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we have before declared; Scripture and the universal experience of all that believe, do testify the contrary: so doth the assurance here given us, that it shall not obtain that dominion. For if it did not contend for it, there could be no grace in this promise. There is none in deliverance from that whereof we are in no danger. But the assurance here given is built on other considerations; whereof the first is, That the gospel is the means ordained, and instrument used by God for the communication of spiritual strength unto them that believe, for the dethroning of sin. It is the ‘power of God unto salvation, Rom. i. 16. that whereby and wherein he puts forth his power unto that end. And sin must be really dethroned by the powerful acting of grace in us, and that in a way of duty in ourselves. We are absolved, quitted, freed from the rule of sin, as unto its pretended right and title, by the promise of the gospel. For thereby are we freed and discharged from the rule of the law, wherein all the title of sin unto dominion is founded. For ‘the strength of sin is the law.” But we are freed from it, as unto its internal power, and exercise of its dominion, by internal spiritual grace and strength in its due exercise. Now this is communicated by the gospel; it gives life and power, with such continual supplies of grace, as are able to dethrone sin, and for ever to prohibit its return. This then is the present case, supposed and determined by the apostle. You that are believers, are all of you conflicting with sin. You find it always restless and disquieting, sometimes strong and powerful. When it is in conjunction with any urgent temptation, you are afraid it will utterly prevail over you to the ruin of your souls. Hence you are wearied with it, groan under it, and cry out for deliverance from it. All these things the apostle at large insists on in this and the next chapter. But now, saith he, be of good comfort; notwithstanding all these things, and all your fears upon them, sin shall not prevail, it shall not have the dominion, it shall never ruin your souls. But what ground have we for this hope? what assurance of this success? This you have, saith the apostle, ‘You are not under the law, but under grace;’ or, the rule of the grace of God in Christ Jesus, administered in the gospel. But how doth this give relief? Why it is the ordinance, the instrument of God
which he will use unto this end, namely, the communication of such supplies of grace and spiritual strength, as shall eternally defeat the dominion of sin.
This is one principal difference between the law and the gospel, and was ever so esteemed in the church of God, until all communication of efficacious grace began to be called in question. The law guides, directs, commands all things that are against the interest and rule of sin. It judgeth and condemneth both the things that promote it, and the persons that do them: it frightens and terrifies the consciences of those who are under its dominion. But if you shall say unto it, What then shall we do? this tyrant, this enemy, is too hard for us; what aid and assistance against it will it afford unto us? what power will it communicate unto its destruction? Here the law is utterly silent, or says, that nothing of this nature is committed unto it of God. Nay, the strength it hath it gives unto sin for the condemnation of the sinner; the strength of sin is the law.
But the gospel, or the grace of it, is the means and instrument of God, for the communication of internal spiritual strength unto believers. · By it do they receive supplies of the Spirit, or aids of grace for the subduing of sin, and the destruction of its dominion. By it they may say, they can do all things through him that enables them. Hereon then depends, in the first place, the assurance of the apostle's assertion, that' sin shall not have the dominion over us,' because we are under grace.' We are in such a state, as. wherein we have supplies in readiness to defeat all the attempts of sin, for rule and dominion in us.
But some may say hereon, they greatly fear they are not in this state; for they do not find such supplies of spiritual strength and grace, as to give them a conquest over sin. They are still perplexed with it, and it is ready to invade the throne in their minds, if it be not already possessed of it. Wherefore they fear lest they are strangers from the grace of the gospel.
In answer hereunto, the things ensuing are proposed.
1. Remember what hath been declared concerning the dominion of sin. If it be not known what it is, and wherein it doth consist, as some may, please themselves, whilst their condition is deplorable, as it is with the most; so others may
be perplexed in their minds without just cause. A clear distinction between the rebellion of sin and the dominion of sin, is a great advantage unto spiritual peace. is
2. Consider the ends for which aids of grace are granted and communicated by the gospel. Now this is not that sin may at once be utterly destroyed and consumed in us, that it should have no being, motion, or power in us any more. This work is reserved for glory in the full redemption of body and soul, which we here do but groan after. But it is given unto us for this end, that sin may be so crucified and mortified in us, that is, so gradually weakened and destroyed, as that it shall not ruin spiritual life in us, obstruct its necessary acting in duties, and prevalency against such sins as would disannul the covenant relation between God and souls. Whilst we have supplies of it which are sufficient unto this end, although our conflict with sin doth continue, although we are perplexed by it, yet we are under grace, and sin shall have no more dominion over us. This is enough for us, that sin shall be gradually destroyed, and we shall have a sufficiency of grace in all occasions to prevent its ruling prevalency.
3. Live in the faith of this sacred truth, and ever keep alive in your souls expectation of supplies of grace suitable thereunto. It is of the nature of true and saying faith, inseparable from it, to believe that the gospel is the way of God's administration of grace for the ruin of sin. He that believes it not, believes not the gospel itself, which is the power of God unto salvation;' Rom. i. 16. If we live, and walk, and act as if we had nothing to trust unto but ourselves, our own endeavours, our own resolutions, and that in our perplexities and surprisals,, it is no wonder if we are not sensible of supplies of divine grace; most probably we are under the law, and not under grace. This is the fundamental principle of the gospel state, that we live in expectation of continual communications of life, grace, and strength from Jesus Christ, who is our life, and from whose fulness we receive, and grace for grace. We may therefore, in this case, continually expostulate with our souls, as David doth: 'Why go you mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? Why are you cast down, and why are you disquieted within us? Still hope in God: he is the health of
my countenance. We may be sensible of great oppression from the power of this enemy; this may cause us to go mourning all the day long, and in some sense it ought so to do. Howbeit we ought not hence to despond, or to be cast down from our duty or our comfort. Still we may trust in God through Christ, and live in continual expectation of such spiritual reliefs, as shall assuredly preserve us from the dominion of sin. This faith, hope, and expectation, we are called unto by the gospel. And when they are not cherished, when they are not kept up unto a due exercise, all things will go backward in our spiritual condition.
4. Make especial application unto the Lord Christ, unto whom the administration of all spiritual supplies is committed, for the communication of them unto you, according unto all especial occasions. Hath sin got the advantage of a powerful temptation, so as that it seems to put hard for dominion in the soul, as it was with Paul under the buffetings of Satan, when he had that answer from God upon his reiterated prayer, ' My grace is sufficient for thee;'sin shall not have dominion over thee? Hath it by its deceitfulness brought the soul into a lifeless, senseless frame, makes it forgetful of duties, negligent in them, or without spiritual delight in their performance ? Hath it almost habituated the soul unto careless and corrupt inclinations unto the love of, or conformity to, the world ? Doth it take advantage from our darkness and confusion under troubles, distresses, or temptations? On these and the like occasions it is required, that we make especial fervent application unto the Lord Christ, for such supplies of grace as may be sufficient and efficacious to control the power of sin in them all. This under the consideration of his office and authority unto this end, his grace and readiness from especial inducements, we are directed unto, Heb. iv, 14-16.
5. Remember always the way and method of the opera. tions of divine grace and spiritual aids. It is true in our first conversion to God, we are as it were surprised by a mighty act of sovereign grace, changing our hearts, renewing our minds, and quickening us with a principle of spiritual life. Ordinarily many things are required of us in a way of duty in order thereunto. And many previous operations of grace in our minds in illumination, and the sense
of sin, do materially and passively dispose us thereunto, as wood when it is dried is disposed to firing. But the work itself is performed by an immediate act of divine power, without any active co-operation on our parts. But this is not the law or rule of the communication or operation of actual grace, for the subduing of sin. It is given in a way of concurrence with us in the discharge of our duties, and when we are sedulous in them we may be sure we shall not fail of divine assistance, according to the established rule of the administration of gospel grace. If, therefore, we complain that we find not the aids mentioned, if at the same time we are not diligent in attendance unto all the duties whereby sin may be mortified in us, we are exceedingly injurious to the grace of God. Wherefore, notwithstanding this objection, the truth stands firm, that “sin shall not have dominion over us,"because we are not under the law, but under grace;’ because of the spiritual aids that are administered by grace for its mortification and destruction. Secondly, The law gives no liberty of any kind; it gendereth unto bondage, and so cannot free us from any dominion, not that of sin; for this must be by liberty; but this we have also by the gospel. There is a twofold liberty: 1. Of state and condition; 2. Of internal operation; and we have both by the gospel. The first consists in our deliverance from the law and its curse, with all things which claim a right against us by virtue thereof; that is, Satan, death, and hell. Out of this state, from whence we can never be delivered by the law, we are translated by grace into a state of glorious liberty; for by it the Son makes us free, and we receive the Spirit of Christ. Now, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty; 1 Cor. iii. 17. This liberty Christ proclaims in the gospel unto all that do believe, Isa. lxi. 1. Hereon they who hear and receive the joyful sound, are discharged from all debts, bonds, accounts, rights, and titles, and are brought into a state of perfect freedom. In this state sin can lay no claim to dominion over any one soul. They are gone over into the kingdom of Christ, and out from the power of sin, Satan, and darkness. Herein indeed lies the foundation of our assured freedom from the rule of sin. It cannot make an incursion on the