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CHRISTIAN PERFECTION - A SERMON by A T JONES




July 25, 1899


"The Sermon. Christian Perfection" 1 The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald 76, 30 , pp. 471, 472.


A. T. JONES



THE 24th of Jude connects directly with what has been read and said: "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be lorry and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever."


He chose us before the foundation of the world, "that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." By the cross he made it possible to every soul, even when by sin we had lost all chance. And by the cross he bought the right "to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in his sight." The right to do this belongs only to him. You and I could not do it if it were given to us to do; but the right to do it does not belong to us. When we had lost it, nothing but the cross of calvary could restore it. And no one could pay the price of Calvary but he who did pay it. Then as certainly as only he who paid the price that must bring this to us, so certainly the right belongs only to him by right of the cross of Calvary. And no one who has not endured the literal wooden cross of Calvary can ever have any right to take up that task to accomplish it. Only he endured the cross: to him only belongs the task. And there stands the word: "He "is able." He "is able. . . to present you faultless before the presence of his glory." He who is able to endure the cross is able to accomplish all that the cross made possible. So he "is able. . . to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy"—


WHEN? That is the question. When?


[Voices: "Now."]


Precisely; he is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever. He is as able just now as he was then, or as he will ever be.


Yet bear in mind that it is ever true that only by the way of the cross does it come to you and to me just now or ever. Let us study the Word that you may see this. Read Rom. 5:21, and then glance through the sixth chapter; for it is occupied with this one story. The last two verses of the fifth chapter of Romans read thus: "Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord."


Now the comparison, or rather the contrast,—for it is a comparison that amounts to a contrast,—"as" and "even so." "As sin hath reigned." You know how sin reigned. Every one here knows how sin has reigned. Some may know even yet how it reigns. When sin reigned, the reign was absolute, so that it was easier to do wrong than it was to do right. Isn't that the truth? When sin reigned, it was easier to do wrong than it was to do right. We longed to do right; but "the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." Rom. 7:19. That is the reign of sin. Then when sin reigned, it was easier to do wrong than it was to do right.


"Even so might grace reign through righteousness." When grace reigns, it is easier to do right than it is to do wrong. That is the comparison. Notice: As sin reigned, even so grace reigns. When sin reigned, it reigned against grace; it beat back all the power of grace that God had given; but when the power of sin is broken, and grace reigns, then grace reigns against sin, and beats back all the power of sin. So it is as literally true that under the reign of grace it is easier to do right than to do wrong, as it is true that under the reign of sin it is easier to do wrong than to do right.


So then the way is clear, isn't it? Let us go that way. "That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?"


[Voices: "God forbid."]


You say, "God forbid." That is right. Now God has put his forbid, and you indorse it, against sinning that grace may abound. Then has not God put his forbid against sinning at all? Do you indorse that? Do you put your indorsement upon God's forbid that you shall sin at all under the reign of grace?


[Voices: "Yes."]


Then doesn't he intend that you and I shall be kept from sinning? And when we know that he intends it, then we can confidently expect it. If we do not expect it, it will never be done.


So then, the first verse of the sixth chapter of Romans shows that God intends that we shall be kept from sinning, doesn't it?


What does the second verse say?—"How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" Well, how shall we? Then what does that verse intend?—That we shall not continue at all in sin. Then being dead brings in the burial. Buried with him by baptism into death, and raised to walk in newness of life. "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." There is the course laid out before us, and it is the way of the cross.

Now notice three things there: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him. What for?—"That the body of sin might be destroyed." And what is that for?—"That henceforth we should not serve sin." Unless the body of sin is destroyed, we will serve sin. Unless the old man is crucified, the body of sin is not destroyed. Then the way to be kept from sinning is the way of crucifixion and destruction.


The only question, then, for us each to settle is, Would I rather be crucified and destroyed than to sin? If with you it is everlastingly settled that you would rather be crucified, and rather meet destruction this moment than to sin, you will never sin. "Crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." Then freedom from the service of sin lies only through crucifixion and destruction. Do you choose sin, or do you choose crucifixion and destruction. Will you choose destruction and escape sin? or will choose sin, and destruction, too? That is the question. It is not an alternative. He who would evade destruction, to escape destruction, meets destruction. He who chooses destruction escpaes destruction.


Well, then, the way of destruction by the cross of Christ is the way of salvation. Jesus Christ went to destruction on the cross, to bring salvation to you and me. It cost the destruction of the Son of God on the cross, to bring salvation to you and me. Will we give destruction for salvation? Will you? Anybody who fixes it, and holds it in his hand as an everlasting bid, that he gives destruction, every moment of his life, for salvation, will never lack salvation.


But there is where the trouble comes. Destruction is not pleasant; it is not easy—that is, to the old man. To the natural choice, it is not easy to be destroyed; but to him who does it, it is easy. It is easy when it is done, and it is easy to continue it forever when it is done.


When is it that we are to do this? When is it that he presents us faultless before the presence of his glory?—Now; and the only way is the way of destruction. Now is the time to choose destruction. Now is the time to deliver up yourself forever to destruction. But if I hold myself back, if I shrink from destruction, then what am I shrinking from?—Salvation. For "our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin."


Then if I meet some experience that puts me into a pressure that seems like destruction, that is all right; for destruction is what I have chosen, that I may not serve sin. Such a surrender brings Christian pleasantness into the life; for the joy, the last peace, and the satisfaction of being kept from sinning, is worth all the destruction that can ever come to you and me. It is worth it. So it is not a hard bargain that is driven; it is the grandest one that ever came to men.


Crucifixion, destruction, and then henceforth not serving sin,—there, then, is the way to Christian perfection. Why?—"For he that is dead is freed from sin." Rom. 6:7. Thank the Lord, he that is dead is freed from sin. Then the only question that can ever come in my life or yours is, Am I dead? And if I am not, and something occurs that accomplishes it, freedom from sin is the only consequence; and that is worth all that it costs.


See also the next verse: "Now, if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him." The first verse intends that we shall be free from sin. The second verse intends that we shall be free from sin. The sixth verse says that we are not henceforth to serve sin; the seventh verse says he that is dead is freed from sin; the eighth verse says if we be dead with Christ, we shall also live with him. Where does he live—in righteousness or in sin?


[Voices: "In righteousness."]


Very good. Then it is plain that the first, the second, the sixth, the seventh, and the eighth verses of the sixth chapter of Romans all intend that we shall be kept from sinning.


How about the ninth verse? "Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him." How as it that death ever had dominion over him at all?—Because of sin—not his own, but ours; for he was made "to be sin for us, who knew no sin." Then death hath no more dominion over him. He has victory over sin and all its consequences forever. Then what does that verse tell you and me?—We are risen with hi. "For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God." Then both the ninth and tenth verses also intend that we shall be kept from sinning.


The eleventh verse: "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves 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." And thus again he intends that we shall not sin.


"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. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." The reign of grace lifts the soul above sin, holds it there, reigns against the power of sin, and delivers the soul from sinning.


"What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid." Thus from the first verse to the fourteenth of the sixth chapter of Romans, there is preached, over and over, deliverance from sin and from sinning. That is great, but there is something still in advance of that. "Let us go on unto perfection."

Listen: "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" Delivered from the power of sin, to whom did ye yield yourselves?—To God; then you are his servants, set free to the service of righteousness. God does not intend there shall be a blank life in his keeping us from sinning. He intends that there shall be active, intelligent service; and that only righteousness shall be the result. It is a wonderfully great thing to be made free from sin and to be kept from sinning; it is another wonderfully great thing upon that, to be made the servants of righteousness, so that our service is unto righteousness.


Therefore let every soul echo, "God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which has delivered you. Being then made from fro sin, YE BECAME THE SEVANTS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS." Thank the Lord for that! He says you are; and when he says you are, it is so. Thank him for it. Thank him that you are delivered from sin; and thank the Lord that you are the servant of righteousness. He has made you so; for he says so.


But that is not all yet. "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." The Lord in this appeals to your experience and mine. "When ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness." You know that that is so. Take now the complement of it: "What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those 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."


We are not the servants of sin, free from righteousness; but we are the servants of righteousness, free from sin. As I have dwelt upon this, and the Lord has fed my soul upon the whole of it, I am reminded every once in a while of an expression of Milton's, where he speaks of the songs of the angels as notes of "measured sweetness long drawn out." This sixth chapter of Romans is one of those notes of measured sweetness long drawn out.


It begins with freedom from sin: that is a great thing. Next upon that, freedom from sinning; and that is a great thing. Next upon that, servants of righteousness; and that is a great thing. Next upon that, unto holiness; and that is a great thing. And upon all, the end, everlasting life; and that is a great thing. Isn't that a note, then, of the Lord's, of measured sweetness long drawn out? Oh, receive it, dwell upon it, catch the sweet tones, and let them linger in the soul day and night: it does the soul good.


And there is the way to Christian perfection. It is the way of crucifixion, unto destruction of the body of sin, unto freedom from sinning, unto the service of righteousness, unto holiness, unto perfection in Jesus Christ by the Holy Ghost, unto everlasting life.


LET us look again at the statement that the gifts are for the perfecting of the saints, "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." There is the pattern. The way that Christ went in this world of sin, and in sinful flesh,—your flesh and mine, burdened with the sins of the world,—the way he went in perfection and to perfection, is the way set before us.


He was born of the Holy Ghost. In other words, Jesus Christ was born again. He came from heaven, God's first-born, to the earth, and was born again. But all in Christ's work goes by opposites for us: he, the sinless one, was made to be sin, in order that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. He, the living one, the prince and author of life, died that we might live. He whose goings forth have been from the days of eternity, the first-born of God, was born again, in order that we might be born again.


If Jesus Christ had never been born again, could you and I have ever been born again?—No. But he was born again, from the world of righteousness into the world of sin; that we might be born again, from the world of sin into the world of righteousness. He was born again, and was made partaker of the human nature, that we might be born again, and so made partakers of the divine nature. He was born again, unto earth, unto sin, and unto man, that we might be born again unto heaven, unto righteousness, and unto God.


Brother Covert says that makes us as brethren. It does certainly make us as brethren. And he is not ashamed to call us his brethren either.


Then he was born again, by the Holy Ghost; for it is written, and was spoken to Mary, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."

Jesus, born of the Holy Ghost, born again, grew "in wisdom and stature," unto the fulness of life and character in the world, to where he could say to God, "I have glorified thee on the earth; I have finished the work thou gavest me to do." God's plan and mind in him had attained to perfection.


Jesus, born again, born of the Holy Ghost, born of flesh and blood, as we were, the Captain of our salvation, was made "perfect through sufferings." For "though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him." Heb. 2:10; 5:8, 9. Jesus thus went to perfection in human flesh, through suffering; because it is in a world of suffering that we in human flesh must attain perfection.

And while growing all the time, he was perfect all the time. Do you see that? There is where many people misconceive the whole thought of Christian perfection—they think the ultimate is the only measure. It is in God's plan; but the ultimate is not reached at the beginning. Look again at the fourth of Ephesians. This is a suggestion, thrown out to you and me, how we may attain to this perfection,—"the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." I read the thirteenth verse; now coupld with that verses 14-16: "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: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even in Christ."


This is to be accomplished in you and me by growth; but there can be no growth where there is no life. This is growth in the knowledge of God, growth in the wisdom of God, growth in the character of God, growth in God; therefore it can be only by the life of God. But that life is planted in the man at the new birth. He is born again, born of the Holy Ghost; and the life of God is planted there, that he "may grow up into him"—in how much?—"In all things."


You remember that "the kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field." And "the seed is the word of God." The seed is planted. He realizes that night and day it grows, he knows not how. But that seed is what?—It is perfect; for God made it. It sprouts presently. What of the sprout?


[Congregation: "Perfect, too."]


Is it?


[Voices: "Yes."]


But it is not a head of grain; it is not a stalk standing full and strong; it is a mere sprout peeping through the ground. But what of it? Is it not perfect?


[Congregation: "Yes."]


According to the rate of its progress, it is as perfect at that point as it will be when its course is finished, at the point of maturity. Do you not see? Let not that misconception abide any more. Away with it!


When that sprout peeps through the ground, you stoop to look at it. It is a thing to be admired. It is charming, because it is perfect. That is as perfect a blade as ever appeared on earth, but it is a mere spindling thing, barely peeping through the ground. That is all there is of it; but it is perfect. It is perfect, because it is as God made it. God is the only one that had anything to do with it. Do you not see? It is all right. So you and I, born again of that good seed of the word of God,—born by the word of God and the Holy Ghost, born of the perfect seed,—when that seed sprouts and grows, and begins to appear among men, people see the characteristics of Christ. And what is he?—Perfect. Then what is the Christian right there?


[Congregation: "Perfect."]


If we be born again through the power of Jesus Christ, and God himself directs the work, what will that be which appears?—It will be perfect. And that is Christian perfection at that point. Jesus Christ presents you holy, unblamable, and unreprovable, before the throne at that point.


That sprout grows and stands above the ground; presently another blade shoots off; there are two of them, and each is just as handsome as the other. The third one appears; it is now a stalk, and still grows. It now presents another picture altogether from that which it presented at first. Another picture indeed, but no more perfect than before. It is nearer to ultimate perfection, nearer to God's accomplished purpose; but, though nearer to ultimate perfection, it is no more perfect, as it stands now, than it was the moment that it peeped through the ground.


In time it grows to its full height. The head is full-formed. The bloom appears upon it. It is more beautiful on account of it. And at last appears the full head of grain, perfect; and the grains of wheat, each one perfect. The work, God's work, is finished upon it. It is perfected. It has attained unto perfection according to God's mind when he started it.


That is Christian perfection. It comes by growth. But the growth can be only by the life of God. And the life of God being the spring, it can grow only according to God's order. Only he can shape the growth. Only he knows, in perfection, the pattern. Christ is the pattern. God knows perfectly the pattern; and he can cause us to grow in perfection according to that pattern; because the same power, the same life, is in this growth that was in the growth of the original pattern, Jesus Christ.


And as Jesus began, at his birth, as a little child in human flesh, and grew up and finished the work that God had given him to do; so you and I, born again, growing up in him in all things, come presently to the day when we, as did he, shall say, and say in righteousness, "I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work thou gavest me to do." For it is written, "In the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished." We are in that day. We have that mystery given to us to give to the world. It is to be finished for the world; and it is to be finished in those who have it.


But what is the mystery of God?—"Christ in you, the hope of glory." "God. . . manifest in the flesh." Then in these days that mystery is to be finished in one hundred and forty-four thousand people. God's work in human flesh, God being manifested in human flesh, in you and me, is to be finished. His work upon you and me is to be finished. We are to be perfected in Jesus Christ. By the Spirit we are to come unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.


Is not that worth having? Is not the Lord's way a good way unto perfection? Oh, then, "leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, LET US GO ON UNTO PERFECTION; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment." He has freed us from the unstable foundation that we had when in sin. Let the only foundation be that of the service of righteousness unto holiness, and the end, everlasting life.


And to every soul who will face the Judgment, and hold himself in the presence of the Judgment, surrendering himself to crucifixion and destruction, that thing will be accomplished in God's own way, and in the short time in which he has promised to bring us unto righteousness. Then it is only God, God's estimate, his standard, and Christ the pattern, and his the work, always, in all things, everywhere and forever! Then be of good cheer. Let is* be Christ first, last, and all the time. The way if told beautifully in verse:—


"When times of temptation bring sadness and gloom.

I will tell it to Jesus my Lord;

The last of earth's treasures borne out to the tomb,

I will tell it to Jesus my Lord.

This earth hath no sorrow, for to-day or tomorrow.

But Jesus hath known it and felt, long ago:

And when it comes o'er me, and I'm tempted so sorely.

I will tell it to Jesus my Lord

"When out on the hilltops, away from all sin

I will tell it to Jesus my Lord;

When joyous and happy, the sunshine within,

I will tell it to Jesus my Lord.

To know I'm forgiven is a foretaste of heaven,

And Jesus is dearer to me than before;

Such peacefulness fills me, such an ecstasy thrills me.

I will tell it to Jesus my Lord.

"When weary with telling, and ready to faint,

I will tell it to Jesus my Lord;

He never refuses to hear my complaint,

I will tell it to Jesus my Lord.

I'll cheerfully bear it, when I've Jesus to share it;

His yoke, it is easy; his burden is light.

When life becomes dreary, and I'm footsore and weary,

I will tell it to Jesus my Lord.

"When darkness is dimming my path to the sky,

I will tell it to Jesus my Lord;

When helpers shall fail me, and comforts shall fly,

I will tell it to Jesus my Lord.

Though blurred my life's pages, by my sin and its wages.

He's, yesterday, now, and forever, the same;

I'll not be forsaken, though my life should be taken;

I will tell it to Jesus my Lord." {August 1, 1899 ATJ, ARSH 488.4}

 

* ?"is" in the original = it


SIN IS THE TRANSGRESSION OF THE LAW - 1JOHN 3:4, JAMES 2:10-12


"Here is the patience of the saints: here [are] they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." Revelation 14:12


"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." Revelation 22:14









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