A TREATISE ON FUNDAMENTAL DOCTRINES OF
THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION: IN WHICH ARE ILLUSTRATED THE PROFESSION, MINISTRY,
AND FAITH OF THE SOCIETY OF FRIENDS
Philadelphia: Emmor Kimbor, 1815. Pages 62-67.
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The doctrine of perfection appears to me to follow next in course after sanctification and justification. Friends believe that a state of perfection in this Life is enjoined in as positive a manner as any other obligation whatever. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Matt. 548. If this plain and positive command of Christ be rightly understood, we shall find that it must be taken in connection with other considerations which he has communicated. We are told, "I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing. We may therefore consider the doctrine of perfection under this figure as though our Lord had said that as the branch of the vine is perfect, according to its kind, in consequence of the order of nature, by being in connection with the vine, so also shall ye be if ye abide in me. But unless ye abide in me, there is in your case a deficiency, and that order which only is perfect is broken; in which state ye cannot be perfect. But the perfection to which I have called you, is entirely possible on my principleand this you must believe, if you can believe that your Father which is in heaven is perfect; you have a proof of his perfection in all his works; and I have told you plainly that as the branch and vine are perfect in consequence of their connection, so when ye are sustained and live in the same Spirit, you will be as perfect in your order, as I am in mine. But as the branch would be imperfect, and fail to bring forth fruit if it abode not in the vine, so also you will fail, if you abide not in me. We have sufficient evidence in favor of the doctrine of perfection, not only from the command of Christ to his disciples, which ought to be conclusive, but also from the doctrine which was common and held forth in the primitive Church. Paul has said, "Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect." 1 Cor. 26. If the Apostle did not believe that there were those in his day, who had come to this state, we cannot suppose the above sentence would have been written, but this is far from being the only case in which the idea of perfection is spoken of. "Be perfect, be of good comfort," &c. 2 Cor. 1311 is mentioned by the same Apostle elsewhere. And again, "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 statute of the fulness of Christ." Eph. 413. "Let us therefore as many as be perfect, be thus minded." Phil. 315. "Warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." Col. 128. And on this subject the Apostle James has said, "Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." James 14. The foregoing evidently proves that the doctrine of perfection was not only enjoined by Christ upon all his followers, but also believed in and taught by his faithful servants in the primitive Church. But whatever may be the objections raised against it at this day, or against the Society of Friends for holding it up as indispensable, we cannot believe that Christianity is maintained according to the fulness of its own obligations by those who reject it. Why any should stumble at this profession, it is difficult to conceive; because a doubt of the possibility of perfection, must imply unbelief in the all sufficiency of the means, which God in his mercy has offered, for the restoration and salvation of man; since it must be evident that we are not to be permitted an inheritance in the Kingdom of God, unless we be first made pure; doubtless that which is pure is perfect, and the perfection which is required is altogether included in the fulfilment of those commands which are given, and which, as has been before stated, must be possible. If we take a view of this doctrine, in relation to the will of the Almighty, it must appear that he wills our perfect redemption, and consequent separation from all transgression. This is manifested by every mark of his love to his creature man; but in no instance more so than in that of sending his beloved Son; for as the Evangelist John informs us, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting Life." John 316. And to the same effect has Paul spoken, "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all; how shall he not with him also freely give us all things." Rom. 832. Many other passages might be instanced to show the love of God to man, an this manifestation of his love must be to no purpose, if we are not put into a capacity to comply with his will, and that his will is that we should be made perfect, I hope will not be denied; since the command to be so, has no less authority than that of his beloved Son. But the perfection of man, though it appears to us to correspond with the Divine mind, we do not believe is attainable by any power of our own; it is a state which can only be produced by the submission of our will in all things to the will of God. And we believe that though it is not in us, as transgressing and fallen creatures, to come of ourselves to God, and thus to submit to him, yet we doubt not, that when by a sense of his love we are drawn to him, and through the atonement of his dear Son, our sins are forgiven, because we have passed through the dispensation of repentance, that it is possible to be so allied in love to God as to let go of all improper love for other objects, and thus to know a triumph by the power of his Spirit over the transgressing nature. Therefore we believe that the souls of these are so separated from every fallen influence as to stand in the perfect obedience of Christ. That they are united as branches to him, the true and living vine, and partake of that perfect nature which the wise God will approve and accept. Such know as Paul has said, "Ye have not received the Spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our Spirit, that are the children of God." Rom. 815-16. Being thus begotten anew by the power of God, they are perfect children of the Light and of the day, in whom, through obedience to the will of their heavenly Father, victory is gained over all the powers of darkness.