« PreviousContinue »
used to let down somewhat of heaven now, cannot fail to issue in everlasting life.
I will close with some reflections.
1. We may justly fix this in our minds, as the principal and most important distinction, which can be among men ; the carnal and the spiritual mind. Other differences make a far louder sound, and draw more general attention. Distinctions made by wealth and honour, by beauty or wit, by learning or by party-names, have many more observers and admirers. But though “ the kingdom of God come without observation, and is chiefly within men;" yet as far as its authority and power over the minds of men, is discovered by the genuine fruits, it deserves more regard and esteem, than any other peculiarity wherein one can excel another. The question for divine approbation will not be, whether men are high or low, learned or unlearned, whether of this or that dividing name among Christians ; but whether they mind earthly things, or seek those which are above."
A man of low, capacities and circumstances may be rich in faith, eminently partake of the divine nature, and be an assured heir of the promise : and how much more excellent and happy is such a man, than any of those who make the most shining figure in life, if by choice and title they have their portion only in this world ?
2. We may consider this farther as the principal thing, wherein one Christian is better than another. People of all parties are apt to value others most, when they agree with themselves in bearing the same name of distinction, in observing the same outward forms of religion, or in maintaining the same speculative notions. And without doubt, though any mere name among Christians signifies little ; yet it will no pass for a small matter with those who are truly devoted to Christ, that they and others should form the justest notions they can of every divine truth, and observe the externals of religion in the nearest conformity they can to the rule given them : so far they, who agree best with the standard, certainly excel others. But still it is a more vital and important difference, which is made by the degrees of spiritual mindedness. He is the best Christian, whose soul is most fully attempered to spiritual things, and hath gone farthest in overcoming the remains of a carnal mind. This is the most essential mark of growth in grace.
3. If we are ready to entertain some high thoughts of our. selves, because we are reasonable creatures, and have the capacities of mind which those of the lower creation are strangers to ; it is enough to mortify our pride, to think that this very mind of ours is become carnal. What can the nobler capacity serve for, but our greater disgrace, and aggravated condemnation, without a suitable improvement ?
Better had it been for us, that we had been placed at first in the lowest rank of beings, instead of the rational, if we debase ourselves into the beast, when God has made us men: if our minds are only employed to make provision for the flesh, or to refine upon
the gratifications of the body, instead of reaching after, and relishing the proper glory and happiness of an immortał spirit.
4. What reason is there to be thankful for that, which we commonly call restraining grace? When a carnal mind is so natural to all, is still predominant in most people, and wherever it prevails, has so strong a bias in itself to all that is evil; in what a dismal state would this world be for the present, if it were not for such things, as the bias of a good education, the admonitions of natural consience, the awe of civil magistracy; the sense of shame from men ; the providential preventions of opportunity for doing many evils, or staving off temptations to them : Such things as these, where a religious fear of God is wanting, are of great service to keep the world in tolerable order at present: without them, we should live in a constant hell upon earth, and one man of a carnal mind would be a devil to another.
5. When the human nature was sunk so low, it was unspeakable grace in the great and Holy God, to take in hand, creatures so carnalized in order to their cure. That he should form a design of their recovery from such a degenerate state: and in order to it, he should send his only begotten Son to atone for this horrid apostacy, and restore his Holy Spirit, to recover lost souls, to their true taste and primitive disposition. He saw the disorders of our nature to be so great and inveterate, that they would never be set to rights by any hand inferior to his own ; that our case was desperate, and
past retrieve, if he did not undertake it himself. And therefore, notwithstanding the heinousness of the crime, though he might justly have given up for ever, creatures who had ruined themselves ; yet out of his abundant grace, he makes our recovery practicable, sets up an all-sufficient physician, and invites us to commit ourselves into his hands for healing. There is glory to God in the highesi upon this account ; let us who are directly concerned, heartily join in the song of praise, for this good-will toward men.
6. When a method of cure is settled by a gracious and allwise God, how much does it lie upon every one of us in particular to see, that the carnal mind is subdued in ourselves ! that at least, the mortal symptoms are taken away, that it has no longer the dominion in us. Without this change, all our profession of religion is a vain thing; we shall only “have a name to live, while really we are dead."
Without this, we shall find in the great day of account, that it had been better for us, if we had never been born, or never possessed of higher capacities than the brutes, or never favoured with the discoveries of the gospel, which shew us our disease, and the way of cure.
Under a conviction therefore of our need, let us earnestly apply to God through Jesus Christ, for the enlightening, quickening, and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit, to make us “dead unto sin, but alive unto God:” and under his gracious influences, which are readily granted to the humble and hearty seeker, let us resolve upon a vigorous and persevering warfare, against the carnal mind which wars against the soul.
7. How thankful should every true Christian be, that he is delivered from so great a death! Much more than for any temporal deliverance, that he has received or can receive. The evil here was the greatest that we could escape, spiritual death at present, and eternal death in prospect; we were fast bound in the chains of this death, so that none but God could have opened us a way of escape ; and notwithstanding the discovery of such a way, thousands in every age still remain in the same miserable condition. Let all that is within us then bless the Lord, who has made us to differ.
8. Let Christians behave as sensible of their remaining carnality, and of its deadly nature, as far as it does remain Let them live in the daily sense of this, that though the change in them be real and great, compared with the bent of depraved nature, yet it is incomplete in the best in this life : and as far as carnality remains, so much death remains. Let us all therefore walk humbly with our God, as sensible that he has still much against us, if he would be strict to mark iniquity. Let us watch against indwelling sin, the new actings of it, and the temptations which may excite it ; because we have not yet put off the harness, nor can justly apprehend ourselves out of danger. We should use habitual endeavours “to mortify our affections which are upon earth,” Col. iii. 5. and to “perfect holiness in the fear of God;" as those who have not yet attained, nor are already perfect. And whenever by neglect and the force of temptation, carnality breaks out afresh, or recovers new strength, there should be an immediate care to repair and strengthen dying graces, Rev. ii. 2. “Be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain, which are ready to die.” And since we must have occasion for this conflict more or less, while we sojourn in the body, it must ever be worthy of a real Christian, to look forward with longing expectations to the perfect life before him, where he will be entirely spiritually minded, “ like the angels of God in heaven,” Matt. xxii. 30.
9. Let the consideration of the sad condition of carnal minds, engage all true Christians in their proper places, to use their utmost endeavours for the recovery of others out of such a state. This becomes heads of families towards those under their immediate care, and one friend towards another, and every one according to his influence and talents. We, who are ministers, should especially be instant in season and out of season to this very purpose ; since it is the direct design and scope of a gospel-ministry. And sure we need not a stronger motive to animate us all, than that which is left us by the apostle James, chap. v. 19, 20. “Brethren, if
any you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth a sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of
FAITH THE MAIN PRINCIPLE OF THE
2 Cor. v. 7.
For we walk by faith, not by sight.
T is plain from the context, that the apostle's main design
present state, compared with that which he hath in prospect. He observes, that he and such other primitive servants of Christ, “having the earnest of the Spirit,” or the Spirit as the earnest of the promised inheritance : “ therefore were always confident,” ver. 5, 6. that is, undaunted in their work, whatever difficulties they met with, whatever dangers they were exposed to, even of life itself: “knowing (as he adds,) that while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord.” Or as we may render it more agreeably to the emphasis of the original ; knowing, that whilst we sojourn in the body, we are absent from our home with the Lord.” “ For we walk by faith, not by sight.” That is, “ While we are in the body, the main things by which we govern and conduct ourselves as Christians, are only perceived by faith ; not by sight, as they will be, when we come to be present with the Lord.”
Faith is represented here as a way of perception, which falls short of sight : and so it certainly is. But then on the other hand, it is intimated to be the best and most extensive principle we have in our state of trial : a principle of force and influence sufficient to regulate our walk and conduct: a principle strong enough at that time, to inspire the apostle himself and the