Cleansing by Water and Walking in the Light: Part 2

1 John 1
I turn to 1 John 1. The whole use of it is false. The case of actual sinning is in chapter ii. The first chapter is entirely abstract. Fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ is the joy and privilege of the Christian; but this must be according to the nature of God, who is light. Mr. S. speaks of bringing everything to God without evasion. Now this is most right and important. I would press it, not weaken it in anywise; but there is not a word of it in this chapter. “Walking in darkness,” and “walking in light,” are contrasted, as in Paul's mission to the Gentiles, “To open their eyes, and turn them from darkness to light, and the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive remission of sins, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified, by faith that is in me.” So in chapter ii., the darkness is passing away, and the true light now shineth. God is light, and walking in the light is walking in the true knowledge of God; the new man is “renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” Light came into the world in Christ. He who follows Him has the light of life. And note here, what is spoken of is “walking in the light as God is in the light.” It is not according to the light, but in it. There is no darkness at all in God. This is the revelation afforded, the message heard.
The question is not raised if we walk according to it or not. We are in the full revelation of God without a veil, or in darkness, having no knowledge of God. It is not the question how far we live up to it. But the Christian is really walking there. If it was my consistency, how could I say, walk in the light as He is in it, and then speak of cleansing from sin? There would be no need of it. It is upon the face of the passage the true Christian position, in contrast with ignorance of God, It is as much as to say, if you are a Christian—have been turned from darkness to light. But it is no partial light, but as God Himself is in it—the unveiled light of God's nature, as revealed through redemption in Christ. If this be so, two other things accompany it; it is not mine and thine, but communion in full blessedness in God revealed. Further, to be there we need to be as “white as snow,” and have a “perfect conscience.” for if the conscience is evil, the heart is never free. And this Christ's blood gives. It is its intrinsic value.; as I should say that medicine cures the ague; it is not, goes on by repeated applications relieving details, but cures it.
Failure, I repeat, comes in in chapter 2: 1. Chapter 1: 5-10 takes up the details of any possible self-deception in the matter, as to sin and sins, and where we are as to them; but verse 7 is the abstract, absolute, statement as to Christian standing. In the, light as God is, fellowship with one another, and under the efficacy of that blood which cleanses from sin. If it be our consistency, walking in the light as God is, then speaking of cleansing is absurd. Of bringing our state to God there is not a word. It is absolute and abstract.
But it is alleged that “cleanseth” is going on cleansing. It is not has cleansed, nor will. If people will take a continuous present, for which there is no ground, it must be continuous, not repeated, as “I am writing.” But this has no sense. Particular failure, as I have said, is in chapter 2: 1, where we have no application of blood, but the contrary. It is perpetual righteousness in Christ, and propitiation which was once for all. But a continuous cleansing is absurd and unchristian; it is self-contradictory.
Of repeated application of blood scripture knows nothing. I must be redeemed over and over again, justified over and over again! And let us see what it comes to in this system. Mr. Smith tells us that “trusting Christ for cleansing is only through the constant supply of blood from the heart, and guidance from the head. Lessen the current of blood, the corrupt matter from the flesh is imperfectly carried off, and disease ensues.” (Preface, p. 7.) Now, I appeal to every Christian, to every one really taught of God, whether scripture ever so speaks of the efficacy of Christ's blood as cleansing the sinner. It would not be cleansing, but preserving in health. But the idea is wholly foreign to scripture.
“If we walk in the light,” is walking in the true knowledge of God, fully revealed as He is in His holy nature without a veil, as contrasted with ignorance of God. Christianity is in contrast with a God who could give commandments but was hidden behind a veil. This brought fellowship in common joys, and we can stand in the light; for that which revealed it, the cross, the blow which rent the veil, put away every sin, every stain, and I am in the light, as white as snow. All is the present condition of the Christian as such. It is not, will cleanse us if we fly to it, or if we bring everything to God without evasion. It is “if we walk in the light,” not even according to our capacity in realizing it (all these details are foreign to the verse, and come after), but if we walk in it as God is in it. The very expression, “all sin,” or every sin, shows us the same thing; it is not a question of details, but its universal and absolute value.
Then comes what the truth in us makes us know, and what we have to do if we fail, and the ways and government of God, and what Christ does if we fail. The righteousness and propitiation being ever there, our failure awakens the advocacy of Christ. But here there is no reference to the cleansing of Christ's blood. A repetition of blood-sprinkling, or blood-cleansing, is a thing unknown to scripture. The worshippers once purged have no more conscience of sins. (Heb. 10)
But there is a cleansing which may be repeated, and which this system everywhere ignores, and of which we have a precise account in scripture—washing with water. “Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” “Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the word.” “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth;” so indeed we are born of water, and begotten by the word of truth. The water came out of His side, as did the blood. When the Lord spoke of their having a part with Him now going on high, because He could no longer have a part with them, it is of this water-cleansing He speaks. Nor, as to the substance of it, can this be repeated. He that is washed (λελουμένος), his body bathed, as the priests were in their consecration, needeth not save to wash his feet (νίψασθαι, wash hands or feet, &c.), but is clean every whit, and “ye are clean, but not all,” for Judas was there. When sanctified and renewed by the word with the truth Christ's death and heavenly revelation give to us, still we pick up dirt in our walk, and the Spirit (Christ being our advocate) applies the word to the conscience. We are humbled, confess, are cleansed as to the state of our souls, morally, purified in thought and heart, and communion is restored. We have the same in the ordinance of the red heifer in Num. 19, the book which gives us the journey through the wilderness, to which this kind of cleansing applied, and not in Leviticus, where the sacrifices inn their proper value are described.
Nor in the case of the red heifer is there any cleansing by blood: this was always by blood-shedding, no remission without it; and that has been done once for all. The ashes in the running water were the testimony that the sin had been all consumed in Christ when the offering was made, but communion was interrupted, and the sense of what sin was, according to the death of Christ, brought home to the soul.
Thus this all applies to the state of the soul, to holiness, and to our judgment of sin. All this instructive and heart-searching truth is not only left out, but denied, in the system which, in these cases, applies the blood, not the water. And this is not merely a mistake in the terms, but denies the efficacy of the blood as that which perfects the conscience once for all, and the repetition of which is unknown to scripture. And so entirely is the use of water set aside that, in speaking of the consecration of the priests, Mr. Smith says, “first the blood, then the oil,” whereas the first thing was washing with water, and by this he was consecrated to God, though the blood and the oil were absolutely necessary to perfect him in his place. Mr. Smith adds, “God's order is the blood for pardon, the Spirit to enlighten; the blood for cleansing, the Spirit to fill the purified temple.” Now the blood was never repeated with the priest; nor indeed the oil; but he washed his feet and hands on every service he rendered, to which I doubt not John 13 makes allusion: only now it is only the feet.
Let me add here, that so far from the present tense in verse 7, on which so much is insisted, being repeated cleansing, when he comes to details and forgiveness in the present ways and government of God, in verse 9 he leaves the present tense, and says nothing of blood-cleansing. My anxiety has been to show what the system deprives us of. Of the system itself I need not speak. Mr. Smith has avowedly brought it down to what I estimated it at from the beginning; that it is simply deliverance from legal bondage, which is captivity to sin. He says (p. 107), “The better life we seek to portray differs from the former Christian life, as the sixth and eighth of the Romans differs from the seventh.” Now this deliverance is of great moment, and it is a distinct thing from forgiveness. On this I have so largely insisted elsewhere, and for so long a time, that I say nothing more of it here. I quite trust that Mr. Smith's and others' insisting on this will be useful. To the end of Rom. 5:1111And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:11) he speaks of forgiveness; from thence to the end of chapter of deliverance; in one, of the sins of the old man being pit away; in the other, of our not being in the flesh, but in Christ, and free. Only one thing Mr. Smith has not noted, that one not in Rom. 8 is not recognized as in the Christian state. “Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.” Now “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his; and if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, and the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” The final result is quickening this mortal body. Before having the Spirit, they may be on the way but are not in the Christian state, any more than Israel were out of Egypt till they crossed the Red Sea, though this is not exact, but is of no consequence here. The blood was on the door-posts. There God had the character of a judge; at the Red Sea, of a deliverer. Mr. Smith makes it a difference of degree, “erased blots on an early page, in a book scribbled on every page.” Scripture makes it the difference of having the Holy Ghost or not, of being in the flesh or out of it, of being of Christ or not. I do not suppose Mr. Smith would deny this; but not knowing the true ground on which it rests in scripture, he obscures it all, lowering it down to experience. Yet he speaks of cleansing from all sin, that deep evil of our nature which is antecedent to sins.
Now what is cleansing from a nature, and that by blood? Cleansing from a nature by blood is unknown to the word. Sin in the flesh is condemned, and any cleansing there is is by our having for faith died to sin. Cleansing is from some actual defilement. Prom a nature we are delivered by death. All this cleansing from the evil of our nature is unscriptural, and arises from an attempt to reconcile, an unscriptural system with what cannot now but be recognized as the truth of the word. Elsewhere Mr. Smith uses these very words for cleansing from actual defilement.
I must refer to another practical point in connection with the substitution of the blood of Christ for the washing of water, for repeated cleansing. They hold that, where we have failed, instantly recurring to the blood cleansing us, we are as happy as ever. All is right in a flash, rest of soul at once restored; and this I have found current among those professing to have attained this state in various instances, and in one very striking case published by an English clergyman.
Now in cleansing with blood this is so, because it is pardon and forgiveness of an act committed, or say even of a thought. It is gone, I am forgiven, and the joy of God's goodness in it is in my soul. I confess my fault, and, as to forgiveness, there is no question remains between me and God, and the sense of His goodness is deepened in my soul, because it is a question between me and God, and is perfectly settled by the precious blood of Christ. Mr. Smith puts the case of impatience with a workman, and confession to him.
But when my state and God's glory are referred to, it is another case. Mr. S.'s conduct was most Christians and right, and the blessing which followed easy to be believed. But supposing Christ's name had been dishonored before the world by some act or word of mine, where no confession to an individual had anything to do with it, I have no idea of anything being imputed to me; actual present forgiveness my soul may find; but am I to take it quite coolly that I have dishonored the name of that blessed One before the world? Let every Christian's heart answer it.
Nor is this all. This wretched doctrine of repeated cleansing by blood hinders all self-knowledge and true growth by it. It is not a question of pardon: this is settled; nor doubting divine love: the Father loves us as He loved Jesus. But when the Lord looked on Peter, he went out, and wept bitterly. Was he wrong? But more, when the Lord restores his soul, He never speaks a word of reproach as to his denying Him, nor refers to it. It was put away by the death of Jesus, but He does say, “Lovest thou Me more than these?” He goes to the root of it in the heart of Peter—self-confidence. “If all deny thee, I will not.” That is, there is no hint of remaining guilt, but there is a probing to the root of the evil, of which the actual failure was only a fruit. Now this cool return to rest and ease of heart loses all this. There is no searching of the spring of evil, unsuspected perhaps in the soul, for growth in true spiritual life; and the soul is never thoroughly restored and blessed till this is done.
A man may be taken in a fault, but a fall is never the beginning of evil. Take Mr. Smith's case; he was impatient, and spoke so to the workman; he owned it; all well, but how came he to be so? Neglect of prayer, of keeping in the sense of God's presence, with the seriousness and self-restraint it gives, too much setting of heart on the arrangements which were spoiled, a spirit too much engrossed with them, a tendency to, impatience not adequately subdued by the habitual sense of God's presence. Here it is not a question of forgiveness, but of holiness of heart, of its depths, of the state of my heart. All this is lost on the system of cleansing anew by blood. It is a superficial system; it takes a low standard of what should occupy a Christian's heart; it makes a question of mere pardon of what should be a question of holiness; it denies the perfectness of conscience belonging to a Christian; and by raising this question in an unscriptural way, contenting the spirit with ease and rest through pardon, blinds it to the further exercise of soul, which seeks holiness, and judges everything that hinders it as well as actual failure. It is not a doctrine promotive of holiness. There is levity in it. Individuals may escape the effect; or in the first fervor and tide of deliverance the soul may be above the shoals and banks; but in the long run it leaves the soul in a superficial state.
There is only one more point which I feel called upon to notice—temptation, so called, not being sin. I have heard those under the influence of this system talk of suggestions, and slur over what passed in their hearts. Mr. Smith (p. 105) says, “Let us beware of one special snare of Satan—that of trying to persuade us that temptation, or mere infirmity, is sin. Christ was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin. His temptations were actual and real pressures to evil. He yielded not, and was without sin. Neither is the unwelcomed, unindulged, rejected temptation sin to us.” This is very bad. Mr. Smith must forgive me for speaking plainly. He has fallen into the snare of Satan. Mr. S. is so exceedingly loose in his statements, that one has to make all sorts of necessary distinctions before there can be any answer.
Temptations and infirmities are not the same thing. Paul gloried in his infirmities, certainly not in sins, and if we do put them together, the sense of temptation is at once defined. Infirmities in this sense are the persecutions, and difficulties, and reproaches a Christian has to go through, if he will be faithful and devoted, and which would tend to hinder him in holding fast his faithful course (see 2 Cor. 12:9, 109And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9‑10)).
Mr. Smith might see that the “yet” in the passage he quotes [from Heb. 9] is in the Authorized Version in italics, that is, is not in the original.
Any such application to Christ as is involved in Mr. Smith's statement, that is, is carefully guarded against. He was tempted according to [the] likeness [He took], that is, as a man, as we are in this world, sin excepted. He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities—was, and is still, for us, sensible to all that human nature can feel from outrage, reproach, desertion, unrighteousness, isolation, and the want of sympathy. The word of God discerns the thoughts and intents of our hearts, judging their true character in us according to His holy presence. In all our trials and difficulties we have Christ's full and tender sympathy. What does Mr. Smith mean by actual and real pressures to evil? From within or from without? Were they (the Lord forgive the word!) lusts in that blessed One, suggestions of His own heart, sin in the flesh? Was there anything in Him which was not to be indulged because it was evil? Let Mr. Smith explain himself. What did He not yield to? When Satan succeeds in “touching” us, he awakens the thought of evil, even if we do not yield to it. Did he succeed in doing this with Christ? “The thought of foolishness is sin,” says the word. Was this in Christ? In His temptation He was hungry. This was no sin; it was a human need, and He felt it, and Satan sought to lead Him to do His own will as to it. But He lived by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. All the glory of the world from without was offered, but it awakened indignation, not any question. God's word was His motive for acting, as well as His rule. He was led of the Spirit to be tempted. We are tempted when we are led away of our own lusts.
All this flows from the damnable doctrine that lust is not sin. What is it? Is it holiness or righteousness? Where does it come from? It is the fruit of the sinful nature; “sin taking occasion by the commandment wrought in me all manner of lust.” Those who rest on fruits in James—and I do not call it a strawy epistle—find no sin till it has conceived and brought forth. Those who go to the root with the word of God know that there is sin in the flesh. If Satan were to suggest to eat a handful of mud and dirt, would any one be inclined to do it? If he succeeds in touching us, it is because there is a desire in the sinful nature to which he adapts himself. If we are full of Christ, he will not succeed; but if the suggestion is awakened, in our hearts, sin is awakened into the activity of desire, though we may rightly resist it; and if we look to Christ, we shall be victorious: Was any such suggestion awakened in the blessed One? All this loose insinuation as to Christ, to excuse and cover sin in ourselves, is very bad indeed. Was anything within in Christ which He had to resist? It must not be covered over with loose words, as “temptation or infirmity,” which words have professedly in scripture a double meaning. (See James 1)
The word judges thoughts and intents, the priesthood takes notice of difficulties and trials, Was the pressure of evil in Christ from within or without? From without He was spared nothing, but it only brought out a sweet savor. Within there was nothing but what gave the sweet savor in life and in death. I know of nothing more horrible than thus sacrificing the holiness of Christ to excuse and allow “suggestions,” suggestions of sin in us. Instead of taking Him as the living standard of holiness, holiness is lowered in us, so as to allow of evil suggestions, and Christ is brought down to this level, that sin in us may be passed over. I do not rest on the word peccable, applied to Christ by some of those in these views; evil and unholy, I should say, unintelligent as the thought is, because it is not the real question.
Mr. Smith speaks of “that deep evil of our nature which is antecedent to sins or sinning” Was there anything of this in Christ? Mr. Smith would surely answer, No. It was not an innocent thing which was born of the virgin Mary, but a “holy thing.” Could Satan introduce anything of it in Him? He takes the love of money in Judas with subtle wile to betray the Lord. It was a suggestion, a temptation from without, but met that which was within, awoke it, and then there was a suggestion, in which the thought of the heart had apart—even if judged and resisted. There may be suggestions of blasphemy or despair, which are fiery darts of the enemy, when there is no lust. But there were never even such as these in Christ; if forsaken, He could say, “My God,” and, “Thou continuest holy.” Did the enemy succeed in arousing evil thoughts in Christ, which He resisted? I ask of any honest Christian, are not these suggestions thoughts in his heart? If they are not evil, why does he resist them? It will not do to talk of pressures of evil. From without? Yes. Did those pressures awake in Christ's heart suggestions which He resisted as evil? If so, He ceased to be absolutely “that holy thing” —really never had been. He was a holy man, not an innocent man, and ever maintained His holiness—met Satan by obedience and dependence on God by the word. The wicked one did not touch Him. There were no suggestions; there are, or may be, in us, because the flesh, sin in the flesh, is there. Others, under the influence of these doctrines, I have heard say, He was imperfect, alleging His growth in wisdom and stature. He was a true real man, and, as a child, was perfect as a child; the vessel grew as ours does. But this shows the way this doctrine works. Was He ever anything but perfectly holy? That is the question. If there, were evil suggestions in His heart which He had to resist, He was not.
I seek, then, a fuller, more assured, unchanging ground and state of acceptance, and divine favor, than this system gives me. Here it fails and goes back to the common evangelical ground, which God is leading us beyond. I look for a deeper character of holiness, of which the false doctrine on the other point deprives us; and I see it depriving Christ of His holy glory, and me of a Christ who can be the treasure and food and light of my soul, and fixing the attention on self instead of on Christ.
I admit fully the work of deliverance distinct from forgiveness. The Epistle to the Romans elaborately teaches the two. I believe all this stir as to a higher life has done good, in awakening souls to the need of something better than current Christianity, and I bless God for it.
I trust there is nothing which has the form of attack in what I have written. I not only disclaim any such thought, if such there be, but regret and recall anything which may seem to have this character, save what concerns the holy nature and person of Christ; on that there can be no compromise. This dragging of Christ down in doctrine to excuse the evil suggestions of our hearts, as if there were no sin in them, is intolerable to every godly heart. The perfection was found to be imperfect, and Christ lowered to make it pass as no sin. This is intolerable.
I only add, it is not looking back to past experience that is our strength, though it may occasionally have place, but living on Christ now in the path of God's will. I deny Paul's talking about himself and his experiences, save where he says he is a fool in doing it—they had compelled him. “I say again, let, no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little.” (See 2 Cor. 11) He does personify great Christian truths in his own person, as at the end of Gal. 2, as I have done a hundred times myself, with it suspicion of any particular reference to self. “I am crucified with Christ” is the only true state of every Christian; and he is pressing it as such in rebuking Peter.
J. N. D.