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position to what he had just before declared to his unbelieving hearers, ver. 44. "ye are of your father the devil." To lie qf the devil, was to be of a disposition, in forming whicb be had a great agency; according to 2 Cor. iv. 4. So to be qf God is to be of a temper of mind derived from him. "He that doth good is of God," 3 John 11. In the same sense, good men are so often described as born of God, 1 John iii. 9. "Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin:" doth not make an ordinary practice and custom of any known sin; "for his seed reinaineth in him," that is, that holy disposition, to which he has been formed by regeneration, governs in him; and he cannot sin, cannot so sin, because he is born of God. The same thing is expressed, by being born of the Spirit; as the work of sanctification is eminently the province of the Spirit, John iii. 5, 6. "except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh:" The nature or temper we bring with us into the world by natural generation, is no better than its original, carnal. "But that which is born of the Spirit, is Spirit:" that nature or temper we receive by regeneration, and the grace of the Holy Spirit, is like its author, spiritual and divine.
2. In respect of its bent and tendency, the new nature is divine; it leads to God. By the apostacy we are turned off from God, and averse to him; but the new nature carries us back to God. It was the great intention of Christ in his humiliation and suffering for us, to recover us to this. "He suffered the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God," 1 Pet. iii. 18. And. the scope of the gospel, containing the glad tidings of salvation, is the same, Acts xxvi. 18. "To open men's eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God ;" Indeed, the renewed temper cannot be more emphatically expressed in a few words than in these, being " dead unto sin, but alive unto God which the apostle would have all professed Christians to reckon themselves obliged to be, Rom. vi. 11.
3. In respect of resemblance and likeness, it is divine. It is the glory of it, that it is a god-like temper and dis]x>sition. And this, I take to be the main thing intended by the apostle in the character. God had it in design in all the methods of Ids grace, and all the blessed promises which he has been pleased to make, to assimilate us to himself; so to renew us in the spirit of our minds, that we should bear his image again. This was the glory of man's state by creation, in order to which, God is represented as forming a consultation, "Let us make man after our own likeness," Gen. i. 26. And it was executed accordingly, ver. 27. "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him." And so the new spiritual man is "after God, or according to God," Eph. iv. 24. "and after his image," Col. in. 10.
In treating of this argument, that the Christian disposition is a godlike nqture, I shall, 1. Offer some things proper to be considered, for the due stating of this truth. And, 2. Point at some principal instances, wherein it appears to be so.
I. I would offer some things, which I apprehend necessary to be observed, in order to state aright the meaning of this truth. For it is not without its difficulties; and we may entertain such mistaken apprehensions about the matter, as would be both dishonourable to God, and prejudicial to ourselves. I would therefore observe the following particulars.
1. There are some parts of the renewed disposition, which do not connote any thing in God, that they properly resemble. Many things are excellencies in our nature, which would be imperfections in the blessed God. Reverential fear, humility, meekness, trust, subjection of soul, and a readiness to obey, are necessary virtues in a reasonable creature; but they can have no place in God, who is the supreme Being. Faith in Christ and repentance for our sins, are proper ingredients in the Christian temper, because we are all fallen creatures, and therefore cannot have access to God, but through a Mediator, and with a penitent acknowledgment of our revolt: but nothing like these are to be supposed in God. Many acts of the mind are truly excellent and becoming us in the present state of things, for which even ive shall have no occasion when we arrive at our perfect state; such as suit the present imperfections of our souls, and are owing to the corrupt affections, and appetites, and passions, which have broke loose in us; and such as arise from the state of things in the world about us, the corruptions and follies of our fellow-creatures, the sufferings, or the temptations, to which we are liable. These are
only accidentally become a part of the temper needful to be found in ourselves, by reason of the change made for the worse, in our condition, from our original state ; and therefore for certain, nothing parallel to them can be found in God, “in whom there is no variableness, nor shadow of turning.” 2. There are many perfections of God to which the divine nature in us, bears no proper likeness. To affect a resemblance of God in some of his perfections, is the greatest arrogance; it would bespeak a devilish temper. To pretend to independance and supremacy, as if there were no Lord over us, or as if we would have it so, is to fly in the face of God, and to put off the creature. To aspire at omniscience, or the knowledge of things too sublime for our reach, or which God has forbidden us to search into, as the ordering of future events; is no better than to repeat the folly of our first parents, who were taken by this bait of the serpent, “Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Gen. iii. 5. To set up ourselves for our chief good, as it is the perfection and glory of God to be his own happiness, is the very temper, which Christianity is designed to cure. The divine nature in us, includes indeed such dispositions, as bear a correspondence, though not a likeness, to all the inimitable perfections of God; that is, a temper of soul, becoming the belief and consideration of such divine excellencies. We therefore, place our supreme trust and dependance upon God, because he is the independent and all-sufficient being : we fear him, as the greatest and most powerful being, we love him, and centre in him as our portion, because of his infinite fulness and absolute perfection. These dispositions in us towards God, do aptly correspond to, and answer those excellencies of God, which are the reason of them: they are a proper regard to God, which is the strict notion of godliness, and so will be more fully considered hereafter; but they cannot so justly be called godlike, as when we imitate God in his moral perfections, wherein we cannot aspire at too near a likeness. God is pleased indeed, to put some faint resemblances of his matural, as well as of his moral perfections, upon his reasonable creatures; and upon some of them, more than upon others. As we are intelligent beings, we resemble his spiritual nature, which the lower creation cannot do ; upon that account, he is called “the Father of spirits,” Heb. xii. 9. Some are placed - - C
in a state of less dependance on their fellow-creatures, than others are. Some make far greater advances in wisdom and knowledge than others; are comparatively wise as an angel of God; and therein may be said in proportion, more to resemble divine wisdom. Earthly puinces. and rulers, have a much more extensive power and authority, than the body of mankind, and therein are a shadow of the divine power and sovereignty; therefore the psalmist, says to such, Psal. lxxxii. 6. "Ye are gods, and all of you the children of the Most High," that is, bear some resemblance of his power and dominion.
And therefore, the common distinction of the divine attributes, into communicable and incommunicable, seems not to be exactly just. There are, we see, some faint resemblances in ereatures, even of the natural perfections of God. Indeed, necessity of being, absolute independance, the knowledge of all things, a presence every where, almighty power, supreme dominion, are appropriate to Deity, and cannot be communicated to creatures; for these characters plainly bespeak that most perfect manner, in which these excellencies belong to God, and so they cannot possibly belong to any creature. Hut then there is as much reason to call the moral perfections of God incommunicable too, that is, if you join with the general notion of them, that most perfect manner in which they belong to God: for so he is "the only wise God," 1 Tim. i. 17. "There is none good but one, that is God," Matt. xix. 17- "There is none lioly as the Lord," 1 Sam. ii. 2. But if we separate the most perfect manner of attribution, from the general notion of the excellency; it must be confessed, that creatures may bear some likeness to God, both in his natural and moral perfections.
Yet still it is only a transcript of his moral excellencies into the temper of our souls, that belongs to the new nature, of which the text speaks. Men's spiritual natures alone, though by them, they are capable of bearing God's holy image, yet make them capable also of such a conformity to devils, as the beasts cannot have. Men may have much more enlarged capacities, and extensive power than their neighbours, and .yet be so far from partaking of a divine nature, that they are the more opposite and odious to God, and the greater plagues to the world. While on the other hand, those who a. ; low in natural
capacity and acquired endowments, or in very mean outward circumstances, may shine in that image of God, which the gospel requires. 3. Where a holy disposition is a real likeness to God, we must ever humbly remember, the vast disproportion between the original and the copy. The image of God is very imperfect in the best in the present state, even in comparison of what they themselves will arrive at in a future world. “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all,” 1 John i. 5. By which, as the following words lead us to understand the apostle, the thing principally intended is, that God is holy without any alloy, or mixture of impurity, or any possibility of it. How far is this from our present case ? While the flesh is in us lusting against the spirit; while we have not yet attained, nor are already perfect in any grace, even to that degree of perfection to which we shall attain And even when we shall be changed into the same image, from glory to glory when our refinement shall be after the heavenly measure ; there will still be an infinite disproportion, between God and the most perfect creature. This is the ground of those strong figures, Job iv. 18. “His angels he charged with folly,” and chap. xv. 15. “The heavens are not clean in his sight.” Not that there is any actual impurity in heaven; but God is holy in a more perfect manner, than any creature is, or can be. His perfections are necessary in him ; it is impossible from the nature of the thing, that they should be otherwise: but this cannot be ascribed to creatures; some angels have fallen, and all the race of mankind; and though, as they are now in heaven, they that are holy, shall be holy still, yet this is not from a necessity of nature, but from the grace of God. And while the divine perfection cannot admit of addition, we have reason to apprehend that the saints in glory will still be proceeding to highe and more complete degrees of conformity to God. 4. Those perfections of God, to which the divine nature in us, bears some likeness, may in many cases express themselves in different instances in God and us, according to the different state and condition wherein he and we stand. The general notion of goodness, mercy, justice, truth, &c. is the same when applied to God, or to a creature; or else there would be no room for arguing from the one to the other. But as God is most perfectly good and merciful, and just and true,