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vitals. How necessary, then, is spiritual life! And the necessity of the thing infers the necessity of the knowledge of it. The profession of it is the source of all vital religion; it is the health of the spirit; the ornament and perfection of the human nature; the grand prerequisite to everlasting happiness; the dawn of celestial glory; is it not, then, incomparably profitable? And must not the right knowledge of it be so too? Yet some are entirely ignorant of it; others, who say they see, are widely mistaken about its nature, the time and manner of its communication, its subjects, the author and meritorious cause of it, and the way in which it is supported and cherished: and therefore, for the instruction of the ignorant, the rectification of wrong sentiments, and the confirmation of our minds in the truth, it may be expedient briefly to attempt the solution of the following inquiries.
I. Wherein spiritual life consists?
II. When it is communicated?
III. Whether it be instantaneously communicated, or gradually acquired by repeated acts?
IV. Who are the subjects of it? or, in what extent is it communicated?
V. In what sense is it communicated and supported through Christ?
VI. How faith derives supplies from him for its support and nourishment?
I. "Wherein does spiritual life consist?" This inquiry, though necessary both to inform your minds and to repel the charge of unintelligibleness, so frequently alleged against this doctrine, yet is exceeding difficult, both because of the mysteriousness of the thing in itself, and because of the blindness of the minds of those that are not endowed with it. It is mysterious in itself, as every kind
of life is. The effects and many of the properties of animal life are plain, but what animal life is in itself is an inquiry too sublime for the most philosophic and soaring mind. Now spiritual life still approaches nearer to the life of the divine Being, that boundless ocean of incomprehensible mysteries, and consequently exceeds our capacity more than any other. But besides, such is the blindness of unregenerate souls, that they cannot receive or know the things of the Spirit of God, 1 Cor. ii. 14, and therefore, what is knowable by enlightened minds concerning spiritual life, cannot be apprehended with suitable clearness by them. The power of understanding it seems to be the effect of the thing understood, and cannot exist separately from it. So it is in other kinds of life. Nothing but reason can inform what is a rational life. Let the faculties of the most sagacious animal be ever so much polished, it can receive no ideas of it. So "he that believeth, hath the witness in himself," 1 John v. 10, and none but himself can hear its testimony. But suppose we could form clear ideas, we should still be at a loss for clear expressions. I have a clear idea of many of the appetites, passions, and motions of animal life; but words may fail me to express them intelligibly to another, especially if he has no experience of them himself. It need not, therefore, afford you any surprise, if after all that shall be said to illustrate this point, it still remains obscure. To design any more than to give you some faint glimmerings, some half-formed, inadequate conceptions of it would be a piece of arrogant vanity.
*I do not mean that the unregenerate have the same degree of incapacity in the one case as beasts have in the other, but only that the one is as really incapable as the other. Reason in the unregenerate approaches nearer to spiritual life than the powers of animal life do to reason, and yet comes entirely short of it.
Now spiritual life supposes a living spiritual principle, and it implies a disposition and a power to serve God, or of holy operation.
1. It supposes a living spiritual principle. There can be no life, no vital actions, without a vital principle, from whence they flow; e. g., there can be no animal life, no animal sensations and motions, without a principle of animal life. By a vital principle I mean that from which life and its actions and passions immediately proceed: e. g., in the formation of our souls a principle of reason is concreated with them, which is the source, the immediate cause of their life and rational operations. I call this a principle, because it is the beginning of life. Now spiritual life must suppose a principle of holiness. A principle of life of any kind will not suffice; it must be particularly and formally a holy principle; for life and all its operations will be of the same kind with the principle from which they proceed. Now a holy principle is something distinct from and superadded to the mere natural principle of reason. By virtue of this a man can think and will; but experience assures us, that thinking and willing, abstractedly considered, or under sundry modifications which they are capable of, are very different from thinking and willing in a holy manner, or with those peculiar modifications which spiritual operations bear. I can will an indifferent or evil object, if it appears to me as good; but my willing that which is morally good as such, is a very dif ferent act; and the principle from which the former act with its modification proceeds may not be capable of producing the latter so modified. This may be illustrated by the case of the devils and their associates of the human race. They still retain the principle of reason, and are capable of thinking and willing; otherwise they would be incapable of torment, for without consciousness there
could be no sense of misery, and consciousness implies thinking; and without willing there can be no desire of happiness, or abhorrence of penal evil; but yet they are utterly incapable of thinking and willing in a manner morally good, and therefore a principle of holiness must be something distinct from a mere rational principle.
It may be urged, be urged, "That all the acts of spiritual life may be resolved into the acts of reason, namely, thinking and willing in a holy manner: and therefore the principle of the former is the same with that of the latter. In answer to this, I grant that the principle of reason, when it implies a power of putting forth such acts, and about such objects, as holiness includes; when it implies a power of knowing and choosing those things which the divine law requires us to know and choose, that then it is the same with a principle of spiritual life; and this is the case of such reasonable beings as still continue in their original uprightness; but the principle of reason may be so maimed as to lose this power, and yet not lose its nature; that is, it may become incapable of that manner of operation which spiritual life produces, and yet continue a principle of reason still. This is evident from the case of infernal spirits, formerly mentioned. Now the principle of spiritual life supplies this moral defect; it adds to reason a capacity of exercising itself suitably about spiritual things. Such a capacity is a separable adjunct of reason, and by the corruption of our natures it is actually separated from it and consequently till it be superadded to our rational powers, we are incapable of spiritual operation; I mean such a manner of spiritual operation as is morally good and acceptable to God. Our rational powers indeed can still exercise themselves about divine things, but then it is not in a fit manner: and therefore when a sinner is quickened by efficacious grace, a power of acting in a fit man
ner with respect to these things is superadded to his rational powers; and before this there is nothing in him out of which such a power may be educed.
To illustrate this matter, let us suppose a man deprived of the faculty of memory, and yet to continue rational, (as he might in a low degree;) according to this supposition, he will be always incapable of an act of memory, however strong his powers of perception, volition, &c., may be, till the power of exercising his reason in that particular way which is called remembering, be conferred upon him. So let a sinner's mere natural powers be ever so much refined and polished, yet, if there be no principle of spiritual life distinct from them infused, he will be everlastingly incapable of living religion. This gracious principle is called the seed of God, 1 John iii. 9, to intimate, that as the seed of vegetables is the first principle of the plant, and of its vegetative life, so is this of spiritual life, and all its vital acts.
2. Spiritual life implies a disposition to a holy operation, an inward propensity, a spontaneous inclination towards holiness, a willing that which is good. Rom. vii. 18. Every kind of life has some peculiar innate tendencies, sympathies, and antipathies: so animal life implies a natural inclination to food, to move at proper seasons, &c. There is a savour, a relish for divine things, as essential to spiritual life as our natural gusts and relishes are to natural life. Hence gracious desires are often signified in Scripture under the metaphors of hungering and thirsting; and to this St. Peter expressly alludes: "as new born babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby." 1 Pet. ii. 2. By virtue of this disposition, believers set their affections on things above, Col. iii. 2; they relish, they savour, they affect things above. This is the spiritual-mindedness, the savour of the spirit, which is