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swing of their appetites : “ but they serve divers lusts and pleasures, and are under the dominion of satan, taken captive by him at his will.” As if a horse that takes a career in a pleasant plain were free when the bridle is in his mouth, and he is curbed by the rider at his pleasure. The apostles say of idolaters, " that what they sacrificed to idols, they sacrificed to devils :" it is equally true, that when men serve their lusts, they serve the devil, constructively doing things pleasing to him.
When man turned rebel against God, he became an absolute slave : his understanding is now in “ the chains of darkness," under ignorance and errors; his will is enslaved by infamous lusts; his affections are fettered by insnaring objects. If " no man can serve two masters,” how wretched is their condition, whose numerous and fierce passions exact things contrary, and are their tyrants and tormentors continually. St. Peter speaks of impure persons, “their eyes are full of the adulteress; they camot cease from sin :" this is true of all sinners, whose hearts are possessed by any kind of lusts. They are hurried by them against the reason and rest of their minds, to the commission of sin ; which is the most cruel and contumelious bondage ; and the more shameful because voluntary. But they are insensible of those subtle chains that bind the soul, and think themselves to be the only free men: as when the angel awakened Peter, to release him from prison, he “thought he saw a vision;" so when they are excited to go out of their dark prison, they think the freedom of duty, the gracious liberty of the sons of God, to be a mere imagination. Like one in the paroxysm of a fever, who sings and talks high, as if he were in perfect health, but after the remission of the disease, feels his strength broken with pains, and himself near death: thus within a little while, when the furious precipitancy of their passions is cooled and checked by afflictions, they will feel and sink under the weight of their woful bondage.
Another objection, and pernicious fallacy of the tempter, whereby he frights many young persons from the strictness of a holy life, is, that religion is a sour severity; they must renounce all delights, turn capuchins, if they seriously engage themselves in a religious course, and resolve to strive after pure and perfect holiness. But there is neither truth nor terror in this suggestion to the enlightened mind. It is impossible true holiness should make men joyless, and in the least degree miserable, which is in the highest perfection in God, who is infinitely joyful and blessed. Religion does not extinguish the joyful affections, but transplant thein from Egypt to Canaan. The pleasures of sin (which are only forbidden) in the first taste, ravish the carnal senses : but like Jonathan's honey, they kill by tasting, when the sweetness is vanished, the sting remains. Whereas the joy that proceeds from the exercise and improvement of divine grace," and the love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost, the eternal Comforter,” the present reward of it is vital and reviving, the foretaste of eternal life. It is true, carnal men are strangers to this joy, they cannot relish divine delights; but the Spirit of God, like a new soul, inspires the sanctified with new thoughts, new inclinations, new resolutions, and qualifies them, that spiritual objects are infinitely pleasing to them. And whereas carnal pleasures are but for a season, and within a little while die, and end in bitter distaste, (Amnon's excessive love was suddenly turned into more excessive hatred) spiritual joys are increasing and ever satisfying. Now it is an infallible rule to direct our choice, that is true happiness, which the more we enjoy, the more highly we value and love.
I thought it fit to show the unreasonableness of these objections, that are perverse and poisonous, which if not removed, would blast my design and desired success, in the subsequent dis
But it is more easy to prove our duty to follow holiness, than to persuade men to practise it. I shall only add, that the reward of holiness being so excellent and eternal, our zeal should encounter and overcome all difficulties that oppose our obtaining it. The strongest and swiftest wings are too slow to dispatch our way to heaven. The Lord give his blessing to make sacred truths effectual upon the souls of men.
“ Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves
from all filthiness of Aesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
The coherence opened. The inconsistency and danger of the communion of
christians with infidels. The dignity of believers prohibits it. The promise of divine communion obliges them to separate from contagious converse with unbelievers. The inference from those motives. The clean. sing from all pollutions, and perfecting holiness, purifying themselves is the duty of christians. A principle of holiness, actuated by the supplies of the Spirit, is requisite to enable christians to purify themselves, The pollutions of the fesh from the desiring and the angry appetite. They de. file and debase human nature. The difficulty of purifying from unclean. ness, and the causes of it specified. Means for purifying.
HE words are argumentative, inferring the indispensable duty of christians to preserve themselves untainted from the idolatrous impure world, by the consideration of the promises specified in the precedent chapter : “ What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? What part hath he that believes with an infidel?” The form of questions evidently implies the absolute inconsistency between them; and the danger from such communion. We are not in paradise, where the viper and the asp were innocent, and might be handled without danger from their poison ; but in a contagious world, full of corrupters and corrupted. He represents the dignity of true believers : “ Ye are the temple of the living God: he hath said, I will dwell in them; and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” The unclean spirits that possessed the man spoken of in the gospel, dwelt among the tombs, the repositories of the dead, in their corruption and rottenness; but the Holy Spirit dwells only in living temples, purified and adorned for his habitation. The apostle enforces his advice; “ Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and will be a Father to you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” The promise contains the highest honour, and most perfect felicity of the reasonable creature.
In the text are observable,
I. The title wherewith the apostle addresses to them, “ Having therefore, dearly beloved.”
II. The matter of the address : to strive after pure and perfect holiness.
III. The motives: the exceeding great and precious promises assured to them from the mouth of God himself.
1. The title, “ Having therefore these promises dearly beloved.” The title expresses the truth and strength of the affection. To recommend his counsel to their acceptance. Light opens the mind by clear conviction, but love opens the heart by persuasive insinuation, and makes an easy entrance into the soul. He seems to divest himself of his apostolical commission, and in the mildest and most tender manner mixes entreaties with his authority: as in a parallel place, “I beseech you brethren by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, &c.” I Cor. 1. 10.
II. The matter of the address : the cleansing us from all pollution of Aesh and spirit, and the changing us into the unspotted image of God's holiness. These are the comprehensive sum of renewing grace, and are inseparable. The Holy Spirit works
both together in the saints; as the sun, by the same emanation of light, dispels the darkness of the air, and irradiates it. But they are not merely different notions, but different parts of sanctification. For the corruption of nature is not a mere privation of holiness, as darkness is of light, but a contrary inherent quality, the principle of all sinful evils. We are commanded “ to put off the old man, and to put on the new: to cease to do evil, and to learn to do well.” Col. 3.
Isa. 1. We must purify ourselves from the pollutions of flesh and spirit. The soul and body, in the state of depraved nature, are like two malefactors fastened with one chain, and by their strict union infect one another. The pollution is intimate and radical, diffusive through all the powers of the soul, and members of the body. “The spirit of the mind," the supreme faculty, with the will and affections, want renewing. We are commanded to perfect holiness; to aspire and endeavour after our original holiness, and to be always advancing, till we arrive at the final consummate state of holiness in heaven.
“ In the fear of God.” That grace has an eminent causality and influence in this sanctification of christians. It is a powerful restraint from sins in thoughts and acts, in solitude and society, to consider God's pure and flaming eye, that sees sin wherever it is, in order to judgment. Holy fear excites us to exercise every grace, and perform every duty, in that manner, that we may be approved and accepted of God.
III. The motive arises from the excellency of the promises, and the qualifications requisite for the obtaining them. promised, “that God will dwell in us, and walk in us;" whose gracious presence is heaven upon earth. Strange condescension! that the God of glory should dwell in tabernacles of clay; far greater than if a king should dwell in a cottage with one of his poor subjects. He will adopt us into the line of heaven: “I will be your Father, and ye shall be my sons and daughters.” The qualifications are, the purifying ourselves from all defilements, and striving to be entirely holy. By the order of God, every leper was to be excluded from the camp of Israel; and will he have communion with the souls of men, overspread with the leprosy, and covered with the ulcers of sin? There is a special emphasis in the words, “Saith the Lord Almighty.” Without the cleansing and renewing of sinners, Omnipotence cannot re