A Catechism and Confession of Faith/Chapter 7
Concerning Perfection, or Freedom from SIN.
Question. I perceive then by all these Scriptures afore-mentioned, that Christ, as well as he hath purchased Pardon for our Sins, hath also obtained Power by which we may even here be cleansed from the Filth of them: may we expect then in this Life to be freed from the Dominion of Sin?
A. For Sin shall not have Dominion over you [Rom. 6:14].
Q. For what Reason?
A. For ye are not under the Law, but under Grace [Rom. 6:14].
Q. How cometh the Apostle then to cry out and complain of Sin, saying, Who shall deliver me from the Body of this Death? Doth he speak that as a Condition always permanent to him and other Saints, or only that which he had passed through? What saith he afterwards?
A. There is therefore now no Condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the Flesh, but after the Spirit; for the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus, hath made me free from the Law of Sin and Death. Who shall separate us from the Love of Christ? Shall Tribulation, or Distress or Persecution, or Famine, or Nakedness, or Peril, or Sword? (as it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the Day long, we are accounted as Sheep for the Slaughter) Nay, in all these things we are more than Conquerors through him that loved us. For I am perswaded that neither Death nor Life, nor Angels, nor Principalities, nor Powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor Height, nor Depth, nor any other Creature shall be able to separate us from the Love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord [Rom. 8:1-2,35-39].
Q. What saith that Apostle then unto such, who taking Occasion from his words, should plead for Continuance in Sin for term of Life, and think to be saved by the imputative Righteousness of Christ, as being under Grace?
A. What shall we say then? shall we continue in Sin that Grace may abound? God forbid [Rom. 6:1-2].
What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the Law, but under Grace? God forbid [Rom. 6:15].
Q. Is not the Apostle then so far from supposing that Condition, of being always under Sin, to be his own constant Condition, or that of all the Saints, that he even supposes many of the then Church of Rome, to whom he wrote, to be free of it; How bespeaketh he them as in relation to this matter?
A. How shall we that are Dead to Sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his Death; therefore we are Buried with him by Baptism into Death, that like as Christ was raised up from the Dead by the Glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in Newness of Life: For if we have been planted together in the Likeness of his Death, we shall be also in the Likeness of his Resurrection; knowing this, that our Old Man is crucified with him, that the Body of Sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve Sin; for he that is dead is free from Sin. Likewise reckon ye also your selves to be dead indeed unto Sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not Sin therefore reign in your mortal Body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof: Neither yield ye your Members as Instruments of Unrighteousness unto Sin; but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the Dead, and your Members as Instruments of Righteousness unto God. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield your selves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether of Sin unto Death, or of Obedience unto Righteousness: But, God be thanked, that ye were the Servants of Sin; but ye have Obeyed from the Heart that form of Doctrine which was delivered unto you; being then made free from Sin, ye became the Servants of Righteousness: I speak after the manner of men, because of the Infirmity of your Flesh; for as ye have yielded your Members Servants to Uncleanness and to Iniquity, unto Iniquity, even so now yield your Members Servants to Righteousness, unto Holiness; for when ye were the Servants of Sin, ye were free from Righteousness; What Fruit had ye then in these things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the End of these things is Death. But now, being made free from Sin, and become Servants to God, ye have your Fruit unto Holiness, and the End, Everlasting Life: For the Wages of Sin is Death; but the Gift of God is Eternal Life through Jesus Christ our Lord [Rom. 6:2-7,11-13,16-23].
Q. It would appear then that God requires of us to be Perfect?
A. Be ye therefore Perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is Perfect [Matt. 5:48].
Q. Is it then possible to keep the Commandments?
A. My Yoak is easie, and my Burden is light [Matt. 11:30].
For this is the Law of God, that we keep his Commandments, and his Commandments are not grievous [1 John 5:3].
Q. Is it necessary then for Salvation to keep the Commandments?
A. Blessed are they that do his Commandments, that they may have Right to the Tree of Life, and may enter in through the Gates into the City [Rev. 22:14].
Q. Do you understand by this Perfection that any have so kept the Commandments, as never to have sinned?
A. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a Lyar, and his Word is not in us [1 John 1:10].
Q. Do you understand that those who are Perfect may say, they have no Sin; or only that having sinned, and so having Sin, in respect they once sinned, as the Apostle in the Passage cited mentions? May they notwithstanding thereof come to know Forgiveness for the Guilt, but also Cleansing from the Filth?
A. If we say, we have no Sin, we deceive our selves, and the Truth is not in us: If we confess our Sins, he is Faithful and Just to forgive us our Sins, and to cleanse us from all Unrighteousness [1 John 1:8].
Q. That Scripture seems to be very plain, being compared with the other before mentioned: But because some are apt to mistake and wrest the Words of that Apostle, What saith he elsewhere? Did he judge, any could know God, or be True Christians, who kept not the Commandments?
A. My little Children, these things write I unto you, that ye Sin not; and if any Man sin we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous: And hereby do we know that we know him, if we keep his Commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his Commandments, is a Lyar, and the Truth is not in him; But whoso keepeth his Word, in him verily is the Love of God perfected. Hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also to walk even as he walketh. Beloved, now are we the Sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is: And every Man that hath this Hope in him; purifieth himself even as he is pure. Whosoever committeth Sin transgresseth also the Law; for Sin is the Transgression of the Law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our Sins, and in him is no Sin; Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: Whosoever sinneth hath not seen him neither known him. Little Children, let no Man deceive you; he that doth Righteousness is Righteous, even as he is Righteous. He that committeth Sin is of the Devil; for the Devil sinneth from the beginning: For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the Works of the Devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit Sin; for his Seed remaineth in him, and he cannot Sin, because he is born of God. In this the Children of God are manifest, and the children of the Devil; whosoever doth not Righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his Brother [1 John 2:1,3-6; 3:2-10].
Q. It is very plain by these Passages, that the Apostles were far of another Mind, then those that plead for Sin during term of Life, and much against the Deceit of those who will esteem themselves Good Christians while they live in their Sins?
A. Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he that doth the Will of my Father which is in Heaven. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doth them, I will liken him unto a Wise Man, which built his House upon a Rock [Matt. 7:21,24].
If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them [John 13:17].
Q. What saith the Apostle Paul further concerning the Needfulness of this thing?
A. Circumcision is nothing, and Uncircumcision is nothing; but the keeping of the Commandments of God [1 Cor. 7:19].
Q. Was not this according to the Apostle Paul's Judgment, the very Intention of Christ, to have his Church and Children to be Pure and without Spot?
A. According as he hath chosen us in him before the Foundation of the World, that we should be Holy and without Blame before him in Love [Eph. 1:4].
Even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctifie and cleanse it, that he might present it to himself a Glorious Church, not having Spot or Wrinckle; or any such thing; but that it should be Holy and without Blemish [Eph. 5:25-27].
Q. Doth not Paul press the same thing further, besides the other Passages above mentioned?
A. Having therefore these Promises, Dearly Beloved, Let us cleanse ourselves from all Filthiness of the Flesh and Spirit, perfecting Holiness in the Fear of God [2 Cor. 7:1].
Finally, Brethren farewell, be Perfect [2 Cor. 13:11].
Christ in you the Hope of Glory, whom we Preach, warning every Man, and teaching every Man in all Wisdom, that we may present every Man perfect in Christ Jesus [Col. 1:28].
Labouring fervently for you in Prayers, that ye may stand perfect and compleat in all the Will of God [Col. 4:12].
To the end he may establish your Hearts unblameable in Holiness before God [1 Thess. 3:13].
And the very God of Peace Sanctifie you wholly, and I pray God, your whole Spirit, and Soul, and Body be presented blameless unto the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ [1 Thess. 5:23].
Q. Is not this then the very End for which God appointed Teachers in his Church?
A. And he gave some Apostles, and some Prophets, and some Evangelists, and some Pastors and Teachers, for the Perfecting of the Saints, for the Work of the Ministry, for the Edifying of the Body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the Faith, and of the Knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect Man, unto the Measure of the Stature of the Fulness of Christ [Eph. 4:11-13].
Q. Seeing this is so much pressed by the Holy Men, doth not the Scripture, which cannot lye, give none of the Saints this Testimony, as being free from Sin at some times, and so not always and daily sinning, as is supposed?
A. Noah was a Just Man, and perfect in his Generations; and Noah walked with God [Gen. 6:9].
And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my Servant Job, that there is none like him in the Earth, a Perfect and an Upright Man, one that feareth God, and escheweth Evil [Job. 1:8].
There was in the days of Herod King of Judea, a certain Priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abja; and his Wife was of the Daughters of Aaron, and her Name was Elizabeth, and they were both Righteous before God, walking in all the Commandments and Ordinances of the Lord blameless [Luke 1:5,6].
Q. That proves sufficiently as to particular Persons; But what doth the Scripture intimate of this nature, even of considerable Numbers?
A. But God, who is rich in Mercy, for his great Love, wherewith he hath loved us, even when we were dead in Sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in Heavenly Places in Christ Jesus [Eph. 2:4-6].
But ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the City of the Living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, and to an Innumerable Company of Angels, to the General Assembly and Church of the First-born, which are written in Heaven, to God, the Judge of all, and to the Spirits of Just Men made perfect [Heb. 12:22-23].
And I looked, and lo a Lamb stood on the Mount Sion, and with him an Hundred Forty and Four Thousand, having his Father's Name written in their Fore-heads: These are they which were not defiled with Women; for they are Virgins: These are they which follow the Lamb wheresoever he goeth: These were redeemed from among Men, being the first Fruits unto God, and to the Lamb. And in their Mouth was found no Guile, for they are without Fault before the Throne of God [Rev. 14:1- 5].