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evil propensities of our fallen nature; but nothing will really succeed in curbing the passions of the human mind, except the continual influence of the Holy Spirit, which we must call for by diligent prayer, if we would obtain it. This is intimated in the text; in which also the two subjects mentioned in the Epistle for this day are spoken of. We may inquire,
First, What is it to fulfil the lusts of the flesh? and
Secondly, What is it to walk in the Spirit ?
And may the blessing of the Holy Spirit be vouchsafed to us while we review the topics here brought to our notice, that we may be led, by the influence of His grace upon our souls, to turn from every evil way.
It was said by our Lord Jesus Christ, That which is horn of the flesh is flesh; that is, as we come into the world, we are by nature corrupt and depraved ; and therefore, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.83 In consequence of being born of the flesh, or being shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin,84 our natural inclination is to do the works of the devil; and we as naturally dislike spiritual things. The apostle therefore says, respecting believers in Christ, The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other ; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. The desires of the flesh are of an opposite kind to those which proceed from the Spirit of God. In the Christian these two opposite principles are continually striving for the mastery; and accordingly as Divine grace is sought or not, the one or the other usually prevails. The will of the new mind is to please God; the will of the natural mind is to live in forgetfulness of God, and in disobedience to His holy commandments. The believer in Christ, being renewed in the spirit of his mind,85 is desirous to do in all things that which is pleasing to God, but he finds a principle within him, that when he would do good, evil is present with him,86 and therefore he cannot do the things that he would.
83 John iii. 6, 5.
84 Psalm li. 5.
But there are many deeds of persons who are in the flesh, or living entirely under the influence of their animal nature, which do not mark them out particularly as the children of the wicked one. The apostle therefore describes those works of the flesh which are plainly such, and the habitual practice of which affords full proof that those who are occupied in them are not the children of God; because they who commit such things as are here specified are living in opposition to His word and will, in evident disobedience to His holy laws. And here he enumerates not only the deeds of the body, but also the dispositions of the mind. He speaks of vice in its various stages and degrees; its conception in the heart, as well as its appearance in the life. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness. These are manifestly the works of the flesh. They are first mentioned because these sins strike at the root of all the bonds of society; they destroy all relative affections and relative duties; and make those who are under their influence more like the beasts that perish, 87 than like rational beings. Therefore we see how great is the displeasure of God against these crimes. They were the occasion of the destruction of the old world by a flood; giants in wickedness being the product of the unlawful and abominable connexion of the sons of God with the daughters of men. Sins of this description were also the occasion of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire; and these sins will occasion the dissolution of the world which we now inhabit, that the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up. It is grievous to think that in a country called Christian, such vices should flourish so luxuriantly as they do; that people should live in the practice of these crimes, and yet imagine themselves to be Chris
85 Ephesians iv. 23.
86 Romans vii. 21.
tians, notwithstanding they are told plainly that these sins will effectually exclude them from heaven, and shut them up in the regions of darkness, of misery and despair, for ever. How frequently is this declared in the writings of the apostles in the most forcible manner. ful consequences of these sins cannot be too strongly stated. How awful is the admonition, that because of these things cometh the wrath of God
upon the children of disobedience.89 Closely allied to these sins, in the days of the apostles, and ever since in heathen lands, (and it may be added also in Popish countries, where the church of Rome maintains the ascendency,) are idolatry and witchcraft, or sorcery. The worship of idols has always been accompanied with the most abominable impieties. And to aid the delusion, sorceries or enchantments, magical tricks or incantations, were used; like those which are exhibited in Popish countries to this day; such as the pretended liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius, at Naples. The evils which attended idolatry among the Israelites, and the Divine judgments denounced against it, are frequently referred to in the writings of the prophets, and in the history of the kings of Israel.
To these dreadful crimes the apostle adds another class of sins which are not regarded by many professors of religion as having such evil consequences attached to them, as the apostle here speaks of Hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings. Emulations are said to mean giving way to passionate tempers; and seditions, to refer particularly to divisions or separations. The indulgence of these dispositions of mind, or yielding to these evil tempers, is most displeasing to God, however lightly they may be thought of by those who are in the habit of suffering themselves to be carried away by them. They come under the same condemnation as the grosser sins which were first enumerated. Pride seems to be at the root of these evils, as sensuality was of the preceding. Perhaps to the indulgence of one or the other of these evil principles, all wickedness may be traced. He who is influenced by the former, is living in a state of independence of God and contempt of His authority; like the fool that saith in his heart, There is no God,90 whom I am bound to worship and obey. The latter character is in close alliance with the prince of darkness, whose works are practised. We may observe here also, that making divisions in the church of Christ, though it may be esteemed a matter of no importance by many persons, as well as sedition against the state, which is comprehended in the same term, is classed among those things which are manifestly the works of the flesh.