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adopted ones. If you ask me concerning man in his natural capacity, I am so far from thinking that he hath a self-quickening power, a principle of life in himself, that I must needs assert the contrary, with the Apostle, that he is "dead in trespasses and sins;" so far from thinking that he hath in himself a well of water, that I must call him, with the prophet, thirsty and dry ground." As for the regenerate man, I will not enter into that deep controversy concerning the co-operation of man's will with the Spirit of God, and its subordination to that in all gracious acts, or what a kind of cause of them this renewed will of man may be safely called; only I will affirm, that repenting and believing are properly man's acts, and yet they are performed by God's power; first, Christ must give this water ere it can be a well of water in the soul; which is enough, I suppose, to clear me from siding with either of those parties, whether those that ascribe to God that which he cannot do, or those that 'ascribe to free-will that which God alone can do. But I fear nothing from these controversies; for the way wherein I shall discourse of this matter, will nothing at all border upon them. This, then, I affirm, that religion is a living principle in the souls of good men: I cannot better describe the nature of religion, than to say it is a nature; for so does the Apostle speak, or at least allows us to speak, when he calls it a participation of a divine nature. Nothing but a nature can partake of a nature; a man's friend may partake of his goodness and kindness, but his child only partakes of his nature he that begets, begets a nature; and so doth
he that begets again. The sun enlightens the world outwardly, but it does not give a sun-like nature to the things so enlightened; and the rain doth moisten the earth, and refresh it inwardly, but it does not beget the nature of water in the earth : "But this water that I give," says our Saviour, "becometh a well of water in the soul." Religion is not any thing without a man, hanging upon him, or annexed to him; neither is it every something that is in a man, as we shall see anon; but it is a divine principle, informing and actuating the souls of good men, a living and lively principle, a free and flowing principle, a strong and lasting principle, an inward and spiritual principle. I must not speak of all these distinctly in this place, for fear of interfering in my discourse. When I say religion is a principle, a vital form acting the soul, and all the powers of it, an inward nature, &c. saith not the Scripture the same here, a well or fountain of water? And elsewhere, 66 a new man, the hidden man of the heart, the inward man." As the soul is called an inward man, respective to the body, 2 Cor. iv. 16. so religion is called an inward man respective to the soul itself, Rom. vii. 22. It is a man within man. The man that is truly alive to God, hath in him not only inward parts, for so a dead man hath, but an inward man, an inward nature and principle. Again, it is called a root, Job xix. 28. or, if not there, yet plainly in Mark iv. 17. where temporary professors are said to have no root in themselves. And this it is, by the same propriety of speech, whereby a wicked principle is called, "A root of bitterness." Again, it is called a seed, the seed of
God, 1 John iii. 9. where this seed of God is called an abiding or remaining principle. In the first creation, God made the trees of the earth, having their seed in themselves, and in the new creation, these trees of righteousness of God's planting, are also made with seed in themselves, though not of themselves. It is said to be the seed of God indeed, but remaining in the godly soul. Again, it is called a treasure, in opposition to an alms or annuity, that lasteth but for a day or a year, as a well of water, in opposition to a dish of water; and a treasure of the heart, in opposition to all outward and earthly treasures. It is a treasure affording continual expenses, not exhausted, yea, increased by expenses; wherein it exceeds all treasures in the world. By the same propriety of speech, sin is called a treasure too, but it is an evil treasure, as our Saviour speaks' in that same place. Do you not see what a stock of wickedness sinful men have within themselves, which, although they have spent upon ever since they were born, yet it is not impaired, nay, it is much augmented thereby and shall not the second Adam bestow something as certain and permanent upon his offspring, as the first Adam conveyed to his posterity? Though men have something without them, to guide them in the way of life, yet it is some living principle within them, that denominates them living men. The Scripture will abundantly inform you which is the true circumcision: "In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;" the true sacrifice to God,
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." And indeed the law itself is not so much to be considered as it was engraven in tables of stone, as being written in the heart. The Jews needed not have taken up their rest in the law, considered as an outward rule or precept; for they knew, or might have known, that God requireth "truth in the inward parts," as one of themselves, a prophet and a king of their own, acknowledgeth. But I doubt many Christians are also sick of the same disease, whilst they view the gospel as a history, and an external dispensation; whereas, the Apostle, when he opposeth it to the law, seems altogether to make it an internal thing, a vital form and principle, seated in the minds and spirits of men, 2 Cor. iii. The law was an external rule or dispensation, that could not give life, though it showed the way to it; but the gospel, in the most proper notion of it, seems to be an internal impression from God, a living principle, whereby the soul is enabled to express a real conformity to God himself. consider the gospel, in the history of it, and as a piece of book-learning, it is as weak and impotent a thing as the law was; and men may be as formal in the profession of this, as they were of that, which we see by daily sad experience. But if we consider the gospel, as an efflux of life and power from God himself upon the soul, producing life wherever it comes, then we have a clear distinction between the law and the gospel; to which the Apostle seems to refer, when he calls the Corinthians "the epistle of Christ, not written with ink, nor in the tables of
stone, but with the Spirit of the living God, in fleshly tables of the heart." According to which notion of the law and gospel, I think we may, with a learned man of our own, come to a good understanding of that controverted text, Jer. xxxi. 33. quoted by the Apostle, Heb. x. 16. "This is the covenant that I will make, I will put my law into their minds," &c. The gospel doth not so much consist in words as in virtue; a divine principle of religion in the soul, is the best gospel and so Abraham and Moses, under the law, were truly gospellers; and, on the other hand, all carnal Christians that converse with the gospel, only as a thing without them, are as truly legal, and as far short of the righteousness of God, as ever any of the Jews were.
Thus we see that religion is a principle in the souls of good men-" Shall be in him a well of water."
We shall now take notice of the difference between the true and all counterfeit religions. Religion is that pearl of great price, which few men are possessed of, though all men pretend to it, Laodicean-like, saying, they are rich, and need nothing, when indeed they are poor, and have nothing. This, then, shall be the test by which, at present, we will a little try the counterfeit pearls. True religion is an inward nature, an inward and abiding principle in the minds of good men, a well of
(1.) Then, we must exclude all things that are merely external; these are not it. Religion is not something annexed to the soul from without, but a new nature put into it. And here we shall glance at two things.