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ceive them into his favour and family. There are fatal bats fixed, which the unholy cannot break through.
The proposition that arises from the words is this : “ The promises of the gospel lay the most powerful obligations on christians, to strive for the attainment of pure and perfect holi
- Cleanse your
In the management of this subject, I will first consider the duty as acted upon ourselves.
2. The parts of it: the cleansing from sin, and perfecting holiness.
3. The force of the motives; the precious and invaluable promises of the gospel : and make application of them.
I. The duty. We are commanded to cleanse ourselves, which is our duty, and implies an ability derived from Christ to perform it. It may seem strange that men, in their depraved state, should be excited to renew themselves : “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean ? not one:” Job 14. 4. yet this duty is frequently inculcated upon us. “ Wash ye, make ye clean ; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes.” Isa. 1. “Jerusalem, wash thy heart from wickedness; how long shall vain thoughts lodge within thee?” Jer, 2. hearts ye sinners; purify your hearts ye double-minded.” Jam. 4. A clear answer may be given to this.
1. There is no productive principle of holiness in man's corrupt nature, but strong aversions from it, and inclinations to what is contrary to it. There is a miserable impotency to all spiritual good, better expressed with tears than words. It is natural and hereditary, more difficultly cured than what is accidental. God is the sole efficient in the regeneration of the soul, and the first infusion of grace, and the principal in the growth and improvement of it. The Holy Spirit does not work grace in us, as the sun forms gold in the earth, without any sense in ourselves of his operations; but we feel them in all our faculties, congruously to their nature, enlightening the mind, exciting the conscience, turning the will, and purifying the affections.
2. After a principle of life and holiness is planted in us, we are, by a continual supply of strength from Christ, assisted to exercise it in all the acts that are proper to the divine life. There is a resemblance between the fruits of the earth, and the graces of a christian : seed must be first sowed in the earth, before it springs out of it; and when it is sowed, the natural qualities of the earth, coldness and dryness, are so contrary to fructifying, that without the influences of the heavens, the heat of the sun, and showers of rain, the seed would be lost in it.
Grace is drawn forth into flourishing and fruitfulness by the irradiating and warm influx of the Spirit. But we are subordinate agents in carrying on the work of grace to perfection. The apostle exhorts us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God works in us to will and to do. Carnal men abuse the freeness of grace to looseness and security, and the power of grace to negligence and laziness. Our dependance on God infers the use of means to save our souls. Our Saviour commands us to “watch and pray, that we may not enter into temptation.” To watch without prayer is to presume upon our own strength: to pray without watching is to presume upon the grace of God. The Lord's prayer is the rule of our duty and desires : we are engaged by every petition to co-operate and concur with divine grace to obtain what we pray for. Naaman presumed he should be immediately cleansed from his leprosy by the prayer of Elisha; but he was commanded to go and wash himself in Jordan seven times for his purification. A stream preserves its crystal clearness by continual running; if its course be stopped, it will stagnate and putrefy. The purity of the soul is preserved by the constant exercise of habitual grace. In short, we must be jealous of ourselves, to prevent our being surprised by sin, and continually address “to the throne of grace, for the obtaining grace and mercy in time of need;” and by faith apply the blood of sprinkling, that has a cleansing efficacy. The death of Christ meritoriously procures the spirit of life and renovation, and is the strongest engagement upon christians to mortify those sins that were the cause of his agonies and sufferings.
II. The parts of it. The parts of the duty are to be considered : the cleansing us from the defilements of flesh and spirit, and the perfecting holiness.
First. The cleansing must be universal, as the pollution is: we are directed to “cleanse our hands, and purify our hearts," Jam. 4. 8. that we may draw near to God with acceptance. It is observable that, in a general sense, all sins are the works of the flesh: whatever is not divine and spiritual is carnal, in the language of scripture. For since the separation of men from God by the rebellious sin of Adam, the soul is sunk into a state of carnality, seeking for satisfaction in lower things; the two jarring opposite principles are flesh and spirit, lusting against one another. It is as carnal to desire vain-glory, or to set the heart on riches, as to love sensual pleasures : for our esteem and love are entirely due to God for his high perfections ; and it is a disparagement to set them on the creatures, as if he did not deserve them in their most excellent degrees. Whatever things are below the native worth of the soul, and unworthy of its noblest operations, and are contrary to its blessed end, defile and vilify it. A more precious metal mixed with a baser, as silver with tin, is corrupted, and loses of its purity and value: but in a contracted sense sins are distinguished; some are attributed to the spirit, and some to the flesh. The spirit is always the principle agent, and sometimes the sole agent in the commission of sin, and the sole subject of it: of this sort are pride, infidelity, envy, malice, &c. There are other sins, wherein the body conspires and concurs in the outward acts : they are specified by the apostle, and distinguished according to the immediate springs from whence they flow; the desiring and the angry appetites. “The works of the flesh are manifest, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, . envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.” Gal. 5. 19, 20, 21. Col. 3. 5, 8. The cleansing from carnal foul lusts, is like the washing one that is fallen into the mire, which is a mixture of the two lowest elements, heavy earth and slippery water, that defile by the touching them. The more spiritual lusts are like the stormy winds, and smoky fire, in which the two higher elements are contained. Pride swells the mind, and causes violent agitations in the thoughts : anger darkens and fires it. The lusts of the flesh are tenacious by the force of the imagination, when conversant upon objects presented by the senses; but the lusts of the spirit are formed and wrought in its own forge, without the concurrence of the sensual faculties.
The lusts of the desiring appetite, intemperance and uncleanness, are so polluting, that the consciousness of such crimes will cover the guilty with confusion. Of all the debasing titles, whereby the devil is characterized in scripture, none is more vilifying than that of the unclean spirit: this is attributed to him
from the general nature of sin. But there is such a notorious turpitude in lusts grossly carnal, that they defile and defame the sinner in a special manner, not only as a rebel against God, but the servant of corruption. The understanding is the leading supreme faculty: sense that rules in beasts, should serve in man. Now what does more vilify him, than to be dissolved in filthy pleasures, to be drowned in a sea of wine ; than a life sensual and dissolute, drawn out in a continual connexion of dreggy delights? Gaming succeeds feasting, the ball follows the comedy, the impurities of the night the intemperance of the day. Sensual lusts degrade men from the nobility of their nature, the dignity of their condition, as if they were all flesh, and had not a spirit of heavenly original, to regulate and restrain their lower appetites within the linnits of purity and honour. The slaves of are like the beasts that perish.” Psal. 49.
He that is a beast by choice, is incomparably more vile than a beast by nature. It would infect the air to speak, and pollute the paper to write, their secret abominations, wherein they lie and languish; and it is natural for men to die in those sins wherein they live; they seal their own damnation by impenitence.
How difficult the purging of these passions is, experience makes evident. The radicated habits of uncleanness and intemperance are rarely cured. It is the vain boast of the Roman philosopher, * Nobis ad nostrum arbitrium nasci licet : but we must first die to ourselves, before we can be born of ourselves : the forsaking a sinful course is necessarily antecedently to the ordering the conversation according to the rules of virtue. How few instances are there, of persons recovered from the practice and bondage of those lusts, by the wise counsels of philosophers ! It is in vain to represent to them, that sensual lusts are prolific of many evils; that intemperance is pregnant with the seeds of many diseases : it prepares matter that is inflammable into fevers; it is attended with the gout, stone, cholic, dropsy, &c. which are incomparably more tormenting, than the pernicious pleasures of taste are delightful Represent to them the foul progeny of lasciviousness, rottenness in the body, wasting the estate, infamy, to sacrifice what is most valuable for the sake of a vile woman;
# Sen, de brevit, vit.
the wisest considerations are lost upon them, they are too weak a bridle to check their brutish lusts.
But are not these lusts easily subdued in christians, who have the advantage of clearer light, stronger motives, and more liberal assistance of grace, to rescue them from the power of sin ?
The wise observer tells us, “ I find more bitter than death, the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands are as bands : whoso pleases God, shall escape from her, but the sinner shall be taken by her. Behold this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one to find out the account, but I find not: one man of a thousand have I found, but a woman among all these have I not found.” Eccl. 7. 26, 27, 28.
It is astonishing, that for a short dream of pleasure, men should despise heaven and hell, what is most desirable, and most fearful. How just is the reproach mixed with compassion and indignation,“ how long ye simple ones will you love simplicity, and fools hate knowledge ?” Prov. I.
It is worth the inquiry, how men are sottishly seduced to live unchastely and intemperately, against the reason and rest of their minds.
1. The great temptation to sin is the love of pleasure; accordingly, the degrees of sensual pleasure, being more intense in those carnal faculties that are for the preserving and propagating life, especially when heightened by the carnal fancy, the law of the members prevails against the law of the mind. It is said of unclean persons, whose eyes are full of the adulteress, they cannot cease from sin; they cannot disentangle themselves from the embraces of the circling serpent.
2. Carnal pretences are made use of to defend, or at least excuse the sin of intemperance, which makes it more easily indulged, and pernicious in effect. Men, if it were possible, would sin without sin, without discovering the guilt and turpitude of it, that they may enjoy their pleasures without accusing, recoiling thoughts, which will turn the sweetest wine into vinegar. Now since meats and drinks are necessary for our vital support, and the measure is uncertain and various, according to the dispositions and capacities of men's bodies, intemperate persons feed high, and drink deep, without reflection or remorse, and pretend it is for the refreshment of nature.