« PreviousContinue »
properties of an habit, of which this is the principal. It is directed to a certain end, and constantly inclines to actions which tend thereto.
It has a certain end; and this is, that we may live to God. By nature we are alienated from this life of God; but the first inseparable property of the renewed nature is, that it disposes the soul to the acts and duties of this life, so that it shall attend to them, not from mere conviction or external impression, but from an internal genuine principle; and as the inclination of the carnal mind lies directly against spiritual things, so this new prineiple tends always to actions spiritually good, according to the mind of God.
This disposition of heart is, in the Scripture, called by the names of Fear, Love, Delight, and of such other affections. This is the intention of that promise of the covenant, I will give them one heart, that they may fear me.' The new heart' is the new nature; the first effect of which is, the fear of God always,' or a new spiritual inclination of soul to the will and commands of God. In like manner, it is expressed by love, which is the inclination of the soul to obedience to God, and communion with him, with delight and complacency.-It is, moreover, expressed by being spiritually minded, which is life and peace;' that. is, the bent and inclination of the mind to spiritual things, is that whereby we live to God, and enjoy peace with him. By nature we savour only the things of the flesh, and 'mind earthly things;' but hereby we mind the things that are above, or set our affections on them.' By virtue hereof David professeth that his soul followed hard after God;' or inclined earnestly to all those ways whereby he might live to him, and come to the enjoyment of him. By the apostle Peter it is compared to our natural inclination to food; as new-born babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,' which is a constant unalterable inclination. This, therefore, is what I intend. Every nature has its proper disposition and actings. The principle of holiness is such a nature; and wherever this principle is, it disposes the whole soul to acts of holiness, and that universally, constantly, and permanently.
(1) Universally. There is a disposition to all the
duties of holiness without exception; there is a respect to all God's commands. Some may be more difficult, more contrary to our natural inclinations or secular interest than others; but if there be a gracions principle within, it will equally incline us to them all. Any other principle will give way to an habitual reserve of something contrary thereto. It will admit either of the omission of some duty, the commission of some sin, or the retaining of some lust. Thus our Saviour tried the rich young man who boasted of his duties with one that crossed his secular interests, and he gave up all. So Naaman, who vowed obedience to the God of Israel, would have a reserve to bow in the house of Rimmon, for the sake of his worldly interest. Believers themselves may be surprised into actual omission of duties, and a temporary indulgence of corrupt affections; but an habitual reserve for any thing sinful, is inconsistent with this principle of holiness.
(2.) This principle disposes the believer to duties of holiness constantly; he is in the fear of the Lord · all the day long.' It is true, there are seasons in which we meet with great difficulties and obstructions from our lusts and temptations; and the actings of grace may be less vigorous at some times than at others; but still this holy disposition is, in its own nature, like a stream that flows from a living fountain, pressing forwards, notwithstanding the opposition that may divert it for a season. Natural men sometimes perform duties of obedience, from strong im. pressions excited by afflictions, dangers, or the like; but soon return to their own formality and course; like mariners who sometimes meet with vehement winds, which seem to drive them with violence directly to their port; but quickly after they have an utter calm, and not a breath of air stirs to help them forward. Where this principle is, persons have a natural current which carries them on evenly and constantly; and though they may meet with tempests and cross winds, yet the stream, which is natural, works its way at length, and holds on its course through all impediments.
(3.) It is also permanent. It will never cease inclining the soul to acts of obedience, till it comes to the end of them all in the enjoyment of God. It is a well of water, springing up into everlasting life.' It springs up without intermission, because it is living water; and that
permanently, never ceasing, till those in whom it is are safely lodged in glory. This is expressly promised in the covenant: I will put my fear in their hearts, and they shall not depart from me; they shall never do so in whom is this fear, because it is permanent. It is true, that on the fierce interpositions of temptations, the principle itself may seem to be utterly stifled for a season (as in David's case); yet, such is its immortal nature, such its relation to the faithfulness of God and the mediation of Christ, that it shall never be entirely extinguished.
It must be admitted, that in those who are thus disposed to all the acts of spiritual life, there are yet the remains of a contrary principle; this the Scripture calls the Flesh, Lust, the Body of Sin, the Sin that dwelleth in us. This the apostle plainly asserts: The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.' (Gal. v. 17.) Indeed, sin and grace cannot bear rule in the same heart at the same time. By nature the flesh is wholly predominant, constantly inclining the soul to sin; but, on the introduction of grace, this habit of sin is weakened, so that it shall not reign' over us, by hurrying us into the pursuit of its uncontroulable inclinations; but yet it is never entirely dispossessed and cast out of the soul in this life. There it will remain and work, seduce and tempt, more or less, according to its remaining strength and advantages. Hence the principle of grace cannot perfectly incline the soul to the life of God, so that it should be sensible of no opposition: but this belongs to the principle of holiness inseparably and necessarily, that it inclines the soul universally to all acts of holy obedience;-and these inclinations are predominant, and keep the soul pointed to holiness continually. And this free, genuine, unforced inclination of the mind to all that is good, with an inward labouring to break through all opposition, is the fruit and most pregnant evidence of the renovation of our natures by the Holy Ghost.
3. There is power accompanying this habit of grace, as well as propensity or inclination. It does not merely dispose the soul to holy obedience, but enables it to the acts and duties of it. That by nature we are • without strength to perform any thing spiritually good, has been
proved at large; but by the grace of sanctification, a power and ability is given to us of living to God. They that wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength;' that is, for obedience, or walking with God without weariness; strength they have, and in their walking with God it is renewed or increased. By the same grace are 'strengthened with all might, according to the glorious power of God.' In our conversion to God, all things are given to us by his divine power, which pertain to life and godliness;'-so God told our apostle, when he was ready to faint under his temptations, that his grace was sufficient for him.' Believers are alive to God, alive to righteousness and holiness. They have a principle of spiritual life; and where there is life, there is power in its kind, and for its end. We shall therefore enquire wherein this power consists; what it is in the mind,-what in the will, and what in the affections: and,
(1.) This power in the mind consists in spiritual light to discern spiritual things in a spiritual manner. The Holy Spirit, in the first communication of spiritual life, shines into our hearts to give us the knowledge of God in Christ; yea, this strengthening of the mind by saving illumination, is the most eminent act of our sanctification: without this there is a veil upon us, that we cannot see into spiritual things: but where the Spirit of the Lord comes with his sanctifying grace, there is liberty; and thereby we all with open face, beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory.'
It is true, that all believers have not this ability in the same degree; some are very low in knowledge, and, in comparison of others, very ignorant; and some are kept in that condition by their own negligence and sloth: but every one who is truly sanctified, has light enough to understand the spiritual things of the gospel in a spiritual manner; the meanest believer has a spiritual insight into the things of God, so far as is necessary to his faith and obedience; for we have received the Spirit of God, that we may know the things that are freely given us of God.' Only it is their duty continually to endeavour the improvement of the light they have, in the use of means.
(2.) This power in the will consists in its freedom and ability to choose and embrace spiritual things. Believers
have free-will to that which is spiritually good; for the will is now freed from that bondage to sin which it was under by nature; and being enlarged by light and love, willeth and chooseth freely the things of God. It is the truth (that is, faith in the gospel) which is the mean of this freedom; and it is the Son of God by his Spirit who is the efficient cause of it; for if the Son make us free, then are we free indeed;' and otherwise we are not free, whatever men pretend.
(3.) The affections, which naturally are the principal servants and instruments of sin, are hereby engaged to God.
Having thus shewn that there is a power of holy obedience in all who are sanctified, as well as a propensity to it, we shall consider the two principal properties of it, which are readiness and facility.
1. It gives readiness, by removing all those incumbrances which the mind is apt to be hindered by, from sin, the world, spiritual oth, and unbelief. Herein is the spirit ready, though the flesh be weak.' These incumbrances are in their full power in all unregenerate persons; whence they are unto every good work reprobate; and they partially influence the minds of believers themselves; and this is no small part of their sin and trouble but these hindrances are removed by this spiritual power. The absolute prevailing power of them is broken by the first infusion of this principle, wherein it gives an habitual preparation of heart for all the duties of obedience; and by various degrees it frees believers from the remains of these incumbrances: for it weakens the bent of the soul to earthly things, so that they shall not possess the mind as formerly. It also gives an insight into the beauty and glory of holiness, and all duties of obedience, so as greatly to incline the mind to them; and it causes the affections to cleave to them with delight. 'How do I love thy law,' saith David; my delight is in thy statutes; they are sweeter to me than the honey-comb.'
2. It gives facility in the performance of duties. Whatever men do from a habit, or from nature, they do with ease; and the principle of grace is an infused habit, a new nature. I grant there will be opposition from sin, Satan, and temptation; but still it is the nature of this principle to make the whole course of obedience easy to us.