The Force of the Term Destruction; the Dispensatore; Exercises and Ground of Peace; Publication; Repentance; Righteousness of God; Old Testament Saints; Sanctification; Union With Christ

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Dear Brother, I delayed writing to you until I had read a little of the "Dispensatore," and I had very little time. I am well satisfied on the whole, and I believe, dear brother, that God has guided you. The articles are simple, and at the same time sufficiently advanced in the truth. I hope you will always keep before the eyes and the hearts of the Italians foundation truths; grace, salvation, redemption, the perfection of the work of Christ; that redemption was completed in His death; and that, in His resurrection, we have not only a new hope, but a new position before God. This gives perfect peace before God, and this is the measure of our walk in the world. What Christ is before God is what we are, because we are in Him; but if we are in Him, He is in us, and His life ought to be manifested in all our ways. I find much to interest me in these numbers, but I speak only of the articles which suggested some observations. Although it is useful to insist on the necessity of having an assembly pure, and of keeping it pure (and I believe this is necessary everywhere, and especially in Italy), I hope you will not go further in speaking of the questions which have risen up amongst brethren. Do not think that I am less strong in my conviction of the necessity for firmness; I am far from being so, but your "Dispensatore" is intended for edification, and for the growth of souls; and I believe that firmness is better manifested in practice where God is with us, when principles have been presented and proved, than in a multitude of words, which give rise to controversy. I must also point out a few little points, and say a word on the source from which you take the articles (I speak only of the defects) so that your paper may be as perfect as possible.
In No. 1. the principles of the article are very good, but I do not think that a person can believe that he has peace before feeling it, because peace is a state of the soul; it is something experienced. I can believe that Christ has made peace, but not that I have it.
In No. 2. page 2. Here also the article is very interesting, and the principles are true, but I do not think that "united to God" is according to the word. We are united to Christ. I do not believe that faith unites us to Christ: the Holy Ghost does. Many people say that faith unites, but the word does not. "By one Spirit are we baptized into one body." "He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit." I could not say (end of the second), 'not by preaching the law.' I acknowledge that the gospel, or Christ, is a better way, but for many hearts, or rather for many consciences, the law is a means of reaching them, and convincing them of sin: certainly it cannot give life or peace.
I cannot find it just now, but I think you have spoken as if the Old Testament saints could have been united to Christ. They had received life from the Son of God; but union depends upon the coming of the Holy Ghost.
One observation more. You ought to examine attentively (I ask God to guide you in this) the articles on repentance, and on sanctification. I do not speak about these, but I think you translate much of what dear—has written; you do well, for his writings are most useful, and they attract the heart, and are much more easily understood than my own. But amongst our brethren, and in a whole school of Christians, on account of the war they have made against the error which requires so much repentance before believing, and coming to Jesus, and so much sanctification before knowing that we are in Christ, they have fallen a little into the other extreme; they will have no other repentance but faith itself, and no other sanctification but the fact of being in Christ, who is our sanctification. I do not say that your article on repentance is like this. But the one on sanctification does not seem to me quite clear. It is true that Christ has been given to us, made of God sanctification, and it is true that no human efforts can add to sanctification; but though on one side the life given by God is holy—Christ is our life—it is not the whole truth that we are accounted holy in Him. It is evident that the writer loves holiness, but the word speaks of following holiness (Heb. 12:1414Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:14)): it says, " The very God of peace sanctify you wholly." 'The sanctification that I have in Christ is as perfect as the wisdom and righteousness.' But the righteousness is always perfect as my righteousness; I possess it, and so I am the righteousness of God in Him. Could I say I am holiness, or I possess perfect holiness? God sees me in Christ perfectly righteous; He sees me, we can say, perfectly sanctified granted—but, as to righteousness, there is no other righteousness before God but Christ. If I could have any other righteousness, I would not wish to have it; but I do desire holiness; I follow after holiness: could I follow after righteousness? God chastens us, that we may be partakers of His holiness; this could not be said of His righteousness. There is, thus, a difference between sanctification and righteousness, although we have both in Christ. We are, as to our persons, sanctified in Christ, since we have the new life; but our state of soul may be bad or good, and we ought to follow holiness. If this be done before knowing the perfect righteousness of God, before being justified and knowing it, we are not really seeking sanctification, but justification, hoping that if we were more holy God would accept us. There is no true holiness until we have peace; after we get peace, holiness for its own sake is the desire of the soul. We must certainly first of all go to Christ, that is not the question, but what we are to do when we have gone to Him, and have found peace. That we have received an entirely new life, which ought to be developed, and the activities of the heart in prayer, in the use of the means given by God, are things often forgotten when sanctification is spoken of. In your article, the second part makes it evident that the writer desires the yoke of Christ, and brokenness of will, but the doctrine is not entirely clear. I say all this, dear brother, that your "Dispensatore" may be as useful as possible. The greater number of Christians will not observe these little mistakes in it; they will even be glad to find them, and will not consider them to be mistakes, the doctrine as to sanctification excepted....
Yours affectionately in Christ.
March 3rd, 1870.