Open as PDF
We cannot secure the practice of true holiness by any of our efforts or abilities while we continue in our sinful corrupted condition and are not partakers of a new nature by union and fellowship with Christ through faith.
It is evident that many do not have that precious faith by which Christ dwells in our hearts. The number of people who have this faith is small comparatively to the whole world that lies in wickedness. Others live without it for some considerable time before they finally acquire it. There are only two possible conditions that a person can be living in. One is living in our sinful, rebellious nature or the other is living in holiness by the Spirit of Christ within us. These are both extremely different from the other. Those that have the happiness of a new birth and creation in Christ by faith are thereby placed in a very excellent state, consisting in the enjoyment of the righteousness of Christ for their justification, and the Spirit of Christ to live by in holiness here and glory for ever. Those that are not in Christ by faith cannot be in a better state than that which they are now in or than they can attain to by the power of that nature, with any such help as God is pleased to afford to it. This I call a natural state because the Scripture calls man in this state the natural man. The former I call a new state, because we enter into it by a new birth in Christ. I may call it a spiritual state, according to the Scripture, because it is received from Christ the quickening Spirit, and the natural and spiritual man are opposed.
Romans 8:5-11 "For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you. That those that are in the flesh cannot please God."
To be in the flesh is to be living in our sinful corrupted condition. The new nature is called Spirit because it is received by spiritual regeneration or new birth. Some think that they can become new men by turning over a new leaf or somehow reform their own wicked hearts. Let me make this very clear and simple, the old and new man are two completely opposite states or natures. These natures contain in them not only sin and holiness, but all things that influence and incline us to practice of them. The old man must be put off, as crucified with Christ, before we can be freed from the practice of sin. We cannot lead a new life until we have first received a new nature by faith in Christ.
It is a common error of those who are living in their sinful corrupted condition to seek to reform or change their lives according to the law. They do not realize that their sinful condition must be changed before their lives can be changed from sin to righteousness. Sinners who know nothing of a new nature in Christ, are urged by their own consciences to practice several duties of the law, according to the knowledge they have by the light of nature. Israel according to the flesh had a zeal of God and godliness and endeavored to practice the written law, at least in external performances, while they were enemies to the faith of Christ. Paul attained so far that he was blameless in these external performances of the righteousness of the law, while he persecuted the church of Christ.
We are to perform universal obedience to God, in all our inward thoughts and affections, as well as in all our outward actions, and to do all the duties that we owe to our neighbor, out of hearty love. We are to cease, not only from some sins, but from all known sins, and to perform every known duty of the law with our whole heart and soul. Many people struggle and strive with great effort to conquer their inward thoughts and feelings that they know are wrong. They are urged by their own consciences to practice duties of the law. While attempting to obey these rules in their outward acts they remain enemies and criminals to the faith of Christ. Some people while they continue in their sinful corrupted condition, are convinced of the spirituality of the law, that it binds us principally to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. They think that they are ready even to kill their bodies with fastings and other harsh measures, that they may kill their sinful lusts. Many of these realize that holiness is absolutely necessary to salvation. They deeply fear the wrath and punishment of God that they so rightly deserve. They fail to realize that a new nature in Christ is necessary to a new life. Therefore they labor in vain to reform their sinful corrupted condition, instead of getting and receiving a new and holy nature in Christ. Many who strive to overcome their lusts for years, without success, will at last fall miserably into despair of ever attaining holiness and return to wallowing in the mire of their own lusts, or are fearfully swallowed up with horror of conscience.
There are several false opinions by which such ignorant extremists encourage themselves in their fruitless efforts. Some of them judge that they are able to practice holiness, because they are not compelled to sin, and may abstain from it if they will. To this they add that Christ, by the merit of His death, has restored that freedom of will which was lost by the Fall. They think that if they make efforts to do all that they can, Christ will do the rest, by assisting them with the supplies of His saving grace. They plead further that it would not consist with the justice of God to punish them for sin, if they could not avoid it. They consider that it would be in vain for the ministers of the gospel to preach to them and exhort them to any saving duty, if they cannot perform it. They produce examples of heathens, and of such as had the name of Christians, without any knowledge with the faith that I have described, who have attained to a great excellency in religious words and works.
My work at present is to deliver those ignorant extremists from their fruitless tormenting labors, by bringing them to despair of the attainment of holiness in their corrupted sinful condition. They must seek it only in a new state by faith in Christ, where they may certainly find it, without such tormenting labor and anxiety of spirit. I will confirm the truth asserted in the instruction, and fortify it against the above mentioned false opinions by the following considerations.
The foundation of this statement is firmly laid in the instruction already explained, and confirmed by many places of Scripture. All powers and abilities that are necessary to enable us for a holy practice can be had ONLY in a state of union and fellowship with Christ by faith. This is not done by the natural power of free will, but by the power of Christ, coming into the soul by His Spirit, to unite us with Himself. You need to know that the attainment of true holiness by any of our most vigorous efforts, while we continue in our sinful corrupted condition, is completely hopeless. I need add no more, were it not to show more fully what abundance of light the Scripture affords to guide us rightly in this part of our way. Those who wander out of it by following any false light of their own, or other corrupted judgments, may find themselves the more inexcusable.
It is obvious that we cannot practice true holiness while we continue in a corrupted sinful condition, because we must be born again, or else we cannot enter into the kingdom of God. We are created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:10) If we could love God and our neighbor as the law requires, without a new birth and creation, we might live without them, for Christ has said, 'This do, and you shall live'. Now, a new birth and creation is more than a mere reforming and repairing of Our corrupted sinful condition. our new birth and creation are in Christ the spiritual Man. If any man is in Christ then he has received a new heart and nature. He is wholly a new creature; as it is written, old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Cor. 5:17)
It is positively stated by the apostle Paul that those that are in the flesh cannot please God. (Rom. 8:8) Many are too overly and negligent in considering the sense of this gospel phrase, what it is to be in the flesh. They just think it means to be sinful, or to be addicted excessively to their own pleasure. They should consider that the apostle speaks here of being in the flesh, as the cause of sinfulness; as the next verse speaks of being in the Spirit, as the cause of holiness; and, whatever cause it is, it must needs be different from its effect. Sin is a poverty of the flesh, or something that dwells in the flesh, and therefore it is not the flesh itself. The flesh is that which lusts against the Spirit, and therefore it is not merely sinful lusting. The true interpretation is that by flesh is meant the nature of man, as it is corrupted by our own sin. To be in the flesh is to be living in a corrupted sinful condition, as to be in the Spirit is to be in a new state, by the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us. The corrupted sinful condition is called the flesh, because it is received by carnal generation; and the new nature is called spirit, because it is received by spiritual regeneration. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:6). So the apostle, if he is rightly understood, has said enough to make us despair utterly of attaining true holiness while we continue in a natural state.
The apostle testifies that those that have been taught as the truth is in Jesus have learned to avoid their normal sinful conversation by putting off the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and by putting on the new man, which after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Eph. 4:21, 22, 24) Putting off the old man and putting on the new man is the same as not being in the flesh, but in the Spirit, in the foregoing testimony; that is, putting off our natural state and putting on a new state by union and fellowship with Christ. The apostle himself shows that by the new man is meant that excellent state where Christ is all, and in all. (Col. 3:11) Therefore, the phrase, the old man, means the corrupted sinful condition of man, in which he is without the saving enjoyment of Christ. This is called 'old', because of the new state to which believers are brought by their regeneration in Christ. This is a manner of expression peculiar to the gospel, as well as the former, and as slightly considered by those that think that the apostle's meaning is only that they should put off sinfulness and put on holiness in their way of life. They think that they can become new men by turning over a new leaf in their practice and leading a new life.
Let them learn here that the old and new man are two contrary natures or states, containing in them, not only sin and holiness, but all other things that dispose and incline us to the practice of them. The old man must be put off, as crucified with Christ, before we can be freed from the practice of sin. Therefore we cannot lead a new life until we have first got a new nature by faith in Christ. Let me add here that the meaning is the same where we are directed to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, as the means by which we may cast off the deeds of darkness and walk honestly, as in the daytime, not fulfilling the lusts of the flesh.
Our corrupted sinful condition has several properties that wholly disable us for the practice of holiness and enslave us to the practice of sin while we continue in it. Here I shall show that the old man, the flesh, or corrupted sinful condition, is not only sin itself for it contains in it several things, that make it to be sinful. I have shown that in Christ we have all abilities and powers necessary to frame us for godliness. While living in our fleshly state, we have all things contrary to that holy frame. One thing belonging to our corrupted sinful condition is the guilt of sin for all of our own actual transgressions. While living in our corrupted sinful condition we are by nature the children of wrath and under the curse of God. The benefit of remission of our sin and freedom from condemnation is given and offered to us only in Christ.
Another property, inseparable from the former, is an evil conscience, which denounces the wrath of God against us for sin, and inclines us to hate Him as our enemy, rather than to love Him, as has been shown; or, if it is a blind conscience, it hardens us the more in our sins.
A third property is an evil inclination, tending only to sin, which therefore is called 'sin that dwells in us', and 'the law of sin in our members', that powerfully controls and enslaves us to the service of sin (Rom. 7:20, 23). It is a fixed inclination, preference and bent of the heart to lust against the law without any thought. Therefore its lusting's are not to be prevented by any diligence or watchfulness. The mind of the flesh is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be. (Rom. 8:7) How vain then is it to plead that they can do good, if they will, when their minds and will itself are enslaved to sin?
A fourth property is subjection to the power of the devil who is the god of this world, that has blinded the minds of all that do not believe (2 Cor. 4:4), and will certainly conquer all whom he fights with on his own dunghill, that is, in a corrupted sinful condition. From all these properties, we may well conclude that our corrupted sinful condition does not have the ability to be good, for it is absolutely dead in sin. You can no more bring it to holiness, by any of the most forceful motives and efforts, than you can bring a dead carcass to life, by massaging and rubbing it. You can stir up no strength, or fortifying grace, in the natural man by such motives and efforts, because there is no strength in him to be stirred up. Though you do all that lies in you to the utmost, while you are in this flesh, you can do nothing but sin, for there is no good thing in you, as the apostle Paul shows by his own experience: 'I know, that in me (that is, in my flesh), no good thing dwells' (Rom. 7:18).
We have no good ground to trust on Christ to help us to will or to do that which is acceptable to Him while we continue in our corrupted sinful condition, or to imagine that freedom of will to holiness is restored to us by the merit of His death. Christ aimed at a higher end in His incarnation, death and resurrection, than restoring the decay and ruins of our corrupted sinful condition. He aimed to advance us to a new state, by union and fellowship with Himself, that we might live to God, not by the power of a natural free will, BUT BY THE POWER OF HIS SPIRIT LIVING AND ACTING IN US. We may conclude that our corrupted sinful condition is irrecoverable and desperate because Christ, the only Savior, did not aim at the recovery of it. It is neither holy nor happy, but subject to sin and to all miseries, as long as it remains. Our corrupted sinful condition was not revived and reformed by the death of Christ, but crucified together with Him, and therefore to be abolished and destroyed out of us by virtue of His death. It is like the part of a garment infected with the plague of leprosy, which was to be rent off as incurable, that the garment might be clean. If Christ is not in us, we are reprobates (2 Cor. 13:5), that is, we are in a state which God has rejected from partaking of His salvation; so that we are not to expect any assistance from God to make us holy in it, but rather to deliver us from it.
This does not at all dismiss or excuse those that are living in corrupted sinful condition from obligation to holiness of life, nor represent them excusable for their sins at the court of God's justice. God has made man upright, but they sought out many inventions. (Eccles. 7:29) Observe well the words of this text, and you will find that all they who have sought out many inventions, rather than upright walking, are comprehended in man that was at first made upright. We all have by choice made willful transgression and brought on ourselves the sentence of death. God has given every person some faith and light. GOD IS NEVER RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY PERSON REMAINING IN THEIR CORRUPTED SINFUL CONDITION.
Romans 12:3 "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith."
Those that consider their lack of strength and desire as an excuse for sin show that they were never truly humbled for their own great willful transgression and sin. Drunkenness does not excuse the mad actions of a drunkard, but rather enrages his sin. Our lack of strength consists not in a simple lack of executive power, but in the lack of a willing mind and heart to practice true holiness and righteousness. A person living in his corrupted sinful condition will naturally not love holiness, he does not even like it, but lusts against it, and hates the light. If men in a sinful condition had a hearty love and liking to true holiness, and a desire and made serious effort to practice it out of hearty love, and yet failed in the event, then they might, make an excuse (as some do for them now) that they were compelled or forced to sin. No one has the just cause to plead any such thing for their excuse, because no one attempts to practice true holiness out of hearty love to it, until the good work be begun in their souls. 'How abominable,' then, 'and filthy is man, that drinks iniquity as water?'(Job. 15:16), that cannot practice holiness, because he will not? This is their just condemnation, that they love darkness rather than light. They deserve to be partakers with the devils in torments, as they partake with them in evil lusts. Their inability to do good will no more excuse them than it excuses devils.
It is never wrong to preach the gospel to sinners to exhort them to true repentance and faith in Christ for their conversion and salvation. The design of this preaching is not to bring them to holiness in their corrupted sinful condition, but to raise them above it, and to present them perfect in Christ in the performance of those duties. Though they WILL NOT perform those duties while remaining in their corrupted sinful condition, yet the gospel is made effectual for their conversion and salvation by the power of the Holy Spirit, which accompanist the preaching of it. The Holy Spirit quickens those that are dead in sin, and to create them anew in Christ, by giving to them repentance to life and lively faith in Christ. The gospel comes to them, not only in word, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in such assurance that they receive it with joy of the Holy Spirit. (1 Thess. 1:5, 6) The gospel is the ministration of the Spirit, that giveth life (2 Cor. 3:6-8). It is 'mighty through God'. (2 Cor. 10:4) It does not depend at all upon the power of our free will to make it successful for our conversion, but it conveys into the soul that life and power whereby we receive and obey it. Christ can make those that are dead in sin to hear His voice and live. (John 5:25) Therefore He can speak to them by His gospel and command them to repent and believe with good success, as well as He could say to dead carcasses 'Lazarus come forth,' and to the sick of the palsy, 'Arise, take up thy bed and walk'.
Paul, while he was a zealous Pharisee, and some of the Jews in his time that were zealous of the law and had the instruction of the Holy Scriptures, attained as near to that true holiness as the heathen philosophers, or any others in their corrupted sinful condition could. Paul, after he was enlightened with the saving knowledge of Christ, judged himself the chief of sinners in his highest former attainments, though, in the judgement of others, he was blameless touching the righteousness which is in the law. He found it necessary to begin to live to God in a new way by faith in Christ, and to suffer the loss of all his former attainments, and to count them as dung that he might win Christ. (1 Tim. 1:15; Phil. 3:6-8)
None of the great multitude of Jews that followed after the law of righteousness did ever attain to it, while they sought it not by faith in Christ. What performances are greater in outward appearance, than for a man to give all his goods to the poor, and to give his body to be burnt? Yet the Scripture allows us to suppose that this may be done without true love, and therefore without any true holiness of the heart and life. Men living in a corrupted sinful condition may have strong conviction of the infinite power, wisdom, justice and goodness of God, and of the judgement to come, and the everlasting happiness of the godly and torments of the wicked. These convictions may stir them up, not only to make a high profession, and to utter rare sayings concerning God and godliness, but also to labor with great earnestness to avoid all known sin. They will attempt to conquer their lusts, to perform universal obedience to God in all known duties, and to serve Him with their lives to the utmost. They may even try to extract out of their hearts some kind of love to God and godliness, that, if possible, they may escape the terrible torments of hell and acquire everlasting happiness by their efforts. Yet all their love to God is but forced and artificial. They have no hearty liking to God or His service and they consider Him a hard Master. To them God's commandments are grievous, and they complain and worry inwardly at the burden of them. Were it not for fear of everlasting fire, they would have little regard for the enjoyment of God in heaven, and they would be glad if they might have the liberty to enjoy their lust without danger of damnation. The very best of those that are born only after the flesh, in Abraham's family, is but to be a child of the bondwoman.
Gal. 4:22-23 "For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a free woman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the free woman was by promise."
Many of these labor and work more in God's service than many of His dear children, yet God does not accept their service, because their best performances are slavish and without any childlike affections towards God. These men are not at all under obligation to the goodness of their natures for these counterfeit shows of holiness, or for the least abstaining from the grossest sins. If God should leave men fully to their own sinful corruptions, and to the power of Satan (as they deserve) all show of religion and morality would be quickly banished out of the world, and we should grow past feeling in wickedness, and like the cannibals, who are as good by nature as ourselves. God, that can restrain the burning of the fiery furnace without quenching it, and the flowing water without changing its nature, also restrains the working of natural corruption without crushing it. Through the greatness of His wisdom and power, He makes His enemies yield feigned obedience to Him, and to do many things good for the matter of them, though they can do nothing in a right holy manner. He has appointed several means to restrain our corruptions - as the law, terrors of conscience, terrible judgments, and rewards in this life, magistrates, human laws, labor for necessaries, as food and raiment. Those gospel means that are effectual for sanctification serve also for restraint of sin. God has gracious ends in this restraint of sin, that His church may be preserved and His gospel preached in the world; and that these sinful men may be in a better position to receive the instructions of the gospel. Many of these people may yet be converted. As vile and wicked as the world is, we have reason to praise and to magnify the free goodness of God that it is no worse.
Before I move on, I want to reemphasize and stress the fact that God gives each person some light, grace, mercy and grace. He has made full provision for anyone who will believe, to be free from their sinful corrupted condition through the gift of His son, Jesus Christ. Each person has opportunities to believe Him and His promises and actually receive Christ as a LIVING savior. The condition of this free gift is only take and have. The free offer of Christ makes it everyone's duty and privilege to receive Christ and His salvation as theirs.
Jer 26:2-3 "Thus saith the LORD; Stand in the court of the LORD's house, and speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD's house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word: If so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings."
It is clear that God can never be held responsible for any person who continues or remains living in their sinful corrupted condition by refusing to believe on Him. We are all commanded to believe God and place our confidence in Him. There is always enough light, grace and mercy available for each person to place his trust and confidence in Him. Each person has the responsibility to choose to believe or refuse to believe God and His Word. How can God ever be considered responsible for any person who chooses not to listen and refuses to place his trust and confidence in Him?
God has already made full provision for all of mankind to get out of their corrupted sinful condition. He has gone to great lengths to provide complete salvation for EVERYONE.
1 Tim. 2:4 "Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."
2 Peter 3:9 "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
Ezek. 33:11 "Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?"
God is NEVER responsible for any person not receiving the results of any promise. The bible has over 2000 promises and they all have conditions. God is NEVER responsible for any man not fulfilling the conditions or for any man not receiving the results of His promises. Just because God makes the promise available to man on certain conditions, does not mean that He is responsible if a person fails to fulfill the conditions or fails to receive the results. How can God be responsible for any man failing to receive His promise? How can God be responsible for any man failing to fulfill the conditions?
Salvation, holiness, life, and righteousness are offered to all of us by the gift of Jesus Christ. God has made the gift available to you NOW. The real question is, WILL YOU RECEIVE THIS GIFT OF JESUS CHRIST NOW?