|« Prev||Chapter XLI.||Next »|
The Whole Of Christianity Consists In The Restoration Of The Image Of God In Man, And The Destruction Of The Image Of Satan.
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.—2 Cor. 3:18.
In the true knowledge of Christ, wherein is comprehended that of his Person, offices, benefits, and heavenly and eternal gifts, consists life everlasting. John 17:3. This knowledge is kindled in our hearts by the Divine Spirit, and is a new light shining forth with increasing brightness, and passing on from glory to glory. It is like a metallic body, which, by constant polishing, becomes every day more brilliant; or 143 like a tender infant, which, by a daily supply of food, grows up in vigor and strength. No sooner is the righteousness of Christ, through faith, conferred upon a returning sinner, than he is also really born again, and the image of God is daily renewed within him. His spiritual growth, or the renovation of his mind, goes on, however, in a successive manner, from one degree to another, for he has not yet become a “perfect man in Christ.” Eph. 4:13. He is a child for some time; but is continually nourished by the Divine Spirit, and daily brought to a greater conformity with the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. For the whole life of a Christian upon earth, is properly nothing else than a continual renewing of the image of God in his soul: so that he may constantly live in the new birth, and daily mortify that which is old and corrupt, till the body of sin be eventually destroyed. Rom. 6:4. This life must be begun in this world, that so it may be perfected in that which is to come. Whereas, in whomsoever the renewal of this divine life shall not be begun before his departure from this world, in him it never shall be accomplished. Wherefore I have thought it might be well briefly to repeat what is here meant by the image of God, which is to be revived; and what by the image of the devil, which is to be obliterated and destroyed in man's soul: for in the right knowledge of these two, the substance of our whole religion consists. It is the main point upon which all turns, and from which many other articles (as that of Original Sin, free-will, repentance, conversion, faith, justification, prayer, the new birth, sanctification, and lastly, obedience, and the whole practice of a religious life), borrow no small light. Of this, the following remarks will give an account.
3. The soul of man is an immortal spirit, endowed of God with excellent faculties; as the understanding, will, memory, and other powers and affections.
4. See that thou turn all these towards thy God, in order to behold him therein as in a mirror; and, by beholding him, to have his image gradually formed in thy soul. In this sense the apostle speaks of “the glory of the Lord,” which we behold “with an open face,” without vail and shadows. 2. Cor. 3:18.
5. As God is a truly good and holy Being; so also were the substance of the soul, and its true nature and essence, originally good and holy. And as in God there is nothing of evil; even so was the soul of man, in the beginning, free from all manner of evil. As in God there is nothing but what is right; so in the soul there was nothing at first but what was right also. For He is the rock, whose “work is perfect;” even “a God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is he.” Deut. 32:4; Ps. 92:15. As God is wise, so was also the human soul full of divine and spiritual knowledge, of heavenly and eternal wisdom. And as the divine wisdom ordered all things in number, weight, and measure, and knew the powers of all creatures, as well in heaven as in earth: so also was the mind of man possessed of the same light and knowledge.
6. And as it was with the understanding, so it was with the will: for as the one was the image and reflection of the divine understanding, so was the other of the divine will, in everything. It was holy as the pattern was holy, and conformed to the will of God. Hence, as God himself 144 is, so was the human soul; righteous, loving, merciful, long-suffering, patient, meek, gentle, true, and pure. Exod. 34:6; Ps. 103:8; Joel 2:13. Yea, all the passions or affections, all the appetites, and motions of the heart, being made most perfectly conformable to the motions and affections of the divine mind, partook of this conformity of the will of man to that of God. As, therefore, God is love, so all the affections and motions of man, in his first state, breathed nothing but pure love. As God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, are one in an unspeakable and eternal bond of love; so all the affections and desires of man, burned with a most perfect and ardent love, and he cleaved unto God fully with all the powers and faculties which he had; “with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might” (Deut. 6:5); so that man verily loved God more than himself, and preferred God and His honor, to himself and his own.
7. But as the image of God shone forth in the soul, so the image of the soul again shone forth in and from the body. This, therefore, was holy, chaste, and pure throughout, not subject to any unclean motion or lust. It was undefiled and without blemish. It was in every respect, beautiful, well proportioned, and graceful; of vigorous health, and possessed of a constitution even out of the very danger of sickness. It was such as death itself had no power over, and it was perfectly free from pain, listlessness, passion, grief, and old age, now the common attendants and warnings of man's mortality. In a word, the whole man, both in soul and body, was pure, holy, righteous, and every way acceptable to God. For, in order that man might be the image of God, it was necessary that his body should be holy, and conformable to God, as well as his soul. Accordingly, St. Paul both exhorts and prays, that the body, together with the spirit and soul, be sanctified wholly; and be preserved holy and blameless unto the coming of our Lord. 1 Thess. 5:23. For since man is made up of soul and body, and exercises both bodily and spiritual functions, there was a necessity that the instrument through which the soul was to act, should be pliable and obedient, adapted to the nature of the soul, and holy as the soul was holy; to the end that the holy and righteous soul, might finish her work through the body without any obstacle or resistance. As, therefore, the soul burned with the pure love of God: so did all the powers of the body manifest and exert themselves in the love of God and man. As the soul was altogether merciful; so also the body was, with its whole might, and all its faculties, impelled to tenderness and compassion. As chastity shone forth from the soul, which was altogether pure; so the whole body, in like manner, with all the inward and outward senses and powers thereof, visibly set forth the most perfect purity and chastity. To conclude, the virtues no less gloriously shone in the body, than in the soul itself; so that the body was the holy instrument of the soul, in everything suited to it, and worked together with it. And hence man in the state of innocency, was able to love God with all his heart, with all his soul, with all his strength, and with all his mind, and to love his neighbor as himself: which is the very substance both of the old and new law given to man. Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37, 39; Luke 10:27. Hence, as often as God calls for the heart of man, we are to understand 145 the whole man, both as to body and soul, and the powers, faculties, and operations of both. In this sense, the word “heart” is frequently taken in Scripture; so that under it are comprehended all the powers of the soul, as the understanding, will, and memory, together with all the desires and affections attendant on them. So when God demands a man's soul, he, under that name, requires not a part, but the whole of a man. He must, in all his powers, be conformed to God, and renewed in Christ Jesus: and thus man, having put off the old nature, and being renewed in the spirit of his mind, must also walk in newness of life, and in the spirit by which he was begotten again. Gal. 5:16; Eph. 4:23.
8. Moreover, there was a perfect joy in God, which accompanied this perfection of holiness, righteousness, and divine love, in man. By this, all the faculties and springs, both of soul and body, were most powerfully affected: for wherever divine holiness resides, there also divine joy must be present. These two are knit together with an everlasting bond, and make up the very image of God. Yet, as in this life, the divine righteousness and holiness are but imperfect in us, so we but taste, while here, only the first fruits of that joy which shall be fully revealed hereafter. However, as the righteousness of Christ is verily begun in sincere believers, so it follows that they also enjoy a real beginning and foretaste of divine joy and comfort; as those Christians can abundantly attest, that have learned religion by experience. John 16:22; 2 Cor. 1:5; Phil. 4:4. Whatever progress, therefore, any one makes in the love of God, be it more or less, so much of divine joy does he also perceive in his soul. And this holy and divine love, as it shall in the next life attain its full perfection, so in that day the Christian's joy (arising from love) shall also be full, as the Lord himself declares. John 15:11; 16:22. For divine love is the only true life, and the only true joy: but where this love of God is wanting, there is neither joy nor life; but death itself, and the everlasting portion of wicked men and devils. Whence has a father joy? Is it not from the love of his children? Whence has a bridegroom joy? Is it not from the love of the bride? Isaiah 61:10; 62:5. But infinitely sweeter must that joy be, which is derived from the love of our Creator! He not only embraces us as a father does his children, but he rejoices over us as over his bride; nay, most tenderly kisses us “with the kisses of his mouth” (Cant. 1:2.), (that is, in Christ, who is his mouth and word), and coming to us, through Christ with the Holy Ghost, makes his abode with us. John 14:23. Take heed, however, concerning this image of God, which consists in a conformity with God, that you do not therefore think, as if man were made equal with God in holiness. Not by any means. For God is infinite as to his essence, virtues, and properties; he is incomprehensible, and without bounds; so that nothing in the world can be compared with him. Man therefore, even in his first state, could not properly be said to bear God in him; being designed only to bear his image, as it has been already explained in Chapter I. of this Book.
9. That which has now been stated concerning the image of God, is plain, true, and beyond all doubt. It cannot be denied, that God created man, to be a bright mirror of himself: so that if man had been desirous to know the 146 nature of God, he might, by looking into himself, have beheld God there, as in a glass, and clearly perceived the image of the Deity within his own breast.
10. This image was the life and blessedness of man; but the devil, looking with envious eyes upon this image of God in man, exerted all his art and cunning to efface it, by raising in man a spirit of disobedience and enmity against God. Gen. 3:1, etc. This he accordingly effected with a subtility and haste, that never were since seen. He was not ignorant, that if man had continued in that state, he would have been the master: but that if he could be induced to fall from it, that the devil would thereby become the lord (or rather the tyrant) of fallen man. When, therefore, with all the powers of his cunning and malice, he could devise nothing more likely to accomplish his design than that by which he himself lost his first state or principality, he began, in a seductive manner, to insinuate into the imagination of the woman, no less than an affectation of the Divine Majesty. What can appear more divine, or what is there more noble to be wished for, than to “be as God”? Gen. 3:5. By this cunningly contrived method, man being therefore circumvented, he lost the divine image at once; and the image of Satan, consisting in an affectation of the Divine Majesty, was impressed upon him.
11. This aspiring thought, by which man threw off all his dependence on God, being thus begotten in the mind; and this haughty arrogance having once seized the imagination, there followed immediately apostasy from God, disobedience, and transgression of the commandment concerning the forbidden tree. Hereupon the image of God was extinguished, the Holy Spirit departed from man, and the image of Satan was imprinted instead of that which was effaced. Hence now there are so many men, so many slaves of the devil. The devil having thus gained his object in subjecting man to his dominion, most cruelly tyrannized over him; just as a giant may be supposed to do over a little infant. Hence the understanding in man is darkened and blinded; the will is, by a complete disobedience, turned from God; and all the springs and powers of the heart are stirred up against God in utter malice. In a word, the whole image of God lieth now slain in man, and the whole race of mankind, being swayed by the satanical nature, have a seed sown in them full of the deepest malignity. Hence men became the offspring of Satan, and his living likeness, being poisoned with all manner of sin and enmity against God. Thus died man! Thus died he the death everlasting! For as the image of God is the life and salvation of man, so the departure of this image is the death of man, even death eternal, and his damnation, which is also called a death “in trespasses and sins.” Eph. 2:1; Col. 2:13.
12. They best understand this death, who, having been cast into deep spiritual temptations, sensibly feel the devil's rage and tyranny over them. By this he torments the soul beyond what it is in the ordinary power of sin to effect. Now, unless the Holy Ghost shine in upon the soul under this terrible affliction, and by darting in some ray of his light comfort it; the devil slays the man with this death, and racks the soul with the very anguish of hell itself. Hence all the natural force of the body sinks, the strength fails, the heart withers and pants, and 147 the very marrow in the bones consumes away, so that there is no soundness left in the body. This state is described at large, in Psalms 6 and 38. The word of God itself, to such a one, seems dead and lifeless: he finds in it no manner of devotion, no savor of spiritual life. This is the spiritual death, into which the soul is fallen: and while the soul remains thus spiritually dead, all human holiness, righteousness, excellency, might, power, glory, honor, arts, and wisdom, can avail nothing. And, truly, man would undoubtedly perish in this grievous condition, if he were not supported by divine grace: for nothing but this is able to succor him.
13. Learn, therefore, O man, duly to look into, and rightly to consider the abominable filthiness of Original Sin, as the sink of all abomination. For by this the hereditary righteousness of God was lost, and the hereditary unrighteousness of the devil transplanted into men. Hence the sinner was cast away from God, and doomed to an eternal death: and this he must certainly undergo, except he obtain forgiveness of sin for Christ's sake through faith.
14. But to set the state of fallen man, both as to soul and body, in as clear a light as possibly I can, I think it well to give a fuller description thereof in this place; most earnestly entreating every one, for the sake of God and of his own eternal salvation, to ponder again and again, and seriously to revolve in his mind that original depravity which has corrupted our nature. The consequence of this will be, that as a man beholds his bodily face in a glass, and knows it, so he may also behold in himself his own wretchedness, and original sin. This will daily influence him to lament his own distressed condition, and to sigh after Him, who alone is able to heal us.
15. For the whole Christian life is indeed nothing else, than a constant wrestling with original sin, and a continual purging away of the same by the aid of the Holy Ghost, and by true repentance. For, in proportion as any one mortifies his natural propensity to evil, in that degree is he renewed after the image of God, even day by day; and they who are not inwardly mortified by the Holy Ghost, are at best no more than hypocrites, let them make ever so great a show with an external profession of the Christian faith. Neither can they expect to enter into the kingdom of God, since they are not renewed into his image: for whatsoever is not dead to itself, nor renewed into the image of God by his Spirit, is altogether unfit for that glorious state.
16. From all this, there may evidently be inferred the absolute necessity of the new birth, and of the daily renovation of our mind into the image of God. This necessity will yet more fully appear, when we consider the image of the devil according as the law describes it. For as the devil not only does not love God, but rather hates him with his whole heart; so he has infected man's soul with the same contagion, and transfused into it malice against God; so that now man by nature neither loves, honors, believes, calls upon, nor trusts in God; but as he is filled with enmity against him, so he flees from him, and shuns him. As the devil is hurried on with a blind fury, and lives without God and his will; so in like manner, the soul of man being corrupted by him, leads a godless life, unmindful of God and of his will. This inward darkness of the 148 mind, is attended with a frightful destruction of the divine light and image; and brings forth that abominable sin, in which man, left to himself, saith: “There is no God.” Ps. 14:1. And by reason of this blindness of heart, all mankind are become an abomination before God, in all their ways.
17. But notwithstanding so dreadful a night of apostasy, there still remains a spark of natural light in man's understanding, by which he might come to know that there is a God (Rom. 1:20); as also, that this God must be just, according as all the heathen philosophers teach: but as for the spiritual life, which is after God and his righteousness, it was wholly extinguished in man. For conscience, which is the law of God written in every man's heart when it was first formed by him, teaches every one what is good and right. Thus if you look, for instance, upon a person that is unchaste, there is not one that so much wallows in the filth of the flesh, but he now and then thinks with himself, “Surely there is a God, and this God is most pure and undefiled; and so not like to me by any means.” He cannot but reflect further: “This holy and pure God, must abhor every sort of pollution and uncleanness; and, therefore, if I would be acceptable to him, I ought to live chastely, and to abstain from all impurity.” But this spark of light is soon put out by the filthy lusts of the flesh which crowd in upon the mind; these overwhelm all good impressions, just as a spark of fire is swallowed up by a flood of water. The lust of the flesh is kept within the heart, and the conviction, which began to reprove it, is soon stifled.
18. From this it plainly appears, that the spiritual life, consisting in holy love and truth, is in the carnal or natural man utterly abolished. And thus the wiser sort of heathens, however they might sometimes by the light of nature maintain both the being of a God, and his providence over human affairs, were soon carried away with the darkness of their own hearts, and again called in question that providence which they had before asserted: so that very little is to be made of what they say on this head. This their books sufficiently declare. From this hereditary blindness of heart, and this natural inbred darkness, spring unbelief and doubts. And because all men are by nature in this degenerate state, they are an abomination in the sight of God; since there is no faith in them, nor any filial reliance upon the paternal goodness of God. To this spiritual life, and to the various operations that proceed from it, the natural man is an utter stranger; consequently he does not call upon God, but trusts to his own wisdom, power, and strength. This is the greatest blindness and darkness of mind possible.
19. From this blindness of heart, further arise both a contempt of God, and a state of carnal security. As the devil does not humble himself before God, but is hardened in pride; so has he infected the soul of man with the same vice, and poisoned it with contempt of God, security, and presumption. Hence he, like his father the devil (John 8:44), will not humble himself before God; but is stout and insolent, haughty and self-willed, and would do everything after his own will, without the least fear of the Lord to keep him awe. As the devil relies on his own strength and wisdom, and thereby entirely governs himself; so 149 fallen man, being infected with the contagion of Satan, acts in conformity with him; and will always be his own counsellor and master. Moreover, as the devil seeks his own honor, so does the natural man, who bears his image. He is in pursuit of self-honor, without any regard to his Maker, whose honor he was designed to promote. As the devil blasphemes the name of God, and is ungrateful to his Creator; so it is with man, transformed into his image. As the devil is unmerciful, wrathful, and revengeful, so is the soul of man, which he has soured with the same leaven of malice. As the devil delights to lord it over men, and to please himself with vainglory, so man, tainted with the same tyrannical ambition, haughtily lifts himself up above others. He laughs at his neighbor, and shuns his company, as if he were a worthless, pitiful person, and too great a sinner to be conversed with. But, O man! thou art to consider over and over again, that in these, and all other cases, the method of God is not to charge or accuse the outward members of a man, but the heart only. The heart is the murderer and the liar, not the hand nor the mouth. It is the soul that is guilty; and this is therefore everywhere arraigned in Scripture. So when God commands men to call upon him in the time of trouble (Ps. 50:15), he gives this command to the soul, not to the lips. And it is the very same in every other case. Whosoever does not observe this necessary rule in reading the Scriptures, is blind indeed. He can never have a right apprehension of original sin, repentance, or regeneration: nay, he cannot attain to a sound knowledge of any one article of the Christian religion.
20. We have daily before our eyes the extreme wickedness of men, their horrid pride, savage hatred, barbarous enviousness, and other impious qualities, with which they tear one another, after the manner of wild beasts. Many are transported to such a degree of malice, as to be unconcerned about their own lives, provided they can but hurt or destroy another. Their neighbor must submit to their pleasure, or expect to have a snare laid for his ruin. Thus, as the devil himself is a “murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44); so he stirs up the soul of man to thirst after the blood of others. For all these inhuman qualities of the heart, this envy and wrath, this bitterness of mind, this rancor and malice, what are they but the seed of the devil sown in man, and his express image engraven upon the soul? Alas! how the devil has portrayed himself in man!
21. God had implanted in man a conjugal affection, that was pure and honorable; that thence children might be begotten after the divine image. Nor could there have been a love more holy and heavenly, than that by which man, in his blessed estate, would have thus propagated the image of God and mankind at the same time. All would have been for the glory of his Creator, and the salvation of man. Nay, if man in the state of innocency could have begotten a vast multitude of children, and have thus propagated the honor and image of God; nothing, certainly, could have been more grateful to him than this; nothing more delightful, more full of holy joy and satisfaction. For these acts would then have proceeded from pure love to God and to men, as so many images of the Supreme Good. As God found in the creation of man, a holy pleasure, and delighted in him, as in his image; so also man would, in like 150 manner, have been sensible of a most pure and exquisite joy in the procreation of his like, for it would have been the propagation of God's image. But, alas! Satan has polluted this chaste flame of conjugal love with all uncleanness. Men and women, actuated with a blind transport of lust, begot children in their own, not in God's likeness. Gen. 5:3. How is the holy bond of matrimony trampled upon and profaned! How wholly defiled is it with spots of the flesh, and what a multitude of vices and impurities now shelter themselves under the sacred name of matrimony!
22. As God is just, the devil is unjust. The devil is therefore a thief, a plunderer; and being so in himself, has instilled into man's soul the same unjust disposition, the same ravenous nature. The devil is a false accuser (Rev. 12:10), a fallacious reasoner (2 Cor. 11:3), and a treacherous informer (Job 1:9, 10), as well as a scornful mocker of God and man. Job 2:3, 4, 5. He misrepresents both words and actions, and wrests them to a wrong sense. Of this artful contrivance he gave a striking instance when he beguiled our first parents by his craft and subtlety. Gen. 3:5-7. Thus the soul of man, corrupted by Satan, has received from him, as by inheritance, a perverse and lying nature. John 8:44. This poison, conveyed into the soul, is so horrible and so manifold, as to render it altogether impossible to declare at large the subtile contrivances, and the different kinds of diabolical art and cunning that proceed from it. Eph. 6:11. Read Psalm 5:9, Romans 3:13, and James 3:5, 6; and thou shalt find described therein in the most lively terms, that world of wickedness, which by a deceitful tongue is drawn forth from the diabolical venom that lurks within, and that thence spreads itself through the whole man. For God does not blame the tongue, or the hands alone, but in his law, charges the fault upon the whole man, yea, upon the heart, as the chief cause of all the evils committed. See the Commandments, in Exodus 20:16, 17. This ought to be particularly observed in the whole course of a religious life.
23. And this is that image of the devil, which now, instead of the image of God, is so deeply engraven on the soul. Hereby man is made to delight in sinning, and in slandering another, even as the devil's name imports. Rev. 12:10. How many, alas! are there, that reckon themselves very good Christians, and yet will not hesitate to slander their neighbor upon any occasion that offers; and after they have discharged their venom against him, will applaud themselves for what they have done. Such a man will say: “This is just what I have sought for a long while; I am now eased of a great burden; I seem to be alive again, as I have so finely treated such a one.” Ah! poor man, thou art to be pitied! How great is thy blindness, that thou dost not discern who it is that has transformed thee into such a devil and slanderer; and whose image it is thou carriest about thee! Seest thou not that this is the very nature of the devil, the unhappy seed of Satan? Discernest thou not this to be his true temper, which he has implanted in the soul of man, that it might there display itself, in all sorts of vices, but more particularly in pride, covetousness, lust, and slander; even as daily experience abundantly witnesses? Alas, is this thy wit, and cunning, and wisdom?
24. Behold, O man! the foul, the 151 horrible, the profound corruption of Original Sin! O how filthy, how unsearchable it is! Consider this again and again; and descending into thyself, learn there to know the image and nature of Satan, which, like a gangrene, is spread through thy whole soul, together with all the dangerous symptoms that attend it. And learn how thy soul is hence become an abomination before God, and is laid waste in so dreadful a manner, that no creature is able thoroughly to search out the malignity of the heart of man. Neither art thou thyself able sufficiently to explore it, or to explain in words, that detestable venom which is as rottenness in thy innermost parts. Wherefore, I earnestly beseech and entreat every one, that he ponder with himself, and seriously reflect on those things that have been said concerning the depravity and corruption of man's heart; even as if they had been inculcated a thousand and thousand times, over and over again. For so great is this virulence, so malignant and pestilential, as to put it beyond the power of any creature, either angel or man, ever to root it out, or to cleanse or free our nature from it. All the powers of men come short of so great a performance. For how should any one be able to work out his salvation with his own natural powers, since they all without exception are utterly depraved, and dead to spiritual things? Man, therefore, must be forever miserable, and eternally lost in this corruption, unless there come to his help one that is able to succor, and to apply a healing medicine to so dreadful a disease. This must be a lord over sin and death, able to subdue so obstinate an evil, and by his divine virtue, to renew, transform, and purify again the defiled nature of man. All this is a convincing proof, that justification cannot be the work of man, but is the work of God only; and likewise that regeneration, or the being born again by the Spirit, is indispensably needful to the restoring of fallen nature. For in conformity to the inward principle of corruption, there is now a sort of necessity that the soul should live a perverse and impious life. Man does not now hesitate openly to transgress all the commandments of God; and this is enmity against God. The understanding and will are now so dead, and so much enslaved by sin, that according to their natural bent, they are incapable of any love, fear, or reverence for God. They cannot call upon him, honor him, praise, or worship him; they cannot put the least trust in him, or turn themselves towards him. Many of the heathens have, indeed, been illustrious for their good and virtuous deeds, and gained no small credit by their morality. But it is utterly impossible for nature to change the heart, to turn it to God, and to cleanse it from those sinful affections that lurk within. This work is to be accomplished only by a divine power. For notwithstanding all this glittering show of morality which some make, there still remains the inward root of the tree of evil, whose fibres stick so fast in the soul, that no human power can ever destroy them. The utmost that a man can do in so sad a case, is to prevent the fire from breaking out into flames, so as to consume all that comes near it; but notwithstanding this damp which is cast upon it, the evil fire still keeps in, and secretly burns as much as ever.
25. Were not human life, and the management of civil and social affairs under some check, the whole race of 152 mankind would be destroyed at once, and rooted up from off the face of the earth. But though the devil has exercised an exceedingly great cruelty over man, yet God has not suffered him to pluck up all the natural powers and affections from man's soul, or to extinguish the spark of free will which remains in the soul. There still remain the law of nature and the natural love subsisting betwixt husband and wife, parents and children. Without this it would have been impossible for mankind to have long subsisted upon earth. For he who obeys the unbridled lusts and desires of his corrupt nature, must be looked upon as the very bane of all society. He entirely ruins, as much as in him lies, all commerce and dealings betwixt men. It is, therefore, an effect both of God's mercy and wisdom, that he has preserved in fallen man this little flame of natural love: the design of which is, that by the sense of this love, we might know in some degree the excellency of that spiritual and divine love which we have lost by the fall of man; and that from feeling the one, we might be brought to consider the worth of the other, and to breathe after the recovery of the same. But as to spiritual matters, and such things as more immediately concern the happiness of the soul, and the kingdom of God, nothing can be more true than that saying of the apostle, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Cor. 2:14. That is, man in his natural state, has not so much as one spark of spiritual and divine light; but is wholly blind in the things that appertain to the heavenly life, and that constitute the image of God in the new creature. Man, nevertheless, was created for this only end, that by means of this spiritual light, he might, with the inward eye of the soul, contemplate the gracious presence of God, and his sincere love towards him; and, continually walking with and before the Lord, absolutely depend upon Him, and submit himself to be governed by His will and pleasure.
26. The natural man not having so much as one spark left of this spiritual light, it cannot but be that all men must abide in their natural blindness, unless they be enlightened by God himself. This is that hereditary spiritual blindness, which utterly incapacitates us for the knowledge of such concerns as relate to the kingdom of God. But if it happen, as too often it does, that a man besides this, indulge in evil practices, then that spiritual blindness is followed still by another, even natural blindness, which produces mournful effects in the fallen soul. For by so prevailing a wickedness, that weak glimmering light which yet sparkles in man, and would reason him into outward honesty of life, is at last totally extinguished; and the soul is struck with utter blindness and darkness of heart, and must forever continue so, unless Christ enlightens it.
27. What art thou, then, O man, unless Christ by his Spirit regenerate thee, make thee a new creature, and transform thee into the image of God? This new creation, necessary as it is, is, however, only begun in this life, and must struggle under the weight of many infirmities. If thou dost but look into thyself, even after thou art become a new creature through the Holy Ghost, it will plainly appear that the image of God is but slightly 153 delineated, and, as it were, shadowed out in thee. Dost thou not see, that faith, hope, charity, and the fear of the Lord, are as yet but weak, and hardly able to advance beyond the first principles of the Christian life? Dost thou not see how slender thy humility is, and how deeply the sin of distrust, pride, and impatience, is rooted in thy breast? Dost thou not find thy devotion weak and languid; and thy charity towards thy neighbor comparatively cold? How tender a spark of pure chastity remains in the heart; and how vast a fire of carnal desire burns within! How faint the one, how violent the other! How great still are thy self-love, self-honor, and interest, sins that lurk within, and do not always outwardly appear! And how fierce is the tide of evil concupiscence which flows in upon thee, and disturbs thy inward repose! Whence it follows, that to the very last moment of our lives, we must, by the Spirit of God, continually wrestle with the old Adam, and with the image of Satan. All this urges us incessantly to pray, sigh, and seek, till the Divine Spirit be bestowed upon us, in order to destroy the image of Satan daily, and to restore the image of God to us.
28. From all this, thou canst easily understand, O man! that thou art never to rely on thine own strength; but entirely to cleave to the grace of God, which alone is able to work all this in thy soul. All things are to be sought and obtained from and by Christ through faith. From Him thou art to receive divine knowledge and wisdom, against thy own blindness; his righteousness, against all thy unrighteousness; his holiness against all thy impurity; a full redemption, power, and victory, against death, hell, and the devil. From Christ thou must obtain remission of all thy sins, against the kingdom of sin and Satan, and against all the combined powers thereof; and, lastly, everlasting happiness, against all spiritual and bodily adversities and troubles. In this order, life eternal is to be derived from Christ. But of this, more shall be said in the Second Book of this volume.
|« Prev||Chapter XLI.||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version