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is true, indeed, spiritual light and comfort do not always keep pace with their growth in grace; nor do spiritual darkness and distress always follow their de. clension in religion. The reason is, light and darkness, comfort and distress, do not immediately depend upon their will, but upon the nature of those manifestations, which God is pleased to make to their minds. Though they commonly enjoy more light and comfort, while they are making progress in holiness; yet they sometimes grow in grace very fast, while they are denied the peculiar manifestations of the divine favor. And though they are commonly involved in greater darkness, while they are declining in grace; yet their declension is sometimes attended with more stu. pidity, than darkness and distress of mind. Hence they ought to measure their growth in grace, by the increase of holy affections, and not by the increase of spiritual light and comfort. And, on the other hand, they ought to measure their declension in religion, by the increase of sinful affections, and not by the increase of spiritual darkness and distress. For, however things may appear to themselves, they actually decline more and more in religion, the more and more they live in the exercise of sinful affections.
INFERENCE 5.-If saints, in their present imperfect state, are constantly liable to positively sinful exercises; then they are constantly dependent upon God, to carry on a work of sanctification in their hearts. Their gracious exercises are not necessarily and inseparably connected with each other; and of consequence, may at any time be interrupted by totally sinful affections. They have no permanent source or fountain of holiness within themselves, from which a constant stream of holy affections will naturally and necessarily flow. As one holy affection will not produce another, so
they are immediately dependent upon God for every holy affection. The moment he withdraws his gracious influence, their gracious exercises cease, and sinful exercises instantly succeed. And in this case, they are no more able to renew the train of holy affections, than they were to begin it at first. Their sanctification, therefore, is precisely the same as continued regeneration. Accordingly the Apostle Paul represents himself and all other christians, as constantly dependent upon a divine influence for the continuation and growth of grace. He says, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.” He says, "Now he which es
“ tablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God, who bath also sealed us, and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." He says, “After ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” He says, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” He says, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” But though God has promised to give saints the influences of his Spirit to produce holy affections in their hearts, and prepare them for future and eternal blessedness; yet he has not promised, that such divine influences shall be constant, but has reserved the power of withdrawing them, whenever he pleases. This shows, that christians are constantly and immediately dependent upon God, to keep up a train of holy exercises in their hearts; and when it is broken by the intervention of sinful affections, to renew it again. The preparation of their heart, as well as the answer of their tongue, is from the Lord. It depends upon God, who has begun a good work in their hearts; to carry it on until the day of Jesus Christ. He only can make them perfect in
every good work to do his will, working in them that which is well pleasing in his sight.
INFERENCE 6.--If saints, in their present state of imperfection, are subjects of both holy and unholy affections; then it is evident, there is a foundation in their minds for what is commonly called the christian warfare. This is peculiar to all real christians. It never takes place in the unregenerate, but always takes place in those who are born again. It is a warfare, not between the heart and conscience, but between holy and unholy affections. Sinners often feel a conflict between the motions of the heart and the dictates of conscience. For when their conscience is awake, it always condemns all their sinful desires and pursuits. There is, however, no real virtue in such a conflict between the selfish desires of the heart and the remonstrances of conscience, though it rise ever so high, or continue ever so long. But the christian warfare always implies something truly holy and acceptable to God. Hence the Apostle speaks of it as an evidence of his having some right desires and affections of heart. “For to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not.”
I Now, if saints have some perfectly holy and some totally sinful exercises, then it is easy to discover the ground of the christian warfare. For sin and holiness are diametrically opposite in their nature, and perfect. ly hate and oppose each other. While saints are in the exercise of holiness, they hate all sinful affections with a perfect hatred. So long, therefore, as two such opposite kinds of affection alternately exist in their ininds, they must be subject to a most sensible and painful conflict. But did their imperfection consist in the mere languor of their holy affections, or in their holy affections being partly unholy, without any dis
tinct and opposite sinful exercises, there could be no ground for a spiritual warfare. Though their holy affections were too weak and languid, yet this could afford no ground for their opposing each other. And though each holy affection were partly sinful, yet this could afford no ground for the same affection to oppose itself. But if the leading sentiment in this discourse
. be true, that saints have some perfectly holy and some totally sinful affections, then there appears to be a sufficient ground for a spiritual conflict in their hearts, as long as they remain imperfectly sanctified.
Hence the Apostle Paul, who treats more largely upon the christian warfare than any other inspired Writer, represents it as a mutual opposition between holy and unholy affections. He spends a great part of the chapter which contains the text, in describing the spiritual conflict, which he had felt in his own breast. The description follows: "For we know that the law is spiritual," it requires nothing but holy and spiritual affections, “but I'am carnal, sold unto sin. For that which I do, I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.” So far as I am in the exercise of grace, I always see and approve the goodness of the law. “Now then, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” Whenever I do any thing which is sinful, I act contrary to those holy affections, which form my christian character. “For I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing." I know that when the train of holy exercises is interrupted, then my affections are altogether sinful. “For to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not.” While the train of holy exercises continues, I desire, I resolve, I determine to do nothing but what is right. But I often find this train of holy exercises is broken, and then I feel averse from those duties, which I sincerely intended to perform. “For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that do l. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” If I always do right, while grace is in exercise, then when I do wrong, it must be wholly ascribed to my totally sinful feelings, which, in my happy moments, I always abhor and resist. “I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me.” Though I resolve to do good, in some future period, yet when that period arrives, evil is present with me, and I neglect that which I had previously intended to do. “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” It it my habitual*, disposition to approve and love every divine precept. “But I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” My sinful affections I call the law of sin, and my holy affections I call the law of my mind. These two opposite kinds of affection are at variance with each other, and when my sinful affections prevail, I feel myself a captive, in bondage under sin. I know I am acting against the law of my mind, my inward man, my former desires and resolutions; but I find by painful experience, that none but God can break the voluntary cords of mine iniquity, and deliver me from the love and dominion of those sins, which easily beset me.