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“ in the exercise of their own unaided powers.” Again he says, “ Now I suppose that all such commands are based upon the provisions of divine grace. The sinner is not required to make himself clean, in the exercise of bis unaided powers." And again, “ Herein” (i. e. in the grace of Christ) - lies the ability of the creature to obey the commands of God." And again, 66 The sinner is able to make to bimself a new heart and a new spirit, because, he can instantly avail himself of proffered grace." This is not the place to discuss the true nature of ability.* But, to argue the point we are considering, on Mr. Mahan's own principles :-If all sinners, in the exercise of their constitutional powers, can instantly avail themselves of proffered grace, then is it in the highest sense practicable for them all to become holy. But do they all thus avail themselves? We are then prepared to appreciate the obligation, under which Mr. Mahan affirms the advocates of the common theory are sacredly bound, " to take the ground that the state under consideration is not attainable.” We are prepared also to put back to him, the question he asks immediately before, “ What conceivable meaning do such persons attach to the terms attainable and practicable, when so used ?”
With these observations it is submitted, whether Mr. Mahan has fairly stated the opinions of his brethren who differ from him.
The other fact remaining to be noticed, is, that while our author insists so much on the belief of the doctrine of the actual attainment of perfect holiness, as essential to higher devotedness,t the latter, in his own experience, stands entirely disconnected from such a belief. (See pp. 224 to the end of the book.] He came to Oberlin with his mind pressed down with the inquiry, What is the grand secret of holy living? In the fall of 1836, there was a series of religious meetings, and many professors of religion gave up their hopes, and appeared as inquirers. He was now pressed with more anxiety than ever before. In this state of mind, he called at the study of one of his associates, and disclosed the burden which had weigbed down his mind for so many years. The conversation turned on the passage, “ The love of Christ constraineth us," etc.
* See a most able discussion of this subject in Dr. Skinner's Aids to Preaching, etc. Sec. 6, 7.
f One out of numerous instances of this is on p. 123. “ The grand mistake into which the great mass of Christians appear to have fallen, in respect to the gospel of Christ, is this :-Expecting to obtain justi. fication, and not, at the same time, and to the same extent, sanctification by faith in Christ. The consequence of this mistake is what might be expected. The great mass of the church are slumbering in Antinomian death ; or struggling in legal bondage." It will be seen also that Mr. Mahan here discards the idea of progressive deliverance froin sin. It is the sentiment of his book that sorne will actually attain to both sanctification and justification, entire and together.
“ While thus employed,” says Mr. Mahan, “my heart leaped up in ecstasy indescribable, with the exclamation, I have found it. Immediately after this, I came before the church and disclosed to them what I then saw to be the grand defect in my ministry. Christ had been but as one chapter in my system of theology, when he should have been the sun and centre of the system. When I thought of my guilt and need of justification, I had looked to Christ, as I ought to have done. For sanctification, on the other hand, I had depended mainly upon my resolutions. Here was the grand mistake and the source of all my bondage under sin, The discovery of it was to my mind as life from the dead. The disclosure of this path had the same effect upon others, who had been, like myself, weary, tost with tempest and not comforted. As my supreme attention was thus fixed upon Christ, an era occurred in my experience, which I have no doubt will ever be one of the most memorable in my entire past existence. In a moment of deep and solemn thought, the veil seemed to be lifted, and I had a vision of the infinite glory and love of Christ, as manifested in the mysteries of redemption. My heart melted and flowed out like water. The heart of stone was taken away, and a heart of love and tenderness assumed its place. From that time, I have literally esteemed all things but loss for the excel. lency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, and the knowledge of Christ has been eternal life begun in my heart.”
The experience of Mr. Mahan, so far as relates to new and brighter discoveries of Christ has been that of very many, who have thenceforward (with no expectation, however, of attaining to perfect and permanent holiness in the present life) gone onward, and whose path has been “as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Said Cecil, (Remains p. 69,) “I remember the time, even after I became really serious in religion, when I could not understand what Paul meant, not by setting forth the glory of Christ, but by talking of it in such hyperbolical terms, and, always dwelling on the subject. But I now understand why he did so, and wonder no more; for there is no other subject worthy our thoughts, and therefore it is
that advanced Christians dwell on little else. I am persuaded that the whole world becomes vain and empty to a man, in proportion as he enters into living views of Jesus Christ.”
In the experience of Dr. Griffin, also, about eight years after he began to preach, a very remarkable era occurred, in which his views and feelings became greatly changed in regard to Christ. See Memoirs, pp. 63-81. While holding sweet converse with Mr. Richards, (now Dr. Richards of Auburn, the latter stated that a distressing conflict in his own mind was made to subside by a transporting contemplation of Heb. 7: 26—“For such a High Priest became us,” etc. "As soon as these words were mentioned,” says Dr. Griffin, “ they appeared transparent, and to contain within them all I wanted, if I could only break the glass, and get at the treasure.” The next day, he writes thus in his diary : “My heart has been moved and delighted with a sense of the priesthood of Christ. There is much more reality in it than I have hitherto discovered ;-a reality which I am now convinced that neither flesh and blood, nor any reasonings can reveal. I am resolved to attend more to the epistle to the Hebrews, and not be confined to artificial and systematic views of my own. "This," he adds, “ has been my great mistake." On the same day, he addressed a congregation after another brother had preached ; and “ although,” says he, “I took no pains to speak, and was only struggling in vain to get out the sense of these things which was in my mind, the people were melted under the discourse.” On another occasion, he preached when some ministers were present; and such was the power with which he spoke, that they felt they never had any religion themselves. So different indeed were his own views that he almost concluded he had himself never experienced the new birth before.
Now if Mr. Mahan had made his experience thus far, the guide to his instructions on the subject of christian holiness ; if he had urged his brethren far and near to know and preach more of Christ; if he had sent a book, of which this was the leading feature, into the hands of ministers and the churches, he would have performed a needed work, nor labored in vain, There can be no true holiness but that wbich consists of the spirit of Christ. Nor can that be attained except so far as it comes by “ beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord,” and except so far as we “ are changed into the same image from glory to glory.” Says Dr. Griffin, “ It is the cross of Christ,
seen and felt, that must crucify sin.” And he adds, “ I clearly perceive that if this principle should become strong enough, it would drive all sin from my heart, and make me holy as God is holy.” That we do not make enough of Christ in our ministrations, nor study him as we ought in our closets; that the great truth“ Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God,"
"Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption,”-has not held its due rank among the churches, none will attempt to deny. May the day be hastened when Christians, with one heart and voice, shall unite even here on earth, to “ crown him Lord.
But let us return to our author, and hear his experience still further. “Now when the Lord Jesus Christ was thus held up among us by myself and others, a brother in the ministry arose in one of our meetings, and remarked that there was one question to which he desired that a definite answer might be given. It is this: May we look to Christ to be sanctified wholly or not? “I do not recollect,” says Mr. Mahan," that I was ever so shocked and confounded at any question before or since. I felt for the moment that the work of Christ among us would be marred, and the mass of minds around us rush into Perfectionism." With this question yet unsettled, Messrs. Mahan and Finney came to New York, and after prayerful study of the Bible during most of the winter, they decided it in the affirmative. "And since then," adds he, “ we have never ceased to proclaim it, nor do we expect to cease proclaiming it, till Christ shall call us home.”.
Here then we pause, and ask: Why does Mr. Mahan strive so earnestly to inculcate on the church the doctrine of permanent perfection in holiness in the present life, when, according to his own experience, his belief in that doctrine was subsequent to his new views and feelings, and to the new power and success which had begun to attend his ministry? Why does he so vehemently rebuke the church for not believing a doctrine which, on his own showing, had nothing to do with his first and great discovery of “the highway of holiness ?” Why insist so much on the doctrine of the actual attainment of perfect and permanent holiness in the present life, when the brightest discoveries of the beauty and glory of Christ he has ever had in his life, up to the time of writing his book, and two years after adopting his present notions, were during the period in which he did not believe in any such doctrine and was shocked and confounded at the bare mention of it? Why, under such circumstances, if he wished“ to throw light on the way of holiness," did he write a book on“ Christian Perfection ?" An answer may be found, perhaps, in the words of Cecil : “ Man is a creature of estremes. The middle path is generally the wise path ; but there are few wise enough to find it."*
From the experience of our author, let us turn now to his arguments. These are presented in the second discourse of the series—the first discourse being introductory, on the nature of christian perfection. He states the question, as we have already remarked, to be the attainableness of christian perfection. We admit that this point is fully proved. But in admitting it, we do not assent to the soundness of every argument, nor to the doctrine that a permanent state of perfection in holiness is ever reached in the present life. But as this doctrine is the real point in discussion, we shall consider each of his arguments with reference to the question, Is a permanent state of perfect holiness ever attained in the present life? To this point he has occasionally argued, while the impression calculated to be made on common readers of his book, is, that he is maintaining it in every argument he has brought forward.
His first argument is, that “ the Bible positively affirms that provision is made in the gospel for the attainment of perfect holiness in the present life, and that to make such provision is one of the great objects of Christ's redemption.” This proves dothing in respect to the real question at issue, unless it be contended that the object of the Saviour's coming being, as Mr. Mahan states, to raise Christians to a state of perfect and perpetual holiness in this life, that object has failed of be
* The distinguished men, between whose experience and his own there is in some respects a great reseinblance, rejected any supposition of the actual attainment of perfect holiness in this life, with abhorrence. Dr. Griffin, of whom his biographer justly remarks, that “the history of his life seems little less than the history of one unbroken revival; and it would be difficult to name the individual in our country since the days of Whitefield, who has been instrumental of an equal number of hopeful conversions," -he could say, even while bis Saviour was pouring a flood of light and love into his soul, “ All the time, though happy, affected, and wondering, I was sensible that I had only a faint glimpse of the glories of God and Christ, and felt guilty that I saw no more.” And yet again, “The more guilty I feel, the happier I am."