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for them to obtain a spiritual life. But I say religious and moral duties, however frequently and perseveringly performed, are not evangelical holiness, when they are not done from a gracious supernatural principle: they are but spurious fruits growing from the wild root of depraved nature; and we had best not please ourselves with the view of them, as though they were the fruits of holiness, lest we be consumed at last as fruitless and noxious briers and thorns.
Further, Let us improve our account of spiritual life, to inform us of a very considerable difference between a mere moral and spiritual life; or evangelical holiness and morality. Spiritual life is of a divine original; evangelical holiness flows from a supernatnral principle; but mere morality is natural; it is but the refinement of our natural principles, under the aids of common grace, in the use of proper means; and consequently it is obtainable by unregenerate men. Hence the same act may be differently denominated, according to the principles from which it proceeds; that may be a piece of mere morality in one, who acts from natural principles only, which is an act of holiness in another, who acts from a principle of spiritual life. So an alms, when given from a gracious principle, and for Christ's sake, is a gracious act; but when given from a principle of natural generosity only, it deserves no higher name than that of mere morality. A mistake in this is a rock we may tremble to look at, and ought anxiously to avoid; for, alas! how many have been dashed to pieces
Again, We may improve what has been said, to convince us, that a life of formality, listlessness, and inactivity, is far from being a spiritual life. Where these things are habitual and predominant, they are infallible symptoms of spiritual death. It is true (as has been already observed)
believers are subject to many sickly qualms and frequent indispositions; yea, at times, their languishments are such, that the operations of the vital principle within them are hardly discernible to themselves or others; and the vigour of their devotion, in their most sprightly hours, is checked and borne down by the body of death under which they groan. Yet still, there is an inextinguishable spark of life within, which scatters a glimmering light in the thickest darkness, and sometimes shines with illustrious brightness. The pulse of the spirit, though weak and irregular, still beats. There is an active power that reluctates and struggles against the counter-strivings of the flesh: that under the greatest langour, put forth some weak efforts, some faint essays, and under the actuating influence of the divine Spirit, invigorates the soul to mount up with wings like an eagle, to run without wearying, and walk without fainting. And oh! the joy, the pleasure of such heavenly activity! We therefore may write Tekel on the dull, inoperative religion of many; it serves for no other end, but to prove them dead in trespasses and sins. The design of the whole dispensation of God's grace towards fallen sinners, is their vivification to holiness, that they may bring forth fruit unto God, Rom. vii. 4; and sure, where that design is not obtained, there can be no true religion. Let us therefore beware lest we should have a name to live, while we are dead.
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 liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.
We proceed to inquire,
II. When 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 first 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 sin, Eph. i. 5; to give us a new heart, and put a new spirit within us; to take away the stony heart, and give a heart of flesh, Ezek. xxxvi. 25; and we are said to be created in Christ Jesus unto good works, Eph. ii. 10; 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 first implantation of spiritual life. Several of them contain a direct allusion to the first communication of animal and human life, as regeneration or begetting, regeneration or being begotten again, creation, &c. And since these, taken literally, signify the first com
munication of natural life, they must, when used metaphorically and spiritually, signify the first communication of spiritual life. Life 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 sins, 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 universally 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 refine our natural principles.” And some say, " That God in creation infuses spiritual life into all, on account of Christ 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 significancy 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 first birth. Were we holy by virtue of our first 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 can
not 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 first dead in sin before we are quickened, Eph. ii. 5; we have a stony heart, which must be taken away before a heart of flesh is given, Ezek. xxxvi. 26. Such expressions undoubtedly signify an 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 onr natural endowments is never said to be. The washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, 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 sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved.") 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 why need I multiply instances? The entire tenor of the gospel directs us to ascribe the regeneration and sanctification of sinners to distinguishing and peculiar grace. But though our natural powers are the free communications of divine goodness, 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 same sense that spiritual life is so called; nay, I cannot find 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 “through Christ as Mediator, and for his sake;" but our natural endowments are not said to be given through him. “The Holy Ghost is shed on us