Christian Perfection, not Adamic Perfection
It is asserted that if believers were wholly delivered from sin, and cleansed from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit of this world, they would be restored to the state in which Adam was before his fall, and not only have sinless souls, but deathless bodies.
In answer to this, we say that Christian perfection and Adamic perfection are widely different. Adam’s perfection was a perfection of nature, coeval with his creation; ours is a perfection of grace, grafted upon nature.
The former was involuntary and gratuitously bestowed with the concurrence of the human will. The latter is chosen, solicited, and obtained by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Adam’s perfection was highly intellectual as well as moral.
He possessed a clearness of understanding, a correctness of judgment, a comprehension of mind, and a knowledge of God and His works, to which the most perfect Christian lays not claim since Christian perfection is not a physical restoration of our lapsed powers to their pristine intellectual vigor, but a moral restoration to the image of God, which consists in righteousness and true holiness….
Adam’s perfection extended to the whole human…but Christian perfection is not a universal perfection; it leaves the body exposed to death, it neither prevents the encroachments of disorder nor the attacks of pain. It saves the soul from sin, yet the effects of it will be sensibly felt by the total enervation of its powers and the physical debasement of its faculties….
If natural death were entirely the result and consequence of every man’s personal sin, there might be some ground for concluding that a salvation from all sin would ensure a deliverance from death; but death is the penalty and desert of original sin and the effect of the divine decree on Adam and his posterity.
Hence immense numbers are cut off out of the land of the living before the commission of actual sin; and the holiest men upon earth must die, not merely because they have been sinners, but because they partake of a nature on which the original curse is entailed; and because flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.
Thus St. Paul declares, “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” For “when Adam had actually tainted his soul with sin, and his body with mortality, sinfulness and mortality actually tainted all his offspring then in his loins….”
If the highest degree of personal sanctity of which the human spirit is capable could obviate the approach of death, it would follow by an inevitable consequence that in proportion as any man approximated towards that most desirable consummation, his body would gradually become invulnerable against disease; and longevity be the never-failing concomitant of piety.
“But there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not.” Eminent saints can no more claim an exemption from death than notorious sinners; “we must needs die.”
Holiness deprives death of its terror, but not of its dominion; it extracts its poison, but it cannot check its progress. Two individuals have gone to heaven without passing through the gates of death; but we have no authentic records to prove that this high honor was conferred upon them in consequence of their singular and sinless sanctity.
Even could such a position be admitted, it would not prove the necessary existence of indwelling sin; but it would furnish a most indisputable evidence that the destruction of sin has no essential connection with the dissolution of the body.
This excerpt is from A Treatise on Christian Perfection (McDonald, Gill, & Co., 1888, pp.59-61.
Richard Treffry (1771-1842) was a theologian, author, and itinerant minister in the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Great Britain, serving as conference president in 1833.