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because, thus construed, it disposes them, contrary to the design, Spirit and true sense of the gospel, to act upon it in a way suited to their self-sufficient and self-righteous inclinations; which, if persisted in, must terminate in their atter ruin: Whereas the Spirit, or the perception and impression of the spiritual things of the word by his special agency communicated, hath the contrary effect, and terminateth in life eternal. Accordingly the ministers of the christian religion are said, 2 Cor. iii. 8. to be “ministers not of the letter, but of the Spirit;” because it is their official duty to explain the gospel, and to inculcate it according to the true meaning and intention of the Spirit, who disposeth us to relinquish our legal and carnal conceptions and to rest all our dependence on the free mercy and grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. And, in regard to the former, our Saviour tells us in his discourse with Nicodemus that, “ that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit,” referring to the principle of divine life imparted in regeneration. The same likewise, which is intended by the “ good things” promised in Matt. vii. in answer of prayer, is in the 11th of Luke, called “ the Holy Spirit;” doubtless implying, that all the good things of grace which he gives to his people, are dispensed to them by the agency of the promised Spirit. The Spirit in short, is the sum and comprehension of all true christian religion in the hearts of men. Every emotion, tendency and act of it, is a fruit and effect of his special influence, and an expression of divine and spi-! ritual life, by Him most graciously communicated.
Thus, in the holy scriptures, we have a plain and distinguishing line marked out between real religion, and every form and appearance which is devoid of its essential nature. Whatever partakes of this nature is the special work of the Holy Spirit, and it is spiritual, implying an operation of grace on the mind and heart, superior to and distinct from any which may take place in the way of cooperation with our natural powers in their unregenerate state; and implying such apprehensions of God and Christ and divine things as are productive of supreme love to and confidence in Him, and a commanding habitual desire of conformity to Him, and of the enjoyment of his favour and friendship, as our highest and only portion.
I have said that true religion is supernatural, as well as spiritual. But with respect to this, I need add but very little more. Though the epithets be not strictly synonymous, yet, as the case is, and in the sense in which the word spiritual is here used, they are always to be considered as inseparable. Whatever in the conceptions, emotions, or exercises of the human mind or heart is,' in
this sense, properly spiritual, is likewise supernatural. For it we are indebted to the special illumination and infuence of the Holy Spirit imparted, not in mere co-operation, as has been observed, or accordance, with the proper efficiency of our natural unrenewed powers, but, independently of all their possible exertions; and productive of effects superior to, and more truly divine, heavenly and salutary than any, to which they are compotent.
Such being the case, it ought to be attentively considered, that it is not in regeneration only, that this special interposition of the spirit of grace, that these spiritual and supernatural perceptions of divine objects, and these spiritual tendencies towards them, are necessary. In regeneration, the divine and spiritual life commences. The same life which, in that first instance, actuates the soul, is carried out and evolves its powers, throughout all the stages and progressions of sanctification. Throughout all, it indispensably requires the same spiritual illumination and influence, the same spiritual perceptions, communicated by the same divine Spirit, and that, through the same divine word, which is “ spirit and life.” The deprivation, or temporary deficiency, of these, or any of them, would, for the time at least, be proportionably the death of that life. In this case the mind, as carnal, would be left to its own proper habitude and natural inclinations; the result of which, according to the word, and if continued, is death.” Surely we cannot doubt the effect, so expressly asserted by Him, whose knowledge of the human heart, and of the tendency of its principles, is complete and unerring.
With the like attention it should also be considered, that every particular act of the soul which had been the subject of regenera. ting grace, and every duty to which it may be called, does alike require the same spiritual communication, to render it genuine and acceptable as an act of religion. If it be not spiritually performed, it is not truly religious; nor can it be attended with, or productive of that life and peace, which is connected with spiritual mindedness. Hence arises the necessity of maintaining a frame and temper of mind continually and uniformly spiritual; and the necessity, in order hereto, of a life " while we live in the flesh," of continual “ faith in the Son of God," by whose mediation have been procured, and through whose intercession are vouchsafed, all those spiritual informations and aids of grace, which are needful for our direction, encouragement, support and animation while here, and to qualify us for the final enjoyment of 6 an inheritance with the saints in light."
These remarks, which, I presume, will not be unacceptable to the serious reader, I have made, because I am aware of the inclination of the human mind, even after it has experienced the powers of regenerating grace, to rely on its own natural principles for the performance of duty, for the acts of self-dénial, for the conflicts with temptation, which may occur ; and for the recovery of that peace, which, at any time, it may loose, on occasion of relapses or any sinful indulgence. The principles of degenerate nature cannot perfect, or in any measure support, or advance, the work which they are wholly unable to begin. Those principles, after regeneration, still remain as incompetent to combat the wiles of Satan and the energies of in-dwelling corruption, as before. That divine power only “ which began the good work, is able to per. form it until the day of Jesus Christ.” The spiritual understanding therefore, and the spiritual frame and tendencies of the soul, must be preserved, if we would prosper in the way of peace and holiness unto the end.
I am sensible, that the subject of this discussion is by no means grateful to the bulk of mankind. Spirituality in religion is with them an object of contempt, and the butt of their most poig. nant sarcasm and ridicule. But, blessed be God! his testimony is stedfast; it cannot be shaken. Their hatred and severest obloquy, instead of being an argument against, is a proof in point, of the necessity and truth of our doctrine. Men may try to deceive themselves and others: they may even affect to frame into the sem. blance of a system, a religion better suited to their taste and high conceit of their natural powers; but what will it avail in the end against the truth of Him, who is the only true “light of the world.” Poor and worthless must all that peace and confidence be, which, for a while, may be rashly assumed from sentiments and conduct so fatally deceptive.
No. I. Men of inventive minds or undaunted courage, acquired, no doubt, a name in the antediluvian world, and rose above the common level, but the most of their names and particular distinctions have been swept away by the flood; yet the name acquired through piety, and the distinction to which it advances its possessor, are permanent. The pious are held in everlasting remembrance. Of Enoch's contemporaries, many of whom were celebrated in their day, we know little more than that they once existed; but Enoch's reputation still lives, his example was useful to the inhabitants of the world during his own life, it has been useful in every age until the present, it is useful now, and shall continue to be useful whilst time itself remains.
« Enoch walked with God." This supposes an agreement in nature, and in character.
Creation had gone on for five succeeding days, before Adam was produced. His production was reserved for the sixth. He was produced in manhood, capable of the perfect and vigorous exercise of every power, both of body and of mind. His eye surveyed the heavens and earth, the sea and dry land: the survey was mortifying, as it discovered his solitary state. Made for society, he found no society for his mind; there was none to whom he could communicate his ideas, and, by a reciprocal communication, increase his knowledge and happiness. He was permitted to feel the want, that he might more gratefully prize the supply. It was not good that he should be alone, and he was not left alone. “ And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof. And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, this is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman; because she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one fesh.” During this bodily sleep the spirit, probably was awake, enjoying communion with God, who informed him what he had done, and for what purpose. Adam's body was formed of dust, Eve's of a rib taken from Adam's side. This is mentioned as what was peculiar in her formation. It had been promised, “I will make him an help meet for him," and the historian expressly declares, “ God created man in his own image, male and female created he them.” Both were distinguished for a spiritual nature, bearing the impression of the divine image; but the body of the one was formed from a substance taken from the body of the other, that they might be considered as one in affection and good offices, who claimed the same origin, and were equally distinguished as immortal beings.
The order and welfare of society required a precedence somewhere. Without supposing the highest degree of wisdom and excellence in those who preside, nay, though a higher degree of both should be found in others, yet without subordination, even in such circumstances, society could not exist. Adam claimed this precedence from seniority and otherwise. The fall has con:
firmed this claim, and enlarged its sphere. In the sentence passed upon Eve, after her transgression, it was declared, “thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”
Some truths, from the propensity in human nature to oppose the divine institutions, however important in themselves, are treated with contempt; and none more so in our day than that subordination which prevails in all the works of God. Who is independent but God? Has he not fixed all the relations in which we stand to one another? What so pernicious in its tendency, or a more evident proof of a mind hostile to his government, than to dispute any of his appointments? The scripture, notwithstanding the scorn of rebellious creatures, asserts the wisdom and necessity of the order of things which God has established. The apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, takes 'occasion to inform them, “ I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” Eve yielded Adam the precedence, as a debt due to good order, and essential, in the present state, to the welfare of society, and in this will be followed by all her daughters who feel the force of genuine christian principles.
A capacity for understanding the various relations and order of things is the consequence of that spiritual nature by which men are distinguished. “ The spirit,” separated from what is material and mortal, “ returns to God.” Thus a new order of things shall take place. Then spirits made perfect, neither marry nor are given in marriage; they lead the lives of angels and shall die no more. A spiritual and immortal nature was the glory of the human pair, it was necessary for their being happy in one another, and necessary also (to use a phraseology frequent in scripture,) that they might " walk with God.”
Walking with God, supposes an agreement in character as well as in nature.
I have already said that a spiritual and immortal nature is necessary that we may walk with God; but it is not the only necessary thing, for such a nature may be greatly depraved. There are apostate as well as holy angels, reprobate as well as elect men. The apostate and reprobate have no communion with the holy and elect. The apostle Jude introduces Michael, the arch-angel, contending with the devil about the body of Moses, in which the mild dignity of the one obtains a complete triumph over the outrageous blasphemy of the other. The seed of the woman and the