Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.

Faith and life; 'conferences' in the Oratory of Princeton seminary online

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looking back to the preceding chapter, we find it
also mentioned. Here, then, are the two wings
of the fact assumed: "If ye died with Christ from
the rudiments of the world"; "If then ye were
raised together with Christ." At the bottom of
all, then, lies this great fact, the fundamental fact
of the Christian religion: that Christ died and
rose again. On this great fundamental fact
everything in our present passage is based. But
not upon it as a bare fact, without further sig-
nificance than that it happened. For it is no
more a fact that Christ died than that He died
for our sins; and no more a fact that He rose
again than that He rose again for our justification.



This then is the fact assumed in our text, that
Christ died for our trespasses and was raised again
for our justification. But if He died for our sins,
He died to take them away, and His death did take
them away. All those for whose sins Christ died,
died then with Him in the death which He ac-
complished on the cross; died with Him to sin,
that they might no longer be sinners. And if He
was raised again for our justification. He rose
again to usher us into acceptance with God and
into all that is involved in that great word, life,
and His resurrection has brought us into God's
favour and into life indeed. All those for whom
He rose again, rose again with Him, therefore;
rose again with Him to life that they might live
again to God. And here now is the great fact in
its fullness which Paul assumes and lays at the
base of our present passage: the great fact of the
participation of Christians in Christ's death and
rising again.

If we be Christians at all, we are such only in
virtue of the fact that when He died. He died for
us, and we, therefore, died as sinners with His
death ; and that when He rose again for our just-
ification, we rose again into newness of life with
Him, — the life that we now live is a new life, from
a new spring, even the Spirit of Christ which He
as the risen Lord has sent down to us. This is the
great fact of participation in the saving work of
Christ, with all that it involves. And what we


have here is an assertion that such a participation
involves seizing of us bodily and lifting us to
another and higher plane. We were sinners, and
lived as sinners; we lived an earthly life, in the
lowest sense of that word. But now we have died
with Christ as sinners and can live no more as
sinners; we have been raised together with Him
and can live only on the plane of this new life,
which is not in sin, not "in the earth," but in
heaven. In a high and true sense, because we
have died to sin and been raised to holiness, we
have already passed out of earth to heaven.
Heaven is already the sphere of our life; our
"citizenship is in heaven" — we are citizens of the
Kingdom of Heaven, and have the life appropriate
thereto to live.

And now we observe, secondly, that on this
fact the Apostle founds an exhortation. "If
then ye were raised together with Christ, seek
the things that are above." The exhortation is
simply to an actual life consonant with our change
of state. If we have participated in Christ's
death for sin and rising again for justification;
so that with Him we died to sin and rose again
unto holiness; live accordingly. If we have thus
died as sinners, as earth born, and earth confined
crawlers on this low plane, and been raised to this
higher plane, even a heavenly one, of living —
show in walk and conversation that the change
has been a real one. It is an exhortation to us to


be in life real citizens of the heavenly kingdom to
which we have been transferred ; to do the duties
and enter into the responsibilities of our new cit-
izenship. It is just as we might say to some
newly enfranchised immigrant: You have left
that country of darkness in which you were bred,
where no liberty of action or of worship existed;
you have been received into our free America, and
have been clothed with the rights and duties of
citizenship in this great Republic; now live worth-
ily of your new citizenship; be now in life and
thought no longer a serf but a freeman. So, Paul
says in effect, you have passed out of the realm of
sin and death, out of the merely earthly sphere;
you have been made a citizen of the heavenly
kingdom; do the deeds and live the life conform-
able to your great change.

And we observe, again, that the Apostle de-
scribes to us the nature of this heavenly life to
which we are committed, by passing out of the
earthly into the heavenly sphere through partici-
pation in the death and rising again of Christ.
" Seek the things that are above." " Set your mind
on the things that are above, not on the things
that are upon the earth." What is meant by
seeking the heavenly things rather than the
earthly? We may, at least, say that the following
is meant.

To seek the things that are above, in distinc-
tion from those that are upon the earth, means


primarily to seek what is good and refuse what is
evil. It is an exhortation to a moral life as op-
posed to an immoral one. It is an exhortation to
a life of purity and holiness as opposed to a life of
sin. This at least is made evident to us by the
immediately succeeding context. For just after
giving the exhortation to seek the "things that
are above and not the things that are upon the
earth," the Apostle explains what the things that
are upon the earth are which we are to refuse.
"Mortify, therefore," he adds, at once, "your
members that are upon the earth; fornication,
uncleanness, passion, evil desire and covetous-
ness." And he proceeds also to explain what the
heavenly things are which we are to seek: "Put
on, therefore, as God's elect, holy and beloved, a
heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness,
long-suffering" and the like. These, then, are
"the things that are above" which we are to seek:
and those "the things that are upon the earth"
that we are to keep ourselves free from, and, when
they are already in us as members, which we are
"to mortify," to "slay." But this is as much as
to say that the heavenly life which, as those who
have shared in Christ's death and resurrection, we
are to live, is, first of all, a moral life, or better,
a holy life, a life of purity and virtue, as distin-
guished from a life of sin. And this, indeed, fol-
lows from its very conception, for our death with
Christ was a death to sin and our rising with Him


was a rising out of sin, — which is the death of the
soul, — to a new life, spiritual life, which in its
very idea is holiness. Before all else, this, then,
is to seek the things that are above: to put aside
the sin that so easily besets us and to live holily
as becomes saints.

But this fundamental conception — and all in-
clusive conception, too, when rightly under-
stood — hardly exhausts, when only thus broadly
stated, the matter as it lies in the Apostle's mind
here. On closer observation we see that the Apos-
tle has also a special application of it in mind,
and we need to note it. Let us say, then, that the
seeking of the things that are above, means here
also this : the seeking of the things that are really
good in contradistinction to those that are ap-
parently good. For if the subsequent context is
the professed explanation of the fundamental
meaning of the exhortation, the preceding con-
text, furnishing the occasion of the special form
which the exhortation takes, is the explanation of
this. "If, therefore, ye were raised together with
Christ." Now, in this preceding context, the
Apostle was attemptuig to save his readers from a
grave heresy which had shown itself in their region.
The characteristic of this heresy was that, along
with certain speculative errors, a specific moral
teaching was offered: a moral teaching of ap-
parently high and lofty nature. The Apostle does
not deny that the principles thus pressed upon his


converts as a rule of life had the appearance of
goodness, and of wisdom: "which things have a
show of wisdom in severity to the body." He
does not deny that there were real evils to be met.
There were gross indulgences of the flesh to which
men were prone: intemperance, impurity and all
the catalogue of such evils. How apparently
wise and right to preach: Handle not, nor taste,
nor touch! Should Christian men fail to join in
this great cyclone of moral reform? If they did,
were they not open to the charge of indifference to
morality itself — the very mark and sign of their
profession of having died to sin and been raised
again to righteousness .^^

Paul's deliberate judgment is that all such pre-
cepts are precepts of men; that their tendency is
to enslave men again under the yoke of legalism —
men who had become free in Christ. And his
deliberate exhortation is, to keep to the path of
seeking the really good instead of these apparent
goods. His exhortation becomes thus an exhor-
tation to seek what we call the religious, rather
than the moral way to reform man and the world.
When men come saying. Touch not, taste not,
handle not, Paul says they are offering you an
inoperative mode of saving the world from sin;
they are offering you law which only condemns,
not grace in which alone is saving power. He
says, reject such human commandments, and be
content to hold fast to the Head — that Christ who


has created all these things, whose they are, and
who has given them to you for use, though, of
course, not for abuse. He says, you are living
on a higher plane than this earthly one of pre-
cepts and prohibitions; see that you live on this
higher plane; seek the real good even if you are
evil-spoken of, because you refuse a path of ap-
parent good, one which has a show of wisdom,
indeed, but is no real "specific" against the evils
of the flesh.

But there is yet another special aspect of the
exhortation, growing immediately out of these
facts, which we must notice. Just because the
seeking of the really good as over against the ap-
parent good will necessarily bring misunder-
standing, and even misrepresentation (for they
that called the Master Beelzebub are not likely to
mince matters in speaking of his followers), Paul
represents the seeking of the thmgs above, as a
seeking of the hidden good, as distinguished from
the open, publicly recognized good. This life of
ours is a hidden life; hid with Christ in God. God,
not the world, is the sphere in which it is passed.
Christ is it itself. And Christ is now with God.
The Christian in seeking heavenly things must
not seek to be known of the world to be good, but
only to be seen of God. It belongs to the Phar-
isee, not to the Christian, to do good to be seen
of men. It is a hidden life he leads ; and he must
be content to be misunderstood and misrepre-


sented, even persecuted for righteousness' sake;
for him it is not appearances, or even appearance
that he seeks; it is only the good. Not that his
good shall always be unrecognized. There comes
a day of manifestation; "When Christ is mani-
fested, then shall ye be manifested with him, in
glory." For that day of the revelation of all, he
can afford to and he must wait.

But there is more in this hidden life than this.
Here is an intimation of the quiet of the Christian
life; here is also an intimation of its perfection.
It is better than men know or even dream. The
Christian is to refuse men's commands of "Touch
not, taste not, handle not," not because he is in-
different to morality, but because he has a better
morality and a better way. He is not to fall be-
hind human morality; he is to transcend it. He
seeks not law but grace; he seeks not to make the
outside of the platter clean — how diligently men
are willing to work at that! — but to make the
heart clean. His remedy for the world's ills, as
for his own, is — a life hid with Christ in God. He
points to Christ who can make pure the heart,
from which are the issues of life, and, in His name
and as His servant, he refuses all the outward in-
operative nostrums which are offered as specifics
for the deep disease of humanity; because they
have no help or profit in them. He refuses the
bad medicine only in favour of the good.

And now let us pass on to observe that the


Apostle adduces motives for this heavenly walk.
And the motives he presents are three, drawn
from the past, the present and the future.

There is a motive drawn from the past. "If
then ye were raised with Christ." The motive
presented is our gratitude to our Lord for the great
work He has done for and in us. That we have
been made partakers of so great benefits is reason
enough for striving to walk worthily of Him.
This motive is the same as, "The love of Christ
constraineth us."

There is a motive drawn from the present. "For
your Hfe is hid with Christ in God." Notice here
that Christ is described as, not the humiliated
Christ, but the exalted Christ— "He is seated on
the right hand of God." The motive presented
is that as we all are one with Him, who is exalted
to the right hand of God, we are to walk worthily
of our high dignity. Noblesse oblige. If we are
co-regnant with Christ, how should a king in this
world walk? As grovelling in its dust and dirt?
As subject to man's petty precepts? No! As
superior to all the prescriptions of men and as
above all the temptations to evil, because one with
Christ and possessing a life hid with Him in

There is a motive drawn from the future.
" When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested,
then shall we also with him be manifested in
glory." The vindication, even before men, will


come. We shall not always be misunderstood;
we shall have the reward. And what a reward!
Co-manifestation with Christ in glory! Do not
our hearts spring within us with hope and



1 Thess. 5:23-24:— "And the God of peace himself sanctify
you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved
entire without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it."

There is no feature of Christianity more
strongly emphasized by those to whom its estab-
lishment in the world was committed, than the
breadth and depth of its ethical demands. The
"salvation" which was promised in the "Gospel"
or "Glad Tidings" which constituted its procla-
mation, was just salvation from sin and unto holi-
ness. In other words, it was a moral revolution
of the most thoroughgoing and radical kind.
" Sanctification " is the Biblical word for this moral
revolution, and in " sanctification " the very es-
sence of salvation is made to consist. "This is
the will of God" for you, says the Apostle to his
readers in this very epistle, "even your sanctifi-
cation." A great part of the epistle is given, ac-
cordingly, to commending the new converts for
the progress they had already made in this sanc-
tification, and to urging them onward in the same

No moral attainment is too great to be pressed
on them as their duty, no moral duty is too min-
ute to be demanded of them as essential to their



Christian walk. The standard the Apostle nas
before him, and consistently applies to his readers,
falls in nothing short of absolute perfection, a per-
fection which embraces in its all-inclusive sweep
the infinitely httle and the infinitely great alike.
In the verses immediately preceding our text the
Apostle had been engaged, as is his wont in all his
epistles, in enumerating a number of details of
conduct which he wished, especially, to emphasize
to his readers. They are not chosen at hap-
hazard, but are just the items of conduct which the
particular readers with whom he is at the moment
engaged required most to have urged upon their
attention. But the Apostle would not have his
readers suppose that their whole duty was summed
up in the items he enumerates. As he draws to
the close of his exhortations he therefore breaks
off in the enumeration and adjoins one great com-
prehensive prayer for their entire perfection:
"But may the God of peace Himself sanctify you
wholly: and may your spirit and soul and body
be preserved perfect without failure, at the com-
ing of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that
calleth you who also will do it."

Here we have obviously a classical passage —
possibly the classical passage — ^for "entire sanc-
tification"; and it may repay us in the perennial
interest which attends the discussion of the theme
of "entire sanctification " to look at it somewhat
closely, as such.


First of all, let us settle it clearly in mind that it
is of "entire sanctification " that the passage
treats. There can certainly be no doubt of it, if
we will only give the language of the passage a fair
hearing. It is so emphasized, indeed, and with
such an accumulation of phraseology that it be-
comes almost embarrassing. The entirety, the
completeness, the perfection of the sanctification,
of which it speaks is, in fact, the great burden of
the passage. In contrast with the details with
which the Apostle had just been dealing, and
which — just because they were details — could
touch the periphery only of a perfect life, and that
only at this or that point of the circumference, he
here adverts to the complete sanctification that
not merely touches but fills not the periphery only
but the entire circle of the Christian — nay, of the
human — ^life. It is a sanctification that is abso-
lutely complete and that embraces the perfection
of every member of the human constitution, that
the Apostle here deals with.

Observe the emphatic repetition of the idea of
completeness. May the "God of Peace" — and
this very designation of God, doubtless, has its
reference to the completeness of the sanctification,
peace being the opposite of all division, distrac-
tion, hesitation and dubitation, — may the "God
of Peace," the Apostle prays, "sanctify you com-
pletely" — so as that ye may be perfect and want-
ing nothing that enters into the perfection of your


correspondence to the ends for which you were
created. And not content with this, he adds
explanatorily, "And may your spirit and your
soul and your body be preserved entire, perfect,"
and not that merely, but "blamelessly entire, per-
fect"; "blamelessly" — that is, in a manner which
is incapable of being accused of not coming up to
its idea.

Observe further the distribution of the person-
ality which is to be perfected into its component
parts, of each of which, in turn, perfection is de-
siderated. Not only are we to be sanctified
wholly, but every part of us — our spirit, our soul,
our body itself — ^is to be kept blamelessly perfect.
The Apostle is not content, in other words, with
the general, but descends into the specific ele-
ments of our being. And for each of these ele-
ments in turn he seeks a "blameless perfection,"
that the sum of them all — the "we" at large —
may be, indeed, complete and entire, wanting

Now, no doubt, this enumeration of parts is in
a sense rhetorical and not scientific. The Apostle
is accumulating terms to convey the great idea of
completeness more pungently to us — something
as our Lord did when He told us we must love the
Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind
and strength. But even so he makes a certain
distinction between the three elements he enu-
merates, by the accumulation of which he expresses


completeness most emphatically. His meaning is
that there is no department of our being into which
he would not have this perfection penetrate,
where he would not have it reign, and through
which he would not have it operate to the per-
fecting of the whole.

By this double mode of accumulation, we per-
ceive, the Apostle throws an astonishing em-
phasis on the perfection which he desires for his
readers. Here we may say is "Perfectionism"
raised to its highest power, a blameless perfection,
a perfection admitting of no failure to attain its
end, in every department of our being alike, unit-
ing to form a perfection of the whole, a complete
attainment of our idea in the whole man. There
is certainly no doctrine of "entire sanctification "
that has been invented in these later days which
can compare with Paul's doctrine in height or
depth or length or breadth. His "perfectionism"
is assuredly the very apotheosis of perfectionism.
The perfection proposed is a real perfection (which
is not always true of recent teachings on this sub-
ject) and the man who attains it is a perfect man
— every part of his being receiving its appropriate
perfection (and this is seldom or never true of
recent teachings). A perfect perfection for a
perfect man — an entire sanctification for the en-
tire man — surely here is a perfection worth long-
ing for.

Let us observe next that Paul does not speak


of this perfecting of the entire man as if it were a
mere ideal, unattainable, and to be looked up to
only as the for ever beckoning standard hanging
hopelessly above us. He treats it as distinctly
attainable. He seriously prays God to grant it
to his readers; and that as the end of his exhor-
tation to them to study moral perfection as the
aim of their endeavours.

He does not, indeed, represent it as attainable
by and through human effort alone, as if man in
his own strength could reach and touch this his
true ultimate goal of endeavour. Rather he em-
phatically represents it as the gift of God alone.
After exhorting men to their best endeavours, he
turns suddenly from man to God and besieges
Him with prayer. Strive, he says, strive always,
do this thing and do that — and so work out this,
your ethical salvation. ''But may God Himself —
the God of peace Himself" — the stress is on the
"Himself." It is in God, in God alone, the God
of peace alone, that hope can be placed for such
high attainments.

But cannot hope be placed in God for this at-
tainment? The whole gist of Paul's prayer —
nay, the whole drift of his discourse — would be
stultified, were it not so. Paul's prayer, and the
way in which he introduces his prayer, all com-
bine to make it certain that he is not mocking us
here with an illusory hope but is placing soberly
before us an attainable goal. This perfect per-


fection is then, necessarily, according to Paul,
attainable for man. God can and will give it to
His children.

Even more must be said. Paul not only prays
seriously for it for his readers, and this implies
that it may, nay, will be given them; he defi-
nitely promises it to them, and bases this, his
definite promise, on no less firm a foundation than
the faithfulness of God. May God sanctify you
wholly, he says, and the rest of it. But he does
not stop there. He follows the prayer with the
promise: "Faithful is He that calleth you," and
he adds, " who also will do it." Thus Paul pledges
the faithfulness of God to the completion of his
readers' perfection. And we must not lose the
force and pointedness with which he does this by
failing to pay attention to the sharp, proverbial
character of this pledging clause. It has all the
quality of a maxim; and the gist of the maxim
is that God, this God of whom Paul was praying
our perfection, is not a caller only, but also a per-
former. He has called us into the Christian life.
This Christian life into which He has called us is
in principle a life of moral perfection. And this
God that calls is not a God that calls merely — He
is a God that also accomplishes. His very calling
of us into this life of new morality is a pledge, then,
that He will perfect the good work in us which He
has begun. "Faithful is He that calleth you:
who also is one that shall do."


The accomplishment of this our perfection then
does not hang on our weak endeavours. It does
not hang even on Paul's strong prayer. It hangs
only on God's almighty and unfailing faithfulness.
If God is faithful, He who not only calls but does —
then, we cannot fail of perfection. Here you see
is not only perfection carried to its highest power,
but the certainty of attaining this perfection car-
ried also to its highest power. Not only may a
Christian man be perfect — absolutely perfect in
all departments of his being — but he certainly and

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