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many other instances of God's approving of the desires, affections, and purposes of good men. But God is of
, purer eyes than to approve of any thing really sinful. There must be, therefore, some perfectly holy affections in the hearts of saints. And this they know to be true, by their own experience. They are conscious of lov- . ing God, and of desiring to promote his glory. Joshua was conscious of such exercises, when he said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Peter appears to have been conscious of sincere love to Christ, when he answered his trying question, with so much solemnity and confidence. “Yea, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee." Paul also was conscious of having some right affection of heart, when he said in the text, “For to will is présent with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not.” Saints, then, with all their imperfections, have some perfectly right and holy exercises of heart, which meet the approbation of God and of their own consciences. But,
2. It is no less evident, that they have some affections, which are altogether unholy and sinful. These they not only feel, but often express, .
Moses was angry; for he spake unadvisedly with his lips. Hezekiah was proud; for his heart was lifted up, and he boasted of his riches. And David acknowledges that he was envious at the prosperity of the wicked. All saints are conscious of having such affections as these, which are perfectly sinful. And all their moral imperfection consists in such positively evil exercises of heart. For,
3. There is nothing else, which prevents their being as perfectly holy and free from sin, as the saints and angels in heaven. This the Apostle most clearly illustrates by his own feelings. He was capable of ob. serving the inward motions and exercises of his mind, and of relating them clearly and intelligibly. Let us hear what he says in the text and context. “For to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good, I find not. For the good that I would I do not; but the evil that I would not, that do I. I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me. I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into cap. tivity to the law of sin, which is in my members." Here the Apostle tells us, that he had good affections sometimes, and then he really desired and intended to do good; but yet he did not fulfil his resolutions. The reason was, that when the time came in which he intended to do certain good deeds, evil affections were present with him, and prevented him from doing the duties, which he had previously resolved to do. His bad affections prevented his having good affections. For, if his good affections had continued, nothing could have prevented him from performing what he had intended to perform. According to his own account of the exercises of his heart, his good exercises excluded bad ones, and his bad affections excluded good ones. His holy affections were inconstant, being interrupted by the intervention of opposite views and feelings. He complains of nothing but bad exercises of heart, and seems to be confident, that, if only these could be removed, he should be perfectly holy and happy. “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" It further appears from what he says concerning his different affectione, that his holy and sinful exercises were entirely distinct from each other. "If then I do that which I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." His meaning cannot be, that he did what he would not, in the time of acting. For this
would imply, that he did not act voluntarily; that is, did not act at all. He must intend, therefore, by this mode of expression, that he voluntarily did what he bad before determined not to do; or that he freely violated his own virtuous resolutions. This, indeed, is the natural consequence of having good affections and bad affections one after another, in alternate succession. If now we may judge of other saints by Paul, we may safely conclude, that their moral imperfection wholly consists in their positively sinful exercises of heart. And this is agreeable to the whole current of Scripture, which represents holiness, as excluding sin, and sin as excluding holiness in the human heart. When God predicted the conversion of the Jews in Babylon, he promised to take away their stony hearts, by giving them hearts of flesh. And when saints are exhorted to grow in grace, they are commanded to put away bad affections, by exercising good ones. Thus we read, "If ye through the spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” The Apostle says to the christians at Corinth, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord.” This supposes, that the increase of holiness would necessarily be the decrease of sin. The same idea the Apostle more fully expresses in the fourth chapter of his Epistle to the Ephesians. “Put off concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." We find a similar exhortation to saints in the third chapter of Collossians. “But now ye also put off all these, anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy commu. nications out of your mouth." And in order to this, "Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering. And above all these things, put on charity which is the bond of perfectness.” The Apostle Peter
" also speaks in nearly the same language to all true be. lievers. “And beside this,” says he, “add to your
faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound," that is, continue, “they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful.” The plain import of all these exhortations is, that if saints were only free from all sinful exercises, they would be perfectly holy; and that the only.way to be free from all sinful exercises is, to live in the constant exercise of holy affections.
Here then the express declaration of the Apostle Paul comes in with peculiar weight and authority. “This I say then, Walk in the spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” So long as ye exercise holy affections, sinful ones shall find no place in your hearts. Hence it clearly appears, that all the imperfection of saints consists in positively evil affections, and not in the languor, or defect of their truly holy and gracious exercises.
Though this may be a just and scriptural account of the imperfection of saints, yet since some very plausible objections may be made against it, they shall be treated with all the respect they deserve.
It may be said, that saints are not conscious of such an alternate succession in their good and bad exer, cises, as has been represented; and, therefore, it is to be presumed, that their good and bad exercises are united and blended together.
It has been observed in this discourse, that sin and holiness are diametrically opposite affections, and cannot be united in one and the same volition. And it has been further observed, that the Scripture represents them as totally distinct exercises of heart. These considerations afford a much stronger proof, that all holy affections are distinct from all unholy ones, than the mere want of consciousness of this distinction affords to the contrary. We all know, that our thoughts are extremely rapid in their succession. We cannot ascertain how many thoughts we have in one hour, nor even in one minute. And our affections or volitions may be as rapid in their succession as our thoughts; yea, it is very evident, that they are too rapid for observation. For, though we never act without a motive; yet we often act without being able, the next moment after action, to tell the motive from which we acted. This shows, that the succession in qur volitions as well as in our thoughts is sometimes too rapid to be distinctly remarked. Let it be ad. mitted, therefore, that saints are not always conscious of the alternate succession of holy and unholy exercises in their own minds, this will not prove, that there is no such succession. The plain reason is, the succession is too rapid to be observed. If any are disposed to doubt of the force of this answer, let them try to distinguish the succession of their own thoughts and volitions, and it is presumed, they will be convinced of its being utterly impracticable. Of course, they will be obliged to renounce the objection, arising from experience, against the alternate succession of virtuous and sinful exercises, in the minds of true believers.
It may be said, that according to the tenor of this discourse, saints may be sometimes entirely holy, and sometimes entirely sinful. But this is extremely ab