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I will consider those passages of scripture which are by some supposed to contradict the doctrine we have been considering.
"If they sin against Thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not), and Thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near" (1 Kings 8:46), etc. On this passage, I remark:
1. That this sentiment in nearly the same language, is repeated in 2 Chron. 6:26, and in Eccl. 7:20, where the same original word in the same form is used.
2. These are the strongest passages I know of in the Old Testament, and the same remarks are applicable to the three.
3. I will quote, for the satisfaction of the reader, the note of Dr. Adam Clarke upon this passage, and also that of Barclay, the celebrated and highly spiritual author of "An Apology for the True Christian Divinity." And let me say, that they appear to me to be satisfactory answers to the objection founded upon these passages.
CLARKE: "If they sin against Thee." This must refer to some general defection from truth; to some species of false worship, idolatry, or corruption of the truth and ordinances of the Most High; as for it, they are here stated to be delivered into the hands of their enemies, and carried away captive, which was the general punishment of idolatry, and what is called, (verse 47), acting perversely and committing wickedness.
"If they sin against Thee, for there is no man that sinneth not." The second clause, as it is here translated, renders the supposition in the first clause, entirely nugatory; for, if there be no man that sinneth not, it is useless to say, if they sin; but this contradiction is taken away, by reference to the original ki yechetau lak, which should be translated, if they shall sin against Thee; or should they sin against Thee, ki ein adam asher lo yecheta; `for there is no man that may not sin;' that is, there is no man impeccable, none infallible; none that is not liable to transgress. This is the true meaning of the phrase in various parts of the Bible, and so our translators have understood the original, for even in the thirty-first verse of this chapter, they have translated yecheta, if a man trespass; which certainly implies he might or might not do it; and in this way they have translated the same word, if a soul sin, in Levit. 5:1, 6:2, 1 Sam. 2:25, 2 Chron. 4:22; and in several other places. The truth is, the Hebrew has no mood to express words in the permissive or optative way, but to express this sense it uses the future tense of the conjugation kal.
"This text has been a wonderful strong-hold for all who believe that there is no redemption from sin in this life; that no man can live without committing sin; and that we cannot be entirely freed from it till we die."
"1. The text speaks no such doctrine; it only speaks of the possibility of every man's sinning; and this must be true of a state of probation."
"2. There is not another text in the divine records that is more to the purpose than this."
"4. It is a dangerous and destructive doctrine, and should be blotted out of every Christian's creed. There are too many who are seeking to excuse their crimes by all means in their power; and we need not embody their excuses in a creed, to complete their deception, by stating that their sins are unavoidable."
BARCLAY: "Secondly, another objection is from two passages of scripture, much of one signification. The one is: `For there is no man that sinneth not' (1 Kings 8:46). The other is: `For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good and sinneth not' (Eccl. 7:20).
"1. These affirm nothing of a daily and continual sinning, so as never to be redeemed from it; but only that all have sinned, that there is none that doth not sin, though not always so as never to cease to sin; and in this lies the question. Yea, in that place of the Kings he speaks within two verses of the returning of such with all their souls and hearts, which implies a possibility of leaving off sin."
"2. There is a respect to be had to the seasons and dispensations; for if it should be granted that in Solomon's time there were none that sinned not, it will not follow that there are none such now, or that it is a thing not now attainable by the grace of God under the gospel."
"3. And lastly, this whole objection hangs upon a false interpretation; for the original Hebrew word may be read in the potential mood, thus, There is no man who may not sin, as well as in the indicative; so both the old Latin, Junius, and Tremellius, and Vatablus have it, and the same word is so used, `Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee' (Psalms 119:11), in the potential mood, and not in the indicative: which being more answerable to the universal scope of the scriptures, the testimony of the truth, and the sense of almost all interpreters, doubtless ought to be so understood, and the other interpretation rejected as spurious."
Whatever may be thought of the views of these authors, to me it is a plain and satisfactory answer to the objection founded upon these passages, that the objection might be strictly true under the Old Testament dispensation, and prove nothing in regard to the attainability of a state of entire sanctification under the New. What! Does the New Testament dispensation differ nothing from the Old in its advantages for the acquisition of holiness? If it be true, that no one under the comparatively dark dispensation of Judaism, attained a state of permanent sanctification, does that prove such a state is not attainable under the gospel? It is expressly stated in the Epistle to the Hebrews, that "the old covenant made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did" (Heb. 7:19). Under the old covenant, God expressly promised that he would make a new one with the house of Israel, in "writing the law in their hearts," and in "engraving it in their inward parts." And this new covenant was to be made with the house of Israel, under the Christian dispensation. What then do all such passages in the Old Testament prove, in relation to the privileges and holiness of Christians under the new dispensation?
Whether any of the Old Testament saints did so far receive the new covenant by way of anticipation, as to enter upon a state of permanent sanctification, it is not my present purpose to inquire. Nor will I inquire, whether, admitting that Solomon said in his day, that there was not a just man upon the earth that liveth and sinneth not, the same could with equal truth have been asserted of every generation under the Jewish dispensation. It is expressly asserted of Abraham, and multitudes of the Old Testament saints, that they "died in faith, not having received the promises" (Heb. 11:13). Now what can this mean? It cannot be, that they did not know the promises; for to them the promises were made. It cannot mean, that they did not receive Christ, for the Bible expressly asserts that they did that "Abraham rejoiced to see Christ's day" (John 8:56), that Moses, and indeed all the Old Testament saints, had so much knowledge of Christ as a Savior to be revealed, as to bring them into a state of salvation. But still they did not receive the promise of the Spirit, as it is poured out under the Christian dispensation. This was the great thing all along promised, first to Abraham, or to his seed, which is Christ. "That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ" (Gal. 3:14, 16), and afterwards to the Christian church, by all the prophets. "But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days (saith God), I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; and on My servants, and on My handmaidens, I will pour out in those days of My Spirit; and they shall prophesy; and I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come; and it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2:16-21), "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call" (Acts 2:38, 39). "Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel, and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days."Unto you first, God having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turing away every one of you from his iniquities" (Acts 3:24, 26), and lastly, by Christ Himself, which He expressly styles "the promise" of the Father. "And being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of Me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence" (Acts 1:4, 5). They did not receive the light and the glory of the Christian dispensation, nor the fullness of the Holy Spirit. And it is asserted in the Bible, "they without us," that is, without our privileges, "could not be made perfect."