« PreviousContinue »
and those who are our antagonists in this controversy : Our best cluistians are the most convinced of their siaful imperfection ; but theirs feel the most above it. They even think, that no such imperfection cleaves to
seemed to me, I should wonder at myself, if I should express my wickedness in such feeble terms as they did.
My wickedness, as I am in myself, has long appeared to me perfectly ineffable, and infinitely swallowing up all thought and imagination, like an infinite delure, or infinite mountains over my head. I know not how to express beiter what my sins appear to me to be, than by heaping infinite upon infinite, and multiplying infinite by infinite. I go about very often, for these many years, with these expressions in my mind and in my mouth, “ Infinite upon infinite-Infinite upon infinite !!! When I look into my heart and take a view of my wickedness, it looks like an abyss infinitely deeper than liell. And it appears to me, that, were it not for free grace, exalted and raised up to the infinite height of all the fulness and glory of the great Jehovah, and the arm of his power, and grace stretched forth in all the majesty of his power, and in all the glory of ' his sovereignty, I should appear sunk down in my sins infinitely below liell itself, far beyond the sight of every thing, but the piercing eye of God's grace, that can pierce even down to such a depth, and to the bottom of such an abyss.
“. And yet I am not the least inclined to think, that I have a greater conviction of sin than ordinary. It seems to me, my conviction of sin is exceeding small and faint. It appears to me enough to amaze me, that I have no more sense of my sin. I know certainly, that I have very little sense of my sinfulness. That my sins appear to me so great, does not seem to me to be, because I liave so much more conviction of sin than other christians, but because I am so much worse, and have so much. more wickedness to be convinced of. When I have had these turns of weeping and crying for my sins, I thought I knew in
the time of it, that my repentance was nothing to my sin. *It is affecting to me to think now ignorant I was, when I was. a young.christian, of the bottomless, infinite depuis of wicked. ness, pride, hypocrisy, and deceit, left in my heart.
“I have vasily a greater sense of my universal, exceeding tle. pendence on God's grace and strength, and mere good pleasure of late, than I used formerly to have, and have experienced more of an abhorrence of my own righteousness. 1 am greatly affiicted with a proud and self-righteous spirit, much more sensibly than I used co be formerly. I see that serpent rising and putting furth its head continually, every where, all around me.".
In connexion with this extract from the Life of Mr. Ed. ivards, I would introduce a short one from that sketch of the,, Life of his daughter Mrs. Burr, which is added to the Life of;
them. Now I think it cannot be, that the same religion, the self same work of the Spirit, should produce such directly contrary effects in different hearts. And I would now ask; which of two men, who appear equal.
her father. In a letter to her father, in which she speaks of very peculiar support under trials, and sweet enjoyment of God, she has this sentence : “ But U, Sir, what cause of deep humiliation and abasement of soul have I, on account of remrin. ing corruption ; which I see working continually, especially pride! l, how many shapes does pride cloke itself in,
Mrs. Sarah Osborn, who died at Newport, R. I. in 1796, and whose Memoirs were published by her pastor, Dr. S. Hopkins, is considered among us as a christian of great emi
It would appear by her experimental feelings and devotions which are breathed out in those of her private writings which are published; and also from the testimony of her mini. ster, and of many living witnesses ;-it would appear, that stre was a woman who made a business of religion; who lived with God day by day, and enjoyed something of heaven upon earth. I might, by copious extracts from her Diary make it appear, that with all her uncommon piety; she still considered herself as sinfully imperfect. But I shall make only two or three es. tracts from her Diary; and as these shall be from the last part of it, they will serve to convince the reader that Mrs. Osborn did not ever think herself perfect, in the sinless sense of the word. Page 304, she says, • May I ever, with the publican, see my own vileness, smite upon my breast and cry, God be merciful to me a sinner! Surely it becomes me, so sinful a creature as I am, to approach a holy God (although with faith and without terror) yet with contrition and penitent shame and confusion of face." Again, page 316 : “ O that God will con. vince all his dear children, what is right, and what is wrong i and rectify all that is contrary to thy will in them. O root out the monster sin Lord, root it out, for Christ's sake, of my heart, as well as theirs. O could any one see the secret ini. quity, the secret covetousness, after all my watchings and striv: ings against it, which thou God knowest, how would they be stumbled, and puzzled to reconcile this with all my renunciations of the world, and all that is dear in life. Thou knowest my secret groanings under the oppression of the enemy, which none but thou canst fully know.':
Take, as another specimen of her groanings under the body of death, what is found, page 318.* But, my hasty soul, art
* I have, in these references to the page, had before me the second edition of Mrs. O's. Memoirs, published at Catskill, by Nathan Elliot, Bookseller ; where this book can be obtained by those who wish to become more intimately acquainted with the interesting Life of this mother in Israebo
ly exact in their external deportment, is more likely to be right ; the man who with all his exaciness, and with all his in ward comforts in religion, discovers innumerable evils in his licart, and also in his conduct ; or the man who thinks he is so perfect, that there is nothing amiss in his life, no, nor even in his heart?
We repeat it, This difference exists between us ;and now we ask, How it shall be accounted for? Is it .
thou ready? Thou polluted, thou imperfect one, Dost thou know what a holy, sin-hating God he is, into whose presence thou wouldest hasten ? Whence this confidence of seeing his face with joy? Art thou ready?- Alas! all my works are imperfect, and unfinished; and will remain so if I should live to the age of Methuselah : Yea, and I shall add sin to sin, against my gracious God, till death does stop me. Not till then will my sanctification be complete."
The Life of Susanna Anthony, Mrs. Csborn's most intimate christian friend, is not now in my possession. But her experiences on the subject of imperfection, can be easily learned from what we find in the Memoirs of Mrs. Osbor. Mrs. Q. thus writes in lier Diary for Sept. 12, 1746. ". Last evening I went to visit my dear Susa, who is sick, and rejoices in hope of being sick into death. She tells me, that every approach of death is welcome. -(), I long,” said she, “ for one chris. tian friend, to unite with me in pleading with God, to take me to himself, that I may be freed from the body of sin ard death"
Alid was not this experience, I would ask, conformable to that of the apostle? Did lie not groan under the body of death? Did he not desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better, than to remain in this sinning world? Were not these experiences of Brainerd, and Edwards ; of Mrs. Burr, Mrs. Osborn, and Miss Anthony, in harmony with the experiences of Job; who when the Lord drew near to him, cried out, “ Behold I am vile-I abhor myself ?" and with the experiences of the evangelical prophet; who, when he beheld the glory of the Lord, said, Woe is me, I am undone, for I am a man of unclean lips?. And do not the experiences which bave been introduced, accord with those of the sweet Psalmist of Israel, who at one time says, Iniquities prevail against me, (Psal. lxv. 3 ;) and at another time. They are more than the hairs of my head, therefore my heart faileth me, (Psal. xl. 12 ;), and again, For mine iniquities are zone over my head: as an heavy burdlen, they are too heavy for me My wounds stink and are corrupt lecause of all my foolishness, (Psal. xxxvili. 4, 5;) and again where he prays, Pardon anine iniquity, for it is great? Psal. xxv. 11. And did not Daniel, immaculate as he appeared, confess his own sin, as well as the sin of his people, before the God of Israel? Dan, ix. 20.
because there are no christians among us? or is it ly?. cause there are no chris'ians among them ?. Neither of these can I believe. I pray 10 be kept from bigotted uncharitableness, and also from that fulse catholicism, vliich cries peace unto them, to whom the Lord. hath pot spoken peace. The first, and as I conceived, a legitimate iuference from the doctrine maintained in the Sermon, was iliis : “ If good men are never free from sinful imperfection in this life, it may be inferred, that they are deceived about theniselves, who think they live without sin." The following sentence was contained in that inference. 6 le cannot; we believe, we ought not, to entertain the least mite of charity for the reli. gion of that man (however apparently pious he is) who. shall say, that for years, or months, Ol' weeks, or days, he has lived in such a holy manner, that he discovers nothing in his conduci, in his words, or the frame of his heart, of which he feels tha: he ought tò repent.' By this it was not meant to be goderstood, that no charity could be entertained for a Methodist, or for one who believes that sinless perfection is attainable in this life ; but that none could be entertained for the man who should say, " This perfection exists in me.' We thought our text authorized us to draw such an infe!'ence; and thalihe passage from Job, as also that fioin John's first episile, rare direct supporters of our inference. Job says, "If I say I am perfect, it shall firove me perverse," John says, “ If we say, We ve no sin, we cleceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. Soffer me here to introduce ihe comment of Mr. Scoit on this last passage : “ While the apostle strenuously insisted on the necessity of an habitual holy walk, as the cffect and evidence of the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus, and of communion with him ; he guarded, with equal carc, against the opposite error of self-righteous · pride. If any professed christians, while they seemed 10 walk in the light, should be so elated with a conceit of their own attainments, as to say, " that they had no sin," but were perfectly pure, and as holy in heart and life as the law required, they avere certainly deceived in fi most ozusul manner ; nay, the truth was not in ikein, as a girinciple of life and illumination ; or they nerer conld have fallen into a misiake which implied the most
gross ignorance of God, of his spiritual law, and of their own hearts."
If the sinful imperfection of all good men, is a true doctrine, it must be a doctrine the truth of which is experimentally known by all good men ; for this sinful imperfection exists in their own hearts. Where any doctrine is not directly tested by experience, it is easier to conceive of real christians making a mistake. It is therefore more easy to believe, that a christian does not adopt the doctrine of divine decrees, than that he does not adopt into his creed the total depravity of the unrenewed heart. It is not as difficult to entertain a hope concerning him, who denies thc certain perseverance of all saints, as about him, who holds to a sinless perfection as exemplified in his own cáse.
If I know my heart, I do not say these things to render reviling for reviling. My antagonist must stand or fall to his own Master. I wouid not say these things, lest I should seem to reproach those of the contrary part, if I did noi feel myself obliged in duty to say them. But now, since I have begun to examine their doctrine, in its bearing upon the genuineness of their experiinental religion, I must be suffered to speak plainly. I • hope I shall not forget, that "there is not a word in my
tongue,” nor a sentence which drops from my pen, but lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether."
Would not these prefessing brethren do well to inquire, whether their Christian perfection, by which they differ from other denominations of Protestants, is not owing to one or all the following reasons ?
1. Their having in efiect abated the divine law. They Jay claim to perfection which wholly keeps the moral law; and yet they acknowledge that they do not come up to the requirements of the law as it was when given to Allam. And as it was given to him, they explain it as requiring no more than this, so that man should use to the glory of God all the powers with which he was created."
2. If they have not been misunderstood by us, they do not hold to the criminality of evil thoughts, in the same sense that others do. They often converse in such a manner as to imply this, that if they check their evil thoughts, instead of acting them out then there is no sin.