The stream of enmity runs under ground often, and so hides itself under some other notion, till at length it burst forth openly. I find it commonly runs in the secret channel of amity or friendship to some other thing opposite to God. So James iv. 4, The amity of the world is enmity with God, and 1 John ii. 15, He that loveth the world, the love of the Father is not in him. There are two dark and under ground conduits, to convey this enmity against God,—amity to the world, and amity to ourselves, self love, and creature-love. We cannot denounce war openly against heaven, but this is the next course, to join to, or associate with, any party that is contrary to God, and thus, under the covert of friendship to ourselves, and love to the world, we war against God, and destroy our own souls. I say, first, amity to the world carries enmity to God in the bosom of it, and if you believe not this, hear the apostles sharp and pungent question, you adulterers and adulteresses, know you not that the amity of the world is enmity with God? He doth not speak only to persons guilty of that crime, but to all natural men, who are guilty of adultery or whoredom of a more spiritual nature, but as abominable and more dangerous. There is a bond and special tie betwixt all men and God their Maker, which obligeth them to consecrate and devote themselves, their affections and endeavours, to his honour, especially when the covenant of the gospel is superadded unto that, in which Jesus Christ our Lord reveals himself, as having only right to us and our affections, as willing to bestow himself upon us, and notwithstanding of all the distance between him and wretched sinners, yet filling it up with his infinite love and wonderful condescendency, demitting himself to the form of a servant, out of love, that so he might take us up to be his chaste spouse, and adorn us with his beauty. This he challengeth of us, whoever hear and profess the gospel, this is your profession—if ye understand it—that Jesus Christ shall be your well-beloved, and ye his, that ye shall separate yourself to him, and admit no stranger in his place, that the choice and marrow of your joy, love and delight, shall be bestowed on him. Now, this bond and tie of a professed relation to that glorious husband, is foully broken by the most part, by espousing their affections to this base world. Your hearts are carried off him unto strangers, that is, present perishing things whereas the intendment of the gospel is, to present you to Christ as pure virgins, 2 Cor. xi. 2. Truly your hearts are gone a whoring after other things, the love of the world hath withdrawn you, or kept you in chains, these present things are as snares, nets, and bands, as an harlot's hands and heart, Eccl. vii. 26. They are powerful enchantments over you, which bewitch you to a base love, from an honourable and glorious love. O that you would consider it, my beloved, what opposition here is betwixt the love of the world and the love of the Father, betwixt amity to that which hath nothing in it, but some present bait to your deceitful lusts, and amity to God, your only lawful Husband! Affection is a transforming and conforming thing, Si terram amas terra es,(187) the love of God will purify thy heart, and lift it up to more similitude to him whom thou lovest, but the love of the world assimilates it unto the world, makes it such a base and ignoble piece, as the earth is. Do you think marriage affection can be parted? "My well beloved is mine," therefore the church is the turtle, the dove to Christ, of wonderful chastity, it never joins but to one, and after the death of its marrow, it sighs and mourns ever after, and sits solitarily. You must retire, my beloved, and disengage from the love of other things, or you cannot love Christ, and if you love not Christ, you cannot have peace with the Father, and if you have not that peace, you cannot have life. This is the chain of life, the first link begins at the divorcement of all former loves and beloved idols once the soul must be loosed in desire and delight, and that link must be fastened upon the most lovely and desirable object Christ, the Desire of the nations, and this draws along another link of peace and life with it. Do not mistake it, religion would not hinder or prejudice your lawful business in this world. O, it were the most compendious way to advance it with more ease to your souls! But certainly it will teach you to exchange the love of these things for a better and more heart contenting love.
Then amity to ourselves is enmity to God, and truly this is the last stronghold that holds out longest against God, when others may be beaten down or surrendered. Possibly a man may attain to this, to despise these lower things, as below his natural dignity and the excellency of his spirit. Some may renounce much of that friendship with worldly and temporal things, as being sordid and base, but the enmity gets into this strong and invisible tower of darkness, self love and pride and therefore the apostle John makes this the last and chiefest, the pride of life, 1 John ii. 16. When the lusts of the eyes and flesh are in some measure abated this is but growing, and what decreaseth of these, seems to accresce(188) unto this, as if self love and pride did feed and nourish itself upon the ashes or consumption of other vices. Yea, it draws sap from graces and virtues, and grows thereby, till at length it kill that which nourished it, and indeed the apostle James seems to proceed to this, ver 5, 6 when he minds us that God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. "Doth the scripture say this in vain?" saith he. Is not self amity as well enmity as the amity of the world? And therefore God opposes himself unto it, as the very grand enmity. Self is the great lord, the arch rebel, the head of all opposition, that in which they do all centre, and when all the inferior soldiers are captives, or killed this is last in the field, it lives first in opposition and dies last, primum vivens et ultimum moriens. When a man is separated from many things, yet he may be but more conjoined to himself, and so the further disjoined from God. Of all these vile rags of the old man, this is nearest the skin, and last put off, of all the members, self is the heart, first alive, and last alive. When enmity is constrained to render up the outward members of the body, to yield them to a more smooth and fair carriage to a civil behaviour, when the mind itself is forced to yield unto some light of truth and knowledge of the gospel, yet the enmity retires into the heart, and fortifies it the stronger, by self love and self estimation, as in winter the encompassing cold makes the heat to combine itself together in the bowels of the earth, and by this means the springs are hotter than in summer, so the surrounding light of the gospel, or education, or natural honesty, drives the heat and strength of enmity inward, where it fortifies itself more. This is that accursed antiperistasis(189) that is made by the concurrence of some advantages of knowledge and civility, and such like.
The blood of enmity against God gets in about the heart, when it is chased for fear out of the outward man, therefore, the very first and fundamental principle of Christianity, is, "Let a man deny himself, and so he shall be my disciple." He must become a fool in his own eyes, though he be wise, that he may be wise (1 Cor. iii. 18), he must become as ungodly, though godly, that he may be justified by faith (Rom. iv. 5), he must forsake himself, that he may indeed find himself, or get a better self in another, he must not eat much honey, that is not good, it would swell him though it be pleasant, he must not search his own glory, or reflect much upon it, if he would be a follower and a friend of Christ. Look, how much soever you engage to yourselves esteem, or desire to be esteemed of others, to reflect with complacency on yourselves, to mind your own satisfaction and estimation in what you do, so much you disengage from Jesus Christ, for these are contrary points. This is a direct motion towards Christ. That is an inverse and backward motion towards ourselves, and so much as we move that way, we promove not, but lose our way, and are further from the true end. Ezekiel's living creatures may be an emblem of a Christian's motion, he returns not as he goes, he makes a straight line to God, whithersoever he turn him, but nature makes all crooked lines, they seem to go forth in obedience to God, but they have a secret unseen reflexion into its own bosom. And this is the greatest act of enmity, to idolize God, and deify ourselves, we make him a cypher and sacrifice to ourselves his peculiar, incommunicable property of Alpha and Omega, that we do sacrilegiously attribute to ourselves, the beginning of our notions, and end of them too. This is the crooked line, that nature cannot possibly move out of, till a higher Spirit come and restore her that halted, and make plain her paths.
That which is added, as a reason, explains this enmity more clearly, because it cannot be subject, &c. Truly these two forementioned amities of the world and of ourselves, do withdraw men wholly from the orderly subjection that they owe to the law of God. Order is the beauty of every thing, of nature, of art, of the whole universe, and of the several parts, kingdoms and republics of it. This indeed is the very beauty of the world, all things subordinate to him that made them, only miserable man hath broken this order, and marred this beauty, and he cannot be subject ουχ υποτασσιτα cannot come again into that orderly station and subordination he was once into. This is the only gap or breach of the creation. And it is some other engagements that draw him thus far out of course—the base love of the world, and the inordinate love of himself. O these make his neck stiff, that it cannot bow to the yoke of obedience, these have opposite and contrary commands, and no man can serve two masters. When the commands of the great lord, self, come in opposition with the commands of God, then he cannot be subject to the law of God. For a time, in some things he may resemble a subjection, when the will of self and the will of God commands in one point, as sometimes they do by accident, but that is neither frequent nor constant.
Not only is he not subject, but there is worse in it, he cannot be subject to the law of God. This is certainly to throw down the natural pride of man, that always apprehends some remanent ability in himself. You think still to make yourselves better, and when convinced or challenged for sins, to make amends and reform your lives. You use to promise these things as lightly and easily as if they were wholly in your power, and as if you did only delay them for advantage, and truly it seems this principle of self sufficiency is engraven on men's hearts when they procrastinate and delay repentance and earnest minding of religion to some other fitter season, as if it were in their liberty to apply to it when they please, and when you are urged and persuaded to some reformation, you take in hand, even as that people, Jer. xlii. 6, 20, who said, "all that the lord hath said we will do." You can strike hands, and engage to serve the Lord, as easily as that people in Joshua xxiv. 18, 19. But we may say, Oh, that there were such a heart in you! But, alas, such a heart is not in you! You cannot serve the Lord, for he is holy and jealous, and ye are not only weak, but wicked. I beseech you then, believe this one testimony that God hath given of man, even the choicest thing in man, the very wisdom of a natural man, it is not subject to God's law, and it cannot be better, neither can it be subject. Resolution, industry, vows, and covenants will not effect this, till the Most High break and bow the heart. And not only has this enmity against the old law of commandments an antipathy at them, as crossing our lust, but even against the new and living law of the Spirit of life in Christ.
Here is your misery, you can neither be subject to the law as commanding to obey it, or threatening for disobedience to it, nor to the gospel as promising to believe and receive it. The law commands, but your law countermands within; the law threatens and sentences you with condemnation, but you have some self-pleasing delusion and dream in your heads, and bless yourselves in your own hearts, even though ye walk in the imagination of your hearts, contrary to the law, Deut. xxix. It is strange that you do not fore-apprehend and fear hell! But it is this delusion possesses the heart, "you shall not die:" it was the first act of enmity, not only the transgression of the command, hut unbelief of the truth of the curse: and that which first encouraged man to sin, encourages you all to lie into it, and continue in it,—a fancy of escaping wrath. This noise fills the heart; Satan whispers in the ear, Go on, you shall not die. Thus it appears, that the natural mind cannot be subject to the law of God, no persuasion, no instruction, can enforce this belief of your damnable condition upon you.
But then, when the enmity is beaten out of this fort, and a soul is really convinced of its desperate and lost estate, when the heart is brought down to subjection, to take with that dreadful sentence; yet there is another tower of enmity in the heart, that can keep out against the weapons of the gospel, such as Paul mentions, Rom. x. 3. Being ignorant of the righteousness of God, they went about to establish their own, and could not submit to the righteousness of God. There is a natural pride and stiffness of heart, that we cannot endure but to have something in ourselves to rest on, and take pleasure into: and when a soul sees nothing, it rather vexes and torments itself as grieving because it hath no ornament or covering of its own, nor rejoiceth and delighteth in that righteousness of God revealed in Christ. O the difficulty to bow down so low, as to put on another's righteousness over our nakedness! And should it be called submission? Is it not rather the elevating and exalting of the soul? Yet in respect of our natural posture of spirit, it is a matter of great difficulty to make a self-condemned sinner submit to this, to be saved freely, without money or price, by another's ransom. What empty, vain, and frivolous expiations and satisfactions will souls invent, rather than trust all to this! How long will poor souls wander abroad from hill to mountain, seeking some inherent qualification, to commend them, and leave this garden and paradise of delights, which is opened up in Christ? Souls look everywhere for help, till all hands fail; and then necessity constrains them to come hither; but indeed, when necessity brings in, charity and amity keeps in, when once they know what entertainment is in Christ. As for you, who as yet have not stooped to the sentence of wrath, how will you submit to the righteousness of God? But I wonder how you imagine this to be so easy a thing to believe. You say you did always believe in Christ, and that your hearts are still on him, and that you do it night and day. Now, there needs no other argument to persuade that you do not at all believe in the gospel, who have apprehended no more difficulty in it, no more contrariety to your rebellious natures in it. Let this one word go home with you, and convince you of your unbelief, "The natural mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." How, then, do you come so easily by it? Certainly it must be feigned and counterfeit.
Verse 8.—"So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God."
It is a kind of happiness to men, to please them upon whom they depend, and upon whose favour their well-being hangs. It is the servant's happiness to please his master, the courtier's to please his prince; and so generally, whosoever they be that are joined in mutual relations, and depend one upon another; that which makes all pleasant, is this, to please one another. Now, certainly, all the dependencies of creatures one upon another, are but shadows unto the absolute dependence of creatures upon the Creator, for in him we live, and move, and have our being: the dependence of the ray upon the sun, of the stream upon the fountain, is one of the greatest in nature; but all creatures have a more necessary connexion with this Fountain-being, both in their being and well-being; they are nothing but a flux and emanation of his power and pleasure, and, as the Psalmist expresseth it, He hides his face and they are troubled; he takes away their breath, and they die, and return to their dust: He sends forth his Spirit, and they are created, and he renews the face of the earth, Psal. civ. 29, 30. You may extend this to the being and well-being, the happiness and misery of creatures; our souls which animate our bodies are but his breath which he breathed into the dust, and can retract when he pleaseth; the life of our souls, the peace, and tranquillity, and satisfaction is another breathing of his Spirit, and another look of his countenance; and as he pleases to withdraw it, or interpose between his face and us, so we live or die, are blessed or miserable. Our being or well-being hath a more indispensable dependence on him, than the image in the glass hath upon the living face.
If it be so then, certainly of all things in the world it concerns us nearest how to please him, and to be at peace with him. If we be in good terms with him in whose hands our breath is, and whose are all our ways, (Dan. v. 23.) upon whose countenance our misery or felicity hangs, then certainly we are happy. If we please him, it matters not whom we displease; for he alone hath absolute, uncontrolled, and universal power over us, as our Saviour speaks, over both soul and body. We may expect that his good pleasure towards us will not be satisfied, but in communicating his fulness, and manifesting his favour to us, especially since the goodness of God is so exundant,(190) as to overflow even to the wicked world, and vent itself as out of super-abundance, in a river of goodness throughout the whole earth. How much more will it run abundantly towards them whom he is well pleased with. And therefore the Psalmist cries out, as being already full in the very hope and expectation of it, that he would burst, if he had not the vent of admiration and praise, O how great is his goodness, and how excellent his loving-kindness laid up for them that fear him! Psal. xxxii 19. and xxxvi. 7. But, on the other hand, how incomparable is the misery of them who cannot please God! even though they did both please themselves and all others for the present. To be at odds with him in whom alone they can subsist, and without whose favour is nothing but wretchedness and misery, O that must be the worst and most cursed estate imaginable: to be in such a state, as do what they can, they cannot please him, whom alone to please is of only concernment, what can be invented(191) to that? Now, if you ask who they are that are such? These words speak it plainly, in way of inference from the former doctrine, "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." Not they in whom there is flesh; for there are remnants of that in the most spiritual man in this life: we cannot attain here to angelic purity, though it should be the aim and endeavour of every Christian. But they that are in the flesh, or after the flesh, imports the predomination of that, and an universal thraldom of nature unto it, which indeed is the state of all men that are but once born, till a second birth come, by the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
The ground of this may be taken from the foregoing discourse, and it is chiefly twofold. One is, because they are not in Jesus Christ, in whom his soul is well pleased; another is, because they cannot suit and frame their carriage according to his pleasure. Since all mankind hath fallen under the displeasure of the most high God, by sinning against him, in preferring the pleasure of the flesh, and the pleasure of Satan, to the pleasure of God, there can be no atonement found to pacify him, no sacrifice to appease him, no ransom to satisfy his justice, but that one perfect offering for sin, Jesus Christ, the propitiation for the sins of the elect world. This the Father accepts in the name of sinners; and in testimony of his acceptance, he did two several times, by a voice from heaven, declare, first to a multitude, (Matth. iii. 17.) and then to the beloved disciples, (Matth. xvii. 5.) and both times with great majesty and solemnity (as did become him), that this is his well-beloved Son, in whom his soul is well-pleased. It pleased God to make the stream of his love to take another channel after man's sin, and not to run immediately towards wretched man, but he turned the current of his love another way, to his own Son, whom he chose for that end, to reconcile man, and bring him into favor, and his love going about, by that compass, comes in the issue towards poor sinners with the greater force. He hath appointed Christ the meeting place with sinners, the Daysman to lay his hand on both, and therefore he is God to lay his hand on God, and man to lay his hand on man, and bring both into a peaceable and amiable conjunction. Now then, whoever are not in Jesus Christ, as is spoken, certainly they cannot please God do what they can, because God hath made Christ the centre in which he would have the good pleasure of sinners meeting with his good pleasure, and therefore, without faith it is impossible to please God, (Heb. xi. 6) not so much for the excellency of the act itself, as for the well pleasing object of it, Christ. The love of the Father is terminate in him, his justice is satisfied in him, his love is well-pleased with the excellency of his person, he finds in him an object of delight, which is nowhere else, and his justice is well pleased with the sufficiency and worthiness of his ransom, and without this compass, there is neither satisfaction to the one, nor to the other, so then, whatsoever you are, how high soever your degree in the world, how sweet soever your disposition let your natures be never so good, your carriage never so smooth, yet certainly there is nothing in all this that can please God, either by an object of love, or a price for justice. You are under that eternal displeasure, which will fall on and crush you to pieces. Mountains will not be so heavy, as it will appear in that great day of his wrath (Rev. vi.). I say, you cannot come from under that imminent weight of eternal wrath unless you be found in Jesus Christ,—that blessed place of immunity and refuge—if you have not forsaken yourselves and your own natures, and denied your own righteousness as dung, to be found in him, clothed with his righteousness and satisfaction. If the delight and pleasure of your soul do not coincide and fall in at one place with the delight and good pleasure of the Father, that is, upon his well beloved Son, certainly the pleasure and good will of God hath not as yet fallen upon you, and met with you; therefore, if you would please God, be pleased with Christ, and you cannot do him a greater pleasure than believe in him, (John v. 23) that is, absolutely resign yourselves unto him, for salvation and sanctification.
The other ground is,—Such as are in the flesh cannot frame their spirits, affections, and ways to God's good pleasure, for their very wisdom, the very excellency that is in them, is enmity to God and cannot be subject to his law, and therefore they cannot please him. I am sure you may easily reflect upon yourselves, and find, not with much search, but upon all these, as the prophet (Jer. ii. 34) speaks, that it is not the study and business you have undertaken to please God, but the bent and main of your aims and endeavours is to please yourselves, or to please men. This makes many men's pains, even in religion displeasing to God, because they do not indeed mind his pleasure, but their own or other's satisfaction. What they do, is but to conform to the custom of the time, or commandments of men, or their own humour, and all this must needs be abominable to God. Truly, that which is in great account among men, is an abomination to God, as our Saviour speaks of the very righteousness and professed piety of the Pharisees, Luke xvi. 15, the more you please yourselves and the world, the further you are from pleasing God. The very beginning of pleasing God is when a soul falls in displeasure at itself, and abhorrence of his own loathsomeness, therefore it is said, The humble and contrite spirit I will look unto, and dwell with him, and such sacrifices do please God, Isa. lxvi. 2, Psal. li. 17. For the truth is, God never begins to be pleasant and lovely to a soul till it begins to fall out of love with itself, and grow loathsome in its own eyes. Therefore you may conclude this of yourselves, that with many of you God is not well-pleased, although you be all baptized unto Christ, and do all eat of that same spiritual meat, and drink of that same spiritual drink, though you have all church privileges, yet with many of you God is not well pleased, as 1 Cor. x. 2-5, not only because those works of the flesh that are directly opposite to his own known will, such as fornication, murmuring, grudging at God's dispensation, cursing and swearing, lying, drunkenness, anger, malice, strife, variance, and such like, abound as much among you as that old people, but even those of you that may be free from gross opposition to his holy will, your nature hath the seed of all that enmity, and you act enmity in a more covered way; you are so well pleased with yourselves, your chief study is to please men, you have not given yourselves to this study, to conform yourselves to the pleasure of God, therefore know your dreadful condition, you cannot please God, without whose favour and pleasure you cannot but be eternally displeased and tormented in yourselves. Certainly, though now you please yourselves, yet the day shall come that you shall be contrary to yourselves and all to you, as it is spoken as a punishment of the Jews, (1 Thess. ii. 15) and there is some earnest of in this life. Many wicked persons are set contrary to themselves, and all to them, they are like Esau their hand against all, and all men's hands against them, yea, their own consciences continually vexing them. This is a fruit of that fundamental discord and enmity between men and God, and if you find it not now, you shall find it hereafter.
But as for you that are in Jesus Christ, who being displeased with yourselves, have fled into the well beloved, in whom the Father is well pleased, to escape God's displeasure, I say unto such, your persons God is well pleased with in Christ and this shall make way and place for acceptance to your weak and imperfect performances. This is the ground of your peace and acceptance, and you would take it so, and it shall yield you much peace, when you cannot be pleased with yourselves. But I would charge that upon you, that as you by believing are well pleased with Christ, so you would henceforth study to "walk worthy of your Lord unto all well pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God," Col. i. 10. This is that to which you are called, to such a work as may please him, to conform yourselves even to his pleasure and will. If you love him, you cannot but fashion yourselves so as he may be pleased. O how exact and observant is love of that which may ingratiate itself in the beloved's favour! It is the most studious thing to please, and most afraid of displeasing. Enoch had a large and honourable testimony, as ever was given to man, that he pleased God, Heb. xi. 5. I beseech you be ambitious of this after a holy manner, labour to know his will, and that for this end, that you may approve it and prove it that you may do that good and acceptable will of God. Let his pleasure be your rule, your law, to which all within you may conform itself. Though you cannot attain an exact correspondence with his pleasure, but in many things you will offend, yet certainly this will be the resolved study of your hearts how to please him, and in as far as you cannot please him, you will be displeased with yourselves. But then, I would advise you, in as far as you are displeased with yourselves for not pleasing God, be as much well pleased with Christ, the pleasing sacrifice and atonement, and this shall please God as much as your obedience could do, or your disobedience can displease him. To him be praise and glory.
Verse 9.—"But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now, if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."
Application is the very life of the word, at least it is a necessary condition for the living operation of it. The application of the word to the hearts of hearers by preaching, and the application of your hearts again to the word by meditation, these two meeting together, and striking one upon another, will yield fire. Paul speaks of a right dividing of the word of truth (2 Tim. ii. 15), not that ordinary way of cutting it all in parcels, and dismembering it, by manifold divisions, which I judge makes it lose much of its virtue, which consists in union, though some have pleasure in it, and think it profitable, yet I do not see that this was the apostolic way, that either they preached it themselves or recommended it to others, but rather he means, the real distribution of the food of souls unto their various conditions, as it is the duty of a steward to be both faithful and wise in that, to give every one their own portion, and as it is the pastor's duty thus to distribute the word of God unto you, so it is your part to apply it home to yourselves, without which application, the former division of the word aright will not feed your souls, if every man act not the pastor to his own heart it cannot profit. Now indeed the right application of the word to souls is the difficultest part of preaching, and it is the hardest point of hearing, in which there needs both much affection and much direction, the one to be serious and ernest in it, the other to be wise and prudent in it. Without suitable affection, it will not pass into the substance of the soul to feed it, no more than the stomach can digest meat, that wants convenient heat, and without discretion and wisdom, to choose our own portion, it will not yield convenient food, but increase humours and superfluities, or distemper our spirits. That which I look at in these words, is the discretion and prudence of this wise steward in God's house, after he hath represented the wretched and woful estate of them that are in the flesh, how their natures cannot but are enmity against God, how their end is death and destruction, he subjoins in due season a suitable encouragement to believers, "You are not in the flesh," &c. Because there is no man so sensible of that corruption that dwells within, as he that is in part renewed, as pain to a healthful body is most sensible, and as the abundance of light makes a larger discovery of what is disordered and defiled in the house, therefore such, upon the hearing of the accursed estate of men in nature, of their natural rebellion against God, and God's displeasure against them, they are most ready, I say, to apply such things to themselves, to the weakening of their own hands, and saddening of their hearts, as the upright-hearted disciples were more ready to take with the challenge of betraying Christ, than the false hearted Judas. Therefore the apostle prevents such an abuse of the doctrine, by making application of the better part unto the Romans, but for you, "ye are not of the flesh," &c. Indeed, self examination is necessary, and it is like chewing of the meat before it be sent into the stomach, it is as necessary and precedent before right application. I wish that every one of you would consider well what this living word concerns you. It is the ground of all our barrenness, no man brings this home to himself, which is spoken to all, but truly the Lord speaks to all, that every man may speak to himself, and ask at his own heart, what is my concernment in it? What is my portion? As for you whom the Lord hath put upon this search of yourselves and hath once made you to find yourselves in the black roll of perdition, under the hazard of the eternal weight of God's displeasure, and there hath showed unto your souls a way of making peace with God, and a place of refuge in Jesus Christ which hath sometimes refreshed and eased your hearts, and only was able to purify your consciences, and calm the storms that did arise in them, if it be hence forth your study to walk to please him and this engagement be on your hearts, to make no peace with the flesh, and corruption that dwells in you, then, I say, the Lord calls and accounts you not carnal but spiritual, though there be much carnality in you, yet he denominates from the better part, not from the greatest part, you are not after the flesh but after the Spirit. Though Isaac be a weak young child, and Ishmael the son of the bond woman be a strong man, yet thou art in God's account esteemed according to the promise, which shall be the ground of thy stability. Isaac must abide in the house for ever, and grow stronger and stronger, and Ishmael must be cast out and grow weaker and weaker; the one is ordained for destruction, and so is called the old man, drawing near to its grave, the other for life, and so is a new man renewed day by day. Thus they are in God's promise, and you would learn thus to look upon it, not according to their present inequality in strength, but that future inequality and difference which is wrapt up in the promise of God and the seed whereof is in you.
As there is a woful penury and scantiness of examination in the most part of men who are wholly spent without, and take no leisure to recognise their own souls, so there is a miserable excess, and hurtful superfluity of examination and disputation among many of God's children, who are always in reflection, and almost never in action, so much on knowing what is, that they take not much leisure to do or pursue what is not. Truly, I think when the apostle commands us to examine whether we be in the faith, and prove ourselves, he did not mean to make it our perpetual exercise, or so to press it as we should not endeavor to be in the faith, till we know whether we be in it; that were no advancing way, to refuse to go on in our journey till we know what progress we have made, as the custom is. But simply and plainly, I think, he intended to have Christianity begin in examination, as the first returning of a soul must needs be upon some inquiry and search of the way, and knowledge upon search, that our former way was wrong, and this is only right. But if this be the porch to enter at, will you sit down and dwell in it, and not go on into the palace itself? Because you must begin to search what you have learned wrong, that now you may unlearn it, will you be ever about the learning to know your condition, and by this means never attain to the knowledge of the truth? But when you have upon any inquiry found yourselves out of the way, you should not entertain that dispute long, but hearken to the plain voice of the gospel, that sounds unto you, "This is the way, walk in it." "I am the way," saith Christ, "enter at me, by believing in me." Now, once having found that you are unbelievers by nature, to suspend believing till you prove whether you be in the faith, is unreasonable and impossible, for certainly having once found yourselves void of it, you must first have it, before you know that you have it, you must first apply to action, and afterward your examination shall be more easy.
But I would tell of more profitable improvement of such representations of the sinful and miserable estate of the ungodly world, than you use to make of it, and I think it is that the apostles intend, in the frequent turning the eyes of saints about to the accursed state of the world, partly consolation, and partly some provocation to suitable walking. Things that are opposite are best known by comparison one with another, each of them cast abroad a light to see the other by. Therefore it is that the apostles do frequently remind the converted Gentiles of the wretched estate the world ties into, and themselves once were into. You see it, 1 Cor. vi. 11, "And such were some of you, but now you are washed." And, Eph. ii. 1, "You who were dead in sins hath he quickened." There is not any thing will more commend unto a Christian the grace of God towards him, nor(192) to look abroad round about him, and take a view of the whole world lying in wickedness, and then to look backward to what himself once was, and compare it with what the free grace of God hath made him. O what a soul ravishing contemplation is that, 1 John v. 19, "And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness." How doth this heighten the price of grace, and how much doth it add to a soul's inward contentment, to think what it was of itself, and what it would undoubtedly have been, if not thus wonderfully surprised! One used always to look to those below him, that he might not envy those above him. Truly it might do well here, when a Christian is grieved and disquieted, because he hath not attained to that desired measure of the image of God, and fellowship with him, to cast a look about him to the miserable and hopeless estate of so many thousands who have the image of Satan so visibly engraven on them, and have no inward stirring after this blessed image, and reflect a little backward, to the hole of the pit whence he was taken, to look upon that primitive estate that grace found him into, so loathsome, as described in Ezek. xvi. Would not such a double sight, think you, make him break out in admiration, and be powerful to silence and compose his spirit? O to think, that I was once in that black roll of those excluded from the kingdom! "Such were some of you," and then to consider, that my name was taken out, and washed by the blood of Christ to be enrolled in the register of heaven. What an astonishing thing is it! You see in nature, God hath appointed contrarieties and varieties to beautify the world, and certainly, many things could not be known how good and beneficial they are, but by the smart and hurt of that which is opposite in them, as ye could not imagine the good of light, but by some sensible experience of the evil of darkness. Heat, you could not know the benefit of it, but by the vexation of cold. Thus he maketh one to commend another, and both to beautify the world. It is thus in art, contrariety and variety of colours and lines make up one beauty, diversity of sounds make a sweet harmony. Now, this is the art and wisdom of God, in the dispensation of his grace he setteth the misery of some beside the happiness of others, that each of them may aggravate another, he puts light beside darkness, spirit fore-against(193) flesh, that so saints may have a double accession to their admiration at the goodness and grace of God, and to their delight and complacency in their own happiness, he presents the state of men out of Christ, that you may wonder how you are translated, and may be so abundantly satisfied as not to exchange your portion for the greatest monarchs.
Then, I say, this may provoke us, and persuade us to more suitable walking. Doth he make such a difference? O do not you unmake it again! Do not confound all again, by your walking after the course of the world. Conformity to the world is a confusion of what God hath separated. Has infinite grace translated you from that kingdom of darkness to light? O then walk in that light, as children of light! Are you such? Own your stations, consider your relations, and make yourselves ashamed at the very thoughts of sin. He points out the deformed and ugly face of the conversation of the world, that you may fall in love with the beauty or holiness, as the Lacedemonians were wont to let their children see their slaves drunk, that the brutish and abominable posture of such in that sin might imprint in the hearts of their children a detestation of such a vice. Certainly, the Lord calls you to mind often what you have been, and what the world about you is, not to engage you to it, but to alienate your minds from the deformity of sin, and to commend to you the duty of obedience. You would learn to make this holy use and advantage of all the wickedness the world lieth into, to behold in it, as in a glass, your own image and likeness, that when you use to hate or despise others, you may rather loathe and dislike yourselves, as having that same common nature, and wonder at the goodness of God that makes such difference where none was. This were the way to make gain of the most unprofitable thing in the world, that is, the sins of other men, for ordinarily the seeing and speaking of them doth rather dispose us and incline us to more liberty to sin. Many look on them with delight, some with contempt and hatred of those that commit them, but few know how to speak or look on sin itself with indignation, or themselves, because of the seeds of it within them, with abhorrency. I would think if we were circumspect in this, the worse the world is, we might be the better, the worse the times are, we might spend it better, the more pride we see, it might make us the more humble, the more impiety and impurity abound, it might provoke us to a further distance from, and disconformity with, the world. Thus, if we were wise, we might extract gold out of the dunghill, and suck honey out of the most poisonable weed. The surrounding ignorance and wickedness of the world might cause a holy antiperistasis(194) in a Christian, by making the grace of God unite itself, and work more powerfully, as fire out of a cloud, and shine more brightly, as a torch in the darkness of the night.
As for you, whose woful estate is here described, who are yet in the flesh, and enemies to God by nature, I would desire you to be stirred up at the consideration of this, that there are some who are delivered out of that prison, and that some have made peace with God, and are no more enemies but friends, and fellow citizens of the saints. If the case were left wholly incurable and desperate, you had some ground to continue in your sins and security, but now when you hear a remedy is possible, and some have been helped by it, I wonder that you do not, upon this door of hope offered, bestir yourselves, that you may be those who are here excepted, "but you are not in the flesh." Since some are, why may not I be? Will you awake yourselves with this alarm! If you had any desire after this estate, certainly such a hope as this would give you feet to come to Jesus Christ, for these are the legs of the soul,—some desire of a better estate, and some probability of it conceived by hope.
Verse 9.—"If so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."
"But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth?" 2 Chron. vi. 18. It was the wonder of one of the wisest of men, and indeed, considering his infinite highness above the height of heavens, his immense and incomprehensible greatness, that the heaven of heavens cannot contain him, and then the baseness, emptiness, and worthlessness of man, it may be a wonder to the wisest of angels. And what is it, think you, the angels desire to look into, but this incomprehensible mystery of the descent of the Most High to dwell among the lowest and vilest of the creatures? But as Solomon's temple, and these visible symbols of God's presence, were but shadows of things to come, the substance whereof is exhibited under the gospel, so that wonder was but a shadow or type of a greater and more real wonder, or God's dwelling on the earth now. It was the wonder, shall God dwell with man, among the rebellious sons of Adam? But behold a greater wonder since Christ came, God dwelling in man, first personally in the man Christ, in whom the fulness of the Godhead dwelt bodily, then graciously in the seed of Christ, in man by his Spirit, and this makes men spiritual, if so be the Spirit of Christ dwell in you. You heard of the first indwelling, ver. 3. "God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh," the inhabitation of the divine nature in our flesh, which had the likeness of sinful flesh, but without sin, for he sanctified himself for our cause. And truly, this mysterious and wonderful inhabitation is not only a pledge of the other, that God shall dwell in sinful men by his Spirit, but, in order of nature, it hath some influence upon the other, without which God could not have dwelt in us. There is so much distance and disproportion between his Majesty and us, that we could not be well united, but by this intervening, God coming down first a step into the holy nature of the man Christ, that from thence he might go into the sinful nature of other men. Our sinful and rebellious nature behoved to be first sanctified this way, by the personal indwelling of God in our flesh, and this had made an easy passage into sinful us, for his Spirit to dwell in us powerfully and graciously, therefore the Spirit of Christ is said to dwell in us. Christ's Spirit, not only because proceeding from him as from the Father, but particularly, because the inhabitation or operation of the Spirit in us, is the proper result and fruit of that glorious union of our nature with him. He took our flesh, that he might send us his Spirit. And, O what a blessed exchange was this! He came and dwelt in our nature, that so he might dwell in us: he took up a shop, as it were, in our flesh, that he might work in us, and make us again conformed to God.
We shall not cut this asunder into many parts. You see the words contain plainly the very essential definition of a spiritual man, and of a Christian. You find a spiritual man and a Christian equivalent in this verse, that is to say, they are taken for one and the self same thing, and so they are reciprocal, of equal extent and restraint. Every Christian is one after the Spirit, and whosoever is after the Spirit is a Christian. One of Christ's, and one after the Spirit, is one thing. Now the definition of the Christian is taken from that which really and essentially constitutes him such. He is one in whom the Spirit of Christ dwells, that makes him one after the Spirit, that makes him one of Christ's, because it is the Spirit of Christ. As if you define what a man is, you could not do it better than thus: he is one endowed with a reasonable soul. So the apostle gives you the very soul and form of a Christian, which differenceth from all others. As the soul is to the body to make up a man, so the Spirit of Christ is to the soul and Spirit of a man to make up a Christian, as the absence or presence of the soul makes or unmakes a man, so the absence or presence of this Spirit makes or unmakes a Christian, for you see he makes it reciprocal. If you be Christians, the Spirit dwells in you, but if the Spirit dwell not in you, you are not Christians.
A word then to the first of these, that a Christian and a spiritual man are commensurable one to another. It is true, there are Jews who are not Jews inwardly, but only according to the letter, Rom. ii. 28, 29. And so there are Christians so called, who are but so outwardly, and in the letter, who have no more of it but the name and visible standing in the church, but we are speaking of that which is truly that which it is called, whose praise is not of men but of God. The name of a man may be extended to a picture or image, for some outward resemblance it hath of him, but it is not a proper speech, no more is it proper to extend the name of Christians unto the pictures or images of Christians, such as are destitute of this inward life. You may be properly, according to scripture phrase, members of the visible body, but you cannot have that real and blessed relation to Jesus Christ the head, which shall be the source of happiness to all the living members. I wish you would take it so, and flatter yourselves no more with church titles, as if these were sufficient evidences for your salvation. You would all be called Christians, but it fears me you know not many of you the true meaning and signification of that word, the most comfortable sense of it is hid from you. The meaning of it is, that a man is renewed by Christ in the spirit of his mind. As Christ and the Spirit are inseparable, so a Christian and a spiritual nature are not to be found severed. Certainly, the very sound of the name whereby you are called, imports another nature and conversation than is to be found in many; you cannot say, that you have a shadow of spirituality, either in your affections or actions, or that you have any real design and study that way but only to please your flesh, and satisfy the customs of the world. Why do you then usurp the name of Christianity? This is a common sacrilege, to give that which is holy unto dogs. Others give it to you, and you take it to yourselves. But know, that though you please yourselves and others in this, yet without such a renovation of your natures, and such a sincere study to be inwardly and outwardly conformed to the profession and nature of Christianity, you have not your praise of God, and him whom God praises not, and allows not, he cannot bless for ever. I am persuaded there are some who are not only in the letter, but in the Spirit, whose greatest desire and design is to be indeed what they profess, and such is their praise of God and if God praise them now, they shall be made to praise him for ever hereafter; such are allowed to take the name and honourable style of Christianity unto them. You are Christ's nearly interested in him, and if you be Christ's own, he cannot be happy without you, for such was his love, that he would not be happy alone in heaven, but came down to be miserable with us. And now that he is again happy in heaven, certainly he cannot enjoy it long alone, but he must draw up his members unto the fellowship of that glory.
Now the other thing, that which gives even being to a Christian is, the Spirit of Christ dwelling in him. Of this inhabitation, we shall not say so much as the comparison, being strained, will yield, neither expatiate into many notions about it. I wish rather we went home with some desires kindled in us, after such a noble guest as the Holy Spirit is, and that we were begun once to weary of the base and unclean guests that we lodge within us, to our own destruction. That which I said that the Spirit is to a Christian, what the soul is to a man, if well considered, might present the absolute necessity and excellency of this unto your eyes. Consider what a thing the body is without the soul, how defiled and how deformed a piece of dust it is, void of all sense and life, loathsome to look upon.
Truly the soul of man by nature is in no better case till this Spirit enter, it hath no light in it, no life in it, it is a dark dungeon, such as is described, Eph. iv. 18, "Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart." You have both in that word darkness and deadness want of that shining light of God in the mind, so that it cannot discern spiritual things that make to our eternal peace. All the plainness and evidence of the gospel, though it did shine as a sun about you, can not make you see or apprehend either your own misery or the way to help it, because your dungeon is within, the most part cannot form any sensible notion of spiritual things, that are duly sounding unto them in the word. The eye of the mind is put out, and if it be darkness, how great is that darkness! Certainly the whole man is without light, and your way and walk must be in the dark, and indeed it appears that it is dark night with many souls because if it were not dark, they could not run out all their speed among pits and snares in the way to destruction. And from this woful defect flows the alienation of the whole soul from the life of God, that primitive light being eclipsed, the soul is separated from the influence of heaven, and as Nebuchadnezzar's soul acted only in a brutal way, when driven out among beasts, so the soul of man, being driven out from the presence of the Lord, may act in a way common to beasts, or in some rational way in things that concern this life, but it is wholly spoiled of that divine life of communion with God. It cannot taste, smell, or savour such things. O! if it were visible unto us, the state or the ruinous soul, we would raise a more bitter lamentation over it than the Jews did over Jerusalem, or the kings and merchants have reason to do over fallen Babylon. Truly, we might bemoan it thus, "How is the faithful city become a harlot! righteousness lodged in it, but now murderers," Isa. i. 21. Man was once the dwelling place of princely and divine graces and virtues, the Lord himself was there, and then how comely and beautiful was the soul! But now it is like the desolate cities, in which the beasts of the desert lie and their houses are full of doleful creatures, where owls dwell, and satyrs dance, where wild beasts cry, and dragons in the pleasant places, Isa. xiii. 21, 22 and Jer. l. 39. So mighty is the fall of the soul of man, as of Babylon, that it may be cried, "It is fallen, and become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird," Rev. xviii. 2. All the beasts flock now to it, all the birds of darkness take their lodging in it, since this noble guest left it, and took away the light from it, for the sun hath not shined on it since that day. All unclean affections, all beastly lusts, all earthly desires, all vain cogitations get lodging in this house; the Bethel is become a Bethaven, the house of God become a house of vanity, by the continual repair of vain thoughts, the house of prayer is turned into a den of thieves and robbers. That which was at first created for the pure service and worship of God, is now a receptacle of all the most rebellious and idolatrous thoughts and affections, the heart of every man is become a temple full of idols.
This is the state of it, and worse than can be told you now, judge if there be not need of a better guest than these. O what absolute necessity is there of such a spirit as this, to repair and reform the ruinous spirit of man, to quicken and enlighten the darkened mind of man! Even that Spirit, that made it at first a glorious palace for God, that Spirit that breathed the soul into the former clay, must repair these breaches, and create all again. Now, when the Spirit of Christ enters into this vile ruinous cottage, he repairs it and reforms it, he strikes out lights in the heart, and, by a wonderful eye salve makes the eyes open to see; he creates a new light within, which makes him behold the light shining in the gospel, and behold all things are new, himself new, because now most loathsome and vile the world new, because now appears nothing but vanity in the very perfection of it, and God new, because another majesty, glory, excellency, and beauty shines into the soul than ever it apprehended. And as the Spirit enlightens, so he enlivens this tabernacle or temple, he kindles a holy fire in his affections, which must never go out, it is such as cannot be kindled, if it go out, but by the beams of the sun, as the poets fancied the vestal-fire. The Spirit within the soul is a fire to consume his corruption, to burn up his dross and vanity. Christ comes in like a refiner, with the fire of the Spirit, and purges away earthly lusts, and makes the love of the heart pure and clean, to burn upward toward heaven. This Spirit makes a Christian soul move willingly toward God, in the ways that seemed most unpleasant; it is an active principle within him that cannot rest till it rests in its place of eternal rest and delight in God. And then the Spirit reforms this house, by casting out all these wild beasts that lodged in it, the savage and unruly affections, that domineered in man, this strong man entering in, casts them out. There is much rubbish in old waste palaces, Neh. iv. 2. O how much pains it is to cleanse them! Our house is like the house of those nobles, Jer. v. 27: "Full of deceit, as a cage is full of birds," and our hearts full of wickedness and vanity, Jer. iv. 14. Certainly it will be much labour to get your unclean spirits cast out, that is the grosser and more palpable lusts that reign in you, but when these are gone forth, yet there is much wickedness and uncleanness in the heart, of a more subtle nature, and by long indwelling, almost incorporated and mingled with the soul, and this will not be gotten out with gentle sweeping, as was done, Luke xi. 25. That takes away only the uppermost filth that lies loosest, but this must be gotten out by much washing and cleansing, therefore the Spirit enters by blood and water. There are idols in the heart, to which the soul is much engaged; it unites and closes with them (Ezek. xxxvi.) and these must be cleansed and washed out. There is much deceit in the heart, and this lies closest to it and is engrossed into it, and indeed this will take the help of fire to separate it, for that is of the most active nature to separate things of a diverse nature, the Spirit must by these take out your dross. And all this the Spirit will not do alone, but honours you with the fellowship of this work, and therefore you must lay your account that the operation and reformation of this house for so glorious a guest, will be laborious in the mean time. But O how infinitely is that compensated! One hour's fellowship with him alone, when all strangers are cast out, will compensate all, will make all to be forgotten, the pain of mortification will be swallowed up in the pleasure of his inhabitation, "When I shall awake I shall be satisfied with thy likeness." When he shall take up house fully in you, it will satisfy you to the full. In the meantime as he takes the rule and command of your house so for the present he provides for it, the provision of the soul is incumbent on this divine guest, and O how sweet and satisfying is it? O the peace and joy of the Holy Ghost, which are the entertainment that he gives a soul, where he reigns, and hath brought in righteousness, Rom. xiv. 17. What a noble train doth the Spirit bring alongst with him to furnish this house? Many rich and costly ornaments hang over it, and adorn it to make it like the king's wife all glorious within; such as the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit (1 Pet. iii. 4) which is a far more precious and rich hanging, than the most curious or precious contexture of corruptible things, the clothing of humility, simple in show, but rich in substance, (1 Pet. v. 5) which enriches and beautifies the soul that hath it, more than all Solomon's glory could do his person; for "better is it to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than divide the spoil with the proud," Prov. xvi. 19. In a word, the Spirit makes all new, puts a new man, a new fashion and image on the soul, which suits the court of heaven, the highest in the world, and is conformed to the noblest and highest pattern, the holiness and beauty of the greatest King. And being lodged within, O what sweet fruits is the Spirit daily bringing forth to feed and delight the soul withal! Gal. v. 22, 23. And he is not only a Spirit of sanctification, but of consolation too, and therefore of all the most worthy to be received into our hearts, for he is a bosom comforter, John xiv. 16. When there is no friend nor lover without, but a soul in that posture of Heman, Psal. lxxxviii. 18, and in that desolate estate of the churches, Lament. i. 2, "Among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her," (ver. 17) "spreading forth her hands, and none to comfort her," (ver. 21) sighing, and none to comfort her. In such a case to have a living and overrunning spring of comfort within, when all external and lower consolations, like winter brooks that dry up in summer, have dried up and disappointed thy expectation, sure this were a happy guest, that could do this. O that we could open our hearts to receive him!
Verse 9.—"If so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."
There is a great marriage spoken of, Eph. v. that hath a great mystery in it, which the apostle propoundeth as the sample and archetype of all marriages or rather as the substance, of which all conjunctions and relations among the creatures are but the shadows. It is that marriage between Christ and his church, for which, it would appear, this world was builded, to be a palace to celebrate it into; and especially the upper house, heaven, was made glorious for that great day, where it shall be solemnized. The first in order of time was made by God himself in paradise, certainly to represent a higher mystery, the marriage of the second Adam with his spouse, which is taken out of his bloody side, as the apostle imports, Eph. v. Now there is the greatest inequality and disproportion between the parties, Christ and sinners; so that it would seem a desperate matter to bring two such distant and unequal natures to such a near union, as may cast a copy to all unions and relations of the creatures. But he who at first made a kind of marriage between heaven and earth, in the composure of man, and joined together an immortal spirit in such a bond of amity with corruptible dust, hath found out the way to help this, and make it feasible. And truly, we may conceive the Lord was but making way for this greater mystery of the union of Christ with us, when he joined the breath of heaven with the dust of the earth. In this he gave some representation of another more mysterious conjunction. Now, the way that the wisdom and love of God hath found out to bring about this marriage, is this: because there was such an infinite distance between the only begotten Son of God, who is the express character of his image, and the brightness of his glory, and us sinful mortal creatures, whose foundation is in the dust, therefore it pleased the Father, out of his good will to the match, to send his Son down among men; and the Son, out of his love, to take on our flesh, and so fill up that distance with his low condescendence, to be partaker of flesh and blood with the children. And now, what the Lord spoke of man fallen, in a holy kind of irony or mock, "Behold he is become as one of us" that men may truly say of the Son of God, not fallen down from heaven, but come down willingly, "Lo, he is become as one of us;" like us in all things, except sin, which hath made us unlike ourselves. This bond of union you have in verse 3. Christ so infinitely above sinners, and higher than the heavens, coming down so low, to be as like sinners as might be, or could be profitable for us, in the likeness of sinful flesh, &c. But yet this bond is not near enough; that conjunction seemeth but general and infirm; both because it is in some manner common to all mankind who shall not be all advanced to this privilege. By taking on our nature, he cometh nearer to human nature, but not to some beyond others; and besides, the distance is not filled up this way, because there is a great disproportion between that nature in Christ and in us. In him it is holy and undefiled, and separated from sin; but in us it is unclean and immersed into sin; so that, albeit he be nearer us as a man, yet he is far distant and unlike us,—a holy perfect man. Now, what fellowship can be between light and darkness, as Paul speaketh of the marriage of Christians with idolaters? Much greater distance and disagreement is between Christ and us. Therefore, it seemeth, that some of us must be changed and transformed. But him it may not be. He cannot become liker us than by partaking of our flesh; for if he had become a sinner indeed, he would have become so like us that he could not help himself nor us either. This would eclipse the glory and happiness of the marriage. But in that he came as near as could be, without disabling himself, to make us happy; and so he was contented to come in the place of sinners, and take on their debt, and answer to God's justice for it; yea, and in his own person he submitted to be tempted to sin, though it had been evil for us he had been overcome by it; yet this brings him a step lower and nearer us, and maketh the union more hopeful. But since he can come no lower, and can be made no liker us in the case we are in, then certainly—if the match hold—we must become liker him, and raised up out of our miserable estate, to some suitableness to his holy nature. And, therefore, the love and wisdom of God, to fill up the distance completely, and effectuate this happy conjunction, that the creation seemeth to groan for,—for (ver. 22) the whole creation is pained till it be accomplished,—he hath sent his blessed Spirit to dwell in us, and to transform our natures, and make them partakers of the divine nature, (2 Pet. i. 4) as Christ was partaker of human nature; and thus the distance shall be removed. When a blessed Spirit is made flesh, and a fleshly man made spirit, then they are near the day of espousals; and this indwelling of the Spirit is the last link of the chain that fastens us to Christ, and maketh our flesh in some measure like his holy flesh. By taking on our flesh, Christ became bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh; but the union becometh mutual when we receive the Spirit, we become bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh, as it is expressed, Eph. v. 30, in allusion to the creation of Eve, and her marriage to Adam. The ground of the marriage is that near bond of union,—"Because she was taken out of man," and, therefore, because of his flesh and bone, she was made one flesh with him. Even so the sinner must be partaker of the Spirit of Christ, as Christ is partaker of the flesh of sinners, and these two concurring, these two knots interchanging and woven through other, we become one flesh with him. And this is a great mystery, indeed, to bring two who were so far asunder, so near other. Yea, it is nearer than that too, for we are said not only to be one flesh with Christ, but one spirit, 1 Cor. vi. 17. "He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit," because he is animated and quickened by one spirit,—that same spirit of Christ. And, indeed, spirits are more capable of union, and more fit to embosom one with another than bodies, therefore, the nearest union conceivable is the union of spirits by affections, this maketh two souls one, for it transports their spirit out of the body where it lives, and settleth it there where it loveth.
Now, my beloved, you see what way this great marriage, that heaven and earth are in a longing expectation after shall be brought about. Christ did forsake his Fathers house when he left that holy habitation, his Fathers bosom,—a place of marvellous delight, (Prov. viii. 30) and descended into the lower parts of the earth (Eph. iv. 9) and, he came out from the Father into the world, John xvi. 28. This was a great journey to meet with poor sinners. But that there may be a full and entire meeting you must leave and forsake your fathers house too, and forget your own people, Psalm xlv. 10. You must give an entire renounce to all former lovers if you would be his. All former bonds and engagements must be broken, that this may be tied the faster. And, to hold to the subject in hand, you must forsake and forget the flesh, and be possessed of his Holy Spirit. As he came down to our flesh, you must rise up to meet him in the spirit. The Spirit of Christ must indeed prevent you, and take you out of that natural posture you are born into, and bring you a great journey from yourselves, that you may be joined unto him.
This Spirit of Christ is his messenger and ambassador, sent beforehand to fit you and suit you for the day of espousals, and, therefore, he must have a dwelling and constant abode in you. This indwelling imports a special familiar operation, and the perpetuity or continuance of it. The Spirit is everywhere in his being, and he worketh everywhere too, but here he hath a special and peculiar work in commission—to reveal the love of God in Christ, to engage the soul to love him again, to prepare all within for the great day of espousals, to purify and purge the heart from all that is displeasing to Christ, to correspond between Christ and his spouse, between heaven and earth by making intercession for her when she cannot pray for herself as you find here, ver. 26, and so sending up the news of the soul's panting and breathing after Christ, sending up her groans and sighs to her Beloved, giving intelligence of all her necessities to him who is above, in the place of an advocate and interceder, and then bring back from heaven light and life, direction from her Head—for the Spirit must lead into all truth—and consolation, for Christ hath appointed the Spirit to supply his absence, and to comfort the soul in the mean time till he come again. You have this mutual and reciprocal knot in 1 John iv. 13, "Hereby we know that we dwell in him, and he in us, by the Spirit that he hath given." It is much nearness to dwell one with another, but much greater to dwell one in another. And it is reciprocal, such a wonderful interchange in it, we in him, and he in us, for the Spirit carries the soul to heaven, and brings Christ, as it were down to the earth. He is the messenger that carries letters between both—our prayers to him, and his prayers for us and love tokens to us, the anointing that teacheth us all things, from our Husband, (1 John ii. 27,) and revealing to us the things of God, (1 Cor. ii. 12.) giving us the first fruits of that happy and glorious communion we must have with Christ in heaven as you see, verse 23 of this chapter, and sealing us to the day of redemption, 1 Pet. i. 13, and iv. 30, supplying us with divine power against our spiritual enemies, fetching along from heaven that strength whereby our Lord and Saviour overcame all, Eph. ii. 16, Gal v. 17. This is a presence that few have, such a familiar and love-abode. But, certainly, all that are Christ's must have it in some measure. Now whosoever hath it, it is perpetual, the Spirit dwells in them. It is not a sojourning for a season, not a lodging for a night,—as some have fits and starts of seeking God, and some transient motions of conviction or joy, but return again to the puddle, these go through them as lightning, and do not warm them or change them but this is a constant residence; where the Spirit takes up house he will dwell, "he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you," and abide for ever, John xiv. 16, 17. If the Son abide in the house for ever, (John viii. 35) much more the master of the house must abide. Now, the Spirit where he dwells hath gotten the command of that house, all the power is put in his hand and resigned to him, for where he dwells he must rule, as good reason is. He is about the greatest work that is now to do in the world, the repairing and renewing of the ruins and breaches of man's spirit, which was the first breach in the creation, and the cause of all the rest. He is about the cleansing and washing this temple, and we may be persuaded, that he who hath begun this good work, will perform it until the day of Christ, till we be presented blameless and without spot to our Husband (Phil. i. 5, 6), and this is the grand consolation of believers that they have this presence assured to them by promise, that the Spirit is fixed here by an irrevocable and unchangeable covenant or donation, and will not wholly depart from them, though he may withdraw and leave you comfortless for a season, Isa. lix. 21.
Therefore I would shut up all in a word of exhortation to you, that since we have the promise of so noble and happy a guest, you would apply yourselves to seek him, and then keep him, to receive him and then retain him. It is true that he must first prevent us, for as no man can say, "that Jesus is the Christ, but by the Spirit of God," so no man can indeed pray for the Spirit, but by the Spirit's own intercession within him. Where God hath bestowed any thing of this Spirit, it is known by the kindly and fervent desires after more of it. Now, since we have such a large and ample promise (Ezek. xxxvi. 27, Joel ii. 28) of the pouring out of the Spirit, and that in as absolute and free a manner as can be imagined, and this renewed by Christ, and confirmed by his prayer to the Father for the performance of it, (John xiv. 16, 17) and then we have a sweet and affectionate promise propounded in the most moving and loving manner than can be, Luke xi. 13, where he encourageth us to pray for the Spirit and that from this ground, that our heavenly Father, who placed that natural affection in other fathers toward their children, whereby they cannot refuse them bread when they cry for it, he, who was the author of all natural affection, must certainly transcend them infinitely in his love to his children, as the Psalmist argues, "Shall not he that planted the ear, hear? and he that formed the eye, see?" So may a poor soul reason itself to some confidence, shall not he who is the fountain of all natural love to men and beasts have much more himself? And if my father will not give me a stone when I seek bread, certainly he will far less do it, therefore, "if we being evil, know how to give good things to our children, how much more shall our heavenly Father give his Spirit to them that ask him?" Alas that we should want such a gift for not asking it! My beloved, let us enlarge our desires for this Spirit, and seek more earnestly, and no doubt affection and importunity will not be sent away empty. Is it any wonder we receive not, because we ask not, or we ask so coldly, that we teach him in a manner to deny us, qui timide rogat, I may say, frigide, docet negare. Ask frequently, and ask confidently, and his heart cannot deny. O that we could lay this engagement on our own hearts to be more in prayer! Let us press ourselves to this and we need not press him. Albeit the first grace be wholly a surprisal, yet certainly he keeps this suitable method in the enlargements of grace, that when he gives more, he enlargeth the heart more after it, he openeth the mouth wider to ask and receive, and, according to that capacity, so is his hand open to fill the heart. O, why are our hearts shut when his hand is open! Again, I would exhort you in Jesus Christ, to entertain the Spirit suitably, and this shall keep him. To this purpose are these exhortations "Grieve not the Holy Spirit," Eph. iv. 30, and "Quench not the Spirit," 1 Thess. v. 19. There is nothing can grieve him but sin, and if you entertain that, you cannot retain him. He is a Spirit of holiness and he is about the making you holy, then do not mar him in his work, labour to advance this and ye do him a pleasure. If you make his holy temple an unclean cage for hateful birds, or a temple for idols, how can it but grieve him? And if you grieve the Spirit, certainly the Spirit will grieve you, will make you repent it at the heart. Please him, by hearkening to his motions, and following his direction, and he shall comfort you. His office is to be a spring of consolation to you, but if you grieve him by walking in the imagination of your hearts, and following the suggestions of the flesh,—his enemy,—no doubt that spring will turn its channel another way, and dry up for a season toward you. It is not every sin or infirmity that grieves him thus, if so be that it grieve thee; but the entertaining of any sin, and making peace with any of his enemies, that cannot but displease him: and, O what loss you have by it! You displease your greatest friend, to please your greatest enemy, you blot and bludder(195) that seal of the Spirit, that you shall not be able to read it, till it be cleansed and washed again. Now, "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his," he is not a Christian. Take this along with you, who aim at nothing but the external and outward show or visible standing in the church. If you have not this Spirit, and the seal of this Spirit, found on you, Christ will not know you for his in that day of his appearing.
Verse 10.—"And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness."
God's presence is his working. His presence in a soul by his Spirit is his working in such a soul in some special manner, not common to all men, but peculiar to them whom he hath chosen. Now his dwelling is nothing else but a continued, familiar and endless working in a soul, till he hath conformed all within to the image of his Son. The soul is the office house, or workhouse, that the Spirit hath taken up, to frame in it the most curious piece of the whole creation, even to restore and repair that masterpiece, which came last from God's hand, ab ultima manu, and so was the chiefest. I mean, the image of God, in righteousness and holiness. Now, this is the bond of union between God and us: Christ is the bond of union with God, but the Spirit is the bond of union with Christ. Christ is the peace between God and us, that makes of two one, but the Spirit is the link between Christ and us, whereby he hath immediate and actual interest in us, and we in him. I find the union between Christ and soul shadowed out in scripture, by the nearest relations among creatures, (for truly these are but shadows, and that is the body or substance,) and because an union that is mutual is nearest, it is often so expressed, as it imports an interchangeable relation, a reciprocal conjunction with Christ. The knot is cast on both sides to make it strong. Christ in us, and we in him; God dwelling in us, and we in him, and both by this one Spirit, 1 John iv. 13. "Hereby we know that God dwelleth in us, and we in him, by his Spirit which he hath given us." You find it often in John, who being most possessed with the love of Christ, and most sensible of his love could best express it: "I in them, and they in me. He that keepeth his commands dwelleth in him, and he in him," as the names of married persons are spelled through other, so doth he spell out this indwelling; it is not cohabitation but inhabitation: neither that alone singly, but mutual inhabitation, which amounts to a kind of penetration, the most intimate and immediate presence imaginable. Christ dwelleth in our hearts by faith; and we dwell in Christ by love, Eph. iii. 17 , and 1 John iv. Death bringeth him into the heart; for it is the very application of a Saviour to a sinful soul. It is the very applying of his blood and sufferings to the wound that sin made in the conscience; the laying of that sacrifice propitiatory to the wounded conscience, is that which heals it, pacifies it, and calms it. A Christian, by receiving the offer of the gospel cordially and affectionately brings in Christ offered into his house, and then salvation comes with him. Therefore believing is receiving, (John i.) the very opening of the heart to let in an offered Saviour; and then Christ, thus possessing the heart by faith, he works by love, and "he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him." Love hath this special value in it, that it transports the soul in a manner out of itself to the Beloved, Cant. iv. 9. Anima est ubi amat, non ubi animat;(196) the fixing and establishing of the heart on God is a dwelling in him; for the constant and most continued residence of the most serious thoughts and affections, will be their dwelling in their all-fulness and riches of grace in Jesus Christ. As the Spirit dwelleth where he worketh, so the soul dwelleth where it delighteth; its complacency in God making a frequent issue or outgoing to him in desires and breathings after him; and by means of this same, God dwelleth in the heart, for love is the opening up of the inmost chamber of the heart to him, it brings in the Beloved into the very secrets of the soul, to lie all night betwixt his breasts as a bundle of myrrh, Cant. i. 13. And indeed all the sweet odours of holy duties, and all the performing of good works and edifying speeches, spring out only, and are sent forth, from this bundle of myrrh that lies betwixt the breasts of a Christian, in the inmost of his heart, from Christ dwelling in the affections of the soul.
Now, this being the bond of union betwixt Christ and us, it follows, necessarily, that whosoever hath not the Spirit of Christ, "he is none of his;" and this is subjoined for prevention or removal of the misapprehensions and delusions of men in their self-judgings; because self-love blinds our eyes, and maketh our hearts deceive themselves. We are given to this self-flattery,—to pretend and claim to an interest in Jesus Christ, even though there be no more evidence for it than the external relation that we have to Christ, as members of his visible body, or partakers of a common influence of his Spirit. There are some external bonds and ties to Christ, which are like a knot that may easily be loosed if any thing get hold of the end of it; as by our relations to Christ by baptism, hearing the word, your outward covenanting to be his people; all these are loose unsure knots; it is as easy to untie them as to tie them, yea, and more easy; and yet many have no other relation to Christ than what these make. But it is only the Spirit of Christ given to us that entitles and interesteth us in him, and him in us. It is the Spirit working in your souls mightily and continually, making your hearts temples for the offering of the sacrifice of prayer and praises, casting out all idols out of these temples, that he alone may be adored and worshipped, by the affectionate service of the heart, purging them from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. It is the Spirit, I say, thus dwelling in men that maketh them living members of the true body of Christ, lively, joined to the Head,—Christ. This maketh him yours and you his; by virtue of this he may command you as his own, and you may use and employ him as your own. Now, for want of this, in most part of men, they also want this living saving interest in Christ. They have no real but an imaginary and notional propriety and right to the Lord Jesus; for Christ must first take possession of us by his Spirit before we have any true right to him, or can willingly resign ourselves to him, and give him right over us. What shall it profit us, my beloved, to be called Christians, and to esteem ourselves so, if, really, we be none of Christ's? Shall it not heighten our condemnation so much the more that we desire to pass for such and give out ourselves so, and yet have no inward acquaintance and interest in him whose name we love to bear? Are not the most part shadows and pictures of true Christians, bodies without the soul of Christianity, that is, the Spirit of Christ, whose hearts are treasures of wickedness and deceit, and storehouses of iniquity and ignorance? It may be known what treasure fills the heart by that which is the constant and common vent of it, as our Saviour speaks, Matt. xv. 19; and xii. 34, 35, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh," the feet walk, and the hand works. Consider, then, if the Spirit of God dwelleth in such unclean habitations and dark dungeons; certainly no uncleanness or darkness of the house can hinder him to come in; but it is a sure argument and evidence that he is not as yet come in, because the prince of darkness is not yet cast out of many souls, nor yet the unclean spirits that lodge within; these haunt your hearts, and are as familiar now as ever. Sure I am, many souls have never yet changed their guests, and it is as sure that the first guest that taketh up the soul is darkness and desperate wickedness, with unparalleled deceitfulness. There is an accursed trinity, instead of that blessed Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and when this holy Trinity cometh in to dwell, that other of hell must go out. Now, my beloved, do you think this a light matter, to be disowned by Jesus Christ? Truly, the word of Christ, which is the character of all our evidences and rights for heaven, disowns many as bastards and dead members, withered branches, and, certainly, according to this word he will judge you, "the word that I have spoken shall judge you in the last day." O that is a heavy word! You have the very rule and method of proceeding laid down before you now, which shall be punctually kept at that great day. Now, why do you not read your ditty(197) and condemnatory sentence here registered? If you do not read it now in your consciences, he will one day read it before men and angels, and pronounce this,—I know you not for mine, you are none of mine. But if you would now take it to your hearts, there might be hope that it should go no further, and come to no more public-hearing, there were hope that it should be repealed before that day, because the first entry of the Spirit of Christ is to convince men of sin, that they are unbelievers, and without God in the world, and if this were done, then it were more easy to convince you of Christ's righteousness, and persuade you to embrace it, and this would lead in another link of the chain,—the conviction of judgment, to persuade you to resign yourselves to the Spirit's rule, and renounce the kingdom of Satan; this were another trinity, a trinity upon earth, three bearing witness on the earth that you have the Spirit of God.
Verse 10.—"And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin," &c.
All the preceding verses seem to be purposely set down by the apostle for the comfort of Christians against the remnants of sin and corruption within them, for in the preceding chapter, he personates the whole body of Christ militant, showing, in his own example, how much sin remains in the holiest in this life, and this he rather instances in his own person than another that all may know that matter of continual sorrow and lamentation is furnished to the chiefest of saints, and yet, in this chapter, he propounds the consolation of Christians more generally, that all may know that these privileges and immunities belong even to the meanest and weakest of Christians,—that, as the best have reason to mourn in themselves, so the worst want not reason to rejoice in Jesus Christ. And this should always be minded that the amplest grounds of the strongest consolation are general to all that come indeed to Jesus Christ, and are not restricted unto saints of such and such a growth and stature. The common principles of the gospel are more full of this milk of consolation, if you would suck it out of them, than many particular grounds which you are laying down for yourselves. God hath so disposed and contrived the work of our salvation, that in this life he that hath gathered much, in some respect, hath nothing over—that is to say, hath no more reason to boast than another, but will be constrained to sit down and mourn over his own evil heart, and the emptiness of it, and he that hath gathered less hath, in some sense, no want. I mean, he is not excluded and shut out from the right to these glorious privileges which may express gloriation and rejoicing from the heart, that there might be an equality in the body, he maketh the stronger Christian to partake with the weaker in his bitter things, and the weaker with the stronger in his sweet things, that none of them may conceive themselves either despised, or alone regarded, that the eunuch may not have reason to say, "I am a dry tree," Isa. lvi. 3. For, behold the Lord will give, even to such, "a place" in his house, and "a name better than of sons and daughters." The soul that is in sincerity aiming at this walk, and whose inward desires stir after more of this Holy Spirit, he will not refuse to such that name and esteem that they dare not take to themselves because of their seen and felt unworthiness. Now, in this verse he proceeds further to the fruits and effects of sin dwelling in us, to enlarge the consolation against that too. Now, If Christ be in you, the body, &c. Seeing the word of God hath made such a connection between sin and death, and death is the wages of sin, and that which is the just recompense of enmity and rebellion against God, the poor troubled soul might be ready to conceive that if the body be adjudged to death for sin, that the rest of the wages shall be paid, and sin having so much dominion as to kill the body, that it should exerce(198) its full power to destroy all. Seeing we have a visible character of the curse of God engraven on us in the mortality of our bodies, it may look with such a visage on a soul troubled for sin, as if it were but earnest of the full curse and weight of wrath, and that sin were not fully satisfied for, nor justice fully contented by, Christ's ransom. Now, he opposes to this misconception the strongest ground of consolation—if Christ be in you, though your bodies must die for sin, because sin dwelleth in them, yet that Spirit of life that is in you hath begun eternal life in your souls, your spirits are not only immortal in being, but that eternal happy being is begun in you, the seeds of it are cast into your souls, and shall certainly grow up to perfection of holiness and happiness, and this through the righteousness of Christ which assureth that state unto you. The comfort is, it is neither total, for it is only the death of your body, nor is it perpetual, for your bodies shall be raised again to life eternal, verse 11. And not only is it only in part, and for a season, but it is for a blessed end and purpose it is that sin may be wholly cleansed out that this tabernacle is taken down, as the leprous houses(199) were to be taken down under the law, and as now we use to cast down pest lodges, the better to cleanse them of the infection. It is not to prejudge him of life, but to install him in a better life. Thus you see that it is neither total nor perpetual, but it is medicinal and profitable to the soul,—it is but the death of the body for a moment, and the life of the soul for ever.