The Place of Experience; Forgiveness of Non-Imputation; Sealing of the Holy Spirit; in Christ; Self Knowledge

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My answer has been delayed by incessant occupation. The state spoken of in Rom. 5:12 to the end of chapter viii. is, though founded on faith, experimental, and carefully made so; the former, save as owning guilt, is not so. The two parts are quite distinct. The Holy Ghost is given, as a general truth, on believing; but this supposes "the gospel of your salvation," and if we look into details we shall find, as in Acts 2, that the sealing is on forgiveness—that is, the work, as well as the Person of Christ; which is confirmed by Acts 10:4343To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. (Acts 10:43). Rom. 5 states the whole condition of the Christian as saved by grace up to joying in God, and there the Holy Ghost is given to us. From verse 12, we have not guilt, forgiveness, justification and grace, but "by one man's disobedience the many are constituted sinners," and what is taught is to reckon ourselves dead with Christ, He having died to sin once. But this does apply to our state and experience, though faith be the means: "I know that in me... dwelleth no good thing." It is self-knowledge; and this is by the use of the law, as leading through the consciousness of lust to the knowledge of what I am, what the tree is. Hence, as a general principle, it must be experience, and this self-knowledge God would have, that there may be depth and reality in the state of the heart. The only point to remark here is that, as its principle is law (that is the reference of our standing to our state, and not to sovereign grace and Christ, whether dying for our sins, or our own being in Him), it is discussed by the apostle on the pure ground of law. But the question of forgiveness does not arise, but of sin in the flesh, disposed of in chapter 8:2, 3. But the person in chapter 7 is not looked at as sealed, but as under law, and the point is absence of power, and an evil nature to which we are captive. If, in point of fact, we have known forgiveness, and afterward discover our weakness and the power of sin, it takes the shape of, 'I trust I have not deceived myself; I thought I was set free and happy.', This does arise where there has been revival preaching, and no depth of conviction, or exercise of conscience; or where the soul is suddenly made free by the gospel—without knowing itself, without having been under the law, exercised under it previously—merely that it could not answer for sins in the judgment, not its lost estate. It has to learn that under the law it cannot succeed, and gets, not forgiveness for what it has done as a child of Adam (and in this case it goes no farther than sins previously committed), but Christ, and being in Him instead of itself, a new place and standing; not a purging of the conscience as to what was previous, but a change of place before God. Now this is not known till we have discovered that we have no power; and if we have the knowledge of the forgiveness of past sins up to the time of faith, this is not the knowledge of our place in Christ, nor even of our place out of Him; for this, we must learn what is passed through in Rom. 7 The Hebrews teaches us the purging of conscience, and perfecting forever by one offering. This, though it goes further than past sins, does not give us a place in Christ, which connects our living state and our no condemnation—acceptance. This is known by the Comforter given to us (John 14), we in Christ, and Christ in us. This is not membership in the body, but our individual place before God; it is fully developed in both parts in Rom. 8
' Where, as to time, in the history of the soul, does Rom. 7 come in? For if antecedent to sealing, peace, and hope of glory, it makes experience a condition precedent to being sealed. If, on the other hand, the experience of Rom. 7 follows Rom. 5:1, 21Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1‑2), and Eph. 1:1313In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (Ephesians 1:13), you have a soul who is sealed with the Holy Ghost (and this I thought was power) finding out that he has no power at all, and longing for deliverance. -
"` Having believed ye were sealed " (Eph. 1:1313In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (Ephesians 1:13)); is it necessary for anything to come in between these two, or does not sealing rather follow immediately the reception of God's testimony as to Christ's work?')
We are sealed when we believe in Christ for the forgiveness of sins; but when it is only a clearing of conscience as to past sins, we have to learn afterward what we are, the state being vague and uncertain as to the present: the forgiveness of what is actually on the conscience is real, but goes no further. If I have learned my weakness by a legal process before, I find myself in Christ, through grace in Christ, and my whole case is clear. The church having in its ordinary gospel neither this, nor even Heb. 9; 10, is at a loss to know what to do when sin recurs. It is absolution, looking back to baptism (Calvin), re-sprinkling with the blood of Christ—all the ignoring that "by one offering, he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." But it is by the Holy Ghost given we know that we are in Christ; and this is in contrast with law (see 2 Cor. 3), and connected with the knowledge of God's righteousness. The forgiveness of past sins is not being in a forgiven condition; were it not complete as to the work, Christ must often suffer: and if sealed thereon, we have to learn—in a modified form perhaps—complete forgiveness, "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity," learned after forgiveness when that is only of the past—relieving, but not purging fully, the conscience. Being sealed, we get into a wholly new standing, and conflicts where we did not succeed looked back on; for that is the true character of Rom. 7—the estimate of it, "we know" (ver. 14) when we are out of it, and at liberty through the presence of the Holy Ghost, who, being present, makes us know our place in Christ, and Christ in us. But forgiveness as to the past is different from "imputes no sin."
As a general truth then, sealing takes place when we believe—but believe the gospel as preached by Paul, "the gospel of your salvation." Present forgiveness is a true and blessed thing; but, as at present preached, it is only administrative forgiveness, thus Jewish forgiveness, with which Christian is contrasted in Hebrews, in Rom. 4, as in Acts 13, "By him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." Being in Christ is yet another thing, known, with other blessings, through the Holy Ghost given to us. But even forgiveness is, "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace." Where a soul is, is a matter of spiritual discernment.
Your affectionate brother in Christ.
December, 1877.