« PreviousContinue »
their original pollution, is a cause of everlasting thankfulness. When Christ cleansed the ten lepers, he manifests how much it was their duty to return to him with their thankful acknowledgment, though nine of them failed therein. The consideration hereof influences the minds of believers in all their grateful ascriptions of glory and praise to Jesus Christ. • To him," say they, “who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever!"
Again: We have declared not only that there is an universal defilement in our natural frame, but that there is a pollution attending every actual sin ; and hence believers may learn, (1.) To watch against sin, and all the motions of it, however secret: they all defile the conscience and it is an evidence of a gracious soul to be watchful against sin on this account. (2.) To walk humbly before the Lord all our days. Notwithstanding our utmost watchfulness against sin, there is yet “no man that liveth and sinneth not.' Those who pretend to perfection here, as they manifest their ignorance of God and themselves, so are they often left visibly to confute their own pride and folly. But to what purpose is it to hide ourselves from ourselves, when we have to do with God? God knows, and our souls know, that more or less we are defiled in all we do. Who can express the motions of lust that are in the flesh, the irregular actings of our affections, the folly of the imaginations of our minds, with the vanity of our words! all which are defiling! I confess I know not that my soul abhors any eruption of men's diabolical pride, like that whereby they reproach the deep humiliations of poor sinners in their confessions and supplications. Alas! that our nature should be capable of such a contempt of the holiness of God, and so senseless of its own vileness, as - not to tremble at the despising of the lowest abasements of poor sinners before the holy God! (3.) We ought continually to endeavour after the wasting of sin in the root and principle of it. The principle of sin, however impaired, still abides in all believers : and it is the root of all sin in us which tempts, entices, conceives, and brings forth; and this has more or less strength, it is more or less mortified by grace ; and according to its strength, so it abounds in bringing forth the defiling
acts of sin. 'If, therefore, we would preserve ourselves from
multiplying our defilements, it is this that we must set ourselves against. The tree must be made good, if we expect good fruit; and the evil root must be dug up, or eyil fruit will be produced. (4.) Hence also is manifest the necessity we have of continual applications to Jesus Christ for cleansing virtue from his Spirit, and the sprinkling of his blood on our consciences to purge them from dead works. We defile ourselves every day; and if we go not every day to the fountain, we shall quickly be all over leprous: our consciences will be filled with dead works, so that we shall be unable to serve the living God. When a soul is filled with self-abasement under a sense of its own defilements, applies to Christ continually for cleansing, with a fervency answerable to its convictions, it is then in its proper course. I am persuaded no true believer in the world is a stranger to this duty : and the more any one abounds therein, the more genuine is his faith evidenced to be, and the more humble is his walk before the Lord.
The Positive Work of the Spirit in the Sanctification
E now proceed to the positive work of the Spirit
in the sanctification of believers; for he not only cleanses their natures and persons from the pollution of sin,' but he communicates the great, permanent, positive effect of holiness to their souls, whereby he guides and assists them in all the acts and duties thereof. I shall comprise what belongs to this part of his work in the two following assertions :
I. There is in the souls of believers a supernatural principle or habit of grace, wrought and preserved by the Spirit of God, whereby they are enabled to live unto God, and perform that obedience which he requires and accepts; and this is essentially distinct from all natural habits, intellectual or moral, however acquired or improved.
II. There is an immediate work of the Holy Spirit required unto every act of holy obedience, whether internal or external.
In the first of these assertions, four things are to be confirmed:-1. That there is such a habit or principal in believers. 2. That it inclines the soul to acts of holiness. 3. That it gives the soul power to live to God in holy obedience.
4. That it differ's essentially from all other habits whatever.
1. It is a gracious supernatural habit, or a principle of spiritual life. I call it a habit, not as though it were absolutely of the same kind as acquired habits, but because it resembles them in its effects. But it has much more conformity to a natural instinct than to an acquired habit. It is a virtue, a power, a principal of spiritual life and grace, created, infused into our souls, antecedent-to, and the next cause of all acts of true holiness. It does not consist in any single acts of obedience, though good in their own nature; for many such acts may be performed by unholy persons. Cain's sacrifice and Ahab's repentance were signal acts of obedience materially ; yet no acts of holiness formally, nor did either make or denominate them holy. Men may give all their goods to feed the poor, and yet be nothing. Single acts may evidence holiness, as Abraham's offering his son ; but they constitute none holy, nor will a course of actions make any one holy. Nor does it consist in an habitual disposition of mind to outward duties of piety or obedience. But this holiness is such an habit or principle as is antecedent to all acts of the same kind; for every act of true holiness must have something supernatural in it, from an internal principle of grace. This always, abides in those who are truly sanctified; whence they are always holy, and not only so when they are actually exercised in the duties of holiness. Hereby are they prepared, disposed, and enabled to all duties of obedience, and by the influence hereof into their acts and duties they become holy, and no otherwise.
That there is such an habit in believers, is evident from the Scriptures. God promised of old, to circumcise the hearts of his people ;-to give them a new heart and a new Spirit,--and to write his law in their hearts. It is more expressly revealed in the New Testament. John iii.
We are born again of the Spirit, and that which is
born in this new birth is Spirit: something existing in us that is of a spiritual nature and spiritual efficacy. It is something abiding in us, acting in a continual opposition against the flesh or sin. It is also called a New Creature (something that has the nature of a living creature) and a Divine Nature : now a nature is the principle of all operations: and this is that habit of grace or principle of holiness that we plead for.
Hereby we have union with Jesus Christ, the head of the church, and become members of his bones and of his flesh,' as Eve was of Adam; she had the same nature with him, and that derived from him ; so we are of him, partakers of the same divine nature; for he that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit.' How excellent then is this
It is the same in kind with the holy nature of Christ, and makes us one with him. How great a privilege is it! What an honour and security to the soul that has it! What duties are hence required ; and how should we admire the grace and love of Christ through whose mediation we receive it! This is our life ; but we cannot perfectly comprehend it, for it is hid with Christ in God.'
(to) Hence we may learn, not to satisfy ourselves with any duties, however good in themselves, unless there be a vital principle of holiness in our hearts. A few honest actions and a few useful duties satisfy many that they are as holy as they need to be ; but God rejects all such duties, however multiplied, if the heart be not before sanctified.
Legal convictions, terrors of conscience, dictates of reason, may compel men to their observance; but all is lost; men do but labour in the fire about them, if the soul bé not prepared with this principle of holiness.
Observe, however, that as far as these duties of morality or piety are good in themselves, they ought to be approved and encouraged in all men. They may be defecžive in their principle, and misapplied as to their end; but yet we ought not to undervalue the duties themselves, nor discourage the performance of them. The world is not in a condition to spare the good actions of bad men ; and it is much to be wished that we could see more of the fruits of moral virtues, and duties of religious piety, among unsanctified persons than we do. But this we may, and ought to do; we may tell them (as our Lord told the
young man) . One thing is yet wanting unto you ; you want faith, or you want Christ, or you want a spiritual principle of evangelical holiness; without which all your labour will be lost, and come to no account at the last day. The due assertion of grace never was, nor can be, an obstruction to any duty of obedience.
Observe again, that wherever there is this principle of holiness in the heart; there will be the effects of it in the life; for the great design of it is to enable us to comply with the grace or Gospel of God, which • teacheth us to live soberly, and righteously, and godly in this present world. If the tree be good, the fruit will be good also: and it is vile hypocrisy in any to pretend to inward sanetification, while their lives are barren in the fruits of righteousness.
(2.) Hence it appears why men propose such various courses with respect to holiness. All who profess Christianity agree that holiness is absolutely necessary; but when they should come to the practice of it, .some take one false way, and some another. Hence some would have moral virtue to be their holiness, while others place it in superstitious devotions. Now all this arises from ignorance of the true nature of holiness on the one hand, and love of sin on the other. The nature of sanctification is deep and mysterious, not to be understood without the aid of spiritual light; and what the world knoweth not in these things, it always hates. The love of sin also secretly influences the minds of many persons; they fear and abhor that universal change of soul which tends to the extirpation of all sin ; and hence they take up with morality, and superstitious devotions; any thing that will pacify a. natural conscience, or procure the reputation of religion.
(3.) We may learn from hence, how great and excellent a work this of sanctification is, and that it is a greater matter to be truly holy than most persons are aware of. It is so great a work, that it must be wrought by the God of peace himself;' by the blood of Christ; and by the influence of the Spirit? and it does not become Divine and Infinite Wisdom to engage the power of such glorious causes and means for the production of any common effect.
2. This principle of holiness inclines the subject of it to acts of its own kind: as it has the nature, so it has the