« Prev Chapter III. Believers the only object of… Next »

Chapter III. Believers the only object of sanctification, and subject of gospel holiness.

Believers the only subject of the work of sanctification — How men come to believe, if believers alone receive the Spirit of sanctification — The principal ends for which the Spirit is promised, with their order in their accomplishment — Rules to be observed in praying for the Spirit of God, and his operations therein — That believers only are sanctified or holy proved and confirmed — Mistakes about holiness, both notional and practical, discovered — The proper subject of holiness in believers.

That which we are next to inquire into is, the personal subject of 407this work of sanctification, or who, and of what sort, those persons are that are made holy. Now, these are all and only believers. All who unfeignedly believe in God through Jesus Christ are sanctified, and no others. Unto them is evangelical holiness confined. It is for them and them only that our Saviour prays for this mercy, grace, or privilege: John xvii. 17, “Sanctify them by thy truth.” And concerning them he affirms, “For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified through the truth,” verse 19. And whereas, in the verses foregoing, he had immediate respect unto his apostles and present disciples, that we may know that neither his prayer nor his grace is confined or limited unto them, he adds, “Neither pray I for these alone,” — that is, in this manner, and for these ends, — “but for them also which shall believe on me through their word,” verse 20. It was, therefore, the prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ that all believers should be sanctified; and so also was it his promise: chap. vii. 38, 39, “He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive.” And it is with respect principally unto this work of sanctification that he is compared unto flowing and living water, as hath been declared before. It is for believers, the “church that is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ,” — that is, by faith, — 1 Thess. i. 1, that our apostle prays that “the God of peace would sanctify them throughout,” chap. v. 23.

But before we proceed to a farther confirmation of this assertion, an objection of some importance is to be removed out of our way: for on this supposition, that the Spirit of sanctification is given only unto believers, it may be inquired how men come so to be; for if we have not the Spirit until after we do believe, then is faith itself of ourselves. And this is that which some plead for, — namely, “That the gift of the Holy Ghost, unto all ends and purposes for which he is promised, is consequential unto faith, with the profession and obedience thereof, being, as it were, its reward.” See Crell. de Spir. Sanc., cap. 5. To this purpose it is pleaded, “That the apostle Peter encourageth men unto faith and repentance with the promise that thereon they should ‘receive the gift of the Holy Ghost,’ Acts ii. 38; and so is that also of our Saviour, John xiv. 17, that ‘the world,’ — that is, unbelievers, — ‘cannot receive the Spirit of truth:’ so that our faith and obedience are required as a necessary qualification unto the receiving of the Holy Ghost; and if they are so absolutely, then are they of ourselves, and not wrought in us by the grace of God;” — which is express Pelagianism.

Ans. I could dwell long on this inquiry concerning the especial subject of the Holy Spirit, seeing the right understanding of many 408places of Scripture doth depend thereon; but because I have much work yet before me, I will reduce what I have to offer on this head into as narrow a compass as possibly I may. In answer, therefore, to this objection, I say, —

1. That the Holy Spirit is said to be promised and received with respect unto the ends which he is promised for, and the effects which he worketh when he is received; for although he be himself but one, “the one and the self-same Spirit,” and he himself is promised, given forth, and received, as we have declared, yet he hath many and diverse operations. And as his operations are divers, or [of] several sorts and kinds, so our receiving of him, as to the manner of it, is divers also, and suited unto the ends of his communications unto us. Thus, in some sense he is promised unto and received by believers; in another he is promised and received to make men so, or to make them believe. In the first way there may be some activity of faith in a way of duty, whereas in the latter we are passive, and receive him only in a way of grace.

2. The chief and principal ends for which the Holy Spirit is promised and received may be reduced to these four heads:— (1.) Regeneration; (2.) Sanctification; (3.) Consolation; (4.) Edification. There are, indeed, very many distinct operations and distributions of the Spirit, as I have in part already discovered, and shall yet farther go over them in particular instances; but they may be reduced unto these general heads, or at least they will suffice to exemplify the different manner and ends of the receiving of the Spirit. And this is the plain order and method of these things, as the Scripture both plainly and plentifully testifies:— (1.) He is promised and received as to the work of regeneration unto the elect; (2.) As to the work of sanctification unto the regenerate; (3.) As to the work of consolation unto the sanctified; and, (4.) As unto gifts for edification unto professors, according to his sovereign will and pleasure.

(1.) He is promised unto the elect, and received by them as to his work of regeneration. That this is his work in us wholly and entirely I have proved before at large. Hereunto the qualifications of faith and obedience are no way required as previously necessary in us. In order of nature, our receiving of the Spirit is antecedent to the very seed and principle of faith in us, as the cause is to the effect, seeing it is wrought in us by him alone; and the promises concerning the communication of the Spirit unto this end have been before explained and vindicated. Hereby doth the Holy Ghost prepare a habitation for himself, and make way for all the following work which he hath to do in us and towards us, unto the glory of God, and the perfecting of our salvation, or the making of us “meet for the inheritance of the saints in light,” Col. i. 12.

409(2.) He is promised and received as a Spirit of sanctification unto and by them that are regenerate, — that is, unto believers, — and only unto them. This will be fully confirmed immediately. And this puts an issue to the principal difficulty of the foregoing objection. It is no way inconsistent that faith should be required previously unto the receiving of the Spirit as a Spirit of sanctification, though it be not so as he is the author of regeneration. The same Spirit first worketh faith in us, and then preserveth it when it is wrought. Only, to clear the manner of it, we may observe, — First, That sanctification may be considered two ways:— First, As to the original and essential work of it, which consists in the preservation of the principle of spiritual life and holiness communicated unto us in our regeneration. Secondly, As to those renewed actual operations whereby it is carried on, and is gradually progressive, as hath been declared. Secondly, Faith also, or believing, may be considered in this matter two ways:— First, As to its original communication, infusion, or creation in the soul; for it is the gift or work of God. In this respect, — that is, as to the seed, principle, and habit of it, — it is wrought in us, as all other grace is, in regeneration. Secondly, As to its actings in us, or as unto actual believing, or the exercise of faith and the fruits of it, in a constant profession and holy obedience. Sanctification in the first sense respects faith also in the first; that is, the preservation of the seed, principle, grace, habit of faith in us, belongs unto the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit; and so believers only are sanctified. And in the latter sense it respects faith in the latter also; that is, the progress of the work of sanctification in us is accompanied with the actings and exercise of faith. But both ways faith is a necessary qualification in and unto them that are sanctified. Believers, therefore, are the adequate subject of the work of sanctification; which is all that at present is under our consideration.

(3.) The Spirit is also promised as a comforter, or a Spirit of consolation. In this sense, or for this end and work, he is not promised unto them that are regenerate merely as such; for many may be regenerate who are not capable of consolation, nor do need it, as infants, who may be, and are, many of them, sanctified from the womb. Nor is he so promised unto them that are believers absolutely, who have the grace or habit of faith wrought in them; for so many have who are not yet exercised nor brought into that condition wherein spiritual consolations are either proper or needful unto them. The Spirit is promised as a comforter unto believers, as engaged in the profession of the gospel, and meeting with conflicts inward and outward on the account thereof. The first promise of the Holy Ghost as a comforter was made to the disciples, when their hearts were filled with sorrow on the departure of Christ; and this is the 410measure of all others, John xvi. 6, 7. And this is evident both from the nature of the thing itself, and from all the promises which are given concerning him to this end and purpose. And it will be wholly in vain at any time to apply spiritual consolations unto any other sort of persons. All men who have any interest in Christian religion, when they fall into troubles and distresses, be they of what sort they will, are ready to inquire after the things that may relieve and refresh them. And whereas there are many things in the word suited unto the relief and consolation of the distressed, they are apt to apply them unto themselves; and others also are ready to comply with them in the same charitable office, as they suppose. But no true spiritual consolation was ever administered by the word unto any but exercised believers, however the minds of men may be for the present a little relieved, and their affections refreshed, by the things that are spoken unto them out of the word: for the word is the instrument of the Holy Ghost, nor hath it any efficacy but as he is pleased to use it and apply it; and he useth it unto this end, and unto no other, as being promised as a Spirit of consolation, only to sanctified believers. And, therefore, when persons fall under spiritual convictions and trouble of mind or conscience upon the account of sin and guilt, it is not our first work to tender consolation unto them, whereby many in that condition are deluded, but to lead them on to believing, that, “being justified by faith, they may have peace with God;” which is their proper relief. And in that state God is abundantly willing that they should receive “strong consolation,” even as many as “flee for refuge to the hope that is set before them.”

(4.) The Spirit of God is promised and received as to gifts for the edification of the church. This is that which is intended, Acts ii. 38, 39. And his whole work herein we shall consider in its proper place. The rule and measure of the communication of the Spirit for regeneration is election; the rule and measure of the communication of the Spirit for sanctification is regeneration; and the rule and measure of his communication as a Spirit of consolation is sanctification, with the afflictions, temptations, and troubles of them that are sanctified. What, then, is the rule and measure of his communication as a Spirit of edification? I answer, Profession of the truth of the gospel and its worship, with a call unto the benefiting of others, 1 Cor. xii. 7. And here two rules must be observed:— [1.] That he carries not his gifts for edification out of the pale of the church, or profession of the truth and worship of the gospel. [2.] That he useth a sovereign and not a certain rule in this communication, 1 Cor. xii. 11, so as that he is not wanting unto any true professors, in proportion to their calls and opportunities.

Secondly, Whereas the Spirit of sanctification is promised only 411unto them that are regenerate and do believe, may we, in our prayers and supplications for him, plead these qualifications as arguments and motives for the farther communications of him unto us? Ans. 1. We cannot properly plead any qualification in ourselves, as though God were obliged, with respect unto them, to give a man increase of grace ex congruo, much less ex condigno. When we have done all, we are unprofitable servants. As we begin, so we must proceed with God, merely on the account of sovereign grace. 2. We may plead the faithfulness and righteousness of God as engaged in his promises. We ought to pray that he would “not forsake the work of his own hands;” that “he who hath begun the good work in us would perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ;” that with respect unto his covenant and promises he would preserve that new creature, that divine nature, which he hath formed and implanted in us. 3. Upon a sense of the weakness of any grace, we may humbly profess our sincerity therein, and pray for its increase. So cried the poor man with tears, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief,” Mark ix. 24. And the apostles in their prayer, “Lord, increase our faith,” Luke xvii. 5, owned the faith they had, and prayed for its increase by fresh supplies of the Holy Spirit.

Again, Thirdly, May believers in trouble pray for the Spirit of consolation with respect unto their troubles, it being unto such that he is promised? Ans. 1. They may do so directly, and ought so to do; yea, when they do it not it is a sign they turn aside unto broken cisterns, that will yield them no relief. 2. Troubles are of two sorts, — spiritual and temporal. Spiritual troubles are so either, (1.) Subjectively, such as are all inward darknesses, and distresses on the account of sin; or, (2.) Objectively, such as are all persecutions for the name of Christ and the gospel. It is principally with respect unto these that the Spirit is promised as a comforter, and with regard unto them are we principally to pray for him as so promised. 3. In those outward troubles which are common unto believers with other men, as the death of relations, loss of estate or liberty, they may and ought to pray for the Spirit as a comforter, that the consolations of God, administered by him, may outbalance their outward troubles, and keep up their hearts unto other duties.

Fourthly, May all sincere professors of the gospel pray for the Spirit with respect unto his gifts for the edification of others, seeing unto such he is promised for that end? Ans. 1. They may do so, but with the ensuing limitations:— (1.) They must do it with express submission to the sovereignty of the Spirit himself, who “divideth to every man as he will.” (2.) With respect unto that station and condition wherein they are placed in the church by the providence and call of God. Private persons have no warrant to pray for ministerial 412gifts, such as should carry them out of their stations, without a divine direction going before them. (3.) That their end be good and right, to use them in their respective places unto edification. So ought parents and masters of families, and all members of churches, to pray for those gifts of the Spirit whereby they may fill up the duties of their places and relations.

From the consideration of this order of the dispensation of the Spirit we may be directed how to pray for him, which we are both commanded and encouraged to do, Luke xi. 13: for we are to pray for him with respect unto those ends and effects for which he is promised; and these are those which are before expressed, with all those particular instances which may be reduced unto them. We might, therefore, hence give direction in some inquiries, which, indeed, deserve a larger discussion if our present design would admit of it. One only I shall instance in:—

May a person who is yet unregenerate pray for the Spirit of regeneration to effect that work in him; for whereas, as such, he is promised only unto the elect, such a person, not knowing his election, seems to have no foundation to make such a request upon? Ans. 1. Election is no qualification on our part, which we may consider or plead in our supplications, but only the secret purpose on the part of God of what himself will do, and is known unto us only by its effects. 2. Persons convinced of sin and of a state of sin may and ought to pray that God, by the effectual communication of his Spirit unto them, would deliver them from that condition. This is one way whereby we “flee from the wrath to come.” 3. The especial object of their supplications herein is sovereign grace, goodness, and mercy, as declared in and by Jesus Christ. Such persons cannot, indeed, plead any especial promise as made unto them; but they may plead for the grace and mercy declared in the promises, as indefinitely proposed unto sinners. It may be they can proceed no farther in their expectations but unto that of the prophet, “Who knoweth if God will come and give a blessing?” Joel ii. 14, yet is this a sufficient ground and encouragement to keep them waiting at the “throne of grace.” So Paul, after he had received his vision from heaven, continued in great distress of mind, praying until he received the Holy Ghost, Acts ix. 11, 17. 4. Persons under such convictions have really sometimes the seeds of regeneration communicated unto them; and then, as they ought so they will continue in their supplications for the increase and manifestation of it.

It is evident that by these observations the foregoing objection is utterly removed out of the way, and that no disadvantage ariseth unto the doctrine of the free and effectual grace of God by confining this work of sanctification and holiness unto believers only. None 413are sanctified, none are made holy, but those who truly and savingly believe in God through Jesus Christ; which I shall now farther confirm:—

1. “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” Heb. xi. 6. The faith discoursed of by the apostle is that whereby the fathers “received the promises, walked with God, and obtained the inheritance,” — the faith of Abraham; that is, true, saving, justifying faith. This faith constitutes all them in whom it is true believers, and without it it is impossible to please God. Now, holiness, wherever it is, pleaseth God; and therefore without faith it is impossible we should have any interest in it. “This is the will of God, even our sanctification,” 1 Thess. iv. 3; and walking therein we please God, verse 7. All that pleaseth God in us is our holiness, or some part of it, and it principally consists in an opposition unto all that displeaseth him. That which he commands pleaseth him, and that which he forbids displeaseth him; and our holiness consists in a compliance with the one and an opposition unto the other. Wherefore, that any others but believers should have any thing which really belongs unto this holiness, the apostle declares it to be impossible. Some would except against this sense of the words from the ensuing reason which the apostle gives of his assertion, which contains the nature of the faith intended: “For he that cometh unto God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him;” for “this is that,” they say, “which the light of nature directs unto, and therefore there is no other faith necessarily required that a man may please God, but only that which is included in the right use and exercise of natural reason.” But this exception will no way evade the force of this testimony; for the apostle discourseth concerning such a coming unto God, and such a belief in him, as is guided, directed, and ingenerated in us, by the promises which it rests upon and is resolved into. Now these promises, all and every one of them, include Jesus Christ, with a respect unto him and his grace; and, therefore, the faith intended is that which is in God through Christ, as revealed and exhibited in the promises, and this coming unto God is a fruit and effect thereof.

2. Our Lord Jesus Christ affirms that men are sanctified by the faith that is in him: Acts xxvi. 18, “That they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith that is in me.” If there were any other way or means whereby men might be sanctified or made holy, he would not have confined it unto the “faith that is in him;” at least, there is no other way to attain that holiness which may bring them unto the heavenly inheritance, or make them meet for it, Col. i. 12, which alone we inquire after. And, indeed, there can be no greater contempt cast on the Lord Jesus, and on the duty of believing in him, whereunto he 414makes this one of his principal motives, than to imagine that without faith in him anyone can be made holy.

3. Faith is the instrumental cause of our sanctification; so that where it is not, no holiness can be wrought in us. “God purifieth our hearts by faith,” Acts xv. 9, and not otherwise; and where the heart is not purified, there is no holiness. All the duties in the world will not denominate him holy whose heart is not purified; nor will any such duties be holy themselves, seeing unto the unclean all things are unclean. All the obedience that is accepted with God is the “obedience of faith,” Rom. i. 5; thence it springs, and therewith is it animated. So is it expressed, 1 Pet. i. 20–22, “You who by Christ do believe in God, and have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit.” It is from faith in God through Jesus Christ, acting itself in obedience unto the gospel, that we purify or cleanse our souls; which is our sanctification. See Col. ii. 12–14, iii. 7–11.

4. All grace is originally intrusted in and with Jesus Christ. The image of God being lost in Adam, whatever was prepared or is used for the renovation of it in our natures and persons, wherein gospel holiness doth consist, was to be treasured up in him as the second Adam, by whom many are to be made alive who died in the first. It pleased the Father that “in him should all fullness dwell,” — as the fullness of the Godhead, in and for his own divine personal subsistence, so the fullness of all grace for supplies unto us, that “of his fullness we might receive grace for grace.” He is made the head unto the whole new creation, not only of power and rule, but of life and influence. God hath given him for a “covenant to the people,” and communicates nothing that belongs properly to the covenant of grace, as our sanctification and holiness do, unto any, but in and through him. And we receive nothing by him but by virtue of relation unto him, or especial interest in him, or union with him. Where there is an especial communication, there must be an especial relation whereon it doth depend and whence it doth proceed; as the relation of the members unto the head is the cause and means why vital spirits are thence derived unto them. We must be in Christ as the branch is in the vine, or we can derive nothing from him: John xv. 4, “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” Whatever any way belongeth unto holiness is our fruit, and nothing else is fruit but what belongeth thereunto. Now this our Saviour affirms that we can bring forth nothing of, unless we are in him and do abide in him. Now, our being in Christ and abiding in him is by faith, without which we can derive nothing from him, and consequently never be partakers of holiness in the least degree. But these things 415must be afterward spoken unto more at large. It is, therefore, undeniably evident that believers only are sanctified and holy; all others are unclean, nor is any thing they do holy, or so esteemed of God.

And the due consideration hereof discovers many pernicious mistakes that are about this matter, both notional and practical; for, — 1. There are some who would carry holiness beyond the bounds of an especial relation unto Christ, or would carry that relation beyond the only bond of it, which is faith; for they would have it to be no more than moral honesty or virtue, and so cannot with any modesty deny it unto those heathens who endeavoured after them according to the light of nature. And what need, then, is there of Jesus Christ? I can and do commend moral virtues and honesty as much as any man ought to do, and am sure enough there is no grace where they are not; yet to make any thing to be our holiness that is not derived from Jesus Christ, I know not what I do more abhor. An imagination hereof dethrones Christ from his glory, and overthrows the whole gospel. But we have a sort of men who plead that heathens may be eternally saved, so large and indulgent is their charity, and in the meantime endeavour, by all means possible, to destroy, temporally at least, all those Christians who stoop not to a compliance with all their imaginations. 2. Others there are who proceed much farther, and yet do but deceive themselves in the issue. Notions they have of good and evil by the light of nature, Rom. ii. 14, 15. As they come with men into the world, and grow up with them as they come to the exercise of their reason, so they are not stifled without offering violence to the principles of nature by the power of sin; as it comes to pass in many, Eph. iv. 19; 1 Tim. iv. 2; Rom. i. 31. These notions, therefore, are in many improved in process of time by convictions from the law, and great effects are produced hereby; for when the soul is once effectually convinced of sin, righteousness, and judgment, it cannot but endeavour after a deliverance from the one and an attainment of the other, that so it may be well with it at the last day. And here lie the springs or foundations of all the moral differences that we see amongst mankind. Some give themselves up unto all abominations, lasciviousness, uncleanness, drunkenness, frauds, oppressions, blasphemies, persecutions, as having no bounds fixed unto their lusts but what are given them by their own impotency or dread of human laws. Others endeavour to be sober, temperate, just, honest and upright in their dealings, with a sedulous performance of religious duties. This difference ariseth from the different power and efficacy of legal convictions upon the minds of men. And these convictions are in many variously improved, according to the light they receive in the means of knowledge which they do enjoy, or the errors and superstitions which they are misguided unto; for on this 416latter account do they grow up in some into penances, vows, uncommanded abstinences, and various self-macerations, with other painful and costly duties. Where the light they receive is, in the general, according unto truth, there it will engage men into reformation of life, a multiplication of duties, abstinence from sin, profession, zeal, and a cordial engagement into one way or other in religion. Such persons may have good hopes themselves that they are holy; they may appear to the world so to be, and be accepted in the church of God as such; and yet really be utter strangers from true gospel holiness. And the reason is, because they have missed it in the foundation; and not having, in the first place, obtained an interest in Christ, have built their house on the sand, whence it will fall in the time of trouble. If it be said that all those who come up unto the duties mentioned are to be esteemed believers, if therewith they make profession of the true faith of the gospel, I willingly grant it; but if it be said that necessarily they are so indeed, and in the sight of God, and therefore are also sanctified and holy, I must say the contrary[; it] is expressly denied in the gospel, and especial instances given thereof.

Wherefore let them wisely consider these things who have any conviction of the necessity of holiness. It may be they have done much in the pursuit of it, and have laboured in the duties that materially belong unto it. Many things they have done, and many things forborne, upon the account of it, and still continue so to do. It may be they think that for all the world they would not be found among the number of unholy persons at the last day. This may be the condition of some, perhaps of many, who are yet but young, and but newly engaged into these ways upon their convictions. It may be so with them who for many days and years have been so following after a righteousness in a way of duty. But yet they meet with these two evils in their way:— 1. That duties of obedience seldom or never prove more easy, familiar, or pleasant unto them than they did at first, but rather are more grievous and burdensome everyday. 2. That they never come up unto a satisfaction in what they do, but still find that there is somewhat wanting. These make all they do burdensome and unpleasant unto them, which at length will betray them into backsliding and apostasy. But yet there is somewhat worse behind; all they have done, or are ever able to do, on the bottom upon which they stand, will come to no account, but perish with them at the great day. Would we prevent all these fatal evils? would we engage in a real, thriving, everlasting holiness? — let our first business be to secure a relation unto Jesus Christ, without which nothing of it will ever be attained.

To close this discourse, I shall only from it obviate a putid calumny cast by the Papists, Quakers, and others of the same confederacy, 417against the grace of God, upon the doctrine of the free justification of a sinner, through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ: for with a shameless impudence they clamour on all by whom it is asserted, as those who maintain salvation to be attainable through a mere external imputation of righteousness; whilst those so saved are “unclean and unholy,” as the Quakers, or “negligent of the duties of righteousness and obedience,” as the Papists and others, slanderously report: for the frontless impudence of this calumny is sufficiently evident from hence, that as we assert sanctification and holiness to be peculiar only unto believing, justified persons, — that is, that faith and holiness are inseparable, habitually or actually, or in both regards, — so, in like manner, that all such persons are infallibly sanctified and made holy.

All believers, and only believers, being sanctified and made holy, what it is that is sanctified in them, or what is the proper seat and subject of this work, is, in the next place, to be declared; for it is not a mere external denomination, as things were called “holy” under the Old Testament, nor any transient act, nor any series or course of actions, that we plead about, but that which hath, as a real being and existence, so a constant abiding or residence in us. Hence, he that is holy is always so, whether he be in the actual exercise of the duties of holiness or no, though an omission of any of them in their proper season is contrary unto and an impeachment of holiness, as to its degrees. Now, this subject of sanctification is the entire nature or whole person of a believer. It is not any one faculty of the soul or affection of the mind or part of the body that is sanctified, but the whole soul and body, or the entire nature, of every believing person. And hereby is the work of sanctification really distinguished from any other mere common work which may represent it, or pretend unto it; for all such works are partial. Either they are in the mind only by light and notions of truth, or on the affections only in zeal and devotion, or on the mind and conscience in the convictions of sin and duty; but farther they proceed not. But true holiness consists in the renovation of our whole persons; which must be demonstrated.

1. That our entire nature was originally created in the image of God I have proved before, and it is by all acknowledged. Our whole souls, in the rectitude of all their faculties and powers, in order unto the life of God and his enjoyment, did bear his image. Nor was it confined unto the soul only; the body also, not as to its shape, figure, or natural use, but as an essential part of our nature, was interested in the image of God by a participation of original righteousness. Hence the whole person was a meet principle for the communication of this image of God unto others, by the means of natural propagation, which is an act of the entire person; for a person 418created and abiding in the image of God, begetting another in his own image and likeness, had, by virtue of the covenant of creation, begotten him in the image of God also, — that is, had communicated unto him a nature upright and pure.

2. By the entrance of sin, this image of God, so far as it was our righteousness and holiness before him, was utterly defaced and lost. This also I have sufficiently evidenced before. It did not depart from any one power, part, or faculty of our souls, but from our whole nature. Accordingly, the Scripture describes, — (1.) The depravation of our nature distinctly, in all the powers of it. In particular, the corruption that ensued on our minds, wills, and affections, upon the loss of the image of God, I have before declared and vindicated. And, — (2.) In reference unto the first actings of all these faculties, in things moral and spiritual, the Scripture adds, that “all the thoughts and imaginations of our hearts are evil, and that continually,” Gen. vi. 5. All the original first actings of the powers of our souls, in or about things rational and moral, are always evil; for “an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit.” That which is lame and distorted can act nothing that is straight and regular. Hence, — (3.) All the outward actions of persons in this state and condition are evil, unfruitful works of darkness. And not only so, but, (4.) The Scripture, in the description of the effects of this depravation of our nature, calls in the body and the members of it unto a partnership in all this obliquity and sin: the “members” of the body are “servants unto uncleanness and iniquity,” Rom. vi. 19. And the engagement of them all in the course and actings of depraved nature is particularly declared by our apostle out of the psalmist, Rom. iii. 12–15, “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood,” in all ways of evil.

This being the state of our whole nature in its depravation, our sanctification, wherein alone its reparation in this life doth consist, must equally respect the whole. Some suppose that it is our affections only, in their deliverance from corrupt lusts and prejudices, with their direction unto heavenly objects, that are the subject of this work; for “the mind, or rational, intellectual power of the soul, is in itself,” they say, “pure, noble, untainted, and needs no other aid but to be delivered from the prejudices and obstructions of its operations, which are cast upon it by the engagements and inclinations of corrupt affections, and a vicious course of conversation in the world, received by uninterrupted tradition from our fathers, from 419whence it is not able to extricate or deliver itself without the aid of grace.” But they have placed their instance very unhappily; for, among all the things that belong unto our nature, there is not anyone which the Scripture so chargeth this depravation of it upon as the mind. This, in particular, is said to be “fleshly,” to be “enmity against God,” to be filled with “vanity, folly, and blindness,” as we have at large before evinced. Nor is there any thing concerning which the work of sanctification and renovation is so expressly affirmed as it is concerning the mind. It is declared by the “renovation of our mind,” Rom. xii. 2; or “being renewed in the spirit of our mind,” Eph. iv. 23; that we “put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge,” Col. iii. 10; with other expressions of the like nature. It is therefore our entire nature that is the subject of evangelical holiness; for to manifest in particulars:—

1. Hence it is called the new man: Eph. iv. 24, “Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and holiness.” As the principle of sin and corrupted nature in us is called “The old man,” for no other reason but that it possesseth all the active powers of the whole man, so that he neither doth nor can do any thing but what is influenced thereby; so this principle of holiness in us, the renovation of our natures, is called “The new man,” because it possesseth the whole person with respect unto its proper operations and ends. And it extends itself as large as the old man, or the depravation of our natures, which takes in the whole person, soul and body, with all their faculties and powers.

2. The heart, in the Scripture, is taken for the whole soul, and all the faculties of it, as they are one common principle of all moral operations, as I have proved before; whatever, therefore, is wrought in and upon the heart, under this consideration, is wrought upon the whole soul. Now, this is not only said to be affected with this work of sanctification, or to have holiness wrought in it, but the principal description that is given us of this work consists in this, that therein and thereby a “new heart” is given unto us, or created in us, as it is expressed in the promise of the covenant. This, therefore, can be nothing but the possessing of all the powers and faculties of our souls with a new principle of holiness and obedience unto God.

3. There is especial mention made of the effecting of this work on our souls and bodies, with their powers and faculties distinctly. This I have already proved in the declaration of the work of our regeneration, or conversion to God; which is only preserved, cherished, improved, and carried on to its proper end, in our sanctification. The nature, also, of that spiritual light which is communicated unto our minds, of life unto our wills, of love unto our affections, hath been declared. Therefore doth it follow thence unavoidably, that 420the whole person is the subject of this work, and that holiness hath its residence in the whole soul entirely.

4. We need go no farther for the proof hereof than unto that prayer of the apostle for the Thessalonians which we insisted on at the beginning of this discourse: 1 Thess. v. 23, “The God of peace himself sanctify you ὁλοτελεῖς, throughout,” — that is, “in your whole natures or persons, in all that you are and do, that you may not in this or that part, but be every whit clean and holy throughout.” And to make this the more evident, that we may know what it is which he prays may be sanctified, and thereby preserved blameless to the coming of Christ, he distributes our whole nature into the two essential parts of soul and body. And in the former he considereth two things:— (1.) The spirit; (2.) The soul, peculiarly so called. And this distinction frequently occurs in the Scripture; wherein that by the “spirit” the mind or intellectual faculty is understood, and by the “soul” the affections, is generally acknowledged, and may evidently be proved. These, therefore, the apostle prays may be sanctified and preserved holy throughout and entirely,136136    “Fieri non potest ut sanctifcato Spiritu non sit sanctum etiam corpus, quo sanctificatus utitur Spiritus.” — August. Lib. de Bono Viduitat. and that by the infusion of a habit of holiness into them, with its preservation and improvement; whereof more afterward. But this is not all. Our bodies are an essential part of our natures, and by their union with our souls are we constituted individual persons. Now, we are the principles of all our operations as we are persons; every moral act we do is the act of the whole person. The body, therefore, is concerned in the good and evil of it. It became a subject of the depravation of our nature by concomitancy and participation, and is considered as one entire principle with the soul of communicating original defilement from parents unto children. Besides, it is now subject, in that corruption of its constitution which it is fallen under as a punishment of sin, unto many disorderly motions, that are incentives and provocations unto sin. Hence sin is said to “reign in our mortal bodies,” and our “members to be servants unto unrighteousness,” Rom. vi. 12, 19. Moreover, by its participation in the defilement and punishment of sin, the body is disposed and made obnoxious unto corruption and destruction; for death entered by sin, and no otherwise. On all these accounts, therefore, it is necessary, on the other hand, that the body should be interested in this work and privilege of sanctification and holiness; and so it is, — (1.) By participation: for it is our persons that are sanctified and made holy (“Sanctify them throughout”); and although our souls are the first proper subject of the infused habit or principle of holiness, yet our bodies, as essential parts of our natures, are partakers thereof. (2.) 421By a peculiar influence of the grace of God upon them also, as far as they have any influence into moral operations; for the apostle tells us that “our bodies are members of Christ,” 1 Cor. vi. 15, and so, consequently, have influences of grace from him as our head. (3.) In the work of sanctification the Holy Ghost comes and dwells in us; and hereon “our bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in us;” and “the temple of God is holy,” 1 Cor. iii. 16, 17, — although, I confess, this rather belongs unto the holiness of peculiar dedication unto God, whereof we shall treat afterward. And, [1.] Hereby are the parts and members of the body made instruments and “servants to righteousness unto holiness,” Rom. vi. 19, — do become meet and fit for to be used in the acts and duties of holiness, as being made clean and sanctified unto God. [2.] Hereby are they disposed and prepared unto a blessed resurrection at the last day; which shall be wrought by the Spirit of Christ, which dwelt in them and sanctified them in this life, Rom. viii. 10, 11; Phil. iii. 20, 21; 2 Cor. iv. 14, 16, 17.

Our whole persons, therefore, and in them our whole natures, are the subject of this work, and true holiness invests the whole of it. Now, whether this universal investiture of our nature, in all the faculties and powers of it, by a new principle of holiness and obedience unto God, whereby it is renewed into his image, do belong unto that moral virtue which some so plead for as to substitute it in the room of gospel holiness, they may do well to consider who are the patrons of that cause; for if it do not, then doth not itself belong unto that holiness which the gospel teacheth, requireth, promiseth, and communicates, whatever else it be. And, moreover, it is practically worthy consideration that men deceive not themselves with a partial work in conviction only, or change of the affections also, instead of this evangelical sanctification. It is often and truly spoken unto, how men may have their minds enlightened, their affections wrought upon, and their lives much changed, and yet come short of real holiness. The best trial of this work is by its universality with respect unto its subject. If any thing remain unsanctified in us, sin may there set up its throne and maintain its sovereignty. But where this work is true and real, however weak and imperfect it may be as unto its degrees, yet it possesseth the whole person, and leaveth not the least hold unto sin, wherein it doth not continually combat and conflict with it. There is saving light in the mind, and life in the will, and love in the affections, and grace in the conscience, suited to its nature; there is nothing in us whereunto the power of holiness doth not reach according to its measure. Men may, therefore, if they please, deceive themselves by taking up with some notions in their minds, some devotions in their affections, or some good and virtuous deeds in their conversations, but holiness doth not consist therein.

422And, lastly, men may hence see how vainly they excuse themselves in their sins, their passions, intemperances, and the like disorders of mind, from their constitutions and inclinations; for true sanctification reacheth unto the body also. It is true, grace doth not so change the natural constitution as to make him that was sickly to be healthy and strong, nor so as to make him who was melancholy to be sanguine, or the like; it altereth not the course of the blood, and the animal spirits, with the impressions they make on our minds. But consider these things morally, and as the whole person is a principle of spiritual and moral operations, and so it doth work such change and alteration on the whole person as to cure morally sinful distempers, as of passion, elation of mind, and intemperances, which men were before more than ordinarily inclined unto by their tempers and constitutions; yea, from the efficacy of it upon our whole persons, in the curing of such habitual inordinate and sinful distempers, lies the principal discovery of its truth and reality. Let no men, therefore, pretend that grace and holiness do not change men’s constitutions, thereby to excuse and palliate their disorderly passions before men, and to keep themselves from being humbled for them before God; for although it do not so naturally and physically, yet it doth so morally, so that the constitution itself shall be no more such a fomes and incentive unto disorderly passions as it hath been. If grace hath not cured that passion, pride, causeless anger, inveterate wrath, intemperance, which men’s constitutions peculiarly incline unto, I know not, for my part, what it hath done, nor what a number of outward duties do signify. The Spirit and grace of Christ cause “the wolf to dwell with the lamb, and the leopard to lie down with the kid,” Isa. xi. 6. It will change the most wild and savage nature into meekness, gentleness, and kindness; examples whereof have been multiplied in the world.


« Prev Chapter III. Believers the only object of… Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |