The Sign Of The Times—May 1870
By Elder Silas B. Durand
"That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness; " Eph., iv, 22-24.
What tender solicitude and anxiety the apostle, by inspiration, is prepared to feel and express in this chapter, as in all his exhortations, for the welfare and comfort of his brethren. It is not their worldly comfort and prosperity that he seeks, but that spiritual peace in Christ, and joy in the Holy Ghost, the enjoyment of which he shows them depends so much upon their careful and jealous observance of the laws of Christ in their walk and conversation. He does not, as teachers of worldly doctrine do, exhort his brethren by the terrors of hell or the happiness of heaven, as though they had it in their power either to escape the one or lose the other; but he sets before their minds as that which shall induce the experienced soul to follow his directions, the "consolation in Christ," the "comfort of love," the "bowels and mercies," the "fellowship of the Spirit," which they have experienced and rejoiced in. And the clear and delightful doctrine of salvation is always set before them as the ground of all. In the beginning of this chapter, he beseeches them, in consideration of the wonderful things already presented, to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called; exhorting to lowliness, meekness, long-suffering, and mutual forbearance in love, and that they should thus endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The doctrine of this unity is then most clearly and wonderfully presented, and in the faithful consideration of it as stated in the next few verses every notion of a conditional salvation must fall away from the mind, as shades of darkness before the sunlight. Christ and all his people are one, and this unity is to be made manifest through the work of the ministry by the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers given to the church; and the brethren, by walking in the truth in love, do grow up into Christ as the Head, coming into a manifest unity of faith, and showing that they are one body in Christ.
At the seventeenth verse, he has finished this declaration of doctrine, and says, "This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind," etc., and in the next two verses this corrupt walk is described. "But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus." That is, as I understand the sentence, the truth is only in Jesus, not in the word, not deposited in any worldly place to be thence given out to seekers, and that all who have learned Christ have been taught directly by him.
The apostle further says and testifies what is stated in the text. This, therefore, which is included between the seventeenth and twenty-fourth verses, does not come to us in the nature of an exhortation, but rather as a declaration and testimony of the truth that those who are members of the body of Christ and are following him and growing up into him do not walk like other Gentiles, in the vanity of their minds, but do and must put off the old man and put on the new; that by no other course can they follow Christ and grow up into him. In Col., iii, 9, 10, this is counted as already done by all whom he addresses. "Seeing ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him." Now, follow the exhortations; "wherefore," because of this truth that the way of Christ is not the corrupt way of the Gentiles, and that the new man only can direct in this way of holiness and peace--" putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor." And throughout the remaining part of this chapter and the epistle particular directions or exhortations are given as to the avoidance of specially named sins, as anger, stealing, corrupt communications, bitterness, wrath, clamor, evil speaking, malice, fornication, covetousness, foolish talking, jesting, and the like, and to the practice of virtues. It is to be observed that both in this place and in that referred to in Colossians, lying is placed in the first and immediate connection with the putting off of the old man, as though this were a principal evil, an element in all the various manifestations of our old corrupt nature.
Those to whom Paul is addressing these things have all been made, without any will or so called free agency of their own, the subject of two births. In their first birth, they were manifested in the possession of natural life, which is derived from Adam. All that they have and are as heirs of natural life is corrupt, because of the one man in whom that life was placed or created as head. They are begotten unto an inheritance which is corruptible, defiled and that fadeth away. In their second birth, they are, (as much without any will or aid of their own,) manifested as in the possession of spiritual life, which is derived from God through Jesus Christ, in whom it was from everlasting. This life is eternal, without beginning or end, infinitely pure and holy, infinitely beyond the power of defilement or harm; and as those who are made partakers of it can never die, or be separated from it and hire, in whom it has eternally existed, it is called immortality. The inheritance unto which the heirs of this life are begotten is incorruptible undefiled and fadeth not away.
Now, it appears evident to me that the apostle in all of his addresses to the saints regards them as possessing these two widely different and distinct natures, the distinction between which is clearly set forth by our Savior when he says, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." For it can hardly be supposed that by such a form of words our Savior taught, that which was born of the flesh had by a new birth become Spirit, but that he designed to teach the difference, complete distinction between that natural life derived from Adam with ail its powers and attributes, and that spiritual life or divine nature of which the saints are made partakers through our Lord Jesus Christ. When the expression "old man" is made, therefore does it not refer to that which was first in manifestation? Not merely the human form, but the natural being, or life, with its earthly tendencies and sinful, corrupt desires. And when the apostle speaks of the new man, are we not to understand him as alluding to that holy principle of spiritual life with all its holy desires and heavenly aspirations? I would not regard the apostle as referring by the term "old man," merely to those propensities and deeds which the world counts evil and criminal, but rather to all that is worldly. We are, as children of God, separated from the world, and are said to be crucified to the world. This term crucified suggests the death of the body, a painful separation from the highest and noblest enjoyments of a worldly kind, as well as from the lowest and vilest as the world regards them. And this agrees with the experience of the brethren. Their great and chief suffering, when brought to view themselves as sinners, was not because they had been guilty of crimes. Many of them had lived a pure life so far as the world could see, or as they could previously discover. But they were in anguish because sin was mixed with all they did or thought. They could see nothing pure or noble in any thing about their life, and they hated it. All its employments and enjoyments were felt to be defiled with sin.
Now, here they were experiencing this crucifixion. But the apostle speaks of this in one place thus: "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin;" Rom., vi, 6.
Some one may be ready to ask if there is a third person who is being addressed, or who it is that puts off the old man and puts on the new. I do not think I should be able to satisfy such an inquirer. I only know what the Scriptures say in plain words, and what I feel. The apostle speaks of "our old man," and of "the new man," which in following Christ we put on; and I know he addresses the saints. He speaks of himself at one time as a wretched man, and at another as always rejoicing; and although my understanding fails, I think I can feel what he means. He speaks of propensities and lusts that belong to the old man, and which we are to fight against; and of emotions and actions which are the fruit of the Spirit, belonging to the new man, and which we are to indulge and cultivate and follow; and without being able to speculate as to who it is that thus seems to be regarded as having power to put off the old man and put on the new, I know I have seen within my own mind or heart these conflicting principles, such as anger and love, earthly propensities and holy desires, in fierce combat, as though I were a separate being regarding them, and yet was suffering excruciating anxiety in the conflict. Sometimes it would seem as though I were fighting with a conscious strength and certainty of victory upon the side of the holy principle, and at other times I would seem to be a helpless spectator, or engaged upon the side of the evil. And sometimes, when supposing I was fighting on the spiritual side, it has seemed as though a sudden light showed me to myself as altogether deceived and actually a traitor to myself; and then I would be in awful fear. I only allude to these internal conflicts and mental appearances as something of my own experience. I do not know that any others have felt so. But I believe they all are prepared to receive the doctrine and precepts of the gospel as set forth by the apostle upon this subject, though they can not philosophize upon the subject to satisfy the inquiries of the natural mind.
Now, as to the putting off of the old man: It is clear from the connection that the apostle alludes to our walk and conversation. The old man is to be put off as a ruler and director. The principles and desires of the old or carnal nature are not to be followed, and are not followed when we walk as Christians. All of our natural wisdom and affections are corrupt, and never guide us in the path of holiness. We are not to take counsel of them, but are to be renewed in the spirit of our minds." The mind, the power of thinking, judging, comparing subjects, performing intellectual works, is actuated by a spirit. Selfishness, ambition, covetousness, worldly pleasure, sensual gratification, these are some of the motives that cause our mental powers to be exerted when the spirit of the World or the old man directs. But this spirit is to be displaced as a rule of our working powers, or mind and we are to let the Spirit of Christ, the holy principles of eternal life, direct. Here is a renewal in the spirit of our minds.
Before we can be truly baptized into the fellowship of Christ's body, the old man, natural wisdom and affections and worldly lusts, are put off for that work. They never would direct to it. They can never see baptism as a divine ordinance. If they ever direct one to be immersed it is not as the divinely appointed ordinance of baptism. Only the new man, the spiritual understanding and wisdom can lead one to follow the Savior as an obedient child, seeing a spiritual power and beauty in the ordinance, and carefully regarding all of his directions. Now, I would not weaken the force of the apostle's expression by speaking of various evil passions and propensities as that which we are to put off. He says, Christians are to put off the old man, "have put off the old man," and put on the new man. When we took upon us the yoke of Christ, and were numbered among his followers in Zion, we thus professed that we had put off the authority of the world, and the authority of our old carnal nature, no more to take counsel of our own wisdom, but as little children we were to follow the lead and direction of Christ, regard him as our wisdom, take his word as the man of our counsel, and so put on or manifest in all our walk and conversation the new principle, the Spirit of life received in the new birth, the new man developed and manifested by that new birth, "which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." This can never lead us but in the way of holiness. There was no self-dependence, no feeling of confidence in our own strength, as though we were able to make any profession, or promise to do any thing good; but to enter the church was to put off the old man, who would most certainly have kept us out if he could, and to throw off our former allegiance to him.
How unbecoming then to harbor or give expression to wrath, malice, and the like evil propensities that belong to the old man, and how calculated and certain to bring us into darkness and trouble. The apostle dwells minutely upon the various relations of life, and mentions by name the various things in which we are most likely to transgress by giving way to the rule of the old man, and also particularly directs us how to act, so that we may not be at a loss. We need not be at a loss to know what any precept means. The new man always understands it at once, and agrees with it. But the old man is sure to dispute, and says the language means something else. For instance, we feel aggrieved and injured by another. We are angry. We feel that we have a right to be angry, and there is a relish and satisfaction in the feeling, especially if we can give it expression. Now, we are warned to put away anger, but we assert that this is not one of the cases reproved; that our anger is justifiable, that it is a holy indignation, perhaps, and we must indulge it until we bring our enemy to submission and be revenged, (though we only feel, but do not express that last word.) Now, all this is the voice of the old man. The new man knows better, and there is something whispering within that even our anger is to be put off, and that just here is where kindness, meekness, charity, forgiveness, are to be in exercise. We are persecuted and shamefully treated, and the old man tells us not to stand it; that the Scriptures warrant us in asserting our rights, and all that about turning the other cheek means something else. But the new man tells us that this world is not our abiding place, that here we are pilgrims, and that the Lord has taken charge of us, and that while we trust in him, he will surely protect us, and that he does mean just what he says. And we feel that it is so.
By exhorting his brethren to put away wrath, stealing, evil communications, bitterness, covetousness, and the like, and to “put on as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering, charity,” and the like, the apostle recognizes in them a power, through Christ, who helpeth them, to do these things.
One may say, or think, that if we feel anger it is as bad in the sight of God as though we expressed it. True, so far as our evil and corrupt nature is concerned. That is altogether bad. But the command is not to fulfill the lusts of the flesh. We are not exhorted as though we could change the nature of the old man, and keep evil passions and thoughts out of our minds, but we are exhorted not to express them, not to harbor or indulge them, not to let them have dominion over us. We are taught that our mental powers, as well as our physical, must be quickened by the Spirit of life, animated, and moved by a divine principle, whenever we do or think rightly. "Quicken me," says the Psalmist, "after thy loving-kindness; so shall I keep thy testimonies." In order to contemplate divine things, to speak of them, to act in accordance with them, we must be renewed in the spirit of our minds. The same powers which, under the control of the natural spirit or life, are engaged upon evil or worldly subjects, are When quickened or animated by the Spirit of Christ engaged upon heavenly things. How sorrowful and dark and afflicted we feel when the old man rules. We are separated from the path of life, from spiritual comfort, although he would persuade us that he is leading us into it, for his lusts are deceitful. But, when enabled to obey the Spirit of life which is in Christ Jesus though in worldly pain and trouble, how sweet the comfort. Then Jesus shows his smiling face, and "December's as pleasant as May."
I feel thankful for that blessed Provision of the new covenant, "I will be merciful to their unrighteousness." I know that the comfort of God's people in this land of Canaan, the gospel church, is in some sense conditioned upon their obedience to the laws of Christ, and sometimes have thought that I had experienced it in some degree. And yet, so little of obedience can I see in myself, when I am permitted to enjoy a little of the sweetness of the Savior's love and favor, I have to regard it as upon the ground of surprising goodness and mercy. I am sure that it is through wonderfully rich and abounding grace that I am permitted to hope at all in the salvation of God.
MARCH 9, 1870
Submitted by Elder David Montgomery | Print This Page
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The Old Man and the New Man | SILAS DURAND