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submit and yield to the fretful or the luxurious humours of the body; and thus the brutal powers overcome the mind, and I am led away captive to sin. If I had not an eye, I had not been drawn away to the commission of this folly; if I had not an ear, I had not been tempted from God at such a season; if I had not such appetites or senses in exercise, I had been secured from many a snare; if I did not wear this flesh about me, which is so fond and tender of itself, and so impetuous and active in the pursuit of its own ease and satisfaction, I had not shrunk away at such a time from a dangerous duty; I had not been so fearful and cowardly at such a place in the profession of my faith, nor so often polluted my soul with sensualities, and made work for bitter repentance.
Thus the experience of christians, and the language of scripture concur in this point, That the occasions of sin evidently lie most in the flesh and a contradiction or opposition to sin, proceeds more from the spirit.
It is true indeed, and must be confessed, that the soul being but in part sanctified, too often complies with these motions of sin which work in onr members; and the affections of the soul itself, being not perfectly hely, are too easily induced to indulge the desires and passions of the flesh; and thereby sin is committed and guilt contracted. The law or principle, of sin in the members, leads the mind, too often, captive; Rom. vii. 23. Thus the soul is very culpable for want of perpetual resistance, and becomes 'guilty before God, by every such inordinate passion breaking forth, and by the satisfaction of every such sinful raging appetite; yet I must believe that the soul of a christian would not be guilty half so often, if the lusts of the body were not more active than the mere abstracted lusts of the mind are. The spirit lusteth against the flesh, and the flesh against the spirit; Gal. v. 17. That part which is chiefly sanctified, and that which is chiefly unsanetified, strike against each other; and it is true in a literal sense, as well as a figurative one, that a saint with his mind serves the law of God, but too often with his flesh the law of sin.
Thus I have given the chief reasons why the principles of sin are represented in scripture by flesh, and the springs of holiness by spirit.
[This sermon may be divided here.]
From this consideration of flesh and spirit, of holiness and sin, which are set forth in the word of God, and thus explained in the most free and intelligible method that I am capable of, I would derive some remarks for our information and practice.
Remark I. We may hence derive a rule of judgment concerning our own state, and find whether we have any principle of holiness in our hearts or no, or whether we are yet in the flesh, and in a state of sin. We may draw an easy
answer to these questions, by making an inward enquiry into ourselves, according to the three descriptions of flesh and spirit.
First, What are our chief aims and desires? Are they bent to gratify the appetites of the flesh, and set upon sensual enjoyments? Or do we seek and pursue spiritual and eternal things, as our most valuable and lovely portion? What is our chief treasure? Where are our hearts and our hopes? Are they wandering amongst heaps of gold and silver, roving over fair and large estates, entertaining themselves with gay cloathing, honours, and vanities? Or are they pointing upwards, and directed towards God, the first and best of beings; and fixed on the blessedness of the spiritual world. Is our chief concern to make provision for the flesh and this life, or to secure an inheritance for our souls among the incorruptible glories of the upper world? What is it that sits highest in our esteem, and awakens our warmest affections and brightest joys? Is it God or the creature, heaven or earth, things fleshly or invisible? Let conscience be faithful, and answer to such inquiries.
Again, let us ask ourselves, have we nothing within us but what was derived from nature and the flesh? or do we find ourselves enriched with divine graces by the influence of the Holy Spirit? Are we the same sort of creatures that we were born? or have we had a mighty change wrought in us, so that we can find in ourselves that we are born again, born of the spirit? Have we new love and new hatred, new designs and pursuits, new joys and sorrows? or are the affections of our souls the same that we brought into the world with us, and engaged chiefly about the affairs of this body, and this temporal life?
Let us enquire, in the third place whether there be any opposition made by our spirits against fleshly passions and appetites? Let every one of us ask our souls, What inward conflict do I find in myself? Do I comply with all the sinful tendencies. of fleshly nature, or do I maintain a continual resistance? Is there a combat, and, as it were, a duel within me, when temptations present themselves? or am I easily led away, and yield to sin naturally, without any reluctance? Do I find my flesh and spirit at war within me, when any sensual allurements appear? or do I yield up all my powers as servants to sin, and comply with the lusts of the flesh, with a hearty delight? Am I like a dead fish carried down with the stream of my appetites and passions, and make no pretences to oppose the vicious current? If, upon this enquiry, I find that the flesh is sovereign, and the spirit never opposes it, I may pronounce myself then to be in the flesh, in the most significant and complete manner: then I have nothing but flesh in me, and my soul is, as it were, carnalized, and deep immersed in the fleshly life. E 3
I confess there may be some sort of opposition made to fleshly lusts, where there is no renewed nature, no saving grace, no true principle of holiness, such as is described by the spirit in my text. Many a youth resists his inclination to a drinking hour, or unclean iniquities, by the mere force of his education, by the awful regard he has to his parents, by a fear of injury to his health, or of public shame or scandal. Many a wicked man refuses to comply with his corrupt appetites, because he cannot bear the anguish of his own conscience, and the sharp reproaches of his reason and better judgment. And many a guilty passion is restrained, and suppressed, from a natural fear of the justice of God, and an everlasting hell, without any inward principle of real picty.
It is not every resistance therefore that we make and maintain against sin, can be a sufficient evidence that we are new creatures, unless we can say with St. Paul; Rom. vii. 22. I delight in the law of God after the inward man; that my soul not only approves, but takes pleasure in holiness; that sin is the object of my utter hatred, as well as my present resistance; and that not only as it promotes my own ruin, but as it brings dishonour to God: that my very heart and soul are set for God and religion, and it is a grief and daily burden to me, that there should be any such thing as a law in my members warring against the law of my mind; which makes the true christian cry out often, with bitterness of soul, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Rom. vii. 24. Yet still it remains an incontestible truth, That where there is no resistance to the flesh,' and the lusts thereof, there persons are not only in a state of sin, but in the strongest bonds of iniquity; they have brutified their human natures, and have made themselves like the beasts that perish; such was the character of the Ephesian Gentiles when the gospel came first among them; they were alienated from the life of God, and being past feeling, gave themselves up to work all uncleanness with greediness; Eph. iv. 18, 19.
Remark II. There may be some spirit in a person where there is much flesh; some holiness where there is much sin. For as none but saints in heaven are all spirit, and as the unregenerate are all flesh; so the saints here upon earth, are some flesh and some spirit, because they are sanctified but in part; they are in their way towards perfection, but they are not perfect: The spirit and the flesh conflict in them, so that they cannot do the things which they would. As they cannot serve Godand practise holiness, with such constancy and zeal as they desire, because of the lusting of the flesh; so neither can they sink so far into sin, nor indulge evil courses so far as the flesh would lead them, if they had no strivings of the spirit to resist it, no principles of
regeneration or holiness. They are led away indeed many times by sensual and fleshly allurements, but the chief objects of their pursuit are spiritual and heavenly; they have too many of the same vain affections and sinful desires, that were born of the flesh, remaining in them; but they have also new thoughts and hopes, new inclinations and appetites towards divine things, which could not be derived but from heaven, and prove them to be born of the spirit.
As unreasonable as it is therefore for any sincere christians to say, they are complete in holiness, or pretend to perfection in this life, because they find a work of grace in them so it is equally unreasonable for them to charge themselves with being altogether carnal and unregenerate, because they find some of the lusts of the flesh warring in them. I would say, therefore, with compassion to such humble and doubting souls, while you are inhabitants in flesh, and your sanctification is imperfect, you will not have perfect peace, there will ever be some enemies within, for you to conflict with; and this inward war, this battle with flesh and blood, with self and sin, will by no means prove that ye are utterly unsanctified: No, it will rather give you some reasons to hope, that there may be a principle of holiness wrought in you, because you find a resistance against the flesh; especially if you experience also a zeal and hatred against every rising iniquity. The most holy soul in this life, can never prevent all the motions of irregular appetite: and the best of christians have much ado to curb and suppress some sinful affections which spring from this mortal body. The chiefest of saints had reason to complain that he was too often led captive by the law of sin in his members; Rom. vii. 23.
It is true indeed, if we were completely sanctified, if our spirits were entirely holy, they would constantly and effectually resist all evil motions and appetites of the flesh, so that they should not bring forth the fruits of iniquity and guilt: But where this resistance is not always effectual, yet if it be constant and sincere, and flow from a real hatred of sin, there the heart is renewed, and the spiritual life begun. Let trembling christians therefore be encouraged, though they may find many vexing ferments of the flesh, and disquieting passions sometimes stirring within them; let them not cast away their hope, but let them rather rejoice in the promises of the covenant, and go on daily to cleanse themselves, by the aids of divine grace, from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God; 2 Cor. vii. 1.
Remark III. What bold and impious folly are those guilty of, who give a loose to all the appetites and lusts of the flesh, under a pretence that it is their temper and constitution leads them to it; that it is their nature inclines them to riot in all luxury and
wantonness: and that they do but follow the leadings of nature? I would reason a little with persons of such a profligate character, if they have not renounced reason as well as religion.
1. Consider, sinners, whether you are not under a great mistake, while you say, that you obey all the dictates of nature when you rush on to fleshly iniquities. Have you no natural conscience within you that forbids these vile practices? Has it not given you many a check already, and many an inward reproach? Have you no reason that tells you there is a God, and a judgment, and a terrible account one day to be given of the guilt and madness which you now indulge? It is but one part of your nature then, and that the meanest and the vilest too, whose dic tates you obey, when you give yourselves up to all intemperance, The very heathens have such a conscience in them, such a law written in their hearts, to forbid, and to condemn the grosser iniquities; Rom. ii. 15. And such an inward monitor belongs to your nature too, unless you have entirely subdued and enslaved your spirits, which are the best part of your natures, to the tyranny of your flesh; unless you have buried your reason in brutal appetite, and seared your conscience as with a hot iron, that they may neither feel nor speak.
2. You say, it is nature you obey, while you follow after fleshly lusts; but is it not nature depraved and spoiled? Can you think it is the pure, the original and uncorrupted nature of man to follow all the appetites of flesh and blood, and live upon a level with the brutes that perish? Can you imagine that your spirit and reason, and all the glorious powers of your intellectual nature in their first perfection, were made to be thus employed as lackeys to the body, and mere purveyors to the flesh? Is it not a sign your nature is fallen from its original state, while these meaner powers of sense and passion have so mighty and sovereign an influence; and is it not rather the dictate of reason, and nature; and true self-love, that you should seek the recovery of your original excellencies, that you should use all methods to stop and heal the diseases of your nature, and to repair these ruins of humanity.
But 3. Suppose it were the inclination of animal nature in its original frame, to be intemperate, proud, angry, impatient and luxurious; and suppose all the present evil appetites and passions of the flesh, were the attendants of man in his first estate; yet has not God your Creator and Governor, a right to place you in a state of trial, in order to future rewards and punishments? And may he not forbid your spirit to comply with these inclinations of nature and the flesh, as a test of your obedience to God your Maker? Is it not proper there should be some difficulties to conquer in such a probationary state? And if the God who made