Imágenes de páginas

the life of his body shall not be finally lost, but renewed in a blessed eternity?


The qualifications of persons considered, that have a right to this privilege.

Union with Christ the fountain of eternal life is absolutely requisite, The vital bond of that union is the sanctifying Spirit, The eininent operations of the Spirit considered, as the Spirit of truth, and of holiness, and the Comforter. He illuminates the understanding to see the reality and excellency of supernatural things. He inspires the ardent love of God. Di. vine love is the principle of universal holiness. The Spirit communicates a divine power to do the will of God.

iv. THE fourth general head to be considered, is, the persons

. that have an interest in this blessed privilege.

This inquiry is of infinite moment, both for the awakening of the secure, who vainly presume upon their interest in the salvation of the gospel, and for the confirming and encouraging the saints. And we have an infallible rule of trial declared by St. John : “ he that hath the Son, hath life; and he that hath not the Son, hath not life.” 1 John 5. 12. All the excellent and comfortable benefits procured by our Saviour are communicated only to those who are united to him. Particularly with respect to the present subject : justification, that great blessing of the gospel, the complete pardon of sins, that disarms death of its sting, is not cominon to all that are christians in title, but is a privilege with a limitation ; “ there is no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus,” Rom. 8. 1. vitally as their head, from whom are derived spiritual influences, and judicially as their advocate in judgment; and such are described by this infallible character, “ who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.' The blessedness after death that is assured by a voice from hea

[ocr errors]

ven, is with this precise restriction exclusive of all others, “ blessed are the dead that die in the Lord; they rest from their labours, and their works follow them.” Rev. 14. 13. The glorious resurrection at the last day, when the bodies of the saints that now rest in hope, shall be incorruptible and immortal, is the consequence of union with him. Thus the apostle declares;

as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” | Cor. 15. 22. As all that were naturally in and from Adam, the corrupt fountain of mankind, are under the sentence of death; so all that are in Christ, the head of the regencrate, shall partake of his blessed life. Others shall be raised by his power, as their Judge, but not as their head : raised to be more miserable than death can make them, not be transformed into his glorious resemblance ; made capable of suffering an ever-dying death, not revived to eternal life.

Now the bond of our union to Christ, is the Holy Spirit derived from him, as the head of the church, and is the inward powerful and lasting principle of holiness, and new obedience in believers. “ He that is joined to the Lord, is one Spirit:" I Cor. 6. 17. that is, by the Spirit of holiness has a real participation of his life, is both “ quickened and united to him.” John 6.36. When the prophet Elisha by the outward applying the parts of his body to the dead child, 2 King 4. 34, inspired life into him, there was no real union between them : but Christ is by his Spirit so intimately united to believers, “ that he lives in them” and “ they in him,” Gal. 2. 20. The sanctifying Spirit renews the directing and commanding faculties, the fountains of moral actions ; enlightens the understanding with saving knowledge, rectifies the obliquity of the will, purifies the affections, and reforms the life; so that “ the same mind” is in christians

as was in Christ ; and as his conversation was,” such " is theirs in the world.” This divine change is not wrought by natural reason, though assisted by the most powerful arguments. The breath of a man may as easily dispel a mist, or thaw a frost, as human directions and motives to virtue can renew the mind and heart, and produce a holy frame of soul towards God. Renewed christians are said to “ be in the Spirit,” illuminated, inclined and enabled by the Spirit to do God's will; and the Spirit of God to dwell in them, by his peculiar and eminent operations. "They live in the Spirit, and walk in the Spirit.” An angel may assume a body, and act by it : but the human soul enlivens it, and performs sensible operations by it. And such a principle is the Holy Spirit to the soul, gives it spiritual life, activity and power for good works. By what application of the Spirit's power this is produced is mysterious and inexplicable: but as the apostle speaks of his rapture into the third heavens, that he knew it was real, and heard “unutterable things ;" though how it was performed, “ whether in the body, or out of the body," he could not tell : thus when a natural man, the current of whose thoughts and affections was to the things of this world, becomes spiritual, when the carnal appetite is subdued, and sanctified reason has the throne, when he feels such strong and sweet impulsives to holiness as engage the will ; when the stream of his desires ascend to the things above, and his life becomes holy and heavenly, he feels and knows this wonderful change, though the manner how it was wrought he cannot tell. I will show more fully this sanctifying work of the Spirit, that we may the better understand our state.

The Spirit of God is denominated by various titles, “ the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of holiness, the Comforter,” John 15. 26. and represented by various types, by“ an ointment that clarifies

, the eye to see things aright,” by “ cleansing refreshing water, by“ purifying refining fire,” Rom. 1. 4. correspondent to his sacred operations in the soul.

As the Spirit of truth, he illuminates the understanding to see the reason and excellency of supernatural and heavenly things, of the great mysteries of godliness, of eternal glory; so that a christian in his most deliberate, solemn and composed thoughts, in his exactest valuation infinitely prefers them before the gaudy vanities of this transient world. When the eyes of the mind are truly enlightened, present things appear, or rather disappear, as shadows.

As the Spirit of holiness, he renews the will and affections, inspires the soul with divine and unutterable desires after the favour and grace of God, and communicates spiritual power for the prosecuting and obtaining those desires.

The Holy Spirit raises such a love to God, that habitually and strongly inclines the soul to obey his commands.

This is the most clear and essential character of a christian, the special and most excellent property of a saint, upon which



all other holy qualifications depend. As reason is the first and chief excellence of man, from whence his other perfections are derived, that distinguish him from the brutes, and give him a natural and regular pre-eminence and dominion over them, so that a man is most properly defined a reasonable creature: thus the love of God is the most divine grace, the true form of holiness, the root from whence all other virtues spring and flourish, and most peculiarly distinguish a saint from unregenerate men, however adorned and accomplished; so that a saint is most properly defined to be a lover of God.

This is the principle of true holiness inherent in the soul, and shining in the conversation, that distinguishes the sincerity of a saint from the art of hypocrisy, an affected appearance of religion for carnal sordid respects; and from civil virtue, that restrains from what is ignominious and disgraceful to our reputation, and makes obnoxious to penalties of the laws, and excites to praiseworthy actions, upon worldly motives; and from philosophical morality, that forbids vice as contrary to reason, and commends virtue as the chief ornament and perfection of human nature, without a regard to please and glorify God.

And divine love is the principle of universal holiness. Love is called “ the fulfilling of the law," as it is a comprehensive grace, and as it draws forth all the active powers of the soul to do God's will in an exact manner. Universal obedience is the exercise of love in various instances. As the spouse in the Song of Solomon is transformed in divers representations; sometinies as a sister, sometimes as a warrior, sometimes as the keeper of a vineyard, but she always acted as a lover, and her chief business was to please her beloved. This allegorical description of the church, signifies that when the soul is inflamed with the love of God, that affection will be active, and discover itself in all it does or suffers in the service of God. This will make a christian very desirous and diligent to please God in all things, and careful not to displease him in any thing ; for that is the inseparable effect of love. The felicity of the natural temper, and the force of education, may cause a loathing of some evils, and dispose to some good works, but with a reserved delight in other sins, and a secret exception against other duties. Servile fear is a partial principle, and causes an unequal respect to the divine precepts: it restrains from sins of greater guilt, at which

conscience takes fire: it urges to some duties, the neglect of which causes disquiet; but the love of God causes the hatred of sin ; and therefore it is against all sin, not only to prevent the exercise of it, but to eradicate it out of the soul. All the fearful consequences of sin do not render it so odious to a gracious spirit, as its own proper idea and intrinsic evil, as it is contrary to the holy nature and law of God. Love unites the soul to God, and turns the thoughts continually to him: and the lively sense of his majesty and presence, who is so pure that he cannot behold iniquity, causes an aversion from all that is displeasing to his divine eyes. And from hence it is that a zealous lover of God is frequent and strict in reviewing his heart and ways; and upon the discovery of sinful failings, renews his repentance, which is the exercise of grief and love, and renews his purposes of more care and circumspection for the future. Love aspires to be like God in all possible degrees of purity; for it inflames our desires after his favour, as that which is better than life, and all the sweetest enjoyments of it: and holiness is the powerful attractive of God's delightful love to us.

Love is the principle of free, ingenuous, and joyful obedience. It was our Saviour's meat and drink to do the will of his Father, For love is the fountain of pleasure, it moves the soul with election and liberty, and makes every thing grateful that proceeds from it. Therefore the apostle declares, “ that the law is not made for a righteous man ;” that is, as it is enforced by terrible penalties, to constrain rebellious sinners to obedience; for love is an internal living law in the heart, and has an imperial power over his actions. And this also distinguishes the renovation of one sanctified by the Spirit from the imperfect change that is made in the unregenerate. They may stop the eruption of corrupt nature, but " are swine, that being washed, have an inclination to wallow in the mire :” they may by strong impressions of fear be urged to do many good things; but in this they are like a bowl that is thrown with such violence, as controls the drawing of the bias, and makes it run contrary to it. But love inclines the soul to obey the holy motions of the Spirit with facility: as the wheels in Ezekiel's vision “ turned every way with readiness as the Spirit moved them.”

And with holy love there is a spiritual power communicated, that both the natural averseness and impotence to what is good

« AnteriorContinuar »