Letter to the Presbytery of Newark


3. I cannot regard your admonition because those Scriptures on which you rely as testimony that no Christian ever does so “abide in Christ as to sin not,” seem to me to have no bearing that way. LPN 1.76

Take, for example, the single passage quoted in the report of your committee, and adopted by you as ample proof of the correctness of your views. LPN 1.77

“There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Let us apply this to the experience of Paul. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). What arrogant, presumptuous language has Paul here used! He must have been puffed up with spiritual pride! Did he not know that the Bible expressly declares “There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not?” How dare he say, “I have fought a good fight?” LPN 1.78

But suppose Paul were allowed to step forth in his own defense, and taking the ground ascribed to him by those who regard the doctrine of entire sanctification by a faith in Christ as “an important and dangerous error,” should begin to say, “I acknowledge that there is much sin in my heart, and that my best actions are defiled with it, but still I think I have had some love of God, some desire to glorify Him by doing His will, some readiness to spend and be spent in His service, and that I have in some things sincerely labored for the advancement of His cause.” We may come forward still and say, Paul, you are certainly mistaken; you think of yourself more highly than you ought to think; for it is a positive undeniable declaration of God’s own Word that” There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not,” and, therefore, Paul, your assumption that there is any good thing in you is forever silenced. LPN 1.79

Your text, therefore, brethren, stands just as entirely and fully opposed to your views of truth as to mine; and in my apprehension has nothing to do either with the one or the other. The truth is this. There is a large class of Scripture texts which are designed to set forth the truth, that by nature and by practice until regeneration, all mankind are “evil, only evil, and that continually” (Genesis 6:5). But “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, and all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The character of such a one is precisely what it was not before; and those passages of Scripture which described his character before, cannot describe it now. LPN 1.80

Consequently we find that the Scriptures used to describe the two characters, stand in direct opposition to each other. Accordingly, while it is said that “There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20), it is also said, that those who “were sometime alienated and enemies in their minds by wicked works” (Colossians 1:21)-shall be presented “holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight, if they continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel” (Colossians 1:22-23), that in fulfillment of the oath of God through Christ, their horn of salvation, it shall be “granted them, that they being delivered out of the hand of their enemies might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of their lives” (Luke 1:74-75); that those who “abide in Christ sin not” (1 John 3:6), and that “He who hath called them is faithful to sanctify them wholly, and to preserve them wholly, and to preserve their whole spirit, and soul and body, blameless, unto the coming of Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). LPN 1.81

“All the promises of God pledging their sanctification, are yea, and Amen in Christ, unto the glory of God by them” (2 Corinthians 1:20), and when they believe in Christ for the fulfillment of these promises they cannot fail. Most clearly therefore, to my mind, these passages of Scripture which are relied on to prove that God’s people never will be “presented perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:28), while they live, are designed to set forth the characters of the unrenewed, and not the characters of such as are “in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:1), and who are therefore “NEW CREATURES, OLD THINGS HAVING PASSED AWAY, AND ALL THINGS BECOME NEW” (2 Corinthians 5:17). In the nature of the case, what is true of the one class, cannot be true of the other, for they are designedly set forth in the Bible as perfect opposites. LPN 1.82

But again. Suppose we admit, that among the saints of the Old Testament not a man lived without sin; although it was said of Isaiah, after he had made confession of his uncleanness, and his lips had been touched with a live coal from the altar of God, “Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged” (Isaiah 6:7). But admit that the Old Testament saints were at all times defiled with the guilt of actual transgressions, is there no privilege granted to God’s people now, that was not afforded to the early saints? LPN 1.83

“Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you. Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:8-12). LPN 1.84

What is this end of faith, even the salvation of the soul? Of which salvation the prophets inquired and searched diligently? What is this grace of which they prophesied, coming unto the saints scattered abroad, to whom Peter wrote? What was the glory that was to follow the sufferings of Christ? What were the things which the prophets ministered, not unto themselves, but to those to whom the gospel was afterwards preached by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven? What did Christ mean when He said, “This is My blood of the New Testament” (Matthew 26:28)? What did Paul mean by that new and better covenant of which Christ was the mediator and surety? And what did Christ mean when He said, “He that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John the Baptist, than whom there had never been, up to his day, a greater prophet” (Luke 7:28)? And what did Zacharias mean, when he said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation, to perform the mercy promised unto the fathers, the covenant, the oath which He sware” (Luke 1:68, 69, 72, 73)? What is all this but the blessing of the new covenant spoken of by Jeremiah, and repeatedly spoken of by Paul to the Hebrews: LPN 1.85

“I will, (since they brake My old covenant), make a new covenant,” “I will put My laws into their hearts and in their minds will I write them” (Hebrews 10:16), “I will (and with an oath the mighty God hath said it) grant unto you that ye being delivered out of the hand of your enemies may serve Me without fear, in holiness and righteousness before me all the days of your life” (Luke 1:73-75). This, then, is the peculiar covenant privilege of New Testament saints-SALVATION FROM THEIR SINS. LPN 1.86

This explains all the Scriptures which I have quoted, and therefore whatever might have been true of Old Testament saints, it is now the peculiar privilege of God’s people to be redeemed from all iniquity, and for this they have only to believe in the Mediator of this new covenant, for this is God’s covenant with them, when He shall take away their sins. It is, therefore, the privilege of the new covenant that I am to hold up before the people of God, and urge to the full enjoyment of it; and thus seek, like the apostles, to obtain “sufficiency of God to be an able minister of the New Testament, not of the letter that killeth, but the spirit that giveth life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). LPN 1.87

Your application of Old Testament declarations of the universal sinfulness of men, therefore, to show the privileges of New Testament believers, is, in my view, a great mistake, and shows you to be still ministers of the Old Testament, instead of being, as you should be, “able ministers of the New Testament.” For this reason, then, I cannot heed your admonition. I wish to be a minister of the New Testament, not of the Old. LPN 1.88