injurious monstrosity and misnomer, "Edwards on the Freedom of the Will." He justly held that moral law legislates and can strictly legislate only over acts of will, and those acts that are under the control of the will. This he, with his mental developement, could not deny, nor think of denying. Had he but given or assumed a correct definition of the will, and excluded from its acts the wholly involuntary states of the sensibility, he never could have asserted that the will is always and necessarily determined by the objective motive. Assuming the philosophy of Locke, and being conscious that the states of his sensibility, which he called acts of will, were controlled or excited by motives, or by the consideration of their correlated objects, his great soul laboured to bring about a reconciliation between the justice of God and this real, though not so called, slavery of the human will. This led him to adopt the distinction which we have examined between a moral and a natural inability. Thus, as a theologian, he committed a capital error in suffering himself to take upon trust another man's philosophy. Happy is the man who takes the trouble to examine for himself, whatever is essential to his system of opinion and belief.

II. I am to state the philosophy of the scheme of inability which we are about to consider.

III. This brings us to a brief consideration of the claims of this philosophy of inability.

The school, whose views I am examining, maintain, that this inability is founded in the first sin of Adam. His first sin plunged himself and his posterity, descending from him by a natural law, into a total inability of nature to render any obedience to God. This first sin of Adam entailed a nature on all his posterity "wholly sinful in every faculty and part of soul and body." This constitutional sinfulness that belongs to every faculty and part of soul and body, constitutes the inability of which we are treating. But mark, it is not physical inability, because it is a sinful inability! Important theological distinction!--as truly wonderful, surely, as any of the subtleties of the Jesuits. But if this inability is sinful, it is important to inquire, Whose sin is it? Who is to blame for it? Why to be sure, we are told that it is the sin of him upon whom it is thus entailed by the natural law of descent from parent to child without his knowledge or consent. This sinfulness of nature, entirely irrespective of and previous to any actual transgression, renders its possessor worthy of and exposed to the wrath and curse of God for ever. This sinfulness, observe, is transmitted by a natural or physical law from Adam, but it is not a physical inability. It is something that inheres in, and belongs to every faculty and part of soul and body. It is transmitted by a physical law from parent to child. It is, therefore, and must be a physical thing. But yet we are told that it cannot be a physical inability, because first, it is sinful, or sin itself; and, secondly, because a physical inability is a bar to, or inconsistent with, moral obligation. Here, then, we have their reasons for not admitting this to be a physical inability. It would in this case render moral obligation an impossibility; and, besides, if a bar to moral obligation, it could not be sinful. But it is sinful, it is said, therefore it cannot be physical. But how do we know that it is sinful? Why, we are told, that the instinctive judgments of men, and the Bible everywhere affirm and assume it. We are told, that both the instinctive judgments of men and the Bible affirm and assume, both the inability in question and the sinfulness of it; "that we ought to be able, but are not;" that is, that we are so much to blame for this inability of nature entailed upon us without our knowledge or consent by a physical necessity, as to deserve the wrath and curse of God for ever. We are under a moral obligation not to have this sinful nature. We deserve damnation for having it. To be sure, we are entirely unable to put it away, and had no agency whatever in its existence. But what of that? We are told, that "moral obligation is not limited by ability;" that our being as unable to change our nature as we are to create a world, is no reason why we should not be under obligation to do it, since "moral obligation does not imply ability of any kind to do what we are under obligation to do!" . . . . I was about to expose the folly and absurdity of these assertions, but hush! It is not allowable, we are told, to reason on this subject. We shall deceive ourselves if we listen to the "miserable logic of our understandings." We must fall back, then, upon the intuitive affirmations of reason and the Bible. Here, then, we are willing to lodge our appeal. The Bible defines sin to be a transgression of the law. What law have we violated in inheriting this nature? What law requires us to have a different nature from that which we possess? Does reason affirm that we are deserving of the wrath and curse of God for ever, for inheriting from Adam a sinful nature?

What law of reason have we transgressed in inheriting this nature? Reason cannot condemn us, unless we have violated some law which it can recognize as such. Reason indignantly rebukes such nonsense. Does the Bible hold us responsible for impossibilities? Does it require of us what we cannot do by willing to do it? Nay, verily; but it expressly affirms, that "if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what a man hath, and not according to what he hath not." The plain meaning of this passage is, that if one wills as God directs, he has hereby met all his obligation; that he has done all that is naturally possible to him, and therefore nothing more is required. In this passage, the Bible expressly limits obligation by ability. This we have repeatedly seen in former lectures. The law also, as we have formerly seen, limits obligation by ability. It requires only that we should love the Lord with all our strength, that is, with all our ability, and our neighbour as ourselves.

Does reason hold us responsible for impossibilities, or affirm our obligation to do, or be, what it is impossible for us to do and be? No indeed. Reason never did and never can condemn us for our nature, and hold us worthy of the wrath and curse of God for ever for possessing it. Nothing is more shocking and revolting to reason, than such assumptions as are made by the philosophy in question. This every man's consciousness must testify.

But is it not true that some, at least, do intelligently condemn themselves for their nature, and adjudge themselves to be worthy of the wrath and curse of God for ever for its sinfulness? The framers of the Presbyterian Confession of Faith made this affirmation in words, at least; whether intelligently or unintelligently, we are left to inquire. The reason of a moral agent condemning himself, and adjudging himself worthy of the wrath and curse of God for ever, for possessing a nature entailed on him by a natural law, without his knowledge or consent! This can never be.

But is it not true, as is affirmed, that men instinctively and necessarily affirm their obligation to be able to obey God, while they at the same time affirm that they are not able? I answer, no. They affirm themselves to be under obligation simply, and only, because deeply in their inward being lies the assumption that they are able to comply with the requirements of God. They are conscious of ability to will, and of power to control their outward life directly, and the states of the intellect and of their sensibility, either directly or indirectly, by willing. Upon this consciousness they found the affirmation of obligation, and of praise and blame-worthiness in respect to these acts and states of mind. But for the consciousness of ability, no affirmation of moral obligation, or of praise or blame-worthiness, were possible.

But do not those who affirm both their inability and their obligation, deceive themselves? I answer, yes. It is common for persons to overlook assumptions that lie, so to speak, at the bottom of their minds. This has been noticed in former lectures, and need not be here repeated.

It is true indeed that God requires of men, especially under the gospel, what they are unable to do directly in their own strength. Or more strictly speaking, he requires them to lay hold on his strength, or to avail themselves of his grace, as the condition of being what he requires them to be. With strict propriety, it cannot be said that in this, or in any case, he requires directly any more than we are able directly to do. The direct requirement in the case under consideration, is to avail ourselves of, or to lay hold upon his strength. This we have power to do. He requires us to lay hold upon his grace and strength, and thereby to rise to a higher knowledge of himself, and to a consequent higher state of holiness than would be otherwise possible to us. The direct requirement is to believe, or to lay hold upon his strength, or to receive the Holy Spirit, or Christ, who stands at the door, and knocks, and waits for admission. The indirect requirement is to rise to a degree of knowledge of God, and to spiritual attainments that are impossible to us in our own strength. We have ability to obey the direct command directly, and the indirect command indirectly. That is, we are able by virtue of our nature, together with the proffered grace of the Holy Spirit, to comply with all the requirements of God. So that in fact there is no proper inability about it.

But are not men often conscious of there being much difficulty in the way of rendering to God all that we affirm ourselves under obligation to render? I answer, yes. But strictly speaking, they must admit their direct or indirect ability, as a condition of affirming their obligation. This difficulty, arising out of their physical depravity (See distinction between moral and physical depravity, Lecture XXXVIII. II), and the power of temptation from without, is the foundation or cause of the spiritual warfare of which the Scriptures speak, and of which all Christians are conscious. But the Bible abundantly teaches, that through grace we are able to be more than conquerors. If we are able to be this through grace, we are able to avail ourselves of the provisions of grace, so that there is no proper inability in the case. However great the difficulties may be, we are able through Christ to overcome them all. This we must and do assume as the condition of the affirmation of obligation.

This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.

LECTURE LI. Back to Top





Grace is unmerited favour. Its exercise consists in bestowing that which, without a violation of justice, might be withheld.

Ability to obey God, as we have seen, is the possession of power adequate to the performance of that which is required. If, then, the terms are used in the proper sense, by a gracious ability must be intended that the power which men at present possess to obey the commands of God, is a gift of grace relatively to the command; that is, the bestowment of power adequate to the performance of the thing required, is a matter of grace as opposed to justice. But let us enter upon an inquiry into the sense in which this language is used.

I. I will show what is intended by the term gracious ability.

The abettors of this scheme hold that by the first sin of Adam, he, together with all his posterity, lost all natural power and all ability of every kind to obey God; that therefore they were, as a race, wholly unable to obey the moral law, or to render to God any acceptable service whatever; that is, that they became, as a consequence of the sin of Adam, wholly unable to use the powers of nature in any other way than to sin. They were able to sin or to disobey God, but entirely unable to obey him; that they did not lose all power to act, but that they had power to act only in one direction, that is, in opposition to the will and law of God. By a gracious ability they intend, that in consequence of the atonement of Christ, God has graciously restored to man ability to accept the terms of mercy, or to fulfil the conditions of acceptance with God; in other words, that by the gracious aid of the Holy Spirit which, upon condition of the atonement, God has given to every member of the human family, all men are endowed with a gracious ability to obey God. By a gracious ability is intended, then, that ability or power to obey God, which all men now possess, not by virtue of their own nature or constitutional powers, but by virtue of the indwelling and gracious influence of the Holy Spirit, gratuitously bestowed upon man in consequence of the atonement of Christ. The inability, or total loss of all natural power to obey God into which men as a race fell by the first sin of Adam, they call original sin, &c., perhaps more strictly, this inability is a consequence of that original sin into which man fell; which original sin itself consisted in the total corruption of man's whole nature. They hold, that by the atonement Christ made satisfaction for original sin, in such a sense, that the inability resulting from it is removed, and that now men are by gracious aid able to obey and accept the terms of salvation. That is, they are able to repent and believe the gospel. In short, they are able by virtue of this gracious ability to do their duty, or to obey God. This, if I understand these theologians, is a fair statement of their doctrine of gracious ability. This brings us,--

II. To show that the doctrine of a gracious ability, as held by those who maintain it, is an absurdity.

The question is not whether, as a matter of fact, men ever do obey God without the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit. I hold that they do not. So the fact of the Holy Spirit's gracious influence being exerted in every case of human obedience, is not a question in debate between those who maintain, and those who deny the doctrine of gracious ability, in the sense above explained. The question in debate is not whether men do, in any case, use the powers of nature in the manner that God requires, without the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit, but whether they are naturally able so to use them. Is the fact that they never do so use them without a gracious divine influence, to be ascribed to absolute inability, or to the fact that, from the beginning, they universally and voluntarily consecrate their powers to the gratification of self, and that therefore they will not, unless they are divinely persuaded, by the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit, in any case turn and consecrate their powers to the service of God? If this doctrine of natural inability and of gracious ability be true, it inevitably follows:--

We have seen in a former lecture, that natural ability to obey God, and the freedom or liberty of will, are identical. We have abundantly seen that moral law and moral obligation respect strictly only acts of will; that hence, all obedience to God consists strictly in acts of will; that power to will in conformity with the requirements of God, is natural ability to obey him; that freedom or liberty of will, consists in the power or ability to will in conformity or opposition to the will or law of God; that, therefore, freedom or liberty of will, and natural ability to obey God, are identical. Thus we see, that if man lost his natural ability to obey God in the first sin of Adam, he lost the freedom of his will, and thenceforth must for ever have remained a necessary agent, but for the gracious re-bestowment of ability or freedom of will.

But that either Adam or his posterity lost their freedom or free agency by the first sin of Adam, is not only a sheer but an absurd assumption. To be sure Adam fell into a state of total alienation from the law of God, and lapsed into a state of supreme selfishness. His posterity have unanimously followed his example. He and they have become dead in trespasses and sins. Now that this death in sin either consists in, or implies the loss of free agency, is the very thing to be proved by them. But this cannot be proved. I have so fully discussed the subject of human moral depravity or sinfulness on a former occasion, as to render it unnecessary to enlarge upon it here.
Nor would it at all vary the case if I had ever possessed wings, and by the abuse of them had lost the power to fly. In this case, considered relatively to the pleasure, and profit, and results of flying, the restoring of the power to fly might and would be an act of grace. But if God would still command me to fly, he must, as a condition of my obligation, restore the power. It is vain and absurd to say, as has been said, that in such a case, although I might lose the power of obedience, this cannot alter the right of God to claim obedience. This assertion proceeds upon the absurd assumption that the will of God makes or creates law, instead of merely declaring and enforcing the law of nature. We have seen in former lectures, that the only law or rule of action that is, or can be obligatory on a moral agent, is the law of nature, or just that course of willing and acting, which is for the time being, suitable to his nature and relations. We have seen that God's will never makes or creates law, that it only declares and enforces it. If therefore, by any means whatever, the nature of a moral agent should be so changed that his will is no longer free to act in conformity with, or in opposition to, the law of nature, if God would hold him still obligated to obey, he must in justice, relatively to his requirement, restore his liberty or ability. Suppose one had by the abuse of his intellect lost the use of it, and become a perfect idiot, could he by any possibility be still required to understand and obey God? Certainly not. So neither could he be required to perform anything else that had become naturally impossible to him. Viewed relatively to the pleasure and results of obedience, his restoring power would be an act of grace. But viewed relatively to his duty or to God's command, the restoring of power to obey is an act of justice and not of grace. To call this grace were to abuse language, and confound terms. But this brings me to the consideration of the next question to be discussed at present, namely,--

III. In what sense a gracious ability is possible.

Suppose, for example, that a servant who supports himself and his family by his wages, should by his own fault render himself unable to labour and to earn his wages. His master may justly dismiss him, and let him go with his family to the poor-house. But in this disabled state his master cannot justly exact labour of him. Nor could he do so if he absolutely owned the servant. Now suppose the master to be able to restore to the servant his former strength. If he would require service of him, as a condition of the justice of this requirement, he must restore his strength so far at least as to render obedience possible. This would be mere justice. But suppose he restored the ability of the servant to gain support for himself and his family by labour. This, viewed relatively to the good of the servant, to the results of the restoration of his ability to himself and to his family, is a matter of grace. Relatively to the good or rights of the master in requiring the labour of the servant, the restoration of ability to obey is an act of justice. But relatively to the good of the servant, and the benefits that result to him from this restoration of ability, and making it once more possible for him to support himself and his family, the giving of ability is properly an act of grace.

Let this be applied to the case under consideration. Suppose the race of Adam to have lost their free agency by the first sin of Adam, and thus to have come into a state in which holiness and consequent salvation were impossible. Now, if God would still require obedience of them, he must in justice restore their ability. And viewed relatively to his right to command, and their duty to obey, this restoration is properly a matter of justice. But suppose he would again place them in circumstances to render holiness and consequent salvation possible to them:-- viewed relatively to their good and profit, this restoration of ability is properly a matter of grace.

A gracious ability to obey, viewed relatively to the command to be obeyed, is impossible and absurd. But a gracious ability to be saved, viewed relatively to salvation, is possible.

There is no proof that mankind ever lost their ability to obey, either by the first sin of Adam, or by their own sin. For this would imply, as we have seen, that they had ceased to be free, and had become necessary agents. But if they had, and God had restored their ability to obey, all that can be justly said in this case, is, that so far as his right to command is concerned, the restoration of their ability was an act of justice. But so far as the rendering of salvation possible to them is concerned, it was an act of grace.
When used of acts of will, the term "cannot" interpreted by this rule, must not be understood to mean a proper impossibility. If I say, I cannot take five dollars for my watch, when it is offered to me, every one knows that I do not and cannot mean to affirm a proper impossibility. So when the angel said to Lot, "Haste thee, for I cannot do anything until thou become thither," who ever understood him as affirming a natural or any proper impossibility? All that he could have meant was, that he was not willing to do anything until Lot was in a place of safety. Just so when the Bible speaks of our inability to comply with the commands of God, all that can be intended is, that we are so unwilling that, without divine persuasion, we, as a matter of fact, shall not and will not obey. This certainly is the sense in which such language is used in common life. And in common parlance, we never think of such language, when used of acts of will, as meaning anything more than unwillingness, a state in which the will is strongly committed in an opposite direction.

When Joshua said to the children of Israel, "Ye cannot serve the Lord, for he is a holy God," the whole context, as well as the nature of the case, shows that he did not mean to affirm a natural, nor indeed any kind of impossibility. In the same connexion, he requires them to serve the Lord, and leads them solemnly to pledge themselves to serve him. He undoubtedly intended to say, that with wicked hearts they could not render him an acceptable service, and therefore insisted on their putting away the wickedness of their hearts, by immediately and voluntarily consecrating themselves to the service of the Lord. So it must be in all cases where the term "cannot," and such-like expressions which, when applied to muscular action, would imply a proper impossibility, are used in reference to acts of will; they cannot, when thus used be understood as implying a proper impossibility, without doing violence to every sober rule of interpreting language. What would be thought of a judge or an advocate at the bar of an earthly tribunal, who should interpret the language of a witness without any regard to the rule, "that language is to be understood according to the subject-matter of discourse." Should an advocate in his argument to the court or jury, attempt to interpret the language of a witness in a manner that made "cannot," when spoken of an act of will, mean a proper impossibility, the judge would soon rebuke his stupidity, and remind him that he must not talk nonsense in a court of justice; and might possibly add, that such nonsensical assertions were allowable only in the pulpit. I say again, that it is an utter abuse and perversion of the laws of language, so to interpret the Bible as to make it teach a proper inability in man to will as God directs. The essence of obedience to God consists in willing. Language, then, used in reference to obedience must, when properly understood, be interpreted in accordance with the subject-matter of discourse. Consequently, when used in reference to acts of will, such expressions as "cannot," and the like, can absolutely mean nothing more than a choice in an opposite direction. But it may be asked, Is there no grace in all that is done by the Holy Spirit to make man wise unto salvation? Yes, indeed, I answer. And it is grace, and great grace, just because the doctrine of a natural inability in man to obey God is not true. It is just because man is well able to render obedience, and unjustly refuses to do so, that all the influence that God brings to bear upon him to make him willing, is a gift and an influence of grace. The grace is great, just in proportion to the sinner's ability to comply with God's requirements, and the strength of his voluntary opposition to his duty. If man were properly unable to obey, there could be no grace in giving him ability to obey, when the bestowment of ability is considered relatively to the command. But let man be regarded as free, as possessing natural ability to obey all the requirements of God, and all his difficulty as consisting in a wicked heart, or, which is the same thing, in an unwillingness to obey, then an influence on the part of God designed and tending to make him willing, is grace indeed. But strip man of his freedom, render him naturally unable to obey, and you render grace impossible, so far as his obligation to obedience is concerned.

But it is urged in support of the dogma of natural inability and of a gracious ability, that the Bible everywhere represents man as dependent on the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit for all holiness, and consequently for eternal life. I answer, it is admitted that this is the representation of the Bible, but the question is, in what sense is he dependent? Does his dependence consist in a natural inability to embrace the gospel and be saved? or does it consist in a voluntary selfishness--in an unwillingness to comply with the terms of salvation? Is man dependent on the Holy Spirit to give him a proper ability to obey God? or is he dependent only in such a sense that, as a matter of fact, he will not embrace the gospel unless the Holy Spirit makes him willing? The latter, beyond reasonable question, is the truth. This is the universal representation of scripture. The difficulty to be overcome is everywhere in the Bible represented to be the sinner's unwillingness alone. It cannot possibly be anything else; for the willingness is the doing required by God. "If there is but a willing mind, it is accepted according to what a man hath, and not according to what he hath not."

But it is said, if man can be willing of himself, what need of divine persuasion or influence to make him willing? I might ask, suppose a man is able but unwilling to pay his debts, what need of any influence to make him willing? Why, divine influence is needed to make a sinner willing, or to induce him to will as God directs, just for the same reason that persuasion, entreaty, argument, or the rod, is needed to make our children submit their wills to ours. The fact therefore that the Bible represents the sinner as in some sense dependent upon divine influence for a right heart, no more implies a proper inability in the sinner, than the fact that children are dependent for their good behaviour, oftentimes upon the thorough and timely discipline of their parents, implies a proper inability in them to obey their parents without chastisement.

The Bible everywhere, and in every way, assumes the freedom of the will. This fact stands out in strong relief upon every page of divine inspiration. But this is only the assumption necessarily made by the universal intelligence of man. The strong language often found in scripture upon the subject of man's inability to obey God, is designed only to represent the strength of his voluntary selfishness and enmity against God, and never to imply a proper natural inability. It is, therefore, a gross and most injurious perversion of scripture, as well as a contradiction of human reason, to deny the natural ability, or which is the same thing, the natural free agency of man, and to maintain a proper natural inability to obey God, and the absurd dogma of a gracious ability to do our duty.


Let it not be said then, that we deny the grace of the glorious gospel of the blessed God, nor that we deny the reality and necessity of the influences of the Holy Spirit to convert and sanctify the soul, nor that this influence is a gracious one; for all these we most strenuously maintain. But I maintain this upon the ground, that men are able to do their duty, and that the difficulty does not lie in a proper inability, but in a voluntary selfishness, in an unwillingness to obey the blessed gospel. I say again, that I reject the dogma of a gracious ability, as I understand its abettors to hold it, not because I deny, but solely because it denies the grace of the gospel. The denial of ability is really a denial of the possibility of grace in the affair of man's salvation. I admit the ability of man, and hold that he is able, but utterly unwilling, to obey God. Therefore I consistently hold, that all the influences exerted by God to make him willing, are of free grace abounding through Christ Jesus.

This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.

LECTURE LII. Back to Top



I have represented ability, or the freedom of the will, as a first truth of reason. I have also defined first truths of reason to be those truths that are necessarily known to all moral agents. From these two representations the inquiry may naturally arise, How then is it to be accounted for that so many men have denied the liberty of the will, or ability to obey God? That these first truths of reason are frequently denied is a notorious fact. A recent writer thinks this denial a sufficient refutation of the affirmation, that ability is a first truth of reason. It is important that this denial should be accounted for. That mankind affirm their obligation upon the real, though often latent and unperceived assumption of ability, there is no reasonable ground of doubt. I have said that first-truths of reason are frequently assumed, and certainly known without being always the direct object of thought or attention; and also that these truths are universally held in the practical judgments of men, while they sometimes in theory deny them. They know them to be true, and in all their practical judgments assume their truth, while they reason against them, think they prove them untrue, and not unfrequently affirm, that they are conscious of an opposite affirmation. For example, men have denied, in theory, the law of causality, while they have at every moment of their lives acted upon the assumption of its truth. Others have denied the freedom of the will, who have, every hour of their lives, assumed, and acted, and judged, upon the assumption that the will is free. The same is true of ability, which, in respect to the commandments of God, is identical with freedom. Men have often denied the ability of man to obey the commandments of God, while they have always, in their practical judgments of themselves and of others, assumed their ability, in respect to those things that are really commanded by God. Now, how is this to be accounted for?

1. Multitudes have denied the freedom of the will, because they have loosely confounded the will with the involuntary powers--with the intellect and the sensibility. Locke, as is well known, regarded the mind as possessing but two primary faculties, the understanding and the will. President Edwards, as was said in a former lecture, followed Locke, and regarded all the states of the sensibility as acts of the will. Multitudes, nay the great mass of Calvinistic divines, with their hearers, have held the same views. This confounding of the sensibility with the will has been common for a long time. Now everybody is conscious, that the states of the sensibility or mere feelings cannot be produced or changed by a direct effort to feel thus or thus. Everybody knows from consciousness that the feelings come and go, wax and wane, as motives are presented to excite them. And they know also that these feelings are under the law of necessity and not of liberty; that is, that necessity is an attribute of these feelings, in such a sense, that under the circumstances, they will exist in spite of ourselves, and that they cannot be controlled by a direct effort to control them. Everybody knows that our feelings, or the states of our sensibility can be controlled only indirectly, that is, by the direction of our thoughts. By directing our thoughts to an object calculated to excite certain feelings, we know that when the excitability is not exhausted, feelings correlated to that object will come into play, of course and of necessity. So when any class of feelings exist, we all know that by diverting the attention from the object that excites them, they subside of course, and give place to a class correlated to the new object that at present occupies the attention. Now, it is very manifest how the freedom of the will has come to be denied by those who confound the will proper with the sensibility. These same persons have always known and assumed, that the actions of the will proper were free. Their error has consisted in not distinguishing in theory between the action of the proper will, and the involuntary states of the sensibility. In their practical judgments, and in their conduct, they have recognized the distinction which they have failed to recognize in their speculations and theories. They have every hour been exerting their own freedom, have been controlling directly their attention and their outward life, by the free exercise of their proper will. They have also, by the free exercise of the same faculty, been indirectly controlling the states of their sensibility. They have all along assumed the absolute freedom of the will proper, and have always acted upon the assumption, or they would not have acted at all, or even attempted to act. But since they did not in theory distinguish between the sensibility and the will proper, they denied in theory the freedom of the will. If the actions of the will be confounded with desires and emotions, as President Edwards confounded them, and as has been common, the result must be a theoretical denial of the freedom of the will. In this way we are to account for the doctrine of inability, as it has been generally held. It has not been clearly understood that moral law legislates directly, and, with strict propriety of speech, only over the will proper, and over the involuntary powers only indirectly through the will. It has been common to regard the law and the gospel of God, as directly extending their claims to the involuntary powers and states of mind; and, as was shown in a former lecture, many have regarded, in theory, the law as extending its claims to those states that lie wholly beyond, either the direct or indirect control of the will. Now, of course, with these views of the claims of God, ability is and must be denied. I trust we have seen in past lectures, that, strictly and properly speaking, the moral law restricts its claims to the actions of the will proper, in such a sense that, if there be a willing mind, it is accepted as obedience; that the moral law and the lawgiver legislate over involuntary states only indirectly, that is, through the will; and that the whole of virtue, strictly speaking, consists in good-will or disinterested benevolence. Sane minds never practically deny, or can deny, the freedom of the will proper, or the doctrine of ability, when they make the proper discriminations between the will and the sensibility, and properly regard moral law as legislating directly only over the will. It is worthy of all consideration, that those who have denied ability, have almost always confounded the will and the sensibility; and that those who have denied ability, have always extended the claims of moral law beyond the pale of proper voluntariness; and many of them even beyond the limits of either the direct or the indirect control of the will.

But the inquiry may arise, how it comes to pass that men have so extensively entertained the impression, that the moral law legislates directly over those feelings, and over those states of mind which they know to be involuntary? I answer, that this mistake has arisen out of a want of just discrimination between the direct and indirect legislation of the law, and of the lawgiver. It is true that men are conscious of being responsible for their feelings and for their outward actions, and even for their thoughts. And it is really true that they are responsible for them, in so far as they are under either the direct or indirect control of the will. And they know that these acts and states of mind are possible to them, that is, that they have an indirect ability to produce them. They, however, loosely confound the direct and indirect ability and responsibility. The thing required by the law directly and presently is benevolence or good-will. This is what, and all that the law strictly, presently or directly requires. It indirectly requires all those outward and inward acts and states that are connected directly and indirectly with this required act of will, by a law of necessity; that is, that those acts and states should follow as soon as by a natural and necessary law they will follow from a right action of the will. When these feelings, and states, and acts do not exist, they blame themselves generally with propriety, because the absence of them is in fact owing to a want of the required act of the will. Sometimes, no doubt, they blame themselves unjustly, not considering that, although the will is right, of which they are conscious, the involuntary state or act does not follow, because of exhaustion, or because of some disturbance in the established and natural connection between the acts of the will and its ordinary sequents. When this exhaustion or disturbance exists, men are apt, loosely and unjustly, to write bitter things against themselves. They often do the same in hours of temptation, when Satan casts his fiery darts at them, lodging them in the thoughts and involuntary feelings. The will repels them, but they take effect, for the time being, in spite of himself, in the intellect and sensibility. Blasphemous thoughts are suggested to the mind, unkind thoughts of God are suggested, and in spite of one's self, these abominable thoughts awaken their correlated feelings. The will abhors them and struggles to suppress them, but for the time being, finds itself unable to do anything more than to fight and resist.

Now, it is very common for souls in this state to write the most bitter accusations against themselves. But should it be hence inferred that they really are as much in fault as they assume themselves to be? No, indeed. But why do ministers, of all schools, unite in telling such tempted souls, You are mistaken, my dear brother or sister, these thoughts and feelings, though exercises of your own mind, are not yours in such a sense that you are responsible for them. The thoughts are suggested by Satan, and the feelings are a necessary consequence. Your will resists them, and this proves that you are unable, for the time being, to avoid them. You are therefore not responsible for them while you resist them with all the power of your will, any more than you would be guilty of murder should a giant overpower your strength, and use your hand against your will to shoot a man. In such cases it is, so far as I know, universally true, that all schools admit that the tempted soul is not responsible or guilty for those things which it cannot help. The inability is here allowed to be a bar to obligation; and such souls are justly told by ministers, You are mistaken in supposing yourself guilty in this case. The like mistake is fallen into when a soul blames itself for any state of mind whatever that lies wholly and truly beyond the direct or indirect control of the will, and for the same reason, inability in both cases is alike a bar to obligation. It is just as absurd, in the one case as in the other, to infer real responsibility from a feeling or persuasion of responsibility. To hold that men are always responsible, because they loosely think themselves to be so is absurd. In cases of temptation, such as that just supposed, as soon as the attention is directed to the fact of inability to avoid those thoughts and feelings, and the mind is conscious of the will's resisting them, and of being unable to banish them, it readily rests in the assurance that it is not responsible for them. Its own irresponsibility in such cases appears self-evident to the mind, the moment the proper inability is considered, and the affirmation of irresponsibility attended to. Now if the soul naturally and truly regarded itself as responsible, when there is a proper inability and impossibility, the instructions above referred to could not relieve the mind. It would say, To be sure I know that I cannot avoid having these thoughts and feelings, any more than I can cease to be the subject of consciousness, yet I know I am responsible notwithstanding. These thoughts and feelings are states of my own mind, and no matter how I come by them, or whether I can control or prevent them or not. Inability, you know, is no bar to obligation; therefore, my obligation and my guilt remain. Woe is me, for I am undone. The idea, then, of responsibility, when there is in fact real inability, is a prejudice of education, a mistake.

The mistake, unless strong prejudice of education has taken possession of the mind, lies in overlooking the fact of a real and proper inability. Unless the judgment has been strongly biassed by education, it never judges itself bound to perform impossibilities, nor even conceive of such a thing. Who ever held himself bound to undo what is past, to recall past time, or to substitute holy acts and states of mind in the place of past sinful ones? No one ever held himself bound to do this; first, because he knows it to be impossible; and secondly, because no one that I have heard of ever taught or asserted any such obligation; and therefore none have received so strong a bias from education as loosely to hold such an opinion. But sometimes the bias of education is so great, that the subjects of it seem capable of believing almost anything, however inconsistent with the intuitions of the reason, and consequently in the face of the most certain knowledge. For example, President Edwards relates of a young woman in his congregation, that she was deeply convicted of being guilty for Adam's first sin, and deeply repented of it. Now suppose that this and like cases should be regarded as conclusive proof that men are guilty of that sin, and deserve the wrath and curse of God for ever for that sin; and that all men will suffer the pains of hell for ever, except they become convinced of their personal guilt for that sin, and repent of it as in dust and ashes! President Edwards's teaching on the subject of the relation of all men to Adam's first sin, it is well known, was calculated in a high degree to pervert the judgment upon that subject; and this sufficiently accounts for the fact above alluded to. But apart from education, no human being ever held himself responsible for, or guilty of, the first or any other sin of Adam, or of any other being, who existed and died before he himself existed. The reason is that all moral agents naturally know, that inability or a proper impossibility is a bar to moral obligation and responsibility; and they never conceive to the contrary, unless biassed by a mystifying education that casts a fog over their primitive and constitutional convictions.

2. Some have denied ability because they have strangely held, that the moral law requires sinners to be just in all respects what they might have been had they never sinned. That is, they maintain that God requires of them just as high and perfect a service as if their powers had never been abused by sin; as if they had always been developed by the perfectly right use of them. This they admit to be a natural impossibility; nevertheless they hold that God may justly require it, and that sinners are justly bound to perform this impossible service, and that they sin continually in coming short of it. To this sentiment I answer, that it might be maintained with as much show of reason, and as much authority from the Bible, that God might and does require of all sinners to undo all their acts of sin, and to substitute holy ones in their places, and that he holds them as sinning every moment by the neglect to do this. Why may not God as well require one as the other? They are alike impossibilities. They are alike impossibilities originating in the sinner's own act or fault. If the sinner's rendering himself unable to obey in one case does not set aside the right of God to command, so does it not for the same reason in the other. If an inability resulting from the sinner's own act cannot bar the right of God to make the requisition in the one case, neither can it for the same reason in the other. But every one can see that God cannot justly require the sinner to recall past time, and to undo past acts. But why? No other reason can be assigned than that it is impossible. But the same reason, it is admitted, exists in its full extent in the other case. It is admitted that sinners, who have long indulged in sin, or who have sinned at all, are really as unable to render as high a degree of service as they might have done had they never sinned, as they are to recall past time, or to undo all their past acts of sin. On what ground, then, of reason or revelation does the assertion rest, that in one case an impossibility is a bar to obligation, and not in the other? I answer, there is no ground whatever for the assertion in question. It is a sheer and an absurd assumption, unsupported by any affirmation of reason, or any truth or principle of revelation.

But to this assumption I reply again, as I have done on a former occasion, that if it be true, it must follow, that no one on earth or in heaven who has ever sinned will be able to render as perfect a service as the law demands; for there is no reason to believe, that any being who has abused his powers by sin will ever in time or eternity be able to render as high a service as he might have done had he at every moment duly developed them by perfect obedience. If this theory is true, I see not why it does not follow that the saints will be guilty in heaven of the sin of omission. A sentiment based upon an absurdity in the outset, as the one in question is, and resulting in such consequences as this must, is to be rejected without hesitation.

3. A consciousness of the force of habit, in respect to all the acts and states of body and mind, has contributed to the loose holding of the doctrine of inability. Every one who is at all in the habit of observation and self-reflection is aware, that for some reason we acquire a greater and greater facility in doing anything by practice or repetition. We find this to be true in respect to acts of will as really as in respect to the involuntary states of mind. When the will has been long committed to the indulgence of the propensities, and in the habit of submitting itself to their impulses, there is a real difficulty of some sort in the way of changing its action. This difficulty cannot really impair the liberty of the will. If it could, it would destroy, or so far impair, moral agency and accountability. But habit may, and, as every one knows, does interpose an obstacle of some sort in the way of right willing, or, on the other hand, in the way of wrong willing. That is, men both obey and disobey with greatest facility from habit. Habit strongly favours the accustomed action of the will in any direction. This, as I said, never does or can properly impair the freedom of the will, or render it impossible to act in a contrary direction; for if it could and should, the actions of the will, in that case, being determined by a law of necessity in one direction, would have no moral character. If benevolence became a habit so strong that it were utterly impossible to will in an opposite direction, or not to will benevolently, benevolence would cease to be virtuous. So, on the other hand, with selfishness. If the will came to be determined in that direction by habit grown into a law of necessity, such action would and must cease to have moral character. But, as I said, there is a real conscious difficulty of some sort in the way of obedience, when the will has been long accustomed to sin. This is strongly recognized in the language of inspiration and in devotional hymns, as well as in the language of experience by all men. The language of scripture is often so strong upon this point, that, but for a regard to the subject-matter of discourse, we might justly infer a proper inability. For example, Jer. xiii. 23: "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil." This and similar passages recognize the influence of habit. "Then may ye who are accustomed to do evil:" custom or habit is to be overcome, and, in the strong language of the prophet, this is like changing the Ethiop's skin or the leopard's spots. But to understand the prophet as here affirming a proper inability were to disregard one of the fundamental rules of interpreting language, namely, that it is to be understood by reference to the subject of discourse. The latter part of the seventh chapter of Romans affords a striking instance and an illustration of this. It is, as has just been said, a sound and most important rule of interpreting all language, that due regard be had to the subject-matter of discourse. When "cannot," and such like terms, that express an inability are applied to physical or involuntary actions or states of mind, they express a proper natural inability; but when they are used in reference to actions of free will, they express not a proper impossibility, but only a difficulty arising out of the existence of a contrary choice, or the law of habit, or both. Much question has been made about the seventh of Romans in its relation to the subject of ability and inability. Let us, therefore, look a little into this passage, Romans vii. 15-23: "For that which I do, I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." Now, what did the Apostle mean by this language? Did he use language here in the popular sense, or with strictly philosophical propriety? He says he finds himself able to will, but not able to do. Is he then speaking of a mere outward or physical inability? Does he mean merely to say, that the established connexion between volition and its sequents was disturbed, so that he could not execute his volitions? This his language, literally interpreted, and without reference to the subject-matter of discourse, and without regard to the manifest scope and design of the writer, would lead us to conclude. But whoever contended for such an interpretation? The apostle used popular language, and was describing a very common experience. Convicted sinners and backslidden saints often make legal resolutions, and resolve upon obedience under the influence of legal motives, and without really becoming benevolent, and changing the attitude of their wills. They, under the influence of conviction, purpose selfishly to do their duty to God and man, and, in the presence of temptation, they constantly fail of keeping their resolutions. It is true, that with their selfish hearts, or in the selfish attitude of their wills, they cannot keep their resolutions to abstain from those inward thoughts and emotions, nor from those outward actions that result by a law of necessity from a selfish state or attitude of the will. These legal resolutions the apostle popularly calls willings. "To will is present with me, but how to do good I find not. When I would do good, evil is present with me, so that the good I would I do not, and the evil I would not that I do. If then I do the evil I would not, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I delight in the law of God after the inner man. But I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members," &c. Now, this appears to me to be descriptive of a very familiar experience of every deeply convicted sinner or backslider. The will is committed to the propensities, to the law in the members, or to the gratification of the impulses of the sensibility. Hence, the outward life is selfish. Conviction of sin leads to the formation of resolutions of amendment, while the will does not submit to God. These resolutions constantly fail of securing the result contemplated. The will still abides in a state of committal to self-gratification; and hence resolutions to amend in feeling or the outward life, fail of securing those results.

Nothing was more foreign from the apostle's purpose, it seems to me, than to affirm a proper inability of will to yield to the claims of God. Indeed, he affirms and assumes the freedom of his will. "To will," he says, "is present with me;" that is, to resolve. But resolution is an act of will. It is a purpose, a design. He purposed, designed to amend. To form resolutions was present with him, but how to do good he found not. The reason why he did not execute his purposes was, that they were selfishly made; that is, he resolved upon reformation without giving his heart to God, without submitting his will to God, without actually becoming benevolent. This caused his perpetual failure. This language, construed strictly to the letter, would lead to the conclusion, that the apostle was representing a case where the will is right, but where the established and natural connexion between volition and its sequents is destroyed, so that the outward act did not follow the action of the will. In this case all schools would agree that the act of the will constitutes real obedience. The whole passage, apart from the subject-matter of discourse, and from the manifest design and scope of the writer, might lead us to conclude, that the apostle was speaking of a proper inability, and that he did not therefore regard the failure as his own fault. "It is no more I, but sin that dwelleth in me. O wretched man that I am," &c. Those who maintain that the apostle meant to assert a proper inability to obey, must also admit that he represented this inability as a bar to obligation, and regarded his state as calamitous, rather than as properly sinful. But the fact is, he was portraying a legal experience, and spoke of finding himself unable to keep selfish resolutions of amendment in the presence of temptation. His will was in a state of committal to the indulgence of the propensities. In the absence of temptation, his convictions, and fears, and feelings were the strongest impulses, and under their influence he would form resolutions to do his duty, to abstain from fleshly indulgences, &c. But as some other appetite or desire came to be more strongly excited, he yielded to that of course, and broke his former resolution. Paul writes as if speaking of himself, but was doubtless speaking as the representative of a class of persons already named. He found the law of selfish habit exceedingly strong, and so strong as to lead him to cry out, "O wretched man," &c. But this is not affirming a proper inability of will to submit to God.

4. All men who seriously undertake their own reformation find themselves in great need of help and support from the Holy Spirit, in consequence of the physical depravity of which I have formerly spoken, and because of the great strength of their habit of self-indulgence. They are prone, as is natural, to express their sense of dependence on the Divine Spirit in strong language, and to speak of this dependence as if it consisted in a real inability, when, in fact, they do not really consider it as a proper inability. They speak upon this subject just as they do upon any and every other subject, when they are conscious of a strong inclination to a given course. They say in respect to many things, "I cannot," when they mean only "I will not," and never think of being understood as affirming a proper inability. The inspired writers expressed themselves in the common language of men upon such subjects, and are doubtless to be understood in the same way. In common parlance, "cannot" often means "will not," and perhaps is used as often in this sense as it is to express a proper inability. Men do not misinterpret this language, and suppose it to affirm a proper inability, when used in reference to acts of will, except on the subject of obedience to God; and why should they assign a meaning to language when used upon this subject which they do not assign to it anywhere else?

But, as I said in a former lecture, under the light of the gospel, and with the promises in our hands, God does require of us what we should be unable to do and be, but for these promises and this proffered assistance. Here is a real inability to do directly in our own strength all that is required of us, upon consideration of the proffered aid. We can only do it by strength imparted by the Holy Spirit. That is, we cannot know Christ, and avail ourselves of his offices and relations, and appropriate to our own souls his fulness, except as we are taught by the Holy Spirit. The thing immediately and directly required, is to receive the Holy Spirit by faith to be our teacher and guide, to take of Christ's and show it to us. This confidence we are able to exercise. Who ever really and intelligently affirmed that he had not power or ability to trust or confide in the promise and oath of God?

Much that is said of inability in poetry, and in the common language of the saints, respects not the subjection of the will to God, but those experiences, and states of feeling that depend on the illuminations of the Spirit just referred to. The language that is so common in prayer and in the devotional dialect of the church, respects generally our dependence upon the Holy Spirit for such divine discoveries of Christ, as to charm the soul into a steadfast abiding in him. We feel our dependence upon the Holy Spirit so to enlighten us, as to break up for ever the power of sinful habit, and draw us away from our idols entirely and for ever.

In future lectures I shall have occasion to enlarge much upon the subject of our dependence upon Christ and the Holy Spirit. But this dependence does not consist in a proper inability to will as God directs, but, as I have said, partly in the power of sinful habit, and partly in the great darkness of our souls in respect to Christ and his mediatorial work and relations. All these together do not constitute a proper inability, for the plain reason, that through the right action of our will which is always possible to us, these difficulties can all be directly or indirectly overcome. Whatever we can do or be, directly or indirectly, by willing, is possible to us. But there is no degree of spiritual attainment required of us, that may not be reached directly or indirectly by right willing. Therefore these attainments are possible. "If any man," says Christ, "will do his will," that is, has an obedient will, "he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God." "If thine eye be single," that is, if the intention or will is right, "thy whole body shall be full of light." "If any man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come and make our abode with him." The scriptures abound with assurances of light and instruction, and of all needed grace and help, upon condition of a right will or heart, that is, upon condition of our being really willing to obey the light, when and as fast as we receive it. I have abundantly shown on former occasions, that a right state of the will constitutes, for the time being, all that, strictly speaking, the moral law requires. But I said, that it also, though in a less strict and proper sense, requires all those acts and states of the intellect and sensibility which are connected by a law of necessity with the right action of the will. Of course, it also requires that cleansing of the sensibility, and all those higher forms of Christian experience that result from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. That is, the law of God requires that these attainments shall be made when the means are provided and enjoyed, and as soon as, in the nature of the case, these attainments are possible. But it requires no more than this. For the law of God can never require absolute impossibilities. That which requires absolute impossibilities, is not and cannot be moral law. For, as was formerly said, moral law is the law of nature, and what law of nature would that be that should require absolute impossibilities? This would be a mockery of a law of nature. What! a law of nature requiring that which is impossible to nature, both directly and indirectly! Impossible.


[There is no Lecture LIII in the printed book. The lectures are incorrectly numbered. In the Contents of the printed book, the next
five lectures are numbered LIII-LVII. Then there are two entries for 'Entire sanctification is attainable in this life' numbered LVIII
and LIX.]

This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.

LECTURE LIV. Back to Top


In the discussion of this subject I shall show,--








I. I am to show what repentance is not.

It should be distinctly understood, and always borne in mind, that repentance cannot consist in any involuntary state of mind, for it is impossible that moral character, strictly speaking, should pertain to passive states.

II. What repentance is.

There are two Greek words which are translated by the English word, repent.

This is no doubt the idea of evangelical repentance. It is a phenomenon of will, and consists in the turning or change of the ultimate intention from selfishness to benevolence. The term expresses the act of turning; the changing of the heart, or of the ruling preference of the soul. It might with propriety be rendered by the terms "changing the heart." The English word "repentance" is often used to express regret, remorse, sorrow, &c., and is used in so loose a sense as not to convey a distinct idea to the common mind of the true nature of evangelical repentance. A turning from sin to holiness, or more strictly, from a state of consecration to self to a state of consecration to God, is and must be the turning, the change of mind, or the repentance that is required of all sinners. Nothing less can constitute a virtuous repentance, and nothing more can be required.

III. What is implied in repentance.

It implies an apprehension of the nature of sin, that it belongs to the heart, and does not essentially consist in, though it leads to, outward conduct; that it is an utterly unreasonable state of mind, and that it justly deserves the wrath and curse of God for ever.

It implies an apprehension of the reasonableness of the law and commands of God, and of the folly and madness of sin. It implies an intellectual and a hearty giving up of all controversy with God upon all and every point.

It implies a conviction, that God is wholly right, and the sinner wholly wrong, and a thorough and hearty abandonment of all excuses and apologies for sin. It implies an entire and universal acquittal of God from every shade and degree of blame, a thorough taking of the entire blame of sin to self. It implies a deep and thorough abasement of self in the dust, a crying out of soul against self, and a most sincere and universal, intellectual, and hearty exaltation of God.
Self-loathing is another state of the sensibility implied in evangelical repentance. This state of mind may, and often does, exist where repentance is not, just as outward morality does. But, like outward morality, it must exist where true repentance is. Self-loathing is a natural and a necessary consequence of those intellectual views of self that are implied in repentance. While the intelligence apprehends the utter, shameful guilt of self, and the heart yields to the conviction, the sensibility necessarily sympathizes, and a feeling of self-loathing and abhorrence is the inevitable consequence.

It implies a loathing and abhorrence of the sins of others, a most deep and thorough feeling of opposition to sin--to all sin, in self and everybody else. Sin has become, to the penitent soul, the abominable thing which it hates.
Repentance also implies peace of mind. The soul that has full confidence in the infinite wisdom and love of God, in the atonement of Christ, and in his universal providence, cannot but have peace. And further, the soul that has abandoned all sin, and turned to God, is no longer in a state of warfare with itself and with God. It must have peace of conscience--and peace with God. It implies heart-complacency in God, and in all the holy. This must follow from the very nature of repentance.

It implies confession of sin to God and to man, as far as sin has been committed against men. If the heart has thoroughly renounced sin, it has become benevolent, and is of course disposed, as far as possible, to undo the wrong it has committed, to confess sin, and humble self on account of it, before God and our neighbour, whom we have injured. Repentance implies humility, or a willingness to be known and estimated according to our real character. It implies a disposition to do right, and to confess our faults to God and man, as far as man has a right to know them. Let no one who has refused, and still refuses or neglects to confess his sins to God, and those sins to men that have been committed against them, profess repentance unto salvation; but let him remember that God has said, "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whose confesseth and forsaketh them shall find mercy:" and again, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed."

Repentance implies a willingness to make restitution, and the actual making of it as far as ability goes. He is not just, and of course is not penitent, who has injured his neighbour in his person, reputation, property, or in anything, and is unwilling to make restitution. And he is unwilling to make restitution who neglects to do so whenever he is able. It is impossible that a soul truly penitent should neglect to make all practicable restitution, for the plain reason that penitence implies a benevolent and just attitude of the will, and the will controls the conduct by a law of necessity.

Repentance implies reformation of outward life. This follows from reformation of heart by a law of necessity. It is naturally impossible that a penitent soul, remaining penitent, should indulge in any known sin. If the heart be reformed, the life must be as the heart is.

It implies a universal reformation of life, that is, a reformation extending to all outward sin. The penitent does not, and remaining penitent, cannot, reform in respect to some sins only. If penitent at all, he must have repented of sin as sin, and of course of all sin. If he has turned to God, and consecrated himself to God, he has of course ceased from sin, from all sin as such. Sin, as we have seen on a former occasion, is a unit, and so is holiness. Sin consists in selfishness, and holiness in disinterested benevolence: it is therefore sheer nonsense to say that repentance can consist with indulgence in some sins. What are generally termed little, as well as what are termed great sins, are alike rejected and abhorred by the truly penitent soul, and this from a law of necessity, he being truly penitent.

IV. What impenitence is not.

V. What impenitence is.

Impenitence is a phenomenon of the will, and consists in the will's cleaving to self-indulgence under light. It consists in the will's pertinacious adherence to the gratification of self, in despite of all the light with which the sinner is surrounded. It is not, as has been said, a passive state nor a mere negation, nor the love of sin for its own sake; but it is an active and obstinate state of the will, a determined holding on to that course of self-seeking which constitutes sin, not from a love to sin, but for the sake of the gratification. This, under light, is of course, aggravated wickedness. Considered in this view, it is easy to account for all the woes and denunciations that the Saviour uttered against it. When the claims of God are revealed to the mind, it must necessarily yield to them, or strengthen itself in sin. It must, as it were, gird itself up, and struggle to resist the claims of duty. This strengthening self in sin under light is the particular form of sin which we call impenitence. All sinners are guilty of it because all have some light, but some are vastly more guilty of it than others.

VI. Notice some things that are implied in impenitence.

As it essentially consists in a cleaving to self-indulgence under light, it implies,--

VII. Notice some of the characteristics or evidences of impenitence.

I must conclude this discussion with several


This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.

LECTURE LV. Back to Top











I. What evangelical faith is not.

One produces good works or a holy life; the other is unproductive. This shows that one is a phenomenon of the intellect merely, and does not of course control the conduct. The other must be a phenomenon of the will, because it manifests itself in the outward life. Evangelical faith, then, is not a conviction, a perception of truth. It does not belong to the intellect, though it implies intellectual conviction, yet the evangelical or virtuous element does not consist in it.
Indeed the Bible, in a great variety of instances and ways, represents faith in God and in Christ as a cardinal form of virtue, and as the mainspring of an outwardly holy life. Hence, it cannot consist in any involuntary state or exercise of mind whatever.

II. What evangelical faith is.

Since the Bible uniformly represents saving or evangelical faith as a virtue, we know that it must be a phenomenon of will. It is an efficient state of mind, and therefore it must consist in the embracing of the truth by the heart or will. It is the will's closing in with the truths of the gospel. It is the soul's act of yielding itself up, or committing itself to the truths of the evangelical system. It is a trusting in Christ, a committing the soul and the whole being to him, in his various offices and relations to men. It is a confiding in him, and in what is revealed of him, in his word and providence, and by his Spirit.

The same word that is so often rendered faith in the New Testament is also rendered commit; as in John ii. 24, "But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men." Luke xvi. 11, "If, therefore, ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?" In these passages the word rendered commit is the same word as that which is rendered faith. It is a confiding in God and in Christ, as revealed in the Bible and in reason. It is a receiving of the testimony of God concerning himself, and concerning all things of which he has spoken. It is a receiving of Christ for just what he is represented to be in his gospel, and an unqualified surrender of the will, and of the whole being to him.

III. What is implied in evangelical faith.

IV. What unbelief is not.

Sometimes the term expresses a mere feeling of incredulity in regard to truth. But neither has this state of mind moral character; nor can it have, for the very good reason that it is involuntary. In short, the unbelief that is so sorely denounced in the Bible, as a most aggravated abomination, cannot consist in any involuntary state of mind whatever.

V. What unbelief is.

The term, as used in the Bible, in those passages that represent it as a sin, must designate a phenomenon of will. It must be a voluntary state of mind. It must be the opposite of evangelical faith. Faith is the will's reception, and unbelief is the will's rejection, of truth. Faith is the soul's confiding in truth and in the God of truth. Unbelief is the soul's withholding confidence from truth and the God of truth. It is the heart's rejection of evidence, and refusal to be influenced by it. It is the will in the attitude of opposition to truth perceived, or evidence presented. Intellectual scepticism or unbelief, where light is proffered, always implies the unbelief of the will or heart. For if the mind knows, or supposes, that light may be had, on any question of duty, and does not make honest efforts to obtain it, this can be accounted for only by ascribing it to the will's reluctance to know the path of duty. In this case light is rejected. The mind has light so far as to know that more is proffered, but this proffered light is rejected. This is the sin of unbelief. All infidelity is unbelief in this sense, and infidels are so, not for want of light, but, in general, they have taken much pains to shut their eyes against it. Unbelief must be a voluntary state or attitude of the will, as distinguished from a mere volition, or executive act of the will. Volition may, and often does, give forth, through words and deeds, expressions and manifestations of unbelief. But the volition is only a result of unbelief, and not identical with it. Unbelief is a deeper and more efficient and more permanent state of mind than mere volition. It is the will in its profoundest opposition to the truth and will of God.

VI. What is implied in unbelief.

There are multitudes of other things implied in unbelief; but I cannot with propriety and profit notice them in this brief outline of instruction. I have pursued this subject thus far, for the purpose of showing the true and philosophical nature of unbelief; that whosoever will steadily contemplate its nature, will perceive, that being what it is, it will and must develope, as occasions occur in the providence of God, every form of iniquity of which man is capable, or in other words, that where unbelief is, there is the whole of sin.

VII. Conditions of both faith and unbelief.

But for this assumption the intellect could not affirm our obligation to believe him. This assumption is a first-truth of reason, everywhere, at all times, by all moral agents, necessarily assumed and known. This is evident from the fact, that it being settled, that God has declared anything whatever, there is an end of all questioning in all minds whether it be true or not. So far as the intellect is concerned, it never did, and never can question the truthfulness of God. It knows with certain and intuitive knowledge, that God is true, and therefore affirms universally and necessarily, that he is to be believed. This assumption, and the power that makes it, are indispensable conditions of faith as a virtue, or of unbelief as a vice. It were no virtue to believe or receive anything as true, without sufficient evidence that it is true. So it were no vice to reject that which is not supported by evidence. A mere animal, or an idiot or lunatic, is not capable either of faith or of unbelief, for the simple reason that they do not possess reason to discern the truth, and obligation to receive it.

VIII. The guilt and ill-desert of unbelief.

We have seen, on a former occasion, that the guilt of sin is conditionated upon, and graduated by, the light under which it is committed. The amount of light is the measure of guilt in every case of sin. This is true of all sin. But it is peculiarly manifest in the sin of unbelief; for unbelief is the rejection of light; it is selfishness in the attitude of rejecting truth. Of course, the amount of light rejected, and the degree of guilt in rejecting it, are equal. This is everywhere assumed and taught in the Bible, and is plainly the doctrine of reason.

Light is truth; light received, is truth known or perceived. The first truths of reason are universally known by moral agents, and whenever the will refuses to act in accordance with any one of them, it is guilty of unbelief. The reason of every moral agent intuits and assumes the infinite value of the highest well-being of God and of the universe, and of course the infinite obligation of every moral agent to embrace the truth as the necessary condition of promoting this end. Viewed in this light, unbelief always implies infinite guilt and blame-worthiness.

But it is a doctrine of mathematics, that infinites may differ. The meaning of the term infinite is simply the negation of finite. It is boundlessness, unlimitedness. That is, that which is infinite is unlimited or boundless, in the sense in which it is infinite. But infinites may differ in amount. For example: the area contained between two parallel lines of infinite length must be infinite in amount, however near these lines are to each other. There is no estimating the superficial amount of this area, for, in fact, there is no whole to it. But we may suppose parallel lines of infinite length to be placed at different distances from each other; but in every case, the enlargement or diminution of the distances between any two such lines would, accordingly, vary the space contained between them. The superficial contents would, in every case, be infinite, and yet they would differ in amount, according to the distances of the lines from each other.

In every case, unbelief involves infinite guilt in the sense just explained; and yet the guilt of unbelief may differ, and must differ, in different cases, indefinitely in amount.

The guilt of unbelief under the light of the gospel must be indefinitely greater, than when merely the light of nature is rejected. The guilt of unbelief, in cases where special divine illumination has been enjoyed, must be vastly and incalculably greater, than where the mere light of the gospel has been enjoyed, without a special enlightening of the Holy Spirit.

The guilt of unbelief in one who has been converted, and has known the love of God, must be greater beyond comparison, than that of an ordinary sinner. Those things that are implied in unbelief show that it must be one of the most provoking abominations to God in the universe. It is the perfection of all that is unreasonable, unjust, ruinous. It is infinitely slanderous and dishonourable to God and destructive to man, and to all the interests of the kingdom of God.

IX. Natural and governmental consequences of both faith and unbelief.

By natural consequences are intended consequences that flow from the constitution and laws of mind, by a natural necessity. By governmental consequences are intended those that result from the constitution, laws, and administration of moral government.

A governmental consequence of faith is peace with God:--

(1.) In the sense that God is satisfied with the present obedience of the soul. It is given up to be influenced by all truth, and this is comprehensive of all duty. Of course God is at peace with the soul, so far as its present obedience is concerned.

(2.) Faith governmentally results in peace with God, in the sense of being a condition of pardon and acceptance. That is, the penalty of the law for past sins is remitted upon condition of true faith in Christ. The soul not only needs present and future obedience, as a necessary condition of peace with self; but it also needs pardon and acceptance on the part of the government for past sins, as a condition of peace with God. But since the subject of justification or acceptance with God is to come up as a distinct subject for consideration, I will not enlarge upon it here.
Legal condemnation is a necessary governmental consequence of unbelief. No just government can justify the rejection of known truth. But, on the contrary, all just governments must utterly abhor and condemn the rejection of truths, and especially those truths that relate to the obedience of the subject, and the highest well-being of the rulers and ruled. The government of God must condemn and utterly abhor all unbelief, as a rejection of those truths that are indispensable to the highest well-being of the universe.
It also shuts the soul out from an interest in Christ's mediatorial work. This results not from an arbitrary appointment, but is a natural consequence. Unbelief shuts the soul out from communion with God.

These are hints at some of the natural and governmental consequences of faith and unbelief. They are designed not to exhaust the subject, but merely to call attention to topics which any one who desires may pursue at his pleasure. It should be here remarked, that none of the ways, commandments, or appointments of God are arbitrary. Faith is a naturally indispensable condition of salvation, which is the reason of its being made a governmental condition. Unbelief renders salvation naturally impossible: it must, therefore, render it governmentally impossible.

This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.

LECTURE LVI. Back to Top


CHRIST is represented in the gospel as sustaining to men three classes of relations.

1. Those which are purely governmental.

2. Those which are purely spiritual.

3. Those which unite both these.

We shall at present consider him as Christ our justification. I shall show,--





I. I am to show what gospel justification is not.

There is scarcely any question in theology that has been encumbered with more injurious and technical mysticism than that of justification.

Justification is the pronouncing of one just. It may be done in words, or, practically, by treatment. Justification must be, in some sense, a governmental act; and it is of importance to a right understanding of gospel justification, to inquire whether it be an act of the judicial, the executive, or the legislative department of government; that is, whether gospel justification consists in a strictly judicial or forensic proceeding, or whether it consists in pardon, or setting aside the execution of an incurred penalty, and is therefore properly either an executive or a legislative act. We shall see that the settling of this question is of great importance in theology; and as we view this subject, so, if consistent, we must view many important and highly practical questions in theology. This leads me to say,--

That gospel justification is not to be regarded as a forensic or judicial proceeding. Dr. Chalmers and those of his school hold that it is. But this is certainly a great mistake, as we shall see.

The term forensic is from forum, "a court." A forensic proceeding belongs to the judicial department of government, whose business it is to ascertain the facts and declare the sentence of the law. This department has no power over the law, but to pronounce judgment, in accordance with its true spirit and meaning. Courts never pardon, or set aside the execution of penalties. This does not belong to them, but either to the executive or to the law-making department. Oftentimes, this power in human governments is lodged in the head of the executive department, who is, generally at least, a branch of the legislative power of government. But never is the power to pardon exercised by the judicial department. The ground of a judicial or forensic justification invariably is, and must be, universal obedience to law. If but one crime or breach of law is alleged and proved, the court must inevitably condemn, and can in no such case justify, or pronounce the convicted just. Gospel justification is the justification of sinners; it is, therefore, naturally impossible, and a most palpable contradiction, to affirm that the justification of a sinner, or of one who has violated the law, is a forensic or judicial justification. That only is or can be a legal or forensic justification, that proceeds upon the ground of its appearing that the justified person is guiltless, or, in other words, that he has not violated the law, that he has done only what he had a legal right to do. Now it is certainly nonsense to affirm, that a sinner can be pronounced just in the eye of law; that he can be justified by deeds of law, or by the law at all. The law condemns him. But to be justified judicially or forensically, is to be pronounced just in the judgment of law. This certainly is an impossibility in respect to sinners. The Bible is as express as possible on this point. Romans iii. 20,--"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin."

It is proper to say here, that Dr. Chalmers and those of his school do not intend that sinners are justified by their own obedience to law, but by the perfect and imputed obedience of Jesus Christ. They maintain that, by reason of the obedience to law which Christ rendered when on earth, being set down to the credit of elect sinners, and imputed to them, the law regards them as having rendered perfect obedience in him, or regards them as having perfectly obeyed by proxy, and therefore pronounces them just, upon condition of faith in Christ. This they insist is properly a forensic or judicial justification. But this subject will come up more appropriately under another head.

II. What is gospel justification.

It consists not in the law pronouncing the sinner just, but in his being ultimately governmentally treated as if he were just, that is, it consists in a governmental decree of pardon or amnesty--in arresting and setting aside the execution of the incurred penalty of law--in pardoning and restoring to favour those who have sinned, and those whom the law had pronounced guilty, and upon whom it had passed the sentence of eternal death, and rewarding them as if they had been righteous. It is an act either of the law-making or executive department of government, and is an act entirely aside from, and contrary to, the forensic or judicial power or department of government. It is an ultimate treatment of the sinner as just, a practical, not a literal, pronouncing of him just. It is treating him as if he had been wholly righteous, when in fact he has greatly sinned. In proof of this position, I remark,--

III. Conditions of justification.

In this discussion I use the term condition in the sense of a sine quà non, a "not without which." This is its philosophical sense. A condition as distinct from a ground of justification, is anything without which sinners cannot be justified, which, nevertheless, is not the procuring cause or fundamental reason of their justification. As we shall see, there are many conditions, while there is but one ground, of the justification of sinners. The application and importance of this distinction we shall perceive as we proceed.

As has been already said, there can be no justification in a legal or forensic sense, but upon the ground of universal, perfect, and uninterrupted obedience to law. This is of course denied by those who hold that gospel justification, or the justification of penitent sinners, is of the nature of a forensic or judicial justification. They hold to the legal maxim, that what a man does by another he does by himself, and therefore the law regards Christ's obedience as ours, on the ground that he obeyed for us. To this I reply,--

I must here remark, that justification respects the moral law; and that it must be intended that Christ owed no obedience to the moral law, and therefore his obedience to this law, being wholly a work of supererogation, is set down to our account as the ground of our justification upon condition of faith in him. But surely this is an obvious mistake. We have seen, that the spirit of the moral law requires good-will to God and the universe. Was Christ under no obligation to do this? Nay, was he not rather under infinite obligation to be perfectly benevolent? Was it possible for him to be more benevolent than the law requires God and all beings to be? Did he not owe entire consecration of heart and life to the highest good of universal being? If not, then benevolence in him were no virtue, for it would not be a compliance with moral obligation. It was naturally impossible for him, and is naturally impossible for any being, to perform a work of supererogation; that is, to be more benevolent than the moral law requires him to be. This is and must be as true of God as it is of any other being. Would not Christ have sinned had he not been perfectly benevolent? If he would, it follows that he owed obedience to the law, as really as any other being. Indeed, a being that owed no obedience to the moral law must be wholly incapable of virtue, for what is virtue but obedience to the moral law?

But if Christ owed personal obedience to the moral law, then his obedience could no more than justify himself. It can never be imputed to us. He was bound for himself to love God with all his heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, and his neighbour as himself. He did no more than this. He could do no more. It was naturally impossible, then, for him to obey in our behalf. This doctrine of the imputation of Christ's obedience to the moral law to us, is based upon the absurd assumptions, (1.) That the moral law is founded in the arbitrary will of God, and (2.) That of course, Christ, as God, owed no obedience to it; both of which assumptions are absurd. But if these assumptions are given up, what becomes of the doctrine of an imputed righteousness, as a ground of a forensic justification? "It vanishes into thin air."

There are, however, valid grounds and valid conditions of justification.

1. The vicarious sufferings or atonement of Christ is a condition of justification, or of the pardon and acceptance of penitent sinners. It has been common either to confound the conditions with the ground of justification, or purposely to represent the atonement and work of Christ as the ground, as distinct from and opposed to a condition of justification. In treating this subject, I find it important to distinguish between the ground and conditions of justification, and to regard the atonement and work of Christ not as a ground, but only as a condition of gospel justification. By the ground I mean the moving, procuring cause; that in which the plan of redemption originated as its source, and which was the fundamental reason or ground of the whole movement. This was the benevolence and merciful disposition of the whole Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This love made the atonement, but the atonement did not beget this love. The Godhead desired to save sinners, but could not safely do so without danger to the universe, unless something was done to satisfy public, not retributive justice. The atonement was resorted to as a means of reconciling forgiveness with the wholesome administration of justice. A merciful disposition in the Godhead was the source, ground, mainspring, of the whole movement, while the atonement was only a condition or means, or that without which the love of God could not safely manifest itself in justifying and saving sinners.

Failing to make this distinction, and representing the atonement as the ground of the sinner's justification, has been a sad occasion of stumbling to many. Indeed, the whole questions of the nature, design, extent, and bearings of the atonement turn upon, and are involved in, this distinction. Some represent the atonement as not demanded by, nor as proceeding from the love or merciful disposition, but from the inexorable wrath of the Father, leaving the impression that Christ was more merciful, and more the friend of sinners than the Father. Many have received this impression from pulpit and written representations, as I well know.

Others, regarding the atonement as the ground as opposed to a condition of justification, have held the atonement to be the literal payment of the debt of sinners, and of the nature of a commercial transaction: a quid pro quo, a valuable consideration paid down by Christ, by suffering the same amount as was deserved by the whole number of the elect; thus negativing the idea of a merciful disposition in the Father, and representing him as demanding pay for discharging and saving sinners. Some of this class have held, that since Christ has died, the elect sinner has a right to demand his justification, on the ground of justice, that he may present the atonement and work of Christ, and say to the Father, "Here is the price; I demand the commodity." This class, of course, must hold to the limited nature of the atonement, or be universalists.

While others again, assuming that the atonement was the ground of justification in the sense of the literal payment of the debt of sinners, and that the scriptures represent the atonement as made for all men, have very consistently become universalists.

Others again have given up, or never held the view that the atonement was of the nature of the literal payment of a debt, and hold that it was a governmental expedient to reconcile the pardon of sin with a wholesome administration of justice: that it was sufficient for all as for a part of mankind: that it does not entitle those for whom it was made to a pardon on the score of justice, but that men are justified freely by grace through the redemption, that is in Christ Jesus, and yet they inconsistently persist in representing the atonement as the ground, and not merely as a condition of justification.

Those who hold that the atonement and obedience of Christ were and are the ground of the justification of sinners, in the sense of the payment of their debt, regard all the grace in the transaction as consisting in the atonement and obedience of Christ, and exclude grace from the act of justification. Justification they regard as a forensic act. I regard the atonement of Christ as the necessary condition of safely manifesting the benevolence of God in the justification and salvation of sinners. A merciful disposition in the whole Godhead was the ground, and the atonement a condition of justification. Mercy would have saved without an atonement, had it been possible to do so. But see my lectures on Atonement.-- Lecture XXXIV, et seq.

That Christ's sufferings, and especially his death, were vicarious, has been abundantly shown when treating the subject of atonement. I need not repeat here what I said there. Although Christ owed perfect obedience to the moral law for himself, and could not therefore obey as our substitute, yet since he perfectly obeyed, he owed no suffering to the law or to the Divine government on his own account. He could therefore suffer for us. That is, he could, to answer governmental purposes, substitute his death for the infliction of the penalty of the law on us. He could not perform works of supererogation, but he could endure sufferings of supererogation, in the sense that he did not owe them for himself. The doctrine of substitution, in the sense just named, appears everywhere in both Testaments. It is the leading idea, the prominent thought, lying upon the face of the whole scriptures. Let the few passages that follow serve as specimens of the class that teach this doctrine:

Lev. xvii. 11. "For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar, to make an atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul."

Isa. liii. 5, 6, 11. "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied; by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities."

Matt. xx. 18. "Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."

Matt. xxvi. 28. "For this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins."

John iii. 14. "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15. That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life."

John vi. 51. "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I give for the life of the world."

Acts xx. 28. "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood."

Rom. iii. 24. "Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 25. Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. 26. To declare, I say at this time his righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."

Rom. v. 6. "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9. Being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 11. And not only so, but we also joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. 18. Therefore, as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."

1 Cor. v. 7. "For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us."

1 Cor. xv. 3. "Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures."

Gal. ii. 20. "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

Gal. iii. 13. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree. 14. That the blessing of Abraham might come on the gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."

Eph. ii. 13. "But now, in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ."

Eph. v. 2. "And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour."

Heb. ix. 12. "Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; 14. How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 22. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. 23. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25. Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; 26. For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world; but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment; 28. So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many."

Heb. x. 10. "By the which we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11. And every priest standeth daily ministering, and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12. But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13. From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. 14. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. 19. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus; 20. By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the vail, that is to say, his flesh."

1 Pet. i. 18. "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers: 19. But with the precious blood of Christ."

1 Pet. ii. 24. "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye are healed."

1 Pet. iii. 18. "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit."

1 John i. 7. "But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."

1 John iii. 15. "And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins."

1 John iv. 9. "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."

These and many such like passages establish the fact beyond question, that the vicarious atonement of Christ is a condition of our pardon and acceptance with God.

2. Repentance is also a condition of our justification. Observe, I here also use the term condition, in the sense of a "not without which," and not in the sense of a "that for the sake of which" the sinner is justified. It must be certain that the government of God cannot pardon sin without repentance. This is as truly a doctrine of natural as of revealed religion. It is self-evident that, until the sinner breaks off from sins by repentance or turning to God, he cannot be justified in any sense. This is everywhere assumed, implied, and taught in the Bible. No reader of the Bible can call this in question, and it were a useless occupation of time to quote more passages.

3. Faith in Christ is, in the same sense, another condition of justification. We have already examined into the nature and necessity of faith. I fear that there has been much of error in the conceptions of many upon this subject. They have talked of justification by faith, as if they supposed that, by an arbitrary appointment of God, faith was the condition, and the only condition of justification. This seems to be the antinomian view. The class of persons alluded to speak of justification by faith, as if it were by faith, and not by Christ through faith, that the penitent sinner is justified; as if faith, and not Christ, were our justification. They seem to regard faith not as a natural, but merely as a mystical condition of justification; as bringing us into a covenant and mystical relation to Christ, in consequence of which his righteousness or personal obedience is imputed to us. It should never be forgotten, that the faith that is the condition of justification, is the faith that works by love. It is the faith through and by which Christ sanctifies the soul. A sanctifying faith unites the believer to Christ as his justification; but be it always remembered, that no faith receives Christ as a justification, that does not receive him as a sanctification, to reign within the heart. We have seen that repentance, as well as faith, is a condition of justification. We shall see that perseverance in obedience to the end of life is also a condition of justification. Faith is often spoken of in scripture as if it were the sole condition of salvation, because, as we have seen, from its very nature it implies repentance and every virtue.

That faith is a naturally necessary condition of justification, we have seen. Let the following passages of scripture serve as examples of the manner in which the scriptures speak upon this subject.

Mark xvi. 15. "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned."

John i. 12. "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name."

John iii. 16. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 36. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him."

John vi. 28. "Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29. Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. 40. This is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."

John viii. 24. "If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins. 44. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do; he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth; because there is no truth in him. 47. He that is of God, heareth God's words; ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God."

John xi. 25. "Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; 26. And whosoever liveth, and believeth in me, shall never die."

Acts x. 43. "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name, whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins."

Acts xvi. 31. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house."

Rom. iv. 5. "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."

Rom. x. 4. "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."

Gal. ii. 16. "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."

2 Thess. ii. 10. "And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; 12. That they all might be damned who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."

Heb. ii. 6. "Without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."

1 John ii. 23. "Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father; but he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also."

1 John v. 10. "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself; he that believeth not God hath made him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. 11. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son. 12. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life. 13. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God."

4. Present sanctification, in the sense of present full consecration to God, is another condition, not ground, of justification. Some theologians have made justification a condition of sanctification, instead of making sanctification a condition of justification. But this we shall see is an erroneous view of the subject. The mistake is founded in a misapprehension of the nature both of justification and of sanctification. They make sanctification to consist in something else than in the will's entire subjection or consecration to God; and justification they regard as a forensic transaction conditionated on the first act of faith in Christ. Whole-hearted obedience to God, or entire conformity to his law, they regard as a very rare, and many of them, as an impracticable attainment in this life. Hence they conditionate justification upon simple faith, not regarding faith as at all implying present conformity of heart to the law of God. It would seem from the use of language that they lay very little stress upon personal holiness as a condition, not ground, of acceptance with God. But on the contrary, they suppose the mystical union of the believer with Christ obtains for him access and acceptance by virtue of an imputed righteousness, not making his present obedience a condition in the sense of a sine quà non, of his justification. A recent American writer (Dr. Duffield. See Appendix.) says, "It is not the believer's own personal obedience to the law, which, properly speaking, forms the condition of justification before God." "Some writers," he says, "use the term 'condition' in a philosophical sense, meaning by it simply the state or position in which things stand connected with each other, as when having said that faith and holiness are conditions of salvation; and when called upon to explain themselves, affirm that they by no means intend that these are the meritorious grounds, but merely that they will be found invariably connected with, as they are the indispensable evidences of, a state of justification." Here this writer confounds the distinction between the grounds and conditions of justification. And he does more, he represents present faith and holiness as merely the evidences, and not as a sine quà non of justification. So this writer cannot admit that faith is "a that without which" a sinner cannot be justified! I say that faith is not the meritorious ground, but insist that it is a proper condition or sine quà non, and not a mere evidence of justification. It is an evidence, only because it is a condition, of justification, and must therefore exist where justification is.

If his view of the subject be correct, it follows that God justifies sinners by his grace, not upon condition of their ceasing to sin, but while they continue to sin, by virtue of their being regarded by the law as perfectly obedient in Christ, the covenant and mystical head; that is, that although they indulge in more or less sin continually, and are never at any moment in this life entirely obedient to his law, yet God accounts them righteous because Christ obeyed and died for them. Another class of theologians hold, not to an imputed righteousness, but that God pardons and accepts the sinner not upon condition of present entire obedience, which obedience is induced by the indwelling Spirit of Christ, but upon the condition that he believes in Christ. Neither of these classes make present sanctification, or entire present obedience a condition of justification; but on the contrary, both regard and represent justification as a condition of sanctification. We have seen what justification is; let us inquire in a few words what sanctification is.

To sanctify is to set apart, to consecrate to a particular use. To sanctify anything to God is to set it apart to his service, to consecrate it to him. To sanctify one's self is voluntarily to set one's self apart, to consecrate one's self to God. To be sanctified is to be set apart, to be consecrated to God. Sanctification is an act or state of being sanctified, or set apart to the service of God. It is a state of consecration to him. This is present obedience to the moral law. It is the whole of present duty, and is implied in repentance, faith, regeneration, as we have abundantly seen.

Sanctification is sometimes used to express a permanent state of obedience to God, or of consecration. In this sense it is not a condition of present justification, or of pardon and acceptance. But it is a condition of continued and permanent acceptance with God. It certainly cannot be true, that God accepts and justifies the sinner in his sins. I may safely challenge the world for either reason or scripture to support the doctrine of justification in sin, in any degree of present rebellion against God. (See argument, Lecture XV. II.) The Bible everywhere represents justified persons as sanctified, and always expressly, or impliedly, conditionates justification upon sanctification, in the sense of present obedience to God. 1 Cor. vi. 11; "And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." This is but a specimen of the manner in which justified persons are spoken of in the Bible. Also, Rom. viii. 1; "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." They only are justified who walk after the Spirit. Should it be objected, as it may be, that the scriptures often speak of saints, or truly regenerate persons, as needing sanctification, and of sanctification as something that comes after regeneration, and as that which the saints are to aim at attaining, I answer, that when sanctification is thus spoken of, it is doubtless used in the higher sense already noticed; to wit, to denote a state of being settled, established in faith, rooted and grounded in love, being so confirmed in the faith and obedience of the gospel, as to hold on in the way steadfastly, unmovably, always abounding in the work of the Lord. This is doubtless a condition of permanent justification, as has been said, but not a condition of present justification.

By sanctification being a condition of justification, the following things are intended.

(1.) That present, full, and entire consecration of heart and life to God and his service, is an unalterable condition of present pardon of past sin, and of present acceptance with God.

(2.) That the penitent soul remains justified no longer than this full-hearted consecration continues. If he falls from his first love into the spirit of self-pleasing, he falls again into bondage to sin and to the law, is condemned, and must repent and do his "first work," must return to Christ, and renew his faith and love, as a condition of his salvation. This is the most express teaching of the Bible, as we shall fully see.

5. Perseverance in faith and obedience, or in consecration to God, is also an unalterable condition of justification, or of pardon and acceptance with God. By this language in this connexion, you will of course understand me to mean, that perseverance in faith and obedience is a condition, not of present, but of final or ultimate acceptance and salvation.

Those who hold that justification by imputed righteousness is a forensic proceeding, take a view of final or ultimate justification, according with their view of the nature of the transaction. With them, faith receives an imputed righteousness, and a judicial justification. The first act of faith, according to them, introduces the sinner into this relation, and obtains for him a perpetual justification. They maintain that after this first act of faith it is impossible for the sinner to come into condemnation; that, being once justified, he is always thereafter justified, whatever he may do; indeed that he is never justified by grace, as to sins that are past, upon condition that he ceases to sin; that Christ's righteousness is the ground, and that his own present obedience is not even a condition of his justification, so that, in fact, his own present or future obedience to the law of God is, in no case, and in no sense, a sine quà non of his justification, present or ultimate.*

*Dr. Duffield, a recent expounder of what, he is pleased to insist, is the only orthodox view of the subject, says:--"The sacred Scriptures clearly teach, that God, by one gracious act, once passed, and for ever immutable, releases the sinner who believes, so effectually and fully from the penalty of the law, that he is removed from under its dominion, and never more comes into condemnation. Justification is an act of God's free grace, which takes immediate effect in this mortal life, and by which the relation of the sinner who believes on Jesus Christ, is so thoroughly changed to the law, that through the actings of his faith he passes from under the condemnation, and penalty of the law, and being accepted as righteous, only for the righteousness of Christ, is adopted into the family of God's children. It is one act of God, once done and for ever, and begins immediately to produce its fruits." Indeed, Christian, what do you think of this? One act of faith, then instantly justified, once and immutable, you can never by any possibility need pardon again. No, the law has perished as it respects you. Faith has made it void, for that is no law that has no penalty. Then you can no more sin, for you have no law. "For where there is no law, there is no transgression." "Sin is not imputed where there is no law." So if you do sin, your sin is not imputed, and you need no pardon. What an infinite mistake are Christians labouring under, according to this theory, when they ask for a pardon of their sins committed after this immutable act of justification. And further: live as you may, after once believing, you must be saved, your justification is immutable. What say you to this?

Now this is certainly another gospel from the one I am inculcating. It is not a difference merely upon some speculative or theoretic point. It is a point fundamental to the gospel and to salvation, if any one can be. Let us therefore see which of these is the true gospel.

I object to this view of justification:--

1. That it is antinomianism. Observe: they hold that upon the first exercise of faith, the soul enters into such a relation to Christ, that with respect to it the penalty of the Divine law is for ever set aside, not only as it respects all past, but also as it respects all future acts of disobedience; so that sin does not thereafter bring the soul under the condemning sentence of the law of God. But a precept without a penalty is no law. Therefore, if the penalty is in their case permanently set aside or repealed, this is, and must be, a virtual repeal of the precept, for without a penalty it is only counsel, or advice, and no law.

2. But again: it is impossible that this view of justification should be true; for the moral law did not originate in the arbitrary will of God, and he cannot abrogate it either as to its precept or its penalty.* He may for good and sufficient reasons dispense in certain cases with the execution of the penalty. But set it aside in such a sense, that sin would not incur it, or that the soul that sins shall not be condemned by it, he cannot--it is naturally impossible! The law is as unalterable and unrepealable, both as to its precept and its penalty, as the nature of God. It cannot but be, in the very nature of things, that sin in any being, in any world, and at any time, will and must incur the penalty of the moral law. God may pardon as often as the soul sins, repents, and believes but to prevent real condemnation where there is sin, is not at the option of any being.

*Dr. Duffield holds that the moral law originated in the sovereign will of God, and of course he can set it aside. See my review of him in Appendix.

3. But again: I object to the view of justification in question, that it is of course inconsistent with forgiveness or pardon. If justified by imputed righteousness, why pardon him whom the law accounts as already and perpetually, and perfectly righteous? Certainly it were absurd and impossible, for the law and the law-giver judicially to justify a person on the ground of the perfect obedience of his substitute, and at the same time pardon him who is thus regarded as perfectly righteous. Especially must this be true of all sin committed subsequently to the first and justifying act of faith. If when once the soul has believed, it can no more come into condemnation, it certainly can no more be forgiven. Forgiveness implies previous condemnation, and consists in setting aside the execution of an incurred penalty.

4. If the view of justification I am opposing be true, it is altogether out of place for one who has once believed, to ask for the pardon of sin. It is a downright insult to God, and apostacy from Christ. It amounts according to their view of justification, to a denial of perpetual justification by imputed righteousness, and to an acknowledgment of being condemned. It must therefore imply a falling from grace, to pray for pardon after the soul has once believed. But upon their view falling from grace is impossible.

5. According to this view of justification, all the prayers offered by the saints for the pardon of sins committed after their first act of faith, not even excepting the Lord's prayer, have all been wrong and impious, and have all been a virtual denial of a fundamental truth of the gospel. Shame on a theory from which such consequences irresistibly follow! The soul cannot be pardoned unless it be condemned; for pardon is nothing else than setting aside the condemning sentence of the divine law.

6. But this view of justification is at war with the whole Bible. This everywhere represents Christians as condemned when they sin--teaches them to repent, confess, and pray for pardon--to betake themselves afresh to Christ as their only hope. The Bible, in almost every variety of manner, represents perseverance in faith, and obedience to the end, as a condition of ultimate justification and final salvation. Let the following passages serve as examples of the manner in which the Bible represents this subject:--

Ezek. xviii. 24. "But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned; in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die."

Ezek. xxxiii. 13. "When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousness shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it."

Matt. x. 22. "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake; but he that endureth to the end shall be saved." [Matt. xxiv. 13.]

John xv. 6. "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned."

Rom. ii. 4. "Who will render to every man according to his deeds." 7. "To them who by patient endurance in well-doing seek for glory, and honour, and immortality; eternal life."

1 Cor. ix. 27. "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."

1 Cor. x. 12. "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall."

2 Cor. vi. 1. "We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain."

Col. i. 23. "If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister."

Heb. iii. 6. "But Christ as a Son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence, and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end." 12. "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God." 13. "But exhort one another daily, while it is called to-day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." 14. "For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end."

Heb. iv. 1. "Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 11. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief."

2 Pet. i. 10. "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall."

Rev. ii. 10. "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer. Behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. 11. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh, shall not be hurt of the second death. 17. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it. 26. And he that overcometh, and, keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations; 27. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers; even as I received of my Father."

Rev. xxi. 7. "He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son."

Observe, I am not here calling in question the fact, that all true saints do persevere in faith and obedience to the end; but am showing that such perseverance is a condition of salvation, or of ultimate justification. The subject of the perseverance of the saints will come under consideration in its proper place.--(See "Perseverance.")

7. The view of justification which I am opposing is contradicted by the consciousness of the saints. I think I may safely affirm, that the saints in all time are very conscious of condemnation when they fall into sin. This sense of condemnation may not subject them to the same kind and degree of fear which they experienced before regeneration, because of the confidence they have that God will pardon their sin. Nevertheless, until they repent, and by a renewed act of faith lay hold on pardon and fresh justification, their remorse, shame, and consciousness of condemnation, do in fact, if I am not much deceived, greatly exceed, as a general thing, the remorse, shame, and sense of condemnation, experienced by the impenitent. But if it be true, that the first act of faith brings the soul into a state of perpetual justification, so that it cannot fall into condemnation thereafter, do what it will, the experience of the saints contradicts facts, or, more strictly, their consciousness of condemnation is a delusion. They are not in fact condemned by the moral law as they conceive themselves to be.

8. Christ has taught the saints to pray for forgiveness, which implies that when they sin they are condemned. There can be no pardon except there be condemnation. Pardon, as has been said, consists in setting aside the execution of the penalty of law upon the sinner. If therefore the law and the lawgiver do not condemn him, it is absurd to pray for pardon. The fact therefore that inspired saints prayed repeatedly for the pardon of sin committed subsequent to their regeneration; that Christ taught his disciples to pray for forgiveness; that it is natural to saints to pray for pardon when they have sinned; also, that the Bible expressly asserts that if a righteous man forsake his righteousness and sin, his righteousness shall not be remembered, but he shall be condemned for sin; and also that the human intellect affirms that this must be so: these facts render it plain, that perseverance in faith and obedience must be a condition of final justification and of eternal life.

9. If I understand the framers of the Presbyterian Confession of Faith, they regarded justification as a state resulting from the relation of an adopted child of God, which state is entered into by faith alone, and held that justification is not conditionated upon obedience for the time being, but that a person in this state may, as they hold that all in this life in fact do, sin daily, and even continually, yet without condemnation by the law, their sin bringing them only under his fatherly displeasure, and subjecting them to the necessity of repentance, as a condition of his fatherly favour, but not as a condition of pardon or of ultimate salvation. They seem to have regarded the child of God as no longer under moral government, in such a sense that sin was imputed to him, this having been imputed to Christ, and Christ's righteousness so literally imputed to him that, do what he may after the first act of faith, he is accounted and treated in his person as wholly righteous. If this is not antinomianism, I know not what is; since they hold that all who once believe will certainly be saved, yet that their perseverance in holy obedience to the end is, in no case, a condition of final justification, but that this is conditionated upon the first act of faith alone. They support their positions with quotations from scripture about as much in point as is common for them. They often rely on proof-texts that, in their meaning and spirit, have not the remotest allusion to the point in support of which they are quoted. I have tried to understand the subject of justification as it is taught in the Bible, without going into laboured speculations or to theological technicalities. If I have succeeded in understanding it, the following is a succinct and a true account of the matter:

The Godhead, in the exercise of his adorable love and compassion, sought the salvation of sinners through and by means of the mediatorial death and work of Christ. This death and work of Christ were resorted to, not to create, but, as a result of the merciful disposition of God, and as a means of securing the universe against a misapprehension of the character and design of God in forgiving and saving sinners. To Christ, as Mediator between the Godhead and man, the work of justifying and saving sinners is committed. He is made unto sinners "wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." In consideration of Christ's having by his death for sinners secured the subjects of the Divine government against a misconception of his character and designs, God does, upon the further conditions of a repentance and faith, that imply a renunciation of their rebellion and a return to obedience to his laws, freely pardon past sin, and restore the penitent and believing sinner to favour, as if he had not sinned, while he remains penitent and believing, subject however to condemnation and eternal death, unless he holds the beginning of his confidence steadfast unto the end. The doctrine of a literal imputation of Adam's sin to all his posterity, of the literal imputation of all the sins of the elect to Christ, and of his suffering for them the exact amount due to the transgressors, of the literal imputation of Christ's righteousness or obedience to the elect, and the consequent perpetual justification of all that are converted from the first exercise of faith, whatever their subsequent life may be--I say I regard these dogmas as fabulous, and better befitting a romance than a system of theology.

But it is said, that the Bible speaks of the righteousness of faith. "What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith."--Rom. ix. 30. "And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith."--Phil. iii. 9. These and similar passages are relied upon, as teaching the doctrine of an imputed righteousness; and such as these: "The Lord our righteousness;" "Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength." By "the Lord our righteousness," we may understand, either that we are justified, that is, that our sins are atoned for, and that we are pardoned and accepted by, or on account of the Lord, that is, Jesus Christ; or we may understand that the Lord makes us righteous, that is, that he is our sanctification, working in us to will and to do of his good pleasure; or both, that is, he atones for our sins, brings us to repentance and faith, works sanctification or righteousness in us, and then pardons our past sins, and accepts us. By the righteousness of faith, or of God by faith, I understand the method of making sinners holy, and of securing their justification or acceptance by faith, as opposed to mere works of law or self-righteousness. Dikaiosune, rendered righteousness, may be with equal propriety, and often is rendered justification. So undoubtedly it should be rendered in 1 Cor. i. 30. "But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." The meaning here doubtless is, that he is the author and finisher of that scheme of redemption, whereby we are justified by faith, as opposed to justification by our own works. "Christ our righteousness" is Christ the author or procurer of our justification. But this does not imply that he procures our justification by imputing his obedience to us.

The doctrine of a literal imputation of Christ's obedience or righteousness is supported by those who hold it, by such passages as the following: Rom. iv. 5-8. "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputed righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." But here justification is represented only as consisting in forgiveness of sin, or in pardon and acceptance. Again, 2 Cor. v. 19, 21. "To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." Here again the apostle is teaching only his much-loved doctrine of justification by faith, in the sense that upon condition or in consideration of the death and mediatorial interference and work of Christ, penitent believers in Christ are forgiven and rewarded as if they were righteous.

IV. Foundation of the justification of penitent believers in Christ. That is, what is the ultimate ground or reason of their justification.

(1.) That it was naturally impossible.

(2.) That his nature and relation to the government of God was such as to render it wholly unnecessary to the safe forgiveness of sin, that he should suffer precisely the same amount deserved by sinners.

(3.) That if, as their substitute, Christ suffered for them the full amount deserved by them, then justice has no claim upon them, since their debt is fully paid by the surety, and of course the principal is, in justice, discharged. And since it is undeniable that the atonement was made for the whole posterity of Adam, it must follow that the salvation of all men is secured upon the ground of "exact justice." This, as has been said, is the conclusion to which Huntington and his followers came. This doctrine of literal imputation, is one of the strongholds of universalism, and while this view of atonement and justification is held they cannot be driven from it.

(4.) If he satisfied justice for them, in the sense of literally and exactly obeying for them, why should his suffering be imputed to them as a condition of their salvation? Surely they could not need both the imputation of his perfect obedience to them, so as to be accounted in law as perfectly righteous, and also the imputation of his sufferings to them, as if he had not obeyed for them. Is God unrighteous? Does he exact of the surety, first, the literal and full payment of the debt, and secondly, perfect personal obedience for and in behalf of the sinner? Does he first exact full and perfect obedience, and then the same amount of suffering as if there had been no obedience? And this, too, of his beloved Son?

(5.) What Christian ever felt, or can feel in the presence of God, that he has a right to demand justification in the name of Christ, as due to him on the ground of "exact justice." Observe, the framers of the Confession just quoted, studiously represent all the grace exercised in the justification of sinners, as confined to the two acts of giving his Son and accepting the substitution. This done, Christ fully pays the debt, fully and exactly satisfies his Father's justice. You now need not, must not conceive of the pardon of sin as grace or favour. To do this is, according to the teaching of this Confession, to dishonour Christ. It is to reject his righteousness and salvation. What think you of this? One act of grace in giving his Son, and consenting to the substitution, and all forgiveness, all accepting and trusting as righteous, is not grace, but "exact justice." To pray for forgiveness, as an act of grace, is apostacy from Christ. Christian! Can you believe this? No; in your closet, smarting under the sting of a recently committed sin, or broken down and bathed in tears, you cannot find it in your heart to demand "exact justice" at the hand of God, on the ground that Christ has fully and literally paid your debt. To represent the work and death of Christ as the ground of justification in this sense, is a snare and a stumbling-block. If this is the true account of it, antinomianism must be the true gospel, than which a more false and licentious dogma never existed. But this view that I have just examined, contradicts the necessary convictions of every saint on earth. For the truth of this assertion I appeal to the universal consciousness of saints. Whose business is it to cry heresy, and sound the alarm of error through the land!
These are among the official relations of Christ to his people, and to the great work of our justification. I shall have frequent occasion to consider him in some of these relations, as we proceed in this course of study. Indeed, the offices, relations, and work of Christ, are among the most important topics of Christian theology.

Christ is our Justification, in the sense that he carries into execution the whole scheme of redemption devised by the adorable Godhead. To him the scriptures everywhere direct the eyes of our faith and of our intelligence also. The Holy Spirit is represented not as glorifying himself, but as speaking of Jesus, as taking of the things of Christ and showing them to his people, as glorifying Christ Jesus, as being sent by Christ, as being the Spirit of Christ, as being Christ himself dwelling in the hearts of his people. But I must forbear at present. This subject of Christ's relations needs elucidation in future lectures.


The relations of the old school view of justification to their view of depravity is obvious. They hold, as we have seen, that the constitution in every faculty and part is sinful. Of course, a return to personal, present holiness, in the sense of entire conformity to the law, cannot with them be a condition of justification. They must have a justification while yet at least in some degree of sin. This must be brought about by imputed righteousness. The intellect revolts at a justification in sin. So a scheme is devised to divert the eye of the law and of the lawgiver from the sinner to his Substitute, who has perfectly obeyed the law. But in order to make out the possibility of his obedience being imputed to them, it must be assumed, that he owed no obedience for himself; than which a greater absurdity cannot be conceived. Constitutional depravity or sinfulness being once assumed, physical regeneration, physical sanctification, physical divine influence, imputed righteousness, and justification, while personally in the commission of sin, follow of course.

This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.



In discussing this subject I will--









I. I am to give some account of the recent discussions that have been had upon the subject of entire sanctification in this life.

When lecturing and writing on polemic theology, it is important and even indispensable, that we should entertain just ideas of the views and arguments of our opponents. In entering upon the discussion of the question before us, it seems impossible to proceed without noticing the recent discussions that have been had, and without giving you the substance of the principal things that have been said of late in opposition to our views. This will prepare the way for a fuller and more intelligent examination of the question under consideration, than could be otherwise had. I shall therefore make no apology for introducing in this place a brief history of the discussions alluded to, although they have so recently appeared in print.

About the year 1832 or 1833, the sect called Antinomian Perfectionists, sprang up at about the same time, in several places in New York and New England. We have in their leading organ, "The Perfectionist," published at New Haven, Ct., their articles of belief, or their Confession of Faith, as it professes to have been carefully prepared and published by request. It is as follows:--


1. We believe that God is the only rightful interpreter of the Bible, and teacher of theological truth; hence--

2. We believe that no doctrine can become an article of true faith, which is not recognized by the believer as an immediate revelation to him from God; yet--

3. We believe that God, "who worketh all in all," can and does teach his own truth, through his written word, and through the testimony of his sons; therefore--

4. We believe it is proper that we should state, as witnesses for God, the fundamental articles of our own faith.

5. We believe "there is none good but one, that is God;" that all the righteousness in the universe is God's righteousness.

6. We believe that God's righteousness may be revealed in his creatures, as a man's spirit is revealed in the motions of his body.

7. We believe that "the works of the flesh [that is, human nature], are adultery, uncleanness, envyings, strife, and such like" only.

8. We believe that all attempts to produce better results from human nature, by instruction and legal discipline, only increase the evil--inasmuch as they refine and disguise without removing it.

9. We believe that the Son of God was manifested in human nature for the purpose of destroying (not reforming), the works of the flesh, and revealing the righteousness of God.

10. We believe that the righteousness of God was never revealed in human nature till the birth of Jesus Christ.

11. We believe that the object of all God's dealings with the human race, before the birth of Christ, was not to promote the righteousness of the flesh, that is, self-righteousness, that is, the perfection of sin; but to prepare the way for the manifestation of his own righteousness through Jesus Christ; hence--

12. We believe that the righteousness of the saints, under the law before Christ, was only "a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things," bearing a relation to the true righteousness of God, like that of a type to its anti-type.

13. We believe that the servants of God under the law, by submission to the discipline of the dispensation in which they lived, were prepared for and became heirs of the righteousness of God, afterward revealed by Jesus Christ.

14. We believe that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself,"--that the union of human and divine nature in him, made the righteousness of God accessible to all men.

15. We believe that Christ is properly called the second Adam, and as the human race in spirit is one body, that he became, by his incarnation, "the light that lighteth every man."

16. We believe that all who are apprized by the gospel of the fact that the Son of God has come, are thereby called to choose, whether they will hold the fallen or the risen Adam as their head.

17. We believe that faith alone receives, and unbelief rejects, the blessings given to man by the second Adam; by faith men awake to a perception of the truth as it is in Christ; unbelief is the devil's dream.

18. We believe that Christ, as he is in his resurrection and glory, is given to every member of the human race.

19. We believe that all the faith, righteousness, liberty, and glory of the risen Son of God, are given to every man.

20. We believe that Christ, in his incarnation was "made under the law," and that the Christian dispensation did not commence, in any sense, till he ascended up on high.

21. We believe that none are Christians, in any sense, till they receive Christ in his resurrection; hence--

22. We believe that the disciples of Christ, during his personal ministry in the flesh, were not Christians.

23. We believe that Christ, in the resurrection, is free from sin, from the law, from all ordinances, and from death: hence, all who are subject to any of these are not properly called Christians, as not having attained the hope of their calling.

24. We believe that the history which the Bible contains of the church after Christ's ascension, commonly called the primitive church, is a history rather of the latter-day glory of Judaism, than of the commencement of Christianity.

25. We believe that the apostles and primitive believers, so far as they were subject to sin, law, and death, were Jews, and not Christians.

26. We believe that Christ plainly and repeatedly promised to his disciples, that he would come to them a second time, and complete their salvation within the life-time of some of his immediate followers.

27. We believe that the primitive church, living in the transition period, from the first to the second coming of Christ, were more or less partakers of the resurrection, holiness, liberty, and glory of Christ, according to their faith.

28. We believe, that at the destruction of Jerusalem, the end of the Jewish dispensation, Christ came to believers the second time according to his promise.

29. We believe, that, at the period of the second coming of Christ, Christianity, or the kingdom of heaven, properly began.

30. We believe, that this was the period of the full developement of the NEW COVENANT, (Heb. viii.,) which secures to believers perfect and eternal salvation from sin, full freedom from written law and human instruction.

31. We believe, that the whole body of Christ, that is, the church, attained the perfect resurrection of the spiritual body at his second coming.

32. We believe, that antichrist, at the same period, attained the perfect resurrection of damnation.

33. We believe, that this was the period of the commencement of the judgment, (CRISIS, see the Greek,) of this world.

34. We believe, that after this period, the salvation given to all men in Jesus Christ, included nothing less than a perfect and eternal salvation from sin, a perfect redemption from the law and legal instruction--a perfect resurrection of the spiritual body, and a standing on the plain of eternity beyond the judgment."

In the winter of 1836-7, I preached a course of lectures to Christians, in the church of which I was then pastor, in the city of New York, which were reported by the editor of the New York Evangelist, and published in his paper. Soon after they were published in that form, they were published in a volume, and went into extensive circulation, both in Europe and America. Among these lectures were two on the subject of Christian perfection, or entire sanctification, from Matt. v. 48--"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."

In the first of these lectures I endeavoured to show,

1. What perfection the text does not, and what it does require.

2. That this perfection is a duty.

3. That this perfection is attainable in this life.

4. I proceeded to answer objections.

I regarded the perfection demanded by the text as consisting in entire obedience of heart and life to the law of God. And so I taught. I then proceeded to show, that this state of obedience is attainable in this life. The remainder of this and the following lecture were occupied in answering objections to the doctrine of the first discourse. These lectures were soon spread before thousands of readers. Whatever was thought of them, I heard not a word of objection to the doctrine from any quarter. If any was made, it did not, to my recollection, come to my knowledge.

In the year 1840, President Mahan published a small work on the subject of Christian perfection. Several pieces had previously been published by him and myself in the "Oberlin Evangelist," upon the same subject. Prof. Cowles, about the same time, published a series of articles in the "Oberlin Evangelist," upon the subject of the holiness of Christians in this life, which were, soon after their first appearance, collected and published in a small volume. Nearly at the same time I published a course of lectures in the same paper, which were soon also put into a volume by themselves. All three of us gave a definition of Christian perfection, or entire sanctification, amounting in substance to the same thing, making it to consist in entire consecration to God, and entire obedience to the law, and supported the attainability of this state in this life, by substantially the same course of argument. We agreed in stating the attainability of this state, as the thing which we proposed to prove, and to the proof of which we shaped our whole course of argument. The attainability of this state we attempted to establish by many arguments, among which are the following:--

1. We argued the possibility of attaining this state from the fact, that God expressly commands it.

2. From the fact that man, by virtue of his moral agency, is naturally able fully to obey God.

3. From the fact, that provisions are made in the gospel for the entire sanctification of believers in this life.

4. From the fact, that we are commanded to pray in faith for the entire sanctification of believers in this life.

5. From the fact, that Christ and the apostles prayed for this.

6. From the fact, that the entire sanctification of believers in this life is expressly promised in scripture.

Pres. Mahan and myself, especially, urged the attainability of this state, not only from the foregoing and many other considerations, but also from the fact, that this state has been attained, and instanced Paul the apostle, as an example of this attainment.

Immediately upon the publication of the above-named works, the public journals opened a battery upon us, strangely, and I must say, unaccountably confounding our views with those of the antinomian perfectionists. What analogy was discernible between our views, as set forth in our writings, and those of the antinomian perfectionists, as expressed in their own formula of doctrine, as above given, I am utterly at a loss to understand. But it was insisted, that we were of that school and denomination, notwithstanding the greatest pains-taking on our part to make the public acquainted with our views. Many honest ministers and laymen, in this country and in Europe, were doubtless misled by the course pursued by the public press. Some of the leading religious journals refused to publish our articles, and kept their readers in ignorance of our real views. They gave to the public, oftentimes, the grossest misrepresentations of our views, and refused to allow our replies a place in their columns. The result for sometime was a good deal of misapprehension and alarm, on the part of many Christians who had been among our warmest friends. Soon after the publication of President Mahan's work, above alluded to, it was reviewed by Dr. Leonard Woods, of Andover Theological Seminary. Dr. Woods committed in his review four capital errors, which laid his review open to a blow of annihilation, which was in due time levelled against it by President Mahan. The president had defined what he intended by Christian perfection, or entire sanctification, and had also stated what he did not understand it as implying. He defined it to consist in a state of entire conformity of heart and life to the law of God, or in consecration of the whole being to God. He very expressly took issue upon the question of the attainability of this state in this life, and was at special pains to guard against the true point at issue being mistaken, and protested against any one's making a false issue. Dr. Woods noticed this, and his first error consisted in assuming, that the real point at issue between him and President Mahan was just what he, Dr. Woods, chose to make it. Hence, secondly, Dr. Woods proceeded to take issue with the author he was reviewing, not upon the possibility of attaining the state in question in this life, which was the proposition stated and defended by his author, but upon the fact of this state having been attained in this life. This was the doctor's second error. His third error consisted in the fact, that having made a false issue, he replied to the arguments of his opponent, as if they had been designed to establish, not the attainability, but the actual attainment of this state in this life.

He certainly had a right to controvert, if he chose, the fact of actual attainment, or to deny any other argument President Mahan used to prove the attainability of this state. But he had no right, and it was utterly absurd and unjust, to make a false issue, to take issue upon the fact of attainment, and represent the president's argument, as adduced to sustain that position, when in fact it was framed in support of a totally different position; and this Dr. Woods knew full well.

But the doctor fell into a fourth error as fatal to his object as either of the preceding. He did not at all define his views of what constitutes Christian perfection or entire sanctification, nor did he notice his opponent's definition. We are therefore left to the necessity of inferring what he understands by entire sanctification or Christian perfection from his course of argument.

From this we learn, that he founded his argument against the fact of attainment, which was the point that he aimed to overthrow, upon a grossly false assumption, in respect to the nature of Christian perfection. The following are specimens of his course of reasoning: He denied that any Christian had ever attained to a state of entire sanctification in this life, because the Bible requires Christians in all their earthly course to grow in grace. Now it will be seen at once, that this argument is good for nothing, unless it be assumed, as a major premise, that Christian perfection or entire sanctification implies the impossibility of further progress in holiness. The argument in syllogistic form would stand thus:--

"Christian perfection or entire sanctification implies the impossibility of further progress in holiness. The Bible requires all Christians in all time to progress in holiness, which implies the possibility of their doing so. Therefore, no Christian is in this life entirely sanctified."

The assumption of a grossly false major premise alone gives his argument the colour of relevancy or plausibility. But suppose any one should pursue the same course of argument, in respect to total depravity, and insist that no sinner is ever totally depraved in this life, because the Bible represents wicked men and seducers as waxing worse and worse; would Dr. Woods, or those who agree with him, acknowledge the conclusiveness of such an argument? But if total depravity does not imply, as every one knows that it does not, the impossibility of further progress in sin, so neither for the same reason does entire or total sanctification imply the impossibility of further progress in holiness.

But President Mahan had expressly excluded from his definition of Christian perfection the idea of its implying a state in which no higher attainments in holiness were possible. He had insisted that the saints may not only always in this life grow in holiness, but that they must for ever grow in grace or holiness as they grow in knowledge. How strange, then, that Dr. Woods should not only make a false issue, but also proceed to sustain his position, by assuming as true what his author had expressly denied! There was not even the shadow of disagreement between him and his opponent, assuming as he did, that Christian perfection implied the impossibility of further progress in holiness. President Mahan as much abhorred the idea of the actual or possible attainment of such a state in this or any other life, as the doctor did himself. The doctor had no right to represent him as holding to Christian perfection, in any such sense as that he was controverting. In the face of President Mahan's disavowal of such a sentiment, the doctor shaped his argument to overthrow a position which the president never maintained. Having created his own issue, and supported it by his own assumption, he was pronounced by multitudes to have gained a complete victory.

Again: Dr. Woods denied that Christian perfection ever was or ever will be attained in this life, because the Bible represents Christians in all time as engaged in the Christian warfare. Here again we get at the doctor's view of Christian perfection; to wit, that it implies the cessation of the Christian warfare. But what is the Christian warfare?

The doctor plainly assumes, that it consists in warring with present sin. Yet he holds all sin to be voluntary. His assumption then that the Christian warfare consists in a warfare with present sin, represents the will as opposing its present choice. Choice warring with choice. But the Christian warfare implies no such thing. It is a warfare or contest with temptation. No other warfare is possible in the nature of the case. Christ was a subject of it. He was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin. While our circumstances remain what they will always be in this world, we shall be subject to temptation, of course, from the world, the flesh, and Satan. But Christian perfection is not at all incompatible with the existence of this strife with temptation. This argument of the doctor was based wholly, like the preceding, upon the begging or assumption of a totally false major premise. He made an issue between himself and President Mahan, when there was none. The president no more held than he did, that such a state ever was or will be attained in this life, as implies the cessation of the Christian warfare, properly so called. Thus Dr. Woods set out without giving his readers any definition of Christian perfection, and stumbled and blundered through his whole argument, totally misrepresenting the argument of the author whom he reviewed, and sustaining several of his own positions by sheer assumptions.

The applause with which this review was received by the great mass of ministers and by many laymen, shows the deep darkness in which this whole question was and had been for a long time enveloped. We shall see, in its proper place, that the erroneous view of nearly the whole church upon this subject, was the legitimate result of a totally false philosophy of moral depravity. The review of Dr. Woods was looked upon very extensively as a complete using up of President Mahan's book. It was soon published, by request, in a separate volume. But the president's answer appeared in due time, and, so far as I know, was universally regarded by those who candidly read it, as a complete refutation of Dr. Woods's review.

The doctor admitted in his review, that entire sanctification was attainable in this life, both on the ground of natural ability, and also because the gospel has made sufficient provision for this attainment. But with his assumed definition of entire sanctification, he should not have admitted the possibility of such attainment. For surely it is not possible, on the ground of natural ability, to attain such a state, either in this life or in any other, that no further advances can be made. Nor has the gospel made provision to render such attainment possible in this life. Nor is it possible, either on the ground of natural ability, or through the provisions of grace, to attain a state in this life, in which the warfare with temptation will cease. It is difficult to conceive how Dr. Woods, with his ideal of entire sanctification, could admit the possibility of attaining this state in this life. Certainly there was no consistency in making both the assumption and the admission. If he assumed the one, he should have denied the other. That is, if, in his view, entire sanctification implied a state in which there could be no further advances in holiness, or in which there could be no further war with temptation, he should have denied the possibility of the attainment in this life, at least.

Nearly at the same time with the review of Dr. Woods, just named, the presbytery of Troy, New York, by a committee appointed for that purpose, issued a review of our opinions, and, as I suppose, intended especially as a reply to my work already alluded to.

The letter or review of the presbytery was published in the "New York Evangelist," and, I believe, in most of the leading public journals of the day. I replied, but my reply was not admitted into the columns of the journals that published the review. This fact seems to demand, that both the letter of the presbytery and my reply should have a place in this account of the discussion. I therefore here give them entire.


"Statement of Doctrine.

"In the progress of human investigation, it not unfrequently happens, that truth and error are so connected, that the work of distinction becomes as indispensable as that of refutation. In this form, error is always the most dangerous, not only because it is the least likely to be perceived, but because from its relation, it is liable to share in that confidence which the mind is accustomed to assign to admitted truth. In this form, also, it is often, relatively to our perceptions, the same as truth; but the moment this unnatural union of repellent elements is sundered, both assume their distinctive and peculiar marks.

"These prefatory thoughts find an ample illustration in the present state of opinion, in some sections of the church, relative to the doctrine of 'Christian Perfection.' That all the sentiments of this system are false, it would be difficult to show; and as difficult to show their entire truth. The system is a subtle combination of truth and error. Any partial prevalence that it may have had, is easily explained on this principle. Where the truth is made most prominent, the whole assumes an imposing aspect; but an inversion of this error will as signally mark its defects. The work, therefore, of exposing the one, without injury to the other, becomes a duty with every devout and honest inquirer. This is what your committee purpose to undertake; and for this purpose it will be sufficient to answer the two following questions:--

"1. What is the controverted point in this system?

"2. What is truth in relation to that point?

"Let us take up these questions in the above order.
"That there is some issue, admits of no doubt. What is it? It is not, whether by the requirement of the moral law, or the injunction of the gospel, men are commanded to be perfectly holy; not whether men are under obligations to be thus holy; not whether, as moral agents, such a state is to them a possible state; not whether the gospel system is competent to secure actual perfection in holiness, if its entire resources be applied; not whether it is the duty and privilege of the church, to rise much higher in holy living, than it has ever yet done in our world. To join issue on any or all of these points, is to make a false issue; it is to have the appearance of a question without its reality. Some or all of these points form a part of the scheme of 'Christian Perfection,' but certainly they do not invest it with any peculiar character; for they involve no new sentiment differing from the ground taken by the great body of orthodox Christians in every age. It cannot be supposed that their advocacy has led to the various and fearful solicitudes of learned and pious men in regard to the truth and tendency of this system. It must therefore be fraught with some other element. What is that element? The assertion, that Christian men do attain in some cases during the present life, to a state of perfect holiness, excluding sin in every form, and that for an indefinite period they remain in this state. This position requires a moment's analysis, that it may neither suffer nor gain by an ambiguous use of terms.

"(1.) A state of perfect holiness is the general thing affirmed under several relations--such holiness, as leaves not a solitary point of the divine requirements, either in kind or degree, that is not absolutely and completely met by the subject of this predicate--such holiness as involves entire conformity to God's law, and excludes all sin. Anything short of this, is not perfect holiness, even at the time when its possession is alleged; such a state would be one of imperfect or incomplete sanctification. In establishing the reality of this assumed attainment, it is not allowable to abate or decrease the purity and rigour of the divine law--this would at once change the nature of both categories involved in this question, that is, sin and holiness. We must take the law as it is, and use it as the infallible standard of measurement.

"(2.) This affirmation of a fact is made under several relations. The first is one of speciality, that is, that some Christians have reached this state. It is not contended that it is the state of all Christians, and by consequence, that none are Christians but those who are perfectly sanctified. The second involves two relations of time, that is, that this attainment has been made in the present life, and that it has remained the permanent state for a period more or less indefinite--a day, a week, a month, a year, or years. It is not denied that it is a state in which defection is possible; hence a Christian in this state may relapse into one of imperfect sanctification. Such a phenomenon would be apostacy from perfect to imperfect holiness, and might be succeeded by a return to the former state. These relapses and restorations may be of an indefinite number, for they admit of no necessary limitation but the life of the individuals. They are not however to be confounded with that theory of moral actions, which regards each as wholly good or wholly bad, for they contemplate a longer period of time than is assigned to the production of any given moral act.

"Such is the real question at issue--such is the import of 'Christian perfection,' so far as it has any peculiarity. This is the question to be decided; to argue any other, is to lose sight of the real one--it is to meet an opponent where there is no debate, but entire agreement.
"It is obvious that the burden of proof lies with him who affirms the truth of this sentiment. He must moreover direct his proof to the very thing affirmed, and not to something else. It is easy to carry a question by stating one proposition and proving another. If the proposition in debate be established, the discussion is at an end, the doctrine of Christian perfection must be acknowledged.

"(1.) It may be well, therefore, in the first place, to insist on our logical rights, and inquire, 'has the proposition yet been proved?' This question involves a variety of subordinate ones, a brief allusion to which is all that can be made.

"(i.) It has sometimes been urged, that because perfection in holiness is attainable in this life, therefore it is actually attained. How much validity this argument possesses, we shall be able to judge, if we state it in a syllogistic form. It would be thus: whatever is attainable in this life, is actually attained in this life; a state of perfect holiness is attainable in this life; therefore it is actually attained in this life. It must be confessed that this syllogism has the attribute of logical conclusiveness, but ere we grant the truth of the inference, it may be well to decide the truth of the premises. Is the first or major premise true? If so, then every sinner who hears the gospel, must attain to actual salvation; then not some, but all believers must be perfectly sanctified in the present life: then every man actually reaches, in the present life, the highest possible intellectual and moral good of his being. It must be palpable to every discriminating mind, that this reason takes for granted a false premise; and although conformable to the rules of logic, it is liable to prove an untruth; it confounds the broad distinction between what is merely possible and what is actual.

"(ii.) Again, it is urged in defence of this system, that the gospel contains adequate provisions for the perfect sanctification of believers in this life, and therefore some believers are thus sanctified. The logical formula will place this reasoning in its true light. It will stand thus: Whatever is possible by the provisions of the gospel in this life, will take place in this life; the perfect sanctification of some believers in this life is possible by these provisions; therefore it will take place in this life. This is a most extraordinary method of reasoning. With some slight changes, it will prove what even the advocate of perfection will be slow to admit. In the second or minor proposition, substitute the word 'all' for 'some,' and then it proves that all believers are perfectly sanctified in this life. Again, in place of 'some' or 'all believers,' insert the words 'all men,' then it proves that all are perfectly sanctified in this life. There must therefore be some radical difficulty in the first or major proposition. What is that difficulty? It lies in a limitation which is not expressed, but which, the moment it is seen, overturns the whole argument. The provisions of the gospel are sufficient for perfect sanctification at any time and place, if they be fully applied, and not otherwise. Their partial or full application contemplates the action of a rational and voluntary agent. Hence, while competent, they may fail of this effect, owing to the non-application, and not to any fault in the provisions themselves. Before therefore this argument is entitled to the least weight, it must be proved that some believers, or all, fully appropriate these provisions in the present life. This being done, then all is clear. This has never yet been done; but it has been lately assumed, as if it were an undisputed truth. The main argument of President Mahan on Perfection is embarrassed with this very fallacy.

"(iii.) Again, in support of this scheme, much use has been made of the commands, promises, and prayers, recorded in the Bible.

"In relation to the commands, it will be sufficient to say, that although the Bible does command a state of perfect holiness in this life, it does not follow that the command is in any instance fully obeyed on earth. Before we can arrive at this conclusion, we must adopt the following principle; that is, that whatever is commanded in the Bible is actually performed by the subjects of that command. This would exclude the existence of all sin from the world; it would prove all men to be holy, without a single exception; it would establish the perfect sanctification, not of some, but of all believers. It is certainly a most formidable engine of demonstration, too potent for an ordinary hand to wield.

"So also the argument based on the promises of God involves fallacies of reasoning not less apparent. It is a glorious truth, that God has promised to all believers a final victory over sin, which undoubtedly will be accomplished at some period of their history. But does it follow then, because believers are to be perfectly sanctified at some time and somewhere, the present life will be the time and place of this perfect sanctification? Let a promise be adduced, if it can be, that fixes the period of this event to the present life. The divine promises, like the provisions of the gospel, are conditioned as to the degree of their results, by appropriative acts on the part of the believer. Hence the fallacy of the argument is apparent, in that it takes for granted that some believers in the present life do fully comply with all the conditions contemplated in the promises themselves. Without this assumption it proves nothing. Besides, it is not to be forgotten that the promises are general, addressed alike to all believers; and hence the rules of reasoning by which they are made to prove the perfect sanctification of some Christians in the present life, equally prove that of all in every period of time, past, present, and future. The argument from promises has no relation to, or limitation by, any specific time. But two alternatives seem to be possible; either the reasoning must be abandoned as not valid, or we must admit that every regenerated man is sinless, and that too from the moment of his conversion.

"Similar defects characterize the arguments drawn from the prayers which the Bible records, as well as those which it authorizes Christians to make. It is true that Christ prayed for his disciples in language the most elevated,--'Sanctify them through thy truth.' The same may be said of the great apostle when he prayed,--'And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly.' We are directed to pray that God's will may be done on earth as in heaven; and in general authorized to pray for a perfect victory over all sin at every time. These are the facts; now what is the inference? The advocate of perfection responds, that some believers are perfectly sanctified in the present life. These and kindred facts we offer, to prove this conclusion. Is there, then, between the two a certain connexion? If we admit the one, must we logically admit the other? Facts speak a very different language. Were those included in the prayer of Christ thus sanctified, and that from the moment of its utterance? Was the same true of all the Christians of Thessalonica? Has the will of God yet been done on earth, as perfectly as in heaven? Has every believer who has hungered and thirsted after righteousness, attained to sinless perfection in this life? Did not Paul most fervently pray for the salvation of Israel, and have not thousands of Jews died since, in their sins? Did he not pray that the thorn in his flesh might be removed? and was it removed? The grand mistake in this reasoning is, that it fixes what the nature and terms of prayer do not fix; that is, the time when, and the place where, the sought blessing shall be obtained. Applied as evidence to any believer who claims to be wholly sanctified, it would prove his sanctification an hour, a week, month, or year, before he was thus sanctified, as really as at the moment in which he professed to have made this high attainment. Contemplated in its most general form, it would prove that everything which is a proper object of prayer, and which will be obtained in some state of being, will actually be obtained in the present life. There is a vast abyss between the facts and conclusion, which the utmost ingenuity is unable to remove.

"(iv.) Finally, on this branch of the argument, a variety of proof-texts has been summoned to the service of this system. A critical examination of all these is inconsistent with the limits of the present statement. It will be sufficient to advert to the false principles of interpretation to which they have been subjected. These are three in number:--

"(a.) The first consists in a misapplication of passages; as when Paul says, 'I take you to record this day, that I am free from the blood of all men'--or when Zacharias and Elisabeth are spoken of as 'walking in all the commandments and ordinances blameless.'

"(b.) The second consists in regarding certain terms as proofs of perfection in holiness, which are merely distinctive of Christian character, as contrasted with the state of the unregenerate. These are such words as 'holy, saints, sanctified, blameless, just, righteous, perfect, entire,' &c. That these and kindred terms are designed to be characteristic, and not descriptive of the degrees of holiness, is proved by the fact that they are indiscriminately appropriated to all Christians, and that in many cases they are applied, when the context absolutely charges sin upon their subjects.

"(c.) The third false principle consists in interpreting certain passages in an absolute and unrestricted sense, where evidently they are designed to have a qualified sense. This error may perhaps be illustrated by a single passage. Take that remarkable saying of the apostle John: 'Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin because he is born of God.' Stronger language or a better proof-text cannot well be conceived. In an unrestricted sense, it affirms not only that every regenerated man is sinless, but an impossibility that it should be otherwise; it dislodges all sin and moral agency from a converted mind at a single blow. What will the advocate of perfection do with this passage? Will he acknowledge either or both of these consequences? This can hardly be supposed. How then will he escape them? There is but one way for him; this lies in placing a restricted and qualified sense upon the passage, and in a moment all is plain and harmonious. But why subject so plain a passage to this law of interpretation, and deny it to others less harmonious and decisive? No reason can be perceived but the one which grows out of the necessities of a favourite theory. Indeed, there is logically no stopping place to this system short of the bold affirmation, that all believers are perfectly sinless from the moment of conversion. Every argument in its last analysis must terminate in this extraordinary result. To arrest the inference at any other point is to betray a logical inconsistency. Are the advocates of perfection prepared for this bold and unbiblical doctrine? If not, it is time they had reviewed their arguments, and abandoned principles fraught with such a conclusion. Their weapons of defence are not less destructive than constructional in their character.

"(2.) Having tried the merits of the positive testimony on this subject, we remark in the second place, that in the present state of the question, the position is absolutely incapable of proof. When a man affirms his own sinless perfection for any given period, as a day, a week, or a year, he affirms his own infallible knowledge on two points; that is, that at the present moment he can recall every moral exercise during that period, every thought, feeling, desire, purpose, and that he does infallibly judge of the moral character of each exercise. Will any pretend to this knowledge? To do so, manifests the last degree of presumption, as well as ignorance, both of facts and the truths of mental science. Every effort to recall the whole of our mental exercises for a single day, must always be a failure; it can only be partially successful. This shows how little weight is due to the testimony of a man who asserts his own perfection; he may be honest, but this is no proof of the truth of his statement. If a case of 'perfection' were admitted to be real, still it is impossible, in the present state of our faculties, to find and predicate certain knowledge of it. The evidences of 'Christian perfection,' are then not only inconclusive, but its main proposition is absolutely unknowable to us.

"(3.) In the third place we remark, that this proposition is disproven by an amount of evidence that ought to be conclusive. To secure the greatest brevity of statement, this evidence may be condensed into the following series of propositions:--The Bible records defects in the characters of the most eminent saints, whose history it gives; it speaks in moderate terms of the attainments of the pious, when put in contrast with those of Christ, who hence is an exception to our race; it points the believer to the heavenly world as the consummation of his hopes, and exemption from all sin and sorrow; it describes the work of grace as going forward by successive and progressive stages, and fixes no limit to these stages, antecedent to the period of death; it speaks of those as being self-deceived who deny their own sinfulness--'If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us;' it represents Christians here as in an imperfect state--'For in many things we offend all' [the word 'all' in the original qualifies 'we' and not 'things;'] it exhorts Christians to lowly and humble views of their own attainments; it declares Christians in the present life to be under a process of providential discipline, the object of which is to make them more fully partakers of God's holiness; the most eminent saints that have ever lived since the days of the apostles, have uniformly expressed a painful consciousness of remaining sin, and spoken of their attainments in language far different from that of self-confidence; the higher Christians have risen in holiness, the more deeply have they been humbled with their own sinful imperfections, owing to a clearer discernment both of God and themselves. These propositions might each of them be amplified into as many arguments. Taken together, they seem conclusively to set aside the pretensions of any class of men who claim for themselves sinless perfection in the present life. We cannot but think, that however sincere such persons may be, they labour under a most dangerous delusion. With them we have no controversy; our controversy is with their system. It appears to us in no other light than that of a system, totally disconnected with its proposed evidence, demonstrably unknowable by the present state of our faculties, and in direct contravention to an amount of proof, biblical and experimental, that must for ever discredit its claims.


"1. Resolved, That in the judgment of this Presbytery, the doctrine of 'Christian perfection' in this life, is not only false, but calculated in its tendencies, to engender self-righteousness, disorder, deception, censoriousness and fanaticism.

"2. Resolved, That it is contrary to the Confession of Faith adopted by the Presbyterian church in the United States. See chap. 12, sec. 2.

"3. Resolved, That it is the duty of all orthodox ministers to acquaint themselves with this error, and at such times and in such measures as may seem to them most expedient, to instruct the people on this point.

"4. Resolved, That we view with regret and sorrow, the ground taken on this subject by the theological professors at Oberlin.

"5. Resolved, That we hail with joy every improvement in human opinion that conforms to the Bible, and promises, in its practical tendency, to decrease the sins, or increase the moral purity, of the church.

"6. Resolved, That the above statement and resolutions be signed by the Moderator and Stated Clerk, and published in the New York Evangelist, New York Observer, the Christian Observer, and the Presbyterian.

"Fayette Shipherd requested that his dissent from the above report of the Committee be appended to it, entered on the records of the Presbytery, and published with it. All the other members present voted in the affirmative.
"THOMAS J. HASWELL, Moderator.

"Troy, June 29, 1841.
" N. S. S. BEMAN, Stated Clerk.



"Dear Brethren,

"Permit me to make a few remarks upon your report on the subject of Christian perfection. I have read with attention most that has come to hand upon the subject of your report, and have thought it of little use to reply, until some opponent of our views should throw his objections into a more tangible form than any one had hitherto done. Your report embraces, in a condensed form, almost all that has been said in opposition to our views. For this reason, as well as for the reason that I have a high respect and fervent love for those of your number with whom I am acquainted, I beg leave to be heard in reply.

"What I have said was prepared for, and should have been published in the 'New York Evangelist.' I wrote to the editor, making the request to be heard through his columns; to which he made no reply. I still hope he will not fail to do me, yourselves, and the church the justice to give this article a place in his columns. The truth demands it. (Since changed Editors.) For no other reason, I am sure, than to subserve the interests of truth would I say one word. Without further preface, I quote your statement of the real point at issue. You say,--

"'That there is some issue, admits of no doubt. What is it? It is not, whether by the requirements of the moral law, or the injunctions of the gospel, men are commanded to be perfectly holy; not whether men are under obligations to be thus holy; not whether as moral agents, such a state is to them a possible state; not whether the gospel system is competent to secure actual perfection in holiness, if its entire resources be applied; not whether it is the duty and privilege of the church to rise much higher in holy living, than it has ever yet done in this world. To join issue on any, or all of these points, is to make a false issue; it is to have the appearance of a question without its reality. Some, or all of these points, form a part of the scheme of 'Christian perfection;' but certainly they do not invest it with any peculiar character, for they involve no new sentiment differing from the ground taken by the great body of orthodox Christians in every age. It cannot be supposed 'that their advocacy has led to the various and fearful solicitudes of learned and pious men, in regard to the truth and tendency of this system. It must, therefore, be fraught with some other element. What is that element? The assertion that Christian men do attain in some cases, during the present life, to a state of perfect holiness, excluding sin in every form, and that for an indefinite period may remain in this state.'

"Upon this I remark:--
"(1.) What our position is. It is, and always has been, that entire sanctification is attainable in this life, in such a sense as to render its attainment a rational object of pursuit, with the expectation of attaining it.

"This proposition, it would seem, you admit; but on account of 'the various and fearful solicitudes of learned and pious men,' you take it for granted, there must be a heresy somewhere, and accordingly proceed to take issue with us, upon one of the arguments we have used in support of our proposition; and reply to our other arguments, as if they had been adduced by us in support of the proposition, upon which you have erroneously made up the issue.

"(2.) Some of the arguments by which we have attempted to establish this proposition are--

"(i.) That men are naturally able to obey all the commandments of God.

"(ii.) That this obedience is without qualification demanded of men in this life.

"(iii.) That the gospel proffers sufficient grace to secure their entire sanctification in this life; and that nothing is wanting but 'appropriative acts,' on the part of Christians, to realize this result.

"(iv.) That the entire sanctification of Christians in this life was made the subject of prayer by inspired men, and also that Christ taught his disciples to pray for it.

"(v.) That this state has actually been attained.

"These are among our arguments; and as they are the only ones to which you have professed to reply, I will mention no others.

"(3.) I will put our arguments in the form of syllogisms in their order.

"(i.) Whatever is attainable in this life, on the ground of natural ability, may be aimed at with a rational hope of success. A state of entire sanctification in this life is attainable, on the ground of natural ability. Therefore, it may be aimed at with a rational hope of success.

"Again. Whatever men are naturally able to do in this life, they may aim at doing, with a rational hope of success. Men are naturally able to do all their duty, which is to be entirely sanctified. Therefore, they may aim at entire sanctification with a rational hope of being entirely sanctified.

"You admit both the major and minor premises in these syllogisms. Can the conclusion be avoided?

"(ii.) Whatever God commands to be done by men in this life, may be done by them. God commands men to be entirely holy in this life. Therefore, a state of entire holiness in this life is possible. You admit both the major and minor premises. Can the conclusion be avoided?

"(iii.) Whatever attainment the gospel proffers sufficient grace to secure in this life, may be made. The gospel proffers sufficient grace, should any one 'apply its entire resources,' to secure a state of entire sanctification in this life. Therefore this state may be secured, or this attainment may be made. Here again you admit both premises. Can the conclusion be denied?

"(iv.) Whatever was made the subject of prayer by the Spirit of inspiration may be granted. The entire sanctification of the saints in this life was prayed for by the Spirit of inspiration. Therefore, Christians may aim at and pray for this state, with the rational expectation of being entirely sanctified in this life.

"Again. What Christ has made it the universal duty of the church to pray for, may be granted. He has made it the duty of all Christians to pray for the entire sanctification of the saints in this life. Therefore, these petitions may be presented, and Christians may expect to be entirely sanctified in this life. Both premises in these syllogisms are admitted. Are not the conclusions inevitable?

"(v.) Whatever men have done, men can do. Men have been entirely sanctified in this life. Therefore they may be so sanctified. The minor premise in this syllogism you deny; and, strange to tell, you affirm, over and over again, that this one argument of ours is the main proposition to be established! And you reply to all our other arguments in support of the main proposition, as if they had been adduced to prove this! Now it would have been equally fair, and just as much in point, so far as our argument in support of the main proposition is concerned, if you had made an issue with us on any other argument adduced by us in support of that proposition--insisted that that was the main question--and replied to our arguments as if they had been adduced in support of that.

"You misrepresent our logic. Assuming that the fact of actual attainment is the main proposition which we are labouring to establish, and in support of which we adduce the fact of actual attainment only as an argument, you misrepresent our reasoning. To put this matter in the clearest light, I will place side by side, the syllogisms which you put in our mouths, and our own syllogisms.


" 1. 'Whatever is attainable in "1. Whatever is attainable in this this life, is actually attained in life, may be aimed at, with the this life. A state of perfect rational hope of attaining it: holiness is attainable in this entire sanctification is attainable life; therefore it is actually in this life; therefore the attained.' attainment of this state may be aimed at with a rational hope of

" 2. 'Whatever is possible by the "2. Whatever attainment is possible, provisions of the gospel in this by the provisions of the gospel, in life, will take place in this life; this life, may be aimed at by those the perfect sanctification of all under the gospel, with a rational believers is possible by those hope of attaining it; the perfect provisions; therefore it will sanctification of believers is actually take place in this life.' possible by these provisions; therefore believers may aim at
making this attainment, with a
rational hope of success.

" 3. 'In relation to the commands "3. Whatever the Bible commands to it will be sufficient to say, that be done in this life, may be done; although the Bible does command a the Bible commands Christians to be state of perfect holiness in the perfect in this life; therefore they present life, it does not follow may be perfect in this life. that the command is in any instance obeyed fully on earth. Before we can arrive at this conclusion, we must adopt the following principle; that is, that whatever is commanded in the Bible is actually performed "Now, brethren, I ask if you will by the subjects of that command.' deny the major premise, the minor premise, or the conclusion in either "The syllogism would stand thus: of the above syllogisms? You cannot deny either. I beseech you then to "Whatever is commanded by God, is consider what injustice you have actually performed; perfect done to yourselves, to us, your holiness is commanded; therefore brethren, and to the cause of truth, all men are perfectly holy. by such an evasion and misrepresentation of our logic.

"(4.) What your logic must be to meet our argument as we have stated it. If you would state in syllogistic form an argument that shall meet and set aside our reasoning, it must stand thus: That a thing is attainable in this life, is no proof that it can be attained. This must be assumed as a major premise, by any one who would answer our logic. But who does not see, that this amounts to a denial of an identical proposition? The same as to say, that a thing being attainable in this life, is no proof that it is attainable in this life. But to waive this consideration, and state the argument as it must stand in syllogistic form; to meet and refute our logic, it must stand thus: 'That a thing is attainable in this life is no proof that it can be attained. Entire sanctification is attainable in this life. Therefore, its attainability is no proof that it can be attained.' Who does not see, that the major premise is false, and that therefore the conclusion is? Now observe: we admit, that its attainability is no proof that it will be attained. But we insist, that its attainability is proof that the attainment may be aimed at, with a rational hope of success.

"Again: would you meet our second argument with a syllogism, it must stand thus: 'That God commands a state of entire sanctification in this life, is no proof that such a state is attainable in this life. God does command a state of entire sanctification in this life. Therefore the command is no proof that such a state is attainable.' Brethren, this argument would have the attribute of logical conclusiveness, if the major premise were not false. The very same course must be pursued by you, would you meet and set aside our reasoning in respect to our other arguments. This is so manifest, that I need not state the syllogisms.
"'Similar defects characterize the arguments drawn from the prayers which the Bible records, as well as those which it authorizes Christians to make. It is true, that Christ prayed for his disciples in language the most elevated: 'Sanctify them through the truth.' The same may be said of the great Apostle, when he prayed: 'And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly.' We are directed to pray that God's will may be done on earth as in heaven, and in general authorized to pray for a perfect victory over all sin at every time. These are the facts. Now, what is the inference? The advocate of 'perfection' responds--that some believers are perfectly sanctified in the present life. These, and kindred facts we offer, to prove this conclusion. Is there then between the two a certain connexion? If we admit the one, must we logically admit the other? Facts speak a very different language. Were those included in the prayer of Christ thus sanctified, and that from the moment of its utterance? Was the same true of all the Christians of Thessalonica? Has the will of God yet been done on earth as perfectly as in heaven? Has every believer who has hungered and thirsted after righteousness, attained to sinless perfection in this life? Did not Paul most fervently pray for the salvation of Israel, and have not thousands of Jews since died in their sins? Did he not pray that the thorn in his flesh might be removed, and was it removed? The grand mistake in this reasoning is, that it fixes what the nature and terms of prayer do not fix; that is, the time when, and the place where, the sought blessing shall be obtained.'

"On this I remark:--

"This appears to me a most remarkable paragraph. Here you quote a part of 1 Thess. v. 23. 'And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly,' and then stop, assuming that nothing can be affirmed in respect to the time when the apostle prayed that this blessing might be granted. Now, beloved brethren, why did you not quote the whole passage, when it would have been most manifest, that the apostle actually prayed for the blessing to be granted in this life? I will quote it, and see if this is not so: "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."

"As the sanctification of the 'body,' as well as the soul and spirit, is prayed for, and that the whole being may be 'preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,' how can you say as you do--'The grand mistake in this reasoning is, that it fixes what the nature and the terms of prayer do not fix, that is, the time when, and place, here, the sought blessing shall be obtained?' Does not this prayer contemplate the bestowment of this blessing in this life? Who can reasonably deny it? Again: You say, 'We are directed to pray that God's will may be done on earth as in heaven, and in general authorized to pray for a victory over all sin at every time.' Now, how can you make this admission, and still add the assertion just quoted, that 'prayer does not fix the time when this blessing is to be expected?' Certainly, the time when, is, in this prayer, limited to this life. In order to meet our argument, based upon the prayer of the apostles and the injunction of Christ, to pray for the entire sanctification of believers in this life, you must argue as follows. Here again I put the syllogisms into separate columns, that you may see them in contrast.


"That the Spirit of inspiration "Whatever state was prayed for by prayed for the entire the Spirit of inspiration, sanctification of believers in this Christians may aim at with a life, is no evidence that an answer rational hope of attaining; the to this prayer may be expected by Spirit of inspiration prayed for the saints in this life. Paul, under entire sanctification of saints in the spirit of inspiration, did pray this life. Therefore, Christians may for the entire sanctification of aim at this attainment with the the saints in this life. Therefore, expectation of success. this prayer is no evidence that
saints may aim at being entirely
sanctified in this life, with a
rational hope of being so

"Again: That Christ has made it the "Again: Whatever state Christians universal duty of saints to pray are required to pray for in this for the entire sanctification of life, they may pray for with the Christians in this life, is no expectation of being heard and evidence that they may offer this answered. Christians are required to prayer, with a rational expectation pray for a state of entire of being answered. Christ has made sanctification in this life. it the universal duty of Christians Therefore, they may pray for this to pray for entire sanctification attainment with the expectation of in this life. Therefore, this is no being heard and answered in this evidence that they may offer this life. prayer with the rational hope of
being heard and answered.

"Now, brethren, whose logic is most conclusive?
"'It is a glorious truth, that God has promised to all believers a final victory over sin, which undoubtedly will be accomplished in some period of their history. But does it follow, that because believers are to be perfectly sanctified at sometime and somewhere, the present life will be the time and place of this perfect sanctification? Let a promise be adduced, if it can be, that fixes the period of this event to the present life. The divine promises, like the provisions of the gospel, are conditioned as to the degree of their results, by appropriative acts on the part of the believer. Hence, the fallacy of the argument is apparent, in that it takes for granted that some believers in the present life do fully comply with all the conditions contemplated in the promises themselves. Without this assumption it proves nothing.'

"In the first part of this paragraph, you deny that God, anywhere in the Bible, promises a state of entire sanctification in this life, and request that one promise be adduced, that fixes this event to the present life. And then you seem immediately to admit that the blessing is promised, on the condition of 'appropriative acts on the part of the believer.' This you must intend to admit, inasmuch as you have before admitted, that 'should a believer avail himself of all the resources of the gospel, he might make this attainment.' Certainly you will not pretend to have any authority for such an admission, unless the promises when fairly interpreted do proffer such a state to Christians upon condition of 'appropriative acts.' How shall we understand such a denial and admission at the same breath, as this paragraph contains?

"But you request that one promise may be adduced that fixes the period of entire sanctification to the present life. I might quote many: but as you ask for only one, I will quote one, and the one, a part of which you have quoted--1 Thess. ii. 23, 24. 'The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless, unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.'

"That this prayer and promise relate to this life, I think cannot consistently be questioned. The prayer is, that the 'body,' as well as the 'spirit and soul,' be wholly sanctified, and 'be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.' Then the promise--'Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.' Does not this relate to this life?
"You say, 'If a case of perfection were admitted to be real, still it is impossible, in the present state of our faculties, to find and predicate certain knowledge of it.'

"Here, assuming as you do, that the main proposition respects the fact of actual attainment, you insist that this fact, did such cases exist, would be entirely insusceptible of proof. Indeed! Does God command man to do what he cannot know that he does, even if he does it? This would be passing strange. You admit that God requires men to be entirely sanctified, condemns them if they are not, but yet deny that they could know that they obeyed, if they did. This would indeed be a singular requirement--to command a man on pain of eternal death to do that which he could not possibly know that he did, even if he did it. This denial of ability to know, whether we are in a state of entire sanctification, is a total denial of the doctrine of natural ability, as I presume it is held by every member of your body. Does not every one of you, my brethren, hold that natural ability to obey a command is the sine quà non of moral obligation to obey it? Do not you hold that a man cannot be under a moral obligation to do what he cannot understand--to use a power which he does not know himself to possess--to employ his faculties in any kind or degree of service, which he cannot know to be his duty? Now if a man does all that he is able to know himself capable of doing, is he under a moral obligation to do anything more? But if he is unable to know that he falls short of his duty, does he fall short of it? Brethren, will you give us light upon this subject? Do you, will you seriously maintain, that a man is naturally unable to know whether he obeys the commands of God, and yet, that he is condemned and liable to be damned for coming short, when he could not know that he came short? Brethren, will you maintain this?
"Appended to your report is a resolution, expressing 'regret and sorrow at the ground taken on this subject by the theological professors at Oberlin.' Will you permit us to reciprocate your regret and sorrow, and express our deep grief, that the presbytery of Troy have taken such ground upon this subject, and so misapprehended, and of course misrepresented the arguments of their brethren?

"I must close this communication with a few


"1. We admit you had a right to take issue with us on the question of actual attainment, if you were dissatisfied with our course of argument on that position. But you had no right to represent our argument in support of another position as you have done. You had no right to represent our argument in favour of the practical attainability, as having been adduced in support of the fact of actual attainment. This you have done, and by so doing, you have done your brethren and the cause of truth great injustice.

"2. To what I have said in this article, you may reply, that you never denied the practical attainability of a state of entire sanctification, and that therefore on that question you have no controversy with us. Why, then, my brethren, did you not admit that in our main position you agree with us, and that you only deny one of the arguments by which we attempted to support that position? This, as Christian men, you were bound to do. But instead of this, you have said nothing about admitting our main position; but made the transfer of our arguments to the support of the one upon which you take issue, and thus represent our logic as absurd and ridiculous. We shall be happy to discuss the question of actual attainment with our brethren, when they ingenuously admit, that the main position we have taken, namely, the practical attainability of a state of entire sanctification in this life, is a truth of the Bible.

"3. Permit me to ask, my brethren, what opponent or course of argument might not be rendered ridiculous by the course you have taken, that is, by stating another proposition than that intended to be supported, and then representing the whole course of argument as intended to support the substituted proposition?

"4. Should you say that your report was not intended as a reply to our argument, I ask, who has ever argued in support of this doctrine in the manner you represent? Who ever inferred, that because men have natural power to obey God, therefore they do obey him? I have read with attention almost everything that has come to hand upon this subject, and I never saw or heard of any such mode of argumentation as that to which you profess to reply.

"5. Will your presbytery, in reply to what I have written, excuse themselves by saying, that their treatment of our argument was an oversight--that they had supposed us to reason in the way they have represented us as reasoning? To this I must reply, that you were bound to understand our argument before you replied to it, in your public or any other capacity. And especially were you under this obligation, inasmuch as I had twice written to a leading member of your body, beseeching him, in the bowels of Christian love, to examine this subject, and to be sure he did it in a spiritual frame of mind, before he committed himself at all upon the question.

"6. Will you, dear brethren, permit me to ask how long the opposers of the doctrine of entire sanctification in this life, expect to retain the confidence of the church, and prevent their understanding and believing this doctrine, by such a course of procedure as this? You are no doubt aware, that your course is not a novel one, but that it has been substantially pursued by several other opposers of this doctrine.

"And now, beloved brethren in the Lord, do not understand me as entering into a war of words with you, or as entertaining the least unkind feeling in my heart towards you. I most cheerfully leave to your deliberate and prayerful consideration, the remarks I have freely made on your report. I cannot, however, refrain from saying, that when I saw the name of one whom I greatly loved, and with whom I had often taken sweet counsel, attached to that report, my heart felt a kind of spontaneous gushing, and I almost involuntarily exclaimed, 'Et tu, Brute!'
"Yours in the bonds of Christian love,


Since these replies were published, nothing worthy of notice has appeared in opposition to them that has fallen under my observation, but the policy seems to have been adopted of preventing further inquiry upon the subject. Nevertheless the agitation of the question in the minds and hearts of private Christians and of many ministers, is going steadily, and, in many places, rapidly forward, as I have good reason to know. Indeed it is manifest, that there is increasing light and interest upon the subject, and it is beginning, or, I should say, fast coming to be better understood, and its truthfulness and its importance appreciated. No thanks, however, are due to some of the leading journalists of the day, if this blessed and glorious truth be not hunted from the world as a most pernicious error. Nothing could have been more unfair and unjust than the course pursued by some of them has been. May the blessed Lord bring them to see their error and forgive them, not laying this sin to their charge.

It may doubtless appear unaccountable to the public in general, both in this country and elsewhere, that no objection was made to the doctrine of entire sanctification, when published in the "New York Evangelist," and afterwards in the form of a volume, and so extensively circulated, and that the same doctrine should excite so much alarm when published in the "Oberlin Evangelist." It may also appear strange, that such pains should have been taken to confound our views with those of antinomian perfectionists, when every one can see, that there is no more analogy between their views, as set forth in their Confession of Faith, and our views, than between them and anything else. This they have all along alleged, and consequently have been amongst our bitterest opposers. Perhaps it is not desirable that the public should be made acquainted with the springs of influence that have stirred up, and put in motion all this hurricane of ecclesiastical and theological opposition to Oberlin. It is unpleasant to us to name and disclose it, and perhaps the cause of truth does not, at present at least, demand it.


Introduction ---New Window

LECTURES 1-7 of page 1 ---New Window

LECTURES 8-16 of page 2 ---New Window

LECTURES 17-30 of page 3 ---New Window

LECTURES 31-38 of page 4 ---New Window

LECTURES 39-47 of page 5 ---New Window

LECTURES 48-57 of page 6 (this page)

LECTURES 58-67 of page 7 ---New Window

LECTURES 68-74 of page 8 ---New Window

LECTURES 75-80 of page 9 ---New Window

LECTURES 81-83 of page 10 ---New Window

APPENDIX on page 11 ---New Window


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