BENSON ON JUSTIFICATION and CHRISTIAN PERFECTION

by Dr. Joseph Benson


THE LIBERTY of the JUSTIFIED
In the common course of reading, I have been looking over Mr. Wesley’s former Journals again, and as I proceeded I could scarcely avoid drawing the conclusion, that many of us have departed in doctrine and experience from the faith to which Mr. Wesley and others then bore their testimony. Have we not, to leave room for a second blessing, set justification too low, by allowing that a person may be justified from all things, who has neither the witness nor fruits of the Spirit, neither peace, sensible peace with God, nor power over inward sin? Or if we affirm that all must have these at first, as evidences and fruits of justification; do we not allow many to think they are in a justified state, who are now, and have been for many years, as truly devoid of these, as if they had never received them? And if so, do we not mislead our hearers and cry, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace?” There is no peace to the earthly, sensual, and devilish; to the proud, the passionate, the covetous; to the carnally-minded, the lovers of the world, the unholy. And if we encourage such, directly or indirectly, to believe that they are justified, and of course children of God; do we not encourage them to believe that without holiness they may see the Lord? For certain it is, he that is a child of God hath everlasting life. If, therefore, I teach that a man may be justified, and yet carnal, unholy, and unrenewed, I teach that a man may be carnal, unholy, and unrenewed, and yet dwell with God. I doubt not that there is weak, as well as strong faith, and that a man is made a babe in Christ before he is a young man or father; but I ask, whether any are properly and savingly Christ’s who have not crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts? Whether they are so in Christ, as to be free from condemnation, who walk after the flesh, not after the Spirit; who are not new creatures; the Spirit of life from Christ Jesus having not made them free from the law of sin and death? Hath not Jesus assured us, if he shall make us free, we shall be free indeed? Hath not St. Paul confirmed his Master’s declaration, affirming, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty?” And hath not St. John borne the same testimony, in declaring, “He that is born of God overcometh the world, and does not commit sin?” And in the mouth of these three witnesses, is it not established, that it is a greater thing than many imagine to be truly justified, and made the children of God?” [Letter from Joseph Benson to John Pawson, 27 April 1780; James Mac- Donald, Memoirs of the Rev. Joseph Benson (New York: N. Bangs & T. Mason, 1923), p. 81].



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