« PreviousContinue »
'twill be requifite to obferve the Struggle and Combat that is found between them. This is held forth in the next words to the Text: For the Flesh lufteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the Flesh, and these are contrary one to the other fo that ye cannot do the things that ye would: meaning, that the Flesh ftrongly inclines and enticeth to Evil; the Spirit, on the other hand, feeks to draw us from it, and powerfully excites to that which is good: both these are striving for the Mastery within us, and, like the Twins in Rebecca's Womb, ftruggle to overcome and fupplant each other. This the Gentile Philofophers found, who took notice of two main Principles, that govern'd the Actions of Mankind; the one they call'd the Principle of Good, the other the Principle of Evil: and these two maintain a continual Contest and Enmity with one another. The Principle of Goodness, which is no other than the Spirit of God working in us, minds and moves us only to things pleafing to God, and agreeable to his Will. The Principle of Evil, which is no other than the fleshly or carnal Appetite, inclines us only to what is fuggefted by Satan, and fuited to that evil Spirit. And as there is a perpetual Enmity between thefe two Principles, that which is of God conftantly oppofing and warring against whatsoever cometh from the Devil; fo the Apoftle tells us of the Flesh and the Spirit, that these two are contrary one to the other. Others of the Antients have exprefs'd this by a good and an evil Genius, which they make the conftant Attendants upon every Perfon ; the one prompting to Vertue and Goodness, the other to all manner of Vice and Wickedness: Thefe two contrary Principles occafion all that Difference of Action, and all that Struggle that is found in the World between Good and Evil.
The first Rife hereof was from the Apoftacy of our first Parents, who by the Fall craz'd all their Faculties, and brought Confufion and Disorder upon the whole Man: before that, all things were well and quiet within us; Reafon being plac'd in the Throne, and all the inferior Faculties fubjected to its Rule and Governance, which they all readily and carefully obey'd. We came out of God's Hand very good, having his Image ftamp'd upon us, which confifted in Knowledg,Righteoufnefs, and true Holiness which made Solomon declare, that God made Man upright, but the firft Tranfgreffion brought a Crookedness and Perverseness into our Nature, which hath broken the Order and Har
mony of all our Faculties. Hence it comes to pass, that the inferior Powers of the Soul rife up, and fometimes overrule the fuperior, the carnal Appetite rebelling against Reafon, and the Flefh lufting against the Spirit: Thefe two are contrary one to the other; God Almighty having put an Enmity between what is born of him, and the Seed of the Serpent. And as he divided between the Night and the Day, and put an irreconcilable Oppofition between Light and Darkness, fo hath he put a perpetual Enmity between. the bright Beams of the Divine Spirit, and the filthy Steamis of fleshly Lufts: the one leading us to God and all that is Good, the other leading us to Satan, the World, and all manner of Evil. Thele two contrary Principles, by the Unhappiness of our Birth, are still struggling in our Breafts; for which reafon a Chriftian's Life is often til'd a Warfare, and we the Soldiers of Jefus Christ, being lifted under his Banner, and fighting against thole fleshly Lufts, that war dgainst the Soul.
This Conflict we find St. Paul at large defcribing in his own Perfon in the 7th Chapter to the Romans; where he fets forth the Difficulties he encounter'd, the Affiftance he had from the Holy Spirit, and likewife the Ground that Sin and Satan fometimes got over him in it. I know (faith he, ver. 18.) that in me, that is, in my Flesh, dwelleth no good thing; for tho to will is prefent with me, yet how to perform that which is good I find not that is, his Flesh lufted againft the Spirit, and tho by the Light of the Spirit he knew and approv'd of what was good, yea, and many times will'd and defir'd it too, yet the Flefh was fometimes too hard for him, and overbore all his Refolutions: infomuch (as he goes on) The Good that I would, I do not, but the Evil I would not, that I do. He confented to what was good, and yet omitted it; and he diflik'd Evil, and yet practis'd it, being vanquish'd by the fleshly Part, and carry'd away by the Stream of a fenfual Appetite: which, in the next Verfe, he ftiles, The Sin that dwelled in him. I find then a Law (faith he, ver. 21, &c.) that when I would do Good, Evil is prefent with me. His Defires towards Good were fometimes check'd and overrul'd by his Inclinations to Evil: for al beit that he delighted in the Law of God after the inward Man, his fuperior Faculties convincing him of the Truth, and caufing in him fome Delight in what God's Law requir'd; yet he felt another Lam in his Members, warring against the Law of his Mind, and bringing him into Captivity
to the Law of Sin, which was in his Members: meaning, that by the Importunity and Sollicitations of the Flefh, he was carry'd away to act against the Dictates of his own Mind; which made him cry out in the following Verfe, O wretched Man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this Body of Death? By this Inftance we plainly fee the words of our Text verify'd, that the Flesh lufteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the Flesh and these are contrary one to the other: So that ye cannot do the things that ye would. The Truth hereof we all find and feel by our own daily and doleful Experience.
Now the ftriving against these ghoftly Enemies, is the Warfare that we are call'd upon to accomplish. This is that good Fight of Faith, which Chriftianity engages us in under the Captain of our Salvation: in which, if we manfully acquit our felves, we may be fure of coming off with Success and Victory. And this will lead to the
Third and laft Thing propounded; which was the Victory we may obtain by the Graces of the Spirit over the Works of the Flefh: for if ye walk in the Spirit, ye shall not fulfil the Lufts of the Flefb. If we refift the Devil, we are told, he will flee from us: 'tis but to ftand and oppose, and the day will be ours, for he muft either fall or flee before us; nor can the strongest Affaults of the Flesh prevail without our own Consent and yielding to them. All their Strength lies in our own Treachery, for if we refolve to be true and firm to our felves, all their Suggestions can never hurt us; 'tis but to withdraw our Will and Affections from them, and all their Power over us would foon ceafe, and come to nothing. Senfual Objects may indeed entice, but they cannot enforce us; and the most inviting Charms can have no Efficacy, if we turn the deaf Ear to them. 'Tis a great Miftake to think, that the Principle of Evil hath any fuch uncontroulable Power, as forcibly to enter our Souls, or lead us captive: No, it hath no fuch hidden and irrefiftible Influence, as to force us to any Evil; we are only betray'd into it by our own Folly and Weakness; and neither Satan, the World or the Flesh have any other but willing Bond-flaves.
But the main Prefervative against the Power of our Lufts is the Affiftance of Divine Grace, that is at all times fufficient for us, and will enable us to refift and repel the ftrongest Temptations; ftronger is the Spirit of God, that
worketh in us, than all the evil Spirits that confpire againft us. And as this Grace is fufficient, fo is it ever ready for us. The Spirit of God is never wanting to thofe that feek to, and defire its Aid, and never fails fuch as heartily engage in this fpiritual Combat: If earthly Parents (faith our Saviour) know how to give good Gifts to their Children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask it? While we ftrive againft Sin, we shall be fure to have the Spirit of God to strive with us, and that will derive that Strength and Power into us that will make us more than Conquerors. Hence we find St. Paul, who ftruggled fo hard, and was fometimes foil'd by the Power of his Corruption, at laft thanking God for giving him the Victory, thro Jefus Christ our Lord; Rom. 7.25. 1 Cor. 15. 57. And elfewhere we are told, that if we fight this good Fight of Faith, we fhall finish our Courfe with Joy, and in the end receive a Crown of Glory. I fay then with the Apostle, that if ye walk in the Spirit, ye shall not fulfil the Lufts of the Flesh, but fhall find Grace and Strength enough to fubdue and vanquish them. So that from this Difcourfe we may learn,
1. The difference between a Regenerate and Unregenerate Man; in the one the Spirit prevails, in the other the Flesh is predominant: that is, the Will of the one is led by the Spirit, which makes him act the Deeds, and bring forth the Fruits of the Spirit; but the Will of the other follows the carnal Dictates, and performs the Will of the Flesh. The Character of a good Man is to be led by the Spirit into the Ways of Purity and Peace, which is to walk in the Spirit: And the Note of a bad Man is to follow the Sway of finful and vile Affections; which is to fulfil the Lufts of the Flesh. From whence we may learn,
2. How to know and judg of our fpiritual State: if we are acted by the Holy Spirit of God, and delight in the foremention'd Fruits of it, we may fafely conclude our felves in a Regenerate State; for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the Sons of God.
But if we give up our felves to the Command of a carnal and fenfual Appetite, and are at the beck of every imperious Luft, we are in the Gall of Bitterness, and Bond of Iniquity; for they they that walk after the Flesh cannot please God, nor will they ever be accepted by him. Not that every Act of Concupifcence or inordinate Affection will exclude us from the Favour of God, or the State of Regenera
tion, but 'tis the voluntary Confent and wilful Continuance in the Love and Practice of them that denominates an Unregenerate Man, and excludes from the Kingdom of Heaven. We find St. Paul fometimes complaining that the Body of Sin was too ftrong for him, that the Law in his Members warred against the Law of his Mind, and carry'd him captive to the Law of Sin and Death, but ftill he lamented and labour'd against it, and never left fighting and ftriving till he had got the Maftery: which teaches us what to do in the like Cafe, to wit, not to yield to, but ftrive againft Temptation, and to fay with Jofeph, How can I do this great Wickedness, and fin against God? Wherefore, in the
Laft place, let us learn from hence to walk in the Spirit, and to make no provifion for the Flefh, to fulfil the Lufts thereof. To encourage us, the Apoftle affures us, There is no Condemnation to them that walk not after the Flesh, but after the Spirit Rom. 8. 1. but they that do otherwife will certainly fall into Condemnation for to be carnally-minded is Death, but to be Spiritually-minded is Life and Peace: ver. 6. & ver. 13. If ye live after the Flesh, ye shall die, but ify the Spirit mortify the Deeds of the Body, ye shall
live. We fee then the Way both to Life and Death; let us all this day make our Choice, and fuch a one too, of which we may never have caufe to repent.