Verse 10.—"And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because sin," &c.
This is the high excellence of the Christian religion, that it contains the most absolute precepts for a holy life, and the greatest comforts in death, for from these two the truth and excellency of religion is to be measured, if it have the highest and perfectest rule of walking, and the chiefest comfort withal. Now, the perfection of Christianity you saw in the rule, how spiritual it is, how reasonable, how divine, how free from all corrupt mixture, how transcending all the most exquisite precepts and laws of men, deriving a holy conversation from the highest fountain, the Spirit of Christ, and conforming it to the highest pattern, the will of God. And, indeed, in the first word of this verse, there is something of the excellent nature of Christianity holden out, "if Christ be in you," which is the true description of a Christian,—one in whom Christ is, which imports the divine principle and the spiritual subject of Christianity. The principle is Christ in a man,—Christ by his Spirit dwelling in him. This great apostle knew this well in his own experience, and, therefore, he can speak best in this style "I live, yet not I, but Christ in me," Gal. ii. 20 importing, that Christ and his Spirit is to the soul what the soul is to the body,—that there is a living influence from heaven that acts and moves the soul of a Christian as powerfully yet as sweetly and pleasantly, as if it were the natural motion of the soul, and truly it is the natural motion of the soul. It is that primitive life which was most connatural to the soul of man, which sin did deprive us of. All the powerful constraint and violence that Christ uses in drawing the souls of men to him, and after him, is as kindly unto them, and perfects them as much, as that impulse by which the soul moves and turns the body, a sweet compulsion and blessed violence. Now this should make Christians often to reflect upon another principle of their life than themselves, that by looking on him, who is "the resurrection and the life," who is "the true vine," and abiding in him by faith, their life may be continued and increased. It is certainly much reflection on Him who is all in all, and less upon ourselves that maintains this life, and, therefore, the most part of men being wholly strangers to this, whether in their purposes or practices, or judgings of both, unacquainted with any higher look in religion than they use in their natural and civil actings, it doth give ground to assure us that they are strangers,—alienated from the life of God,—without God, and without Christ in the world.
But then the spiritual subject of Christianity is here, Christ in you not Christ without you, in ordinances, in profession, in some civil carriage but Christ within the heart of a man,—that is a Christian. It is the receiving of Christ into the soul, and putting him on upon the inner man, and renewing it, that makes a Christian, not being externally clothed with him, or compassed about with him, in the administration of the ordinances. It fears me, most part of us who bear the name of Christianity, have no character of it within if we were looked and searched. Many are like the sepulchres Christ speaks of,—without, painted and fair,—within, no thing but rottenness and dead bones. What have many of you more of Christ than what a blind man hath of light? It is round about him, but not within him. The light hath sinned in darkness but your darkness cannot comprehend it. You are environed with the outward appearances of Christ in his word and ordinances, and that is all, but neither within you, nor upon many of you, is there any thing either of his light or life. Not so much as any outward profession or behaviour, suitable to the revelation of Christ, about you. As if you were ashamed to be Christians, you maintain gross ignorance, and practise manifest rebellion against his known will in the very light of the gospel. How few have so much tincture of Christ, so much as to colour the external man, or to clothe it with any blamelessness of walking or form of religion! How few are so much as Christians in the letter! For you are not acquainted either with letter or spirit,—either with knowledge or affection or practice. But suppose that some have put on Christ on their outward man and colour over themselves with some performances of religious duties, and smooth themselves with civility in carriage, yet alas! how few are they who are renewed in the spirit of their mind, and have put on Christ in their inward man, who have opened the secrets of their hearts, and received him to "lie all night between their breasts." How few are busied about their hearts, to have any new impression and dye upon their affections,—to mould them after a new manner,—to kill the love of this world and the lusts of it,—and cast out the rottenness and superfluity of naughtiness which abides within! But some there are who are persuaded thus to do to give up their spirits to religion, and all their business and care is, to have Christ within, as well as without. Now, if the rest of you will not be persuaded to be of this number, consider what you prejudge yourselves of, of all the comfort of religion, and then religion is no religion, and to no purpose, if you have no benefit by it. And certainly, except Christ be in you as a King to rule you, and a Prophet to teach you,—to subdue your lusts, and dispel your darkness, when he appears, he cannot appear to your comfort and salvation. You are deprived of this great cordial against death, and death must seize upon all that is within you, soul and body, since Christ the Spirit of life is not within you. Happiness without you will not make you happy—salvation round about you will not save you. If you would be saved, there must be a near and immediate union with happiness. Christ in the heart, and salvation cometh with him. A Christian is not only Christ without not imputing his sins to him, clothing him with his righteousness but Christ within too, cleansing the heart from the love of sin, "perfecting holiness in the fear of God." Do not think you have any share in Christ without you, except you receive Christ within you, because Christ is one within and without, and his gifts are undivided. Therefore true faith receives whole Christ as a complete Saviour, even as he is entirely offered, so he is undividedly received as he is without saving us, and within sanctifying us,—Christ without, delivering from wrath—and Christ within, redeeming from all iniquity—these cannot be parted more than his coat that had no seam. It is a heavy and weighty word of this apostles, 2 Cor. xiii. 5: "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates." I wish you would lay it to heart, who have never yet returned to your hearts. If Christ be not formed in you, (as Gal. iv. 19,) you are as yet among the refuse, dross, and that which must be burnt with fire. You cannot but be cast away in the day when he makes up his jewels. Where Christ is he is the hope of glory,—he is an immortal seed of glory. How can you hope for Christ, who have nothing of him within you?
Now, the other touchstone of true religion is, the great comfort it furnishes to the soul, and, of all comforts, the greatest is that which is a cordial to the heart against the greatest fears and evils. Now, certainly the matter of greatest fear is death, not so much because of itself, but chiefly because of that eternity of unchangeable misery that naturally it transmits them unto. Now, it is only the Christian religion possessing the heart that arms a man completely against the fear either of death itself, or the consequents of it. It giveth the most powerful consolation, that not only overcometh the bitterness and taketh out the sting of death, but changeth the nature of it so far as to make it the matter of triumph and gloriation.
There is something here supposed, the worst that can befall a Christian, it is the death of a part of him, and that the worst and ignoblest part only, "the body is dead because of sin." Then, that which is opposed by way of comfort to counter-balance it, is, the life of his better and more noble part. And, besides, we have the fountains both of that death and this life,—man's sin the cause of bodily death, Christ's righteousness the fountain of spiritual life.
Of death many have had sweet meditations, even among those that the light of the word hath not shined upon, and, indeed, they may make us ashamed who profess Christianity, and so the hope of the resurrection from the dead, that they have accounted it only true wisdom and sound philosophy to meditate often on death, and made it the very principal point of living well to be always learning to die, and have applied their whole studies that way, neglecting present things that are in the by, have given themselves to search out some comfort against death, or from death. Yea, some have so profited in this, that they have accounted death the greatest good that can befall man, and persuaded others to think so.(200) Now, what may we think of ourselves, who scarce apprehend mortality, especially considering that we have the true fountain of it revealed to us, and the true nature and consequents of it.
All men must needs know that death is the most universal king in the world, that it reigns over all ages, sexes, conditions, nations and times, though few be willing to entertain thoughts of it, yet sooner or later, they must be constrained to give it lodging upon their eyelids, and suffer it to storm the very strongest tower, the heart, and batter it down, and break the strings of it, having no way either to fly from it or resist it. Now, the consideration of the general inundation of death over all mankind, and the certain approaching of it to every particular man's door, hath made many serious thoughts among the wise men of the world. But being destitute of this heavenly light that shineth to us, they could not attain to the original of it, but have conceived that it was a common tribute of nature, and an universal law imposed upon all mankind by nature, having the same reason that other mutations and changes among the creatures here below have, and so have thought it no more a strange thing, than to see other things dissolved in their elements. Now, indeed, seeing they could apprehend no other bitter ingredient in it, it was no wonder that the wisest of them could not fear it, but rather wait and expect it as a rest from their labours, as the end of all their miseries.
But the Lord hath revealed unto us in his word the true cause of it, and so the true nature of it. The true cause of it is sin,—"Sin entered into the world, and death passed upon all, for that all have sinned," Rom. v. 12. Man was created for another purpose, and upon other conditions, and a law of perpetual life and eternal happiness was passed in his favour, he abiding in the favour, and obeying the will of him that gave him life and being. Now, sin interposing, and separating between man and God, loosing that blessed knot of union and communion, it was this other law that succeeded, as a suitable recompense, "thou shall die:" it is resolved, in the council of heaven, that the union of man shall be dissolved, his soul and body separated, in just recompense of the breaking the bond of union with God. This is it that hath opened the sluice to let in an inundation of misery upon mankind: this was the just occasion of that righteous but terrible appointment, "It is appointed that all men once should die, and after death come to judgment," Heb. ix. 27; that since the body had enticed the soul, and suggested unto it such unnatural and rebellious motions of withdrawing from the blessed Fountain of life, to satisfy its pleasure, the body should be under a sentence of deprivement and forfeiture of that great benefit and privilege of life it had by the soul's indwelling, and condemned to return to its first base original, "the dust," and to be made a feast of worms, to lodge in the grave, and be a subject of the greatest corruption and rottenness, because it became the instrument, yea, the incitement of the soul to sin against that God that had from heaven breathed a spirit into it, and exalted it above all the dust or clay in the world. Now, my beloved, do we not get many remembrances of our sins? Is not every day presenting our primitive departure from God, our first separation from the Fountain of life by sin, to our view, and in such sad and woful effects pointing out the heinousness of sin? Do you not see men's bodies every day dissolved, the tabernacle of earth taken down, and the soul constrained to remove out of it? But what influence hath it upon us, what do the multiplied funerals work upon us? It may be, sorrow for our friends, but little or no apprehension of our own mortality, and base impression of sin, that separates our souls from God. Who is made sadly to reflect upon his original, or to mind seriously that statute and appointment of heaven, "In that day thou shalt die?" It is strange that all of us fear death, and few are afraid of sin, that carries death in its bosom,—that we are so unwilling to reap corruption in our bodies, and yet we are so earnest and laborious in sowing to the flesh. Be not deceived, for you are daily reaping what you have sown. And, O! that it were all the harvest; but death is only the putting in of the sickle of vengeance, the first cut of it: but, O! to think on what follows, would certainly restrain men, and cool them in their fervent pursuits after sin!
Verse 10.—"And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin: but the Spirit is life because of righteousness."
"The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law," saith our apostle, 1 Cor. xv. 56. These two concur to make man mortal, and these two are the bitter ingredients of death. Sin procured it, and the law appointed it, and God hath seen to the exact execution of that law in all ages; for what man liveth and shall not taste of death? Two only escaped the common lot, Enoch and Elias; for they pleased God, and God took them: and, besides, it was for a pledge, that at the last day all shall not die, but be changed. The true cause of death is sin, and the true nature of it is penal, to be a punishment of sin: take away this relation to sin, and death wants the sting. But, in its first appointment, and as it prevails generally over men, aculeata(201) est mors, it hath a sting that pierceth deeper, and woundeth sorer than to the desolation of the body, it goeth into the innermost parts of the soul, and woundeth that eternally. The truth is, the death of the body is not either the first death or the last death: it is rather placed in the middle between two deaths: and it is the fruit of the first, and the root of the last. There is a death immediately hath ensued upon sin, and it is the separation of the soul from God, the Fountain of life and blessedness: and this is the death often spoken of, "You who were dead in sins and trespasses," &c. Eph. ii. 1. "Being past feeling," and "alienated from the life of God," Eph. iv. 18, 19. And truly this is worse in itself than the death of the body simply, though not so sensible, because spiritual. The corruption of the best part in man, in all reason, is worse than the corruption of his worst part. But this death, which consists especially in the loss of that blessed communion with God, which made the soul happy, cannot be found till some new life enter, or else till the last death come, which adds infinite pain to infinite loss. Now the death of the body succeeds this soul's death, and that is, the separation of the soul from the body, most suitable, seeing the soul was turned from the Fountain-spirit to the body, that the body should by his command return to dust, and be made the most defiled piece of dust. Now, this were not so grievous, if it were not a step to the death to come, and a degree of it introductive to it. But that statute and appointment of heaven hath thus linked it, "after death comes judgment:" because, the soul in the body would not be sensible of its separation from God, but was wholly taken up with the body, neglecting and miskenning(202) that infinite loss of God's favour and face, therefore the Lord commands it to go out of the body, that it may then be sensible of its infinite loss of God, when it is separated from the body; that it may then have leisure to reflect upon itself, and find its own surpassing misery: and then indeed,—infinite pain and infinite loss conjoined,—eternal banishment from the presence of that blessed Spirit, and eternal torment within itself. These two concurring, what posture do you think such a soul will be into? There are some earnest of this in this life. When God reveals his terror, and sets men's sins in order before their face, O! how intolerable is it, and more insupportable than many deaths. They that have been acquainted with it, have declared it. The terrors of God are like poisonable arrows sunk into Job's spirit, and drinking up all the moisture of them. Such a spirit as is wounded with one of these darts shot from heaven, who can bear it? Not the most patient and most magnanimous spirit, that can sustain all other infirmities, Prov. xviii. 14. Now, my beloved, if it be so now, while the soul is in the body, drowned in it, what will be the case of the soul separated from the body, when it shall be all one sense, to reflect and consider itself?
This is the sting of death indeed, worse than a thousand deaths to a soul that apprehends it; and the less it is apprehended, the worse it is; because it is the more certain, and must shortly be found, when there is no brazen serpent to heal that sting. Now, what comfort have you provided against this day? What way do you think to take out this sting? Truly, there is no balm for it, no physician for it, but one; and that the Christian only is acquainted with. He in whom Christ is, he hath this sovereign antidote against the poison of death, he hath the very sting of it taken out by Christ, death itself killed, and of a mortal enemy made the kindest friend. And so he may triumph with the apostle, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God in Jesus Christ, who giveth us the victory," 1 Cor. xv. 55. The ground of his triumph, and that which a Christian hath to oppose to all the sorrows and pains and fears of death mustered against him, is threefold; one, that death is not real; a second, that it is not total, even that which is; and then, that it is not perpetual. This last is contained in the next verse, the second expressed in this verse, and the first may be understood or implied in it. That the nature of death is so far changed, that of a punishment it is become a medicine, of a punishment for sin it is turned into the last purgative of the soul from sin; and thus the sting of it is taken away, that relation it did bear to the just wrath of God. And now as to the body of a Christian under appointment to die for sin, that is, for the death of sin, the eternal death of sin. Christ having come under the power of death, hath gotten power over it, and spoiled it of its stinging virtue. He hath taken away the poisonable ingredient of the curse, that it can no more hurt them that are in him, and so it is not now vested with that piercing and wounding notion of punishment. Though it be true that sin was the first inlet of death, that it first opened the sluice to let it enter and flow in upon mankind, yet that appointment of death is renewed, and bears a relation to the destruction of sin, rather than the punishment of the sinner, who is forgiven in Christ. And, O! how much solid comfort is here, that the great reason of mortality that a Christian is subject unto, is, that he may be made free of that which made him at first mortal. Because sin hath taken such possession in this earthly tabernacle, and is so strong a poison, that it hath infected all the members, and by no purgation here made can be fully cleansed out, but there are many secret corners it lurks into, and upon occasion vents itself, therefore it hath pleased God, in his infinite goodness, to continue the former appointment of death, but under a new and living consideration, to take down this infected and defiled tabernacle, as the houses of leprosy were taken down under the law, that so they might be the better cleansed, and this is the last purification of the soul from sin. And therefore, as one of the ancients said well, "That we might not be eternally miserable, mercy hath made us mortal." Justice hath made the world mortal, that they might be eternally miserable, but to put an end to this misery, Christ hath continued our mortality, else he would have abolished death itself, if he had not meant to abolish sin by death. And indeed, it would appear this is the reason why the world must be consumed with fire at the last day, and new heavens and earth succeed in its room, because, as the little house, the body, so the great house, the world, was infected with this leprosy, and so subjoined to vanity and corruption because of mans sin therefore, that there might be no remnant of mans corruption, and no memorial of sin to interrupt his eternal joy, the Lord will purify and change all,—all the members that were made instruments of unrighteousness, all the creatures that were servants to man's lusts. A new form and fashion shall be put on all, that the body being restored, may be a fit dwelling place for the purified soul, and the world renewed, may be a fit house for righteous men. Thus you see, that death to a Christian is not real death, for it is not the death of a Christian, but the death of sin his greatest enemy, it is not a punishment, but the enlargement of the soul.
Now, the next comfort is, that which is but partial, it is but the dissolution of the lowest part in man, his body, so far from prejudging the immortal life of his spirit it is rather the accomplishment of that. Though the body must die, yet eternal life is begun already within the soul, for the Spirit of Christ hath brought in life, the righteousness of Christ hath purchased it, and the Spirit hath performed it, and applied it to us. Not only there is an immortal being in a Christian that must survive the dust (for that is common to all men), but there is a new life begun in him, an immortal well being in joy and happiness, which only deserves the name of life, that cometh never to its full perfection till the bodily and earthly houses be taken down. If you consider seriously what a new life a Christian is translated unto, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, and the ministration of the word, it is then most active and lively, when the soul is most retired from the body in meditation. The new life of a Christian is most perfect in this life when it carrieth him the furthest distance from his bodily senses, and is most abstracted from all sensible engagements, as you heard, for indeed it restores the spirit of a man to its native rule and dominion over the body, so that it is then most perfect when it is most gathered within itself, and disengaged from all external entanglements.
Now, certain it is, since the perfection of the soul in this life consists in such a retirement from the body, that when it is wholly separated from it then it is in the most absolute state of perfection, and its life acts most purely and perfectly when it hath no body to communicate with, and to entangle it either with its lusts or necessities. The Spirit is life, it hath a life now which is then best when furthest from the body, and therefore it cannot but be surpassing better when it is out of the body, and all this is purchased by Christ's righteousness. As man's disobedience made an end of his life, Christ's obedience hath made our life endless. He suffered death to sting him, and by this hath taken the sting from it, and now, there is a new statute and appointment of heaven published in the gospel, "whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have eternal life." Now indeed, this hath so entirely changed the nature of death, that it hath now the most lovely and desirable aspect on a Christian, that it is no longer an object of fear, but of desire, amicable, not terrible unto him. Since there is no way to save the passenger, but to let the vessel break, he will be content to have the body splitted, that himself, that is his soul, may escape, for truly a man's soul is himself, the body is but an earthly tabernacle that must be taken down, to let the inhabitant win out to come near his Lord. The body is the prison house that he groans to have opened, that he may enjoy that liberty of the sons of God. And now to a Christian, death is not properly an object of patience, but of desire rather, "I desire to be dissolved and be with Christ," Phil. i. 23. He that hath but advanced little in Christianity will be content to die, but because there is too much flesh, he will desire to live. But a Christian that is riper in knowledge and grace, will rather desire to die, and only be content to live. He will exercise patience and submission about abiding here, but groanings and pantings about removing hence, because he knoweth that there is no choice between that bondage and this liberty.
Verse 10.—"And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness."
It was the first curse and threatening wherein God thought fit to comprehend all misery, "Thou shalt die the death in that day thou eatest." Though the sentence was not presently executed according to the letter, yet from that day forward man was made mortal, and there seemeth to be much mercy and goodness of God intervening to plead a delay of death itself, that so the promise of life in the second Adam might come to the first and his posterity, and they might be delivered from the second death, though not from the first. Always we bear about the marks of sin in our bodies to this day, and in so far the threatening taketh place, that this life that we live in the body is become nothing else but a dying life, the life that the ungodly shall live out of the body is a living death, and either of these is worse than simple death or destruction of being. The serious contemplation of the miseries of this life made wise Solomon to praise the dead more than the living, contrary to the custom of men, who rejoice at the birth of a man-child, and mourn at their death. Yea, it pressed him further, to think them which have not at all been, better than both, because they have not seen the evil under the sun. This world is such a chaos, such a mass of miseries, that if men understood it before they came into it, they would be far more loath to enter it, than they are now afraid to go out of it. And truly we want not remembrances and representations of our misery every day, in that children come weeping into the world, as it were bewailing their own misfortune, that they were brought forth to be sensible subjects of misery. And what is all our life-time, but a repetition of sighs and groans, anxiety and satiety, loathing and longing, dividing our spirits and our time between them? How many deaths must we suffer before death come? For the absence or loss of any thing much desired, is a separation no less grievous to the hearts of men, than the parting of soul and body: for affection to temporal perishing things, unites the soul so unto them, that there is no parting without pain, no dissolution of that continuity without much vexation, and yet the soul must suffer many such tortures in one day, because the things are perishing in their own nature, and uncertain. What is sleep, which devours the most part of our time, but the very image and picture of death, a visible and daily representation of the long cessation of the sensitive life in the grave? And yet, truly, it is the best and most innocent part of our time, though we accuse it often. There is both less sin and less misery in it, for it is almost the only lineament and refreshment we get in all our miseries. Job sought to assuage his grief and ease his body, but it was the extremity of his misery that he could not find it. Now, my beloved, when you find that which is called life subject to so much misery that you are constrained often to desire you had never been born, you find it a valley of tears, a house of mourning from whence all true delight and solid happiness is banished. Seeing the very officers and serjeants of death are continually surrounding us and walk alongst with us—though unpleasant company—in our greatest contentments, and are putting marks upon your doors, as in the time of the plague upon houses infected, "Lord have mercy upon us,"(203) and are continually bearing this motto to our view, and sounding this direction to our ears, cito, procul, diu—to get soon our of Sodom that is appointed for destruction, to fly quickly out of ourselves to the refuge appointed of God, even one that was dead and is alive, and hath redeemed us by his blood, and to get far off from ourselves, and take up dwelling in the blessed Son of God, through whose flesh there is access to the Father,—seeing all these, I say, are so, why do not we awake ourselves upon the sound of the promise of immortality and life, brought to our ears in the gospel? Mortality hath already seized upon our bodies, but why do you not catch hold of this opportunity of releasing your souls from the chains and fetters of eternal death? Truly, my beloved, all that can be spoken of torments and miseries in this life, suppose we could imagine all the exquisite torments invented by the most cruel tyrants since the beginning, to be combined in some one kind of torture, and would then stretch our imagination beyond that, as far as that which is composed of all torments surpasseth the simplest death, yet we do not conceive nor express unto you that death to come. Believe it, when the soul is out of the body it is a most pure activity, all sense, all knowledge. And seeing where it is dulled and dampished(204) in the body, it is capable of so much grief or joy, pleasure or pain, we may conclude, that being loosed from these stupifying earthly chains, that it is capable of infinite more vexation, or contentation, in a higher and purer strain.
Therefore, we may conclude with the apostle, that all men by nature are miserable in life, but infinitely more miserable in death. Only the man who is in Jesus Christ, in whose spirit Christ dwells, and hath made a temple of his body for offering up reasonable service in it, that man only is happy in life, but far happier in death, happy that he was born, but infinitely more happy that he was born mortal, born to die, for "if the body be dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness." Men commonly make their accounts and calculate their time so, as if death were the end of it. Truly, it were happiness in the generality of men that that computation were true, either that it had never begun, or that it might end here, for that which is the greatest dignity and glory of a man—his immortal soul—it is truly the greatest misery of sinful men, because it capacitates them for eternal misery. But if we make our accounts right, and take the right period, truly death is but the beginning of our time, of endless and unchangeable endurance either in happiness or misery, and this life in the body, which is only in the view of the short sighted sons of men, is but a strait and narrow passage into the infinite ocean of eternity, but so inconsiderable it is that, according as the spirit in this passage is fashioned and formed, so it must continue for ever, for where the tree falleth, there it lieth. There may be hope that a tree will sprout again, but truly there is no hope that ever the damned soul shall see a spring of joy, and no fear that ever the blessed spirits shall find a winter of grief. Such is the evenness of eternity, that there is no shadow of change in it.
O then, how happy are they in whose souls this life is already begun, which shall then come to its meridian, when the glory of the flesh falls down like withered hay into the dust! The life as well as the light of the righteous is progressive. It is shining more and more till that day come, the day of death, only worthy to be called the present day, because it brings perfection, it mounts the soul in the highest point of the orb, and there is no declining from that again. The spirit is now alive in some holy affections and motions, breathing upwards, wrestling towards that point. The soul is now in part united to the Fountain of life, by loving attendance and obedience, and it is longing to be more closely united. The inward senses are exercised about spiritual things, but the burden of this clayey mansion doth much dull and damp them, and proves a great remora(205) to the spirit. The body indisposes and weakens the soul much. It is life, as in an infant, though a reasonable soul be there, yet overwhelmed with the incapacity of the organs. This body is truly a prison of restraint and confinement to the soul, and often loathsome and ugly through the filthiness of sin, but when the spirit is delivered from this necessary burden and impediment, O how lively is that life it then lives! Then the life, peace, joy, love, and delight of the soul surmounts all that is possible here, further than the highest exercise of the soul of the wisest men surpasses the brutish like apprehensions of an infant, and indeed then the Christian comes to his full stature, and is a perfect man when he ceaseth to be a man.
How will you not be persuaded, beloved in the Lord, to long after this life, to have Christ formed in your hearts, for truly the generality have not so much as Christ fashioned in their outward habit, but are within darkness and earthiness and wickedness, and without, impiety and profanity. Will you not long for this life? For now you are dead while you live, as the apostle speaks of widows that live in pleasure. The more the soul be satisfied with earthly things, it is the deeper buried in the grave of the flesh, and the further separated from God. Alas! many of you know no other life, than that which you now live in the body, you neither apprehend what this new birth is, nor what the perfect stature of it shall be afterwards. But truly while it is thus, you are but walking shadows, breathing clay, and no more. A godly man used to calculate the years of his nativity from his second birth, his conversion to God in Christ; and truly, this is the true period of the right calculation of life, of that life which shall not see death. True life hath but one period, that is, the beginning of it, for end it hath none. I beseech you, reckon your years thus, and I fear that you reckon yourselves, many of you, yet dead in sins and trespasses. Is that life, I pray you, to eat, to drink, to sleep, to play, to walk, to work? Is there any thing in all these worthy of a reasonable soul, which must survive the body, and so cease from such things for ever? Think within yourselves, do you live any other life than this? What is your life but a tedious and wearisome repetition of such brutish actions which are only terminate on the body? O then, how miserable are you, if you have no other period to reckon from than your birth-day! If there be not a second birth-day before your burial, you may make your reckoning to be banished eternally from the life of God.
As for you, Christians, whom God hath quickened by the Spirit of his Son, be much in the exercise of this life, and that will maintain and advance it. Let your care be about your spirits, and to hearten you in this study, and to beget in you the hope of eternal life, look much and lay fast hold on that life giving Saviour, who, by his righteous life and accursed death, hath purchased by his own blood both happiness to us and holiness. Consider what debtors you are to him who loved not his own life and spared it not, to purchase this life to us. Let our thoughts and affections be occupied about this high purchase of our Saviour's, which is freely bestowed on them that will have it, and believe in him for it. If we be not satisfied with such a low and wretched life as is in the body, he will give a higher and more enduring life, and only worthy of that name.
Verse 11.—"But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you."
It is true the soul is incomparably better than the body, and he is only worthy the name of a man and of a Christian who prefers this more excellent part, and employs his study and time about it, and regards his body only for the noble guest that lodges within it, and therefore it is one of the prime consolations that Christianity affords, that it provides chiefly for the happy estate of this immortal piece in man, which, truly, were alone sufficient to draw our souls wholly after religion. Suppose the body should never taste of the fruits of it, but die and rise no more, and never be awaked out of its sleep, yet it were a sufficient ground of engagement to godliness, that the life and well being of the far better part in man is secured for eternity, which is infinitely more than all things beside can truly promise us, or be able to perform. Certainly, whatsoever else you give your hearts to, and spend your time upon, it either will leave you in the midst of your days, and at your end you shall be a fool, or you must leave it in the end of your days, and find yourselves as much disappointed, or, to speak more properly, because when your time is ending your life and being is but at its beginning, you must bid an eternal adieu to all these things whereupon your hearts are set when you are but beginning truly to be. But this is only the proper and true good of the soul,—Christ in it,—most portable and easily carried about with you, yea, that which makes the soul no burden to itself, and helps it to carry all things easily,—and then most inseparable, for Christ in the soul is the spring of a never-ending life, of peace, joy, and contentation in the fountain of an infinite goodness, and it outwears time and age as well as the immortal being of the soul. Yea, such is the strength of this consolation, that then the soul is most closely united and fully possessed of that which is its peculiar and satisfying good, when it leaves the body in the dust, and escapes out of this prison unto that glorious liberty.
But yet, there is besides this an additional comfort comprehended in the verse read,—that the sleep of the body is not perpetual, that it shall once be awakened and raised up to the fellowship of this glory, for though a man should be abundantly satisfied if he possess his own soul, yet no man hateth his own flesh. The soul hath some kind of natural inclination to a body suitable unto it, and in this it differs from an angel, and, therefore, the apostle, when he expresseth his earnest groan for the intimate presence of his soul with Christ, he subjoins this correction—not that we desire to be unclothed, but clothed upon it, 2 Cor. v. 1-4. If it were possible, says he, we would be glad to have the society of the body in this glory, we would not desire to cast off those clothes of flesh, but rather that the garment of glory might be spread over all, if it were not needful because they are old and ragged and would not suit well, and our earthly tabernacle is ruinous, and would not be fit for such a glorious guest to dwell into, and therefore, it is needful to be taken down. Well, then, here is an overplus, and, as it were, a surcharge of consolation, that seeing for the present it is expedient to put off the present clothing of flesh, and take down the present earthly house,—yet that the day is coming that the same clothes, renewed, shall be put on, and the same house repaired and made suitable to heaven, shall be built up,—that this mortal body shall be quickened with that same spirit that now quickens the soul, and makes it live out of the body, and so the sweet and beloved friends, who parted with so much pain and grief, shall meet again with so much pleasure and joy, and, as they were sharers together in the miseries of this life, shall participate also in the blessedness of the next,—like Saul and Jonathan, "lovely and pleasant in their lives," and though for a time separated in death, yet not always divided. Now this is the highest top of happiness, to which nothing can be added. It is comprehensive of the whole man, and it is comprehensive of all that can be imagined to be the perfective good of man.
It is no wonder, then, that the apostle reckons this doctrine of the resurrection amongst the foundations of Christianity (Heb. v. 1, 2), for truly these two—the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the mortal body—are the two ground-stones or pillars of true religion, which, if they be not well settled in the hearts of men, all religion is tottering and ruinous and unable to support itself. That the soul cannot taste death or see corruption, and that the body shall but taste it, and, as it were, salute it, and cannot always abide under the power of it, these are the prime foundations upon which all Christian persuasion is built. For without these be laid down in the lowest and deepest part of the heart, all exhortations to an holy and righteous life are weak and ineffectual, all consolations are empty and vain. In a word, religion is but an airy speculation, that hath no consistence but in the imaginations of men,—it is a house upon sand, that can abide no blast of temptation, no wave of misery, but must straightway fall to the ground. From whence is it, I pray you, that the persuasions of the gospel have so little power upon men,—that the plain and plentiful publication of a Saviour is of so small virtue to stir up the hearts of men to take hold on him? How comes it to pass that the precepts and prohibitions of the most high God, coming forth under his authority, lay so little restraint on men's corruptions,—that so few will be persuaded to stop their course, and come off the ways that they are accustomed to,—that men pull away the shoulder and stop the ear, and make their hearts as adamant, incapable of being affected with either the authority or love of the gospel,—that when he pipes unto us so few dance, and when he mourns so few lament? Is it not because these two foundations are not laid, and men's hearts not digged deep by earnest consideration to receive these ground-stones of Christianity,—the belief of their souls, eternal survivance after the dust, and of the revivance and resurrection of the body, after it hath slept a while in the dust? I remember heathens have had some noble and rare conceptions about virtue, and some have laboured to enamour men with the native beauty of it, and to persuade them that it was a sufficient reward to itself.(206) And truly it would far more become a Christian,—who knoweth the high and divine pattern of holiness to be God himself, and so must needs behold a far surpassing beauty and excellency in the image of God than in all earthly things,—I say, it would become him to accustom himself to a dutiful observance of religion, even without any respect to the reward of it. He would train his heart to do homage to God out of a loyal affection and respect to his majesty, and from the love of the very intrinsic beauty of obedience, without borrowing always from such selfish considerations of our own happiness or misery. Notwithstanding, such is the posture of man's spirit now, that he cannot at all be engaged to the love of religion, except some seen advantage conciliate it, and therefore the Lord makes use of such selfish principles in drawing men to himself, and keeping them still with him. And, truly, considering man's infirmity, this is the spirit and life of all religion—immortality and resurrection—that which gives a lustre to all and quickens all, that which makes all to sink deep, and that which makes a Christian steadfast and immoveable, 2 Cor. v. 8. It is certainly hope that is the key of the heart, that opens and shuts it to any thing. Hence the apostle Peter (1 Epistle) first blesseth God heartily for the new birth, and, in expressing of it, makes hope the very term of that generation, and so it must be a substantial thing. "Blessed be God, who hath begotten us again to a lively hope." Hope hath a quickening power in it. It makes all new where it comes, and is full of spirit. It is the helmet and anchor of a Christian, that which bears the dint of temptation and makes him steady in religion. No man will put his plough in this ground, or sow unto the Spirit, but in hope, for he that soweth must sow in hope, else his plough will not go deep. 1 Cor. ix. 10. This then is the very spirit and life of religion,—the resurrection of the dead,—without which our faith were in vain, and men would continue still in their sins. Certainly it is the deep inconsideration of this never ending endurance of our souls, and restitution of our bodies to the same immortality, that makes the most part of men so slight and superficial in religion, else it were not possible, if that were laid to heart, but men would make religion their business, and chief business.
We have here the two genuine causes of the resurrection of the bodies of Christians,—the resurrection of Christ and the inhabitation of his Spirit. The influence that the resurrection of Christ hath on ours, is lively and fully holden out by this apostle, 1 Cor. xv., against them who deny the resurrection from the dead: "If Christ be not raised, your faith is in vain, you are yet in your sins, and they that are asleep are perished." Religion were nothing but a number of empty words of show, preaching were a vanity and imposture, faith were a mere fancy, if this be not laid down as the ground stone,—Christ raised, not as a natural person, but as a common politic person, as the first-fruits of them that sleep, ver. 17-20, where he alludes to the ceremony of offering the first-fruits of their harvest, Lev. xxiii. 10. For under the law they might not eat of the fruits of the land till they were sanctified. All was counted profane till they were some way consecrated to the Lord. Now, for this end, the Lord appointed them to bring one sheaf for all, and that was the representative of all the rest of the heap, and this was waved before the Lord, and lifted up from the earth. Now, according to the apostle's argument, Rom. xi. 16, "If the first fruits be holy, so is the lump," for it represents all the lump, and therefore Jesus Christ, the chief of all his brethren, was made the first fruits from the dead, and lifted up from the grave, as the representer of all the lump of his elect, and so it must needs follow, that they shall not continue in the grave, but must in due time partake of that benefit which he has first entered in possession of, in their name, and for them. For if this first fruits be holy, so the whole lump must be holy, and if the first fruits be risen, so must the lump. You see then the force of the present reason, "If the Spirit that raised Christ dwell in you," he shall also raise you, namely, because he raised up Christ the very first fruits of all the rest, so that Christ's resurrection is a sure pledge and token of yours, and both together are the main basis and ground work of all our hope and salvation, the neglect and inconsideration whereof makes the most part of pretended Christians to walk according to that Epicurean principle, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall die." As if there were no life to come, they withhold nothing from their carnal minds that can satisfy or please their lusts. But for you who desire a part in this resurrection, and dare scarcely believe so great a thing, or entertain such a high hope, because of the sight of your unworthiness, as you would be awakened by this hope to "righteousness, and to sin no more" verse 34th of that chapter, so you may encourage yourselves to that hope by the resurrection of Christ, for it is that which hath the mighty influence to beget you to a lively hope, 1 Pet. i. 3. Look upon this as the grand intent, and special design of Christ's both dying and rising again, that he might be the first-fruits to sanctify all the lump. Nevertheless, it is not the desert of your bodies, for they are often a great impediment and retardment to the spirit, and lodge the enemy within their walls, when he is chased out of the mind by the law of the Spirit of life, but it is the great design of God, through the whole work of redemption, and the desert of Christ your head, and therefore you may entertain that hope, but take heed to walk worthy of it, and that it is, "if we have this hope, let us purify ourselves," let us who believe that we are risen with Christ, set our affections on things above, else we dishonour him that is risen in our name, and we dishonour that temple of the Holy Ghost, which he will one day make so glorious.
Verse 11.—"But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you."
As there is a twofold death,—the death of the soul, and the death of the body—so there is a double resurrection, the resurrection of the soul from the power of sin, and the resurrection of the body from the grave. As the first death is that which is spiritual, then that which is bodily, so the first resurrection is of the spirit, then the second of the body, and these two have a connexion together, therefore saith the apostle John, "Blessed are they who have part in the first resurrection, for on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests to God," &c. Rev. xx. 6. Although death must seize on their bodies, yet the sting wherein the strength of it lies, is taken away by Christ, that it hath no power to hurt him whose spirit is raised out of the grave of sin. And truly it is hard to tell which is the greatest change, or the most difficult, to raise a body out of corruption to life, or to raise a soul out of sin to grace. But both are the greatest changes that can be, and shadowed out under the similitude of the greatest in nature, for our conversion to God is a new birth, a new creation, and a resurrection in scripture style, and so both require one and the same power, the almighty power of his Spirit. "You who were dead in sins hath he quickened," &c. O, what a notable change! It maketh them no longer the same men, but new creatures, and therefore it is the death of sin, and the resurrection of the soul. For as long as it is under the chains of darkness and power of sin, it is free among the dead, it is buried in the vilest sepulchre. Old graves, and these full of rottenness and dead men's bones, are nothing to express the lamentable case of such a soul, and yet such are all by nature. Whatsoever excellency or endowment men may have from their birth or education, yet certainly they are but apparitions rather than any real substance, and which is worse, their body is the sepulchre of their souls, and if the corruption of a soul were sensible, we would think all the putrefactions of bodily things but shadows of it. And therefore no sooner is there any inward life begotten in a soul, but this is the very first exercise of it, the abhorrency of the soul upon the sight and smell of its own loathsomeness.
Now, there is no hope of any reviving. Though all the wisdom and art of men and angels were employed in this business, there is nothing able to quicken one such soul, until it please the Lord to speak such a word as he did to Lazarus, "Arise, come forth," and send his Spirit to accomplish his word, and this will do it. When the Spirit cometh into the soul, he quickeneth it, and this is the first resurrection. O blessed are they who have part in this, whose souls are drawn out of the dungeon of darkness and ignorance, and brought forth to behold this glorious light that shineth in the gospel, and raised out of the grave of the lusts of ignorance, to live unto God henceforth, for such have their part in the second resurrection to life. For you see these are conjoined, "If the Spirit dwell in you, he shall raise you," &c. You see here two grounds and reasons of the resurrection of body,—Christ's rising and the Spirits indwelling. Now I find these in the scripture made the two fountains of all Christianity, both of the first and second resurrection.
The resurrection of Christ is an evidence of our justification, the cause of our quickening, or vivification, and the ground and pledge of our last resurrection, and all these are grounds of strong consolation. The first you have, Rom. iv. 25. "Christ died for our sins, and rose for our justification," and the 34th verse of this chapter, "Christ is dead, yea, rather has risen again, who then shall condemn?" Here is a clear evidence, that he hath paid the debt wholly, and satisfied justice fully. Since he was under the power of death, imprisoned by justice, certainly he would not have won free, if he had not paid the uttermost farthing, therefore his glorious resurrection is a sure manifestation of his present satisfaction—it is a public acquittance and absolution of him from all our debt, and so by consequence, of all he died for. For their debt was laid upon him, and now he is discharged. And therefore the believing soul may tremblingly boast, who shall condemn me? For it is God that justifieth. Why? Because all my sins were laid on Christ, and God hath in a most solemn manner acquitted and discharged him from all, when he raised him from the dead, and therefore he cannot, and none other can sue me, or prosecute a plea against me, since my Cautioner is fully exonered of this undertaking, even by the great Creditor God himself. But then, his resurrection is a pawn or pledge of the spiritual raising of the soul from sin, as the death of Christ is made the pledge of our dying to sin, so his rising, of our living to God, Rom. vi. 4, 5. These are not mere patterns and examples of spiritual things, but assured pledges of the divine virtue and power which he, being raised again, should send abroad throughout the world. For, as there are coronation gifts when kings are solemnly installed in office, so there are coronation mercies, triumphal gifts. When Christ rose and ascended, he bestowed them on the world, Eph. iv. And certainly these are the greatest, the virtue of his death to kill the old man, and the power of his resurrection to quicken the new. And by faith, a believer is united and ingrafted into him, as a plant into a choice stock, and by virtue and sap coming from Christ's death and resurrection, he is transformed into the similitude of both, he groweth into the likeness of his death, by dying to sin, by crucifying these inward affections and inclinations to it, and he groweth up into the similitude of his resurrection, by newness of life, or being alive to God, in holy desires and endeavours after holiness and obedience. And thus the first resurrection of the soul floweth from Christ's resurrection.
But add unto this, that Christ's rising is the pledge and pawn of the second resurrection, that is, of the body, for he is the head, and we are the members. Now, it is the most incongruous, that the head should rise and not draw up the members after him. Certainly he will not cease till he have drawn up all his members to him. If the head be above water, it is a sure pledge that the body will win out of the water, if the root be alive, certainly the branches will out in spring time, they shall live also. There is that connexion between Christ and believers, that wonderful communication between them, that Christ did nothing, was nothing, and had nothing done to him, but what he did, and was, and suffered, personating them, and all the benefit and advantage redounds to them. He would not be considered of as a person by himself, but would rather be still taken in with the children. As for love he came down and took flesh to be like them, and did take their sin and misery off them, and so was content to be looked upon by God as in the plate of sinners, as the chief sinner, so he is content and desirous that we should look on him as in the place of sinners, as dying, as rising for us, as having no excellency or privilege incommunicable to us. And this was not hid from the church of old, but presented as the grand consolation, "Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body they shall rise." And, therefore, may poor souls awake and sing. Though they must dwell in the dust, yet as the dew and influence of heaven maketh herbs to spring out of the earth, so the virtue of this resurrection shall make the earth, and sea, and air, to cast out and render their dead, Isa. xxvi. 19. Upon what a sure and strong chain hangs the salvation of poor sinners? I wish Christians might salute one another with this "Christ is risen, and so comfort one another with these words,"—or rather, that every one would apply this cordial to his own heart, "Christ is risen," and you know what a golden chain this draweth after it, therefore we must rise and live.
The other cause, which is more immediate, and will actively accomplish it, is the Spirit dwelling in us, for there is a suitable method here too. As the Lord first raised the head, Christ, and will then raise the members, and he that doth the one cannot but do the other, so the Spirit first raiseth the soul from the woful fall into sin, which killed us, and so maketh it a temple, and the body too, for both are bought with a price, and, therefore, the Spirit possesseth both. But the inmost residence is in the soul, and the bodily members are made servants of righteousness, which is a great honour and dignity, in regard of that base employment they had once, and so it is most suitable that he who hath thus dwelt in both repair his own dwelling-house. For here it is ruinous, and, therefore, must be cast down. But because it was once a temple for the holy God, therefore it will be repaired and built again. For he that once honoured it with his presence will not suffer corruption always to dwell in it, for what Christ, by his humiliation and suffering, purchased, the Spirit hath this commission to perform it; and what is it but the restitution of mankind to a happier estate in the second Adam than ever the first was into? Now, since our Lord who pleased to take on our flesh, did not put it off again, but admits it to the fellowship of the same glory in heaven, in that he died, he dies no more, death hath no more dominion over him, he will never be wearied or ashamed of that human clothing of flesh. And, therefore, certainly that the children may be like the father, the followers, their captain, the members not disproportioned to the head, the branches not different and heterogeneous to the stock, and that our rising in Christ may leave no footstep of our falling, no remainder of our misery, the Spirit of Christ will also quicken the mortal bodies of believers, and make them like Christ's glorious body.
This must be done with divine power,—and what more powerful than the Spirit? For it is the spirits or subtile parts in all creatures that causeth all motions, and worketh all effects. What then is that almighty Spirit not able to do? You have shadows of this in nature, yea, convincing evidences for, what is the spring but a resurrection of the earth? Is not the world every year renewed, and riseth again out of the grave of winter, as you find elegantly expressed, Psalm cvii? And doth not the grains of seed die in the clods before they rise to the harvest, 1 Cor. xv. All the vicissitudes and alterations in nature give us a plain draught of this great change, and certainly it is one Spirit that effects all.
But though there be the same power required to raise up the bodies of the godly and ungodly, yet, O what infinite distance and difference in the nature and ends of their resurrections! There is the resurrection of life, and the resurrection of condemnation, John v. 29. O! happy they who rise to life that ever they died! But, O miserable, thrice wretched are all others that they may not be dead for ever! The immortality of the soul was infinite misery, because it is that which eternizes their misery, but when this overplus is added, the incorruptibility of the body, and so the whole man made an inconsumable subject for that fire to feed upon perpetually, what heart can conceive it without horror! And yet we hear it often without any such affection. It is a strange life that death is the only refreshment of it, and yet this may not be had, "they shall seek death, and it shall fly from them." Now, my beloved, I would desire this discourse might open way for the hearty and cordial entertainment of the gospel, and that you might be persuaded to awake unto righteousness, and sin no more, 1 Cor. xv. 34. Be not deceived, my brethren, "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." Certainly, if you have no other image than what you came into the world withal, you cannot have this hope, to be conformed one day to the glorious body of Christ. What will become of you in that day, who declare now by the continued vent of your hearts that this Holy Spirit dwells not in you? And, alas! how many are such? Oh! pity yourselves, your souls and bodies both. If for love to your bodies you will follow its present lusts, and care only for the things of the body, you act the greatest enmity and hostility against your own bodies. Consider, I beseech you, the eternal state of both, and your care and study will run in another channel. And for you who have any working of the Spirit in you, whether convincing you of sin and misery, and of righteousness in Christ, or sometimes comforting you by the word applied to your heart, or teaching you another way than the world walks into, I recommend unto you that of the apostle's, 1 Cor. xv. 58. "Wherefore, my brethren be steadfast, &c. always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing your labour is not in vain."
Verse 12.—"Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh," &c.
All things in Christianity have a near and strait conjunction. It is so entire and absolute a piece, that if one link be loosed all the chain falls to the ground, and if one be well fastened upon the heart it brings all alongst with it. Some speak of all truths, even in nature, that they are knit so together that any truth may be concluded out of every truth, at least by a long circuit of deduction and reasoning. But whatsoever be of that, certainly religion is a more entire thing, and all the parts of it more nearly conjoined together, that they may mutually enforce one another. Precepts and promises are thus linked together, that if any soul lay hold, indeed, upon any promise of grace, he draws alongst with it the obligation of some precept to walk suitable to such precious promises. There is no encouragement you can indeed fasten upon, but it will join you as nearly to the commandment; and no consolation in the gospel, that doth not carry within its bosom an exhortation to holy walking. Again, on the other hand, there is no precept but it should lead you straightway to a promise; no exhortation, but it is environed before and behind with a strong consolation, to make it pierce the deeper, and go down the sweeter. Therefore, you see how easily the apostle digresseth from the one to the other,—how sweetly and pertinently these are interwoven in his discourse. The first word of the chapter is a word of strong consolation, "There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ," and this like a flood carries all down with it,—all precepts and exhortations, and the soul of a believer with them; and, therefore, he subjoins an exhortation to holy and spiritual walking upon that very ground. And because commandments of this nature will not float (so to speak) unless they have much water of that kind, and cannot have such a swift course except the tide of such encouragements flow fast, therefore he openeth that spring again in the preceding words, and letteth the rivers of consolation flow forth, even the hope of immortality and eternal life; and this certainly will raise up a soul that was on ground, and carry him above in motion of obedience; and, therefore, he may well, in the next place, stir them up to their duty, and mind them of their obligation. "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors not to the flesh." To make this the more effectual, he drops it in with affection, in a sweet compilation of love and equality, brethren. There is nothing so powerful in persuasion as love; it will sweeten a bitter and unpleasant reproof, and make it go down more easily though it maketh less noise than threatenings and severity and authority; yet it is more forcible, for it insinuates itself, and in a manner surpriseth the soul, and so preventeth all resistance. As when the sun made the traveller part with his cloak,(207) whereas the wind and rain made him hold it faster; so affection will prevail where authority and terror cannot; it will melt that which a stronger power cannot break. The story of Elijah, 1 Kings xix. may give some representation of this. The Lord was not in the strong wind, nor in the terrible earthquake, nor yet in the fire, but in the calm still voice. The Lord hath chosen this way of publishing his grace in the gospel, because the sum of it is love to sinners, and good will towards men. He holds it forth in the calm voice of love, and those who are his ambassadors should be clothed with such an affection, if they intend to prevail with men, to engage their affections. O! that we were possessed with that brotherly love one towards another for the salvation one of another; especially, that the preachers of the gospel might be thus kindly affectioned towards others, and that you would take it thus, the calling you off the ways of sin as an act of the greatest love. But then consider the equality of this obligation, for there is nothing pressed upon you but what lieth as heavily upon them that presseth it. This debt binds all. O! that the ministers of the gospel could carry the impression of this on their hearts, that when they persuade others they may withal persuade themselves, and when they speak to others they may sit down among the hearers. If an apostle of so eminent dignity levelleth himself in this consideration, "therefore, brethren, we are debtors,"—how much more ought pastors and teachers to come in the same rank and degree of debt and obligation with others. Truly this is the great obstruction of the success of the gospel, that those who bind on burdens on others do not themselves touch them with one of their fingers, and while they seem serious in persuading others, yet withal declare by their carriage that they do not believe themselves what they bear upon others, so that preaching seemeth to be an imposture, and affections in persuading of others to be borrowed, as it were, in a scene, to be laid down again out of it. But then again, there is a misconceit among people that this holy and spiritual walking is not of common obligation, but peculiar to the preachers of the gospel. Many make their reckoning so, as if they were not called to such high aims and great endeavours. But truly, my beloved, this is a thing of common concernment. The Holy Ghost hath levelled us all in this point of duty, as he hath equally exalted all in the most substantial dignities and privileges of the gospel. This bond is upon the highest and upon the lowest. Greatness doth not exempt from it, and meanness doth not exclude from it. Though commonly great persons fancy an immunity from the strictness of a holy conservation because of their greatness, and often mean and low persons pretend a freedom from such a high obligation because of their lowness, yet certainly all are debt bound this way, and must one day give account. You that are poor and unlearned, and have not received great things of that nature from God, do not think yourselves free, do not absolve yourselves, for there is infinite debt besides. You will have no place for that excuse, that you had not great parts, were not learned, and so forth. For as the obligation reaches you all, so there is as patent a way to the exercise of religion in the poorest cottage as in the highest palace. You may serve God as acceptably in little, as others may do in much. There is no condition so low and abject that layeth any restraint on this noble service and employment. This jewel loses not its beauty and virtue, when it lieth in a dunghill more than when it is set in gold.
But let us inquire further into this debt. "We are debtors," saith he, and he instanceth what is not the creditor, by which he giveth us to understand who is the true creditor, not the flesh, and, therefore, to make out the just opposition, it must be the Spirit. We are debtors, then, to the Spirit. And what is the debt we owe to him? We may know it that same way, we owe not to the flesh so much as to make us live after its guidance and direction, and fulfil its lusts. Then, by due consequence, we owe so much to the Spirit, as that we should live after the Spirit, and resign ourselves wholly to him, his guidance and direction. There is a twofold kind of debt upon the creature, one remissible and pardonable, another irremissible and unpardonable, (so to speak,) the debt of sin, and that is the guilt of it, which is nothing else than the obligation of the sinner over to eternal condemnation by virtue of the curse of God. Every sinner cometh under this debt to divine justice, the desert of eternal wrath, and the actual ordination by a divine sentence to that wrath. Now, indeed, this debt was insoluble to us, and utterly unpayable until God sent his Son to be our cautioner, and he hath paid the debt in his own person, by bearing our curse, and so made it pardonable to sinners, obtained a relaxation from that woful obligation to death. And this debt, you see, is wholly discharged to them that are in Christ, by another sentence repealing the former curse,—ver. 1 "There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ." But there is another debt, which I may call a debt of duty and obedience, which, as it was antecedent to sin, even binding innocent Adam, so the obligation of the debt of sin hath been so far from taking it away that it is rather increased exceedingly, and this debt is unpardonable and indispensable. The more of the debt of sin be pardoned, and the more the curse be dispensed with, the more the sinner owes of love and obedience to God. "She loved much, because much was forgiven,"—and the more was forgiven of sin the more she owed of love, and the more debt was discharged the more she was indebted to him. And, therefore, after this general acquittance of all believers, ver. 1, he presseth this obligation the more strongly. "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors." It is like that debt spoken of, Rom. xiii., "Owe no man any thing, but love one another," which is not meant that it is unlawful to be debtors to men, but rather, what ye owe, or all things else, pay it, and ye are free. Your debt ceases and your bond is cancelled. But as for the debt of love and benevolence, you must so owe that to all men, as never to be discharged of it, never to be freed from it. When you have done all this hath no limitation of time or action, even so it is here. Other debts when paid, men cease to be debtors, then they are free, but here the more he pays the more he is bound to pay,—he oweth, and he oweth eternally. His bond is never cancelled as long as he continues a creature subsisting in God, and abides a redeemed one in Christ. For these continuing, his obligation is eternally recent and fresh as the first day. And this doth not at all obscure the infinite grace of God, or diminish the happiness of saints, that they are not freed from this debt of love and obedience, but rather illustrates the one and increases the other, for it cannot be supposed to consist with the wisdom and holiness of God to loose his creature from that obligation of loving obedience and subjection, which is essential to it, and it is no less repugnant to the happiness of the creature to be free from righteousness unto sin.
Now, this debt of duty and obedience hath a threefold bond, which because they stand in vigour uncancelled for all eternity, therefore the obligation arising from them is eternal too. The bond of creation, the bond of redemption, and the bond of sanctification, these are distinguished according to the persons of the Trinity, who appear most eminently in them.
We owe our being to the father, in whom "we live and move and have our being, for he made us, and not we ourselves, and we are all the works of his hands." Now, the debt accruing from this is infinite. If men conceive themselves so much obliged to others for a petty courtesy as to be their servants,—if they owe more to their parents, the instruments of their bringing forth into the world, O how infinitely more owe we to God, of whom we are, and have all! Doth the clay owe so much to the potter, who doth not make it, but fashion it only? And what owe we to him that made us of nothing, and fashioned us while we were yet without form! Truly, all relations, all obligations evanish when this cometh forth, because all that a man hath is less than himself, than his immortal spirit, and that he oweth alone to God. And besides, whatsoever debt there is to other fellow creatures in any thing, God is the principal creditor in that bond. All the creatures are but the servants of this King, which at his sole appointment bring along his gifts unto us, and, therefore, we owe no more to them than to the hands of the messenger that is sent. Now, by this account nothing is our own, not ourselves, not our members, not our goods, but all are his, and to be used and bestowed, not at the will and arbitriment of creatures, but to be absolutely and solely at his disposal who hath the sole sovereign right to them and, therefore, you may take up the heinousness of sin, how monstrous and misshapen a thing it is, that breaks this inviolable law of creation, and withdraws the creature from subjection to him, in whom alone it can subsist. O how disordered are the courses and lives of men! Men living to themselves, their own lusts, after their own will, as if they had made themselves. Men using their members as weapons of unrighteousness against God, as if their tongues, and hands, and feet were their own, or the devils, and not God's. Call to mind this obligation, "remember thy Creator." That memento would be a strong engagement to another course than most take. How absurd would you think it to please yourselves in displeasing him, if you but minded the bond of creation! But when there are other two superadded, what we owe to the Son for coming down in the likeness of sinful flesh for us, and what we owe to the Holy Ghost for quickening our spirits, and afterward for the resurrection of our bodies, whose hearts would not these overcome and lead captive to his love and obedience?
Verses 12, 13.—"Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh; for if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die," &c.
Was that not enough to contain men in obedience to God—the very essential bond of dependence upon God as the original and fountain of his being! And yet man hath cast away this cord from him, and withdrew from that allegiance he did owe to his Maker, by transgressing his holy commandments. But God, not willing that all should perish, hath confirmed and strengthened that primitive obligation by two other as strong if not more. If the Father did most eminently appear in the first, the Son is manifested in the second, and that is the work of the redemption of man, no less glorious than his first creation. He made him first, and then he sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, to make him again by his Spirit, and now a threefold cord is not easily broken. It seems this should bind invincibly, and constrain us not to be our own, but the Lord's, and now truly, they who are in Jesus Christ, are thrice indebted wholly to God. But the two last obligations are the most special and most wonderful, that God sent his Son for us, to redeem us from sin and misery, and to restore man to happiness took on a miserable and accursed habit,—that so glorious a person gave himself for so base an one,—that so excellent a Lord became a servant for the rebel,—that he whose the earth is, and the fulness thereof, did empty himself of all to supply us,—and in a word, the most wonderful exchange be made that ever the sun saw, God for men, his life a ransom for their life. All the rare inventions and fancied stories of men come infinitely short of this. The light never saw majesty so abased and love so expressed as in this matter, and all to this purpose, that we who had undone ourselves might be made up again, and the righteousness of the law fulfilled in us. At first he made us, but it cost him nothing but a word, but now, to buy that which was taken captive by sin, and at so dear a rate,—"ye are bought with a price, and this price more precious than the sum of heaven and earth could amount to." Suppose by some rare alchemy the earth were all converted into gold, and the heavens into precious stones, yet these corruptible and material things come as far short of this ransom as a heap of dung is unproportioned to a mass of gold or heap of jewels. Now, you that are thus bought, may ye not conclude, "therefore we are debtors," and whereof? Of ourselves, for we, our persons, estates, and all were sold, and all are bought with this price, therefore we are not our own, but the Lord's, and, therefore, we ought to "glorify God in our bodies and spirits which are his," 1 Cor. vi. 20. Should we henceforth claim an interest and propriety in ourselves? Should we have a will of our own? Should we serve ourselves with our members? O how monstrous and absurd were that! Certainly, a believing heart cannot but look upon that as the greatest indignity and vilest impiety that ever the sun shined upon. Ingratitude hath a note of ignominy, even among heathens, put upon it. They esteemed the reproach of it the compend of all reproaches, ingratum si dixeris, omnia dixeris. And truly it hath the most abominable visage of any vice, yea, it is all sins drawn through other(208) in one table. Certainly a godly heart cannot but account this execrable and detestable, henceforth to have any proper and peculiar will and pleasure, and cannot but devote itself wholly to his will and pleasure, for whose pleasure all were first created, and who then redeemed us by the blood of his Son. I wish we could have this image of ingratitude always observant to our eyes and minds when we are enticed with our lusts to study our own satisfaction. But there is another bond superadded to this, which mightily aggravates the debt. He hath given us his Spirit to dwell within, as well as his Son for us. And O the marvellous and strange effects that this Spirit hath in the favours of men! He truly repairs that image of God which sin broke down. He furnisheth the soul and supplies it in all its necessities. He is a light and life to it,—a spring of everlasting life and consolation. So that to the Spirit we owe that we are made again after his image, and the precious purchase of Christ applied unto our souls. For him hath our Saviour left to execute his latter will in behalf of his children. And these things are but the first-fruits of the Spirit. Any peace, or joy, or love, or obedience, are but an earnest of that which is coming. We shall be yet more beholden to him. When the walls of flesh are taken down, he will carry forth the soul into that glorious liberty of the sons of God, and not long after he shall quicken our very dust, and raise it up in glory to the fellowship of that happiness. Now, my beloved, consider what all this tends to,—mark the inference you should make from it. "Therefore we are debtors," debtors indeed, under infinite obligations for infinite mercies. But what is the debt we owe? Truly it might be conceived to be some rare thing, equivalent to such unconceivable benefits. But mark what it is, "To live after the Spirit, and not after the flesh," to conform our affections and actions, and the tenor of our way and course to the direction of the Spirit, to have our spirits led and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and not to follow the indictment of our flesh and carnal minds. Now, truly, it is a wonder that it is no other thing than this, for this is no other thing than what we owe to ourselves, and to our own natures, so to speak, for truly there is a conformity and suitableness of some things to the very nature of man that is beautiful,—some things are decent and becomes it, other things are undecent and uncomely, unsuitable to the very reasonable being of man, so that they put a stain and blot upon it.
Now, indeed, there is nothing can be conceived more agreeable to the very constitution of man's nature than this, that the far better and more excellent part should lead and command, and the baser and earthly part should obey and follow. That the flesh should minister and serve the spirit, "doth not even nature itself teach it?" And yet no heavier yoke is put upon us than what our own nature hath put upon us already, which indeed is wonderful! And certainly this wonderful attempering of his laws unto the very natural exigence of the spirit of man, makes the transgression of them so much the more heinous.
Now, all these three forementioned bonds do jointly bind on this law upon man. In general they oblige strongly to subjection and obedience to the will of God, but particularly, they have a constraining influence upon this living "after the Spirit," and not "after the flesh." Our very creation speaks this forth, when God made man after his own image, when he beautified the spirit of man with that divine similitude and likeness, in that he breathed a spirit from heaven, and took a body out of the dust, and then exalted that heavenly piece to some participation of his own nature. Doth not all this cry aloud upon us, that the order of creation is now dissolved,—that the beauty of it is marred,—that all is turned upside down,—when men's passions and senses are their only guides, and the principles of light in their conscience are choked and stifled? Doth not all this teach us plainly that we should not "live after the flesh,"—that we owe not so much to this brutish part as to enthrone it and empower it over us,—that it were vilest anarchy, and most intolerable confusion and usurpation, to give it the power over us, as most men do,—that there can be no order or beauty in man till the spirit be unfettered from the chains of fleshly lusts, and restored to the native dignity, and so keep the body in subjection? And, indeed, Paul was so, 1 Cor. ix. 27. "I keep my body in subjection, and beat it down, because it is an imperious slave,—an usurping slave,—and will command, if not beaten and kept under."
Again, Christ, hath put a bond upon us to this very same. He hath strengthened this obligation with a new cord, in that he gave his precious life a ransom for the souls of men. This was the principal thing he paid for—the body only being an accessory and appendix to the soul—for it is said, "The redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever," Psal. xlix. 8, and, "What can a man give in exchange for his soul," Mark viii. 37. For what material thing can equalize a spirit? Many things may be had more precious and fine than the body, but all of them have no proportion to a spiritual being. Now, then, in that so dear a ransom, and so infinite a price must be given for the spirit of man, it declares the infinite worth and excellency of it above the body, and above all visible things. And here is, indeed, the greatest confirmation that can be imagined. God hath valued it, he hath put the soul of man in the balance, to find something equal in weight of dignity and worth and when all that is in heaven and earth is put in the other scale, the soul is down weight by far. There is such distance that there is no proportion; only the life and blood of his own Son weighs it down, and is an overvalue, and thus, in our redemption, we have a visible demonstration—as it were—of the infinite obligation of this law, not to live after that contemptible part, our flesh, but to follow after the motions and directions of an enlightened spirit, not to spend our thoughts, care, and time, upon the body, and making provision for the lusts thereof—as most men do, and all by nature are now inclined to do—but to be taken up with the immortal precious jewel that is within, how to have it rubbed and cleansed from all the filth that sin and the flesh hath cast upon it, and restored to that native beauty, the image of God in righteousness and holiness. If you, in your practice and affection, turn the scales otherwise, and make the body and things of the body, suppose the whole world, down-weight in your affection and imagination, you have plainly contradicted the just measure of the sanctuary, and, in effect, you declare that "Christ died in vain," and gave his life out of an error and mistake of the worth of the soul. You say he needed not have given such a price for it, seeing every day you weigh it down with every trifle of momentary fleshly satisfaction.