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2. By the operation of his grace
[“ Dead as we are in trespasses and sins, we are quickened by Christo;" and immediately begin in his strength to conflict with sin and Satan.' The warfare we maintain is attended with many difficulties; so that we are sometimes ready to cry out, “ O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of sin and death ?” but in our lowest state it is our privilege to add, “ I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord"." “ In him we are strong;" and through his gracious communications “we can do all things :" " none can be effectually against us, whilst he is for us.'
Having infused into our souls a principle of life," he dwells in us," and " is himself our life, and carries us forward" from conquering to conquer," till sin and “Satan are bruised under our feet,” and “ death itself is swallowed up in everlasting victory."] OBSERVATIONS1. How infatuated are they who live in wilful sin !
[Do they consider whom they serve, and against whom they fight? Do they consider that they are doing those very works which proceed from and characterize the devil, and which Christ was manifested to destroy ? Reflect on your conduct, brethren, in this view, and then judge, whether ye do well to continue in it -]
2. What reason for humility have even the best of men!
[There is no man who has not daily occasion to lament his short-comings and defects. We are not any of us so watchful, but Satan finds some opportunities to deceive us; nor so expert in our warfare, but he wounds us occasionally by “ his fiery darts.” And when that wicked fiend has “ advantage over us," with what exultation is he filled, even though he knows that he can never ultimately prevail against our blessed Lord! Be watchful, brethren, that ye do not so gratify your malignant adversary, or so grieve the Spirit of your adorable Saviour. Put yourselves more habitually under the protection and guidance of your Divine Master ; and “through him you shall be more than conquerors."]
3. How unbounded are the obligations we owe to Christ!
[Who but he could have ever redeemed us from sin and death? Who but he could have ever destroyed for us those works of the devil ? Think what would have been the state of the world, if he had never become incarnate; what slaves we
got an must have been- if he had not liberated us; and what a death we must have undergone, if he had not died in our stead ! Verily, if we felt our obligations as we ought, we should scarcely pass a moment without adverting to them, and magnifying him with songs of praise and thanksgiving. Let us dwell on the delightful thought, which, wherever it is entertained, creates a heaven upon earth : and in a little time our deliverance shall be complete; and we shall unite with all the hosts of heaven" in singing Hallelujah to God and to the Lamb for ever and ever."]
9 Eph. ii. 1.
r Rom. vii. 24, 25.
s Col. iji. 4.
THE CHRISTIAN'S DELIVERANCE FROM SIN.
1 John iii. 9. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin ; for his seed remaineth in him : and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
MANY mistakes in religion arise from not considering sufficiently the style and manner in which the inspired writers are wont to express themselves. They speak strongly on all subjects; and never contemplate, for a moment, the niceties of criticism; or dream of their words being weighed in a balance, so as that there shall be the minutest possible precision in their weight and import. They are content with speaking in popular language, and with conveying their sentiments in terms which every candid mind shall fully apprehend. St. Paul, speaking of the danger of
persons who are once enlightened, falling away from the truth which they have received, says, “ It is impossible to renew them again to repentance.” We are not to suppose, from this, that the restoration of such an apostate is a work which God is not able to effect; but only, that it is a work which we cannot reasonably hope to see effected by him. The same kind of interpretation must be given to the words which we have just read : we are not to suppose that a regenerate person is brought into such a state, that there is an absolute and physical impossibility for him to commit any the minutest sin: such an
a Heb. vi. 4-6.
impossibility as that did not exist even in Paradise, when man was absolutely perfect; no, nor does it exist in heaven itself; since millions of once holy angels actually did fall, and were cast out of heaven for their transgression. Not intending his words to be strained to such an extent as that, the Apostle declares, 1. The state of the regenerate man
To consider the Apostle as saying only that a regenerate man ought not to commit sin, would be to make him speak what is altogether foreign to the context; the whole of which evidently shews his meaning to be, that the regenerate man does not commit sin.
But, in what sense are we to understand this assertion ?
[If taken in its utmost latitude, this assertion would contradict the whole Scriptures. “ There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not b.” “In many things we all offend." St. John himself declares, that “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in usa:” and then, intimating that the scope of his observations was to deter men from sin, he adds, “ But if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, who is also the propitiation for our sins e."
It is evident, therefore, that we cannot so construe his words, as to infer from them that a regenerate man has attained a state of sinless perfection. Nor, in reality, do his words properly admit of that sense: for the word which we translate " commit sin” must, of necessity, imply a continued act. In ver. 7,
“Let no man deceive you. He that doeth righteousness' (it is the same word as is used in our text) is righteous, even as Christ is righteous.” This can never mean, that the person who performs one righteous act must necessarily " walk in all things as Christ walked :" it must import a habit, and not a mere insulated act : and that is its proper meaning in the text; · Whosoever is born of God, does not wilfully and habitually commit sin.' The whole scope of the context, from the third verse, sanctions, and indeed requires, this interpretation. It is said, in ver. 3, that the person who has a scriptural hope of his adoption into God's family, will“ purify himself, even as Christ is pure:" and the person who does not labour to attain this purity, is declared, in ver. 8, to belong to a very different family, even that of Satan : “ He that committeth sin, is of the devil.” And in the verse after the text, this contrast is brought to a point: “ In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not (o un totūv) righteousness, is not of God."]
• Eccles. vii. 20. and i Kings viii. 46. c Jam. üi. 2. 1 John i. 8-10.
e 1 John ii. 1, 2. fo πoιών. . See the same word used by St. John in his Gospel. John viii. 34.
The assertion, thus explained, is verified in every regenerate man
[A man “ born of God” does not commit sin in the way that he was wont to do in his unregenerate state. Previous to his conversion, sin was the element in which he lived. He might, in respect to an external conformity to the law, be blameless, even as the Apostle Paul was, before his heart was changed: but he never truly gave himself up to God, or took his perfect law as the rule of his conduct: he never lived for God, or made it the one object of his life to glorify God: self was the source and end of all his actions. But from the instant of his conversion, his one inquiry is, “ Lord, what wilt thou have me to do 8?" Not that he then becomes perfect : for to his latest hour he will find, as the Apostle did, that “there is a law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and occasionally bringing him into captivity to the law of sin, which is in his members :" yes, to his latest hour, there are things done by him which he would not, and things left undone by him, which he would gladly do: so that he is often constrained to cry, “ O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me h?” But though, through the influence of his indwelling corruption, he may have occasion to mourn over many deviations from the perfect path of duty, he never does, nor ever will, return to the love and practice of sin: if he offend in any thing, he will lament it, and implore forgiveness for it, and labour with renewed diligence and circumspection to “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.")
If such be the state of the regenerate man, it will be profitable to inquire into, II. The means by which he has attained to it--
“ He that is born of God doth not commit sin; for his sced remaineth in him."
Let us distinctly mark, 1. What seed this is
& Acts ix. 6.
h Rom. vii. 15, 19, 23, 21.
[Many imagine that the “ seed” here spoken of, is an imperishable spark of grace, which not all the floods of persecution or corruption can ever quench'. But it is not of grace that the Apostle speaks, but of the word of God. The word is that“ seed" of which we are born: and that is incorruptible, as St. Peter has said: “We are born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, of the word of God, which liveth and abideth for everk."] 2. How it operates to its destined end
[This seed " abides” in those who are born of God. Its operation, in the first instance, was to humble, quicken, and sanctify the soul. Being once implanted in the soul, it grows there, and continues to produce the very same effects which it put forth in the first instance. Did it come with power to convince of sin ? it enlightens the mind progressively, and gives juster views to the conscience, and augmented sensibility to the soul. Did it lead to the Saviour, and inspire with a desire to serve and glorify him? it continues to give brighter discoveries of his love, and to impress the soul with a more fixed determination to live to his glory: and in this way it keeps the believer from ever returning to his former paths.
That this is the true import of the words, is manifest from what is spoken by St. John in the preceding chapter: “ I have written unto you, young men; because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one?." Here the same
“ seed of which they were born, namely, the word of God, abideth in them; and, in consequence of that, their victories over sin and Satan are carried forward with increasing energy and effect. Such, at least, were David's views of this matter; and therefore to all
gave this direction : “ Wherewith shall a young man cleanse his way? even by taking heed thereto, according to thy word m." And what he recommended to them, he practised also himself; as he himself immediately declares: “ Thy word have I hid within my heart, that I might not sin against theen.”
Thus then it is that the regenerate person is kept from committing sin, as he was wont to do in his unregenerate state: “ The word of truth abideth in him," both as an authoritative director, and an unerring rule; and " by it he is made free, and “ sanctified P."]
young men he
i In this sense many understand John iv. 14; as though the water given by our Lord must necessarily issue in everlasting life. But our Lord speaks, not of its issue, but its tendency. k 1 Pet. i. 23. 11 John ii. 14.
m Ps. cxix. 9. n Ps. cxix. 11. 0 John viii. 32.
p John xvü. 17.