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he begins perhaps to flatter himself, that now he is in a safe condition. But alas ! he does not yet know the worst of himsel Therefore the holy Spirit opens his eyes to see the inward universal corruption of his whole soul, and that a mere outward reiormation is far from being a sufficient cure of a disease so inveterate. Hereupon the awakened sinner betakes himself to the use of the means of grace with redoubled vigour and earnestness, and strives to change the principles of action within. But alas! he finds his heart is a stubborn thing, and altogether unmanage. able to him ; and after repeated strivings to no purpose, he is effectually convinced of his own inability, and the absolute necessity of the exertion of divine power to make him truly good Therefore he lies at the throne of grace, as a poor, anxious, helpless sinner, entirely at mercy, and unable to relieve himself. It would take up more time than I can allow, to describe the various exercises, the anxious fears, and eager pantings, the strong cries and tears of a soul in this condition. What I have hinted may put such of you in mind of them, as have never been the subjects of them. While the sinner lies in this desponding situation, it pleases God to pity him. Now the important hour is come, when the old man must be crucified ; when the divine and immortal principles must be implanted in a heart full of sin ; and when the dead sinner must begin to live a holy and divine life. The great God instantaneously changes the whole soul, and gives it a new, a heavenly turn. In short, now is wrought that import. ant change, which I have already described, which is called the new birth, and denominates the man a new creature.
Here again you may furnish yourselves with materials for self-examination. If you have been born again, you have thus felt the pangs of a new birth, and seen your guilty, sinful, and dangerous condition in a true light. And can you put your hand upon your heart, and say, “ Here is the heart that has been the subject of this operation ?”
Hence also may be gathered some proper directions for such as are in a state of nature, how to attain the new birth.
Endeavour to be thoroughly acquainted with the corruption of your nature : it is from this that the necessity of a new birth proceeds.
Be fully convinced of the indispensable necessity of this change to your salvation.
Break off from, and forsake whatever tends to obstruct the new birth ; as excessive worldly cares, bad company, and in short, all sin.
Seriously use all the means of grace; as, earnest prayer, attentive hearing of the word, &c.
Persevere in so doing, till your endeavours are crowned with success. And particularly, do not grow impatient of those anxieties and fears that will at first attend your pursuit.
These short hints may suffice by way of direction, if you are sincerely desirous of being directed. And what do you determine to do? Will you not resolve to seek after this important change, upon which your eternal All depends ? O ! let us part to-day fully determined upon this, that we will implore the power and mercy of God to create in us clean hearts, and renew within us right spirits.
THE DIVINE LIFE IN THE SOULS OF MEN CONSIDERED.
GAL. II. 20. I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live ; yer
not I but Christ that liveth in me : and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.
THE principal design of St. Paul in this epistle, is to assert his divine mission, in opposition to the insinuations of the judaizing seducers that had intruded into the Galatian church ; and to prove the justification of a sinner to be only through the merit of Christ's righteousness, and the instrumentality of faith. To confirm the latter he argues, Gal. ii. 15, 16, from the case of the apostles and Jewish christians in general : We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law. And Gal. ii. 19, he explicitly declares his own case in particular, as agreeing with theirs. I, through the law, am dead to the law, that I might live unto God ; that is, by the knowledge of the perfection of the law, as to its extent and spirituality ; I am utterly unhinged and thrown off from all dependence on the works of the law for justification, and from expecting strength to yield obedience to be conveyed, according to the covenant of works ;--and God's design in bring. ing me off from this dependence, and mine in relinquishing it, is not that I may turn libertine, and cast off all obligations to obedience, but that I may, by strength derived from Christ, devote myself wholly to him, and make my life a series of obedience to his will.
He goes on relating his own case in the text; in which you may observe these truths :
First, “ That believers are endowed with spiritual activity ; or, that they are enabled to serve God, and perform good works." This is intimated by two expressions, I am crucified, and, I live; which, though they seem contradictory, do really mean the same thing. I am crucified, signifies the mortification of indwelling sin, the subduction and extirpation of corrupt principles and inclinations ; and he calls the mortification of these the crucifixion of himself, (I am crucified) because of their intimate inhesion with his very nature ; they were a sort of self to him. We have a like expression used, and explained by himself in Rom. vi. 6. Our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be de. stroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. Now the mortification of sin is a part of the service of God, at least a necessary pre-requisite. So the apostle reasons in Rom. vi. 2, 6, 11. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God. The other expression, I live, signifies spiritual activity ; a vigorous, persevering serving of God; a living unto God, (as it is explained ver. 19. and Rom. vi. 11.) Life, as ascribed to a rational being, imports not only a continuance in existence, in which sense inanimate things may be said to live, but especially a power of rational operation frequently exercised ;-and when attributed to a morally upright being, as such, it imports more than some kind of power of operation, namely, a vital principle of spiritual and holy operation, and the frequent, persevering exercise of it. Such a principle or power is very significantly called life, to denote its intimacy in the soul, its vivacity, and permanency.
Secondly, We may observe, that "the vital principle of holiness in believers, whereby they are enabled to serve God, is com·municated to them through Christ only as a Mediator.” This is intimated by that expression, I am crucified with Christ; that is, sin is crucified in me by virtue of the crucifixion of Christ; from
the merits of his death my strength to subdue sin results : and the mortification of it is the certain consequent of his sufferings, because thereby divine grace was purchased and insured for his chosen, to be communicated at the time appointed. To the same purpose he speaks in Gal. vi. 14. Far be it from me that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom (or by which] the world is crucified to me, and I unto the world. This is also asserted in the emphatical epanorthosis, I live : yet not l, . but Christ liveth in me ; that is, spiritual life is formally in me, but it is not self-originated ; it does not result from my natural principles, (which are so essential to me, that I may represent them under the personal pronoun I) but was first implanted, and is still supported and cherished by the power and grace of God through Christ; and it is in every respect so dependent upon him, and his influence is so intimately diffused through my soul, that I may say, Christ liveth in me. A like expression is used in Col. iii. 3, 4. Christ is our life.
Thirdly, We may take notice," that believers receive supplies from Christ for the maintenance and nourishment of their spiritual life." The life which I now live (or, as it might be rendered more significantly, what I now live) in the flcsh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.
So that the substance of the text is exhausted in these three doctrines, “ That all true believers are endowed with an ability to serve God : That this ability was first communicated, and is still maintained through Christ only : and, That it is by faith they derive supplies from him, for the support and nourishment thereof.”
You may observe I here reason from a particular to an univer. sal, and infer, that because these doctrines are true with respect
Paul, therefore they are true with respect to believers in general ; and the scope of the text warrants this method of reasoning in this instance, which is confessedly fallacious in other cases; for St. Paul here introduces his own case with a design to represent and illustrate the case of believers in common ; which he could not reasonably have done, bad not theirs been substan. tially the same with his in these respects. Besides, he declares these things of himself, not upon the account of any circumstances peculiar to himself, which might appropriate them to him ; and therefore, though so eminent a saint might have peculiar degrees VOL. II. '
of them, yet as to their reality and kind, they equally belong to all true christians.
Nothing can be more profitable, nothing more necessary, than right notions about spiritual life. It is the main business of those that have it not, to seek it, and of those that have it to cherish it; but how can they do either, if they know not what it is? Without it our religion is vain ; we cannot serve the living God here, nor enjoy him hereafter ; we are exposed to the eternal agonies of the second death, and our souls are pining under a spiritual decay, that will at length consume our vitals. How necessary then is spiritual life! And the necessity of the thing infers the necessity of the knowledge of it. The profession of it is the source of all vital religion ; it is the health of the spirit; the ornament and perfection of the huinan nature ; the grand pre-requisite to everlasting happiness ; the dawn of celestial glory ; is it not then incomparably profitable ? And must not the right knowledge of it be so too ? Yet some are entirely ignorant of it ; others, who say they see, are widely mistaken about its nature, the time and man. ner of its communication, its subjects, the author and meritorious cause of it, and the way in which it is supported and cherished : and therefore, for the instruction of the ignorant, the rectification of wrong sentiments, and the confirmation of our minds in the truth, it may be expedient briefly to attempt the solution of the following inquiries.
I. Wherein spiritual life consists?
III. Whether it be instantaneously communicated, or gradu. ally acquired by repeated acts ?
IV. Who are the subjects of it ? or, in what extent is it communicated ?
V. In what sense is it communicated and supported through Christ?
VI. How faith derives supplies from him for its support and nourishment ?
I. “ Wherein does spiritual life consist ?" This inquiry, though necessary both to inform your minds and to repel the charge of unintelligibleness, so frequently alleged against this doctrine, yet is exceeding difficult, both because of the mysteriousness of the thing in itself, and because of the blindness of the minds of those that are not endowed with it. It is mysterious in itself, as every kind of life is. The effects and many of the prop