« PreviousContinue »
is said to be fairer than the children of men,' and that, because 'grace was poured into his lips;' and when the church is adorned with his graces, he affirms her to be 'fair and comely.' This beauty originally consisted in the image of God in us, which contained the whole order, harmony, and symmetry of our natures in all their faculties and actions. Sin, therefore, has a deformity in it, or brings spots, stains, and wrinkles on the soul; and this is the filth and pollution of it.
(2.) Holiness is the honour of our souls. It makes them truly noble; for all honour consists in an accession to him who is the only spring and absolute possessor of all that is so. Now this we have alone by holiness, or that image of God in which we were created; and, therefore, sin, which is contrary to it, is base, vile, and unworthy. It is the only base thing in nature. Hence it is said of some great sinners, that they had debased themselves to Hell' and unless men are absolutely hardened, they are in their own consciences sensible of this baseness of sin. When men's eyes are opened to see their nakedness, they see that in sin which is so vile, base, and filthy, that, like persons who have some loathsome disease, they cannot bear the sight of their own sores. Yea, no tongue can express the sense which a believing soul has of the uncleanness of sin, with respect to the holiness of God.
Now this shameful defilement of sin is either habitual or actual. (1.) That which is habitual in all the facul.. ties of our souls by nature; they are all shamefully depraved; hence by nature we are wholly unclean. (2.) That which is actual in all the actings of our polluted faculties; for be any sin of what nature it may, there is pollution in it. Hence the apostle advises to cleanse ourselves from all pollutions of flesh and spirit;' the sins that are internal and spiritual, as pride, self-love, covetousness, unbelief, have a pollution attending them, as well as those which are fleshly and sensual. And so far as this disorder mixes itself with the best of our duties, it renders both us and them unclean. We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.'
This uncleanness as it is habitual, is equal in all men as they are born into the world; but with respect to actual sins, it has various degrees and aggravations. The
greater a sin is, from its nature or circumstances, the greater is the defilement of it; hence no sin is expressed under such terms of filthiness as idolatry, which is the greatest of sins. Or, there is an aggravation of it when the whole person is defiled, as it is in the case of fornication; and it is heightened by a continuance in sin, whereby an addition is made to its pollution every day, and which is called 'wallowing in the mire.'
In this whole discourse I have but briefly touched upon this consideration of sin, which the Scripture so frequently inculcates; for as all the first institutions of divine worship had some respect hereto, so the last rejection of obstinate sinners mentioned in it is, 'Let him that is filthy be filthy still.' And in order to improve this view of sin for the discovery of the nature of holiness, we may yet observe these three things:
(1.) Where this uncleanness remains unpurged, there neither is nor can be any true holiness; for it is universally opposed to it; it is our unholiness. I acknowledge that it is not perfectly taken away from any person in this world, and those who are truly sanctified are deeply sensible of the remains of it; but there is an initial, real, sincere purging of it, which belongs to the essence of holiness, begun and carried on, though not absolutely perfected in this life.
(2.) Unless this uncleanness be washed away, we can never come to the enjoyment of God. Nothing that defileth shall enter into the New Jerusalem.' To suppose that an unpurified sinner can be brought_to_the blessed enjoyment of God, is to overthrow both the Law and the Gospel, and to say that Christ died in vain. It is therefore of the same importance with the everlasting salvation of our souls, to have them purged from sin.
(3.) We are unable of ourselves, without the special assistance of the Holy Spirit, to free ourselves from this pollution. It is true, it is frequently prescribed to us as our duty. We are commanded to wash ourselves, to cleanse ourselves from sin, and the like; but these expressions do not imply a power in ourselves to perform what is so required; but they teach us, that whatever God works in us in a way of grace, he prescribes to us in a way of duty; and though he do it in us, yet he also doth it by us, so that the same work is an act of his Spirit,
and of our will as actuated thereby. We are not able by any endeavours of our own, to cleanse ourselves from this defilement. If I wash myself with snow-water,' saith Job, and make my hands ever so clean, yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and my own clothes shall make me to be abhorred.' Means may be used whereby an appearance of cleansing may be made; but when things come to be tried in the sight of God, all will be found filthy and unclean. In vain,' saith the prophet, 'shalt thou take to thyself soap and much nitre; thou shalt not be purged.' The most probable means of cleansing, and the most effectual in our judgment, however multiplied, shall fail in this case. Some speak much of washing away their sins by the tears of repentance; but repentance, as prescribed in the Scripture, is of another nature, and assigned to another end. The institutions of the law were of themselves insufficient for this purpose; they purified the unclean legally, and as to the flesh; of themselves they could go no further, only they signified that whereby sin was really cleansed. The real stain is too deep to be removed by any outward ordinances; and therefore God, as it were, rejecting them all, promised to open another Fountain for that purpose. Zech. xiii. 1. Wherefore,
There is great emptiness and vanity in all those reliefs which the papal church have invented. Sensible they are of the stain of sin, but ignorant of the only remedy thereof; and as in the work of justification they submit not to the righteousness of God, so in the work of sanctification. being ignorant of the work of the Spirit of grace, and efficacy of the blood of Christ, they go about to set up their own imaginations. Thus they would have the whole uncleanness of our natures to be washed away by baptism; and having thus shifted themselves of the filth of original sin, as easily as a man may change his clothes when they are foul, they have found out many ways whereby the defilement of actual sins may be purged. There is the sprinkling of holy water, confession to a priest, penances, &c. that are supposed to be wonderfully efficacious. And indeed, the art of confession is the greatest invention to accommodate the inclinations of the flesh that ever the world was acquainted with; for as nothing is so suited to the carnal interests of the priests, nor so
secures them veneration in the midst of their loose and worthless conversation, so for the' people, who, for the most part, have other business to do than long to trouble themselves about their sins, it is such an expeditious method of exoneration to deposit them wholy and safely with a priest, that nothing equal to it could have been invented. But, after all, they cannot be perfectly satisfied in their consciences; their sores will sometimes break through all these sorry coverings and their sins yet fill them with shame and fear: wherefore they betake themselves to their sheet-anchor in this storm, in the relief which they have provided in another world: this is in their purgatory, to which they must trust at last for cancelling all their odd scores, and purging away that filth of sin which they have been unwilling to part with in this world. But as this whole business of purgatory is a groundless fable; an invention set up in competition with the sanctification of the Spirit and the blood of Christ, so it is as great an encouragement to unholiness and a continuance in sin, as ever was found out, or can be made use of. Wherefore, setting aside such vain imaginations, we shall enquire into the true causes of our purifi
The Filth of Sin purged by the Spirit and Blood of
HE purification of believers from the defilement of sin is assigned in Scripture to various causes:-To the Holy Spirit, as the efficient cause ;-to the blood of Christ, as the procuring case; and, to faith and af fliction, as the instrumental causes.
1. That we are purified by the Spirit of God, has been already proved, and is evident from the nature of his work in our regeneration : for as the spring of all the pollution of sin lies in the depravity of the faculties of our natures, he renews them again by his grace. As far then
as our minds, our hearts, our affections are renewed by the Holy Ghost, so far are we cleansed from our habitual pollution. The more we have of saving light in our minds, of heavenly love in our affections, of a readiness to obedience in our hearts,-the more pure are we, the more cleansed from the pollution of sin.. The old principle of corrupted nature is unclean and defiling; the new creature, the principle of grace, implanted in the soul by the Holy Ghost, is pure and purifying, clean and holy.
The Holy Ghost also purifies us, by strengthening our souls by his grace to all holy duties, and against all actual sins. He preserves the soul free from defilements, or pure and holy, according to the tenor of the new covenant. But it may be asked, How is the soul freed from those defilements it had contracted before this work upon it, or those which it has contracted since? for there is no man who is not more or less defiled with sin while in the body; and if we are thus defiled, how shall we be cleansed? I answer, God is just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.' But by what means is this accomplished? The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 1 John i. 7, &c.
II. It is therefore the blood of Christ which is the meritorious procuring cause of our purification, by a special application of it to our souls by the Holy Ghost; and there is not any truth belonging to the mystery of the Gospel which is more plainly asserted. 'He hath washed us from our sins in his own blood.' Rev. i. 5. 'He gave himself for his church, that he might wash and cleanse it.' Eph v. 26. And this the faith and experience of all believers confirms; for they are not imaginations of their own, but what, being built on the truth and promises of God, yield sensible spiritual relief and refreshment to their souls. This they believe, this they pray for, and find the fruits and effects of it in themselves.
By the blood of Christ,' is intended the blood of the sacrifice, with the power and efficacy of it; and the blood of a sacrifice may be considered either as it was offered to God to make atonement, or as it was sprinkled on other things for their cleansing. Part of the blood every propitiatory sacrifice, was to be sprinkled round