« 前へ次へ »
that are justified ; what wonder that we have so many proud, angry, unbelieving believers ?”
I do not suppose any man who is justified is a slave to sin : yet I do suppose sin remains (at least for a time) in all that are justified.
" But, if sin remains in a believer, he is a sinful man: if pride, for instance, then he is proud ; if self will, then he is self willed; if unbelief, then he is an unbeliever ; consequently, no believer at all. How then does he differ from unbelievers, from unregenerate men ?” This is still mere playing upon words. It means no more than, if there is sin, pride, self will, in him, then-there is sin, pride, self will. And this no body can deny. In that sense then he is proud, or self willed. But he is not proud or self willed in the same sense that unbelievers are, that is, governed by pride or self will. Herein he differs from unregenerate men. They obey sin; he does not. Flesh is in them both: but they walk after the flesh; he walks after the Spirit.
“But how can unbelief be in a believer ?" That word has two meanings. It means either no faith, or little faith; either the absence of faith, or the weakness of it. In the former sense, unbelief is not in a believer ; in the latter, it is in all babes. Their faith is commonly mixed with doubt or fear, that is, in the latter sense, with unbelief. “ Why are ye fearful, (says our Lord,) oh ye of little faith ?” Again, “Oh thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt ?" You see here was unbelief in believers ; little faith and much unbelief.
13. “But this doctrine, That sin remains in a believer; that a man may be in the favour of God, while he has sin in his heart; certainly tends to encourage men in sin.” Understand the proposition right, and no such consequence follows. A man may be in God's favour though he feel sin; but not if he yields to it. Having sin, does not forfeit the favour of God; giving way to sin does. Though the flesh in you“ lust against the Spirit,” you may still be a child of God; but if you " walk after the flesh," you are a child of the devil. Now this doctrine does not encourage to obey sin, but to resist it with all your might.
V. 1. The sum of all is this: There are in every person, even after he is justified, two contrary principles, nature and grace, termed by St. Paul, the flesh and the Spirit. Hence, although even babes in Christ are sanctified, yet it is only in part. In a degree, according to the measure of their faith, they are spiritual; yet, in a degree they are carnal. Accordingly, believers are continually exhorted to watch against the flesh, as well as the world and the devil. And to this agrees the constant experience of the children of God. While they feel this witness in themselves, they feel a will not wholly resigned to the will of God. They know they are in him; and yet find a heart ready to depart from him, a proneness to evil in many instances, and a backwardness to that which is good. The contrary doctrine is wholly new; never heard of in the church of Christ, from the time of his coming into the world, till the time of Count Zinzendorf; and it is attended with the most fatal consequences. It cuts off all watching against our evil nature, against the Delilah which we are told is gone, though she is still lying in our bosom. It tears away the shield of weak believers, deprives them of their faith, and so leaves them exposed to all the assaults of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
2. Let us, therefore, hold fast the sound doctrine“ once delivered to the saints," and delivered down by them, with the written word, to all succeeding generations; that although we are renewed, cleansed, purified, sanctified, the moment we truly believe in Christ, yet we are not then renewed, cleansed, purified altogether ; but the flesh, the evil nature, still remains, (though subdued,) and wars against the Spirit. So much the more let us use all diligence in " fighting the good fight of faith.” So much the more earnestly let us “ watch and pray" against the enemy within. The more carefully let us take to ourselves, and “put on the whole armour of God;" that, although “we wrestle” both “ with flesh and blood, and with principalities, and powers, and wicked spirits in high places,” we “may be able to withstand in the evil day and having done all, to stand.”
SERMON XIV.-The Repentance of Believers.
“Repent ye, and believe the Gospel,” Mark i, 15. 1. It is generally supposed, that repentance and faith are only the gate of religion; that they are necessary only at the beginning of our Christian course, when we are setting out in the way to the kingdom. And this may seem to be confirmed by the great apostle, where, exhorting the Hebrew Christians to “ go on to perfection," he teaches them to leave these “ first principles of the doctrine of Christ ;" “not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God;" which must at least mean, that they should comparatively leave these, that at first took up all their thoughts, in order to "press forward towards the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
2. And this is undoubtedly true, that there is a repentance and a faith, which are, more especially, necessary at the beginning: a repentance, which is a conviction of our utter sinfulness, and guiltiness, and helplessness; and which precedes our receiving that kingdom of God, which our Lord observes, is “within us ;' and a faith, whereby we receive that kingdom, even "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
3. But, notwithstanding this, there is also a repentance and a faith, (taking the words in another sense, a sense not quite the same, nor yet
gospel ;” yea, and in every subsequent stage of our Christian course, or we cannot“ run the race which is set before us." And this repentance and faith are full as necessary, in order to our continuance and growth in grace, as the former faith and repentance were, in order to our entering into the kingdom of God.
But in what sense are we to repent and believe, after we are justified ? This is an important question, and worthy of being considered with the utmost attention.
I. And first, in what sense are we to repent?
1. Repentance frequently means an inward change, a change of mind from sin to holiness. But we now speak of it in a quite different sense, as it is one kind of self knowledge, the knowing ourselves sinners, yea, guilty, helpless sinners, even though we know we are children of God
2. Indeed when we first know this; when we first find redemption in the blood of Jesus; when the love of God is first shed abroad in our hearts, and his kingdom set up therein ; it is natural to suppose that we are no longer sinners, that all our sins are not only covered but destroyed. As we do not then feel any evil in our hearts, we readily imagine none is there. Nay, some well meaning men have imagined this not only at that time, but ever after; having persuaded themselves, that when they were justified, they were entirely sanctified: yea, they have laid it down as a general rule, in spite of Scripture, reason, and experience. These sincerely believe, and earnestly maintain, that all sin is destroyed when we are justified; and that there is no sin in the heart of a believer ; but that it is altogether clean from that moment. But though we readily acknowledge," he that believeth is born of God," and “ he that is born of God doth not commit sin;" yet we cannot allow that he does not feel it within : it does not 'reign, but it does remain. And a conviction of the sin which remains in our heart, is one great branch of the repentance we are now speaking of.
3. For it is seldom long before he who imagined all sin was gone, feels there is still pride in his heart. He is convinced both that in many respects he has thought of himself more highly than he ought to think, and that he has taken to himself the praise of something he had received, and gloried in it as though he had not received it; and yet he knows he is in the favour of God. He cannot, and ought not, “ to cast away his confidence.” “The Spirit" still “ witnesses with” his “spirit, that he is a child of God.”
4. Nor is it long before he feels self will in his heart'; even a will contrary to the will of God. A will every man must inevitably have, as long as he has an understanding. This is an essential part of human nature, indeed of the nature of every intelligent being. Our blessed Lord himself had a will as a inan; otherwise he had not been a man. But his human will was invariably subject to the will of his Father. At all times, and on all occasions, even in the deepest affliction, he could say, “ Not as I will, but as thou wilt.” But this is not the case at all times, even with a true believer in Christ. He frequently finds his will more or less exalting itself against the will of God. He wills something, because it is pleasing to nature, which is not pleasing to God; and he wills (is averse from) something, because it is painful to nature, which is the will of God concerning him. Indeed, suppose he continues in the faith, he fights against it with all his might : but this very thing implies that it really exists, and that he is conscious of it.
5. Now self will, as well as pride, is a species of idolatry; and both are directly contrary to the love of God. The same observation may be made concerning the “ love of the world.” But this likewise even true believers are liable to feel in themselves ; and every one of them does feel it, more or less, sooner or later, in one branch or another. It is true, when he first “passes from death unto life," he desires nothing more but God. He can truly say, “ All my desire is unto thee, and unto the remembrance of thy name:" " Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee !" But it is not so always. In process of time he will feel again, though perhaps only for a few moments, either “ the desire of the flesh,” or “the desire of the eye,” or “the pride of life.” Nay, if he does not continually watch and pray, he may find lust reviving ; yea, and thrusting sore at him that he may fall, till he has scarce any strength left in him. He may feel the assaults of inordinate affection ; yea, a strong propensity to “ love the creature more than the Creator ;" whether it be a child, a parent, a husband or wife, or “the friend that is as his own soul.” He may feel, in a thousand various ways, a desire of earthly things or pleasures. In the same proportion he will forget God, not seeking his happiness in him, and consequently being a “ lover of pleasure more than a lover of God.”
6. If he does not keep himself every moment, he will again feel the
great, or beautiful, or uncommon. In how many ways does this desire assault the soul ? Perhaps with regard to the poorest trifles, such as dress, or furniture; things never designed to satisfy the appetite of an immortal spirit. Yet, how natural is it for us, even after we have "tasted of the powers of the world to come,” to sink again into these foolish, low desires of things that perish in the using ! How hard is it, even for those who know in whom they have believed, to conquer but one branch of the desire of the eye, curiosity ; constantly to trample it under their feet; to desire nothing, merely because it is new!
7. And how hard is it even for the children of God wholly to conque the pride of life? St. John seems to mean by this nearly the same with what the world terms the sense of honour. This is no other than a desire of, and delight in, " the honour that cometh of men;" a desire and love of praise; and, which is always joined with it, a proportionable fear of dispraise. Nearly allied to this is evil shame ; the being ashamed of that wherein we ought to glory. And this is seldom divided from the fear of man, which brings a thousand snares upon the soul. Now where is he, even among those that seem strong in faith, who does not find in himself a degree of all these evil tempers ? So that even these are but in part“crucified to the world;" for the evil root still remains in their heart.
8. And do we not feel other tempers, which are as contrary to the love of our neighbour as these are to the love of God? The love of our neighbour “ thinketh no evil.” Do not we find any thing of the kind ? Do we never find any jealousies, any evil surmisings, any groundless or unreasonable suspicions? He that is clear in these respects, let him cast the first stone at his neighbour. Who does not sometimes feel other tempers or inward motions, which he knows are contrary to brotherly love? If nothing of malice, hatred, or bitterness, is there no touch of envy? Particularly towards those who enjoy some real or supposed good, which we desire but cannot attain ? Do we never find any degree of resentnient, when we are injured or affronted; especially by those whom we peculiarly loved, and whom we had most laboured to help or oblige? Does injustice or ingratitude never excite in us any desire of revenge? Any desire of returning evil for evil, instead of " overcoming evil with good ?” This also shows, how much is still in our heart, which is contrary to the love of our neighbour.
9. Covetousness, in every kind and degree, is certainly as contrary to this as to the love of God; whether pragyugia, the love of money, which is too frequently " the root of all evil;" or "sovežia, literally, a desire of having more, or increasing in substance. And how few, even of the real children of God, are entirely free from both ? Indeed, one great man, Martin Luther, used to say, He “never had any covetousness in him (not only in his converted state, but) ever since he was born.” But, if so, I would not scruple to say, he was the only man born of a woman, (except him that was God as well as man,) who had not, who was born without it. Nay, I believe, never was any one born of God, that lived any considerable time after, who did not feel more or less of it many times, especially in the latter sense. We may therefore set it down as an undoubted truth, that covetousness, together with pride, and self will, and anger, remain in the hearts even of them that are justified.
10. It is their experiencing this, which has inclined so many serious persons to understand the latter part of the seventh chapter to the Romans, not of them that are “under the law," that are convinced of sin, which is undoubtedly the meaning of the apostle, but of them that are “ under grace;" that are “justified freely through the redemption that is in Christ.” And it is most certain, they are thus far right: there does still remain, even in them that are justified, a mind which is in some measure carnal; (so the apostle tells even the believers at Corinth,“ Ye are carnal;') a heart bent to backsliding, still ever ready to“ depart from the living God;" a propensity to pride, self will, anger, revenge, love of the world, yea, and all evil; a root of bitterness, which, if the restraint were taken off for a moment, would instantly spring up; yea, such a depth of corruption, as, without clear light from God, we cannot possibly conceive. And a conviction of all this sin remaining in their hearts, is the repentance which belongs to them that are justified.
11. But we should likewise be convinced, that as sin remains in our hearts, so it cleaves to all our words and actions. Indeed it is to be feared, that many of our words are more than mixed with sin; that they are sinful altogether; for such undoubtedly is all uncharitable conversation; all which does not spring from brotherly love; all which does not agree with that golden rule, " What ye would that others should do to you, even so do unto them.” Of this kind is all backbiting, all tale bearing, all whispering, all evil speaking, that is, repeating the faults of absent persons; for none would have others repeat his faults when he is absent. Now how few are there, even among believers, who are in no degree guilty of this; who steadily observe the good old rule, “Of the dead and the absent-nothing but good !” And suppose they do, do they likewise abstain from unprofitable conversation? Yet all this is unquestionably sinful, and “grieves the Holy Spirit of God:” yea, and “ for every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account in the day of judgment."
12. But let it be supposed that they continually“watch and pray," and so do “not enter into this temptation ;" that they constantly set a watch before their mouth, and keep the door of their lips ; suppose they exercise themselves herein, that all their “ conversation may be in grace, seasoned with salt, and meet to minister grace to the hearers ;" yet do they not daily slide into useless discourse, notwithstanding all their caution ? And even when they endeavour to speak for God, are their words pure, free from unholy mixtures? Do they find nothing wrong in their very intention? Do they speak merely to please God, and not partly to please themselves? Is it wholly to do the will of God, and not their own will also ? Or, if they begin with a single eye, do they go on “ looking unto Jesus," and talking with him all the time they are talk