There are two working principles, so to speak, of Christian holiness, namely: the Law of Reckoning and the Life of Abiding. The meaning and value of these must now be unfolded.
The principle of reaction meets us in the operations of grace as well as in the forces of nature. Mountain tops of spiritual blessing are generally followed by valleys of spiritual depression. The making of the covenant with God, whereby we receive the Holy Ghost through surrender and faith, is usually accompanied by a state of exalted religious emotion. In the course of a few hours, however, the spiritual atmosphere will be entirely changed. The flood tide of religious elevation has naturally been succeeded by the ebb tide of religious depression. The heavenly outlook which only yesterday was bathed in the radiance of Divine glory today wears an aspect of sombre hue. The warmth, light, and life of the new found joy have gone from the heart, leaving it cold, and dark, and dead.
Dear friend, have you had this experience? Is this your experience now? Are you surrounded by an atmosphere of unreality and insincerity? In the absence of all spiritual feeling are you tempted to believe that you are playing the part of a hypocrite in claiming that you have received the Holy Ghost? Still more than this: Does the old life that you have nailed to the cross seem to come hack with all its power of evil suggestion and lustful desire? In fact, do you "feel just the same as ever," and as if the glorious experience of yesterday were nothing but a fading dream?
Beloved, such an experience is only a temptation, the work of Satan, to discourage your heart and destroy your faith. The devil takes advantage of the natural reaction of the soul from a season of perhaps intense spiritual exaltation to create an atmosphere of unreality and to try to make you feel insincere and even hypocritical in your honest claim of faith that you have received the Holy Ghost. Moreover, the devil has the power to bring back, in thought and feeling, the shadow of your former self; and he will endeavor to make you believe that the vision of victory has not been transformed into a glorious reality.
What, then, is to be done? Why, such an experience as this is just the spiritual condition to which the law of reckoning applies. Let us, therefore, try to get a clear idea of the nature and operation of this law. Indeed, its importance cannot easily be overestimated; for when rightly understood it must be recognized as one of the fundamental principles of the new life of holiness in Christ. In Romans vi. II, Paul says:
"Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Now, there is a Greek word, occurring about forty times in the New Testament, which is variously translated in the Authorized Version "reckon," "count," and "impute." Literally, it signifies to put things together; and then, to calculate or compute. In its ordinary use, reckoning is a mathematical term, and denotes a cold, calculating operation of the reasoning faculty. The process is devoid of poetic sentiment and even of sensation. Thus, when a merchant makes out his accounts or balances his books the operation is one of pure computation, and the result is reckoned according to the fixed laws of numbers.
Spiritually, reckoning is simply counting that to be true which the Bible declares to be true. It is our Amen to what God says. Thus the New Testament states that by our union with Christ in His death and resurrection we are "dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God." Apart from all feeling, therefore, we count this to be true; and as we boldly maintain this attitude, God transforms "faith reckonings into glorious realities."
Thus, reckoning is the key to a victorious Christian life. Indeed, it is the pole star, so to speak, of the believer's walk with God. In this state of depression for example, when the spiritual atmosphere is charged with a sense of insincerity and unreality, we must maintain our attitude of victory by the law of reckoning. We must count that God makes real in us by the Spirit all that Christ has made real for us on the cross. We must steadfastly reckon that we are dead unto sin and alive unto God. We must steadfastly reckon that we have received the Holy Ghost. We must steadfastly reckon that Christ has been made unto us sanctification. There are, indeed, some people who seem to make light of reckoning, calling it all a "make believe." But surely, they cannot have fully grasped the inner spirit of this Divine principle. A thing does not become true simply because we reckon it to be true. It is just the other way. The thing is true, whether we reckon it to be true or not; but our act of reckoning does make it experimentally real. And moreover, while there is no sentiment or emotion in the law of reckoning, there is a good deal of both sentiment and emotion in the practical victory which the operation of the law brings.
Now, it is of the utmost importance that we clearly understand just what it is that we are to reckon. We are to reckon that we ourselves are "dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans vi. ii.) This expression requires the most careful consideration.
In the first place, we are to reckon ourselves dead unto sin. Sin is not dead, but we are dead to sin. Between these two things there is a vast difference. What, then, does it mean to be dead to sin? According to scientists, life is "the correspondence of an inner organism with its outer environment." When this "correspondence" ceases the result is death. Following out this explanation, we may say that a person is "dead" to a thing, when he is out of ''correspondence'' with that thing. Thus, a blind man is dead to light and color. Light and color exist, but not for him; he has no eyes with which to behold the faces of loved ones, or to enjoy the beauties of nature. Again, the deaf man is dead to sound. Sound exists, but not for him; he has no ears with which to hear the voices of friends or be charmed by the harmonies of music. Now, in like manner are we dead to sin. By nature we are in correspondence with sin; but by union with Christ in His death and resurrection and by the incoming and indwelling of the Holy Ghost we are out of correspondence with it. Sin exists, but not for us while we abide in Christ and walk in the Spirit we are dead alike to its presence and power. Another illustration is pre-occupation of mind. Some people have such intense power of mental concentration as for the time being to become entirely pre-occupied with the thing in hand. They will pass a friend on the street without salutation or even recognition. When spoken to, they will not answer. Indeed, something extraordinary must occur in order to divert their mind or arrest their attention. For the time being they are "dead" to their surroundings. So by our pre-occupation with Christ and with the things of the Spirit we become dead to sin. The world, the flesh, and the devil with their seductive temptations are all around us; but while we abide in Christ and walk in the Spirit we are insulated, so to speak, from their destructive power.
In the second place, we are to reckon ourselves alive unto God. "Dead unto sin is the negative side of our reckoning; "alive unto God" is the positive side. Now, the sinner is out of correspondence with God; he is "dead in trespasses and sins." The Christian, however, is in correspondence with God; he walks "in newness of life." The believer is "alive unto God." Indeed, the deeper work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification quickens every spiritual sense. By the heavenly anointing our eyes are opened to see Divine truth; our ears are unstopped to hear "the still, small voice;" our taste is renewed to feed upon the "living bread;" our touch is refined to detect the presence of Christ; and we become of ''quick smell in the fear of the Lord.'' (Isaiah xi. 3; margin.) Moreover, by the incoming of the Spirit and the indwelling of Christ our whole being is made "alive unto God;" there is a quickening of every faculty and power of the mind and of every member and organ of the body.
But, in the third place, we are to reckon ourselves dead unto sin, and alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. In ourselves we are not dead unto sin nor alive unto God. It is Christ Himself Who puts us out of correspondence with sin and puts us in correspondence with God. If our reckoning is to be made real, we must, therefore, abide in Christ and walk in the Spirit. As our union with the Lord was established by an act of appropriating faith so it must be maintained by an attitude of steadfast reckoning.
Let us clearly understand, then, that the devil has power to bring back the shadow of the old life, but that we must meet his attack by the reckoning of faith. We must learn that Satan can insinuate evil suggestions into our minds and project sinful desires into our hearts. It is his device to manufacture and overshadow us with a personality closely resembling our former self and then try to palm off as ours this work of his own invention. Indeed, it is at this point that many Christians who have entered the deeper life fail because of ignorance and lack of reckoning. When the "old man" that has been nailed to the cross comes back in wicked thoughts and carnal desires, they do not recognize the trick of the enemy, which they should repudiate and ignore. Partly in fear because of the experience, and partly in discouragement because of the temptation, they are led to identify themselves with their dead and buried past, and thus they fall an easy prey to its ensnaring influence and destructive power. A corpse must be kept under ground, else it will cause death to the living. So the "old man" must be kept by faith in the grave of Christ, else he will pollute our hearts and minds and destroy our faith.
Thus, the law of reckoning is the secret of victory. A bold claim of faith will save us from being engulfed by the waves of reaction and keep us from discouragement and despair in the hour of depression. Remember, beloved, that the thing that seems real is the unreal; and the thing that seems unreal is real. The insincerity and unreality, which envelope you like the atmosphere, are only apparent. It is the work of Satan. The vision of victory is a glorious reality. The Comforter has come. Christ now reigns within on the throne of your heart. Hallelujah! Between you and the "old man" stands forever the cross of Christ. The self-life that would again fasten itself upon you is no longer yours. Never can the past come back; for it is buried forever in the grave of Christ. Therefore, no matter what the devil says, refuse to believe it. Discount your feelings, whatever they may be. In spite of everything reckon that God meets your trust and that the victory is yours. Ignore, then, the shadow of the past which Satan brings back. Do not fear it; for fear will paralyze your faith and make you an easy prey to sin. Repudiate the shadow, as something from which you have been separated and are henceforth forever detached. If you will treat the shadow thus, it will vanish like the mist before the morning sun; it will disappear like a spectre of the night.
"Let us reckon, reckon, reckon,
Let us reckon, rather feel;
Let us be true to the reck'ning,
And He will make it real."