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Rot this inward witness, the beginnings of eternal life? Therefore it is that so many christians waver and are led away, sometimes to this new doctrine, sometimes to another, because they feel so little of the efficacy and power of the gospel in their hearts, so very little of holiness and eternal life within them.
If you cannot argue for the gospel with learning, nor from experience, what will ge do in an hour of temptation ? For the most part, christians are too little bred up to those methods of knowledge, whereby they might be capable of giving large, and rational, and satisfactory answers to those that may set themselves to oppose the truth and progress of the gospel. What will you do in the darkness of such a temptation, when those that are learned and ingenious shall attack your faith, and say, “ Why do you believe in Jesus ?" If you have this answer ready at hand, * I have found the efficacy and power of the gospel on my heart;" this will be sufficient to answer all their cavils. It was one way whereby christianity was confirmed in the hearts of the martyrs of old, and whereby they were enabled to bear up against all oppositions, because they found such a divine efficacy attending the gospel, such a new and heavenly life wrought in them, as enabled them to go through great hardships for the sake of Christ. But this leads me to,
4. The fourth remark, viz. If there be this inward evidence belonging to the gospel, and those that truly believe, then you have a strong encouragement to profess christianity under the greatest persecutions. It will bear you out, it carries its own evidence with it; christianity in the heart will give courage against temptation. Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial, says the apostle Peter, for in such a fiery trial the gospel hath secured thousands; therefore, says St. Paul, though I meet with reproaches wheresoever i go, though bonds and imprisonments azait me, and death itself; Acts xx. 23.
I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ ; Rom. i. 16. for it is the power of God to salcation, to every one that believeth. Which is but the sense of my text in other words. Every one that believes it in truth, hath this evidence in himself, even eternal life: Therefore I count not my life dear to me, &c. for the gospel will bear me out in my profession of it, in my publication of it, and in my suffering for it. This is the way we shall learn to resist unto blood, and seal the truth of this gospel with our mortal lives, if we have the seal of this truth abiding in our souls.
5th remark. As from this doctrine you have strong encouragement to profess christianity, so you are here taught the best way to honour the gospel, and to propagate the christian religion in the world. Make this inward divine testimony appear to the
world; let the eternal life that is wrought in your souls by this gospel, express itself in all your outward behaviour amongst men. Thus the primitive christians did, and it was their work to propagate the faith of Christ this way. The gentiles and unbelievers were won by their conversation; 1 Pet. ii. 1. Thus the apostles did, who were as so many captains and officers in the army of christians, going before the camp, and making war against all the idolatry of the heathens. They made that eternal life which was wrought in their souls, appear publicly, and discover itself unto men, and hereby the gospel gained victory and triumph wheresoever it went. When those who were ignorant of faith and its power, came into the assemblies of christians, and found the gospel to be a doctrine of such divine attendants, it convinced their consciences, and changed many of them into new creatures ; they fell down, and confessed that there is a God among the christians of a truth. When they see your conversation, when they behold your faith, and holy fear, your zeal for God, your delight in his worship, your gentleness, your meekness, kindness, and goodness toward your fellow-creatures, your desire of the salvation of men, and readiness to deny yourselves for their good; when the heathens know and behold this, they shall be won, says the apostle, by such a conversation as this is, to the belief of the same doctrine, and practice of the same duties.
O what unknown millions of arguments would support and adorn the doctrine of Christ, if every professor of it had this inward testimony working powerfully in the soul, and breaking forth in the life ! How effectually would it silence the most impudent objectors ! When they shall put that question to you,
“What do you more than others lis
You would make it appear in your lives, that the gospel is true and divine, by challenging all the philosophers, and all the priests and devotees of other religions, to shew such men and women as christians are; such husbands and wives, such parents and children, such masters and servants. such lovers of God and man. O how happy would it be for the christian name and interest in the world, if those who profess the gospel of Christ, could make a bold and universal challenge upon this head! Or when the deists shall insult and say to a believer, What is Jesus of Nazareth more than another man,
that and adore him so ? Or in the language of the carnal Jews, W'hat is thy beloved more
than another beloved, that thou makest so much ado about him? The discovery of Christ reigning in the soul by his renewing grace, will be a sufficient evidence that he is the Son of God, that his character and his person are divine, and his mission is from above ; that he is the chiefest of ten thousand, and altogether lovely.
It is worth while for us now to take a survey of ourselves, to
look back upon our lives, and ask, “ What testimonies have we given to the glory of this gospel, and to the truth of the religion of Christ? Have we not sometimes rather been scandals to christianity? Have not our practices been blots instead of evidences, and discouragements to the unbeliever, intead of allurements? Have we not sometimes laid stumbling-blocks in the way of those that have had the look of an eye, and some tendency of heart towards it ?" This will be an awakening thought, and painful to conscience in the review.
Have we not much reason to mourn that there are some among us who walk as enemies of the cross of Christ ? Phil. iii. 17. I would have you, says the apostle, be followers of me, walk as 1 m walk, as you hare me for an example. I would have you walk as those who have eternal life begin in them, that you may be honours to the gospel. But there are many who walk, of whom I hare told you often, and now tell you even weeping, they are enemies of the cross, and dishonours to the gospel, instead of evidences of the truth of it; their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and their glory is in their shame ; whereas our conversation is in heaven, whence we erpect Jesus the Saviour; 18, 19, 20. We who are here upon carth, and have believed the gospel of Christ, we should live as though we had part of ourselves in heaven already, our conversation should be so holy and divine. Eternal life begun in our hearts, should break out, and disclose itself, and shine bright among the persons we converse with. 0! how much is the propagation of the gospel obstructed, how much the honour of our Lord Jesus Christ obscured, and how much the good of souls prevented and hindered by those that discover not this eternal life, this sacred witness, in the holiness of heart and practice! Bul, beloved, we hope better things of you, and things that accompany sulvation, though we thus speak; Ileb. vi. 9. and yet we must speak thus, with a sacred jealousy for the glory and evidence of this gospel, with a warin concern for the peace and welfare of your souls, and with boly zeal for the conversion of the unbelieving world to the faith of God our Saviour.
Flesh and Spirit; or, the Principles of Şin and Holiness.
Rom. viii. 1. Who walk not after the Flesh, but after the Spirit. WHEN we use the words flesh and spirit, in their literal and proper sense, all men know what we mean by them : Flesh
generally signifies the animal nature; that is, the body and blood, &c. and spirit means an intelligent nature that has understanding and will. When these are attributed to man, they are but other names to express those two distinct beings, the body and soul, that make up human nature. But these words are often in scripture used metaphorically, and that in various senses ; yet the metaphor, as it stands in my text, hath such justness and propriety in it, that the sense of it is not very difficult to be traced, being happily and nearly derived from the proper and literal meaning. It is plain that St. Paul uses this expression of walking after the flesh, to signify a course of sin; and by walking after the spirit, he describes a course of holiness. This is the character of such as believe in Christ, and to whom belongs no condemnation, that they walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit; they live not in a course of sin, nor according to sinful principles, but follow the principles of holiness that are wrought in them.
Thus the word flesh signifies, and includes all the principles and springs of sin that are found in man, whether they have their inmediate and distinct residence in the body or in the soul. The word spirit signifies and includes all the principles of holiness that are wrought in any person, whether immediately residing in soul or body. And among the many places of scripture where they are so used, those words of our Lord himself to Nicodemus, John iii. 6. seem to make this most evident : What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the spirit is spirit; by which he means to assert, that what comes by natural generation tends towards sin, and what is derived from the operation of the Spirit of God leads to holiness. Or, more plainly thus : all the principles of sin spring from mere human nature, as derived from our parents, and are called fiesh; and, on the contrary, all the principles of holiness spring from the Spirit of God, and are called spirit; and thence his argument derives the necessity of being born again, or born from above. In the first part of these two sentences, flesh and spirit are taken literally for the flesh of ma!