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is no food to satisfy it; and thirst in a wilderness where there are no springs or fruits to refresh it, is more burning and tormenting. Sometimes through impotence or age, men are disabled from doing the sin they still love. As a disease causes such a distaste of pleasing meats and drinks, that an intemperate person is forced to abstain from them. Sometimes a man from his constitution may be averse from a particular lust without a spiritual change in the heart. Some are frightened from sin by the terrors of conscience, they dare not drink the pleasant wines from an abhorrence of the dregs at the bottom, and others are allured from sin by a new temptation. But spiritual mortification consists in this, the carnal affections are spiritualized; sensual love is fastened upon the beauty of holiness, covetous desires change their objects, and are ardent after the treasures of heaven, and the dearest lusts are killed.
Now the more easy, frequent and clear the victory over sin is, in proportion grace is advanced in the soul, and its power is seen. Every renewed person is a soldier under the illuminating conduct and empire of the spirit; and acquires new strength by every new victory over the carnal part. Sometimes the carnal appetite so strongly solicits the will to consent to a proposal, that it is wavering; and although the inclination does not proceed to the act of sin, and the conception be abortive, the victory is then imperfect, and obtained with difficulty. There are lingering inclinations still working in our hearts, towards present and sensible things, but when grace is in the throne, it enables a man freely and readily to resist those enticing objects that ravish the carnal affections. We have an admirable instance of this in Joseph, when tempted to folly by his mistress, he presently and constantly rejected her importunity, and repeated solicitations; and as Paul easily shook the viper from his hand into the fire without hurt, so he preserved his purity untainted: this argued the dominion grace had over the sensual appetite.
The more frequent our prevalency over temptations is, argues the strength of sin is broken, and the firmer radication and vigour of the divine nature. "As the house of Saul grew weaker every day, the house of David grew stronger." As the old man decays, the new man increases in strength.
The more complete the victory is over sin, the more clear indication we have of the power of grace. The completeness ei
ther implies the extent of the victory over the whole body of sin, all the lusts of the desiring and angry appetites, when no sin is indulged, though pleasant and profitable, and though it may seem never so small; for the command of God is strict and severe against every sin, as it was against the Amalekites, "all must be destroyed." Indeed, no sin is truly subdued, but all are in some degrees mortified. Or the completeness of the victory implies, not only the abstaining from the outward act, but the mortifying of the inward affections, the first seeds of sin.
In short, the excellent degree of grace is most evident in destroying the select and superior lust, that leads and animates many other; as the honour and greatness of a victory is from the strength of the enemy that is vanquished. And the power of grace is discovered, in securing us from being foiled by sudden unexpected temptations. We read of the tempter, "He came to our Saviour, but found nothing in him, and could not fasten any impression on him." It is true, it is morally impossible to attain to this perfection, to be always watchful in this state of frail flesh; then militant holiness would be triumphant: but it should be our earnest endeavour to be so fortified by holy resolutions, and so vigilant, that though we are surrounded by innumerable enemies, we may not be surprised by them. The present reward of subduing carnal lusts, exceeds all carnal satisfaction. What sweeter reflection can there be of conscience, the only true and internal comforter, than upon innocence and victory.
2. The discovery of our progress in holiness, is made by the habitual frame of the heart, and the fixed regularity of the life. There cannot be a true judgment of a christian, either when he is best disposed, or when he is worst disposed. One that has less grace, may sometimes in the use of the ordinances feel high and holy affections in an unusual manner: an excellent saint in time of temptation, may feel the power of corruption strangely great. A strong man in a fainting fit is weaker than another; a weak man in a fever is stronger than two. But we may judge of the degrees of grace by the spiritual frame of the heart, and the actions flowing from it. The character and denomination of men in scripture is from two principles, the flesh and spirit. The apostle tells us, "That they that are after the flesh, do mind the things of the flesh, and they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit." Those who are not distinguished from the F f
carnal in the resurrection of grace, shall not be separated from them in the resurrection of glory.
The carnal are under the prevalent influences of the outward senses; their minds and wills, their imaginations and affections, their discourses and actions, are all pointed to the earth; their weak eyes are dazzled with the false lustre of worldly things; their hearts are ravished with them. With what an accent and emphasis do they express their desires, "Who will show us any good?" The world is the principal object of their esteem and love; they labour continually; they sweat and freeze, and move in a circle of toilsome employments; their desires are incessant and unsatisfied without obtaining it; and their acquiring one thing, kindles desires after another: but how slow and slack are their endeavours after eternal things? They use God to enjoy the world.
But the saints are spiritual in their principles, objects and ends. God is a pure Spirit, and the more we are spiritualized, the more we partake of the divine nature, and are pleasing in his sight. This discovers itself by our esteem, affections and conversations when the mind is purified from carnal prejudices and passions, then the beauty and goodness of God, all his amiable excellencies, appear, and powerfully attract the thoughts and affections. The christian that can say with the spirit of the psalmist, "Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth I desire beside thee;" and in the expression of the church, "The Lord is my portion, saith my soul," he is spiritually-minded: he places his happiness in the favour and fruition of God: his temporal affairs are subordinate to his main design: he prosecutes with the greatest resolution, diligence, and delight, his blessed end: he uses the world to enjoy God: riches are principally valued by him, as he sees God's love in them, and shows his glory by them. Now it is an infallible rule, as we are affected towards God, and those things that have the nearest resemblance to him, accordingly we may judge of the degrees of our spirituality.
(1.) The divine law is a clear glass, wherein the wisdom, the rectitude, the goodness and holiness of God are evident; and consequently according to our valuations and love to it, there is a sure sign of a divine temper, and its prevalency in the soul.
David, the man after God's own heart, declares it to be his "incomparable treasure, his dearest enjoyment:" it was the pleasing object of his mind and will: "It was his meditation all the day." He expresses his love to it in the highest degree, by intimating it to be inexpressible. "Oh how I love thy law! He loved it because it was pure." The holiness of God so conspicuously shined in its precepts, that it was as strong an engagement to his affections, as the majesty of God by its sanction, obliged his conscience to obey it.
(2.) When the worship of God, in its purity and simplicity, is the object of our esteem and love, it is the effect of a spiritual frame of soul. During the levitical dispensation, the service of God was performed with pomp and lustre, suitable to the church in its minority, when faith did need the assistance of the senses: but now the church is come to mature age, and brought to nearer communion with God, the gaudy allurements of sense are taken away. Men are naturally under the dominion of sense; of this there is the most clear and palpable proof in the heathen. world, that would rather worship visible idols, than the true invisible God. It is a certain indication of men's carnal minds, that they are pleased with carnal service, that lavishly runs out in formalities, which by sympathy works upon them. This affects the eye, and is far more easy than spiritual inward worship, that issues from the strength of the soul, and is performed with attention and ardency. This is very disparaging to the nature of God; for it proceeds from the conceiving of him to be like themselves (who are not heavenly and spiritual) to be pleased with an earthly bodily service. The introducing theatrical ceremonies into the service of God, is directly opposite to the simplicity of the gospel. Whatever pretences are made, that they set a gloss upon the plainness of christian worship, and make it more amiable and venerable, they are like the artificial painting of natural beauty, that corrupts and does not commend it. The productions of human minds are imperfect at first, and are polished, and arrive at perfection by degrees: but divine institutions are complete in their kind at first, and the more they recede from their original, they lose of their purity and perfection. How acceptable those parts of worship are, (not chosen and commanded by God) we may clearly understand by considering, that the enjoining such new rites, is a tacit presumption that the reason of man
knows better how God should be honoured than himself does; and how unprofitable they are to us, is evident; for being used without his warrant and promise, we cannot expect the conveyance of his grace, and obtaining his favour by them. Only spiritual religion, the inward reality, is of value in his esteem. When the understanding is spiritually enlightened, it esteems the simplicity of gospel-worship to be its true beauty.
It is like the nakedness of paradise, the indication of the unstained purity of our first parents in that state.
It is true, in the worship of God, we are to glorify him with our bodies, to behave ourselves in such a manner, as may express reverence, and excite affection; but the joining human devices upon that pretence, is the snare of conscience, and has been fatal to the peace of the church.
(3.) The mind, when spiritually illuminated, sees the true worth of the saints, though in an obscure condition, and accordingly honours and loves them. It is the character of one that "shall dwell in the holy hill of God, that in his eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honours them that fear the Lord." Psal. 15. 4. Carnal men are struck with outward splendour, but inward beauty is not within their prospect. They despise the holy, who are poor and mean in their outward circumstances. But the spiritual man looks upon those who are lofty and lawless, with contempt, as beneath men, in an ignominious bondage to their lusts: but the godly, who are dignified with the glorious titles of the saints, and sons of God, are most precious and dear to him. It is easy to know a picture well drawn, if we are acquainted with the person whom it represents: those who know what holiness is in God, know what it is in men. Holiness is the essential purity of his nature, whereby he is infinitely opposite to all moral evil. Accordingly, those who are undefiled with sinful evils, are certainly his children. David styles them, "The excellent, in whom is all his delight." It argues a clearer spirit, and more sacred temper, to discover the shining excellencies of the saints, notwithstanding their eclipse by the interposing medium of their afflictions. The apostle tells us of some "that wandered in sheep-skins and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented, confined to dens and caves, of whom the world was not worthy." Heb. 11. 37, 38.
The divine image is renewed in the saints, and shines in their