« Prev Chapter 3. Love Triumphant Over Original Sin Next »



The spirit of sin, or inbred sin, technically called original sin, because it is inherited from Adam, is the state of heart out of which acts of sin either actually flow or tend to flow. Until this state is changed, the conquest of love over the soul is incomplete. Regeneration introduces a power which checks the out breaking of original into actual sin, except occasional and almost involuntary sallies in moments of weakness or unwatchfulness. These are a source of grief and condemnation to the Justified soul. They are a humiliating, yet only temporary defeat. For there is with all well instructed believers a resort to the blood of sprinkling, and a pleading of the promise, "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." We do not say that all justified persons experience these defeats. All may, and some doubtless do, live without condemnation from the glad moment of pardon; yet the testimony of the Church shows that these are rare exceptions. The majority, in the struggle with inbred sin, are not always victorious. What is the difference then, between sin in a sinner, and sin in a believer? The same difference that there is between poison in a rattlesnake and the virus of that serpent injected into a healthy man. The venom is natural to the reptile. He delights in it, secretes and cherishes it with pleasure. But all the vital forces of the man resist the injected poison, and rally to thrust it out of the system. We have shown elsewhere that the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans was not designed by St. Paul as an ideal of the regenerate life, even in its lowest stages. But so true is the doctrine of sin in believers-inbred sin-sometimes breaking out against the enfeebled will, that a whole section of the Christian world have mistaken the struggles of an awakened legalist seeking Justification by good works, and failing through the ascendancy of depraved inclination, for the portrait of the Christian in his best estate in this life. This photograph of a Christless, convicted Jew, has, alas! been set before myriads of Christians as the masterpiece of that Jesus who came to save his people from their sins, the best specimen of his art as a Divine limner even when aided by the great transformer, the Holy Spirit.

This class of Christians do not need arguments to convince them of the possible existence of sin in believers. It is difficult for them to believe that they may live on the earth after sin is all destroyed. Since nature abhors a vacuum in the spiritual as in the physical world, the complete and permanent annihilation of sin as a state of heart must be attended by the infusion of perfect love, by which we mean love in a degree commensurate with the utmost capacity of the soul. Hence the coup de grace, the deathblow which ends the war of love against sin, is a negative and limited work, to be followed by a work positive and unlimited. The first Is the removal of all impurity, whether inherent or acquired; the second is being "filled with al1 the fullness of God." It is the adorning of the soul with all the fruit of the Spirit-love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, fidelity, patience, and temperance. Since there are some who believe that the negative work, and destruction of the very spirit of sin, or proclivity toward sin, takes place when the soul is born again, we will briefly present our objections to this doctrine.

1. It is contrary to universal Christian experience. In all ages and in all Christian lands, always and everywhere, resounds the wail of truly regenerate souls over the antagonisms of Divine love discovered in them under the illumination of the Holy Spirit. In passing from death unto life they have passed into a conflict not only with the world and Satan, but also with the flesh-the perverse tendencies of their own natures. Now one of three things must be true. Either these have all made a mistake in calling themselves regenerate, or they have all backslidden from a regenerate state, or they are truly regenerate while struggling with the remains of the carnal mind. To insist that the first is true is to assert the delusion of the whole body of believers in respect to the most vital point-sonship to God. To assume the second supposition is to declare the apostasy of the Church in each of its members very soon after conversion an-appalling hypothesis. The third alternative saves the Church from the theories of delusion and of apostasy, and is in perfect harmony with universal testimony.

2. It contradicts the creed of all the orthodox branches of the Church universal from primitive Christianity to the present day. The Greek and the Roman, the Anglican, and every reformed Church of Europe and America, agree that there is an infection of nature remaining in them that are regenerated. Augustine and Calvin are not stronger in their assertion of this fact than are Arminius and Wesley. ("The moment a sinner is justified, his heart is cleansed in a low degree; but yet he has not a clean heart in the full, proper sense, till he is made perfect in love." -John Wesley) It is no small presumption in favor of the truth of a doctrine, that it has remained unquestioned through all the fierce battles of polemical theologians, and all the reforms of the Church, and all the restatements of Christian truth. Fragmentary sects may for a time dissent from the orthodox opinion, and either pass away or return again to the common faith, as did Count Zinzendorf and his Moravian followers in London, in the last century. For a time, these excellent people taught the entire sanctification of the soul in the moment of the new birth. But so contradictory was this view to their own experience, and so destructive of confidence in Christ on the part of weak believers, that it was at length abandoned.

So strongly have believers since the Apostolic age been impressed with the imperfect cure of the soul in regeneration, that many have believed that the entire healing must be deferred either till death, or purgatorial fires shall complete the purification.

3. It is unphilosophical. The deeper the stain the greater must be the power of the chemicals applied to remove it. The blood of Christ is the cleansing power. The degree of efficacy is proportional to the faith of the individual. No faith, no purification; perfect trust, complete cleansing. Is it reasonable that this perfect trust should be exercised by an awakened sinner in his first apprehension of Jesus Christ? Is it philosophical to assert that one filled with doubts, and weakened and appalled by the terrors of the Lord thundering from Mount Sinai, will then put forth his highest act of faith? We aver that it is far more reasonable to suppose that the highest capacity of faith is attained after much exercise. If the confidence of man in man is a plant of slow growth, it is natural that the highest confldence of man in God should require time for its maturity. It is certainly not unreasonable that there should be two distinct operations of the Holy Spirit to neutralize the sin in our nature, which has a twofold source-the soul's own sinful acts, and the sin of Adam injecting a stream of corruption into humanity.

The most modern statement and defense of this erroneous doctrine is found in the "Moral Philosophy" of Dr. Fairchild, President of Oberlin College. In his chapter on the "Unity or Simplicity of Moral Actian," he elaborates an argument to prove that virtue, wherever it exists, is entire and complete, with no mixture of impurity; and that there is room only for its more firm establishment, persistency, and fortification by habit. He answers the testimony of multitudes of immature Christians to the consciousness of a mixed state of sin and holiness, by asserting that

« Prev Chapter 3. Love Triumphant Over Original Sin Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |