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A CARNAL AND A SPIRITUAL MIND.
ROM. viii. 6.
For to be carnally minded, is death: but to be spiritually minded, is life and peace.
N the former part of this epistle, the apostle describes the sinful state, in which the whole world is involved, whether Gentiles or Jews: they are all become guilty before God, and obnoxious to his wrath. He then shews, that the way of salvation for both, which was always designed in the counsel of God, and gradually made known to the world, but now most fully in the gospel, was not to be by the works of the law, or by any merit of our own, but by the gracious and free pardon of our sins for Christ's sake, and upon faith
But lest this way of justification by faith should be misinterpreted, and abused to encourage men in sin, and in the neglect of holiness; the apostle in the sixth chapter comes to treat of sanctification; and to shew, that the gospel lays us under the strictest engagements to universal holiness; that our faith in Christ, and our baptismal dedication in his name, bind us indispensibly to this.
And in the first verse of the eighth chapter, he sums up both the great blessings, of which he had been treating, and the holiness that he had been inculcating; and represents them as inseparably connected. "There is therefore now, no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." This is a certain truth, that the sentence of condemnation no longer holds against real Christians, but all their sins are pardoned.
But who are so in Christ, that they may take the comfort of this privilege? They, and they only, "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." And after the apostle hath shewn, how effectual a provision is made by the gift of the Spirit of life, and by God's sending his own Son into the world, both in order to our pardon, and our recovery to holiness, ver. 2—4. he proceeds more fully to explain the character, which he had given of Christians, and to urge the necessity of it.
Would you know, whether you are in Christ, and may be esteemed in the sense of the gospel to walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit? The apostle tells you ver. 5. "They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the spirit, the things of the spirit." And to shew, that it is of the utmost consequence to us, as ever we would escape condemnation, to see that we mind not the things of the flesh, but those of the spirit; he adds in the text, "For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded, is life and peace."
In the words we have,
I. Two very opposite characters; to be carnally minded, and to be spiritually minded. Characters, which divide all mankind into two parties. Every man must be denominated either the one or the other of these. However people may agree or disagree in other things, here is the most essentialand wide difference that can be between man and man, that some are carnally, and others spiritually minded. And yet on the other hand, there is often such a mixture in the temper of those, to whom these very different characters belong, that contributes not a little on both sides to darken the character, unless diligent care and serious consideration be used to know, which in truth is our own. But then, to excite our concern for making this discovery, and to convince us of the great preference due to the one above the other;
II. The horrid evil and miserable effects of the one, and the excellence and good consequences of the other are set before us. The one is death, and, as it follows in the next verse, enmity against God: but the other is life and peace.
I shall pursue the subject under these two general heads, into which it has been branched.
I. I am to explain the different tempers of mind, which are expressed here, and opposed the one to the other, viz. the minding of the flesh, and the minding of the spirit.
The flesh and the spirit, may be understood here, either as principles, or as objects of those exercises of the mind meant by the word, góvnua. Either such a disposition and exercise of the mind, as has its original and rise from the flesh or the spirit; or else an addictedness in the temper and actings of the mind, toward the one or the other. Indeed both of these will come to much the same at last whether flesh or spirit be our governing principle, still there will be an answerable bias upon the actings of the mind toward those things, which suit either the one or the other. But the fifth verse, plainly leads us to consider them as different objects of the mind's exercise: and accordingly I shall treat of them in that view; and it will be needful more particulary to explain, 1. The two opposite objects, about one of which the mind is supposed to be conversant; the flesh, and the spirit. 2. That temper of mind, with reference to the one or the other, which the apostle's expression denotes, and which makes the difference between men; upon which some may be stiled carnally and others spiritually minded.
First, For the meaning of the terms, flesh and spirit, which are here, and in many other places, especially of St Paul's epistles, opposed one to the other; it may be proper to observe two or three things.
1. The ground of the distinction is plainly laid in the original frame of human nature, as it consists both of body and soul. These two parts of man are of a nature very unlike, and yet linked together by our great Creator, in a very close and intimate union. By the one, we are nearly allied to earth and sensible things; by the other, to God, and things spiritual and heavenly. Now though all thought, and inclination, and affection, are properly seated in the soul, and not in the body; yet the body has wants and interests of its own, as well as the soul has others peculiar to itself. And the soul has many thoughts and inclinations, many gratifications and uneasinesses, which are only owing to its union with the body, and for which
there would be no room, if it were a pure spirit: such are appetites and affections to sensible good, and joys and sorrows, upon account of present good and evil. On the other hand, beside these, the soul is capable of thoughts and inclinations much more sublime, and worthy of the superior excellence of its nature above the body. It is capable of bearing the image of God, in all moral excellencies and perfections, and of enjoying the favour of God, and a happiness in that, far above all which can be derived from worldly good. With such capacities man was made; and at first he was actually disposed and bent, to regard most these best and noblest interests of man, and the concerns of the body only in a subservience to the other. But it was possible, that the soul might turn off its attention from its own proper interests, and mind those of the body supremely: man might, if he would be so foolish, give up reason and his higher powers, to the sway of appetite and passion. And so we find by scripture, and sad experience that he did. "Man that was in honour, understood not; but became like the beasts that perish." Psal. xlix. 20. In this distinction between the different interests of body and soul, the distinction between flesh and spirit is founded. But then,
2. These terms in the common language of the New Testament, directly and commonly signify the human nature, either as actually depraved, or as rectified and recovered.
By the flesh is meant, not only the body and its interests; but the mind, as actually sunk into body; enslaved by it in its actings; inordinately addicted to it, even to the neglect of its own proper and peculiar interests: which is the very heart of the apostacy. The flesh signifies the mind along with its carnal bias, as it is become disaffected to God and holiness, indifferent for his favour, but strongly bent to sensible good, to the indulgence of affections upon earth, and to the gratification of appetite and passion. In this sense we must understand the apostle, when he speaks of "walking after the flesh," ver. 1, 4. when he says, ver. 8. "that they that are in the flesh, cannot please God;" and to the converted Romans, "ye are: not in the flesh," ver. 9. It is evident that he cannot mean in these places, by being in the flesh, merely being in the body; but being under the power and dominion of depraved
On the other hand, by the spirit, is meant not only the soul in distinction from the body; but the soul, as recovered by the
grace and Spirit of God, from the dominion and prevailing power of inordinate appetites and affections, and restored to its right turn, and bent in righteousness and true holiness. Thus we must understand, walking after the spirit, that is, according to the dictates of a sanctified mind; or, which is the same thing, under the conduct of the Spirit of God, whose workmanship and image, the sanctified mind is. And so in ver. 9. "Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you."
3. These phrases, as they are used in the text to express the object of that exercise of mind, by which the different characters of men are drawn, must be understood agreeably to the foregoing observations. The flesh signifies the things of the flesh; or which are suited to the body; and to the depraved inclinations of the mind; sensible present things, the interests of this life and world; which suit the inclinations we have, merely by occasion of the body; and which are most suitable to the soul, only as far as it is become of a carnal disposition. On the contrary, by the spirit, are meant the things of the spirit; things of a spiritual nature, which are most directly suited to the interests of the soul itself; which conduce to refine and regulate its actings now, and to secure a happiness agreeably to its immortal nature.
The things intended by the flesh and the spirit here, are the very same as this apostle writing to the Colossians, expresses by "the things on earth, and things above," Col. iii. 2. as will appear by comparing the original.
The flesh is the same with things on earth. Either such as directly interfere with the interests of our souls, as irregular appetites and passions, sinful habits and customs. These so generally prevail in the world, that the apostle John sums up all its contents, in words importing our depraved affections, 1 John ii. 16. "All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life." Or even other things, which in their places, and in a regulated measure, we may lawfully be conversant about, may be included in the things of the flesh, or the things on earth, by an undue regard to which, we may justly be pronounced carnally minded : the advantages, and honours, and pleasures of this life; riches and dignities, ease and health, friends and agreeable relations: ay, and the entertainments of knowledge and learning, as far as