« PreviousContinue »
were washed, were justified, yea, fanétified, by the Spirit of our God. But that this grace might not be received in vain, the Apostle gives them a variety of important advices, reproofs, and exhortations, in the course of thefe Epiftles; and among the rest, this in our Text: without diligent attention to which, whosoever ftandeth muft fall: a thing he exceedingly dreaded, how little foever it may be regarded, or thought even impossible by many. Yet he; who espoused them to Christ as a chalte virgin, was jealous over them with a godly jealousy, left as the Serpent beguiled Eve, any of them should be beguiled from the fimplicity which is in Chrift Jefus : A loss this, which it is impossible for all that can be put in the place of it to repair! For what were all the attainments, wherein the Corinthians fo much excelled, when compared with the felicity resulting from the possession of their first love ? nothing, or less than nothing, in the esteem of this servant of God, this father in Chrift, this wise master-builder.
Nor can this felicity be preserved, except we retain that child. like confidence, which ever comes boldly and simply, to the throne of Grace. This faith works by love; nor can the one exift in the foul without the other ; however large attainments in what may be called spiritual gifts, may be preserved without either ! But the simplicity of loving faith remains no longer than while we continue to regulate our conversation (our whole inward and outward behaviour) in the world, and towards each other, by the grace of God, and according to the directions given in his word : No, it is impossible it should. For no sooner do we think of walk. ing by any other rule, called by the Apostle fleshly wisdom, (properly so, as, however admired and adopted by many, it cometh of corrupt nature, and is opposed to the grace of God) but we lose that single eye, whereby the whole body is full of light! And if the light which is in us, becometh darkness, how great must that darkness be?
To prevent this, and all its fatal effects, the advice in our text is administered, and with the utmost propriety : because it not only directs to what will suppress the evil, namely, the fear of Cod; but also to the perfecting holiness, in that reverential awe of God upon the soul, which readily apprizes us of the firf approach of evil, and marks the rilings of desire, and the wander. ings of the will. This preserves the conscience fruly tender, and drives us again to the atoning Blood, which alone can make the wounded whole; and hereby proves the most effectual means of our cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and fpirit, as it preserves all our graces awake, by keeping them in continual exercise. And left the Corinthians should imagine that the Apostle was severe, on the one hand in calling them who were saved by grace, to so much doing, yea, suffering, as this necessarily required, even to a daily self crucifixion and mortification, he uses the most endearing appellation, " dearly beloved :” as if he had said, “ I would not have ought enjoined you but what is absolutely for your
advantage, and essential to your present and eternal welfare." And left they should, on the other hand, be discouraged through a sense of their own inability, he reminds them of the promises of that God, who was faithful to his word; and in which they were particularly interested, as all that he had made was theirs in Chrift Jesus, and in him Yea, and Amen.
The advice thus enforced upon the Corinthians, is also left upon record for our admonition, who are partakers of like precious faith : we shall therefore endeavour to consider,
1. The end the apostle has in view, viz. our perfection in holiness.
11. The means he recommends us to use, that we may effeétu. ally, and speedily attain that noble end, so much desired by all real' believers : fo to live in the fear of God, as to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit.
III. The argument he uses, at once to enforce the duty, and encourage those who are called to the performance of it: “ having these promises, dearly beloved," &c.
1. We are to consider the end which the Apostle had in view, even our perfection in holiness. An end this, which, in its nature and effects, is at once fo pleasing to God and profitable to man, that one would be led to imagine, none who desired the glory of the one or the felicity of the other, could possibly object to; since it is utterly impossible, that these two grand ends of man's creation and redemption should be answered any other way, or in any higher degree than as man attains to this !
Therefore we need no greater evidence of the depravity and blindness of fallen man, than his wonderful aversion to and objeca tions against this. Insomuch, that holiness, our holiness, personal holiness, perfection in holiness, our perfection in holiness, is almost every where spoken against ! and is suffered to come out of the lips of few of those, who would be counted orthodox divines! And all who fo speak, and so enforce, are considered as enemies to the Gospel of Christ!
Be it so. If this. be to be vile, I trust there are, and ever will be found, fuch friends to God and man, as will be bold enough to declare as upon the house tops, that God, in sending his Son to vist man, designed to " deliver him from his enemies, that he might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of his life.”
But to return. ift. What is holiness ? 1. Inward holiness is the love of God and of man, for the Lord's sake, shed abroad in the heart, producing lowliness, meekness, patience, long-suffering, kindness, compassion, tender-heartedness, forgiveness, content, and every other grace of the Spirit, against which there is no law. (Gal. v. 23.) 2. Outward holiness is that regularity of conduct, whereby we manifest this inward disposition, (1.) By our obedience to all the commandments of God. (2.) By walking in all VOL. XIX. Jan. 1796.
his ordinances blameless. This, as it relates to God. Again, as it relates to our fellow-creatures, it is all that conduct, which is consistent with justice, mercy, and truth : or, whereby we do unto all men, as we would they should do unto us, thereby manifesting that we love them as ourselves. Lastly, when we speak of it, as it respects ourselves, it is that due government of all our appetites, fenses, and members, whereby they become instruments of righteoufness unto holiness; and it shews, that sin does not reign in our mortal bodies, that we should obey it in the lusts thereof.
2dly. What is perfeling holiness? It is this work of regenera. tion going on in the soul of the believer: or, as St. Peter observes, it is growing in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Chrift;" or, as St. Paul words it, "growing up into him, who is our living Head, in all things."
3dly. What is perfection in holiness ? It is that little leaven lo heavening the whole lump, as to change it into its own nature: or being so made perfeet in love, as to find all tormenting fear cast out: or, our having so put off the old, and put on the new man, as to be created in righteousness and holiness after the image of him who did create us: or, to have Chrift to be all in all to the foul.
Whoever attains to these, arrives at perfe&t holinefs, or perfece tion in holiness, or the end our Apostle has here in view. And it should never be forgot, 1. That this work is already begun in every believer : that is, he has in him the feeds of holiness: and that no man can be a Chriftian believer, who is deftitute of the love of God and man. For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature: but faith working. by love. 2. That this holiness is ours, is in us. We personally are the subjects of it; do actually possess and enjoy it; are the men and women who practise it. Were it not so, to what purpose could we be called to examine ourselves, whether Chrift be in us? and by this to determine upon our being approved of or rejected by God? " Know ye not your ownfelves, that Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates ? If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. I live not, but Chrift liveth in me.” Indeed, it is as unnecessary, as it would be end. less, to produce all the passages which concur in this teftimony, that whatever holiness there is with, or pertaining to us, is ours, though not from ourselves : yet, it is in us.
Nor is it lefs evident, that it muft be pra&tised by us, if we would approve ourselves such believers, as the Bible represents; or such people of God, as shall be approved of by him, either here or hereafter. So faith the Apostle, “ Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid !.” He detells the vile supposition, that believers were to live upholy, and proceeds to confute it thus; ". Know ye nou," as if he had said, I appeal to your own consciences for the truth of what I affert, “ that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death? Theree
fore we are buried with him by baptism into death : that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve fin :" No, not fuffer it to " reign in our mortal body, to obey it in the lusts thereof." So runs the whole scope of the fixth chapter to the Romans, and concludes, “ Now being made free from sin, and become servants of God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life:” a plain proof, that the Apostle is not speaking in the 7th chapter of a Chriftian believet, but of an awakened man struggling and groaning for that freedom enjoyed by the believer, as it is described in the 6th and 8th chapters, and in every other place where the apoftle speaks of the fruits of justification.
And it is equally clear, that we should possess and pra&lise holiness, if we would be the people whom God will approve of, either here or hereafter. Therefore he faith, "Be ye holy, for í am holy.” “God hath not called you, (lays St. Paul,) untó uncleannefs, but unto holiness." And to thefe Corinthians, that they might enjoy the Divine Presence and approbation, the Lord faith by his Apoftle, “ come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you: I will be unto you a Father, yca, I will dwell in you, and walk in you, and be unto you a God, and ye shall be my people.” As if he had faid, " I have given you my promises, that you may cleanse yourselves from all filthiness, and perfect yourselves in holiness : in that holiness, which becomes my house; for ye are my Temple: in that holiness, without which no man fhall fee' me here, or here. after. Therefore thus prepare yourselves for the enjoyment of me in that glory, which is prepared for you: through that fear, whereby you' discover you have a godly reverence, and wish to be found an acceptable people at the appearing of the Lord Jesus!”.
And thus we are led to the confideration of our next propo. fition, viz.
II. The means which the apoft le recommends us to use, that we may effectually and speedily attain this noble end, so much defired by all real believers. For it feems unnatural to suppose, that we could poffefs the fpirit and live in the practice of holiness, and not be earnestly desirous to perfect ourselves in it: especially, as we cannot but be sensible, how inseparably connected our happinefs is with our holiness.
· But we shall find no means, which will more effectually and speedily anfwer this end, than those which are here proposed. No, it is the neglect of them, which occasions so much complain. ing in our streets, of prevailing corruptions, lifeless duties, a diftant God, &c. But let us understand, and steadily reduce these means 10 practice, and we shall not know when draught cometh ; but be as a garden which the Lord doth bless ; yea, as a spring whose
waters fail not: that is, if we so walk in the fear of God, as to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit.
1. “ In the fear of God:” Not a tormenting dread of his vindi&tive justice, as if he were an unmerciful and implacable master. No, this kind of fear possesses the spirit of a flave. But the believer is a son, and has a consciousness of his relation to God, with affections suited to the nature of that relation, viz. a holy awe, a reverential dread, a filial loving fear. Therefore he fanctifies the Lord in his heart, and fets him always before his eyes. The language of his soul is, “ Thou God feeft me." And thus he finds grace to serve the Lord acceptably, and with deep respect, as one whom he loves, and in all things wishes to please, being sensible how much his own felicity depends upon the Divine Approbation. In this temper of mind he carefully performs whatsoever he takes in hand, civil or religious, doing with delight whatever his heavenly Father commands. Nor are any of the divine precepts, however contrary to the inclinations of nature, grievous unto him who loves his Lawgiver. And thus his feet " in swift obedience move; yea, he runs in the way of his Father's commands, with great delight. Nor is he less atientive to the divine ordinances, seeing that in these he holds a nearer converse with him, who “ meets such as rejoice, and work righteousness, and thus remem, ber him in their ways. Through these lattices the Lord makes more full discoveries of himself, and gives clearer assurances of his approbation of the soul, which so waiting upon him, feels a daily renewal of its strength, and is animated to run without weariness and to walk without fainting. The believing soul, thus continu. ing to behold, in the mirror of the Gospel, the glory of God, is changed into the same image, from glory to glory, i. e. (from one degree of grace unto another) as by the Spirit of the Lord; who is, as it were, drawing the Divine resemblance upon the foul fo engaged with and devoted to himself; and which, by the use of these means, finds how effectually and swiftly it is perfecting holiness in the fear of God. Nor can it be doubted, but such as walk by this rule, shall foon arrive at perfection in holiness, because they " walk in the light as he is in the light, have fellowship one with another, and the Blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth them from all fin;" who do not hide, but own their every defect, and so prove him" faithful and just to forgive them their fins, and ta cleanse them from all unrighteousness.
Such, we may be assured, are strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inward man. In their hearts Chrift dwells by faith, by simple dependance upon him alone for all they want or wish. And none are in a more likely way, to "comprehend with all faints, what is that height, and depth, and length, and breadth of the love of God;" or to " know that love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, and be filled with all the fulness of God." Especially, if in this sense there be an Interpreter, who will fully explain the way. of God, and shew that this degree of salvation, is alsa by faith;