|« Prev||Chapter VI. The positive work of the Spirit in…||Next »|
Chapter VI. The positive work of the Spirit in the sanctification of believers.
Differences in the acts of sanctification as to order — The manner of the communication of holiness by the Spirit — The rule and measure whereof is the revealed will of God, as the rule of its acceptance is the covenant of grace — The nature of holiness as inward — Righteousness habitual and actual — False notions of holiness removed — The nature of a spiritual habit — Applied unto holiness, with its rules and limitations — Proved and confirmed — Illustrated and practically improved — The properties of holiness as a spiritual habit declared — 1. Spiritual dispositions unto suitable acts; how expressed in the Scripture; with their effects — Contrary dispositions unto sin and holiness how consistent — 2. Power; the nature thereof; or what power is required in believers unto holy obedience; with its properties and effects in readiness and facility — Objections thereunto answered, and an inquiry on these principles after true holiness in ourselves directed — Gospel grace distinct from morality, and all other habits of the mind; proved by many arguments, especially its relation unto the mediation of Christ — The principal difference between evangelical holiness and all other habits of the mind, proved by the manner and way of its communication from the person of Christ as the head of the church, and the peculiar efficiency of the Spirit therein — Moral honesty not gospel holiness.
The distinction we make between the acts of the Holy Ghost in the work of sanctification concerneth more the order of teaching and instruction than any order of precedency that is between the acts themselves; for that which we have passed through concerning the cleansing of our natures and persons doth not, in order of time, go before those other acts which leave a real and positive effect upon the soul, which we now enter upon the description of, nor absolutely in order of nature: yea, much of the means whereby the Holy Ghost purifieth us consisteth in this other work of his which now lies before us; only we thus distinguish them and cast them into this order, as the Scripture also doth, for the guidance of our understanding in them, and furtherance of our apprehension of them.
We, therefore, now proceed unto that part of the work of the Holy Spirit whereby he communicates the great, permanent, positive effect of holiness unto the souls of believers, and whereby he guides and assists them in all the acts, works, and duties of holiness whatever; without which what we do is not so, nor doth any way belong thereunto. And this part of his work we shall reduce unto two heads, which we shall first propose, and afterward clear and vindicate.
And our first assertion is, That in the sanctification of believers, 469the Holy Ghost doth work in them, in their whole souls, their minds, wills, and affections, a gracious, supernatural habit, principle, and disposition of living unto God; wherein the substance or essence, the life and being, of holiness doth consist. This is that spirit which is born of the Spirit, that new creature, that new and divine nature which is wrought in them, and whereof they are made partakers. Herein consists that image of God whereunto our natures are repaired by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby we are made conformable unto God, firmly and steadfastly adhering unto him through faith and love. That there is such a divine principle, such a gracious, supernatural habit, wrought in all them that are born again, hath been fully proved in our assertion and description of the work of regeneration. It is, therefore, acknowledged that the first supernatural infusion or communication of this principle of spiritual light and life, preparing, fitting, and enabling all the faculties of our souls unto the duties of holiness, according to the mind of God, doth belong unto the work of our first conversion. But the preservation, cherishing, and increase of it belong unto our sanctification, both its infusion and preservation being necessarily required unto holiness. Hereby is the tree made good, that the fruit of it may be good, and without which it will not so be. This is our new nature; which ariseth not from precedent actions of holiness, but is the root of them all. Habits acquired by a multitude of acts, whether in things moral or artificial, are not a new nature, nor can be so called, but a readiness for acting from use and custom. But this nature is from God, its parent; it is that in us which is born of God. And it is common unto or the same in all believers, as to its kind and being, though not as to degrees and exercise. It is that which we cannot learn, which cannot be taught us but by God only, as he teaches other creatures in whom he planteth a natural instinct. The beauty and glory hereof, as it is absolutely inexpressible, so have we spoken somewhat to it before. Conformity to God, likeness to Christ, compliance with the Holy Spirit, interest in the family of God, fellowship with angels, separation from darkness and the world, do all consist herein.
Secondly, The matter of our holiness consists in our actual obedience unto God, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace; for God promiseth to write his law in our hearts, that we may fear him and walk in his statutes. And concerning this, in general, we may observe two things:—
1. That there is a certain fixed rule and measure of this obedience, in a conformity and answerableness whereunto it doth consist. This is the revealed will of God in the Scripture, Mic. vi. 8. God’s will, I say, as revealed unto us in the word, is the rule of our obedience. A rule it must have, which nothing else can pretend to 470be. The secret will or hidden purposes of God are not the rule of our obedience, Deut. xxix. 29, much less are our own imaginations, inclinations, or reason so; neither doth any thing, though never so specious, which we do in compliance with them, or by their direction, belong thereunto, Col. ii. 18–23. But the word of God is the adequate rule of all holy obedience:— (1.) It is so materially. All that is commanded in that word belongs unto our obedience, and nothing else doth so. Hence are we so strictly required neither to add unto it nor to diminish or take any thing from it, Deut. iv. 2, xii. 32; Josh. i. 7; Prov. xxx. 6; Rev. xxii. 18, 19. (2.) It is so formally; that is, we are not only to do what is commanded, all that is commanded, and nothing else, but whatever we do, we are to do it because it is commanded, or it is no part of our obedience or holiness, Deut. vi. 24, 25, xxix. 29; Ps. cxix. 9. I know there is an inbred light of nature as yet remaining in us, which gives great direction as to moral good and evil, commanding the one and forbidding the other, Rom. ii. 14, 15; but this light, however it may be made subservient and subordinate thereunto, is not the rule of gospel holiness as such, nor any part of it. The law which God by his grace writes in our hearts answers unto the law that is written in the word that is given unto us; and as the first is the only principle, so the latter is the only rule, of our evangelical obedience. For this end hath God promised that his Spirit and his word shall always accompany one another, the one to quicken our souls, and the other to guide our lives, Isa. lix. 21. And the word of God may be considered as our rule in a threefold respect:— (1.) As it requires the image of God in us. The habitual rectitude of our nature with respect unto God and our living to him is enjoined us in the word, yea, and wrought in us thereby. The whole renovation of our nature, the whole principle of holiness before described, is nothing but the word changed into grace in our hearts; for we are born again by the incorruptible seed of the word of God. The Spirit worketh nothing in us but what the word first requireth of us. It is, therefore, the rule of the inward principle of spiritual life; and the growth thereof is nothing but its increase in conformity to that word. (2.) With respect unto all the actual frames, designs, and purposes of the heart. All the internal actings of our minds, all the volitions of the will, all the motions of our affections, are to be regulated by that word which requires us to love the Lord our God with all our minds, all our souls, and all our strength. Hereby is their regularity or irregularity to be tried. All that holiness which is in them consists in their conformity to the revealed will of God. (3.) With respect unto all our outward actions and duties, private and public, of piety, of righteousness, towards ourselves or others, Tit. ii. 12. This is the rule of our holiness. So far as what we are and 471what we do answer thereunto, so far are we holy, and no farther. Whatever acts of devotion or duties of morality may be performed without respect hereunto belong not to our sanctification.
2. As there is a rule of our performance of this obedience, so there is a rule of the acceptance of our obedience with God; and this is the tenor of the new covenant, Gen. xvii. 1. What answers hereunto is accepted, and what doth not so is rejected, both as to the universality of the whole and the sincerity that accompanies each particular duty in it. And these two things, universality and sincerity, answer now, as to some certain ends, the legal perfection at first required of us. In the estate of original righteousness, the rule of our acceptance with God in our obedience was the law and covenant of works; and this required that it should be absolutely perfect in parts and degrees, without the least intermixture of sin with our good, or interposition of it in the least instance, which was inconsistent with that covenant. But now, although we are renewed again by grace into the image of God really and truly (yet not absolutely nor perfectly, but only in part), we have yet remaining in us a contrary principle of ignorance and sin, which we must always conflict withal, Gal. v. 16, 17: wherefore God in the covenant of grace is pleased to accept of that holy obedience which is universal as to all parts, in all known instances of duty, and sincere as to the manner of their performance. What in particular is required hereunto is not our present work to declare; I only aim to fix in general the rule of the acceptance of this holy obedience. Now, the reason hereof is not that a lower and more imperfect kind of righteousness, holiness, and obedience, will answer all the ends of God and his glory now under the new covenant, than would have done so under the old. Nothing can be imagined more distant from the truth, or more dishonourable to the gospel, or that seems to have a nearer approach unto the making of Christ the minister of sin; for what would he be else, if he had procured that God would accept of a weak, imperfect obedience, accompanied with many failings, infirmities, and sins, being in nothing complete, in the room and stead of that which was complete, perfect, and absolutely sinless, which he first required of us? Yea, God having determined to exalt and glorify the holy properties of his nature in a more eminent and glorious manner under the new covenant than the old, for which cause and end alone it is so exalted and preferred above it, it was necessary that there should be a righteousness and obedience required therein far more complete, eminent, and glorious than that required in the other. But the reason of this difference lies solely herein, that our evangelical obedience, which is accepted with God, according to the tenor of the new covenant, doth not hold the same place which our obedience should have had under 472the covenant of works; for therein it should have been our righteousness absolutely before God, that whereby we should have been justified in his sight, even the works of the law, and for which, in a due proportion of justice, we should have been eternally rewarded. But this place is now filled up by the righteousness and obedience of Christ, our mediator; which, being the obedience of the Son of God, is far more eminent and glorious, or tends more to the manifestation of the properties of God’s nature, and therein to the exaltation of his glory, than all that we should have done had we abode steadfast in the covenant of works. “Whereunto, then,” it may be some will say, “serves our holiness and obedience, and what is the necessity of them?” I must defer the answering of this inquiry unto its proper place, where I shall prove at large the necessity of this holiness, and demonstrate it from its proper principles and ends. In the meantime I say only, in general, that as God requireth it of us, so he hath appointed it as the only means whereby we may express our subjection to him, our dependence on him, our fruitfulness and thankfulness; the only way of our communion and intercourse with him, of using and improving the effects of his love, the benefits of the mediation of Christ, whereby we may glorify him in this world; and the only orderly way whereby we may be made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light: which is sufficient, in general, to manifest both its necessity and its use. These things being, then, in general premised, I shall comprise what I have farther to offer in the declaration and vindication of gospel sanctification and holiness in the two ensuing assertions:—
I. There is wrought and preserved in the minds and souls of all believers, by the Spirit of God, a supernatural principle or habit of grace and holiness, whereby they are made meet for and enabled to live unto God, and perform that obedience which he requireth and accepteth through Christ in the covenant of grace; essentially or specifically distinct from all natural habits, intellectual and moral, however or by what means soever acquired or improved.
II. There is an immediate work or effectual operation of the Holy Spirit by his grace required unto every act of holy obedience, whether internal only in faith and love, or external also; that is, unto all the holy actings of our understandings, wills, and affections, and unto all duties of obedience in our walking before God.
I. The first of these assertions I affirm not only to be true, but of so great weight and importance that our hope of life and salvation depends thereon; and it is the second great principle constituting our Christian profession. And there are four things that are to be confirmed concerning it:— 1. That there is such a habit or principle supernatural infused or created in believers by the Holy Ghost, and always abiding in them. 2. That, according to the nature of 473all habits, it inclines and disposeth the mind, will, and affections, unto acts of holiness suitable unto its own nature, and with regard unto its proper end, and to make us meet to live unto God. 3. [That] it doth not only incline and dispose the mind, but gives it power, and enables it to live unto God in all holy obedience. 4. That it differs specifically from all other habits, intellectual or moral, that by any means we may acquire or attain, or spiritual gifts that may be conferred on any persons whatever.
In the handling of these things, I shall manifest the difference that is between a spiritual, supernatural life of evangelical holiness and a course of moral virtue; which some, to the rejection of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, do endeavour to substitute in the room thereof. Such a spiritual, heavenly, supernatural life, so denominated from its nature, causes, acts, and ends, we must be partakers of in this world, if ever we mind to attain eternal life in another.
And herein we shall take what view we are able of the nature, glory, and beauty of holiness; and [I] do confess it is but little of them which I can comprehend. It is a matter, indeed, often spoken unto; but the essence and true nature of it are much hidden from the eyes of all living men. The sense of what the Scripture proposeth, what I believe, and what I desire an experience of, that I shall endeavour to declare. But as we are not in this life perfect in the duties of holiness, no more are we in the knowledge of its nature.
First, therefore, I say, it is a gracious, supernatural habit, or a principle of spiritual life. And with respect hereunto I shall briefly do these three things:— 1. Show what I mean by such a habit. 2. Prove that there is such a habit required unto holiness, yea, that the nature of holiness consists therein. 3. Declare in general the properties of it.
1. Our first inquiry is after the essence and form of holiness, that from which anyone is truly and really made and denominated holy; or what is the formal reason of that holiness which our nature is partaker of in this world. This must be something peculiar, something excellent and sacred, as that which constitutes the great and only difference that is between mankind, on their own part, in the sight of God, with respect unto eternity. Everyone that hath this holiness pleaseth God, is accepted with him, and shall come to the enjoyment of him; and everyone that hath it not is rejected of him, here and hereafter.
And this holiness, in the first place, doth not consist in any single acts of obedience unto God, though good in their own nature, and acceptable unto him; for such acts may be performed, yea, many of them, by unholy persons, with examples whereof the Scripture 474aboundeth. Cain’s sacrifice and Ahab’s repentance were signal single acts of obedience materially, yet no acts of holiness formally, nor did either make or denominate them holy. And our apostle tells us that men may “give all their goods to feed the poor, and their bodies to be burned, and yet be nothing,” 1 Cor. xiii. 3; yet in single acts who can go farther? Such fruits may spring from seed that hath no root. Single acts may evidence holiness, as Abraham’s obedience in sacrificing his son, but they constitute none holy; nor will a series, a course, a multiplication of acts and duties of obedience either constitute or denominate anyone so, Isa. i. 11–15. All the duties, a series and multiplication whereof are there rejected for want of holiness, were good in themselves, and appointed of God. Nor doth it consist in an habitual disposition of mind unto any outward duties of piety, devotion, or obedience, however obtained or acquired. Such habits there are, both intellectual and moral. Intellectual habits are arts and sciences. When men, by custom, usage, and frequent acts in the exercise of any science, art, or mystery, do get a ready facility in and unto all the parts and duties of it, they have an intellectual habit therein. It is so in things moral, as to virtues and vices. There are some seeds and sparks of moral virtue remaining in the ruins of depraved nature, as of justice, temperance, fortitude, and the like. Hence God calls on profligate sinners to remember and “show themselves men,” or not to act contrary to the principles and light of nature, which are inseparable from us as we are men, Isa. xlvi. 8. These principles may be so excited in the exercise of natural light, and improved by education, instruction, and example, until persons, by an assiduous, diligent performance of the acts and duties of them, may attain such a readiness unto them and facility in them as is not by any outward means easily changed or diverted; and this is a moral habit. In like manner, in the duties of piety and religion, in acts of outward obedience unto God, men by the same means may so accustom themselves unto them as to have an habitual disposition unto their exercise. I doubt not but that it is so unto a high degree with many superstitious persons. But in all these things the acts do still precede the habits of the same nature and kind, which are produced by them and not otherwise. But this holiness is such a habit or principle as is antecedent unto all acts of the same kind, as we shall prove. There never was by any, nor ever can be, any act or duty of true holiness performed, where there was not in order of nature antecedently a habit of holiness in the persons by whom they were performed. Many acts and duties, for the substance of them good and approvable, may be performed without it, but no one that hath the proper form and nature of holiness can be so. And the reason is, because every act of true 475holiness must have something supernatural in it, from an internal renewed principle of grace; and that which hath not so, be it otherwise what it will, is no act or duty of true holiness.
And I call this principle of holiness a habit, not as though it were absolutely of the same kind with acquired habits, and would in all things answer to our conceptions and descriptions of them; but we only call it so because, in its effects and manner of operation, it agreeth in sundry things with acquired intellectual or moral habits. But it hath much more conformity unto a natural, unchangeable instinct than unto any acquired habit. Wherefore God chargeth it on men, that in their obedience unto him they did not answer that instinct which is in other creatures towards their lords and benefactors, Isa. i. 3, and which they cordially observe, Jer. viii. 7. But herein God “teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven,” Job xxxv. 11.
This, therefore, is that which I intend, — a virtue, a power, a principle of spiritual life and grace, wrought, created, infused into our souls, and inlaid in all the faculties of them, constantly abiding and unchangeably residing in them, which is antecedent unto, and the next cause of, all acts of true holiness whatever. And this is that, as was said, wherein the nature of holiness doth consist, and from which, in those that are adult, the actual discharge of all duties and works of holiness is inseparable. This abideth always in and with all that are sanctified, whence they are always holy, and not only so when they are actually exercised in the duties of holiness. Hereby are they prepared, disposed, and enabled unto all duties of obedience, as we shall show immediately; and by the influence hereof into their acts and duties do they become holy, and no otherwise.
For the farther explanation of it, I shall only add three things:—
(1.) That this habit or principle, thus wrought and abiding in us, doth not, if I may so say, firm its own station, or abide and continue in us by its own natural efficacy, in adhering unto the faculties of our souls. Habits that are acquired by many actions have a natural efficacy to preserve themselves, until some opposition that is too hard for them prevail against them; which is frequently (though not easily) done. But this is preserved in us by the constant powerful actings and influence of the Holy Ghost. He which works it in us doth also preserve it in us. And the reason hereof is, because the spring of it is in our head, Christ Jesus, it being only an emanation of virtue and power from him unto us by the Holy Ghost. If this be not actually and always continued, whatever is in us would die and wither of itself. See Eph. iv. 15, 16; Col. iii. 3; John iv. 14. It is in us as the fructifying sap is in a branch of the vine or olive. It is there really and formally, and is the next cause of the fruit-bearing of the branch: 476but it doth not live and abide by itself, but by a continual emanation and communication from the root; let that be intercepted, and it quickly withers. So is it with this principle in us, with respect unto its root, Christ Jesus.
(2.) Though this principle or habit of holiness be of the same kind or nature in all believers, in all that are sanctified, yet there are in them very distinct degrees of it. In some it is more strong, lively, vigorous, and flourishing; in others, more weak, feeble, and inactive; and this in so great variety and on so many occasions as cannot here be spoken unto.
(3.) That although this habit and principle is not acquired by any or many acts of duty or obedience, yet is it, in a way of duty, preserved, increased, strengthened, and improved thereby. God hath appointed that we should live in the exercise of it; and in and by the multiplication of its acts and duties is it kept alive and stirred up, without which it will be weakened and decay.
2. This being what I intend as to the substance of it, we must, in the next place, show that there is such a spiritual habit or principle of spiritual life wrought in believers, wherein their holiness doth consist. Some few testimonies of many shall suffice as to its present confirmation.
The work of it is expressed, Deut. xxx. 6, “The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” The end of holiness is, that we may “live;” and the principal work of holiness is to “love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul;” and this is the effect of God’s “circumcising our hearts,” without which it will not be. Every act of love and fear, and consequently every duty of holiness whatever, is consequential unto God’s circumcising of our hearts. But it should seem that this work of God is “only a removal of hinderances,” and doth not express the collation of the principle which we assert. I answer, that although it were easy to demonstrate that this work of circumcising our hearts cannot be effected without an implantation of the principle pleaded for in them, yet it shall suffice at present to evince from hence that this effectual work of God upon our hearts is antecedently necessary unto all acts of holiness in us. But herewithal God writes his law in our hearts: Jer. xxxi. 33, “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts.” The habit or principle which we have described is nothing but a transcript of the law of God implanted and abiding in our hearts, whereby we comply with and answer unto the whole will of God therein. This is holiness in the habit and principle of it. This is more fully expressed, Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27, “A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you, and cause you to walk in my 477statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” The whole of all that actual obedience and all those duties of holiness which God requireth of us is contained in these expressions, “Ye shall walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments to do them.” Antecedent hereunto, and as the principle and cause thereof, God gives a “new heart” and a “new spirit.” This new heart is a heart with the law of God written in it, as before mentioned; and this new spirit is the habitual inclination of that heart unto the life of God, or all duties of obedience. And herein the whole of what we have asserted is confirmed, — namely, that antecedently unto all duties and acts of holiness whatever, and as the next cause of them, there is by the Holy Ghost a new spiritual principle or habit of grace communicated unto us and abiding in us, from whence we are made and denominated holy.
It is yet more expressly revealed and declared in the New Testament, John iii. 6. There is a work of the Spirit of God upon us in our regeneration; we are “born again of the Spirit.” And there is the product of this work of the Spirit of God in us, that which is born in this new birth, and that is “spirit” also. It is something existing in us, that is of a spiritual nature and spiritual efficacy. It is something abiding in us, acting in a continual opposition against the flesh or sin, as Gal. v. 17, and unto all duties of obedience unto God. And until this spirit is formed in us, — that is, our whole souls have a furnishment of spiritual power and ability, — we cannot perform any one act that is spiritually good, nor any one act of vital obedience. This spirit, or spiritual nature, which is born of the Spirit, by which alone we are enabled to live to God, is that habit of grace or principle of holiness which we intend. And so also is it called a new creature: “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature,” 2 Cor. v. 17. It is something that, by an almighty creating act of the power of God by his Spirit, hath the nature of a living creature, produced in the souls of all that are in Christ Jesus. And as it is called the “new creature,” so it is also a “divine nature,” 2 Pet. i. 4; and a nature is the principle of all operations. And this is what we plead for: The Spirit of God createth a new nature in us, which is the principle and next cause of all acts of the life of God. Where this is not, whatever else there may be, there is no evangelical holiness. This is that whereby we are enabled to live unto God, to fear him, to walk in his ways, and to yield obedience according to his mind and will. See Eph. iv. 23, 24; Col. iii. 10. This the Scripture plentifully testifieth unto; but withal I must add, that as to the proper nature or essence of it, no mind can apprehend it, no tongue can express it, none can perfectly understand its glory. Some few things may be added to illustrate it.
478(1.) This is that whereby we have union with Jesus Christ, the head of the church. Originally and efficiently the Holy Spirit dwelling in him and us is the cause of this union; but formally this new principle of grace is so. It is that whereby we become “members of his flesh and of his bones,” Eph. v. 30. As Eve was of Adam, — she was one with him, because she had the same nature with him, and that derived from him, which the apostle alludeth unto, — so are we of him, partakers of the same divine nature with him. Thus he that is “joined unto the Lord is one spirit,” 1 Cor. vi. 17; that is, of one and the same spiritual nature with him, Heb. ii. 11, 14. How excellent is this grace, which gives us our interest in and continuity unto the body of Christ, and to his person as our head! It is the same grace, in the kind thereof, which is in the holy nature of Christ, and renders us one with him.
(2.) Our likeness and conformity unto God consists herein; for it is the reparation of his image in us, Eph. iv. 23, 24; Col. iii. 10. Something, I hope, I apprehend concerning this image of God in believers, and of their likeness unto him, how great a privilege it is, what honour, safety, and security depend thereon, what duties are required of us on the account thereof; but perfectly to conceive or express the nature and glory of it we cannot attain unto, but should learn to adore the grace whence it doth proceed and is bestowed on us, to admire the love of Christ and the efficacy of his mediation, whereby it is renewed in us; — but the thing itself is ineffable.
(3.) It is our life, our spiritual life, whereby we live to God. Life is the foundation and sum of all excellencies; without this we are dead in trespasses and sins; and how we are quickened by the Holy Ghost hath been declared. But this is the internal principle of life, whence all vital acts in the life of God do proceed. And whereas we know not well what is the true form and essence of life natural, only we find it, discern it, and judge of it by its effects, much less do we know the form and essence of life spiritual, which is far more excellent and glorious. This is that life which is “hid with Christ in God,” Col. iii. 3; in which words the apostle draws a veil over it, as knowing that we are unable steadfastly to behold its glory and beauty.
But before I proceed unto a farther description of this principle of holiness in its effects, as before laid down, it may not be amiss practically to call over these general considerations of its nature; and our own concernment in this truth, which is no empty notion, will be therein declared. And, —
First, We may learn hence not to satisfy ourselves, or not to rest, in any acts or duties of obedience, in any good works, how good and useful soever in themselves, or howsoever multiplied by us, unless 479there be a vital principle of holiness in our hearts. A few honest actions, a few useful duties, do satisfy some persons that they are as holy as they should be, or as they need to be; and some men’s religion hath consisted in the multiplying of outward duties, that they might be meritorious for themselves and others. But God expressly rejecteth not only such duties, but the greatest multitude of them, and their most frequent reiteration, if the heart be not antecedently purified and sanctified, if it be not possessed with the principle of grace and holiness insisted on, Isa. i. 11–15. Such acts and duties may be the effects of other causes, the fruits of other principles. Mere legal convictions will produce them, and put men upon a course of them. Fears, afflictions, terrors of conscience, dictates of reason, improved by education and confirmed by custom, will direct, yea, compel men unto their observance. But all is lost, men do but labour in the fire about them, if the soul be not prepared with this spiritual principle of habitual holiness, wrought in it immediately by the Holy Ghost. Yet we must here observe these two things:—
(1.) That so far as these duties, be they of morality or religion, of piety or divine worship, are good in themselves, they ought to be approved, and men encouraged in them. There are sundry ways whereby the best duties may be abused and misapplied, as when men rest in them, as if they were meritorious, or the matter of their justification before God; for this, as is known, is an effectual means to divert the souls of sinners from faith in Christ for life and salvation, Rom. ix. 31, 32, x. 3, 4. And there are reasons and causes that render them unacceptable before God, with respect unto the persons by whom they are performed; as when they are not done in faith, for which Cain’s sacrifice was rejected; and when the heart is not previously sanctified and prepared with a spiritual principle of obedience. But yet on neither of these grounds or pretences can we or ought we to condemn or undervalue the duties themselves, which are good in their own nature, nor take off men from the performance of them; yea, it were greatly to be desired that we could see more of the fruits of moral virtues and duties of religious piety among unsanctified persons than we do. The world is not in a condition to spare the good acts of bad men. But this we may do, and as we are called we ought to do: When men are engaged in a course of duties and good works, on principles that will not abide and endure the trial, or for ends that will spoil and corrupt all they do, we may tell them (as our Saviour did the young man, who gave that great account of his diligence in all legal duties), “One thing is yet wanting unto you;” — “You want faith, or you want Christ, or you want a spiritual principle of evangelical holiness, without which all you do will be lost, and come to no account at the last day.” The due assertion 480of grace never was nor ever can be an obstruction unto any duty of obedience. Indeed, when any will give up themselves unto those works or actings, under the name of duties and obedience unto God, which, although they may make a specious show and appearance in the world, yet are evil in themselves, or such as God requireth not of men, we may speak against them, deny them, and take men off from them. So persecution hath been looked on as a good work, men supposing they did God good service when they slew the disciples of Christ; and men giving their goods unto “pious uses,” as they were called (indeed, impious abuses), to have others pray for their souls and expiate their sins, when they were gone out of this world. These and the like other innumerable pretended duties may be judged, condemned, exploded, without the least fear of deterring men from obedience.
(2.) That wherever there is this principle of holiness in the heart in those that are adult, there will be the fruits and effects of it in the life, in all duties of righteousness, godliness, and holiness; for the main work and end of this principle is, to enable us to comply with that “grace of God which teacheth us to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world,” Tit. ii. 11, 12. That which we press for is the great direction of our Saviour, “Make the tree good, and the fruit will be so also.” And there can be no more vile and sordid hypocrisy than for any to pretend unto inward, habitual sanctification, whilst their lives are barren in the fruits of righteousness and duties of obedience. Wherever this root is, there it will assuredly bear fruit.
Secondly, It will appear from hence whence it is that men propose and steer such various courses with respect unto holiness. All men who profess themselves to be Christians are agreed, in words at least, that holiness is absolutely necessary unto them that would be saved by Jesus Christ. To deny it is all one as openly to renounce the gospel. But when they should come to the practice of it, some take one false way, some another, and some actually despise and reject it. Now, all this ariseth from ignorance of the true nature of evangelical holiness on the one hand, and love of sin on the other. There is nothing wherein we are spiritually and eternally concerned that is more frequently insisted on than is the true nature of sanctification and holiness. But the thing itself, as hath been declared, is deep and mysterious, not to be understood without the aid of spiritual light in our minds. Hence some would have moral virtue to be holiness, which, as they suppose, they can understand by their own reason and practice in their own strength; and I heartily wish that we could see more of the fruits of it from them. But real 481moral virtue will hardly be abused into an opposition unto grace; the pretence of it will be so easily, and is so everyday. Some, on the other hand, place all holiness in superstitious devotions, in the strict observance of religious duties, which men, and not God, have appointed; and there is no end of their multiplication of them, nor measure of the strictness of some in them. The reason why men give up themselves unto such soul-deceiving imaginations is, their ignorance and hatred of that only true, real principle of evangelical holiness of which we have discoursed; for what the world knoweth not in these things it always hateth. And they cannot discern it clearly, or in its own light and evidence; for it must be spiritually discerned. This the natural man cannot do; and in that false light of corrupted reason wherein they discern and judge it, they esteem it foolishness or fancy, 1 Cor. ii. 14. There is not a more foolish and fanatical thing in the world, with many, than that internal, habitual holiness which we are in the consideration of; and hence are they led to despise and to hate it. But here the love of sin secretly takes place, and influenceth their minds. This universal change of the soul in all its principles of operation into the image and likeness of God, tending to the extirpation of all sins and vicious habits, is that which men fear and abhor. This makes them take up with morality and superstitious devotion, — any thing that will pacify a natural conscience, and please themselves or others with a reputation of religion. It is, therefore, highly incumbent on all that would not wilfully deceive their own souls unto their eternal ruin to inquire diligently into the true nature of evangelical holiness; and, above all, to take care that they miss it not in the foundation, in the true root and principle of it, wherein a mistake will be pernicious.
Thirdly, It is, moreover, evident from hence that it is a greater matter to be truly and really holy than most persons are aware of. We may learn eminently how great and excellent a work this of sanctification and holiness is from the causes of it. How emphatically doth our apostle ascribe it unto God, even the Father: 1 Thess. v. 23, “Even the God of peace himself sanctify you.” It is so great a work as that it cannot be wrought by any but the God of peace himself. What is the immediate work of the Spirit therein, what the influence of the mediation and blood of Christ into it, hath been already in part declared, and we have yet much more to add in our account of it. And these things do sufficiently manifest how great, how excellent and glorious a work it is; for it doth not become divine and infinite wisdom to engage the immediate power and efficacy of such glorious causes and means for the producing of any ordinary or common effect. It must be somewhat, as of great importance unto the glory of God, so of an eminent nature in itself. And that little 482entrance which we have made into an inquiry after its nature manifests how great and excellent it is. Let us not, therefore, deceive ourselves with the shadows and appearances of things in a few duties of piety or righteousness; no, nor yet with many of them, if we find not this great work at least begun in us. It is sad to see what trifling there is in these things amongst men. None, indeed, is contented to be without a religion, and very few are willing to admit it in its power.
Fourthly, Have we received this principle of holiness and of spiritual life by the gracious operation of the Holy Ghost? — there are, among many others, three duties incumbent on us, whereof we ought to be as careful as of our souls. And the first is, carefully and diligently by all means to cherish and preserve it in our hearts. This sacred depositum of the new creature, of the divine nature, is intrusted with us to take care of, to cherish and improve. If we willingly, or through our neglect, suffer it to be wounded by temptations, weakened by corruptions, or not exercised in all known duties of obedience, our guilt is great, and our trouble will not be small. And then, secondly, it is equally incumbent on us to evince and manifest it by its fruits, in the mortification of corrupt lusts and affections, in all duties of holiness, righteousness, charity, and piety, in the world: for that God may be glorified hereby is one of the ends why he endues our natures with it; and without these visible fruits, we expose our entire profession of holiness to reproach. And in like manner is it required that we be thankful for what we have received.
3. As this principle of inherent grace or holiness hath the nature of a habit, so also hath it the properties thereof. And the first property of a habit is, that it inclines and disposeth the subject wherein it is unto acts of its own kind, or suitable unto it. It is directed unto a certain end, and inclines unto acts or actions which tend thereunto, and that with evenness and constancy. Yea, moral habits are nothing but strong and firm dispositions and inclinations unto moral acts and duties of their own kind, as righteousness, or temperance, or meekness. Such a disposition and inclination, therefore, there must be in this new spiritual nature, or principle of holiness, which we have described, wherewith the souls of believers are inlaid and furnished by the Holy Ghost in their sanctification; for, —
(1.) It hath a certain end, to enable us whereunto it is bestowed on us. Although it be a great work in itself, that wherein the renovation of the image of God in us doth consist, yet is it not wrought in any but with respect unto a farther end in this world; and this end is, that we may live to God. We are made like unto God, that we may live unto God. By the depravation of our natures we are “alienated from this life of God,” this divine, spiritual life, Eph. iv. 18; 483we like it not, but we have an aversation unto it. Yea, we are under the power of a death that is universally opposed unto that life; for “to be carnally minded is death,” Rom. viii. 6, — that is, it is so with respect unto the life of God, and all the acts that belong thereunto. And this life of God hath two parts:— [1.] The outward duties of it; [2.] The inward frame and actings of it. For the first, persons under the power of corrupted nature may perform them, and do so; but without delight, constancy, or permanency. The language of that principle whereby they are acted is, “Behold, what a weariness is it!” Mal. i. 13; and such hypocrites will not pray always. But as to the second, or the internal actings of faith and love, whereby all outward duties shall be quickened and animated, they are utter strangers unto them, utterly alienated from them. With respect unto this life of God, a life of spiritual obedience unto God, are our natures thus spiritually renewed, or furnished with this spiritual habit and principle of grace. It is wrought in us, that by virtue thereof we may “live to God:” without which we cannot do so in any one single act or duty whatever; for “they that are in the flesh cannot please God,” Rom. viii. 8. Wherefore, the first property and inseparable adjunct of it is, that it inclineth and disposeth the soul wherein it is unto all acts and duties that belong to the life of God, or unto all the duties of holy obedience, so that it shall attend unto them, not from conviction or external impression only, but from an internal genuine principle, so inclining and disposing it thereunto. And these things may be illustrated by what is contrary unto them: There is in the state of nature a “carnal mind,” which is the principle of all moral and spiritual operations in them in whom it is; and this carnal mind hath an enmity, or is “enmity against God,” — “it is not subject unto the law of God, neither indeed can be,” Rom. viii. 7; that is, the bent and inclination of it lies directly against spiritual things, or the mind and will of God in all things which concern a life of obedience unto himself. Now, as this principle of holiness is that which is introduced into our souls in opposition unto, and to the exclusion of, the carnal mind; so this disposition and inclination of it is opposite and contrary unto the enmity of the carnal mind, as tending always unto actions spiritually good, according to the mind of God.
(2.) This disposition of heart and soul, which I place as the first property or effect of the principle of holiness, before declared and explained, is in the Scripture called fear, love, delight, and by the names of such other affections as express a constant regard and inclination unto their objects: for these things do not denote the principle of holiness itself, which is seated in the mind, or understanding and will, whereas they are the names of affections only; but they signify the first way whereby that principle doth act itself, in a holy inclination 484of the heart unto spiritual obedience. So when the people of Israel had engaged themselves by solemn covenant to hear and do whatsoever God commanded, God adds concerning it, “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always!” Deut. v. 29; that is, that the bent and inclination of their hearts were always unto obedience. It is that which is intended in the promise of the covenant: Jer. xxxii. 39, “I will give them one heart, that they may fear me;” which is the same with the “new spirit,” Ezek. xi. 19. The new heart, as hath been declared, is the new nature, the new creature, the new, spiritual, supernatural principle of holiness. The first effect, the first fruit hereof is, the fear of God always, or a new spiritual bent and inclination of soul unto all the will and commands of God. And this new spirit, this fear of God, is still expressed as the inseparable consequent of the new heart, or the writing of the law of God in our hearts, which are the same. So it is called, “fearing the Lord and his goodness,” Hos. iii. 5. In like manner it is expressed by “love;” which is the inclination of the soul unto all acts of obedience unto God and communion with him with delight and complacency. It is a regard unto God and his will, with a reverence due unto his nature, and a delight in him suited unto that covenant-relation wherein he stands unto us.
(3.) It is, moreover, expressed by being spiritually minded: “To be spiritually minded is life and peace,” Rom. viii. 6; — that is, the bent and inclination of the mind unto spiritual things is that whereby we live to God and enjoy peace with him; it is “life and peace.” By nature we savour only the things of the flesh, and “mind earthly things,” Phil. iii. 19; our minds or hearts are set upon them, disposed towards them, ready for all things that lead us to the enjoyment of them and satisfaction in them. But hereby we mind the things that are above, or set our affections on them, Col. iii. 1, 2. By virtue hereof David professeth that his “soul followed hard after God,” Ps. lxiii. 8, or inclined earnestly unto all those ways whereby he might live unto him, and come unto the enjoyment of him; like the earnestness which is in him who is in the pursuit of something continually in his eye, as our apostle expresseth it, Phil. iii. 13, 14. By the apostle Peter it is compared unto that natural inclination which is in those that are hungry unto food: 1 Pet. ii. 2, “As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby;” which is a constant unalterable inclination.
This, therefore, is that which I intend:— Every nature hath its disposition unto actings suitable unto it. The principle of holiness is such a nature, a new or divine nature; wherever it is, it constantly inclines the soul unto duties and acts of holiness, it produceth a constant disposition unto them. And as by the principle itself the contrary 485principle of sin and flesh is impaired and subdued, so by this gracious disposition the inclination unto sin which is in us is weakened, impaired, and gradually taken away.
Wherefore, wherever this holiness is, it doth dispose or incline the whole soul unto acts and duties of holiness; and that, — (1.) Universally, or impartially; (2.) Constantly, or evenly; (3.) Permanently, unto the end. And where these things are not, no multiplication of duties will either make or denominate any person holy.
(1.) There is no duty of holiness whatever, but there is a disposition in a sanctified heart unto it. There is a respect unto all God’s commands. Some of them may be more contrary unto our natural inclinations than others, some more cross unto our present secular interests, some attended with more difficulties and disadvantages than others, and some may be rendered very hazardous by the circumstances of times and seasons; but, however, if there be a gracious principle in our hearts, it will equally incline and dispose us unto every one of them in its proper place and season. And the reason hereof is, because it being a new nature, it equally inclines unto all that belongs unto it, as all acts of holy obedience do; for every nature hath an equal propensity unto all its natural operations, in their times and seasons. Hence our Saviour tried the rich young man, who gave an account of his duties and righteousness, with one that lay close unto his secular interests and worldly satisfactions. This immediately carried him off, and evidenced that all he had done besides was not from an internal principle of spiritual life. Any other principle or cause of duties and obedience will, upon solicitations, give way unto an habitual reserve of one thing or other that is contrary thereunto. It will admit either of the omission of some duties, or of the commission of some sin, or of the retaining of some lust. So Naaman, who vowed obedience, upon his conviction of the power of the God of Israel, would, nevertheless, upon the solicitation of his worldly interest, have a reserve to bow in the house of Rimmon. So omission of duties that are dangerous in a way of profession, or the reserve of some corrupt affections, love of the world, pride of life, will be admitted upon any other principle of obedience, and that habitually; for even those who have this real spiritual principle of holiness may be surprised into actual omission of duties, commission of sins, and a temporary indulgence unto corrupt affections. But habitually they cannot be so. An habitual reserve for any thing that is sinful or morally evil is eternally inconsistent with this principle of holiness. Light and darkness, fire and water, may as soon be reconciled in one. And hereby is it distinguished from all other principles, reasons, or causes, whereon men may perform any duties of obedience towards God.
486(2.) It thus disposeth the heart unto duties of holiness constantly and evenly. He in whom it is feareth always, or is in the fear of the Lord all the day long. In all instances, on all occasions, it equally disposeth the mind unto acts of holy obedience. It is true that the actings of grace which proceed from it are in us sometimes more intense and vigorous than at other times. It is so, also, that we are ourselves sometimes more watchful and diligently intent on all occasions of acting grace, whether in solemn duties, or in our general course, or on particular occasions, than we are at some other times. Moreover, there are especial seasons wherein we meet with greater difficulties and obstructions from our lusts and temptations than ordinary, whereby this holy disposition is intercepted and impeded. But notwithstanding all these things, which are contrary unto it and obstructive of its operations, in itself and its own nature it doth constantly and evenly incline the soul, at all times and on all occasions, unto duties of holiness. Whatever falls out otherwise is accidental unto it. This disposition is like a stream that ariseth equally from a living fountain, as our Saviour expresseth it: John iv. 14, “A well of water springing up into everlasting life.” As this stream passeth on in its course, it may meet with oppositions that may either stop it or divert it for a season; but its waters still press forward continually. Hereby doth the soul set God always before it, and walk continually as in his sight. Men may perform duties of obedience unto God, yea, many of them, yea, be engaged into a constant course of them, as to their outward performance, on other grounds, from other principles, and by virtue of other motives; but whatever they are, they are not a new nature in and unto the soul, and so do not dispose men constantly and evenly unto what they lead unto. Sometimes their impressions on the mind are strong and violent, there is no withstanding of them, but the duties they require must instantly be complied withal. So is it when convictions are excited by dangers or afflictions, strong desires, or the like. And again, they leave the soul unto its own formality and course, without the least impression from them towards any duties whatever. There is no cause, or principle, or reason of obedience, besides this one insisted on, that will evenly and constantly incline unto the acts of it. Men proceeding only upon the power of convictions are like those at sea, who sometimes meet with storms or vehement winds which fit them for their course, and would seem immediately to drive them, as it were, with violence into their port or harbour, but quickly after they have an utter calm, no breath of air stirs to help them forward; and then, it may be, after awhile another gust of wind befalls them, which they again suppose will despatch their voyage, but that also quickly fails them. Where this principle is, persons 487have a natural current, which carries them on quickly, evenly, and constantly; and although they may sometimes meet with storms, tempests, and cross winds, yet the stream, the current, which is natural, at length worketh its way, and holds on its course through all external occasional impediments.
(3.) It is also permanent herein, and abideth forever. It will never cease inclining and disposing the whole soul unto acts and duties of obedience, until it come unto the end of them all in the enjoyment of God. It is “living water,” and whosoever drinketh of it shall never thirst anymore, that is, with a total indigence of supplies of grace, but it is “a well of water springing up into everlasting life,” John iv. 14. It springs up, and that as always, without intermission, because it is living water, from which vital acts are inseparable, so permanently, without ceasing, it springs up into everlasting life, and faileth not until those in whom it is are safely lodged in the enjoyment of it. This is expressly promised in the covenant, “I will put my fear in their hearts, and they shall not depart from me,” Jer. xxxii. 40. They shall never do so in whom is this fear, which is permanent and endless. It is true, that it is our duty, with all care and diligence, in the use of all means, to preserve, cherish, and improve both the principle itself and its actings in these holy dispositions; we are to “show all diligence unto the full assurance of hope unto the end,” Heb. vi. 11; and in the use of means and the exercise of grace is it that it is infallibly kept and preserved, Isa. xl. 31; — and it is also true, that sometimes, in some persons, upon the fierce interposition of temptations, with the violent and deceitful working of lusts, the principle itself may seem for a season to be utterly stifled, and this property of it to be destroyed, as it seems to have been with David under his sad fall and decay; — yet such is the nature of it that it is immortal, everlasting, and which shall never absolutely die; such is the relation of it unto the covenant-faithfulness of God and mediation of Christ, as that it shall never utterly cease or be extinguished. It abideth, disposing and inclining the heart unto all duties of holy obedience, unto the grave; yea, ordinarily, and where its genuine work and tendency is not interrupted by cursed negligence or love of the world, it thrives and grows continually unto the end. Hence, some are not only fruitful, but fat and flourishing in their old age; and as the outward man decayeth, so in them the inward man is daily renewed in strength and power. But as unto all other principles of obedience whatever, as it is in their own nature to decay and wither, all their actings growing insensibly weaker and less efficacious, so, for the most part, either the increase of carnal wisdom, or the love of the world, or some powerful temptation, at one time or other, puts an utter end unto them, 488and they are of no use at all. Hence there is not a more secure generation of sinners in the world than those who have been acted by the power of conviction unto a course of obedience in the performance of many duties; and those of them who fall not openly to profaneness, or lasciviousness, or neglect of all duties of religion, do continue in their course from what they have been habituated unto, finding it compliant with their present circumstances and conditions in the world, as also having been preserved from such ways and practices as are inconsistent with their present course by the power of their former convictions. But the power of these principles, of conviction, education, impressions from afflictions, dangers, fears, all in one, die before men; and, if their eyes were open, they might see the end of them.
In this manner, therefore, doth the new, divine nature that is in believers dispose and incline them, impartially, evenly, and permanently, unto all acts and duties of holy obedience.
One thing yet remains to be cleared, that there may be no mistake in this matter; and this is, that in those who are thus constantly inclined and disposed unto all the acts of a heavenly, spiritual life, there are yet remaining contrary dispositions and inclinations also.
There are yet in them inclinations and dispositions to sin, proceeding from the remainders of a contrary habitual principle. This the Scripture calls the “flesh,” “lust,” the “sin that dwelleth in us,” the “body of death;” being what yet remaineth in believers of that vicious, corrupted depravation of our nature, which came upon us by the loss of the image of God, disposing the whole soul unto all that is evil. This yet continueth in them, inclining them unto evil and all that is so, according to the power and efficacy that is remaining unto it in various degrees. Sundry things are here observable; as, — (1.) This is that which is singular in this life of God: There are in the same mind, will, and affections, namely, of a person regenerate, contrary habits and inclinations, continually opposing one another, and acting adversely about the same objects and ends. And this is not from any jarrings or disorder between the distinct faculties of the soul itself, — as in natural men there are adverse actings between their wills and affections on the one hand, bent unto sin, and the light of their minds and consciences on the other, prohibiting the committing of sin and condemning its commission, which disorder is discernible in the light of nature, and is sufficiently canvassed by the old philosophers, — but these contrary habits, inclinations, and actings, are in the same faculties. (2.) As this cannot be apprehended but by virtue of a previous conviction and acknowledgment both of the total corruption of our nature by the fall and the initial renovation of it by Jesus Christ, wherein these contrary habits and dispositions do consist; so it cannot be denied without 489an open rejecting of the gospel, and contradiction to the experience of all that do believe or know any thing of what it is to live to God. We intend no more but what the apostle so plainly asserts, Gal. v. 17, “The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh;” that is, in the mind, will, and affections of believers: “and these are contrary the one to the other;” they are contrary principles, attended with contrary inclinations and actings: “so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (3.) There cannot be contrary habits, merely natural or moral, in the same subject, with respect unto the same object, at the same time, at least they cannot be so in any high degree, so as to incline and act contrary one to another with urgency or efficacy: for violent inclinations unto sin, and a conscience fiercely condemning for sin, whereby sinners are sometimes torn and even distracted, are not contrary habits in the same subject; only conscience brings in from without the judgment of God against what the will and affections are bent upon.
But it is, as was said, otherwise in the contrary principles or habits of spirit and flesh, of grace and sin, with their adverse inclinations and actings; only they cannot be in the highest degree at the same time, nor be actually prevalent or predominant in the same instances, — that is, sin and grace cannot bear rule in the same heart at the same time, so as that it should be equally under the conduct of them both. Nor can they have in the same soul contrary inclinations equally efficacious; for then would they absolutely obstruct all sorts of operations whatever. Nor have they the same influence into particular actions, so as that they should not be justly denominated from one of them, either gracious or sinful. But by nature the vicious, depraved habit of sin, or the flesh, is wholly predominant and universally prevalent, constantly disposing and inclining the soul to sin. Hence “all the imaginations of men’s hearts are evil, and that continually,” and “they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” There dwelleth no good thing in them, nor can they do any thing that is good; and the flesh is able generally to subdue the rebellions of light, convictions, and conscience, against it. But upon the introduction of the new principle of grace and holiness in our sanctification, this habit of sin is weakened, impaired, and so disenabled as that it cannot nor shall incline unto sin with that constancy and prevalency as formerly, nor press unto it ordinarily with the same urgency and violence. Hence in the Scripture it is said to be dethroned by grace, so as that it shall not reign or lord it over us, by hurrying us into the pursuit of its uncontrollable inclinations, Rom. vi. 12. Concerning these things the reader may consult my treatises of the “Remainder of Indwelling Sin,” and the “Mortification of Sin in Believers.”137137 See vol. vi. of his works. — Ed.
490But so it is that this flesh, this principle of sin, however it may be dethroned, corrected, impaired, and disabled, yet is it never wholly and absolutely dispossessed and cast out of the soul in this life. There it will remain, and there it will work, seduce, and tempt, more or less, according as its remaining strength and advantages are. By reason hereof, and the opposition that hence ariseth against it, the principle of grace and holiness cannot, nor doth perfectly and absolutely, incline the heart and soul unto the life of God and the acts thereof, so as that they in whom it is should be sensible of no opposition made thereunto, or of no contrary motions and inclinations unto sin; for the flesh will lust against the spirit, as well as the spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary. This is the analogy that is between these two states: In the state of nature, the principle of sin, or the flesh, is predominant and bears rule in the soul; but there is a light remaining in the mind, and a judgment in the conscience, which, being heightened with instructions and convictions, do continually oppose it, and condemn sin both before and after its commission. In them that are regenerate, it is the principle of grace and holiness that is predominant and beareth rule; but there is in them still a principle of lust and sin, which rebels against the rule of grace, much in the proportion that light and convictions rebel against the rule of sin in the unregenerate: for as they hinder men from doing many evils which their ruling principle of sin strongly inclines them unto, and put them on many duties that it likes not, so do these on the other side in them that are regenerate; they hinder them from doing many good things which their ruling principle inclines unto, and carry them into many evils which it doth abhor.
But this belongs unto the principle of holiness inseparably and necessarily, that it inclineth and disposeth the soul wherein it is universally unto all acts of holy obedience. And these inclinations are predominant unto any other, and keep the soul pointed to holiness continually; this belongs unto its nature. And where there is a cessation or interruption in these inclinations, it is from the prevailing reaction of the principle of sin, it may be advantaged by outward temptations and incentives, which a holy soul will constantly contend against. Where this is not, there is no holiness. The performance of duties, whether of religious worship or of morality, how frequently, sedulously, and usefully soever, will denominate no man holy, unless his whole soul be disposed and possessed with prevalent inclinations unto all that is spiritually good, from the principle of the image of God renewed in him. Outward duties, of what sort soever, may be multiplied upon light and conviction, when they spring from no root of grace in the heart; and that which so riseth up will quickly wither, Matt. xiii. 20, 21. And this free, genuine, unforced inclination 491of the mind and soul, evenly and universally, unto all that is spiritually good, unto all acts and duties of holiness, with an inward labouring to break through and to be quit of all opposition, is the first fruit and most pregnant evidence of the renovation of our natures by the Holy Ghost.
It may be inquired, whence it is (if the habit or inherent principle of holiness do so constantly incline the soul unto all duties of holiness and obedience) that David prays that God would incline his heart unto his testimonies, Ps. cxix. 36; for it should seem from hence to be a new act of grace that is required thereunto, and that it doth not spring from the habit mentioned, which was then eminent in the psalmist.
Ans. 1. I shall show afterward that, notwithstanding all the power and efficacy of habitual grace, yet there is required a new act of the Holy Spirit by his grace unto its actual exercise in particular instances. 2. God inclines our hearts to duties and obedience principally by strengthening, increasing, and exciting the grace we have received, and which is inherent in us; but we neither have nor ever shall have, in this world, such a stock of spiritual strength as to do any thing as we ought without renewed co-operations of grace. 3. There is power accompanying this habit of grace, as well as propensity or inclinations. It doth not merely dispose the soul to holy obedience, but enables it unto the acts and duties of it. Our living unto God, our walking in his ways and statutes, keeping his judgments, — which things express our whole actual obedience, — are the effects of the new heart that is given unto us, whereby we are enabled unto them, Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27. But this must be somewhat farther and distinctly declared; and, — (1.) I shall show that there is such a power of holy obedience in all that have the principle of holiness wrought in them by the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, which is inseparable from it; and, (2.) Show what that power is, or wherein it doth consist.
That by nature we have no power unto or for any thing that is spiritually good, or to any acts or duties of evangelical holiness, hath been sufficiently proved before: “When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly,” Rom. v. 6. Until we are made partakers of the benefits of the death of Christ, in and by his sanctifying grace, as we are “ungodly,” so we are “without strength,” or have no power to live to God. But, as was said, this hath been formerly fully and largely confirmed, in our declaration of the impotency of our nature by reason of its death in sin, and so need not here to be farther insisted on.
(1.) The present assertion which we are to prove is, That there is, in and by the grace of regeneration and sanctification, a power and 492ability given unto us of living unto God, or performing all the duties of acceptable obedience. This is the first act of that spiritual habit, arising out of it and inseparable from it. It is called “strength” or “power:” Isa. xl. 31, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;” that is, for and unto obedience, or walking with God without weariness. Strength they have, and in their walking with God it is renewed or increased. By the same grace are we “strengthened with all might, according to the glorious power of God,” Col. i. 11; or, “strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man,” Eph. iii. 16; whereby “we can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth us,” Phil. iv. 13. In our calling or conversion to God, “all things are given unto” us by his “divine power” which “pertain unto life and godliness,” 2 Pet. i. 3, — everything that is needful to enable us unto a holy life. The habit and principle of grace that is wrought in believers gives them new power and spiritual strength unto all duties of obedience. The water of the Spirit therein is not only a “well of water” abiding in them, but it “springeth up into everlasting life,” John iv. 14, or enables us continually to such gracious actings as have a tendency thereunto. There is a sufficiency in the grace of God bestowed on them that believe, to enable them unto the obedience required of them, — so God told our apostle, when he was ready to faint under his temptation, that “his grace was sufficient for him,” 2 Cor. xii. 9, — or there is a power in all that are sanctified, whereby they are able to yield all holy obedience unto God. They are alive unto God, alive to righteousness and holiness. They have a principle of spiritual life; and where there is life, there is power in its kind and for its end. Whence there is in our sanctification not only a principle or inherent habit of grace bestowed on us, whereby we really and habitually, as to state and condition, differ from all unregenerate persons whatever, but there belongs moreover thereunto an active power, or an ability for and unto spiritual, holy obedience; which none are partakers of but those who are so sanctified. And unto this power there is a respect in all the commands or precepts of obedience that belong to the new covenant. The commands of each covenant respect the power given in and by it. Whatever God required or doth require of any, by virtue of the old covenant or the precepts thereof, it was on the account of and proportionate unto the strength given under and by that covenant. And that we have lost that strength by the entrance of sin exempts us not from the authority of the command; and thence it is that we are righteously obliged to do what we have no power to perform. So also the command of God under the new covenant, as to all that obedience which he requireth of us, respects that power which is given and communicated unto us thereby; and 493this is that power which belongs unto the new creature, the habit and principle of grace and holiness, which, as we have proved, is wrought by the Holy Ghost in all believers.
(2.) We may, therefore, inquire into the nature of this spiritual power, what it is, and wherein it doth consist. Now, this cannot be clearly understood without a due consideration of that impotency unto all spiritual good which is in us by nature, which it cures and takes away. This we have before at large declared, and thither the reader is referred. When we know what it is to be without power or strength in spiritual things, we may thence learn what it is to have them. To this purpose we may consider that there are three things or faculties in our souls which are the subject of all power or impotency in spiritual things, — namely, our understandings, wills, and affections. That our spiritual impotency ariseth from their depravation hath been proved before; and what power we have for holy, spiritual obedience, it must consist in some especial ability, communicated distinctly unto all these faculties. And our inquiry therefore is, what is this power in the mind, what in the will, and what in the affections. And, —
[1.] This power in the mind consists in a spiritual light and ability to discern spiritual things in a spiritual manner; which men in the state of nature are utterly devoid of, 1 Cor. ii. 13, 14. The Holy Spirit, in the first communication of the principle of spiritual life and holiness, “shines in our hearts, to give us the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” 2 Cor. iv. 6; yea, this strengthening of the mind by saving illumination is the most eminent act of our sanctification. Without this there is a veil with fear and bondage upon us, [so] that we cannot see in spiritual things. But “where the Spirit of the Lord is,” where he comes with his sanctifying grace, “there is liberty;” and thereby “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,” 2 Cor. iii. 17, 18. See Eph. i. 17, 18.
Wherefore, all sanctified believers have an ability and power, in the renewed mind and understanding, to see, know, discern, and receive, spiritual things, the mysteries of the gospel, the mind of Christ, in a due and spiritual manner. It is true, they have not all of them this power and ability in the same degree; but every one of them hath a sufficiency of it, so as to discern what concerns themselves and their duties necessarily. Some of them seem, indeed, to be very low in knowledge, and, in comparison of others, very ignorant; for there are different degrees in these things, Eph. iv. 7. And some of them are kept in that condition by their own negligence and sloth; they do not use as they ought nor improve those means of growing in 494grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ which God prescribes unto them; as Heb. vi. 1–6. But everyone who is truly sanctified, and who thereby hath received the least degree of saving grace, hath light enough to understand the spiritual things of the gospel in a spiritual manner. When the mysteries of the gospel are preached unto believers, some of them may be so declared as that those of meaner capacities and abilities may not be able to comprehend aright the doctrine of them, — which yet is necessary to be so proposed, for the edification of those who are more grown in knowledge, — nevertheless there is not any, the meanest of them, but hath a spiritual insight into the things themselves intended, so far as they are necessary unto their faith and obedience in the condition wherein they are. This the Scripture gives such abundant testimony unto as to render it unquestionable; for “we have received the Spirit which is of God, that we may know the things that are freely given to us of God,” 1 Cor. ii. 12. By virtue of what we have received, we know or discern spiritual things; so we “know the mind of Christ,” verse 16. This is the substance of that double testimony,1 John ii. 20, 27. This abiding unction is no other but that habitual inherent grace which we plead for; and by it, as it is a holy light in our mind, we “know all things,” it is the understanding that is given us to “know him that is true,” chap. v. 20. Only it is their duty continually to endeavour the improvement and enlargement of the light they have, in the daily exercise of the spiritual power they have received, and in the use of means, Heb. v. 14.
[2.] This power in the will consists in its liberty, freedom, and ability to consent unto, choose, and embrace, spiritual things. Believers have free will unto that which is spiritually good; for they are freed from that bondage and slavery unto sin which they were under in the state of nature. Whatever some dispute concerning the nature of free-will, that it consists in an indifferency unto good or evil, one thing or another, with a power of applying itself unto all its operations, whatever their objects be, as the Scripture knoweth nothing of it, so it is that which we cannot have; and if we could, it would be no advantage at all unto us, yea, we had much better be without it. Have it, indeed, we cannot; for a supposition of it includes a rejection of all our dependence on God, making all the springs of our actions to be absolutely and formally in ourselves. Neither, considering the prejudices, temptations, and corruptions that we are possessed and exercised with, would such a flexibility of will be of any use or advantage unto us, but would rather certainly give us up to the power of sin and Satan. All that the Scripture knows about free-will is, that in the state of nature, antecedent unto the converting, sanctifying work of the Spirit, all men whatever 495are in bondage unto sin, and that in all the faculties of their souls. They are “sold under sin;” are “not subject unto the law of God, neither indeed can be;” — can neither think, nor will, nor do, nor desire, nor love any thing that is spiritually good, according to the mind of God. But as unto what is evil, perverse, unclean, that they are free and open unto, — ready for, prone, and inclined, and every way able to do. On the other side, in those who are renewed by the Holy Ghost and sanctified, it acknowledgeth and teacheth a freedom of will, not in an indifferency and flexibility unto good and evil, but in a power and ability to like, love, choose, and cleave unto God and his will in all things. The will is now freed from its bondage unto sin, and, being enlarged by light and love, willeth and chooseth freely the things of God, having received spiritual power and ability so to do. It is the truth, — that is, faith in the gospel, the doctrine of the truth, — which is the means of this freedom; the “truth that makes us free,” John viii. 32. And it is the Son of God by his Spirit who is the principal efficient cause of it: for “if the Son make us free, then are we free indeed,” verse 36; and otherwise we are not, whatever we pretend. And this freedom unto spiritual good we have not of ourselves in the state of nature; for if we have, then are we free indeed, and there would be no need that the Son should make us free.
The difference, therefore, about free-will is reduced unto these heads:— 1st. Whether there be a power in man indifferently to determine himself his choice and all his actings, to this or that, good or evil, one thing or another, independently of the will, power, and providence of God, and his disposal of all future events? This, indeed, we deny, as that which is inconsistent with the prescience, authority, decrees, and dominion of God, and as that which would prove certainly ruinous and destructive to ourselves. 2dly. Whether there be in men unregenerate, not renewed by the Holy Ghost, a freedom, power, and ability unto that which is spiritually good, or to believe and obey according to the mind and will of God? This also we deny, as that which is contrary to innumerable testimonies of Scripture, and absolutely destructive of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. 3dly. Whether the freedom of will that is in believers do consist in an indifferency and freedom from any determination only, with a power equally ready for good or evil, according as the will shall determine itself? or whether it consist in a gracious freedom and ability to choose, will, and do that which is spiritually good, in opposition to the bondage and slavery unto sin wherein we were before detained? This last is that liberty and power of the will which we assert, with the Scripture, in persons that are sanctified. And a liberty this is every way consistent with all the operations 496of God, as the sovereign first cause of all things; every way compliant with and an effect of the special grace of God, and the operations of the Holy Ghost; a liberty whereby our obedience and salvation are secured, in answer to the promises of the covenant. And who that understands himself would change this real, useful, gracious free-will, given by Jesus Christ the Son of God, when he makes us free, and an effect of God’s writing his law in our hearts, to cause us to walk in his statutes, — that property of the new heart whereby it is able to consent unto, choose, and embrace freely, the things of God, — for that fictitious, imaginary freedom, yea, for (if it were real) an indifferency unto all things, and an equal power unto everything, whether it be good or evil? I say, then, that by the habit of grace and holiness infused into us by the Spirit of sanctification, the will is freed, enlarged, and enabled to answer the commands of God for obedience, according to the tenor of the new covenant. This is that freedom, this is that power of the will, which the Scripture reveals and regards and which by all the promises and precepts of it we are obliged to use and exercise, and no other.
[3.] The affections, which naturally are the principal servants and instruments of sin, are hereby engaged unto God, Deut. xxx. 6.
And from what hath been thus far discoursed, the sense of our former assertion is evident, as also the nature of the principle of holiness insisted on. The Holy Ghost in our sanctification doth work, effect, and create in us a new, holy, spiritual, vital principle of grace, residing in all the faculties of our souls, according as their especial nature is capable thereof, after the manner of a permanent and prevalent habit, which he cherisheth, preserveth, increaseth, and strengtheneth continually, by effectual supplies of grace from Jesus Christ, disposing, inclining, and enabling the whole soul unto all ways, acts, and duties of holiness, whereby we live to God, opposing, resisting, and finally conquering, whatever is opposite and contrary thereunto. This belongs essentially unto evangelical holiness, yea, herein doth the nature of it formally and radically consist. This is that from whence believers are denominated holy, and without which none are so, nor can be so called.
The properties of this power are readiness and facility. Wherever it is, it renders the soul ready unto all duties of holy obedience, and renders all duties of holy obedience easy unto the soul.
(1.) It gives readiness by removing and taking away all those encumbrances which the mind is apt to be clogged with and hindered by from sin, the world, spiritual sloth, and unbelief. This is that which we are exhorted unto in a way of duty, Heb. xii. 1; Luke xii. 35; 4971 Pet. i. 13, iv. 1; Eph. vi. 14. Herein is the spirit ready, though the flesh be weak, Mark xiv. 38. And those encumbrances which give an unreadiness unto obedience to God may be considered two ways:— [1.] As they are in their full power and efficacy in persons unregenerate, whence they are “unto every good work reprobate,” Tit. i. 16. Hence proceed all those prevalent tergiversations against a compliance with the will of God and their own convictions which bear sway in such persons. “Yet a little slumber, a little sleep, a little folding of the hands to sleep,” Prov. vi. 10. By these do men so often put off the calls of God, and perniciously procrastinate from time to time a full compliance with their convictions. And whatever particular duties such persons do perform, yet are their hearts and minds never prepared or ready for them, but the encumbrances mentioned do influence them into spiritual disorders in all that they do. [2.] These principles of sloth and unreadiness do ofttimes partially influence the minds of believers themselves unto great indispositions unto spiritual duties. So the spouse states her case, Cant. v. 2, 3. By reason of her circumstances in the world, she had an unreadiness for that converse and communion with Christ which she was called unto. And it is so not unfrequently with the best of men in this world. A spiritual unreadiness unto holy duties, arising from the power of sloth or the occasions of life, is no small part of their sin and trouble. Both these are removed by this spiritual power of the principle of life and holiness in believers. The total prevailing power of them, such as is in persons unregenerate, is broken by the first infusion of it into the soul, wherein it gives an habitual fitness and preparation of heart unto all duties of obedience unto God. And by various degrees it freeth believers from the remainders of the encumbrances which they have yet to conflict with. And this it doth three ways; as, — 1st. It weakeneth and taketh off the bent of the soul from earthly things, so as they shall not possess the mind as formerly, Col. iii. 2. How it doth this was declared before. And when this is done, the mind is greatly eased of its burden, and some way ready unto its duty. 2dly. It gives an insight into the beauty, the excellency, and glory of holiness, and all duties of obedience. This they see nothing of who, being unsanctified, are under the power of their natural darkness. They can see no beauty in holiness, no form nor comeliness why it should be desired; and it is no wonder if they are unfree to the duties of it, which they are but as it were compelled unto. But the spiritual light wherewith this principle of grace is accompanied discovers an excellency in holiness and the duties of it, and in the communion with God which we have thereby, so as greatly to incline the mind unto them and prepare it for them. 3dly. It causeth the affections to cleave and adhere unto them 498with delight. “How do I love thy law!” saith David; “my delight is in thy statutes; they are sweeter unto me than the honey-comb.” Where these three things concur, — where the mind is freed from the powerful influences of carnal lusts and love of this world; where the beauty and excellency of holiness and the duties of obedience lie clear in the eyes of the soul; and where the affections cleave unto spiritual things as commanded, — then will be that readiness in obedience which we inquire after.
(2.) It gives facility or easiness in the performance of all duties of obedience. Whatever men do from a habit, they do with some kind of easiness. That is easy to them which they are accustomed unto, though hard and difficult in itself. And what is done from nature is done with facility. And the principle of grace, as we have showed, is a new nature, an infused habit with respect unto the life of God, or all duties of holy obedience. I grant there will be opposition unto them even in the mind and heart itself, from sin, and Satan, and temptations of all sorts; yea, and they may sometimes arise so high as either to defeat our purposes and intentions unto duties, or to clog us in them, to take off our chariot-wheels, and to make us drive heavily; but still it is in the nature of the principle of holiness to make the whole course of obedience and all the duties of it easy unto us, and to give us a facility in their performance: for, —
[1.] It introduceth a suitableness between our minds and the duties we are to perform. By it is the law written in our hearts; that is, there is an answerableness in them unto all that the law of God requires. In the state of nature, the great things of the law of God are a strange thing unto us, Hos. viii. 12; there is an enmity in our minds against them, Rom. viii. 7; there is no suitableness between our minds and them; — but this is taken away by the principle of grace. Thereby do the mind and duty answer one another, as the eye and a lightsome body. Hence the “commands of Christ are not grievous” unto them in whom it is, 1 John v. 3. They do not appear to contain any thing uncouth, unreasonable, burdensome, or any way unsuited to that new nature whereby the soul is influenced and acted. Hence “all the ways of wisdom are” unto believers, as they are in themselves, “pleasantness, and all her paths are peace,” Prov. iii. 17.
The great notion of some in these days is about the suitableness of Christian religion unto reason; and to make good their assertion in the principal mysteries of it, because reason will not come to them, they bring them by violence unto their reason. But it is with respect unto this renewed principle that there is a suitableness in any of the things of God unto our minds and affections.
[2.] It keeps up the heart or whole person unto a frequency of 499all holy acts and duties; and frequency gives facility in every kind. It puts the soul upon reiterated actings of faith and love, or renewed holy thoughts and meditations. It is a spring that is continually bubbling up in them, on the frequent repetition of the daily duties of prayer, reading, holy discourse; as on closing with all opportunities and occasions of mercy, benignity, charity, and bounty amongst men. Hereby is the heart so accustomed unto the yoke of the Lord, and made so conversant in his ways, that it is natural and easy to it to bear them and to be engaged in them. And it will be found by experience that the more intermissions of duties of any sort we fall under, the more difficulty we shall find in the performance of them.
[3.] It engageth the assistance of Christ and his Spirit. It is the divine nature, the new creature, which the Lord Christ careth for; in and by its actings in all duties of obedience doth its life consist; therein, also, is it strengthened and improved. For this cause doth the Lord Christ continually come in by the supplies of his Spirit unto its assistance. And when the strength of Christ is engaged, then and there is his yoke easy and his burden light.
Some, perhaps, will say that they find not this facility or easiness in the course of obedience and in the duties of it. They meet with secret unwillingnesses in themselves, and great oppositions on other accounts; whence they are apt to be faint and weary, yea, are almost ready to give over. It is hard to them to pray continually, and not to faint; to stand in their watch night and day against the inroads of their spiritual adversaries; to keep themselves from the insinuations of the world, and up unto those sacrifices of charity and bounty that are so well-pleasing to God. Many weights and burdens are upon them in their course, many difficulties press them, and they are ready to be beset round about every moment. Wherefore they think that the principle of grace and holiness doth not give the facility and easiness mentioned, or that they were never made partakers of it.
I answer, — 1st. Let these persons examine themselves, and duly consider whence those obstructions and difficulties they complain of do arise. If they are from the inward inclinations of their souls, and unwillingness to bear the yoke of Christ, only they are kept up unto it by their convictions, which they cannot cast off, then is their condition to be bewailed. But if themselves are sensible and convinced that they arise from principles which, as far as they are within them, they hate and abhor, and long to be freed from, and, as they are from without, are such as they look on as enemies unto them, and do watch against them, then what they complain of is no more but what, in one degree or other, all that believe have experience of. And if their impediments do arise from what they know themselves to be opposite unto them, and [to] that principle whereby they 500are acted, then, notwithstanding this objection, it may be in the nature of the principle of holiness to give facility in all the duties of it.
2dly. Let inquiry be made whether they have been constant and assiduous in the performance of all those duties which they now complain that they find so much difficulty in. The principle of grace and holiness gives facility in all duties of obedience, but in the proper way and order. It first gives constancy and assiduity, and then easiness. If men comply not with its guidance and inclination in the former, it is in vain for them to expect the latter. If we are not constant in all acts of obedience, none of them will ever be easy unto us. Let not those who can omit proper and due seasons of meditation, prayer, hearing, charity, moderation in all things, patience, meekness, and the like, at their pleasure, on the least occasions, excuses, or diversions, ever think or hope to have the ways of obedience smooth, its paths pleasant, or its duties easy. Let him never think to attain any readiness, delight, or facility in any art or science, who is always beginning at it, touching upon it sometimes. As this is the way in all sorts of things, natural and spiritual, to be always learning, and never to come to the knowledge of the truth; so, in the practice of holy obedience, if men are, as it were, always beginning, one while performing, another intermitting the duties of it, fearing or being unwilling to engage into a constant, equal, assiduous discharge of them, they will be always striving, but never come unto any readiness or facility in them.
3dly. The difficulty and burdensomeness complained of may proceed from the interposition of perplexing temptations, which weary, disquiet, and distract the mind. This may be, and frequently is so; and yet our assertion is not impeached. We only say, that set aside extraordinary occasions and sinful neglects, this principle of grace and holiness doth give that suitableness to the mind unto all duties of obedience, that constancy in them, that love unto them, as make them both easy and pleasant.
By these things we may inquire after the habit or principle of holiness in our own minds, that we be not deceived by any thing that falsely pretendeth thereunto; as, —
First, Let us take heed that we deceive not ourselves, as though it would suffice unto gospel holiness that we have occasionally good purposes of leaving sin and living unto God, then when something urgeth upon us more than ordinary, with the effects which such purposes will produce. Afflictions, sicknesses, troubles, sense of great guilt, fear of death, and the like, do usually produce this frame; and although it is most remote from any pretence unto evangelical obedience, yet I could not but give a caution against it, because it is that whereby the generality of men in the world do delude themselves 501into eternal ruin. It is rare to find any that are so stubbornly profligate, but at one time or another they project and design, yea, promise and engage unto, a change of their course and amendment of their lives, doing sundry things, it may be, in the pursuit of those designs and purposes; for they will thereon abstain from their old sins, with whose haunt they are much perplexed, and betake themselves unto the performance of those duties from whence they expect most relief unto their consciences, and whose neglect doth most reflect upon them. Especially will they do so when the hand of God is upon them in afflictions and dangers, Ps. lxxviii. 34–37. And this produceth in them that kind of goodness which God says “is like the morning cloud or the early dew,” — things that make a fair appearance of something, but immediately vanish away, Hos. vi. 4. Certainly there need not much pains to convince any man how unspeakably this comes short of that evangelical holiness which is a fruit of the sanctification of the Spirit. It hath neither the root of it nor any fruit that doth so much as resemble it. But it is to be lamented that such multitudes of rational creatures, living under the means of light and grace, should so vainly and woefully delude their own souls. That which they aim at and intend is, to have that in them whereby they may be accepted with God. Now, not to insist on what will absolutely frustrate all the designs of such persons, — namely, their want of faith in Christ, and an interest in his righteousness thereby, which they are regardless of, — all that they project and design is as far beneath that holiness which God requireth of them, and which they think hereby to obtain, as the earth is beneath the heavens. All that they do in this kind is utterly lost; it will never be either a righteousness unto them or a holiness in them. But this deceit is frequently rebuked. God only by his grace can remove and take it away from the minds of men.
Secondly, And we may learn hence not to be imposed on by gifts, though never so useful, with a plausible profession thereon. These things go a great way in the world, and many deceive both themselves and others by them. Gifts are from the Holy Ghost in an especial manner, and therefore greatly to be esteemed. They are also frequently useful in and unto the church; for “the manifestation of the Spirit is given unto men to profit withal.” And they put men on such duties as have a great show and appearance of holiness. By the help of them alone may men pray, and preach, and maintain spiritual communication among them with whom they do converse. And as circumstances may be ordered, they put sundry persons on a frequent performance of these duties, and so keep them up to an eminency in profession. But yet, when all is done, they are not holiness; nor are the duties performed in the strength of them alone 502duties of evangelical obedience, accepted of God in them by whom they are performed; and they may be where there is nothing of holiness at all. They are, indeed, not only consistent with holiness, but subservient unto it, and exceeding promoters of it, in souls that are really gracious; but they may be alone, without grace, and then are they apt to deceive the mind with a pretence of being and doing what they are not nor do. Let them be called to an account by the nature and properties of that habit and principle of grace which is in all true holiness, as before explained, and it will quickly appear how short they come thereof: for as their subject, where they have their residence, is the mind only, and not the will or affections, any farther but as they are influenced or restrained by light, so they do not renew or change the mind itself, so as to transform it into the image of God; neither do they give the soul a general inclination unto all acts and duties of obedience, but only a readiness for that duty which their exercise doth peculiarly consist in. Wherefore they answer no one property of true holiness; and we have not seldom seen discoveries made thereof.
Least of all can morality, or a course of moral duties, when it is alone, maintain any pretence hereunto. We have had attempts to prove that there is no specifical difference between common and saving grace, but that they are both of the same kind, differing only in degrees. But some, as though this ground were already gained, and needed no more contending about, do add, without any consideration of these “petty distinctions of common and saving grace,” that “morality is grace and grace is morality, and nothing else.” To be a gracious, holy man, according to the gospel, and to be a moral man, is all one with them; and as yet it is not declared whether there be any difference between evangelical holiness and philosophical morality. Wherefore I shall proceed to the fourth thing proposed, —
4. And this is farther to prove that this habit or gracious principle of holiness is specifically distinct from all other habits of the mind whatever, whether intellectual or moral, connate or acquired, as also from all that common grace and the effects of it whereof any persons not really sanctified may be made partakers.
The truth of this assertion is, indeed, sufficiently evident from the description we have given of this spiritual habit, its nature and properties; but whereas there are also other respects giving farther confirmation of the same truth, I shall call over the most important of them, after some few things have been premised: as, —
(1.) A habit, of what sort soever it be, qualifies the subject wherein it is, so that it may be denominated from it, and makes the actions proceeding from it to be suited unto it or to be of the same nature with it. As Aristotle says, “Virtue is a habit which maketh him 503that hath it good or virtuous, and his actions good.” Now, all moral habits are seated in the will. Intellectual habits are not immediately effective of good or evil, but as the will is influenced by them. These habits do incline, dispose, and enable the will to act according to their nature. And in all the acts of our wills, and so all external works which proceed from them, two things are considered:— first, The act itself, or the work done; and, secondly, The end for which it is done. And both these things are respected by the habit itself, though not immediately, yet by virtue of its acts. It is, moreover, necessary and natural that every act of the will, every work of a man, be for a certain end. Two things, therefore, are to be considered in all our obedience:— first, The duty itself we do; and, secondly, The end for which we do it. If any habit, therefore, do not incline and dispose the will unto the proper end of duty, as well as unto the duty itself, it is not of that kind from whence true gospel obedience doth proceed; for the end of every act of gospel obedience, — which is the glory of God in Jesus Christ, — is essential unto it. Let us, then, take all the habits of moral virtue, and we shall find that however they may incline and dispose the will unto such acts of virtue as materially are duties of obedience, yet they do it not with respect unto this end. If it be said that such moral habits do so incline the will unto duties of obedience with respect unto this end, then is there no need of the grace of Jesus Christ or the gospel to enable men to live unto God according to the tenor of the covenant of grace; which some seem to aim at.
(2.) Whereas it is the end that gives all our duties their special nature, this is twofold:—
[1.] The next; and, [2.] The ultimate; — or it is particular or universal. And these may be different in the same action. As a man may give alms to the poor, his next particular end may be to relieve and cherish them; this end is good, and so far the work or duty itself is good also. But the ultimate and general end of this action may be self, merit, reputation, praise, compensation for sin committed, and not the glory of God in Christ; which vitiates the whole. Now, moral habits, acquired by endeavours answerable unto our light and convictions, or the dictates of enlightened reason, with resolutions and perseverance, may incline and dispose the will unto actions and works that for the substance of them are duties, and are capable of having particular ends that are good; but a want of respect unto the general end allows them not to be any part of gospel obedience. And this is applicable unto all moral habits and duties whatever. But the difference asserted is farther manifested, —
(1.) From the especial fountain and spring of holiness, which constitutes its nature of another kind than any common grace or 504morality can pretend unto; and this is electing love, or God’s purpose of election: Eph. i. 4, “He hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” God chooseth us from eternity that we should be holy; that is, with a design and purpose to make us so. He sets some men apart in his eternal purpose, as those unto whom he will communicate holiness. It is, therefore, an especial work of God, in the pursuit of an especial and eternal purpose. This gives it its especial nature, and makes it, as was said, of another kind than any effect of common grace whatever. That is holiness which God works in men by his Spirit because he hath chosen them, and nothing else is so; for he “chooseth us unto salvation through sanctification of the Spirit,” 2 Thess. ii. 13. Salvation is the end that God aimeth at in his choosing of us, in subordination unto his own glory; which is, and must be, the ultimate end of all his purposes and decrees, or of all the free acts of his wisdom and love. The means which he hath ordained whereby we shall be brought unto this salvation, so designed in his eternal purpose, is the “sanctification of the Spirit.” Gospel holiness, therefore, is the effect of that sanctification of the Spirit, which God hath designed as the especial way and means on their part of bringing the elect unto salvation; and his choosing of them is the cause and reason why he doth so sanctify them by his Spirit. And where our sanctification is comprised under our vocation, because therein and thereby we are sanctified, by the sanctifying principle of holiness communicated unto us, it is not only reckoned as an effect and consequent of our predestination, but is so conjoined thereunto as to declare that none others are partakers of it but those that are predestinate, Rom. viii. 29, 30.
And this consideration is of itself sufficient to evince that this holiness whereof we treat differs essentially from all other habits of the mind and actions proceeding from them, as having an especial nature of its own. Whatever there may be in any men of virtue and piety, or whatever their endeavours may be, in ways of honesty and duty towards God and men, if the power and principle of it in them be not a fruit of electing love, of the Spirit of sanctification, given of God for this certain end, that we may attain the salvation whereunto we are chosen, it belongeth not unto this holiness. Wherefore, the apostle Peter, giving us in charge to use “all diligence,” whereby we may make “our calling and election sure,” — that is, unto our souls, and in our own minds, — prescribes as the means of it the exercise and increase of those graces which are its proper effects, 2 Pet. i. 5–7, 10. And the reason why we see so many glorious professions of faith and obedience utterly to fail as we do, is because the faith so professed was not “the faith of God’s elect,” Tit. i. 1; and the obedience 505of it was not the fruit of that Spirit of sanctification which God gives to man to make his purpose of election infallibly effectual, that so the “purpose of God which is according to election might stand,” Rom. ix. 11, and “the election,” or those elected, might obtain the grace and glory designed for them, chap. xi. 5, 7. And it is an evidence of much spiritual sloth in us, or that which is worse, namely, that our graces and obedience are not genuine and of the true heavenly race, if we endeavour not to satisfy ourselves that they are real effects of electing love.
If anyone shall inquire, how we may know whether the graces of holiness, which we hope are in us, and the duties that proceed from them, are fruits and effects of election, seeing such only are genuine and durable, I answer, it may be done three ways:—
[1.] By their growth and increase. This in ordinary cases, setting aside the seasons of prevalent temptations and desertions, is the best evidence hereof. Waters that proceed from a living fountain increase in their progress, because of the continual supplies which they have from their spring, when those which have only occasional beginnings, from showers of rain or the like, do continually decay until they are dried up. The graces that come from this eternal spring have continual supplies from it, so that, if they meet with no violent obstructions (as they may do sometimes for a season), they do constantly increase and thrive. And, therefore, no man can secure his spiritual comforts one moment under a sensible decay of grace; for such a decay is a very sufficient reason why he should call the truth of all his grace into question. Where the Spirit of sanctification is, as given in pursuit of the purpose of election, it is “a well of water springing up into everlasting life,” John iv. 14. The quietness and satisfaction of professors under a decay of grace is a soul-ruining security, and hath nothing in it of spiritual peace.
[2.] We may discern it when we are much stirred up unto diligent acting and exercise of grace, out of a sense of that electing love from whence all grace doth proceed. It is the nature of that grace that is the fruit of election greatly to affect the heart and mind with a sense of the love that is therein: so the apostle says expressly that one grace exciteth and stirreth up another, from a sense of the love of God, which sets them all on work, Rom. v. 2–5. So God is said to “draw us with loving-kindness,” because “he hath loved us with an everlasting love,” Jer. xxxi. 3; that is, he gives us such a sense of his everlasting love as thereby to draw us after him in faith and obedience. Those principles of duties in us which are excited only by fear, awe, hope, and the jealous observances of an awakened conscience, will scarce at any time evince this heavenly extract unto a spiritual understanding. That grace which proceeds from especial 506love will carry along with it a holy quickening sense of it, and thereby be excited unto its due exercise. And we do what we can to famish and starve our graces, when we do not endeavour their supplies by faith on that spring of divine love from whence they proceed.
[3.] Seeing we are chosen in Christ, and predestinated to be like unto him, those graces of holiness have the most evident and legible characters of electing love upon them which are most effectual in working us unto a conformity to him. That grace is certainly from an eternal spring which makes us like unto Jesus Christ. Of this sort are meekness, humility, self-denial, contempt of the world, readiness to pass by wrongs, to forgive enemies, to love and do good unto all; which indeed are despised by the most, and duly regarded but by few. But I return.
(2.) The especial procuring cause of this holiness is the mediation of Christ. We are not, in this matter, concerned in any thing, let men call it what they please, virtue, or godliness, or holiness, that hath not an especial relation unto the Lord Christ and his mediation. Evangelical holiness is purchased for us by him, according to the tenor of the everlasting covenant, is promised unto us on his account, actually impetrated for us by his intercession, and communicated unto us by his Spirit. And hereby we do not only cast off all the moral virtues of the heathens from having the least concernment herein, but all the principles and duties of persons professing Christianity, who are not really and actually implanted into Christ, for he it is who “of God is made unto us sanctification,” 1 Cor. i. 30; and this he is on several accounts, the heads whereof may be called over:—
[1.] He is made unto us of God sanctification with respect unto his sacerdotal office, because we are purified, purged, washed, and cleansed from our sins by his blood, in the oblation of it, and the application of it unto our souls, as hath been at large declared, Eph. v. 25–27; Tit. ii. 14, 1 John i. 7; Heb. ix. 14. All that we have taught before concerning the purification of our minds and consciences by the blood of Christ is peculiar unto gospel holiness, and distinguisheth it essentially from all common grace or moral virtues. And they do but deceive themselves who rest in a multitude of duties, it may be animated much with zeal, and set off with a profession of the most rigid mortification, whose hearts and consciences are not thus purged by the blood of Christ.
[2.] Because he prevails for the actual sanctification of our natures, in the communication of holiness unto us, by his intercession. His prayer, John xvii. 17, is the blessed spring of our holiness: “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth.” There 507is not any thing of this grace wrought in us, bestowed on us, communicated unto us, preserved in us, but what is so in answer unto and compliance with the intercession of Christ. From his prayer for us is holiness begun in us: “Sanctify them,” saith he, “by thy truth.” Thence it is kept alive and preserved in us: “I have,” saith he to Peter, “prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” And through his intercession are we saved to the uttermost. Nothing belongs to this holiness but what, in the actual communication of it, is a peculiar fruit of Christ’s intercession; what is not so, what men may be made partakers of upon any more general account, belongs not thereunto. And if we really design holiness, or intend to be holy, it is our duty constantly to improve the intercession of Christ for the increase of it; and this we may do by especial applications to him for that purpose. So the apostles prayed him to “increase their faith,” Luke xvii. 5; and we may do so for the increase of our holiness. But the nature of this application unto Christ for the increase of holiness, by virtue of his intercession, is duly to be considered. We are not to pray unto him that he would intercede for us that we may be sanctified; for as he needs not our minding for the discharge of his office, so he intercedes not orally in heaven at all, and always doth so virtually, by his appearance in the presence of God, with the virtue of his oblation or sacrifice. But whereas the Lord Christ gives out no supplies of grace unto us but what he receiveth from the Father for that end by virtue of his intercession, we apply ourselves unto him under that consideration, — namely, as he who, upon his intercession with God for us, hath all stores of grace to give us supplies from.
[3.] He is so, because the rule and measure of holiness unto us, the instrument of working it in us, is his word and doctrine, which he taught the church as the great prophet of it: “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” The inbred dictates of the light and law of nature, in their greatest purity, are not the rule or measure of this holiness; much less are those rules and maxims which men deduce, partly right and partly wrong, from them of any such use. Nor is the written law itself so. It is the rule of original holiness, but not the adequate rule of that holiness whereunto we are restored by Christ. Neither are both these in conjunction, — the dictates of nature and the law written, — the instruments of working holiness in us. But it is the doctrine of the gospel which is the adequate rule and immediate instrument of it. My meaning is, that the word, the gospel, the doctrine of Christ, in the preceptive part of it, is so the rule of all our obedience and holiness as that all which it requireth belongeth thereunto, and nothing else but what it requireth doth so; and the formal reason of our holiness 508consists in conformity thereunto, under this consideration, that it is the word and doctrine of Christ. Nothing belongeth unto holiness materially but what the gospel requireth; and nothing is so in us formally but what we do because the gospel requireth it. And it is the instrument of it, because God maketh use of it alone as an external means for the communicating of it unto us, or the ingenerating of it in us. Principles of natural light, with the guidance of an awakened conscience, do direct unto, and exact the performance of, many material duties of obedience; the written law requireth of us all duties of original obedience; and God doth use these things variously for the preparing of our souls unto a right receiving of the gospel: but there are some graces, some duties, belonging unto evangelical holiness, which the law knows nothing of; such are the mortification of sin, godly sorrow, daily cleansing of our hearts and minds; — not to mention the more sublime and spiritual acts of communion with God by Christ, with all that faith and love which are required in us towards him; for although these things may be contained in the law radically, as it requires universal obedience unto God, yet are they not so formally. And it is not used as the means to beget faith and holiness in us; this is the effect of the gospel only. Hence it is said to be “the power of God unto salvation,” Rom. i. 16, or that whereby God puts forth the greatness of his power unto that purpose; — “the word of his grace, which is able to build us up, and to give us an inheritance among all them which are sanctified,” Acts xx. 32. It is that by whose preaching faith cometh, Rom. x. 17; and by the hearing whereof we receive the Spirit, Gal. iii. 2. It is that whereby we are begotten in Christ Jesus, 1 Cor. iv. 15; James i. 18; 1 Pet. i. 23–25. And all that is required of us, in the way of external obedience, is but that our conversation be such as becometh the gospel.
And this is a proper touchstone for our holiness, to try whether it be genuine, and of the right kind or no. If it be, it is nothing but the seed of the gospel quickened in our hearts, and bearing fruit in our lives. It is the delivery up of our souls into the mould of the doctrine of it, so as that our minds and the word should answer one another, as face doth unto face in water. And we may know whether it be so with us or no two ways; for, — 1st. If it be so, none of the commands of the gospel will be grievous unto us, but easy and pleasant. A principle suited unto them all, inclining unto them all, connatural unto them, as proceeding from them, being implanted in our minds and hearts, it renders the commands themselves so suited unto us, so useful, and the matter of them so desirable, that obedience is made pleasant thereby. Hence is that satisfaction of mind, with rest and joy, which believers have in gospel duties, yea, 509the most difficult of them; with that trouble and sorrow which ensue upon their neglect, omission, or their being deprived of opportunities for them. But in the strictest course of duties that proceedeth from any other principle, the precepts of the gospel, or at least some of them, on account of their spirituality or simplicity, are either esteemed grievous or despised. 2dly. None of the truths of the gospel will seem strange unto us. This makes up the evidence of a genuine principle of gospel holiness, when the commands of it are not grievous, nor the truths of it strange or uncouth. The mind so prepared receives every truth, as the eye doth every increase of light, naturally and pleasantly, until it come unto its proper measure. There is a measure of light which is suited unto our visive faculty; what exceeds it dazzles and amazes, rather than enlightens, but every degree of light which tends unto it is connatural and pleasant to the eye. So is it with the sanctified mind and spiritual truth. There is a measure of light issuing from spiritual truths that our minds are capable of: what is beyond this measure belongs to glory, and the gazing after it will rather dazzle than enlighten us; and such is the issue of overstrained speculations when the mind endeavours an excess as to its measure. But all light from truth which tends to the filling up of that measure is pleasant and natural to the sanctified mind. It sees wisdom, glory, beauty, and usefulness, in the most spiritual, sublime, and mysterious truths that are revealed in and by the word, labouring more and more to comprehend them, because of their excellency. For want hereof, we know how the truths of the gospel are by many despised, reproached, scorned, as those which are no less foolishness unto them to be believed than the precepts of it are grievous to be obeyed.
[4.] He is so as he is the exemplary cause of our holiness. The design of God in working grace and holiness in us is, that “we may be conformed unto the image of his Son, that he may be the firstborn among many brethren,” Rom. viii. 29; and our design in the attaining of it is, first that we may be like him, and then that we may express or “show forth the virtues of him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light,” unto his glory and honour, 1 Pet. ii. 9. To this end is he proposed, in the purity of his natures, the holiness of his person, the glory of his graces, the innocency and usefulness of his conversation in the world, as the great idea and exemplar, which in all things we ought to conform ourselves unto. And as the nature of evangelical holiness consists herein, — namely, in a universal conformity unto him as he is the image of the invisible God, — so the proposal of his example unto us is an effectual means of ingenerating and increasing it in us.
It is by all confessed that examples are most effectual ways of 510instruction, and, if seasonably proposed, do secretly solicit the mind unto imitation, and almost unavoidably incline it thereunto. But when unto this power which examples have naturally and morally to instruct and affect our minds, things are peculiarly designed and instituted of God to be our examples, he requiring of us that from them we should learn both what to do and what to avoid, their force and efficacy is increased. This the apostle instructs us in at large, 1 Cor. x. 6–11. Now, both these concur in the example of holiness that is given us in the person of Christ; for, —
1st. He is not only in himself, morally considered, the most perfect, absolute, glorious pattern of all grace, holiness, virtue, obedience, to be chosen and preferred above all others, but he only is so; there is no other complete example of it. As for those examples of heroical virtue or stoical apathy which are boasted of among the heathens, it were an easy matter to find such flaws and tumours in them as would render them not only uncomely, but deformed and monstrous. And in the lives of the best of the saints there is declared what we ought expressly to avoid, as well as what we ought to follow; and in some things we are left at a loss whether it be safe to conform unto them or no, seeing we are to be followers of none any farther than they were so of Jesus Christ, and wherein they were so; neither, in what they were or did, were they absolutely our rule and example in itself, but only so far as therein they were conformable unto Christ: and the best of their graces, the highest of their attainments, and the most perfect of their duties, have their spots and imperfections; so that although they should have exceeded what we can attain unto, and are therefore meet to be proposed unto our imitation, yet do they come short of what we aim at, which is to be holy as God is holy. But in this our great exemplar, as there was never the least shadow of variableness from the perfection of holiness (for “he did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth,” yea, “in him was light, and no darkness at all”), so were all his graces, all his actings of them, all his duties, so absolute and complete, as that we ought to aim no higher, nor to propose any other pattern unto ourselves. And who is it that, aiming at any excellency, would not design the most absolute and perfect example? This, therefore, is to be found as unto holiness in Christ, and in him alone. And, 2dly. He is appointed of God for this purpose. One end why God sent his Son to take our nature upon him, and to converse in the world therein, was, that he might set us an example in our own nature, in one who was like unto us in all things, sin only excepted, of that renovation of his image in us, of that return unto him from sin and apostasy, of that holy obedience which he requireth of 511us. Such an example was needful, that we might never be at a loss about the will of God in his commands, having a glorious representation of it before our eyes; and this could be given us no otherwise but in our own nature. The angelical nature was not suited to set us an example of holiness and obedience, especially as to the exercise of such graces as we principally stand in need of in this world; for what examples could angels set unto us in themselves of patience in afflictions, of quietness in sufferings, seeing their nature is incapable of such things? Neither could we have had an example that was perfect and complete in our own nature, but only in one who was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.” To this end, therefore, among others, did God send his own Son to take our nature on him, and therein to represent unto us the perfect idea of that holiness and obedience which he requireth of us. It is evident, therefore, that these two considerations of an instructive example, that it hath a moral aptitude to incite the mind unto imitation, and that it is instituted of God unto that purpose, are both found eminently in this of Christ.
But there is yet more in this matter: for, — 1st. As God hath appointed the consideration of Christ as an especial ordinance unto the increase of holiness in us, so his holy obedience, as proposed unto us, hath a peculiar efficacy unto that purpose beyond all other instituted examples; for, — (1st.) We are often called to behold Christ, and to look upon him, or it is promised that we shall do so, Isa. xlv. 22; Zech. xii. 10. Now, this beholding of Christ, or looking on him, is the consideration of him by faith unto the ends for which he is exhibited, proposed, and set forth of God in the gospel and promises thereof. This, therefore, is an especial ordinance of God, and is by his Spirit made effectual. And these ends are two:— [1st.] Justification; [2dly.] Salvation, or deliverance from sin and punishment. “Look unto me,” saith he, “and be ye saved.” This was he on the cross, and is still so in the preaching of the gospel, wherein he is “evidently crucified before our eyes,” Gal. iii. 1, lifted up as the brazen serpent in the wilderness, John iii. 14, 15, that we, looking on him by faith, as “bearing our sins in his own body on the tree,” 1 Pet. ii. 24, and “receiving the atonement” made thereby, Rom. v. 11, may through faith in him be justified from all our sins, and saved from the wrath to come. But this we intend not; for, (2dly.) He is of God proposed unto us in the gospel as the great pattern and exemplar of holiness, so as that, by God’s appointment, our beholding and looking on him, in the way mentioned, is a means of the increase and growth of it in us. So our apostle declares, 2 Cor. iii. 18, “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 512Spirit of the Lord.” That which is proposed unto us is, the “glory of God,” or the “glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” chap. iv. 6; that is, God gloriously manifesting himself in the person of Christ. This are we said to “behold with open face.” The veil of types and shadows being taken off and removed, faith doth now clearly and distinctly view and consider Jesus Christ as he is represented unto us in the glass of the gospel; that is, the evidences of the presence of God in him and with him, in his work, purity, and holiness. And the effect hereof is, that we are, through the operation of the Spirit of God, “changed into the same image,” or made holy, and therein like unto him.
2dly. There is peculiar force and efficacy, by the way of motive, in the example of Christ, to incline us unto the imitation of him, that is not to be found in any other example, on any occasion whatever; because, (1st.) Whatever is proposed unto us, in what he was or what he did, as our pattern and example, he was it, and did it, not for his own sake, but out of free and mere love unto us. That pure nature of his, which we ought to be labouring after a conformity unto, 1 John iii. 3, and which he will at length bring us unto, Phil. iii. 21, he took it upon him, by an infinite condescension, merely out of love unto us, Heb. ii. 14, 15; Phil. ii. 5–8. And all the actings of grace in him, all the duties of obedience which he performed, all that glorious compliance with the will of God in his sufferings which he manifested, proceed all from his love unto us, John xvii. 19; Gal. ii. 20. These things being in themselves truly honourable and excellent, yea, being only so, the holiness and obedience which God requireth of us consisting in them, and being by the appointment of God proposed unto our imitation in the example of Jesus Christ, how must it needs influence and prevail on gracious souls to endeavour a conformity unto him therein, to be as he was, to do as he did, seeing he was what he was, and did what he did, merely out of love unto us, and for no other end! And, (2dly.) Everything which we are to imitate in Christ is other ways also beneficial unto us; for we are, in its place and way, even saved thereby. By his obedience we are made righteous, Rom. v. 19. There is no grace nor duty of Christ which he did perform, but we have the advantage and benefit of it. And this increaseth the efficacy of his example; for who would not strive to obtain those things in himself, of whose being in Christ he hath so great advantage?
In this regard also, therefore, is the Lord Christ made sanctification unto us, and is the cause of evangelical holiness in us; and certainly we are, the most of us, much to blame that we do not more abound in the use of this means unto the end mentioned. Did we abide more constantly in the beholding or contemplation of the person 513of Christ, of the glory and beauty of his holiness, as the pattern and great example proposed unto us, we should be more transformed into his image and likeness. But it is so fallen out that many who are called Christians delight to be talking of, and do much admire, the virtuous sayings and actions of the heathen, and are ready to make them the object of their imitation, whilst they have no thoughts of the grace that was in our Lord Jesus Christ, nor do endeavour after conformity thereunto; and the reason is, because the virtue which they seek after and desire is of the same kind with that which was in the heathen, and not that grace and holiness which was in Christ Jesus. And thence also it is that some, who, not out of love unto it, but to decry other important mysteries of the gospel thereby, do place all Christianity in the imitation of Christ, do yet indeed in their practice despise those qualities and duties wherein he principally manifested the glory of his grace. His meekness, patience, self-denial, quietness in bearing reproaches, contempt of the world, zeal for the glory of God, compassion to the souls of men, condescension to the weaknesses of all, they regard not. But there is no greater evidence that whatever we seem to have of any thing that is good in us is no part of evangelical holiness, than that it doth not render us conformable to Christ.
And we should always consider how we ought to act faith on Christ with respect unto this end. Let none be guilty practically of what some are falsely charged withal as to doctrine; — let none divide in the work of faith, and exercise themselves but in the one half of it. To believe in Christ for redemption, for justification, for sanctification, is but one half of the duty of faith; — it respects Christ only as he died and suffered for us, as he made atonement for our sins, peace with God, and reconciliation for us, as his righteousness is imputed unto us unto justification. Unto these ends, indeed, is he firstly and principally proposed unto us in the gospel, and with respect unto them are we exhorted to receive him and to believe in him; but this is not all that is required of us. Christ in the gospel is proposed unto us as our pattern and example of holiness; and as it is a cursed imagination that this was the whole end of his life and death, — namely, to exemplify and confirm the doctrine of holiness which he taught, — so to neglect his so being our example, in considering him by faith to that end, and labouring after conformity to him, is evil and pernicious. Wherefore let us be much in the contemplation of what he was, what he did, how in all instances of duties and trials he carried himself, until an image or idea of his perfect holiness is implanted in our minds, and we are made like unto him thereby.
[5.] That which principally differenceth evangelical holiness, 514with respect unto the Lord Christ, from all natural or moral habits or duties, and whereby he is made sanctification unto us, is, that from him, his person as our head, the principle of spiritual life and holiness in believers is derived; and by virtue of their union with him, real supplies of spiritual strength and grace, whereby their holiness is preserved, maintained, and increased, are constantly communicated unto them. On the stating and proof hereof the whole difference about grace and morality doth depend and will issue: for if that which men call morality be so derived from the Lord Christ by virtue of our union with him, it is evangelical grace; if it be not, it is either nothing or somewhat of another nature and kind, for grace it is not, nor holiness neither. And all that I have to prove herein is, that the Lord Jesus Christ is a head of influence, the spring or fountain of spiritual life, unto his church, — wherein I know myself to have the consent of the church of God in all ages; and I shall confine the proof of my assertion unto the ensuing positions, with their confirmation:—
1st. Whatever grace God promiseth unto any, bestoweth on them, or worketh in them, it is all so bestowed and wrought in, by, and through Jesus Christ, as the mediator or middle person between God and them. This the very notion and nature of his office of mediator, and his interposition therein between God and us, doth require. To affirm that any good thing, any grace, any virtue, is given unto us, or bestowed on us, or wrought in us by God, and not immediately through Christ; or that we believe in God, yield obedience unto him, or praise with glory, not directly by Christ, — is utterly to overthrow his mediation. Moses, indeed, is called a mediator between God and the people, Gal. iii. 19, as he was an internuntius, a messenger to declare the mind of God to them, and to return their answers unto God; but to limit the mediatory work of Christ unto such an interposition only is to leave him but one office, that of a prophet, and to destroy the principal uses and effects of his mediation towards the church. In like manner, because Moses is called λυτρωτής, a saviour or redeemer, Acts vii. 35, metaphorically, with respect unto his use and employment in that mighty work of the deliverance of the people out of Egypt, some will not allow that the Lord Christ is a redeemer in any other sense, subverting the whole gospel, with the faith and souls of men. But, in particular, what there is of this nature in the mediation of Christ, in his being the middle person between God and us, may be declared in the ensuing assertions:—
(1st.) God himself is the absolute infinite fountain, the supreme efficient cause, of all grace and holiness; for he alone is originally and essentially holy, as he only is good, and so the first cause of 515holiness and goodness to others. Hence he is called “The God of all grace,” 1 Pet. v. 10; the author, possessor, and bestower of it. “He hath life in himself,” and quickeneth whom he pleaseth, John v. 26; “With him is the fountain of life,” Ps. xxxvi. 9; as hath been declared before. This, I suppose, needs no farther confirmation with them who really acknowledge any such thing as grace and holiness. These things, if any, are among those “perfect gifts” which are “from above,” coming down “from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness neither shadow of turning,” James i. 17.
(2dly.) God from his own fullness communicates unto his creatures, either by the way of nature or by the way of grace. In our first creation God implanted his image on us, in uprightness and holiness, in and by the making or creation of our nature; and had we continued in that state, the same image of God should have been communicated by natural propagation. But since the fall and entrance of sin, God no more communicates holiness unto any by way of nature or natural propagation: for if he did so, there would be no necessity that everyone who is born must be born again before he enter into the kingdom of God, as our Saviour affirmeth there is, John iii. 3, for he might have grace and holiness from his first nativity; nor could it be said of believers that they are “born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God,” chap. i. 13, for grace might be propagated unto them by those natural means. It was the old Pelagian figment, that what we have by nature we have by grace, because God is the author of nature. So he was as it was pure, but it is our own as it is corrupt; and what we have thereby we have of ourselves, in contradiction to the grace of God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh;” and we have nothing else by natural propagation.
(3dly.) God communicates nothing in a way of grace unto any but in and by the person of Christ, as the mediator and head of the church, John i. 18. In the old creation, all things were made by the eternal Word, the person of the Son, as the Wisdom of God, John i. 3; Col. i. 16. There was no immediate emanation of divine power from the person of the Father, for the production of all or any created beings, but in and by the person of the Son, their wisdom and power being one and the same as acted in him. And the supportation of all things in the course of divine providence is his immediate work also, whence he is said to “uphold all things by the word of his power,” Heb. i. 3. And so it is in the new creation with respect unto his person as mediator. Therein was he the “image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature, having the pre-eminence in all things; and he is before all things, and by him all things consist,” Col. i. 15, 17, 18. In the raising of the whole new creation, which 516is by a new spiritual life and holiness communicated unto all the parts of it, the work is carried on immediately by the person of Christ the mediator; and none hath any share therein but what is received and derived from him. This is plainly asserted, Eph. ii. 10. So the apostle disposeth of this matter: “The head of every man is Christ, and the head of Christ is God,” 1 Cor. xi. 3; which is so in respect of influence as well as of rule. As God doth not immediately govern the church, but in and by the person of Christ, whom he hath given to be head over all things thereunto, so neither doth he administer any grace or holiness unto any but in the same order; for “the head of every man is Christ, and the head of Christ is God.”
(4thly.) God doth work real, effectual, sanctifying grace, spiritual strength and holiness, in believers, yea, that grace whereby they are enabled to believe and are made holy, and doth really sanctify them more and more, that they may be preserved “blameless to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This hath been so fully confirmed in the whole of what hath been discoursed both concerning regeneration and sanctification as that it must not be here again insisted on.
Wherefore, all this grace, according unto the former assertion, is communicated unto us through and by Christ, and no otherwise.
2dly. Whatever is wrought in believers by the Spirit of Christ, it is in their union to the person of Christ, and by virtue thereof. That the Holy Spirit is the immediate efficient cause of all grace and holiness I have sufficiently proved already, unto them to whom any thing in this kind will be sufficient. Now, the end why the Holy Spirit is sent, and consequently of all that he doth as he is so sent, is to glorify Christ; and this he doth by receiving from Christ, and communicating thereof unto others, John xvi. 13–15. And there are two works of this kind which he hath to do and doth effect:— first, To unite us to Christ; and, secondly, To communicate all grace unto us from Christ, by virtue of that union.
(1st.) By him are we united unto Christ; — that is, his person, and not a light within us, as some think; nor the doctrine of the gospel, as others with an equal folly seem to imagine. It is by the doctrine and grace of the gospel that we are united, but it is the person of Christ whereunto we are united; for “he that is joined unto the Lord is one Spirit,” 1 Cor. vi. 17, because by that one Spirit he is joined unto him; for “by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body,” chap. xii. 13, — implanted into the body, and united unto the head. And therefore, “if we have not the Spirit of Christ, we are none of his,” Rom. viii. 9. We are therefore his, — that is, united unto him, — by a participation of his Spirit. And hereby Christ himself is in us; for “Jesus Christ is in us, except we be reprobates,” 2 Cor. xiii. 5; — that is, he is in us “by his Spirit that dwelleth in 517us,” Rom. viii. 9, 11; 1 Cor. vi. 19. It may therefore be inquired, whether we receive the Spirit of the gospel from the person of Christ or no? And this is the inquiry which nothing but the extreme ignorance or impudence of some could render seasonable or tolerable, seeing formerly no Christian ever doubted of it, nor is he so now who doth disbelieve it. It is true, we receive him by the “preaching of the gospel,” Gal. iii. 2; but it is no less true that we receive him immediately from the person of Christ. For no other reason is he called so frequently “The Spirit of Christ;” that is, the Spirit which he gives, sends, bestows, or communicates. He receives of the Father the “promise of the Holy Ghost,” and sheddeth him forth, Acts ii. 33.
But it may be said, “That if hereby we are united unto Christ, — namely, by his Spirit, — then we must be holy and obedient before we so receive him, wherein our union doth consist; for certainly Christ doth not unite ungodly and impure sinners unto himself, which would be the greatest dishonour unto him imaginable. We must, therefore, be holy, obedient, and like unto Christ, before we can be united unto him, and so, consequently, before we receive his Spirit, if thereby we are united to him.”
Ans. 1. If this be so, then indeed are we not beholden in the least unto the Spirit of Christ that we are holy, and obedient, and like to Christ; for he that hath the Spirit of Christ is united unto him, and he who is united to him hath his Spirit, and none else. Whatever, therefore is in any man of holiness, righteousness, or obedience, antecedent unto union with Christ, is no especial effect of his Spirit. Wherefore in this case we must purify ourselves without any application of the blood of Christ unto our souls, and we must sanctify ourselves without any especial work of the Spirit of God on our nature. Let them that can, satisfy themselves with these things. For my part, I have no esteem or valuation of that holiness, as holiness, which is not the immediate effect of the Spirit of sanctification in us.
2. It is granted that ordinarily the Lord Christ, by the dispensation of his word, by light and convictions thence ensuing, doth prepare the souls of men in some measure for the inhabitation of his Spirit. The way and manner hereof hath been fully before declared.
3. It is denied that, on this supposition, the Lord Christ doth unite impure or ungodly sinners unto himself, so as that they should be so united, and continue impure and ungodly: for in the same instant wherein anyone is united unto Christ, and by the same act whereby he is so united, he is really and habitually purified and sanctified; for where the Spirit of God is, there is liberty, and purity, and holiness. All acts and duties of holiness are in order of nature consequential 518hereunto, but the person is quickened, purified, and sanctified in its union.
Whereas, therefore, the Spirit of Christ, communicated from him for our union with him, is the cause and author of all grace and evangelical holiness in us, it is evident that we receive it directly from Christ himself; which gives it the difference from all other habits and acts pleaded for.
(2dly.) The second work of the Spirit is, to communicate all grace unto us from Christ by virtue of that union. I shall take it for granted, until all that hath been before discoursed about the work of the Holy Spirit in our regeneration and sanctification be disproved, that he is the author of all grace and holiness; and when that is disproved, we may part with our Bibles also, as books which do openly and palpably mislead us. And what he so works in us, he doth it in pursuit of his first communication unto us, whereby we are united unto Christ, even for the edification, preservation, and farther sanctification of the mystical body, making every member of it meet for the “inheritance of the saints in light.” And in those supplies of grace which he so gives, acted by us in all duties of obedience, consists all the holiness which I desire any acquaintance withal or a participation of.
(3dly.) There is a mystical, spiritual body, whereof Christ is the head, and his church are the members of it. There is, therefore, a union between them in things spiritual, like unto that which is between the head and members of the body of a man in things natural. And this the Scripture, because of the weight and importance of it, with its singular use unto the faith of believers, doth frequently express. “God hath given him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all,” Eph. i. 22, 23. “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ,” 1 Cor. xii. 12. “Christ is the head, from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love,” Eph. iv. 15, 16. And the same apostle speaks again to the same purpose, Col. ii. 19, “Not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.” Now, it hath been always granted by all them who acknowledge the divine person of the Son of God, or the union of the human nature unto the divine in his person, that the Lord Jesus is the head of his church, in the double sense of that word; for he is the political head of it in a way of rule and government, and he is the really spiritual head, as unto vital influences of grace, unto all his 519members. The Romanists, indeed, cast some disturbance on the former, by interposing another immediate, ruling, governing head, between him and the catholic church; yet do they not deny but that the Lord Christ, in his own person, is the absolute, supreme king, head, and ruler of the church. And the latter the Socinians cannot grant; for denying his divine person, it is impossible to conceive how the human nature, subsisting alone by itself, should be such an immense fountain of grace as from whence there should be an emanation of it into all the members of the mystical body. But by all other Christians this hath hitherto been acknowledged; and, therefore, there is nothing belongs unto gospel grace or holiness but what is originally derived from the person of Christ, as he is the head of the church. And this is most evidently expressed in the places before alleged; for, 1 Cor. xii. 12, it is plainly affirmed that it is between Christ and the church as it is between the head and the members of the same natural body. Now, not only the whole body hath guidance and direction in the disposal of itself from the head, but every member in particular hath influences of life actually and strength from thence, without which it can neither act, nor move, nor discharge its place or duty in the body. “So also is Christ,” saith the apostle. Not only hath the whole mystical body of the church guidance and direction from him, in his laws, rules, doctrine, and precepts, but spiritual life and motion also; and so hath every member thereof, — they all receive from him grace for holiness and obedience, without which they would be but withered and dead members in the body. But he hath told us that “because he liveth we shall live also,” John xiv. 19: for the Father having given him to have “life in himself,” chap. v. 26, whereon “he quickeneth” with spiritual life “whom he will,” verse 21, from that fountain of spiritual life which is in him supplies of the same life are given unto the church; and, therefore, because he liveth we live also, — that is, a spiritual life here, without which we shall never live eternally hereafter. And, Eph. iv. 15, 16, the relation of believers unto Christ being stated exactly to answer the relation and union of the members of the body unto the head, it is expressly affirmed that as in the natural body there are supplies of nourishment and natural spirits communicated from the head unto the members, by the subserviency of all the parts of the body, designed unto that purpose, to the growth and increase of the whole in every part: so from Christ, the head of the church, which he is in his divine person as God and man, there is a supply of spiritual life, strength, and nourishment, made unto every member of the body, unto its increase, growth, and edification; for “we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones,” chap. v. 30, being made out of him as Eve was out of Adam, 520yet so continuing in him as to have all our supplies from him; “we in him, and he in us,” as he speaks, John xiv. 20. And, Col. ii. 19, it is expressly affirmed that from him, the head, there is nourishment ministered unto the body, unto its increase with the increase of God. And what this spiritual nourishment, supplied unto the souls of believers for their increase and growth from Christ their head, can be, but the emanation from his person and communication with them of that grace which is the principle and spring of all holiness and duties of evangelical obedience, none has as yet undertaken to declare; and if any do deny it, they do what lies in them to destroy the life and overthrow the faith of the whole church of God. Yea, upon such a blasphemous imagination, that there could be an intercision for one moment of influences of spiritual life and grace from the person of Christ unto the church, the whole must be supposed to die and perish, and that eternally.
(4thly.) The whole of what we assert is plainly and evidently proposed in sundry instructive allusions, which are made use of to this purpose. The principal of them is that both laid down and declared by our Saviour himself: John xv. 1, 4, 5, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, and ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me” (or, severed from me, apart from me) “ye can do nothing.” The natural in-being of the vine and branches in each other is known unto all, with the reason of it; and so is the way whereby the in-being of the branches in the vine is the cause and means of their fruit-bearing. It is no otherwise but by the communication and derivation of that succus, — that is, juice and nourishment, — which alone is the preservative of vegetative life, and the next cause of fruit-bearing. In this juice and nourishment all fruit is virtually, yea, also, as to the first matter and substance of it; in and by the branch it is only formed into its proper kind and perfection. Let any thing be done to intercept this communication from the vine unto any branch, and it not only immediately loseth all its fruit-bearing power and virtue, but itself also withereth and dieth away. And there is a mutual acting of the vine and branches in this matter. Unto the vine itself it is natural from its own fullness to communicate nourishment unto the branches, — it doth it from the principle of its nature; and unto the branches it is also natural to draw and derive their nourishment from the vine. “Thus is it,” saith the Lord Christ unto his disciples, “between me and you. ‘I am the vine,’ “saith he, “‘and ye are the branches.’ And there is a mutual in-being between us; I am in you, and ye are in me, by virtue of 521our union. That now which is expected from you is, that ye bring forth fruit; that is, that ye live in holiness and obedience, unto the glory of God. Unless ye do so ye are no true, real branches in me, whatever outward profession ye may make of your so being.” But how shall this be effected? how shall they be able to bring forth fruit? This can be no otherwise done but by their abiding in Christ, and thereby continually deriving spiritual nourishment, — that is, grace and supplies of holiness, — from him; “for,” saith he, χωρὶς ἐμοῦ, “separate,” or apart, “from me, ye can do nothing of this kind.” And that is, because nothing becomes fruit in the branch that was not nourishment from the vine. Nothing is duty, nothing is obedience in believers, but what is grace from Christ communicated unto them. The preparation of all fructifying grace is in Christ, as the fruit of the branches is naturally in the vine. And the Lord Christ doth spiritually and voluntarily communicate of this grace unto all believers, as the vine communicates its juice unto the branches naturally; and it is in the new nature of believers to derive it from him by faith. This being done, it is in them turned into particular duties of holiness and obedience. Therefore, it is evident that there is nothing of evangelical holiness in any one person whatever but what is, in the virtue, power, and grace of it, derived immediately from Jesus Christ, by virtue of relation unto him and union with him; and it may be inquired whether this be so with moral virtue or no. The same is taught by our apostle under the similitude of an olive-tree and its branches, Rom. xi. 16–24; as also where he is affirmed to be a living stone, and believers to be built on him, as lively stones, into a spiritual house, 1 Pet. ii. 4, 5.
Particular testimonies do so abound in this case as that I shall only name some few of them: John i. 14, 16, He is “full of grace and truth. And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.” It is of the person of Christ, or the “Word made flesh,” the Son of God incarnate, that the Holy Ghost speaketh. He was made flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. It is not the fullness of the Deity, as it dwelt in him personally, that is here intended, but that which was in him as he was made flesh, — that is, in his human nature, as inseparably united unto the divine; an all-fullness that he received by the good pleasure or voluntary disposal of the Father, Col. i. 19, and, therefore, belongeth not unto the essential fullness of the Godhead. And as to the nature of this fullness, it is said to consist in “grace and truth,” that is, the perfection of holiness, — and knowledge of the whole mind, counsel, and mystery of the will of God. Of this fullness do we “receive grace for grace,” — all the grace, in every kind, whereof we are made partakers in this world. That this fullness in Christ expresseth the inconceivable fullness of his human nature, 522by virtue of his indissolute personal union, with all graces in their perfection, wherein he received not the Spirit by measure, John iii. 34, is, as I suppose, by all Christians acknowledged; I am sure cannot be denied without the highest impiety and blasphemy. Hence, therefore, the Holy Ghost being witness, do we derive and receive all our grace, everyone according to his measure, Eph. iv. 7. Wherefore, grace is given unto the Lord Christ in an immeasurable perfection by virtue of his personal union, Col. ii. 9; and from him is it derived unto us by the gracious inhabitation of his Spirit in us, 1 Cor. vi. 19, Eph. iv. 7, according unto the degree of participation allotted unto us. This, in the substance of it, is contained in this testimony. There was and is in Jesus Christ a fullness and perfection of all grace; in us of ourselves, or by any thing that we have by nature or natural generation, by blood, or the flesh, or the will of man, John i. 13, there is none at all. Whatever we have is received and derived unto us from the fullness of Christ, which is an inexhaustible fountain thereof, by reason of his personal union.
To the same purpose is he said to be “our life,” and “our life to be hid with him in God,” Col. iii. 3, 4. Life is the principle of all power and operation. And the life here intended is that whereby we live to God, the life of grace and holiness; for the actings of it consist in the setting of our affections on heavenly things, and mortifying our members that are on the earth. This life Christ is. He is not so formally; for if he were, then it would not be our life, but his only. He is, therefore, so efficiently, as that he is the immediate cause and author of it, and that as he is now with God in glory. Hence it is said that we live, that is, this life of God, yet so as that we live not of ourselves, but “Christ liveth in us,” Gal. ii. 20. And he doth no otherwise live in us but by the communication of vital principles and a power for vital acts; that is, grace and holiness from himself unto us. If he be our life, we have nothing that belongs thereunto, — that is, nothing of grace or holiness, — but what is derived unto us from him.
To conclude, we have all grace and holiness from Christ, or we have it of ourselves. The old Pelagian fiction, that we have them from Christ because we have them by yielding obedience unto his doctrine, makes ourselves the only spring and author of them, and on that account [it was] very justly condemned by the church of old, not only as false, but as blasphemous. Whatever, therefore, is not thus derived, thus conveyed unto us, belongs not unto our sanctification or holiness, nor is of the same nature or kind with it. Whatever ability of mind or will may be supposed in us; what application soever of means may be made for the exciting and exercise of that ability; whatever effects, in virtues, duties, all offices of humanity, and 523honesty, or religious observances, may be produced thereby from them, and wrought by us, — if it be not all derived from Christ as the head and principle of spiritual life unto us, it is a thing of another nature than evangelical holiness.
(3.) The immediate efficient cause of all gospel holiness is the Spirit of God. This we have sufficiently proved already. And although many cavils have been raised against the manner of his operation herein, yet none has been so hardy as openly to deny that this is indeed his work; for so to do is, upon the matter, expressly to renounce the gospel. Wherefore, we have in our foregoing discourses at large vindicated the manner of his operations herein, and proved that he doth not educe grace by moral applications unto the natural faculties of our minds, but that he creates grace in us by an immediate efficiency of almighty power. And what is so wrought and produced differeth essentially from any natural or moral habits of our minds, however acquired or improved.
(4.) This evangelical holiness is a fruit and effect of the covenant of grace. The promises of the covenant unto this purpose we have before, on other occasions, insisted on. In them doth God declare that he will cleanse and purify our natures, that he will write his law in our hearts, put his fear in our inward parts, and cause us to walk in his statutes; in which things our holiness doth consist. Whoever, therefore, hath any thing of it, he doth receive it in the accomplishment of these promises of the covenant: for there are not two ways whereby men may become holy, one by the sanctification of the Spirit according to the promise of the covenant, and the other by their own endeavours without it; though indeed Cassianus, with some of the semi-Pelagians, dreamed somewhat to that purpose. Wherefore, that which is thus a fruit and effect of the promise of the covenant hath an especial nature of its own, distinct from whatever hath not that relation unto the same covenant. No man can ever be made partaker of any the least degree of that grace or holiness which is promised in the covenant, unless it be by virtue and as a fruit of that covenant; for if they might do so, then were the covenant of God of none effect, for what it seems to promise in a peculiar manner may, on this supposition, be attained without it, which renders it an empty name.
(5.) Herein consists the image of God, whereunto we are to be renewed. This I have proved before, and shall afterward have occasion to insist upon. Nothing less than the entire renovation of the image of God in our souls will constitute us evangelically holy. No series of obediential actings, no observance of religious duties, no attendance unto actions amongst men as morally virtuous and useful, how exact soever they may be, or how constant soever we may be 524unto them, will ever render us lovely or holy in the sight of God, unless they all proceed from the renovation of the image of God in us, or that habitual principle of spiritual life and power which renders us conformable unto him.
From what hath been thus briefly discoursed, we may take a prospect of that horrible mixture of ignorance and impudence wherewith some contend that the practice of moral virtue is all the holiness which is required of us in the gospel, neither understanding what they say nor whereof they do affirm. But yet this they do with so great a confidence as to despise and scoff at any thing else which is pleaded to belong thereunto. But this pretence, notwithstanding all the swelling words of vanity wherewith it is set off and vended, will easily be discovered to be weak and frivolous; for, —
1. The name or expression itself is foreign to the Scripture, not once used by the Holy Ghost to denote that obedience which God requireth of us in and according to the covenant of grace. Nor is there any sense of it agreed upon by them who so magisterially impose it on others: yea, there are many express contests about the signification of these words, and what it is that is intended by them, which those who contend about them are not ignorant of; and yet have they not endeavoured to reduce the sense they intend unto any expression used concerning the same matter in the gospel. But all men must needs submit unto it, that at least the main part, if not the whole of religion, consists in moral virtue, though it be altogether uncertain what they intend by the one or the other! These are they who scarce think any thing intelligible when declared in the words of the Scripture, which one hath openly traduced as a “ridiculous jargon.” They like not, they seem to abhor, the speaking of spiritual things in the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth: the only reason whereof is, because they understand not the things themselves; and whilst they are “foolishness” unto any, it is no wonder the terms whereby they are declared seem also so to be. But such as have received the Spirit of Christ, and do know the mind of Christ (which profane scoffers are sufficiently remote from), do best receive the truth and apprehend it, when declared not in “the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which are taught by the Holy Ghost.” It is granted to be the wisdom and skill of men farther to explain and declare the truths that are taught in the gospel, by sound and wholesome words of their own; which yet all of them, as to their propriety and significancy, are to be tried and measured by the Scripture itself. But we have a new way of teaching spiritual things, sprung up among some, who, being ignorant of the whole mystery of the gospel, and therefore despising it, would debase all the glorious truths of it, and the declaration made of them, into dry, barren, sapless, philosophical 525notions and terms, and those the most common, obvious, and vulgar that ever obtained among the heathen of old. “Virtuous living,” they tell us, “is the way to heaven;” but what this virtue is, or what is a life of virtue, they have added as little in the declaration of as any persons that ever made such a noise about them.
2. That ambiguous term moral hath, by usage, obtained a double signification, with respect unto an opposition unto other things, which either are not so or are more than so; for sometimes it is applied unto the worship of God, and so is opposed unto instituted. That religious worship which is prescribed in the decalogue or required by the law of creation is commonly called “moral,” and that in opposition unto those rites and ordinances which are of a superadded, arbitrary institution. Again, it is opposed unto things that are more than merely moral, — namely, spiritual, theological, or divine. So the graces of the Spirit, as faith, love, hope, in all their exercise, whatever they may have of morality in them, or however they may be exercised in and about moral things and duties, yet because of sundry respects wherein they exceed the sphere of morality, are called graces and duties, theological, spiritual, supernatural, evangelical, divine; in opposition unto all such habits of the mind and duties as, being required by the law of nature, and as they are so required, are merely moral. In neither sense can it with any tolerable congruity of speech be said that moral virtue is our holiness, especially the whole of it. But because the duties of holiness have, the most of them, a morality in them, as moral is opposed to instituted, some would have them have nothing also in them, as moral is opposed to supernatural and theological. But that the principle and acts of holiness are of another special nature hath been sufficiently now declared.
3. It is, as was before intimated, somewhat uncertain what the great pleaders for moral virtue do intend by it. Many seem to design no more but that honesty and integrity of life which was found among some of the heathens in their virtuous lives and actions; and, indeed, it were heartily to be wished that we might see more of it amongst some that are called Christians, for many things they did were materially good and useful unto mankind. But let it be supposed to be never so exact, and the course of it most diligently attended unto, I defy it as to its being the holiness required of us in the gospel, according unto the terms of the covenant of grace; and that because it hath none of those qualifications which we have proved essentially to belong thereunto. And I defy all the men in the world to prove that this moral virtue is the sum of our obedience to God, whilst the gospel is owned for a declaration of his will and our duty. It is true, all the duties of this moral virtue are required of us, but in 526the exercise of every one of them there is more required of us than belongs unto their morality, — as, namely, that they be done in faith and love to God through Jesus Christ; and many things are required of us as necessary parts of our obedience which belong not thereunto at all.
4. Some give us such a description of morality as that “it should be of the same extent with the light and law of nature, or the dictates of it as rectified and declared unto us in the Scripture;” and this, I confess, requires of us the obedience which is due towards God by the law of our creation, and according to the covenant of works materially and formally. But what is this unto evangelical holiness and obedience? Why, it is alleged that “religion before the entrance of sin and under the gospel is one and the same; and therefore there is no difference between the duties of obedience required in the one and the other.” And it is true that they are so far the same as that they have the same Author, the same object, the same end; and so also had the religion under the law, which was, therefore, so far the same with them; but that they are the same as to all the acts of our obedience and the manner of their performance is a vain imagination. Is there no alteration made in religion by the interposition of the person of Christ to be incarnate, and his mediation? no augmentation of the object of faith? no change in the abolishing of the old covenant and the establishment of the new, the covenant between God and man being that which gives the especial form and kind unto religion, the measure and denomination of it? no alteration in the principles, aids, assistances, and whole nature of our obedience unto God? The whole mystery of godliness must be renounced if we intend to give way unto such imaginations. Be it so, then, that this moral virtue and the practice of it do contain and express all that obedience, materially considered, which was required by the law of nature in the covenant of works, yet I deny it to be our holiness or evangelical obedience; and that, as for many other reasons, so principally because it hath not that respect unto Jesus Christ which our sanctification hath.
5. If it be said that by this moral virtue they intend no exclusion of Jesus Christ, but include a respect unto him, I desire only to ask whether they design by it such a habit of mind, and such acts thence proceeding, as have the properties before described, as to their causes, rise, effects, use, and relation unto Christ and the covenant, such as are expressly and plainly in the Scripture assigned unto evangelical holiness? Is this moral virtue that which God hath predestinated or chosen us unto before the foundation of the world? Is it that which he worketh in us in the pursuit of electing love? Is it that which gives us a new heart, with the law of God written in it? Is it a principle of spiritual life, disposing, inclining, enabling us to live to 527God, according to the gospel, produced in us by the effectual operation of the Holy Ghost, not educed out of the natural powers of our own souls by the mere application of external means? Is it that which is purchased and procured for us by Jesus Christ, and the increase whereof in us he continueth to intercede for? Is it the image of God in us, and doth our conformity unto the Lord Christ consist therein? If it be so, if moral virtue answer all these properties and adjuncts of holiness, then the whole contest in this matter is, whether the Holy Spirit or these men be wisest, and know best how to express the things of God rationally and significantly. But if the moral virtue they speak of be unconcerned in these things, if none of them belongs unto it, if it may and doth consist without it, it will appear at length to be no more, as to our acceptance before God, than what one of the greatest moralists in the world complained that he found it when he was dying, — “a mere empty name.” But this fulsome Pelagian figment of a holiness, or evangelical righteousness, whose principle should be natural reason, and whose rule is the law of nature as explained in the Scripture, whose use and end is acceptation with God and justification before him, — whereby those who plead for it, the most of them, seem to understand no more but outward acts of honesty, nor do practice so much, — being absolutely opposite unto and destructive of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, being the mere doctrine of the Quakers, by whom it is better and more intelligibly expressed than by some new patrons of it amongst us, will not, in the examination of it, create any great trouble unto such as look upon the Scripture to be a revelation of the mind of God in these things.
|« Prev||Chapter VI. The positive work of the Spirit in…||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version