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dignity, to be able to honor the précepts more 'by his obedience, than sinners had dishonored them by their disobedience; and that God's abhorrence of sin should be shown more abundantly in his sufferings, than it could be shown by his inflicting the full penalty of the law on all who transgressed it.
If such a Saviour is provided, and now revealed, it is most fitting that'none should be entitled to the benefit of his mediation, till they are brought to view the controversy between God and man in the same light in which he views it: and though it is reasonable that he should exclude them from all share in the 'honor of salvation ; yet, no doubt he will insist on their return to obedience, who are restored by him to divine favor.
As the law and the gospel had the same author, so they must both have one ultimate object; viz. the advancement of the divine glory: and while the gospel exhibits that sovereign mercy, of which the law made no discovery, yet this is not displayed in such a way as to eclipse those perfections which shone forth in the law; but will doubtless appear to the ministration of righteousness, and in that respect exceed in glory the ministration of condemnation. Hence, it is reasonable to expect, that the same carnal mind which disliked the law, will equally dislike the genuine gospel.
And hence follows the necessity of divine influence, to bring sinners cordially to submit to the gospel, and make them willing to ascribe all their salvation to grace, as well as to bring them to conform to the law as a rule of conduct, while they are delivered from it as a broken covenant.
It follows, that all such representations of the gospel must be very erroneous and unscriptural, as encourage professed believers to despise and vilify the law. And that pretended belief of the gospel must be hypocritical, which leaves the native enmity of the carnal mind uncured. The context, in the preceding verse, shows, that the mind of the Spirit is directly opposite to the mind of the flesh. While the mind of the flesh therefore is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be ; the mind of the Spirit loves subjection and conformity to it.
The fruit of the Spirit is love ; love to God, and 'love to man; love to universal holiness, and love to the law of God, which is still the standard of duty. Christ delighted to obey it, and so do his people. He has promised to write it on their hearts. The language of a spiritual mind is, “O how love I thy law. I account all thy commandments concerning all things to be right; I hate every false way. Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. Othat my ways were directed to keep thy statutes.". Paul also was like-minded with David. “I delight in the law of God after the inner man. I, through the law, am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. Yet I am not without law unto God, but under the law to Christ.” They that will not admit of the consistency of these things, want a new Bible as much as the Socinians themselves.
Rom. viii. 9.
NOTHING, my beloved friends, can be of greater importance to each of us, than a diligent enquiry into the real state of our souls. I suppose it is almost universally admitted, by those who attend statedly on the preaching of the word in this place, that mankind are by nature in a fallen, degenerate state, and that it is absolutely necessary that everyone should be regenerated, or renewed in the spirit of his mind, who would see the kingdom of God. These humbling, but important truths, are clearly taught in the divine word, and evidently taught in the text and context. Herein it is repeatedly mentioned as the peculiar character of the saved, that they walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Yet it is strongly implied, they were once otherwise minded; and that all are still so, except those who are truly renewed. While it is asserted, that to be carnally minded is death.
It renders the soul spiritually dead, dead to God, and liable to eternal death most justly; for it is enmity against God, and cannot bear subjection to his law; so that, those who are in the flesh cannot please God, for he cannot be pleased with that which is enmity against his nature and government.
With respect to the words of the text, I would endeavor,
First, To elucidate them by a few explanatory observations.
By the flesh, is to be understood, that sinful, corrupt state of mind, of which men are the subjects, as they come into this world, and which is prevalent in all mankind till they are born of the Spirit. John iii. 6. All unrenewed men are in the flesh, whether they live in grosser indulgences or not. So, hatred, variance, wrath, envy, heresies, are stiled works of the flesh, as well as adultery, drunkenness, &c. It is common, indeed, for the external objects, which strike our senses, and for corporeal appetites to have a very undue influence on unregenerate persons; but the other reason seems to be the chief, why they are said to be in the flesh—because they have no higher principles of action, than what fallen men bring into the world with them, which are wholly selfish and corrupt.
By the Spirit, is to be understood the Holy Spirit, the third person in the ever blessed Trinity; to whom, in the economy of redemption, the application of salvation is allotted; and who alone is the author of all that is truly holy, right, and good, in the disposition of a saved sinner.
He is here stiled, both the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of Christ : (a strong evidence of the divinity of Christ, that God's Spirit should be called his Spirit too.) The latter title seems given, not only on account of his intimate relation to both the Father and the Son, as one with them in essence and glory; but also, because it is through Christ's mediation that the blessed Spirit is communicated to lost sinners; and because he invariably leads all those who are taught by him, to Christ.
The blessed Spirit is here said to dwell in all real Christians, who are therefore said to be not in the flesh, but in the Spirit. They are not, indeed, exempt from all the workings of the
flesh, but they are not under its dominion as heretofore. They mind, savor, or relish the things of the Spirit, in preference to the things of the flesh. The flesh has not the ascendancy as formerly ; but through the Spirit they mortify the deeds of the body. Whoever are made partakers of the special influences of the Holy Spirit, he dwells in them, he abides in them, he is in them as a well-spring of living water. He does not merely act upon them occasionally, as in his extraordinary influences. As the Spirit of prophecy, he came occasionally on some that never were possessed of true holiness: as Balaam, &c. But as the Spirit of grace, he resides in the soul: though it may be more strongly influenced by him at one time than another, yet it is never wholly left by him. If the Spirit of God dwell in us, we are his children. But if we have not the Spirit of Christ, we are none of his. No name, form, profession, creed, ordinances, or connexion with others, can avail us. This leads, therefore,
SecondLY, To attend to the main inquiry I have in view; viz. How may we know that we have the Spirit of Christ? " Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. But if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”
Ah, my brethren, how important is this inquiry, and how closely should we attend to it! If you were to be judges in your own cause, or if ministers were finally to determine your state, you might consider those only as your friends, who would lead you to a favorable conclusion, and endeavor by any means to dissipate all your fears. But if God will be Judge himself, and he that thinketh himself to be something, when he is nothing, only deceiveth himself; then he is your best friend, who helps you to try yourselves by the strictest and most impartial rules, and who endeavors to lay before you the most distinguishing and certain evidences of true piety.
Neither a plausible exterior conduct, on the one hand, nor a mere confident persuasion of our own safety, on the other, will sufficiently prove that we have the Spirit of Christ. An evangelical profession, and an ornamental deportment united, will lay a proper foundation for Christian charity towards one another. But God only can search the heart,
and we may be mistaken in others, or deceive ourselves. Each, however, may have better opportunity of knowing his own state, than of deciding upon others. But it becomes us to be more rigorous in our application of scripture rules to ourselves, than to any one else.
Some formal professors deny that there is any special operation of the Holy Spirit, or at least that it can be known.
While deluded enthusiasts boast of having the Spirit, though they make nearly the whole of his work to consist in a secret suggestion of their safety; which fills them with pride, conceit, and bitter zeal, while destitute of the fruits of righteousness.
But the scriptures teach that a Christian may be fully assured that he is a partaker of the Holy Spirit. 1 John iv. 13. And doubtless, grace may be raised to so high an exercise, as that a believer may enjoy assurance at times, without any long previous deduction of particulars : still, however, if it be indeed well founded, it will bear strict examination. The best evidences that we have the Spirit of Christ, which I can mention, are such as follow :
A spiritual and endearing discovery of Christ to the soul, producing an abiding sense of his excellence and glory, so that the way of salvation by him appears divinely excellent, and worthy of all acceptation.
A spiritual conviction of the reality and certainty of the divine testimony concerning Christ and the gospel. John vi. 69. 1 John i. 1-3.
A union of heart with the Redeemer, acquiescing in the glorious ends of his mediation ; entering into his views of the controversy between God and man, resting satisfied with his decision ; glad that God is justified, 'his law magnified, justice secured, and grace delightfully displayed.
An habitual regard to Christ in our daily walk with God; not only acknowledging our need of his mediation at our first return to God, but from day to day looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, unto eternal life; loving to draw nigh unto God by him, through the assistance of the Spirit