THE DIVINE LIFE IN THE SOULS OF MEN CONSIDERED.
Gal. ii. 20. I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ that liveth in me: and the life I now live in the flesh, Hive by the faith of the Soft of God.
We proceed to inquire,
II. "\^T7"HEN spiritual life is communicated?— \\ To this the scriptures direct us to answer, That it is communicated in that change which is generally called Regeneration, or Effectual Calling. This is more than intimated by the expressions used to signify the sirst communication of it. When spiritual life is infused, then it is that God is said to beget us again to a lively hope, 1 Pet. i. 3. to beget us of his own will, James i. 18. to quicken us, who were dead in fin, Eph. ii. 5. to give us a new heart, and put a new spirit within us; to take away theslony heart, and give an heart of flesh, Ezek. xxxvi. 26. and we are said to be created in Christ fesus unto good works, Eph. ii. 1 o. born again, John iii. 3. born or begotten of God, John i. 13. 1 John iii. 9. Now it is evident that these metaphorical expressions signify what is commonly called Regeneration, and that they express the sirst implantation of spiritual life. Several of them contain a direct allusion to the sirst communication of animal and human life, as generation or begetting, regeneration or being begotten again, creation, &c. And since these, taken literally, signify the sirst communication of natural life, they must, when used metaphorically and spiritually, sonify the sirst communication of spiritual life. Lite
before before generation, creation, &c. is an absurdity; and generation, creation, &c. without the communication of life suitable to the nature of the being generated, created, &c. is also an absurdity. The other expressions, as quickening us while dead in trespasses and fins, giving a new heart, and the like, even literally signify this.
Hence, by way of improvement, we may be instructed to avoid a common mistake ; namely," That a power of living to God is uersally conferred upon mankind in creation; and therefore that there is no need of a new supernatural principle to be infused, but only of the concurrence of common providence, and the institutes of the gospel, to polish and resine our natural principles. And some fay, " That God in creation infuses spiritual life into all, on account of Christ's dying for them; and that if it be given without the merit of the recipient, it may as properly be ascribed to divine grace when it is a natural endowment bestowed in creation, as it would be if it were a supernatural gift communicated by an act distinct from and posterior to that of creation."
In order effectually to subvert this notion, consider, 1. If spiritual life were communicated in creation, there would be no propriety or signisicancy in the expressions used to denote the communication of it. There would be no need of a new, a second birth, if we were spiritually alive by virtue of our sirst birth. Were we holy by virtue of our sirst creation, what necessity of being created in Christ Jesus, or of being made new creatures? 2 Cor. v. 17. Gal. vi. 15. There could be no opposition between the old man and the new. Rom. vi. 6. Eph. iv. 22, 24. Col. iii. 9, 10. The dispositions concreated with us cannot be called a new man.—2. The implantation of spiritual life is not only posterior to creation, but also to corrupt principles, which are innate. We are sirst dead in fin before we are quickened, Eph. ii. 5. we have a stony heart, which must be taken away before a heart ofstcjh is given, Ezck. xxxvi. 26. Such expressions undoubtedly edly signify and act posterior to, and consequently distinct from creation.—3. The implantation of a principle of spiritual life is eminently an act of special grace, ,which the concreation of our natural endowments is never said to be. The washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghofi, is an act of mercy, and the effect of the kindness and love of God our Saviour. Tit. iii. 5. God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in fins, hath quickened us together with Christ f by grace ye are saved. J Eph. ii. 4, 5. It is according to God's abundant mercy, that we are begotten again unto a lively, hope. 1 Pet. i. 3. But what need I multiply instances? The entire tenor of the gospel directs us to ascribe the regeneration and sanctisication of sinners to distinguishing and peculiar grace. But though our natural powers are the free communications of divine goodnesi, yet we are never said to be "created according to the grace and mercy of God." It is not agreeable to the sacred dialect to call the powers of reason, vision, &c. "the gifts of grace," in the fame fense that spiritual life is so called: nay, I cannot sind that our natural powers are ascribed to mercy, grace, free grace, at all; and it seems more congruous to ascribe them to other perfections of the Deity, as creative wisdom, power and goodness. To this I may add, that spiritual life is always represented as communicated " thro' Christ as Mediator, and for his fake;" but our natural endowments are not said to be given through him. The Holy Ghost is shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Tit. iii. 5, 6. We are fancltfied through the offering up of the body of Christ once for all. Heb. x. 1 o. // is in Christ Jesus that we are blessed with all spiritual blessings. Eph. i. 3. He is made satisfaction to us, 1 Cor. i. 30. and of his fulness we all receive. John i. 16. But we are never said to be created for Christ's fake, or to be made rational creatures on the account of his righteousness. And, when we are said to be Vol. III. U created created by him, it signisies by him as an esficient, not as a meritorious cause.
From all which it appears, that spiritual life in a fallen creature is wholly supernatural: it is of a divine extract,and heaven-born in a peculiar fense. The sons of God are born of God, and not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man. If therefore- any of us continue in our natural estate, we are dead in sin, however strict formalists, or resined moralists we may be.—Let us inquire,
III. " Whether spiritual life be instantaneously communicated? Or, whether (as some alledge) it be gradually acquired by repeated acts?"
Here let it be observed, that we are not inquiring, how spiritual life is nourished and consirmed ? for that is undoubtedly done gradually, by repeated acts, correspondent to the nature of spiritual life, and perfective of it in the progress of fanctisication, as the power of reason is improved by a series of suitable exercises; but our inquiry is, How it is sirst obtained? Whether it be communicated in the instant of regeneration, as the power of understanding is in creation? And to this I answer affirmatively, for the following reasons. *
1. "It is a contradiction that it should be originally acquired by acting, or a series of acts;" for that supposes that it exists, and does not exist, at the fame time: as it acts, it exists; and as it is acquired by acting, it doe6 not exist. It will perhaps be objected, "That it may be acquired by the repeated acts of another kind of life, namely, rational; or the exercises of our rational powers about spiritual objects." But this may be answered from what was observed under the sirst head, namely, That a principle of spiritual life is something distinct from and superadded to our natural powers. Now the acts of one kind of life, however often repeated, will never acquire a life of a quite different kind: e. g. The longest course, and the most frequent repetition of animal acts, will never acquire
a principle of reason. Let a blind man hear ever so well, and ever so frequently, that will not acquire a visive faculty. So let our natural principles be exercised about spiritual objects with ever so much frequency and permanency, that will never acquire spiritual life. They are so depraved, that there remains nothing in them out of which it can be educed, without the communication of something supernatural. Be they ever so strong and active, they can contribute no more to our vivisication, than the quick sensation of the auditory nerve can contribute to the acquisition of sight. Principles of action may be consirmed, and rendered more prompt to act, by frequent exercise; but can never be originally obtained that way.
2. The terms whereby the communication of spiri-' tual life is signisied, as begetting, creating, quickening, or raising the dead, &c denote an instantaneous communication.
3. Spiritual life is represented as prior to and the source and principle of all acts of evangelical holiness; and consequently it cannot be gradually acquired by such acts, but must be implanted previously to the putting forth of any such acts; as reason is not acquired by reasoning, but is a pre-requisite and principle of al l the acts of reason. We are created in Christ jfesus, to make us capable of good works. Eph. ii. 10. We must have a new heart and a new spirit, and the
spirit os God be put within us, that we may walk in God's statutes, and keep his judgments, and do thenu Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27. We must be drawn of the Father, must hear and learn of him, before we can come to Christ. John iv. 44, 45. God gives his people one heart, and one way, that they may sear Him for ever. He puts his sear in their hearts, before they cease to depart from Him. Jer. xxxii. 39, 40^ Now if all acts of holiness be the effects of a vital principle of holiness previously infused, then this principle is not acquired by a course of actions, and consequently it is not gradually acquired, but instantaneously infused j for that which is not acquired
by by acting is obtained by immediate communication from another, and therefore it does not take up time to obtain it, as a series of acts does. Again, There must be a sirst act of holiness; for if there be not a sirst, there cannot be a second, £s?V. Now since a principle of spiritual life is the spring, and the beginning of all acts of holiness, it must be, in order of nature, prior to the sirst act of holiness; and consequently it is not gradually acquired by such acts, but precedes them all, and therefore must be instantaneously infu'sed.
Hence we may see the vanity of that religion which is gained in the fame manner that a man learns a trade, or an uncultivated mind becomes knowing and learned, namely, by the repeated exercises of our natural powers in the use of proper means, and under the aids of common providence. We have seen that a principle of spiritual life is not a good act, nor a series of good acts, nor any thing acquirable by them, but the spring and origin of all good acts. Let us then, my brethren, try whether our religion will stand this test. Hence also we may learn a considerable difference between what is commonly called Morality and Gospel-Holiness. The one is obtained, as other acquired habits are, by frequent and continued exercises; the other proceeds from a principle divinely implanted. Our
IV. Inquiry is, " Who are the subjects of spiritual life? or, In what extent is it communicated?
The answer to this is easy, from what has been already offered; for since it is communicated only in regeneration, then the regenerate only are the subjects of it; and since all men are not regenerate, then all men are not the subjects of it. Again, Since it is something distinct from and superadded to our rational powers, then it cannot be proved that all that are endowed with rationality are the subjects of it. Again, Since it is communicated by an act distinct from and posterior to creation, there is no reason to conclude
that it is co-extended with creation, of with the bounds of humanity. And since all these things are fo, we may safely conclude, negatively, That it is not communicated to mankind uersally and positively; Chat it is communicated to all the regenerate, and to them only. Hence result two corollaries.
1. That there is no such thing as uersal grace sufficient to qualify all men to serve God acceptably, without the supernatural communication of distinguishing grace; for God is a Spirit, and they that worJhip him must worship him inspirit and in truth. John iv.
24. Those acts which do not proceed from a principle of spiritual life, will no more be accounted by Him vital, spiritual acts, than the chattering of a parrot, or the seemingly rational pranks of an ape, will pass with a man offense for human actions: and without a principle of spiritual life there can be no spiritual acts, as there can be no rational acts without a principle of reason; And since, as has been shewn, spiritual life is not uersally communicated, then there is no sufficient grace uersally communicated; for the latter necessarily implies the former, and cannot be without it.
2. We may observe further, That the " best actions of the unregenerate are not properly and formally good, and acceptable to God." It is true their performing the duties of religion and virtue, in the best manner they are capable of, is less displeasing to God than the wilful neglect of them, or the commiflion of the contrary sins, and therefore they should endeavour to perform them; but yet it cannot be said to be positively pleasing to him. It is not the act materially, or in itself, that is sinful, but formally, and as done by them, e. g. They do not sin as far as they pray, but as far as they pray in a sinful manner, without a gracious principle, without faith, and other requisites to acceptable prayer. They ask, and receive not, because they ask amiss. James iv. 3. So then, they that are in the fiefi) cannot please God. Rom. viii. 8. A tremendous thought to the unregenerate! Their whole life is an entire series of provocation; one continued act of rebellion against the great King of Heaven.
V. Our next inquiry is, " In what fense is spiritual life communicated and supported through Christ?"
To explain and illustrate this point, let these three things be considered:
i. That "by the sin of our sirst parents and representatives, our principle of spiritual life was forfeited, and the forfeiture is continued, and spiritual death brought on us by our personal sin."
That Adam was constituted the representative of his posterity, and consequently that his sin is imputed to them, I shall take for granted, not having time to. prove it. And if this be granted, then we are destitute of spiritual life; for, That disobedience may be punished, consistently with reason and justice, by the judicial privation of our power to obey, cannot be denied, if these reasonable pqftulata be conceded: That it is consistent with the justice and goodness of the Deity to suspend the continuance of the powers of upright moral agency conferred upon his creatures, on the condition of their right improvement of them: That when such powers are abused and misimproved, they may justly be withdrawn: And that, when withdrawn in consequence of their being forfeited by a criminal misimprovement, God is not obliged in justice to restore them. Now these posiulata imply no contradiction, and, therefore, may have been matters of fact; and they are implied in the scripture-representation of the circumstance of Adam and his posterity, as related to him; and therefore were matters of fact, and consequently Adam and his posterity, on the account of his sin, actually are, at least justly might me, deprived of spiritual life.
As to our personal sin, it contributes two ways to deprive us of spiritual life, morally and physically; morally, in the same sense that Adam's sin does, as it involves us in guilt, and so infers the judicial privation of the imperfect relics of our Maker's moral image;
and and physically, as every act, and especially a series of acts, naturally tends to strengthen and encourage the principle from whence they flow; to acquire that facility in acting which is called a habit; and to weaken and extirpate all contrary principles, and so indispose for the exertion of contrary acts. as suitable pre-requisites or concomitants of deriving vital influence from Christ. For instance, It is sit that all that receive spiritual life as a blessing of the covenant of grace, should submit to and acquiesce in the terms of that covenant. Now such a submission and acquiescence is faith. It is sit, all that derive strength from Christ should be brought to place a humble, selfdiffident dependance upon him for it, conscious of their own weakness. Now faith principally consists in such a dependance, and therefore is so often called a trusting in the Lord.
Hence it follows, that in order to the restoration of spiritual life, the moral influence of sin must be removed by making a competent satisfaction to divine justice, to redeem the blessing forfeited; and its physical influence obstructed by purchasing and communicating divine influences, to weaken and extirpate the principles of sin, and that fatal promptitude and' facility of acting which is contracted by the frequent exercise of them; and to infuse an opposite principle of holiness, and mature it into an habit. And this introduces the other two things intended; and therefore,
2. The Lord Jesus, by his sufferings, made a " complete satisfaction to divine justice;" and thereby redeemed the blessing forfeited; and by the merit of his obedience, purchased divine influence for the extirpation of the principles of spiritual death which lurk in our natures, and the implantation of holiness. Hence the regeneration and sanctisication, as well as the salvation of his people, are ascribed to his merits and death. We are sanclified through the offering up of the body of Christ. Heb. x. 10. And the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered up himself without spot, to God, purges the conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Heb. ix. 14. He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Titus ii. 14. Hence our old man is said to be crucified with him, Rom. vi. 6. and we to be quickened together with him. Col. ii. 13. Therefore it is only on the account of his righteousness that spiritual life is sirst given, and afterwards maintained and cherished. God acts, in the whole affair, as the God of grace, with a distinct reference to the mediation of Christ.
3. Christ, the Purchaser, is appointed also "the Communicator of spiritual life" to his people. The Son quickeneth whom he will. John y. 21. He is exalted as a prince to give repentance to Israel. Acts v. 31. He is our life, Col. iii. 3, 4. and the Author and Finisher of our faith. Heb. xii. 2. In a word, all power in heaven and on earth is given to him, Matt. xxix. 18. a sovereign empire of grace, founded in his own blood, is devolved upon him, and He is given to be head sver all things to his church; Eph. i. 22. a head not only of government, but of quickening influence; for from him all the body by joints and hands having nourishment ministered and, knit together, increafeth with the increase of God. Col. ii. 19. It is therefore by his own hands that all the blessings, purchased by his blood are cpmmunicated.
Hence, for the particular improvement of this head, let believers be taught to look to the Lord Jesus, the great Treasurer of heaven, for the supplies of his grace to support and nourish their spiritual life. Poor things! You are weak in yourselves, but his grace is sufficient for you, and his strength stall be made perfecl in your weakr ness. "Ye are complete in him," therefore "be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus; strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might! Come up out of the wilderness, leaning upon your beloved. Be of good courage, and he will strengthen your heart." Do not indulge a dastardly temper, nor harbour diffident and desponding fears: For, " have you not known? Have you not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increafeth strength." If you " compass yourselves with Ipaiks of your own kindling," your devotions will be cold and languid, and a deadly chilliness will benumb your spirit. Place yourselves, therefore, under the vivifying beams " of the fun of righteousness, and you lhali go forth and grow up as calves of the stall."
And let "the flain of the daughter of my people" . apply to him for quickening grace. Behold, sinners! your Physician; cry after him; plead for life. See the great treasury of vivifying influence; stand at the door knocking, begging and weeping, and never depart till you can say, "I return a living soul." Here is a fountain of life opened, and let him that is athirji, come; and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. But I hasten to inquire,
VI. "How Faith derives supplies from Christ for the support and nourishment of spiritual life?"
I shall proceed to the solution of this by the following gradation.
1. The communication of grace from Christ to maintain and nourish spiritual life in his people, is a peculiar and distinguishing communication. It is appropriated to them and not promiscuously dispensed to mankind in general. So animal spirits and nervous juices, are communicated from the head to that particular body to which it belongs, and to none other. So a vine conveys nutritive and prolisic sap to its own branches, exclusive of all others. It may, indeed, be of service to other things in other respects, as for shade, the entertainment of the sight, &c. but in this respect it supplies its own branches only. Thus Christ stxeds his extensive influence on the whole creation; for by him all things consist; but that particular kind and degree of influence, whereby believers are quickened and kept alive, is peculiarly appropriated to them.
2. It is sit and necessary there should be a peculiar union betwixt Christ and his people, as the foundation of this peculiar influence.
Spiritual life, as to its infusion and preservation, proceeds from the Lord-Mediator, both morally and physically. Morally, from the merit of his obedience and sufferings, whereby it was purchased; and physically, from his operation, whereby it is effected. And in both these views, it is congruous and necessary that it should suppose a special union with him.
Vol. III. X As
As it results morally from his merit, it is sit there should be a special legal union, as the foundation of it. Christ and his people must be actually "one in law," before they can be actually intitled to or receive and enjoy the blessings purchased by his obedience to the law. So a wife must be made legally one with her husband, by a conjugal union, in order to intitle her to and give her the poflession of his estate. An insolvent debtor must be legally one with his surety, that the surety's discharge of the debt may procure his acquittance.
And as the spiritual life proceeds physically from his agency, it is necessary there should be a previous special union, as the reason of the termination of that agency upon the believer rather than upon another. This must be a real, though spiritual union, as the communication of vital influences flowing from it, is real though spiritual. Wherever there is a special communication of influence, there is always a special union, as the source and foundation of it. So the peculiar influence of the soul upon the body, of the head upon the members, supposes that they are peculiarly united.
Accordingly, the scriptures represent a peculiar union betwixt Christ and his people, which is not betwixt him and the rest of mankind, to whom he does not communicate spiritual life. / am the vine, says he to his disciples, and ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the fame bringeth forth much fruit-; for without me ye can do nothing. John xv. 5. To the fame purport elsewhere, / in them, and thou in me, that they may be madeperfecl in one. John xvii. 23. This is intimated, when the relation betwixt Christ and his people is represented by a conjugal union. They are become dead to the law by the body of Chriji, that they Jhould be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead. Rom. vii. 4. They are members of his body, of his flesh, and of hu bones. Eph. v. 28, 32. But it is most plainly asserted in those passages where Jesus is
represented as the head, the church collectively as hisbody, and particular believers as the members of his body. As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ mystical-. For by one Spirit we are all baptized, or initiated, into one body. Now ye are the body of 'Christ, and members in particular. 1 Cor. xiL 12—27. God gave him to be head over all things to his church, which is his body. Eph. i. 22, 23. See also Eph. iv. 15, 16Col. ii. 19.
3. It is sit that that grace which has a peculiar concurrence or instrumentality in the uniting of the foul to Christ, and in continuing of that union, should also have a " peculiar concurrence or instrumentality in deriving supplies of spiritual strength from him ;" for since union is the true special ground of the communication, it is sit that that which is the peculiar instrument or bond of this union, should also be the peculiar instrument of receiving, or vehicle of communicating vital influences. Now,
4. Faith has a " peculiar concurrence or "instrumentality in the sirst union" of the soul to Christ, and the consequent continuation of the union. It is the grand ligament whereby they are indissolubly conjoined. It is true, the spiritual man, as well as our animal bodies, consists of several essential parts. Repentance, love, and the whole system of evangelical graces and moral virtues are as necessary, in their proper respective places, as faith: But then,faith has a peculiar aptitude, above all other graces and virtues, for performing the part we now appropriate to it. So heart, lungs, bowels, &c. are essential to the human body, as well as nerves and arteries; but the nerves are the peculiar vehicles to carry the vital spirits from the brain; and the arteries are the only conveyancers of the blood from the heart, through many labyrinths, to the whole body.
Faith, in a special manner, implies those things in its very nature, which reason directs us to look upon
Moreover, the sacred oracles assert the peculiar instrumentality of faith in this matter. Christ is said to dwell in our hearts by faith, Eph. iii. 17. and it is by believing in his name that we receive power to become the the sons of God. John i. 12. He himself tells us, He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me and I in him. As I live by the Father, so he that eateth me, shall live by me. John vi. 56, sy. And by eating his flesh and drinking his blood, is undoubtedly meant faith in him ; and consequently it is by faith believers are nourished.
For the particular improvement of this head, I shall make these three remarks:
1. That a saving faith is always operative; and what renders it so is its constant dependance on Christ for quickening grace. It is designed by God, and has a peculiar aptitude in its own nature to derive strength for all acts of holiness from Christ; and he will not deny any of the influences it naturally craves! He is a living head, and will not suffer any of his members to languish under perpetual mortal decays, or drudge away their lives in successless toils, or supinely waste them in sloth and inactivity. He will fail none that trust in him; but their dependance on him will be like the leaning of the ivy on the oak, Or the radication of a tree in a' fruitful soil, an assured method to obtain support and nourishment. So far is a dependance on him from leading to sloth and libertinism, as some slanderously surmise. 2. We
2. We Infer, that without faith, it is impojfthle to please God. It has been shewn, that without union to Christ we cannot have an actual interest in his righteousness, or be the special objects of that quickening influence, whereby the spiritual life and activity of his people is maintained; and without these, our persons or performances cannot be accepted, unless our own righteousness be sufficient, without an actual interest in his, to procure the pardon of sin, and reinstate us in the divine favour; and unless human nature, labouring under the maladies of its present degeneracy, be capable, without the special aids of divine grace, to yield suitable obedience to the law: neither of which can be asserted, without virtually renouncing the whole gospel. And we have seen, that faith has so important a place in the unition of the soul with Christ, and consequently, in intitling us to his righteousness, and deriving vital influences from him, that without it we cannot be at all united to him, or share in the happy consequences of this union, no more than there can be a circulation of the blood without veins and arteries.
3. We observe that gospel-holiness may be distinguished from all counterfeits, and particularly from what some dignify with the name of morality, by this criterion, that it presupposes a specialunion with Christ, and is cherished in the heart, and exercised in practice, by virtue of the quickening influences flowing from him, as the head of his church, and received by faith j whereas mere morality does not necessarily suppose such an union, but may result from our natural powers, under the commoninfluences of divine providence.
I shall conclude with a short general improvement of the whole subject, in the following inferences:
1. That the reason why religion is so burdensome to many is, because they are " destitute of a principle of spiritual life," and the " quickening communications of divine grace." Constrained by self-love, they drudge and toil in religious duties, and cry, " What
a weariness is it!" Or impatient of so disagreeable 3. burden, they neglect them entirely. Religion is not natural to them, for want of a new nature. But to you that believe, Christ- is precious j. all his ways are pleasantness, and all his paths-arc peace. His yoke is easy, and his burden light.
1. Let us examine ourselves, whether the evidences of spiritual life, which may be collected from what has been said, give us reason to conclude that we are possessed of it. Let us cast the discourse into a form of interrogation, and propose the following inquiries to our consciences.
Do we feel, or have we felt a supernatural principie working within? Is our religion heaven-born? or is it natural and sejf-sprung? Is the habitual bent of our wills God-ward? Do our hearts propend towards Him, as their ultimate scope? Do we delight in his law after the inner man, and will that which is good, even when we cannot do it? Do we perceive ourselves at times strengthened with might in the inner man? And that we can do all things through Christ strengthening us? Have we ever experienced the important change of regeneration? are old things passed away, and all things become new? Have we put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness?
Is our religion more than a mere acquired habit, originally obtained by our own industry only, and the exercise of our natural powers, excited and assisted by education, custom, the means of grace? &c. Was it begun in the instantaneous infusion of a gracious principle, immediately by the Holy Spirit?
Do we derive our strength for obedience from Christ by faith? Is he our life? Are we generally crying, Lord •me have no strength; but our eyes are unto thee? Can we fay with the apostle, / live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and what I now live in the sejhy I live by the faith of the Son of God?
My dear brethren, let us search ourselves with these and the like inquiries; for many are destructively deceived in this matter. Living religion is wrapt in darkness from the eyes of most: they either place it in that in which it does not consist at all, or take the circumstances and appendages for the substance of it. Great is the mystery of godliness, not only objectively, as revealed in the scriptures, but also subjectively, as wrought in the heart of a believer. It ought therefore to engage our most serious and intense thoughts.
3. Let those who are made spiritually alive, "acknowledge and admire the distinguishing grace of God, and act as it becomes their character."
You have seen that spiritual life is not promiscuously dispensed to mankind in general, but only to the regenerate, who are comparatively few. And can you restrain your wonder, that you mould be the chosen objects of sovereign grace? or avoid breaking forth into extatic praises at so surprizing a dispensation?
Moreover, the design of your vivisication, and the natural tendency of the principle of spiritual life is, that you may live to God; and therefore, you are peculiarly obliged to make your whole life a series of obedience to Him. Indulge the propensions and tendencies of the new nature: obey and cherish all the impulses and motions of the divine principle within you. To offer violence to the new man, to cramp and fetter its powers, to resist its motions, and suffocate its heavenly aspirations, is the most horrid crime. It is to attempt to murder the child of grace in embryo; and sure, this is the worst of murder. Reckon ye yourselves, then, to be dead indeed unto fin, but alive unto God, through •Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not fin reign in your mortal body, that ye fljould obey it in the lusts thereof: neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto fin; but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead; and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. And if ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ fit
teth ieth at the right hand of God. Set your afseclions upon (favour and relish) things above, not things on earth. And when ChriJi, who is our life, Jhall appear, then shall ye alfa appear with him in glory.
- 4. I request and importune those that are dead in sin, to "use all proper means for the obtaining of quickening grace." The exhortation implies no contradiction or impossibility; for though they are spiritually dead, yet their natural principles of reason is still alive, and capable of exercifing itself about spiritual objects ; and God has enjoined them to make the best use they can of it, as the only way to obtain a better principle. God deals with us according to our nature and circumstances. We are corrupted creatures, and therefore He exerts his exceeding great and mighty power to work principles of holiness in us ; but still we are rational creatures, and therefore He uses the powers of moral suasion with us, and justly requires us to exert our rational faculties in all the institutions of the gospel.
Be persuaded then, sinner, no longer to lie still in security; but arise, call upon thy God; if so be that God will think upon thee, that thou perish not. Lazarus! come forth. Awake thou that Jleepefi, and arise from the dead; and Christ Jhall give thee light. Linger not, lest eternal death overtake thee. Methinks I fee him just at thy heels, for thy damnation now of a long time flumbereth not. Arise, come forth at the call of the gospel; otherwise how wilt thou stand the shocking terror of that sinal alarm, Awake ye dead, and come to judgment? But I must conclude with my hearty wish, That the hour may come, and O! that this may be the hour, in which the dead Jhall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear Jhall live.—Which gracious prediction may the God of grace accomplish upon us all, for Jesus' fake. Amen.