Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.

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

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of the depths and hideousness of their sin by their
exhibited attitude towards the Son of God. The
Gospel is never hid save to them whose eyes the
god of this world has blinded, lest they should see
the glory of the Saviour and come to Him and be
saved. There is no revelation of character so
accurate, so powerful, so unmistakable, so inev-
itable, as that wrapped up in the simple question,
"What think ye of Christ.?" Like a loadstone
passing over a rubbish heap, His preaching draws
to His side all that is not hopelessly bad. And all
who come not are demonstrated to be sinners, and
the depth of their sin is thus revealed.

(2) "As to righteousness," he adds, "because
I go to my Father and ye see me no more." This
seems to mean that the fact of Christ's completed
work, closed by His ascension to His primal glory,
is the demonstration of righteousness. Convicted


of sin, the world is also convicted of righteousness ;
that is, of the need of a righteousness such as it
cannot frame for itself, and such as will match in
its height, the depth of its own sin. This is
brought to light only in the Gospel, in which a
righteousness of God is revealed from faith to
faith. The convicting of the Holy Ghost con-
sists no more of a conviction of human sinfulness
and need of salvation than it does of the perfect
righteousness of Christ wrought out on earth and
sealed and warranted by His triumphal departure
from this world. Men are convicted of sin, be-
cause of their unbelief in Christ: of righteousness
because of His finished work.

(3) But there is one more step. "As to judg-
ment, because the Prince of this world has been
judged." If there is a sin, and a righteousness,
there is also a judgment. And men must know
it. The third element in the Spirit's demonstra-
tion is the conviction of men of the overhanging
judgment. This He performs by means of the
obvious condemnation in Christ's person and work
of the Prince of this world, involving those who
hold of his part in the same destruction. That
the world and all that is in it is of the Evil One,
that there is no life in it and no help for the chil-
dren of men, is one element of the Spirit's testi-
mony to the preached Gospel; that this world
is under condemnation and reserved for the eternal
fire is but another element of it. Everywhere


where the Spirit carries His demonstration men
know what judgment is, and they know it by
perceiving the judgment of the Evil one.

We should not permit to slip from our minds
that we have here the Saviour's own exposition
of the method and manner of His spiritual con-
quest of the world. This conquest is assured. It
is the Spirit who performs it. And the method
of His work in it is by accompanying the preached
word with His demonstration and power. This
demonstration of the Spirit consists in convicting
the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.
Is conviction of sin then, we may ask, necessary to
salvation .f^ Is conviction of sin the first step of
salvation? Let those smitten souls at Pentecost
answer, who cried aloud. Men and Brethren, what
shall we do.^^ Is conviction of righteousness neces-
sary to salvation.'^ A convinced and convicted
appreciation of the needs of our soul which alone
can be found in. Christ Jesus .^^ Ask him who has
proved to us that the whole world lies alike under
the wrath of God, and that by the works of the
law no flesh can be justified, and who adds to
this word of terror the only word of hope: But
now apart from the law a righteousness of God
has been revealed, even the righteousness of God
through faith in Jesus Christ, unto all them that
believe; for there is no difference, for all have
sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And
as to conviction of judgment, ask Felix, who


trembled as this same Paul reasoned of right-
eousness and temperance and judgment to come.
Assuredly, my brethren, would we be saved,
we must know what sin is, we must know what
righteousness is and where it may be found, and
we must tremble before the judgment which that
righteousness must pass on our sin. Christ has
performed His work, and with the shout of "It
is finished" upon His lips, has ascended to His
throne on high, and there, seated by the right
hand of God, He has shed forth this which we
even now see and hear. The Spirit is in the
world and wherever the Gospel of God's grace is
faithfully preached He attends it with His dem-
onstration and power. And what does He dem-
onstrate to our souls .f^ That we are sinners;
that we need a God-provided righteousness; that
otherwise we must partake in the judgment of
the Prince of this world. This is God's way and
it is the only way. Let us be fully assured of it!


Jno. 17:15: — "I pray not that thou shouldst take them from the
world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one."

The text suggests strongly the contrast be-
tween the world and heaven, and the relations
which the servants of Christ bear to each. The
world and heaven are contrasted ideas; con-
trasted places, and contrasted states. And the
peculiarity of the relations which Christians bear
to these contrasted places and states is that they
may be at the same time in very express relations
to both. Our Lord Himself, while walking this
earth of ours as a man among men, was yet in the
bosom of the Father. And the Christian, His
follower, while still in the world, the object of the
world's hate and the recipient of its persecution,
may yet be in the heavenly places with his Lord.
Let us resolve the paradox, by considering in turn :

I. Our Lord's idea of "the world."
II. His idea of heaven.
III. His desire for His followers.

It is often said, and this is the first thought
that occurs to us on facing this paradox, that our
Lord's idea of "the world," as recorded in John, is
an ethical rather than a local one. But this must
not be taken too exclusively. Our present verse



is the disproof of too exclusive an attribution of
the ethical idea to the Lord. Christ prays that
his followers should not be taken out of the world,
but yet should be kept from the evil. In this
single prayer, the word "world" is used in quito
a variety of implications. In the fifth verse it
means apparently the universe, as a creation. In
the eleventh verse, it is equivalent to the earth,
with the implication that it is the world of man
that is in mind. It is plainly the world of man
in the fifteenth verse. But as man is sinful man,
it usually in this sense has the connotation of what
we call the sinful world, and this sense comes out
strongly in the ninth verse, where Christ's follow-
ers are contrasted with the world, and more
strongly still in verses fourteen and sixteen, where
the world is said to hate the good, and so also in
the twenty -first and twenty-third verses. In a
word, then, the term world means usually the
world of mankind, which, because man is uni-
versally sinful, comes to bear the implication of
the world of sinful man, which then is brought
into contrast with Christ's children in whom the
power of sin is broken and a radical divergence
from the world begun. Accordingly, when they
come to Christ, they come "out of the world,"
even though they remain in the world. The
"world" therefore designates a place, but this
place as the abode of man, and this man as sinful.
And though there is an ethical colouring to the


term, yet this ethical colouring does not constitute
its essence. Because there is an ethical colouring
to it Christ represents His people as gathered out
of the world; and because this ethical colouring
does not constitute its essence, we can, neverthe-
less speak of them remaining in the world while
kept from its evil.

The idea of heaven, as the contrast to that of
the world, must, therefore, partake of this two-
fold sense. It is primarily a place, to which
Christ's children would be removed if they were
taken out of the world. But as the world is a
bad place, so heaven, its contrast, is a good place;
and those who are good are, therefore, already in
principle in it. Therefore Paul tells us that our
citizenship is in heaven, and that we may even
here and now be with Christ in the heavenly
places. The word "heaven" does not occur in
this prayer. It does occur in the introduction to
it, where we are told that "Jesus, lifting up his
eyes to heaven, said Father," as if His pure eyes
pierced the wall of space and saw the Invisible
One. Heaven is, therefore, in this context, the
place where God is in His manifested glory, in
contrast with the world where the "god of this
world" manifests his power for a season. Ac-
cordingly our Lord speaks of it as the place where
God can be known and enjoyed, or with more per-
sonal point and pathos, as the place where He
Himself should be, in His destined glory which


was also His primal glory; where He, as He is,
and not as, in His humiliation. He has seemed,
should be and be manifested, and where His
children should be partakers of His glory.

And now what is Christ's desire for His people?

It is certainly not that they should remain in
the world, in its ethical sense. Already they had
been given Him out of the world, and therefore
they were no more of the world — no more than
Christ Himself was. The truth had already been
given them, that truth which should free from
sin, — God's own name had been manifested to
and in them, — and they were in radical opposi-
tion to the world, so that the world hated them.
Accordingly His prayer distinctly is that they
should be kept from that evil which constituted
the very characteristic of the world, and that their
sanctification should be continued in the truth.
He does not desire them to remain in the world in
this sense. He has instituted a radical contrari-
ety between them and "the world" ethically con-
sidered; and He is providing for this contra-
riety to widen into an ever broadening gulf.

Just as certainly, it is not that they should
remain always in the world, in its more local sense.
The tone of joy with which the Lord notes that
the time of His sojourn on earth is over and He is
ready to re-enter His heavenly glory is unmis-
takable. Equally unmistakable is the tone of
sadness with which He adverts to leaving His


followers in the world. They are in danger there;
in danger from the world's hate; and in danger
from the world's temptation. They are away
from their true and proper home there — in the
enemy's country — not householders at home, but
soldiers on duty, pilgrims on their journey. He
longs for them to enter their rest. And though
He leaves them joy and the means of more joy
in the word of truth. His desire for them is some-
thing higher than they can find here below. Nay,
His distinct "will" for them is that they also may
be with Him where He is to be; that they may be-
hold His glory; that they may share in that glory.
He wishes for them what His servant afterwards
declared to be "far better," that they too like
Him should go out of the world and enter into
glory — where Christ is on the right hand of God,
where God dwells and His knowledge is, and where
love is perfected in all.

But it is that they may temporarily remain in
the world, out of which they have in one sense
already come, but in which, in the other sense,
they are still left, while kept from the evil
of it.

Why? Well, for one thing, for their own sakes
— that they may be sanctified. God's name has
already been manifested to them; God's words
have already been given them; and they have re-
ceived them; and men hate them for it. The
good work is already, therefore, begun with them.


Its fruits are already shown in their radical de-
parture from the world and the world's conse-
quent hatred. But the work is not completed.
Therefore, the Saviour prays that "they may be
sanctified in the truth," that "they themselves
also may be sanctified" in truth, just as He had
been. They are to remain in the world then for
their own sakes that the good work begun in them
may be perfected unto the end. This appears as
needful. Not, of course, as if they might not
conceivably, like the dying thief, be prepared
for heaven in a moment. God's almighty grace
can work wonders. But that is not God's or-
dinary way; the muscles of holiness must grow
by practice; hence temptation itself and trials are
blessings. Hence, too, it emerges that sanctifi-
cation is to take place in this life, in the ordinary
provision of God. God's children are to remain
in the world for their sanctification.

For another thing, for others' sake. God's
plans need their presence in and work for the
world. They are not the whole harvest, but the
first fruits only. And that the first fruits may
share in the harvest, it is needful to have them
stay and labour here. They are to be the seed —
** the good seed are they who ..." And after a
while this sowing is to ripen into a goodly in-
gathering. Accordingly, our Lord prays not only
for them but for them also who believe — through-
out the whole future — on Him by their word. His


glance takes in His whole Church, of all the ages;
and these are to abide for it.

For still another thing, for the sake of the world
itself. There is a testimony to be borne to the
wicked world itself. "The wicked world," ap-
parently, because in contrast here not only with
those whom Christ left behind, but also with
those who should believe on His name through
their word. The world is to be convicted of sin
and convinced of Christ's mission and glory. His
own are to remain in the world and to propagate
and grow into a mighty, unitary Church, in order
that the world itself may know that the lowly
Jesus whom it has despised and rejected is none
other than the Son of God; and that these lowly
followers of His, despised and persecuted by it,
are loved of the Father even as the Father loves
Him. The mighty testimony of the Church of
God! How little we are bearing it! How we
ought to bestir ourselves to it!

And then, finally, we must say also, for the
Son's own sake. For He, too, reaps advantages
from their abiding below. So, and humanly
speaking, so only, may His mission be vindicated
and His glory manifested to the world, in His
Church; may His glory be fully manifested to
His own, when at last they come to Him; may
His love then be perfected in them.

For these reasons, at least, it is well that Christ's
people remain for a season in this wicked world.


Acts 2:16, 17: — "This is that which hath been spoken through
the prophet Joel. ... I will pour forth of my Spirit."

In any attempt to estimate the significance of
the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, consid-
ered as the inauguration of the New Dispensa-
tion, the following two considerations must be
made fundamental.

The Spirit was active under the Old Dispensa-
tion in all the modes of His activity under the
New Dispensation. This is evinced by the rec-
ords of the activities of the Spirit of God in the
Old Testament, which run through the whole
series of the Spirit's works; and by the ascription
by the writers of the New Testament of all the
working of the Spirit of God in the Old Testament
to their own personal Holy Ghost. Thus, for
example, the inspiration of the Old Testament
prophets and writers is ascribed to the Holy
Ghost (2 Pet. 1:21; 1 Pet. 1:11; Heb. 3:7, 10:15;
Matt. 22:43; Mark 12:36; Acts 1:16, and 28:25).
The authorship of the ritual service of the sanc-
tuary is ascribed to Him (Heb. 9:8). The leading
of Israel in the wilderness and throughout its
history is ascribed to Him (Acts 7:51). It was in
Him that Christ preached to the antediluvians



(1 Pet. 3:18). He was the author of faith then
as now (2 Cor. 4:13).

Nevertheless, the change of dispensation con-
sisted primarily just in this: that in the New Dis-
pensation the Spirit was given (so John 7:39;
16:7; 20:22; Acts 2).

The problem, therefore, is to understand how
the New Dispensation can be thus by way of dis-
crimination the Dispensation of the Spirit, char-
acterized by the giving of the Spirit, while yet He
was active in the Old Dispensation in all the modes
of His activity under the New. For the solving
of this problem we shall need to exercise a humble
courage in embracing the standpoint of Scripture

In order to do this, we must observe that the
operations of the Holy Ghost were forfeited by
man through sin. Adam enjoyed the influence
of the Holy Spirit and it was through the Spirit's
inworking that Adam was enabled to withstand
temptation, and by it that he might have been
led safely through his probation and afterwards
confirmed in holiness. When Adam sinned he
lost the gift of original righteousness, indeed, but
with it also the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the
depravation into which he and his posterity
sank — according to the fearful history recorded
in the first chapter of Romans — has lying at its
foundation the deprivation of the Holy Ghost's


The Lord never, indeed, wholly turns away from
any work of His hands; did He do so, it would fall
at once on the removal of His upholding hand,
like the unhooped barrel, back into nothingness.
In His providence, and in what we call His com-
mon grace. He continues to work among even
His sinful creatures who have lost all claim upon
His love. But just because they are sinful, they
have forfeited all the operations of His grace and
deserve at His hands only wrath. After the sin
of Adam, the whole world lies in wickedness; and
just because it lies in wickedness it is deprived
of the inhabitation of the Spirit of holiness.

But though the race has thus by its sin for-
feited the right to the inward work of the Holy
Ghost, God may in His infinite grace restore the
Spirit to man, as soon as, and in so far as. He can
make it just and righteous so to do. In the aton-
ing work of Christ, He has laid the foundation
for such a restoration in righteousness. But we
are dependent on the Scriptures to inform us how
far this restoration extends intensively and ex-
tensively. We are not authorized to argue that
because of the remedy for sin offered in Christ,
God must or may treat sin as if it never had ex-
isted, so that all that the race has lost in Adam is
restored in Christ, and that for all the sinful race
alike. It may be consonant with what we could
wish to be true, so to argue. But it is obvious
that were this, in fact, the state of the case,


th(* Titer, would luivc Ix'rn rcstorcrl in Christ, from
the inoincnt ol' Aihim's fiill, and would have been
continued iji holy development unbrokenly.
Adam's sin wouhJ, in that case, have been a ben-
efit to the race; it would have curtailed its pro-
bation and placed the nice at once at tin; goal of
attainment which been promised to obedi-
ence. Obedience and (iisobedience obviously
would, in case, have been all one; the end
ol)tained would have been precisely the same.
Whence it woidd follow that Ailam's probation
was a mere farce, if not even that the Divine re-
gard for moral distinctions was a pretence.

Nothing can be more obvious according to either
Scrii)tnre or the experience of the race than that
this course was not taken. The Lord did not, at
once, treat sin as if it had never occurred. He
did, inch'cd, at on(!e institute a remedial scheme
by which the ed'ect of sin rrnght be obliterated
to the extent and in the mariner whic'h was pleas-
ing to His glorious judgment; but clearly it was
not |)lea,sing to Dim, on I he basis of the atone-
ment, to set aside the fad of sin altogether. ITow
far, on this basis. He was pleased to set aside the
fact of sin and restore to men the Spirit of holiness
of whom they had been deprived on account of
sin, we are wholly dependent u|)()n His Word to
tell us.

On the basis of the Scriptural declarations, it is
perfectly evident that it was not the plan of God


to rcslon' I lie, Spiril, lo man universally. 'Vhr.
(ircadfnl fact, .slarcs ns full in tli

Online LibraryBenjamin Breckinridge WarfieldFaith and life; 'conferences' in the Oratory of Princeton seminary → online text (page 8 of 27)