« ElőzőTovább »
erties of animal life are plain, but what animal life is in itself is an inquiry too sublime for the most philosophic and soaring mind. Now spiritual life still approaches nearer to the life of the divine Being, that boundless ocean of incomprehensible mysteries, and consequently exceeds our capacity more than any other. But besides, such is the blindness of unregenerate souls, that they cannot receive or know the things of the Spirit of God, i Cor. ii. 14, and therefore what is knowable by enlightened minds concerning spiritual life, cannot be apprehended with suitable clearness by them. The power of understanding it seems to be the effect of the thing understood, and cannot exist separately from it. So it is in other kinds of life. Nothing but reason can inform what is a rational life. Let the faculties of the most sagacious animal be ever so much polished, it can receive no ideas of it. So he that believeth, hath the witness in himself, 1 John v. 10. and none but himself can hear its testimony.* But suppose we could form clear ideas, we should still be at a loss for clear expressions. I have a clear idea of many of the appetites, passions, and motions of ani. mal life ; but words may fail me to express them intelligibly to another, especially if he has no experience of them himself. It need not, therefore, afford you any surprise, if after all that shall be said to illustrate this point, it still remains obscure. To design any more than to give you some faint glimmerings, some half formed, inadequate conceptions of it, would be a piece of arrogant vanity.
Now spiritual life supposes a living spiritual principle, and it implies a disposition and a power to serve God, or of holy operation.
1. It supposes a living spiritual principle. There can be no life, no vital actions, without a vital principle, from whence they Aow : e.g. there can be no animal life, no animal sensations and motions, without a principle of animal life. By a vital principle I mean that from which life and its actions and passions immediately proceed : e. g. in the formation of our souls a principle of reason is concreated with them, which is the source, the immediale cause of their life and rational operations. I call this a princi
I do not mean that the unregenerate have the same degree of incapa. city in the one case as beasts have in the other, but only that the one is as really incapable as the other. Reason in the unregenerate approaches nearer to spiritual life than the powers of animal life do to reason, and yet comes entirely short of it.
ple, because it is the beginning of life. Now spiritual life must suppose a principle of holiness. A principle of life of any kind will not suffice ; it must be particularly and formally a holy principle ; for life and all its operations will be of the same kind with the principle from which they proceed. Now a holy principle is something distinct from and superadded to the mere natural principle of reason. By virtue of this a man can think and will; but experience assures us, that thinking and willing, abstractedly considered, or under sundry modifications which they are capable of, are very different from thinking and willing in a holy manner, or with those peculiar modifications which spiritual operations bear. I can will an indifferent or evil object, if it appears to me as good ; but my willing that which is morally good as such, is a very different act; and the principle from which the former act with its modification proceeds, may not be capable of producing the latter so modified. This may be illustrated by the case of the devils and their associates of the human race. They still retain the principle of reason, and are capable of thinking and willing ; otherwise they would be incapable of torment, for without consciousness there could be no sense of misery, and conscious. ness implies thinking: and without willing there can be no desire of happiness, or abhorrence of penal evil; but yet they are utterly incapable of thinking and willing in a manner morally good, and therefore a principle of holiness must be something distinct from a mere rational principle. It may be urged, “That all the acts
“ That all the acts of spiritual life may be resolved into the acts of reason, namely, thinking and willing in a holy manner ; and therefore the principle of the former is the same with that of the latter." In answer to this, I grant that the principle of reason, when it implies a power of putting forth such acts, and about such objects, as holiness includes , when it implies a power of knowing and choosing those things which the divine law requires us to know and choose, that then it is the same with a principle of spiritual life ; and this is the case of such reasonable beings as still continue in their original uprightness : but the principle of reason may be so maimed as to lose this power, and yet not lose its nature; that is, it may become incapable of that manner of operation which spiritual life produces, and yet continue a principle of reason still. This is cvident from the case of infernal spirits, formerly mentioned. Now the principle of spiritual life supplies this moral defect; it adds
10 reason a capacity of exercising itself suitably about spiritual things. Such a capacity is a separable adjunct of reason, and by the corruption of our natures it is actually separated from it : and consequently, till it be superadded to our rational powers, we are incapable of spiritual operation ; I mean such a manner of spiritHal operation as is morally good and acceptable to God. Our rational powers indeed can still exercise themselves about divine things, but then it is not in a fit manner : and therefore when a sinner is quickened by efficacious grace, a power of acting in a fit manner with respect to these things is superadded to his rational powers; and before this there is nothing in him out of which such a power may be educed.
To illustrate this matter, let us suppose a man deprived of the faculty of memory, and yet to continue rational, (as he might in a low degree) according to this supposition, he will be always incapable of an act of memory, however strong his powers of perception, volition, &c. may be, till the power of exercising his reason in that particular way which is called remembering, be conferred upon him.
So let à sinner's mere natural powers be ever so much refined and polished, yet, if there be no principle of spiritual life distinct from them infused, he will be everlastingly incapable of living religion. This gracious principle is called the
. seed of God, 1 John iii. 9, to intimate, that as the seed of vegetables is the first principle of the plant, and of its vegetative life, so is this of spiritual life, and all its vital acts.
2. Spiritual life implies a disposition to a holy operation, an inward propensity, a spontaneous inclination towards holiness ; a willing that which is good. Rom. vii. 18. Every kind of life has some peculiar innate tendencies, sympathies, and antipathies : so animal life implies a natural inclination to food, to move at proper seasons, &c. There is a savour, a relish for divine things, äs essential to spiritual life as our natural gusts and relishes are to natural life. Hence gracious desires are often signified in scripture under the metaphors of hungering and thirsting ; and to this St. Peter expressly alludes į ás new born babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby. 1 Pet. ii. 2. By virtue of this disposition, believers set their affections on things above, Col. iii. 2. they relish, they savour, they affect things above. This is the spiritual-mindedness, the savour of the spirit, which is spiritual life ; and stands in opposition to the relish and propensions of mere nature. Rom. viii, 6. By virtue of this the strongest bent of their souls is God-ward ; they tend, they gravitate towards him as their proper centre. Their desire is unto hin and to the remembrance of his name. Isa. xxvi. 8. Their soul follows hard after him. Psalm Ixiii. 8. By virtue of this they incline to keep all God's commandments ; they have an in ward tendency to obedience ; they love God's law ; they delight in it after the inner man, Psalm. cxix. 97. Rom. vii. 22, and their love and delight will habitually sway them to observe it : religion is their element, their choice. It is not in them forced and unnatural, as all those operations are which do not proceed from an intrinsic principle; and that reluctancy and indisposedness which they sometimes unhappily feel in themselves to religious duties, is preternatural with respect to this spiritual disposition; as the loathing of healthful food is to the human body : it proceeds from a disorder, a weakness in their spiritual life, occasioned by the strugglings and transient prevalency of contrary principles : it is owing to the lustings of the flesh against the spirit. Again, Their obedience is not servile and mercenary, resulting merely from the apprehension of the misery which will ensue upon disobedience; but it is, generous and filial, proceeding from a convictive view of the intrinsic reasonableness, congruity, and amiableness of the duties of holiness; from the pleasure and satisfaction which the performance of them, under this view, naturally produces; (so a man is excited to eat, not merely by his apprehension of the necessity of it for the support of bis body, but also by the pleasure he finds in the very action) and from a sense of the divine authority enjoining those duties. By this the genuine acts of spiritual life are infallibly distinguished from that low and ignoble devotion which flows from custom, education, horrors of conscience, and all the principles of mere nature.
It is true indeed, some persons by nature, and consequently without this supernatural disposition, may incline to and delight in sundry things that, as to the matter of them, are religious duties. So (e. g.) some are naturally averse to intemperance ; and sobriety is inwrought in their very constitutions. Yet still this gracious disposition is distinguished from such a natural inclination by these two marks : The first implies a distinct reference to and a sense of the authority of the divine Lawgiver as enjoining those duties, and prompts a person to observe them formally as duties, as acts of obedience; but the latter prompts to the obe
servance of them, considering them as things agreeable to the person’s natural temper, without any distinct reference to God; and so they are rather acts of self-gratification than of obedience to the divine authority ; and the person would incline to them, if they were not commanded at all. They are duties materially in themselves, but not formally, as performed by him : a regard to the authority of God, which is the constitutive form of obedience, is left out. A generous temper may incline to give alms ; for the Lord's sake, is omitted. (2.) Spiritual life disposes to all duties of religion and acts of holiness universally. It delights in holiness as such, and regards the authority of the law for itself; and consequently, whatever has the nature of holiness, whatever has the sanction of divine authority, it cannot but affect and relish, even though it should be very contrary to a man's natural inclinations and temporal advantage. But a natural propension is always partial and limited, and inclines to some duties only, neglecting others of equal or greater importance, which thwart the man's corrupt propensions. In a word, such a one's religion proceeds from the very same disposition that his sins proceed from, namely, a disposition to please himself. Hence it is always a maimed, imperfect, half-formed thing ; it has not that amiable symmetry and uniformity, that congruous proportion and connection of parts, which are the ornament and distinguishing characteristic of that religion which flows from a heart universally disposed to holiness.
3. Spiritual life implies a power of holy operation. A heavenly vigour, a divine activity animates the whole soul. It implies more than an inefficacious disposition, a dull, lazy velleity, productive of nothing but languid wishes. So every kind of life implies a power of operation suitable to its nature. Animal life (e. g.) has not only an innate propensity, but also a natural power to move, to receive and digest food, &c. They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, Isa. xl. 31. that is, they have strength given them ; renewed and increased by repeated acts, in the progress of sanctification. They are strengthened with might, by the Spirit in the inner man. Eph. iii. 16. I do not mean that spiritual life is always sensible and equally vigorous ; alas ! it is subject to many languishments and indispositions : but I mean there is habitually in a spiritual man a power, an ability for serving God, which, when all pre-requisites concur, and hinderances are removed, is capable of putting forth acts of holiness, and which does