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quickened together with him. Col. ii. 13.
Therefore it is only on the account of his righteousness that spiritual life is first given and afterwards maintained and cherished. God acts in the whole affair, as the God of grace, with a distinct reference to the mediation of Christ.
3. Christ, the Purchaser, is appointed also the Communicator of spiritual life" to his people. The Son quickeneth whom he
” will. John v. 21. He is exalted as a prince to give repentance to Israel. Acts v. 31, He is our life, Col. iii. 3, 4, and the Author and Finisher of our faith, Heb. xii. 2. In a word, ell power in heaven and on earth is given to him, Matt. xxix, 18. a sovereiga empire of grace, founded in his own blood, is devolved upon him, and He is given to be head over all things to his church; Eph. i. 22, a head not only of government, but of quickening influence ; for from him all the body by joints and bands having nourishmen: ministered and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Col. ii. 19. It is therefore by his own hands that all the blessings purchased by his blood are communicated.
Hence for the particular improvement of this head, let believ. ers be taught to look to the Lord Jesus, the great Treasurer of heaven, for the supplies of his grace to support and nourish their spiritual life. Poor things ! You are weak in yourselves, but his grace is sufficient for you, and his strength shall be made perfect in your weakness. “Ye are complete in him," therefore “ be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus ; strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might! Come up out of the wilderness, leaning upon your beloved.
Be of good courage, and he will strengthen your heart." Do not indulge a dastardly temper, nor harbour diffident and desponding fears : For, “ have you not known ? Have you not heard that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength." If you “ compass yourselves
” with sparks of your own kindling," your devotions will be cold and languid, and a deadly chillness will benumb your spirit. Place yourselves, therefore, under the vivifying beams “ of the Sun of righteousness, and you shall go forth and grow up as calves of the stall.”
And let “ the slain of the daughter of my people” apply to him for quickening grace. Behold, sinners! your Physician; cry after him, plead for him ; plead for life. See the great treasury of vivifying influence ; stand at the door knocking, begging and weeping, and never depart till you can say, “ I return a living soul.” Here is a fountain of life opened, and let him that is athirst come ; and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. But I hasten to inquire,
VI. “ How faith derives supplies from Christ for the support and nourishment of spiritual life ?”
I shall proceed to the solution of this by the following gradation.
1. The communication of grace from Christ to maintain and nourish spiritual life in his people, is a peculiar and distinguishing communication. It is appropriated to them and not promiscuously dispensed to mankind in general. So animal spirits and nervous juices, are communicated from the head to that particular body to which it belongs, and to none other. So a vine conveys nutritive and prolific sap to its own branches, exclusive of all others. It may, indeed, be of service to other things, in other respects, as for shade, the entertainment of the sight, &c. but in this respect it supplies its own branches only. Thus Christ sheds his extensive influence on the whole creation ; for by him all things consist : but that particular kind and degree of influence whereby believers are quickened and kept alive, is peculiarly appropriated to them.
2. It is fit and necessary there should be a peculiar union betwixt Christ and his people, as the foundation of this peculiar influence.
Spiritual life, as to its infusion and preservation, proceeds from the Lord-Mediator, both morally and physically. Morally, from the merit of his obedience and sufferings, whereby it was purchased ; and physically, from his operation, whereby it is effected. And in both these views, it is congruous and necessary that it should suppose a special union with him.
As it results morally from his merit, it is fit there should be a special legal union, as the foundation of it. Christ and his people must be actually “one in law," before they can be actually entitled to or receive and enjoy the blessings purchased by his obedience to the law. So a wife must be made legally one with her husband, by a conjugal union, in order to entitle her to and give her the possession of his estate. An insolvent debtor must be legally one with his surety, that the surety's discharge of the debt may procure his acquittance.
living head, and will not suffer any of his members to languish under perpetual mortal decays, or drudge away their lives in successless toil, or supinely waste them in sloth and inactivity. He will fail none that trust in him : but their dependance on him will be like the leaning of the ivy on the oak, or the radication of a tree in a fruitful soil, an assured method to obtain support and nourishment. So far is a dependance on him from leading to sloth and libertinism, as some slanderously surmise.
2. We infer, that without faith it is impossible to please God. It has been shewn that without union to Christ, we cannot have an actual interest in his righteousness, or be the special objects of that quickening influence, whereby the spiritual life and ac. tivity of his people are maintained ; and without these, our per sons or performances cannot be accepted, unless our own righteousness be sufficient, without an actual interest in his, to procure the pardon of sin, and reinstate us in the divine favour : and unless human nature, labouring under the maladies of its present degeneracy, be capable, without the special aids of divine grace, to yield suitable obedience to the law : neither of which can be asserted, without virtually renouncing the whole gospel. And we have seen, that faith has so important a place in the unition of the soul with Christ, and consequently, in entitling us to his righteousness, and deriving vital influences from him, that without it we cannot be at all united to him, or share in the happy consequences of this union, no more than there can be a circulation of the blood without veins and arteries.
3. We observe that gospel holiness may be distinguished from all counterfeits, and particularly from what some dignify with the name of morality, by this criterion, that it presuppose's a special union with Christ, and is cherished in the heart, and exercised in practice, by virtue of the quickening influences flowing from him, as the head of his church, and received by faith ; whereas mere morality does not necessarily suppose such an union, but may result from our natural powers, under the common influ. ences of divine providence.
I shall conclude with a short general improvement of the whole subject, in the following inferences :
1. That the reason why religion is so burdensome to many is, because they are “ destitute of a principle of spiritual life," and the “ quickening communications of divine grace.” Constrained by self-love, they drudge and toil in religious duties, and cry,
? Do we
" What a weariness is it !" Or impatient of .so disagreeable a burden, they neglect them entirely. Religion is not natural to them, for want of a new nature. But to you that believe, Christ is precious ; all his ways are pleasantness, and all his paths arc peace. His yoke is easy, and his burden is light.
2. Let us examine ourselves, whether the evidences of spiritual life, which may be collected from what has been said, give us reason to conclude that we are possessed of it. Let us cast the discourse into a form of interrogation, and propose the following inquiries to our consciences :
Do we feel, or have we felt, a supernatural principle working within ? Is our religion heaven-born ? or is it natural and selfsprung
? Is the habitual bent of our wills God-ward ? Do our hearts propend towards him as their ultimate scope delight in his law after the inner man, and will that which is good, even when we cannot do it ? Do we perceive ourselves at times strengthened with might in the inner man? And that we can do all things through Christ strengthening us? Have we ever experienced the important change of regeneration ? are old things passed away, and all things become new ? Have we put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness ?
Is our religion more than a mere acquired habit, originally obtained by our own industry only, and the exercise of our natural powers, excited and assisted by education, custom, the means of grace ? &c. Was it begun in the instantaneous infusion of a gracious principle, immediately by the Holy Spirit ?
Do we derive our strength for obedience from Christ by faith? Is he our life ? Are we generally crying, Lord, we have no strength ; but our eyes are unto thee? Can we say with the aposule, I live ; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me ; and what I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God ?
My dear brethren, let us search ourselves with these and the like inquiries : for many are destructively deceived in this matter. Living religion is wrapt in darkness from the eyes of most : they cither place it in that in which it does not consist at all, or take the circumstances and appendages for the substance of it. Great is the mystery of godliness, not only objectively as revealed in the scriptures, but also subjectively, as wrought in the heart of a believer. It ought therefore to engage our most serious and intense thoughts.
3. Let those who are made spiritually alive, “ acknowledge and admire the distinguishing grace of God, and act as it becomes their character”
You have seen that spiritual life is not promiscuously dispens. ed to mankind in general, but only to the regenerate, who are comparatively few. And can you restrain your wonder, that you should be the chosen objects of sovereign grace? or avoid breaking forth into extatic praises at so surprising a dispensation ?
Moreover the design of your vivification, and the natural ten dency of the principle of spiritual life is, that you may live to God; and therefore you are peculiarly obliged to make your whole life a series of obedience to Him. Indulge the propensions and tendencies of the new nature : obey and cherish all the impulses and motions of the divine principle within you. To offer violence to the new man, to cramp and fetter its powers, to resist its motions, and suffocate its heavenly aspirations, is the most horrid crime. It is to attempt to murder the child of grace in embryo ; and sure, this is the worst of murder. Reck. on ye yourselves, then, to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Lei not sin reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereaf: neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin ; but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead; and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. And if ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. Set your affections upon (savour and relish) things above, not thingne on earth. And when Christ, who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
4. I request and importune those that are dead in sin, to Use all proper means for the obtaining of quickening grace." exhortation implies no contradiction or impossibility ; for though they are spiritually dead, yet their natural principle of reason is still alive, and capable of exercising itself about spiritual objects; and God has enjoined them to make the best use they can of it, as the only way to obtain a better principle. God' deals with us according to our nature and circumstances. We are corrupted creatures, and therefore He exerts his exceeding great and mighty power to work principles of holiness in us; but still we are rational creatures, and therefore he uses the powers of moral suasion with us, and justly requires us to exert our rational' facul. ties in all the institutions of the gospel.