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them explain regeneration to mean something very different from, and far beneath this new creation unto holiness. They who differ and dispute the most about other points, when their sentiments are carefully examined, are, found to harmonize in these particulars. The philosophical Socinian who rejects the doctrine of the atonement as needless, and the eternity of future punishment as unjust, here joins issue with the Antinomian or Enthusiast ; who, boasting of free grace and extraordinary illuminations, reviles and tramples on the law, which Christ died to magnify and honour. Almost all errors in religion connect with misapprehensions about the law of God; therefore ignorance, inattention, and confused views of it, must tend exceedingly to favour the propagation of heretical opinions of various kinds. A few instances may be mentioned. It would not be so common, as far as we can see, for those who have been educated in evangelical principles, to diverge into Arian or Socinian sentiments, if a deep and clear knowledge of the demands, excellency, and uses of the law were connected with their views of human depravity, redemption, justification, and regeneration, to assist them in understanding the real nature and necessity of the great doctrines of salvation. For want of this, when they are pressed by reasonings on such subjects, they know not what to answer, and so give up the truth as untenable on rational grounds; instead of perceiving that it has its foundation in the nature of things, in the Divine perfections, and in our condition as transgressors, and as creatures continually propense to transgress. We can hardly conceive that men professing godliness could ever have fancied themselves perfectly free from all sin, and so have been seduced into a most disgraceful and injurious kind of self-preference and spiritual pride ; if they had previously been well-grounded in the knowledge of the extensive demands of the Divine law. The Mystic who places the whole of his religion on the internal feelings of his mind, or what he calls the voice or the moving of the Spirit; whilst the doctrine of the atonement, the life of faith in a crucified Saviour, the written word, and the means of grace, are contemptuously disregarded by him ; and the Antinomian who is satisfied with what Christ has done for him, and perceives no want of a renovation to the Divine image, or a personal holiness of heart and life ; must alike stand confuted, if the real nature, excellency, and uses of the holy law were clearly discovered to them. But where this is overlooked, one of these perversions of the gospel will insinuate itself, and prey insensibly on the vitals of true religion, whatever attempts be made to exclude or eradicate it.
6. Through ignorance of the law, real Christians habitually neglect duties, or give way to evil tempers, &c., to the discredit of the gospel, or to the hinderance of their own fruitfulness, comfort, and growth in grace. It has frequently happened that ministers have heard some of their people acknowledge, after receiving practical instructions, that they had not before been sensible that such or such things were sins, or that this or the other was a duty incumbent on them : nay, the meditation on such subjects has sometimes the same effect on the ministers themselves. The knowledge of the precepts, therefore, is the proper method of rendering believers complete in the will of God, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, and in bringing them to walk worthy of God unto all well-pleasing: and consequently inattention to it must proportionably produce the contrary effects.
6. Lastly, The Scriptures enlarge in commendation of the Divine commandments, and in exhorting men to abound in, and be zealous of good works; but many who profess or preach evangelical truth, speak very little on these subjects, except in an unguarded, depreciating manner: hence additional prejudices are excited in mens' minds against the doctrines of grace, as subversive of holy practice. But if the nature, use, excellency, and necessity of good works as the fruits and evidences of true faith were more fully understood; and the preceptive part of the Bible, in subserviency to the gospel were more prominent in mens' discourse and conduct, such objections would be confuted; and they would be put to shame, who should falsely accuse either our holy doctrine or good conversation in Christ Jesus.
On the Believer's Warfare and Experience.
The sacred Scriptures always represent the true Christian as a soldier, engaged in an arduous warfare with potent enemies, against whom he is supported, and over whom he is made victorious by the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit, through faith in and obedience to the Lord Jesus, the captain of our salvation. But such expressions as fighting or striving, with other allusions to military affairs, imply an experience essentially different from that of those persons who never engage in the conflict, or who have already obtained the conqueror's palm: nor can any hope, or even assurance of victory and triumph, or any intervening seasons of peace and joy, entirely preclude this difference. The distinction, therefore, between the church milie tant on earth, and the church triumphant in heaven, hath on good grounds been established; and they who do not well understand and consider it, will be very liable to fall into several injurious, discouraging, disgraceful, or even fatal mistakes. In discussing the subject, we may first offer some reflections on the distinguishing principles, purposes, and desires of the persons who are engaged in this warfare :-we may next enumerate the enemies with whom especially they are called to contend :-we may briefly mention the encouragements, supports, and aids vouchsafed them; the weapons with which they fight, and the manner in which they must put on and use their armour :-we may then advert to the nature and effects of their victories; and then conclude with a few hints on the appropriate experience that must result from their situation.
We do not then speak, in this place, of the whole multitude who are called Christians, or who are historical believers of the scriptures; neither do we include all who would subscribe or dispute for the several doctrines that constitute'the grand peculiarities of the Christian faith ; nor would we be understood to mean the whole company who compose any peculiar sect or denomination, to the exclusion of others. Alas! in all these respects, strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth to life, and few there be that find it; for but few" strive,” or wrestle, “ to enter in” (Mat. vii. 13, 14; Luke xiii. 23—30.) A vast majority continue “to hold the truth in unrighteousness," " to walk according to the course of this world, and to “serve divers lusts and pleasures,” &c. Many of them, indeed, observe Gamaliel's cautious advice, and are not openly united with those, “ who fight against God :" but then, they aim to observe an impracticable and inadmissible neutrality, and know nothing of fighting under the banner of Christ against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and of being his faithful soldiers to the end of their lives ; unless they have read or heard of it, in the form of baptism, or have been taught any thing about it, from some orthodox catechism. The persons, of whom this Essay treats, are those of every name, who, by obeying the truth, have been “ made free from sin, and become the servants of God;" most of them remember well the time, when “they were foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Titus iii. 3—7:) but “God, who is rich in mercy, of his great love, wherewith he loved them, even when they were dead in sin, hath quickened them” (Eph. ii. 1-10;) and thus “ being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible," they were enlightened to see something of the glory of God, the evil of sin, the value and danger of their souls, and their need of mercy, grace, and salvation. They were effectually warned to flee from the wrath to come, and led to repent and turn to God, to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, to renounce their
former hopes of justification before God by their own merits, and to believe in Christ, that they might be justified by faith : and having experienced the work of the Holy Spirit, as glorifying Christ” in their hearts, and showing them those things that relate to his person, love, redemption, and salvation; they have learned “ to count all but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ;" they are prepared to deny themselves, bear the cross, labour, venture, suffer, and part with all for his sake; and “ the love of Christ constrains them to live no longer to themselves, but to him," and to the glory of his name. In this manner“ they are delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of the beloved Son of God;" they separate from his enemies, and join themselves to his friends; they throw down the arms of their rebellion, and “put on the whole armour of God :” they deliberately enlist under the banner of Christ ; consider his people, cause, and honour as their own, and his enemies within and around them as equally hostile to them also. Under the conduct of divine grace, these consecrated warriors strive against sin, seeking the destruction of the kingdom of Satan in their hearts and in the world as far as their influence can reach; and do not, when most themselves, so much as entertain one thought of making any peace or truce with the enemies of Christ and of their souls. Holiness (or conformity to the law, and moral perfections of God,) they deem the health and liberty, and sin, the disease, bondage, and misery of their souls : they regard themselves as bound by the strongest and most endearing obligations, to devote themselves wholly to their God and Saviour; they esteem the interests of evangelical truth and vital godliness as of the utmost importance to the happiness of mankind; and they expect their present comfort, as well as their future felicity, from communion with God and enjoyment of his favour.
But various inward and outward impediments and obstructions combine to counteract these desires, and to prevent their principles from entirely producing those effects, which might otherwise be expected from them: and whilst these principles struggle as it were to exert themselves, notwithstanding this opposition, a conflict ensues, to the experience of which all rational creatures in the universe, who are not thus circumstanced, must of course remain strangers : even as none, but soldiers in actual service, experience the dangers, hardships, and sufferings of a military life. The regenerate person as really loves God, and desires to obey, honour, worship, and please him, and for his sake to act properly towards his brethren, as angels in heaven do: and at those times, when his heart is enlarged in holy contemplations, he longs to be perfectly holy, obedient, and spiritual; then the principles of the new man vigorously exert themselves ; and the remains of corrupt nature, or the old man, lie comparatively dormant : the world is greatly out of sight, or stripped of its attractions; and the enemies of his soul are restrained from assaulting him. But when the Christian hath left his closet, or the house of God, and is returned to the employments of his station in life ; he finds himself unable to realize his previous views, or to accomplish the purposes which he most uprightly formed ; and he often wonders to find himself so different a person, from what he was a few hours before. Yet this also is only partial and temporary: the better principles implanted in his soul, counteract and prevent the effect of corrupt passions and external objects: and shortly they again resume a more decided ascendancy : so that upon the whole, he successfully opposes sin, asserts his liberty, and serves God: and his state is determined by this habitual prevalence of heavenly principles ; for “ he walks not after the Aesh, but after
Spirit.” This conflict may easily be perceived to be a very different thing from the feeble and occasional interruption, which an unregenerate man sometimes experiences, in following the habitual inclinations of his heart; these arise only from convictions of conscience, fear of consequences, or selfish hopes ; the man's desires and affections are wholly fixed on carnal things; of spiritual good he cannot properly be said to have so much as one just idea;
and religion is his task, of which he performs no more than what his fears or hopes impose upon him: yet these are often confounded together, and this produces much mischief. But the enemies, with whom the Christian soldier is called to encounter, must be more precisely ascertained, if we would fully understand the important subject. The apostle having declared, that “ the flesh lusteth against the spirit," &c.; proceeds to show what are the works of the flesh, and the fruits of the spirit (Gal. v. 17-23:) by which it is evident, that the flesh signifies our whole nature (as born of Adam's fallen race,) with all its propensities, animal and intellectual, as they are contrary to the spiritual commands of God; and that “ the spirit” signifies the work of the Holy Spirit, renewing our souls to holiness, and so teaching, disposing, and enabling us to love and serve God. “ For that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
If we then proceed to examine the nature of man, we shall find that a disposition to depart from God, and idolatrously to love and seek. felicity from the creatures, is common to our whole species: and from this general principle, according to different mens' constitutions, education, habits, connections, or circumstances, some are more propense to avarice, some to ambition, some to sensual indulgence, and others to malignant passions with every possible variation. These propensities being excited by temptation, gathering force by gratification, triumphing over shame and conscience, and irritated by the interference of those who pursue the same objects, hurry men into every kind of excess, burst forth into all the variety of crimes that have prevailed in every age and nation, and produce all kinds of immorality in mens' conduct towards each other, and all impiety, blasphemy, and other daring offences against the Almighty Governor of the Universe. And as he best knows the strength of a torrent, who attempts to force his way against it; so none are so well acquainted with the power of corrupt propensities, and habits, as they that resolutely endeavour to overcome and extirpate them. When, therefore, holy principles have been implanted in the heart by the Spirit of God, and a man sees the urgent necessity and feels the ardent desire “ of crucifying the flesh, with its affections and lusts,” then his conflict begins ; for pride, anger, envy, malice, avarice, or sensual lusts being no longer allowed to domineer, abide (like a dethroned tyrant,) and have a strong party in the soul; and consequently they oppose and counteract the best desires and purposes of the believer, and engage him in a perpetual contest. At some times they find him off his guard, and gain a temporary advantage over him, which makes work for deep repentance; and at all times they impede his progress, mingle pollution in his services, and interrupt his endeavours to glorify God and adorn the gospel. These things are generally most painfully experienced in respect of those sins, which by any means had previously acquired the ascendancy over him, and in proportion to the degree in which he remits watchfulness and prayer : but even those evil propensities from which a man before thought himself most free, will be found on trial to possess great power in his soul.
The apostle gives us a very particular account of the believer's conflict with these enemies, (Rom. vii ;) for I think we may be confident that no man, except the true believer, “ delights in the law of God," "serves it with his mind,"
”“hates all sin,” and “has a will” to every part of the spiritual service of God: nor can we suppose that St Paul would say, " I mysell,” if he meant another person of an opposite character; or use the present tense throughout, if he referred to his experience in an unconverted state. Now the whole of the passage most aptly describes the case of a man who loves God and his service, and would obey and glorify him, as angels do : but finds the remainder of evil propensities and habits continually impeding, and often prevailing against him ; but who still resolutely maintains the combat with these enemies of his soul, as determined if possible entirely to extirpate them; and at the same time feels his heart more pained by the opposition made by his sins to the best desires of his heart, than by all his
persecutions or afflictions; and yet rejoices in the mercy and grace of the gospel, and in the prospect of complete and final deliverance.
Indeed all the falls, defects, complaints, rebukes, chastenings, confessions, &c., of believers in every part of Scripture, imply the same conflict ; and seeing that we do not read of any one, who explicitly spoke of himself, or was spoken of by others, ás free from all remains of sin, and-made perfect in holiness, or as having accomplished his warfare whilst he lived in this world ; so we must conclude, that those persons are in this respect deceived, or use words without a proper attention to their meaning, who now profess to have attained to this kind of perfection. If the inward enemy were quite slain, and we could in this sense adopt the words of Christ, “ the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me,” the rest of our conflict would he comparatively easy ; but whilst this cause still subsists, we must expect at times to have our joys interrupted by sighs and groans, and tears and trembling, till we are removed to a better world.
But “ we wrestle not against flesh and blood” only, “ but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world,” &c. (Eph. vi. 10-18.) The Scriptures continually lead our thoughts to these invisible enemies, fallen angels, or evil spirits. A kingdom of darkness and iniquity is spoken of, as established under Satan, the arch-apostate, consisting of vast numbers of his associates in rebellion : these differ in capacity and influence; but are all replete with pride, enmity, envy, deceit, and every detestable propensity; and their natural sagacity and powers are increased by long experience in the work of destruction. The entrance of sin by Adam's fall is ascribed to their ambition, envy, malice, and subtlety: ungodly men are uniformly considered as their slaves, yea, as their children. Satan is called the god and prince of this world: this old serpent deceiveth the nations, yea, the whole world ; and he taketh sinners captive at his will. Conversion is stated to be “ turning from Satan to God." This adversary, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour; and he transforms himself into an angel of light to deceive the unwary. The whole company of evil spirits are represented as counteracting by every possible effort, the endeavours of the Lord's servants to promote his cause; as harassing those by their temptations, whom they cannot destroy; and as desiring to sift and assault them : they are said to put all kinds of wickedness into mens' hearts, to fill their hearts; and to be the original authors of all heresies, persecutions, delusions, and apostacies; and in short, to work in the children of disobedience, (1 Kings xxvi. 22_-24; Job i. 7–12; Luke xxii. 31 ; John viii. 44 ; xiii. 2; xiv. 30 ; Acts v.3; xxvi. 18; 2 Cor. iv. 4; xi. 14; 2 Tim. ii. 26; 1 John iii. 10; Rev. xii. 9, 10; xx. 2, 3, 7-10.) As, therefore, the Scriptures speak so plainly on this subject, we must ascribe it wholly to the subtlety of the devil (who prospers most when least suspected) that the Sudducean spirit of the age hath so much discarded the language of the oracles of God, and hath prevailed so far to bring this doctrine into contempt. Thus self-wise men are outwitted by these sagacious deceivers, and then are employed by them to delude others also into a fatal security. Were it not for the depravity of our hearts, these enemies would not have so much power against us; and their suggestions do not excuse the sins which we voluntarily commit: but as they prevail to deceive the world in general, so believers must expect to have a sharp conflict with them; not only as they act by their servants (such as infidels, persecutors, false teachers, scorners, flatterers, calumniators, seducers, &c.,) but immediately by their suggestions and assaults. They seem especially to have access to the imagination, where they present such illusions as excite the corrupt affections of the heart, or impose upon the understanding: they draw men into error, by stirring up their pride, prejudices, and lusts, which darken and confuse the judgment: they often present such thoughts to the mind as fill it with gloom and dejection, or with distressing doubts and hard thoughts of God, and by suggesting such things as the soul abhors; and by all means they induce men to neglect