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As an additional witness to the same point, we quote from a small work on Holiness, by Professor Cowles, of the Oberlin Institute, who sympathizes with President Mahan in his views upon this subject. Professor Cowles lays it down as one of his starting-points, that “the standard of piety, throughout the American Church,” (meaning the Orthodox portion of it,) “is extremely low, and that the spirit of the world has deeply pervaded and exceedingly engrossed the church.” And this is said, not in the tone in which many Orthodox writers and journals are in the practice of lamenting the want of revivals and the absence of the Holy Spirit. For Professor Cowles assigns the prevalence of revivals as one of the causes of the state of things of which he is speaking. He says:
“The present century has been gloriously distinguished as one of benevolent and revival action. The dazzling splendor of these movements and the bustling scenes of this labor have drawn many Christians away from deep communion with their own hearts, and with the Spirit of God. In this respect none
can doubt that piety has assumed a new type since the days of - our fathers. There is more of external action and doing, –
but far less of heart-watchfulness, the subduing of sin, and holy communion with the Spirit. Is it strange that under such influences, the standard of holiness should be depressed? The bustle of this action is now passing by. In respect to revivals, at least, we have reason to fear a reaction, the result of excited and spasmodic effort, which springs not chiefly from pure devotion and divine influence. Plainly, there is no remedy but for the church to come back to the first elements of piety. She must return to God and holy communion. The standard of piety must be raised. What can the church do for the conversion of the world, for her own existence even, without personal holiness, much, deep, pure, personal holiness ? ” — p. 3.
These extracts from President Mahan and Professor Cowles serve to confirm the views we have already advanced in regard to the spiritual condition of the Orthodox portion of the American Church, and of the tendency of this state of things to produce precisely the manifestation of which they, together with some others, have become the exponents. We are aware that it may be said, that these men, differing from the great body of Christians of whom they are speaking, feel bound to make out a case ; and that their testimony is not, on that account, worthy of implicit confidence. But we remember that in a review from an Ortho
dox source, intended to check the spread of President Mahan's doctrines, it was admitted, that while the Orthodox clergy, generally, held to the importance of a holy life, as fully as Dr. Mahan himself, yet, from the peculiar aspects of the times and the peculiar state of the controversies, they had not dwelt upon this point, and urged it home upon the attention of their hearers, as much as would perhaps have been desirable.
At length the state of things, of which we have spoken, was followed by its natural consequences. Dr. Mahan and others, aroused by the want of true spiritual life everywhere around them, came forward with the doctrine, that men ought, and that, through God's grace assisting them, they could with proper effort attain to perfection of Christian character, in other words, to a life of holiness on earth. From the use of the term, perfection, this class of Christians are called Perfectionists. But they are to be carefully distinguished from another class bearing the same name, sometimes called, by way of distinction, “ Antinomian Per- fectionists." The application of the term Perfectionist to Dr. Mahan and those who sympathize with him in sentiment, has excited great prejudice against them, not only among the Orthodox churches, but in the community generally. It may not be without its use, therefore, to point out somewhat distinctly the peculiar views of this class of Christians, and to shew wherein they differ from the “ An- tinomian Perfectionists."
What then do this class of Christians mean by perfection in holiness ? Dr. Mahan, in answering this question, says:
“I would remark, that perfection in holiness implies a full , and perfect discharge of our entire duty, of all existing obligations in respect to God and all other beings. It is perfect obedience to the moral law. It is 'loving the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.' *** In the Christian, perfection in holiness implies the consecration of his whole being to Christ, - the subjection of all his powers and susceptibilities to the control of one principle —' faith on the Son of God.' *** Were the Christian in that state in which he should 'eat and drink, and do all that he does for the glory of God,' — in which his eye should be perfectly single to this one object; or in which the action of all his powers should be controlled by faith, which works by love, he would then, I suppose, have attained to a state
of entire sanctification, - his character would be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." - pp. 7, 8.
Still further, and more particularly, the same author says:
“It will readily be perceived, that perfect holiness, as above described, does not imply perfect wisdom, the exclusive attribute of God. The Scriptures, speaking of the human nature of Christ, affirm, that he increased in wisdom. This surely does not imply that his holiness was less perfect at one time than at another. So of the Christian. His holiness may be perfect in kind, but finite in degree, and in this sense imperfect; because his wisdom and knowledge are limited, and in this sense imperfect. Holiness, in a creature, may also be perfect, and yet progressive - progressive, not in its nature, but in degree. To be perfect, it must be progressive in the sense last mentioned, if the powers of the subject are progressive. He is perfect in holiness, whose love at each successive moment corresponds with the extent of his powers. If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.' Hence I remark, that perfection in holiness does not imply, that we now love God with all the strength and intensity with which redeemed spirits in heaven love him. The depth and intensity of our love depend, under all circumstances, upon the vigor and reach of our powers, and the extent and distinctness of our vision of divine truth.” — pp. 8, 9.
“That we be in a perfectly sanctified state in regard to our - wills, implies, that *** every choice, every preference, and
every volition be controlled by a filial regard to the divine requisitions. * * * That we be preserved blameless' in regard to our intellect, does not imply that we never think of what is evil. If this were so, Christ was not blameless, because he thought of the temptations of Satan. Nor could the Christian repel what is evil, as he is required to do. To repel evil, the evil itself must be before the mind, as an object of thought. To be blameless in respect to the action of our intellectual powers, does imply, 1. that every thought of evil be instantly suppressed and repelled ; 2. that they be constantly employed on the inquiry, what is truth and the will of God, and by what means we may best meet the elements of the great law of love; 3. that they be employed in the perpetual contemplation of 'whatsoever things are true,' etc. That our feelings and mental susceptibilities be preserved blameless, does not imply, that they are, at all times and circumstances, in the same intensity of excitement, or in the same identical state. This the powers and laws of our being forbid. *** That our feelings and mental susceptibilities be in a blameless state, does imply, 1. that they be held in perfect and perpetual subjection to the will of God; 2. that they be in perfect and
Perfection in Holiness.
perpetual harmony with the truth and will of God as apprehended by the intellect. *** That our bodies be preserved blameless, does not, of course, imply that they are free from fatigue, disease, or death. Nor does it imply that no desire be excited through our physical propensities, which, under existing circumstances, it would be unlawful to indulge. * * * That we be preserved in a sanctified and blameless state in respect to our bodies, does imply, 1. that we endeavor to acquaint ourselves with all the laws of our physical constitution ; 2. that in regard to food, drink, and dress, and in regard to the indulgence of all our appetites and physical propensities, there be a sacred and undeviating conformity to these laws; 3. that every unlawful desire be instantly suppressed, and that all our propensities be held in perfect subjection to the will of God; 4. that our bodies, with all our physical powers and propensities, be presented to God as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable,' to be employed in his service. Such is Christian perfection. It is the consecration of the whole being to Christ, and the perpetual employment of all our powers in his service. It is the perfect assimilation of our entire character to that of Christ, having at all times, and under all circumstances, the same mind that was also in Christ Jesus.'” — pp. 10– 13.
Perfection in holiness, then, according to this class of Christians, if we understand them aright, is based upon undoubting faith, and perfect love ; and has its seat in the voluntary purposes of the life. It consists in the entireness of the consecration of the heart, the completeness of the devotion of purpose to the service of God, and the good of man. There is no cherished love of sin, no willing consent to it, no voluntary indulgence in it, believing it to be sin. And yet, in connection with this entireness of consecration, a man may, through ignorance, pursue wrong courses of conduct, not knowing, at the time, that they are wrong. But he will turn from them, as soon as his mind is enlightened in regard to their true character. And so too, he may be overpowered by some sudden impulse of appetite, passion or propensity, excited by powerful temptations from without. But as soon as he recovers himself, he will turn from his unholy indulgence, with much self-loathing, in the exercise of true godly sorrow, of sincere and heartfelt repentance. His devotion of purpose will be seen, in his conscientious endeavor to perform aright, in a Christian manner, and under the influence of Christian motives and feelings, all the various duties growing out of his circum
stances, conditions and relations in life. Under the influence of this purpose, he will regard the moral precepts of the Gospel as the standard, to which he will seek to have all his feelings, wishes and actions conform. And he will study the Bible, as he would any other book, to ascertain its instructions. In other words, he will conscientiously and perseveringly, without halting in his course or wavering in his purpose, seek to lead a Christ-like life, in all its entire consecration to the will of the Father, and in all its self-sacrificing devotion to the good of man; to have “Christ formed within him," to know, by happy experience, the “ Christ of consciousness.” In intimate connection with this earnest endeavor, there will be a consciousness of liability to error and sin, and a deep sense of the need of spiritual assistance from above, leading the individual to God in frequent prayer and holy communion.
We have alluded to another class of religionists, bearing the same name with that we have been noticing, but who are sometimes called, by way of distinction, “ Antinomian Perfectionists.” As there seems to be a wide difference of opinion between the two classes, it is important to show, in this connection, wherein they differ. This we shall do in the words of President Mahan. He says:
“This doctrine," (the doctrine of holiness of which he is treating) " it is said, is, or in its legitimate tendencies leads to, Perfectionism. If any individual will point out anything intrinsic, in the doctrine here maintained, at all allied to that error, I, for one, will be among the first to abandon the position which I am now endeavoring to sustain. Perfectionism, technically so called, is, in my judgment, in the native and necessary tendencies of its principles, worse than the worst form of infidelity. The doctrine of holiness, in all its essential features and elements, stands in direct opposition to Perfectionism. It has absolutely nothing in common with it, but a few terms derived from the Bible. 1. Perfectionism, for example, in its fundamental principles, is the abrogation of all law. The doctrine of holiness, is perfect obedience to the precepts of the law. It is the righteousness of the law fulfilled in us.' 2. In abrogating the moral law, as a rule of duty, Perfectionism abrogates all obligation of every kind, and to all beings. The doctrine of holiness, contemplates the Christian as a 'debtor to all men,' to the full extent of his capacities, and consists in a perfect discharge of all these obligations — of every obligation to God and man. 3. Perfectionism is a 'rest' which suspends all effort and prayer