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Studies in Perfectionism, vol. 2, B. B. Warfield[1]


Oberlin Perfectionism1

I. The Men And The Beginnings

Oberlin College2 had its origin in what seemed a wild dream that formed itself in 1832 in the mind of John J. Shipherd, home-missionary pastor of the little Presbyterian church in the village of Elyria, Ohio. As the scheme floated before his imagination, it was perhaps not very dissimilar to one of those communistic enterprises which were springing up throughout the country in the wake of the excitement aroused by Robert Owen. To that extent Shipherd may be accounted a brother spirit to John H. Noyes. But he had not the courage of conviction, to call it by no harsher name, which drove Noyes on in his reckless course. When he came to draw up the Oberlin “Covenant,” he faltered. He provided only that “we will hold and manage our estates personally, but pledge as perfect a community of interest as though we held a community of property.” By so narrow a margin Oberlin appears to have escaped becoming a decent Oneida Community: or rather, we should say, by so narrow a margin Oberlin appears to have escaped the early end which has befallen all communistic enterprises which wish to be decent; for communism and decency cannot exist together.3

Apart from this one point, the persistency of Shipherd’s purpose and the energy of his will were incapable of faltering. By the end of 1833, he had some nine square miles of virgin forest in hand; the beginnings of a colony already settled on it, pledged to high thinking and hard living (not only no alcohol or tobacco, but also no coffee, no tea, no condiments); a large boarding-school building erected; efficient teachers at work in it, and a body of pupils, which numbered forty-four by the end of the session, gathered at their feet. There was of course only an “Academy” at first. But Shipherd’s plan embraced also from the beginning a “College” and a “Theological Seminary”; and already early in 1834, there was a Board of Trustees in being, operating under a charter, couched in broad terms, which spoke of an “Oberlin Collegiate Institute.” And by the autumn of that year there was a freshman class ready to enter at the opening of the next session (in the spring) “the collegiate department” of this Institute. Summer was term-time at Oberlin, winter vacation. Late in November, accordingly, Shipherd started out, armed with a commission from the Board of Trustees to obtain the means to make the step forward now become necessary. What he sought was money and a President. But like Saul, seeking the asses, he found much that he was not looking for. He found a whole Theological Seminary—President, professors, pupils and endowment—all complete; and he brought it all back with him to Oberlin in the spring of 1835.

Shipherd always contended that he was supernaturally guided in this quest. And Asa Mahan, the President whom he found, fully agreed with him. Up to the end of his long life, Mahan constantly insisted that he was supernaturally called to the Presidency of Oberlin College, not in the providential sense in which this phrase is ordinarily employed, but with as immediate a supernaturalism as that with which Saul or David was designated king over Israel.4 Shipherd, having money and a President to find, naturally should have gone east where money and Presidents were to be found. But he discovered himself going south instead. “An irresistible impression” drove him without any clear intelligence justifying his action, in the wrong direction. So he reached Cincinnati instead of New York, and found—Mahan; who, everybody in Cincinnati told him, was the very person he was seeking. He thought so too; and with the more confidence that he could see now that he had been divinely guided to him. Mahan had a whole Theological Seminary ready for removal to Oberlin. There had been an abolitionist organization among the students of Lane Theological Seminary, which the Trustees of that institution had endeavored to suppress. The result was that the students had withdrawn from the Seminary, practically in a body; and, housed near by, were endeavoring to continue their theological education independently, with only the aid of John Morgan, who had been tutor in the preparatory department at Lane and had withdrawn with the students. Mahan had been the single member of the Board of Trustees who had taken the students’ part; and he now proposed that they, with Morgan, should go with him to Oberlin, thus completing at a stroke the three-storied structure proposed for that institution.

Excited by these bewildering occurrences, Shipherd, taking Mahan with him, proceeded east to complete his mission. He now, however, no longer sought money and a President, but money and a Professor of Theology. The office was offered on the way to Theodore G. Weld, the young abolitionist agitator, who had had much to do with the students’ revolt at Lane and who was their idol. He pointed them rather to Charles G. Finney; and to Finney, then pastor of the Broadway Tabernacle Congregationalist Church, New York, accordingly they went. They found him depressed in body and spirit, with a feeling that the bow of his strength was broken and his evangelistic days were over;5 and quite ready to listen to their proposal if only the necessary financial provision could be made. This was managed with the help of his friend, Arthur Tappan, who was always ready to multiply good works. One condition, however, was made by all—Tappan and Finney and Mahan and the Lane students alike. There was to be no color line drawn at Oberlin. The whole enterprise was near to wrecking on this condition. It was only with the greatest difficulty and in the end by a majority of only one vote, and that on an ambiguously worded resolution, that the Trustees were brought to comply with it. It was however thus complied with; and so Shipherd was able to bring his Theological Seminary to Oberlin in the spring of 1835.

The end of woes, however, was not yet. The New York backers of the enterprise failed; and it found itself plunged into the greatest financial straits. The students who had come from Lane proved a little difficult—some of them perhaps quite impossible—as from their antecedents it was to be anticipated they would.6 His colleagues found Mahan himself something more than a little difficult.7 Finney bristled with eccentricities.8 Fads were exaggerated into fanaticisms, foibles into gospels. There were some who, worn out with the wrangle, left—“in a very unhappy frame,” as the historian says.9 Most stayed on, and rasped along. Meanwhile Finney and Mahan, with the valuable assistance of John Morgan and Henry Cowles—who completed the theological faculty—were preaching, with the greatest power and effect, the duty, the privilege, the possibility of a holy walk. The circumstances in which they found themselves imposed this particular topic upon them as, in a very distinct sense, their peculiar message; and they delivered it with great elaboration and persistency. As they pressed on in their more and more intensified exhortations, it came about that they were preaching just the duty and attainability of a life of perfect holiness, though they themselves had not faced the fact.

It required to be forced on their recognition by pressure from without. This came in the summer and autumn of 1836 as the second year of the Theological Seminary was drawing to a close. Under the exhortations of their preceptors the students perceived that precisely what was required of them was perfection. They put the question; and at length—though not until the ensuing winter—received the affirmative answer. We are assisting here at the birth of Oberlin Perfectionism. Once born, it proved a very vigorous and very exacting child. Its exposition and defense absorbed a very large part of the energies of the staff of theological instructors. It was Mahan who took the lead and made himself first and last its chief expounder. Finney, however, was first on the field. Spending the winter of 1836–1837 in New York, as was his custom during his early years at Oberlin, and preaching there a series of “Lectures to Professing Christians”—his new engrossment—he preached two of them on “Christian Perfection,” the first public proclamation of Oberlin Perfectionism. A semi-monthly newspaper—The Oberlin Evangelist—the first number of which appeared on the first of November, 1838, was established under the editorship of Henry Cowles, for the main purpose of propagating the new doctrine. In it there were at once printed certain articles on the all-absorbing topic, out of which books by Finney, Mahan and Cowles were soon gathered together.10 Wherever Oberlin was heard of, it was Oberlin Perfectionism which was heard of first.11

The Oberlin Professors, we see, did not bring perfectionism to Oberlin. They brought an ultraistic temper12 and the “New Divinity.” And the “New Divinity,” here too, as it had previously done in Central and Western New York, begot perfectionism out of its own loins. Oberlin was only an extension of Western New York into the wilds of Northern Ohio, and it repeated in its religious history, as it reproduced in its mental quality, the characteristic features of its stock. John Morgan13 and Henry Cowles,14 were not Western New York men. But they had both fallen under influences of the same general character, the one in contact with Lyman Beecher at Cincinnati, the other under the instruction of N. W. Taylor at Yale; and had received the same stamp. The situation was dominated in any case, however, by Finney and Mahan, both Western New York men, both “New Divinity” men, and both men of aggressive spirit and radical temper. Their previous lives, though springing out of the same soil, had run on very different lines, and it is rather remarkable to see them converge at Oberlin in a common end.

The details of Finney’s early life which are current seem to rest altogether on his own recollections. He does not profess that these were complete, and there is some reason to suspect that they were not always altogether accurate. The main facts which he gives us15 are that he was born in Warren, Litchfield Co., Connecticut, August 29, 1792; that two years afterwards the family removed to Brothertown, Oneida Co., New York; whence, however, while Finney was still so young a child that he retained no recollection of it, they were compelled, by the settlement of certain tribes of Indians there, to move to Hanover (subsequently renamed Kirkland), then a part of the large township of Paris, in the same county. There the boy grew up and went to school, until he was about sixteen years of age (Finney says he does not remember the exact date), when the family moved again—to Henderson, Jefferson Co., New York, a hamlet a little south of Sackett’s Harbor. At this new home he taught school for something like four years. Then, when he was “about twenty years old,” or “soon after he was twenty years of age,” he went back to his ancestral home, Warren, Connecticut, and spent some four years there and in New Jersey, in study and teaching. Returning thence to his parents, he soon afterward entered the law-office of Benjamin Wright at Adams, New York, and began the study of law. This, he says, was in 1818.

It is a little difficult to form a vivid picture of the actual life of the boy within this framework. It was a raw frontier life; and there seem to have been few cultural and no religious ameliorations afforded him by his home associations. There may be some reason to believe that his father, like Lyman Beecher’s, pursued the trade of a blacksmith;16 and it is certain that the household, like that in which Beecher was bred, was without church connections.17 Indeed, Finney not only represents the household as without religion, but broadens out the representation until the impression is conveyed that no “religious privileges were accessible to him in the community.” This is a, perhaps not unnatural, exaggeration. Looking back upon his youth, barren of religious impressions, he transferred to his surroundings much that belonged only to himself, and thus transmuted his fault into his misfortune. Even in the frontier districts in which he lived not only Christian people but Christian churches could be found by those who desired to be associated with them; and not only unlettered itinerants and absurd exhorters but also learned ministers and faithful pastors could be met with by those who sought them out. The particular region in which Finney’s boyhood was spent was indeed peculiarly well supplied with opportunities for religious culture. Clinton was but a short two-miles away, and Clinton was already a center of religious influence. There seems also to have been an organized religious society in his own hamlet with so excellent a minister as P. V. Bogue at the head of it.18 The difficulty with Finney’s early religious training was not that he lacked opportunity but that he lacked desire for it.

Things naturally were different when the family left this favored region (about 1808) and made a new home for itself in the backwoods of Jefferson County. There was practically no settled ministry at that time in this region;19 and the young school-teacher passed some four years here without easy access to the stated means of grace. Returning thence to civilization and religious privileges he was able to sit, however, Sabbath after Sabbath, in the choir-gallery of good Peter Starr’s church at Warren, Connecticut, unmoved to any spiritual response by his pastor’s faithful preaching.20 Meanwhile changes were taking place in Jefferson County. A revival had swept through that region in 1815.21 Settled churches were being established. A Presbyterian church at Sackett’s Harbor which in 1816 had called to its pastorate Samuel Finley Snowden, a man of the highest quality, was formally organized in the early months of 1817.22 A Congregational church, soon to become Presbyterian, was organized at Adams.23 When Finney returned to his father’s house in 1816, or somewhat later, it was no longer to a community in which the stated means of grace were inaccessible, and no longer to a household to which the grace of God was a stranger. A brother had given himself to God during his absence.24 If he himself still knew nothing of the grace of God, that could only be because he did not wish to know anything of it. We are glad to be told that he was not in any sense vicious:25 he was, however, in every sense godless. It was not that he had no contact with religion. If he had not a praying mother, he had a praying sweetheart who did not cease to bear him on her heart before God;26 and it is obvious from his own narrative that he was repeatedly more or less affected by the religious appeal. If he did not know God it was because he refused to have God in his knowledge. He was not ignorant of Christianity; he was, as a contemporary puts it “a great opposer of the Church before his conversion.”27 Or, as the historian phrases it, he was “without godliness and with the spirit of a sceptic and scoffer.”28

When Finney, yielding to the persuasions of his invalid mother who wished him to remain near her, gave up his purpose of further pursuing his literary education, and entered the law-office of Benjamin Wright (afterwards Wright and Wardwell) at Adams, in 1818 (he was then twenty-six years old), he seemed to have come to his own. He was peculiarly endowed for the work of an advocate, and we are not surprised to learn that he loved his profession and was successful in its practice from the very first. An indelible impression was left upon his mind by his legal studies, and his habits of thought and modes of public speech were fixed for life during the four short years of his practice at the bar. He was not to be left, however, to the peaceful prosecution of his chosen profession. He was already suffering under a certain amount of religious uneasiness; and the circumstances of his life in Adams did not permit him to escape from the daily appeal of religion to him. Religion had always been within his reach—the difference was only comparative. “Up to this time,”29 he says, “I had never enjoyed what might be called religious privileges”: “I had never lived in a praying community, except during the periods when I was attending the high school in New England”: “At Adams, for the first time, I sat statedly, for a length of time, under an educated ministry”: “I had never, until this time, lived where I could attend a stated prayer meeting.” The qualifications, which have been thrown up to attention by italicizing them, deserve the most marked emphasis. It is only by regarding them that we obtain a view of the true state of the case. What happened to Finney at Adams was that he was no longer permitted to neglect religion. The young pastor of the Presbyterian church there, George W. Gale, was a man of force and a pastor of parts. He never permitted this fine young lawyer, who was scoffing at religion, but was clearly not easy in his mind about it, to escape beyond its influence. He made him leader of the choir and so secured his constant attendance at the church. He was in the habit, Finney naïvely says, “of dropping in at our office frequently, and seemed anxious to know what impression his sermons had made on my mind,”—apparently not dreaming that that was not vanity on Gale’s part, but good pastoral work. Finney found himself going not merely to church but to prayer-meeting. He says in his old age that he does not recollect having ever attended a prayer-meeting before: and now he wished to do so, partly from curiosity, and partly from an uneasiness of mind on the subject which he could not well define.30 He got a Bible, the first he had ever owned; and took to reading it, at first under cover of interest in Biblical law, but soon with deeper concern. He did not easily yield; he was a harsh critic of his pastor’s sermons and of the prayers of Christians. But Gale’s zeal did not flag; and we may be sure he saw clearly enough the signs of the coming end.

Precisely how the end came, we are not quite sure. Finney tells us, “I was brought face to face with the question whether I would accept Christ.”31 “On a Sabbath evening in the autumn of 1821,” he says, “I made up my mind that I would settle the question of my soul’s salvation at once.”32 So closely is his account confined to his own subjective experiences that the reader is tempted to suppose that there were no objective occurrences by which they were brought about. In point of fact Finney’s conversion took place in a great revival; and it was currently supposed that his final step was the result of the exhortations of Jedediah Burchard.33 Ever since his return to the West he had been living in the presence of revival conditions. The revival of 1815 already mentioned as sweeping over this region, had been followed by others without intermission. Sixty-five converts were added to the little church at Adams in 1819, at the opening of Gale’s ministry there. Seventy were added to the church at Sackett’s Harbor in 1820. In 1821 the whole region was stirred to its depths; from eight hundred to a thousand converts were reported from Jefferson County—no fewer than seventy or eighty from Finney’s home hamlet, Henderson. In Adams itself one of the churches received forty-four new members and the other sixty or seventy.34 It was in these stirring scenes that Finney’s conversion took place. He gives us a very detailed account of his experiences in it.35 The most notable feature of these experiences is their supernaturalism; a supernaturalism not wholly in keeping with his strenuous subsequent insistence on the “make yourself a new heart” of the “New Divinity”; there is imbedded in them a most poignant experience of express inability.36 The account of them, written in his old age, is more or less adjusted to his subsequent modes of thought,37 and closes with a couple of odd paragraphs in which he “improves” his conversion by representing it as impressing then and there indelibly on his mind his later doctrines of justification in foro conscientiæ rather than in foro Dei, and of its issue in sinlessness. “I could not feel a sense of guilt or condemnation, by any effort that I could make.… My sins were gone; and I do not think I felt any more sense of guilt than if I never had sinned.… I felt myself justified by faith; and, so far as I could see, I was in a state in which I did not sin. Instead of feeling that I was sinning all the time, my heart was so full of love that it overflowed.… I could not feel that I was sinning against God. Nor could I recover the least sense of guilt for my past sins.”38 He adds: “Of this experience I said nothing that I recollect, at the time, to anybody; that is, of this experience of justification.”

Finney emerged from his conversion a new man: the “sceptic and scoffer” had become the believer and zealous propagandist. His devotion to the legal profession fell away at once with his old man; he assumed immediately the new profession of bringing men to Christ. A judicial case on which he was engaged came up for trial the morning after his conversion. “I have a retainer from the Lord Jesus Christ to plead His cause, and I cannot plead yours,”39 he said to his astonished client. And at once he went out on the streets to compel them to come in. It is not possible to obtain a connected view of his activities during the two years between the outstanding dates of his conversion in the autumn of 1821 and his licensure by the Presbytery of St. Lawrence on Dec. 30, 1823. His biographer says that “about as much mystery hangs over the first year and a half of Finney’s life subsequent to his conversion as that which shrouds the corresponding period of the apostle Paul’s renewed life.”40 The comparison, to be sure, is not very apt; but it is true that although we know many details of Finney’s activities during this period and its general character is clear, our knowledge of it remains confused. The account Finney gives of himself after his conversion loses itself in unordered details; and his dates give us no guidance, being all wrong. He makes it perfectly plain, however, that he at once gave himself to active Christian work, which centered in the church at Adams, but reached out also at least to his old home at Henderson; there he had the happiness of bringing his parents to Christ. From another account,41 we learn that he “actively engaged in the same school-house labors” which were being carried on by Jedediah Burchard, as a layworker, from his center at Sackett’s Harbor.

In the midst of these activities, he was taken under the care of Presbytery of St. Lawrence with a view to the gospel ministry, at a meeting held at Adams, June 25, 1823, and was “directed to pursue his studies under the direction of Rev. Messrs. Gale and Boardman.”42 It would not have been easy to find better men for this service.43 They were both men of sufficient learning, great force of character, and skill in dealing with men. The whole work apparently, however, fell into the hands of Gale, who was also Finney’s pastor,44 and with whom he was already in consultation. There was no mental sympathy between the two young men—Gale was now in his thirty-fourth year and Finney in his thirty-first: each was conscious of native power, and was tenacious of his opinions; and the so-called instruction appears to have degenerated into a constant wrangle. Finney brought to Gale the unordered Pelagianism of the man in the street, strengthened and sharpened by the habits of thought picked up in the law-courts; and he used Gale merely as an anvil on which to beat his own views into shape. His attitude at first was one of mere denial; he rejected with decision, not to say violence, the evangelical system which Gale sought to inculcate. The positive construction naturally came more slowly. “My views took on a positive type but slowly. At first I found myself unable to receive his peculiar views; and then gradually formed views of my own in opposition to them, which appeared to me to be unequivocally taught in the Bible.”45 We do not know when his views were fully formed. When they were, they had run into the mold of the “New Divinity” in the special form in which it was being taught at the moment in New Haven. There are some who think this result purely accidental: Finney, a great original thinker, reproduced for himself without any connection with him whatever, what N. W. Taylor was teaching with such revolutionary effect in New Haven.46 So far as the fundamental principle and general substance of his thought are concerned no doubt this is the true account to give of its origin. Pelagianism, unfortunately, does not wait to be imported from New Haven, and does not require inculcating—it is the instinctive thought of the natural man. But Finney’s thought ran not merely into the general mold of Pelagianism, but into the special mold of the particular mode of stating Pelagianism which had been worked out by N. W. Taylor. The historian of New England Theology feels compelled therefore to say that “independent as it was, and vigorously as its author had impressed upon it the marks of his own pronounced individuality,” Finney’s theology “may be dismissed in the one word ‘Taylorism.’ ”47 There were “various underground currents,” he says,48 which “set from New Haven westward, and some of them bore theological ideas into the region where Finney was.” We do not need, however, to raise question as to the channels of communication by which Taylorism was brought to Finney. Intercourse between Connecticut and Western New York was constant; Finney received part of his education in Connecticut and his was the common case; all the ministers of his acquaintance were trained in the East and came from the East and maintained connection with the East; and Taylorism was, at the moment, the vogue. What we need more particularly to ask ourselves is only, how far at this early date Finney’s views had crystallized into distinctly Taylorite shape. According to his own representation in his “Memoirs” they had already done so, at least in general, at the opening of his ministry; and certainly we cannot trace any other type of teaching in any account we have of his work. We know no other Finney than the Taylorite Finney.

On the 30th of December 1823, only six months after he had been taken under the care of the Presbytery, Finney was licensed to preach the Gospel at a meeting of the Presbytery of St. Lawrence held at Adams. He tells us that the Presbytery dealt gently with him and avoided raising questions on which he differed from it. Having now become a minister, he entered at once upon his ministerial labors in the northern part of Jefferson County—Evans Mills and Antwerp—as a missionary in the employment of the Female Missionary Society of the Western District of New York. As such a man naturally would be, he was successful in his labors from the start. He was ordained on his field, July 1, 1824, at a meeting of the Presbytery at Evans Mills; and seems to have contemplated settling at that place in a permanent pastorate. He was drawn off, however, into further evangelistic labors, and prosecuted them unbrokenly in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties up to the autumn of 1825. During these two years he lived the ordinary life of a frontier missionary, witnessing the same kinds of incidents—some of them bizarre enough—making the common experiences, but reaping more than ordinarily rich a harvest. According to his representations the matter of his preaching was constantly the “New Divinity”—pressed on his hearers with the pungency of expression, extremity of statement, and polemical vehemence, which belonged to his natural temperament.

This period was brought to a close, and the greatest episode of Finney’s life inaugurated, by an unforeseen occurrence. He visited the Synod of Utica, of which he was a member, in October, 1825,49 and on beginning his return journey home was waylaid by G. W. Gale, his “theological teacher,” as he calls him here,50 and induced to turn aside to preach at Western. Gale had been compelled by ill health to resign his charge at Adams in 1823, shortly before Finney left that place, and was now engaged on a farm at Western in laying the foundations of what was to be an eminently successful and indeed famous Manual Labor Institution, the parent of many less successful similar ventures. This preaching at Western broadened out into seven years (1825–1832) of probably the most spectacular revival activity the country has ever witnessed. That Finney felt himself to have taken a decisive step forward in entering upon this work—to have advanced to a new stage in his career—may be indicated by his transferring his presbyterial membership from the Presbytery of St. Lawrence to that of Oneida.51 He had turned his back on frontier work: henceforth his labors lay in the towns and cities of this rich and populous region, with their established churches and organized religious activities—and beyond. In his “Memoirs”52 he marks the transition by pausing to note that “at this place commenced that series of revivals, afterward called ‘the Western Revivals.’ ” Lyman Beecher calls them by the more designative name of “the Oneida denunciatory revivals.”53 They may have owed the feature which won them this designation, and much else about them that brought them into disrepute, in part at least to the circumstance that they were an invasion of the backwoods into civilization. Here was this young man, but two years a minister, but four a Christian, with no traditions of refinement behind him, and no experience of preaching save as a frontier missionary, suddenly leading an assault upon the churches. He was naturally extravagant in his assertions, imperious and harsh in his bearing, relying more on harrowing men’s feelings than on melting them with tender appeal. “Force,” says the judicious observer whom we are here drawing upon—“force was his factor, and ‘breaking down’ his process.”54 And in exercising this force he did not shrink from denunciations which bordered on the defamatory, or from the free use of language which can be characterized no otherwise than as coarse and irreverent.

All this was no doubt to be expected in the circumstances; and it was to be expected also no doubt that Finney should give himself of set purpose to stir up a commotion; and, having the assistance of a band of able coadjutors, that he should succeed in doing so to an incredible extent. The whole region was stricken with religious excitement, and nothing was permitted to stand in the way of fanning this excitement into ever hotter flames. Parishes were invaded without invitation, churches divided, opposing ministers “broken down,” or even driven from their pulpits, the people everywhere set and kept on edge. Finney was under no illusions as to the nature of this excitement or as to its dangers. He did not confound it with a movement of grace. It was only an instrument which he used to attract popular attention to the business he had in hand. It served him in other words as a means of “advance publicity.” “It seems sometimes to be indispensable,” he says,55 “that a high degree of excitement should prevail for a time, to arrest public and individual attention, and to draw people off from other pursuits to attend to the concerns of their souls.” This function served, the excitement is so little of further value that it becomes noxious; it now draws the mind off from the religion to prepare the way for which it is invoked, and if it were long continued, in “the high degree in which it is sometimes witnessed,” it could end in nothing but insanity. Nevertheless Finney permitted himself to play with this fire; and it is a question whether his chief work in this region consisted in much else than in kindling it. Certainly the characteristic feature of these “Western Revivals” lies in the immensity of the religious excitement engendered by them; and it is matter of discussion until to-day whether their chief results are not summed up in this effect. That many souls were born again and became ultimately the support and stay of the churches of the region, nobody doubts. As little does anybody doubt that grave evils also resulted, the effects of which have been overcome only with difficulty and through the lapse of time. There is room for difference only in the relative estimate placed on these two opposite effects.

One reason why many were converted in these revivals was that there were very many to be converted; and the character of this large unconverted multitude accounts, no doubt, in part also for their accessibility to a revival of this type. The churches were in a depressed state and this meant both an abnormally low condition of Christian life within them, and an abnormally large mass of indifference or worse without them: an abnormal reaction was to be expected, and was indeed inevitable. Asa Mahan tells us,56 that, observing these things, he had formed the distinct impression, before the revival came, that they must have a great and general revival of religion, or the churches would soon become extinct. “My reasons for that conviction,” says he, “were two-fold: the general and embittered opposition to religion itself, and the appalling neglect of religious services, on the part of the unconverted outside the churches, on the one hand; and the utter worldliness and indifference to the interests of souls and the cause of religion itself on the part of professors of Christianity, on the other.” “No one,” he adds, “not personally acquainted with the facts as they were can conceive how appalling these two aspects of the moral and religious state of the community then appeared.” The harvest was ripe and waiting for the sickle. It must be borne in mind, also, that a very large proportion of those swept into the churches by the excitement of the revival were not really converted, as their subsequent history only too clearly proved. Joseph Ives Foot, writing in 1838, is constrained to say:57 “During ten years, hundreds, and perhaps thousands, were annually reported to be converted on all hands; but now it is admitted, that his (Finney’s) real converts are comparatively few. It is declared, even by himself, that ‘the great body of them are a disgrace to religion’; as a consequence of these defections, practical evils, great, terrible, and innumerable, are in various quarters rushing in on the Church.”

It is very true that Finney could not conceal the instability of his converts from himself. Later he found a reason for it. It was because he had brought them only into traditional Christianity, and not into perfectionism. “While I inculcated the common views,” he says,58 meaning the common views as to an as yet imperfect sanctification, “I was often instrumental in bringing Christians under great conviction, and into a state of temporary repentance and faith”—it is thus that he speaks of his entire evangelistic work up to 1836!—“but,” he continues, “falling short of urging them up to a point, where they would become so acquainted with Christ as to abide in him, they would of course soon relapse again into their former state. I seldom saw, and can now understand that I had no reason to expect to see, under the instruction which I then gave, such a state of religious principle, such steady and confirmed walking with God among Christians, as I have seen since the change in my views and instructions.” There lies in this passage an affecting acknowledgment of the failure of his early evangelistic labors to produce permanent results. One of the odd things connected with it, however, is that Finney fancies that, had he preached perfectionism, the effect might have been different—meaning that the perfectionism of his converts would have protected them from sinning. In point of fact, though he did not himself preach perfectionism, his preaching made perfectionists, as more than one witness testifies;59 and his preaching of perfectionism could scarcely have done more than that. Yet the results were as we have seen. Jedediah Burchard roundly asserts that all revivals produce a crop of perfectionists, having in mind of course, the type of revival known to him. Finney does not go as far as that, but is willing to allow that revivals—again of course revivals such as he fomented—are commonly accompanied by a certain amount of what he would call fanaticism. In a tract written in his old age, called “Hindrances to Revivals,” he declares that he has seldom seen a revival in which a bitter, denunciatory, faultfinding spirit did not make its appearance sooner or later, and that to a considerable extent. His account of this phenomenon is that when the Spirit of God is poured out on a people, Satan pours himself out on them too.

The phenomenon, however, will admit of another explanation, especially when we learn that in propagating these revivals everything was bent to the production of the excited state of feeling that was aimed at, and all ordinary Christian duties were in abeyance—absorbed in the one duty of exaltation of feeling. Thus, for example, Josephus Brockway60 tells us that it was noted by all during the revival excitement at Troy in 1826–1827, that the whole charitable work of the churches fell away and even the Sabbath Schools were neglected: all manifestations of Christian love stopped: there was nothing, he says, but “a machine put in motion by violence, and carried by power.” Even the Bible was thrust aside. “For a long time, during the high state of feeling,” he writes,61 “(when, indeed, feeling was made a substitute for every Christian duty,) the Bible must not be introduced at all, into any social meeting, from one month’s end to another. And while the exhortation was often reiterated, ‘come, brethren, pray now, but don’t make any cold prayers,’ it was evidently held, although I do not say it was publicly expressed, that reading of the Bible was too cold a business for a Revival spirit. No time must be wasted in reading or singing, but the whole uninterruptedly devoted to praying with this faith and particularity, so vastly important.” We are witnessing here a sustained effort to push excited feeling on to the breaking point.

To the breaking point, of course, it came, all over the region which the revivals covered; and despite those who had been brought into a sure hope of eternal life—absolutely a large number, let us believe—the last stage of the region as such was worse than the first. It is the calm judgment of a man of affairs and of letters, seeking to put on record an observed social and religious phenomenon, which we have in the following statement of facts by the editor of The New York Commercial Advertiser:62 “Look at the present condition of the churches of Western New York, which have become, in truth, ‘a people scattered and peeled.’ The time has not come to write the ecclesiastical history of the last ten years. And yet somebody should chronicle the facts now, lest in after times the truth, however correctly it may be preserved by tradition, should not be believed.… The writer entertains no doubt, that many true conversions have occurred under the system to which he is referring. But as with the ground over which the lightning has gone, scorching and withering every green thing, years may pass away before the arid waste of the church will be grown over by the living herbage.” If any corroboration of this testimony were needed, it would be supplied by that of the workers in these revivals themselves. James Boyle writes to Finney himself December 25, 1834:63 “Let us look over the fields where you and others and myself have labored as revival ministers, and what is now their moral state? What was their state within three months after we left them? I have visited and revisited many of these fields, and groaned in spirit to see the sad, frigid, carnal, contentious state into which the churches had fallen—and fallen very soon after our first departure from among them.” No more powerful testimony is borne, however, than that of Asa Mahan, who tells us64—to put it briefly—that everyone who was concerned in these revivals suffered a sad subsequent lapse: the people were left like a dead coal which could not be reignited; the pastors were shorn of all their spiritual power; and the evangelists—“among them all,” he says, “and I was personally acquainted with nearly every one of them—I cannot recall a single man, brother Finney and father Nash excepted, who did not after a few years lose his unction, and become equally disqualified for the office of evangelist and that of pastor.”65

Thus the great “Western Revivals” ran out into disaster. Although it belongs to Finney’s earlier missionary labors it is a typical instance of their effects which Ebenezar Hazard Snowden gives us from his own parish. “Both Mr. Finney and Burchard,” he says, “made special efforts in Brownville, where I was afterwards settled. Mr. Wells, the pastor who was before beloved by every man woman and child, was as a result obliged to give up his charge about the time Mr. Finney was there. Such a course was pursued as exasperated a great portion of the respectable members of the congregation, and they immediately set up an Episcopal church which they have attended ever since.”66 As a consequence of such occurrences Finney’s ministrations became no longer acceptable, and his preaching no longer effective in the very region in which he had once swayed men like a wind among the reeds. Over and over again, when he proposed to revisit one of the churches, delegations were sent him or other means used, to prevent what was thought of as an affliction. P. H. Fowler67 quite unintentionally supplies us with a pungent instance of the decay of Finney’s acceptibility as a preacher in this region, of which he was himself cognizant. Finney came back in 1855 to Rome, the scene of one of his greatest triumphs in 1826.68 Now, however, his preaching elicited no response. He has himself told us of it,69 and attributes what seemed to him the otherwise inexplicable coldness of his reception, to the fault of the pastor. This Fowler declares to have been very erroneous and very unjust. He himself ascribes it to a change in fashions in preaching. Finney preached, he says, just as he did in 1826, with the same ability, earnestness, force. But this kind of preaching was passé—and “his old friends in Utica, where considerable religious interest existed, deemed it unwise to invite him there.” This kind of preaching was not passé, however, in other regions. It was still capable of oppressing men’s souls elsewhere. But not again here—even after a generation had passed by these burnt children had no liking for the fire.

The offence of Finney’s preaching attached both to its manner and to its matter; and it attached not to his preaching only but to his whole manner of conducting revivals, and not to his person only but to the whole bevy of assistants who gathered around him in prosecuting them.70 It belonged to the movement itself and constituted its characteristic. We have seen Lyman Beecher using the epithet “denunciatory” in describing these revivals, and it may provisionally serve as well as another word to intimate their peculiarity. It was as if the day of judgment had come and the instruments of vengeance were abroad, with whips of scorpions, lashing the people into the Kingdom of God. Everywhere, naturally, there was wailing and gnashing of teeth. The denunciation indulged in was constant and unmeasured. It was not confined to the preaching: denunciatory praying was practiced as diligently as denunciatory preaching. Diverted from their ostensible purpose as petitions to the Almighty, prayers were employed merely as means of exciting the audience. Sometimes the effect aimed at can only be characterized as direct hysteria. At others, usurping the place of preaching, the prayer became an assault on the hearer; and that not merely with a more or less general reference, but, under the protection of the form of petition, with a particularizing of the precise individual intended and a detailed description of his faults, which would scarcely have been tolerated in preaching. People were “prayed at” rather than “prayed for,” with the mind obviously set more on moving them than on moving God.71

We are observing here only one item in a system of practices which formed the characteristic feature of these revivals, and which soon came to be known collectively as “the new measures.”72 These “new measures” of course were much spoken against; but all opposition to them was sternly stamped out. There was no more highly esteemed minister in this region than William Raymond Weeks, who was at the time serving the Congregational church at Paris Hill.73 A Pastoral Letter issued by the ministers of the Oneida Association of which he was a member, warning the members of the churches under its care against the new practices, was composed by him;74 and naturally also, in writing to his friends in the East, he expressed with some decision (for that belonged to his character) his opinion of the evils he saw being thus thrust upon the people. As a result not only was he driven in the end out of his pulpit, but his memory has been sedulously defamed ever since. Fifty years after, Finney was still speaking with undeserved contempt of him,75 and he and Henry Davis,76 President at the time of Hamilton College—whose crime also was “opposition to the revivals”—seem to be the only ones among the multitude of ministers who have worked in Central New York discussed by P. H. Fowler in his history, whom he has dealt with with obvious injustice. The Pastoral Letter which was the head and front of Weeks’ offending, is not only a perfectly inoffensive but an eminently judicious document, expressed in entirely temperate language. It is absolutely free from personalities, and equally free from rasping particularizing. Framed in general terms, it merely enumerates the kinds of practices, which may possibly be met with in revivals of religion, that lovers of God and their own souls would do well to avoid. It might be read through without divining that it was directed against any particular movement: and one would suppose that its serious and quiet cautions would be accepted by all as an excellent road-book for the wayfarer through a troubled land. That the participants in “the Western Revivals” were quick to declare that their own portrait was depicted may cause us some surprise; and more, that their resentment was occasioned not by their looking upon the portrait drawn as a caricature of them, but by the painter’s intimation that he himself considered it ugly. We clearly have, in this calm enumeration of things to be avoided in revivals, a trustworthy outline sketch of how “the Western Revivals” were being carried on.

The phrase “new measures” soon however, acquired a sense of rather narrower compass, in which it embraced only those of the new practices which might be conceived as means employed to produce the effect sought.77 As these came to be more fully known, they astonished, distressed, appalled the friends of revivals everywhere; and most of all, as was natural, those who felt themselves to stand in particularly close connection with the churches of Central New York—such as the clergy of Connecticut. Asahel Nettleton, the most esteemed “revival minister” of the day, took the lead in an effort to abate the evil.78 Others—notably Lyman Beecher79—joined themselves to him. Many—Griffin, Porter, Nott, Tucker, Cornelius—visited Troy where Finney was then holding revival services, that they might observe “the new measures” for themselves. They came away more shocked than before. Letters were written.80 And finally a conference was arranged—“the New Lebanon Convention,” held July 18–26, 1827—in which the “Eastern brethren” endeavored to bring their “Western brethren” to reason.81 The attempt was in vain; and the fundamental reason why it was in vain is not difficult to discern. The axe was not laid to the root of the tree. The “new measures” were not arbitrary practices due to nothing but a coarse and depraved taste, the correction of which might be easily managed and need work no great change in principle. They belonged to the very essence of the revival as conceived by its promoters. It was in them that its heart expressed itself. They were in a word the natural and inevitable effect of the doctrine on which the revival was based. For what was new in this revival was not merely the particular “measures” by which it was prosecuted—that might be a merely surface phenomenon—but the particular doctrine on which it was founded, of which the measures employed were only the manifestation. This was a Pelagian revival. That was its peculiarity: and everything else connected with it was merely the expression of this.

That it was “the new measures” rather than the Pelagianism of “the Western Revivals” which in the first instance at least offended the Eastern brethren is no doubt due in part to the general fact that it is always external things which first meet the eye. The external things in this instance were shocking in themselves; and their rooting in a doctrinal cause was often felt but vaguely or not at all. Pelagianizing modes of thought, derived from the same general source from which Finney had himself drunk—the “New Divinity” taught at New Haven—were moreover widely diffused among the New England clergy themselves. Men of this type of thinking might be offended by Finney’s practices on general grounds, but could scarcely be expected, for that very reason, to assign them as to their cause to a doctrine common to his and their own thinking. And that the more that there were as yet no adequate means of ascertaining what the doctrinal basis of Finney’s preaching was. Only his actual hearers were in any real sense informed of his teaching. When a little later he began to publish lectures and sermons the scales fell from men’s eyes. The discerning had no difficulty then in seeing the correlation between his practices and his doctrines, or in clearly understanding that the phenomena of his revivals which gave most offence were merely the natural consequences of the fundamental fact that they were Pelagian revivals.

Accordingly Albert B. Dod is found writing:82 “We recollect that it was matter of surprise to many when the conjunction took place between the coarse, bustling fanaticism of the New Measures and the refined, intellectual abstractions of the New Divinity.—It was a union between Mars and Minerva,—unnatural, and boding no good to the church. But our readers will have observed that there is a close and logical connection between Mr. Finney’s theology and his measures. The demand created for the one by the other, and the mutual assistance which they render, are so evident, that we will spend no time in the explanation of them.” And Charles Hodge:83 “That the new measures and the new divinity should have formed an intimate alliance, can surprise no one aware of their natural affinity.… No better method therefore could be devised to secure the adoption of the new doctrines, than the introduction of the new measures. The attempt has accordingly been made. The cold, Pelagian system of the new divinity has been attached to the engine of fanaticism.” These writers, it will be observed, do not assert that such practices as are summed up in the “new measures” may not exist—have not existed—apart from a determinate Pelagian system: what they affirm is that it is in such practices that a Pelagian system naturally expresses itself if it seeks to become aggressively evangelistic, and that in them we may perceive the Pelagian system running out into its appropriate methods. Joseph Ives Foot describes Finney’s revivals therefore frankly from this point of view.84 “These doctrines, with a corresponding system of measures, were driven like a hurricane through the churches. To resist this operation was to resist God. Conscientious Christians gave place, till they should see what it was. Timorous ones were attached to his triumphal car, while the bold and the ignorant seized the reins and the whip; and hundreds and thousands under these various influences, were led to believe themselves converted, and were immediately driven into the church. These scenes were called revivals; and thus the very name of the operations of divine grace was brought into suspicion.” It is from the same point of view that Charles D. Pigeon writes with a somewhat broader reference:85 “We look upon the course of Mr. Finney as particularly instructive. He of all others has taught the New Haven theology in its greatest purity and has ventured to push its principles to their legitimate results. Those parts of New York which have been the scene of his labours, are giving, and will long continue to give the most instructive lessons as to the nature of that system of doctrine, and its influence on individual character and religious institutions.” And it is still from the same point of view that Samuel J. Baird places at the head of the very instructive chapter in which he gives an account of “the Western Revivals” the descriptive title of “Practical Pelagianism,” and brings the chapter to a close with these words:86 “Such were the fruits, widely realized in Western New York, from the New Haven theology. They were its legitimate and proper results. The good taste, common sense, and piety, of many of the disciples of that school, may revolt from these exhibitions, and pause before adopting them, in their full development. But the practical system of Finney, Burchard, Myrick, and their compeers, was deduced, from the theology of New Haven, by a logic, which no ingenuity can evade.”

It will not have escaped observation that the writers we have last quoted assume that “the Western Revivals” were already generally understood to have been far from successful, as judged by their ultimate fruits. That indeed was the case. We have already seen that Finney himself came in the end to a recognition of this unhappy fact. It will cause no surprise that he should become wearied with this unfruitful work. Already in 1832 he was looking back upon this portion of his career as a closed page of doubtful success, and was consciously seeking a new phase of activity. He was yet to do a great deal of evangelistic work; but, although he threw the circle of his labors wider and wider, even across the seas, he thought of himself as no longer an evangelist—he had become a pastor.87 His own account of the change is as follows.88 “I had become fatigued, as I had labored about ten years as an evangelist, without anything more than a few days or weeks of rest, during the whole period.… We had three children, and I could not well take my family with me, while laboring as an evangelist. My strength, too, had become a good deal exhausted; and on praying and looking the matter over, I concluded that I would accept the call from the Second Free church, and labor, for a time at least, in New York.” By this action Finney became a part of a movement then making in the Presbyterian churches of New York to reach the people by the establishment of “free” churches, that is, churches with no pew-rentals and otherwise adapted to attract and hold the unchurched masses.89 In this way he gave to his pastorate a genuinely evangelistic character.

The church over which he was settled was a Presbyterian church, and Finney had always been a Presbyterian. It was in the Presbyterian Church that he was converted, licensed, ordained; it was under its authorization that he had pursued his whole work as an evangelist, and the region in which he had pursued his chief revivalistic enterprises was a distinctively Presbyterian region: and now he was settled as pastor over a Presbyterian church. But Finney was nothing less than a Presbyterian. The church of which he was pastor—as were all the Free Presbyterian Churches—was under the care of the Third Presbytery of New York, an “elective-affinity” Presbytery, as little Presbyterian as anything could be which was willing to bear the name. Still, there was friction over matters of discipline and the like; and Finney felt uncomfortable in his harness. His friends accordingly built a new church for him—the “Broadway Tabernacle”—which they organized as a Congregationalist church. Of this church he took charge in the autumn of 1834. He did not take his dismission from the Presbytery, however, until the spring of 1836, after he had been at Oberlin for a year, and was on the point of returning thither for his second session.90 What led him thus tardily to sever his connection with a church with which he had so little in common we can only conjecture. Perhaps the process of writing his theological lectures at Oberlin quickened his consciousness both as to the significance of matters of faith in church relations and as to the complete dissonance of his own beliefs with those of the Presbyterian Church of which he was still an accredited teacher.

He had not been left without pointed reminders of the falseness of the position which he occupied. So soon as his “Sermons on Various Subjects” (1834) and “Lectures on Revivals of Religion” (1835) had been published this had become glaring and created an open scandal. He was called upon publicly to withdraw from a church in which he was so patently out of place. Albert B. Dod, for example, in July, 1835, closes his review of his “Sermons on Various Subjects” with an expression of thanks to him “for the substantial service he has done the church” in them, “by exposing the naked deformity of the New Divinity,” and then adds: “He can render her still another, and in rendering it perform only his plain duty, by leaving her communion, and finding one within which he can preach and publish his opinions without making war upon the standards in which he has solemnly professed his faith.”91 In closing, in the following October, his review of the “Lectures on Revivals of Religion,” Dod returns to the subject and insists on Finney’s duty to leave the church. “It is an instructive illustration of the fact that fanaticism debilitates the conscience,” he now says,92 “that this man can doubt the piety of any one who uses coffee, and call him a cheat, who sends a letter to another on his own business, without paying the postage, while he remains, apparently without remorse, with the sin of broken vows upon him. In this position we leave him before the public. Nor will we withdraw our charges against him, until he goes out from among us, for he is not of us.” We know nothing, of course, of the effect of such challenges on Finney’s action; but it is to be noted that he withdrew from the Church immediately (within six months) after they were made. Perhaps it should be added as illustrating the lightness with which Finney regarded the obligations of his doctrinal professions, that, according to his own account, he had originally incurred those obligations without informing himself of what he was committing himself to. In describing his licensure,93 he records: “Unexpectedly to myself they asked me if I received the confession of faith of the Presbyterian church. I had not examined it—that is, the large work containing the catechism and confession. This had made no part of my study. I replied that I received it for substance of doctrine, so far as I understood it. But I spoke in a way that plainly implied, I think, that I did not pretend to know much about it. However, I answered honestly, as I understood it at the time.” Amid the curiously interlaced qualifications and explanations of this statement, it only emerges that Finney was not unaware of the character of his action. Under its cover, he for a dozen years flouted the doctrines he had been placed by it under obligation to propagate.

During all these dozen years Finney had been a wanderer on the face of the earth, doing the work of an evangelist. Even during the four years of his stay in New York, he did not stay in New York. He had accepted the pastorate offered to him there as a means toward securing a more settled mode of existence; and in impaired health and depression of spirits he was obviously still longing for peace and a quiet life. It was in this mood that the proposal to go to Oberlin found him; and it was in this mood that he accepted it. He was in the prime of life, and the event shows that his amazing vigor was unimpaired. His real career was indeed just opening before him; forty years remained to him in which he was “Oberlin’s central spiritual force and most eminent representative.”94 The pulpit, the lecture hall, the press, were now the instruments with which he wrought, and with all alike he wrought with the hand of a master-workman. It is possible, to be sure, to exaggerate here. “In intellectual insight into the deepest realities of religion, in originality of treatment and in logical power,” writes Albert Temple Swing,95 “President Finney is to be ranked side by side with Edwards. They are the two greatest American theologians.” This is only one of those provincial judgments which Oliver Wendell Holmes satirizes when he says that every village has, somewhere on its lawns, the biggest tree in the world. We must manage to see over the rim of the dell within the limits of which our experiences are wrought out. But certainly it must be recognized that Finney was “the greatest mind and the regulating force in the development of Oberlin theology.”96 He was blessed with coadjutors of a high order of talent. But it was to him that, above all others, Oberlin owed the measure of greatness which it achieved.

The contrast between the pictures of the religious conditions obtaining in Central and Western New York during the first quarter of the nineteenth century, received from the accounts which Finney and Asa Mahan respectively give of their early years, is nothing less than startling. The two lives ran on very closely parallel lines. Both men spent their early boyhood in Oneida County—in hamlets only a few miles distant from one another. The later youth of both was passed in the wilder West. Yet the religious conditions in which the two grew up are described by them very differently. All the religious advantages which Finney represents himself as lacking, Mahan represents himself as possessing. He was born and bred in a pious household, and surrounded on all sides by religious influences. His father, to be sure, was not, in his son’s judgment at least, a thoroughly consecrated man. But his mother was a deeply religious woman with an aura of devoutness hanging always about her. It was a Bible-reading, praying family, in which the religious books that to Finney were inaccessible lay always at hand. The Church was at the door, and the ministrations of the sanctuary were constantly enjoyed: if there was formal preaching only on alternate Sabbaths, service was held every Sabbath; and when sermons were not preached by ministers, they were read by laymen. The house was the resort of itinerant ministers, and the whole neighborhood was full of Christian people ready to give Christian succor. One rubs his eyes and wonders if this can be the same countryside in which Finney found little that pretended to be religious, and nothing that pretended to be religious that was not also absurd. To such an extent, it seems, does varying personality color the aspect of surroundings, and even by a process of selection mold them into harmony with itself.

Mahan was a few years Finney’s junior, and, although he found his way into the ministry at a somewhat younger age than Finney, he had had a shorter—and a far less stirring and notable—ministerial experience than Finney, when they came together at Oberlin. He was born November 9, 1799,97 at Vernon, Oneida County, New York, a hamlet some sixteen miles west of Utica and about half that distance from Kirkland, Finney’s boyhood home, with which it had easy communication over the famous “Genesee Turnpike.”98 Here he was bred in what he calls99 “ ‘the straitest sect’ of the Calvinistic faith,” and was surrounded both in his home and in the church life into which he was carried as a matter of course, with constant religious influences. These had no more effect upon him, however, than that he grew up a boy of good habits and excellent character. When he was about twelve years of age the family removed to the West—to Orangeville, Wyoming County, four miles from Warren and some forty miles southwest of Rochester. The change of residence, however, brought no essential change in the boy’s inner life or his external carriage. He lived in his new home, too, as a member of a religious household would be expected to live, taking part in all the religious activities of the community; but withal, he was still destitute of religious experiences of his own. He was known, however, as a young man of sterling character and irreproachable conduct. And so it came about, that when his own schooling was completed, he was “on account of” his “well-known attainments and moral reputation,”100 “selected to teach school in one of the most Christian, moral and intelligent districts in all the region round.” Here, when he had entered by a few months into his eighteenth year (1816), he was led during the progress of a revival, to give his heart to God.101 His conversion, as he describes it, was as distinctively supernaturalistic as Finney’s: “if not miraculous, yet altogether supernatural,”102 is the somewhat odd phrase with which he describes it, drawing at the same time a parallel between it and that of Colonel Gardiner, understood by him to be the result of a miraculous intervention.103 He represents himself104 as praying “that I might be kept from ever returning to that state of alienation from Him in which my life had been spent.” And, “I had no sooner pronounced these words,” he says, “than I was consciously encircled in ‘the everlasting arms.’ ” This was a prayer for “perseverance” and it seems to be implied that it was granted and that a pledge was given him of its granting, in a tangible response.105 Whatever else may be said of this, it was not, any more than Finney’s, a conversion according to the Pelagianizing prescriptions of the “New Divinity.”

For some months after his conversion, Mahan tells us,106 his “spiritual state was rather of a negative than positive character”; by which he appears to mean that his thoughts were rather on the privileges that his new relation to God had brought him than on service. That, however, was soon corrected; and he gave himself with diligence not only to prepare himself for the ministry but to improve his opportunities to bring souls to Christ. In consequence, not only did he have trophies to show, in the favorable situation in which he was at the time, but having removed for his next winter’s teaching to a very ungodly neighborhood, he built up a church there of from thirty to fifty members.107 As years passed on, however, he lost the “inward peace and joy in God which the first love had induced,”108 and passed into a condition which he speaks of as “twilight,” and in which he continued for no less than eighteen years—in fact up to his discovery of “perfection” as the proper state of the Christian, at Oberlin, in 1836. “Twilight” is merely his name, accordingly, for the condition of the “ordinary Christian.” He does not think of denying that this “dim twilight of a semi-faith” is a “genuine form of Christian experience,” as genuine a form of it as “the sunlight” itself.109 In both states alike he had sin, and understood that every deliberate sin committed deserved death. But the two states were characterized by different “sentiments and expectations” with reference to sin.110 In the one he expected to sin: in the other he had no expectation of sinning. And, he adds,111 “in each my experience fully accorded with my faith”—a sentence which contradictorily to the preceding statement, seems to assert the enjoyment in the later state of actual “perfection.” It was “in the twilight” then that he lived out his life up to his great experience at Oberlin. He soon set his heart, however, on the ministry and began active preparation for it. There were two years of preparatory study; then four years at Hamilton College from which he was graduated in 1824; and then three years at Andover Seminary, from which he was graduated in 1827. Henry Davis was President of Hamilton College during his time; at Andover he came under the instruction of Leonard Woods and Moses Stuart—from the latter of whom he learned at least how to deal with the seventh chapter of Romans so that it would interpose no obstacle to his later theories. He paints the general conditions at Andover in almost as dark colors as John Humphrey Noyes does a few years later. He does not hint at any improprieties of conduct: “There was nothing morally impure about it.” But he found no great spirituality: “Never was I in an atmosphere less morally and spiritually vitalising than that which encircled us during those three years.”112

Leaving Andover, he became a candidate under the charge of the Presbytery of Oneida, occupying himself meanwhile in “agencies and miscellaneous ministerial duties,” as he puts it.113 Soon, however, he found himself back in the West, and “commenced work in the city of Rochester, with the expectation of organising a new church there.”114 “Just as the organisation was being effected,” however, he says, “I was suddenly stricken down by an attack of inflammatory rheumatism in both knees and ankles and my left wrist.” He was taken to his father’s house in Orangeville, (“where,” says he, “my youth had been spent”); but even in his illness he could not be idle. He found the church there in a most deplorable state.115 He caused himself to be carried to it Sunday after Sunday in a chair, and preached from the chair “for about three months.” The result was a revival in which he had the happiness of seeing his own father brought to Christ. “Among the converts was my aged father. He had professed religion from my childhood, but was manifestly a total stranger to the grace of God.”116 When he was able to undertake regular work again, he became “pastor elect of the Congregational church in Pittsford, near Rochester,”117 and duly appears in the Minutes of the General Assembly for 1830 as a member of the Presbytery of Rochester and pastor at Pittsford.118 His tenure of this charge was, however, very brief. He had already left it in time to be reported to the General Assembly of 1831 as without charge; and by August, 1831 he had removed to Cincinnati to take the oversight of a new venture, called then the Sixth Presbyterian Church, but soon afterward to become the Vine Street Congregationalist Church. He “commenced labours” with this church, he tells us,119 on “August 29th, 1831, and resigned May 1st, 1835”—serving it therefore somewhat less than four years. The church consisted at the beginning of only sixteen members120 “who lived in the city and worshipped with us”; but towards the end of his stay with it, it was largely increased: seventy-two were added on examination in 1834, and in the course of eight months’ time upwards of a hundred. Throughout the whole period of Mahan’s stay with it, it worshiped in a hired hall, “and,” he adds, “a very plain one” at that. He was never really settled over it as its pastor, and even his service to it as “stated supply” does not seem to have been uninterrupted.121

These details have been recited in order that the extent and nature of Mahan’s ministerial experience before going to Oberlin in 1835 may be estimated. From his graduation at Andover in 1827 to his arrival at Oberlin some eight years had elapsed, but little more than half of these had been spent in the actual care of a church, and for barely a single year had he sustained the office of pastor. In determining the value of his experiences, such work as he did at Rochester in gathering together the nucleus of a church, and at Orangeville in leading a revival movement, must not be underestimated. Immediately on settling in Cincinnati, also, he was elected a Trustee and a member of the Prudential Board of Lane Seminary, and this brought him into active participation in the broader work of the church; and indeed thrust him at once into the focus of the most hotly debated national question of the day—that which concerned slavery. With it all it must be said, however, that his ministerial experience had been exceedingly small and very narrow.

Meanwhile he had not maintained intact the faith in which he was bred. That was, he tells us—speaking of course from the New England point of view122—“ ‘the straitest sect’ of the Calvinistic faith.” From the very beginning of his personal religious life, however, this hereditary Calvinism had begun to crumble. Of the imputation of Adam’s sin,123 he declares that “subsequently to my conversion, I never for a moment entertained that sentiment”; and he adds124 that he “quite early” adopted the “universal atonement.”125 In a broader statement, he informs us that from the commencement of his ministry he “rejected the Old School and Hopkinsian theories, and adopted and became a zealous advocate of that of divine efficiency.” Perhaps his drift had not gone much further than this when he went to Oberlin. His going to Oberlin marks, however, the beginning of a completer revolution in his faith, a revolution which he represents, in a statement which defines it by the widest limits, as carrying him “from the extreme bounds of Calvinism”—that is the way he expressed the faith in which he had been bred—“to the quite opposite pole of the evangelical faith”—which is his description of his ultimate point of view.126 This ultimate point of view he describes again as “the antipodes of all the peculiarities of that [the Calvinistic] faith.”127 His mind here is chiefly on the question of liberty and ability, and, accordingly, he expresses elsewhere the revolution in faith which he suffered as changing “fundamentally my life-long and fondly cherished beliefs, and” repudiating “utterly the doctrine of necessity, and” adopting “that of liberty.”128 What he means is that he rejected the whole conception of natural and moral inability and adopted in its stead a doctrine of plenary ability;129 or, to put it more sharply, that he now took up with the notion that obligation is limited by ability, a notion which, he rightly says, compelled an entire reconstruction of his theology.130 It seems to be clear enough that this fundamental step was already taken before going to Oberlin; so that he began his work there, like Finney and his other colleagues, as a zealous preacher of the “New Divinity.” There is no reason to doubt therefore the accuracy of James H. Fairchild’s representation,131 that all the “founders” of Oberlin, including John J. Shipherd, and not only Finney, but Mahan and Morgan and Cowles, held to “New School views,” in the sense that they insisted upon “the doctrine of human ability.” “These men,” he says, and obviously very truly, “were all earnest preachers of human ability, and of the personal, voluntary responsibility of the sinner for everything about him that can be reckoned as sin.”

It is Fairchild also who reminds us132 that the gathering of a body of such men as these in a place like Oberlin, necessarily concentrated the immense personal power which they represented, specifically on the cultivation of the spiritual life. Out in the wide world their energies had been intensely directed to the conversion of sinners: here, in this narrow sphere, where “there was only here and there a sinner to be converted,” they were naturally diverted to the perfecting of the saints. Men were set to the intensive cultivation of their Christian life; and the preachers pressed upon them with all the insistence that had been employed in the whirlwind revivals from which they had come, the duties of examining themselves whether they were in Christ and of immediate completion of their entire consecration to His service. “It was not a rare thing,” says Fairchild, “for a large portion of the congregation, after a searching sermon by Prof. Finney or Pres. Mahan, to rise up in acknowledgment that they had reason to apprehend that they were deceived as to their Christian character, and to express their determination not to rest until their feet were established upon the Rock.” It is almost incredible that the preachers did not realize from the beginning that what they were demanding from their hearers was sheer perfection; and that what they were preaching was mere perfectionism. Perfection was men’s duty, and all that was duty was practicable—for obligation and ability are co-extensive. But we must remember that these were somewhat reckless men, who made it a virture not to count costs; and who were accustomed to tear every passion to tatters and to lash every dawning emotion into excesses with unmeasured invective; pursuing their conceived ends without regard to the inevitable consequences of the means employed. There is no reason why we should not believe them when they tell us that they were unaware that they were demanding perfection of their hearers as an achievable duty, until their eyes were opened to it by their hearers themselves. One of the odd circumstances connected with the situation was that Finney and Mahan knew perfectly well what perfectionism was. They had lived with it in Central and Western New York: their companions in their evangelistic work there had preached it in their presence: their followers had often rushed headlong into it. They themselves had kept their skirts free from it; partly, no doubt, because of their engrossment with the prior matter of conversion; more, no doubt, because of the mystical and antinomian form taken by “the New York Perfectionism,” which was abhorrent to them as preachers of righteousness. But they could not help knowing that perfectionism lay at their door; and yet they drove on, preaching an essential perfectionism without, they say, being aware of it.

Perfectionism lay at their door even in the literal, physical sense. Oberlin was not so isolated as to be insensible to what was going on in Central and Western New York, or even in its own immediate neighborhood, in the Western Reserve of Ohio. Its settlers were recruited from the class in which “New York Perfectionism” was prevalent; and they did not shed their memories or break off their lines of communication when they came to Oberlin. The students of theology, to whom the appeals of the preachers were most frequently addressed, were themselves the products—Mahan says the best products—of “the Western Revivals,” and could not fail to be familiar with their constant accompaniments. Even if we lacked direct evidence of contact, therefore, we could not assume that Oberlin Perfectionism arose wholly apart from connection with the wide-spread perfectionist movement which preceded it. In point of fact direct evidence is not lacking. We know that, in the quarters in which perfectionist tendencies first showed themselves at Oberlin, not only was the earlier movement known, but the Putney literature was read and an impulse derived from it to repeat the experiences described in it. It served, for instance, “to raise the question of obligation as to the degree of holiness which Christians might attain,”133 in the summer of 1836 (the second session of the Theological Seminary), for a body of young men associated in a missionary society and earnestly engaged upon their spiritual culture in preparation for their prospective work. They rejected with decision the antinomian features of the teaching they found in this literature; but, under its influence, they advanced, along the lines of the “New Divinity” common to it and themselves, to a full conviction of the duty and possibility of completely putting away sin. A fervid consecration meeting was held by them, in which they solemnly bound themselves not to grieve their Master by any further sinning. “They left the meeting”—so one of their number records134—“feeling that they were pledged to a life of entire obedience, chiefly from the side of duty—the obligation and the possibility of it.” Very naturally, and very truly, a report went around that “the missionary society had all become Perfectionists.” We gather that the step they had taken met, for the moment, with but imperfect—certainly not with universal—sympathy, although it was the only logical outcome of the searching preaching to which they were listening day by day. It was a straw, however, showing which way the wind was blowing; and by the time the session then in progress ended, the wind was blowing a gale.

The preaching itself was growing ever more fervid and insistent. Mahan represents himself as burdened in spirit over the low state of Christian living, and earnestly seeking light on the great problem of Christian attainment. One day, he visited one of his associates, and they together sought guidance in the Word. The conversation turned on the passage, “The love of Christ constraineth us.” “While thus employed,”135 he says, “my heart leaped up in ecstacy indescribable, with the exclamation, ‘I have found it.’ ” What he had found was that Christ is all in all. All in all; for in Him is to be had not merely our justification, but also our sanctification: the one is as truly a gift of grace, as exclusively a work of God, as the other, and is to be had on the same condition.136 “The highway of holiness was now, for the first time rendered perfectly distinct to my mind …”137 We may perhaps express what he found in the two words, “Jesus only.” In Him, he perceived, we obtain all we need; and we must go to Him for it all, and receive it all by a direct act of faith. He had known hitherto what to do when a sinner asked, What shall I do to be saved? He would say, Go to Christ in faith. But he had not known that precisely the same answer is to be given to the believer who wishes to be delivered from his low plane of living. He had been accustomed to instruct such “to confess his sins, put them away, renew his purpose of obedience, and go forward with a fixed resolution to do the entire will of God.”138 He now saw that that was “a fundamental mistake.” “We are not only to be ‘justified by the faith of Christ’; but to be sanctified also by ‘the faith that is in Him.’ ” We cannot be justified by faith, and be sanctified by “resolves”: you must “cease wholly from man and from yourself, and trust Christ universally.” Along with this new light on Christ as all in all, he now saw also the necessity of the work of the Spirit. And he considers it remarkable that “the doctrine of Christ as our ‘wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption,’ and ‘the promise of the Spirit,’ as the great central truths of the gospel,” should have been presented to his mind at one and the same time.139 Of course, however, they necessarily go together because they are only two aspects of the supernaturalness of salvation.

For exactly what happened to Mahan in this great experience—this experience which he always looked back upon as pivotal for his life—was the rediscovery of the supernaturalness of salvation. In this aspect of it, it was a reaction from the emphasis which, as a preacher of the “New Divinity,” he had been placing on “ability,” and a return to what he calls “universal” dependence on the grace of Christ. He says himself140 that the teaching stands in contrast with his talk, “in” his “ignorance,” of “human ability to do all that is required of us,” and with the consequent trust he had put in his “own resolutions.” This seems a confession that in teaching according to the formulas of the “New Divinity” he had been walking in a Pelagian path: and, so far as there was now a reaction from that bad way of thinking, he had turned his face to the light, and ceasing from self-sufficiency had put his dependence in God. This reaction, most commendable in itself, was nevertheless, as actually experienced by him, at once insufficient and excessive. He still reserved faith entirely to man; he wished to exclude human effort only from the walk in Christ. And like all Christians of his class he could not conceive of truly concursive activities. He operated with an unconditioned either—or: either works or grace; either effort or trust. As he had formerly allowed no place for faith in sanctification, so now he did not wish to allow any place for effort in sanctification. He seems not to be able to understand that we must both “work and pray,” as the popular maxim puts it; both believe and labor; he wishes us to “cast all the responsibility” on Christ after a fashion which smacks more of mysticism than the Gospel.141 Meanwhile the reader is filled with amazement that this discovery of the supernaturalness of salvation should have seemed something new to Mahan. Bred in “ ‘the straitest sect’ of Calvinism,” did he have to wait for this moment to learn that Christ is all in all; that in Him we have by faith all that we can need; that He is made to us sanctification as well as justification—yes, all that is included in redemption?

Naturally this great discovery did not remain inoperative in Mahan’s life. In the act of so learning Christ, he so experienced Christ—and this constituted his “second conversion,” in which he seemed to himself to rise into a higher plane of Christian living, and passed, as he loves to express it, from “twilight” into the full light of Christian experience. It is interesting to observe, as he explicitly tells us, that when he communicated his new experience to Finney, it found a ready welcome with him, and was repeated in his experience. “When my associate, then Professor Finney,” he relates in one characteristic account,142 “became aware of the great truth that by being ‘baptized with the Holy Ghost’ we can ‘be filled with all the fulness of God,’ he of course sought that baptism with all his heart and with all his soul, and very soon obtained what he sought.” Finney also received therefore at this time “the second blessing”; and not Finney only; the doctrine, the experience, was contagious. Of course it was carried at once also into the preaching and gave it an added insistence, an increased ardor. These men and their preaching—whatever they or it had been before—now became definitely perfectionist, though that was not yet recognized. Mahan explains their position by the use of the contrasting adverbs “theoretically” and “practically.”143 They had become “practically” perfectionists, he says, but not yet “theoretically” so. By this he does not seem to mean here primarily that they had become perfect and did not yet know it—although it is not clear that that too does not lie in his meaning—but that they had adopted and were preaching perfectionist doctrine, but had not yet come to see clearly that this was what they had done. The way he expresses it at large is this: “The redemption of Christ was then presented to my mind as a full and perfect redemption. I felt that in Christ I was ‘complete,’ that in him every demand of my being was met, and perfectly met. In this light I presented him to others.” But it was only “by subsequent reflection, however, that I became aware that the principles which I had practically adopted necessarily involved the doctrine of Christian perfection.” We are not now concerned with the defects of Mahan’s logical processes. The discovery of the supernaturalness of salvation does not involve exclusion of the consumption of time in the realization of all that is included in it. But we have now merely to note that this was not perceived; and accordingly what Mahan and his colleagues had come to believe and were now fervidly preaching was the possibility and duty of the immediate enjoyment of all that Christ had bought for His people, at least in the spiritual sphere, without remainder. That is perfectionism.

With the leaven of perfectionism already working among the students and preaching of this character proceeding with ever increasing insistence, the end might easily have been foreseen. During the autumn of 1836 a series of revival meetings were held at Oberlin, by which the whole community, citizens and students, was profoundly moved. At most of these Mahan was the preacher; and at one of them, held just after the close of the academic session, he preached a powerful sermon, enforcing with great urgency the topic now always in his heart and on his lips, the duty of a higher consecration. A young man in the audience, just graduated from the theological department—Sereno Wright Streeter was his name144—rose and asked with solemn earnestness that his religious instructors, Finney and Mahan, would tell him plainly to what extent he might hope to be delivered from sinning; whether he could expect to receive really entire sanctification on faith. “When we look to Christ for sanctification,” he asked,145 “what degree of sanctification may we expect from Him? May we look to Him to be sanctified wholly, or not?” “I do not recollect that I was ever so shocked and confounded at any question before or since,” says Mahan.146 “I felt, for the moment, that the work of Christ among us would be marred, and the mass of minds around us rush into Perfectionism.” An answer, definite and decided, could not be avoided; but it could be postponed—especially as the end of the session had arrived which brought with it the time for the scattering of both teachers and taught. No answer was attempted, therefore, at the moment, but a promise was given that the matter would be carefully canvassed and an answer returned in due season.

Thus the Oberlin teachers were compelled fairly to face the question of perfectionism. They gave themselves diligently to its solution. Finney was accustomed at this time to spend the winter—vacation-time at Oberlin—in New York, preaching in the “Broadway Tabernacle.” On this occasion Mahan accompanied him. They explored the Scriptures together; and, says Mahan,147 “after looking prayerfully at the testimony of Scripture, in respect to the provisions and promises of divine grace, we were constrained to admit, that but one answer to the above question could be given from the Bible; and the greatest wonder with me is, that I have been so long a ‘master of Israel and have never before known these things.’ ” But they did not confine themselves to the appeal to Scripture. They sought guidance also from those who had been perfectionists before them. It was naturally on the Methodists that their glance was first cast and lingered longest—for were not the Methodists the type of evangelical perfectionists? Finney found their idea of sanctification unacceptable, because it seemed to him “to relate almost altogether to states of the sensibility,”148 and he elsewhere declares with decision that their notion that less is required of us under the Gospel than was required under the law is inadmissible. Nevertheless, he pronounced Wesley’s “Plain Account of Christian Perfection”—the acquaintance of which he made at this time—though marred by some expressions (he thinks merely expressions) to which he should object, “an admirable book,” which he wishes every member of his church would read.149 By the side of Wesley’s “Christian Perfection” he places the “Memoir of James Brainerd Taylor”—which he also wishes “every Christian would get” “and study.” He had read the most of it he says, “three times within a few months.” This same collocation of Wesley and Taylor meets us also incidentally in a passage of Mahan’s: he speaks of “such men as John Wesley and James B. Taylor, who believed that by the grace of Christ applied to ‘cleanse them from all sin,’ they had ‘been made perfect in love.’ ”

What is odd about this is that it was just these two books which John Humphrey Noyes read in the autumn of 1834—two years earlier—when he was making his way also to perfectionism. And Finney repeats the same gossip which Noyes repeats, to the effect that Taylor’s biographers had suppressed the most perfectionistic passages in his letters. We have seen that perfectionism did not show itself among the students of Oberlin apart from influences derived from the earlier perfectionism of New York, or apart specifically from the teachings of J. H. Noyes. It was much more a matter of course that Finney and Mahan did not arrive at their perfectionism in ignorance of these prior movements. We are scarcely prepared, however, for the emphasis which they seem to place on their knowledge of them; or for what seems very much like a tendency to apologize in part at least for them. “I have read their publications,” says Finney,150 “and have had much knowledge of them as individuals.” He cannot give assent to “many of their views”; he repudiates the imputation to him of their “peculiarities”; especially he turns with reprobation from their “antinomianism.” But he adds at once that they are not all antinomians—“some of their leading men” are not; and although “there are still a number of important points of difference” between them and the orthodox church, the points of agreement are very numerous.151 Similarly Mahan sees in all the perfectionist movements of the recent past a divine preparation for what was to come in them; and adopting them, along with the Methodists, as their own, adds:152 “Some outside the Methodist denomination had ‘entered into rest’ before we did.” It is not merely misery that loves company; and the desire to discover precedents is ordinarily strong enough to lead us to take them where we can find them. It is meanwhile clear enough that Finney’s and Mahan’s sense of solidarity with perfectionists as such was strong. It was strongest, of course, with the Methodists, from whom they derived most—among other things the terms by which they expressed their new doctrine. “The terms by which we designated it,” says Mahan,153 “were those by which it had been presented since the times of Wesley and Fletcher, namely, Christian Perfection, Entire Sanctification, and Full Salvation.” The thing expressed by these terms they would not admit they got from the Methodists. What they offered they got direct from the Scriptures—though this affirmation naturally can be overpressed. “I gave myself earnestly,” says Finney,154 “to search the Scriptures, and to read whatever came to hand upon the subject, until my mind was satisfied that an altogether higher and more stable form of Christian life was attainable, and was the privilege of all Christians.… I was satisfied that the doctrine of sanctification in this life, and entire sanctification, in the sense that it was the privilege of Christians to live without known sin, was a doctrine taught in the Bible, and that abundant means were provided for the securing of that attainment.” The doctrine thus described as derived from the Scriptures has in any case somewhat close affinities with the Methodist doctrine.155

No sooner was the Oberlin doctrine of perfection conceived than it was published. Finney was the first to publish it. He was in New York during the winter months of 1836–1837 for the purpose of preaching in the “Broadway Tabernacle.” Preoccupied with the subject of the Christian walk, he delivered to his congregation a series of “Lectures to Professing Christians,” which were printed as they were delivered in The New York Evangelist, and soon afterward (1837) were gathered into a volume.156 Two of these lectures were devoted to the subject of “Christian Perfection.” In this first exposition of Oberlin perfectionism there are naturally seen lying in the background all the characteristic traits of Finney’s theological thinking. All virtue consists in disinterested benevolence; nothing is sinful but voluntary action; we have no obligation beyond our ability—we can do all that we ought to do, and what, for any reason whatever, we cannot do, we no longer, in any sense whatever, ought to do: it is such conceptions as these which form the substructure. On this basis a perfectionism is developed which already bears the fundamental character that ever afterwards marked the Oberlin doctrine. What is taught is a perfection that consists in complete righteousness, but in righteousness which is adjusted to fluctuating ability. Enoch Pond, in reviewing the lectures, rejoices to find that the perfection taught—in contrast with the Wesleyan doctrine of a so-called “evangelical perfection”—requires the perfect fulfilment of the law of God.157 But, as W. E. Boardman—discriminating later the “Oberlinian” from the Wesleyan doctrine—points out, what is really distinctive of “Oberlinian” perfection is the “view of the claims of the law as graduated to the sinner’s ability.”158 This teaching is already here. But the more fundamental idea that perfection is the fulfilment of the law is more dwelt upon. The lectures are thus given the aspect of insisting on perfect righteousness, and point is given to this insistence by an open polemic against the Wesleyan conception. “No part of the obligation of the law is discharged,” it is said:159 “the Gospel holds those who are under it to the same holiness as those under the law.” The definition of Christian Perfection is given crisply as “perfect obedience to the law of God”; and this is explained as requiring that “we should do neither more nor less than the law of God prescribes.” “This,” it is added,160 “is being, morally, just as perfect as God.”

When Finney undertakes to show that this perfection is attainable in this life, his argument runs on the familiar lines.161 He pleads that God wills our perfection; that all the promises and prophecies of God respecting our sanctification have perfect sanctification in view; that this is the great blessing promised throughout the Bible; and the very object for which the Holy Spirit is given. Every one of these propositions is true; and none of them is to the point. The whole point at issue concerns the process by which the believer is made perfect; or perhaps we would better say, whether it is by a process that he is made perfect. Avoiding the hinge of the argument, Finney endeavors to impale his readers on dilemmas.162 “If it is not a practicable duty to be perfectly holy in this world, then it will follow that the devil has so completely accomplished his design of corrupting mankind, that Jesus Christ is at fault, and has no way to sanctify His people but by taking them out of the world.” “If perfect sanctification is not attainable in this world, it must be either from a want of motives in the Gospel, or a want of sufficient power in the Spirit of God.” It would be a poor reader indeed who did not perceive at once that such dilemmas could be applied equally to every evil with which man is afflicted—disease, death, the uncompleted salvation of the world. If it is not a practicable thing to be perfectly well in this world, then Jesus Christ has been vanquished by the Devil and has no way to make His people well except by taking them out of the world. If freedom from death is not attainable in this world, then it must be due to want of sufficient power in the Spirit of God. If the world does not become at once the pure Kingdom of God in which only righteousness dwells, then we must infer either a want of sufficient motives in the Gospel or a want of sufficient power in the Son of God. There have been people who reasoned thus: the point of interest now is, that it was not otherwise that Finney reasoned—and that accounts for many things besides his perfectionism. It is a simple matter of fact that the effects of redemption, in the individual and in the world at large, are realized, not all at once, but through a long process: and that their complete enjoyment lies only “at the end.”

A certain lack of logical coherence is discernable in other features of these lectures also. Finney was too good a Pelagian readily to homologate Quietistic conceptions: it is not for the Pelagian to say, “Cast thy dreadful doing down”: doing is with him rather the beginning, and middle, and end of all things. Yet we have already seen Mahan imbuing him with his newly-found notion (borrowed ultimately from the Wesleyans) that sanctification is to be attained immediately by an act of faith, and indeed also with his mystical Quietistic explanation of how this sanctification is brought about by faith. We noted at the time that it was interesting to observe this, and the interest seems to us to be enhanced when we observe the doctrine enunciated—so far as it is enunciated—in the context of these lectures. Finney the Pelagian denies that Christ in His Spirit can work on man otherwise than by bringing motives to action to bear on him—in a word by persuading him himself to act. Whatever man does, then, in the way of obeying the law—perfect obedience to which constitutes his perfection—he must himself do: it cannot be done for him or in him or through him by another; no other can affect him otherwise than by presenting motives to action to him. We should like to know then exactly what Finney means when he rebukes those who seek sanctification “by their own resolutions and works, their fastings and prayers, their endeavors and activity, instead of taking right hold of Christ by faith, for sanctification, as they do for justification.”163 What he says is that we may—must—attain to sanctification—or, as entire sanctification is meant, to perfection, that perfection which is perfect obedience to the law of God—immediately by an act of faith, without any resolution or effort on our part to obey the law, or apparently, any activity on our part in obeying it. “Faith,” he says, “will bring Christ right into the soul, and fill it with the same spirit”—note the small s—“that breathes through Himself.” We greatly wonder how “faith” does all this, and note only that it is faith that does it, not Christ: Christ supplies only the model to which faith conforms us. For light on this dark question, however, we shall have to go elsewhere.

Finney’s inconcinnity is not occasional merely but constant. Take another instance.164 He is arguing that the power of habit need not inhibit perfection, since it does not inhibit conversion. The power of habit is a thing that may be overcome. As he argues this point, however, he raises in our minds a previous question—the question whether God can save at all. The answer he supplies is yes, sometimes; and sometimes, no—at least “consistently with his wisdom,” a phrase which does not vacate but only locates His inability. Of man in his natural state we must recognize, he says, that “selfishness has the entire control of the mind, and … the habits of sin are wholly unbroken.” And this condition of course presents an obstacle to salvation—an obstacle, he says, “so great, in all cases, that no power but that of the Holy Ghost can overcome it.” It is indeed, he adds, “so great, in many instances, that God himself cannot consistently with his wisdom, use the means necessary to convert the soul.” Men then, it seems, may be so set in their wickedness that no “power”—the term is misleading; God uses no power in the transaction except the power of persuasion—which God, being wise, is willing to use upon them will avail for their salvation. Finney says this is the actual case “in many instances.” These men, clearly, then, are unsalvable. God, so long as he remains the wise God, cannot save men so sunk in sin. We have thus reached the astonishing conclusion that men may be too sinful to be saved. They are saved, or they are not saved, according to their determination in sin. Moderately sinful souls can be saved, very sinful souls are beyond the possibilities of salvation. This no doubt is good Pelagian doctrine: it is not Paul’s doctrine or Christ’s. We are surprised to find it here where Finney had started out to prove that evil habits cannot inhibit the attainment of perfection, because they do not inhibit the attainment of conversion. We have ended by proving that “in many instances” they can and do inhibit the attainment of conversion; and that, whether we are converted or not does not depend therefore on God who in many cases is helpless in the face of our sinfulness, but on the degree of our sinfulness.

In his “Lectures on Systematic Theology,”165 Finney makes the following remarks concerning the lectures we have been considering. “These lectures were soon spread before thousands of readers. Whatever was thought of them, I heard not a word of objection to the doctrine from any quarter. If any was made, it did not, to my recollection, come to my knowledge.” He is often inexact in his historical statements; and perhaps we should not wonder that he is inexact here too. In point of fact the lectures received the normal attention of reviewers; and it is difficult to believe that the strictures made on them were not at the time brought to the author’s attention. The Quarterly Christian Spectator, the organ of Finney’s own party, gives them, it is true, only passing mention. But this passing mention is not without its significance. Its object is apparently to read Finney a lecture, as the enfant terrible of the “New Divinity” party, and to serve notice on him that he was expected to keep within the bounds and to content himself with repeating the shibboleths appointed for him. “On the subject of Christian Perfection,” we read,166 “we think Mr. Finney is not always sufficiently guarded, and though we do not believe he means anything more than we should fully admit—the possibility and duty of obedience to God in all things commanded—yet we fear he may be liable to misconstruction and injure the consciences of many weak, but pious persons.” The note of irritation here is unmistakable: in the sequence of obligation, ability, actualization, could not Finney, like the rest of them, be satisfied with the first two without pushing on inconsiderately to the third? So far then from there having been no word of objection to the teaching of the lectures spoken from any quarter, they were objected to from all quarters. And, naturally, the reviewers “from the other side” did not content themselves with passing mention but subjected them to reasoned criticism. This was done, for example, by Joseph Ives Foot in a trenchant article in The Literary and Theological Review,167 which was given the uncompromising title of “Influence of Pelagianism on the Theological Course of Rev. C. G. Finney, developed in his Sermons and Lectures.” It was done also by Enoch Pond in a prudent article published in The American Biblical Repository.168 And although it was not done in a subsequent article on current works on perfectionism published in the same journal by N. S. Folsom,169 it was made plain that that was only because the writer considered that it had been already sufficiently done by Pond. Pond as a good New Englander goes so far with Finney that he is glad to allow “the attainableness” of perfection by the Christian, or, as he phrases it, “its metaphysical attainableness”; but like The Quarterly Christian Spectator he wishes to stop right there and deny that it is ever “attained actually.” On the ground of the current New England doctrine, which postulated “natural ability” for all that can be required, the whole question reduced itself thus for him to one of mere fact, and he argues it on that understanding.

II. Mahan’s Type Of Teaching[2]

We have given more space to the earliest presentation of the Oberlin doctrine of perfection than it intrinsically deserves. This, partly, because it was its first presentation; but more because, despite its brevity and the colloquial looseness of its language, it was in more than a temporal sense the forerunner of a whole group of others which shortly followed it. For nearly two years, it is true, it stood alone. Then, at the close of 1838, The Oberlin Evangelist was founded to be, above everything else, the organ of the doctrine. And early in 1839 the book was published which has the best right of all to be considered the representative statement of the Oberlin Doctrine at this stage of its development. This is Mahan’s “Christian Perfection.”170 The nucleus of this book was a sermon first preached in Oberlin and afterwards widely published and especially printed by request in The New York Evangelist (in November 1838).171 The “series of discourses” of which it professes to be further made up were delivered in the Marlboro Chapel, Boston, where Mahan was supplying the pulpit during the illness of the pastor.172 The book ran through many editions and enjoyed a very wide circulation.173 During the same year Henry Cowles’ little booklet on “The Holiness of Christians in the Present Life” was reprinted “with some revision” from The Oberlin Evangelist; and in 1840 the much more considerable volume by Finney, entitled “Views of Sanctification” was reproduced from the same journal. A pamphlet by Charles Fitch, pastor of the Free Presbyterian Church at Newark, New Jersey, bearing the same title as Finney’s volume—“Views of Sanctification”—preceded that volume by a year (1839). It deserves to be included in this group of writings, because, although its author was not connected with Oberlin, he teaches the same doctrine as the Oberlin writers; and although he does this perhaps more attractively than they do themselves, he does it obviously in immediate dependence on them.174 All this group of writings not only teach the same doctrine, but teach it after the same fashion, employing common definitions, a common logical method, the same supporting Scriptures, expounded on the same principles and applied with the same argumentative peculiarities; there has clearly been the closest collusion between them. Each writer has an individuality of his own, of course, and shows it in his use of the common material. But this does not abate the essential oneness of their conception and mode of presentation. They all obviously come from one mint; and there seems good reason to believe that the dominant influence producing this uniformity was Mahan’s. It is only fair to speak of this phase of Oberlin Perfectionism, therefore, as the period of the ascendency of Mahan’s thought.

At this stage of its development, Oberlin Perfectionism would not be inaptly described as Wesleyan Perfectionism grafted on the stock of the New Divinity—Wesleyan Perfectionism so far modified as to adjust it to the paradigms of the New Divinity. As the New Divinity was primarily an ethical scheme and Wesleyan Perfectionism primarily a religious doctrine, this process might be not unjustly described as so far a process of “religionizing” the New Divinity. Mahan took the lead in this work. That was the significance of his rediscovery of the supernaturalness of salvation as already described; of his conjoint vision of Christ as the soul’s all in all and of the Spirit who baptizes the soul with power; of his suspension of everything on the simple act of faith. This was no ephemeral enthusiasm with him. It was a profound spiritual revolution which reversed all the currents of his being and determined the course of his subsequent life. From this time to the end of his life, a half a century later, he knew nothing but the twin doctrines he acquired in this moving religious experience—the doctrines of Christian Perfection and the Baptism of the Spirit; and he gave himself to their exposition and propagation with an unwearied constancy which his readers may be tempted sometimes to think wearisome persistency.175 He infected his colleagues with these doctrines; but they never took the place in their theology which they did in his. In the succeeding adjustments it became thus his function to emphasize the new doctrines to the utmost; it was the function of Finney, say, on the other hand, to see that in the engrafting of the new doctrines on the stock of the New Divinity the concepts of the New Divinity suffered no loss. This brings about a certain difference in tone—not exactly in teaching—between the two writers. Mahan’s “Christian Perfection” and Finney’s “Views of Sanctification” teach the same general doctrine, and they teach it with the same clearness of conviction. But in the one the main interest has shifted from the New Divinity to Perfectionism—though the concepts of the New Divinity are not abandoned; in the other it remains with the New Divinity—though the concepts brought in by Perfectionism are welcomed. Perhaps it would be too much to say that the emphasis differs: what differs is not so much the emphasis as the concernment, and that seems to be rooted less in a difference in the convictions than in the temperament of the two writers.

The perfectionism of this stage of Oberlin Perfectionism, as we have said, is fundamentally Wesleyan. It was not merely the “terms” which were retained from the Wesleyan doctrine, as Mahan tells us; but so far the thing.176 What was taught was the immediate attainment of entire sanctification by a special act of faith directed to this end. Justification was presupposed as already enjoyed. There were accordingly two kinds of Christians, a lower kind who had received only justification, and a higher kind who had received also sanctification. This is all Wesleyan, although, of course, it is not all that is Wesleyan.177 When this doctrine was transferred into a New Divinity setting, the primary effort was to adjust to the new setting the conception of the content of the perfection thus attained. The New Divinity was a Pelagian scheme; a scheme of ethics; it was therefore essentially legalistic and could not conceive of perfection otherwise than as perfect obedience to law—the law of God. It could not homologate therefore the Wesleyan idea of an “evangelical obedience,” graciously accepted of believers in lieu of the “legal obedience” they were not in a position to render. Of anything else, as constituting perfection, than complete obedience to the law of God, the Oberlin men would hear nothing. But they had their own way of reaching the same relaxing result which the Wesleyans had reached. They denned the content of the law, obedience to which constitutes perfection, as just “love”; and although this language meant with them something different from what it meant with the Wesleyans, it is not clear that they were able to give it any greater ethical content. Supposing them successful, however, in pouring into the concept of love, objectively, the whole content of righteousness ideally viewed, they did not in any case require this content for the love by which a man is made perfect. To be perfect, he does not require to love as God loves—in whose love all righteousness is embraced—or as the angels love, or as Adam loved, or even as any better man than he loves. He only requires to love as he himself, being what he is, and in the condition in which he finds himself, can love. If he loves all he can love in his present condition, he is perfect. No matter how he came into his present condition; suppose if you will that he came into it by a long course of vice, or by some supreme act of vice, it makes no difference. His obligation is limited by his ability; we cannot say, he ought to do more than he can do; if he does all he can do, he has no further obligation, he is perfect. The moral idiot—Finney does not hesitate to say it—is as perfect as God is: being a moral idiot, he has no moral obligation; when he has done nothing at all he has done all that he ought to do: he is perfect.178 God Himself cannot do more than all He ought to do; and when He has done all He ought to do, He is no more perfect than the moral idiot is—although what He has done is to fulfil all that is ideally righteous and the moral idiot has done nothing.

In this conception the law of God, complete obedience to which is perfection, is made a sliding scale.179 It is not that perfect rule, which as the Greeks say, like a straight-edge, straight itself, measures both the straight and the crooked; but a flexible line which follows the inequalities of the surface on which it is laid, not molding it, but molded by it. Obligation here is interpreted in terms of ability with the result that each man becomes a law to himself, creating his own law; while the objective law of God, the standard of holiness in all, is annulled, and there are as many laws, as many standards of holiness, as there are moral beings. To object on this basis to the Wesleyan doctrine of “evangelical obedience” on the ground that it supposes a relaxation of the universal obligation of the law, is fatuous. There is no such thing as a universal obligation of the law to be relaxed; or indeed as a universal law, binding on all alike, to create a universal obligation. Each man’s obligation is exhausted in the law which his own ability creates for him; and as soon as the Wesleyans remind us that in their view “evangelical obedience” is accepted primarily because it alone is within the capacity of men to render—“legal obedience” being beyond their power—the Oberlin objector is dumb; that is just his own doctrine. Except for this—that, not content with this general adjustment of the requirements of the law to the moral capacity of sinful men, he pushes the principle to such an extreme as to adjust them in detail to the moral capacity of each individual sinner, all the way down to moral idiocy; with the effect of making our sin the excuse for our sin, until we may cease to be sinners altogether by simply becoming sinful enough. Of course he does not really believe this. If he had really believed it, we should not have found Finney troubling to argue—as we have found him arguing180—that the ingrained habit of evil need not inhibit the attainment of perfection—that would be a matter of course; or that men may become so wicked that they cannot be saved—that would be absurd. He would only have needed to point out that the acquisition of unconquerable habits of evil, by progressively destroying obligation, renders perfection ever easier of acquisition by constantly reducing the content of the perfection to be acquired; and that one of the surest roads to salvation is therefore to become incurably wicked.

One of the most striking features of these earlier presentations of the Oberlin doctrine—though not of them only—is the strenuousness with which they insist that they are not arguing for the “actual attainment” of “entire sanctification,” “perfection,” but only for its “attainability.” An unpleasant impression is sometimes produced that an attempt is being made to escape from the real question at issue by a logical trick. The contention made this impression on its New England critics, and called out from them, from that point of view, somewhat sharp words of rebuke. Nobody, they say, doubts the attainability of perfection; the only question in dispute is whether it is ever attained. We have already seen this position taken up by Enoch Pond in criticising Finney’s “Lectures to Professing Christians.” “The question between us,” he says,181 “is simply one of fact. The perfectionist asserts, not only that Christians ought to be perfect in the present life, but that they often are so;—not only that perfection is metaphysically attainable, but that, in frequent instances, it is actually attained.” N. S. Folsom, in reviewing Mahan’s “Christian Perfection” goes so far as to express a sense of outrage at the impression, created by his mode of stating the question, that none but the Oberlin men believe in “the attainableness of entire sanctification in this life.” This doctrine, he asserts, is, on the contrary, admitted on all hands. The editor of The New York Evangelist in remarking on Mahan’s primary perfectionist sermon, when it was first printed in that journal, allows it; Enoch Pond has just expressed his agreement with it. At the basis of every exhortation to be holy, lies “the metaphysical truth that perfection in holiness is attainable.” To give the impression that anybody doubts this, is not to argue fairly; it is to play the sophist.182 Leonard Woods, in his comprehensive discussion of the Oberlin arguments up to the date of his writing, echoes this protest.183 He and his friends, he declares, hold as decidedly as Mahan does—he takes Mahan as his example—“that, in the common acceptation of the term, complete holiness is attainable in the present life.” “When we assert that a thing is attainable, or may be attained,” he explains, “our meaning is, that a proper use of means will secure it; that we shall obtain it, if we do what we ought; and that, if we fail of obtaining it, truth will require us to say we might have obtained it, and that our failure was owing altogether to our own fault.” There surely is not included in the assertion of the attainableness of anything the assertion that we have done all we ought and therefore have actually attained it; attainability and actual attainment are different things and the proof of the one has no tendency to prove the other. Whatever was the purpose of the Oberlin men, then, in their insistence that they were contending not for the actual attainment but only for the attainability of perfection, it actually had the controversial value to them that it threw their New England opponents into confusion.

The ultimate ground of this confusion cannot, however, be laid at the door of the manner in which the Oberlin men preferred to frame their argument. It lay in the ambiguities of the New England doctrine of “natural ability.” Accordingly W. D. Snodgrass184 very properly criticizes Woods’ use of language in representing perfection as “attainable,” only never “attained.” This language is founded on the current New England distinction between “natural” and “moral” ability; and is intended to assert that we are commanded to be perfect, that full provision for our perfection is made, that it is our duty to be perfect, and that there is no reason why we are not perfect except that we will not strive to be perfect with the energy requisite to attain it. This is supposed to be justly expressed by saying that perfection is attainable, but will never actually be attained. Perhaps the words may bear that sense. It is not their natural sense. Snodgrass very justly says that to say that perfection is attainable is just to say that it is practicable for us to be perfect; and yet those who employ this language fully recognize that it is not practicable for us to be perfect. Say that nothing but a “will not” stands in the way. This “will not” is a fixed, an unvarying, incorrigible “will not.” It is really a “can not”; and a perfection to which we cannot attain is not an attainable perfection. He might have added that Woods himself knew perfectly well that the “will not” affirmed in the case is really a “can not.”185 If he denies a “natural inability,” he confesses a “moral inability,” an inability which “results from moral causes”; and he is unable to deny that this is a real inability.186 God, he himself says, with the emphasis of italics, “cannot lie” (p. 475); “the unrenewed sinner cannot call forth the affection of love to God, and so be subject to his law” (p. 477). Assuredly he is right, then, in saying that there is an important sense in which men “cannot obey” God (p. 478); and if he contends at the same time that there is also an important sense in which they can obey God, we will not fail to observe that he is compelled to allow that their moral inability to obey “prevents obedience as certainly and effectually as a natural impossibility could” (p. 482). In these circumstances it would seem to be eminently misleading to speak of things as attainable, on the ground of “natural ability,” the attainment of which is inhibited by “moral inability.”

Let us remind ourselves moreover that the matters which fall under discussion here are of the order of what the Bible calls “things of the Spirit,” things which are not to be had at all except as imparted by the Holy Ghost; and that it is therefore peculiarly infelicitous to speak of them as “attainable,” merely on the ground of “natural ability.” In so speaking of them, we seem gravely in danger of forgetting the dreadful evil of sin as the corruption of our whole nature, and the absolute need of the Spirit’s free action in recovering us from this corruption. The unregenerate man cannot believe; the regenerate man cannot be perfect; because these things are not the proper product of their efforts in any case but are conferred by the Spirit, and by the Spirit alone. It is good to see Mahan in some degree recognizing this fundamental fact; and indeed founding one branch of his argument upon it. It is not enough, however, to say that perfection is attainable only “through the Spirit.” Mahan says that, and then goes on to give it the Pelagianizing turn that the believer nevertheless “attains” perfection, by employing the Spirit to do this work for him. The Scriptures do not thus subordinate the Spirit’s action to that of man; they do not think of the gifts of the Spirit as “attained,” but as “conferred.” Snodgrass is incapable of such a bêtise and rightly emphasizes the supernatural nature of sanctification, as of regeneration, and of salvation at large. We do not sanctify ourselves by our own power; we do not even sanctify ourselves by using the Spirit as the instrument by which alone we can accomplish this great result. It is God who sanctifies us; and our activities are consequent at every step on His, not His on ours. Though he fails to rise to the height of the Scriptural supernaturalness of sanctification, however, Mahan’s reference of it to the Holy Spirit, acting at the behest of man, nevertheless recognizes the supernaturalness of the actual process of the sanctifying work; and enables us to see what he and (so far as they shared his views) his colleagues meant when they spoke of the attainableness of perfection. They were not thinking in terms of “natural ability”; they were prepared to assert that the so-called “natural ability” of the New England divines is no ability at all. They were not arguing for a “metaphysical attainability” of perfection; they were talking religion, not metaphysics. They were clear, to be sure, that any perfection which should ever be achieved by any man must be achieved through his “natural ability,” that is to say through the action of those powers which belong to him as a moral being and are inseparable from him as a moral agent; but they were equally clear that no man of himself would ever employ those powers with the energy, and diligence and singleness of purpose requisite to reach the high goal of perfection, and that therefore actual perfection is the product of the Spirit of God. They had no interest in affirming and arguing the “attainability” of perfection in the sense in which their New England critics took the phrase. They were as free as those critics were to declare that that “attainability” did not infer attainment, and was a barren notion unillustrated by a single case of attainment under it. What they were interested in affirming was that God in His grace had made provision in the Gospel of His Son and the baptism of the Spirit to transmute that natural “will not” which, despite the so-called “natural ability” results in every child of man in a real “can not,” into a glorious “can.” What they were concerned to assert was a real practicable “attainability” due to the provisions of God’s grace which placed within the reach of every believer at his option an actualized perfection. And the establishment of this attainability rightly seemed to them a much greater fact than the establishment of the actual attainment of perfection by these or those. They did not fail to assert this actual attainment of perfection. Perhaps the establishment of the attainability of perfection would have been difficult had there been no “samples” to adduce. But they sought to keep the evidence for actual attainment in the subordinate position of an additional argument for its attainability. If it has been actually attained, it will be hard to deny that it is attainable.

There is a noticeable difference among the several Oberlin writers in the relative interest they show in the different elements which enter into their common teaching. Finney, to whom the New Divinity was the Gospel, dwelt proportionately more fully on the conception of “natural ability,” which constituted the basis on which any and all holiness must be built. Mahan, who had come to see the Gospel in the supernaturalness of salvation, naturally threw the stress of his discussion on it. Henry Cowles writes with such brevity as to discourage seeking to ascertain the niceties of his particular way of looking at the common doctrine. It is perhaps enough to note that he states it with some sharpness of outline. The vital question to which he addresses himself, he declares to be, not “whether any mere man on earth has ever attained absolute and confirmed perfection,” but “has God given us such moral powers and made such provisions in Providence and Grace for our aid, that real death to sin, victory over the world, and living by faith in constant obedience to all the known will of God, are objects of rational effort, the duty and privilege of every Christian.”187 There are many loose ends left in this statement and the matter is not bettered when a little later,188 repeating it, he proceeds to reduce the notion of perfection which he is ready to affirm to be attainable. It is no heavenly perfection, but an earthly one, including “such service and obedience as man is able to render in the present state.” On this purely relative holiness he lays the greatest stress, and brings his discussion to a close, accordingly, by remarking189 that his object in writing is to express his full conviction that “God has made provision for the attainment in the present life of all the holiness which he requires, and which the present state admits.” That says so little that it practically says nothing at all. God has only made provision for the attainment of this holiness: He does not secure its attainment—that is left to us. And the holiness attainable is only what “the present state admits of.” That might be said of the devils in hell. The only point of interest is, not whether we may attain “all the holiness our present state admits of”—that might be no holiness at all. It is whether we may be holy.

To these propositions little more than hinted at by Cowles, Finney gives the definiteness of dogmatic statement. When he comes, in his “Views of Sanctification,” to the point where he discusses the attainableness of “entire sanctification,”190 he lays down the fundamental proposition “that entire and permanent sanctification is attainable in this life.” This he at once pronounces “self-evident”—on the ground of “natural ability.” “To deny this,” he affirms, “is to deny that a man is able to do as well as he can.” And, he declares, “the very language of the law” bears out the assertion, because, in requiring us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and the rest, it levels “its claims to the capacity of the subject, however great or small.” If there were a moral pigmy, he would be required to love God up to his pigmy strength. If we morally mutilate ourselves, we may no doubt be answerable for doing it; but having thus reduced our powers, we would have lessened our responsibility to the law, and could be entirely sanctified on this lower ground. “An angel is bound to exercise an angel’s strength; a man, the strength of a man; and a child, the strength of a child.” “Now,” he sums up, “as entire sanctification consists in perfect obedience to the law of God, and as the law requires nothing more than the right use of whatever strength we have; it is of course forever settled that a state of entire and permanent sanctification is attainable in this life on the ground of natural ability.” This he says is New School doctrine and necessary New School doctrine. Ability limits obligation, hence there is no obligation where there is no ability—hence (it is but an identical proposition) it is possible for every man to do all that is required of him (not all that may be required of another man); and that is to be perfect. After all this exploitation of “natural ability,” however, Finney turns and says that we have on this line of reasoning arrived at only an abstract possibility. Whether this abstract possibility is ever realized in fact, must be the subject of further inquiry. A second proposition is therefore laid down.191 It is this: “The provisions of grace are such as to render its actual attainment [entire and permanent sanctification] in this life the object of reasonable pursuit.” This proposition he transmutes into the question, “Is this state attainable as a matter of fact before death; and if so, when, in this life, may we expect to attain it?”—and submits the inquiry to the arbitrament of the Scriptures. Thus even Finney suspends the actual attainment of entire sanctification on grace, not nature; and seeks the evidence for it therefore in Scripture.

The vigor with which the Oberlin men asserted that they were primarily interested in the attainability, not in the actual attainment, of perfection, not only led to misunderstanding, but sometimes, it must be acknowledged, has an odd appearance in itself. To the man in the street the affirmation of the attainability of perfection seems to derive all its value from the promise it holds out for its actual attainment. And it is very clear that the Oberlin men were not contending for the barren attainability of the New Divinity, unillustrated by examples of attainment and indeed incapable of being so illustrated. Theirs is an attainability, they said, which can be realized in fact; and which, they affirmed, had been, is, and will be realized in numerous cases in fact. What they affirmed was, not that we must posit merely an inoperative attainability in order to ground accountability for the universal non-attainment of perfection; but that we must assert an operative attainability which realizes itself constantly in attainment. They have advanced here beyond the New Divinity; and they have it chiefly at heart to validate their difference from it, which becomes the main matter at issue precisely because it carries with it the affirmation of attainment as its corollary. The Oberlin men thought themselves to have laid their hands on a factor in the problem, which, as they said, had been neglected by the New Divinity, and which, in their view, transformed the barren “attainability” which served no other purpose than to ground accountability, into an operative “attainability” of possible and ready accomplishment.

This new factor was nothing less than the factor of grace. The New Divinity, they said, operated with “natural ability” only; and, as obligation is, as it taught, limited by ability, was bound to affirm that the perfection required of man is “attainable” by him; otherwise he would not be obligated by it, and would be perfect, that is, all that he could be required to be, without it. But this “attainability” is only the postulate of accountability and affirms only that man could be perfect if he would, leaving the undoubted fact that he will not untouched—and in strict logic this will not ought to be expressed in terms of can not. In point of fact, man, standing in the conditions in which he finds himself, with an ingrained disposition to evil governing his conduct, can not be perfect, despite all the underlying “natural ability” to be perfect which can be ascribed to him. You may prefer to say that this “cannot” is only a “certainly will not,” but this choice of soft words to express it does not alter the hard fact.

Now, the Oberlin men were altogether willing to say that this attainability never passes into attainment. This was not the attainability for which they were contending and which they looked upon as the issue at stake. Mahan says plainly enough, one would think,192 that “our natural ability … may exist in all its fulness, with the absolute certainty that no attainments at all in holiness will be made.” “This is in fact,” he adds, “true of all fallen spirits, and with all mankind in the absence of the influence of the grace of the gospel.” There is, he says, another kind of “attainability,” however, over and above that grounded in “natural ability,” and that is what they are contending for, and the appearance of logomachy given to their reasoning by their opponents rests on neglect to note this fact. They are contending for a real, concrete, and not merely a theoretical, abstract attainability; not common to all men, but peculiar to those under “the influence of the gospel.” The opponents of the Oberlin teaching have uniformly assumed that there were but two parts to the question brought into debate. Is perfect holiness attainable? Is it actually attained? As both parties agreed in an affirmative answer to the first question, they declared the only issue concerned the second. Stop, said the Oberlin men; the first question is ambiguous and hides in it two separate ones, on one of which we are agreed and on the other not. And the question hidden in it, on which we are not agreed, is the crux of the whole matter. What do you mean by saying that perfect holiness is attainable? Do you mean that we have “natural ability” to obtain it if we will—though most certainly we will not? Or do you mean that perfection has now in the gospel been brought by the grace of God within our practicable reach, and relying on that grace we may in the power of Christ through His Spirit actually attain it? There are in point of fact, says Mahan at this place,193 three, not two questions raised: “1. What is the natural ability of men? or, have men natural ability to yield perfect obedience to the commands of God?… 2. Are we authorized, in view of the provisions and promises of divine grace, together with the other teachings of inspiration, to expect to attain to a state of perfect holiness in this life? 3. Do the Scriptures teach us that any have attained, or will attain to a state of entire sanctification in this life?” The opponents of the Oberlin doctrine, he now adds, overlook entirely the second question, “in respect to which we are at issue.”

It is precisely on this second question, however, that the Oberlin men lay the whole stress of the argument, says Mahan. “Every thing is said as a means to one end—the determination of the great question, To what degree of holiness do the Scriptures authorize us to expect to attain in this life? That which is practicable to us on the ground of our natural ability, is in one sense attainable. That which is rendered practicable, not on the ground of natural ability, but by the provisions of divine grace, is attainable in a different and higher sense of the term. It is in this last sense, that the term is used by me.” The reaction here from the Pelagianizing conceptions which ruled the New Divinity we have already called attention to, but it is good to dwell on it. An appeal is made from nature to grace.194 An attempt is made to ground a doctrine of perfection in the great fact that grace overcomes the disabilities of nature, and to point to the sufficiency in Christ for what “natural ability” cannot do. Thus the debate is carried away from the natural powers of men, to the provisions of the gospel, and becomes at once a purely Biblical one. Do the Scriptures represent God in Christ as providing for the immediate sanctification of his people? That becomes the sole question of real interest, and as such the Oberlin men treat it. It would be inexplicable, of course, if such provision has been made, that it should be illustrated by no single example. It becomes important therefore to show that there have been, are and will be perfect saints in this world. But this takes the secondary place of illustration and verification.195 The main matter remains the witness of Scripture to the gracious purpose of God. And the whole matter being thus referred to the Scriptures, the Oberlin men adduce the provisions made in the Gospel for the attainment of perfection, the promises of perfection given to Christians, the commands to them to be perfect, the prayers for their perfection which are recorded, and the like—a very impressive showing, which beyond question proves what Mahan, indeed, declares it is solely intended to prove—that Christians are to seek after perfection “with the expectation of obtaining it.” The mistake that Mahan makes lies in his supposing that this means that perfection may be attained by any Christian, at any time, all at once; that it lies at the disposal of Christians, to be had for the taking; and not rather that it may be and is attainable only through so long a curriculum of preparation that a lifetime may well be none too long for its accomplishment. We are to seek it with the expectation of attaining it; he that seeks it will certainly find it; but the attainment is a great task—and it delays its coming. The attainment of perfection in other words, is not an act but a work: and this is the real point of difference between the parties to the debate—whether the perfection which is provided for, promised, commanded, urged to, is a gift received all at once, or an attainment acquired through a long-continued effort. That it is supernatural, not natural, in its origin and nature was a great discovery for the Oberlin men to make in the Pelagianizing atmosphere in which they were immersed. But its supernatural origin and nature do not in the least prejudice the question whether it comes all at once or only as the final crown of a life of “working out our salvation in fear and trembling.” We are brought here, however, to perceive the important part played in the early Oberlin scheme by the doctrines of “Sanctification by faith,” and the “Baptism of the Holy Ghost.”

It appears that the whole body of the Oberlin teachers of perfection were entirely at one, from the start, in declaring that sanctification is by faith. Time was required, however, to bring them into even measurable harmony in their conceptions of how faith brings about this sanctification which is to be had only “by” it. Finney himself seems inclined at first to represent faith as the immediate producing cause of sanctification. No doubt his fundamentally Pelagian type of thinking was peculiarly embarrassing to him when he came to deal with a thing like faith, which, in its very nature, looks outward from self and seeks something from another. Even in his early teaching faith is the indispensable condition, he would say, of the “reception of Christ,” “the eternal life,” “the holiness of the soul.” But at this early stage of his teaching this language seems merely the repetition of a shibboleth. There seems no particular reason why “Christ” should be “received,” and certainly no reason why “the holiness of the soul” should wait for His “reception.” For faith, according to Finney, is itself a holy exercise, both in kind and degree all the confidence of the heart, working by love, that God does or can require. That is to say, like all other holy exercises, it is a perfectly holy exercise; and, as there is nothing about us, morally considered, but our exercises, in exercising faith we are perfectly holy. We are already therefore perfectly holy before Christ is received, who is nevertheless designated “the holiness of the soul.” And as S. B. Canfield196 pertinently asks, if we may previously to the reception of “the holiness of the soul,” put forth one holy exercise, and that one perfectly holy, why may we not put forth two, or three, or ten thousand? If we may enter into perfection without Christ, why may we not abide in it without Christ? The fact seems to be that Finney’s fundamentally Pelagian mode of thinking, already run to seed in his doctrine of “the simplicity of moral action,”—the origin of which it is customary (apparently erroneously) to date in 1841—has betrayed him here into a conception of man which makes him sufficient for himself, and leaves no need for either Christ or the Holy Spirit to make him perfect. The doctrines of Christ and the Holy Spirit appear thus as only ornamental superstructures to the system. How he employs them as such may be illustrated by a remark like this: “Faith would instantly sanctify your heart, sanctify all your doings, and render them, in Christ Jesus, acceptable to God.”197 What is the effect of the insertion of the words “in Christ Jesus?” If our heart and all our doings are already sanctified, are they not already acceptable to God? “They are,” remarks Canfield,198 “(by the supposition) as free from moral defilement … as Christ’s own ‘doings.’ ” Since faith “instantly” sanctifies our heart and all our doings, ex opere operato, what place is left for the sanctifying Christ? The instantaneousness of the sanctifying action of faith, is much insisted on and should not be passed by unmarked.199 If you will only believe, says Finney, “this will at once bring you into entire sanctification.”200 The exercise of faith is manifested holiness; holiness is not a subsequent result flowing from faith—it and faith are the same thing. “Let it be distinctly noted, then,” Canfield comments,201 “that according to the principles of ‘Oberlin Perfectionism,’ entire sanctification is conditioned on previous perfection. To become sinlessly perfect, you must go to the Saviour already perfect.” It cannot even be said that, though we make ourselves perfect, we must depend on Christ to keep us perfect. He does not, according to “Oberlin Perfectionism,” keep us perfect—we may fall. And if we continue perfect that is because we preserve our faith: permanent entire sanctification is conditioned on permanent faith, just as simple entire sanctification is conditioned on simple faith. We must keep ourselves perfect as a condition of Christ’s keeping us perfect. “Permanent, entire sanctification is conditioned (according to this view) on itself! You shall be perfect as long as you shall continue to be perfect.”202

Approaching the subject in another passage from a different angle—in the midst of a long description (there are thirty-five numbered affirmations) of what entire sanctification is not203—Finney tells us that “entire sanctification does not imply the same degree of faith” in everybody. It does not, for example, imply the same degree of faith in us, sinners, “that might have been exercised but for our ignorance and past sin.” It requires a lower degree of faith to make a sinner perfectly holy than is required to make a saint perfectly holy: and the worse sinners we are the lower is the degree of faith that is required to make us perfectly holy. It does not resolve this paradox to observe that Finney is obviously confusing here the degree of faith exercised, and the amount of knowledge which is possessed of the object on which faith rests. What he really means to say, however, is that the less knowledge we have of God and divine things, the less faith is required of us that we may be perfect. The proposition on which he relies for support runs: “We cannot believe any thing about God of which we have no evidence or knowledge,” and therefore, “entire sanctification implies … nothing more than the heart’s faith or confidence in all the truth that is perceived by the intellect.” The deflecting influence here is derived from his doctrine that as obligation is limited by ability, he who does all he can (being what he is) is as perfect as God Himself. On this ground he declares that: “Perfection in a heathen would imply much less faith than in a Christian. Perfection in an adult would imply much more and greater faith than in an infant. And perfection in an angel would imply much greater faith than in a man, just in proportion as he knows more of God than man.” Our attention is attracted for the moment by the suggestion that perfection is conceivable in a heathen. This is not a slip. Finney fully means it. “The heathen,” he explains, “are not under obligation to believe in Christ, and thousands of other things of which they have no knowledge.” Not being under obligation to believe in Christ, of course they can be perfect without believing in Him. If they have “heart’s faith or confidence in all the truth that is perceived by their intellect,” they will not be kept from being perfect by lack of faith in Christ of whom they have no knowledge. Perfection clearly is not conceived as the product of Christ in the heart and life of him who believes in Him. It is not Christ but faith that makes us perfect, and it apparently does not much matter what the object is on which the faith rests. The faith of a fetich-worshipper (provided it embraces all he knows) is as efficacious to produce perfection in him as the faith of a John or a Paul. We see how loosely Finney sits to the fundamental proposition for which, under Mahan’s influence, he argues, that the effective attainability of perfection is a gift of God in the provisions of the gospel.

All this leaves us quite in the dark as to how faith sanctifies us. That faith sanctifies us wholly, and that instantaneously on our exercising it, quite independently of what we believe, whether much or little (so only it be all we know), we are told with some emphasis. But we are not told how faith does this extraordinary thing. Henry Cowles offers himself to us for this time of need.204 He has a chapter on “the Bible doctrine concerning faith as a means of holiness,” in which he describes in a very attractive way the sufficiency and richness of the provision in Christ for the believer’s sanctification. But he does not deal with the matter exhaustively, and what he omits is unfortunately the gist of the matter. He does not tell us that it is by faith that we are united with Christ, and, having received forgiveness of sin and a title to eternal life, are granted the Holy Spirit as a power within us, not ourselves, making for righteousness. He deals in his next chapter with the work of the Spirit as Sanctifier; and does not there mention the reception of Him as a result of our faith. But though he does not give an exhaustive account of the part played by faith in our sanctification, what he does say is true and important, and errs only by defect—although it is by a great defect. There is a two-fold function ascribed to faith in our sanctification. Through it we obtain true and vivid views of what Jesus is—and are sanctified “by the influence of his character contemplated.” And by it we turn to Him for His “aid in the divine life,” and so take “the attitude of suppliants, and recipients at his feet, and he does sustain us.” If the concluding clause here seems to promise relief from the bald Pelagianizing of the rest, we are the more disappointed to discover that promise unfulfilled in a later passage. We walk by faith, we there read; we live by faith; and “ ‘the life which I now live in the flesh, I live,’ not by self-moved holy impulses, but ‘by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.’ ” The unnecessary opposition of “self-moved holy impulses,” and “faith” may seem to point to a mystical doctrine of the indwelling Christ superseding our activities. But no—Cowles explains thus: “My belief that the Son of God did thus love me, and give himself for me, works love in my soul, and constrains me to live to him who thus lived and even died for me.” There is nothing supernatural about it, then, at all. “Christ lives in me by faith,” means only that a belief in Christ lives in me; and it is not Christ but this belief which is the dynamic of my activities. Accordingly Cowles proceeds at once to say that what Paul teaches is that “Christ lived within him,” “in this sense, viz.: his belief of certain great truths in respect to Christ, through the Spirit impressing those truths upon his heart [we wish we knew how he supposes the Spirit to do this!], constrains him to live wholly for Christ.” “Love of Christ, produced through the Spirit [how?] by believing these things, now reigns in his soul, and controls his life.” Has not the phrase, “through the Spirit” an awkward appearance here? Somehow, we know not how, it was in some way, we know not in what way, “through the Spirit,” that the love of Christ was produced “by believing these things”; and this love which we have to Christ constrains us to follow after Him. Pelagius himself could scarcely have said less.

That some such ideas as these were present to the mind of Finney also seems to be implied in a passage in the “Lectures on Systematic Theology.”205 His fundamental contention,” he says, “are by faith alone”—meaning that both are attained by faith alone.” “Both justification and sanctification,” he says, “are by faith alone”—meaning that both are surely enjoyed by the believer, but that each is attained by an act of faith of its own. He is no longer prepared to assert, however, that the faith by which sanctification is attained is itself the immediately producing cause of sanctification. On the contrary he proceeds to guard against that notion. “But let me by no means be understood,” he writes, “as teaching sanctification by faith, as distinct from and opposed to sanctification by the Holy Spirit, or Spirit of Christ, or which is the same thing, by Christ our sanctification, living and reigning in the heart.” Again and with even more precision of statement: “Faith is rather the instrument or condition, than the efficient agent that induces a state of present and permanent sanctification. Faith simply receives Christ, as king, to live and reign in the soul. It is Christ, in the exercise of his different offices, and appropriated in his different relations to the wants of the soul, by faith, who secures our sanctification.” This assertion is the direct contradiction of what we have formerly seen Finney affirming. In the former affirmations, faith was the immediately producing cause of our sanctification. In this it only entrusts the production of our sanctification to Christ, and Christ Himself undertakes and carries through the work of our sanctification. How He does it is explained in the following words: “This he does by Divine discoveries to the soul of his Divine perfections and fulness. The condition of these discoveries is faith and obedience.” Our sanctification, secured by faith and obedience, is wrought by Christ, whose offices in working it are the precise thing that we secure by faith and obedience.

We ought not to neglect to notice the intrusion of the words “and obedience” into this statement. It is unexpected—and unauthorized. We had just been told that “the state of sanctification is attained by faith alone.” We are now told that it is secured by “faith and obedience.” We had just heard faith alone designated the “condition” of our sanctification. We now hear that its “condition” is “faith and obedience.” And we are a little puzzled to understand how obedience can be the condition of obedience—for sanctification in Finney’s definition of it is nothing but obedience. We are again very near to saying: We can become holy by becoming holy. All this, however, by the way. The main affirmation here is that the way in which Christ, who it is that sanctifies us, sanctifies us is—by making discoveries to the soul of His divine perfections and fulness. The real efficient agent of our sanctification is then no more Christ than faith; one is as little the “condition or instrument” of it as the other: the immediate, effective cause of our sanctification is the vision of the glory of Christ granted the soul. We are told, it is true, that Christ lives and reigns in the souls of those who receive Him by faith, and, living and reigning in them, exercises His different offices there: but nothing is meant beyond His making Himself known to these souls in His glory, and in His relations to the soul’s varied wants. And nothing happens until the soul, moved by this great vision into action, sanctifies itself. Christ does nothing to it except make Himself known to it. We are sanctified by revelation, not by renewal: Christ brings instruction, not power. The efficiency of the inducement here particularly intimated is now argued206 on the ground that man, as sinner, is the victim of a one-sided development of his sensibilities. He is lob-sided. All he needs is that the spiritual world should be revealed and made real to him. This can be done only by the Holy Spirit who takes the things of Christ and shows them to us. What we need in order to become entirely sanctified may be summed up in three things. We must have “natural ability” to do the whole will of God—and that we all have. We must have sufficient knowledge to reveal to us our whole duty—and that also we all have, because nothing is duty until we know it as such. But we must have also “sufficient knowledge or light,” “to reveal to us clearly the way or means of overcoming any and every difficulty or temptation that lies in our way.” This “is proffered to us upon condition that we receive the Holy Spirit, who offers himself as an indwelling light and guide, and who is received by simple faith.” Our sanctification is here conditioned on faith in the Holy Spirit and is wrought by Him as “light and guide”—we need only to have the way pointed out, we are quite competent of ourselves to walk in it. There is a long list of the functions of the Holy Spirit as “light and guide”: nothing is intimated but various forms of “knowledge.”

There is an appearance at a little later point,207 it is true, that something more may be acknowledged. “The Holy Spirit sanctifies us,” we are here told, “only by revealing Christ to us as our sanctification. He does not speak of himself, but takes of the things of Christ and shows them to us.” It is Christ who is our real Sanctifier, or rather our Sanctification. And Finney proceeds now to magnify Him in this office. He does not, to be sure, admit that Christ “does something to the soul that enables it to stand and persevere in holiness in its own strength”; “He does not change the structure of the soul.”208 This language is only Finney’s customary way of denying that Christ does what He Himself says He does—make the tree good that the fruit may be good. In point of fact Christ does precisely what is intended to be denied here. He does do something to the soul that enables it to stand and persevere in holiness in its own strength—though not all at once. The sanctified Christian will do holiness in his own strength in the same sense that a holy angel does—or that the sun attracts the earth in its own strength, or that it is with its own sweetness that honey is sweet. But sanctified Christians in this full sense do not exist on earth; and no creature of God is independent of Him, in whom we all live and move and have our being. What Finney means is to reject altogether all “physical” sanctification; although “physical sanctification” is of course all the sanctification that is real sanctification. Permit him, however, to repudiate that, and he seems willing to go pretty far—if we can speak of anything as far which falls short of that. Christ, he says, “watches over” the soul—but that is sufficiently external. He also, however, he says, “works in it to will and to do continually”—and now we begin to take notice. This is less, to be sure, than that transforming of the soul’s ethical character which the Scriptures ascribe to Him; but it appears at least to imply control. It seems to ascribe to Christ not merely a plying of the soul with motives, but a determining of its action under these motives. And when we read: “He rules in and reigns over the soul,” “in so high a sense, that he, as it were, develops his own holiness in us,”—we are almost ready to rejoice with trembling. We do not quite know what the words “develops his own holiness in us” are intended to mean; as indeed Finney himself did not, as the qualifying “as it were” seems to imply. The words may bear the perfectly good sense that Christ produces in us a holiness just like His own. They may become, however, a rather crass mystical suggestion, as if Christ transferred His holiness to us or shared it with us. And there is other mystical language employed in the context. We read that He “swallows us up, … enfolds, if I may so say, our wills and our souls in his.” What is it to have not only our wills but our very souls “swallowed up,” “enfolded” in Christ’s? Our souls swallowed up in His soul, enfolded in His soul! This language, however, is not only qualified by the inserted “if I may so say,” suggesting that it is not really meant, but is incorporated into a sentence which wholly empties it of the meaning that it might seem naturally to carry. What is said is, that Christ “as it were swallows us up, so enfolds, if I may so say, our wills and our souls in his, that we are willingly led captive by him.” (The italics are ours.) We drop at once from the mystical heights, and discover that all that is intended is that “we will and do as he wills within us”—that is, obey Him. And having started to drop, we drop still lower when we read the next sentence, which reduces again the working in us to will and to do to a mere matter of inducement: “He charms the will into a universal bending to his will.” Control has become only a “charming.” And now comes the end: “He becomes our sanctification only in so far forth as we are revealed to ourselves, and he revealed to us, and as we receive him and put him on.” “What! has it come to this!”—we borrow this exclamation from Finney with our apologies—that after all the apparent promise of a real sanctifying operation in us—after all the even mystical language employed to describe it—we have nothing left in our hands but “revelation”? Christ reveals us to ourselves and Himself to us; and then, we, induced by this revelation, “receive him,” and “put him on.” What Christ gives is revelation; we do the rest.

Despite all this elaborate relegation of the whole sanctifying work to ourselves, Finney continues strenuously to insist that sanctification is by faith alone; as truly so as justification. His meaning apparently is that the “revelation” under the inducement of which we sanctify ourselves, is secured by faith, so that ultimately it is through faith that we are sanctified. He is willing to allow accordingly one difference between the relation of justification and sanctification respectively to their procuring acts of faith. Both are “brought about by grace through faith”; but “it is true, indeed, that in our justification our own agency is not concerned, while in our sanctification it is.”209 This somewhat notable admission of the part played by our own activities in the process of sanctification, need not be, but is, a recognition of sanctification as self-wrought. It affirms therefore a very great difference in the relations of justification and sanctification to their respective procuring acts of faith. In the one case faith secures from God a decree of justification. In the other faith secures from God only inducements under which we sanctify ourselves. Meanwhile Finney speaks now and again in very misleading language of the relation of sanctification to works “of law.” Whatever is said to an inquirer, he says on one occasion,210 “that does not clearly convey the truth, that both justification and sanctification are by faith, without works of law, is law, and not gospel.” There can, of course, be no such thing as sanctification “without works of law.” In Finney’s own phrase, sanctification is just “obedience, for the time being, to the moral law.” How can “obedience to law” take place “without works of law”? Justification can be “without works of law” because justification is not law-keeping on our own part, but acceptance of us as righteous by God: and when it is said to be without “works of law,” what is meant is that the ground of our acceptance as righteous is found not in our own obedience to the law, but in that of another rested on by us in faith. When, on the other hand, it is said that sanctification is by faith “without works of law,”—that, to speak frankly, is mere nonsense. The phrase might have meaning if what was intended were that, as sanctification is an issue of justification, and justification is by faith without works of law, we obtain our sanctification ultimately by faith “without works of law.” That is true; but what we obtain in sanctification is just “works of law”—for sanctification is, as Finney rightly tells us, obedience to the moral law. This obedience to the moral law, now, cannot possibly be, in any case, the immediate effect of faith. We do not obey by faith, but by works. Faith by its very nature, rests on something outside of ourselves; obedience is the product of something which works within us. Another’s righteousness can form the basis of our pardon; another’s righteousness cannot form the content of our holiness. Another can supply the ground of our acceptance with God: another cannot supply our personal conformity to the requirements of the law. We may entrust our sanctification to another, just as we entrust our justification to another. We do. But the effect is wrought differently in the two cases: in the one case without us and in the other within us. And unless we are willing to admit that Christ works in us, conforming us to the law, we cannot speak of sanctification as by faith: and even in that case we cannot speak of it as “without works of law.” It is not secured by “works of law,” but it consists of “works of law,” apart from which it does not exist.

Into this closed circle of Pelagian conceptions Mahan breaks with his assertion of the supernaturalness of salvation. It is as an assertion of the supernaturalness of the whole of salvation, that he understands the declaration that our sanctification as well as our justification is by faith, by faith alone. Faith, in its very nature, is a commitment, an entrusting to another; and its results must be brought about therefore by the action of this other. Sanctification by faith is thus only another way of saying sanctification by Christ through His Spirit, on whom it is that faith rests. This is the precise contradictory of sanctification by our own activities, and it is only paltering in a double sense, according to Mahan, to explain that Christ, through His Spirit, sanctifies us, by presenting the motives to sanctification to us so strongly as to call out our self-activities effectively to that end. The motives which induce us to commit our sanctification to Christ would induce us to sanctify ourselves if that were possible to us under the mere influence of motives: in point of fact they do induce us to sanctify ourselves, in the only way in which we can sanctify ourselves, namely by committing our sanctification to Christ. The committal of our sanctification to Christ in faith is a confession that we cannot sanctify ourselves; and the prescription of this method of sanctification by the Scriptures is their testimony that we cannot sanctify ourselves. The main facts in the case accordingly are that we are incapable of sanctifying ourselves, and that it is precisely because we are incapable of sanctifying ourselves that sanctification is by faith, that is to say, by Christ in response to the commitment of it to Him. Here we have the foundation of Mahan’s reasoning. Some of the corollaries which he draws from it are, that because this sanctification is wrought by Christ alone, it may be and is immediate, instantaneous and complete. His perfectionism is thus distinctively a supernatural perfectionism. Christ’s people may be perfect, precisely because it is Christ the Lord who makes them perfect, and not they themselves.

There are some passages in Mahan’s “Christian Perfection” which seem to imply that Christ’s sanctifying work211 is conceived by him as accomplished simultaneously with the act of justification and in response to the same exercise of faith by which justification is obtained. In one of these,212 he represents it as “the grand mistake, into which the great mass of Christians appear to have fallen, in respect to the gospel of Christ,” that they expect “to obtain justification, and not, at the same time, and to the same extent, sanctification, by faith in Christ.” Attention is naturally attracted, first of all to the phrase “to the same extent”—a mode of speech repeated elsewhere, as, for instance in the sentence:213 “If Christ should justify, and not to the same extent sanctify his people, he would save them in, and not from their sins.” It seems at first sight to be implied that justification like sanctification is a progressive work, and that the two proceed pari passu, and therefore always coexist in the same measure: we are always sanctified just so far as we are justified and cannot be justified beyond the measure in which we are sanctified.214 Closer scrutiny makes it clear, however, that this is not Mahan’s meaning. He is not insisting that justification must be as progressive as sanctification; but, just the contrary, that sanctification must be as instantaneously complete as justification. He means to say that it is absurd to suppose that we are completely justified all at once—as we certainly are—and not to suppose that we are completely sanctified at the same time: and it is as wicked as it is absurd, since then we should be asserting that we are saved in and not from our sins. This, however, is all the more strongly to assert the absolute coetaneousness of justification and sanctification in its completeness; and compels us not only to give its full validity to the phrase “at the same time,” but to throw a strong emphasis upon it. Justification and sanctification in its completeness are thus affirmed in the most uncompromising way to take place together.

It is of course true that it is by one and the same act of faith that we receive Christ both as our justification and as our sanctification, and that we cannot have Him as the one without having Him as the other: we cannot take Him in one of his offices as our Mediator, and reject Him in another. Had that been Mahan’s assertion he would have been only repeating an elementary teaching of the universal Reformed faith. When he asserts, however, that by this single act of faith we not only obtain both justification and sanctification, but obtain them both at once in their utmost completeness, he asserts more than either the Reformed faith or his own better judgment permits. On the ground here taken, if the believer be not perfectly sanctified from the very moment of his justification, that is, of his believing, he is, in the sense here conveyed, saved in his sin. If he has a single sin remaining, and that the tiniest that a sin can be and yet remain a sin—he is saved in his sin. What is really declared then is that every believer is perfect, in the sense that he is freed from all sin from the moment of his believing. That carries with it the consequence that no one is a believer—that no one is justified—that no one is saved in any sense, to whom there clings a single, even the tiniest sin. Christ’s salvation is from sin and never in sin. Now Mahan does not in the least believe that. He is only for the moment caught in the meshes of his own chop-logic, and is reasoning on a submerged premise, assumed not only without but against proof—that sanctification takes place all at once and occupies no time. If sanctification occupies time, then it does not follow that because sins still occur in a Christian’s life, he is not in Him who saves from sin and not in sin; it follows only that his salvation from sin is not yet completed. At the moment Mahan is commenting on Rom. 8:3, 4—“that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.” “To have this righteousness fulfilled in us,” he comments, “implies, that it be perfectly accomplished in us, or, that we are brought into perfect conformity to the moral rectitude required by the law. This is declared to be one of the great objects of Christ’s death.” Nothing truer could be said. But then he adds: “Such conformity, then, is practicable to the Christian, or Christ failed to accomplish one of the prime purposes of his redemption.” And at once the submerged premise confuses the reasoning and vitiates the conclusion. Both too little and too much is said. It is too little to say that perfect conformity to the moral rectitude required by the law is practicable to the Christian. It is assured to him. He not only may have it; he certainly will have it. There is no question of Christ’s failing to accomplish this prime purpose of His redemption. It will be accomplished. But too much is said when it is implied that the Christian can enjoy this prime purpose of redemption, in its absolute completeness, at any moment he wishes, without regard to its nature, or the method—the laws if you will—of its conference. This is a blessing in the conference of which time is consumed; and it is not to be had without the expenditure of time-consuming effort. To suggest that the Christian is warranted in concluding that Christ has failed to accomplish one of the prime purposes of His redemption, if he finds himself not yet in possession of this blessing in its fullest extent, is a sad piece of reasoning. To intimate that we may have all that Christ has purchased for us, in all its fulness, all at once, at the moment of believing, is not merely to confound all human experience, but to go beyond what Mahan has found it possible to believe himself. For after all, Mahan does not believe what he here asserts—that all who believe in Christ are immediately in that act of faith both perfectly justified and perfectly sanctified.

One indication that he does not believe it may be found in passages, lying side by side with those just quoted, in which he develops a conception of the relation of faith to the blessings obtained by it, which is quite incongruous to what he here asserts. In one of these215 he is discussing the difference between perfect and imperfect faith. This he finds not in a difference in the degree of confidence the two exhibit—as if trust and distrust were mixed in them in different proportions—but in the breadth of their reference. “In consequence of ignorance of the perfect fulness of Christ’s redemption in all respects,” we may be found reposing “confidence in one, and not in every feature of Christ’s character as a Savior.” Our confidence in Him may be full confidence, from the intensive point of view, but far from full from the extensive point of view. We entrust to Him utterly what we entrust to Him, but we do not entrust to Him all we ought to entrust to Him. The illustration given is precisely this: “The mind … may repose full confidence in Christ as a justifying, but not as a sanctifying Savior.” We may then receive justification and not sanctification. These two are not necessary concomitants, the inseparable co-products of one act of faith. They are severally products of different acts of faith and are sought and enjoyed each for itself. There is indeed a wider implication behind this—that we seek by faith and receive the several benefits which Christ bestows on His people one by one, as we appeal to Him for each. And behind that lies the deeper implication still that salvation is not a unit, but may be broken up into fragments and granted piecemeal; and therefore also may be enjoyed by this or that individual only in this or that part. He that has only partial faith, that is to say faith for only part of the things which are to be had in Christ, may be saved only in part, that is, may receive only part of salvation. We may be justified, for example, and not sanctified. One would like to know what the state of such a man is. Being justified, his sins are all pardoned; he is accepted in God’s sight; and the reward of eternal life is given him. We suppose this means, in common parlance, that he will “go to heaven.” And indeed, where else would one go, against whom the law of God brings no charge, and for whom it bears witness that he is righteous? But not having been sanctified, he must go to heaven a corrupt and polluted, though not guilty, wretch. And we are brought up short by the fundamental principle that without holiness no man shall see the Lord.

It is of course in part a defective view of justification itself which produces these remarkable results. Corruption is the very penalty of sin from which we are freed in justification; holiness is the very reward which is granted us in justification. It is therefore absurd to suppose that sanctification can fail where justification has taken place. Sanctification is but the execution of the justifying decree. For it to fail would be for the acquitted person not to be released in accordance with his acquittal. It is equally absurd to speak of a special “sanctifying faith” adjoined to “justifying faith”; “justifying faith” itself necessarily brings sanctification, because justification necessarily issues in sanctification—as the chains are necessarily knocked off of the limbs of the acquitted man. The Scriptures require of us not faiths but faith. Mahan, on the other hand, is very much inclined to make a hobby of the notion that we must have a special faith for every particular benefit received of Christ. “Perfect faith,” he asserts,216 “is a full and unshaken confidence in Christ, as in all respects, at all times, and in every condition, a full and perfect Savior, a Savior able and willing to meet every possible demand of our being.” That is true, and well-said: that is in its nature the faith which every Christian has and lives by. But must all the sides and aspects of Christ’s saving activities be explicated in our knowledge or else we do not get them? Does our enjoyment of them absolutely depend on our explication of them in our knowledge and the direction of our faith to each and every one of them separately? That is the tendency of Mahan’s treatment of the matter. We must not go to Christ, he tells us,217 as a Savior in general, expecting Him to save us from our sins. We must take our sins to Him one by one. “From our sins Christ does not and cannot save us, unless by faith we thus”—that is distributively—“appropriate the provisions of his redemption.” So strongly is the notion of the exercise of faith distributively pressed, that Mahan is even ready to say,218 that no blessing will be received—for example the blessing of sanctification—if it be applied for in a general way. This is the reason, he says, that “Christians apply to Christ for sanctification, etc., almost without success. Their object is commonly general and undefined, and nothing specific is presented.” We must come to Christ with a specific need in our hearts and one of His specific promises in our hands, and do this over and over again, until we work through all our needs and all His promises. We seem far enough away, in this presentation of the way of life, from the notion asserted in the passages formerly adduced, that perfect sanctification accompanies justification as its inseparable concomitant, else Christ would save us in, not from our sins: that we must in other words at once on believing be saved from all our sins on pain of implicating Christ in their continuance.

However Mahan may have endeavored to conciliate for himself such conflicting lines of thought, he emerges into the open with the clear and firm conviction that justification and sanctification are two distinct and separable benefits to be sought and obtained by two distinct and separable acts of faith. This is already apparent in the full exposition which he gives us of the theoretical foundation of his doctrine of perfection, in the fourth discourse of his “Christian Perfection.”219 He speaks freely here of our being made perfect by divine grace—even of our being made perfect by the indwelling Christ—after a fashion which seems to bear a more mystical than Pelagian implication. But the two tendencies are not to him irreconcilable. Everything is made to depend on the human will; and man may therefore be said to work out his own perfection. But it appears that he does this not directly but indirectly—by handing it over to grace or to the indwelling Christ to work it out for him. Accordingly Christ is represented as saying to the believer, “I will secure you in a state of perfect and perpetual obedience to every command of God, and in the full and constant fruition of his presence and love”; and as promising, “All this will I do in perfect consistency with the full, and free, and uninterrupted exercise of your own voluntary agency.”220 What the believer is to do is “to make a full surrender” of himself to Christ. This includes “an actual reception of Christ, and reliance upon him for all these blessings, in all their fulness—a surrender of your whole being to him, that he may accomplish in you all the ‘exceeding great and precious promises’ of the new covenant.”221 And we are told that “when this is done—when there is that full and implicit reliance upon Christ, for the entire fulfillment of all that he has promised—he becomes directly responsible for our full and complete redemption.” By a complete surrender to Him we voluntarily put ourselves into His hands, and He thereafter assumes “all the responsibility.”222 “Christ is now present in your heart, and ready to confer all this purity and blessedness upon you, if you can believe that he is able and willing to do it for you, and will cast your entire being upon his faithfulness.”223 “If …” It is all primarily in our hands and rests on our will. But when we have met that “if,” then it is all in Christ’s hands and He will do it all. “We learn” hence, Mahan explains,224 “how to understand and apply such declarations of Scripture as the following—‘Wash you, make you clean’; ‘Make to yourselves a new heart and a new spirit’; ‘Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit,’ etc.” “The common impression seems to be,” he says, “that men are required to do all this, in the exercise of their own unaided powers; and because the sinner fails to comply, grace comes in, and supplies the condition in the case of Christians.” That is not his view. His view is that grace is always standing ready to do the work, if only we will draw on it for it. We are not required to do it ourselves; we are required to do it by means of grace, which is put at our disposal for the purpose. The fountain, whose waters cleanse from sin, is set open: it is our business to descend into it and wash. “The sinner is able to make to himself a ‘new heart and a new spirit,’ because he can instantly avail himself of proffered grace.” It is really his own act: facit per alium, facit per se. Grace is but the instrument he uses to accomplish his result. “He does literally ‘make to himself a new heart and a new spirit,’ when he yields himself up to the influence of that grace. The power to cleanse from sin lies in the blood and grace of Christ; and hence, when the sinner ‘purifies himself by obeying the truth through the spirit,’ the glory of his salvation belongs, not to him, but to Christ.”225 The validity of this inference is more than questionable: Christ in this view is but the instrument with which the sinner works. Meanwhile, however, it is made very plain that Christ and Christ only does or can do the work; and as the application is expressly made to the work of sanctification, the immediate supernaturalness of sanctification and its direct dependence on faith and faith alone are clearly asserted. “Herein also lies the ability of the creature to obey the commands of God, addressed to us as redeemed sinners.… We can ‘abide in Christ,’ and thus bring forth the fruit required of us.”226 The way we bear fruit is to apply to Christ for it.

We may perhaps be advanced in apprehending Mahan’s conception by attending to a passage in which he undertakes to discriminate between what he calls the antinomian, the legal and the evangelical spirits. The antinomian spirit, he says, looks to Christ for justification now, and satisfied with that, does not bother itself at all about sanctification. The legal spirit has two forms. In its extremest form—the form in which it appears in the ancient Pharisee and “modern moralist”—it seeks both to justify and to sanctify itself by its own efforts. In its milder form it looks to Christ for justification and depends on its own efforts for sanctification. The evangelical spirit looks to Christ for both justification and sanctification through faith alone. He differentiates himself here from the antinomian through his zeal for sanctification: he is concerned for personal holiness and earnestly seeks it. He differentiates himself on the other hand from the “legalist,” by the means he uses to obtain this longed-for holiness. The “legalist” seeks it “by personal efforts”; he seeks it “by faith.” This is as much as to say that the “legalist” seeks it in himself and expects to draw it out of himself by strenuous strivings; while Mahan seeks it in Christ and expects to receive it from Christ on faith. We do not stop to point out the injustice of setting sanctification by effort and sanctification by faith in mutually exclusive opposition to one another. If there be any who, having looked to Christ for their justification, then expect to sanctify themselves altogether apart from Christ, they present in their own persons a very odd contradiction. How can they, united to Christ by faith, act in their attempts to be holy, altogether out of relation with Christ, into union with whom they have come? Their efforts to be holy are themselves part of the sanctifying effects of the faith by which they are united with Christ—not all of it nor even the main part of it, but a part of it. Effort and faith cannot in themselves be set in crass opposition to one another, as if where the one is the other cannot be. They rather go together in a matter like sanctification which consists in large part of action. But that is not the matter which it concerns us most at the moment to take note of. The matter for us to note now is that by setting himself in opposition to those who “expect sanctification from personal effort,” and by the very inconsiderateness of this opposition, it is made the clearer that Mahan thinks of himself as teaching that sanctification is obtained not at all by “personal effort,” but by faith alone, and is the work of Christ exclusively, into which no other work of man enters except faith alone.227

In a later writing,228 Mahan tells us explicitly that, when he was first converted, he “knew Christ well in the sphere of justification, or the pardon of sin, but knew nothing of Him in that of our sanctification, and had never heard of Him, or thought of Him, as ‘the Son of God who baptizes with the Holy Ghost.’ ” “Of the idea of ‘the life of faith,’ and of the life revealed in the words, ‘I in them, and Thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one,’ I was as ignorant as an unborn babe.” If we were compelled to take these words in their general, ordinary meaning, the statement made in them would be sheerly incredible. Mahan intends them only in the sense of his own special doctrines of sanctification and the baptism of the Spirit. In that case they amount only to saying that he had not yet elaborated his peculiar views on the subject, when he was first converted—as how should he? He therefore proceeds to plead that young converts should be taught at once that entire sanctification is to be had immediately from Christ on going to Him for it—just as full justification has been had. His meaning is, that they should not be permitted uselessly to expend their strength in seeking to hew out sanctification for themselves, when the only way in which it can be obtained is from Christ by faith alone. A very striking enforcement of this counsel is found in a passage in his “Autobiography”229 in which he sharply criticizes Finney’s methods of dealing with converts “before he learned the way of the Lord more perfectly.” He wished “to induce among believers permanence in the Divine life.” But he knew no way to do it, it is said, except to insist on “the renunciation of sin, consecration to God, and purpose of obedience.” He worked along this line with the utmost zeal and to the permanent injury of his converts. Years afterward, his converts at the Chatham Street Chapel, New York, had “never recovered from the internal weakness and exhaustion which had resulted from the terrible discipline through which Mr. Finney had carried them.” “And this,” Mahan adds, “was all the good that had resulted from his efforts.” The same method, he says, had the same effect on Finney’s first pupils at Oberlin. He was prescribing effort: the only right way is the way of faith.

It should be carefully noted that it is involved in these criticisms that, in Mahan’s view, sanctification is not merely not by effort but by faith, but also not by the act of faith by which justification is received, but by a subsequent act of faith all its own. He is speaking of those already converted, and of their sanctification as a subsequent transaction. This is not a matter of little concern to him. He is insistent that sanctification follows conversion. He is found indeed sharply inveighing against those who say that all Christians have received “the baptism of the Holy Ghost” at the time of their conversion, and in doing so makes it plain enough that “the baptism of the Holy Ghost,” which with him is a condition of the influx of the grace that sanctifies the soul, is a distinct and subsequent enduement to converting grace. He repels the accusation that, as we have received this baptism at conversion, there is “no such promise as you speak of,” “in reserve for us now.” He insists that no matter what they once received, Christians are obviously in sore need of such an enduement now. He argues formally that Christ makes “prior obedience the express condition of this reception of ‘the Comforter’ ”—with the meaning that it must therefore be not an initial gift but one that comes in the course of Christian living. He declares: “Does not inspiration speak expressly of two classes of converted persons,—of the one class as ‘spiritual,’ and the other as ‘yet carnal,’—the one as made, and the other as not yet made, ‘perfect in love,’—the one as having, and the other as not having, ‘fellowship’ with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ,—the one as having received, and the other as not having received, the Holy Ghost since they believed—and of the ‘joy’ of the one class as being, and of the other as not being, ‘full.’ ”230

There is a passage in the “Autobiography”231 in which Mahan’s doctrine of sanctification is set forth in quite a systematic form, and which may well serve therefore as a norm for the interpretation of more scattered expositions. “Sanctification,” we here read, “is a gift of grace in the same sense, and attainable on the same condition, that justification is. Justification is an act of God, an act by which our sins are remitted, and we restored to a legal standing before Him, as if we had never sinned. Sanctification, on the other hand, is a work232 wrought in us by the Holy Spirit, ‘a renewing of the Holy Ghost’ by which ‘the body of sin is destroyed,’ that is, evil dispositions and tendencies are ‘taken out of our flesh,’ and we are made ‘partakers of a Divine nature.’ We have no more direct and immediate agency in sanctification than we have in justification. Each, with equal exclusiveness, is, I repeat, a gift of grace, and each is vouchsafed on the same condition as the other.… To comply with the condition is our part in the transaction. The condition being complied with, our responsibility in the matter is at an end.” Having cited Ezek. 36:25–27, he proceeds: “Three great blessings, in all fulness, are here specifically promised; namely, full and perfect cleansing from all sinful dispositions, tendencies, and habits; an equally full and perfect renewal, ‘the gift of a new spirit,’ and ‘a heart of flesh,’ in the place of the heart of stone which ‘had been taken out of the flesh’; and the ‘gift of the Holy Ghost,’ by Whose indwelling the believer is ‘endued with power’ for every good word and work, and perfected in his obedience to God’s statutes and judgments.” Here is a complete negative and positive explication of what sanctification is. Negatively, everything sinful is eradicated from the believer—including every sinful disability he may be supposed to have. Positively, holiness is infused into him, carrying with it power to every good word and work. “Every item” of this transformation “is the exclusive work of God.” Our part in sanctification is “to come to God by Jesus Christ, to have these things done for us.”233 “Sanctification and justification being both in common, and with the same exclusiveness, gifts of God, the one is just as instantaneous as the other.”234 The Scriptures do indeed speak of “growth in grace,” but that is “quite another thing” from a process of becoming holy: it is the expansion and development of the already holy person. “First, the healing, restoration to health, or sanctification; then growth, ‘growth in grace,’ ”—a growth this, that is not merely progressive but eternal. The note struck here is the note of a supernatural, instantaneous, entire transformation—a transformation which is “total” not only in the extensive sense but in the intensive sense. For one of the most notable features of it is the emphasis with which it is declared that the transformation is a transformation of nature and not merely of activities. “The body of sin is destroyed”; and that is defined as meaning that “evil dispositions and tendencies are ‘taken out of our flesh’ ”: a “full and perfect cleansing “is made” from all sinful dispositions, tendencies, and habits.” A new heart is placed within us: and we are made “partakers of a Divine nature.” A work like this cannot well be called other than “physical.”

It is important to observe that the “physical” salvation which is thus taught is strictly reserved for the second stage of salvation, and is a result of the second conversion. There is a curious passage in “Out of Darkness into Light”235 in which this is explained to us. Here it is taught that, when we have been “through the Spirit” “convicted of sin,” and have “exercised genuine ‘repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,’ ” strange to say, nothing has been wrought in us by His Spirit. We have taken up a new attitude, and that is all. We have done our duty—exercised repentance and faith—and that is the whole of it. God responds to this repentance and faith, it is true, by granting us pardon: but that takes place outside of us, and remains outside of us—we remain ourselves precisely as before. “As far as his voluntary activities are concerned,” Mahan remarks, the believer “is now in a state of supreme obedience to the will of God.” But he adds: “His old propensities, dispositions, temper, and tendencies, however, remain as they were, and remain to war against this new-born purpose of obedience.” Nothing has happened to the believer in himself: he has turned to God, but this has brought no change to his inner self. If left in this condition—and Mahan says the majority of believers are left in this condition—the believer cannot sustain himself in his newly assumed attitude. He lapses from his first love, lives on a low plane, falls, and falls again. There is apparently attributed to him a power to retain the faith he has conceived; but, being left to himself, he can retain it only with a feeble hold. What we wonder at is that he can be supposed to retain it at all. “Open and gross immoralities excepted,” we read,236 “the convert carries with him into the Christian life the same propensities, dispositions, and temper that he had before his conversion, and these, when strongly excited, overcome him as they did before.” The convert in his own strength can avoid open and gross immoralities; but, nothing having happened to him within, he is unable to resist the impulses which arise from his unaffected “old man.” It is a curious condition this, and one cannot see that there can be attributed to it anything that can justly be thought of as a state of salvation. We are told that the believer has escaped the penalties due to his sins—is a pardoned man: but he remains in precisely the same inward condition in which he was before. He is still in the condition of the natural man seeking to reform himself.

But now a second step can be taken. Christ may be apprehended “as the Mediator of the new covenant”—to employ a favorite phrase of Mahan’s; that is, the convert may seek and obtain from Christ “the baptism of the Holy Ghost,” and thus receive the Spirit for “the work of universal renovation.” The Spirit now takes away the heart of stone and gives the convert a heart of flesh—a new heart and a new spirit; writes the law in his inward parts—and the rest. This is “an all-cleansing, all-renovating, and all-vitalising process,” and, in contrast with “the washing of regeneration,” is called “the renewing of the Holy Ghost.” The convert is now, his old man being crucified, imbued with a new “divine nature,” and “filled with the Holy Ghost.” The old propensities, dispositions, tempers and lusts are gone; and the Christian is free. “What a melancholy reflection it is,” Mahan exclaims,237 “that most believers advance no further in the Christian life than ‘the washing of regeneration,’ are ignorant of Christ as the Mediator of the new covenant, and, consequently, have no experience of ‘the renewing of the Holy Ghost.’ ” Is it not a more melancholy reflection still that a Christian teacher can so cut Christ’s great salvation up into sections as to imagine that a sinner can sincerely repent of his sins, and cast himself in faith on Christ for salvation—and then not receive it? According to Mahan this is the condition in which most Christians find themselves. Their salvation has been wholly intermitted after the first step.

We see that one of the things which Mahan has greatly at heart, in urging to this second step, is that the Christian may be relieved from his old evil propensities and thus be freer to fight, in the Christian warfare, against external enemies. Up to the reception of “the second blessing” the old evil propensities remain and are the constant source of sin. It is useless to strive against them—we cannot eradicate them: though, as we have just seen, we can do what seems on the whole not a little in the way of repressing their worst movements, and Mahan accordingly characterizes this condition as one, not of darkness, but of “twilight.” He is not counselling, however, inert acceptance of them; he is only recommending rightly directed efforts—we must strive not ourselves to conquer them, but to obtain their eradication at the hands of Christ. In one of the passages in which he describes most fully what he means by this,238 he is speaking directly of “religious joy,” but he expressly makes the attainment to this “religious joy” rest on the same principles as the attainment of holiness,239 and we may use the description of the method of the attainment of the one therefore equally well of the attainment of the other. We can have it, he says, only on the condition “that, with all sincerity, earnestness, and tireless perseverance, ‘God shall for this be inquired of by you to do it for you.’ ” This is one of the phrases which he loves to repeat; and the enforcement of the duty inculcated by it he makes one of his chief concerns. If we wish any blessing we must inquire of the Lord for it, and we must do this with all strenuousness. “When you are told,” then, he explains, “not to make any efforts to banish your cares or sorrows, or to induce religious peace and joy, you receive wise and healthful advice.” These things do not come “at the bidding of our wills, but at the bidding of Christ.” We must strive after them—but we must strive after them from the hands of Christ. It is wrong, then, “when inquirers are told, … as they frequently are, not to think anything about their feelings, nor to give themselves any concern about them one way or the other.” The truth is240 “that our emotions, as well as our moral states”—it is here that our own interest for the moment focuses—“should be the objects of reflection, faith, and prayer. The divine direction is this:—‘Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.’… The promises pertaining to our peace are as really the objects of faith and prayer as those pertaining to our justification and sanctification.” Striving thus in the right way, we may be rid of our evil propensities, rid of them not in part, or merely in their activities, but altogether. Mahan knows, for he has tried it. “As a witness for Christ,” he says,241 “I would say that, were there a perfect oblivion of the facts of my life prior to the time when I thus knew my Saviour, I should not, from present experiences, ever suspect that these old dispositions, which once tyrannised over me, had ever existed.” And one of the things that render it important to be rid of them is that then we are free to contend against external temptations with no traitor in the camp. For though perfected now, we are not free from temptations. And we shall need to strive against them with all our might.

At this point in the discussion Mahan introduces a warning against what he represents as an extreme position taken up by some in his own camp, which surprises us very much.242 “I hear much said,” he says, “about receiving Christ as our present sanctification” which must be accepted with caution. If we have nothing in view but salvation from actual sin—we may, of course, expect immediate relief on believing. But “when we inquire of Him, as the Mediator of the new covenant, to do for us all that is promised in that covenant, the case is different.” And the difference in the case apparently consists in this—we must leave the fulfillment of all that for which we believe to God’s own good time and way. We may, like the disciples, have to tarry for “the promise of the Spirit.” After all, then, entire sanctification is not the immediate and complete response to faith. It may come gradually, in instalments. We may expect salvation “from actual sin” at once. But “heart-searching may precede the final cleansing, searching for God with all the heart must precede the finding of Him, and waiting and praying may precede, we cannot tell how long, the baptism of power.” There is an appearance of excessive analysis here. Salvation from actual sin, final cleansing, finding of God, baptism of power—and there are others. There is for example the distinction which is at once made between the “presence” of Christ in the heart and His “manifestation” there. It seems that Christ may dwell in us, and yet dwell there after some otiose fashion—not occupying Himself with us. We obtain His indwelling by faith: His manifestation of Himself within us awaits His own pleasure. The effort seems to be to safeguard to some degree the divine sovereignty. When we do our part, that does not compel His doing His part—at least, at once: He will do it, no fear as to that; but He will do it when and as He will. “Faith on our part does not of itself give us rest. The rest of faith is what Christ gives ‘after we have believed.’ ” Gives—an emphasis is laid on this. We do not by faith take it: Christ gives it. We must conceive then, it seems, of our second act of faith as securing for us the indwelling of Christ, who brings, of course, His benefits with Him; and then of His conferring these benefits one by one at His own discretion, but always in response, we infer from other passages already cited, to acts of faith claiming them. This notion of the indwelling Christ forms apparently the culmination of Mahan’s conception of the saving process. At the end of his book, “Out of Darkness into Light,”243 he has a chapter on “Christ in us, and Christ for us,” a phrase in which, he thinks, the whole gospel is summed up. He declines244 to explain the “sense” and “form” in which “Christ dwells and lives in believers,” on the ground that no one who has not experienced it can understand it. He outlines, however, some of the blessings which this indwelling brings. We shall, possessing it, have union, fellowship, and intercommunion with Him, in kind the same as obtains between Christ and the Father. “Christ will so completely control and determine our mental and moral states and activities, and so completely transform our whole moral characters after His own image, that the Father will love us as he does Christ”—that is, of course, with the love of complacency, since we are then perfect; our love to Christ “will, in our measure, be rendered as perfect as His is to us”; “our content under all the allotments of Providence” will be as perfect as His; our peace and joy as constant and full; and our love for our fellow-Christians “will be the same in kind as that which exists between Christ and the Father”—and the like. In a word, although we cannot tell what the indwelling of Christ is, we know it by its effects; and these effects are so described as to show that we are by it assimilated to Christ. By His dwelling within us Christ makes us like Himself.

Now, there are two conditions of obtaining this high gift. The first of these is that “we must … through faith in Christ, in the varied relations in which He is for us, as a Saviour from sin, be brought into a state of full present consecration to Christ, and obedience to His commandments.” We must, in other words, receive Christ in all that He is “for us.” We must already be loving Christ and keeping his words; Christ will not make His abode in any but loving hearts and obedient spirits. Certainly this seems to say that the indwelling Christ does not make us “perfect,” but finds us “perfect.” The second condition is that we must have already received the “Comforter,” “to enlarge our capacities to receive Christ and the Father.” That is to say not only is perfection but also what Mahan calls “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” presupposed. “Christ and the Father,” we are told, “can dwell within us but upon the condition that the Spirit shall first ‘strengthen us with might in the inner man’; shall ‘take of the things of Christ, and show them unto us,’ and shall ‘show us plainly of the Father.’ ” “Remember,” we are told more broadly, “that this promise can be fulfilled in your experience but upon the condition that you shall love and obey Christ, as the disciples did, and ‘the Holy Ghost shall fall upon you as He did upon them at the beginning.’ ” It is clear from a passage like this that to Mahan the twin pillars on which the highest structure of salvation rests are “perfection” and “the baptism of the Spirit”; and these, we will remember, he repeatedly tells us are the great doctrines to the promulgation of which he gave his life.

In the earliest of his perfectionist books—the “Scripture Doctrine of Christian Perfection” of 1839—the doctrine of the “Baptism of the Spirit” is not developed. The last of the discourses included in the book, however, deals with the work of the Spirit in sanctification under the caption of “The Divine Teacher,” and this caption fairly conveys the conception of the mode of His sanctifying work which is presented in the discussion. He is directly described in it as follows: He “enlightens the intellect, and carries on the work of sanctification in the heart, by the presentation of truth to the mind.”245 And again we are told246 that “the Spirit sanctifies by presenting Christ to the mind in such a manner, that we are transformed into his image.” These phrases are so external that it is necessary to remind ourselves that it is the work of the indwelling Spirit which is spoken of. He is spoken of in such a fashion as to imply that His presence in the heart is conceived as a supernatural fact, and His action as a supernatural action. But His action is spoken of exclusively as of the nature of “enlightening”; it is as “the divine teacher” alone that he is presented. It appears to be intended distinctly to deny that the mode of His action is of the nature of what is called “physical,” and to confine its effects to such as are wrought by the truth. We are left, however, in darkness as to how the indwelling Spirit is thought to enlighten the mind, or, as that is here explained, to present truth or to present Christ to the mind. It does not seem to be meant that the Spirit reveals new truth to the mind, or reveals to it the old truths afresh. His action does not appear to be conceived as, in the strict sense revelatory, but rather as in its nature clarifying and enforcing: he gives clearness and force and effectiveness to the things of Christ. He makes Christ, in all that Christ is as our sanctification, vivid and impressive to us. What puzzles us is how He does it. Surely not by an effect on the truth itself with which He deals; or on Christ Himself whom He presents. Must not His operation terminate on the mind itself, affecting it in such a manner that it sees the truth in a new light and the Christ in His preciousness, and goes out to and embraces it and Him? And what is that but a “physical” effect? In subsequent discussions this ambiguity is left still imperfectly resolved. In the opening pages of “Out of Darkness into Light,”247 for example, we read this sentence: “According to the express teachings of inspiration, we know, and can know, divine truth in none of its forms but through a divine insight imparted to us through the Spirit.” This is of course true, and would call for no remark except in a writer of this type. In such a one, it leaves us wondering how this insight can be thought to be imparted, especially when we read further and learn that all knowledge imparted thus by the Spirit is absolute knowledge. We may have beliefs of greater or less degrees of “conscious certainty” with “the teaching of the Spirit”; but when He illuminates the soul, we have not beliefs but knowledge, and that in the form of absolute knowledge.248 On the basis of the religious psychology prevalent at Oberlin, it is exceedingly difficult to understand what the process of illumination can be which produces this effect. It seems to involve the assumption of an effect wrought by the Spirit on the man himself, that is on his heart, which cannot be called anything but “physical,” and that seems to demand such a “physis” for man as is susceptible to such an operation. Mahan goes on to say249 that by an action of the Spirit he was himself “made absolutely conscious that God had pardoned and accepted” him. “I was as absolutely—I could not tell how—assured of this, as I was that I existed at all.” That is a familiar mode of speech among mystical perfectionists, and is called by Mahan “the witness of the Spirit.” It seems to be represented as merely an ungrounded conviction; the ground of it is assumed to be the Spirit; and the guarantee of this assumption appears to be merely the absoluteness of the conviction. So explained, it falls within the category of revelations, and we observe Mahan, on a later page,250 laying claim to special supernatural experiences which fall in nothing short of particular revelations. In this he but followed in the steps of those “New York Perfectionists” from whom he seeks fundamentally to separate himself, and of whom such experiences were characteristic. Perhaps we ought to state here also that the fanaticism of “faith cure”—“prayer cure,” Mahan calls it251—was fully shared by both him and Finney.

The special doctrine of “the Baptism of the Spirit,” under that name, seems to have been given vogue among the Oberlin coterie first by John Morgan, who published in The Oberlin Quarterly Review for 1845 and 1846, two essays on “Holiness Acceptable to God,” and “The Gift of the Holy Ghost,” respectively.252 The latter of these works out the doctrine substantially as subsequently taught at Oberlin, with great clearness and force of presentation.253 Mahan’s first formal discussion of it appears in his book bearing the title, “The Baptism of the Holy Ghost,” which was not published until 1870.254 The doctrine is set forth in outline in the opening pages of the volume. First a very welcome and no doubt much needed testimony is borne to the fact “that whenever any of the leading characteristics of ‘the new man’ are referred to in the Bible, they are specifically represented as induced by the indwelling presence, special agency and influence of the Holy Spirit.”255 This is true and important—the most important fact in the premises; we are sanctified by the Spirit whom God has given to dwell in us, and otherwise not. But next it is affirmed, as if it were equally true and equally important, that this gift of the spirit for our sanctification is an after-gift, granted to believers subsequently to their becoming believers. “This indwelling presence of the Spirit in our hearts … is distinctly revealed, as promised to us, and given to us, after [emphasis his] we have, through His convicting power, ‘repented of sin, and believed in Christ.’ ” There is a sense, of course, in which it is to be said that the work of the indwelling Spirit in sanctifying the soul, follows upon His act in regenerating it, by which we are converted, and, being converted, are justified. But this is not what Mahan means; he is not analyzing the unitary salvation into its distinguishable stages but dividing it into separable parts. Consequently he goes on256 to affirm as the third element in his doctrine, that “the indwelling presence and power of the Spirit, ‘the baptism of the Holy Ghost,’ are, according to the express teachings of inspiration, to be sought and received by faith in God’s word of promise, on the part of the believer, after he has believed; just as pardon and eternal life are to be sought by the sinner prior to justification.” That is to say, the gift of the Spirit is not a result of justification, inseparably involved in it, but an independent gift to be obtained by an independent act of faith. The sinner seeks pardon and eternal life prior to his justification, by one act of faith; he then after his justification seeks the gift of the Spirit by another, similar but distinct act of faith. “If this promise is not embraced by faith, the gift, ‘the sealing and earnest of the Spirit,’ will not be vouchsafed.” We believe for justification and get it; and if we are content with that, we get that alone. But the way is open to us, to believe for the baptism of the Spirit, too, and if we do so, we get that, too. If we do not take this second step we shall remain merely justified and shall not receive the Spirit. A very inadequate conception of justification of course underlies this notion. Mahan identifies it here with “pardon and eternal life,” but is obviously thinking of “pardon,” as merely, in the most limited and external sense, relief from penalty incurred, and of “eternal life” as merely the extension of this relief indefinitely. Even so, however, it is difficult to understand how he can imagine that this benefit can be received and continue to be enjoyed alone. Is it conceivable that a child of God, pardoned of all his sin, can remain just as he was before his pardon; can abide forever an unchanged sinner?

It cannot be said that it is made overly clear precisely what are the effects of the baptism of the Holy Ghost. This is apparently partly because these effects are conceived very comprehensively—as bringing for example blessings personal to the individual who receives it, and also blessings through him to others; as including thus both the gift of holiness, and that of power. In one passage, for example, the effects of the baptism are described thus:257 “Now the special mission of the Spirit is to take truth in all its forms—truth as revealed in both Testaments, and to render it most effective for our sanctification, consolation, fulness of joy, and through us for the sanctification and edification of the Church, and the salvation of men.” He who has received this baptism is accordingly marked out from other men, especially, by these two characteristics—he is holy, and he has power with men for the conversion of their souls and the establishment of them in holiness. It makes men on their own part perfect and in their Christian relations a source of perfection for others. Mahan is very much interested in the second of these effects: the baptism of the Holy Ghost is a baptism with power and conveys to its recipients a mysterious effectiveness in the propagation of the gospel and the winning of souls. We are naturally most interested in the former of them; the baptism of the Holy Ghost is the rationale of perfection, the efficient cause of our “entire sanctification.”258 There is a curious passage259 in which it is likened to a kind of divine house-cleaning of the soul. Just as the housewife in her annual house-cleaning brings to light much dust and dirt that have been hidden from sight, and all seems in confusion and disorder, though this very confusion and disorder is but the preparation for universal order and purity: so, we are told, the Holy Spirit as He takes possession of the heart often discloses forms of internal corruption, “secret faults,” evil tendencies and habits, emotive insensibilities unsuspected before—though this is only preparatory to the enduement of power. Perhaps in comparing the baptism of the Spirit specifically to the housewife’s “annual housecleaning,” Mahan drops a hint that it is not conceived as a process which is done once for all, but as one which may be repeated. Elsewhere, somewhat surprisingly, he seems to intimate this. At least we read of its being “renewed,” “often renewed,”—perhaps, however, here in the sense of relaying rather than reënaction.260 He certainly teaches that after we have received it we may lose it again,261 and that leaves the way open for its “renewal” in the strictest sense. “With the Spirit in our hearts,” he says, and he means it of this supernatural gift received in the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, “we need not sin, but we may sin. We may even ‘grieve’ and ‘quench’ the Holy Spirit of God.” He instances men who, having had this great gift, have lost it: “who have attained the highest forms of the Higher Life,” and “afterwards ‘make shipwreck of the faith.’ ” He warns us that it is possible that Christ may, for our sins, “take” our “part out of the Book of Life.”

Perhaps it ought to be explicitly stated that Mahan does not think of God ever bestowing this great gift of the baptism of the Spirit spontaneously. It must be obtained by us. What God does is merely to put it within our reach. It depends on us, then, whether we obtain it. “All who receive this baptism,” he says,262 “do so in consequence of a previous compliance with the conditions on which God has promised the blessing.” He must be inquired of by believers to do it for them. He never grants it unless He is inquired of with all the heart and all the soul. We must previously be keeping His word and preparing the way for His coming; and, then, seek it with all the heart. Mahan’s supernaturalism thus rests on a very express naturalism. We must take the initiative; and indeed it sometimes looks as if we must do much more—as if we must first have the blessing that we may get the blessing, as if we must be perfect in order to acquire perfection. At any rate, it is clear that God never blesses any except those who first “agonize” for the blessing. It is an indispensable prerequisite to the reception of the Baptism of the Spirit, we are told, that the mind be “brought to realize a deep, inward want, ‘an aching void within’—a soul-necessity, which must be met.”263 “Our Methodist brethren,” it is added, “formerly denominated this state, ‘being convicted for sanctification.’ ”

It is an inconvenience to Mahan that he has to depend for the Scriptural ground of his doctrine of the baptism of the Spirit on passages which teach that the Spirit is given to all believers. He is compelled to transmute this into the very different representation that He is at the disposal of all believers. “While all who believe become thereby entitled to this promise,” he says,264 “its fulfillment is to be sought by faith, after we have believed; just as pardon is to be sought in conversion.” “The promise,” he elaborates the comparison, “is just as absolute in one case as in the other. There is nothing which God so desires to bestow upon sinners as pardon, and with it eternal life. There is no gift he is more willing to bestow upon believers than this divine baptism.” Only, God does not say that all sinners have pardon and eternal life; that this is the characteristic of sinners that they have pardon and eternal life. And He does say that all believers have the Spirit; that it is their very characteristic that they have the Spirit. Only those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God: “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.”

There are, to be sure, the charismatic passages, and perhaps the most amusing instance of the inconvenience which the Scriptures he is compelled to depend upon occasion Mahan, is afforded by one of these—Acts 19:2 ff. This is so much the main passage on which he relies in proof of his cardinal contention that the baptism of the Spirit is a subsequent benefit, sought and received by a special act of faith, “after we believe,” that he weaves it into the statement of his doctrine with an iteration that becomes irksome. We have already met with more than one instance of the emphatic employment which he makes of it. It has of course no bearing on the subject in any case; for its reference is to the charismatic and not to the sanctifying Spirit. But Mahan, although protesting265 against confounding the two things, finds himself compelled to draw the primary support for his doctrine of the sanctifying Spirit from the charismatic passages—Acts 19:1–6; 8:14–17; 10:44–47.266 The point now made, however, is that even when thus perverted from its real reference and violently applied to the sanctifying Spirit, the passage in question is so far from serving Mahan’s purpose that it bears precisely the contrary meaning to that which he attributes to it. So eager is he in his employment of it that he adduces it even in the preface to his book on “The Baptism of the Holy Ghost,”267 with the emphasis of italics: “Paul put this important question to certain believers, when he first met them, to wit: ‘Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?’ Does not this question imply that the promise of the Spirit awaits the believer after conversion?” And of course, when he comes formally to expound his doctrine,268 he exploits the same passage: “We learn that the gift of the Spirit was not expected in, but after conversion: ‘Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?’ ” It would be a curious speculation to inquire into the effect it would have had on his constructions, had Mahan learned that what Paul really said was, “Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed?” At all events, since the wrong doctrine not only seeks support from the wrong reading of the text, but to a very extraordinary degree is dependent on it and apparently is even largely derived from it, it is a pity that Mahan did not look beyond the language of the Authorized English Version in seeking the meaning of the text. It is true that he did not have the Revised Version to set him right. But he had his Greek Testament; and he had his Alford, whom he repeatedly quotes when it serves his occasion—but not on this occasion. His Alford would have told him that “the aorist should be faithfully rendered: not as E. V., ‘Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?’ but ‘Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye became believers?’ ” Indeed Alford would even have argued the question for him, pointing out that not only the grammar but also the sense of the passage requires this rendering. The matter is made the more absurd that Eph. 1:13, which is not a charismatic passage, is repeatedly quoted269 in support of Acts 19:2 ff. and is stumbled over in the same fashion. From it is extracted, indeed, such nonsense as this270:—“When the creature believes in Christ, he ‘sets to his seal that God is true.’ When God gives his Spirit, that is his seal.…” But, he argues, unfortunately the two do not go together; we may give our seal to God long before He vouchsafes His to us. What the Apostle really says is of course, that we were sealed “on believing”—intimating that the sealing occurred at once on our believing, and that it occurs, therefore to all that believe. The sealing of the Spirit belongs according to their very nature as such, to all Christians. It is not a special privilege granted after a while to some; but at once to all. Alford would have set Mahan right here, too. He renders the passage: “in whom, on your believing, ye were sealed,” and remarks that “this use of the aorist marks the time when the act of belief first took place.”271

III. The Development Of The Oberlin Teaching[3]

When we have obtained some insight into Mahan’s doctrines of “Christian Perfection,” and “the Baptism of the Holy Spirit,” we have already seen into the heart of his theology. It is on these things that he most constantly and strenuously dwelt in his religious instruction. There were other elements of his teaching, however—not altogether unconnected with these, and therefore not altogether untouched in what has preceded—to which we must give some particular attention if we would know Mahan in his peculiarity as a religious teacher, and especially in his distinction from his colleagues at Oberlin. He makes no secret that there were some things in which he differed from Finney, although, very naturally, he minimizes their importance. They were not things, he tells us in a curious passage,272 in which perfectly sanctified people may not differ without fault. Paul and Barnabas differed in some things, he says, and “on a very few questions in Moral Philosophy and Theology, Brother Finney and myself have arrived at opposite conclusions.” “Yet each,” he adds, “has the same assurance as before, that the other is ‘full of faith, and of the Holy Ghost.’ ” “We differ just where minds under the influence of the purest integrity, and the highest form of divine illumination, are liable to differ.” It would almost seem as if it were a virtue to differ on these things. One of the things on which they thus faultlessly differed, was the ground of moral obligation; which does not strike us as an unimportant matter. Mahan represented at Oberlin what Finney calls by the ugly name of “rightarianism.” We are glad that the thing is not as bad as the name. It means, indeed, just that Mahan defended at Oberlin intuitive morality against Finney’s teleological system—which is no morality at all. Effects of this difference naturally are traceable throughout the whole range of their teaching. Another matter of difference between them, far from unimportant whether in itself or in its results, has already been incidentally touched upon. This is the morality of our dispositions and propensities. Finney denied that any moral character attached to the affectional movements as such; only the will and its volitions are properly speaking moral. In asserting the contrary Mahan necessarily gave a totally different complexion to his doctrine of sin and of salvation from sin.

No more than Finney did he, to be sure, acknowledge any doctrine of “original sin.” Sin, says he,273 is “exclusively a personal matter, a state of the inner man, a form of voluntary moral activity.” The soul becomes sinful, “not from necessity, but choice.” We derive no sin from our ancestry, near or remote; and we have no form or degree of merit or demerit which does not attach to us personally and to no one else but us. “Personal criminality” and nothing else is sin to us. But however we have become sinful, we are all entirely sinful. All sin consists in alienation and estrangement from God, His character, His will, and the law of duty; and this alienation and estrangement from all the claims of God and of His moral law, affects all our moral movements. In all forms of our moral activity, whether externally right or wrong, this estrangement is total. “No moral act of” our “unregenerate life” is “prompted by that motive and intent which render such act morally virtuous, or such that the conscience or God can regard, or ought to regard, as an act of obedience to the divine will and the law of duty.” Surely this positive fact of universal sinfulness in all our moral activities cannot be given negative statement otherwise than in terms of inability to good. Mahan will not go so far as that. But he allows that though we may see the good and approve it, we cannot do it. There is always “a total failure ‘to do that which is good’—the good to do which there is a readiness to will.”274 He avoids the word “inability,” but he is compelled to recognize some sort of a “human impotence” to good; a “self-impotence,” a “total self-impotence.” He even rebukes the preachers of the revival of the early thirties for their purely Pelagian teaching on ability; this was, he says,275 “a leading cause of the ultimate decline of those revivals.” It was a better teaching, to be sure, he declares, than the old New England doctrine of a so-called “natural ability” wholly neutralized by a “moral inability”—which left no ability at all. But in reacting from this the revivalists reacted too far and left no disability at all.

It is plain matter of fact, however, that we are dependent on God’s grace for holy choices, or, at least, for holy executions. “We are free agents: but the freedom which we and all creatures possess is a dependent one.… Light and grace are provided and rendered available; by availing ourselves of these we ‘may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.’ We are free to avail, or not to avail, ourselves of this light and grace. Refusing or neglecting to do this, we have no available power for anything but sin.” “We have no available power”; what is that but inability? An inability overcome, indeed, by “light and grace”; but how overcome by “light and grace”? Mahan says they are “made available.” But he does not tell us how their being “made available” overcomes our previous inability “for anything but sin.” Surely the mere proffering of them to us cannot overcome this inability. What Mahan tells us is, however, just that. He tells us that we have power to accept or reject proffered grace as we will; but naturally no power to perform without grace what can be performed only with grace. Grace is the instrument for working certain effects: we must use it if we wish those effects. But what enables us, who are unable to use it—for we can do nothing but sin and to use grace surely is no sin—to use it although we are unable to do so? Mahan is silent. Or rather he deserts his doctrine of inability to good, and substitutes for it a doctrine of absolute ability—but with it a complementary doctrine of right instrumentation. We are perfectly able to do what is right—to love God, to serve Him, to be perfect; but of course we are not able to do any of these things except we use the proper instruments for their performance. We are perfectly able to cut down a tree, but not with our finger nails; we are perfectly able to drive a spike home, but not with our naked fists. If we will consent to use an axe and hammer, we can easily perform these tasks. Mahan very truly says: “Teaching the doctrine of ability as an absolute and not dependent power, tends to induce, not faith in God and His grace, but self-assurance, self-dependence, and the pride of self-sufficiency and self-righteousness.” He wishes then to teach something else than “ability as an absolute power.” He apparently supposes that he is teaching ability dependent for its exercise on grace. He is not. He is teaching grace dependent for its operation on ability. We use grace, not grace us. The whole truth is that Mahan has raised the problem of ability and inability, and then—has dodged it. He has left us with man on our hands “impotent” to good: and as he has not made it quite plain to us why he is impotent to good, so he has not given us any ground whatever to believe, that, being impotent to good, he is quite able at his option to avail himself of God’s proffered grace and by it work all good. Clearly these problems can find no solution except in the frank postulation on the one hand of the sinfulness of human nature disabling it for good, and on the other of recreative grace recovering it to good.

When he comes to deal with the doctrine of salvation from sin, Mahan gets still deeper into his problem. He is no longer able to escape ascribing to unregenerate man a sinful “nature” which determines his actions; or to the saving Spirit a “physical” effect on this nature by which it is made good and the proximate source of our renewed activities. When God takes the stony heart out of our flesh and gives us a heart of flesh, he says,276 what is really meant is “a fundamental change and a renewal of our propensities.” “We are,” he says, “by nature ‘children of wrath,’ ‘prone to evil as the sparks are to fly upward.’ ” When God makes the change He promises, “we have ‘a new heart,’ and ‘a new spirit,’ ‘a divine nature,’ which impels us to love and obedience, just as our old nature impelled us to sin.” Referring to the “works of the flesh,” of Gal. 5:19 ff., he remarks that “behind all these forms of sin, ‘works of the flesh,’ lie certain propensities, dispositions, and tempers, which, when touched by corresponding temptations, set on fire burning and ‘warring lusts’ and evil passions, and these induce the sins and crimes above designated.” “These old propensities, dispositions, and tempers are taken away, and in this state, new ones of an opposite nature are given,” and “under our renovated propensities, and new dispositions, tendencies, and tempers, or ‘divine nature,’ it becomes just as easy and natural for us to bear ‘the fruits of the Spirit’ as it was, under our old ones, to work ‘the works of the flesh.’ ” The subject is pursued and similar phraseology repeated indefinitely. “ ‘By nature,’ ” we read,277 “—that is, under the influence of our old nature, or propensities, dispositions, and tempers, we are ‘children of wrath,’ and ‘bring forth fruit unto death.’ Under the dispositions, tempers, and tendencies of our new or ‘divine nature,’ we are just as naturally ‘children of God,’ and ‘have our fruit unto holiness.’ ” We are to reckon ourselves dead unto sin, “because ‘our old man,’ our old propensities, dispositions, and tempers, is crucified, ‘put to death’ with Him, that the ‘body of sin,’ our old and evil nature, ‘might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.’ ” While the old nature remains, we are told, we cannot help sinning; similarly when the new nature is given we cannot help being holy. Sometimes, it is true, a note of “may” rather than “must” is struck. “Because that, through the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us, ‘the body of sin,’ our old and evil propensities, ‘may be destroyed,’ and ‘the old man may be crucified with Him,’ and we may ‘through the law of the Spirit of Christ Jesus,’ be ‘made free from the law of sin and death,’ we should indeed cease to ‘live after the flesh,’ should be ‘not in the flesh but in the Spirit’; and should ‘reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ ” But this phraseology appears to be preserved only for purposes of exhortation, and its apparent suggestion that the effect lies in our own power is fully corrected when the speech takes a didactic form. “Such language,” we read,278 “implies more than this, that his old propensities, ‘the body of sin,’ ‘the old man,’ is yet living and warring in the soul, but, by the grace of Christ, are held in subjection. Mere subjection is not death. What the Apostle undeniably intended to teach is this: that his propensities, dispositions, and temper had been so renovated that the world, with its affections and lusts, had no more power over him than they have over the dead. Christ, on the other hand, lived in him, and occupied all his affections, and held undisputed control over all his activities.” This certainly suggests a “physical” change wrought in us by the Spirit of God, by which our governing dispositions are changed: and that as certainly implies that we are governed by our dispositions, whether evil or good.

At an earlier point,279 discussing the phrase “divine nature” in 2 Pet. 1:4, Mahan remarks: “The words ‘the divine nature,’ imply, as all will admit, not only the holiness and blessedness of the divine mind, but also that divine disposition or nature in God which induces His holiness and blessedness. For us to become possessed of this ‘divine nature’ implies not only present holiness and blessedness such as God possesses, but a divine disposition in us, a new and divine nature, which induces and prompts us to holiness, just as God’s nature prompts Him to the same. In our old or unrenewed state, we not only sinned, but had a nature or dispositions, which prompted us to sin. In Christ, we not only obey the divine will, but receive from Him, as the Mediator of the New Covenant, a new or ‘divine nature,’ which prompts us to purity and obedience, just as our old dispositions prompted us to sin.” A tendency appears here to think of the new nature imparted to us as if it were a separate entity implanted within us: and this is identified with the Holy Spirit whose coming into our hearts brings “the disposition” of Christ with Him. In commenting280 on the words: “God sends the Spirit of His Son into our hearts,” the phrase is employed: “the Spirit, or disposition, of His Son.” This corresponds to a mystical tendency which shows itself elsewhere in Mahan’s writings and forms a connecting link between him and the “New York Perfectionists” who preceded him. Apart from the suggestion of this special conception of the nature of the “new nature” imparted to us, however, there appears to be here a real recognition of the existence in us of a substrate of our activities, having moral quality itself, and so conditioning our moral activities as to determine their moral quality. “We are not only saved from the actual sins that are in the world,” we read, “but … the evil propensities and tempers, ‘the law in our members,’ which induces sin, are taken from us.” This certainly seems to posit a law in our members, underlying and determining our activities. We receive, we read again, “not only deliverance from sinning, but ‘the death of the old man,’ or”—as it is now explained—“the crucifixion of all those tempers and dispositions which induce sin.” There are, then, permanent tendencies in us, which determine our activities to be sinful. On the positive side, we receive “new and divine tendencies” which naturally induce the opposite virtues—“not only actual obedience to the divine will, but ‘a divine, nature,’ which prompts and constrains obedience in all its forms.” Are we not to give validity to the phrases “naturally induce,” “constrains” here? And then it is added in a general summary: “It is as much the nature of ‘the new man,’ or the promptings of his new and divine tendencies, to be pure in heart and life, as it was that of ‘the old man’ to ‘obey the law of sin.’ ” Surely a “physical” corruption, and a “physical” holiness, and a physical change from the one to the other is taught here.

This teaching forms the foundation for Mahan’s doctrine of the “sanctification of the sensibility,” to which we have already had occasion to advert, and which was a peculiarity of his teaching among his fellows. James H. Fairchild281 very properly tells us that it appears “to involve a supernatural and almost mechanical action upon our human nature, restoring it to its normal state before the fall,—all, however, in response to our faith.” The words, “All, however, in response to our faith,” mark the limits beyond which Mahan would not go in ascribing salvation to God; and, with that, the gross inconsistency of his thinking. For, as we have seen, he ascribes to the evil dispositions which constitute the “old man” just as much determining power over our activities, making them evil, as he ascribes to the good dispositions constituting our new man, making our activities good. And yet he supposes that while still under the dominance of the “old man” we may at will turn to Christ in saving faith. More: immediately upon the heels of his exposition of the determining effects on conduct of our “propensities, dispositions, temper and tendencies,”282 he speaks of the man who has believed for pardon but not yet for holiness, being “as far as his voluntary activities are concerned … in a state of supreme obedience to the will of God,” while yet (since the “physical” change comes only with the “second blessing”) all these “old propensities, dispositions, temper, and tendencies” remain as they were and remain at war against this new-born purpose of obedience. If validity be given to the preceding exposition, this is nonsense: if validity be given to this assertion, that exposition is without significance. Whatever Mahan teaches as to a supernatural action on the human soul of the Spirit of God—an action which Fairchild looks upon as “almost mechanical”—he has no intention whatever of suspending human salvation on anything else than human volition; a volition which at bottom he conceives as acting in complete independence of any as well subjective as objective determinants. Mahan’s whole discussion of “the sanctification of the sensibility,” therefore, with its suggestions of controlling dispositions lying behind our activities and of a consequent “physical” change in our sanctification, must be looked upon as a mere tendency of thought running athwart his most fundamental convictions and capable therefore of having validity given to it only so far as it can be made consistent with a doctrine of the will, and of the dependence of salvation on the will, with which it is in essential disharmony.

Fairchild, in his notice of this excursion of Mahan’s thought, proceeds to tell us how Finney stood in the matter. “Pres. Finney,” he says, “while not disclaiming this idea entirely, and sometimes presenting facts and experiences which were in harmony with it, insisted more upon the moral power of Gospel truth upon the believer’s heart. He found deliverance from temptation and from the power of sin in the views which the Spirit gives of Christ. The truth as it is in Jesus was to him the power of God unto salvation. ‘Sanctify us through the truth’ was the burden of his prayer and of his teaching; and this was the prevalent idea with the other leaders of thought here.” That is to say Finney dallied a little with the idea of “the baptism of the Spirit,” but did not really adopt it; he continued to confine the work of the Spirit to illumination and to deny all recreative functions to Him: He is our Guide, not our Regenerator. There is nothing strange in Finney’s failure to assimilate this idea: what is surprising is that he could dally with it even for a moment. That he did do so is probably only an illustration of that hospitality which he was ever showing to the notions of his colleagues, by which he was led to assimilate them as far as his fundamental teaching permitted him to do so, without, however, ever really modifying his fundamental teaching to accommodate them. A striking instance of how he dealt with them, apparently adopting them with heartiness and really transforming them into the image of his own thought, is afforded by his treatment of this very doctrine of the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, at a dramatic moment of his own life. Mahan’s book bearing that title was published in 1870. The National Council of Congregational Churches met at Oberlin in 1871, and, making much of Finney in his hale old age (he was in his eightieth year), invited him to address it. He did so, and, on request, continued his discussion on the following Sabbath. The subject he chose to speak on was the Baptism of the Holy Ghost; and his treatment of the theme ran on the lines laid down in Mahan’s recently published book. He followed up his address with some letters printed in The Independent, and afterwards put into tract form. In the first of these (called “Power from on High”) he outlines the doctrine of the baptism of the Spirit for power, as he had outlined it at the Council; and it might almost have been simply transcribed from Mahan. This baptism of the Holy Ghost, he declares, is the indispensable condition of performing the work given us by Christ to do; Christ has expressly promised it to the whole Church; the condition of receiving it is to continue in prayer and supplication until we receive it; it is not to be confounded with the peace which comes to the justified state—it is not peace but power; Christ gives peace but promises power—and we must not rest in conversion but go on to this second blessing which is at our disposal. A second letter now followed, in which the doctrine is given a somewhat new turn. The blessing conferred on the Apostles at Pentecost by the baptism of the Spirit is first reduced to “the power to fasten saving impressions upon the minds of men,” the power “to savingly impress men.” And then in his effort to define precisely what this power consists in, Finney comes to this:—“It was God speaking in and through them. It was a power from on high—God in them making a saving impression upon those to whom they spoke.” And then he still further teaches that the power was not conferred at Pentecost alone, and not alone on the Apostles. It is still conferred: he himself has received it. He has often converted men by so chance a word that he had no remembrance of having spoken it, or even by a mere look. He illustrates this with anecdotes from his own life, such as are found in the “Memoirs” which he had recently completed. It is a sufficiently odd doctrine which he here enunciates, a kind of new Lutheranism with the evangelist substituted for the Word. The Holy Ghost is represented, not, as in the Reformed doctrine, as accompanying the word preached extrinsecus accedens—“the Lord opened Lydia’s heart,” “Paul may plant and Apollos water, the Lord gives the increase”; and not as in the Lutheran doctrine as intrinsic in the Word spoken, acting out from the Word on the heart of the hearer; but as intrinsic in the evangelist speaking. By a mere gaze, without a word spoken, Finney says he reduced a whole room-full of factory girls to hysteria. As the Lutheran says God in the Word works a saving impression, Finney says God in the preacher works a saving impression. Not the Word, but the preacher is the power of God unto salvation. The evangelist has become a Sacrament. The letters were continued after an interval. There was another descriptive one (“The Enduement of the Spirit”) in which the anecdote of the preaching in “Sodom” related in the “Memoirs” is repeated. Then there was one called “Power from on High: Who May Expect the Enduement?” in which he explains that “all Christians, by virtue of their relation to Christ, may ask and receive this enduement of power to win souls to Him,” adding that it comes “after their first faith,” and as an “instantaneous” gift. In another, “Is It a Hard Saying?” he defends his assertion that those without this power are disqualified for office in the Church. And finally, “Enduement of Power from on High” considers the conditions upon which this enduement of power can be obtained. It is a pathetic sight to observe the aged Finney after a long life of insistence that it is only by the power of truth that men can be brought to Christ, clothing at the end the evangelist himself with supernatural powers and representing him as fitted for his functions only by the possession of these supernatural powers. It is an odd instance of the invention of a supernaturally endowed priesthood to mediate between God and man, when God is not permitted Himself to act immediately on the heart; and it seems to bear witness to a deep-lying conviction in the human soul that its salvation will not be accomplished without a supernatural intervention somewhere. The pragmatic refutation of the Pelagian construction of salvation is not a mean one. It will not work; and no one really believes that it will work. The supernaturalism thrown out at the window is very apt to creep back through some chink or other.

The form given to the Oberlin doctrine of perfection in the first stage of its development did not remain its permanent form. It was distinctly taught in essentially this form, it is true, throughout his long life, by Asa Mahan, to whose influence apparently the first shaping of the doctrine was mainly due. And Henry Cowles seems never to have advanced much beyond this mode of conceiving it. But it was not long before, in its general apprehension, it suffered a sea-change which gave it a totally new character. This was due to the dominating place given in Oberlin thinking, from 1841 on, to what is called the doctrine of “the simplicity of moral action.” This was not a new doctrine. It lay, as corollary, too near to the teleological ethics inherited by Oberlin from the New England theology, for it not to have had attention drawn to it before. Frank H. Foster has shown that it is very clearly alluded to in certain arguments of Nathaniel Emmons,283 and indeed that it was already more than hinted at by Samuel Hopkins: “Every moral action is either perfectly holy or perfectly sinful.”284 It was a settled presupposition of Finney’s thought from at least the beginning of 1839, although he recalls a time when he had not yet recognized it.285 But it seems to have been left to two of the theological students at Oberlin of the class of 1842, to bring it out of comparative neglect, announce it as of primary importance, enforce it by extended reasoning, and make it a determining factor in Oberlin thinking.

It is interesting to observe the part taken by the students at Oberlin in formulating its doctrine of perfection. We have already seen that, had the students not intervened, the Oberlin professors might never have discovered that they were in fact teaching a doctrine of perfection. And we see them intervening here again to bring into full recognition and use a fundamental principle of Oberlin thinking which appeared to be in danger of being neglected. In neither instance was there a new discovery made. In both instances what we are called upon to observe is the fresh young minds of the students, in working on the material given to them, throwing up into clear view elements of necessary implication which were being left by their teachers out of sight. Finney, writing in 1847, felicitates himself on the method of instruction pursued at Oberlin, by which the students were made fellow workers with the teachers; and handsomely acknowledges the benefit he had received from his students’ activity. “I … owe not a little to my classes,” he says,286 “for I have availed myself to the uttermost of the learning and sagacity and talent of every member of my classes in pushing my investigations.” The particular members of his classes to whose sagacity he owes not indeed his knowledge of the doctrine of “the simplicity of moral action,” but its elevation to the commanding place it at once took in Oberlin thinking, were two brothers, Samuel D. and William Cochran.

It was William Cochran, a brilliant young man who afterwards served a few years as a professor at Oberlin, until cut off by an untimely death in 1847, who brought the subject into public discussion. This he did in an address delivered before the Society of Inquiry in the spring of 1841 and repeated the following autumn, at Commencement, before the Society of Alumni. Permanency was given to this address by its publication in The Oberlin Evangelist,287 and Cochran afterwards developed his views at greater length in the pages of The Oberlin Quarterly Review.288 From this time on the doctrine of “the simplicity of moral action” became a characteristic feature of Oberlin theology. The leading instructors and preachers of the time, with “the possible exception of Henry Cowles” embraced it at once; and “especially by the consistent and unvarying advocacy of President Fairchild” it was propagated through a succeeding generation as the only genuine Oberlin teaching.289

The essence of this doctrine is briefly explained by Fairchild290 as follows: “The doctrine maintains the impossibility of a divided heart in moral action. The sinner, in his sin, is utterly destitute of righteousness, and the good man, in his obedience, is completely, entirely obedient: sin on the one side and obedience, on the other belonging only to voluntary states. The division of the will between the two contradictory moral attitudes of sin and holiness is a metaphysical impossibility.” The ethical theory underlying the doctrine is here thrown into emphasis. The man is dissolved into a series of volitions. Each volition is isolated and looked at apart: and being treated as a bare volition, it is said not to be capable of a composite character. Volitions are either good or bad; and that is the end of it. But beyond the volition no man is recognized: the volition is the man, and what the volition is at any moment that the man is. As volitions are either good or bad, so then the man is. The morally grey is eliminated: only black and white are allowed to be possible. Every man is either as bad or as good as he can be in the circumstances in which he stands for the moment. There can therefore be no such thing as a partially sanctified believer; and the whole conception of progressive sanctification is excluded. “They allege,” says John C. Lord, accurately,291 “that there is no such thing as imperfect holiness, and, of course, that there is no such thing as being sanctified in part.” Over against the general doctrine of the churches which denies the existence of perfect holiness, this doctrine sets the denial of the possibility of imperfect holiness. You are either perfectly holy, or you have no holiness at all. Holiness is a thing that does not admit of abscission and division. The idea is generalized into the proposition that “holiness must be supreme in degree to have the character of holiness at all”—a proposition which might appear to mean that a little sin neutralizes any amount of holiness, but no amount of holiness can affect the quality of existing sin at all, except that the very conception of progressive holiness is excluded. The Church at any given moment is therefore not made up of redeemed sinners in various stages of perfection, but of perfectly holy and perfectly wicked people standing side by side. The two classes are not stable but may be, in the individuals which compose them, continually changing places. The perfectly holy may, and do, become at any moment the perfectly wicked: the perfectly wicked may, and do, become at any moment, the perfectly holy. The average of the mass may yield a result that looks like the partly sanctified Christian as commonly conceived. But the “average Christian” has no real existence, and the average of the mass is obtained by finding the shifting center of gravity of a mass composed actually, in varying proportions, of perfectly holy and perfectly wicked men as units. There is no room here, therefore, for two classes of Christians, with a “second conversion” lying between them. To be a Christian at all is to be perfect: and the concern of the Christian is not to grow more perfect, but to maintain the perfection which belongs to him as a Christian and in which, not into which, he grows. What, then, he seeks after is not holiness—he has that. Nor more holiness than he has—if he has any he has all. What he seeks after is “establishment.” Holiness cannot be imperfect in degree: but it can be and is imperfect in “constancy.” The doctrine has been called “the pendulum theory of moral action.” It supposes the man to oscillate between perfect goodness and perfect badness, and denies to him any abiding, permanent character.292 To one observing the current of an individual life, it may bear—as the church at large does—the aspect of the manifestation of an imperfectly sanctified nature. This is illusion: it is due to the mingling in our observation of successive states of perfect goodness and perfect badness. They do not co-exist, but alternate. The one task of the Christian is to attain a state in which the fluctuation ceases and he is permanently established in holiness.293 When that state is attained we are not merely “entirely” sanctified—that we had been, at intervals, all along—but “permanently” sanctified. That is the goal of all Christian progress—to cease from falling and remain steadily what all Christians ought to be, and indeed what all Christians are—whenever they are Christians.

The interpolation of this doctrine, as a controlling factor, into Oberlin thinking had the effect of antiquating the doctrine of perfection as previously taught at Oberlin. Cowles, it is true, simply permitted all he had written to stand as it was written—litera scripta manet. Morgan had not hitherto put his hand to the subject, and his hands were free to take up the new doctrine and work out from it as his starting point. To Mahan and Finney, who had written copiously in the earlier sense, the task was set, to adjust their even more copious later discussions to the new point of view. Mahan’s method was to accept the new doctrine of course—and to pass by it with averted face on the other side of the road. The phraseology by which Fairchild describes his relation to it is carefully chosen and is the more significant because of its apparent colorlessness. “His later writings,” he says,294 “are intended to harmonize with the doctrine.” They do not do so. It remains with him an unassimilated element of thought. Finney, on the contrary, to whom the doctrine was no stranger, entered upon the task of adjustment to it con amore. In his “Lectures on Systematic Theology”—the most extended and systematic of his writings—he has made the notion of “the simplicity of moral action” the fundamental principle of his doctrine of salvation, and as a consequence teaches, in point of fact, the perfection of all Christians from the inception of faith in them onward. This necessitates not only a readjustment of the whole trend of his “Views of Sanctification,” which he largely incorporates into the new work, but a reconstruction of his entire treatment of the way of salvation, every stage in which requires radical alteration to fit it in with the new point of view. The doctrine of sanctification to which an inordinate formal place in the systematic arrangement is already given, nevertheless actually overflows even these ample bounds and swallows up the space allowed to the other saving operations. The doctrine of salvation becomes almost nothing indeed but a doctrine of sanctification. One of the results of this is that when the formal treatment of sanctification is reached, despite the copiousness with which it is dealt with, little is left to be said of it. In this exigency the term is retained and its meaning altered. “Entire sanctification” no longer stands as the end of the saving process, as the final goal towards which the Christian’s heart yearns. That having become the characteristic of all believers from the moment of conversion, the term “sanctification” as the designation of one stage of salvation and that the most elaborately treated of all, has lost its content. As it must add something to what Christians already possess, and as all Christians—whenever they are Christians—possess “entire sanctification,” “sanctification” comes to mean “permanent sanctification.” “Sanctification,” says Finney, in a vain attempt to deal with the embarrassing situation,295 as he enters upon his discussion of “sanctification,” “may be entire in two senses: (1) In the sense of present, full obedience, or entire consecration to God; and, (2) In the sense of continued, abiding consecration or obedience to God. Entire sanctification, when the terms are used in this sense, consists in being established, confirmed, preserved, continued in a state of sanctification or of entire consecration to God. In this discussion, then, I shall use the term ‘entire sanctification’ to designate a state of confirmed, and entire consecration of body, soul, and spirit, or of the whole being to God.” As much as to say: All believers being from the very fact that they are believers entirely sanctified from the first moment of their believing, on receiving this great new gift of sanctification … will, now just stay sanctified. The goal that is set before Christians accordingly ceases to be to become entirely sanctified—that they already are if Christians at all—but to make their entire sanctification no longer fluctuating but permanent. Fairchild thinks296 that Finney has not been able to maintain his new attitude on the subject in discussion, without some lapses into his earlier point of view. That would be both natural and unimportant; and the instances adduced by Fairchild appear fairly to bear out the suggestion. But it is the new attitude which dominates the entire system of doctrine—if this can be spoken of as a new attitude for Finney and not rather a reversion to an older attitude lying behind that exhibited in what we may perhaps call his Mahan period.297 And it is this new attitude which dominated the subsequent thought of Oberlin, so long as Oberlin remained perfectionist in its thought. The older point of view which it supplanted was now thought to be not quite an Oberlin point of view; and so far as it continued to exist in Oberlin—“in limited circles” we are told—was “sustained, not by the Oberlin theology or the Oberlin teaching or preaching, but by the writings and periodicals and teachings introduced from abroad, especially of the Wesleyan school.”298 To the Wesleyan period of Oberlin Perfectionism there succeeded, then, from 1841 on, a period of very distinctively Oberlin Perfectionism. And the characteristic feature of this new Oberlin Perfectionism is that it is the product of the conception known as “the simplicity of moral action.”

Finney formally expounds his conception of “the simplicity of moral action” in a chapter in the “Lectures on Systematic Theology.”299 He takes his start from the contention that all moral character resides in the ultimate choice; and as this ultimate choice dominates all subordinate choices, volitions and acts, it dominates the whole life. The moral character of the ultimate choice thus gives its moral character to the entire life. As now the ultimate choice is simple and its moral character is simple, a man must be morally just what his ultimate choice is morally. That ultimate choice must be wholly moral or wholly immoral; entirely holy or entirely sinful. A man must be therefore altogether holy or altogether sinful; there are no gradations, no intermixtures, no intermediations. Every man is therefore at any given moment perfectly sinful or perfectly holy.300 If his ultimate end is selfishness, he is perfectly sinful; if his ultimate end is benevolence, he is perfectly holy. There is no third condition. “Sin and holiness, then, both consist in supreme, ultimate, and opposite choices or intentions, and cannot, by any possibility, coëxist.”301 It is not intended that our holiness, or sinfulness, is as great as, in other circumstances than those in which we exist, it might be. It is only intended that it is complete and entire and as great as in our actual circumstances it can be. The holiness of God cannot be attained by a man; nor that of an angel; nor can even that of a man better placed be attained by one in lower circumstances. What holiness, or sin, is in anyone, is determined by his knowledge, by “the perceived value” of the objects of his choice. “The true spirit of the requirement of the moral law is this—that every moral being shall choose every interest according to its value as perceived by the mind.”302 “The fact is that the obligation of every moral being must be graduated by his knowledge. If, therefore, his intention be equal in its intensity to his views or knowledge of the real or relative value of different objects, it is right. It is up to the full measure of his obligation.”303 A man may thus be entirely holy extensively—that is, conformed to the law as known to him, or willing things according to their respective values as perceived by him—without being very holy intensively. He is, being such, altogether holy.

This is, obviously, only one way of lowering the demands of the law. Indeed, in one aspect, there can scarcely be said to be any such thing as the law in the case. Law is replaced by benevolence, and is fulfilled by willing the good of being as an ultimate end, chosen for its own sake. It is taught that all subordinate ends, and the executive volitions which secure them, not only ought to be, but must be and will be, determined by this ultimate end. So long as we really will the good of being as our ultimate end, we cannot make subordinate choices which are means to other ends. A law of mental nature gives dominion to our ultimate end. Having once adopted this ultimate end, our lives in all their details are absolutely determined by it. The mechanism of moral action makes that inevitable. We therefore would seem to need no law. Our ultimate choice of the good of being becomes a law which governs all our activities. It would seem to follow also that we cannot sin. Does not the mechanism of moral action determine that—working back from the ultimate choice of the good of being to the subordinate choices and executive volitions and their execution in acts? But Finney falters here.304 We cannot sin so long as our ultimate choice of the good of being remains unchanged.305 But we may change that, and in many cases we do change that. And then we not only can sin and do sin, but must sin and do nothing but sin. We have ceased to be perfectly holy and become perfectly sinful. So long as our ultimate end remains the good of being, our whole life in all its activities is determined by it. We are entirely holy. So soon as our ultimate end ceases to be the good of being and becomes our own selfish gratification, our whole life in all its activities is determined by it. We are entirely sinful. This is the doctrine of the simplicity of moral action as conceived by Finney.

It will be perceived at once that what we called the characterizing features of the older form of Oberlin Perfectionism in point of fact persist in this new construction. Perfection is still conceived as full obedience to the moral law. And full obedience to the moral law is still measured not by the objective content of the law, but by the subjective ability of the agent. It is still taught with all emphasis that a man is perfect who does all he can do, being what he is; with the disabilities belonging, we would say, to his present moral state; they would say to his present condition of ignorance and weakness; and in the circumstances with which he is surrounded.306 Beyond this narrow area of fundamental agreement, however, all is contradiction. This state of perfection in which the whole law of God is obeyed—so far as the agent, being what he is and as he is, can obey it—is no longer conceived as the culminating attainment of the Christian, to be reached, not by all Christians, but by some only, the élite of the Christian body, separated from the crowd precisely by this great attainment. It is conceived as the primary condition of all other Christian attainments, presupposed in every step of Christian living, and therefore the common possession of all Christians, without which no man is a Christian at all. We are no longer supposed to become perfect by being Christians, and pushing our Christianity to its limits; we become Christians by being perfect and it is only through the gate of perfection that we can enter Christianity at all. All Christians are then perfect: one is not more perfect than another: ex vi verbi an imperfect Christian is no Christian at all. There are therefore not two classes of Christians, the merely justified and the justified and sanctified also: no one is justified who is not also sanctified. Sanctification is not a sequence of justification, but its condition; and therefore precedes it. We are not justified in order that we may be sanctified, but sanctified in order that we may be justified. There are only two classes of men, saints and sinners; and the difference between these classes is “radical, fundamental and complete.” There is no room for a third class between them partaking of characteristics of both. The sinner has nothing of the saint about him; the saint nothing of the sinner. The saint is dead to sin and alive to God; and “the Bible … often speaks in such strong language as almost to compel us to understand it as denying that the saints sin at all; or to conclude, that sinning at all, proves that one is not a saint.”307 Is there not some faltering in that “almost”? Justification, we are told, is conditioned by sanctification, and implies complete sanctification—for God cannot accept as righteous one who is only “almost” righteous. According to the doctrine taught accordingly, all saints are entirely sanctified, are perfect, and do not sin. If they sin, that does not prove so much that they have not been saints, as that they are saints no longer. They may sin, but on sinning they cease to be saints. There are no remainders of sin in any Christian therefore to be eradicated. He is already on becoming a Christian all that he ought to be. Perfection lies behind him, not before. What lies before is only his establishment in his perfection that he may no longer fall from it; that and a growth in outlook which carries with it a corresponding growth in obligation and its fulfilment. Perfect however he already is, perfect for his present outlook and according to his present obligations; and more than perfect he cannot become.

It is obvious that one of the chief tasks which devolved on the advocates of this new form of Oberlin Perfectionism was the validation of the assumption that only those who are perfect can have any standing whatever in the sight of God. This task was undertaken from the Biblical point of view by John Morgan, who devoted to it the first of the two essays he published in The Oberlin Quarterly Review for 1845—the essay to which he gave the title of “The Holiness Acceptable to God.” This essay was so highly esteemed by Finney that he incorporated it as a whole in his “Lectures on Systematic Theology”308—thus making it a part of his own argument in support of the contention that “sanctification is the condition of justification.” By this contention, he says, “the following things are intended. (1) That present, full, and entire consecration of heart and life to God and his service is an unalterable condition of present pardon of past sin, and of present acceptance with God. (2) That the penitent soul remains justified no longer than this fullhearted consecration continues.”309 It will no doubt be observed that Finney replaces here the term “sanctification” of the original statement, by its synonym, “consecration.” This is a frequent interchange of terms with him and has no significance for the matter in hand. By sanctification he means, under either designation, just “full obedience to the known law of God.”310 Morgan himself puts the question which he undertakes to answer thus: “Is any degree of holiness acceptable to God, which, for the time being, falls short of full obedience to the divine law?”,311 and phrases his answer in the equally uncompromising terms: “Nothing short of present entire conformity to the divine law is accepted of God.”312 In employing the phrases “acceptable to God,” “accepted of God,” he is not speaking abstractly of what we might suppose to be generally pleasing to God; but with perfect definiteness of the specific act which is commonly called justification—of what God requires in order to that special act of accepting man as righteous in His sight. In order more clearly to explain his meaning, he uses accordingly such language as “the holiness” enjoined “as a condition of justification before God”;313 “the supposition that the entire subjugation of sin is indispensable to justification.”314 The ultimate foundation of the essay is denial of imputed righteousness, and with it, of course, of the vicarious obedience of Christ; and the discovery of the righteousness on the ground of which God accepts man as righteous, in man himself. The contention made is that God demands a perfect righteousness and man provides it: the situation thus created being eased only by defining benevolently what perfect righteousness requires in each stage of human moral development. Although, however, justification is very definitely in mind, the discussion is framed so as to cover a wider field, and what is sought is declared to be the determination of the degree of holiness which alone is acceptable to God—at the moment of justification of course, but also continuously thereafter. “We put the question into the most general form,” we read, “intending it to apply to both the accepted holiness of the new-born soul and the holiness of the most mature Christian.”315 We cannot be accepted by God without this holiness; neither, having been accepted by Him, can we remain accepted save this holiness be maintained. It is supposed that those accepted by God in justification may not remain acceptable to Him, and may therefore fall out of that acceptance which is justification—to which they can be restored again only by becoming again acceptable. Only the perfect are acceptable to God; if we lose our perfection we lose our acceptance; but a recovery of perfection recovers also acceptance. The two things, perfection and acceptance, go together, and are inseparable.

On the basis of this exposition Morgan now asserts that texts of Scripture which prove or appear to prove that converted persons sometimes sin, in no way embarrass his doctrine.316 Of course, if converted persons sin, they are no longer acceptable to God. They must cease to sin to become again acceptable to Him. He admits that it would be fatal to His view, “if it could be made out that the Scriptures represent the. saints as constantly sinful.” He can allow for a passing back and forward between saintliness and sinfulness; which would be a passing in and out of acceptability, and in and out of that actual acceptance which is justification. But he cannot allow that one who sins can continue acceptable to God, or accepted by Him, that is, justified. No one can be accepted by God who has not ceased to sin; and no one can remain accepted by God except as he continues without sin. It is no refutation of this contention, Morgan says, to show that Christians sometimes sin: it can be refuted only by showing that they are always sinful: sinful, of course, with a voluntary sinfulness, since there is no sinfulness which is not voluntary. “The language of the law plainly shows that it concerns itself with nothing else than the voluntary inward state or actions of men.” “Nor is there any depravity, corruption, bias, evil nature, or any thing else of whatever name, with which it is offended or displeased, in man or devil, except the voluntary exclusion of love, or the indulgence of its opposite. Disobedience on the one hand, and obedience on the other, are the only moral entities known to the Scriptures, or of which the law of God takes the least cognizance. It demands nothing but cordial obedience—it forbids nothing but cordial disobedience.”317 This cordial obedience is perfection and less than this cannot be accepted by God. “Is it the Bible doctrine, that if a man will put away the greater part of his sin, God will, for Christ’s sake, forgive him the whole?” No; the Scriptures always conjoin repentance with remission, and repentance is nothing but abandonment, and remission cannot be broader than abandonment. To suppose otherwise would be to make Christ “the enemy of the law and the minister of sin.”318

This teaching, Morgan now says,319 is not justification by works. It is “gratuitous justification by faith”—because our righteousness on the ground of which alone we are, or can be, acceptable to God—and therefore are accepted by Him—lays no ground in right for a claim upon Him for pardon of our past sins. Finney seeks the same result by merely drawing a distinction between condition and ground. Our righteousness is the condition, not the ground of the pardon of our past sins, and acceptance with God. The ground of our pardon is to be sought only in the pure clemency of God: but God exercises this clemency only on the condition that we shall perfectly obey His law. If we will perfectly obey His law, we become acceptable to Him, and He will graciously pardon our past sins. Not our future sins: if we commit any future sins we lose our standing in His favor and can recover it again only by again becoming perfectly obedient to His law, when these new sins, now become past sins, will also be pardoned. Our acceptance with God thus, now and always, is conditioned upon, though not grounded in, our complete obedience to the law.

Whether this distinction between ground and condition can be made to serve the purpose for which Finney invokes it, may admit of some question. Finney lays great stress upon it. There is but one “ground” or “fundamental reason,” he says,320 of our justification; and that is “the disinterested and infinite love of God.” But there are many “conditions,” that is to say sine-qua-nons, without which justification cannot take place; “men are not justified for these things, but they cannot be justified without them.” This is understood by George Duffield—and Finney says with substantial accuracy—to mean that these are not things which must be performed in order to entitle us to justification, but only invariable “concomitants” of our justification.321 In this sense Finney represents the atonement of Christ, repentance, faith in the atonement, sanctification, to be “conditions” of justification. He puts them on the same line: one of them is no more a ground, one of them is no less a condition, of justification than the others. He distinguishes, it is true, between present and future justification, but does not “conditionate” the one on repentance and faith and the other on sanctification; but the one on “present” repentance and faith and sanctification, and the other on “future” repentance and faith and sanctification. Justification and sanctification are thus no doubt made invariable concomitants. But does “concomitance” fully express their relation to one another? If it did, it would seem that sanctification would be as much “conditionated” on justification as justification on sanctification. But Finney is not only explicit but emphatic to the contrary. It is to him only an error of “some theologians” to make “justification a condition of sanctification, instead of making sanctification a condition of justification.”322 You can have sanctification without justification, but not justification without sanctification. This is a very one-sided concomitance, and means that the relation of sanctification to justification is not that of real concomitance, but of causal condition. Finney, it is true, denies with all energy that it is the proper “ground” of justification. “I think I may safely say,” says he,323 “that I never for a moment, at any period of my Christian life, held that man’s own obedience or righteousness was the ground of his justification before God. I always held and strenuously maintained the direct opposite of this.” Quite so. According to his own definition of terms, there is but one “ground or fundamental reason” of justification—that is God’s ineffable love. And we all proclaim, of course, with one voice, that out of the love of God alone comes that movement of His grace, the outcome of which is our justification. Only one “ground,” then, in this sense. But there are “conditions,” says Finney, in the absence of which God’s love does not issue in justification, and which are therefore the proper grounds of His love manifesting itself in this particular mode of action. Finney says emphatically that there are four such “conditions.” He clearly does not mean merely that justification is always found in company with these four things. He means that it occurs only in sequence to these four things. No atonement, no justification; but not in the same sense no justification, no atonement. No repentance and faith, no justification; but not in the same sense, no justification, no repentance and faith. No sanctification, no justification; but not in the same sense no justification, no sanctification. There is a relation here of precedence and sequence; of cause and consequence. Justification depends on these things, its occurrence is suspended on them; as they do not depend on it, their occurrence is not suspended on it. And that carries with it that justification depends on, is suspended on, “man’s own obedience or righteousness.”

It is instructive to observe what Finney asseverates that he “holds, and expressly teaches,” that the grounds of justification are not, set as they are in contrast with the one thing, the love of God, which he declares that the ground of justification is. The ground of justification he asseverates324 is not (1) the obedience of Christ for us; (2) our own obedience either to the law or to the gospel; (3) the atonement of Christ; (4) anything in the mediatorial work of Christ; (5) the work of the Holy Spirit in us. It is not anything that either Christ or we have done; and it is not anything that we have done or have become under the operations of the Spirit. It is solely the divine benevolence. The Atonement, from the point of view of the Rectoral theory, which Finney teaches, naturally has no adaptation to serve immediately as the ground of any act of God. Its only immediate effect is to bring men to repentance and faith; and thus the entire work of Christ is reduced to inducing men to repent and believe. It is not so clear, however, that the repentance and faith to which men are thus brought, together with their resultant obedience, do not constitute the proper ground of their justification in this scheme. No doubt “the fundamental reason” of justification lies in the love of God: nothing is required, in this scheme, to enable the benevolent God to forgive sin—it flows spontaneously out of His benevolence alone. But the benevolent God is not free to act on this scheme out of His benevolence alone. He has tied Himself up with governmental obligations. The love of God cannot fulfil itself in the actual justification of sinners, therefore, consistently with His governmental obligations, except in the case of those who have been brought by the Atonement (serving the purposes here of punishment) to repentance and faith, with the consequent amendment of life which is sanctification. This “reformation of life” is obviously in such a sense the “condition” of justification that it may properly be called its ground. It is not the ground of God’s impulse to justify, but it is the ground of God’s actually justifying, the sinner. In it the manifestation of His love to this or that particular sinner is grounded. It is the ground of justification in the same sense in which the righteousness of Christ—active and passive—is in the Reformation doctrine of justification, namely, that in view of which God pardons the sins of those whom He justifies and accepts as righteous in His sight. When Finney strenuously argues that God can accept as righteous no one who is not intrinsically righteous, it cannot be denied that he teaches a work-salvation, and has put man’s own righteousness in the place occupied in the Reformation doctrine of justification by the righteousness of Christ.

Finney, it must be confessed, exhibits no desire to conceal from himself the seriousness of his departure from the Reformation teaching in his doctrine of justification. One of the reasons for his constant insistence that the righteousness of man—no less than the atoning work of Christ—is only a condition, not the ground, of justification, is to escape from all implication of a forensic doctrine of justification. He fairly rages against this forensic doctrine. “Now,” he exclaims of it,325 “this is certainly another gospel from the one I am inculcating. It is not a difference merely upon some speculative or theoretic point. It is a point fundamental to the gospel and to salvation, if any one can be.” It is with full consciousness, therefore, that he ranges himself over against the doctrine of the Reformation, as teaching “another gospel.” And the precise point on which his opposition turns is that the Reformation doctrine, by interposing an imputation of the righteousness of Christ as the ground on which the sinner is accepted as righteous, does not require perfect intrinsic righteousness as the condition precedent of justification. This he cries out against as a doctrine of justification “in sin.” “It certainly can not be true,” he declares,326 “that God accepts and justifies the sinner in his sins. I may safely challenge the world for either reason or scripture to support the doctrine of justification in sin, in any degree of present rebellion against God. The Bible every where represents justified persons as sanctified and always expressly, or impliedly, conditionates justification upon sanctification, in the sense of present obedience to God.” “Present, full, and entire consecration of heart and life to God and his service,” he says again,327 “is an unalterable condition of present pardon of past sin, and of present acceptance with God”; and “the penitent soul remains justified no longer than this full-hearted consecration continues.” At an earlier point328 he lays down the proposition that God cannot in any sense “justify one who does not yield a present and full obedience to the moral law,” and, pouring scorn on any “method of justification” which does not presuppose such an obedience, exclaims,329 “What good can result to God, or the sinner, or to the universe by thus pardoning and justifying an unsanctified soul?” “If what has been said is true,” he then remarks,330 “we see that the Church has fallen into a great and ruinous mistake, in supposing that a state of present sinlessness is a very rare, if not an impossible, attainment in this life. If the doctrine of this lecture be true, it follows that the very beginning of true religion in the soul, implies the renunciation of all sin. Sin ceases where holiness begins.” And he closes with an invective against those who object to such as “teach, that God justifies no one, but upon condition of present sinlessness”—than which we could have no more precise assertion that justification proceeds on the presupposition of sinlessness. The attainment of sinlessness with Finney is the first, not the last step of the religious life.

It certainly required some temerity for Finney to “challenge the world” to adduce any Scripture to support what he calls “the doctrine of justification in sin, in any degree of present rebellion against God.”331 Paul might seem to have written a great part of his epistles expressly to provide materials for meeting this challenge. One wonders how such language could have been employed by one who had in mind, say, Rom. 3:21 ff., which is quoted in this very connection. For it is Paul’s direct object in this passage to show that men, being incapable of justification from the point of view of their relation to law-works—Finney’s “entire conformity to law”—are nevertheless graciously justified by God, in view of what Christ has done in their behalf—which is clearly an assertion of the substitution and imputation which Finney rejects with repugnance. Precisely what Paul says in the cardinal verses (23, 24) is that “all”—a very emphatic “all,” declaring what is true of all believers without exception—that “all have sinned”—the view-point being taken from their present state as believers—“all have sinned and know themselves to be without the approbation of God”—the present tense, middle voice, declaring a lack of which they were conscious—“and are therefore justified freely, by His grace, by means of the ransoming which is in Christ Jesus”—the ransoming wrought out in Christ Jesus being the means by which it has been brought about that God can proceed to justify sinners, conscious of their sin, gratuitously; the idea of the gratuitousness of the justification receiving the emphasis of repetition: “freely, by His grace.” It is distinctly asserted here that those justified are sinners, and are conscious of standing as such under the condemnation of God at the moment when they are justified; that their justification is not in any sense in accordance with their deserving, but is very distinctly gratuitous, and proceeds from the grace of God alone; and that God can act in this gracious fashion toward them only because He has laid a foundation for it in the ransoming which He has wrought out in Christ. And the Apostle declares that this is true of all who are justified, without exception. In the most explicit language he has just declared that no flesh shall be justified by law-works—that if it is a question of presenting ourselves before God “in entire conformity to the law,” every mouth is stopped and the whole world stands under the condemnation of God (3:19); and that the only hope of men accordingly lies in the provision by God of a righteousness which is apart from law, and is received through faith in Christ. And now he says that, having provided this righteousness in Christ, God, in view of it, justifies gratuitously those incapable of justification on their own account, that is to say, just sinners. If this is not a justification “in sin”—or as Finney expresses it somewhat more fully,332 “while yet at least in some degree of sin”—it would be hard to say what is. Another mode of speech employed by Finney is, “while personally in the commission of sin.” As with him “all sin is sinning,” and there is no sin conceivable except the “personal commission of sin,” all these phrases are completely synonymous with him, and what he contends for is the complete cessation of sinning on the part of the person about to be justified. There being no such thing as “constitutional depravity,” this leaves him perfectly holy. And it is Finney’s contention that it is only he who is in this condition, a condition of “personal, present holiness,” in the sense of course of “entire conformity to the law”—for there is no constitutional holiness, either—who can be justified. We must have ceased to sin—and that means we must be sinless—before we can be justified. We are pronounced righteous, because we are personally righteous. We are looked upon as in entire conformity to the law, because we are in entire conformity to the law. This is the precise contradiction of Paul’s teaching, according to which we have no righteousness of our own—a righteousness which is of law—but only a righteousness which is by faith in Christ, a righteousness which comes from God on faith (Phil. 3:9).

It ought not to pass without explicit mention—although it has repeatedly been incidentally adverted to already—that Finney makes not only sanctification—entire conformity to the moral law—but also perseverance a condition of justification. “Perseverance in faith and obedience, or in consecration to God,” he says,333 “is also an unalterable condition of justification, or of pardon and acceptance with God.” He means, of course, that it is a condition “not of present, but of final or ultimate acceptance and salvation.” Thus instead of looking upon perseverance as dependent on justification, he looks upon the continuance of justification as dependent on perseverance. In the Biblical doctrine the sinner, being justified, receives the Spirit of holiness, through whose prevalent operations he perseveres to the end. According to Finney the justified person remains justified so long as he perseveres in the obedience which is the condition of his justification. In the Biblical view it is God, in Finney’s it is man, who determines the issue: the whole standpoint assumed by Finney is that of a God responsive to human actions, rather than that of a man operated upon by divine grace. Justification is made, therefore, to follow and depend upon “present full obedience,” “entire sanctification,” “moral perfection,” and to endure only so long as they endure. We have accordingly such amazing forms of speech as these: The Christian “is justified no further than he obeys, and must be condemned when he disobeys”; “When the Christian sins, he must repent and do his first works or he will perish.” On every sin the Christian is condemned and must incur the penalty of the law of God—that is to say, the Christian on every sin falls out of justification, comes back under the condemnation of the broken law, and must begin the saving process over again, de novo. Such passages as Rom. 5:1, 9, 8:1, 31 ff., have had no influence on this theory whatever. The Christian, having been justified, is not at peace with God; he is not assured that, having been justified by Christ’s blood, he will certainly be saved from the wrath by Him; he does not know that, since he is in Christ Jesus, there is no possible condemnation for him, and nothing can snatch him from his Saviour’s hands. The point of view exploited carries with it, as George Duffield points out,334 an odd confusion between the categories of punishment and chastisement. In the place of the dispensation of painful discipline in which the Christian, in his lapses, is represented by Scripture as living, Finney subjects him, on every lapse, to the ultimate penalties of the outraged law. He sees nothing between the perfect obedience due to God and the absolute rejection of the divine authority in high-handed disobedience; between the perfect child of God and God’s declared enemy: an imperfect Christian becomes a contradiction in terms; for so soon as the Christian becomes imperfect he ceases to be a Christian—he has fallen from grace, returned to the world, and requires to do his first works over again. In attempting to reply to these strictures of Duffield’s, Finney says nothing to the purpose. He only plays with the words pardon and penalty, justification and condemnation. How can Christians be pardoned once for all, and yet their emerging sins still need pardoning—or do they not need pardoning? If a Christian commits a sin—is not that sin condemnable and condemned? If a sinning Christian suffers an infliction due to his sin, is not that a penalty? What is the use of playing with words? Use any words you choose, and it remains true—at least in the opinion of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (12:7 ff.)—that there are grievous inflictions which come from a Father’s hands and prove that we are not outcasts but sons: which do not argue therefore our condemnation but our acceptance.

The closing paragraph of Finney’s lecture on Justification335 is given the form of a detached “Remark.” Its purpose is to show that what he calls the “old school view of justification” is a necessary result of the “old school view” of depravity: that given the one, and the other, by necessary steps, must follow. “Constitutional depravity or sinfulness being once assumed, physical regeneration, physical sanctification, physical divine influence, imputed righteousness, and justification, while personally in the commission of sin, follow of course.” This is all very true. Granted the Augustinian doctrine of sin and the Augustinian soteriology becomes a necessity, if sinners are to be saved. Our interest in it for the moment arises from the evidence it affords that Finney was perfectly well aware that his own series of opposing doctrines constituted a concatenated system, rooted in his denial of innate depravity. Out of his Pelagian doctrine of sin he had been compelled to construct a whole corresponding soteriology, and he was perfectly aware that it stood contradictorily over against the Augustinian at every point. Rejecting “constitutional depravity,” that is to say, a sinfulness which goes deeper than the act and affects the “nature” itself, he has no need of any “physical” regeneration, sanctification, divine influence, and accordingly rejects them too: and as there is no reason why the sinner who is a sinner only in act and is endowed with an inalienable plenary ability to do all that he is under obligation to do, should not under the motives brought to bear on him in the gospel, cease sinning at will, and do righteousness, so there is no need of a righteousness of Christ to supply his lack; and none is provided and none imputed—the sinner’s acceptance with God hangs solely on his own self-wrought righteousness.

There is a single sentence on another page into which Finney compresses one of the most systematic of his statements of his doctrine of justification, especially in its relation to the work of Christ. It will repay us to consider its phraseology closely. This is it:336 “In consideration of Christ’s having by his death for sinners secured the subjects of the Divine government against a misconception of his character and designs, God does, upon the further conditions of a repentance and faith, that imply a renunciation of their rebellion and a return to obedience to his laws, freely pardon past sin, and restore the penitent and believing sinner to favour, as if he had not sinned, while he remains penitent and believing, subject however to condemnation and eternal death, unless he holds the beginning of his confidence steadfast unto the end.” According to this statement justification consists in pardon and acceptance, and is obtained by repentance and faith. This repentance and faith is defined as such a repentance and faith as imply the sinner’s renunciation of his rebellion and return to obedience to God’s laws—a manifest meiosis in which the word “imply” must be read, in accordance with the entire extended discussion, in a high sense. From all that appears this pregnantly conceived faith and repentance is the sinner’s own work and is so completely in his own power that, as he has himself provided it, so he can himself withdraw it; and his continuance in the pardon and acceptance which he obtains by it depends absolutely on his maintenance of it. All that Christ has to do with the whole transaction is that by his death he secures “the subjects of the Divine government against a misconception” of God’s “character and designs,” and thus so far protects them against expecting relief in impossible ways. His work is given thus purely the character of revelation, and is directed to and affects of course man alone. It can affect the action of God only through the effect which it produces on men’s mental attitude. It is therefore really not Christ’s work but the attitude of men brought about by it, to which God has respect in pardoning and accepting sinners. Because Christ has secured men against a fatal misconception of God’s character and designs, God can pardon and accept sinners—provided that they reform. From all that appears Christ’s work has nothing more to do with bringing about their reformation than it has to do with God’s pardon and acceptance of them on their reformation. Their reformation is presented only as a second condition, and we may add the only proper condition, of their pardon and acceptance. All that Christ has done is to secure them against walking in wrong paths and that only by making known to them that there are wrong paths. That they walk in the right path is their own doing. If they do, God then pardons and accepts them—for as long as they do.

The theory of the Atonement briefly indicated here is of course the common Rectoral theory, presented, not in its best form, it is true, but yet in its essentials as it is commonly presented by its advocates. How it lay in Finney’s mind may be learned in its outlines from such a statement as this.337 “The Godhead desired to save sinners, but could not safely do so without danger to the universe, unless something was done to satisfy public, not retributive justice. The atonement was resorted to as a means of reconciling forgiveness with the wholesome administration of justice.” In the extended discussions, however, something is done to mitigate the arbitrariness of the transaction thus baldly outlined. An attempt is made to show that the provision of an atonement was incumbent on God as the moral governor of the world. A more sustained attempt is made to show that in view of this atonement it is incumbent on God to forgive reformed sinners and receive them into His favor. And some attempt is made to show that the atonement is the producing cause of that reformation, which is the condition of God’s pardon of sinners and reception of them into His favor.

“In establishing the government of the universe,” Finney tells us,338 “God had given the pledge, both impliedly and expressly, that he would regard the public interests, and by a due administration of the law, secure and promote, as far as possible, public and individual happiness.” This pledging of Himself to observe public justice in the administration of the universe, did not, it is true, commit Him directly to the provision of an atonement. Public justice requires directly only an even-handed administration of rewards and punishments. Yet, as “an atonement … would more fully meet the necessities of government, and act as a more efficient preventive of sin, and a more powerful persuasive to holiness, than the infliction of the legal penalty would do,”339 it may be fairly thought that its provision was incumbent on a God, seeking under His governmental pledge “the highest good of the public.”340 What is here called an atonement is anything which “will as fully evince the lawgiver’s regard for his law, his determination to support it, his abhorrence of all violations of its precepts, and withal guard as effectually against the inference, that violators of the precept might expect to escape with impunity, as the execution of the penalty would do.”341 Whatever will do this will “as effectually secure the public interests” and therefore “as fully satisfy public justice,” as the infliction of their proper penalties on offenders; and such an atonement having been offered, “public justice demands, that the execution of the penalty shall be dispensed with by extending pardon to the criminal.”342 The pardon of the offender thus becomes incumbent on God. Finney indeed inserts a condition—a very necessary condition—in his fuller statements, and thus avoids making it incumbent on God to pardon all offenders. This condition is—the repentance of the offender. “When these conditions are fulfilled, and the sinner has returned to obedience, public justice not only admits, but absolutely demands, that the penalty shall be set aside by extending pardon to the offender. The offender still deserves to be punished, and upon the principles of retributive justice, might be punished according to his deserts. But the public good admits and requires that upon the above conditions he should live, and hence, public justice, in compliance with the public interests and the spirit of the law of love, spares and pardons him.”343

How the fulfilment of this condition is brought about is left somewhat at loose ends. It is usual with the advocates of the Rectoral scheme to link the work of Christ so closely with the reformation of men, as to constitute this its direct aim and effect, and indeed, to speak exactly, the atoning act itself. Finney does not appear to do this. He does, to be sure, argue that the atonement tends to produce this amendment of life—although he chooses to call it a condition only of the pardon and acceptance which results, and not their immediate ground. It presents “overpowering motives to repentance,” he says,344 and “the highest possible motives to virtue”; and it is “the great and only means of sanctifying sinners.” But he does not appear to give the same systematic place to this effect of the atonement that is given to it by most advocates of the Rectoral theory. The reformation of the sinner, which with him, too, really constitutes the atoning act, seems to be thought of by him, at least relatively, independently of the work of Christ. When accomplished, the sinner, reformed though still guilty, is accepted as righteous in God’s sight. This “entire consecration of the heart to God in view of all that the atonement signifies” is the same thing as what is called by Finney the sinner’s regeneration, explained as consisting in a change of ultimate choice, accomplished, under the merely persuasive influence of the Spirit, by his own free will.

An impression is left in the mind of the reader by Finney’s exposition of the relations of retribution and public justice that God is supposed, on assuming the duties of governor of the world, to have been compelled to subordinate—as many less absolute governors have been compelled to do—the law of absolute right to the demands of public interest; and does not attempt to administer the universe on any higher principle than the general “public good,” meanwhile closing His ears altogether to the absolute imperative of pure conscience. It may be admitted that in the elaborate discrimination which is drawn out between “retributive justice” and “public justice,” it is fairly shown that what is called “public justice” does not demand so strict a regard to abstract right and wrong as does “retributive justice”; and therefore that God if He were acting merely on the principle of “public justice” need not be supposed to be meticulously careful of the absolutely right. But that God in His moral government of the world proceeds solely on this “public justice” and has regard only to “public interest,” it need not be said, Finney has not shown in the least. Even though it may be said that “public justice” demands only so and so, it by no means follows that God who is the governor of the world will be governed solely by that consideration. To say that “sin deserves punishment,—and must be punished—it is right, per se, and therefore forgiveness is wrong, per se,” Finney rather plaintively declares, would “thus set aside the plan of salvation.”345 It does set aside the “plan of salvation” as conceived by him; a plan of salvation which has no place in it for expiation of sin, and supposes that God is looking around for a plausible excuse for forgiving all sin, the social effect of which can be neutralized. But it is the one basis of the plan of salvation of the Bible, the heart of the heart of which is expiation, and which represents God as sheerly unable to forgive sin on any other ground whatever.

IV. The Theology Of Charles G. Finney[4]

The elements of Finney’s conception of the Plan of Salvation are given, in a very succinct form, in a summary of what he speaks of as the “provisions of grace.”346 “God,” says he, “foresaw that all mankind would fall into a state of total alienation from him and his government. He also foresaw that by the wisest arrangement, he could secure the return and salvation of a part of mankind. He resolved to do so, and ‘chose them to eternal salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.’ ” Nothing is said of why God created a race the apostasy of which he foresaw;347 or of what hindered His making an arrangement by which most of the apostates, or all of them, would be saved;348 or of whether the part of mankind which He chose to salvation was a definite or indefinite part.349 So far as this representation goes, God’s entire action is determined by His creatures: He finds Himself (in His foresight) with an apostate race on His hands; an apostate race of whom He can “wisely”—a “wisely” which in Finney’s scheme means ultimately “benevolently”—save only a part; and His choice of the part He will save is determined immediately by them and not Himself.

Now comes a description of God’s mode of action under His decree of salvation. This action is summed up in the institution of a system of means to effect the end in view—“that is,” says Finney, “with design to effect it.” These means are the law, the atonement and mediatorial work of Christ, the publication of the Gospel and God’s providential and moral government—and also “the gift and agency of the Holy Spirit.” Of “the gift and agency of the Holy Spirit,” it is said that it is “to excite in them,” that is in the part of mankind chosen to salvation, “desire, and to work in them to will and to do, in so far as to secure in them the fulfillment of the conditions, and to them the fulfillment of the promises.” This is followed by the assertion that grace has made sufficient provision to make the salvation of all men possible—a statement which, as we shall see, is on this scheme somewhat barren—and that of a portion of mankind certain: and this is followed by the declaration that all who have the Gospel are without excuse, if they are not saved—another barren statement on this scheme. And now we get at the gist of the matter. “Grace,” we read (italics ours), “has made the salvation of every human being secure, who can be persuaded, by all the influences that God can wisely bring to bear upon him, to accept the offers of salvation.” The words which we have italicized are key words in Finney’s scheme of salvation. Persuasion—all that God does looking to the salvation of men is confined in its mode to persuasion. Wisely—the governing notion in all God’s saving activities is uniformly represented as derived from His wisdom. Accept—the determining factor in man’s salvation is his own acceptance. In this whole statement the greatest care is expended in making it clear that all that God does toward saving men is directed to inducing the objects of salvation to save themselves. What He does, it is affirmed, is effective to the end in the case of those whose salvation He conceives it “wise” to “secure.”350 But so far it is left obscure what the principle is on which the objects of salvation, the salvation of whom He judges it wise to secure, are determined—foresight, or election.

When we turn to the lecture on election, we quickly learn that Finney’s doctrine of election is just—Congruism. There are two varieties of Congruism, an Augustinian and an Anti-Augustinian. The Anti-Augustinian variety supposes that the same grace is given to all men alike, but is effective or not effective to salvation according as the hearts of men are “congruous” to it. In this variety there is no place for election, except on foresight of the salvability of men. The Augustinian variety supposes that God, respecting the free will of men, approaches them, just as in the other variety, with “suasive grace” only; but Himself adapts this grace so wisely to the hearts of those whom He has sovereignly selected to save, that they yield freely to its persuasion and are saved. In this variety election is the cause of salvation. Finney may superficially appear to be seeking some intermediate ground between these two ordinary varieties of Congruism: but in point of fact what he presents is, with some variation of form, a curiously complete reproduction of the Molinist scheme. According to him election proceeds on the foresight of salvability; but he does not suppose that the same grace is given to all men alike—although all receive “sufficient grace”—but that God employs in each case whatever grace it seems to Him wise to employ in order to accomplish His end. Those that are salvable—that is, those that are salvable under the wise government which He has established—He secures the salvation of. Those who, under this wise government, are not salvable, He leaves in their sins. Those whose salvation He undertakes to secure, because they are salvable under the wise government He has established, He brings to salvation by suasive influences of grace, adapted in each case to their special needs, and therefore certain to be effective. These are the elect. Obviously they are elected on the ground of their salvability—under the wise government which God has established. There is no sovereignty exhibited in their election itself, except in the sense that God might have left them also in their sin; if He were to save any, these were the only ones He could save—under the wise government established by Him. The only place in the whole transaction in which any real sovereignty is shown, lies in God’s having established the particular government which He has established, and which determines who are salvable and who not. The particular government which has been established has not been arbitrarily established. It is determined by its wisdom. It is the wisest possible government for God’s end—which is the good of being. Seeking the good of being, this is the government which an all-wise God must establish. Its establishment, however, divides men into two classes—the salvable and the unsalvable under the conditions of this wisest government. Here it is that election is determined. God elects to salvation all those who are salvable under this wise government. Any sovereignty which may appear in this election is derived wholly from the sovereignty of the choice of the wisest government to establish. That determined, everything else is determined with it: those that are salvable; those that, on foresight of their salvability, are elected to be saved; the manner of grace by which they are brought to salvation. Proximately their election is on foresight of salvability; only ultimately can it be called sovereign—that is through the sovereignty of the choice of the wisest government to establish.

The determining characteristic of the elect on this view, we presume, is that, in nature, character, situation, circumstances—in their totality, considered in all relations—the salvation of just these and none others serves as means to God’s ultimate supreme end—the good of being. Not merely the salvation of some rather than others, but the salvation of just these same rather than any others, subserves this end. “The best system of means for securing the great end of benevolence, included the election of just those who were elected, and no others.… The highest good demanded it.”351 A slightly different turn is given to this statement, when it is said: “The fact, that the wisest and best system of government would secure the salvation of those who are elected, must have been a condition of their being elected.” What is suggested by this is, that the reason, or one of the reasons, why just those who are elected are elected, is that they, and not others, would be saved under the system of government which God had in mind to establish. He was bound to elect those and not others—or else alter the system of government He had it in mind to establish, under which none others could be saved: and He cannot alter this system of government because it is the wisest and best system. This brings us back to the point of view with which we began—that the real reason of the election of the elect is their salvability, that is, under the system of government established by God as the wisest. God elects those whom He can save, and leaves un-elected those whom He cannot save, consistently with the system of government which He has determined to establish as the wisest and best. And this seems strongly to suggest that there is an intrinsic difference between the objects of election and others, determining their different treatment.

The dominating place which Finney gives to the idea of wisdom in his construction will scarcely have passed unobserved. God saves all He can wisely save: the particular ones He saves are those whom alone He can wisely save. Here is rather a full statement:352 “I suppose that God bestows on men unequal measures of gracious influence, but that in this there is nothing arbitrary; that, on the contrary, he sees the wisest and best reasons for this; that being in justice under obligation to none, he exercises his own benevolent discretion, in bestowing on all as much gracious influence as he sees to be upon the whole wise and good, and enough to throw the entire responsibility of their damnation upon them if they are lost.353 But upon some he foresaw that he could wisely bestow a sufficient measure of gracious influence to secure their voluntary yielding, and upon others he could not bestow enough in fact to secure this result.” The upshot is that God elects all that it is wise for Him to elect; and as He elects them both to grace and glory, He saves all that it is wise for Him to save. The ground of His election of just them is that there is something in them or in their relations to His system of government of the world, which makes it wise to save them; and this is not true of the others. He does for those others too all that it is wise for Him to do, and He “has no right to do more than he does for them, all things considered.” What He does for either never passes beyond mere suasion: everything depends therefore at every step on the free movement of their will. “The elect were chosen to eternal life,” we read,354 “upon condition that God foresaw that in the perfect exercise of their freedom, they could be induced to repent and embrace the gospel.” If there is not asserted here election on the foresight of faith, there is asserted election on the foresight of the possibility of faith: on foreseeing that they can be induced to believe, they are elected to life, and the inducements provided. It is foreseen that the non-elect cannot be induced to believe—at least wisely—and inducements to believe are not wasted on them.

It appears that Finney wishes to make it appear that election is in some sense the cause of salvation. But he is hampered by his preconceptions. He wishes to deny that election is “arbitrary.” He wishes to represent salvation as depending on the “voluntary” action of men. In order to protect this “voluntariness” of salvation, he wishes to confine all of God’s saving operations within the category of persuasion. And above all and governing all he wishes to make benevolence the one spring of the divine action. The ultimate result is that, representing God as ordering the universe for the one end of the production of the greatest happiness of the greatest number, he finds himself teaching that men are left to perish solely for the enhancement of the happiness of others. Reprobation is a thorny subject to handle in any case; but in Finney’s handling of it its thorniness is greatly increased. He is compelled to confess of the reprobate, that “God knows that his creating them, together with his providential dispensations, will be the occasion, not the cause, of their sin and consequent destruction.” Of course, God’s foreknowledge of these results when He created the reprobate, necessarily involves them also in His comprehensive intention; but equally of course the sin and destruction of the reprobate were not His ultimate end in their creation. But neither are the holiness and salvation of the elect the ultimate end of God in His dealing with them. In both cases alike His supreme ultimate end lies beyond. What God has determining regard to in His dealing with both alike, says Finney, is the wise ordering of His government. He would prefer the salvation of the reprobate, if—but only if—they could be saved consistently with the wise government He has ordained. But, says Finney,355 “He regards their destruction as a less evil to the universe, than would be such a change in the administration and arrangements of his government as would secure their salvation.” They are sacrificed thus to the good of the universe, and perish not because justice demands that they perish, but because it is better for others—surely not for themselves—that they perish. This is a result of Finney’s teleological ethics. And it is here that the benevolence scheme is most severely strained. It was benevolent in God, says Finney,356 to create men who were destined to reprobation, because, “if he foresaw that, upon the whole, he could secure such an amount of virtue and happiness by means of moral government, as to more than counterbalance the sin and misery of those who would be lost, then certainly it was a dictate of benevolence to create them.” We may possibly be able to bow before reasoning which is directed to show that our reprobation is the unavoidable condition of the attainment of an end high and holy enough to justify any individual evils which are incurred in its achievement—say, the vindication of the right, the preservation of the divine integrity, the manifestation of God’s righteousness, the enhancement of His glory. But it is not so easy to acquiesce when we are told that we must be miserable that others may be happy. If the happiness of being is the end to which everything is to give way, it is difficult to see why we should be excluded from our share of it. Surely at all events we must see the note of moral necessity, and not that of a mere governmental expediency, in the transaction before we can readily embrace it as just.

The ultimate reason why the entire action of God in salvation is confined by Finney to persuasion lies in his conviction that nothing more is needed—or, indeed, is possible. For the most deeply lying of all the assumptions which govern his thinking is that of the plenary ability of man. It is customary with him to assert this assumption in the form that obligation is limited by ability; that we are able to do all that we are under obligation to do; that nothing which we cannot do lies within the range of our duty.357 He himself represents this as the fundamental principle of his teaching—“that obligation implies ability in the sense that it is possible for man to be all that he is under an obligation to be; that by willing, he can directly or indirectly do all that God requires him to do.358 He thus relegates to a position subordinate and subsidiary to the primary fact of plenary ability even his ethical principle that moral value attaches in strictness only to the supreme ultimate intention, which gives its moral character to all else; and with it, his more fundamental ethical principle still that moral quality attaches only to deliberate acts of will. The ability which he thus ascribes to man as his inalienable possession is not merely that so-called “natural ability” which the New England divines were accustomed to accord to him, and which only recognized his possession of the natural powers by which obedience could be rendered were it not inhibited by man’s moral condition. He means, on the contrary, that man has by his natural constitution as a free agent the inalienable power to obey God perfectly. “This ability,” he says,359 “is called a natural ability, because it belongs to man as a moral agent, in such a sense that without it he could not be a proper subject of command, of reward or punishment. That is, without this liberty or ability he could not be a moral agent, and a proper subject of moral government.” “Moral agency,” says he again,360 “implies free agency. Free agency implies liberty of will. Liberty of will implies ability of will.” And this ability of will extends “so far as the sphere of moral agency extends.” The “ability to obey God” which Finney ascribes to man always and everywhere is thus, without any ifs and ands about it, just “the possession of power adequate to the performance of that which is required.”361 In possession of this inalienable ability man’s salvation requires and admits of no other divine operation than persuasion.

It is a great concession from this point of view, indeed, to allow that it requires persuasion. Finney does allow this; and this is his sole concession to the supernaturalism of salvation. “From the beginning,” he says,362 men “universally and voluntarily consecrate their powers to the gratification of self,” and “therefore they will not, unless they are divinely persuaded, by the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit, in any case turn and consecrate their powers to the service of God.” They will not; he will not admit that they cannot. He seems, indeed, almost inclined at times to declare that one not a Christian who supposes that “a man is unable to obey God without the Spirit’s agency.” The assertion of ability to obey God without the Spirit’s agency is express. “The question in debate is not whether men do, in any case, use the powers of nature in the manner that God requires, without the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit, but whether they are naturally able so to use them.”363 But along with the strong assertion of their ability to do it, is an equally strong assertion of their universal unwillingness to do it, on the ground of which is erected an assertion of the necessity of the influence of the Spirit for salvation. “I admit and maintain,” says Finney,364 “that regeneration is always induced and effected by the personal agency of the Holy Spirit.” “It is agreed,” he says again,365 “that all who are converted, sanctified and saved, are converted, sanctified and saved by God’s own agency; that is, God saves them by securing, by his own agency, their personal and individual holiness.” The mode of the divine agency in securing these efforts, however, is purely suasive. We are saved “by free grace drawing and securing the concurrence of free-will”366—a formula which, so far as the words go, might have a good meaning; but not in the sense which Finney puts on them, for in Finney’s sense “drawing” means just teaching. Referring to John 6:44, he says: “As the Father teaches by the Holy Spirit, Christ’s plain teaching, in the passage under consideration, is that no man can come to Him, except he be specially enlightened by the Holy Spirit.” Beyond the presentation of motives to action he will not permit the Spirit to go in the way of securing man’s salvation. “The power which God exerts in the conversion of the soul,” he says,367 “is moral power.” “It is that kind of power,” he proceeds in explanation, “by which a statesman sways the mind of a senate; or by which an advocate moves and bows the heart of a jury.” “All God’s influence in converting men,” he says again,368 “is moral influence. He persuades them by his word and his Spirit.” And then he adds, “If men will not yield to persuasion, they must be lost”; and phrases his conclusion thus: “Sinners can go to hell in spite of God.” It is certain, he declares in another place,369 “that men are able to resist the utmost influence that the truth can exert upon them; and therefore have ability to defeat the wisest, most benevolent, and most powerful exertions which the Holy Spirit can make to effect their sanctification.” They can resist the divine influence designed to save them because it is only of the nature of persuasion. But the same ability which is adequate to resisting it, is adequate also to following it; and if it “secures” their salvation, it is only by this, their free following of it. “The fact is,” says Finney,370 “the actual turning … is the sinner’s own act”; “the sinner that minds the flesh, can change his mind, and mind God.” In all this Finney was but repeating the teachings of the New Divinity of which this very conception is declared by Lyman Beecher to have been the core. “Our doctrine,” says he,371 describing the essence of the Taylorite contention, “was that god governs mind by motive and not by force.” “Edwards,” he adds, “did not come up to that fair and square, Bellamy did not, and, in fact, nobody did until Taylor and I did.” Finney did also—“fair and square.”

This construction of “the way of life,” simple with true Pelagian simplicity, is nevertheless complicated with some serious difficulties. It deals throughout with a will to which the “power to the contrary” is passionately vindicated; and yet at two several points it asserts a certainty in the determination of the will which appears to be on this ground inexplicable. How shall we account for the asserted fact that the will, inalienably able to turn at its option from its sins to God, in point of fact never does and never will so turn, except under the persuasive action of the Holy Spirit? A universal will-not, like this, has a very strong appearance of a can-not. A condition in which a particular effect follows with absolute certainty, at least suggests the existence of a causal relation; and the assertion of the equal possibility of a contrary effect, unsupported by a single example, bears the appearance of lacking foundation. And when now we are told that this contrary effect, unexampled otherwise, nevertheless follows with invariable certainty, whenever the persuasive action of the Holy Spirit is exerted to that end—how can we help suspecting that the action of the Spirit in question is something more than persuasive? Let it be borne in mind that all the elect without exception are brought to God by the persuasive action of the Spirit, although many of them, it is affirmed, are much more difficult to convert than many of the non-elect would be; while on the other hand the non-elect are without exception, despite all the suasive influences which may be expended on them, left in their sins. Surely the action of the Spirit on the elect has the appearance of having a character more causal in nature than is expressed by the term persuasion. A persuasion which is invariably effective has at least as remarkable an appearance as the uncaused unanimity of action which it alone breaks, and which, it is affirmed, it alone can break. It is at least an arresting phenomenon that the human will, inalienably endowed with an equal power to either part, should exhibit in its historical manifestation two such instances of absolute certainty of action to one part—in one instance affecting the whole mass of mankind without exception, and in the other the whole body of those set upon by the Spirit with a view to their salvation. If this illustrates “the sovereign power of the agent,” “the proper causality of moral agents,” “the power of self-determination,”372 in the sense put on these phrases—entirely satisfactory in themselves—by Finney and his New Divinity colleagues, we do not see that anything may be said to be illustrated by anything. It speaks volumes meanwhile for the strength of Finney’s conviction that man is quite able to save himself and in point of fact actually does, in every instance of his salvation, save himself, that he maintained it in the face of such broad facts of experience to the contrary. How can man be affirmed to be fully able and altogether competent to an act never performed by any man whatever, except under an action of the Spirit under which he invariably performs it?

Of course this extravagant assertion of plenary ability is correlated with Finney’s doctrine of sin. Naturally he scouts the very idea of “original sin,” whether in its broader or narrower application. There is no imputation; no transmitted corruption of heart. Indeed, there is no heart to be corrupted: “heart” with Finney means just “will.”373 All sin is sinning—and sinning is a purely personal business. It would not be quite exact to say that Finney permits to Adam no influence whatever on the moral life of his descendants. He is willing to allow that they may have received a certain amount of moral injury through the physical deterioration that has come to them by evil inheritance. He even suggests that could this physical deterioration be corrected—say through a wise dietetic system—the sin into which they have fallen partly through its influence might in a generation or two disappear too.374 Nevertheless physical deterioration and moral depravity are different things, different in kind, and must not be confused with one another. The one we may receive from our progenitors, the other can be produced only by our own moral action. It is true that in point of fact all of us suffer from moral depravity, all of us without exception. Moral depravity is with Finney as universal a fact as it is with the Augustinian doctrine. “Subsequent to the commencement of moral agency, and previous to regeneration, the moral depravity of mankind is universal.”375 And it is no less “total” than universal; it manifests itself in the entirety of humanity “without any mixture of moral goodness or virtue.”376 All men without exception are morally depraved through and through. It will repay us to attend to Finney’s account of the origin and nature of this universal total moral depravity, with which mankind is afflicted.

It will have already been observed that it is denied of the first stages of infancy. It accordingly does not belong to mankind as such, as at present existing in the world; it is not a racial affair. It is picked up for himself by each individual in the process of living. An infant when he comes into the world, is just a little animal. He has no moral nature. If he dies, he dies as the brutes die; and his death argues no more than the death of a brute argues.377 “Previous to moral agency, infants are no more subjects of moral government than brutes are”; that is to say, apparently, they cannot be moved to action through inducements addressed to their moral judgment. Therefore, “their sufferings and death are to be accounted for as are those of brutes, namely, by ascribing them to physical interference with the laws of life and health.” We suppose this is the proximate cause of the sufferings and death of adults also; but Finney appears to think that, in saying it of infants, he is denying that sin has anything to do with their dying—despite Rom. 5:12. He has as much trouble with their salvation as with their dying. He wishes to find a place for them in the grace of Christ;378 but it is not easy to do so, since, Paul being witness, it was to save sinners that Christ came into the world—and they are not sinners. And does not Finney himself say:379 “The fact that Christ died in the stead and behalf of sinners, proves that God regarded them not as unfortunate, but as criminal and altogether without excuse”? No doubt, in saying this he had adults only in mind—but, is it not a proposition of universal validity, and, then, how can infants be partakers of this grace of Christ? Is it not true, as Augustine urged to Finney’s prototype, that in this view, Jesus cannot be “Jesus” to infants, because “Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for it is He that shall save His people from their sins”? Finney is reduced to arguing380 that if Christ does not save them from “a sinful constitution,” He does save them “from circumstances which would certainly result in their becoming sinners, if not snatched from them.” A kindly proleptic salvation, it seems, may at least be theirs. But, very naturally, he does not seem wholly satisfied with this. He adds in a tone which may appear a little petulant: “All that can justly be said … is, that if infants are saved at all, which I suppose they are, they are rescued by the benevolence of God from circumstances that would result in certain and eternal death, and are by grace made heirs of eternal life. But after all, it is useless to speculate about the character and destiny of those who are confessedly not moral agents. The benevolence of God will take care of them.…” That sounds like very cold comfort to sorrowing parents. And in view of the fact that half of the human race die in infancy, it offers a trying puzzle to the philosophical thinker. And can we acquiesce without protest, when we are told that infants are “confessedly not moral agents”? Perhaps if we press the word “agents”—but let us substitute “beings.” Are infants not moral beings? Does a man cease to be a moral being every time he goes to sleep? Are we moral beings only when we are acting, but become unmoral and only brutes whenever we are quiescent? We are told with extended explication how the infant picks up sin in the course of living: it is connected, we see, with its picking up a moral nature, too, in the course of living—though how it accomplishes this greater feat, we are not so explicitly told. At all events this is Finney’s doctrine: infants are at first just little animals; after a while they pick up a moral nature; at that very moment they pick up sin also. Thus all men become depraved from the very first moment when moral agency begins with them.

Adam has nothing to do with it—despite Rom. 5:12 ff. No, not quite that. Adam has something to do with it, but nothing decisive. What happens is this. These little brutes of babies, like other brutes, of course follow their impulses. These, being constitutional, have no moral quality. Following them, the babies form habits of action in accordance with their impulses. This action has no moral quality. But one fair day the babies awake to moral values, and then their whole habitual activity at once becomes sin. Their new knowledge comes too late to save them from this sin. Their habits of action are too strong to be reversed by it. They are inevitably persisted in, and thus the poor babies become totally depraved because of habits formed before they knew any better. What Adam has to do with it is this—because Adam sinned, and because all after Adam have sinned—they all would inevitably have sinned whether Adam had sinned or not—the physical nature inherited by babies is to a certain extent disordered, and this makes their impulse to self-gratification perhaps somewhat more clamant than otherwise it would have been.381 In any case this impulse would have been strong enough to carry the day against the new ethical knowledge which comes to them when they become moral agents. But perhaps because of Adam’s sinning—and because of the sinning of all since Adam—it carries the day, not with more certainty—it would certainly have carried it anyhow—but with a more energetic effect than it otherwise would have done. Here is the way Finney himself puts it:382 “The sensibility acts as a powerful impulse to the will, from the moment of birth, and secures the consent and activity of the will to procure its gratification, before the reason is at all developed. The will is thus committed to the gratification of feeling and appetite, when first the idea of moral obligation is developed. This committed state of the will is not moral depravity, and has no moral character, until the idea of moral obligation is developed. The moment this idea is developed, this committal of the will to self-indulgence must be abandoned, or it becomes selfishness, or moral depravity. But, as the will is already in a state of committal, and has to some extent already formed the habit of seeking to gratify feeling, and as the idea of moral obligation is at first but feebly developed, unless the Holy Spirit interferes to shed light on the soul, the will, as might be expected, retains its hold on self-gratification.” And again:—“A diseased physical system renders the appetites, passions, tempers, and propensities more clamorous and despotic in their demands, and of course constantly urging to selfishness, confirms and strengthens it. It should be distinctly remembered that physical depravity has no moral character in itself. But yet it is a source of fierce temptation to selfishness. The human sensibility is, manifestly, deeply physically depraved; and as sin, or moral depravity, consists in committing the will to the gratification of the sensibility, its physical depravity will mightily strengthen moral depravity. Moral depravity is then universally owing to temptation.”

We have here of course only the familiar construction of the old Rationalismus Vulgaris; and no more here than there is the implication of God in bringing the human race into a condition of universal depravity escaped. It was God, no doubt, who made the human race after such a fashion that its selfish impulses should get the start of its reason in the development of the child, who should therefore be hopelessly committed to sin before it knew any better. We are told of Lyman Beecher,383 that “in commenting on the sentiment or opinion which seeks to account for the fact that everyone sins, not by alleging natural depravity, but by saying that ‘the appetites and passions are developed faster than reason; that is, in the nature of things which God has constituted, the appetites and passions necessarily obtain the ascendency over reason,’ Dr. Beecher said, ‘It is by this theory as if God had placed a man in a boat with a crow-bar for an oar, and then sent a storm on him! Is the man to be blamed if in such a case he is drowned?’ ” All that is accomplished by this explanation of how it comes about that man is morally depraved, is that God and not man is made inexcusable for it. God betrays mankind into depravity wholly arbitrarily, with no excuse, not to say justification, for His act. All that can be said is that this is the way God has chosen to make man. No reason is assigned, none is assignable, for His making him in such a manner that he must at the first dawn of moral agency become totally and hopelessly depraved. If anyone supposes that an exoneration for God is supplied in the circumstance that He does not directly create depravity in the human heart, but produces it only indirectly, through the operation of the laws of human development which He has ordained, we are happy to say that Finney is above such a subterfuge. He knows perfectly well that the maxim facit per alium facit per se is as valid here as elsewhere. “To represent the (human) constitution as sinful,” he argues,384 “is to represent God, who is the author of the constitution, as the author of sin. To say that God is not the direct former of the constitution, but that sin is conveyed by natural generation from Adam, who made himself sinful, is only to remove the objection one step farther back, but not to obviate it; for God established the physical laws that of necessity bring about this result.” Well, God established the physical laws which bring it about that every child of man becomes totally depraved at the first dawn of moral agency, and, according to Finney, He did it arbitrarily, and in full knowledge of the effect and therefore with the intention that that effect should follow. On the other hand, though God is supposed in the doctrine Finney is criticizing to have attached the communication of sinfulness to Adam’s posterity descended from him by ordinary generation, He is not represented as having done so arbitrarily but in a judicial sentence; so that a ground is assigned for His act and a ground in right—and Finney has not shown that this ground did not exist, or that existing, it was not a compelling ground in right. What Finney does is merely to substitute another account of universal sinfulness for this one—the Rationalistic account for the Augustinian one—and in doing so, to use a coarse expression, to jump from the frying pan into the fire. He leaves God equally responsible for human depravity, and deprives Him of all justification for attaching it to man. We do not assert that the Rationalistic account of human depravity which Finney exploits must necessarily leave God without justification for inflicting it upon man. It might conceivably be presented merely as an attempt to explain the manner in which man actually acquired a depravity to which he has been justly condemned on account of the sin of his first parents. It would still be open to fatal objections, but no longer to this one—that it represents God as arbitrarily creating the human race after a fashion which made it inevitable that every member of it should fall into hopeless moral depravity—at the first dawn of moral agency—as if the kind of humanity which He desired, intended and provided was a totally depraved humanity. But Finney does not set his theory forward as indicating the manner in which God brings a deserved punishment upon a guilty race. He energetically denies that the race on which this depravity is brought is a guilty race, or that it can be conceived as a punishment. He presents it as the account of how the human race—in all the length and breadth of it—becomes in the first instance sinful, in any sense of that word. And his object is to represent it as becoming so voluntarily—with a voluntariness, which, although embracing every individual of the race, is repeated in each individual’s case in the completest isolation of distinct personal action.

A tendency is exhibited at times to neglect this more elaborate explanation of universal depravity, and to represent it as sufficiently accounted for by the formula of freedom plus temptation. All men are free agents, and all men are tempted; therefore all men sin. The formula is obviously inoperative in this crude form of its statement, unless free agency is supposed to carry with it, per se, helplessness in the face of temptation, and always to succumb to temptation if it is addressed to it in an enticing form. Finney is near to this crude form of statement when he writes:385 “Sin may be the result of temptation; temptation may be universal, and of such a nature as uniformly, not necessarily, to result in sin, unless a contrary result be secured by a Divine moral suasion.” He is still near it when he writes:386 “Sin may be, and must be, an abuse of free-agency; and this may be accounted for, as we shall see, by ascribing it to the universality of temptation, and does not at all imply a sinful constitution.… Free, responsible will is an adequate cause in the presence of temptation, without the supposition of a sinful constitution, as has been demonstrated in the case of Adam and of angels.… It is said that no motive to sin could be a motive or a temptation, if there were not a sinful taste, relish, or appetite, inherent in the constitution, to which the temptation or motive is addressed.… To this I reply,—Suppose this objection be applied to the sin of Adam and of angels. Can we not account for Eve’s eating the forbidden fruit, without supposing that she had a craving for sin? “Finney has permitted it to slip from his mind as he wrote that the problem he has in hand is to offer an account not of individuals sinning, but of the universality of sin. Free agency plus temptation may account for the possibility of sin, and may lay a basis for an account of the actual occurrence of sinning in this or that case. It will not account for universal sinning. For that, nothing less than a universal bias to sin will supply an adequate account. That is the meaning of the statement which Finney quotes in order to repel, but so quotes as to empty it of its meaning. Probably no one of those whom Finney had in mind ever intended to say just that “no motive to sin could be a motive or a temptation, if there were not a sinful taste, relish, or appetite, inherent in the constitution, to which the temptation or motive is addressed.” What was intended to be said was, no doubt, that no motive to sin can be a temptation with universal—that is, invariable—effect, unless there is something in those tempted which constitutes a bias to sin. That is true; and one of the proofs that it is true is, that Finney, abandoning the simple formula of free-agency plus temptation, is himself compelled in the end to assume a bias to sin in order to account for the universality of sin. The child, he teaches—that little brute—must be supposed to have acquired habits of action which his moral sense, so soon as moral agency dawns in him, pronounces to be sinful, if we are to account for his universally succumbing to solicitations to what he now perceives to be sin. He has acquired a bias to what is objectively sinful, before he faces temptations to these very things, now by his newly obtained knowledge of right and wrong, become also subjectively sinful. That is Finney’s account of universal sin. It posits a bias to sin as distinct as that posited by the Augustinians. The difference is that the Augustinians posit a bias brought by every man into the world with him; Finney a bias created invariably for himself by every man in his first essays at living.

Finney’s repulsion of the Augustinian doctrine of original sin does not turn, then, on its attributing a bias to evil, to man, as at present constituted. He himself attributes total depravity to man from the first moment of his becoming a free agent, and that is the same as to say from the first moment of his becoming man. It turns in the first instance on the tracing by the Augustinians of the bias to evil back to Adam—despite his own recognition of an effect of Adam’s fall, through “physical depravity,” on humanity, increasing its liability to sin. And it turns secondly on the nature of the depravity attributed by the Augustinians to man. Finney will not hear of the predication of moral depravity to anything but “violations of moral law” and the “free volitions by which these violations are perpetuated.”387 “All sin,” he declares,388 “is actual, and … no other than actual transgression can justly be called sin.” He knows and will know nothing therefore of a sinful “nature,” or “constitution” as he likes to call it, embodying his argument in a word. It is his psychology which is at fault. The soul, to him, consists of its substance and its acts; there is nothing more, and there is room for nothing more—for such things, for example, as permanent, though separable, dispositions. “We deny,” he says,389 “that the human constitution is morally depraved … because it is impossible that sin should be a quality of the substance of soul or body. It is, and must be, a quality of choice or intention, and not of substance.” He will not allow that tertium datur. If sin, he declares,390 “be anything, it must be either substance or action.” He will allow no other than these two categories. His psychology compels him thus to reject any and every doctrine which appears to him to imply anything permanent in the soul, permanently affecting its actions, except the bare soul itself. He therefore constantly speaks as if the Augustinians thought of the sinfulness of the soul as a modification of the soul itself in its very substance, or else as the addition of another substance to the soul; as if, in a word, they were all Flacians. To him on the contrary, everything which is not the substance of the soul is one of its acts; and as he cannot attribute sinfulness to the soul itself, he therefore confines all sin to actual sinning. The tree is not good and its fruit good: we are to be content with the good fruits. The agent is lost in his acts, and the practical result is pure activism. The question comes to be, Is the man good or bad, or only his acts? Leonard Woods, in a passage characterized by great force and simplicity of language, at once points out and determines the exact issue. “Holiness or unholiness,” says he,391 “belongs primarily and essentially to man himself, as an intelligent, moral being, and to his actions secondarily and consequentially.… The connection between the character of the actions and the character of the agent is invariable. Take an unrenewed sinner.… It is necessary that he should be born again. He, the man, must be created anew; and if he is created anew, it will be unto good works: not that good works must be created, he himself remaining unchanged; but that he must be created anew, and then, as a matter of course, good works will be performed.… To say that regeneration consists in good moral exercises, that is, in loving God and obeying his commands, seems to me to be an abuse of language. It is as un-philosophical and strange, as to say, that the birth of a child consists in his breathing, or that the creation of the sun consists in his shining.”

The affiliations of Finney’s notion here are obviously with that Pelagianizing doctrine of concupiscence which infested the Middle Ages and was transmitted by them to the Roman Church. It differs from that doctrine at this point only in its completer Pelagianism. Like it, it conceives of man as persisting, under whatever curse it may allow the fall to have brought upon him, in puris naturalibus; and, in order to sustain this position, it denies moral character to all the movements of the human soul, deliberate volitions in view of moral inducements alone excepted. It was natural that the attention alike of Finney in sustaining and of his critics in assailing this contention was focused in the first instance on its bearing on those affectional movements—love, hate, malice, compassionateness—in the manifestations of which the man in the street is prone to see moral character especially exhibited. Having the courage of his convictions, Finney boldly proclaimed these affectional movements without any moral character whatever; and thus fell into a body of startling paradoxes which made him the easy mark of ridicule. John Woodbridge expounds his teaching in the following fashion:392 “Concupiscence is reduced to the blameless, though, when they become excessive, somewhat dangerous cravings of physical appetite. Supreme self-love is declared to be an essential characteristic of intelligent moral agency, against which there is no law; which is the spring of all virtue as well as of vice; and to which no more blame can be attached than to the pulsations of the heart, or the vibrations of a pendulum. Affections, as such, have no character; they are but the innocent susceptibilities of our nature, and their most violent workings are innocent, except so far as they are produced or modified by a previous deliberate act of will. In all other cases, they are passive emotions, like the involuntary impressions made upon the brain by the bodily senses. It follows, on this principle, that love to God and hatred of him, are equally indifferent things; and that they become praiseworthy or criminal, solely in consequense of their connection with some previous purpose of the mind.” What the moral man above everything has to do, is, recognizing the purely “constitutional” nature of his affectional movements, to abstract himself from them altogether, and to determine all his activities by voluntary choices made in view of the perception of the supreme intrinsic value of the good of being. To be governed in any action whatever by our constitutional affections, whatever they may be—whether what in the common estimation would be called wicked or what in that estimation would be called good, alike—is in view of the supreme obligation that rests upon us to direct our activities to the one end of the good of being, no longer merely unmoral but in the highest degree immoral. It is preferring self-gratification to that benevolence which is the sum of virtue. There is no more telling page in Charles Hodge’s very telling review of the first volume of Finney’s “Lectures on Systematic Theology,”393 than that in which he develops the consequences of this position. “The sin does not lie,” in Finney’s view, he reminds us,394 “in the nature of the feeling, but in the will’s being determined by any feeling.” “It matters not what kind of desire it is,” Finney declares, “if it is desire that governs the will, this is selfishness,” and therefore, “the choice of anything because it is desired is selfishness and sin.” “Mr. Finney is beautifully consistent in all this,” comments Hodge,395 “and in the consequences, which of necessity flow from his doctrine. He admits that if a man pays his debts from a sense of justice, or feeling of conscientiousness, he is therein and therefore just as wicked as if he stole a horse. Or if a man preaches the gospel from a desire to glorify God and benefit his fellow men, he is just as wicked for so doing as a pirate. We may safely challenge Hurtado de Mendoza, Sanchez, or Molina to beat that.” The illustrations which Hodge employs in this extract are not his, but Finney’s own,396 and they may help to indicate to us the thoroughness with which he cleansed our affectional movements from all moral character. Pure will plus external inducement—which may be in the way of temptation to evil, or may be in the way of incitement to good—that is all that comes into consideration in our moral judgments.

One of the gains which Finney felt himself to obtain from his denial of all “constitutional depravity,” was that there was nothing left in man after his “conversion” which could act as fomes peccati, and sways his volitions sin-ward. He was perfectly free to admit that we must begin by denying the sinfulness of “concupiscence,” if we are to end by affirming “entire sanctification.” “Those persons,” he says, “who maintain the sinfulness of the constitutional appetites, must of course deny that man can ever be entirely sanctified in this life.” From this point of view also, he is eager to show “not only that sanctification implies merely ‘present obedience,’ ‘right volitions now,’ and produces ‘no change of our nature so that we become good in ourselves,’ but that there is nothing ‘in us,’ antecedent to moral action, operating as the occasion of sinful exercises, which needs to be eradicated or changed in order to our being in a state of ‘entire sanctification’ ”; and “to refute the doctrine, that apart from present transgressions, ‘there might be that in a person which would lay the foundation for his sinning at a future time.’ ”397 If there is nothing in us from which we need to be saved except our “commitment to self-gratification as the end of our being,” and nothing to be in us to which we are to be saved except a like “commitment to the good of being as the end of our being,” it is easier to believe that the passage from the one to the other—being only a passage from one purpose to another—may be made absolutely at once; must be made, indeed, if made at all, absolutely at once. It is according to Finney, thus, only our purpose which “needs to be radically changed.” What we call a “wicked heart” is only a purpose; what we call a “good heart” is only a purpose; and therefore Joseph I. Foot calls this theology “the heartless theology”—the theology, that is, which goes no deeper in its conception of salvation than a simple change of purpose, which conceives that all that happens to a man when he is saved, absolutely all that happens to him, is a change of purpose. A change of purpose is, naturally, an act of our own, and Finney therefore not only identifies regeneration and conversion, but polemicizes against all attempts to erect a distinction between them.398 We regenerate ourselves: only the man himself can “change his choice,” and if he will not do it, “it is impossible that it should be changed”—“neither God, nor any other being, can regenerate him, if he will not turn.”399 It is we ourselves then who make ourselves holy, and that at a stroke. For regeneration “implies an entire present change of moral character, that is, a change from entire sinfulness to entire holiness.”400—a “present entire obedience to God.”401 After this it is only a question of maintenance—of the maintenance of that “radical change of ultimate intention,” that change from a selfish ultimate choice to benevolent ultimate choice, which we may call indifferently repentance,402 or faith,403 or conversion, or regeneration, or sanctification.

It is quite clear that what Finney gives us is less a theology than a system of morals. God might be eliminated from it entirely without essentially changing its character. All virtue, all holiness, is made to consist in an ethical determination of will. “What is virtue?” he asks, and answers: “It consists in consecration to the right end; to the end to which God is consecrated.”404 And “all holiness,” he defines,405 consists in “the right exercise of our own will or agency.” The supreme ultimate end to which in the right exercise of our will we must direct ourselves, if we would be virtuous or holy—these things are one—is the good of being. God is of course included in this being, but only as part of the whole—Being—to which our benevolent purpose is directed. And He is just as much subject to this universal ethical law as we are. He too must make the good of being His supreme ultimate end, on pain of becoming, as we would in like circumstances become, instead of as holy as He can be, as wicked as He can be. We are all, He and we, members of one ethical body, governed by one ethical law, and pursuing a common ethical course. But since the same law governs God and us, it is clear that we are dealing with pure ethics, not religion. God has no religion. And since this ethical law sets the good of being, interpreted as happiness, as distinguished from our own happiness, described as self-gratification, or selfishness, as the supreme ultimate end, the choosing of which includes all virtue—God cannot be held to be the sole or even the chief object included under the term, “Being,” the good of which is our supreme ultimate end. For God at least to choose His own good—or happiness—solely or chiefly as His supreme ultimate end—would not that be that selfishness which is declared to constitute us as wicked as we can be, instead of as holy as we can be? Finney constantly employs the double phrase, “God and the universe” as the synonym of Being in this reference; and we may think it possible that he wished the two elements in the composite idea to be distributed differently in our case and in God’s—that in our case it should be God along with the universe, in God’s, the universe along of course with Himself—as even we include ourselves in the Being whose good we seek. But can we even imagine God taking this subordinate place in His own eyes, attributing “greater intrinsic value”—which Finney says is the reason why we are to seek the happiness of the universe above our own—to the universe than to His own all glorious Being? Must not His own glory be to Him also, as it must be to us, His supreme ultimate end? We said that God might be eliminated entirely from Finney’s ethical theory without injury to it: are we not prepared now to say that He might be eliminated from it with some advantage to it.406

“True religion,” says Finney, in one of his numerous brief summaries of his general views,407 “consists in benevolence, or in heart obedience to God.” This identification of “benevolence” and “obedience” does not appear obvious to the uninstructed mind and requires some explication. Finney discovers the intermediating idea in the following consideration. “It,” that is, religion, “consists essentially in the will’s being yielded to the will of God”—that is, no doubt, in “obedience.” But he continues epexegetically: “in embracing the same end that he embraces”—and this adoption of His end as our end (how that sounds like Albrecht Ritschl!) may possibly be considered “benevolence.” We read on: “and yielding implicit obedience to him in all our lives, or in our efforts to secure that end.” “This,” he now adds, “constitutes the essence of all true religion.” In that case the essence of religion is obedience; and it can be benevolence only as obedience may be construed as rendered, not because it is due, but out of good will; as if we obeyed God, not because He is God, whom to obey is our primary obligation, but because we are good and glad to subject ourselves to another for His pleasing. Religion being obedience, it is distinctly a matter of will, and also of conduct, the product of will. Voluntary subjection is its form, although the form of this subjection is described as the adoption of the Divine end as our own and the prosecution of it (always under the Divine prescription) with all our might. The adoption of the end of God as our end, and obedience to the will of God, are not quite the same conception: they are assimilated to one another by the requirement that we shall prosecute this end when adopted in implicit obedience to the Divine prescription. Clearly this is a religion of law, and the heart of it is obedience: and these are ethical conceptions. Having thus made religion to consist “essentially in yielding the will to God in implicit obedience”—that is, an affair of will—Finney now represents the emotional life of the religious man as, not a part, but merely a consequence of his religion. “The feelings or affections, or the involuntary emotions, are rather a consequence, than strictly a part of true religion.” Faith itself can be thought of as “an essential element of true religion,” only because it is “not an involuntary, but a voluntary state of mind”; that is, an act of will. Religion is thus conceived as through and through an affair of the will. “It should never be forgotten,” we read,408 “that all true religion consists in voluntary states of mind, and that the true and only way to attain to true religion, is to look at and understand the exact thing to be done, and then to put forth at once the voluntary exercise required.”409

In the preface of his “Lectures on Systematic Theology,” Finney declares410 that the subject of the book is “Mind in its relations to Moral Law,” and that what he has said on “Moral Law,” and on the “Foundation of Moral Obligation” is the key to the whole. This remark seems to have a narrower reference as it appears in the first edition of the “Lectures,” but clearly it refers to the whole treatise as it is repeated in the second. It may be taken as revealing Finney’s own consciousness of the essentially ethical character of his treatise. It is a system of teleological ethics which he presents to us; or, to be more precise, we may perhaps say in modern phraseology, that it is a system of hedonistic as distinguished from eudaemonistic ethics, that is to say a system in which “happiness” rather than “welfare”—although of course the two ideas readily run into one another—is the ethical end, the ultimate object to be achieved by action and conduct, the standard and final criterion of what ought to be—by their tendency to achieve which therefore the ethical character of actions is to be estimated. Of course it is not “individualistic” hedonism which Finney teaches, not even merely “altruistic,” to continue to use the phraseology of the modern schools, but “universalistic.” The doctrine which he inculcates is that moral conduct consists in actions directed towards the happiness of all sentient being; from which it follows, to put it briefly, that happiness is the chief good and benevolence the comprehensive virtue, and actions are good or bad according as they do or do not manifest the one and promote the other.411 If we ask what has become of the “right,” in the sense of the morally excellent, conceived as good per se, it can only be said that it has dropped out of sight altogether. The “good” has become the “happiness”—or the “welfare”—of the whole body of sentient beings; and the “right” that which tends to this. We cannot define “happiness”—or “welfare”—so as to include the idea of the “right,” except at the cost of self-contradiction. If there is any such thing as the “right” per se, then the right is not what tends to an end, conceived as the supreme good, but just the end itself: we cannot say that the right is what tends to the right. Thus all obligation is reduced strictly to the single obligation to choose the good of being as our supreme ultimate end. The ground of obligation is accordingly declared to be that in this ultimate end which makes it incumbent on us to choose it, namely its intrinsic value to being. “The ground of obligation,” says Finney,412 “is that reason, or consideration, intrinsic in, or belonging to, the nature of an object, which necessitates the rational affirmation, that it ought to be chosen for its own sake.” There is some appearance of logomachy in this reasoning. We choose the good of being as our ultimate end: the ground of our choice of it is that it is worth choosing; that in it which makes it worth choosing is the ground of our obligation to choose it. We do not seem to be told how we know that the good of being, in the sense of its happiness, is the supremely valuable thing in the universe. That is “a first truth of reason.” Finney’s polemic against what he calls barbarously, “rightarianism”413 is very sharp. He takes us back to the primary sense of the word “right” and seeks to reduce even the connotation of the word itself to the “fit, suitable, agreeable to the nature and relations of moral agents.” This representation, however, is only partially correct, although there is of course a sense in which right and wrong express what is straight and what is crooked. “Right” has the form of a past participle, and it is not overpressing its suggestion to say that it expresses not so much the straight as the straightened: behind it lies the idea of rule, regulation, government: it is cognate not only with regular but regal—in short it expresses “conformed to rule,” with a subaudition of authority. The atmosphere out of which it comes is that of theism, not of naturalism; and the righteous man is accordingly not the man whose conduct is suitable to his nature but the man whose conduct is in accordance with law. The ethics of right is accordingly justly spoken of as “authoritative morality,” the ethics which imposes itself as obligatory per se, and not merely on the ground of expediency calculated from its tendency to an end presumed to be a good, supposedly the supreme good. The right is not a means to something else conceived of as the supreme good, but is itself the supreme good imposed on us as our duty by an adequate authority.

This seems to Finney fundamentally wrong, and he endeavors to reduce it to absurdity. “If the rightarian be the true theory,” he reasons,414 “then disinterested benevolence is sin. According to this scheme, the right, and not the good of being is the end to, and for which, God and all moral agents ought to live. According to this theory, disinterested benevolence can never be duty, can never be right, but always and necessarily wrong.… If moral agents ought to will the right for the sake of the right, or will good, not for the sake of the good, but for the sake of the relation of rightness existing between the choice and the good, then to will the good for its own sake is sin. It is not willing the right end. It is willing the good and not the right as an ultimate end. These are opposing theories. Both cannot be true. Which is the right to will, the good for its own sake, or the right? Let universal reason answer.” Undoubtedly these are opposing theories; and universal conscience might well be left to decide whether we should will the good because it is right to do so, or will the right because it tends to a good result. And in this lies the answer to the over-strained logic which Finney is plying. That we are to do the right because it is right, and not because of any tendency we perceive in it to advance the good of the universe, by no means makes the practice of “disinterested benevolence” a sin. It may be right to will the good for its own sake. But, you cry out, you cannot will the good because it is right and for its own sake at the same time. Why not, if it is right to will the good for its own sake? The universal ground of moral obligation is that we must do right. The particular ground of this special obligation lies in the value of the object chosen. The value of the object chosen—but, mind you, its moral value—indicates the rightness of its choice. The category of the right is not an empty category, it has content: the notion is not a purely formal one, it is concrete. One of the things which is right is benevolence. When we choose benevolence as a rule of life we do right; and it is a very twisted logic which declares that he who chooses benevolence as a rule of life must do wrong—because he ought to choose right as his rule of life. He ought. That is the very reason why he ought to choose benevolence as his rule of life. It is right.

Finney having endeavored to reduce “Rightarianism” to absurdity Charles Hodge is doubtless justified in retorting with a happier attempt on his part to reduce Finney’s teleological ethics to absurdity.415 He says it belongs to the same mintage with Jesuit “intentionalism”—“the means are justified by the end”—and recommends Pascal’s “Provincial Letters” as a good book to be read at Oberlin. When stated in an abstract form the observation made by Hodge is so immediately obvious, as not to require argument for its justification. It is the very essence of a system of teleological ethics that the means acquire all the moral quality which they possess from their relation as means to their end. It was the taunt that this involved, as truly as Jesuit “intentionalism,” the contention that it is right to do evil that good may come, which stung Finney to his unavailing answer.416 The point of the comparison lies in the principle common to both Jesuit “intentionalism” and Finney’s teleological ethics that “whatever proceeds from right intention is right.” From this the Jesuits proceeded to infer that it is therefore right to do evil that good may come. Can Finney escape the same inference? Everybody, of course, understands that a right intention is necessary to the rightness of any action. The point raised is whether that is all that is necessary. Is it true that if your intention is right, your action is right? This is the Jesuit doctrine: the rightness of the intention makes the action right. It is Finney’s doctrine also. Does he not teach that all that makes any conduct right is the end to which it is directed? What Hodge wishes to carry home to the mind is that this is really a vicious principle: everywhere and in all applications vicious. While the rightness of the intention is essential to the rightness of the action, it does not of itself make the action right. The “matter” of the action, as the Schoolmen express it, must be right, too. The act must be right for “the matter” of it, as well as in the intention of it. Intrinsically good ends must be sought by intrinsically good means: neither does the good end make an evil means good, nor does a good means make the evil end good. Francis of Assisi had a good end in view when he gave alms: he wished to relieve distress. When he stole the money from his master’s till to give the alms, he used bad means for his good end. The goodness of the end does not sanctify the means. The goodness of the end, in point of fact, never transmits its goodness to the means used to attain it: And this destroys at once all schemes of teleological ethics.

In reply to Hodge, Finney says a great deal which is wholly ineffective because not to the point. The one thing which he says to the point is that in his system the choice of the end includes in it the choice of the means. There is but one system of means which is adapted to achieve the good of being. This system of means and its appropriate end are bound together in an indissoluble unity. To choose the end is at the same time, and by the same act, to choose this system of means. We cannot do anything we will and call that a means to that end. We must do just the things which are the real means to that end, in order to secure it. The rightness of these means is given to them by their inherent relation as means to this supreme ultimate end, to which they are related as its only means. It is their inherent relation to the end with which they form one system which makes them right; and the only definition that can be given of them is that they are the fit means to the supreme ultimate end, chosen for its own sake and organically related as the supreme good to the fit means for securing it. The effect of this representation is to shift the whole matter from the subjective to the objective sphere. It amounts to saying that he acts rightly who does the things which in point of fact tend to the supreme good, not he whose actions are governed by the intention of subserving the good of God and the universe. And in thus shifting the matter from the subjective to the objective sphere, the whole character of the scheme is altered. It is no longer the supreme ultimate intention which gives its moral quality to all subordinate choices and executive volitions—which is the very essence of Finney’s morals—but the intrinsically good end which cannot be secured except by the intrinsically good means in organic union with it. The good end is no longer conceived as making the means chosen to secure it good; it is conceived as related to a system of means which are themselves good and which form with the end a good system. Finney is obviously floundering here. In his system things—whether means or other things—are not good in themselves: they receive their goodness for their relation—as means or otherwise—to the supreme ultimate end, which is defined as the good of being. He cannot subintroduce here an attribution of intrinsic goodness to them: what makes these means good is in his system solely their relation as means to the supreme ultimate end. He can, no doubt objectify the whole system of ends and means, and bid us conceive them—the end as the final term and all the means leading to it—as an objective entity which as a whole is good; a whole made up of its constituent parts all of which are good, standing off in a sort of conceptual reality to our contemplation. And he can then say, See, there is the end; and see, here are the means leading up to it—appropriate means, good as the end itself is good; and see, he that chooses the end must choose with it the whole concatenated system of means and ends; they cannot be separated; they form one whole. But, doing so, he is merely objectifying for the sake of visualizing it, a system which is really subjective: no such objective system exists, in his view, in fact. He deceives himself, if he imagines that he thus gives the means in his system any actually independent goodness, and can properly speak of them as “good as the end itself is good.” They seem thus good only as they stand in this objectified system, which is a purely mental construction. Out of this objectified system they have no goodness: they acquire goodness only by being brought into, and as they are brought into each man’s actual subjective system. It remains true that any means, any whatever, which are brought into a system of means looking towards the indicated end, is in Finney’s view made good by its relation as means to this end. That is intrinsic to any system of teleological ethics. And that is “intentionalism.” What he teaches is, not that our good intention cannot be secured unless we employ good means, but that our good intention makes the means requisite for securing it good.

As the end of his long life drew near, Finney published a tract—called the “Psychology of Righteousness”—in which he repeats in popular language the teaching of his lifetime, thus certifying us that it remains his teaching to the very end. Here he propounds afresh his fundamental ethical theory and erects on its basis anew his Pelagian doctrine of salvation. Righteousness here too is discovered only in our ultimate choice, from which all the righteousness of subordinate choices, volitions, actions derives. And our ultimate choice is righteous only when it is the choice of the good of universal being. “The moral quality, then, of unselfish benevolence is righteousness or moral rightness.” “This ultimate, immanent, supreme preference is the holy heart of a moral agent. Out of it proceeds, directly or indirectly, the whole moral or spiritual life of the individual.” A sinner is ex vi verbi a selfish moral agent: how can he attain to the righteousness which consists in his contradictory, in universal benevolence? Why, of course, by a change in his ultimate choice. “The first righteous act possible to an unregenerate sinner is to change his heart, or the supreme ultimate preference of his soul.” If this is the first act, it is also the last—for it is the whole thing. The only thing that has moral character is the ultimate choice, and, the ultimate choice having become benevolence, the sinner has wholly ceased to be a sinner, and become altogether righteous. This great change is effected by the sinner “taking such a view of the character and claims of God as to induce him to renounce his self-seeking spirit and come into sympathy with God.” You see, nothing but better knowledge is required; better knowledge leads to a better life. The ministrations of the Holy Ghost are, to be sure, not excluded; but the whole work of the Spirit is reduced to the mode of illumination. All that the Spirit does is to give the sinner a better view of the claims of God. “A sinner attains, then, to righteousness only through the teachings and inspirations of the Holy Spirit.” “It is by the truths of the gospel that the Holy Spirit induces this change in sinful man.” “This revelation of divine love, when powerfully set home by the Holy Spirit, is an effectual calling.” The effect of the change thus brought about is that the sinner ceases to be a sinner, and becomes, at once on the change taking place, perfect. “A truly regenerated soul cannot live a sinful life.” “The new heart does not, cannot sin. This John in his first epistle expressly affirms. A benevolent, supreme ultimate choice cannot produce selfish subordinate choices or volitions.” A perfectionism is asserted here of every true Christian, from the inception of his Christianity; a perfectionism resting absolutely on the sinner’s own ultimate choice.

But now we are told, to our astonishment, that this perfect Christian may backslide. How he manages it remains unexplained, if “the new heart does not, cannot sin,” as John is said to teach—if the benevolent supreme ultimate choice which he has made cannot produce selfish subordinate choices or volitions. Finney, however, asserts it and argues it. If the change wrought in the sinner, he says, “were a physical one, or a change of the very nature of the sinner,” this backsliding would indeed be impossible. But as nothing has happened to the sinner himself—as he has only been induced by better knowledge, to change his ultimate supreme purpose—there is no reason why he may not change it back again. This is of course making himself again a new heart—this time a bad one, as Adam and Eve did. Indeed, a man may “change his heart back and forth.” Otherwise “a sinner could not be required to make to himself a new heart, nor could a Christian sin after regeneration.” When a man has backslidden, there is nothing for him but to begin afresh and do his first work over again. In point of fact he has not “backslidden” but apostatized. And now to make the appearance of contradiction complete, we are told that “righteousness is sustained in the human soul by the indwelling of Christ through faith and in no other way”; and “purposes or resolutions” are spoken of which are not “self-originated”; but are due to the Spirit of Christ. Fortunately this antinomy, left unresolved in this brief popular tract, is abundantly resolved in Finney’s earlier and more extended writings. In these writings all that is good in the whole sphere of Christian activity is ascribed without reserve both to the indwelling Christ and to the human agent; and the antinomy is resolved by the explanation that the action of the Spirit of Christ is purely suasive and the whole execution is the work of man himself in his active powers.

Take the following passages together. “It”—that is the doctrine of entire sanctification—“ascribes the whole of salvation and sanctification from first to last, not only till the soul is sanctified, but at every moment while it remains in that state, to the indwelling Spirit, and influence, and grace of Christ. A state of entire sanctification can never be attained … by any works of law, or works of any kind, performed in your own strength, irrespective of the grace of God. By this I do not mean, that, were you disposed to exert your natural powers aright, you could not at once obey the law in the exercise of your natural strength, and continue to do so. But I do mean, that as you are wholly indisposed to use your natural powers aright, without the grace of God, no efforts that you will actually make in your own strength, or independent of his grace, will ever result in your entire sanctification.417 “By the assertion, that the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit of Christ, is received by faith, to reign in the heart, it is intended, that he is actually trusted in, or submitted to by faith, and his influence suffered to control us. He does not guide and control us, by irresistible power or force, but faith confides the guidance of our souls to him. Faith receives and confides in him, and consents to be governed and directed by him. As his influence is moral, and not physical, it is plain that he can influence us no farther … than we trust or confide in him.”418 “The Holy Spirit controls, directs, and sanctifies the soul, not by a physical influence, nor by impulses nor by impressions made on the sensibility, but by enlightening and convincing the intellect, and thus quickening the conscience.”419 Everything that the Spirit does for us is thus reduced to enlightenment; everything we receive from Him to knowledge. We are exhorted, it is true, to renounce our own strength and rely on, draw on, live by the strength of Christ. But the term “strength” here is only a figure of speech. When an attempt is made to explain what precisely is meant by such exhortations,420 what we are told is that in the first place they are not meant “in the antinomian, do-nothing, sit-still sense” of the words. It is not to “sit down and do nothing,” leaving it to Christ to do it for us. This is, so far so good. But it is not so well said when we hear next, that what we are to do is to lean “upon Christ, as a helpless man would lean upon the arm or shoulder of a strong man, to be borne about in some benevolent enterprise.” A kind of coöperation is depicted here which makes Christ merely our helper. The intention is to exploit our “natural ability,” and accordingly we read soon: “This renunciation of his own strength is not a denial of his natural ability.… It is a complete recognition of his ability, were he disposed to do all that God requires of him.” “Strength” then is distinctly the wrong word to use in this connection. We do not need Christ’s strength: we have enough of our own. We need from Christ only an adequate inducement to use our own strength aright. The soul has “been too long the slave of lust ever to assert or to maintain its spiritual supremacy, as the master, instead of the slave of appetite”; and we need help in asserting ourselves. The idea of strength here intrudes again and we read that “the will or heart is so weak in the presence of temptation, that there is no hope of its maintaining its integrity, unsupported by strength from Christ,” and it must therefore renounce its dependence on its own strength and cast itself on Christ. We cannot forget, however, that Christ acts on the “will or heart” only by instruction. And even here the conception continues to be only that of the use of Christ to supplement defects. The illustration employed is that of a lame man with his crutches. Christ is the believer’s crutches; and we are exhorted to make these crutches, that is Christ, so much ours that we use them instinctively and can no more forget them when we essay to walk than we can forget our own feet. This is what it is to walk in Christ.

More illuminating still is a passage421 in which Finney is attempting to discriminate his view of “the means and conditions of sanctification” from that of the “New Divinity”—from which he felt himself to have come out, or to have been thrust out. The New Divinity, he notes, like himself, rejects “the doctrine of constitutional moral depravity”—that is, of “original sin”—and consequently the doctrine of “physical regeneration and sanctification”—that is of “making the tree good” rather than the fruit only. But, having rejected these doctrines, its adherents, says he, have unfortunately lost sight of Christ as our sancification also. They accordingly “have fallen into a self-righteous view of sanctification, and have held that sanctification is effected by works, or by forming holy habits.” Over against this very reprehensible drift of doctrine—a drift, let us say frankly, very natural in the adherents of the New Divinity—Finney wishes to reassert our dependence on Christ for sanctification. The precise thing he asserts is that sanctification is by faith as opposed to works. And then he explains: “That is, faith receives Christ in all his offices, and in all the fulness of his relations to the soul; and Christ, when received, works in the soul to will and to do of all his good pleasure, not by a physical, but by a moral or persuasive working.” He cannot assert that Christ works in the soul without adding this limitation! It is in point of fact the key to his entire teaching. It too is the assertion that since Christ’s only working in the soul is suasive in character, the sanctification of the soul is effected by itself. So that the only conceivable distinction between the rejected view of the New Divinity and Finney’s own must be thought to lie in the answer to the question whether the works, done in both views alike by the soul itself and only by the soul itself, are done under persuasion from Christ or not. “Observe,” says Finney now: “he influences the will.” That is all that Christ does: He influences the will. “This,” Finney continues, “must be by a moral influence, if its”—that is the will’s—“actings are intelligent and free, as they must be to be holy.” “That is, if he influences the will to obey God, it must be by a divine moral suasion.”

Is there, really, anything, then, which distinguishes this view of the relation of sanctification in Christ from that ascribed to the New Divinity? Nothing. For the New Divinity did not at all deny that the soul was influenced in its sanctifying walk by the persuasions of the Holy Spirit. That was rather one of its contentions, the only rag of Christian doctrine it had left at this point to cover its nakedness. With all Finney’s devout references to the indwelling Christ, dependence on the strength of Christ, and the like, he means nothing more. The only even apparent distinction between the two views lies in Finney’s calling his view a sanctification “by faith,” and setting it over against the other as a sanctification “by effort.” And as he expounds his view, that is a distinction without a difference. He now goes on to say, however, after his chosen fashion of speech, that the soul, never in any instance obeys God “in a spiritual and true sense,” “except it be thus influenced by the indwelling Spirit of Christ.” And he hints that when we receive Christ in any relation, He is full and perfect in that relation—so that, we suppose, if we receive Him for sanctification, we are perfectly sanctified. This, however, is thrown in incidentally. The main thing in this exhortation is the staring Pelagianism of the whole construction. We believe in Christ for our sanctification; He then acts persuasively in our souls for sanctification; under this persuasion we act holily; that is our sanctification. It is all a sanctification of acts. We are not ourselves cleansed; but then there is no need of cleansing us, since we were never ourselves unclean. We were only a bundle of constitutional appetites, passions, and propensities, innocent in themselves, which we have been misusing through a bad will. What needs correcting is only this bad will into a good one. And the appropriate, the only, instrument for the correction of our willing is persuasion. Moved by this persuasion we “make ourselves a good heart”—we “change our mind,” as the phrase goes—and that is the whole of it. It is to this that Finney reduces Christianity. And as this ready making for ourselves a new heart, makes us a perfectly holy heart, it is with this ease and despatch that according to Finney’s form of perfectionism we become perfect. That is in brief the final form which Oberlin Perfectionism took.

The preaching of perfectionism with such energy and persistency by men of such intellectual force and pulpit power as Mahan and Finney and their coadjutors, of course had its effect. Oberlin naturally—college and community—became a perfectionist center. The majority of the students, perhaps also the majority of the inhabitants, were more or less deeply moved by the propaganda: many definitely adopted the new teaching and endeavored both to live it themselves and to communicate it to others. The surrounding country, especially that most closely affiliated with Oberlin in its general type of thinking—the Western Reserve of Ohio, and to the east, Western and Central New York, to the west Michigan and the North Western country—became so far infected that scattered groups of “Oberlin Perfectionists” appeared here and there through it.422 The aggressions of the Oberlin propaganda, the threat of a wider extension of its teachings, the nature of the doctrine itself, naturally called out intense opposition. The whole region affected became the scene of violent controversy. The local periodical press of course reflected the state of feeling of the several communities. And soon the ecclesiastical courts were drawn into the debate. Presbyterian Presbyteries and Congregational Associations vied with one another in reasoned condemnations of the new doctrine. One of the remarkable circumstances connected with these official condemnations was, that as they came largely from the region of Finney’s, and to a less extent of Mahan’s, early ministry and revivalistic triumphs, or from regions bound closely to it by ties of common blood and feeling, they were often penned by men who had been associated with them or had at least strongly sympathized with them, in their work hitherto. They were being wounded, they complained, in the house of their friends. S. C. Aiken, who had been a pastor at Utica during Finney’s great revival there and one of his chief supporters during the whole course of his revival campaigns in Central New York, was a signatory along with its actual author, S. B. Canfield, of the able refutation of Oberlin Perfectionism put out by the Presbytery of Cleveland in 1841. N. S. S. Beman, with whose collaboration Finney’s remarkable revival at Troy had been carried on, was the actual author of the uncompromising refutation put out in the same year by the Presbytery of Troy. George Duffield prepared the “Warning against Error,” meaning Finney’s system of teaching, which was sent forth by the Presbytery of Detroit in 1847, with the approval of the Synod of Michigan; and perhaps we may add here, although it was a private publication, that Lyman Beecher printed about 1844 a letter against perfectionism, which was thought important enough for John Morgan to answer it in The Oberlin Quarterly Review.423 In the fateful year of 1841, the Presbyteries of Huron and Grand River in the Western Reserve, and of Richland near by, also passed condemnatory actions: and decided action in the same sense was taken soon afterward by the New York Presbyteries of Chenango, Cortland, Onondaga, Rochester. Further afield the Presbytery of Newark had been led to early action, and soon the Presbytery of North River; and it was not long before the Synods of New York and New Jersey424 and of Genesee were compelled by appeals to act in the same sense. Similar action was taken by the General Association of Connecticut in 1841, by the General Association of New York in 1844, by the Genesee Association in 1844, by the Fox River Congregational Union of Illinois in 1845. The Cleveland Convention in 1844, and the Michigan City Convention of 1846 were organized on an anti-Oberlin basis; and in 1848 the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions discharged two missionaries in Siam for holding the Oberlin doctrines. Oberlin very naturally felt itself persecuted, and its historian designates the conflict into which it was drawn as its “baptism of fire.”425

Meanwhile, at Oberlin itself the doctrine was making a history which began with enthusiastic acceptance, and passed forward rapidly into indifference and decay. The originators of the doctrine never lost their hold upon it or their zeal for it. Finney was still teaching it up to the end of his long life (died 1875), the whole of which was spent at Oberlin. Mahan, whose connection with Oberlin was severed in 1850, after an unfortunate venture at Cleveland (1850–1854) and a more successful one at Adrian, Michigan (1855–1871), had yet fifteen years or so to spend in England in active propaganda for his favorite doctrine (died 1889). But the vogue of the doctrine at Oberlin was not very long-lived. James H. Fairchild gives us a very illuminating sketch of its fortunes there.426 “The visible impulse of the movement,” he says, “to a great extent expended itself within the first few years.” Men sought and found with decreasing frequency the special experiences—“the blessing,” “the second conversion”—which were connected with it as first preached. Those who went out to preach “under the influence of this fresh experience” came ultimately to permit it to drop into the background. “So far as I am informed,” says Fairchild, “not one among them all continued for any length of time to be recognized as a preacher of these special views.” They did not repudiate their former views; but they found that “they could preach the truth as it is in Jesus more effectively than by giving to their doctrine the odor of Christian perfection, or the higher life.” Whatever their motive was, they ceased to be propagandists of perfectionism. A similar decay of interest in the doctrine was working itself out at Oberlin itself. Confidence “in the style of Christian culture, involving a special experience, which the movement introduced” grew progressively less clear and firm. This special experience—the “blessing”—was not found to be always associated with an advance in Christian attainment and character. On the contrary, it was observed that those who obtained it were apt to be among the less balanced characters of the community. Others who had not sought or found the experiences were not obviously less earnest and effective in Christian work than those who had enjoyed them. Thus the peculiar ideas and experiences connected with the “entire sanctification” movement gradually lost their appeal. Fairchild does not mention them, but there were also scandals to accentuate the decreasing sense of the value of the doctrine. The most shocking of them was probably the lamentable fall from virtue in 1842 of H. C. Taylor, “who had held prominent stations in both church and business affairs, had been a leader in ‘moral reform (social purity),’ and had also been numbered among the ‘sanctified.’ ”427

A tendency has developed itself among recent Oberlin writers, as for example, D. L. Leonard,428 to represent the whole history of Oberlin Perfectionism as only a temporary aberration which befell the institution in its early days. Leonard speaks of “the perfection episode,” and is happy to say it is altogether a matter of the past. Oberlin has heard nothing of it for years and years—for a generation, he says, writing in 1898. He even goes so far as to suggest that perfectionism was never anything more than a “foible” at Oberlin; a “foible” like its early tendency to Grahamism, and its manual laborism and its temporary misprision of the classics. It may be condoned in those early leaders as their other foibles were condoned; it was a product of the earnestness of their purpose and of the strong determination of their high characters to holy living. Experience has shown, however, that it was a delusion. There were those who received “the blessing” and could not keep it; lapsing speedily into their old “earthy” conditions. There were those who had it, and did not seem to have profited anything by it. It was not “the best, the truest-hearted, the most reliable and useful disciples” who had it; they might on the contrary be “the weak-minded, the shallow, the merely sentimental.” This has been the experience at Oberlin, according to Leonard. Leonard writes confessedly under the influence of Fairchild, and can scarcely be taken as bearing independent witness to anything beyond the attitude toward its early perfectionism which modern Oberlin takes. Changes have befallen Oberlin. The modern Oberlin is not the old Oberlin, and it is not merely the perfectionism of the past that has faded away.

But if, as we are told, its early perfectionism has left no trace of itself at Oberlin, that cannot be said of it elsewhere. There are great religious movements still in existence in which its influence still makes itself felt. Finney’s doctrine of “the simplicity of moral action” continued to be enthusiastically taught even by his successor in the Presidency, J. H. Fairchild, although Fairchild found a way—not a very convincing way—to separate it from the “perfectionism” with which it was inseparably bound up by Finney. Mahan’s lifelong propaganda of the earlier form of Oberlin Perfectionism was not barren of fruit. The “Higher Life Movement” which swept over the English-speaking world—and across the narrow seas into the Continent of Europe—in the third quarter of the nineteenth century, was not without traits which derived from Oberlin. And Mahan lived to stand by the side of Pearsall Smith at the great Oxford Convention of 1874, and to become with him a factor in the inauguration of the great “Keswick Movement,” which has brought down much of the spirit and many of the forms of teaching of Oberlin Perfectionism to our own day. If Oberlin Perfectionism is dead, it has found its grave not in the abyss of non-existence, but in the Higher Life Movement, the Keswick Movement, the Victorious Life Movement, and other kindred forms of perfectionist teaching. They are its abiding monuments. Perhaps as the old Egyptian monarchs, in taking over the structures of their predecessors, endeavored to obliterate the signatures of those from whom they had inherited them, these later movements would be glad to have us forget the sources out of which they have sprung. But as the names of the earlier Egyptian kings may still be read even in their defaced cartouches, so the name of Oberlin may still be read stamped on movements which do not acknowledge its parentage, but which have not been able to escape altogether from its impress.429[5]


John Humphrey Noyes and His “Bible Communists”1

I. The Environment

Few things are more noticeable, among the advocates of perfectionism from the opening of the second third of the nineteenth century, than their extreme reluctance to accept the name of “Perfectionists.” Many things may no doubt have coöperated to produce this attitude. Its main occasion lay, however, in the association of the name with a particular body of perfectionists, then claiming the attention of the public, with which other perfectionists were very loath to be confused. How anxious they were not to be confused with this body may be measured by the vigor of the language in which, themselves perfectionists, they repudiate all connection with “Perfectionists.” Asa Mahan, for example, writing at the beginning of this period,2 intemperately declares that the doctrine he teaches “has absolutely nothing in common” with “Perfectionism,” “but a few terms derived from the Bible.” In order to distinguish his doctrine from “Perfectionism,” however, he requires to describe the rejected doctrine as “Perfectionism technically so called,” a mode of speech which already suggests that perfectionism, plainly understood, is—as it really is—common ground between the two. Possibly to atone for this necessary confession of general kinship, he sweepingly declares that “Perfectionism, technically so called,” is, in his judgment, “in the native and necessary tendencies of its principles, worse than the worst form of infidelity.” To William E. Boardman, writing twenty years later,3 the danger of confusion with this “Perfectionism” seems less imminent, and he is therefore able to speak of it with less passion. He is not the less determined, however, to separate himself decisively from it. This, it must be confessed, he does not accomplish, in every respect, without some apparent difficulty—describing its fundamental mystical doctrine of the indwelling Christ in terms which would not serve badly to describe the doctrine to which he himself ultimately came. It is, in point of fact, not the perfectionism of the rejected “Perfectionism” which offends him, any more than Mahan, but its antinomianism. And his real concern is to protest that not all perfectionism—not his own variety, for example—is chargeable with the antinomianism which men had been led to associate with the name through experience with the body of religionists who had arrogated to themselves, and had had accorded to them by common usage, the specific name of “Perfectionists.” How firmly this special body of perfectionists had attached the general descriptive name of “Perfectionists” to themselves as their particular designation (just as other bodies of religionists have laid claim to the names of “Christians,” “Disciples,” and the like as their specific names), is illustrated by the survival of this special use of the term, and that in an even narrower application, alongside of its more general employment, in the definition of the word “Perfectionist” (not usually of “Perfectionism”)4 in our current English dictionaries, as well as in our Religious Encyclopædias. A very good example is supplied by John Henry Blunt’s “Dictionary of Sects, Heresies, Ecclesiastical Parties and Schools of Religious Thought” (1874). Under the head of “Perfectionists,” he describes only “a licentious American sect of Antinomian Communists.”5 All other perfectionists he classes under the head of “Perfectibilists,” a distinction in designation to which he did not succeed in giving currency.6

The particular sect to which thus the name of “Perfectionists” is reserved by Blunt is no more perfectionist than other perfectionist parties; nor did it arise under influences specifically different from those to which the perfectionist parties which have most sharply repudiated relationship with it owed their own origin, nor can it be represented as without some common interests with them. It differs from them, however, not merely in drawing off to itself and forming a separate sect instead of contenting itself with acting as leaven within existing churches; but also in the particular doctrinal system which it developed for itself, and which it utilized for the support and exposition not only of its perfectionism, but also of certain radical social theories, which, having the courage of its convictions, it presently put into practice up to a very bitter end. In this perfectionist sect, we have therefore the opportunity to observe a perfectionism working itself out in life under leadership strong enough to enable it to go its own way, along the lines of a development distinctly logical, although narrow and inconsiderate, untrammeled by considerations derived from tradition, whether religious, ethical, or social, and unaffected by the universal judgment of the community in which it lived. A great deal of ability was expended in the elaboration of its underlying religious and social theory; an incredible audacity was shown in putting this theory into practice; and a certain amount of temporary success attended the enterprise. But the thinking embodied in it was as grotesque as it was acute; it was astuteness rather than wisdom which presided over its social organization; and the experiment had fairly reached the end of its possibilities of persistence in about a third of a century. There is much to be learned from a study of it; there is nothing about it which can fairly be represented as edifying.

The “Perfectionists” or “Bible Communists,” as they otherwise called themselves, are only one of the many unwholesome products of the great religious excitement which swept over Western and Central New York in the late twenties and early thirties of the last century, finding its way in the early thirties also into New England and thence over the world. Albert Barnes defines a revival for us as “the simultaneous conversion of many souls to Christ”; adding, in order to give completeness to the description, “and a rapid advance in promoting the purity and zeal of Christians.”7 If this were a complete description of the phenomena which may display themselves in revivals, they would always be such unmixed blessings that they could scarcely be connected with an earthly origin; and they certainly could leave behind them nothing but good effects. In point of fact, however, human elements are always mixed with them; and these human elements may on occasion be so predominant that any divine ingredient which may be hidden in them may be negligible. Accordingly Albert Barnes proceeds at once to speak of them, as actually experienced, as also periods of religious “excitement”; and to liken this excitement in its nature and effects to the excitement which tears men in a political campaign or sweeps them off their feet on the approach of war. Here is something quite out of the focus of his former description; for excitement, even though religious, has no necessary relation, whether as cause, accompaniment, or effect, with the converting or reviving operations of the Spirit of God. “A revival or religious excitement,” Archibald Alexander tells us,8 “may exist and be very powerful, and affect many minds, when the producing cause is not the Spirit of God; and when the truth of God is not the means of the awakening.” “Religious excitements,” he accordingly adds, “have been common among Pagans, Mohammedans, heretics and Papists.” W. B. Sprague similarly warns us in the opening pages of his classical “Lectures on Revivals of Religion,”9 not to “mistake a gust of animal passion for the awakening or converting operations of God’s Holy Spirit.” Great excitement may no doubt attend a true revival, but it is not part and parcel of it; and it may be very great and yet there be no true revival at all. “It may be an excitement produced not by the power of divine truth, but by artificial stimulus applied to the imagination and the passions, for the very purpose of producing commotion both within and without.” Let us remember that God declares Himself the God of order, and that disorder can therefore never be the authentic mark of His working. If God is working where disorder is, it is in spite of the disorder, not because of it; the disorder is itself only the cause of evil. “A real work of the Spirit,” says Archibald Alexander,10 “may be mingled with much enthusiasm and disorder; but its beauty will be marred, and its progress retarded by every such spurious mixture.” “All means and measures which produce a high degree of excitement, or a great commotion of the passions,” he therefore advises, “should be avoided; because religion does not consist in these violent emotions, nor is it promoted by them; and when they subside, a wretched state of deadness is sure to succeed.… Fanaticism, however much it may assume the garb and language of piety, is its opposite.” “The Church,” he also says, “is not always benefited by what are termed revivals; but sometimes the effects of such commotions are followed by a desolation which resembles the track of the tornado. I have never seen so great insensibility in any people as in those who had been subjects of violent religious excitement; and I have never seen any sinners so bold and reckless in their impiety as those who had once been loud professors, and foremost in the time of revival.”

It is with these evils in mind that, in face of the possibility that a sinner here and there may nevertheless chance to be really converted through the action of this excitement, Joel Hawes of Hartford declares11 that “a sinner may be converted at too great an expense.” No more awful arraignment of the religious excitement, which sometimes accompanies and sometimes serves as a substitute for revivals, could be phrased. In point of fact such excitement has no Christian character whatever; its affinities are, as Archibald Alexander has already reminded us, with the universal religious phenomena which Elizabeth Robins sums up under the name of mænadism,12 a term which she defines broadly enough to make it include “all intoxicating, will-destroying excesses of religious fervor in which ‘the multitude’ have taken part.” When we remember the “exercises” which have often attended revivals and the moral delinquencies which have sometimes stained them, we shall be compelled with bowed heads to recognize that they too may be so perverted as to be included in her observation:—“It is a remarkable fact in the history of religion that men of widely differing creeds and countries have agreed in attaching a spiritual value to hysteria, chorea, and catalepsy on the one hand, and to a frenzy of cruelty and sensuality on the other. Diseased nerves and morals have often been ranked as the highest expression of man’s faith and devotion.”

The intrusion of this debasing excitement into revival movements, with the effect sometimes of destroying them altogether, sometimes of only greatly curtailing and marring their beneficent results, is ordinarily traceable to one or the other of two inciting causes. One of these is found in the character of the population among whom the revival is propagated; the other in the character of its promoters and the methods they employ in promoting it—methods better adapted to lash the nerves into uncontrollable agitation than to bring the sinner to intelligent trust in his Saviour. Both of these causes were present and operative in the great revival movement which swept over Western and Central New York in the late twenties and early thirties of the last century.

It has been thought that the character of the population of this region, derived from that of its first settlers, laid them particularly open to fanaticism. The earliest stratum of settlers, entering the Palmyra country from Vermont in the second decade of the nineteenth century, was, we are told, of “rather unsavory fame”; and although this stratum was overlaid in the next decade by a virile, intelligent, industrious class of settlers from Eastern New York and New England, the earlier settlers remained, and by mixture with the newer comers gave a psychological character and a psychological history of its own to this region. It has been, therefore, it is said, on the one hand “a center of sane and progressive social movements,” but on the other hand a veritable “hot-bed of fanaticism,” and the two tendencies have entered into every possible combination with one another, some of them startling enough. It seems hardly just, however, to ascribe the whole of the evil to the earlier and the whole of the good to the later immigration. There were many men of the highest character among the earlier immigrants, and the newcomers themselves brought with them that tendency to eccentricity of opinion and extremity of temper which seems to be in the New England blood, and which has made New England, along with its intellectual and moral leadership of the nation, also unhappily the fertile seed-plot of fads and extravagances. Central and Western New York was in effect only an extended, and, because of its isolation and the hardness of its pioneer life, in these respects, an intensified New England.13 The period, moreover, was one of universal excitability.14 “The great improvement in the mechanic arts, and the wide diffusion of knowledge,” says Albert B. Dod, writing in 1835, “have given a strong impulse to the popular mind; and everywhere the social mass is seen to be in such a state of agitation, that the lightest breath may make it heave and foam.” Men stood in a condition of permanent astonishment. Everything seemed possible. They did not know what would come next, and thought it might be anything. They lived on perpetual tiptoe. It would have been strange if a raw population like that of Central and Western New York had retained its balance in such a time. That it did not may be observed from the long list of fanaticisms into which it fell, some of which are alluded to by the writer on whom we were drawing at the opening of this paragraph; and the waves of most of which it sent washing back into the parent New England.

“The earliest agitation which helped to reveal the unfortunate strain in the blood,” he writes, “was the crusade against the Masonic Fraternity in 1826, originating in a wide-spread belief, unconfirmed by sound evidence, that one Morgan had been foully dealt with at the behest of the Order whose secrets he was accused of revealing. A single and mighty wave of indignation nearly obliterated the fraternity from that part of the United States. In the early forties the Rochester country was one of the two chief centres of the propaganda and excitement associated with the predictions of the Vermont farmer, William Miller, with respect to the approaching judgment and the destruction of the world. In western New York it became a thoroughly irrational epidemic. Men and women forsook their employments and gave themselves over to watchings and prayer. They hardly slept or ate, but in robes of white awaited the coming of the bridegroom. The result in very many cases was utter physical and mental exhaustion, ending in the horrors of insanity.… In the late forties the delusion of spiritualism entered upon its epidemic course with the ‘Rochester rappings’ of the Fox sisters. It spread by imitation to New England, and thence to Europe, and many of the phenomena attending it,—the trance, the vision, the convulsive movement, the involuntary dancing, the many indications of mental and nervous instability—had closest affinity to the extraordinary revival effects which we have elsewhere observed.… I wish to remark upon one other strange and base spiritual product of this unique population. Of course it is generally known that Mormonism had its beginning in this region, but it is not so generally understood, I think, that Mormonism was literally born and bred in the unhealthy revival atmosphere which has just been described.15 In fact the sect of so-called Latter-Day Saints might never have existed except for the extraordinary mental agitation about religious matters which pervaded Western New York in this period. Mormonism has two main roots, the one to be traced into the mental and nervous characteristics of the personality of Joseph Smith, Jr., the other into the revival environment in which he lived and moved—and neither is a sufficient explanation without the other.”16

A population like this could be trusted to produce spontaneously all the evil fruits of spurious religious excitement. In point of fact it did so. The writer upon whom we have been drawing, speaking of the period preceding that to which we wish to direct particular attention, points out that during it “an unbridled revival activity characterized the ordinary religious life of western New York.”

“Before Finney’s personality issued upon the scene,” he says,17 “before any particular individual assumed the leadership, this fanatical restlessness, this tendency to spiritual commotion, was in the mind of the population, and periodically broke forth in fantastic and exciting revival. There were whole stretches of country in those parts that for generations were known as the ‘burnt district,’ and which Finney found so blistered and withered by constant revival flame that no sprout, no blade of spiritual life, could be caused to grow.18 Only the apples of Sodom flourished in the form of ignorance, intolerance, a boasted sinlessness and a tendency to free-love and ‘spiritual affinities.’ ”

But this fanaticism-loving populace was not left to the spontaneous manifestation of its tendency to religious excitement. It was sedulously incited to it by its religious leaders, and naturally its last state was no better than the first. If anyone wishes to enjoy the illusion of actually “assisting” at an average revival meeting of this period, he has only to read Mrs. Trollope’s painfully realistic descriptions, alike of a town revival and of a camp meeting.19 Albert Barnes warns us,20 to be sure, against trusting the testimony of “the Trollopes, and the Fidlers, and the Martineaus”—“persons,” he says, “having as few qualifications for being correct reporters of revivals of religion as could be found in the wide world.”21 It would be absurd, of course, to resort to Mrs. Trollope for the religious interpretation of revival phenomena; but the general trustworthiness of her report of revival occurrences, actually witnessed by her, is unimpeachable, when allowance is once made for the one-sidedness of her observation, due to her unsympathetic attitude. She describes only what she saw; she does not herself generalize on it. But what she describes might be seen anywhere in the western country at the time, sometimes no doubt in less, often unfortunately in much more, offensive forms.

Of course we are not confined to the testimony of Mrs. Trollope and writers of her type to learn what revivals at this period were like. We have, for example, a very sympathetic summary account of them from the pen of Andrew Reed, one of two very competent observers sent in the early thirties by the Congregational Union of England and Wales, to visit the American churches.22 Reed does not doubt that the revivals were in themselves a work of God, the results of which by and large were for His glory.23 But neither is he able to close his eyes to the evils which accompanied them; especially the opportunity afforded by them and eagerly availed of, for vain, weak, and fanatical men to exploit for their own ends the emotional excitement which was aroused. That there were serious evils intrinsic in the very manner in which the revivals were conducted, he is compelled to recognize; but that, he says, was not after all the worst of it—“they seem to have the faculty of generating a spirit worse than themselves.” “Rash measures attract rash men,” he explains:24 “and their onward and devious path is tracked by the most unsanctified violence and reckless extravagance.” “They are liable to run out into wild fanaticism,” he explains further.25

“A revival is a crisis. It implies that a great mass of human passion that was dormant, is suddenly called into action. Those who are not moved to good will be moved to the greater evil. The hay, wood, and stubble, which are always to be found, even within the pale of the church, will enkindle, and flash, and flare. It is an occasion favourable to display, and the vain and presumptuous will endeavor to seize on it, and turn it to their own account. Whether such a state of general excitement is connected with worldly or religious objects, it is too much, and would argue great ignorance of human nature, to expect, that it should not be liable to excess and disorder.”26

These somewhat general reflections are brought nearer to the point of most interest to us by the testimony of James H. Hotchkin, the historian of Western New York, and a most cautious and sober-minded man, speaking directly out of his own experience.27 He, too, of course, is sympathetic to the revival movement in itself. But he feels constrained to note explicitly that “circumstances have occurred in connection with these revivals, which give the most painful exhibition of the wickedness and folly of man, when, leaving the divine word, he imagines himself wiser than God.” He is led by his experience to the generalization that “whenever the religious excitement has been strong, a spirit of fanaticism has been induced, and greatly hindered the good work, and marred its beauty.” He has observed further that these evils have been particularly apparent, when the revival-work was carried on, not by the settled ministry, but by outsiders called in because of some fancied particular adaptation to this work. No doubt there were among these “revival men” or “revival preachers” men of true piety, whose usefulness was demonstrated by the results of their labors. Of others, however, Hotchkin declares himself “constrained to believe, that, if they were not impostors, they must have been self-deceived fanatics”; and, certainly, he declares, “their operations and influences were destructive in a high degree, and brought discredit on the revival.” One and another of these men are mentioned and described; and it is pointed out that while mighty men in stirring up excitement, they failed, under the test of time, in bringing men really to Christ. Thus they proved themselves to be mere religious demagogues; for does not Gustave Le Bon tell us,28 when describing demagogues and their ways, that, “it is easy to imbue the mind of crowds with a passing opinion, but very difficult to implant therein a lasting belief”?

It is not, however, until we turn to the portion of his book in which Hotchkin records the life-histories of the individual churches that we realize the amount either of the excitement stirred up by these men or of the evil wrought by it. Yet, as he is speaking only of the Presbyterian churches, which suffered least of all the churches from this disease, we are looking through his eyes only at the outer fringes of the evil. Even in the Presbyterian churches it certainly was bad enough.29 One Augustus Littlejohn30 seems to have been the evil genius of the Presbytery of Angelica, one Luther Myrick31 of the Presbytery of Onondaga, one James Boyle32 of the Presbytery of Geneva. These were all famous revivalists, enjoying high favor not only in Western New York, but to the East as well, and running through great careers; and only when they had wrought their ruin, did they fall at last under the ban of the church they had distracted and whose people they had harassed and misled. It is appalling to observe the number of churches of which it is recorded that they were disturbed, injured, or destroyed by the activities of these men and their coadjutors. We need not repeat these records here: let that of Manlius Center Church serve as a single example—it was, we read,33 “torn to pieces, and became extinct, through the influence of Mr. Myrick and other errorists.” We prefer to transcribe merely the long record of the experiences of the church of Conhocton,34 as particularly instructive of the state of mind induced by the prevalent religious excitement.

“In the summer of 1832,” we read, “Rev. James Boyle held with this church a protracted meeting, which was continued through a number of days. The measures which were common with him and others of that class of evangelists were employed, and a state of high excitement was produced, and many professed to be converted, and no doubt some souls really were born again. A large number were received into the church, swelling its number to one hundred and ten members. It might seem that the days of the mourning of this church were now ended, and that she must now have acquired such a measure of strength as to be able in all future time to enjoy the stated ministrations of the gospel. But such was not the case. Very little pecuniary strength was acquired, a spirit of fanaticism was infused into the minds of many, and a state of preparation to be carried away with any delusion was induced. With respect to the converts, so called, the writer is unable to say what has become of them. He believes very few of them give satisfactory evidence of having been born again. In the winter of 1837–8, a very singular state of things existed. Mrs.——Conn, who had been a member of the church a number of years, and highly esteemed by some, at least, as a woman of piety and activity in promoting the cause of Christ, began to take a very conspicuous part in the meetings for social and religious worship. She professed to have special communications from God, and to know the secrets of the hearts of those with whom she was conversant. She assumed an authoritative position in the church, and gave out her directions as from God himself, denouncing as hypocrites in the church all who did not submit to her mandates. She predicted the speedy death, in the most awful manner, of particular individuals who opposed her authority, and manifested a most implacable rancor against all who did not acknowledge her inspiration. In her proceedings she was assisted by a young man, who for his misconduct had been excommunicated from the church of Prattsburgh. A number of the members of the church of Conhocton were carried away with this delusion, and acknowledged Mrs. Conn as one under the inspiration of the Almighty. So completely were they infatuated, that they seemed to suppose that their eternal salvation depended on the will of Mrs. Conn. They were ready to obey all her commands, and to assert as truth anything which she should order. Some of them became permanently deranged, and one or two families were nearly broken up. Nor was this delusion confined wholly to the church of Conhocton. Mrs. Conn and her coadjutor went into the county of Wyoming, and some in that region were brought under the delusion, and received her as a messenger sent from God. Whether to view Mrs. Conn as an impostor, a wild fanatic, or a deranged person, the writer will not assume the responsibility of determining. Many circumstances would favor the idea of imposture. The writer is informed that she has become a maniac. This circumstance may favor the idea of mental aberration. But the consequences to the church were most disastrous.”

One of the most distressing accompaniments of revival excitements has been a tendency which has often showed itself in connection with them to sexual irregularities. This tendency does not seem to find its account, solely at least, in the low level of culture of the populations which have furnished the materials on which these revivals chiefly worked. And it certainly is not to be confounded with the opportunity taken by evil-minded persons from the conditions created by the revivals for corrupt practices. The opportunity has been afforded and improved, the camp meetings of course supplying the most flagrant instances. R. Davidson, describing the great Kentucky revival at the opening of the century, feels bound to consecrate a section to the “too free communication of the sexes,” and, although he excuses himself from giving details on account of the delicacy of the subject, he tells us plainly that dissolute characters of both sexes frequented the camps “to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the prevailing license and disorder.”35 This, however, was only incidental to the revivals themselves. What needs to be recognized is that the nervous exaltation, which was the direct product of the revival methods too frequently employed, seems not merely to have broken down the restraints to the unchecked discharge of other than religious emotions, but to have opened the channels for their discharge, and even to have incited to it—so that, as W. Hepworth Dixon puts it in vivid phrase, “the passions seemed to be all unloosed, and to go astray without let or guide.”36 It was the participators in the revival excitement themselves who went astray. John Lyle, reviewing the case of the women who had been the subjects of the “falling exercise” prior to November, 1802, found several “by the most unequivocal proofs, to have since fallen still more wofully; no fewer than four individuals having transgressed in the most flagrant manner.”37

Occasion has of course been taken from such facts to confuse emotions which differ toto cœlo. There is actually a theory extant that the religious emotion is nothing but the sexual ecstasy misinterpreted,38 and it is quite common to represent “the human love passion and the spiritual love passion” as lying in particularly close contiguity, if not even as “delicately interwoven.”39 There is no justification for such representations. They rest on an incredible confusion of the movements of the human soul set in the midst between two environments, and accessible to influences alike from below and above. Not even all love of man is sex-love; no love of man is religious love; religious love is not the entirety of the religious emotion. We are in the presence here of nothing more mysterious than the obvious fact that man’s emotional nature is a unit, and violent emotional discharges may readily be deflected from one to another direction. The phenomenon we are witnessing is only the familiar one of the peril of abandoning control of ourselves. When once we drop the reins and give unbridled play to our passional movements, there is no telling what the end may be. We cannot act the mænad in religion and expect our mænadism to manifest itself nowhere else. If religion becomes synonymous to us with excess, all excess is very apt to come to seem to us religious. It is in this sense only that it is true, when Baring Gould declares that “spiritual exaltation runs naturally, inevitably, into licentiousness, unless held in the iron bands of discipline to the moral law.”40 Davenport’s wider generalization is truer:41 “Wherever reason is subordinated and feeling is supreme, the influence is always in the direction of the sweeping away of inhibitive control.”

It is, moreover, not merely into licentiousness that religious mænadism tends to run, but into all forms of lawless action. J. H. Noyes shows an insight unwonted to him, therefore, when he represents revivals—of course, as known to him, that is to say the revivals of “religious excitement”—as intrinsically subversive of the whole social as well as moral order. Defining them from the true mænadistic point of view, and even in language strongly reminiscent of heathen modes of speech, he declares42 that a revival is the actual intrusion of the power of God into human affairs: that is to say, says he, it is the entrance into the complex of active causes of “the actual Deity.” This entrance of “the actual Deity” into human life is conceived after the fashion of the intrusion of a universal natural force, only more powerful than other natural forces.43 Conservatives fancy that its operations are restricted to the conversion of souls. That, says Noyes, is absurd: you cannot cabin and crib such a force in that way. Once set in motion, “it goes, or tends to go, into all the affairs of life.” A revolution is really inaugurated in every revival, and if it does not overturn and reconstitute all the life of the world, that is only because its action is prematurely checked. “Revival preachers and Revival converts are necessarily in the incipient stage of a theocratic revolution; they have in their experience the beginning of a life under the Higher Law; and if they stop at internal religious changes, it is because the influence that converted them is suppressed.” The term “higher law” here is ominous: the first effect of revivals is conceived as emancipation from the laws which now govern life; and if redintegration follows it must be under a higher law than they. They do and always must leave social disintegration in their train.

The prominence particularly of sexual irregularities in the train of the revivals of “religious excitement” is probably in large part due, therefore, only to the large opportunities and immediate temptations to irregularities of this particular order offered by revival intimacies. The period in which the revivals of the late twenties and early thirties took place was, moreover, one of widespread unrest with respect to the relations of the sexes, and of relaxation of the strictness of traditional habits; and the communistic experiments incited in the middle years of the twenties by Robert Owen no doubt also brought their contribution to the result. With respect to these particular revivals, however, we must not underestimate the influence of the fantastic apocalyptical theories, by which a large part of their unhealthy excitement was produced, and which by persuading men that they no longer lived on the earthly plane or under earthly law, gave to sexual irregularities a religious sanction or even made them appear a religious duty. Being mænads, men and women committed adultery for the Kingdom of God’s sake—as the victims of the atrocious Cochrane were doing in Maine and New Hampshire a short decade before,44 and the associates of the unspeakable Matthias—himself a product of these revivals—were doing contemporaneously in New York and Sing Sing.45 Thus arose the shocking theory of “spiritual wives” which was intimately connected with the perfectionism that constituted, after all is said, the most unwholesome product of the revival excitement. There is no reason to suppose that the “spiritual wives” at the outset were anything other than the name, strictly taken, imports—intimate spiritual companions and fellow workers in a common task.46 The hot perfectionist, living in the new order, attached to himself a like-minded female companion who shared his labors at home and abroad; they lived together, traveled together, worked together, in a fellowship closer than and superseding that of husband and wife. It was a renewal of the “spiritual wives”—the agapetæ or virgines subintroductæ—of the early church;47 but it required only a few months to run through the development that its earlier model consumed some centuries in traversing. What was in the first instance only an incredible folly and dangerous fanaticism soon became an intolerable scandal and dissolute practice. “Spiritual wives” became carnal mistresses: here and there injured husbands avenged their wrongs by physical assaults upon the clerical offenders, and when the husband was complaisant the outraged community was apt to treat both legal and spiritual husband to a coat of tar and feathers and a ride on a rail.48 Though actually only sporadically practiced, the advocacy of this indecency was widespread in perfectionist circles. Its roots were planted in the prevalent notion that the “saints” had advanced beyond the legalities of the worldly order, and that it behooved them to be putting the freedom of the resurrection life into practice.

The perfectionism of which this deplorable practice was one of the fruits was pervasive, and everywhere it went it worked destruction. It was intensely individualistic in its temper and operated accordingly as a disintegrating force in the church organizations into which it found entrance. This effect was increased by its affiliation with a powerful unionistic movement which was vexing the churches of this region. Like other unionistic movements, this one also was much more effective for tearing down the existing organizations which stood in its way, than for realizing its own professed Utopian ends.49 At all events ruin marked the pathway along which the combined perfectionist-unionist forces moved. Here is a typical notice: “Rev. A. Hale, from the Black River Association, distracted the church with perfectionism, and Rev. Luther Myrick with unionism. Twenty male members broke away from the church at one time as perfectionists.”50 There was an active organization, vigorously at work among the churches, calling itself “The Central Evangelical Association of New York,” which consisted, as Hotchkin tells us,51 just of “a body of Perfectionists and Unionists.” The Synod of Geneva at its meeting in October, 1835, warned the ministers and churches under its charge against it, because, as it said, it “does not sustain the reputation of an orthodox body,” and “the course of proceeding adopted by most of their ministers is calculated to divide, corrupt, and distract the churches.” The Synod therefore declared that it deemed it “irregular for any minister or church in our connexion, to admit the ministers of said Association to their pulpits, or in any way to recognise them, or the churches organized by them, as in regular standing.”52 Such a deliverance was necessarily a mere brutum fulmen. Even had it taken a more authoritative form, it was locking the door after the horse had been stolen. Nor is it easy in any event to see how the closing of Presbyterian pulpits to perfectionist agitators could have been expected to protect the people from the flames of wild religious excitement flaring up hotly in churches of other connections half a block away. The communities were small, and the people therefore in close contact and intimate intercourse with one another; the religious excitement that was raging was the property of no one denomination, but pervaded all; it was the professed object of one of the most active organizations engaged in fostering it—and the actual effect of many with no official connection with that organization—to obliterate all dividing lines and to reduce the whole Christian body to an indiscriminate mass of fanaticism.

Certainly perfectionists swarmed over the land, drawing from all churches, forming none. No doubt the ever-present fact of Wesleyan Perfectionism lay in the background and supplied everywhere a starting-point and everywhere gave a certain dignity and stability to the movement. A number of the perfectionist leaders were of Methodist origin.53 But the most effective forces in the production of the prevalent perfectionism were derived from quite different quarters, particularly from the Pelagianizing theories of the will emanating from New Haven.54 The perfectionism actually developed55 ran, however, in point of fact, into mystical molds. “These Perfectionists,” as a contemporary writer56 very fairly puts it, “believe that they have the inward Christ—can do no wrong—that to the pure all things are pure—that Christ is responsible for all they do—and other such blasphemous absurdities.” Their chief or, at least, their most obvious, characteristic accordingly was less correctness in conduct than freedom in the Spirit. And this in fact constituted their main attraction to the populace. J. H. Noyes fully recognizes57 that “some doubtless joined the standard of Perfectionism, not because they loved holiness, but because they were weary of the restraints of the duty-doing churches. Perfectionism presented them a fine opportunity of giving full swing to carnality; and at the same time, of glorying over the ‘servants’ under law.” Nothing was further from their intention, of course, than to submit themselves to the restraints of organization. Each wished to be a law to himself—and as far as he could compass it, a law also to everybody else. They erected what Noyes calls “disunity”58 into a principle and denounced organization as in itself an evil—a slavery to which free men in the spirit would not submit. “To perfectionists generally,” writes William A. Hinds,59

“the idea of discipline, organization, submission one to another, was intolerable. Were they children of the convenant, that ‘gendereth to bondage’? they asked themselves, or were they called to ‘stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free’? Were they not living in the very days foretold by the prophet, when all were ‘to know the Lord from the least unto the greatest,’ and when no one ‘should teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, Know the Lord’? ‘Perfectionists,’ said the eloquent James Boyle, ‘stand as independent of each other as they do of any anti-Christian churches—they will not be taught of each other, as they are all taught of God, nor will they acknowledge any man as a leader or chief or any thing of the kind.’ ”

Such extreme individualism as is here announced cannot really maintain itself in practice. The perfectionists, too, of course found leaders and showed sufficient coherence to hold conventions at which a common platform was proclaimed and joint undertakings inaugurated. Even centers of activity were formed from which perfectionist influences radiated after a fashion which suggested at least the beginnings of institutional organization. One of the earliest of them was established at the little cotton-mill village of Manlius, where the little Presbyterian Church (Manlius Center) was stamped out. Hiram Sheldon was recognized by the Manlius perfectionists as their leader and expositor, but there were associated with him such men as Jarvis Rider, Martin P. Sweet, and Erasmus Stone. In this coterie originated most of the extravagances which characterized the perfectionist movement. “At Manlius,” says Dixon,60 “the chosen took upon themselves the name of ‘Saints.’ Here they announced their separation from the world. Here they began to debate whether the old marriage vows would or would not be binding in the new heaven and the new earth.” It was Albany, however, which became the real distributing center of the movement at least for the East; and the house of the Misses Annesley there became the center of the center.61 Thence missionaries proceeded into New England and groups of perfectionists were established here and there—at Southampton, Brimfield, New Haven.62 At Albany, of course, the same ruin was wrought as elsewhere: the churches were greatly troubled. The Fourth Presbyterian Church, E. N. Kirk’s, was required to put into action extensive disciplinary proceedings;63 and even the classroom of the little theological seminary which E. N. Kirk had established was invaded by the fanaticism.64 We hear of its being carried from this center as far as the extreme western border of frontier Wisconsin.63

II. The Beginnings

It was into this atmosphere that John Humphrey Noyes was plunged by his conversion in August, 1831. He was an opinionated, self-assertive young man of twenty,65 who had been graduated from Dartmouth College the year before (1830), and meantime had been studying law in his brother-in-law’s office at Putney, where the family had been resident since 1823. The great revival of 1831 seems fairly to have rushed him off his feet. He took his conversion hard, yielding with difficulty; but when he yielded he yielded altogether. He himself sums up what happened in a rapid sentence, which is no more rapid, however, than the rush of the events it describes. “The great Finney revival found him,” he says of himself, “at twenty years of age, a college graduate, studying law, and sent him to study divinity, first at Andover and afterward at New Haven.”66 He entered the Seminary at Andover four weeks after his conversion, and in less than three months after it he had placed himself at the disposal of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. But nothing that organized Christianity could offer could satisfy his morbid appetite for excitement, and in a little more than two years more he had turned his back upon it all and was seeking thrills along a new path.

He has himself described for us the stages of his progress.

“After a painful process of conviction, in which the conquest of my aversion to becoming a minister was one of the critical points”—it is thus that he describes his conversion,67—“I submitted to God, and obtained spiritual peace. With much joy and zeal I immediately devoted myself to the study of the Scriptures, and to religious testimony in private and public. The year of 1831 was distinguished as ‘the year of revivals.’ New measures, protracted meetings, and New York evangelists had just entered New England, and the whole spirit of the people was fermenting with religious excitement. The millennium was supposed to be very near. I fully entered into the enthusiasm of the time; and seeing no reason why backsliding should be expected, or why the revival spirit might not be maintained in its full vigor permanently, I determined with all my inward strength to be ‘a young convert’ in zeal and simplicity forever. My heart was fixed on the millennium, and I resolved to live or die for it. Four weeks after my conversion I went to Andover and was admitted to the Theological Seminary.”

This was a typical conversion of the “revival-of-excitement” order, issuing not so much in sound religion as in restless activities, and filling the mind only with strong delusions—in this case chiliastic delusions—which prepare it for everything except sane religious development. It is interesting to observe that, as he tells us more than once, most of those who followed him in his further vagaries had begun with him in these. “Most of those,” he says, writing in 1847,68 “who have become Perfectionists”—he means the term in the narrow sense in which it describes only his own followers—“within the last ten years, had previously been converts and laborers in such revivals,” that is to say, had been victims, as he was, of the “revival of excitement.”

Of course no one in his inflamed state of mind could find satisfaction at Andover. The students there were merely Christians, and seemed to him from his exalted point of view a good deal less than what Christians should be. In the censoriousness which naturally accompanies such exaltation of spirit he accuses them of indifference, levity, jealousy, sensuality—of everything which as Christians they ought not to be. Only in a few who were touched with the enthusiasm of missions—Lyman, Munson, Tracy, Justin Perkins—did he find any congeniality of companionship. He was taken into a secret society which they maintained for mutual improvement, and learned from it a method of government by criticism which he afterwards employed in his communistic establishment.69 The classroom instruction, also, was not wholly without effect upon him; in particular Moses Stuart’s exegesis of the seventh chapter of Romans, and of the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, supplied him with points of departure from which he afterward advanced to the two hinges on which his whole system turned. He remained at Andover, however, only the single session of 1831–32. The autumn of 1832 found him at the Divinity School at New Haven. His motive for making the change, he tells us, was that at Yale, he “could devote a greater part of his time to his favorite study of the Bible”; by which he appears to mean that the classroom work at Yale was less exigent than at Andover. In any case he preferred to prosecute his study of the Bible without, rather than under, the direction of, his teacher. “I attended lectures daily,” he writes, “and studied sufficiently to be prepared for examination; but my mind was chiefly directed with my heart to the simple treasures of the Bible. I went through the Epistles of Paul again and again, as I had gone through the Evangelists at Andover; and in the latter part of the time”—during which he was at Yale—“when I had begun to exercise myself in preaching, I was in the habit of preparing the matter of every sermon by reading the whole New Testament through with reference to the subject I had chosen.” He also found time for many external activities. He worked among the negroes of the town and took part in the organization of one of the earliest anti-slavery societies in this country. He even became instrumental in building up a struggling church. There were about a dozen “revivalists” in the city, he says, and their fervor attracted him. “For,” says he, “I was burning with the same zeal which I found in them (but nowhere else in the city) for the conversion of souls.” As they grew in number they had organized themselves as the “Free Church,” and, on Noyes’s recommendation, they now invited James Boyle to preach to them. He was thus provided with church associations of the hottest revivalistic character.70

These new associations were not calculated to moderate Noyes’s fanatical tendencies. The censoriousness which he had exhibited toward his fellow students at Andover he now turned upon Christendom at large. How many real Christians are there in Christendom? he asked himself; and he felt constrained to answer, Not many. From his higher vantage-ground he looked out upon Christianity, as exhibited in the churches, and found it fatally wanting. His missionary zeal naturally cooled: with all Christendom lying in the evil one, what were the heathen to him? He saw his task now in the Christianizing of nominal Christians; the lost condition, not of the heathen but of Christians, was heavy on his heart.71 And now his sedulous study of the Bible in careful seclusion from his natural advisers, began to bear fruit—though he did not get so far away from Moses Stuart as to impress us with the originality of his thought. In the summer after his first year at Yale—the summer of 1833—he settled it with himself that our Lord’s second advent had already taken place; that it took place, in fact, within a generation of His death. We say “he settled it with himself,” for his confidence in his new conclusion was characteristically perfect. “I no longer conjectured or believed in the inferior sense of these words,” he says, “but I knew that the time appointed for the Second Advent was within one generation from the time of Christ’s personal ministry.” Oddly enough he appears to have been led to this conclusion chiefly by John 21:22: “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” “Here,” said he, “is an intimation by Christ himself that John will live till His Second Coming; the Bible is not a book of riddles; its hidden treasures are accessible to those who make the Spirit of Truth their guide; and how is it possible to reconcile this intimation with the accepted theory that Christ’s Second Coming is yet future?” If we are inclined to wonder a little at the mental struggles which Noyes seems to have undergone in reaching this conclusion, we should remind ourselves that it involved a very considerable revolution of thought for him; and revolutions of thought were not easy for Noyes. He had hitherto been, we must remember, a hot chiliast, looking for the Second Coming not only in the future, but in the immediate future; and expecting from it everything he was setting his hopes upon in his inflamed fancy. It was a great wrench to transfer this Second Coming back into the distant past, though, as we shall see, he managed to soften the blow by preserving his chiliastic hopes for the impending future and carrying only the Second Coming itself back into the past.

In August of this same summer (1833) he was licensed to preach by the New Haven West Association, and spent the six weeks that intervened before the reopening of the Seminary in the autumn, preaching in a little church in North Salem, New York. He was as yet not a perfectionist; only a fanatical chiliastic revivalist—if we can use the word “only” in such a connection. But perfectionism did not lie outside the horizon of his vision. Those “New York evangelists” who broke their way into New England in 1831—to whom he also had fallen a victim, and James Boyle among the others, who had been a Methodist and whom he had brought to New Haven, where he had formed with him a close intimacy—came from a region plowed and harrowed by perfectionism, and can scarcely have been ignorant of it; they may even have in their own persons borne more or less of its scars. He found also on his return to the Seminary some zealous young men, newly entered, who spurred him on to higher attainments in holiness. He diligently read such works as the “Memoirs” of James Brainerd Taylor72 and Wesley’s tract on “Christian Perfection.” He naturally found himself, therefore, through the autumn and early winter months making steady and accelerating progression toward perfect holiness. No lower attainment would satisfy him, and he became ever more and more eager to reach the goal; this effort, in the end, absorbed all his energies. At last the blessing came, and he received his “second conversion.”

He writes to his mother: “The burden of Christian perfection accumulated upon my soul, until I determined to give myself no rest while the possibility of the attainment of it remained doubtful. At last the Lord met me with the same promise that gave peace to my soul when first I came out of Egypt: ‘if thou wilt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.’ By faith I took the proffered boon of eternal life. God’s spirit sealed the act, and the blood of Christ cleansed me from all sin.” His “second conversion” consisted then in his pressing the promise of “salvation,” the assurance of “cleansing from all sin,” into a promise and assurance that the “salvation,” the “cleansing,” shall be completed as soon as begun, consuming no time and running through no process to the promised and assured end. The parallel between his first and second conversions was complete. Not only were both accomplished through the instrumentality of a single text—understood partly then, perfectly now—but in both cases alike he was driven by his temperament at once into publicity. The atmosphere of propaganda was his vital breath: he gave not a moment to meditation, testing, ripening. As, on his “first conversion,” he tells us that he “immediately” devoted himself (along with the study of Scripture) “to religious testimony in private and public”; so now, on the evening of the very day of his “second conversion,” he preached at the Free Church on the text, “He that committeth sin is of the devil,” and proclaimed the doctrine of perfect holiness—how such a man would do it from such a text we can well imagine. “The next morning,” we are availing ourselves now of W. A. Hinds’s narrative,73 “a theological student who heard the discourse of the previous evening came to labor with him, and asked him directly, ‘Don’t you commit sin?’ The answer was an unequivocal ‘No.’ The man stared as though a thunderbolt had fallen before him, and repeated his question, and got the same answer. Within a few hours word was passed through the college and the city, ‘Noyes says he is perfect!’ and immediately afterward it was reported that Noyes is crazy!74

There is no mention made, in Noyes’s account of his “second conversion,” of any influences working on him in that direction from without. We have seen that there cannot have failed to be such. Noyes himself, however, speaks in this connection only of his study of perfectionist literature of the Wesleyan school; to which, no doubt, we must hence give much of the credit of the change in his views. The perfectionism which he adopted, however, when he worked himself through, was not specifically Wesleyan in type, but was rather of that mystical kind which was at the time prevalent in Western and Central New York. As there was nothing in Noyes’s previous intellectual history to prepare us for this particular mode of thinking, we naturally conjecture that he must have derived it from the New York men, channels of communication with whom, as we have seen, existed in abundance. A writer of the time, who shows himself in general very familiar with what was going on, tells us explicitly that he owed his indoctrination into perfectionism to one of the young men who had gone astray in E. N. Kirk’s school at Albany. “Chauncey E. Dutton,” we read,75 “had breathed the afflatus. In 1833 he left Albany and entered the theological department at New Haven, Connecticut. Here he infused the new enthusiasm into John H. Noyes, a young man from Putney, Vermont, with whom he had become familiar. Thus began the logos of New Haven Perfectionism.” The date is right, and the general circumstances; it was on his return to New Haven in the autumn of 1833, Noyes himself tells us, that he found a number of zealous young men just entering the Seminary, to whose “constant fellowship and conversation” he attributes, along with the Wesleyan literature which he read, his “progress towards holiness.” The difficulty lies in the absence of the name of Dutton from the general catalogue of the New Haven Divinity School, and indeed from that of the University also. It may be of course that a mistake has been made, only, in connecting Dutton with the institution as a pupil. There is no doubt that he was in New Haven not far from this time propagating his perfectionist faith. We find him there, for instance, only a couple of years or so later on this errand, and Noyes was in close intercourse with him a year earlier in Brimfield.76 The tone of Noyes’s reference both to him and to his companion in these ministries, Simon Lovett, however, leaves an impression that this intercourse with them belongs rather to 1835, and later, than to 1833–34. And we can scarcely avoid the feeling that he means us to gather that he was self-converted to his perfectionism.

Lyman H. Atwater, who was a fellow student of the next lower class with Noyes at Yale, seems to think of him merely as one of the Pelagianizing perfectionists who sprang up in his student days at New Haven under the teaching of Nathaniel W. Taylor. He is giving a general account of the rise of this class of perfectionists, and permits himself this bit of personal reminiscence:—77

“When we were students of theology, a little coterie, becoming wiser than their teachers or fellow students, strained the doctrine of ability beyond the scope contended for or admitted by its most eminent champions, to the length of maintaining, not only that all men can, but that some do, reach sinless perfection in this life, of which, so far as the students there were concerned, a trio or so were the principal confessors. The net result of the whole was that the leader, instead of going forward into the ministry, ran into various socialistic and free-love heresies, on the basis of which he founded the Putney and Oneida communities, over the latter of which he now presides. Other sporadic outbursts of the distemper appeared here and there in the Presbyterian and Congregational communions, or among separatists and come-outers from them, these often uniting with the radicals or advanced reformers of other communions.”

This statement informs us that Noyes was not the only student at New Haven at the time who lapsed into perfectionism, but had a few companions, or, we may possibly suppose, converts. That his perfectionism arose simply from an overstraining of the Taylorite doctrine of ability seems, however, from his own account of it, not altogether likely; and we may perhaps not improperly suspect that Atwater has merely included him in the general movement which he was describing, without stopping to inquire as to any special peculiarity he may have exhibited. He himself, in giving an account of his mental and spiritual growth leading up to his conversion to perfectionism, has nothing to say of N. W. Taylor; but speaks rather of John Wesley as a guide and instructor. There was no doubt a Taylorite element in his thought,78 which came out especially in his teaching as to the “first conversion” and as to the act of faith in general, concerning which he seems to have no other idea than that it is an act of our own in our own native powers.79 But he certainly did not find the account of the perfection to which he supposed himself to have attained on that fateful twentieth of February, 1834, in the sheer ability of his will to do what it chose, and therefore (if it chose) to be perfect. He referred it, on the contrary, directly to the effect of communion with Christ. The affinities of his doctrine, in other words, were less Pelagian than mystical. By “the apprehension” of the facts concerning Christ and His saving work—“his victory over sin and death, the judgment of the prince of this world, and the spiritual reconciliation of God with man”—he explains,80 believers are brought “into fellowship with Christ’s death and resurrection,” and made “partakers of his divine nature and his victory over the evil one.” “The gospel which I had received and preached,” he had written a few months earlier,81 speaking directly of what had happened on February 20, 1834, “was based upon the idea that faith identifies the soul with Christ, so that by his death and resurrection the believer dies and rises again, not literally, nor yet figuratively, but spiritually; and thus, so far as sin is concerned, is placed beyond the grave, in ‘heavenly places’ with Christ.” He goes on to say that three months later he felt compelled to extend this doctrine so as to make it include the redemption of the body as well as the soul—to abolish death as well as sin—by participation in Christ’s resurrection so that though we will “pass through the form of dying” (sad concession to the appearance of things!) we who are believers indeed will not really die. This doctrine, not only in form but in substance, is extremely mystical.

The effect of Noyes’s proclamation of his perfectionism was, naturally, the loss of the countenance of the several religious organizations with which he was connected. He was dismissed from the Divinity School and requested to withdraw altogether from the premises. The New Haven West Association, by which he had been licensed to preach the previous August, now recalled its license, “on account of his views on the subject of Christian perfection.”82 His church membership was still in the Congregational Church at Putney, and that church subsequently excluded him from fellowship “for heresy and breach of covenant”—supporting the charge apparently, however, by specifications which are drawn from his subsequent teaching.83 His real church home was, nevertheless, the Free Church at New Haven, and a vote was passed at once by that church requesting him to discontinue all communication with its members. He represents himself as feeling very isolated. “I had now lost,” he writes, “my standing in the Free Church, in the ministry, and in the college. My good name in the great world was gone. My friends were fast falling away. I was beginning to be indeed an outcast. Yet I rejoiced and leaped for joy. Sincerely I declared that ‘I was glad when I got rid of my reputation.’ Some persons asked me whether I should continue to preach, now that the clergy had taken away my license. I replied, ‘I have taken away their license to sin, and they keep on sinning; so, though they have taken away my license to preach, I shall keep on preaching.’ ” The isolation complained of, however, had of course only relation to, and meant no more than an enforced change in, his associates. There were plenty of perfectionists within reach, and they of the most aggressive character. Noyes was soon, if he were not already, in close intercourse with them. But there can be no doubt that the effect of the announcement of his new views was something of a surprise to him, and brought on a crisis in his career. He tells us that in conversation with his father one day, during the short interval between his conversion and his entering the Seminary at Andover, he had propounded an interpretation of some Scripture, concerning which the older man uttered a warning. “Take care,” said he, “that is heresy.” “Heresy or not,” rejoined the son, “it is true.” “But,” warned the father, “if you are to be a minister, you must think and preach as the rest of the ministers do; if you get out of the traces they will whip you in.” “Never!” rejoined the son hotly: “never will I be whipped by ministers or any body else into views that do not commend themselves to my understanding as guided by the Bible and enlightened by the Spirit.” Now that the crisis had come, the “fighting spirit” he had announced in this program did not fail him. He had so little thought of yielding to the admonitions of his mentors, that he rather threw himself unreservedly into the conflict and seized the reins of leadership of the perfectionist party. “I resolved,” he says, “to labor alone if necessary, to repair the breaches of our cause.”

The immediate fruits of his propaganda at New Haven were not altogether inconsiderable. He was able to count James Boyle himself among his converts; and the two together carried on for a time a vigorous literary campaign, including the publication from the summer of 1834 (the first number bears the date of August 20) of a monthly journal called The Perfectionist. A number of the members of the Free Church also left the church, and joined Noyes’s party. Some converts were made also here and there outside of New Haven, especially in New York. Every effort was made by Noyes to compact his followers into a definite sect with its own doctrinal platform and organization. It was in this that his peculiarity consisted. We have already had occasion to point out the extreme individualism of the perfectionists of his day. Noyes was determined that he at least should not stand off by himself, but should be the head of a body which reflected his thought and obeyed his will. Everywhere he asserted his leadership; and although he was able to make it good with the completeness which he desired over only a small coterie, a certain deference appears to have been shown him in a surprisingly widely extended circle. Looking back upon these early days from a point of sight thirty years later, he tells us how they then appeared to him.

“The term Perfectionist,” he tells us,84 “was applied to two classes who came out from the Orthodox churches at about the same period. They resembled each other in many respects (both classes apprehending alike the great truth, that the new covenant means salvation from sin, the security of believers, the substitution of grace for law and ordinances, etc.), but there was yet this fundamental and important distinction: one class appropriated these doctrines in the interest of individualism, the other in the interest of unity; one class scorned the idea of subordination and discipline, the other joyfully received the idea of organization, and were willing to submit to such discipline as organic harmony should require; one class were all leaders, a regiment of officers, many of whom were for a time eloquent champions of the new truths, but the majority of them rushed into excesses which dishonored the name Perfectionist; the other class, led by J. H. Noyes, have persevered in a course of self-improvement, overcoming many obstacles, and finally have developed a system of principles and a form of practical life which at least challenge the attention of the world.”

This formal difference—organized or unorganized—was not, however, the only thing which divided Noyes’s followers from outlying perfectionists. He was not only prepared to impose upon them his personal leadership, but his personal doctrinal views also. And, young man in his twenty-fourth year as he was, he had his doctrinal views even now in their formative ideas already in hand. They were evolved from the two fundamental assertions to which he had now attained—that Christ’s Second Coming took place in a.d. 70, and that no one living in sin is in the proper sense a Christian. Working out the details of his system rapidly from these two underlying principles, he as rapidly developed a very acute sense of the uniqueness of his “New Haven Perfectionism.” Consciousness of the points of agreement between his and other perfectionism grew faint: the settled persuasion that he, and he alone, possessed truth took possession of him. “New Haven Perfectionism,” he writes in his journal,85 “is a new religion … has affinity with no sect this side the primitive church.… As a system it is distinct from all the popular theologies.” And again:86 “New Haven Perfectionism is a doctrinal system, standing by itself, distinct from Wesleyan, New York, and Oberlin Perfectionism, as it is from non-resistance, ‘come-outism,’ etc.” … “Perfectionism in other places” than in Putney, “so far as I know, (individual instances excepted,) has been mixed up with New York fanaticism, Boyleism, Gatesism, non-resistance, etc.” His immediate purpose in these last words is not directly to assert doctrinal peculiarity (although that is asserted), but rather to repudiate any entanglement in the immoralities which persistent rumor was laying to the charge of perfectionists, at Southampton, Brimfield, and other places where the indecency of “spiritual wives” was in practice.

It is worth while to turn aside to point out that one of the peculiarities by which Noyes separated himself from the perfectionists of the time was that he did, in point of fact, keep himself free from complicity with this evil. He makes it quite clear that it was in his mind a characteristic of what he calls “New York Perfectionists,” and he declares with the utmost emphasis that he himself never gave it the least countenance. It was brought into New England from New York, he tells us, by Simon Lovett and Chauncey E. Dutton, who circulated at Southampton, Brimfield, and afterward at New Haven itself, as a sort of missionaries; and though beginning in mere “bundling,” passed on into actual licentiousness.87 As for himself, he asseverates that he had no connection with such things—whether at Brimfield, Rondout, or New York88—except to reprove them.89 It must not be imagined, however, that it was what we should call the immorality of the practice which kept Noyes thus free from this iniquity. He speaks of it as “licentiousness,” it is true; but he fully shared the “antinomianism” of which it was the expression. His chief concern was that the premature practice of this antinomianism should not prejudice the spread of the doctrine. And then again, the idea of spiritual wives did not go far enough to satisfy the demands of his antinomianism. It still was held in the bonds of law. He stood for promiscuity in principle. And spiritual wives are just as incongruous to the principle of promiscuity as are “legal wives”; they are “spiritual dualism.” “The only true foundation is that which Jesus Christ laid,” he writes, “when he said, that in the good time coming there will be no marriage at all”—meaning not that celibacy will rule, but “promiscuity.”90

Noyes himself tells us that he had already adopted this theory of promiscuity in general in May, 1834,91 that is to say, on the very heels of his “second conversion”—or conversion to perfectionism—and at the very beginning of his propaganda for the formation of a perfectionist sect. One gets the impression that it held from the first in his mind the place of an essential principle—we might even say of the essential principle—of his system, while the whole doctrinal elaboration led up to it and prepared the way for it.92 Meanwhile, however, he kept it in the background, putting it forward only tentatively and as men, having absorbed the doctrinal preparation, were able to bear it. As he himself expresses it:93 “I moulded it, protected it, and matured it from year to year; holding it always, nevertheless, as a theory to be realized in the future, and warning all men against premature action upon it.” How he was accustomed to propagate it is, no doubt, fairly illustrated by his circumspect and veiled, and yet perfectly clear, presentation of it in a letter written in January, 1837, to his friend David Harrison of Meriden, Connecticut—a letter which has acquired the name of “the Battle Axe Letter” from the circumstance that Harrison, acting on a suggestion of Noyes’s (who was eager to make quiet propaganda), showed it to Simon Lovett (who liked it), and Lovett showed it to Elizabeth Hawley,94 who sent it to Theophilus R. Gates,95 who published the salient parts of it in his paper The Battle Axe (August, 1837)—and thus forced Noyes’s hand, and drew him for the first time to make public acknowledgment of this central element of his teaching. In this letter he writes:—96

“I will write all that is in my heart on one delicate subject, and you may judge for yourself whether it is expedient to show this letter to others. When the will of God is done on earth as it is in heaven, there will be no marriage. The marriage-supper of the Lamb is a feast at which every dish is free to every guest. Exclusiveness, jealousy, quarrelling, have no place there, for the same reason as that which forbids the guests at a thanksgiving dinner to claim each his separate dish, and quarrel with the rest for his rights. In a holy community there is no more reason why sexual intercourse should be restrained by law, than why eating and drinking should be; and there is as little occasion for shame in the one case as in the other. God has placed a wall of partition between the male and the female during the apostasy for good reasons, which will be broken down in the resurrection for equally good reasons; but woe to him who abolishes the law of apostasy before he stands in the holiness of the resurrection. The guests of the marriage supper may have each his favourite dish, each a dish of his own procuring, and that without the jealousy of exclusiveness. I call a certain woman my wife; she is yours; she is Christ’s; and in Him she is the bride of all saints. She is dear in the hand of a stranger, and according to my promise to her I rejoice. My claim upon her cuts directly across the marriage covenant of this world, and God knows the end.”

What is proclaimed here is complete promiscuity among the perfect; those that are perfect are already living the “resurrection life.” Noyes could not repudiate his letter, and, with characteristic courage, declared his purpose thenceforth to publish the doctrine taught in it from the housetop. But with his equally characteristic caution he kept it still in the background, and put in the front those doctrines which he appeared to value more and more, chiefly because they led up to this; but which meanwhile produced less scandal to talk about. A typical example of his dealing with the matter may be seen in the attempt which he makes in June, 1839,97 to explain to a correspondent how his brand of perfectionism differed from that of the Methodists, Friends, and Asa Mahan. They all agree, he says, that “perfect holiness is attainable in this life.” But the “Perfectionists”—that is, his own sect—are discriminated from the others by certain primary and also by certain secondary tenets. The primary ones he enumerates thus: “1. Their belief that perfect holiness, when attained, is forever secure.… 2. Their belief that perfect holiness is not a mere privilege, but an attainment absolutely necessary to salvation. Holding this belief they of course deny the name of Christian to all other sects.… 3. Their belief that the second coming of Christ took place at the period of the destruction of Jerusalem.” On this third point of doctrine he remarks: “Perfectionists insist upon this doctrine as the foundation of the two preceding”—that is to say it stood with them as the fundamental doctrine out of which all else is deduced. Out of it ultimately come then the “secondary consequences,” adherence to which also characterized “Perfectionists.” These he enumerates as “their ‘Antinomianism,’ their belief of a present resurrection, their peculiar views of the fashion of this world in respect to marriage, etc.” The promiscuity for which “Perfectionists” stand is not left here, it is true, unsuggested; but it is not obtruded. It is made a mere secondary result of their most fundamental doctrines.

We perceive that Noyes, beginning in 1834 as a perfectionist among perfectionists, had rapidly drifted into an attitude of open antagonism to all perfectionists except that small number who were willing to receive from him a totally new doctrinal and ethical system, and to subject themselves to his unquestioned authority. He no longer disagrees with them only in standing for organization over against their atomizing individualism; nor indeed only in reprobating the tendency to cloak licentiousness under a show of close spiritual relationship, which was showing itself among some of them. He declares them not really Christians, and he takes infinite satisfaction in pointing out his differences from them. He exhibits, indeed, a real predilection not only for explaining the differences between the several varieties of perfectionist teaching and his own, but in general for pointing out the defects in the teaching of all whom he supposes might be imagined to have been in any way before him advocates of holiness. As to the “ordinary class of pietists in the carnal churches,” no doubt, he considers it unnecessary to say anything.98 They are “confessors and professors of sin,” and therefore certainly not Christians. He adduces David Brainerd as a “fair specimen” of the “more distinguished spiritualists of the churches,” but thinks that enough has been said when it is said that “his general experience is in essence a transcript of the seventh chapter of Romans”—in which chapter is depicted, according to Noyes, a carnal not a spiritual condition. “It is evident,” he says, “that he was, through life, under conviction, panting after freedom from sin, but never reaching it.” With Brainerd, he classes Edwards, Payson, and “nearly all of those who have obtained the highest distinction for piety in the churches.” James Brainerd Taylor’s experience, as we have seen, he is willing to allow to have been “of a higher grade.” “He came apparently to the very borders of the gospel,” he says, and “saw clearly the privilege and glory of salvation from sin.” “He even confessed, at times, in a timid way, that he was free from sin,” and in doing so really “condemned the routine of sinning and repenting which was the only experience allowed or known in the churches before him.” His biographers, he asserts, “suppress the clearest part of his testimony in relation to his own salvation.” Nevertheless he was only “the John the Baptist of the doctrine of holiness” and, not knowing the gospel of the primitive church, “was not born of God in the Bible sense.” There is nothing better to say of the Mystics—Madame Guyon, William Law. They lose themselves in a “spiritual philosophy”: Law is the best and his “Address to the Clergy” his best book. It is he who is the real father of the semi-perfectionism which the Methodists profess. The Methodists—like the Moravians and Shakers—and Asa Mahan and his companions with them, fail because they make holiness not the main point of religion but an appendix to something else, and have denied or suppressed the most essential element of the new covenant, viz. “security.” Oberlin may stand as the illustration of a semi-perfectionism like this: it represents the stage a man comes to when, seeking holiness, he has a gleam of it—and stops.99 “We,” he says in another place,100 differentiating his “Perfectionists” from Wesleyans and Oberliners—“we believe in the ‘New Covenant,’ which enlists soldiers for life; or, in other words, for perpetual holiness.”

We must not exaggerate the success of the propaganda for his perfectionism which Noyes inaugurated at New Haven in the spring of 1834. Its success, although, as we have said, not inconsiderable, was not great; and what was gained at the outset was soon largely lost. It was not long before James Boyle cast off allegiance, and the converts from the Free Church also soon returned to it.101 Noyes himself remained in New Haven, after his adoption of perfectionism, only a year. When he left it, in February, 1835, never to return except on occasional visits, his departure bore a somewhat dramatic appearance. Simon Lovett, he tells us,102 had come “as a sort of missionary from the New York Perfectionists” to convert him to their ideas; but he on the contrary converted Lovett to some of his, “especially to the New Haven doctrine of the Second Coming.” Lovett took him, however, to Southampton and Brimfield to make him acquainted with the groups of perfectionists which had sprung up in those places under the New York propaganda. He won his triumphs among them also, he tells us. “Their leader, Tertius Strong, succumbed to my reasonings,” he says, “and soon the doctrine of the Second Coming, and what was called the ‘Eternal promise,’ were received on all sides with great enthusiasm.” But he did not like what he saw. There was “a seducing tendency to freedom of manners between the sexes,” and there was “a progressive excitement” manifesting itself. So he ran away—leaving without notice, on foot, “through snow and cold—below zero—to Putney, sixty miles distant.” Thus he escaped complicity, perhaps participation, in one of the wildest follies of the perfectionist orgies; and at the same time found a new scene for his work and a revised program for his labors. He did not at once, indeed, find the new way. A period of uncertainty intervened in which he spent himself endeavoring to repair the losses that had been suffered and to build up the broken fortunes of his party. He went from place to place on this errand. He was visited at Putney by old friends and fellow workers. Simon Lovett came on from Brimfield and joined him in his labors. Hard on his heels Charles H. Weld103 came, fresh from Theophilus R. Gates (who, he said, was “pure gold”), with letters in his hands from a New York priestess, a Mrs. Carrington, full of censures of Noyes’s “carnality and worldly wisdom.” Noyes describes this woman as “a lady living somewhere in the State of New York, who had recently been converted to perfectionism by Weld’s labors, and was soaring in the highest regions of ecstacy and boasting.” He no longer had any sympathy with mere perfectionists—with Weld he finally broke, apparently violently, and certainly permanently. He was meditating other things to which perfectionism was only a stepping stone. To these other things, however, perfectionism was a stepping stone—an indispensable stepping stone—and he now gave himself, having the new vision before his eyes, with all diligence to building it up in a form suitable for what was to come.

“At this time,” he says, “I commenced in earnest the enterprise of repairing the disasters of Perfectionism, and establishing it on a permanent basis, not by preaching and stirring up excitement over a large field, as had been done at the beginning, nor by labouring to reorganize and discipline broken and corrupted regiments, as I had done at different places, but by devoting myself to the patient instruction of a few simple-minded, unpretending believers, chiefly belonging to my father’s family. I had now come to regard the quality of the proselytes of holiness as more important than their quantity; and the quality which I preferred was not that meteoric brightness which I had so often seen miserably extinguished, but sober and even timid honesty. This I found in the little circle of believers at Putney; and the Bible School which I commenced among them in the winter of 1836–7 proved to be to me and to the cause of holiness the beginning of better days.”

Although the work in which Noyes now engaged himself took the form of a “Bible School,” neither his purpose nor his interest could any longer be described as theological or even as religious. That purpose and interest belonged to a transcended phase of his development. His teaching in the “Bible School,” we are told, sought chiefly to confirm the pupils in “the new doctrines of Salvation from Sin and the Second Coming of Christ,” and to draw corollaries from them “resulting in the discovery of many other doctrines at variance with the dogmas of the divinity doctors and commentators.”104 This is an euphemistic way of describing what was really being done. What was really being done was, by the constant inculcation, enforcement, elaboration, illustration, of Noyes’s fundamental doctrines of the emancipation of believers from all restrictions of law, and their imminent entrance into the “resurrection state” in which the selfishness of “exclusive marriage” should be done away, to supply his pupils with a religious basis for the practice of sexual promiscuity and to induce them to enter upon the practice of it without shock, when the time seemed to him to have come to introduce it. Meanwhile he tells us emphatically and with some iteration that, personally he “walked in all the ordinances of the law blameless”—“till 1846”; and that also his “face was set as a flint against laxity among the Saints”—again “till 1846.”105 His whole preoccupation was, however, all this time with sex. “I got the germ of my present theory of Socialism,” he writes in 1867106—meaning nothing other than his doctrine of promiscuity, which he speaks of as if it carried with it his entire socialistic theory—“very soon after I confessed Holiness, i.e. in May 1834. As that germ grew in my mind, I talked about it. It took definite form in a private letter in 1836. It got into print without my knowledge or consent in 1837. I moulded it, protected it, and matured it from year to year; holding it always, nevertheless, as a theory to be realized in the future, and warning all men against premature action upon it. I made ready for the realisation of it by clearing the field in which I worked of all libertinism, and by educating our Putney family in male continence107 and criticism.108 When all was ready, in 1846, I launched the theory into practice.”109

Of course Noyes—for that was his custom—rationalized his preoccupation with sex. That was, he said, his necessary preoccupation after doctrine had been disposed of. “The first thing to be done,” he writes more than once,110 “in an attempt to redeem man and reorganize society is to bring about reconciliation with God; and the second thing is to bring about a true union of the sexes. In other words, religion is the first subject of interest, and sexual morality the second, in the great task of establishing the Kingdom of God on earth. Bible communists are operating in this order. Their main work from 1834 to 1846 was to develop the religion of the New Covenant and establish union with God. Their second work, in which they are now especially engaged, is the laying the foundation of a new state of society by developing the true theory of sexual morality.” When this passage was written, however—say in 1848—Noyes and his followers were not engaged in “developing the true theory of sexual morality,” if by that is meant working it out theoretically. That had been the work of the preceding period. They were now putting that developed theory of sexual morality into practice—and only in this practical sense “developing” it. Nor must the general terms in which the statement is thrown be permitted to throw the reader off of the real line of thought which is being followed. It is of course perfectly true that the two great objects of human regard are religion and morality, and the two matters of first consideration in the establishment of a sound social order are our relations to God and to one another. Since man has been made male and female, it may very properly be said also that, after religion, the family is the foundation stone of society. Precisely what Noyes was engaged in doing, however, was destroying the family. The problem he had set himself was nothing less than the reconstitution of human society without the family. It was precisely because of this that, in “the laying of the foundation of a new state of society,” he required first of all to “develop” a new “theory of sexual morality,” a theory of sexual morality, that is to say, which dispensed with the family. The theory which he developed was nothing other than that of sexual promiscuity—prudently regulated, no doubt, in its practice in the interest of the community, but not only distinctly but even dogmatically insisted upon. The development of this theory and its inculcation to his followers were actually his “main work” for ten years before 1846. Its practical application was equally actually his main work for the remainder of his active life. His mind was preoccupied thus for a whole half of a century with the details of the sexual life. The religious preoccupation was past: “The Berean,” which was published in 1847, but is made up of articles reprinted from the periodicals published from 1834 on, is its monument. The economic experiment on which he ultimately embarked was dependent on the narrower matter of sex-relations in which he saw its foundation stone: for all communism is wrecked on the family, and he perceived with the utmost clearness that he must be rid of the family if he was to have communism. Accordingly he constantly speaks of his “social theory” when he means nothing more than his “sexual theory,” and his book called “Bible Communism,” published in 1848, was nothing more than an elaborate plea for the practice of sexual promiscuity under the name of “entire community,” that is to say community not only in goods but also in women.111

III. The Structure

It was in May, 1846, so Noyes tells us,112 that “entire communism” was put into practice, and the association which had enjoyed hitherto only a progressively increasing community in goods, entered upon the enjoyment also of a community of women, and so became really “a common family.” From this time every man in the association—it consisted then of from thirty to forty members, but was destined to grow to over three hundred113—looked on every woman in it as his wife, and every woman looked on every man as her husband. When he wished to set this arrangement over against the “legality” of the exclusive “marriage of the world,” which he affirmed to be abrogated in the Kingdom of God, Noyes called it “free love.” When he wished, on the other hand, to defend it against the charge of “licentiousness,” he called it “pantagamy,” and insisted that it was as true a marriage as the “exclusive marriage of the world” itself—only “complex marriage” instead of selfish individual marriage. The enormity of the arrangement will perhaps be best apprehended when we remind ourselves that the community was intended to include, and did, in point of fact, from the beginning include, men and women united to one another by the ties of the closest kinship. A historian of the community, having in mind apparently only the law of promiscuity which reigned in it, cries out in shocked amazement that men of apparently reputable standing could be found, as they were found, to take their wives and daughters with them into such an arrangement. We do not touch the bottom of this degradation, however, until we recall that under this engagement the father at once himself became the husband of his daughters and his daughters the wives of their father. Children growing up in the community were—though they might be brother and sister—the prospective husbands and wives of one another, as well as of their own parents. Noyes himself took into the community with him from it first formation at Putney, not only his brother, who at once became therefore sharer with him in all his marital relations, but two sisters, who became at once therefore the wives of both himself and his brother.114 We do not affirm that marital rights were ever actually exercised in such cases. Of that we know and can know nothing. Respect for humanity leads us to suppose it incredible that it could have been brought to that pass. But it is of the utmost importance that we should fully realize that this is what Noyes’s pantogamy meant; that this pantogamy formed the very foundation stone of his whole system and was put fully into practice; that he was constant in proclaiming it and strict in enforcing it; and that he encouraged its free practice by teaching along with it that the sexual act was of no more significance than any other token of universal affection.

Noyes is insistent in pointing out that the freedom of intercourse inaugurated in his community was not absolutely unlimited in practice, and he appears to fancy that it may on this account escape the stigma of licentiousness and even perhaps of promiscuity. The limitations were, however, entirely of a prudential character, and had as one of their main purposes precisely to secure and maintain the practice of promiscuity. It is just here that the contrariety between his practice and Fourier’s fancies, which he much—and rightly—urged in other relations,115 comes most distinctly to view. Both insisted on promiscuity in the sexual relation. But with Fourier this promiscuity was a means to an end—the complete indulgence of passion; he sought, as Ralph Waldo Emerson puts it,116 “the greatest amount of kissing that the infirmity of human constitution admitted.” With Noyes, on the other hand, it was not the amount of the kissing which was the main concern, but its distribution; it was precisely promiscuity which was his end; and to secure that end everything else had to give way. For example, Fourier117 expected the young people to pair among themselves, of course purely spontaneously—if inclination led elsewhere, inclination naturally was to have its way; and he expected these young pairs to remain faithful to one another at least during the ardor of their first love—of course, again, only because natural inclination would so determine it. Noyes apparently did not doubt that Fourier was right in supposing that this would be the natural course of things. But there was nothing which he more sternly repressed than any tendency among young or old to monopolize one another, as he would say. When any such tendency manifested itself, he required each of those concerned to pair with someone else. We learn that much suffering was caused by the enforcement of this measure:118 it had no other end than the maintenance of promiscuity. It was his policy, also, to repress all direct courtship.119 Pairing was arranged through the intermediation of third parties, regularly the older female members of the community120 being called upon to perform this service. And it was a principle with Noyes to prevent ordinarily the pairing of the young with the young. Fourier suggests that it might happen now and then that a youth would take a fancy to, and obtain the favor of, a lady of mature age: indeed, as A. J. Booth tells us,121 he has recorded a thrilling incident “to illustrate how a youth, in all the ardor of virgin passion, may be irresistibly attracted by the personal charms of a lady more than one hundred years of age.” Noyes, on principle, required the young of both sexes to pair with the old, and discouraged the pairing of the young with the young.122 Thus, at least on paper, the sexual relations were in Noyes’s scheme governed strictly by a principle: there was no spontaneity about it; promiscuity in these relations was required and secured.123 The ultimate end, of course, was the safety of the community, which would be endangered by the formation of “monopolizing” attachments. The end of the safety of the community determined another of Noyes’s regulations—the universal practice, through the community, of his method of birth control.124 The care and expense of children would be a burden to the community, which would form a menace to its stability. Afterwards, when the community had passed through its tentative stage, the breeding of children—we use this phraseology advisedly—was undertaken on the most scientific principles. Not all the members of the community were permitted to produce children: certain ones were selected for breeding purposes, and paired with close attention to their mutual characteristics. Noyes calls this “Stirpiculture,” and wrote a pamphlet125 in the early seventies to explain its importance and the modes of its application. “Previous to about two years and a half ago,” he says in this pamphlet, “we refrained from the usual rate of child-bearing, for several reasons, financial and otherwise. Since that time we have made an attempt to produce the usual number of offspring to which people in the middle classes are able to afford judicious moral and spiritual care, with the advantage of a liberal education. In this attempt twenty-four men and twenty women have been engaged, selected from among those who have most thoroughly practiced our social theory.”

In one matter at least, connected with the restrictions placed on themselves by his followers in the practice of promiscuity, Noyes is far from candid. He wishes to obtain credit for them for confining their practice within the bounds of the community, and on this ground he invites us to look upon the compact which bound the community together as a true marriage—a “complex marriage,” no doubt, but none the less a marriage,126 and the community so bound together as a true family. “Our Communities,” he says,127 “are families, as distinctly bounded and separated from promiscuous society as ordinary households.” The bounding and separating of these communities from promiscuous society differed from the bounding and separating of families from that society, however, in being merely de facto, and, according to Noyes’s most fervent preaching, temporary, affording only samples of what was soon to become universal and preparing the way to it. The promiscuity practiced in these communities was therefore in principle universal, and was expected soon to become in fact universal. It is therefore thoroughly disingenuous to point to its momentary confinement to the communities as if that were of its essence, and on that ground to cloak the unbridled lasciviousness of this doctrine under such names as complex marriage and complex families. In point of fact, the fundamental doctrine which Noyes taught in this relation was pure, unbounded promiscuity; and all adaptations of this doctrine to community life were afterthoughts and were conceived by him as temporary expedients. What he discovered in the spring of 1834 was that in the kingdom of heaven there is no marriage or giving in marriage whatever. What he declared in 1845128 was that “the abolishment of worldly restrictions on sexual intercourse, is involved in the anti-legality of the gospel,” because such restrictions are “incompatible with the state of perfected freedom towards which Paul’s gospel of ‘grace without law’ leads.” What he still teaches in 1870129 is that, as there is “no intrinsic difference between property in persons and property in things,” the community of goods inaugurated after Pentecost carries with it community of women. “The same spirit which abolished exclusiveness in regard to money,” he says, “would abolish, if circumstances allowed full scope to it, exclusiveness in regard to women and children. Paul expressly places property in women and property in goods in the same category, and speaks of them together, as ready to be abolished by the advent of the Kingdom of Heaven.” The restriction of this promiscuity to the community was to Noyes an evil, an evil to be overcome, and to the overcoming of which he looked forward with fervent hope. And it was not the restriction of its practice within the communities which made these communities attractive to him, but the practice of it there. He arraigns “the law of marriage,” because, as he says,130 it gives to sexual appetite only a scanty and monotonous allowance, and so produces the natural vices of poverty, contraction of taste and stinginess or jealousy.” He praises131 “a Community home in which each is married to all, and where love is honored and cultivated,” precisely because it “will be as much more attractive than an ordinary home, as the community out-numbers a pair”—which, put brutally, is just to say that the sexual satisfaction increases with numbers.132 Fourier himself, to whom confessedly the free gratification of passion was everything, could not have expressed his own principle with more frankness.133

Although this iniquity was put into practice in 1846, there seems to have been at first something tentative and veiled in the practice of it. Noyes’s own expression is that it was begun “cautiously.”134 Even when done in a corner, however, such a thing is not easy to hide. And it became increasingly evident, as time went on, that the people of Putney were, in a general way, aware of what was being done and were quite disinclined to permit it to be done among them. As the antagonism rose, Noyes and his followers braced themselves to meet it. The line taken was the bold one of asserting for themselves immediate divine guidance and sanction. They apparently hoped thus to overcome opposition by the dread authority of Deity itself: and they sank to the mountebank device of invoking pretended miracles in support of their assertion. The crisis drew on in the midsummer of 1847. On the evening of the first of June, we are told by one of their number,135 their leader startled his assembled disciples with the question: “Is not now the time for us to commence the testimony that the Kingdom of God has come—to proclaim boldly that God in His character of Deliverer, Lawgiver and Judge has come to this town and in this Association?” The significance of this question was twofold. What had been done more or less in secret was now to be proclaimed on the housetop, and the coming of the Kingdom of God was to be asserted because, in Noyes’s teaching, it was only in the Kingdom of God that such things were sanctioned—“woe to him,” he had cried in the Battle Axe Letter, “who abolishes the law of apostacy before he stands in the holiness of the resurrection.” The answer returned by his followers to his question was a unanimous affirmation. “It was seen that a new and further confession of truth was necessary; that it was the next thing before them in the course of progress to which they had been called. It was unạnimously adopted, therefore, as the confession and testimony of the believers assembled, that the Kingdom of God had come.” This, however was mere assertion; and the only proof of the assertion was that those who made it were living in sexual promiscuity—which was to them an evident concomitant of the entrance into the world of the new divine order, but which could scarcely be counted upon to impress the outside world in the same way. Hence the appeal to miracles.

The star case was the healing of Harriet A. Hall, a chronic invalid, by the combined ministrations of Noyes and Mary Cragin on June 22. The miracles, it will be noted, did not tarry when they were needed. The patient, says Noyes,136 “was completely bedrid, and almost blind, lying in nearly total darkness.” “From this state,” he declares, “she was raised instantly, by the laying on of hands, and by the word of command, into strength which enabled her to walk, to face the sun, to ride miles without inconvenience and with excessive pleasure.” “The cure of Mrs. Harriet A. Hall,” he asserts, “is as unimpeachable as any of the miracles of the primitive church.” On the contrary, it is as obvious a sham as any of the thousands and thousands of sham miracles which disgrace the annals of the church, and not of the church only but of every popular religious movement throughout the world—differing only from other sham miracles in bearing on its brow the brand of fraud, as many of them do not. The part taken by Mary Cragin137 in this miracle—and others—is so barefacedly that of a play-actor, that one wonders that so shrewd a man as Noyes permitted the details to be made public. Other miracles followed in rapid succession;138 and not content even with these, others still, alleged to have been wrought previously, were now brought forward and made public.139 But it was all in vain. The people were obdurate; and, having refused to believe Noyes and his followers, would not believe though many rose from their beds. Vigorous action was begun to rid the town of the scandal. Indignation meetings were held. The courts were set in motion; civil suits for damages were brought; the Grand Jury found a true bill and in the indictment thus made Noyes was arraigned on specific charges of adultery and held for trial on heavy bail. The result was, happily, the destruction of the obnoxious community at Putney. The suspension of the publication of the community’s journal—The Spiritual Magazine—was compelled.140 Immunity in the courts was bought only at heavy cost; the civil suits were satisfied by money payments out of court;141 before the criminal case came on, Noyes broke bail and fled beyond the jurisdiction of the court.142 The community itself began to scatter and in a year or so it was gone.143

It was not at all within the plans of the leaders of the Community, however, because they had been driven out of Putney, to pass out of existence. In the height of the storm at Putney, Noyes was busily preparing for the future. Not content with calling heaven to bear witness to him in manifest miracles, he was as diligently engaged during this fateful midsummer of 1847 in strengthening his interests among the children of men. He turned in his need to those “New York Perfectionists” from whom he had decisively separated himself, and whose ways he had never wearied of declaring not his ways. Nor did he turn in vain. He was treated by them with marked deference from the outset; and in the end he obtained from them the means for redintegrating his enterprise under better stars than ever. Already on July 3d we find him drawing up in an elaborate document “the testimony of the parties concerned “in his star miracle,” at the request and in presence of” the notorious John B. Foot, “for his private use”—from which it seems that Foot was at the time in Putney.144 And in the issue of The Spiritual Magazine for July 15, announcement was made of the holding of two Conventions of perfectionists in Central New York, in the approaching September, “called,” says Hinds,145 for “promoting unity and co-operation between the New York and Putney believers.” These Conventions were called by John B. Foot and John Corwin, and met, the earlier at Lairdsville, Oneida County, New York, on September 3, under the presidency of Jonathan Burt, and the latter at Genoa, Cayuga County, under the presidency of Foot. Noyes made them the occasion of a five weeks’ tour of electioneering character through the region and, of course, was present at both Conventions as the official representative of one of the parties whose coöperation it was their avowed purpose to promote. As a result a series of resolutions, drafted by a committee of which Noyes was chairman, was passed at the later Convention “without a dissenting vote.” These resolutions ran:146

“1. Resolved, That we will devote ourselves exclusively to the establishment of the kingdom of God; and as that kingdom includes and provides for all interests, religious, political, social and physical, that we will not join or co-operate with any other association. 2. Resolved, That as the kingdom of God is to have an extensive manifestation, and as that manifestation must be in some form of Association, we will acquaint ourselves with the principles of Heavenly Association, and train ourselves to conformity to them as fast as possible. 3. Resolved, That one of the leading principles of Heavenly Association, is the renunciation of exclusive claim to private property. 4. Resolved, That it is expedient immediately to take measures for forming a Heavenly Association in Central New York. 5. Resolved, That William H. Cook be authorized, on our behalf, to visit Perfectionists throughout the state, for the purpose of stirring up their minds in relation to Association, and ascertaining the amount of men and means that are in readiness for the enterprise.”

By these remarkable resolutions the perfectionists of Central New York not only committed themselves to communism in principle, but to the immediate establishment of a Communistic Association, and set measures on foot to carry out this declared purpose. We are told further that, on the passage of the resolutions, “with great fervor the strongest men of the convention came forward and pledged ‘their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor’ to the enterprise proposed in the resolutions, and for the establishment of the kingdom of God in the world.”147 Noyes’s appeal to men had been more successful than his appeal to God. He had secured from the New York Perfectionists action which looked to the mere transference of his establishment from Putney to New York. And that is indeed precisely what happened, but not with the smoothness and facility which appeared likely on a mere surface view of things.

For there was one thing on which Noyes had not been quite candid with his New York brethren, and allusion to which is entirely absent from the set of resolutions whose passage he had secured from them. This was his doctrine of sexual promiscuity—and the relation in which it stood, in his view, to the possible formation of a Communistic Society, such as he had now committed them to. As they became aware of these things their zeal in coöperating with him in the foundation of such a society vanished. A series of resolutions, introduced by Otis Sanford of Clinton, New York, having the design of expressing sympathy and coöperation with Noyes, was passed by the earlier—the Lairdsville—Conference, with cordial unanimity. In these, entire approbation was expressed of the “general course of the press at Putney,” and cordial coöperation with the Putney brethren in the circulation of their publications was promised.148 But Noyes is compelled to add to his report of this resolution:149 “After the close of the meetings, Otis Sanford, in consequence of discovering that I was the author of the ‘Battle Axe letter’ (which he had never seen before,) retracted his assent to these resolutions.” This is but a straw showing how the wind was veering around. The sentiments of the brethren, in point of fact, underwent nothing less than a revulsion, which wrecked the whole great project which had been entered upon. There were those among them who had been involved in the indecencies of “Spiritual Wifehood,” but complete sexual promiscuity and that as the very foundation-stone of their society of saints, was more than, with all their antinomian tendencies, they could stomach. As an eye-witness of what was happening writes:—“As soon as they heard of cross-fellowship, and the fact that their chosen apostle was under bonds for the charge of adultery,” they drew decisively back. And thus it was brought about that though by his visit to New York Noyes provided for the removal of his Community to that State, it was not with the support of the New York Perfectionists at large.

We must suppose that it was in very deep disappointment that Noyes returned to Putney. Certainly he returned to very great trouble. The people were inexorable: his Community was dispersed: the criminal suit against him was pending; there was no promise in the outlook. On the twenty-sixth of November he felt constrained to leave Putney forever, taking up his residence in New York City. Meanwhile, there were a few men in Central New York who, being like-minded with him, were not content to permit the resolutions passed at the September Conventions to fall wholly to the ground.150 They could do nothing so grandiose as was contemplated in those resolutions. But they were resolved to establish a community in a small way on some such lines. These men, Jonathan Burt, Joseph C. Ackley, Daniel P. Nash, united their interests and invited Noyes to join them. This he did about the first of February, 1848, and at once took the lead in the enterprise and, indeed, as was his wont, became the dictator. The members of the old Putney Community joined him, and by the first of March the Oneida Community was fully organized. In giving an account in his “History of American Socialisms”151 of the origins of the Community he wishes to trace them back alternately to impulses derived from the great revivals of 1831 and the experiments at Brook Farm. “Thus the Oneida Community,” he says, “really issued from a conjunction between the Revivalism of Orthodoxy and the Socialism of Unitarianism.” Then he descends to details: “In 1846, after the fire at Brook Farm, and when Fourierism was manifestly passing away, the little church at Putney began cautiously to experiment in Communism. In the fall of 1847, when Brook Farm was breaking up, the Putney Community was also breaking up, but in the agonies, not of death, but of birth. Putney conservatism expelled it, and a Perfectionist Community just begun at Oneida under the influence of the Putney school, received it.”

After a quarter of a century of successful development, the exodus could be described in this poetical language. It was anything but poetry at the time. Except the hospitable welcome of Jonathan Burt152 there was little that was inviting in the untamed woods and streams of Oneida Creek; and the first years of the Community’s residence there were comfortless and hard enough, but also on that very account bracing and disciplining. “At first,” says Hinds,153 “the Community buildings at Oneida consisted of two small frame dwellings, a log-hut, and an old saw mill, once owned by the Indians. It was a dozen years before their members got beyond the necessity of sleeping in garrets and out-houses. Though the means brought in by the members enabled them to live tolerably well at first, they soon learned to content themselves with the humblest fare.” The Community, however, grew rapidly in numbers and efficiency; and ultimately, in wealth. Beginning in the spring of 1848 with about forty members, by the first of the next year it had eighty-seven, which it doubled in the course of the year 1849: on February 20, 1851, there were two hundred and five members, in 1875 two hundred and ninety-eight, and in 1878 three hundred and six.154 Nearly a hundred and eight thousand dollars were brought in by the incoming members during the first nine years, of which something more than forty thousand were sunk in living, leaving the Community on January 1, 1857, with a capital of sixty-seven thousand dollars. Now, however, economic success began, and the industries of the Community became profitable. These were mainly concentrated in the business of the canning of fruits and vegetables, and the manufacture of silk and of steel traps.155 It is not necessary to dwell on these things. Information on the industrial side of the life of the Community is easily accessible and is indeed in the possession of all. Only enough is required to be said to secure that it should be well understood on the one hand that the Oneida Community became eminently successful in the economic and industrial aspects, and on the other that the development of the Community on this side represents a new phase of Noyes’s activities, peculiar to the Oneida period.

Although, of course, community of goods was a dogma with him from the beginning of his speculations, and he had put it into practice at Putney, as there was no necessity for the development of large industrial efficiency before the removal to Oneida, so there was no marked progress made toward it. There is no evidence that Noyes had specially engaged himself with the problems of economic and industrial life prior to his settlement at Oneida. At Oneida, however, he was faced with hard conditions, and, after a period of partial failure, conquered them. There is an appearance that perhaps as a result of this necessary engrossment with these problems, the center of his interests now changed, and that economic matters began to loom in his mind as intrinsically more important than the matters to which he had hitherto given himself with most predilection. Religion, sex, industry—it was along this line of advance that his mind seems to have moved; and as he appears to have come to value religion chiefly as a sanction to sexual promiscuity, so he appears to have come in the end to value sexual promiscuity mainly as a means to economic efficiency. Our meaning in saying this is not that he looked on his religious theories as the necessary foundation of his sexual theory, and on this sexual theory as the necessary foundation of any successful communism. That goes without saying. That was the very essence of his theorizing; and no doubt from the practical point of view, also, he was right—decent people could scarcely have been brought to follow his sexual practice save under the influence of some such religious fanaticism as he imbued them with, and very certainly no communism can stand save on the ruins of the institution of marriage. What we are saying, however, is nearly the opposite of this. It is that Noyes, as he appears at Putney to have lost interest in his religious fanaticism in his absorption in sexualism, so appears at Oneida to have to some extent lost interest in his sexualism in his absorption in his industrialism—necessary as each nevertheless was to the basis of the other. Revivalist, perfectionist, sensualist, economist—that seems to be the line of his development. Not that he ever formally abandoned either his fantastic religious theories or his gross sexual doctrine, but that, an industrial communism having been created on their foundation, and now actually existing, he seems to have come to fancy that it might continue to exist and to function without their aid.

In this he was certainly mistaken, as the event proved. It was precisely through its drawing back from these religious absurdities and sexual abominations that the community crumbled. It lasted just a generation—from 1848 to 1880: and that it was just a generation that it lasted was no accident. What it means is that it lasted so long as those were at the helm who had taken up the enterprise under the impulse of a strong fanaticism; and that it fell to pieces when the guidance came into the hands of a new generation which could not believe the things by which its fathers had lived. W. P. Garrison, writing in The Nation of September 4, 1879, p. 154, as the process of its dissolution was beginning, remarks with great weight:—

“That the split in regard to sexual relations has come with the second generation was only what was to be expected. Nothing but a Chinese wall and the adoption of a conventual stringency could have prevented it.… Nothing is surer than that the Oneida system of complex marriage was a reversion to barbarism—to ways repudiated by the race in its efforts to rise above the promiscuous intercourse of the brutes. All the attention it deserved at the hands of social philosophers was due to this fact, and to one other, that it was justified by an appeal to supernatural sanctions.… What is most surprising in Mr. Noyes’s message to the Community is his declaration that he did not regard the hitherto existing social arrangements as ‘essential parts’ of their profession as Christian Communists. He has been saying this, it appears, for a year past. But ten years ago, in his work on ‘American Socialisms,’ he still held to the doctrine laid down in his ‘Bible Communism’ in 1848, that ‘the restoration of true relations between the sexes is a matter second in importance only to the reconciliation of man to God,’ and that ‘the sin-system, the marriage-system, the work-system, and the death-system, are all one, and must be abolished together.’… Mr. Noyes has, we conceive, outlived his headship. His successor … is the self-appointed head of the party which has become dissatisfied with complex marriage. In other words, there is no real succession. A revolution has taken place: the Community as it was has suffered a mutilation which practically destroys its identity, and will by the coming historian be added to the list of extinct Utopias.”

What was happening in the Community could not easily be better described. Noyes was growing old, and was losing his hold on the Community. Murmurings and disputings were heard on every side. The younger members had become skeptical both of Noyes’s religious system and of his theory of sexual relationship,156 and restive under control exercised over them. It was clear that a change of some sort was imperative. Noyes sought it in the first instance by retiring from the headship of the Community and putting a younger and more vigorous man in his place. The man he chose for his successor was not unnaturally his own son, Theodore R. Noyes, and he may have hoped the more from the choice because this son was a leader of the disaffected party—certainly at least with reference to the religious aspects of it.157 The experiment was not successful, and Noyes was compelled to withdraw the appointment. The disaffection which had been smouldering was now in flames. There were some, no doubt, who were ready to acquiesce in any settlement commended to them by their “tried leader.” But there were now two embittered parties shut up together within the bonds of this “family.” The one “could see nothing but a skeptic in the man who had dared to develop the fruits of the spirit of Christ in any other way than through their prescribed methods of professing unqualified belief in some of the doctrines of traditional Christianity.”158 The other was made up of enthusiastic supporters of the younger Noyes, and some of these, offended by his enforced withdrawal from the leadership, themselves withdrew from the family.

At this period a new factor entered the situation—external opposition. The tardily begun and tardily culminating protest of the people of the State of New York against the toleration in their midst of such a moral offense as the Oneida Community constituted, had now at last reached the point of effective action. The soul of this protest had been for a number of years John W. Mears, then a professor in Hamilton College, and the credit of bringing it through many difficulties to a decisive issue belongs mainly to him. We may date the beginning of the end, doubtless, from the appointment by the Synod of Central New York in 1873 of a committee charged with the duty of conferring with other religious bodies and determining on what measures were feasible. And the end itself was foreshadowed when a Conference called by J. W. Mears, F. D. Huntington, E. O. Haven, A. F. Beard, and E. G. Thurber met on February 14, 1879, in the University Building at Syracuse, New York, “for the purpose,” as it brusquely reported in The Nation,159 “of breaking up the Oneida Community.” This brusque language does not unfairly represent the temper of the Convention. The Oneida Community was recognized as intolerable, and every sort of difficulty had been raised to dealing with it decisively. It sheltered itself under the constantly repeated assertion that no law existed under which it could be proceeded against: as the lawyers put it, you cannot prove adultery without first proving marriage, and the Oneida people were not generally married. Sentimental objections to proceeding against them were also diligently advanced. The Oneida people were good citizens, and good business men, and good neighbors, and good employers of labor; they were a model of order and sobriety and diligence: why disturb them? Their morality? Well, said The Nation,160 “the Oneida theory of the relation of the sexes is odious, no doubt, but it is the product of crackbrained biblical exegesis and is sincerely held, and the sheriff can hardly kill it.” All this was brushed aside by the Convention. Morality, it said, is worth as much to a community as business ability; and if no law exists by which an end can be put to such flagrant immorality as flaunts itself in the Oneida Community—why the sooner such a law is made the better. So it appointed a committee to see if new legislation was really needed to meet the case, and if so to set steps on foot to secure it. That committee met in June, enlarged its numbers and very obviously got to business. It had become clear to every eye that the Oneida Community was doomed.

This had already become so clear to Noyes himself before the Conference of February 19 met that he approached that Conference with a document, which he caused to be distributed among its members, in which he practically promised that the Community would adjust itself to any special legislation the Conference might secure. The Oneida Community should be compared with the Shakers, he pleaded, not the Mormons: its members “had always been peaceable subjects of civil authority, no seditious act ever having been charged upon them; they had never proposed to carry out their peculiar principles in defiance of the laws or of the public opinion of their neighbors; and if special legislation should be obtained unfavorable to them they would still be faithful to their record in submission to the ‘powers that be.’ ”161 Possibly the Conference took heart of grace from such a promise; at any rate its representatives proceeded on their way with increased activity. Noyes’s fear in February had increased by June—when the Conference’s Committee met—to a certain foreboding of evil, and that with reference to his own person as well as with reference to the Community. He fled beyond the jurisdiction of the New York Courts and took up his residence in Canada, where he resided for the rest of his life.162 From this safe retreat he immediately (August 25, 1879) proposed to the Community which he had left behind him a complete surrender of its obnoxious practices.

“I need hardly remind the Community,” he wrote,163 “that we have always claimed freedom of conscience to change our social practices, and have repeatedly offered to abandon the offensive part of our system of communism if so required by public opinion. We have lately pledged ourselves in our publications to loyally obey any new legislation which may be instituted against us. Many of you will remember that I have frequently said within the last year that I did not consider our present social arrangements an essential part of our profession as Christian Communists, and that we shall probably have to recede from them sooner or later. I think the time has come for us to act on these principles of freedom, and I offer for your consideration the following modifications of our practical platform.” The modifications thus intimated, he then propounds as follows:—

“I propose: (1) That we give up the practice of complex marriage, not as renouncing belief in the principles and prospective finality of that institution, but in deference to the public sentiment which is evidently rising against it. (2) That we place ourselves not on the platform of the Shakers, on the one hand, nor of the world on the other, but on Paul’s platform which allows marriage but prefers celibacy. To carry out this change, it will be necessary first of all that we should go into a new and earnest study of the seventh chapter of 1 Corinthians, in which Paul fully defines his position, and also that of the Lord Jesus Christ, in regard to the sexual relations proper for the Church in the presence of worldly institutions. If you accept these modifications, the Community will consist of two distinct classes—the married and the celibate—both legitimate, but the last preferred.” “What will become of communism after these modifications,” he now proceeds, “may be defined thus: (1) We shall hold our property and businesses in common, as now. (2) We shall live together in a common household and eat at a common table, as now. (3) We shall have a common children’s department, as now. (4) We shall have our daily evening meetings, and all of our present means of moral and spiritual improvement. Surely here is communism enough to hold us together and inspire us with heroism for a new career. With the breeze of general goodwill in our favour, which even Professor Mears has promised us on the condition of our giving up the ‘immoral features’ of our system, what new wonders of success may we not hope for in the years to come? For my part, I think we have great cause to be thankful for the toleration which has so long been accorded to our audacious experiment. Especially are we indebted to the authorities and people of our immediate neighbourhood for kindness and protection. It will be a good and gracious thing for us to relieve them at last of the burden of our unpopularity, and show the world that Christian Communism has self-control and flexibility enough to live and flourish without complex marriage.”

It must not be supposed from the tone of the preamble and appendix of this communication that Noyes was arguing with an unwilling Community, to secure if possible from it action to which it was indisposed. He was really yielding to what had become the general demand of the Community; but in doing so supplying them with a plausible account of their action, such as would as far as possible save their and his susceptibilities. The action of the Community on this proposal was so immediate as to appear eager. The same number of The American Socialist164 which prints the proposal prints also this action: “The above message was considered by the Oneida Community in full assembly, August 26, 1879, and its propositions accepted; and it is to be understood that from the present date the Community will consist of two classes of members, namely, celibates, or those who prefer to live a life of sexual abstinence, and the married, who practise only the sexual freedom which strict monogamy allows. The Community will now look for the sympathy and encouragement which have been so liberally promised in case this change should ever be made.”

By this action, naturally, the bottom was knocked out of the agitation against the Community. That agitation was directed solely against its “immoral features,” and these were now abandoned.165 But the bottom happily was by it knocked out of the Community also.166 It was precisely in its system of “complex marriage” that the coherence of the Community consisted; that was the cement which held it together. That gone, everything was gone. If Noyes cherished any real expectations that the Community would seek to prolong its existence on the new “social platform” which he outlined for it, he was quickly undeceived. No celibacy for it! Before the close of the year “in addition to those cases in which there was a resumption of former marriage relations there were twenty marriages in the Community,” and, the chronicler adds, “the work continued apace,” and in a few years “scarcely half a dozen” remained unmarried.167 And no more communism for it! The change here was scarcely more difficult to manage and was no less decisively carried through. By the end of the year 1880 all communistic features had been eliminated and the Community had become an ordinary joint-stock company, carrying on as such the large business enterprises which had been developed. Noyes himself, writing in 1885, enumerates for us the steps in the process by which his lifework was undone.168 “On the 20th of August, 1879, I proposed that the practice of Complex Marriage be given up; on the 26th my proposition was adopted by the Community unanimously; on the 28th it was published to the world; and was received by the press generally with commendation. From that time the proposal of a general change from Communism to private ownership and joint-stock began to be agitated in the Oneida Community. It was discussed carefully and peaceably; and after sixteen months of study and preparation of details Communism of property was given up, as complex marriage had been before it, and on the 1st of January, 1881, the joint-stock company called the Oneida Community, Limited, took the place of the Oneida Community.” There were naturally some in so large a community who regretted this final change and would fain have preserved, if not a completely communistic organization, yet as many communistic features in their organization as possible. But there seems to have been no doubt, either in the sentiment of the community at large or in the minds of their responsible leaders, that this was a case in which it is the first step that counts; and that the abandonment of “complex marriage” was in fact the abandonment of communism, and should be acted on as such.

In this they were undoubtedly right. It was in point of fact a part of their most intimate experience through a generation of communistic living that, while the obnoxious “mine” and “thine” continue valid in the most intimate relation of life, it is folly to speak of their abolition elsewhere. But though we may justly say that the experience of the Oneida Community provides an empirical demonstration of the theoretically obvious proposition that communism cannot exist apart from the aid of “complex marriage,” with all its accompaniments and consequences, it by no means follows that permanency can be secured to it merely by this outrage on the deepest instincts of human nature. There are other instincts of human nature also which communism outrages, and on which all attempts to establish a communistic society must ultimately be wrecked. Property itself, for example, upon which communism makes its most immediate assault, is just as much a law of nature—or, let us say, a law of God—is just as much an ineradicable instinct of man—as marriage, with which it is indeed inextricably involved. Goldwin Smith, in an illuminating page,169 instructs us to think of property not as an institution of human society, but as a fundamental condition of human life. “A state of things in which a man would not think that what he had made for himself was his own,” he remarks, “is unknown to experience and beyond the range of our conceptions.” The economical value of property may arise from the circumstance that it is “the only known motive power of production.” But the right of property does not rest on this consideration of expediency, but is intrinsic in the individual’s right to himself. This right he can never yield, and all attempts at communism, which are at bottom only attempts to deprive men of their ineradicable rights—to themselves and the fruits of their own activities—are bound to break to pieces in the end on these primeval instincts of the race. The persistence of the Oneida Community for a generation suggests nothing to the contrary. It was not a self-subsisting communistic state. Economically considered, it was only a limited commercial association, pooling its earnings and living parasitically on the surrounding community. It not only recruited itself steadily from outside, but it depended wholly on the wider community in which it was encysted for all the necessities of living—police protection, social intercourse, trade distribution, peace, and opportunity to labor. More. It obtained the raw material for its industries from outside; it found the market for its product outside; it even came, as it grew prosperous, to draw a large part of its labor, by which its product was made, from outside. It became in fact, in principle only an employer-manufacturing concern, whose earnings were enjoyed in common by the owners, instead of divided, in this ratio or another, among them in severalty. When the time came to convert it into a joint-stock company, nothing could have been easier. Its six hundred thousand dollars of invested capital needed merely to be distributed equitably in stock among the owners, and the thing was done.

It was Noyes’s contention that religion is the only foundation on which a stable communism can be reared. He does not seem to have been very exigent as to what the nature of this religion should be. The rôle which he assigned to it in his speculations170 was to chasten and discipline the spirit for the hardships and restrictions demanded by community life. What has wrecked the communistic societies which have sprung up so luxuriantly in America has been largely, he says, the influx into them of idle, selfish, designing men. “General depravity,” he says, is, according to the universal testimony of experience, “the villain of the whole story”—a truth much more profound than apparently he was intending to express. May it not be, he asks, that “the tests of earnest religion are just what are needed to keep a discrimination between the ‘noble and lofty souls’ and the scamps?” The function he wished religion to serve, thus, was to act as a sieve to strain out the unfit—and a great variety of religions might serve this purpose if only they were earnestly held. If a community could be formed of earnestly religious men only, he thought, there might be some hope of its members’ living in harmony. He contended, now, that these speculative views had been verified in practice. Looking over the whole list of communistic experiments in America he singles out those which have shown unusual vitality. There are only eight of them; all the rest have quickly died; these only have lived. And now, says Noyes,171 “the one feature which distinguishes these Communities from the transitory sort, is their religion; which in every case is of the earnest kind which comes by recognized afflatus, and controls all external arrangements.” He wishes to draw the induction that it is religion, and religion alone, which makes communism possible.

Goldwin Smith, in criticism, remarks172 that while it is true that all the communities thus singled out by Noyes were religious, yet the list thus singled out does not include all the communities which were religious. Others were religious too—and died. And he might have added, had he written a little later, that these eight have died too—for they are now all dead, except the Shakers, who have become moribund, and the Ephrata and Oneida communities, which survive only in the changed form of joint-stock companies. Goldwin Smith does add one other remark which is very much to the point. All eight of Noyes’s enduring communistic societies had one other thing in common besides religion, though Noyes does not note it. They all rejected marriage—“whereby,” Smith explains, “in the first place they are exempted from the disuniting influence of the separate family; and in the second place, they are enabled to accumulate wealth in a way which would be impossible if they had children to maintain.” Some of them were strict celibates, and the others discouraged marriage; and it is much more probable that what enabled them to endure longer than such experiments have ordinarily done was this complete or partial elimination of the particular obstacle that stands most in the way of communistic practice, rather than their religion—except so far, of course, as it was from their religion that they derived the sanction for their misprision of marriage. It was this function, as we have seen, that Noyes assigned to religion in his own communistic experiment. He was insistent, no doubt, that putting first things first, religion was first with him. His communism was not mere communism standing on the “ordinary platform of communism.” It was “Bible Communism,” and as such very distinct from the communism, for example, of “the infidels and Owenites of twenty years ago.”173 God was a party to their communism. “Their doctrine is that of community, not merely or chiefly with each other, but with God.” God as creator, is owner of all; every loyal citizen is joint-owner with God of all things.174 But he was not content with laying such a general religious foundation as this for their structure. He shaped his religious teaching so as to provide a particular religious sanction precisely for that community in wives which he rightly saw was the prime essential to the stability of any communistic establishment.

IV. The Doctrine

It will be well for us to obtain some sort of a connected view of the religious system which Noyes taught, as a whole.175

We have already had occasion to observe—what is obvious in itself and was very fully recognized by Noyes—that his religious system was determined by two fundamental doctrines. “The two corner-stones of doctrine, equally important, on which Communism rests,” we read,176 “are, the doctrine of Complete Regeneration, or Salvation from Sin, and the truth that the Second Coming of Christ, and the founding of his heavenly kingdom, took place 1800 years ago. The first furnishes the personal or experimental basis, the second, the historical and political.” The former of these determining doctrines is unduly subordinated to the latter in the following enunciation of the “most important articles of faith” held by the Communists—no doubt because this statement is drawn up from the point of view of their social or “political” theories, and is printed in the opening pages of Noyes’s formal exposition of those theories.177 Nevertheless, the most of what was really effective in Noyes’s faith appears in it, and it is worth quoting here for the pointed brevity of its enunciation of the elements of his faith with which it does deal:—

“We believe in the Bible as the text-book of the Spirit of truth; in Jesus Christ as the eternal Son of God; in the Apostles and Primitive church, as the exponents of the everlasting gospel. We believe that the Second Advent of Christ took place at the period of the destruction of Jerusalem; that at that time there was a primary resurrection and judgment in the spiritual world; that the final kingdom of God then began in the heavens; that the manifestation of that kingdom in the visible world is now approaching; that its approach is ushering in the second and final resurrection and judgment; that a Church on earth is now rising to meet the approaching kingdom in the heavens, and to become its duplicate and representative; that inspiration or open communication with God and the heavens, involving perfect holiness, is the element of connection between the church on earth and the church in the heavens, and the power by which the kingdom of God is to be established and reign in the world.”

There is no lack of comprehensive statements of Noyes’s faith. He was rather fond of framing series of articles of faith or doctrinal theses. He prints, for example, in The Witness of August 20, 1837, a full systematic statement of “What we believe” in thirty-four articles, and again in The Perfectionist of February 22, 1845, fifty “Theses of the Second Reformation.”178 Each of these fairly covers the whole ground of his faith. We may, however, perhaps content ourselves, for such a general glance over the entire system, with the shorter series of articles printed in the preface to “The Berean.” These he speaks of as a “frank synopsis of the leading doctrines of this book”—the book itself being the “religious book of the Community,” from which Noyes advises us “the religious theories of the Community” may be best ascertained. A polemic form is given these articles, and in each instance the doctrine taught in the Community is set in its relations to the teachings of other bodies. We omit that feature of them and otherwise compress them; and so arrive at the following nine heads of doctrine which may be thought fairly to comprise in utmost brevity the system taught by Noyes. 1. God is not a Trinity, but a Duality—Father and Son: these two are co-eternal but not co-equal. This duality in the Godhead is imaged in the twofold personality of the first man, who was made male and female, and as Adam was to Eve, so is the Father to the Son. 2. God has foreordained all that comes to pass. Evil, however, was eternal, and hence does not fall under the divine foreordination. Its admission into God’s creation, nevertheless, was foreordained; and this was done because it was necessary for the judgment and destruction of the uncreated evil. The foreordination of the reprobation of some men and the salvation of others rests on foresight of their divergent conduct. 3. In consequence of Adam’s transgression all men are born under the spiritual power of Satan. But there are two essentially different classes of men. One class are of the very seed of Satan and in every sense depraved. The other class are only subjected to Satan’s evil influence and therefore instinctively respond to the word of God when it comes to them. 4. The Atonement is not legal but spiritual. The death of Christ does not satisfy the demands of the law in the place of sinners. It perfects Christ in all human sympathies; destroys the spiritual power of the devil in whom all men are held captive by nature; and delivers those whom He thus wakes and releases from the condemning sin-occasioning power of the law. 5. The motives of the law and a change of purpose in the creature are necessary preparations for the second birth. But the second birth itself is a change not of purpose or acts, but of spiritual condition. It is a divorce of the human spirit from the power of Satan, and a junction of it with the Spirit of God. It is a progressive work, in the double effects of outward cleansing brought about by external moral and spiritual influences, and the inward quickening communicated by the life of Christ through faith. 6. “We agree with the most ultra class of Perfectionists, that whoever is born of God is altogether free from sin.” But this complete freedom from sin is not ordinarily attained in the first stage of discipleship. Hence there is in the Church a class of persons called believers or disciples, but not “sons of God,” and they are not yet free from sin. 7. Whoever is born of God will infallibly persevere in holiness unto salvation. But believers who are not yet “sons of God” may fall away. 8. Christ’s Second Coming took place in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem, at the end of the time of the Jews. At that time those were judged who had been ripened for the harvest of history by the Old Testament dispensation and the preaching of Christ to the Gentiles. The formal judgment is yet to come, at the end of the times of the Gentiles, bearing the same relation to the period in which we live as that former judgment did to the precedent time. 9. Those that sow to the flesh shall reap eternal punishment.

It is in the vague generality given to them in such brief statements as this that Noyes’s doctrines appear to their best advantage. When taken up one by one and explicated in their details, their combined grotesque crudity and reckless extravagance are seen to pass all belief. He has not escaped wholly from the hands of his teachers. Nathaniel W. Taylor has given him the general method of his thinking; Moses Stuart has built the piers on which he supports his dogmas; the fanatical perfectionists of central and western New York have supplied to him their fundamental content. But he has rounded out the outline and filled in the chinks with material derived from the most outlandish sources, giving to the whole an aspect both fantastic and in the highest degree repellent. He has been most influenced by the Shakers; or it would be more correct to say that the whole formal nature of his system was borrowed from them. They taught, for instance, that God is a dual person, male and female; that Adam was also dual, having been made in God’s image; that all angels and spirits are also both male and female; and that the distinction of sex in mankind is eternal, inhering in the soul itself. They taught also that the Second Coming of Christ had already taken place, that the Church has been apostate since the primitive age and is only now, in themselves, being rebuilt; that the Kingdom of heaven and the personal rule of God is now in process of restoration; that the old law has been abolished; and the direct intercourse between heaven and earth has been renewed; that sinlessness of life is not only a possibility but an obligation; that the use of marriage has ceased; and that death itself has passed away and become only a change of dress, a shedding of the visible robe of the flesh and assumption of the invisible glory of the spirit. To every one of these items of Shaker teaching Noyes presents a clear counterpart. Sometimes he simply takes the Shaker doctrine over just as he found it. More frequently he tried to fit it into his own personal lines of thinking. But even when he most alters it—as in his transformation of their celibacy into his promiscuity—the genetic connection is not wholly obscured. He has not contented himself, however, with borrowing from the Shakers. He has not disdained to pick up fragments of notions from what appears to have been his student’s reading of the early history of the Church, and thus to embroider his doctrine with scraps of all sorts of outworn heresies. Thus, for example, he has thus given it especially the odd aspect of a revival of Gnostic Dualism.

The place which the dualistic principle takes in Noyes’s theological constructions is nothing less than astonishing. We have seen that, following the Shakers, he conceives God as “a dual being, consisting of the Father and the Word,”179 and if he does not go on with the Shakers and proclaim Him flatly, in His duality, “male and female,” he fails of this by the narrowest of margins. He speaks of the “law of duality” which is indicated in all nature and suggested by the creation of the first pair, and then of this law he declares that it “takes its rise from the constitution of God himself, who is dual—the Father and the Son—in whose image man was made, male and female, and of whose nature the whole creation is a reflection.”180 Nature being a reflection of the nature of God, we may of course learn what God’s nature is from nature. “If we reason,” says he,181 “from the seen to the unseen, assuming that the essential nature of the effect is in the cause, we have proof as broad as the universe, that the Godhead is a duality; for every link of the chain of productive life, in its whole visible extent from the lowest region of the vegetable kingdom, to the highest of the animal, is a duality. The distinction between male and female is as universal as vitality, and all visible evidence goes to prove that it is the indispensable condition of reproduction, i.e. of vital creation. If we find two elements in all the streams of life, why should we not infer that the same two elements are in the Fountain?” If this reasoning has any validity whatever, it proves not merely that there is a duality in the Divine Being, but that the duality takes the specific form of a differentiation into male and female. Accordingly we find Noyes saying: “We are led to the simple conclusion, that the uncreated Creator, the Head of the universe, like the head of mankind and the head of every family, though one, is yet ‘twain’ (Mark 10:8); in a word, that the creation has a Father and a Mother.”182 And his formal confession of faith runs:183 “We believe, not in the Trinity,184 nor in the Unity, but in the Duality of the Godhead; and that Duality in our view, is imaged in the twofold personality of the first man, who was made ‘male and female.’ Gen. 1:27.” He does, to be sure, add, “As Adam was to Eve, so is the Father to the Son; i.e. he is the same in nature, but greater in power and glory”; and this can hardly be understood otherwise than as confining the difference between the Father and Son substantially to one of “power and glory.” And, elsewhere, he certainly argues at considerable length for this general idea.185 Perhaps his most lucid explanation of his meaning, however, is conveyed in the following extended sentence:186 “I do regard the Father and the Son, as two Spirits, who bear a similar social (not physical) relation to each other as that which exists between man and woman, one of whom is greater than the other, (as the man is greater than the woman) who love each other and have pleasure in their fellowship, (as man and woman love and have pleasure in spiritual fellowship) who are the joint parents of all created things, (as man and woman are the joint parents of their offspring) who are thus the prototype in whose image Adam and Eve were made.” If this, however, be all that Noyes means, there certainly is less in his conclusion than in his premises.

If the sexual distinction in God may be understood, however, only of a differentiation in Him of those spiritual qualities and modes of action which we associate with the two sexes as known to us among men, the same cannot be said of any other living beings. All other living beings besides God are veritably male and female. This is true, for example, of the angels. “I confess,” writes Noyes,187 “I see nothing very horrible in the idea of there being sexual distinction in the angelic race. If the distinction of spirits, the twofold life, which I have described in what I have said of God, exists in the angelic nature, (as I believe it exists in every living thing, from God to the lowest vegetable,) I see no very alarming reason why that distinction should not be expressed in the bodily form of angels as well as men.” Of course this involves the assignment of a corporeal nature to angels, and this Noyes does without hesitation, and then proceeds to interpret Gen. 6:1, 2, Jude 6 f., of carnal sinning on their part. Not only does sex distinction thus exist in the angels, it persists also in the disembodied souls of men. The human soul is not in Noyes’s view, however, pure spirit—which itself is thought of by him after the analogy of what he calls “fluids,” that is to say the “imponderable fluids” of the old physicists—electricity, galvanism, magnetism, light, heat—and therefore at least after a material image. It is the product of the union of this spirit, of the increate spirit which is the breath of God, and the dust of the ground. It is thus, he says,188 “a modification of spirit, produced by union with a material body.” It takes the form of the body and its size and parts; and receives into itself some of the properties of matter. “As Adam’s body was spiritualized matter, so conversely Adam’s soul was materialized spirit.” The soul thus stands between spirit and matter. The materialization of the spirit in the soul gives it its individuality and immortality. Had it not been thus materialized, on the release of the spirit from the body, it would return to the abyss of life whence it came: but it has entered in the soul into a “materialized or partially indurated state,” and so persists in separation from the body. On the other hand, as the whole nature of God is in “the breath of God,” the spirit which enters into the composition of the soul of man is still “in communication with God, and assimilated to him.”

This dualism of sex, characterizing the mode of existence of all animal being, is, however, far from the whole of the dualism which Noyes teaches. Beneath it he discovers an underlying ontological dualism, according to which an Eternal God stands over against an eternal matter. And side by side with this (not identical with it) he discovers yet another eternal dualism, an ethical dualism dividing the realms of spirit itself between the principle of good (which is God) and the principle of evil (which is the devil). Creation with him is not ex nihilo, but out of preëxistent uncreated material; and if we ask him whence this material came, he claims the right to reply by another question—Whence did God come?189 All creation, however—if we can speak of creation when nothing is really originated—is from God: it is not parcelled out between God and the devil. Not that sin or death originated “in God, or in any of his works”; or that God has “by creation, by decree, or by permission given birth to” evil. “The ultimate cause of all evil is an uncreated evil being; as the ultimate cause of all good is an uncreated good being.”190 But evil enters the realm of created being subsequently to its creation, God permitting it so to enter into His creation because only in this field can He grapple with it and destroy it—an authentic Manichæan trait.191 By his fall Adam, who was a creature of God, came under a divided dominion. “The streams from the two eternal fountains flowed together in him. His spiritual nature was primarily good, as proceeding from God; but secondarily evil, as pervaded by the Devil.” It seems, however, that though propagating his offspring in his own likeness, the two elements of “his compound character” were distributed unevenly among them. God and the devil strove for mastery over them, and the result was two distinct classes of men, in one of which good, in the other evil, predominates.

“As the offspring of Adam’s body was twofold, distinguished into male and female, part following the nature of the primary, and part the nature of the secondary parent; so the offspring of his spiritual nature was twofold, distinguished like that nature, into good and evil, part following the character of the primary and part the character of the secondary spiritual element. In other words, Adam has two sorts of spiritual children—one of them like himself, primarily of God and secondarily of the Devil, of whom Abel was a specimen; the other, primarily of the Devil and secondarily of God, of whom Cain was a specimen. Thus mankind are divided spiritually into two classes of different original characters, proceeding respectively from uncreated good and evil.… The depravity of mankind, then, is of two sorts. The seed of the woman are depraved, as Adam was after the fall,—not in their original individual spirits which are of God, but by their spiritual combination with and subjection to the Devil.” “On the other hand, the seed of the serpent are depraved as Cain was,—not only by combination with and subjection to the Devil, but by original spiritual identity with him. They are not only possessed of the Devil, but are radically devils themselves.”192

There are thus two radically different kinds of men in the world, differing by nature, not by grace, and by their natural difference determining the difference which they manifest under grace. To put it shortly, the one kind of man is accessible to grace, the other intrinsically inaccessible to it. “There is an original difference in the characters of men—a difference which is not produced by the gospel, but which exists before the gospel is heard, and is in fact the cause of the different consequences resulting from the gospel in different persons.”193 The gospel no doubt is presented to all alike, but there are some who cannot receive it, while others are so far “honest and good” that the Word, when it comes to them, is gladly received. They are “not saved by nature, but they are adapted by nature to be saved by grace.”194 “Human nature,” says Noyes, reverting as is his wont to sexual imagery, “is a female which conceives and brings forth sin or righteousness, according as it has Satan or God for its husband”195—which is only a lame figure by which he means to say that those men who are in the deepest depths of their nature of God are “saved,” those who are in the deepest depths of their nature of the devil are “lost.” God, being a prudent person, does not attempt to save those who are by their very nature lost. The gospel, which is sent indiscriminately into the world, reaches them, of course, as well as others—though only to manifest, by its rejection, their real character. But in all the hidden operations of His Grace He confines Himself to those who are salvable, electing them to “salvation” and reprobating those whom He knows in His infinite foreknowledge to be inaccessible to His saving operations, to eternal misery.196

With this ontology behind him, Noyes’s soteriology naturally takes the form fundamentally of the destruction of the evil principle in the world. Christ came primarily to destroy the devil, and to deliver those who have been taken captive by him from his domination—that is to say, those of them who are capable of this deliverance. He does not bear our sins; He delivers us from sin. It is Satan, not He, who bears our sins. “The penalty of all sin is actually inflicted on the devil, who is actually the author of it. Here is no evasion—no substitution of an innocent person for the offender. The law has its course. Man is saved, not because God abrogates the law or evades it by a fiction, but because he rightfully imputes the sins of which men are the instruments, to the devil, as their real author.”197 If it be the devil, however, who expiates our sins, it is Christ who delivers us from them. He does this by entering by incarnation the very sphere in which sin reigns and bringing there “the strength of the Godhead” “into immediate contact with the strength of the devil, in the very field which was to be won.” A twofold effect was sought and was obtained. On the negative side men were to be freed from the dominion of the devil; on the positive, they were to be effectively united with God. In the place of the devil, God was to be brought into immediate control of their lives. In order to accomplish this double work Christ required not only to enter this world of living men but to follow men into the world of the dead where Satan “had his sanctuary.” Here His saving work culminated. For “the death of Christ was … a spiritual baptism into the devil, of which the corporeal crucifixion was only an index and consummation.”198 Or more fully stated: “Jesus Christ, by his death, entered into the vitals of the devil, and overcame him. He thus destroyed the central cause of sin. The effect of this act on them that believe, is to release them from the power of sin; and on them that believe not, to consign them with the devil to destruction.”199 Everything depends on faith; for faith is the vehicle by which Christ—not merely the word of Christ, but Christ Himself—is received into the soul. No doubt, this reception of Christ is mediated by the word, but the word is no mere series of sounds. “It is a fact well known to spiritualists, that the word of every spiritual being is an actual substance, sent forth from his inward center, carrying with it the properties of his life. It is also a known fact that the act of believing actually receives into the soul and spirit, the substance conveyed in the word believed. So that communication by word from one person to another, effects an actual junction of spirits, and conveys to the receiver a portion of the life and character of the communicator.”200 Thus by believing, we receive Christ, His “flesh and blood”—which does not mean His material body, but “a spiritual substance of which his material body was but the envelope”—His “soul and spirit,” belonging to “his preëxistent state,” “a spiritual body and a life within it.” Receiving this, “the believer becomes a son of God and partaker of the eternal life of the Father.” Our salvation shows itself in four great benefits which we enjoy: salvation from all sin; security from all future sin; deliverance from external law; independence of all human teaching. We have become one with Christ, and thereby are freed from the evil one, and these things are the mark of our emancipation. “We … say,” says Noyes,201 “none are, or have been, Christians, in the sense in which Paul was (if his state corresponded to his preaching,) who have not received perfect holiness, perfect security, perfect liberty, and perfect independence, by the blood of christ.”

“Holiness,” says Noyes,202 is “the principal object of the atonement.” Forgiveness is first in the order of time, but is only a means to the end of purification. “Dividing salvation into two great parts, viz., forgiveness of past sin, and purification from present sin, it is plainly implied in nearly all the declarations of the Bible touching the subject, that the latter part is the primary, and the former the secondary object of the work of Christ.”203 There is a sense, of course, in which such a statement might be accepted as substantially true: it is intended here, however, in the sense in which it is the common declaration of all perfectionists, and has as its end to convey the idea that enjoyment of the salvation from sin wrought out by Christ is just immediate entrance into a perfectly holy state. Noyes does not hold, to be sure, this proposition to be universally true. The Old Testament saints, for example, he teaches, did not receive their salvation until the coming of Christ; they lived not in fruition but in hope: they had not yet been born of God (Christ was the first-born Son of God), but were only heirs of a future Sonship—only prospectively children, experimentally merely servants. When Christ came, they received their perfect holiness—both those in this and those in the spiritual world together. The disciples of Christ and apostolic believers, similarly, did not receive their salvation until the Second Coming of Christ—which took place, according to Noyes, in a.d. 70.204 Hence the sins of Old Testament saints, disciples of Christ, apostolic believers are irrelevant as objections against the assertion that perfection is essential to the experience of salvation: we need not look for perfect men until after the Second Coming (a.d. 70).205 Somewhat inconsistently, however, a good deal of space is given to proving that Paul was perfect.206 Of course Noyes begins by setting aside Rom. 7:14 ff., Phil. 3:12 ff., 1 Cor. 9:27—this passage no doubt, rightly—2 Cor. 12:7, 1 Tim. 1:15, and ends with Paul’s assertions of his own integrity. Ritschl could not have done it better. There are visible in the apostolic church, he says in explanation, “two distinct classes of believers,” immature and mature (1 Cor. 2:6), and the mature, of whom Paul was one, were “perfectly holy.” This class grew in number and distinctness, “till at last, when John wrote his epistles, Perfectionism was fully developed, and had become the acknowledged standard of Christian experience.” Quoting the passages in 1 John which are ordinarily relied on in this sense, he comments:207 “If this is not Perfectionism, we know not how, by any human language, Perfectionism can be expressed.” There is left, he admits, “one little text” (1 John 1:8)—but when rightly understood this does not run athwart the others; it refers to pre-perfection sins. “We think it not uncharitable to say,” he remarks, “that they who persist in construing this verse as opposed to the doctrine of salvation from sin, and in regarding it as sufficient to offset all the plain assertions, scattered through the whole epistle, that perfect holiness is the only standard of true Christianity, belong to that class of persons who ‘strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.’ ”

It would be hoping too much to expect that Noyes could wholly escape the universal tendency of perfectionists to explain the perfection which they assert as something less than perfect. When answering objections to his doctrine,208 he tells us, for example, that to be perfectly holy is not necessarily to be free from infirmity. “We mean by perfect holiness,” he says—adding, “using the expression in its lowest sense,”—“simply that purity of heart which gives a good conscience.” This is a very ambiguous statement. Doubtless, taken strictly, the purity of heart which gives a good conscience is an absolutely pure heart—or else the conscience fails to accuse when accusation were fitting. But employing the language in its current meaning, something very far from perfect purity may be expressed by it. And that Noyes is employing the language in this lowered meaning an illustration he adduces in connection with it sufficiently proves. This is not, however, his ordinary manner of speaking of the perfection he asserts. It is rather characteristic of him to carry it to the height of its idea. In one passage,209 for example, he expounds 1 John 3:3–10 with a view to showing from the declaration, “he that committeth sin is of the devil,” that the real Christian never sins at all, seeing that one sin is enough to manifest an essentially devilish character. When asked “how much men may sin and yet be Christians,” he says: John answers that “men cannot sin at all and be Christians.” There is no middle ground: we are “either as righteous as Christ or as wicked as the devil.” “The children of God are perfectly holy. Sin, in every case, proves the subjects of it children of the devil.”210 John does not say, “He that committeth sin habitually is of the devil”; or, “He that committeth known sin is of the devil”; or, “He that committeth wilful sin is of the devil”; or, “He that committeth sin is of the devil while committing sin.” He says, “He that committeth sin is of the devil”; and we are to take the word of God just as it stands. “James spoke good philosophy when he said, ‘He that offendeth in one point, is guilty of all.’ ”211

This insistence on the perfection of perfection is not only the usual view which Noyes expresses, but it is the natural, or rather the necessary, one for him to take, on the ground of his mystical doctrine of the procuring cause of our perfection of life which we have already seen him expounding. “Christ liveth in me”—it is all summed up in that. “The necessary consequence of that condition,” he says,212 “is perfect holiness, because Christ is perfectly holy.” It belongs to the fundamental elements of his doctrine of salvation, that Christ has “destroyed the devil,” and secured to God—to Himself as the saving God—the entire control of the children of the woman, hitherto living under the divided rule of God and the devil. That is what salvation consists in; and that is the reason that salvation is in the complete meaning of these words, salvation from sin. It is possible that Noyes is not quite consistent with himself, however, when he seeks to answer the question: “How is this union, by which Christ dwells in the soul, and so saves it from sin, to be effected?” At the place at the moment before us, he replies, as we have already seen him elaborately arguing elsewhere, “The witnesses of the New Testament answer with one voice—by believing the gospel.”213 His prepossession at the moment, however, is to show that this faith is not exercised in our own strength, but is the gift of God. It is “an act of the heart of man, possible to all, and in the highest degree obligatory on all, but actually existing only where God in his sovereign mercy gives special grace.” “He has forgiven all, and sent the Spirit of grace to all, and so has left all utterly without excuse for remaining unreconciled; but he has given faith only to them whom he chose in Jesus Christ before the world began.”214 It may be this teaching which he has in mind when he protests against Dixon’s representation215 of his doctrine of how we arrive at salvation from sin. Dixon says in effect that he teaches that we have only to believe, and it is done. In the passages that have been before us Noyes apparently teaches just that. But he also teaches that we do not acquire holiness directly by faith; but it as well as faith is a gift of God.

For Noyes, like other perfectionists, has a first and a second conversion.216 Only he does not make the second a mere repetition of the first, seeking an additional blessing. It is a radically different transaction. The first is “an action or purpose of our own,” “a voluntary movement.” The second is an effect wrought on us. We do the one; we suffer the other. The one is “proximately our own work”; the second, “the operation of God.” By the first we become disciples; by the second the children of God. It is only by the second that we receive “deliverance from all sin”: and on this teaching it is quite true that we do not merely have to believe—and it is done. Deliverance from sin is a gift of God, given to none but believers, it is true, but not acquired by faith. The inevitable question is, of course, raised whether it is imperative that these two stages in the process of salvation from sin must be traversed, or we may pass “from a state of irreligion” directly to “perfect holiness.”217 The reply is that it is at least “a general principle” that “men by their first conversion are introduced to sinful discipleship,” and “reach perfect holiness only by a second conversion.” But it is added that the facts seem to require the admission “that some have passed directly from irreligion to perfect holiness.” This is translated in a new paragraph into the explanation that while in the order of nature a twofold process is necessary, the interval may be shortened so that to all intents and purposes no time intervenes. And it may be, it is added, that after a while this may become the regular experience. The height of the perfection thus secured, we must remind ourselves, is manifested not only in its completeness according to its idea, but also in its indefectibility. It is Noyes’s constant teaching—a teaching by which he differentiates his perfectionism from that of others—that perfection once secured is secure. Thus, for example, writing of the New Covenant,218 he tells us that, first it secures salvation from sin, interpreting this as “perfect sanctification,” and then secondly, “it secures salvation from sin forever”—adding further that this is really to speak repetitiously, “for salvation from sin, in the proper signification of the expression, is salvation from sin forever.” It is the characteristic of the new covenant, he says, that God secures the fulfillment of its requirements—disposing men’s hearts to fulfill them.

The second conversion is coincident—or rather is identical—with the second birth; by the one as by the other we are said to become the children of God and free from all sin.219 To become sons of God by this new birth means just what is meant by being united with Christ, as we have already seen that idea expounded. It is, now, Christ that lives in us, and it is no more we that live: all that we do He does through us, and thus our total life manifestation perfectly corresponds with His will. We are, as in this view we must be, just as perfect as Christ is. And of course we are just as spontaneous in our holy activities as He is. As it is absurd to suppose Him governed in His conduct by the precepts of an external law, so it is absurd to suppose us, His children, and the organs of His activities, to require or to be subject to an external law. The children of Christ, just because they are perfectly holy and perfectly secure in their holiness, are also emancipated from the law and need not that any should teach them. Of themselves they do that which is right. Noyes naturally desires not to be thought of as an antinomian. It is not antinomianism that he teaches, he says,220 but “anti-legality.” He believes that the law—the whole law, moral as well as ceremonial—has been abolished for the sons of God. But this does not mean that we have escaped beyond the government of God; it means only that the instrument through which He governs us has been changed—from law to grace. He even says that the “standard of holiness” which constitutes “the ultimate object of God’s government” has suffered no alteration. Only “the measures which God chooses to employ to effect that object” have been changed. The children of God neglect law not because they desire to be free to sin; but precisely because they have no desire to sin and do not require law to restrain them from it. It is the way of holiness, not of sin, that they pursue; and they pursue it because it has become their second nature and they cannot do otherwise. They do not transgress the law but have transcended it. They are not seeking “an easy method of escaping the necessity of works,” but have found “the only and the sure foundation of such works as will survive the fire of judgment.”221

Now, Noyes says,222 “regeneration or salvation from sin,” that is perfection, “is the incipient stage of the resurrection.” We are married to Christ, he reasons,223 and the status of the wife, of course, follows that of the husband: since Christ has risen from the dead, we therefore are living the resurrected life. We have passed from the carnal into the resurrection state; from this world into the heavenly world; our “state and relations are as fully changed, as the idea of a translation from earth to heaven demands.” “Believers by fellowship with Christ in his resurrection, are released from the beggarly elements and carnal ordinances of that worldly sanctuary which they have left.” We are freed, then, from sin; and we are freed from the law—for law “cannot carry its claims beyond death”; and we are freed, indeed, even from death itself—at first, from its sting, but not its form, since men were so far within the territory of him that has the power of death that they are slow to escape from its form; but this too is coming. “The intent of the Gospel,” we are told in another place,224 “was, and is, to take people out of this world into a state beyond death, in which the believer is spiritually with Christ in the resurrection, and hence is free from sin and law, and all the temporary relations of the mortal state.” The church has its “standing” therefore now “in a posthumous state”; a posthumous state which may also be called “the angelic state.” In this angelic state, as is natural, different conditions obtain from those of the carnal state in which we have hitherto lived, and “free social relations are to be inaugurated as soon as existing obligations can be disposed of.”

When he wrote these words, Noyes was thinking of the abolition of marriage in the “resurrection” or “angelic” state, in accordance with Matt. 22:23–30, which he absurdly reads as the proclamation of the reign of promiscuity in this state,225 thus throwing a lurid light on his contention that the abolishment of the law in the resurrection state is not that evil may be done, but that good may be done spontaneously. In this case at least the law is simply reversed and made to read, Thou shalt have thy neighbor’s wife. It is not, however, merely a relaxation of morals which Noyes finds in the “resurrected” state. He finds in it also, as has been already incidentally noted, nothing less than “the abolition of death” itself—although he recognizes that this is to come “as the last result of Christ’s victory over sin and the Devil.”226 And it is to be noted that it is precisely through the abolition of marriage—that is to say, the institution of promiscuity in the relations of the sexes—that the abolition of death is to come. “Death is to be abolished, and … to this end, there must be a restoration of true relations between the Sexes.”227 When what he has to say on this point is weighed, the underlying meaning appears to be that sexual promiscuity is absolutely essential to the existence of a communistic society, and the abolition of death is to result from the removal in a communistic society of the wearing evils which in the present mode of social organization bring men to exhaustion and death.228 Remove these evils which kill man, and man will cease to die. Communism, that is, is conceived as so great a panacea that it not only cures all the evils of life, but brings also immortality; and there seems to be no reason for a man to die in a communistic society. Running through the four great evils in which he sums up the curses which afflict life in our present social organization, Noyes says: “First we abolish sin”—that is by entering through faith into a perfect life; “then shame”—that is by practicing free love; “then the curse on woman of exhausting child-bearing”—that is by using his recipe for birth control; “then the curse on man of exhausting labor”—that is through community labor, in the attractive association of the sexes; “and so we arrive regularly at the tree of life.” All “the antecedents of death” are removed; and so, of course, death itself. “Reconciliation with God opens the way for the reconciliation of the sexes. Reconciliation of the sexes emancipates woman, and opens the way for vital society. Vital society increases strength, diminishes work, and makes labor attractive, thus removing the antecedents of death.” Perfectionism, free love, community in industry in happy association—take these things and you will not die. At the bottom lies nothing other than the amazing assumption that communistic association, if you can only achieve it, will bring immortality. All the other steps are only the means to communism.

We have permitted ourselves to be drawn aside from the purely theological aspects of this matter by Noyes’s own later mode of speaking of it. His doctrine of the abolition of death dates, however, from the spring of 1834, the period when he formed his theological system; and he wrote of it frequently before he became engrossed in the actual experiment of communism. He gives us a full account of the origin of it in his mind in an article written in 1844.229 On one occasion, he says, when he sat down to write, his mind wandered off to the subject of the resurrection. He explains:—“The gospel which I had received and preached was based on the idea that faith identifies the soul with Christ, so that by his death and resurrection the believer dies and rises again, not literally, nor yet figuratively, but spiritually; and thus, so far as sin is concerned, is placed beyond the grave, in ‘heavenly places’ with Christ.” This was the doctrine of the “New York Perfectionists,” and, carrying it beyond its application to the cessation of sin, they derived from it their notion of “spiritual wives” as Noyes was just at this moment deducing from it his notion of sexual promiscuity. But Noyes continues: “I now began to think that I had given this idea but half its legitimate scope. I had availed myself of it for the salvation of my soul. Why should it not be carried out to the redemption of the body? … The question came home with imperative force—‘Why ought I not to avail myself of Christ’s resurrection fully, and by it overcome death as well as sin?’… I sought that identity with Christ by which I might realize his emancipation from death, as well for my body as for my soul; that I might with him, see death behind me—the ‘debt of nature’ paid. What I sought I obtained.” He plays a little with the difference between “deliverance from the spiritual power of death,” and from “the act of dying.” He will not affirm that he will “never die.” But he asks, Why should he die? And he asserts that he is “not a debtor to the devil even in regard to the form of dying.” And “this I know,” he says, “that if I live till the kingdom of God comes, which I believe is near, I shall never die in fact or in form.” This was written in September, 1844; and on June 1, 1847, it was solemnly declared by Noyes and his whole community, by unanimous resolution “as the confession and testimony of the believers assembled,” precisely “that the Kingdom of God had come.” After that they were not to die.

The confidence of the possession of a deathless life, thus expressed, is grounded on a purely spiritual experience. The anticipation elaborately argued a generation later that the practice of communism would confer immortality on men, is drawn chiefly from materialistic considerations. Must we see in this difference an index of the downward growth through the years? Fantastic always, fanatic always, must we say of Noyes—he once was religious; now he is secularized? No doubt this was the direction of his growth. But there is a form of religion which is worse than any secularism: men’s religions are often their worst crimes. And there are forms of secularism which approach religion in their nobility—though Noyes’s secularism can hardly find a place among them. These are the salient facts to keep well in mind: All that was salacious in his secularism, Noyes found a sanction for in his religion; and all that was bad in his religion was already in it in 1834. We cannot think there ever was a time when Noyes’s influence was wholesome, or when it was creditable to his associates that they had attached themselves to him or found profit or pleasure in his teachings. That he did not draw men of light and leading to him causes us no surprise. What astonishes us is that men like Charles H. Weld and James Boyle were temporarily associated with him; and that even a William Lloyd Garrison found in him something to admire and imitate. A fact so remarkable ought not to be passed by without remark.230

Garrison appears to have been familiar with Noyes’s Perfectionist movement and an admiring reader of his journal practically from its beginning. Personal acquaintance was instituted when Noyes called on him at the anti-slavery office at Boston in March, 1837. In describing the interview, Noyes says that he “found Garrison, Stanton, Whittier, and other leading abolitionists warmly engaged in a dispute about political matters.” “I heard them quietly,” he continues, “and when the meeting broke up I introduced myself to Garrison. He spoke with interest of the Perfectionist; said his mind was heaving on the subject of Holiness and the Kingdom of Heaven, and he would devote himself to them as soon as he could get anti-slavery off his hands. I spoke to him especially on the subject of government, and found him, as I expected, ripe for the loyalty of heaven.” Noyes was not the man to fail to strike such iron when it was hot. He at once addressed Garrison a letter in which he sought to push home whatever advantage he had gained in the interview. In this letter he announced his emancipation from “all allegiance to the government of the United States,” and declared war upon it—“a country which, by its boasting hypocrisy,” he said, “has become the laughing-stock of the world, and by its lawlessness has fully proved the incapacity of man for self-government.” “My hope of the millennium,” he declared, “begins where Dr. Beecher’s expires—viz., at the overthrow of this nation.” The times seemed to him to be ripening to the issue; which would come in a “convulsion like that of France.” He calls therefore on the abolitionists to “abandon a government whose President has declared war upon them.” Then turning to the special fish he wished to fry, he adds:—“Allow me to suggest that you will set Anti-slavery in the sunshine only by making it tributary to Holiness; and you will most assuredly throw it into the shade which now covers Colonization if you suffer it to occupy the ground, in your own mind or in others’, which ought to be occupied by universal emancipation from sin.… I counsel you, and the people that are with you, if you love the post of honor—the forefront of the hottest battle of righteousness—to set your face toward perfect holiness. Your station is one that gives you power over the nations. Your city is on a high hill. If you plant the standard of perfect holiness where you stand, many will see and flow to it.”

That Garrison should have been affected by this empty rhetoric is astonishing; but he was, deeply and lastingly. Noyes’s phrases and representations lingered in his memory: he quoted from them publicly, and publicly spoke of their author as “an esteemed friend,” whose words had “deeply affected his mind.” He even made Noyes’s anti-government and perfectionist ideas his own. No wonder that the soberer friends of the anti-slavery agitation took alarm and sought to dissociate the movement from what were, and were likely to be, Garrison’s personal vagaries. And little wonder that those who already were full of outrage at Garrison’s “ultraisms,” attributed to him this further “ultraism”—his friend and mentor’s doctrine of sexual promiscuity. In doing this they were happily wrong. Garrison’s infatuation for Noyes had limits, and did not carry him into this cesspool. He repudiated the imputation with passion, and was led, in the end, to explain that his perfectionism was not the perfectionism of Noyes, but that of Asa Mahan, whose book on the “Scripture Doctrine of Christian Perfection” was opportunely published in 1839. He permits to appear in The Liberator in December, 1839, a communication in which it is said of him: “But some say he is a Perfectionist, and believes that, let him do what he will, it is no sin.—That is false. His views on the subject of holiness are in unison with those of Mr. Mahan.” That is to say, although asserting the attainability of perfection in this life, and the duty of all to attain it, he did not advance with Noyes to antinomian contentions. “If,” says he, writing in self-defense in 1841, “what we have heard of the sayings and doings of the perfectionists, especially those residing in Vermont, be true, they have certainly turned the grace of God into lasciviousness, and given themselves over to a reprobate mind.” But, he adds, “whatever may be the conduct of these perfectionists, the duty which they enjoin, of ceasing from all iniquity, at once and forever, is certainly what God requires, and what cannot be denied without extreme hardihood or profligacy of spirit. It is reasonable, and therefore attainable. If men cannot help sinning, then they are not guilty in attempting to serve two masters. If they can, then it cannot be a dangerous doctrine to preach; and he is a rebel against the government of God who advocates an opposite doctrine.” Thus, although Noyes contributed to that great accumulation of “ultraistic” notions which filled Garrison’s mind, he could not attach him to his “sect.” It is not without its interest, meanwhile, to find Garrison among the perfectionists, and indeed, to tell the whole truth, vigorously engaged in the perfectionist propaganda. It might almost be said that there was no “ultraism” current in his day which he did not in some measure embrace.231


The Mystical Perfectionism of Thomas Cogswell Upham1

I. Upham And His Second Conversion

A great deal of the perfectionism which vexed the American churches through the first three-quarters of the nineteenth century was mystically colored. There is no difficulty in accounting for this. The embarrassment rather is to select out of numerous accounts which suggest themselves, the particular one which was really determining in each case. In some instances no doubt the mysticism was self-generated. A doctrine essentially mystical spontaneously presented itself to the inflamed minds of fanatics, as the basis of their pretension to peculiar holiness. The assumption of possession by the Divine Spirit is made with great ease. Even the West African savages make it. Nineteenth century Americans, however, did not live in the isolation of West African savages. They could not escape from the currents of religious sentiment which came flowing down to them through the years, even if they would. We easily underestimate the force and persistency of religious tradition, especially among what we call the submerged classes; and very especially if the tradition be in any degree fanatical and if it has been distilled into the blood through the experience of some form of persecution. The English sectaries of the seventeenth century were still living beneath the skins of many nineteenth century Americans; and there could be found inheritances even from radical mediæval sects, no doubt, if any one should dig deeply enough for them. Nevertheless, it was not to tradition that the mystical perfectionism which was continually springing up in nineteenth century Americans ordinarily owed its origin. It was to direct infection, either through personal contact or literary inculcation.

We have only, for example, to think of the Quakers. They were a compact body, universally esteemed, and exerting wide influence. Wherever this influence extended, a mystical perfectionism was commended, which the more recommended itself that it seemed to speak in much the same language that was familiar to everyone on the lips of the Methodists. There is nothing on which Quakerism has more strenuously insisted from its first origin than “a holy and sinless life,” as the natural product of “that of God” which dwells within us, the “Light,” the “Seed,” the “Principle” of God within us, the “Christ within.” When George Fox was haled before the magistrates of Derby, he was asked, he tells us, whether he “was sanctified.” “I answered,” he says, “ ‘Yes; for I am in the paradise of God.’ Then they asked me if I had no sin. I answered, ‘Christ my Saviour has taken away my sin; and in Him there is no sin.’ They asked how we knew that Christ did abide in us. I said, ‘By His Spirit, that He hath given us.’ ”2 The germ of the developed Quaker doctrine is already here—both in the extremity of its assertion and in its mystical basis.

The developed doctrine is set forth in barest outline by Robert Barclay, the most esteemed of the Quaker teachers, in his “Theological Theses.” “This certain doctrine then being received,” he writes, “(to-wit) that there is an evangelical and saving light and grace in all, … as many as resist not this light, but receive the same, in them is produced an holy, pure, and spiritual birth, bringing forth holiness, righteousness, purity, and all these other blessed fruits which are acceptable to God; by which holy birth (to-wit, Jesus Christ formed within us, and working his works in us) as we are sanctified, so are we justified in the sight of God.… In whom this holy and pure birth is fully brought forth, the body of death and sin comes to be crucified and removed, and their hearts united and subjected unto the truth, so as not to obey any suggestion or temptation of the evil one, but to be free from actual sinning, and transgressing of the law of God, and in that respect perfect. Yet doth this perfection still admit of a growth; and there remaineth a possibility of sinning, where the mind doth not most diligently and watchfully attend unto the Lord.”3

In his “Apology” Barclay expounds and argues these propositions at length.4 The perfection asserted, he affirms, is the result of the new birth; and is, of course, “proportionable and answerable to man’s measure”; but is not the less real, since “a little gold is perfect gold in its kind, as well as a great mass.” It is, however, capable of growth, and also, unfortunately, liable to be lost—though he “will not affirm that a state is not attainable in this life, in which to do righteousness may be so natural to the regenerate soul, that in the stability of that condition he cannot sin.” He does not profess to have himself attained that state, but he recognizes it as taught in 1 John 3:9. This text, however, if it affirms anything to the purpose, affirms it not of some but of all of those who are born of God. This inconsequence follows Barclay throughout his argument. His aim is to establish for the children of God the possibility and frequent realization of a complete perfection in this life. His appeal is made, however, always to considerations which altogether fail to support the extremity of the contention. There is an underlying assumption always that a promise of perfection is void unless fulfilled at once; or that the confession of imperfection is an admission of lack of all grace; or that remainders of sin in God’s people argue incapacity on His part to deliver them wholly, and derogate from the virtue of Christ’s sacrifice; or that the coëxistence of sin and holiness in an imperfectly sanctified heart implies that there is no difference between good and evil—which he says is the horrid blasphemy of the Ranters; or something of the kind.

All these modes of argument reappear in our nineteenth century perfectionists and become stereotyped in them. It is impossible to say how far they are derived from Barclay directly or indirectly—from reading his “Apology,” which had long since become the Quaker “classic,” and was not suffered to mold on dusty shelves; or from contact with those who carried forward his teaching in living tradition. Barclay was not the first to frame them nor the only accessible source from which they could be derived. And this may illustrate the difficulty in determining how far Quaker influences coöperated in producing the perfectionism of nineteenth century America. It was there; it was a vera causa; but the extent of its contribution to the effect is indeterminate. Let us only remind ourselves that Robert Pearsall Smith, and Hannah Whitall Smith were both of Quaker birth and breeding. They received their perfectionism directly from Methodism. But we can hardly be wrong in assuming that they had been prepared for receiving it by their Quaker associations. In Hannah Whitall Smith’s case this is demonstrably true. And it was she who took the lead in their common adoption of perfectionism.5 She remained, it requires to be remarked, a Quaker all her life, and was perhaps more and more a Quaker as she grew in years.6

The name of William Law slips off of the pen of more than one of the perfectionist writers of nineteenth century America. Off of that of John Humphrey Noyes, for example. Noyes considers Law, whom he represents as the real father of Methodist Perfectionism, the best of the Mystical Perfectionists,7 and his “Address to the Clergy” (1761) his best book.8 Law is also repeatedly quoted, as he could not fail to be, by Thomas Cogswell Upham.9 But it would be absurd to attribute to this aloof high-churchman any large influence in the production of movements to which he stood in no other connection than that of relative nearness in time. While Law gives large expression to his mysticism, moreover, he speaks only occasionally and briefly of its perfectionist corollary, and makes, therefore, only a limited appeal to those whose interests lay chiefly in the latter region. Even Upham passes over him to find the sources of his mystical doctrine of perfection in those Quietistic writers of the preceding century of whom Law apparently thought as meanly as he could think of any mystic.10 What we find in Upham is in fact a sustained attempt to revive the specifically Quietistic perfectionism of the seventeenth century, and to give it a new vogue in the conditions of the nineteenth century life of America. For this purpose he drew on the whole series of Quietistic writers from Miguel de Molinos himself to Antoinette Bourignon, and adapted them to his purpose with the utmost freedom, not to say violence. His attitude toward these writers was the precise opposite of Law’s. Recognizing, of course, the presence in them of the general mystical conception in which he shared, Law, nevertheless, repelled with the utmost disfavor the extravagances which constituted their peculiarity and made them what we know as Quietists. Upham, on the contrary, laid a remolding hand on these very extravagances, and by a skillful firmness or firm skillfulness of dealing with them, transmuted them into a tolerable likeness to evangelical Protestantism. By this means he built up on their basis a complete system of mystical perfection, which stands out boldly in a certain—though not very deeply going—contrast with the other systems of perfection launched in such profusion in his day among the Protestants of New England inheritance.

Thomas Cogswell Upham came of a distinguished New Hampshire family, members of which have attained eminence in a variety of activities, through a series of generations, and not least in his own.11 He was one of four brothers all of whom won recognition as men of conspicuous ability. He was born at Deerfield, New Hampshire, where his grandfather had served as pastor for a generation, on the 30th of January, 1799. It was in the autumn of this year (November 9) that Asa Mahan also was born. These two perfectionist leaders were, therefore, close contemporaries. The superior advantages which Upham enjoyed, however, showed themselves in his more rapid advancement. He was finishing his scholastic preparation about the time when Mahan was beginning his. He was graduated from college two years before Mahan entered; and had published his first book—an excellent translation of Johann Jahn’s “Biblical Archæology” (1823)—a year before Mahan was graduated. By the time Mahan had completed his theological course (1827), Upham had already been for three years seated in the chair of Mental and Moral Philosophy at Bowdoin College—a chair which he occupied for the rest of his active life—and had published his “Elements of Intellectual Philosophy” (1827), by which his reputation as a thinker was established. On the other hand, Mahan was the first of the two to obtain the “second blessing” and to enter upon the career of a perfectionist teacher. The light that came to him in the winter of 1836–1837 did not reach Upham until 1839. Mahan wished to believe that he was the channel of its conveyance to Upham. That, however, was not the fact; and he must content himself with the honor of having in this matter of the first importance to both of them not merely overtaken Upham, but forestalled him by two or three years. He was publishing his first perfectionist book—his “Scripture Doctrine of Christian Perfection” (1839)—about the time that Upham was just attaining perfection. Upham’s first perfectionist book—the “Principles of the Interior or Hidden Life” (1843)—followed, however, at no more than the due interval. It would be hard to say which one was, after this, the more diligent in propagating their common opinions.

Dartmouth was Upham’s college, and 1818 was his year of graduation. The period of his residence there was a time of great turmoil. During it the great Dartmouth College controversy was fought out. It was in 1815 that John Wheelock was, after much violent debate, removed by the Trustees from the Presidency of the College, and Francis Brown elected in his stead. It was in 1816 that the usurping action of the Legislature, voiding all the college’s vested rights, was taken. It was on March 10, 1818, that Daniel Webster’s famous argument in the case which resulted, was made before the United States Supreme Court, presided over by John Marshall, and through it the sacredness of private trusts was established, as a principle of American law. The whole college, officers and students alike, shared in the distraction of this long excitement. The new president, Francis Brown, was broken by the strain and died in 1820. There would seem no room in this preoccupation for another strong emotion to enter in. Nevertheless, at the very moment when the struggle between Trustees and President was reaching its climax,12 in the spring of 1815, a remarkable revival of religion broke, unheralded and unexpected, upon the college. Nathan Lord, Brown’s successor in the presidency, writing in 1832, gives an account of it.13 “At once, and without premonition,” he says, “the Spirit of God evidently descended, and saved the great body of the students. A general and almost instantaneous solemnity prevailed. Almost before Christians became aware of God’s presence, and increased their supplications, the impenitent were deeply convicted of sin, and besought instructions of their officers. The chapel, the recitation room, every place of meeting became a scene of weeping, and presently of rejoicing; so that in a few weeks about sixty students were supposed to have become regenerate. A revival of such rapidity and power has been rarely known, and perhaps never one of such unquestionable fruits. Not one of the number of apparent converts, at that time, is known to have forfeited a Christian standing. Most of them are ministers of the gospel, a few are missionaries, and all are still using their influence for Christ.”

Upham himself tells us that he “supposes” that he “experienced religion” “in connection with” this revival.14 It is not probable that he meant by this language to throw doubt on the genuineness of the religious experience which he then enjoyed. It is not impossible, of course, that, looking back upon it from the exaltation of his “second conversion,” it had lost in his mind some of its significance. It is more likely, however, that it seemed in retrospect less certain than at the moment, that what he then experienced was the inception of religious life, rather than perhaps an intensified manifestation of a life already existing. Throughout his writings he exhibits a marked distaste for religious excitement, and with it an unmistakable distrust of revivals of excitement.15 Whether his religious life began in the revival of the spring of 1815, or not, however, it flowed on thence unbrokenly. He does not appear, it is true, to have made a formal profession of his faith, by uniting with the (Congregational) Church, until about the time of his graduation, three years later. He proceeded then, however, at once to the theological seminary at Andover, whence he was graduated in 1821. The professors under whose instruction he came at Andover were Leonard Woods, Moses Stuart, Ebenezer Porter and James Murdock; and he came in contact there (as indeed he had done at Dartmouth)16 with many young men as fellow students who afterward achieved distinction. Among his classmates were Baxter Dickinson, afterward to be a professor in Lane and then in Auburn Seminary; Charles D. Pigeon, the capable editor of The Literary and Theological Review; and Alva Woods, who had a notable academic career in the South: while in the other classes in the seminary with him there were to be met such men as Orville Dewey, Jonas King, Joseph Torrey, Elias Cornelius, Francis Wayland, Rufus Anderson, Leonard Bacon. His career at Andover was a distinguished one. During the last year of his course (1820–1821) he also served as a teacher in Phillips Academy. And after his graduation he remained two years at the seminary as instructor in Sacred Literature—under Moses Stuart. The last of these years he was registered also as “resident licentiate” (1823). It was during these years that he prepared his translation of Johann Jahn’s compendium on “Biblical Archæology,” the first edition of which bears the date of 1823, and the fifth, stereotyped, edition came out in the fifties.17

Of his own interior life during this period of preparation there seems to have survived little direct record. We are not without indirect intimations, however, which warrant the pleasantest inferences. When pleading on one occasion for the union of spiritual with mental culture in the education of youth, he draws a beautiful picture of what he found in Phillips Academy, in which we can read his own heart. “In early life,” he writes,18 “I had the privilege of being associated, for a short time, in an institution, where it seemed to me that some of these views were happily illustrated. The studies always opened in the morning and closed at night with religious services. The first half hour of every morning, in particular, was devoted to the reading of the Scriptures, the explanatory and practical remarks of the worthy and learned instructor, and to prayer. And it was understood by all, whatever might be the state of their own minds, that this religious exercise was regarded by the teacher as one of preëminent importance. When he came before his pupils on this occasion, they did not doubt that he had first commended them to God in private; and that of all objects which he desired and had at heart, there was none so dear to him as their souls’ salvation. Every movement was stilled; every voice hushed; every eye fixed. And whatever might be their creed or want of creed, their religious adhesions or aversions, such was their sympathy with his obvious sense of responsibility and his divine sincerity, that even the hearts of the infidel and the profane were cheerfully laid open before him; so that with their own consent he was enabled, by means of his prayers and warnings, to write upon them, as it were, inscriptions for immortality. I was not a pupil in the seminary to which I refer, but an assistant teacher; and had a good opportunity to observe and judge. My own heart never failed to be profoundly affected; and, from what I have learned and known of his pupils since, scattered as they have been in all parts of the world, and engaged in various occupations, I have no doubt that God eminently blessed the faithful labors of this good man, and that he was permitted to realize in his instructions, to an extent not often witnessed, the beautiful union of the culture of the heart with that of the understanding.”19

When Upham left Andover in 1823 it was to become pastor of the Congregational Church at Rochester, New Hampshire—his “home church”20—where he was ordained July 16, 1823. He remained at this post, however, only a single year. In 1824 he received an invitation to become Professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy and Tutor in Hebrew at Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine; and accepting it, entered upon what proved to be his life-work. He continued in the active work of his chair from 1824 to 1867, and then, becoming Professor Emeritus, retired to Kennebunkport, where his later years were spent. He died in the city of New York, April 2, 1872. The literary activity which had begun at Andover was continued with renewed vigor at Bowdoin. By the time he was forty years old he had printed eight separate works. There were included in these a treatise on the polity of Congregationalism (1829),21 and a very notable plea for universal peace, including the suggestion of a “Congress of Nations” (1836).22 But, as is natural, the larger place among them is given to treatises in his own special department of instruction. These treatises, taken together, constitute a comprehensive discussion of the whole field, written with charming simplicity and directness, and manifesting a very wide acquaintance with the literature of the subject, and, with it, clear and acute thinking. The “Elements of Intellectual Philosophy” appeared already in 1827, to be followed in 1831 by “Elements of Mental Philosophy, Embracing the Two Departments of Intellect and the Sensibilities” (of which an abridged edition also was at once published),23 in 1834 by “A Philosophical and Practical Treatise on the Will,” and in 1840 by “Outlines of Imperfect and Disordered Mental Action.” The inclusion of the last of these treatises in his scheme of a comprehensive discussion of mental faculty and action, may serve to suggest to us the wide range and rather popular character of Upham’s method of treatment. He keeps himself always in contact with life and the common interests of life, and enlivens his pages with copious illustrations drawn from a wide acquaintance with literature. Above all the interests of religion, and very specifically of the Christian religion, are everywhere kept in view. The books have quite as much the flavor of a Christian minister instructing his people, as of a professor of philosophy, lecturing his class: they are almost as much theology as psychology.

We see at once that Upham carried his religion to Bowdoin with him and did not sink it in his academic work.24 We are not surprised to learn, therefore, that outside the class-room he was looked to by his pupils for guidance in their times of religious distress.25 We find, for instance, young Henry Boynton Smith, when, in the course of a notable revival which visited Bowdoin College in 1834, he was smitten in his conscience and awakened to his soul’s needs, turning to him especially for counsel and direction. Smith had been bred under Unitarian influences, and his perplexities were accordingly as much theological as practical. But it is quite clear that Upham was no less helpful to him in his distresses than in his difficulties. “Last evening,” he writes,26 “Professor Upham came in, and we conversed a long while. I stated to him, fully and explicitly, my doubts, fears, hopes, and, in fine, my situation in every respect, and he talked to me calmly and reasonably. I am to see him again this afternoon.” Then, some three weeks later: “I talked with Professor Upham about the Trinity. Of one thing I feel assured, that I need an infinite Saviour. Further than that, may the Lord in his mercy and wisdom guide me! My prejudices were fixed in regard to this point as well as to the innate sinfulness of men. On the latter point I am convinced. As to the former, I know nothing but that Christ is my Redeemer and has atoned for my sins.” Young Smith won out as we know, and was born once for all to God. What part Upham’s counsel really played in the great change we can only conjecture. Smith’s was the stronger mind of the two, and he soon passed into the position of the teacher, not the taught. But he retained Upham in warm friendship; and it is clear enough that, in this episode at least, in which the corner of the veil has been lifted that we may see him at work, what we see in Upham is the devoted man of God.

We have thought it worth while to make this clear, because Upham’s own account of his state of mind at this time is not altogether cheering. Of course he did not doubt his interest in his Saviour. But he was not happy in his religious life. He had early set a high ideal of religious attainment before himself and he was conscious of not having reached it. He advanced sometimes, he says, and then again was thrown back, “living what may be called the common Christian life of sinning and repenting, of alternate walking with God and devotedness to the world.”27 He is looking back on himself here from the heights of his “second conversion,” and describing his earlier experience from that more elevated point of sight: and from the same point of sight, he suggests that the difficulty he experienced in attaining the state he longed for was, in part at least, due to “the discouraging influence of the prevalent doctrine that personal sanctification cannot fully take place till death.” It is plain, however, that he was not acquiescent in his shortcomings. Apparently, as time went on, his sense of them continued ever unabated; and he seems to wish us to understand that his sense of personal danger in view of them steadily increased. This emphasis on his increasing sense of danger in view of his shortcomings makes the unpleasant impression that the righteousness of Christ was becoming to his apprehension ever less sufficient as the ground of his hope: that he was growing ever more anxious to supplement it, or supersede it, by a righteousness of his own: that he was uneasy—increasingly so—so long as he had nothing but Christ’s righteousness to rest upon. It is probable, however, that he intends no more than to convey a strong impression of the distress the consciousness of his shortcomings gave him, and his consequent increasing anxiety to be completely delivered from them. He wishes us in any event to understand that anything short of complete deliverance from sin was becoming intolerable to him, and thus to prepare the way for his account of how he sought and obtained the “second blessing.” If this is all that he means, however, he has expressed himself badly.

He proceeds now, in any case, to describe at considerable length, how, spurred on by his uneasiness or fear, he sought and at length found the “second blessing.” “In this state of mind,” he writes,28 “I was led, early in the summer of 1839, by a series of special providences, which it is here unnecessary to detail, to examine the subject of personal holiness, as a matter of personal realization.” Conducting this examination, as he thought, “prayerfully, candidly and faithfully, looking at the various objections as well as the multiplied evidences,” he was led to the conclusion “that God required” him “to be holy, that He had made provision for it, and that it was both” his “duty” and his “privilege to be so.” “The establishment” of his “belief in this great doctrine was followed,” he tells us, “by a number of pleasing and important results.” One was that he “felt a great increase of obligation to be holy.” God required him to be holy, and God does not require impossibilities: on the contrary God’s requirement of him to be holy involved “an implied promise” to give aid in the accomplishment of the required result. Accordingly, “within a few days after rejecting the common doctrine, that sanctification is fully attainable only in the article of death, and receiving the doctrine of the possibility and duty of present holiness, I consecrated myself,” he says, “to God, body and spirit, deliberately, voluntarily, and forever.” There were no witnesses, and no formal written document; “it was a simple volition.” But simple as the act was, it marked a crisis in his moral life. The date was about the middle of July, 1839, and the step taken was not in his view without a certain boldness in it: he was not perfectly instructed as yet in the way of life; he was acting “in comparative darkness,” walking by faith, not by sight. It seemed, however, justified by the effects. “Two almost immediate and marked results followed this act of consecration. The one was an immediate removal of the sense of condemnation, which had followed me for many years, and had filled my mind with sorrow. The other result, which also almost immediately followed, was a greatly increased value and love of the Bible.”

We have thus far been told nothing of any influence from without directing Upham to the new paths he was entering. He does speak, to be sure, of having been led by “special providences” to study the subject; and this may be taken to imply some sort of impulse received from without. The carefulness of his examination of the matter, which he emphasizes, moreover, may suggest that he sought aid where aid was to be found. There seems, however, to be a studied implication running through his whole narrative, that he went his own way and was his own guide. We reach a point now, however, where contact with those who were before him in believing his new doctrine and seeking to exemplify it in their lives, becomes decisive for his experience. He visited New York on business, he tells us, in December, 1839. That business, he says, “brought” him “into connection with certain persons who belonged to the Methodist denomination.” “I was,” he continues, “providentially led to form an acquaintance with other pious Methodists, and was exceedingly happy in attending a number of meetings which had exclusive reference to the doctrine of holiness and to personal holy experience.” He made known to his new friends his own recently acquired belief in the doctrine of holiness, and of his attitude as a seeker of the experience: and they greatly cheered and aided him. Precisely what they did for him, he tells us, was to remove a difficulty which stood in the way of his victorious progress. That was his “ignorance of the important principle, that sanctification, as well as justification, is by faith.” He had put himself, it is true, in a favorable position to exercise this faith, by consecrating himself to God. “But” he “had never understood and felt the imperative necessity of this exercise, viz., of faith, as a sanctifying instrumentality.” He is explicit that it was his “Methodist friends” who gave him his needed instruction here. And it was because of this new point of view solely, he intimates, that he was enabled “in some degree”—“in a very considerable degree”—now to gain the victory. He can date the very day when he gained it. “It was early on Friday morning, the twenty-seventh of December.” “The evening previous had been spent in deeply interesting conversation and in prayer on the subject of holiness, and with particular reference to myself. Soon after I awoke in the morning I found that my mind, without having experienced any very remarkable manifestations or ecstasies, had, nevertheless, undergone a great moral revolution. It was removed from the condition of a servant, and adopted into that of a son.… I had no ecstasy, but great and abiding peace and consolation.”

Under the influence of these feelings Upham now consecrated himself anew to God; and this time he did it formally in a written document. He still was unable to speak confidently of having actually experienced “sanctification.” Consecration and sanctification are different things, although it is possible that the latter may follow the former immediately—God’s work follows man’s act. This did not occur, however, in Upham’s case. He had received great blessings—“a new sense of forgiveness, increased love, actual evidence of adoption and sonship, clear and deeper communion with God.” But something was still lacking. He left New York about the middle of January, 1840, and at once on reaching home, “united with some Methodist brethren in establishing a meeting similar to those which had benefited” him “so much in New York, for the purpose of promoting present godliness.” This meeting was open to persons of all denominations of Christians—that is, it took the form of a perfectionist propaganda. “Nevertheless,” he says, that is to say, despite his earnest seeking, “I was unable for about two weeks to profess the personal experience and realization of the great blessing of holiness, as it seemed to be experienced and realized by others.” Two weeks may seem to us a very short time in which to become perfectly holy. Upham felt them a long delay. The difficulty, he says, was that “while other evils were greatly or entirely removed,” he was still conscious of “the remainders of selfishness.” It seemed indeed as if the principle of self-love was even stimulated in him. He was no doubt not more selfish than before; but he felt it more. He prayed fervently for the realization in time of perfect love, though he did not fully know its nature.

On February 2, 1850—Sabbath evening—he suffered great affliction of mind. On the next morning—Monday—he was for the first time able to say that he loved the Heavenly Father with all his soul and all his strength. This attainment once made was permanent. Ever after his heart expressed itself in this language—language, he says, “which involves, as I understand it, the true idea of Christian perfection or holiness.” “There was no intellectual excitement,” he tells us, “no very marked joy when I reached this great rock of practical salvation.” “The soul had gathered strength from the storm it had passed through the preceding night; and, aided by a power from on high, it leaped forward, as it were, by a bound to the great and decisive mark.” He was distinctly conscious of the attainment made. Those selfish exercises which had troubled him were gone; he was now sanctified. Temptations, no doubt, continued, and “it would be presumption to assert positively,” he says, that there has never since been a lapse. But there certainly has been a new life, and the “witness of the Spirit” has been constant. This “witness” is not delivered in the way of reasoning or of reflection; “it is a sort of interior voice, which speaks silently and effectively to the soul.” There have even been times—for example, on February 14, 1840—when “some remarkable operations on the mind” were experienced. These are indescribable. The stress is laid, however, on ordinary spiritual succor. His whole soul turns from self to God, and all his longing sums itself up in the desire for union with God.

In this luminous narrative we have merely a typical account of the attainment of the “second blessing” or the experience of the “second conversion.” It differs from other similar accounts only in its unusually clear analysis of the several steps or stages of the experience; perhaps these steps or stages were more clearly marked in Upham’s case than usual. There is traced first the rise of the conviction of the obligation to be holy; then the discovery of the way by faith alone; and then the somewhat lagging actual attainment by faith of the blessing. Every step was taken under Methodist influence, or rather direction: this is explicitly noted in every instance except the first, where we read only of the direction of “providence.” That this formed no exception to the others—the exact nature of the providential circumstances thus alluded to—we learn from a narrative which Mrs. Upham gives us, in the same volume,29 of her own experiences as she journeyed to the same goal, some six months or so earlier.

She had been for fifteen years a professing Christian, she says, before she found the way. “I never heard of the doctrine of entire holiness,” she explains, “as a thing to be realized in this life, until February, 1839.” “When I tell you,” she adds apologetically, speaking to Phoebe Palmer and her circle, “that I do not belong to your, order”—that is, to the Methodist Church—“and have never been at all associated with people of this belief, you will be able to account better for my ignorance.” We could not have a more direct assertion than this, that the experiences she is about to relate were the only ones operative on her in her “second conversion.” “In the good providence of God,” she now proceeds, “I went last February”—that is, February, 1839, and we observe that she is writing within the year after the experiences narrated—“into a Methodist protracted meeting. I heard a sister there speak as I never before heard a man or woman speak. A holy composure sat on her countenance, and she seemed to me to be breathing the atmosphere of heaven. She spoke with the simplicity and love of the beloved disciple, who leaned on Jesus’ bosom. I sought a private interview with her. I opened to her my heart. I told her I lived in a state of daily condemnation, and I had never indulged a hope of living above that state. Then, for the first time in my life I heard of Jesus, a present Saviour from all sin.” Here we have an explicit statement that Mrs. Upham heard of the holiness doctrine for the first time from this woman. “I had only one interview with this sister,” she continues, “as she left town, having been here only on a visit. Alone, unaided, except by the Spirit of God, I pursued the doctrine of heart holiness.… I soon became speculatively convinced, not only of the extent of God’s requirements, but of the obligation and the ability of the Christian to fulfill these requirements in and through Jesus, who, I saw, was manifested to take away our sins.” In these circumstances it was natural that she should set herself to make the attainment which she perceived to be required of her. The Bible alone was her guide. She saw and believed. Her efforts to be holy failed: but faith conquered its way. “For the last year I can say,” she writes, “the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God.”

Now, Mrs. Upham tells us30 that she was led, on May 25, 1839, publicly—“at a public prayer-meeting,” she says—“to declare the greatness of the salvation she had experienced.” We will recall that Upham’s examination of the matter was undertaken “early in the summer of 1839.” The appearance is that Mrs. Upham’s publication of her own experience constituted the “providential circumstances” which led to Upham’s inquiry. Thus the only obscure point in his narrative is cleared up; and the beginning as well as the prosecution of his “second conversion” is brought under direct Methodist influence. It is quite clear that we have in the cases of Upham and his wife nothing more than instances of conversion to Wesleyan Perfectionism. All this, perfectly plain in itself, is authenticated now by an absolutely contemporary entry in Phoebe Palmer’s diary of the date of January 3, 1840.31 She tells us here that Mrs. Upham had been led by the simple testimony of a Methodist sister to seek “the blessing” and had entered into the enjoyment of it. The difficulties thrown in her way by her connection with the Congregational Church (which discountenanced the experience itself and also the speaking of women in the church) were “overcome,” and Mrs. Upham bore her public testimony to her new experience. Her husband, however, held back. “For several months, he was skeptical as to his privilege in reference to this blessing,” though he had come to be assured of the glory of the inheritance. He came to New York to attend to the publication of his book on “The Will,”32 and Mrs. Upham, who accompanied him, found her way to the famous Tuesday holiness-meeting for women, which for a whole generation was held in Phoebe Palmer’s parlor.33 She asked the privilege of bringing her husband to the meeting. This was granted and some other gentlemen were invited to be also present. Upham came and was deeply impressed. On the following Thursday he had a long interview with Phoebe Palmer and the next morning entered into the rest of faith.

The close relations thus established between him and Phoebe Palmer naturally were maintained. We find him writing to her on March 24 following, and again, in September, in accents of deep gratitude. His experience in her parlor, he tells her, was “in religion, the ‘beginning of days’ ” to him; and Mrs. Upham declares to her (March 24), “you have begotten him in the gospel.” They are glad to inform her that they have set up a meeting in their own house modeled after hers, where (Mrs. Upham says, with wifely pride) Upham spoke tenderly to the people of his great blessing.34 There can be no question that Phoebe Palmer looked upon Upham and Upham looked upon himself as her pupil; and so strong was her sense of this relation that when she found him after a while wandering from the path in which she had placed his feet she did not hesitate, in her capacity as instructress, soundly to rebuke him, and to point him back to the right way.35

It has seemed desirable to make the facts of Upham’s “second conversion” perfectly clear for several reasons. One of them is, of course, because they are intrinsically interesting. Another is because of the importance, for the understanding of his career, of the circumstance that his perfectionist doctrine was fundamentally just the Wesleyan doctrine. A third is because a different and misleading representation has been made with respect to the source from which he derived his new knowledge. To put it brusquely, Asa Mahan has pointed to him as a trophy of his own spear. He shows, to be sure, a (somewhat distorted) knowledge of the circumstances; but with that fine self-centeredness which often characterizes the mental attitude of “selfless” saints, he reads them chiefly in his own honor. He enjoyed Phoebe Palmer’s acquaintance,36 and one would have wished to see him gladly leave her in quiet possession of a feather in her cap in which she took pride. This, however, is how he deals with the matter:37 “The spiritual writings of the late38 Professor Upham, of Bowdoin College, in the State of Maine, U. S., are ‘known and read of all men.’ The manner in which he became such a fruitful writer on such a theme was on this wise. When the peculiar views advocated at Oberlin were spread before the public, he took it for granted that they were wrong, and gave them no examination. Mrs. Upham, however, was induced by a lady friend, then residing in the family of the former, to give our writings a careful examination—her husband, in the kindest manner possible, often expressing his utter incredulity in respect to the subject. Mrs. Upham at length became fully convinced, and sought and obtained ‘the sealing and earnest of the Spirit.’ The new life to which she had attained, and that in connection with the manifest divineness of the change wrought in her, soon arrested the attention of her husband, and induced him also to inquire, until he was brought fully to accept the views which the wife had embraced. It was the example of the wife, as an epistle of Christ, that rendered the husband ‘the man of God’ and the spiritual writer which he afterwards became.”

It may be just within the bounds of possibility that the Uphams had “the Oberlin writings” in their hands during their period of stress and strain. When this period began for Mrs. Upham, in February, 1839, there were, however, no expositions of Oberlin Perfectionism generally accessible, except the two lectures on “Christian Perfection” included in Finney’s “Lectures to Professing Christians” (1837) and whatever was contained in the first two or three numbers of The Oberlin Evangelist, which was started at the close of 1838. In these early numbers there was published, it is true, Mahan’s famous address, which formed the nucleus of his little book on “Christian Perfection,” which was just now on the eve of publication and which may have been in Upham’s hands in the summer. It cannot be affirmed, therefore, that Mrs. Upham could not, or may not, have read these expositions, or that Upham did not read them later; and if they read them there is no reason why they should not be supposed to have received instruction from them. But in the face of their own detailed accounts of their experience, it is impossible to ascribe to these writings—even if read—any such part as Mahan assigns to them. It is perfectly clear that the Uphams were the converts, not of Oberlin, but of the Methodists.

Something more requires to be said. There is some reason to doubt whether “the Oberlin writings,” had they been read, would have made an altogether favorable impression upon the Uphams. Upham himself, at any rate, was of a markedly different spirit from the Oberlin men, especially if we look upon Finney as their type; and there are numerous remarks scattered through his writings which bear the appearance at least of referring with distaste to their noisy and bustling religion. Quietness is the mark of Upham’s piety.39 “Quiet men,” says he,40 “other things being equal, are the truly strong men.” He deprecates not only the religious excitement of visions and dreams and revelations, but also the religion of nervous and even of strong emotional manifestations. He wishes the emotions, “whenever they make their appearance,” to be “so kept under control, as never to disturb the calmness of the perceptive and rational action of the mind.”41 It is not by way of vagrant impulse and unregulated feeling, he says, that we come to know God or His will. God is a God of order. It is impossible to doubt that in some of the remarks of this kind which he makes, the phenomena of the Finney revivals are lying at the back of his mind. He frankly did not like them. He would have had but little pleasure in the strong tremors which have often moved the hearts of those who, like the Oberlin men, saw God in the whirlwind and the storm. His own ears listened for the still, small voice. “Fanaticism,” says he very significantly,42 “is characterized, among other things which help to define it, by being out of repose, by being restless, excitable, visionary, and denunciatory.… Granting that he [the fanatic] has a disposition to do good, it is still true, that he aims, although perhaps he is not distinctly conscious of it, to do God’s work in man’s hasty and selfish temper.… He is in too much of a hurry for God himself …” As he wrote these words, did he not have Finney’s “denunciatory revivals,” as Lyman Beecher called them, in mind? “I have sometimes thought,” he says,43 “that persons of flighty conceptions and vigorous enthusiasm would regard the Savior, if he were now on the earth, as too calm and gentle, as too thoughtful and intellectual, as too free from impulsive and excited agitations, to be reckoned with those who are often considered the most advanced in religion.” “It is probably through a disregard, in part at least, of the course taken by the Savior, … that we find, in all denominations of Christians, melancholy instances of persons, who are young in the Christian life, or who are prompted by an undue confidence, exhibiting a disposition to enter prematurely, and sometimes violently, upon measures which are at variance with the results of former experience, and with the admonitions of ancient piety.”

We have not observed that Upham anywhere in his religious writings mentions the Oberlin men by name. That also may be a significant fact, for it cannot be that he remained ignorant of their writings. To other perfectionist movements preceding his own, he more distinctly alludes—sometimes very unhappily. There is an allusion, for example, to the “New Dispensation” Perfectionists,44 with especial reference to their teaching as to the Sabbath. He rejects their teaching, but in doing so deals very gently with them themselves. “It is something worthy of notice, amongst the remarkable things of the present time,” he says,45 “that the Christian Sabbath, contrary to what would be the natural expectation in the case, is attempted to be set aside by persons who have a respect for religion, and appear to be persons of true benevolence and piety. Some of them make high claims to holiness of heart. The holiness of their hearts, as they understand it, has made all things holy. Their work is holy; their rest is holy; their recreations are holy;—everything they do, while the heart is holy, partakes of the character of the source or motive from which it proceeds. No one day, therefore, can be more holy to them than another. The Sabbath is on a footing with other days. All days are alike. This is the general train of their thought and reasoning. And it cannot be doubted, I think, that there is not only a degree of plausibility, but a portion of real truth in these views.” This element of truth, he proceeds to point out, is that we must be holy on every day—the Sabbath is not different from other days in that. But it does not follow, he urges, that we are to do the very same things on every day. Each day has its appropriate activities, and our holiness consists, among other things, in doing on each day what is appropriate for it. It is a holy duty to rest on the Sabbath; it is the day for public worship and social service, and it should be kept for that. No doubt the holier we are, the better we ourselves could get along without it; but also the holier we are the more we shall be impelled to preserve it, for ourselves and others. It is a good ad hominem argument, which he develops, but he says nothing in contravention of the fundamental antinomian assumptions of the errorists whose anti-Sabbatarianism he is repelling. They “appear to be persons of true benevolence and piety”; they are recognized as holy brethren.

It is quite possibly these same people who are in Upham’s mind, when a few pages further on he astonishes us by adopting from some not clearly identified “experimental writers,” and utilizes for his doctrine of the family, that notion of “correspondences” on the basis of which they had in Upham’s own memory put into practice the iniquity of “Spiritual Wives.”46 “There seems,” says he,47 “to be a just and adequate foundation for the doctrine, of which we find some intimations and glimpses from time to time in experimental writers, that all holy beings have their correspondences.” That is to say there is somewhere existing the completion or complement of each spiritual being, destined at the appropriate time to be revealed to it. “Then, under the attractions of mutual love, which is wiser and stronger than mere arbitrary and positive law, they unite together:—and they do it under such circumstances that it is not possible to separate them. They thus fulfill the purposes of their Maker; and realize in time a marriage, which, in spirit and essence, is eternal.” “The moment that such beings are unveiled to each other as perfect correspondences, the mutual attraction, at once strengthened to its highest intensity, becomes irresistible.” Perhaps, however, it is Swedenborg, rather than the “New Dispensationists,” on whom Upham is drawing in proclaiming these bizarre notions, and we recall that his Dartmouth classmate, George Bush, had become a vigorous Swedenborgian propagandist and may be thought of as a channel of Swedenborgian influence to Upham.48 In any case, however, he was bound to remember the evil use to which this very notion of correspondences had been put only a few years before by men of whom he had just spoken without any manifestation of reprobation.

If it is surprising to see Upham adopt and utilize this notion of “correspondences” which had just wrought out so evil a history among the “New Dispensationites,” it is more surprising still to see him adopt and utilize the general conception of the New Dispensation itself, from which these errorists derived their name. He announces his adherence to this conception, it is true, in connection with an exposition of some teaching of Madame Guyon’s to the same effect,49 but he does not so much represent himself as deriving this conception from her as according with her in it. In point of fact, the conception is very widespread among mystical perfectionists, who have been prone in every age to represent themselves as introducers of a new dispensation, the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, set over against the dispensations of the Father and the Son, conceived as now past. Among Upham’s immediate predecessors in America, the so-called “New York Perfectionists,” as we have already noted, derived their more descriptive name from this doctrine; and John Humphrey Noyes himself, who no longer held to the Millenarianism by which this conception was justified by them, yet managed to retain the conception itself. Upham’s presentation of it possesses no advantages over that of his predecessors and seems clearly to belong to the same mintage. The great doctrines of the Divine unity and of Christ crucified, he says, have been proclaimed, have had their advocates and martyrs, and have prevailed. “But there is another great truth, of which it may at length be said, that its hour has come;—namely, that of God, in the person of the inward Teacher and Comforter, dwelling in the hearts of his people, and changing them by his divine operation into the holy and beautiful image of him who shed his blood for them. Christ, received by faith, came into the world to save men from the penalty of sin; but it has not been so fully … recognized that he came also to save them from sin itself. The time in which this latter work shall develop itself is sometimes spoken of as the period of the reign of the Holy Ghost. It is now some time since the voice has gone forth; an utterance from the Eternal Mind, not as yet generally received, but which will never cease to be repeated;—Put away all sin; Be like Christ; Be ye holy.” And then again: “The kingdom of the Holy Ghost has come. Its beginnings are feeble, it is true.… But the signs of its full approach are too marked, too evident, to be mistaken.… Happy will it be, if its friends shall remember, that it is a kingdom which comes without observation.… Behold here the dominion of the Holy Ghost, the triumph of the true Millennium, the reign of holy love!” The reader can hardly believe his eyes when he sees Upham discovering in his perfectionist sect, which has only recently come into being (“some time since”),—referring no doubt to the rise of Molinism—and is now embodied in himself and his coterie, the dispensation of the Holy Ghost which has now at length, after so long a time, dawned. We wonder whether he really imagined that never until this sect had arisen, had the cry of, Put away all sin! been heard. And we wonder even more what judgment he intended to pass on all the perfectionist sectaries, stretching in unbroken succession from, say, Pelagius to, say, the Ranters, that they should be passed by and the dispensation of the Spirit made to begin only with his own special party. We must not leave without notice that he identifies this New Dispensation, the inauguration of which “some time since” he asserts, with the Millennium. In doing so he places himself distinctly on the plane of the Chiliastic perfectionism which had been troubling the churches for the preceding quarter of a century.

The general position taken in these amazing claims presents a curious parallel to the fundamental Montanistic assumption, and it is not strange that the opponents of Quietism were quick to take note of this fact. When A. C. McGiffert50 writes of Montanism: “Its fundamental proposition was the continuance of divine revelation which was begun under the old Dispensation, was carried on in the time of Christ and his apostles, and reached its highest development under the dispensation of the Paraclete, which opened with the activity of Montanus,” his words would require very little adjustment to adapt them to Upham’s representations. Upham does not, it is true, assert that a new revelation in the strict sense has come with him and his companions. But he does assert that a new truth has come into the possession of the Church, through him and them; a new truth by means of which a new and culminating dispensation of the Kingdom of God has been introduced. Thus in a true sense he contends that in him and them the Kingdom of God has at last come. In this broad application of the parallel, Bossuet was not wrong, then, in comparing Fénelon and Madame Guyon to Montanus;51 and the similarity cannot be evaded as Fénelon endeavored to evade it, by pleading that there were many particulars in the Montanistic teaching, and especially in the conduct of its protagonists, to which he and Madame Guyon provided no parallel. Neither Madame Guyon nor Upham were Montanists. But they shared with Montanus the fanatical assertion, that the culminating dispensation of the Kingdom of God, the dispensation of the Spirit, has been introduced only by them. It would be wrong, of course, to suppose that they derived this fanatical point of view, which they shared with the Montanists, either directly or indirectly from them. It came down to them, as we have already intimated, from quite a different source, and through a well-marked line of tradition. John the Scot, the head of the line of Western Mystics, holds it with as great clearness as Madame Guyon or Upham, although he avoids the identification of the Dispensation of the Spirit, which he conceives as still future, with himself. John continued in a very positive way—Rufus M. Jones describes his teaching thus52—“the idea of a progressive revelation, already taught by the Montanists. He marked out in his Commentary on the Gospel of John three stages of priesthood. The first stage—that of the priesthood of the Old Testament—was transitory, and it saw the truth only through the thick veils of mysterious types. The second priesthood, that of the New Testament, had a greater light of truth, but still obscured by symbols. The third priesthood, that which is to come, will see God face to face. To the first corresponds the laws of condemnation, to the second the law of Grace; the third will be the kingdom of God. The first assisted human nature, which was corrupted by sin; the second ennobled it by faith; the third will illumine it with direct contemplation. The Church of the present will be swallowed up by the light of the Church of the future, when souls will actually possess God by direct communion with Him by the Spirit.” Joachim of Fiori repeats in effect the representations of John and still, like him, places the Dispensation of the Spirit in the future, although he looked for it in the immediate future;53 and his disciple, Gerard of San Donnino, in the famous “Eternal Gospel,” fixed so firmly in the minds of “spiritual” men the idea of a coming religion of the Spirit that it never afterward died out.54 In Amaury (Amalrich) of Bene, however, and his followers, the Dispensation of the Spirit, formerly looked forward to, has already come in himself and his coterie. “The Father, they taught, was incarnated in Abraham; the Son in the child of Mary’s womb; and the Holy Spirit has become incarnated in them.” And this new “reign of the Holy Spirit,” now at last begun, “frees humanity from all burdens and servitude. In Him all laws and commandments are at an end.”55 It is this form of the conception, rife among the Brethren of the Free Spirit, and equally so among the Anabaptists and Ranters of seventeenth century England, which reappears in the mystical perfectionists of Western and Central New York at the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century, and is proclaimed with the confidence of strong conviction by Upham.

Even the “New Dispensationists” do not represent, however, the extreme to which Upham was able to sink in order to find companionship in his vagaries. In a most astonishing chapter in his latest work56—published posthumously—he undertakes to reconstitute the Trinity into a Duality—Father and Mother instead of Father, Son, and Spirit; but a Duality which afterwards becomes a Trinity by the appearance of a Son, which is identified with—the creation, “the whole of creation from the lowest to the highest form.” In order to obtain support for this precious speculation he does not scruple to appeal to the teaching of a long catalogue of heresies, ancient Gnostics, the Jewish Cabala, Mediæval Mystics, the Familists, the Philadelphians, the Shakers, and—this is the culmination of all—“the Bible Communists,” that is to say, John Humphrey Noyes, the founder of the Oneida Community.57 To this length his sense of solidarity with fellow-perfectionists had brought him in his old age. He actually sets forth the ravings of Noyes as an element in the “absolute religion,” that is, in that essential, universal, and eternal religion which may harmonize with Christian teaching, but is in essence the rational faith of all men.

We should be sorry to leave the impression that these grotesque speculations are a fair sample of the substance of Upham’s teaching. That is far from the fact. Upham belongs among the soberest of our perfectionist leaders. Our main purpose in the preceding paragraphs has been to suggest the extent of his knowledge of his immediate predecessors in this type of religious thinking, and the distance to which his mental sympathy with them was able to carry him—on occasions. He owed his “second conversion” wholly to Methodist influences: Phoebe Palmer, to use Mrs. Upham’s figure, “begot him in the Gospel”; it was the Methodist doctrine of perfection which he desired to proclaim, and in the main did proclaim.58 But his mind was not an empty cask into which the Methodist doctrine was poured, and that was the end of it. He was blessed, or, as he might himself say, cursed, with great intellectual curiosity; and first and last he explored many odd corners of religious thought, and usually came back with something in his hands. It is probable that he never taught the Methodist doctrine of perfection quite in its purity—not even in those first days of his return from New York when, laying aside his dislike for public utterance, he spoke so winningly, in Mrs. Upham’s opinion, in their little propagandist meetings at Brunswick. We have expressed our opinion that the writings of the Oberlin people did not furnish the subject of his study during those days of feverish examination of the nature of the Gospel requirements and provisions with reference to holiness, to which he was incited in the summer of 1839 by Mrs. Upham’s adoption of the Methodist doctrine. But we have had no intention of implying that no writings on holiness were then in his hands. Upham being the man he was, that would have been inconceivable. It is very safe to say that many books on holiness were subjected to very intensive study during those difficult weeks. And it does not seem very difficult to say in general what books they in the main were. The writings of the Quietistic Mystics were certainly among them. They were not the whole of them, but they occupied the central place.

The general reason for saying this is that, when Upham comes into view after he had found his peace, he has these books in his hands. In point of fact we know no Upham after his “second conversion” but the mystical Upham. It is quite true that there was an interval of two or three years between his return from New York at the beginning of 1840 with the treasure conveyed to him by Phoebe Palmer, and the publication of his first religious book in 1843. We cannot confidently assert that there may not have been a period immediately after his finding “the blessing” in which he preached Methodist Perfectionism, unmodified by mystical infusions. But the wide acquaintance he shows with the Quietistic literature, and the abundant use he makes of it in his first book59—and the deep absorption in it which he manifests in its immediate successors—suggests pushing back the beginnings of his engagement with it as far as possible.

What strikes us most strongly, however, as we glance through Upham’s literary history is the greatness of the crisis which he passed through at his “second conversion.” The direction of his studies and the whole character of his reading were transformed by it. We have already had occasion to point out the strength of his natural literary impulse and the abundance of his literary product. His first book came from the press contemporaneously with his own emergence from the schoolroom; and in the course of seventeen years thereafter he had published eight solid volumes on very abstruse subjects. A sudden and complete change takes place in this stream of publications on his “second conversion.” The literary activity continues, but the subjects on which it expends itself are totally altered. Never again does he print a philosophical work.60 There was a volume of poems,61 and a volume of “Letters” from abroad.62 But with these exceptions everything else that he printed through a long list of publications—embracing a dozen items—was not only religious in its subject, but designed specifically for “the promotion of practical holiness.”63 There are included in the list, it is true, two works which take the form of biographies—the “Life of Madame Catharine Adorna” (better known, perhaps, as St. Catharine of Genoa), 1845, and the “Life and Religious Opinions and Experience of Madame de la Mothe Guyon,” 1847. But these books are biographies only in form: the didactic element dominates them, and indeed constitutes even physically the greater part of their contents. They are simply additional commendations of Upham’s perfectionist doctrine, cast in a biographical form in the hope, no doubt, of obtaining thereby a fresh appeal. All the rest of his books, published in this second period of his life, are openly pleas for “holiness,” or aids to its attainment. They include the following volumes: “Principles of the Interior or Hidden Life,” 1843; “The Life of Faith,” 1845; “A Treatise on Divine Union,” 1851; “Religious Maxims,” 1854 (taken from the “Principles of the Interior or Hidden Life”); “A Method of Prayer,” 1859 (an analysis of the work by Madame Guyon so entitled); “Christ in the Soul,” 1872; and “Absolute Religion,” 1873. It is obvious from this list of titles that Upham’s real interest lay in “holiness,” and his engagement with Quietistic Mysticism was secondary and ancillary to that. If he did not merely repeat the Methodist doctrine of “holiness” which he “learned more perfectly” from Phoebe Palmer, neither did he transmute it into Quietistic Mysticism. He modified his statement of it, here and there, with formulas which he borrowed from the Quietists, but for “substance of doctrine” what he taught remained steadily Wesleyan Perfectionism. So far from assimilating his Wesleyan doctrine to Quietism, he sought rather at bottom to assimilate Quietism to it. What he undertook, indeed, was nothing less in effect than the amazing task of evangelicizing Quietism. We say evangelicizing rather than Wesleyanizing, for, after all, there was a deeper lying stratum in Upham’s thought than even the Wesleyan Methodism which Phoebe Palmer taught him. He was a Congregationalist before he became a Methodist Perfectionist—a Congregationalist of the “New Divinity” type, and holding the “New Divinity” firmly, though not in an extreme form. What we have to do with in him, accordingly, is a somewhat mild “New Divinity” Congregationalism, overlaid with Wesleyan Perfectionism, endeavoring to read the Quietism of Madam Guyon in harmony with itself.

II. Upham And The Quietists

It was a tremendous undertaking—this of evangelicizing Quietism. Fénelon had expended his genius in an attempt to Catholicize it, with a great deal less than indifferent success. Upham looks over the “Maxims of the Saints” and pronounces them in essence evangelical! The Jansenists, whom Fénelon persecuted and who had no weapon against their persecutor except their wit, wrote an epitaph for him:

“Neath two damnations, here lies Fénelon—

One for Molinos, for Molina one.”

Upham seems to think that in combining Molinos-ism and Molina-ism, instead of doubling his condemnation, Fénelon escaped it altogether and became—evangelical. Something as, we suppose, the combination (in proper proportions) of oxygen and hydrogen comes out, not doubly gaseous, but a good, serviceable liquid. No doubt we must remember that Upham looked at Fénelon out of “New Divinity” eyes, and the “New Divinity” had invented for itself a doctrine of sin and grace, of dependence and freedom—indeed, of “congruism” itself—of which Molina-ism need not have been ashamed. From this point of sight, Fénelon might very well have been quoted as a brother, and Upham’s fundamental mistake was in imagining the “New Divinity” to be evangelical. But it was not merely Fénelon’s Molina-ism which he proclaimed evangelical, but his Molinos-ism also. And, perceiving no difference between the exquisite nicety of Fénelon’s distinctions, by which he attempted to give Catholic standing to the essence of Molinos-ism, and the raw crudity of Madame Guyon’s declamations, he pronounced her teaching also in substance evangelical. All Quietism was the same to him, whether read in Molinos’ “Spiritual Guide,” at the one end, or in Antoinette Bourignon’s “Light in Darkness” at the other; and it was all in intention and effect evangelical. His method was very simple. He read all this literature with so firm a conviction that it is in intention and effect evangelical, despite the unfortunate appearance given it by its unhappy use of language, that he persistently imposed on the unwilling language his own evangelical sense so far as his own sense (the sense of the “New Divinity,” with Methodist Perfectionism superposed on it) was evangelical. Thus the unevangelical language came in the end really to speak to him in evangelical accents, and he actually employs it to express his own evangelical meaning. The effect on his writings is very curious. However natural it may have become to him to express his evangelical conceptions in Quietistic language, his readers do not find it easy to read his Quietistic language in an evangelical sense. A veil of ambiguity is thrown over the page. The reader is continually disturbed by doubt as to how much or how little is intended by the mystical language which he reads; and it is much if he does not end by raising the general question whether Upham is a mystic at all, or whether he has not merely acquired a bad habit of obscurely expressing himself in mystical forms of speech.

Much of this confusion is due, however, to a more deeply lying confusion still—the confusion of inwardness in religion with evangelicalism. Evangelicalism is, of course, in its very idea, a religion of the heart. But it does not follow that all inwardness in religion is evangelicalism. That form of religion which we call mysticism is as inward as evangelicalism—in fact, more exclusively inward than it. It is in this that its appeal has always lain—and its usefulness—as a protest against the externalities of the sacerdotalism of the Romish Church. It is in it that the self-consciousness of the mystic has centered; or we might as well say plainly, his pride, a pride in which he has as heartily despised external religion as it has him. The ethos of the contestants in the Quietistic controversy is not badly revealed in the contemptuous name of “the new spiritualists” which the Catholics fixed on the Quietists, and in Fénelon’s repudiation only of the epithet “new”—“It is not a new spirituality which I defend, but the old.” It is quite in the manner of the mystics of all ages when Jacob Behmen reminds us grimly that Cain was an observer of ordinances. “Cain,” he says,64 “goes to church to offer and comes out again a murderer of his brother.” The altar of God, he explains, is wherever the living knowledge of Christ is; and at that altar alone can true and acceptable offerings be made. He would not, it is true, “abolish and raze the stone churches,” but he would keep us reminded of that “Temple of God which must be brought into the stone churches with us,” or else the whole business of the stone church is only “a Cain’s offering, both for the preacher and hearer.” Nothing truer than that could well be said; and, reading it, and the like of it, after their own fashions of speech, in the Quietistic writers, we are almost ready to say with Upham, when speaking of Madame Guyon’s “Method of Prayer”:65 “Its doctrines are essentially Protestant; making Faith, in distinction from the merits of works, the foundation of the religious life, and even carrying the power of faith in the renovation of our inward nature beyond what is commonly found in Protestant writers.”

Such a remark rests, nevertheless, on a complete misunderstanding. Madame Guyon has nothing in common with Protestantism except the inwardness of her religion and her consequent emancipation from rites and ceremonies, on the one hand, and on the other a certain exaltation of Christ in the center of her religious life, although thinking of Him quite differently and looking to Him for quite different benefits, from Protestantism. In all that concerns the distinction between Protestantism and Romanism she is wholly Romanist. Her conception of faith is not the Protestant conception; and her notion of its function is far from the Protestant understanding of it. Nothing could be more misleading than to suggest that she opposed faith and works in the Protestant sense. What she did was to oppose faith to external works—for did she not teach an “interior religion”? But as for works in the broad sense, she taught as arrant a work religion as other Romanists—only the works on which she depended were not external but internal works. She suspended everything on the subjective state and looked upon personal holiness as the condition, not the issue, of communion with God. In describing the work of Madame Guyon among the young ladies at Madame de Maintenon’s “Female Institution” at St. Cyr, Upham employs an expression which, if we may be permitted to press it into our service, may not only rather sharply express to us the difference between the ordinary Romanist teaching and that of Madame Guyon, but also suggest part of the distinction between her teaching and that of Protestantism. These young ladies, he says,66 had no doubt generally been accustomed—under the ordinary Romanist teaching—to regard “their acceptance with God as depending, in a great degree at least, on a number of outward observances, rather than on inward dispositions”—as Madame Guyon now taught them to regard it. Here we have the exact fact—Madame Guyon suspended acceptance with God not on outward observances but on inward dispositions, and it was in this sense that she interiorized religion.

The New Testament and evangelical religion teach that acceptance with God depends wholly on the finished work of Christ, faith being merely the instrument by which this finished work of Christ is received and rested on. Of this fundamental principle of New Testament and evangelical religion, as Heinrich Heppe justly points out, Madame Guyon knew nothing. The foundation-stone, he reminds us,67 on which the whole evangelical consciousness is built, is the historical redemptive work of Christ. In this, faith finds, once for all, the righteousness which avails with God. On it the believer reposes with sure confidence for his peace with God here and his eternal felicity hereafter. It is the firm foundation on which his whole system of faith is built. Of all this, however, Madame Guyon was altogether ignorant. The fundamental fact of the Gospel was not known to her as such. Everything therefore which was transacted in the person of Christ here on earth, and found its completion in Him, she transferred to the heart of the individual and had transacted over again there. It is only in this sense that she enthrones Christ in the center of her religious life. It is not the fact of the redemptive work of Christ on which she rests; and it is not the forming of Christ within, as a result of faith in this redemptive work, for which she hopes. She suspended her hope on the repetition in the soul, by its own exercises, of the experiences of Christ, until, having reproduced in itself the qualities that characterized Christ, it becomes sharer in the divine favor which rested on Him. Christ ceases in this view to be our Saviour and becomes our model. He is not Himself the Way by which we reach God, but only the Guide who shows us the way; not the blood of Christ but imitatio Christi has become the ground of our hope. It is not unfair to say, as Upham says,68 that in this view religion has become “something more than [a] … mere ceremonial”—it has become “a life.” But we must remember that “life” has two meanings—the life which is lived and the life by which it is lived; the manner in which we live and the power by which we live. And it is only in the former sense that religion is a life with Madame Guyon: after all is said and done, religion remains with her a scheme rather than a power.

It is already apparent how misleading it is to speak of Madame Guyon as recommending herself to Protestants by the honor she places on faith—“even carrying the power of faith in the renovation of our inward nature beyond what is commonly found in Protestant writers.”69 The allusion in these words is to what is represented as Madame Guyon’s great discovery—a dramatic account of which is given70—of “sanctification by faith.” This is a doctrine, we are told, which, hardly tolerable in the Protestant Church, is quite impossible in the Romanist; but was formed in Madame Guyon’s heart “by infinite wisdom,” and was uttered by her “in obedience to that deep and sanctified conviction which constitutes the soul’s inward voice”—uttered at the moment of its discovery and always, so that it became in a true sense her life-message. Faith, we must bear in mind, however, was in Madame Guyon’s view a “work,” that is to say, a virtue, a virtuous disposition, that particular virtuous disposition which above all others prepared and opened the soul for the reception of divine things. Her proclamation of sanctification by faith had a double significance, negative and positive. On the one hand, it was an assertion of emancipation from the sacerdotal means of sanctification without which in the modes of conception prevalent in the Roman Church, there could be no sanctification. It was anti-sacerdotal. On the other hand, it asserted that the condition of sanctification is an absolutely passive receptivity—and it is this state of mind which is called “faith.” The soul that is empty, says Madame Guyon, is the soul that is filled, and the whole duty of man is to make and keep his soul empty. This is Quietism. In it is announced a philosophy of life under the influence of which—in the furthest extension of its application—inactivity, indifference, apathy, mental and bodily, became the idea of behavior in every department of living. Madame Guyon relates of herself with great satisfaction—Upham quoting her account with apparent approval71—that in a dangerous carriage-accident she sat quietly in the vehicle and made no effort to save herself. In any given instance this mode of action may or may not be in accordance with good judgment. That is not however Madame Guyon’s plea. The point of her narrative is that faith in God implies and requires on all occasions complete inactivity on our part. In no circumstances of life are we called upon to act. Our duty at all times and in all spheres of activity (as we say—but how meaninglessly in this view!) is—to do nothing. “It is better to perish, trusting calmly in God’s providence, than to make our escape from danger, trusting in ourselves.” “I would rather endure them”—any conceivable trials—“all my life long, than put an end to them in a dependence on myself.” That is to say, we must never make any effort to save ourselves from any danger, or to relieve ourselves from any difficulties. If the house catches on fire we must sit quietly in it and burn up: to walk out is to distrust God. If the boat sinks under us, we must not swim to shore, but fold our hands and sink—“let go and let God.” Here is a fully developed philosophy of irresponsibility.

We have seen Upham felicitating the young ladies of St. Cyr on the spiritual revival which they experienced under the teachings of Madame Guyon. “Turned by the conversation of Madame Guyon,” he says,72 “from the outward to the inward, led to reflect upon their own situation and wants, they saw that there is something better than worldly vanity; and began to seek a truer, sincerer, and higher position.” There is unfortunately some reason to fear, however, that this is only an ideal sketch of the effect of Madame Guyon’s instruction on her pupils, framed on the assumption that the substance of what she taught them was “redemption, and permanent inward salvation by faith”—in the Protestant sense of these words. We have a very spirited picture of what happened at St. Cyr under Madame Guyon’s Quietistic teaching, from the pen of an eye-witness—one of the inmates of the house—a Madame du Pérou.73 It proves to be very much what might have been expected, as Ernest Seillière puts it, “in a community invaded by a purely emotional morality and Guyonese mysticism.” Whatever may have been the spiritual revolution which they experienced, the observable deportment of the converts was not edifying. “These ladies,” writes Madame du Pérou, “were chilly, distant, even a little scornful, towards those not of their party; very independent towards their superiors and directors, very full of presumption and pride.… They attended preaching as seldom as they could, saying that it distracted them, and that they needed nothing but God.… Nearly the whole house became Quietist. Nothing was talked about but pure love, abandonment, holy indifference, simplicity, in the practice of which every one abandoned herself to her ease, and disturbed herself about nothing, not even her own salvation. It is to this that this alleged resignation to the will of God comes in which we can consent as readily to our own damnation as to being saved; this was what that famous act of abandonment that was taught consisted in.… These fashions of speech were so common that even ‘the Reds’ (the pupils of the lowest class) employed them; even down to the lay-sisters and the servants, nothing was talked of but pure love. There were some who, instead of doing their work, spent their time in reading Madame Guyon’s books, which they fancied they understood.” The novices no longer obeyed. “They fell into ecstatics. They conceived so lively and so inconvenient an appetite for prayer that they neglected their most necessary duties. One, instead of sweeping, stood nonchalantly propped on her broom; another, instead of attending to the instruction of the girls, lost herself in inspiration and abandoned herself to the Spirit. The under-mothers (of the novices) furtively assembled the illuminated in some corner, where they fed themselves on Madame Guyon’s ideas. Under pretence of seeking perfection, they despised the only method of attaining it.…” This last sentence, adds Seillière, in comment, is the protest of Stoic-Christian ethics, against a purely emotional ethics, founded on an irrational feminine mysticism. In the Christian system, perfection is conceived as absolute performance; in the Quietistic as absolute non-performance.

We are here at the heart of Quietism. But not of Quietism alone. For Quietists are not alone among mystics in calling upon man to “nought” himself, that he may become “nothing,” and the floods of God may wash in and fill his emptiness. This is general mystical teaching. “A man shall become as truly poor,” says Eckhart,74 “and as free from his creature will as he was when he was born. And I say to you, by the eternal truth, that as long as ye desire to fulfill the will of God, and have any desire after eternity and God, so long are ye not truly poor. He alone hath true spiritual poverty who wills nothing, knows nothing, desires nothing.” “The soul”—Rufus M. Jones continues the quotations thus in summary—“must withdraw not only from possessions and ‘works,’ but it must also withdraw from all sense experience, from everything in time and space, from every image of memory, every idea of the understanding into an experience above this lower form of consciousness—an experience in which ‘all things are present in one unified now and here.’ ”75 The soul must become a tabula rasa if God is to write upon it. Similarly “ ‘Swester Katrei’—Sister Katharine—called in the narrative ‘Eckhart’s Strasbourg Daughter,’ ” declares that “ ‘not even desire of heaven should tempt a good man toward activity.’ ” The story runs that “on one occasion she became cataleptic, and was being carried to burial for dead. Her confessor, just in time, discovered that it was trance instead of death, and awoke her. Katharine exclaimed: ‘Now I am satisfied, for I have been dead all through.’ ” Jones,76 in telling this story, speaks of it as presenting “an extreme example of morbid quietistic mysticism”; but it is difficult to perceive anything extreme about it in comparison with the ordinary Quietistic teaching; it is just the common doctrine of the Quietistic mystic uncommonly poignantly expressed. It is quite paralleled, for example, by what Jones77 again calls “an extraordinary case” in which as “Friend of God” “got to the indifference-point to such a degree that he, ‘through the power of love, became without love,’ and in this state of perfect surrender, he heard a voice say to him: ‘Permit Me, My beloved child, to share in thee and with thee all the riches of My divinity; all the passionate love of My humanity; all the joys of the Holy Spirit,’ and the ‘Friend of God’ replied: ‘Yes, Lord, I permit Thee, on condition that Thou alone shalt enjoy it, and not I!’ ” Indifference must be carried to such a point as to be indifferent to the very end that is sought. There is nothing startlingly novel, therefore, in the “passivity,” “indifference,” “abandonment,” “annihilation” which was taught by the sixteenth century Quietists and from their teaching of which they derived their name.

This teaching has its roots ultimately in the pantheistic background which underlies the whole mystical teaching. Whenever this pantheistic understratum cropped out fully upon the surface, it naturally destroyed all sense of individuality, and reduced what, to the vulgar apprehension, appeared to be separate personalities to mere momentary wavelets on the bosom of the deep of being. That, however, is pantheism, not mysticism; mysticism seeks as an attainment what pantheism posits as a fact. Mysticism, however, everywhere and always true to its pantheistic groundwork, with more or less force of assertion and clearness of expression, proclaims the necessity, for that union with the divine to which all its yearnings urge, of stripping away everything which enters into the individualization of the subject. This anti-individualistic tendency, intrinsic to mysticism, was, in the days of developed Romanism, no doubt reinforced in its effect, but also modified in its expression—often so greatly modified as to seem even superseded—by another tendency grounded in a wholly different, not to say contradictory, point of view. This is the tendency to contempt of “nature,” arising out of the dualism of “nature” and “the supernatural” in the Romanist doctrine of salvation. For the ellipse of the Romanist doctrine of salvation is not thrown, as in Protestantism, around the foci of sin and grace, so much as around those of nature and the supernatural. God, it is taught, had designed man for a state higher than that of merely natural virtue and felicity and therefore had endowed him, when he left His creative hands, with a donum superadditum—a supplementary gift of something lying wholly outside of and beyond his nature as man—which raised him to a plane of supernatural virtue and supernatural felicity. It was this donum superadditum which man lost in the fall; so that he fell not out of what he ought to be by nature, but back into—mere—nature. It is it also which is restored in salvation; so that man is brought by salvation not into what he ought to be by nature, but into something above all nature. Fallen man, accordingly, existing, as it is phrased, in puris naturalibus, in the purity of his—merely—natural state, just as he came from his Maker’s hands, requires no recreation that he may be able to maintain himself in a state of natural virtue or natural felicity. Salvation is therefore conceived in essence as delivering man not precisely from sin, but from a consequence of his sinning; not as restoring him to the natural purity which belongs to him in the conception of pure manhood, but as raising him above this, to a higher purity, to which he could in any case be brought only by the addition of something to him which does not belong to his nature as such. Human nature, as fallen, is thought of then, not as depraved and corrupted, reduced below what human nature as such ought to be, and needing restoration; but as all that man as such ought to be or can be—only functioning, as such of course, on a lower plane than by God’s supernatural gift to it, it may be elevated to. This doctrine in intention and effect honoring human nature, as it at present exists in the world—“fallen man,” as we say—and only holding out to its heights of attainment to which it may climb above itself—ended, in the hands of earnest men, in dishonoring human nature as such and transferring to it the degradation which belongs to it only as fallen. Fallen human nature having been defined as pure human nature, the characteristics which belong only to fallen human nature—which, however much they were denied, could not remain unfelt—were naturally transferred to pure human nature. The supernatural gifts and felicity held out as the prize to be striven after, threw in contrast with them the nature without them into the blackest shadow and made it contemptible. The natural life in all its manifestations came thus to be looked upon as not merely a less exalted life than might be ours, but as an essentially degraded life; and a Manichaean-like misprision of the whole natural order resulted. Men longed to be delivered not from their sin but from their selves: and only in the deliverance from self could they see deliverance from sin. They became to their own apprehension all evil—in such a sense all evil, that nothing could avail for their salvation but their complete destruction. There was nothing about them or in them which could survive in the process of salvation. They forgot, in other words, that nature itself is the work of God, and that it is the restoration, not the destruction, of nature that Christ came to accomplish—that it is not the works of God but the works of the devil that He came to destroy.78

It is up against this double background of doctrine—Pantheizing Mysticism on the one hand, Pelagianizing Romanism on the other—that the “passivity,” “indifference,” “abandonment,” “annihilation” of the Quietists were thrown. They meant precisely what they said; though naturally they succeeded but indifferently in attaining the states which they described. G. W. Leibnitz, writing to the Landgrave Ernest of Hesse,79 reveals how the matter struck a competent contemporary observer. He remarks that there is very little in Molinos’ “Spiritual Guide” which may not be found in other mystics—only Molinos has infused poison into their honey. He instances especially the doctrine of “annihilation.” “For,” says he, “the pretence of being without action, without thought, and without will—of what they call quietude, and of annihilating ourselves, so as to enter into silence and so hear God better (since He speaks within) and to receive His impressions—these things are chimeras, no rational justification of which has been given. We should have to take opium or get drunk in order to attain to such a quietude, or inactivity; which is nothing but the stupidity suitable only to brutes. The true quietude which is found in the Scriptures, in the Fathers, and in Reason, is withdrawal from the outward pleasures of sense, the better to hear the voice of God—that is to say, the inward light of eternal verities. But in order to do this we must give ourselves to meditation and devote ourselves to the learning and study of the great verities; we must consider God’s perfections and direct the will to love Him—and all this is very different indeed from that irrational inactivity of the sham Quietists, whom the Jesuits are very right in combating. No matter what is said, it is not possible for a substance to cease to act. The mind is never more active than when the outer senses are silent. This is the silence and repose which the mystic sages ask for, with no notion of the mind’s sinking itself into a deep lethargy. Tauler, Ruysbroek, Valentine Weigel, and other mystics, Catholics and Protestants alike, often speak of a resignation, or annihilation—of a ‘collectedness.’ But I suppose that they mean it in the sense I have just explained: otherwise the results would be evil, as is seen in the turn which Molinos has given to those ideas.”80 Mystics may differ from mystics in the length to which they push their fundamental contempt of nature common to them all; and this difference of degree may seem at times so great as to amount almost to a difference of kind. A man like John Tauler may stand at one extreme of the series: the Quietists stand so at the other extreme that the language which Tauler employs when expressing his reprobation of the men of the “Free Spirit,” might be read almost without change as applicable to them. “They stand exempt from all subjection, without any activity upward or downward,” he writes,81 “just as a tool is passive and waits until its master wishes to use it, for it seems to them that if they do anything then God will be hindered in His work; therefore they count themselves above all virtues. They wish to be so free that they do not think, nor praise God, nor have anything, nor know anything, nor love nor ask nor desire anything; for all that they might wish to ask they have (according to their notion). And they also think that they are poor in spirit because they are without any will of their own and have renounced all possessions. They also wish to be free of all practice of virtue, obedient to no one, whether pope, or bishop, or priest. They wish to be free of everything with which the Church has to do. They say publicly that so long as a man strives after virtues, so long is he imperfect and knows nothing of spiritual poverty, nor of this spiritual freedom.” This is the type of religion which the Quietists commended.

It is often a great temptation, in reading the writings of the Quietists, to think of the “nature” which they wish to “crucify” much more in terms of what we commonly speak of as our “sinful nature” than they themselves did; and thus to accord to sin and deliverance from sin a far greater prominence in their thought than it really occupies. Rufus M. Jones offers us a very good example of the greatness of this temptation. Fénelon, he says,82 “is one of the noblest illustrations in the seventeenth century of the impossibility of successfully solving the problem of spiritual life on the assumption that human nature—the natural man—is absolutely corrupt and depraved, and that God can triumph in the soul only when the human powers have been annihilated, the assumption that God is all only when man is nothing.” Fénelon, however, made no such assumption as “that human nature—the natural man—is absolutely corrupt and depraved.” That was Jansenist doctrine; and would have been thought of by Fénelon, as it is by one of his biographers,83 as misrepresenting God’s world “as a sinful chaos, a shaking quagmire of corruption, in the midst of which rises, stark and lonely, the storm-swept citadel of Grace.” “Fénelon,” himself, as this same historian rightly tells us,84 “was a priest who disbelieved in total depravity, and meant to make the best of human nature as it was.” “Children,” according to him, “are born without any natural trend to good or evil,”85 and any sin which they ever have is picked up by them in the course of living: it may be much, but it may be little—it may conceivably be so little as to be none at all.86 The niceties of the distinctions which divide Protestant and Romanist—and Mystic—in their several conceptions of the state of fallen man, are apparently out of the focus of Jones’s vision. When he tells us87 that Quietism “had its birth and its nurture in the absolute despair of human nature which Protestant theology and the Counter-Reformation had greatly intensified”; that “it flourished on an extreme form of the doctrine of the ruin and fall of man—an utter miserabilism of the ‘creature’ ”; that to it “the trail of the old Adam lies over all that man does or thinks,” and “the taint of the ‘creature’ spoils all that springs from this source and fountain”; so that “nothing divine, nothing that has religious value, can originate in man as man”—he has so confounded things that differ as quite to reverse the real state of the case.

What is true in it all is only that Quietism is rooted in the ordinary mystical contempt for the “creature”—we may call this, if we will, a doctrine of the “utter miserabilism of the creature”—and was sure that “nothing divine”—not quite “nothing that has religious value”—“can originate in man as man.” And we must here take “man as man” literally; not man as sinner, but man as man. And it is because this is true that it is also true, that to the Quietist the preparation for all that is spiritual, lay in “the repose of all one’s own powers, the absence of all efforts of self-direction, of all strain and striving, the annihilation of all confidence in one’s own capacities, the complete quiet of the ‘creature.’ ” This, however, only because to the Quietist all that is “spiritual” is “divine,” and cannot come, therefore, out of the “creature,” but must come out of God. We are here in the presence, in other words, of that Romanist dualism of which we have already sought to give an account, and which Jones himself describes very picturesquely as follows:88 “There are two levels or storeys to the universe. One level is the realm of ‘nature,’ which has passed through a moral catastrophe that broke its inherent connection with the divine and so left it godless and ruined. The other level is the ‘supernatural’ realm where God is throned in power and splendor as spiritual Ruler. Nothing spiritual can originate on the level of ‘nature’; it can come only from ‘yonder.’ ”

The Quietist’s preoccupation, in other words, was not with sin but with nature. The Protestant, whose preoccupation was with sin, did not look for the annihilation of nature, but for the eradication of its sin. But what the Quietist sought to be delivered from was self. It was not a purified nature he sought but a superior nature. To employ Madame Guyon’s favorite figure of the stream, what the Quietist wished was not that the muddy waters which flow through it should be cleansed but that the sea from which it came and to which it tends, should flow up into it and replace its own waters wholly, hence the appropriateness of Fénelon’s own figure:89 “As the sacristan at the end of the service snuffs out the altar candles one after another, so must grace put out our natural life, and as his extinguisher, ill-applied, leaves behind it a guttering spark that melts the wax, so will it be with us if one single spark of natural life remains.” Where Fénelon says “natural life” the Protestants say “sin”: and the difference is polar. It would be misleading in the extreme to say that one and the other identifies sin with self, self with sin. To the Protestant when sin is gone, nature remains—the whole of nature; sin is merely an accident to nature. To the Quietist it is only when “nature” is gone that “sin” is gone; what he is thinking of chiefly when he says “sin” is that limitation of “nature” which constitutes its essential character. There is no cure for this evil but passage into the All.

In drawing up an abstract of Madame Guyon’s “Spiritual Torrents,” Jones points out that she takes her start from the common mystical doctrine of the “seed.” “It is a primary idea of Madame Guyon,” he writes,90 “that there is a ‘central depth’ in the soul, which has come from God and which exhibits ‘a perpetual proclivity’ to return to Him, like the push of the stream back to its source in the sea.” All souls are at bottom emanations from God and tend to return to their fountain. Hence, “all souls would return to their native Source, if they did not encounter the obstacle of sin, and therefore the main problem of life is the healing of the wounds of sin. There is, in her opinion, no solution short of the complete annihilation of the individual self in which sin inheres, the absolute spoiling of every particular thing to which the soul clings in its sundered selfhood. The soul must die to everything which it loves for self-sake, even to its desire for states of grace, gifts of the Spirit, supernatural communications, and salvation itself.… The soul must let itself go without thinking or willing or desiring. It must even get beyond doing virtuous actions, and reach a height where the distinction of actions is annulled. But the soul loses its own powers and capacities only to receive an immense capacity, like that of the river when it reaches the sea. It no longer possesses, it is possessed. It has lost ‘the nothing’ for ‘the All.’ It is perfect with the perfection of God, rich with His riches, and it loves with His love. It is one and the same thing with its Source. The divine life becomes entirely natural to it. It moves with the divine moving, acts as He acts through it, and its interior prayer is action.” That is to say, put in simple language, the soul being by nature of the substance of God, by escaping from its individualism is reabsorbed into God. Or employing Madame Guyon’s figure, the river which has flowed out from God, on flowing back to God is washed into by the tide and filled with the salt water of the Sea: the salt water has replaced the fresh and now constitutes the river, which of course now shows the qualities of sea-water.

This is the doctrine in the terms of which Upham undertook to express what, after all is said, remained in substance the Wesleyan doctrine of Christian Perfection. Naturally he did not accomplish this feat without some difficulty, in seeking to meet which he found it necessary to modify both doctrines. He did not, however, modify them equally. The modifications he introduced into the Quietistic teaching amounted to an act of violence, by which he forcibly transposed it into quite another key. The violence thus wrought on it, rendered similar violence less necessary with respect to the Wesleyan Perfectionism which he was endeavoring to express in terms of Quietistic mysticism. There were modifications made in the Wesleyan doctrine, modifications intrinsically of importance; but in the main the result was merely the expression of the Wesleyan doctrine in the language of Quietistic mysticism.

We may illustrate what is meant by this by observing at once, without delaying on minor matters, how the culminating conception of Quietism—that of union with God—was dealt with. Of course Upham took this conception over, and endeavored to make a place for it in his scheme of salvation. He attempts to do this by simply adding to the two stages of salvation provided for by the Wesleyan doctrine—those of justification and sanctification—a third, the state of “divine union.” The adjustment did not turn out, however, to be so simple as, at first blush, it may have appeared; and Upham found himself not quite able to determine whether the third stage was really a third stage of the Christian’s progress or only the second stage in its higher reaches. This doubt was due of course to the fact that, in taking over the conception of “divine union” from the Quietists, he had profoundly modified it, and reduced it to the level of mere sanctification. That he really so conceived it is sufficiently manifest from a sentence like this:91 “It is taken for granted, that the subject of this higher experience has passed through the more common forms of religious experience; and has advanced from the incipient state of justification, and from the earlier gradations or steps of sanctification, to that state of divine union, in which he can say with a good degree of confidence, ‘I and my Father are one.’ ” Only two stages of salvation are recognized here, “the incipient state of justification,” and the completing “state of sanctification”—the latter of which, however, passes through a plurality of gradations, the culminating one of which is “divine union.”

Nevertheless Upham permitted himself to use with reference to this “divine union” all the extremities of language which he found in his mystical teachers, and in doing so to give it an apparent significance far in advance of anything which sanctification can be supposed to express. On one occasion, for example,92 he cites with approval Catharine of Genoa’s repetition of the old formula, “God was made man that He might make men God,” and declares that “it indicates the object at which every Christian ought to aim, and may hope to aim with success, viz. to experience inwardly and entirely the divine transformation, and to become, in the moral sense, and on the limited scale of humanity, ‘God manifest in the flesh.’ ” This is quite shocking language, which only familiarity with it in the mystical writers enables us to tolerate. Its tendency is to obliterate the infinite distance which separates God and man, and to efface the sense of wonder and awe with which the miracle of the incarnation is contemplated. The qualification “in the moral sense, and on the limited scale of humanity,” supplies no excuse for such reckless speech and serves only to declare its impropriety. The perversion of Scripture texts at once adduced in support, merely adds to the offense. When Paul says “I live, and yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,” he means neither that “selfishness had become love,” nor yet that “humanity had become divine,” in him. Nor does John by declaring that we experience “an entire transformation of nature” teach “the conversion of the human and fallen into the restored and the deified,” the “transformation of humanity into divinity.”

A union with God so conceived cannot reasonably be explained as merely a high stage of sanctification, and Upham accordingly very categorically declares that it is not. “Divine union,” he says,93 “is to be regarded as a state of soul different from that of mere sanctification.” “It is subsequent to it in time,” he says; and “sustains [to it] the relation of effect.” There seems to be, however, some difficulty in telling precisely what it is. It is “union,” and union implies “two or more persons or beings, who are the subjects of it.” We might conceive a perfectly holy soul by itself. We cannot conceive a united soul by itself. “Union, in the experimental sense of the term, is not merely holiness, but is the holiness of the creature united with the holiness of God.” We seize on this language with avidity, as apparently implying that after the union as before there are two, not one; that it results in a society, not a coalescence. But we are told next that, although not sanctification, it is a necessary result of sanctification. “When the soul has reached a certain point in Christian experience, the divine union, in the moral sense of the terms”—that is the only sense, we remember, that Upham admits—“is a matter, not only of choice, but in some sense a matter of necessity.”94 That is because when we become holy God must love us—for He by the very necessity of His nature loves holiness, and what is more, we must love Him—for holiness must love holiness. This then is a necessary law of the life of pure love. “So strong is this tendency, that no obstacles can resist it. It is just as certain that they [God and holy beings] will meet, and that they will become one in purpose and happiness, and one in purity and life, as that they exist.”95 Accordingly “holiness of heart implies, as a necessary consequence, union with God.”96 But have we not somehow, in the course of the discussion, lost sight of “divine union,” altogether? That is, of that “divine union” which is not sanctification, but something additional to and higher than sanctification? There is nothing of which Upham is surer than that entire sanctification and “pure love” are one and the same thing: and is not the sanctified man one in purpose and one in purity with God? Is not that his very quality as entirely sanctified?

Upham, however, is not satisfied here with generalities. He who is in union with God, is through and through like God. “The soul,” says he,97 “which is fully in the experience of divine union, will harmonize perfectly with the emotions and desires of the divine mind.” He apparently wishes us to take this declaration literally and even a little more than literally—for he ends by imposing on himself with his similitudes. As a movement in the ocean throbs in all the streams which are connected with it—we do not stop to inquire, Does it?—so, says he, “the desire of the Infinite mind sympathetically takes shape and develops itself in the finite mind.” Wherever such union exists, “there cannot, as a general thing, be a feeling or purpose in one party, without the existence of a corresponding feeling and purpose in the other.” So far does he push this declaration, that he actually draws as an inference from it the astounding representation that “when we know the thoughts of God’s true people, we know God’s thoughts; when we know what God’s true people desire, we know what God desires; when we know what the people of God are determined to do, we know what God is determined to do.” It is to advance but a step further, to declare that the movement of desire in the soul of “a child of God” is the continuation of “the distant but affiliated throbbing, of the great heart of the universe,” and justifies the sure expectation of its realization. This appears to constitute the holy man a very tolerable prophet:98 whatever he desires must come to pass. This too seems to be taken strictly: the voice of a holy man at prayer is something “not only impressive but sublime, and almost terrible”—it is “not more the voice of man than of God.” Upham neglects to tell us how we are to identify the man who has become so holy as thus to be to the observer only a mirror of God’s thoughts, desires, intentions; and thus leaves us unable to avail ourselves practically of his guidance and compelled to content ourselves just with the Scriptures as a guide to life. But what we need to observe is that in the midst of all this extremity of language he yet conceives of the holy man only as a mirror of the divine; it is only sympathetically that the desires of the divine mind take shape in his mind. There is no union of coalescence; only a union of likeness.

Beyond a union which is sanctification, Upham never really gets. At the end of his first religious book,99 he undertakes to explain to us what “the Unitive State” is. The “state of union,” he says, is distinctly a “state of mind.” Nothing like a “physical union,” a “union of essence with essence physically,” is expressed by the phrase, but only “a moral and religious union.”100 The fact is, he explains, that what we mean when we speak of “the Unitive State” is just a state “of close and ineffable conformity with the Divine Mind.” We do not become in it one with God: we only become in it like God: and the thing we become like God in is holiness. No doubt Upham even here uses phraseology which, taken naturally, might mean more than this: he says, for example, “we unite with God.” But he at once explains his meaning thus: “Holy beings recognize in each other a mutual relationship of character, and are led, by the very necessities of their nature, to seek each other in the reciprocal exercise of love.” And he explains this to mean that “nothing appears to them so exceedingly good, desirable, and lovely as holiness, whenever and wherever found.” Holy beings, in other words, tend to come together, and to act together, and to form with one another a union, a community, of holy beings; in other words, a social union. He speaks in precisely the same sense in the last of his books, the posthumously published “Absolute Religion.”101 “Man,” he here declares flatly, “must necessarily retain his individuality.” “The finite cannot be the Infinite.” But he can enlarge in the sphere of his sympathies. If we say he is merged and mixed with God, has himself become “extinct,” and “lost” in God—is “self-annihilated”—the “literal meaning” of these terms “must be somewhat modified.” It is not meant that he is “lost,” “annihilated,” in his “actual self-consciousness,” but only that he no longer has different “interests and hopes” from God; that he has ceased to have those “reflex acts which turn the mind too much upon our own joys and purposes.” We may distinguish between the “individual,” the “humanitarian,” and the “holy or divine” (the double designation is significant) man. The difference between them is real, but it is a difference only in the progressive enlargement of man’s benevolence and sympathies, until they embrace all Being. As to the “divine man”—“such a man, in the wide and resistless movement of the divine Spirit within him, not only transcends the restricted bounds of individualism, not only passes beyond the limits of kindred and country, but beyond those of humanity itself; and embraces not only the brotherhood of man but all existences, both those above him and those below him. Nothing but the boundlessness of existence, which is ever developing itself, nothing but the boundlessness of benevolence, which is ever pouring happiness into existences, nothing but the Infinite of creation and the Infinite of love, nothing but God himself in the widest and noblest sense of that glorious term, can meet and satisfy his measureless sympathies.”

How little the conception of intimate and loving conformity with God presented here is that which Upham’s Quietistic guides attached to the notion of Divine Union we may learn by simply permitting Heinrich Heppe to tell us how Madame Guyon thought of the relation of the perfected soul to God. “The state and life of the perfected soul,” in her view, says he,102 “is the most perfect simplicity of being, seeing that it is as little possible for it to distinguish itself from God as God distinguishes Himself from it. As long as the soul still possesses a perception of God, however slight, the union of the soul with God is still incomplete. When this union has reached its completeness, it ceases to be capable of perception, because then the life of God has become altogether restored to the soul, and it, having become merged in God’s being, has become wholly one with God, absolutely deified. God has then become the life-atmosphere of the soul, which belongs as essentially to it as the earthly atmosphere to the body, and which the soul perceives therefore as little as the body does the atmosphere in which it lives. The perfected soul knows of God only that He exists, and that He is exclusively its life.” Here are no two beings bound together only by the bonds of a mutual love, although so closely that the two hearts beat as one. The soul is not like God, but is God. God has ceased to be objective to it: it is not merely immersed in God as its atmosphere—that is an inadequate image. Madame Guyon says expressly that “the soul is not merely hidden in God, but has in God become God.”103 Why Upham thought it worth while to express his own widely divergent meaning in this language, appropriate only to another circle of thought—and indeed to insist that in doing so he was only bringing out the real meaning of the Quietistic writers—we can only conjecture, and need not be careful to inquire. The effect is to throw a veil of ambiguity over all his references to the subject.

Precisely the same method is followed by Upham with precisely the same effect in his discussion of that whole group of ideas which concern the mortification of “nature.” We may find an excellent example in the chapter in “The Life of Faith” entitled “On the Relation of Faith to Inward Crucifixion.” It is quite clear that it is precisely sin which Upham understands the soul to die to, in its inward crucifixion. To be inwardly crucified, says he, is “to be dead to every desire … which has not the divine sanction,” “to every appetite and every affection, which is not in accordance with the divine law.” Yet he alternatively speaks of the soul having “undergone a painful death to every worldly tie,” and sets in opposition to the “new spiritual life” just “the old sensual life.” And he attains his climax by means of this appeal to Tauler: “To be inwardly crucified, in the language of Tauler, ‘is to cease entirely from the life of self, to abandon equally what we see and what we possess, our power, our knowledge, and our affections; so that the soul in regard to any action originating in itself is without life, without action, and without power, and receives its life, its action, and its power from God alone.’ ” The governing idea of the discussion thus oscillates between deliverance from sin and deliverance from self; and after a while the two statements are brought into immediate contiguity that “holiness is something which must be desired and sought for itself,” and that holiness must by no means be sought for itself but only for God’s sake. The culmination is reached in the violent paradox that “perhaps the most decisive mark of the truly crucified man is, that he is crucified even to holiness itself.” The explanation follows at once: “that is to say, he desires God only, seeks God only, is satisfied and can be satisfied with God only, in distinction from … gifts or graces.”104 But why should God and His gifts be set in opposition to one another, as if one could be taken and the other left? Of course God is to be desired above all His gifts; but they cannot be had, or even considered, apart. The mystical analysis is pushed even further than this, however. A definition of “pure divinity,” as the object of the contemplation of those who are in a state of “pure love,” is placed on Madame Guyon’s lips, which cuts even deeper.105 This “pure divinity” is God apart from His attributes. As God is not the sum of His attributes, but the substrate of them, it is argued that we may and should contemplate Him apart from them all. To think of God’s power is not to think of God; to think of God’s wisdom is not to think of God. And so we may go through the whole list and arrive at last at the “pure divinity” which lies back of all attributes. This is, of course, mere logomachy, and is indicative only of the tendency of this type of thought to seek after undifferentiated Being for God—and for us. We are glad to have it noted that Fénelon at least knew better than to reason thus. What he says is that it is not enough to occupy ourselves merely with the attributes of God, but we should think of “God considered as the subject of his attributes.” “It is not infinite wisdom, infinite power, or infinite goodness, considered separately from the existence of whom they can be predicated, which it [the soul] loves and adores; but the God of infinite wisdom, power, and goodness.”106

The subject of “interior or spiritual solitude” is dealt with in the same confusing way.107 Seclusion of the body, we are told, is not meant; nor indeed mental seclusion. What is meant is “solitude from that in the mind, whatever it may be, which tends to disunite and dissociate it from God.” Why then, we feel bound to ask, do we speak of “solitude,” and not rather “renunciation of sin”? The answer plainly is that it is not renunciation of sin, after all, which is really in mind. Hence we read at once in a fuller description that, “in the state of interior solitude,” the soul is “in a state of solitude or separation from two things in particular.” And the average reader may feel some surprise to learn that these two things are the soul’s “own desires” and the soul’s “own thoughts.” These universal phrases receive, however, some limitation in the more precise definitions: “all desire, except such as God himself animates,” all thoughts “which are self-originated, and which tend, therefore, to dissociate it [the soul] from God.” This language is of course dictated by the opposition between “nature” and “the supernatural” which—rather than that between sin and grace—rules the thinking of the Romanist mystics; and on their lips is natural and even inevitable. In Upham it is only disturbing. We should have expected from him such phrases as, “all desire which is not conformed to the law of holiness,” “all thoughts which are not pure and ennobling.” To say that we must be separated from all but God-animated desires and God-originated thoughts is not to say that we must be freed from sin, but that we must be deprived of our own individuality. Accordingly, we are told that we are not to have any thoughts that are “our own,” and it is explained that “thoughts, which arise from the instigation of self, and not from a divine movement, are not in harmony with what God in his providential arrangements would desire and choose to suggest,” and are therefore “not only not from God, but … constitute so many disturbing influences, which separate God from the soul.” Of course the self, as it is now constituted, is corrupt; and all its thoughts and desires are corrupt. But the remedy for this dreadful state of things which the Scriptures offer is not the substitution of God for the self as the source of our thoughts and desires, but the purification of the self. The mystics, however, whom Upham is here reflecting, did not think in terms of sin and grace but in terms of self and God. It was not from sin but from the self itself from which they wished to turn; not to holiness that they wished to flee but to God. The form in which Upham presents that here is to remind us that in its spiritual solitude “the soul is not left alone with itself,” but “with God, who is Eternal Life,” a form of statement which embodies an unusually crass paradox—declaring that the soul enters into “solitude” by entering into “communion.” “Separation, in its spiritual application,” he therefore proceeds to tell us, is “not only seclusion, but transition”—transition to God, so as to be “not only with God, but in him; not only in harmony of action, but in the sacred enclosure of his being.” All roads lead to Rome; and in mystical thinking all roads lead to union.

The doctrine taught in this discussion is repeated, with perhaps some additional clearness of statement, in the chapter in “The Life of Faith,” “On the Mental State Most Suitable to the Constant Indwelling of the Holy Ghost.”108 Upham says “most suitable,” but he is soon found discussing rather what the mental state is that is most favorable to the in-dwelling of the Holy Ghost. What he is investigating is the mental state which we must assume, if we wish to induce the indwelling of the Spirit. His conclusion is, “inward meekness and quietness,” and Ruysbroek and Père Lombaz are quoted to the effect that this state of mind “gives full liberty to the Spirit of God to act in the soul.” Having thus suspended the entrance of the Holy Spirit into the soul on the soul’s prior action,109 Upham now gives himself to a description of what this “quiet spirit” is. “The quiet mind, in this sense of the terms,” says he, “has no preference, no election, which results from the impulse of its own tendencies. It is precisely in that situation, being free from any desires or purposes of its own, in which the smallest possible divine influence will give it the true direction. In other words, while it remains in this condition, it is susceptible of being moved, only as it is moved upon by the Spirit of God.” There is no question here of sin, and the overcoming of sin by grace. We hear only of the necessity of the mind’s attaining to a state of inanition; and the doctrine taught is that a state of complete inanition is the necessary precondition of the impulsion of the Spirit. A soul is most accessible to divine influence when there is no activity in it at all. Even that is not enough; for Upham now proceeds110 to argue that not only is a soul so emptied prepared for the Spirit; but the Spirit must enter it. If not physically, it is morally necessary for Him to do so. He always stands at the door and knocks; and he enters when unresisted—“whenever the natural or selfish desire, in distinction from the sanctified desire, ceases.” In these words there may lie a suggestion that after all it is sin that is in question; but the suggestion is not justified by the discussion in general. It is the emptiness of the soul, not its purity, which prepares it for the Spirit. Accordingly Upham at once returns to the broad declaration; “Our doctrine, in accordance with that of many judicious writers on christian experience, is, that desire must cease; otherwise the Holy Spirit cannot be in-dwelling; in other words, cannot take up his abode fully and permanently in the heart.” Desire—not sin—must cease. But no: it is after all sin that must cease. For in his quality as psychologist Upham now goes on to explain that “there is not any such thing, and cannot be any such thing, as an absolute extinction of desire; neither in God, men, nor angels”: “desire is a necessary and unalienable attribute of every rational being.” He uses the term, therefore, he says, in the sense, not that desire, but “the natural, the unsanctified desire has ceased.” Once more then he plays fast and loose with mystical terminology, to the great discomfort of his readers and disadvantage of his meaning.

It will already have been observed that Upham has the odd faculty of suggesting the doctrine of Quietistic inaction as an undertone of his discussion, while avoiding its open assertion. We may find another instance of this mode of writing in the chapter, “On the True Idea of Spiritual Liberty,” in the “Principles of the Interior or Hidden Life.”111 The text here is taken from Francis de Sales’ definition of Christian Liberty—as “consisting in keeping the heart totally disengaged from every created thing, in order that it may follow the known will of God.” That is true or false, according as we take it. That we may follow the known will of God, it is not necessary to keep the heart totally disengaged from every created thing. It may rather be necessary to engage it very deeply with every created thing. It is for example the known will of God that we shall love our neighbor, and we may take neighbor here universally. There is a contradiction suggested between obedience to God and natural affection which is not in the least Christian. It is easy, however, so to expound this fundamental declaration as to keep its false suggestion just under the surface, so that it is always suggesting itself, but is perhaps never openly asserted. It is easy to lay the stress on the duty of “in all cases and on all occasions doing the will of God” and of subordinating all else to it; and only subtly to suggest that we are therefore better without the love of country, or the love of parents, or of children, say, because they are apt to absorb us and so interfere with doing the will of God. Soon, however, we strike an openly false antithesis like this: “A man who is really guided by his appetites, his propensities, and even by his affections,”—these are Upham’s three categories of desires—“his love of country, or any thing else other than the Spirit of God, cannot be said to be led by that divine Spirit.”112 Why not? The Spirit of God is not a fourth to this trio—appetites, propensities, affections, the Spirit of God—operating on the same plane with them, and contending with them on equal terms for the mastery of action, so that if we follow His guidance we must repel their propulsions. He works in and through them and by their propulsions accomplishes His guidance. It is by purifying them that He guides us in pure paths; by elevating them that He brings us to exalted actions. Nothing less true, accordingly, could be said than this: “In the heart of true liberty the Spirit of God rules, and rules alone; so that he who is in the possession of this liberty does nothing of his own pleasure or his own choice.” On the contrary, he in whose heart the Spirit of God rules and rules alone, does all that he does of his own pleasure and of his own choice. His liberty consists precisely in its being his pleasure and his choice to do what the Spirit of God, who has made him thus free, would have him do. The law of God has been written on his heart, and he spontaneously does its commandments. The suggestions of the succeeding phraseology are accordingly quite unscriptural: “That is to say, in all cases of voluntary action, he does nothing under the impulse and guidance of natural pleasure or natural choice alone. His liberty consists in being free from self; in being liberated from the dominion of the world; in lying quietly and submissively in the hands of God; in leaving himself, like clay in the hands of the potter, to be moulded and fashioned by the divine will.” The question is not whether we are in the hands of the Potter; or whether it is not our joy to be in the hands of this Potter; it is how this Potter proceeds in molding the clay. And we praise God that it is not by liberating us from our selves, but by liberating our selves from sin and forming them in the image of Christ, that He proceeds. What has deflected Upham’s exposition from the truth is the undertone of sympathy with that false antagonism of the natural and the supernatural which dominates the thoughts of his Romanist teachers.

Out of the same source there rises a note of asceticism which sounds through many of Upham’s discussions. We may take as an example the chapter in the “Principles of the Interior or Hidden Life” on “The Excision and Crucifixion of the Natural Life.”113 Everything here depends, of course, on what is understood by “the natural life.” If a life of sin is meant, then of course it is to be excised and crucified. And Upham does, at bottom, mean just that. But he is always treading on the border line which divides this conception of the natural life from that which sees in it only a life in accordance with “pure nature.” In other words, the Romanist doctrine of the natural and the supernatural constantly intrudes into his thought. It is a hard counsel when we are bidden114 to “cut off and crucify the desire of internal consolations and comforts”—although a good meaning can be attached to it. It becomes harder when we read on: “If we would be what the Lord would have us to be, we must be willing, in the spirit of inward crucifixion, to renounce and reject all other natural desires, and all our own purposes and aims.” It is some relief to learn that only “all desires and purposes which spring from the life of nature, and not from the Spirit of God,” are meant; although the antithesis is not exact. And the relief is not lessened so far as the words go, when we read further: “In other words, it is our duty, as those who would glorify God in all things, to check every natural desire, and to delay every contemplated plan of action, until we can learn the will of God, and put ourselves under a divine guidance.” But that by “natural desires” here are meant not the desires intrinsically sinful because the expressions of the “lusts of the flesh” of the “natural man,” but just desires proper to us as men, is clear, since we are only to delay following them until we can ascertain whether they are in accordance with the will of God, which it is implied they may prove to be. And we now read further: “Every desire must so far lose its natural character as to become spiritually baptized and sanctified, before it can be acceptable to God.” What? a desire intrinsically good, which on investigation may prove to be in accordance with God’s will? Would it not be nearer the truth to say that every desire, not corrupted by sin, is already acceptable to God, in its natural character? Baptism and sanctification presuppose sin: and only sin-corrupted desires require baptism and sanctification. It is not nature but sin which needs extirpation. There floats before Upham’s mind, in other words, under the ambiguity of his use of the word “nature,” a condemnation of nature itself, and an aspiration not for a holy natural life, but for a purely supernatural life.

The resultant asceticism shows itself most plainly, however, when he begins to illustrate the doctrine which he has laid down. He illustrates it, for example, from the desire for knowledge.115 The desire for knowledge is in itself innocent; but it becomes wrong when it is so “strong as to disquiet the inward nature, and thus to perplex our intercourse with God.” It is to be “merged and lost, as it were, like all the other natural desires, in the supreme desire for God’s glory”—“a desire which evidently is not the product of nature, but which can come from the inspiration of the Holy Ghost alone.” Why the most complete possession of knowledge may not subserve God’s glory, we are not told. There is no reason for setting the “natural” desire for knowledge and the “supernatural” purpose to seek God’s glory in contradiction to one another, except an underlying feeling that nothing that is of “nature” is good. In point of fact the desire for knowledge and the desire for God’s glory lie in consciousness side by side as alike just desires: as they emerge in consciousness we know nothing of their diverse origins and cannot discriminate between them on that ground. On an earlier page,116 the warning against an excessive desire for knowledge is put on a different ground. We can easily know too much, it is there suggested, for our soul’s good, for every enlargement of our sphere of knowledge decreases our sphere of faith. “Knowledge necessarily excludes faith, in regard to the thing which is known. And we do not hesitate to say, that ignorance with faith is, in many things, better than knowledge without it.” We shall not be led astray by the prudent adjunctive of those two last words “without it”: they merely introduce an “undistributed middle.” The doctrine announced is clearly that it is better not to know too much, because faith is better than knowledge and we should leave all that we can to be merely believed and not known—and there is an unpleasant suggestion that faith flourishes better in half-light. Surely this is that voluntary humility which did not commend itself to an apostle. As with knowledge, so with friendship. Our friendships must be “crucified.” Friends may become idols: better shun the danger and not have too many of them: and among friends he includes kindred—though he does not tell us how it is best to free ourselves of superfluous kindred. Even if our friends are “eminent Christians, so much so as to bear the very image and likeness of the Savior himself,” we must beware of loving them too much. This is an atmosphere more Buddhist than Christian. In this “baptism of fire,” as he rightly calls it, he declares that the natural life dies; and that thus the way is prepared for the true resurrection and life of Christ in the soul. We are, that is to say, not so much to cleanse the soul, as to empty it, that Christ may enter in. “We must not think to go to heaven and carry our natural life with us.” That depends on what we mean by our natural life. We are to continue men in heaven, we suppose. But we are not to love the “world”? That again depends on what we mean by the “world.” Certainly we are not to delight in the world, the flesh, and the devil. But are we not to love the world which is our “neighbor”? But we are now told that it is “the corrupt life” of nature that we are to renounce. And to that we agree with all our heart. The mystical ascetic strain serves only to confuse the two senses of “nature,” and so to convey to the uninstructed mind some very dubious notions.

In some paragraphs117 of a chapter devoted to the duty of a primary, all-embracing, and eternal act of consecration, Upham endeavors to give currency to the mystical term and notion of “nihility,” and yet keep his prescriptions in harmony with his strong New England sense of human activity. We must coöperate with God, he allows: but he adds at once that “in order to realize, personally, the conditions of divine coöperation … it is necessary to be, mentally, in a state of passivity, as it is sometimes expressed,” or “more properly and truly, of strict impartiality before God.” That is to say, we must be free and ready to go God’s way, and that implies that we have none of our own: our minds are to be but mirrors reflecting His will. And we must “not only begin in our nothingness, but must be willing to remain in it.” All our coöperation is really a receiving. If we work it is only God working in us. We are not inactive; but “man is justly and efficiently active” only “when he is active in communication with God, and yet remaining deeply in his own sphere of nothingness.” “Man never acts to higher and nobler purpose than when, in the realization of his own comparative nihility, he places himself in the receptive position, and lets God work in him.” This curious mode of expressing oneself amounts to a forced employment of mystical language, with a constantly suggested reserve. What, for example, is the function of the word “comparative” inserted before “nihility” in the sentence last quoted, except to warn against taking the language in its natural sense? We cannot quite say that all that is taught here is that we must do the will of God. It is taught also that the way to do the will of God is to inhibit our own willing and let God’s willing flow into us in its stead. This is what is understood in mystical language by “the death of the will.” But when Upham comes to deal with this phrase118 he manages to reduce it, too, simply to preferring God’s will to our own. Of course the will cannot cease to exist, he says—then we should cease to be men. But we must cease to will divergently from God’s willing. And, it is added, so soon as we cease to will divergently from God’s willing, we shall find that we have begun to will accordingly with God’s willing. When the will dies, then, it is not dead; it is not even quiescent; it is only transformed. Does it not seem a pity then to speak of this transformation and transfiguration of the will as “the death of the will”? Upham himself has the grace to say:119 “When we use the phrase ‘interior annihilation,’ we of course use it in a mitigated or qualified sense”—in this sense, namely, “as meaning not an entire extinction of any principles within us, but only an extinction of certain irregularities of their action.” “In other words,” he adds, “it is not an absolute annihilation; but only the annihilation of any thing and every thing that is wrong; the annihilation of what the Scriptures call the ‘old man,’ in distinction from the ‘new man, created anew in Christ Jesus.’ ” Of the habit of using in much the same reference the term “nothingness,” he has the grace to speak120 also with mild criticism: this terminology is “convenient,” indeed, “but yet not accurate.” Nevertheless, in deference to the usage of his Quietistic guides, he uses this phraseology and permits himself to speak familiarly of “the soul that has reached the centre of its Nothing”—meaning only, he explains, that it is “absolutely and forever nothing relatively to self,” a statement not itself beyond serious criticism: let us at least say “relatively to sin.” It is pleasing to report that before the end of the volume is reached—though only just before it is reached121—the true note is for once firmly struck. Upham is speaking here of the doctrine of “some advocates of Christian perfection,” “especially,” he says, of “some pious Catholics of former times,” “that the various propensities and affections, and particularly the bodily appetites, ought to be entirely eradicated.” That is the familiar “noughting of nature.” No, says he, with unusual directness: No—“we are not required to eradicate our natural propensities and affections, but to purify them. We are not required to cease to be men, but merely to become holy men.” This is true, and it is well said. The question that forces itself constantly on the reader is, Why dally, then, with the mystical phraseology when the mystical meaning is not intended?

III. Upham’s Doctrinal Teaching

From examples such as those which we have adduced, it is sufficiently evident that in taking over the language of his Quietistic teachers, Upham took over with it only in part the doctrines of which that language was the appropriate expression. His own doctrinal system was different and it becomes desirable to ascertain in outline—or at least in its salient points—what the doctrinal system is to which he elects to give expression in this extraordinary fashion.

His primary engrossment was psychological; and it is natural that the conclusions at which he arrived in that field should underlie and be constantly attended to in the development of his religious philosophy. The one of these upon which he seems most to have prided himself was the threefold distribution of mental faculty into the intellect, the sensibilities, and the will. There appears to have been a sense in which he—or certainly his friends—looked upon this distribution as a discovery of his own. Alpheus S. Packard tells an affecting story122 of how in the early years of his work at Bowdoin, discouraged by his failure to coördinate the facts of mental action in an intelligible scheme, he was on the point of resigning his professorship and retiring beaten from his work, “when what we may term a discovery in mental science flashed upon his mind, which gave place, order and proportion to all his facts; the idea that there were in the unity of the soul three coöordinate forms of activity, the intellect, the sensibilities and the will.” Such a discovery at that date was, of course, only a rediscovery; and we can scarcely doubt that Upham was helped to it by at least obscure reminiscences of what he had read. He himself points out in his treatise on the Will123 that this threefold distribution was already to be found in Locke and Hume, in Lord Kames and Sir James Mackintosh. It was as old in continental psychology as Tefens and Mendelssohn, and had been given general currency there by Kant. Sir William Hamilton is ordinarily credited with having first clearly expounded and defined it in English, though we may understand this as meaning only that he performed much the same service for it among English-speaking writers as Kant did on the continent. Among his own New England predecessors Upham might have read it very clearly set forth as early as 1793 in Samuel West’s “Essays on Liberty and Necessity”; and he himself in 1834124 points to Asa Burton’s “Essays on Some of the First Principles of Metaphysicks, Ethicks, and Theology,” which was published in 1824, the very year he went to Bowdoin—as expounding it. It was being taught, also, contemporaneously with himself, at New Haven by N. W. Taylor.125 When he lays hold of it, however, he makes it very much his own, and founds on it his whole conception of mental action. “The general division of the Mind,” he says,126 “is into the Intellect, the Sensibilities, and the Will. The External Intellect is first brought into action; followed, in greater or less proximity of time, by the development of the Internal. The subsequent process of the mental action, when carried through in the direction of the Pathematic”—that is, the natural as distinguished from the moral—“sensibilities, is from intellections to emotions, and from emotions to desires, and from desires to acts of the will. When carried through in the direction of the Moral sensibilities, it is from intellections to emotions, (not natural but moral emotions;) and then diverging into a different track and avoiding the appropriate domain of the Desires, passes from emotions to feelings of moral obligation, and from the Obligatory feelings, like the corresponding portion of the sensibilities, to the region of the Voluntary or Volitive nature.”

Thus everything culminates in willing; and Upham teaches127 that “the will, in making up its determinations, takes immediate cognizance of only two classes of mental states, viz., Desires and Feelings of obligation.”128 What he is seeking to enunciate here is, no doubt, primarily the general manner of the will’s action; but behind that there lies an intense conviction that the will is subject to law, and is no more capable of acting apart from the law to which it is subject than any other creature of God. He closes the long section of his “Treatise on the Will,”129 devoted to validating this conviction, with these eloquent words: “Let us remember, that in this simple proposition”—that the will is in its action subject to law—“we find the golden link, which binds us to the throne of God. If my will is not subject to law, then God is not my master. And what is more, he is not only not so in fact, but it is impossible that he should be so. But on the other hand, if my will is not independent, in the sense of being beyond the reach of law, then the hand of the Almighty is upon me, and I cannot escape even if I would. The searching eye of the great Author of all things ever attends my path; and whether I love or hate, obey or rebel, I can never annul his authority, or evade his jurisdiction.”

There is, it is true, a certain faltering, scarcely in complete harmony with this eloquent assertion of the complete subjection of the will to law, in his enunciation of the general law of its action. He does not say that the will is determined by desires and feelings of obligation; he says that in its action it “takes cognizance” of them alone. What he means to say is that the will does not act except in the presence of or in view of motives: “the existence of motives in some form or other,” he roundly asserts,130 “is the indispensable condition of any action of the voluntary power.” But he wishes to avoid asserting that the will is determined by the motive, in the presence or in view of which it acts: the motive is “nothing more than the preparatory condition, circumstance, or occasion; a sort of antecedent incident to that which takes place.”131 The will stands among the motives which have released it for action, and sovereignly chooses which of them it will follow. This free choice among the motives, Upham now declares to be necessary if we are to regard man “as a free and accountable agent.” This seems to imply that if the motive really determined the volition man would not be “a free and accountable agent.” And that seems to imply that the power to act—and the habit of acting—contrary to the motive is essential to free and accountable agency. If this does not separate the action of the will from the control of the desire or moral feeling (with all the machinery of intellection, emotion, and so forth, back of it) and make its action lawless, we would like to know what it does do.

Reverting to the matter at a somewhat later point,132 Upham makes his doctrine plainer by repetition. The will never acts and cannot act in the absence of motives. “The will acts in view of motives and never acts independently of them.” The motives furnish “the condition or occasion”—“the indispensable occasion”—on which the “ability” of the will to put forth volitions “is exerted.” That is to say, the presence of the motives releases the will for action. But the motives, though they draw a circle around the will, do not determine—no one of them at least—how it will act. It acts “in view of motives”; yet “its acts are its own and are to be regarded and spoken of as its own.” It acts “in connection with motives,” and yet has “a true and substantive power in itself.” “In other words,” says Upham, coming at last really to the point, “although motives are placed round about it, and enclose it on every side, it,” that is, the will, “has the power of choosing, (or if other expressions be preferable,) of deciding, determining, or arbitrating among them. Although it is shut up within barriers, which God himself has instituted, it has a positive liberty and ability within those barriers. Although its operations are confined within a sphere of action, which is clearly and permanently marked out by its maker [God], yet within that sphere, (the proposition of the will’s subjection to law still holding good,) its acts emanate in itself.” The meaning of this is apparently that not only is the will released for action only by the presence of motives soliciting its action, but the range of its action is limited by their solicitations. It cannot act in the absence of motives and it equally cannot act otherwise than as it is solicited by one or another of them. But it has the power of selecting, among the motives presented to it, that one in accordance with which it prefers to act. Its “free action” is confined within the circle of its solicitation: but within that circle it is “free.” It must have a master, but it chooses its own master—from among the claimants for its service. It serves; but it gives willing service.

What now, we may ask, would happen if there were but one motive present at a given time to the will? Or what if a plurality of motives were present, but they acted in harmony with one another and drew all in the same direction? Obviously then we should have a determined will. The will released for action by the presence of motives and confined in its choice to the solicitations actually experienced, could choose only one way and would be a determined will. This is Upham’s own understanding of the matter and on it he founds a prescription of the proper method to become holy in life. It is to become holy in our desires, that the desires may pull in the same direction as conscience: and that, says he, will secure the holiness of the will. “The will acts,” he explains,133 “if it acts at all, in accordance either with natural and interested motives, on the one hand, or with moral motives on the other.” In a normal condition, in a man of sound mind, “the moral sense will always act right and act effectively, and will always furnish a powerful motive to the will, unless it,” that is the will, “is perplexed and weakened in its action … by the influence of unsanctified desires.” “If, therefore, the desires are sanctified, and the perplexing and disordering influence from that source is taken away, the feelings of desire and the sentiment of justice will combine their action in the same direction, and the action of the will cannot be otherwise than holy. To possess holy desires, therefore, in their various modifications, or, what is the same thing, to possess, as we sometimes express it, a holy heart, is necessarily to possess a holy will.” “Cannot be otherwise than holy”; “necessarily to possess a holy will.” Whenever then, either because there is only a single motive present to the will or because the motives present and active are in harmony with one another, the will is the subject of a unitary solicitation, we have a determined will—it cannot do otherwise than follow the only solicitation acting upon it. The condition here described is, however, it ought now to be said, always the real state of the case. The picture of the will standing in the midst of contending motives dragging it hither and yon, is an artificial and mechanical one. The conflict of appetences is carried on, not in the will, but before the will is reached. At the moment of volition there is but one motive active—the resultant of the whole. So long as the mind is divided, the will hangs suspended: it forms no volition. Upham discusses, formally, at least twice, the old question whether the will follows the strongest motive and he parries it with the old rejoinder, that there is no criterion of what is the strongest motive except the actual action of the will. The question which is the strongest motive, it is better to understand, is one of which the will has no cognizance: it settles itself in the conflict of appetences—and only the surviving motive, or better, the resultant motive, reaches the will. What determines the will is the total subjectivity at the moment of volition. That total subjectivity is a very complex thing, but its pressure on the will is unitary.

Upham does not, however, attain a solution of his difficulties. Vacillating between the claims of “law” and those of “freedom,” he is at his wit’s end. It is “freedom” that wins the victory with him. At the bottom of his heart he knows that man is determined in all his actions. Does he not tell us that “if the law of universal causation in particular be not true, there is no Deity”?134 But on the top of his mind he is sure that man is the master of his own action—nay, that he controls God’s action, too. His philosophical faith assures him that God controls man; his practical belief is that God is at man’s disposal. Does he not tell us over and over again that God can do nothing for man’s moral and spiritual welfare without man’s consent? It is “undoubtedly a correct” opinion, he declares,135 “that it is impossible for God to operate on a morally responsible being, for moral purposes, and with moral virtue resulting, without a real and voluntary consent.” “Man is a moral being,” he says again,136 “endued with the power of free choice; and … the divine presence cannot exist in him, as a principle of life, except with his own consent.” “God cannot take up his abode in the heart,” he repeats with more elaboration,137 “he cannot become the God and ruler of the heart, without the consent of the heart. This is all he wants, and where this consent (an act which has the peculiarity of sustaining moral responsibility without involving moral merit,) is not given, the poor rebellious one is left, left to himself, left of God.” The parenthesis thrown in here is a vain attempt to escape the imputation of teaching salvation by works. To withhold consent brings moral ruin, expressed here in terms of negative reprobation. Is it not wrong? And, it being wrong, to give consent, is that not a right act? And does not a right act “involve moral merit”? If God’s entrance into the soul depends as its condition on the soul’s consent, how can it be said that this consent—given on the soul’s own motion and in its own strength—is not a meritorious act? What is mainly to be observed here, however, is the strength of the assertion of the helplessness of God over against the rebellious sinner. He cannot save him, but must just leave him to perish.

This note is struck again in Upham’s latest book.138 There it is asserted that although God’s love “is absolute and unchangeable,” “freedom also, as an attribute of moral beings, is absolute and unchangeable,” and cannot be violated. “God himself,” we read, “who in being the absolute truth, can never fail to respect the absolute truth, and139 will never coerce a sinner into heaven; for that would only be placing him in a deeper Hell. This would be a violation of fixed and unchangeable truths and relations. It would be an impossibility.” Here is a flat assertion that it is impossible for God to determine human action without violating human freedom; and to give color to this absurd assertion, the more absurd assertion still is made that to save a sinner, without waiting for his “consent” to be saved, is coercion, and leaves him in his rebellious mind: that is to say, he is supposed to be saved without being saved.140

There is a chapter in the “Principles of the Interior or Hidden Life”141 which deals in general with, if we may so express it, the locality of religious experience. In the course of it we may learn something more of Upham’s view of the interrelation of the human faculties. He begins, of course, with his threefold division of Intellect, Sensibility, and Will; and with his subdivision of the Sensibilities into Emotions and Desires—a subdivision so marked as to raise the question whether the Emotions and Desires—are not really conceived as major divisions. And he repeats here of course his view that normal mental action runs through these four states in the order in which they are enumerated. It begins with an act of intellect, which quickens emotions into activity, through which the desires are moved, and through them in turn the will. This is his constant representation. The point to be observed at present is that it is supposed that this normal course of action may interrupt itself at any point—so that the intellect may be brought into action without arousing any emotion, or emotion may be aroused without setting desire into action, or desire may burn strongly without moving the will. This notion results, of course, from a mechanical conception of mental action, the essential unity of which, as of the acting mind, is insufficiently apprehended. On the ground of this notion, however, we are told that if the intellect alone is moved by religious truth, there is no religion in that. No clearness of perception of religious realities, no amount of religious knowledge acquired and intellectually realized, is in any true sense religious—if it stops there. Even if the emotional nature responds to the new perception of religious realities, and is roused to the greatest conceivable heights of religious feeling, there is no religion, in the true sense, in that either—if it stops there. It is not until those modifications of the sensibilities which are called affections, and through them the will, are reached that anything which may properly be called religion is produced. “Any religion, or rather pretence of religion, which is not powerful enough to penetrate into this region of the mind, and to bring the affections and will into subjection to God, is in vain. It is an important fact, and as melancholy as it is true, that a person may be spiritually enlightened and have new views on the subject of religion, and that he may also have very raised and joyful emotions, and yet may be a slave to his natural desires.”142 Thus the mind is split into two halves—on the one side the intellect and emotions, on the other the affections and the will: and it is supposed that these two halves can stand contradictorily over against one another—the intellect and emotions be teeming with religious knowledge and thrilling with religious feeling, and at the same time the desires and will be lying cold and unmoved, dead in sin. This representation is the more remarkable that what Upham is employed in depicting is not merely the movements of the mind under nature but distinctively under grace. What is under discussion is the saving operations of the Holy Spirit. “We will suppose,” he says,143 “the case of a person who is the subject of a divine operation. Under the influence of this inward operation, he experiences, to a considerable extent, new views of his own situation, of his need of a Savior, and of the restoration of his soul to God in spiritual union. The operation which has been experienced, so far, is purely intellectual.… But in addition to this, we will suppose that an effect, and perhaps a very decided effect, has been experienced in the emotive part, which in its action is subsequent to that of the intellect.… The perception of new truth … gives him happiness; and the perception of its relation to his salvation gives him still more happiness.… His mouth is filled with praise. And others praise the Lord on his account.” Nevertheless, he has no religion, and is not the subject of any “religious experience.”

The faults of this representation are of two kinds—psychological and religious. The human soul is a unit and cannot be divided thus into water-tight compartments. As the emotions cannot be aroused except through a prior movement of the intellect, so every movement of the intellect must be felt in the emotional nature—and through it, in those affections which Upham calls desires and in the will. New views of truth, if genuine, cannot fail to be felt to the extreme verge of human action. Above all it is inconceivable that the intellect can be illuminated by the Holy Spirit and the feelings, appropriate to the new view of truth imparted, aroused, with no effect at all upon “the affections and the will.” The fundamental fault of Upham’s representation lies, however, in his complete failure to recognize any creative operation of the Holy Spirit on the heart. He is endeavoring to account for the difference between the growth of the seed which falls on the rocky ground and of that which falls on the good ground—without recognizing any difference in the soil. The reason why some who hear the word go on to fruit-bearing, and others do not, he says, is that the natural process of growth is arrested in midcourse in the one case and not in the other. The reason why it does it, is—that it does it. The truth of course is that whenever true religion starts in the intellect it does not end until it reaches the will. We may say, if we choose, that whenever the Spirit enlightens the intellect and arouses the emotions, He will quicken the affections and move the will. That is true and may be enough to say; but it is not all nor even the most fundamental thing that is true. We must add that whenever true religion begins in the intellect it is because the Spirit of God has moved creatively over the soul and prepared it in all its departments of activity to respond to His Word. The account of the difference of “temporary faith” and “saving faith” is that in the one case there has never been any true religion at all, and in the other there has—because in the one case the soul has not been prepared by the Holy Spirit for the acceptance of the seed and in the other it has.

Let us observe meanwhile that the effect (it is really the cause) of Upham’s representation, is to throw all religion into the affections and will; ultimately into what we would call the voluntary activities of the soul. This too is a result of his theological attitude, which in this matter has affected his psychological construction. He is operating here with one of the basic contentions of the “New Divinity,” and what is meant ultimately is that he thinks in terms of the will as the sole source of all ethical and religious character. This involves, of course, the denial of native depravity, and forms thus one of the points of sympathy between him and his Romanist mentors, with their doctrine of pura naturalia. It is upon this element of his teaching that his pupil, young Henry Boynton Smith, very naturally concentrates his criticism in the estimate of his psychological system which he wrote, at Upham’s request, for The Literary and Theological Review of December, 1837.144 Upham goes wrong, he points out, on the question of the morality of instincts, appetites, propensities, defending the view “that it is the will which gives them a moral character; that we are accountable for them only as far as they are voluntary; that in their native, instinctive action, they are innocent.” In opposition Smith rightly declares that “the affections are a fount of moral character, separate altogether from deliberate volition,” and appeals in support to the older New England tradition. In point of fact, so far is the will from giving character to the impulses, emotions, affections, it is they which give character to the will. An interesting inquiry might be started whether in Upham’s view the deliverances of conscience in the sense of the moral sense, the organ of moral judgments, which appear in his system as motives to the action of the will, not products of it, have any moral character. The time may come in the development of the Christian life at any rate, he teaches,145 when conscience passes into the background, because no longer needed: we are good without its aid. “The soul which is given to God without reserve,” he teaches, has passed beyond the need, of course, of the reproofs of conscience. It is “clothed with innocence,” and there is therefore now no condemnation for it. Madame Guyon accordingly spoke of having “lost her conscience.” She had not done that: she had only transcended the need of the admonitions and reproofs of conscience, and now called out only its approving judgments. It is to be recognized, however, that it is not merely the reproofs of conscience, but its compulsory or constraining action, that holy people are said to pass beyond the need of. They do all that is right without any instigation from it, under the guidance of holy love. “It would be a work of supererogation to drive a soul which goes without driving.” “Conscience itself becomes the companion and playmate of love, and hides itself in its bosom. Shielded by innocence, we come to God without fear”—which seems to say that our dependence is in our own, not Christ’s righteousness. This appears to be as near as may be a doctrine of the abolition of conscience in the “perfect” state: and as conscience is the organ of our morality, the abolition of morality. We get beyond the categories of right and wrong. True, it is allowed that conscience persists, in order to applaud. It no longer directs—not even love: it waits on love’s acts to approve them. In Upham’s imaginative picture of what men are when they are perfect, he says they are emancipated (among other things) from conscience. Why just that? Why not say they are emancipated to the perfect fulfillment of all the indications of a perfectly instructed conscience?

Love, it is clear, is the highest category of Upham’s thought. It is in his usage a synonym of God. He deals much more sanely with the phrase, “God is love,” than most teachers of his type.146 But he seemingly fancies that he is speaking intelligibly when he says that love is “the life of God,” “that elementary, self-moving and self-instigating principle in God which constitutes” His life:147 that it “makes or constitutes God”; and is “the essential and eternal life of the divine existence, and in fact constitutes that existence.”148 In point of fact no clear meaning can be attached to such words: these are things which love, which is a quality of being or a mode of action of a being, cannot be. What is true, Upham himself tells us149 when he defines the phrase “God is love by essence,” as meaning that “love is forever and unchangeably essential to his existence as God.” God would not be what we call God without it. It is inevitable, however, from his general point of view that he should exalt love above all those other essential attributes, without which equally God would not be what we call God; and should make it the sole principle of the divine action. It was the principle, for example, of creation. We are told that love was the motive and the production of happiness the purpose of God in creation150—from which we perceive that Upham adopts that hedonistic theory of ethics prevalent in the New England of his day,151 according to which happiness is the summum bonum and general benevolence, or the love of being in general, the principle of all virtue. Man is not only like other creatures the product of God’s love, but, having been created in the image of God, like God a “love being”152—though this certainly cannot mean, on man’s part, that love is the very substance out of which he is constituted. The image of God in man, we are told, does not consist in external form, for God has no form. Nor does it consist in intellect—“for the intellect of God embraces all things, while man can know only a part”—surely a suicidal remark, since it can scarcely be meant that man’s love equals God’s. Nevertheless, it is boldly said at once that God’s image in man does consist “in that which constitutes, more than anything else”—this qualifying phrase seems to allow something else than love to be of the divine nature—“the element, the life, of the divine nature, namely, holy love.” As specifically a “love-being,” man as he came from his Maker’s hands, loved instinctively, immediately and universally. Love “flowed out” from him “in all directions, like a living stream” and suffused all his environment. It almost seems as if it were conceived as a necessary mode of action, like a natural force. “Spontaneous in its action,” we are told, “acting because it had a principle of movement in itself, it did not wait for the slow deductions of reason.” Did not reason, then, act spontaneously—and indeed also “instinctively, immediately and universally”—in the protoplasts as truly as love? We suppose in any case that the action of love did wait, even in the protoplasts, for the apprehension of an object, and for the perception of it as an appropriate object for this affection. We should be loath to conceive of love, even in them, as radiating from man as a center like light, say, from the sun, and playing indifferently on everything that came within its reach. Even in the protoplasts love, we presume, should be conceived as the action of an intelligent and moral being.

This exaggeration apart, however, there is a great deal that is just in Upham’s description of man, on the side of his affectional nature, as he came from his Maker’s hand. We agree that man came from his Maker’s hand “a love being,” spontaneously loving every sentient thing brought to his apprehension. Of course, loving God most of all—Upham says, because the amount of existence or being in God is greater than in any other being. “The law of love’s movement, all other things being equal, is the amount of being, or existence in the object beloved.”153 We draw back from this quantitative mode of conceiving the matter, which is part of the mechanical representation by which love is supposed to act like a natural force—say “directly as the mass and inversely as the square of the distance.” “Other things” are not equal: they never are. God is loved most of all because He is the most worthy of all beings to be loved. Directed to Him, the love of benevolence, which in Upham’s scheme is the sum of all virtues, seems to pass into the love of complacency. We desire for Him nothing that He has not or is not: we would have Him be nothing but what He is: desire turned to Him becomes pure delight. And Upham describes the love of the protoplasts for the creature also much in terms of complacency, as if the creature in the world’s prime scarcely stood in need of anything for the supply of which the love of benevolence could be called out. Man, he tells us,154 “saw all things in the possession of life and beauty, and he rejoiced in all things, because all things had God in them. He loved the tree and the flower, which reflected the divine wisdom and goodness. But far more did he delight in the happiness of everything which had a sentient existence.… He loved them; and he gave them their names.… His simple and pure heart flowed out” to them. It is a beautiful picture. And it is Upham’s picture not only of the paradise that has been lost but of the paradise that shall be regained when once more “pure love” becomes the principle of our existence.

The sin-cursed desert lies between. As we traverse its burning sands one of our chief consolations is the providence of God. For in His providence we meet with God. “God himself,” says Upham finely,155 “is hidden in the bosom of every event.” “So that we can truly say,” he adds, “that no event in his providence happens, without bringing God with it, and without laying his hand upon us.” It is here only—in His providences—besides the heart, that God is to be found. Neither in clouds nor in sunsets, neither in our seasons of retirement nor in our devotion, can He be found: only in these two “places”—the heart and His providence.156 Upham is accordingly accustomed to insist on the presence of God in all happenings—except sin. He tells us, for instance,157 that “every thing which occurs, with the exception of sin, takes place, and yet without infringing on moral liberty, in the divinely appointed order and arrangement of things; and is an expression, within its own appropriate limits, of the divine will.” The conclusion he draws is that therefore “in its relations to ourselves personally and individually,” whatever occurs “is precisely that condition of things which is best suited to try and to benefit our own state.” Thus God is essentially present to us in every occurrence. “Faith identifies every thing with God’s superintendence, and makes every thing, so far as it is capable of being so, an expression of his will, with the exception already mentioned, viz., of sin. And even in regard to this, faith proclaims the important doctrine that sin has, and ever shall have, its limits; and that Satan, and those who follow him, can go no further than they are permitted to go.” There are curious—we had almost said amusing—reserves inserted here and there in this statement, as in others like it:158 reserves which, if pressed, might go far toward eviscerating it. Sin is to be excepted from the control of God’s providence, though limited by it: moral liberty is not to be infringed by it; there are limits to the expression of the divine will in it. Despite this display of timidity in giving expression to the whole truth, the statement shows clearly as its main matter, that Upham believed in the universal providence of God and had the courage to say so. Calvin says it better; but it is good to have it said at all, and that directly in the interests of holy living.

From this doctrine of universal providence it is very easy to draw the conclusion that submission to providence is not only a duty, but a privilege and a joy. If providence is the expressed will of God and we are His children, what other can we do than rejoice in it? All that God does is glorious: let us but observe and applaud. Upham, however, confuses the duties of submission to providence and of ordering our lives by providence, and while not neglecting to insist on the one, insists equally and very distressingly on the other. “Harmony with Providence,” says he,159 “is union with God.” “The man who lives in conformity with Providence necessarily lives in conformity with God.” How, we ask in perplexity, can a man do anything else than live in conformity with providence? In this particular statement Upham may be only expressing himself ill and may intend only to dissuade us from that temper which, in dissatisfaction with our lot in life, or with the events which befall us, complains of God’s providential arrangements. It would be wise in that case, if, instead of saying that the natural man is out of harmony with God’s providence, while to the truly holy man God’s providences are dear, because he conforms to the law of providence—we should say simply that the circumstances of life come from our Father’s hands and should be received as such. But it is not always possible to escape from the confusing implication of Upham’s prescriptions thus. “If the law of Providence were strictly fulfilled,” he remarks in one place,160 “it is obvious that order would at once exist throughout the world.” How can the law of providence—which is not the preceptive but the decretive will of God—fail to be strictly fulfilled? Upham, however, proves to have a special use of the phrase. “It should be remembered,” he says,161 “that Providence is one thing; the law of Providence is another.” “Providence is God’s arrangement of things and events in the world, including his constant supervision. The law of Providence, in distinction from Providence in itself considered, is the rule of action, which is contained in, and which is developed from, this providential arrangement.” He is actually recommending us to derive our rule of life from an observation of God’s providential government of the world! As if we could sweep our eye over the whole course of things from the beginning to the end! It is the universal course of things which constitutes the matter to be observed, and our rule of life is to be in conformity to this universal course of things. How this differs from the Stoic maxim of living according to nature, it is difficult to see: “some call it evolution, others call it God.” If, on the other hand, we limit the providence to which we attend to a few outstanding happenings which appear to us divine interpositions, the law of life which we derive from them runs great risk of betraying us into fanaticism. We may and must commit ourselves to the divine providence: it is a joy to be in our Father’s hands. We cannot deduce from observed providences a law of life: if for no other reason than that the observation is fatally defective. It is the written Word and it alone—the preceptive, not the decretive will of God—in which our divinely given rule of life is to be found: that and that law of nature, written on the heart, conscience. When we say, in our current speech, that we order our lives by the indications of providence, we mean something very different from that ordering them by a rule of life deduced from the observed providential order which Upham vainly commends. We mean that we adjust our lives to emerging events, and seek to do our obvious and nearest duty in every situation which successively confronts us. Stated in secular language that is to say that we order our lives in accordance with circumstances; from the religious point of view, the circumstances are recognized as ordered by God and hence we say we are led by providence. But the rule of life in these circumstances is not derived from an induction from them—and therefore not from providence—but from the law of God, written whether in His revealed Word or on the fleshly tablets of our hearts.

Great as is the perversion of the precious truth that God meets us in His providence, which is made by Upham’s proposed erection of the observed order of providence into our rule of life, there is an even greater perversion which was also taught him by his Quietistic mentors. Under color of the high motive of—not submitting to providence merely—but gladly embracing it, because the hand of God is in everything and all that occurs is therefore right, Madame Guyon, and Upham following her, inculcate a very unwholesome indifference with respect to life and all that occurs in the process of living, as if it were wrong to seek to better anything. Madame Guyon, for example, boasts that her soul is entirely independent of every thing which is not God.162 It would be content, she says, if it were alone in the world, since it does not find its happiness in any earthly attachments. Every desire has been mortified and no wishes survive. This is merely inhuman. God has made us social beings; he does not desire us to be indifferent to our fellows. We do not require to break all earthly attachments that we may be attached to Him. There is revealed in this attitude of indifference attachments not so much to God as to ourselves. It is the self-centered attitude by way of eminence. Of this aspect of it also a word should be spoken in this connection. Because God is in all that occurs, each thing that exists may be taken in turn as a center from which we may look out upon the all-embracing providence of God, and in relation to which we may contemplate all that occurs. It is not in itself wrong, therefore, that each individual soul should look upon all that occurs to it, and to all that circle of existence which closely surrounds it, as part of God’s providential dealing with itself, and should utilize it from that point of sight. Nevertheless, some very curious—some very undesirable—results are apt to grow out of this entirely right and useful habit, when it is onesidedly indulged. It may, often does, end in erecting our individual self into something very like the focus of the universe and conceiving of everything and everybody in the circumference of the circle thrown out from ourselves, as a center, as existing for us alone. A death of someone in our circle, for example, comes to be viewed only in its relation to our own person, and is thought of as if it were brought about by the Divine Governor of the world solely for its effect upon us. We read, for instance, in Upham’s “The Life of Madame Guyon,”163 of the deaths of her father and daughter, and from all that appears from the expressions of feeling quoted from Madame Guyon, or from Upham’s comments, they seem to have been looked upon by her and to be recommended to our consideration by him, so prevailingly from the point of view of her own disciplining, as to suggest that they were brought about by God for no other purpose than to benefit her. “He who gives himself to God,” writes Upham, “to experience under his hand the transformations of sanctifying grace, must be willing to give up all objects, however dear they may be, which he does not hold in strict subordination to the claims of divine love, and which he does not love in and for God alone. The sanctification of the heart, in the strict and full sense of the term, is inconsistent with a divided and wandering affection. A misplaced love, whether it be wrong in its degree or its object, is as really, though apparently not as odiously, sinful, as a misplaced hatred.” Madame Guyon’s freedom of soul, it seems, was liable to be contracted and shackled by domestic affections, which were but partially sanctified. So God took from her, her father and her daughter that she might learn to love only Him and in Him. It would seem to be quite dangerous to live within the reach of the as yet only partially sanctified affections of a saint. In such a position we are liable to be “removed” at any time, for the benefit of his growing holiness. Contact with him appears almost as perilous as contact with a live wire. Madame Guyon’s comments on the death of her daughter are: “What shall I say,—she died by the hands of Him, who was pleased to strip me of all.” There is no reason for refusing to see this relation of the child’s death, or for refusing to profit by the sense that it is a Father’s hand here too that is dealing with us, fitting us for the Sanctuary above. Only—it is distinctly unpleasant to see the mother apparently thinking in this strain alone, or predominantly. Everything is looked at from the point of view of its relation to a morbid preoccupation with self. And this is the characteristic mental attitude of the mystic—a truly morbid preoccupation with his own subjective states and experiences. He looks within to find God, he says: it is with difficulty, apparently, that he finds anything there but himself.

In the opening pages of “A Treatise on Divine Union,”164 Upham gives a brief summary of his dogmatic system. It proves to be, as expressed there, pure Semi-Pelagianism. Man is “unable to help himself,” but is “able nevertheless to utter the cry of his helplessness and anguish,” and thus to obtain the help of God. Cassian could not have expressed his doctrine better: men need grace, but not prevenient grace. They cannot restore themselves, says Upham, repeating Cassian’s doctrine, but they can turn to God for the needed aid. It lies in our own choice whether we will live with God or not: though it is not in our power to live with God. We must go to God of our own free-will; and then, “God, acting upon the basis of man’s free consent, becomes the life of the soul.”165 We must open “our hearts to the free and full entrance of his grace,” and then, “he will become the true operator in the soul, and will give origin to all spiritual good.”166 “It is then,” he says precisely to the point, “that God works in the soul.” Man must “exercise voluntary acquiescence in and acceptance of the divine operation”; but it is this divine operation which works salvation. Not indeed even this apart from man’s activities: man does not become quiescent after his first act of “consent”: let us call it coöperation rather: he ceases only from “independent action.” Now “God becomes the Giver, and man the happy recipient.” “We coöperate … with God in the work of … redemption,” he explains more fully in another place,167 “when we submit to this divine operation without reluctance”; or168 man “unites with God in his own restoration, when he lets the great Master of the mind work upon him.” “Lets.” This of course subordinates God to man in the work of salvation; and as murder will out, so this comes out plainly in a statement like this:169 “God acts in the holy man in connection with, and perhaps we should say, in subordination to, his own choice.”

Thus Upham suspends the whole process of salvation in its inception and in all its stages alike, on our voluntary action. He is very much afraid of an “enforced” salvation, “against men’s consent.” “Grace, and compulsion in the administration of it,” he declares,170 “are ideas which negative each other.” Grace “implies a suitable subject for its reception,” and it is “impossible, in the nature of things, to bestow” it not only “upon a being, that has no intelligence to realize its value,” but also upon one who has “no power of reception or rejection”171—a proposition which is not obvious, unless “grace” be arbitrarily defined as just “divine influence.” In the statement we have just quoted from him, it is apparently more than this. In others, however, he reduces it to this. In one passage, for instance, dealing with it under this designation,172 he very naturally declares that neither “the application of material force,” nor of “anything … analogous to material force” is implied in it. That “would obviously be inconsistent with the nature of mind.” “So far as we can perceive,” he now adds positively, “such divine influence is, and can be, only the application of that mental force which is lodged in motives.” “God influences by setting motives before us.” Then he quite superfluously remarks: “God, in operating upon man by means of motives, never violates his freedom.” Upham places himself here, we perceive, squarely on the platform of the “New Divinity,” the maxim of which (as enunciated by Lyman Beecher, for instance) was crisply expressed in the words: “God governs men by motives, not by force.” In doing so, he brings the whole body of his mystical teachings and especially the more Quietistic ones among them, under some obscuration. It is more immediately important, however, here to note that he equally embarrasses the doctrine of salvation which we have just seen him teaching. He is no longer a Semi-Pelagian. He has become a Pelagian. If God only persuades, something more than “consent” on man’s part seems to be requisite to the working of effects.

Other language which he employs in the same relation incurs the same condemnation. There is the term “renunciation” for instance. Both justification and sanctification, he tells us, involve, on our part, complete “renunciation.” We must “be willing to be saved, both from the guilt of the past and from present sin, by God’s grace” alone. Is God’s grace conceived here as merely suasive? What is being emphasized is, it is true, that we must be willing. God respects our freedom and unless by our own free act we put ourselves in His hands, He will not save us. We must decide—but is it not implied that it is He that does the work? We remember, however, the importance which Upham attaches to our “consent” being conceived not as mere consenting, but as involving actual activities coöperative with God’s saving operation. Even this, however, becomes an inadequate form of statement, when all the actual work proves to be done by us. On one occasion,173 when defining the nature of this wonderful “consent” by which we make ourselves to differ, after telling us broadly that it is not a cessation of action, or the absence of action, but “a real or positive act on the part of the creature,” he adds more specifically, that it is “an act of harmonious concurrence and coöperation with the divine act.” Does it require nothing more than concurrence with an act of persuasion—or even cooperation with an act of persuasion—to recover a lost soul? Where the divine efficiency is reduced to persuasion, and the human to coöperation with this persuasion, there seems to be no power left to work salvation. We no longer have the alternatives, grace and free-will to choose between: each is in turn eliminated. We cannot trust in grace; it is mere persuasion. We cannot trust to free-will; it merely gives consent.

Of course it is the will that gets the victory. Even in his Semi-Pelagian mood, as we have just noted—where God’s grace is conceived as the operating cause of salvation—the soul is represented as capable of performing and as actually performing an act of harmonious concurrence and coöperation with the divine act, even before God takes charge of the soul. What need has such a soul of salvation? If it can perform one such act, it can perform another. Or many others. Or an unbroken series of others. And are we not told that “salvation is nothing else, and can be nothing else, than harmony with God”? An unbroken series of acts of harmonious concurrence with God’s acts is already salvation. What need of salvation has a soul already capable of performing and actually performing these acts? A soul must save itself—bring itself into harmony with God—in order that it may be saved by God, be brought into harmony with God! For, we are told, what characterizes a saved soul is the constant repetition of this “consentient and concurrent act,” by which it freely enters into salvation.

We make ourselves a new heart immediately and at once by a volition, says Finney, and this volition is just as easy to make as any other volition—say the volition to raise our arm. No, says Upham, we make ourselves a new heart by our faith: it is faith that makes a new heart. And he seems to mean this of the direct action of faith. Of the two, Upham certainly has the advantage. “The faith of the heart, therefore,” he says,174 “is that faith, which makes a new heart; in other words, which inspires new affections; such affections, as are conformable to God’s law and will.” A body of new affections may, no doubt, be spoken of collectively as a new heart. And, no doubt, a strong faith (which is itself an affection) dropped into the seething caldron of this heart, may cause a new crystallization of the affections and so tend to make us a “new heart.” What kind of a heart this “new heart” will be can scarcely be predicted so long as we operate with the abstract notion of “faith.” In itself, without consideration of its object (no doubt such an abstraction has no existence) “faith” cannot make a “new heart.” There is no faith which is not faith in something; and it is the nature of this something which gives its character to any faith which really exists; and to the “new heart” which results from its entrance into it. After all, then, it is not faith but the object on which faith rests which gives us our “new heart.” Faith in God; faith in some great and good man; faith in ourselves; faith in a bad cause: the new hearts which faith can make differ among themselves toto cœlo. Upham, of course, has, at the back of his mind, the idea of faith in God, when he says that faith gives us a new heart. Faith in what God? Faith in the tribal God of the savage? Faith in the distant God of the Deist? Or faith in the God who in Christ is reconciling the world unto Himself? The new heart that we get will depend on the God on whom our faith rests. Two things further need be said. The former is this: it is not faith only which will give us a new heart. Any alteration in any affection will no doubt produce a readjustment of our affections and so give us to that extent a “new heart.” Faith has no monoply in this power to make a “new heart.” The other is this: where shall we get this faith that is to make us a new heart? No doubt, if we will be satisfied with a very little change in our heart—and a very little change will make so far a “new heart”—we may manage to produce the requisite faith ourselves. But if we want a really new heart? Undoubtedly a change from unbelief to real, hearty faith in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, will profoundly transform—say, rather transfigure—the whole affectional life. But where shall we get this real and hearty faith in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? Certainly it cannot be the spontaneous product of a heart at enmity with God, filled with the mingled dread and hatred of God of the conscious criminal in the presence of his just Judge. Can such a heart trust itself, trust itself wholly and without reserve, trust itself with full confidence that we shall receive from Him nothing but good, to God? Clearly, we shall need the “new heart” before we can conceive the faith that is to make us this new heart. Faith, this faith, cannot come into existence except as the product of the new heart: the heart it enters is already the new heart. We may say that it is the first issue of the new heart and that it is through it that the reconstruction and realignment and rearrangement of the other affections are accomplished. It may be the gathering point about which they all assemble; and in this sense it may be precisely faith which makes us a new heart. But in any case, the new heart itself—faith does not make it but presupposes it.

In a remarkable chapter in his posthumous volume, “Absolute Religion,”175 Upham gives us in brief his whole philosophy of human existence, under the categories of creation and regeneration—the first and second births. God, we are told, “is the beginning or source of things,” and therefore “the first or natural birth of man is and must be from the Infinite to the finite.” That is man’s descent into individuality; an individuality in which, by necessity of nature he is “self-centered,” and in which also, as we learn later, he becomes “by a moral necessity” sinful, “moral evil” being “necessarily incidental to the facts which are involved in the constitution of man’s nature.”176 The second birth, now, “is a birth back from the finite to the Infinite.” This is man’s ascent back to his source; but, we are told, without loss of his personality. “In the first birth God may be said to make or constitute the finite, giving it the freedom and independence of a personal existence; and yet without spiritually incarnating Himself in it as an indwelling principle of that life.… In the second birth, the finite in the exercise of its moral freedom, which is an essential element in its personality, has accepted God in the central intimacy of its nature as its living and governing principle.” Thus we learn that God brings about the first birth, man the second. The reason why it must be man who produces the second birth is “the inviolability” of man’s freedom, which makes God’s “spiritually incarnating Himself in it” impossible, “without a consenting action on the part of the creature.” When, however, in its own freedom the creature accepts God in the central intimacy of its nature, “the human or ‘earthy,’ as the Scriptures call it, without ceasing to be human or earthy, but by renouncing its own centre as the source of life, and taking God as its centre, does by its own choice and in a true and high sense become divine.” From the beginning God intended this issue: that was the plan. But it could not be reached otherwise than through this development—a development which began on the thrusting of man by God down into the finite—involving sin—and the rising of man up by his own free-will into the infinite, into unity “with the universal or divine personal life.” Sin, which is not mentioned at all in the primary exposition of man’s fundamental history, appears in this construction only as the incidental and inevitable result of man’s finiteness, to be left behind, of course, when he attained the infinite, eliminated as incidentally as it arose. In essence, salvation is then our deliverance not from sin, but from the finite, not the attainment of holiness, but the achievement of the divine.

In dealing with the topic of justification and sanctification Upham has in the first instance two objects in view. He wishes to make it clear that sanctification is the end to which justification is the means. This is in order that he may preserve the general contention of the perfectionists that deliverance from the power of sin is more important than deliverance from its guilt.177 But he wishes equally to make it clear that sanctification is not an inevitable result of justification; as he phrases it in one passage,178 that “the work of sanctification” is not “absolutely and necessarily involved in that of justification.” This is in order that he may preserve the specific contention of the perfectionists that sanctification is obtained by a separate and independent act of faith. Justification exists only for sanctification, but it only prepares the way for it, and does not itself involve it. It cannot be said, however, that Upham succeeds in preserving formal consistency in his many discussions of their relations. That these relations are not merely those of antecedence and subsequence he distinctly declares;179 he represents sanctification as “starting on the basis180 of justification” though apparently not in the full force of this language;181 and he even speaks of sanctification being the evidence of justification.182 There is something more than even this apparently implied in a statement like the following, which links justification and sanctification so intimately together as hardly to escape making them imply one another.183 “It is important to remember that there are two offers involved in that great work, which Christ came to accomplish;—the one is, forgiveness for the past, and the other is, a new life in God for the future. A new life in God, which implies entire reconciliation with God as its basis, could not be offered to man, until the penalty of the old transgression was remitted. And, on the other hand, the remission of the penalty of the past would be wholly unavailing, without the permanent restoration of a divine and living principle in man’s spiritual part.” We should be scarcely justified in insisting on the reiterated reference of forgiveness here to “past” sins and the valuelessness of their forgiveness apart from permanent spiritual restoration, as intended to assert that no remedy exists for sins committed after justification, or that no sins are committed after justification. One or the other of these assertions is, it is true, required to introduce perfect consistency into the statement, but all that seems to be intended is to declare that justification and sanctification are so interrelated that one implies the other. They have at any rate two things of great importance in common, which bind them together at least as the two indispensable saving operations. They are both supernatural operations: in both we ultimately receive everything from God. And in both, we receive everything through the same channel, viz. “by faith.”184

We do not receive everything in both, however, “by faith” in precisely the same way, although in both instances faith may fairly be called the procuring cause. Justification is summed up in pardon or forgiveness, and from that point of view an attempt is made to show that there can be no effective pardon except by faith.185 No doubt an offended person may pardon an offender with no reference to any state of mind the latter may be in or may enter into: pardon is free. But such an act of pardoning would have no effect upon the offender. He would not feel pardoned; and the act of pardon would not “result in mutual reconciliation, in the reciprocation of benevolent feelings, and in true happiness.” The implication is that in such circumstances pardon would do no good; it would leave the offender just where he was before with unaltered feelings towards the pardoner. The removal of objective penalties is left wholly out of the question: and the entire transaction is conceived as subjective. Upham now argues that on the assumption that a pardon “which is spiritually available, one which is desirable and valuable in the spiritual or religious sense,” “results in entire reconciliation between the parties”—in the manner explained—therefore no pardon is conceivable among moral beings “without confidence or faith existing on the part of such subject towards the author.” Justifying faith in this view is not faith in the atoning Saviour, but general confidence in the benevolent God; and justification takes place in foro conscientiæ and not in foro cœli. As a rationale of justification therefore this exposition wholly misses the mark. It amounts to saying that justification is by faith because pardon can work its beneficent effects in the pardoned one’s heart only if received in confident trust, a trust which will believe without question that the pardon is real and that it is worth while. But justification concerns not the reception of pardon on the part of the offender but the granting of pardon on the part of the offended. When we say we are justified by faith, we do not mean that it is through faith that we are enabled to enjoy the sense of pardon, though that is true also. We mean that it is through faith that we enter the state of pardoned ones. It is through entrusting ourselves to Christ, that by virtue of His atoning work, we are received as pardoned sinners. However true it is, that it is only by trusting in the pardoning God that we can enjoy the sense of pardon, that is not the function of faith in justification; is only a secondary effect of it. It is better to be saved than to feel saved: and we must not confound salvation with the sense of salvation.

The precise explanation of exactly how faith operates to sanctify us apparently presents some difficulty to those who are yet agreed that the doctrine of sanctification by faith is not second either in importance or certainty to the parallel doctrine of justification by faith. Sometimes sanctification is spoken of as so directly by faith as to appear to imply that the state of mind which we call faith is itself sanctification, that is to say to identify faith and holiness. At other times what is meant seems to be merely that sanctification is an effect wrought by God, to whom we entrust it believingly. The latter is perhaps the prevailing manner in which Upham speaks of it; and when he does so his primary assertion is doubtless that sanctification is in some sense a supernatural effect. This, however, is not always made as clear as it might be. He can speak of the “sanctification of the heart, resting upon faith as its basis in distinction from mere works,”186 after a fashion which unhappily suggests that he is thinking of faith as a virtue and is merely giving it the precedence as an inward virtue—the inward virtue by way of eminence—to external acts of virtue, especially “ceremonial observances and austerities.” In that case he would mean merely that this state of mind is a holy state of mind and those who possess it are holy. There is at least one passage, however,187 in which he explains somewhat formally how faith purifies the heart of “irregular and unholy desires”; and we probably will not go wrong if we take this explanation as expressing his matured mind on the subject. Faith, he here says, purifies the heart in two ways, directly and indirectly. Directly, it lays hold of the promises of God, and so rests on God to cleanse us. Indirectly, it gives birth to love to God and this inhibits all love to the creature. Here is a comprehensive explanation, recognizing both a supernatural and a natural operation. It is not clear, however, at first sight, how these two are harmonized in the single effect. If it be “faith formed by love”—it is a Romanist conception which seems to be floating before his mind—which sanctifies us, that appears to carry with it the conception that our sanctification consists in a faith-produced love, which is only another name for holiness. In this case we do not readily see how our sanctification can be brought about by God in the fulfillment of His promises, except by just the fostering of faith in us by Him—and this is done by Him in Upham’s view, as we have seen, not supernaturally, but naturally, viz. solely by presenting to us motives to believe. There do not lack passages in which it seems that it is precisely this which Upham means to say. Thus, for example, he tells us,188 that God saves us from sin by “operating by the Holy Spirit in the production of faith in the heart.” What he means apparently is that God does not directly eradicate sin from the heart through the creative operation of His spirit, but attains the result by producing faith in the heart—of course by the presentation of motives to believe, which is the only mode of the divine operation which Upham admits in the premises. In that case it seems meaningless to talk of two modes of action by which faith purifies the heart—a direct one in which it rests on the promises of God and an indirect one in which it produces the love which is holiness. The so-called direct method is swallowed up into the so-called indirect method: God purifies the heart only through the faith which works by love. The rationalism of the “New Divinity” neutralizes the mystical tendencies to supernaturalism, and we have left only that we are sanctified by faith because faith passes into love and love is holiness. God may graciously support and aid us in the process, but we sanctify ourselves, and look to Him only to urge on our own good work.

Faith, then, passes into love.189 And love constitutes holiness. “perfect love,” says Upham,190 “is to be regarded, on the principles of the gospel, as essentially the same thing, or rather as precisely the same thing, with sanctification or holiness.” To love, then, is to be holy; and perfect love is only another name for perfect holiness. In assuming this attitude there is danger, of course, of conceiving of love as a substitute for holiness; and of supposing that if a man has love he has all the holiness he needs. And the double peril lurks in this path, of sentimentalizing the conception of the Christian life, on the one hand—fostering a tendency to conceive it in terms of emotion rather than of morality—and of directly relaxing the demands of righteousness, on the other. Upham does not wish to relax the demands of righteousness. “Immutable right,”191 says he, “has a claim and a power which entitle it to regulate every thing else. Even love itself, an element so essential to all moral goodness that it gives a character and name to God himself, ceases to be love the moment it ceases to be in conformity with justice. Love that is not just is not holy; and love that is not holy is selfishness under the name of love. Every affection, therefore, however amiable and honorable it may be when it is in a right position, is wrong, and is at variance with inward holiness of life, which is not in conformity with the rule of right.” Nevertheless, it can scarcely be denied that Upham in his actual treatment of the subject does not succeed in avoiding somewhat depreciating the sense of right as a principle of action in the interests of love—contrasting the religion of obligation with the religion of love, with a view to showing the superiority of the latter in the conduct of life.192 It is a subject with respect to which some careful discrimination is necessary to its prudent treatment. The propositions which Upham defends are such as these: that in the order of nature love is the first in time—the heart naturally acts before the conscience; that it is love which determines the actions of the holy man—in fact not so much from as with conscience; that the more holy a man is the less he feels the compulsive power of conscience—and he may even feel that he has “lost his conscience.” No doubt each of these propositions is true—with its proper qualification. But in their sum, they do not avail to subordinate duty to love. Love itself, indeed, is a duty; and in loving, we fulfil our obligation. When Augustine says, “Love and do what you please,” it is with the maxim in his mind that love is the fulfillment of the law, in the sense that love is in order to duty, and instrument to the meeting of obligation. It is a fundamental mistake to set love and duty in opposition to one another, as if they were alternative principles of conduct. We cannot try a cause between the religion of love and the religion of duty as litigants—as if we were trying the cause between spontaneous and legalistic religion. Love should be dutiful and duty should be loving. What God has joined together, why should we seek to separate? If we could think of a love which is undutiful—that could not be thought of as an expression of religion; any more than a dutifulness without affection. What we are really doing is discussing the affectional and the ethical elements in religion and seeking to raise the question whether we prefer emotion or conscientiousness in religion. The only possible answer is—both.

Upham remarks that “the holy man does not act from mere will, against the desires of his sensitive or affectional nature, on the ground, and for the reason, that his conscience requires him to do so; but, on the contrary, acts under the impulse of holy and loving affections, affections which are the regenerated gift of God, and which sweetly carry the will with it.”193 True enough: and we remark in passing, that this is also true psychology, truer psychology than Upham always gives us. But this is only to say that in the holy man, his affections are on the side of his conscience. That is what his holiness—in part—consists in. His enlightened conscience and purified affections move together to the one holy end. But how if the affections are not purified—not so fully purified as perfectly to harmonize in their impulses with the requirements of conscience? That is the condition of all on earth: though Upham, as a perfectionist, may have reserves in allowing it. Surely then, the conscience and imperfectly purified affections will not “sweetly” move together to one end. There is a conflict—and, in the interests of holiness, which ought to govern? Surely conscience ought to govern. Upham has not shown that the affections ought to rule, against conscience, when there is a conflict; but only that it is a higher stage of holiness where there is no conflict, but the affections coincide with conscience. No doubt the law is then written on the heart; but it is the law that is written on the heart. And when it is the law that is written on the heart, why, then the impulses of the heart accord with the law. That is the felix libertas boni. As nothing but the good pleases us now, why—we can do as we please. Conscience has not been dethroned but enthroned. If we no longer feel “the compulsive power of conscience,” that can only be because we so spontaneously obey conscience that we do not feel it as imperative as compulsion. The categorical imperative has not died within us: it has so prevailed as that it embodies itself in the systole and diastole of all our most intimate action. It is not merely that conscience now approves and so does not whimper against our actions. It is that it flows out “sweetly” into and through the open channels of the sanctified affections into the unreluctant will. Conscience is not superseded by love. Love has become an organ of conscience. Were it not so, it would not be holy love, and if it were not holy love neither would it be (Upham himself being witness), so far, religious love. There is no religion of love, then, which is not also, and first of all, a religion of obligation.

Having identified “sanctification, evangelical holiness, and evangelical or Christian perfection” with “perfect love,” Upham undertakes to tell us what “perfect love” is.194 It is, he says, first of all “pure love,” that is, it is free from all selfishness. It is, however, on the other hand, “relative to the capacity of the subject of it”; the perfection of a man is not that of an angel. It includes, of course, like all love, the two elements of pleasure or complacency in its object and a desire to do it good—or, since we are speaking of love to God, a desire to promote His glory, and that “in such a degree, that we are not conscious of having any desire or will at variance with the will of God.” As, however, “the nature of the human mind is such, that we never can have an entire and cordial acquiescence in the will of God in all things, without an antecedent approval of and complacency in his character and administration,” we need only attend to the second mark of perfect love, “a will entirely accordant with and lost in the will of God.” Thus Upham gets around to his definition of perfection:195 “An entire coincidence of our own wills with the divine will; in other words, the rejection of the natural principle of life, which may be described as love terminating in self and constituting self-will; and the adoption of the heavenly principle of life, which is love terminating and fulfilled in the will of God.” This view of the nature of perfect love, he says, is very important “practically, as well as theologically.” There is certainly every appearance here that love is confounded with one of its effects.

In another place196 “pure or holy love” is defined by Upham as the love which is “precisely conformed to its object.” That is to say, it is the reaction of the subject loving to the object loved, when that reaction is precisely accordant with the loveliness of the object. “If,” says he, “all objects were correctly understood by us in their character and in their claims upon us, and if our affections were free from all selfish bias, our love would necessarily be appropriate to the object, and therefore holy”—from which we learn incidentally that a necessary reaction of the affections may have moral character, a thing we would not have expected from Upham. What is directly said, however, is only that if our perceptions of the loveliness of the object are perfect, and our reaction to this perception is unaffected by any disturbing causes—we should love that object as it ought to be loved. From this point of view, it would seem, we can have a pure love of God only when our apprehension of Him, in His character and His claims on us, is perfect—when we know Him perfectly as He is in all the loveliness of His infinite loveliness—and when our souls, reacting to this perfect apprehension of Him, are perfectly free from every detracting and disturbing bias—in a word, are themselves perfect. This would appear to render what is called pure love to God impossible to creatures like us. Upham, if we understand him, seeks to meet this difficulty by affirming that pure love tends to purify the judgment. “The object is much more likely to present itself before the mind distinctly, and precisely as it is, in the state of pure love, than it is to present itself before the mind with entire precision, when its affections are perverted and selfish.” Quite so. But this posits pure love as the condition of the apprehension which is to serve as its cause. What we get from it is then only the assertion that in order to exercise pure love, we must first be pure of heart. The question then presses very severely, How are we to become perfectly pure of heart? Upham’s suggestion here197 seems to be that we must not be too exigent in our demands on ourselves. God will have regard to our weaknesses. “All that he requires at such times is, that we should love the object just so far as it is presented to us.… And such love, however it may be perplexed in its operation by existing in connection with involuntary errors of judgment, he readily and fully accepts.” The general conclusion then is, “that, if we avail ourselves of all suitable aids in obtaining a knowledge of objects, and if by loving without selfishness we love them purely, we shall love them rightly or holily, and of course love them acceptably.” This can mean nothing else than that, after all, then, pure love can exist without a perfect apprehension of its object, and without a perfect soul to react to it. Pure love need not be perfectly pure, then, to be pure love. “Perfect love,” we read,198 “as it is understood by such writers”—that is, “writers on evangelical holiness”—“to exist in truly holy persons in the present life, is a love which is free from selfishness, and which is conformed to its object, so far as a knowledge of its object is within our reach in our present fallen state.” We are now flatly on the plane of the Oberlin “sliding scale,” and arrive therefore in the end at nothing more than that perfection of heart—a mitigated perfection—is the condition of holy activities—a mitigated holiness. “Certain it is,” he says at another place,199 “that those who are perfected in love, whatever may be their infirmities and errors, and however important and proper it may be for them to make constant application to the blood of the atonement, both for the forgiveness of the infirmities of the present, and of the infirmities and transgressions of the past, are spoken of and are treated, in the New Testament, as accepted, sanctified, or holy persons.” The term “transgressions” seems to be carefully avoided when the present failings of the saints are mentioned.

We are now in the midst of Upham’s doctrine of perfection. We have already seen that the perfection which he teaches is a “mitigated” perfection: it may be—it is—marred by infirmities and errors; and it requires to be forgiven. And we infer from that, that it is not yet all that shall be: there is something beyond. In the second chapter of his “Principles of the Interior or Hidden Life,”200 he describes in some detail what he understands that holiness to be which constitutes its substance, and which he declares to be “the first and indispensable prerequisite” of the state of “the Interior or Hidden Life,” here represented as “walking in close and uninterrupted communion with God,” and elsewhere as “union with God.” He begins by declaring it an obtainable state, a state actually to be enjoyed in this life. It is then defined in passing as consisting in a life free from “voluntary transgression.” To this is soon added the information that it is sometimes called “evangelical or gospel holiness” in order “to distinguish it from Adamic perfection”; and a little later still, that the name of “Christian perfection” is given to it, thus identifying it with the Wesleyan doctrine of perfection. And then we are given quite an elaborate exposition of what it does not involve. It does not “necessarily imply a perfection of the physical system”; nor yet a “perfection of the intellect”; nor is it in every respect the same as “the holiness or sanctification of a future life”—it is subject to temptations, and it may be lost. Nor does it imply that we no longer need an atonement. We still require an atonement for “all mere physical infirmities, which originate in our fallen condition, but which necessarily prevent our doing for God what we should otherwise do.” And also for “all unavoidable errors and imperfections of judgment, which in their ultimate causes result from sin.” These things, he says, are “very different in their nature from deliberate and voluntary transgressions,” which is true enough: and then he adds that nevertheless their stains can be washed away in the blood of Christ—they are sins, though only “involuntary sins.” It would perhaps be more just, however, he adds, not to call them sins at all, but “imperfections or trespasses”—though they cannot be remitted without application to the blood of Christ. No doubt it is with these things in mind, he says, that some good people say that they are morally certain to sin all the time. If so, he has no quarrel with them: he means by perfection only freedom from “sins of a deliberate and voluntary nature.” That is the negative side of it. Positively, “Christian perfection,” or “that holiness which, as fallen and as physically and intellectually imperfect creatures, we are imperatively required and expected to exercise … at the present moment, and during every succeeding moment of our lives”—consists just in love.201 He “who loves God with his whole heart, and his neighbor as himself, although his state may in some incidental respects be different from that of Adam, and especially from that of the angels in heaven, and although he may be the subject of involuntary imperfections and infirmities, which, in consequence of his relation to Adam, require confession and atonement, is nevertheless, in the gospel sense of the terms, a holy or sanctified person.”202 And this holiness is a “condition” of moral communion with God which is called the Hidden Life here and elsewhere Union with God.

Attention cannot fail to be attracted in this exposition to the stress which is put on voluntary sinning, with the involved light estimate of involuntary faults. This reflects, no doubt, the tendency of thought prevalent in the “New Divinity,” but it is also the common tendency of perfectionists everywhere, who by it seek to adjust their doctrine of perfection to the only too manifest facts of life. It leads us only to observe therefore, that with Upham also, as with the rest, perfection is not conceived as perfection. Physical infirmities, intellectual errors, involuntary sins remain—all somehow connected with our fallen condition and therefore needing the atoning blood of Christ to wash away their stains. Perfect men are even guilty of “relatively wrong acts and feelings”203—whatever that may mean: can we understand it of anythything but “little sins”? And they may even commit not merely sins which “result from infirmity and are involuntary,” but sins “which are seen by the omniscient eye of God, but which may not be obvious to ourselves”;204” “sins of ignorance,” then, let us say. They need therefore “every moment” “the application of Christ’s blood,” and ought to confess sin, “during the whole course of the present life”;205 and to pray in the words of the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses.” And no man “is able, either on philosophical or Scripture principles, to assert absolutely and unconditionally, that he has been free from sin, at least for any great length of time”206 It is not wrong, then, to speak with some caution about our sinlessness, “merely as if” we “hoped, or had reason to hope,” that we have “experienced this great blessing,” and have been “kept free from voluntary and known sin.”207 If it is a question of “absolute perfection”—why, that “exists only in another world.” “We are permitted to indulge the humble hope, that there may be, and that there are instances of holiness of heart on earth.” But, “notwithstanding their exemption from intentional sin,” “truly holy persons” do not exhibit “an obvious perfection of judgment, of expression, and of manner.”208 We gather that they may be rather trying people to live with; people whom, of course, we love, but may find it sometimes rather difficult to like.

The question of growth in holiness is often a perplexing one to perfectionists, and they solve it variously. Many are content to say that we do not grow into but in holiness; but that seems rather an avoidance than a solution of the question—to grow in holiness, surely, is to grow progressively into a holiness not before this last increment of growth enjoyed. Upham209 calls in a distinction between nature and degree. We already have holiness according to its nature, but can grow in degree of holiness. The phraseology does not seem happy; but the meaning is reasonably clear. He adduces also the doctrine of total depravity as an illustration e contrario: we are totally depraved, but we are not as bad as we might be, or as we will be, if we continue in our bad course. The distinction here is that of extension and intensity. The totus homo is depraved—his depravity extends to every department of his being: there is no faculty or disposition, or appetite or propensity, or affection, into which depravity does not penetrate. But the depravity which penetrates to every department of the man’s being is not necessarily the deepest possible depravity: it may increase indefinitely in intensity. A drop of ink falling into a glass of water may stain its whole volume—it is totally stained; but if you empty the whole ink well into it, it is not more totally, but very much more deeply stained. The difficulty is that the perfectionists, Upham included, do not teach that we are merely extensively perfect, but insist that we are intensively perfect also—or perfect as we can be. Upham says here, for example,210 that we are perfect “in our perceptions, our feelings, and our purposes”—extensively therefore—“to the full extent of our capability”—intensively, therefore, too. And it would seem that we must say this, if we are to employ such a notion as “perfect.” For perfect is a superlative notion and admits no growth beyond it. There seems to be but one door of escape and Upham takes it. To grow in perfection the perfect one must grow in capability. Our perfection depends on our knowledge, he says, and may grow as our knowledge grows. “Evangelical holiness,” he explains, is “nothing more nor less than perfect love.” And “love is based in part upon knowledge, and is necessarily based upon it.” We can love no object we do not know; and our love for a lovable object must grow with our knowledge of it. As our knowledge grows, our capability for loving grows and that means our capability for perfection.211 Of course we may raise the question whether this argument proves that perfection expands with growing knowledge, or that there can be no such thing as perfection until knowledge is perfect. And beneath that lurk two further questions. Does holiness really depend on knowledge? Do we really “know” God? The importance of the last question lies in the circumstance that Upham does not always appear to be sure that we can really “know” God: but sometimes speaks almost like an earlier Mansel playing on the strings of “faith” as the organ of the incomprehensible and of “symbolical knowledge” which only serves the purposes of knowledge.212

Whatever may be the difficulties to a perfectionist of the idea of a developing holiness, however, Upham frankly teaches that idea, and gives it very rich expression. It is embodied, for example, in the following eloquent description of the process of salvation.213 “In the day of his true restoration, therefore, God once more really dwells in man. We do not say, however, that he actually enters and takes full possession at once. Just as soon as man gives his exiled Father permission to enter as a whole God and a God forever he enters effectually; but ordinarily he enters by degrees, and in accordance with the usual laws and operations of the human mind. He does not break the vessel of man’s spirit, nor mar its proportions, nor deface anything which is truly essential to it; but gradually enters into all parts of it, readjusts it, removes the stains which sin has made upon it, and fills it with divine light. Man’s business in this great work is a very simple one. It is to cease all resistance, and to invite the Divine Master of the mind to enter it in his own time and way. And even this last is hardly necessary. God does not wait even to be invited to come, except so far as an invitation is implied in the removal of the obstacles which had previously kept him out. Man’s ceasing from all resistance, and his willingness to receive God as the all in all, and for all coming time, may be regarded as essentially the completion of the work in respect to himself; but the work of God, who is continually developing from the soul new powers and new beauties, can be completed only with the completion of eternity.” The most important thing to note here is that Upham casts his eye forward through all the eternities to view the ever-increasing perfection of God’s servants. He is able to do this, it is true, only by the help of some adjustments. The work of perfecting them is “essentially” completed here and now. But there is something beyond. Inadequate as this provision for undying aspiration is, it is much that its existence is recognized. There is a sense in which the perfectionist doctrine is the child of aspiration. The trouble is that it permits this aspiration to be too easily satisfied and so clips its wings. Henrich Heppe points out214 that Madame Guyon’s perfectionism was in essence a revolt from that ecclesiastical perfectionism of official Roman teaching, which is embodied in the doctrine of the consilia evangelica. She longed for a higher perfection than that—and for a perfection not confined to an ecclesiastical order, but open to every child of God. What she was really thinking of, says Heppe, “was the perfection of the souls in heaven, who have now achieved complete union with God.” Only—and this is the tragedy of it—she transferred this heavenly perfection to earth and identified it with the attainments of mere viators. Thus she abolished aspiration and corrupted the very notion of perfection in order that it might accord with the observed attainment of the saints on earth. We purchase the proud title of “perfect” here too dearly when we barter for it the hope of heaven. One of the gravest evils of the perfectionist teaching is that it tempts us to be satisfied with earthly attainments and to forget the heavenly glory. It is an old remark that the more saint-like a man is, the less saint-like he feels: the less evil there is to see in him, the more evil the evil that remains is seen to be. “The nearer we approach” to God—this is the way R. A. Vaughan puts it215—“the more profoundly must we be conscious of our distance. As, in a still water, we may see reflected … the bird that soars towards the zenith—the image deepest as the ascent is highest—so it is with our approximation to the Infinite Holiness.… It appears to us that perfection is prescribed as a goal ever to be approached, but ever practically inaccessible. Whatever degree of sanctification any one may have attained, it must always be possible to conceive of a state yet more advanced,—it must always be a duty diligently to labour towards it.”

It will scarcely have passed without notice that in all the discussion of perfection and of the remnants of sinning which continue even in the perfect to vex them, Upham says nothing of the “corruption of man’s heart.” He draws the distinction between “deliberate and voluntary transgressions” on the one hand which he represents as inconsistent with perfection, and inadvertent, unintentional and other forms of sinning, thought of as “relatively” light, on the other, which he represents as still liable to show themselves in the perfect. His thought of sin is all in terms of sinning; and no account at all is taken of the underlying sinfulness of nature. This also is no doubt due to his basal “New Divinity” consciousness, which finds very insufficient correction in his chosen Quietistic mentors—although they do not manifest so complete a neglect of the inner springs of evil as he does. Samuel Harris, in a very able review of Upham’s “Life of Madame Guyon,”216 takes occasion to remark on the futility of a doctrine of perfection of mere act. Madame Guyon, he says, teaches a real perfection, because she supposes that we may cease from sin as well as from sinning. Here is a perfection in which we not only do not determine to do wrong, but have no desire or tendency to do so. Nothing less than this is in any real sense perfection. A perfection of act is unimportant and without significance, if “through the remains of corrupt nature or the effects of sinful habit”—the conceptions of the old and the “New Divinity,” respectively—“evil thoughts and evil desires are rushing into the soul, even though the strong hand of the will instantly seize and throttle them.” That “the strong hand of the will”—itself under the control of these very propensities (the operari follows the esse)—can perform any such feat, is not shown and cannot be shown. The case is therefore worse than Harris supposes; and the real fact is that evil in the heart not only may, but must, show itself in all our acts. The conclusion he draws, however, is sound: “We are never perfect till the effects of corrupt nature and of sinful habit are eradicated, till self-denial ceases in the extinction of all tendency to selfishness and not the mere restraining of it, till we are restored to a state of spontaneous, delightful, universal coincidence with God’s will.…” No man is perfect “till he not only refuses to gratify corrupt tendencies and desires, but till they actually cease to exist.” And so he adds, the Bible teaches. The greatest error of perfectionism, he now goes on to say, is in neglecting this fact and “teaching that to be perfection which is not—it is the element of antinomianism perpetually appearing—the lowering of the standard of moral obligation, not merely to the capacity, but to the present habits and attainments of men.” “We regard perfectionism as dangerous, not because it requires too much, but because it requires too little.”

Upham may be supposed to escape the incidence of these remarks by the slenderness of the recognition he gives to the activity, not to say the very existence, of what Madame Guyon speaks of as “that secret power within us which continually draws us to evil.” But the neglect or denial of the corruption of the heart does not abolish it; and in its presence it is futile to talk of perfection of life. In any event, however, he does not teach even a perfection of life; but endeavors to give that appearance to the life, which he presents as perfect, by minimizing the importance and evil of the transgressions of the absolute rule of life which he cannot deny that it exhibits. He then falls squarely under Harris’ condemnation of “lowering the standard of moral obligation, not merely to the capacity, but to the present habits and attainments of men.” Ray Palmer in a review of Upham’s “Principles of the Interior or Hidden Life,” published a few years earlier,217 emphasizes the same point on which Harris principally lays his stress. There can be no perfection, he urges, which does not go through and through. “No being can be considered perfect, of whom it is true, either that his moral action is in any respect defective, or his moral nature in any respect deranged.” But his own primary stress is thrown on the matter which, in Harris’ discussion, holds the second place—on the confusion wrought by defining perfection as something less than perfection. When Upham complains that it is “the popular doctrine, that no man ever has been sanctified, or ever will be sanctified till the moment of death,” he says, and speaks of “the common doctrine of the impossibility of present sanctification,” it is not so certain that he is not paltering in a double sense. If we are to define “sanctification” as Upham defines it—as a state which admits of the continued commission “of a large class of sins”—it can hardly be doubted that all Christians devoutly believe that they not only ought to be but in many cases are sanctified now. What Upham calls “perfection” most Christians look upon as only the ordinary attainments of the Christian life—a stage in the advance towards perfection no doubt, but far short of perfection. These remarks are valid and important in their general sense, but it is not impossible to push them beyond their validity, and Palmer can hardly be exonerated from doing this. It is not quite true that the common doctrine looks upon perfection, as defined by Upham, as attainable and generally attained by sincere Christians, in this life. For although Upham admits into perfection as defined by him, “a large class of sins,” yet, formally at least, he excludes from it all voluntary transgression. We may doubt whether he does this really; we may discern among the sins which he admits, some from which voluntariness is abstracted with some difficulty, not to say arbitrariness. Meanwhile all voluntary transgression is formally excluded; and so long as our hearts are corrupt we shall never escape all voluntary transgression. Not only shall we never be perfect through and through until we are perfect in heart as well as in life; but we shall never be perfect in life—not even in the highest movements of our living—until our hearts are perfect. We must not look upon sinning atomistically, as if we could sin in this act and not sin in that: sin is a quality which, entrenched in the heart, affects all of our actions without exception. It is more true, then, to say that all our voluntary, as well as instinctive acts, are sinful, than that all voluntary acts may be holy, leaving only the instinctive ones to sin. A defective psychology underlies the notion that the range of our activities may be divided between indwelling sin and intruding holiness; some of them being altogether holy and others altogether sinful. This could be true only on the false doctrine of the “will” that it does what it pleases, independently of the “nature” that lies behind it, and can therefore vi et armis act holily despite the constant infection of the evil of a sinful nature. Only on some such notion can we talk of the voluntary acts being holy in the presence of an unsanctified heart.

On its positive side, however, Palmer’s criticisms are perfectly just. Nothing can be more important than that the conception of perfection be maintained at its height. If there is an eternal and immutable distinction between right and wrong, he argues, then “goodness must be everywhere and in all beings essentially the same. The fundamental principles of right moral action, must be the same to God and to his creatures; and there must be one rule of duty—one standard by which to test character—to angels and to men.… True perfection is one and the same thing in all beings.” The habit of conceiving of perfection as admitting of many imperfections—moral imperfections, glossed as infirmities, errors and inadvertences—not only lowers the standard of perfection and with it the height of our aspirations, but corrupts our hearts, dulls our discrimination of right and wrong, and betrays us into satisfaction with attainments which are very far from satisfactory. There is no more corrupting practice than the habit of calling right wrong and wrong right. That is the essence of antinomianism, if we choose to speak in the language of the schools. To give it its least offensive description, it is acquiescence in sin. And this is the real arraignment of all perfectionist theories, Upham’s among the rest. They lull men to sleep with a sense of attainments not really made; cut the nerve of effort in the midst of the race; and tempt men to accept imperfection as perfection—which is no less than to say evil is good.

The books in which Upham developed and commended these opinions had a wide circulation, running through many editions, through the middle half of the nineteenth century. They were republished in England through the instrumentality of G. Pennell, Esq., a Wesleyan local preacher of large means at Liverpool,218 and have enjoyed there a larger popularity and exerted a more lasting influence than even in America. They are apparently no longer, however, on the market—except the most elaborate of them all and the one with the most general appeal, the “Life of Madame Guyon,” a new edition of which, with an Introduction by W. R. Inge, was published so lately as 1905. Upham’s retired life and aversion to public speaking confined his influence to the single channel of his published works. It can be traced in the perfectionist parties which succeeded him, but it is not dominant in any of them; he formed no sect and built up no party of his own. It is among the adherents of the Keswick movement that his name remains in most honor, and that his works continue to be most sought and read. J. B. Figgis, writing the history of that movement, represents him with Francis de Sales, Thomas à Kempis, Molinos and Madame Guyon as one of the channels through which the “pure stream from the River of the Water of Life” has come down to us.219 But even at Keswick it is not his which is the decisive influence. Loved by all who knew him; admired by all who came into contact with him, whether in person or in his printed works; he lived his quiet life out in a somewhat remote academic center, and has left behind him little more than the sweet savor of an honored name. Perhaps in his case we can reverse Mark Antony’s maxim and say that the good he did lives after him and the evil has been largely interred with his bones.


The “Higher Life” Movement1

The circle of ideas summed up in the general term “Perfectionism,” was first given standing in the Protestant churches through the teaching of John Wesley. The doctrine of “Christian Perfection” in which these ideas were formulated by him, very naturally therefore took from the beginning and has continued always to hold among the Wesleyans “the place of an acknowledged doctrine.” Henry C. Sheldon tells us,2 no doubt, that it has claimed “very different degrees of practical interest and advocacy from different representatives” of Wesleyanism. He even tells us that “in the present, while it is advocated by not a few after the manner of John Wesley, many in effect set it forth as rather a possible ideal to be progressively approached, than as the goal lying immediately before every well-instructed Christian, the prize of a present faith and consecration.”

A somewhat earlier writer goes even further and gives us to understand that Wesleyans have never been very forward in laying claim to their “Christian Perfection” as practically exemplified in their own lives, however faithfully they may have clung to it as a distinctive and highly valued doctrine of their confession. “Hardly one in twenty of our ministers,” he remarks,3 “professes it, either publicly or privately, so far as I can learn. We preach it occasionally; but among our people its confessors are still fewer, in proportion to numbers, than in the ministry. Even among our bishops, from 1784 to the present day, confessors are as hard to find as in any other class of our people. The very princes of our Israel have been silent in regard to their own experience of it. The apostolic Wesley never professed it. In the sixty-fourth year of his age, and the forty-second of his ministry, he published, in one of the leading journals of London, a letter containing these words: ‘I have told all the world I am not perfect; I have not attained the character I draw.’ Bishop Asbury, who, if possible, exceeded Wesley in the toils and sufferings of his faithful ministry, did not profess it. The saintly Hedding, approaching the grave by lingering disease, always calm, and often joyous in view of death, was importuned to profess it, and declined. Myriads of men and women among us, whose lives were bright with holy light, saints of whom the world was not worthy, never professed it.” However chary, nevertheless, men may have been in pointing to their own lives as illustrating the doctrine, the doctrine of “Christian Perfection” has always been the glory of Methodism; and for a hundred years or so it constituted also one of its most exclusive peculiarities.4

As the middle of the nineteenth century was drawing on, however, a kindred doctrine began to show itself, in a relatively independent development, among the American Congregationalists, in sequence to the increasing dissolution of the hereditary Calvinism of the American Congregational churches and the shifting of opinion here and there among them to a Pelagianizing basis.5 Very potent influences were in operation in America during these years, moreover, tending to break down the barriers which divided the denominations from one another, and to give to doctrines hitherto distinctive of one or another of them more general currency. The conditions of life, especially in the rapidly settling frontier regions of what is now called the Middle West, made it a struggle to preserve in them any form of Christianity whatever, and opened the way for the wide extension of all kinds of extravagances. In the welter of sharply contrasting notions struggling for a footing in this intellectual and social confusion, a certain advantage was enjoyed by extreme pretensions. Only those who took strong ground could hope for a hearing. And the constant interchange between the frontier and the country at large spread the contagion rapidly throughout the land. Among the other extravagances thus given great vogue was naturally a tendency to proclaim perfection a Christian duty and an attainable ideal, which none who would take the place of a Christian in this wicked world could afford to forego.

The growing influence of perfectionist ideas in the religious community at large was both marked and advanced by the publication in 1859 of W. E. Boardman’s book called “The Higher Christian Life.” Mr. Boardman had acquired his notions under Methodist influences in a frontier settlement,6 and in this book he gave them wings and thus inaugurated a movement which has affected the whole Protestant world. We do not see but that Mark Guy Pearse’s description of the book is perfectly just. It was, he says,7 “perhaps the first popular treatise on this subject that won its way amongst all denominations; and its vast circulation, both in America and England, not only melted the prejudices of hosts against this subject, but made it possible for other writers to follow in the paths which he had opened, and led multitudes of timid souls out of the misty dawn into the clear shining of the sun.” The movement thus begun reached its culmination in the labors of Mr. and Mrs. Pearsall Smith, out of which grew in the early years of the fourth quarter of the century the great Keswick Movement by which their formative ideas have been spread throughout the English-speaking world and continue still to be vigorously propagated. It is to W. E. Boardman and Mr. and Mrs. Smith accordingly that we must go if we wish to know what the Higher Life movement really is, and what it really means for Christian life and doctrine.

William Edwin Boardman8 was born in Smithfield, New York, October 11, 1810, and grew up in the Susquehanna country into a rugged but very unstable manhood. After a number of business adventures he found himself in the early forties in the little mining town of Potosi in the southwestern corner of Wisconsin, seeking to mend his broken fortunes. His religious life had been of a piece with his business career. Converted in early manhood, he had passed through many violent changes before, under Methodist influences,9 he found in the rough surroundings of Potosi “rest of heart in Jesus for sanctification,” and became the head of the little “Plan of Union” church which had been gathered there largely under his influence.10 Within two years, however, he was compelled to leave Potosi by a violent anti-slavery controversy in which he had become embroiled, and entered Lane Theological Seminary at Cincinnati in the summer of 1843 as a student of divinity. The three years that he passed at Lane seem to have been devoted as much to the propagation of the Higher Life teachings as to his studies. After their close he was a year at Greenfield, Indiana, and then six months at New Haven in some loose connection with the Yale Divinity School. In 1852 he went to Detroit and his name appears this year for the first time in the Minutes of the General Assembly of the (New School) Presbyterian Church, as a “stated supply.” He found in Michigan what seems to have been congenial employment as a missionary of the American Sunday School Union, and was removed by that Society in 1855 to their central office in Philadelphia, to take charge of their “Students’ Mission Service”—transferring at the same time his Presbyterial membership to the (Old School) Presbytery of Philadelphia. Leaving the Sunday School Union after two or three years of service, he became for a short time “stated supply” at the manufacturing town on the Jersey side of the Delaware called Gloucester City, and then, in 1859, sailed for California for his wife’s health. In 1862 he returned from California and soon after entered the service of the United States Christian Commission, becoming its secretary and laboring efficiently in the organization of its work. After the Civil War he reverted for a while to business life, and then, in 1870, at last found his mission as a public agitator for the Higher Christian Life. At the same time he disappears also, in some unexplained way, from the roll of Presbyterian ministers, having held a place on that roll for nearly twenty years without ever having been settled as a pastor or continued longer than two or three years at a time in any one employment.11

Mr. Boardman’s eager and restless mind, little disciplined and very prone to extravagances, naturally had little taste for the humdrum work of the regular ministry, and the necessity of coöperation attending it. Having attained his threescore years without finding comfort or stability in the ordinary paths of ministerial labor, he appears to have thought it high time to throw off all the shackles of the conventional paths and to go his own untrammeled way. He stripped himself naked for the conflict. He broke all ecclesiastical ties and stood forth a perfectly free lance without responsibilities to anyone. He even freed himself from worldly entanglements, and resolved, like an invading army, to “live on the country.” A born agitator, equipped both by nature and by training for that work, we can imagine the zest with which he now cast himself with absolute abandonment into his congenial and wholly irresponsible task. The completeness of his separation of himself for it and the whole-heartedness of his devotion of himself to it are intimated to us by Mrs. Boardman in the language of her coterie. “At this time,” she writes,12 “he felt he had a definite call to a definite work. As in his earlier life God had led him out into evangelistic work among the unconverted, so now He distinctly called him to evangelize among Christians, and proclaim the Gospel of full rest in our indwelling Saviour.” “It was evident now that the Lord was drawing my husband on to a full surrender of all his time to this direct service among His own people; and he became so very restful and happy in the separation from all secular work, that whatever doubts had heretofore crossed his mind, as to what the Lord wanted him to do, disappeared forever.”13 “It was at this time in the same year, 1870, that the Lord called upon us to give up all our possessions, and enter upon a life of full trust in Him for all our temporal needs.”14 “Since that day in which all was committed to the Lord, there has never been an anxious thought as to how we should get on, or how meet any debt, for the Lord has supplied us even before asking, so that we have been free as the birds, going wherever the Father sends us, without a fear but that He would meet all expenses in His own way.”15 “It was now necessary to work independently of others, since it was the Lord who was to employ us.… No more committees or organizations, every step must now be directed by the Lord Himself.”16

We have overrun ourselves in the last two quotations. They remind us that soon after Mr. Boardman had given himself wholly to the work of public agitation in the interests of the Higher Life, he found it desirable to make a certain change in his methods. At first he made it his business to organize “Conventions for Holiness,” through which the propaganda he had taken in hand might be carried forward. An “Association for holding Union Holiness Conventions” was formed; Mr. Boardman was made its chairman; and as chairman it was his duty to be present at and to engineer all the meetings. Successful conventions were held under these auspices at Newark, Philadelphia, Washington, Wilmington and elsewhere. But difficulties arose. The responsibilities for and the labor of the conventions, all fell on Mr. Boardman’s shoulders: the financial returns from them were divided among the members of the Association and yielded to no one any large amount. Mr. Boardman thought that, the ball having now been started rolling, it might be permitted with advantage to roll on of itself. It might be left to others to organize conventions of which he should be invited to take charge. As Mrs. Boardman puts it:17 “Organization, as has been said, was one of my husband’s greatest—‘gifts’ shall I call it? And yet it was sometimes a hindrance, especially when the Lord was calling to a single-handed work.” The significance of the last clause should not be missed. The event proved the forecast just. “Many more invitations came than could be met.”18 Conventions were held everywhere; in the East, in the West:19 there seemed no limit to them. “It was a blessed liberty,” Mrs. Boardman exclaims,20 “to be free from all bondage to serve in connection with Committees or Associations”; and how delightful thus to experience how bountifully the Father, as their Provider, supplied every need!

There proved to be one limit, however—Mr. Boardman’s strength. He broke down from overwork in the spring of 1872.21 But even that brought new opportunities and new triumphs. As one of its results Mr. Boardman found himself in the autumn of 1873 in London,22 where Mr. R. Pearsall Smith had been holding meetings during the spring for the propagation of the Higher Life and was now preparing to resume them. Mr. Boardman joined him, and during the next two years there was written into the history of religious conventions one of its most remarkable chapters.23 The great evangelistic campaign of Messrs. Moody and Sankey in England and Scotland was now in full swing, and the Higher Life movement was, as it were, embroidered upon it.24 First there was that wonderful series of “Breakfasts” in which, week after week, Mr. Smith and Mr. Boardman met select parties of the ministers and Christian workers of the city to talk with them about the Higher Christian Life and Power for Service. These were followed by large popular meetings for the advancement of holiness, culminating in the meetings of the spring and summer of 1874, the climax of which was reached in the Conference at Broadlands in July and the great Oxford Union Meeting of the first week of September, 1874. Immense meetings of similar character were held throughout England during the next twelve months, and even the Continent was invaded by Mr. Smith with remarkable results. The climax was again reached in the great Brighton Convention of June, 1875—after which came Mr. Smith’s sad collapse. Meanwhile Mr. Boardman, after extensive tours through England and Scotland, had returned to America (early in June, 1875), but finding there no such opportunities for his propaganda as England offered him, he came back in December, 1875 to London, which he thereafter made his permanent home and the center of his activities. As late as 1880 when he had reached his three score years and ten he made an extended tour in Sweden preaching his favorite doctrine and—yes, healing the sick! For he had now taken up with this delusion, and indeed it seems to have become during the last few years of his life almost his chief concern. He apparently dates his conversion to it from a meeting with Dr. Cullis during his visit to America in the summer of 1875. It was not until the publication of his book, “The Lord that Healeth Thee,” in 1881, however, that he was fairly “launched as a teacher of divine healing.” The Faith-house called “Bethshan” was opened by Mrs. Baxter and Miss Murray in 1882 to accommodate the patients who resorted to him, and of it he was “both the father and the pastor.” But his career as a faith healer was short:25 he himself died February 4, 1886.

Although he began late, Mr. Boardman became a somewhat voluminous writer.26 It is by his first book, however, “The Higher Christian Life,” published in 1859, that he is best known, and through it that he has exercised his widest influence as a leader in the Higher Life movement. It is with it primarily therefore that we are concerned.27 It is not a good book, and the critics dealt faithfully with it.28 They pointed out the incorrectness of its historical illustrations, the vagueness and ambiguity of its doctrinal statements, the inconsequence of its argument, the formlessness of its structure, the inelegance of its literary style. Everything they alleged against it was true. Nevertheless, the book sold, and was read, and bore fruit. Theodor Jellinghaus says that more than a hundred thousand copies of it went into circulation in America and England; that it made its author the leading teacher of the more circumspect and practical doctrine of complete sanctification; and that it was by it that access was gained for this teaching into all evangelical denominations.29 This is a conservative statement. Mrs. Boardman describes the sale of the book as rapid beyond all precedent in books of its class—“it was impossible for many weeks to supply the demand”; and reminds us that it was reprinted in many editions in England—an edition was issued by Nisbet, another by Strachan, and so forth—and that one British publisher alone sold sixty thousand copies of it before 1874.30 It is a mere superstition to imagine that only good books sell well. Are Pastor Russell’s books good books? It is in literature as in music where ragtime makes a more popular appeal than Beethoven. This comparison may supply us with the proper characterization of Mr. Boardman’s book: it is a ragtime book. It is the book of a Sunday School missionary accustomed to address himself to the unsubtle intelligence of “the wild and woolly West.” Mrs. Boardman with pardonable wifely appreciation not wholly without reason describes it by saying that it “sets forth the truth in clear, simple, direct statements, illustrated by examples.” It uses a broad brush and lays on the color thickly. Much of its appeal lies in the very coarseness of its art. But that is not the whole truth. Its real power lies in its fundamentally Christian tone. It exalts Christ, and it exalts faith. And no book which exalts Christ and exalts faith will ever fail of an immediate response from Christian hearts.

Mr. Boardman’s zeal is, as he puts it, for a “full salvation” through “full trust.”31 What he has it in his heart to do is to set forth Christ “as all in all for the sinner’s salvation,” and to assure “the sinner who receives him as such, and abides in him,” that he has in Him “full salvation.”32 The sinner who both “receives Him” and “abides in Him”: he who desires a full salvation must do both these things. He must not only enter by Christ but walk in Christ; Christ is not only the Door but the Way. And we contribute as little to our walking in the Way as we do to our entering by the Door. There are many who expect to enter by the Door, but to walk in the Way for themselves. They expect “to journey in the straight and narrow way by virtue of their own resolutions and watchings, with such help from God and man as they can secure from time to time.”33 It cannot be done. Jesus “is The Way and there is no other. There is no real progress heavenward but in Jesus.” Jesus is not a partial Saviour but a complete Saviour: we do not get a portion of our salvation in Him and supply the rest ourselves; In Him and in Him alone is complete salvation. “What we call experimental religion, is simply this: The sinner is first awakened to a realization of his guilt before God, and of his danger, it may be too. He really feels, that is, he experiences, his need of salvation, and becomes anxious and eager to do anything to secure it. Tries perhaps all sorts of expedients, except the one only and true, in vain. Then at last his eyes are opened to see that Jesus Christ is set forth to be his salvation, and that all he has to do is, just as he is, without one grain of purity or merit, in all his guilt and pollution, to trust in his Saviour, and now he sees and feels, that is, he experiences, that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, the very Saviour he needs. In Jesus he triumphs and exults. In Jesus he revels and rejoices. Jesus is the one amongst ten thousand, the altogether lovely. The only one in heaven or on earth to be desired, filling all the orbit of his soul with faith, and hope and love. This in substance is the sum of all religious experience.”34 In Jesus Christ, our complete Saviour, there is complete salvation to be had by faith alone.

Nothing, of course, could be truer to the Gospel than this insistence on the completeness of the salvation provided in Christ and received by faith alone; and it would perhaps not be easy to say it better. It is the very essence of the Christian proclamation. The mischief is that Mr. Boardman contends that this “full salvation” received by a “full trust” in Jesus our “full Saviour,” is not one indivisible salvation, but is separated into two distinct parts, received by two distinct acts of faith. This is the meaning of his dwelling so earnestly upon the necessity of not only entering by the Door but also walking in the Way. To his own consciousness, indeed, he is not dividing the two stages of salvation from one another but assimilating them to one another. He conceives it to be usual to think of them not only as separable in fact but as resting on different foundations; one on faith, the other on works. “We have one process for acceptance with God,” he says,35 “that is faith; and another for progress in holiness, that is works. After having found acceptance in Jesus by faith, we think to go on to perfection by strugglings and resolves, by fastings and prayers, not knowing the better way of taking Christ for our sanctification, just as we have already taken him for our justification. We see and believe in Jesus as our Atonement on earth, and our Advocate and Mediator in heaven, but we fail to see and receive him as our ever-present Saviour from sin now here with us in the hourly scenes of the daily journey heavenward.” He is preoccupied with the vindication of faith as the sole instrument of salvation in all its stages alike. In making this vindication he is doing a good work, and for the sake of it we can bear with the play on words by which he gives a double reference to the Scriptural declaration: “The just shall live as well as be made alive, by faith,”36 and can read with patience such a passage as this:37 “Whether the question relates to justification or sanctification the answer is the same. The way of freedom from sin is the very same, as the way of freedom from condemnation. Faith in the purifying presence of Jesus brings the witness of the Spirit with our spirits that Jesus is our sanctification, that the power and dominion of sin is broken, that we are free, just as faith in the atoning merit of the blood and obedience of Christ for us, brings the witness of the Spirit that we are now no longer under condemnation for sin, but freely and fully justified in Jesus.”

Of course we have both justification and sanctification only in Jesus, and of course we have Jesus only by faith. But we cannot divide Jesus and have Him as our righteousness while not at the same time having Him as our sanctification. It is precisely this division of Jesus, however, which Mr. Boardman is insisting upon. That is his real meaning in the passage which we have just quoted. When we read it in its intended sense it is as pure a statement of the Wesleyan doctrine of the successive attainment of righteousness and holiness by separate acts of faith as Wesley himself could have penned. It is equally his real meaning in the double emphasis which he puts on the Scriptural declaration that the just shall live by faith. “The just shall be made alive first,” he expounds it,38 “and afterwards learn to live by faith. The just shall be justified before God first, and afterwards learn the way to become just also in heart and life, by faith”—where the “first” and “afterwards” are the really significant words. This separation of justification and sanctification as two distinct “experiences” resting on two distinct acts of faith is in point of fact Mr. Boardman’s primary interest, and constitutes the foundation stone of his system. Grant him the reality of “the second conversion” by which we obtain sanctification, as distinct in principle from the first conversion by which we obtain justification, and he will not boggle over much else. Here lies the heart of his system of teaching and on the validation of this his whole effort is expended.39

The necessity for this distinction of experiences he finds in the twofold need of the sinner and the consequent twofold provision made for his need. “And now,” he writes,40 “to account for the two distinct experiences, each so marked and important, and so alike in character, we have only to consider two facts, viz. first, that the sinner’s necessities are two-fold and distinct, although both are included in the one word salvation. We express the two in the words of that favorite hymn, ‘Rock of Ages,’ when we sing,

‘Be of sin the double cure,

Save from wrath, and make me pure.’ ”

It will be observed that “Rock of Ages” is quoted here, not in its original form, but in that given it by T. Cotterill in 1815. Toplady himself wrote—

“Be of sin the double cure,

Cleanse me from its guilt and power.”

We do not know the precise end sought by Cotterill in the alteration which he introduced. It may have been merely greater exactness in the rhyme. It may have been also greater exactness in doctrinal statement. Whether he meant it or not, in any event his form does make the doctrinal statement more exact. Christ’s blood does something more for us than cleanse us from the guilt and power of sin: it cleanses us also from the corruption of sin. To sum up the “double cure” which it brings us as cleansing from the guilt and power of sin is therefore a fatally inadequate statement—though it is all that Mr. Boardman’s successors in the advocacy of the Higher Christian Life are able to attribute to it. Whether he himself understood more to be included in the cleansing wrought by Christ’s blood may require some further investigation. Suffice it to note here that he quotes the hymn in a form in which it says more; and that he speaks in this context in this more adequate language of the hymn. The “two great and equal wants of the sinner,” he declares41 to be these: “he must be just in the eye of the law, justified before God. And he must also be holy in heart and life”—in heart as well as in life, observe—“or he cannot be saved.” All that it is necessary to make ourselves sure of at the moment, however, is that Mr. Boardman explicitly represents the two things which he here describes as “being reckoned righteous before God, and being made righteous in heart and life,” as things which are “distinct and different in their nature,” and therefore separable in their experience.

It is only fair to recognize at the same time that Mr. Boardman is willing to be as reasonable in the matter as it is possible to be while yet preserving the essence of his contention. He is willing to admit, for example, that the two “experiences”—justification and sanctification—need not be always temporally separated. A man may be justified and sanctified at the same time. He is even willing to admit that these two experiences need not be consciously separated—“by a gulph of vain strugglings.”42 “Any particular kind of experience is nowhere in the Bible made a pre-requisite of salvation. He who really and truly believes in the Lord Jesus, will be saved whether he has any experience at all to relate or not.”43 “Let Jesus be received as the all in all, and that is enough! Whoever can say, ‘Jesus is mine and I am his,’ that ‘he is complete and I am complete in him,’ and say the truth, has the experience whether he has an experience to relate, or not.”44 But he is firm in asserting that we must actually have these two “experiences,” both of them, if we are to be saved, and that they are essentially distinct. Though they may possibly coalesce in time, and though we may have nothing to relate concerning them, yet they are distinct, necessary experiences both of which we must have. There may therefore be—there ordinarily is—an interval between them, long or short.45 The second experience may be as cataclysmic as the first—it often is even more so. In any event it must be had. “It is necessary for all to come to the point of” distinctly “trusting in the Lord for purity of heart to be prepared for heaven.” “There is no other way under heaven to be purified but by faith in the Lord. And none but the pure in heart shall see God in peace.”46 So little is Mr. Boardman inclined to sink “the second experience” in the first, that his tendency is to exalt it above it. He speaks of it as “the second and deeper work of grace.”47 He declares plainly48 that “the second is the higher stage, and more difficult too. It is really harder to overcome sin in the heart, than to break away from the world at first. And it is harder to come to the point of trusting in Jesus to subdue one’s own heart entirely to himself, than to venture upon him for the forgiveness of sin. We are slower to perceive that the work of saving us from sin—of expelling sin from us—is Christ’s, than to see that he has already suffered the penalty of sin and purchased our pardon.”

That the second experience like the first is of faith alone we have already seen to belong to the very essence of its conception. It is usually emphasized in antagonism to the notion, supposed to be prevalent, that we are justified by faith but are to be sanctified by works. No, it is asserted with emphasis, we are sanctified also by faith. There were two classes in Peter’s audience at Pentecost, we are told in a typical passage49—not only unconverted men, but men who had long enjoyed the forgiveness of their sins. But Peter had not different messages for them. “Peter did not say to the one, Believe in the Lord Jesus and ye shall be converted, and to the other, Watch, pray, struggle, read, fast, work, and you shall be sanctified. But to one and all he said, Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost.” Perhaps there is a tincture of the Quietism so prominent in the later teaching of this trend of thought traceable here; and an illustration employed a little further on increases the suspicion that there may be. “Suppose,” we read,50 “when Daniel was cast into the lion’s den, instead of trusting in his God, that He would deliver him—suppose then that in his impotence, bound hand and foot, he had made fight with the lions, and sought deliverance by his own struggles with those terrible beasts of prey, how long before he would have been torn limb from limb and devoured by the hungry monsters of the den?” The suspicion remains, however, a mere suspicion: the obvious intent is less to discredit effort than to exalt faith, as the alone instrument of salvation. Mr. Boardman obviously means to conceive this faith on which he hangs everything in its utter simplicity. It is a formula with him, no doubt that, We must both give all and take all, and that is obviously the “surrender” and “faith” of later authors.51 But Mr. Boardman perceives better than they that these are but two aspects of one act. “True and saving faith,” he says,52 “is two-fold. It gives all and takes all.” If both these elements of it are not present, the act of faith is not complete, and, in a word, no real faith has been exercised. “If it fails to give all up to Christ, no matter how bold and clamorous it may be in claiming the promises, it is dead and powerless.… On the other hand if it fail of taking Christ for all, all its givings will be in vain and worse than in vain, ending only in sore and terrible disappointment at last.” “He who gives all and takes all has all. He who gives but does not take, or takes but does not give, has nothing but disappointment and sorrow.”

It results inevitably from Mr. Boardman’s separation of justification and sanctification as two experiences, each the result of a special act of faith and normally occurring at different times, that he has two kinds of Christians on his hands. Naturally he is a little embarrassed when he attempts to relate these two kinds of Christians to one another and to the ultimate issues of life. One of his reviewers—Dr. John A. Todd53—wishing to push him to the wall, demands how true faith can be ascribed to a man, “when all the while, as our author says of Luther,54 he ‘accepts Christ as a propitiation, but rejects him as a sanctification.’ ” “On this principle,” he cries out, “a man may be justified, and, we suppose, go to heaven—for ‘whom he justified, them he also glorified’ (Rom. 8:30)—while rejecting Christ in one of his most important offices as a Saviour. A more gross and revolting error could not well be conceived.” Dr. Todd is right of course: the situation created by separating justifying and sanctifying faith and describing them as unrelated operations, is an impossible one. The Scriptures, not merely in Rom. 8:30, but everywhere—very explicitly in Rom. 6—join justification and sanctification indissolubly together as but two stages of the one salvation secured by the one faith in the one Christ. But Mr. Boardman has not laid himself open to the whole extremity of Dr. Todd’s assault. He does teach that a man may accept Christ for justification and live through long years rejecting Him—or at least not receiving Him—for sanctification: as if a justified man, received into the divine favor and granted the Spirit of Adoption, could possibly fail to receive his Redeemer from sin for sanctification also—if that depended on a separate and special act of faith and was not rather, as it is, an inevitable result of the justification itself. But he does not teach that a man may go to heaven without having received Christ for his sanctification; that is to say, without being sanctified—for there is, as he too allows, no sanctification out of Christ. The way he attempts to meet the situation is this: “How does it fare,” he asks,55 “with all those professors of religion who live on to the end of their days without the experimental knowledge of the way of sanctification by faith?” And the answer he gives is this: “Badly, of course, if they are mere professors, and not truly converted.… For they have not been justified, and therefore they cannot be either sanctified or glorified, but will be banished from the presence of God and the glory of his power forever.… But, if really converted, then the way of sanctification by faith in Jesus will be made plain in the evening of their earthly course.” That is to say, no man who has had only “the first conversion” can be saved: but there is no man who has only “the first conversion.” If he has “the first conversion,” he certainly will sooner or later have “the second.” God the Lord will take care of that. There are not then, after all, in Mr. Boardman’s scheme two kinds of saved men, merely justified and both justified and sanctified men. There are only two stages in salvation, which may come together or may be—even widely—separated in time; but which invariably are both experienced in the saved. This is, it will be perceived, a doctrine of “Perseverence.” All those who are “really converted,” says Mr. Boardman, are ultimately saved: God will see that they are also sanctified. But he can see no vinculum between the two, except the bare will of God: God will not permit one who has received Jesus Christ for justification to fail to receive Him also for sanctification. This is undoubtedly something—and might lead one to say, What God has joined together let not man put asunder. But it falls gravely short of the teaching of Scripture which connects sanctification with justification as its necessary issue and through it the necessary issue of the indivisible faith that lays hold on the indivisible salvation of the indivisible Christ. From even it, however, Mr. Boardman’s successors in the teaching of the Higher Christian Life have fallen away.

The most difficult matter in connection with Mr. Boardman’s doctrine of sanctification is to make perfectly sure precisely what he supposes we receive in this “second conversion” which it is his main purpose to establish. He says with great fervor that we receive in it by faith just Christ—and Christ, says he, is enough. “Exactly what is attained in this experience?” he asks.56 And he answers, “Christ. Christ in all His fulness. Christ as all in all. Christ objectively and subjectively received and trusted in. That is all. And that is enough.” But Christ, we must remember, is not received in this experience for the first time. He had already been received in the “first conversion,” between which and this “second conversion” the analogy is most complete.57 When He was received in the “first conversion” apparently that was not enough. In the “first conversion” Christ was received only for justification; only in the “second conversion” is He received for sanctification. Precisely what we get in Christ in this second conversion is, then, sanctification. It is not meant that the holiness of Christ is imputed to us in this transaction, so that we are in Christ looked upon as holy, though we are unholy in ourselves. Nor is it meant that the holiness of Christ is transfused into us in it, so that we are instantaneously made actually holy by our reception of Him for sanctification. Nor is it merely meant, as Dr. Jacob J. Abbott, who wrestles with the problem manfully in a review of the book in the Bibliotheca Sacra and Biblical Repository,58 suggests, that we receive in it in Christ “a proper equivalent for a completed sanctification.” Dr. Abbott, however, in his explanation of what he means by this comes very near to the truth—in one aspect of it. “We have made the ‘transfer’ to Christ,” he expounds; “we may, therefore, in the full confidence that he will carry on the work to its completion, dismiss trouble about our present imperfect state. We may act and feel and rejoice and triumph just as if the work was already consummated. We have ‘conquered an abiding peace, and gained the full salvation.’ ” Mr. Boardman certainly means to say that in receiving Christ by faith for sanctification, we receive a power which assures our sanctification. The actual realization in all its details of the holiness thus assured us he represents as a process; and he does not seem, at least clearly, to deny that it is realized by us in its details by means of effort. But he asserts that it is unfailingly realized, and he teaches that the strength by which it is realized is not our own but Christ’s. We are relieved from all anxieties, all care, all responsibility, about our sanctification: it is in Christ’s hands, and because it is in Christ’s hands, we are at peace. And being thus relieved from all anxiety about it, we may properly be said to have it, to have it not merely in prospect, but, in principle, in present possession—though in a possession that progressively realizes itself in fact.

Mr. Boardman certainly means this, we say: but just as certainly this is not all that he means. He teaches very distinctly that the sanctification which we receive in Christ does not come all at once, but in process. Although he is concerned to show that the analogy between the first and the second conversions is complete, he yet is constrained to allow59 that there is one matter in which “the pardon of sins” which we get in the one and “the purging of sins” which we get in the other differ with a difference that is radical. This is that “pardon is instantaneously entire, but cleansing from sin is a process of indefinite length.” It is secured instantaneously by the single act of faith, just as pardon is, but the difference is that, in the first conversion, “the work of Christ is already done the instant the soul believes, while in the second, the work of Christ remains yet to be done in the future after the soul believes.” “In the one,” he continues, “the atonement has been made, and the moment it is accepted, the pardon is complete; in the other, although the righteousness of Christ is perfect in which the soul is to be clothed, yet the work of unfolding the heart to itself in its wants, and the unfolding of Christ to the heart from glory to glory, in his sympathizing love, and purifying presence and power, as the soul shall be prepared to go onward and upward from faith to faith, is a work of time and progress.” Or, as he states it in another place,60 by the act of faith in accepting Christ for sanctification “the soul is now placed in the hands of Christ, as the clay in the hands of the potter; and by faith, Christ is received by the soul as the potter to mold it at his own sovereign will, into a vessel for the Master’s own use and for the King’s own table.” Thus a new starting point has been gained. A new and higher level has been attained, upon which the soul hereafter moves. But—and the warning is made express and very emphatic—a starting point is “not the goal reached, or the mark of the prize won.” There can be no doubt, then, that Mr. Boardman teaches that the sanctification which we make sure, absolutely sure, of in our “second conversion” is progressive and that we attain the goal only at the end of a long process. Nevertheless there is no reader of Mr. Boardman’s book who will not feel that, when this has been said, all is not yet said. In one way or another, Mr. Boardman also certainly teaches that when we accept Christ for sanctification, we not only make our sanctification certain but obtain it at once.

The puzzle into which Mr. Boardman’s readers are thrown at this point is relieved by an incidental remark which he lets drop in a letter, written in his old age to Miss Baxter, the founder of Bethshan. “I have known Him as my Saviour from my own conscious sins,” he writes,61 “as long as you have known your right hand from your left.” That is to say, from the beginning of his career as a teacher of the Higher Christian Life, he has looked upon Christ as delivering His people from “all conscious sins.” This is the precise key which is needed for what otherwise was in danger of appearing a sheer contradiction. What Mr. Boardman teaches, we now see clearly, is that the moment we accept Christ for sanctification we receive in Him freedom from all conscious sinning and at the same time absolute assurance in Him that He will progressively cleanse our “heart and life” in His own good time and way from all sin. There is here in other words, a double “experience,” the experience of an immediate deliverance from all conscious sinning and the experience of progressive deliverance of the heart and life from all sin whatsoever. How Christ proceeds in thus cleansing us gradually from all sin we have seen in descriptions already quoted: it is all summed up in the phrases62 that He progressively unfolds “the heart to itself in its wants,” and Himself “to the heart from glory to glory,” leading the soul thus steadily upwards from faith to faith. That this was settled doctrine to Mr. Boardman we perceive from its reëmergence in precise form in his addresses at the great Oxford Union Meeting in 1874.63 “In every one of us,” he is there reported as saying, “there is a whole unknown world. Sin cannot be abandoned by us until it is known. The instant we know it, we lay it on Christ, and the blood cleanseth it. We learn much of it when we are wholly given over to Christ, but now we can learn only progressively.… Be content to accept this, that there is a world within, which unfolds as we walk in the light. We see day by day what we could not see before. But every discovered need is at once met in the Lord Jesus, our mercy-seat. Condemnation for known transgression is not the necessity of our existence. In Him is available victory over every temptation—not partial, but complete. If you have faith in Christ, Christ acts in you.…” What is declared here is not that Christ is our future Sanctifier, but our present Sanctifier, our present Sanctifier in every successive present. At every moment we are in Him free from all conscious sin; but we are led by His sanctifying grace every successive moment to be conscious of more sin that we may be in Him freed from that too—until we are at last freed from all sin. This is a very ingenious combination of a constant sense of freedom from sin in Christ with a constantly increasing deliverance from sin by Christ. It enables Mr. Boardman to declare that we have from the moment of accepting Christ for sanctification “full salvation” in Him and yet to represent the salvation we have in Him as wrought out in a process which is not complete until life itself ends.64 Christ is at once a perfect present Saviour and a perfect prospective Saviour. “Christ,” he is able to say, therefore, with emphasis,65 “is no more freely offered in the faith of his atonement, than in the assurance of his personal presence and sanctifying power! He has not given himself to us in half of his offices freely, then to withhold himself from us in the other half. If we are content to take him as a half-way Saviour—a deliverer from condemnation, merely, but refuse to look to him as a present Saviour from sin, it is our own fault. He is a full Saviour. And to all who trust him he gives full salvation. To all and to each.”

From the point of view thus attained we are able to answer the question also how far Mr. Boardman’s teaching is “Perfectionism.” He is himself anxious to dissociate it from “Perfectionism,” and writes a whole chapter for that purpose.66 Nevertheless no other name can justly be given to it. In his view every Christian who rejoices “in full salvation through full trust in Jesus,” experiences Him as a “present Saviour” from sin. All such (having passed out of the seventh chapter of Romans into the eighth) “have learned that there is deliverance now here in this life through faith in Jesus.… They have learned experimentally, they know, that Jesus Christ our Lord, through faith in his name, does actually deliver the trusting soul from the cruel bondage of its chains under sin, now in this present time.”67 They do not look to death “as their deliverer … as if death was the sanctifier or the sanctification of the children of God”; they have an adequate sanctifier in the present Jesus. “The great difference between the two classes”—those that have taken Jesus for sanctification, and those who have taken Him only for justification—is that while the one has not, the other has “found Jesus, as a present Saviour from the present power of sin,”68 and may therefore give “thanks to God for triumphant deliverance already wrought, through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” “The very gist of the experience” expounded, we are told with the emphasis of italics,69 is that those who possess it have “an assured knowledge of the presence and power of Jesus to deliver us from the dominion as well as the penalty of sin, and keep us by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.” So the crowning thing which constitutes this fulness of faith “is the apprehension, not so much of the certainty of final salvation, as the joyful confidence of the presence of Jesus, as a present Saviour from sin, and a present captain of salvation, to direct us and sustain us in every conflict with Satan.” Of course it is the indwelling Christ that is here celebrated. The source of all the Christian’s confidence is that he knows “that Jesus is with us, and that He will keep us by His own power, and wash us in His own blood, and lead us by His own hand, and uphold us from falling, or lift us when fallen” (pp. 279–280). It is not in our state that we trust nor in our attainments, but in Christ alone. “The command is not—Now you have got into a high and holy state, so walk in that; But even as ye received christ jesus, so walk in him.”70 But—in Christ Jesus we have attained to a state, in which, abiding in Him, we abide. And the state which we attain in Him is a state of freedom in Him from conscious sin and ever increasing freedom in Him from all sin as we are made by Him—in whose hands we are as the clay in the hands of the potter—progressively conscious of more and more of the sins of which we are ignorant, only that we may be progressively delivered from them also. If this is the state of the Christian it is a state of freedom from conscious sin and that at an ever higher and higher level of actual holiness. This is very expressly a doctrine of perfectionism. It is not taught that the Christian is absolutely perfect—but what perfectionism teaches that? It is not taught that the Christian never sins. But the Christian’s sinning is made merely auxiliary and contributory to his holiness—the instrument which Christ his Sanctifier uses to elevate him continually to a higher and higher level in his perfection. In the most literal sense the Christian’s sins become stepping-stones to higher things.

It ought to be added, however, that in his latest years Mr. Boardman appears to have exchanged this most ingenious form of perfectionism by which a constant, conscious perfection is maintained in the course of a steady actual growth towards real perfection, for the exaggerated mysticism which has become a characteristic doctrine of the later advocates of the Higher Christian Life.71 We find him at least, say about 1880, writing to this effect in a letter to Miss Baxter, the founder of the Faith-Cure Home, Bethshan. “He is the life, the All of life,” he now writes,72 “for body as well as soul, complete. In Him dwelleth all fulness; we are filled full in Him.… Fulness, absolute fulness of life dwells in Him alone; and in us, only as He dwells in us by faith.… As long as we take healing from Him bit by bit, bits will yet be lacking. As long as we take strength from Him bit by bit, bits of infirmities will remain.… He is the great Expulsor of ‘the world, the flesh (self) and the Devil,’ and that by His own continual presence in us, in His own fulness, the Fulness of God. And so He is the Expulsor of sin, sickness, weakness, and all that can oppress, whether in spirit, soul, or body.” On this teaching, when we have Christ, Him Himself and not merely things from Him, we have at once all: there is no more room for growth—for Christ is past all growth and we are “uplifted” by the Spirit into Christ and He is unfolded “in all His fulness, the Fulness of God in us.” We can no longer be sick or weak or sinful in any, even the least degree, for these things are incompatible with the fulness of life we receive in Christ. This extreme doctrine of the mystical indwelling may be thought to be already prepared for by a distinction which Mr. Boardman had made a few years earlier, between the dwelling of the Spirit with us and in us. “Our Saviour makes this distinction,” he writes (p. 90) in his book, “In the Power of the Spirit,”73 “in connection with the promise of the Spirit as an indwelling one, ‘who is with you and shall be in you.’ The Spirit is with us to convince of sin before we are converted and to regenerate us in the new birth; and He is with us afterwards to work in us everything that is of God. But this is an entirely different thing from His coming to possess us fully for God as His temple; to purify us to God as His peculiar possession, purchased by the blood of the Son of God; fill us with all the fulness of God; attend us by the might of God; and preserve us blameless unto the coming of Christ.” But it belongs distinctively to Mr. Boardman’s later years and supplants in them the clever theory by which he reconciled, perhaps with a greater measure of success than any other theorizer of his school, the contradictory requirements that the Christian must receive in Christ immediate sanctification, and that the Christian’s sanctification must be a progressive attainment.

Of course it is easy to say that the sanctification received at once in Christ is not a real sanctification; it is only sanctification to the consciousness of the Christian himself. This might be expressed by saying that what the Christian receives at once when he receives Christ for sanctification is not sanctification but peace. Here is the root of the phraseology which speaks of this experience as obtaining “rest in Christ.” But this only uncovers to us the ingrained eudaemonism of the whole Higher Christian Life movement. It is preoccupied with the pursuit of happiness and tends in many ways to subordinate everything else to it. It is no accident that the title of Hannah Whitall Smith’s chief book is “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life.” And it is no accident that Isaac M. See’s book bears the title, “The Rest of Faith.”74 Men grow weary of serving the Lord; they do not wish to fight to win the prize; they prefer to be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease.

It will have been, no doubt, noticed that in his presentation of his notion of the Higher Christian Life Mr. Boardman has left a place for the divine initiative. The sanctification of the Christian is, in his view, in such a sense in Christ, that it is really Christ—or the Holy Spirit—who sanctifies him, according to His own plan and by means of His own working. This leaves a place for a doctrine of assurance—in which indeed, as we have seen, Mr. Boardman’s doctrine of sanctification very largely consists; and for a necessarily correlated doctrine of perseverance. In these respects Mr. Boardman’s mode of presenting the idea of the Higher Christian Life has an immense advantage over that which has been more common later. It seems really to suspend upon God the sanctification of the Christian, instead of, as has been common later, suspending the sanctifying work of God on the Christian. Whether Mr. Boardman was prepared, however, to go the whole way here, and to recognize without reserve, with Paul, that in all ways and in all respects it is “of God that we are in Christ Jesus,” may admit of some doubt. In his later years at least he had fallen away from, if he had ever heartily embraced, that pure confession. We find him at the Oxford Union Meeting in 1874,75 saying: “ ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock.’ Each one has to open. A very little latch will keep a door fast,—a rusty lock will keep it very fast. You must undo the fastenings. It is not His way to force the door.” This sounds like the familiar teaching of the Pelagianizers: Christ is dependent in His action on our pleasure, and works—can work—only when we release Him for working. Theodore Monod on the next page, puts the general notion at its height. “Believing, we shall have life through the Lord Jesus. How much life? Precisely as much as we trust Him for. Christ is to each one what each one expects Him to be: if nothing be expected, He is nothing; if little, little; if much, much; if everything, everything.” If this be true, then it is not Christ who regulates our activities, and so secures our sanctification; but we who regulate His activities, and so secure our own sanctification. Christ is merely the instrument at our disposal by means of which we may sanctify ourselves—and we may use Him at our will, little or much, inefficiently or efficiently, according to our choice. Mr. Murray Shipley declares this in open language.76 There is “limitless power” in Christ for us, he tells us; and then he exhorts us: “The power is yours—use it!” He even compares it to electricity and magnetism—forces lying at our disposal, for us to use as we list. This conception is the precise antipodes of that to which Mr. Boardman more happily gives expression, when he tells us that the Christ whom we receive within us by faith sanctifies us by bringing us progressively to the knowledge of the sins which we ignorantly commit and delivering us from them one after another as they emerge in our consciousness. It is a matter of regret that it supplanted both in his own later teaching and in the teaching of his successors that better doctrine.

His successors naturally were numerous, and varied very much in the details of their teaching.77 It was, however, in Mr. and Mrs. Robert Pearsall Smith that the movement which he had inaugurated found its most capable propagators and it was through them that it attained its widest extension and its most lasting influence.78 Both Mr. and Mrs. Smith were born and bred Quakers. They did not receive, however, their doctrine of the Higher Christian Life from their Quaker inheritance. Mr. Smith indeed shows little or no Quaker influence in his teaching. He was through most of his active life a member of the Presbyterian Church, though, when he appeared as the leader of the Higher Life movement in London in 1873, he had renounced all ecclesiastical connection and presented himself as an unattached teacher, who would fain serve all denominations alike. Mrs. Smith, on the other hand, remained essentially a Quaker throughout life, or, as it would be more accurate to say, grew steadily more and more Quaker. There is scarcely a distinctively Quaker conception which does not find expression at some time or other in her writings.79 In her later years, even the fundamental mystical doctrine of the “divine seed”80 is quite clearly enunciated and the characteristic Higher Life teaching developed out of it. “There is … in every man,” she expounds,81 “a seed of the divine life, a Christ-germ as it were. The old Quakers called it ‘the witness for God in the soul,’ ‘that which corresponds to the divine inspeaking.’ ” This same seed, she explains, while in everyone, is not quickened in all. But “whenever we feel inward stirrings and longings after holiness,” “the divine seed within us is being quickened.” “This is the begetting of God.” That is precisely Robert Barclay over again.82 But now Mrs. Smith goes on: “Then comes in our responsibility. We cannot create life, but we can let life live. We can ‘lay hold’ of it by an entire surrender to Christ, who is our life. We can accept Him as our life, and can refuse to let any other life live in us.” “This, then, is how the spiritual life is to grow; that is, by surrender and faith. We must ‘boycott’ the old self-life, and must deal only with the spiritual life. But we must not make another mistake, and think that although we cannot beget life by our self-efforts, we are to make it grow ourselves. We are as powerless in the matter of our growth as in the matter of our begetting. Life grows of itself. It is a mighty dynamic force that only asks a chance to grow. The lily grows by the power of its inward life principle, and according to the laws of a lily’s life. No amount of its own stretching or straining, nor any pulling up by others, would help its growth. It is all folly, and worse than folly, for Christians to make such mighty efforts to grow. If they would only let the Christ life within them grow, unhindered by their interference, they need have no fear of the result.”

According to this, every man is born with a Christ-germ in him. It needs only quickening. There is to be no new creation, therefore, but only a rousing into activity of something already existing. The Holy Spirit quickens this Christ-germ. Then we come into play. Whether this new-born life is to live depends on us. We had no power to quicken the Christ-germ into activity. But it has no such power of life in it as to force itself on us. We have to decide whether it shall live or not. Only if we welcome it will it live. Our welcoming of it is described, however, very lamely, and is made purely negative. It consists of a duplex act, surrender and faith. That is all we have to do, but our doing it is, somehow, the essential condition of the living of the new-born life quickened in us. We must not do anything or try to do anything positive, looking to the cherishing of this new-born life. Hands off!—that is the only thing we are to do. Perceiving it to be quickened—“feeling inward strivings and longings”—we must just stand aside and let it grow. That is the condition of its growing. This purely negative act is oddly described as “ ‘lay[ing] hold’ of it, by an entire surrender to Christ.” No wonder the words “lay hold” are put between quotation marks. “Surrendering” seems more like letting go than taking hold. And indeed letting go is what we are being told to do. It is miscalled “accepting” therefore. The attitude is one of complete passivity. We have nothing to do with the begetting of this new life and we have nothing to do with its growth. “Life grows of itself.” We feel the life stirring in us. We know ourselves to be alive in Christ because of it. And then, finger on lip, we softly step aside, and—let it grow. The condition of its growth is that we should thus step aside. That is Mrs. Smith’s exposition of the Christian life. No, it does not sound like Paul’s, “Work out your own salvation.” Nor like Christ’s, “Strive—agonize—to enter in by the narrow door.” It is just quietistic mysticism. There is some talk, no doubt, of our feeding our spiritual life on Christ, and that not merely by contemplation but by following Him—imitatio Christi. But that is a false note here, and we soon are brought back to the declaration that our fruit-bearing is not to be by effort, “but by spontaneous growth.” We are not to trouble ourselves about it, any more than the fig-tree troubles itself about its fruit. Effort to bear fruit is like tying apples on a tree: they are not the fruit of the tree unless they are spontaneously produced.

Mrs. Smith became perfectly well aware, then, that her teaching was in its essence genuinely Quaker teaching: and she delighted to present it in its organic relation with Quaker teaching. But she did not get it from the Quakers. She got it from the Methodists. Having got it from the Methodists, however, she recognized it as Quaker teaching also and rejoiced in that fact.83 “My dear father,” she tells us,84 “who was a genuine Quaker, as well as a most delightful one, owned to it. At the earliest opportunity I told him of our new discovery, and said, ‘And now, father, is not this the secret of thy life and the source of thy strength? Is not this the way thou hast always lived?’ I shall never forget his reply. ‘Why, of course it is, daughter,’ he said, with a joyous ring of triumph in his voice.…” But “I must confess,” adds Mrs. Smith,85 “that, although we found … that the Friends did actually teach it, yet it was among the Methodists we received the clearest light.” Having got it from the Methodists moreover, she got it in that distinctively Methodist form which separates justification and sanctification as two distinct experiences, and this is the form in which she teaches it throughout the whole course of the Higher Life Movement, though she reverted from it later to the Quaker form. “The Methodists were very definite about it,” she writes86 in her old age. “They taught definitely that there were two experiences in the Christian life, the first being justification, and the second sanctification, and they urged Christians not to be satisfied with justification (i.e., forgiveness) merely, but also to seek sanctification or the ‘second blessing,’ as they called it, as well. I should not myself express the truth in this fashion now, but at that time I must acknowledge it was most helpful.” In point of fact, this distinction between justification and sanctification was the hinge on which her whole Higher Life teaching turned, as we shall have occasion to note later.

Robert Pearsall Smith was born in Philadelphia, February 1, 1827, and died in England, at the age of 72, April 17, 1899. His wife, Hannah Whitall Smith, was some five years his junior (she was born in Philadelphia in 1832) and outlived him a dozen years, passing away in a serene old age at her English home in her eightieth year. Both had been born into Christian homes and had lived from their earliest years under exceptionally winning Christian influences. But it was not until the summer of 1858 that they found their “all-sufficient Saviour,” by a happy coincidence both on the same day.87 The language in which Mrs. Smith speaks of their experience of conversion is enthusiastic. In it they came “to a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ” as their “all-sufficient Saviour”: in it they “by faith in Him were ‘born again’ into the family of God.” We gather from certain “old papers” which she quotes in her biographical sketch of her son Frank, that they entered by it into a very happy Christian life.88

As the years passed, however, they became dissatisfied with their Christian attainments. They wanted, not a future deliverance only, but a present deliverance. For this they strove, but with only indifferent success. Looking back on these years Mr. Smith came to speak of them as “long and toilsome” years of “legality.” Mrs. Smith fell into a most unhappy condition of questioning the justice of God, for which she found relief only by adopting a doctrine of universal salvation. “I began to feel,” she says,89 “that the salvation in which I had been rejoicing was, after all, a very limited and very selfish salvation, and, as such, unworthy of the Creator who has declared so emphatically that his ‘tender mercies are over all His works,’ and above all unworthy of the Lord Jesus Christ, who came into the world for the sole and single purpose of saving the world. I could not believe that His life and death for us could be meant to fall so far short of remedying the evil that He came on purpose to remedy, and I felt it must be impossible that there could be any short-coming in the salvation He had provided.” She was already arguing from the “completeness” of Christ’s salvation to effects she imagined must therefore be included in it.

Soon she carried the argument one step farther. From her immediately subsequent point of view, she explains:90 “We had … learned thoroughly the blessed truth of justification by faith, and rejoiced in it with great joy. But here we had stopped. The equally blessed twin truth of sanctification by faith had not yet been revealed to us.” This new revelation came to them in the later sixties—we may apparently date it in its culmination somewhere about 1867. How it came Mrs. Smith describes in its broad outlines in “The Record of a Happy Life,” published in 1873.91 “In the fall of the year 1866, there came as Tutor to Frank, a young Baptist theological student. He had not been long in our house, before we discovered that he had a secret of continual victory and abiding rest of which we were ignorant. After watching him for many months, continually impressed with the wonderful purity and devotedness of his life, we began to ask him about it. And he told us that his simple secret was faith. He trusted, and Jesus delivered. He laid the care of his life, moment by moment, on the Lord, and the Lord took it, and made his life moment by moment what He would have it be. It was a wonderful revelation. At the same time, some of the workmen in our factory, having also come into the experience of this life of faith, began to come to our house to talk about it; and we all attended … a little evening meeting, held for the consideration and promotion of this truth.” The result was at last, that “… (we) were brought out into a clear knowledge of the truth of sanctification by faith, and realized in the wondrous peace, and victory, and liberty of this new life, that we had known before only half the gospel.”

Details are added in later accounts. The Smiths were now living at Millville, New Jersey, whither they had removed in the autumn of 1864 to take charge of the glass-factories there, belonging to the firm of Whitall, Tatum & Co. A little Methodist dressmaker in the village became Mrs. Smith’s Priscilla;92 Mr. Smith found his Aquila among the Methodist workmen in his factory:93 these took them unto them and expounded unto them the way of God more carefully. The Methodist Holiness Meetings became their resort: Inskip, McDonald, Methodist Holiness revivalists, became to them household names94—and they soon found themselves enthusiastic adherents of the Wesleyan doctrine of sanctification by faith. There were points no doubt at which they held back. Even in the glow of her new discovery Mrs. Smith, while crying out with fervor, “And this is the Methodist ‘blessing of holiness,’ ” feels bound to add,95 “Couched by them it is true in terms that I cannot altogether endorse, and held amid what seems to me a mixture of error, but still really and livingly experienced and enjoyed by them.” Despite these minor reserves she was not backward in acknowledging that she owed her new Blessing to the Methodists, and what she now began to teach was in essence what they taught. Mr. Smith was won to the new doctrine with more difficulty; it was Mrs. Smith herself who put the finishing touches to his conversion. “At first my husband felt somewhat frightened. He continually fell back on the argument that the ‘old man’ must always bring us into bondage. ‘Impossible or not,’ I said, ‘it is certainly in the Bible, and I would like to know what thee thinks of Romans 6:6. What can this mean but that the power of sin is really to be conquered, so that we no longer need to serve sin! ‘Startled, he exclaimed, ‘There is no such passage in the Bible.’ ‘Oh! yes there is,’ I replied, and turning to my Bible I showed it to him. With this verse, of course, he had been familiar, but it now appeared as if he had never seen it before. It brought conviction, however, and from that time he did not rest until he had discovered the truth for himself.”96 Hermann Benser is quite right therefore when he emphasizes that it was under Methodist influences that Mr. Smith attained his new point of view;97 and Theodor Jellinghaus98 is entirely accurate when he pronounces him a spiritual pupil of Inskip, Upham and Boardman, but equally right when he adds: “In his doctrine and mode of presenting it he agrees, however, most closely with Boardman.”99

With his characteristic enthusiasm Mr. Smith gave himself, at once on acquiring his new views, to their zealous propagation. His chief book, “Holiness through Faith,” after having appeared first in instalments in a periodical, was published in 1870. In the summer of 1871 he experienced at a Methodist Camp Meeting, in immediate response to prayer, what he understood to be “the baptism of the Holy Spirit,” equipping him for fuller service. His description of that experience is very striking.100 His whole being was inexpressibly filled with God, so that he was less conscious of what his senses presented to his apprehension than of what was revealed to him within and no creature was so real to his soul as the Creator Himself: losing nothing of his sense-perception, everything was yet glorified by the divine revelation. Mrs. Smith gives us a temperate account of the occurrence. “The truth came to me,” she says,101 “with intellectual conviction and delight; my husband, being more of an emotional nature, received the Blessing in true Methodist fashion, and came home full of Divine glow. He said he had retired to the woods to continue the prayer by himself. The whole world seemed transformed to him. This ecstasy lasted for weeks, and was the beginning of a wonderful career of power and blessing.” It was in the power of this endowment that he appeared in London in the spring of 1873 as a world-evangelist.102 We have already spoken of the remarkable meetings begun in London in the spring of 1873, which ran up to the great Oxford Union Meeting of August 29 to September 7, 1874. Mr. Boardman participated in them, but they were Mr. Smith’s meetings; and by the time that the Broadlands Conference of July 17–23 and very especially the Oxford Union Meeting was reached, Mr. Boardman had fallen well into the background.103 The Oxford Meeting was called by Mr. Smith, was presided over by him, was governed in all its details by him with calculated adjustment to the effect desired, and was, in a word, but an instrument of his propaganda. The effect of the meeting was nothing less than amazing; and from it the propaganda was widened out with great energy and skill to cover all Britain, and then carried over to the Continent. Mr. Smith himself, on the invitation of highly-placed theologians, bore it to Berlin where, on the request of the Court-preacher Baur, the Emperor placed the old Garrison Church at his disposal. From Berlin he went to Basel, Stuttgart, Heidelberg, down the Rhine to Bonn, and thence to Barmen, everywhere arousing the greatest enthusiasm and leaving permanent results—although he could address his audiences only through an interpreter, and could only shout to them as his battle cry a single sentence in their own language, the refrain of a hymn composed for the meetings by Pfarrer Gebhardt of Zurich—Jesus errettet mich jetzt, “Jesus saves me now.”104 Meanwhile preparations were making in England for the holding of another great international convention which should surpass even the Oxford Meeting. It was held at Brighton from May 29 to June 7, 1875, when the climax was reached. Mr. Smith again presided and again was the chief speaker. The enthusiasm already at a high pitch was raised still higher. Plans were laid for continuing the campaign vigorously throughout England—when suddenly it was announced that all of Mr. Smith’s engagements were cancelled and he had returned to America. That was his dramatic definitive disappearance from public life.

What had happened to occasion this sudden withdrawal at its very culminating point from a work enthusiastically prosecuted was not fully made known to the public. Mr. Smith had had a fall from his horse in 1861 which had been followed by congestion of the brain and long-continued distressing nervous symptoms;105 and it was understood that it was to seek relief from some of the sequelæ of this accident that he had come to Europe in 1873.106 It was said that a return of this disorder now rendered a complete rest imperative. But the public knew very well that this was not all that was to be said. The air was full of rumors of the most disquieting kind; Theodor Jellinghaus characterizes them as “a stream of the most rancorous and malignant calumnies,” to which no one who has any respect for the ninth commandment should listen.107 The rumors were not, however, without foundation in fact. And Mr. Smith’s friends were compelled before the end of the year to issue an explanation. This explanation was signed by S. A. Blackwood, Evan H. Hopkins, Marcus Martin, Donald Matheson, R. C. Morgan, Lord Radstock, J. B. Smithers, and Henry Varley, and ran as follows: “Rumors of an exceedingly painful character with regard to a prominent teacher, which had for some time been in private circulation, having now had currency given to them in your and other papers, we consider it right, in the interests of truth, and in justice to the person in question, to make the following statement:—Some weeks after the Brighton Convention, it came to our knowledge that the individual referred to had, on some occasions in personal conversation, inculcated doctrines which were most unscriptural and dangerous. We also found there had been conduct which, although we were convinced that it was free from evil intention, was yet such as to render action necessary on our part. We therefore requested him to abstain at once from all public work, and when the circumstances were represented to him in their true light, he entirely acquiesced in the propriety of this course, and recognized with deep sorrow the unscriptural and dangerous character of the teaching and conduct in question. In addition to the above, a return of the distressing attacks of the brain, from which he had previously suffered, rendered the immediate cessation from work an absolute necessity.” This statement, it will be observed, makes it clear that Mr. Smith’s withdrawal from the public agitation in the interests of the Higher Christian Life which was being vigorously carried on under his leadership, was not at his own instance or primarily on account of illness: his illness is brought in very pointedly as subsidiary and apparently as a subsequently arising justification of his retirement. His withdrawal was compelled by the intervention of his fellow-workers in the agitation, and that distinctly on the double ground of erroneous teaching and faulty conduct. Precisely what the nature of his “unscriptural and dangerous” teaching was, and exactly what the conduct was108 which compelled intervention, the statement does not tell us, and a certain obscurity hangs about the matter accordingly until to-day.109 It seems, however, to have been no secret at the time that Mr. Smith’s dereliction was just that he had “lapsed into antinomianism,”110 and one of the journals of the day tells us more explicitly,111 that “the special error against which the gentlemen above named protested was the positive and unqualified assertion, that those who are ‘in Christ’ are no longer subject to the law of God, as the rule of their conduct; that they are lifted to a higher sphere of life, and walk in a freedom unknown to those who are strangers to the exalted experience of the new and better life.”

This was the end of Mr. Smith’s public career. He had yet a quarter of a century to live, a quarter of a century of suffering and seclusion after that short decade of exciting agitation and popular applause. A short, pathetic note from his wife to Mr. J. B. Figgis, one of his companions in that agitation, written in the midst of this quarter of a century (March 29, 1883) may contain the essential story of the whole of it: and it seems to us that it may bring us some aid—the aid of significant silences—to an understanding of what had happened following the Brighton Conference in 1875. “Mr. Smith’s health,” writes Mrs. Smith,112 “is very poor, and he is obliged to live a very quiet and domestic life. He thinks he cannot live long, but, of course, this is something we know nothing about. Some physicians say that he has a very serious heart trouble. I believe myself that the springs of his life were sapped in 1874, and that existence can never be anything but weariness and suffering to him again in this world.”

In our absorption in Mr. Smith’s remarkable career we must not forget the woman by his side. We have seen her finding Christ as her “all-sufficient Saviour” on the same day with him;113 and afterwards, when she had discovered that she had not, after all, found Christ as her “all-sufficient Saviour” but only as her halfway Saviour, leading him with her into the devious pathway of “the second blessing” of “holiness by faith.” The immediately subsequent years of eager propagation of this new-found gospel were as much hers as his. At the great Oxford and Brighton meetings she played almost as great a part as he did. Every day she gave a Bible reading, ostensibly to the ladies, really to the gathering crowds.114 “But there were other portions of the day,” writes Mr. J. B. Figgis, of the Oxford Meeting,115 “at which some special speaker had the whole attention of the audience. This was especially the case at 3 o’clock each afternoon, when Mrs. Pearsall Smith gave a Bible Reading. Anything more impressive or delightful … than this series of addresses we never remember hearing.” Of the Brighton Convention he writes:116 “Such was the enthusiasm that each afternoon people crowded together to listen to Bible-readings by Mrs. Pearsall Smith, with interest so keen that the Great Dome could not hold the numbers that came; and after the earliest days the readings had to be repeated an hour later in the Corn Exchange.” She shared also, in a measure, her husband’s retirement after 1875, but not with such complete, as not with such enforced, silence. Mr. Smith’s literary as well as oral propaganda now came to an end.117 Mrs. Smith, on the other hand, although from this time on she appeared only occasionally on public platforms, merely shifted her constant activity into more literary channels. Her calmness of disposition and greater facility of literary expression would have given her, in any event, a much larger hearing in this department of labor than her husband could ever have aspired to. Her book, “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life,” first published in 1875, has sold in innumerable editions, and Mr. Figgis feels able to say of it118 that “with a wider circulation than any other book on holiness,” it has had “greater effect in leading pilgrims to this River than any other writing of any other man or woman of the time, with the possible exception of some of Miss Havergal’s.” Of her writings in general he declares119 that they have done “more than any publications ever written to extend the knowledge of the truth of sanctification.” Through them120 Mrs. Smith very easily becomes one of the most conspicuous figures and one of the most influential factors in the Higher Life movement.

The hinge on which the whole system of Mr. and Mrs. Pearsall Smith’s Higher Life teaching turns is the separation of sanctification from justification as a distinct attainment in Christ.121 Sanctification is not thought of by them as involved in justification, and necessarily issuing from it in the unfolding of the salvation received through faith in the “all-sufficient Saviour.” It is thought of, on the contrary, as a wholly new acquisition, sought and obtained by an entirely fresh act of faith. The fundamental fact of their religious experience was that they were dissatisfied with the results of their acceptance of Christ as their “all-sufficient Saviour, bearing” their “sins in His own body on the tree.”122 They felt the imperative need of a fuller salvation than that exercise of faith had as yet brought them, and they were unwilling to await God’s slow methods of developing this fuller salvation through the conflicts of life. They supposed themselves to have obtained it at once by supplementing their first faith, through which they had received only justification, by an additional faith,123 through which they received sanctification. And this they proclaimed to be really God’s appointed way for the sanctification of His children. Their whole gospel consists essentially, therefore, in the proclamation of what they speak of as “sanctification by faith,” by which they mean immediate sanctification by a special exercise of faith directed to that particular end. They imagine that thus they escape the necessity of awaiting the completion of salvation only in some future experience. Though it comes in two separate stages, it does not come in their view by process. Each of these stages is an immediate attainment following at once on the exercise of a faith particularly for its attainment. We are freed from the guilt of sin by one act of faith, and we are freed from the power of sin by another act of faith. It is the immediacy of the effect which is the point of chief insistence: the suspension of it on faith alone is only a means to that end. Hence the watchwords, “A present salvation”—“Jesus saves me now!” and “Sanctification by faith alone”—“Not by works or by effort, but by faith.”124

This is what Mrs. Smith means when she describes the gospel which they proclaimed as “the glad tidings of a sufficiency to be found in the Lord Jesus, not only for our future salvation, but for our utmost present needs as well.”125 The present need which she has in mind is “real and present victory” over sin. And this is what Theodor Jellinghaus means when he explains126 that the essential teaching of the Oxford Union Meeting was that “Jesus’ blood, death and resurrection has delivered and delivers us not only from the guilt of sin, but also from all the power of sin, according to the Scriptures; that our sanctification comes not in parts through our efforts and self-mortifications according to the law, but through surrendering trust in Christ’s redemptive power and leading.” The words are capable of a good sense, as also are the words of his crisper statement: “Jesus is for every believing Christian a present deliverer, who lets none sit and sigh in the bonds of sin.” But this good sense is not the sense intended. The sense intended is that those who have been justified by faith may attain sanctification also with equal immediacy by an equally simple exercise of faith. This is, of course, perfectionism. The exact variety of perfectionism that it is may be the object of further enquiry, but it is already declared in this general statement that what is taught is some form of perfectionism. The immediate attainment of sanctification and perfectionism are convertible terms.

The whole whirlwind campaign conducted by Mr. Smith from 1873 to 1875 was simply a concerted “drive” of American Perfectionism on the European stronghold.127 It is interesting to observe the forces converging to the assault at the Oxford Union Meeting. The presence on the platform there of Dr. Asa Mahan, the chief figure among the Oberlin Perfectionists, by the side of Mr. Boardman and Mr. Smith, reveals the significance of that meeting to the leaders of all types of the perfectionist movement and their united effort to secure through it their common ends. Whatever differences may have existed among them in details of teaching, they were conscious of unity among themselves and between them and their Wesleyan colleagues, in the main object in view. In point of fact, Dr. Mahan was in complete harmony with Mr. Smith in the essence of the matter. For him, too, sanctification—and he at least felt no hesitation in saying that he meant “perfect sanctification”—was at any moment obtainable by the Christian by a simple act of faith. For him, too, this sanctification was the work of the indwelling Christ alone. And for him, too, all effort on our part in the working of it out was excluded.128

Even on one point on which we might expect to find Dr. Mahan more decided than Mr. Smith there is no real difference between them, although Dr. Mahan gives to his exposition of it a somewhat greater fulness. We mean the reference to the sinner’s own will of the really decisive action in every stage of his salvation, so that it may properly be said that his salvation continuously hangs purely on himself. Nothing could exceed the decisiveness of Mr. Smith’s statements. The apostle Peter, referring to the case of Cornelius and his companions, speaks (Acts 15:9) of God “purifying their hearts by faith.” He is not speaking here of sanctification, it is true; but Mr. Smith takes him as if he were. The point to observe is that the passage, so understood, raises no barrier to Mr. Smith’s affirming sharply, “We purify ourselves.” God purifies us, says Peter; we purify ourselves, says Mr. Smith. We purify ourselves, but only by faith; and because we purify ourselves by faith, that means that we purify ourselves by using God to purify us; we by faith secure the purifying of our hearts by God. That is Mr. Smith’s meaning when he says129—to quote the sentence fully now—“We purify ourselves, not by effort, but by faith; not by works, but by the precious blood of Christ.” He does not dream of questioning that it is we that purify ourselves: it is only a question of how we do it. He goes further, and declares that even the maintenance of our purified condition depends wholly on ourselves. “This clean and humble condition, however,” he continues, “is ours only while the blood is applied by faith, for the very moment faith ceases to apply it, corruption ensues, and the same old bitter waters flow out.”

It is not possible for Dr. Mahan, then, to be more decided than Mr. Smith is, in referring our sanctification wholly to ourselves as its procuring cause, at the very same moment that he is referring it to God as its effecting cause. But Dr. Mahan explains more fully how the matter is arranged.130 The sinner, according to him, has power to “avail himself of proffered grace,” to “abide in Christ.” And, having this power, it is his part to exercise it; and when he exercises it he is properly said to sanctify himself—though, of course, it is the grace of which he avails himself, the Christ in whom he abides, that immediately works the sanctification. “The sinner,” he says, “is able to make himself a ‘new heart and a new spirit,’ because he can instantly avail himself of proffered grace. He does literally ‘make to himself a new heart and a new spirit,’ when he yields himself up to the influence of that grace. The power to cleanse from sin lies in the blood and grace of Christ; and hence, when the sinner ‘purifies himself by obeying the truth through the spirit,’ the glory of his salvation belongs, not to him, but to Christ.” It is our business to “yield ourselves up to the influence of grace,” which is identified with abiding in Christ. “We can ‘abide in Christ,’ and thus bring forth the fruit required of us.” But it is the grace to which we yield ourselves, the Christ in whom we abide, that is the immediate worker of the actual effect. “Herein also lies the ability of the creature to obey the commands of God, addressed to us as redeemed sinners.” We cannot obey them directly by our own act, but we can obey them, indirectly, by using Christ as an instrument through which we may perform what is required of us. “ ‘He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing.’ ‘As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me.’ These declarations are literally and unqualifiedly true. We can ‘abide in Christ,’ and thus bring forth the fruit required of us. If by unbelief we separate ourselves from Christ, we of necessity descend, under the weight of our own guilt and depravity, down the sides of the pit, into the eternal sepulchre.” It is not Christ in the last analysis that sanctifies us: He is merely the instrument through which we perform this work. Facit per alium facit per se: we are our own sanctifiers. Nevertheless, Christ is the sole instrument through which we can sanctify ourselves, and therefore faith, or “abiding in Christ,” is the sole thing we have to do in the matter. And here comes in the Quietism of this teaching. “There is one circumstance connected with my recent experience,” says Dr. Mahan,131 “to which I desire to turn the special attention of the reader. I would here say, that I have forever given up all idea of resisting temptation, subduing any lust, appetite, or propensity, or of acceptably performing any service for Christ, by the mere force of my own resolutions. If my propensities, which lead to sin, are crucified, I know that it must be done by an indwelling Christ. If I overcome the world, this is to be the victory, ‘even our faith.’ If the great enemy is to be overcome, it is to be done ‘by the blood of the Lamb.’ ” We sanctify ourselves; but we do it only by faith. Beyond faith there is nothing for us to do. The Christ, released for the sanctifying work by faith, does the rest; and we must leave it to Him wholly. In all these matters Mr. Smith’s teaching simply repeats Dr. Mahan’s.

The primary zeal of these writers is naturally to establish the completeness of the sanctification which we receive immediately on faith. This amounts in their hands, as it amounted in the hands of the Wesleyans, to an attempt to substitute a doctrine of Perfectionism for the doctrine of Perseverance, and to discover the completeness of salvation in what we find in our possession, rather than in “what we shall be,” which an apostle tells us is not yet made manifest. A very good example of how Scripture is dealt with in this interest is supplied by the address which Dr. Mahan delivered at the first morning hour of the first full day of the Oxford Union Meeting.132 He seizes here upon the declaration of Heb. 7:25, that Christ is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him. The idea of the “uttermost” of this passage includes that of “glorification.” As A. B. Davidson puts it (“The Epistle to the Hebrews,” p. 142): “The offering of Christ enables men to draw near unto God; those that thus draw near He is able to save completely, to bring them through all hindrances to that honour and glory designed for them, which He Himself has reached as the Captain of their salvation.” But for this Dr. Mahan has no consideration. He emphasizes merely the strong assertion of the completeness of Christ’s salvation contained in the word, and then demands, dramatically: “Why is that power in Christ revealed, if we are not to avail ourselves of it? Why are we told what He is able to do, if we suppose that He is not ready to do it, or that we are not authorized to expect it?” “Expand your hearts,” he exhorts us; “expect to receive, and receive all that He is able to do.” “It is a great sin,” he declares, “to ‘limit the Holy One of Israel.’ ‘Save to the uttermost!’ Dare to cease to limit His power, and take Christ at His word!” The response, of course, rises to the lips of every simple believer—that the power of Christ to save to the uttermost is the foundation of all our hope, and that everyone who believes in Him commits himself to Him for this and nothing less; we do, all of us, expect to receive and do receive it all, without limitation and without diminution, and in this expectation, sure and steadfast, lies all our comfort and all our joy. But the revelation of it would not need to be made to us—we would not need to be told of it—if it were a present experience, not a matter of hope. Nor would the revelation made in this great declaration be true, if the measure of salvation we have already received were all that we could look to Him for, if a complete salvation both of soul and body were not the portion of His saints. And certainly it would not be true if even the measure of salvation we have already received from Him were unstable or liable to be lost to-morrow, its maintenance depending n