Book 3 - Chapter 12: Of Sanctification - by Herman WitsiusThe Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man by Herman Witsius
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Herman Witsius (1636-1708)
Arguably known for the best work on Covenant Theology in print (at least in the top 5).
Herman Witsius (1636-1708) was Professor of Divinity in the Universities of Franeker, Utrecht, and Leyden. A brilliant and devout student, he was fluent in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew by the age of fifteen, when he entered the University of Utrecht. He was ordained at twenty-one and served in several pastorates, filling both the pulpit and the academic chair over the course of his life.
This, his magnum opus, is a reflection of some of the most fruitful and mature thinking on federal theology during the seventeenth century, and still holds a preeminent place in our own day.
Chapter XII: Of Sanctification
I. THE apostle Peter, 1 Epist. 2:9, has, in very high terms, declared, that the chosen, the regenerate, and the adopted sons of God, are A HOLY NATION. And this holiness, being really the most excellent ornament of the house of God, Psa. 113:5, is a subject which ought not to be passed over in silence, especially as it is none of the least of the promises in the covenant of grace, that God will be the sanctifier of his people Israel.
II. In order profitably to explain the nature of sanctification, we must consider, not so much the etymology and import of the Latin word, as of the Hebrew קדש, ἁγιότης, ἁγισύνη, ἁγιάσμος, and ὁσιότης, with words of the like original, as most frequently made use of by the sacred penmen. It will be proper, therefore, to enquire more distinctly, first, what is meant by holiness, and then, what by sanctification.
III. The word holy, in Scripture, is asserted, first, of whatever is separated from a promiscuous and civil, but especially from a profane use: in this sense even the elect are called holy, as being separated from the profane world. Lev. 20:26, “And ye shall be holy unto me, because I have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine. 2 Cor. 6:17, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you.” It is no less true of the mystical, than of the literal Israel, that they are a peculiar people, “whose laws are diverse from all people,” Eph. 3:8.
IV. Balaam has beautifully prophesied of them. Numb. 23:9, “Lo! the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.” Israel is called the people: 1st, On account of their prodigious numbers; ver. 10, “Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel?” 2. On account of those sacred ties, by which this vast congregation was united together. They were not a promiscuous assembly, but a multitude, under a proper polity or form of government, united together by covenant, governed by salutary laws, with rights and an inheritance, and having God himself for their head. Thus the apostle, 1 Pet. 2:10: “Οἱ ποτὲ οὐ λαὸς, νῦν δὲ λαὸς Θεοῦ·, which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God.” This is the meaning of עם, λαος, the people, when used in the emphatical sense, and distinguished from נוים, Gentiles. And “לא עם, not a people,” is a multitude that has no such privileges. Balaam testifies of the former, that they dwell alone, or are separate, “not reckoned among the nations:” they are severed and distinguished from the rest of the world by peculiar laws, customs, and institutions. Tacitus, in his history, book 5, says, “Moses, the better to attach the people afterwards to himself, appointed them new rites, contrary to those of the rest of the world. There all things are accounted profane, which we look upon as sacred; and those things are allowed by them which we hold to be incestuous.”
V. This separation of the Jewish people, in as far as it was the effect of ceremonial institutions, constituted a ceremonial holiness; but if we consider it as the effect of the excellency of those laws, which prescribed moral duties; in that respect they much surpassed other nations, yet that constituted a holiness common to the godly in all ages. Hence the church of the New Testament is called, “The flock of thine heritage, which dwell solitarily.” Mic. 7:14. And Christ says of his people, “They are in the world, but not of the world, for he has chosen them out of the world,” John 15:19. “Delivering them from this present evil world, according to the will of God, and our father,” Gal. 1:4. To this purpose is the admonition of Paul, Rom. 12:2: “Μὴ συσχηναδίζεσθε τῳ αἰώνι τούτῳ, be not conformed to this world.”
VI. And this is that singularity of piety so recommended by some: which does not consist in external niceties of an over-strained will-worship, and an austerity of discipline, as was generally the practice of the Pharisees among the Jews, and of the ascetics formerly among the ancient Christians; concerning whom Casaubon may be seen in his Exerc. ad Baron. Exerc. I. No. 9. A manner of life significantly called by Epiphanius, εθελόακροτητα δικαιοσὺνης, “the utmost pitch of self-righteousness:” but in shunning the vices of the age, pride, drunkenness, lust, and vanities of every kind. 1 Pet. 4:3, “For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries.” Eph. 5:7, “Be not ye, therefore, partakers with them:” and ver. 11, “and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.” Tertullian, in his Apologia, advises us, that “in what we say, see, and hear, we correspond in nothing with the madness of the Circus, the lewdness of the theatre, the shocking cruelty of the amphitheatre, and the vanity of the Xystus; we are not to attend on such shows and representations as these.” 2. That in opinions and sentiments we keep at a distance from those of the vulgar: that is what Paul hints in what follows: “But be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the will of God.” By the vulgar, I mean not only the lowest class of people, of whom Tacitus says, “they have neither judgment nor truth:” but even such as seem to themselves and others extremely wise in this world; from whom God generally conceals those mysteries of his, which he reveals to babes, Matt. 11:25. 3. In will and affections. 1 Pet. 1:14. “Not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance.” 4. In the exercise of such a generous and noble virtue or holiness, as is infinitely beyond the reach of other people. Phil. 2:15, “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.”
VII. Secondly, the word holy, denotes whatever is dedicated to, or set apart for God and his service. Thus the altar, and what belonged to it, are called “most holy,” Exod. 30:29: also Aaron with his sons, 1 Chron. 23:13. So, in like manner, the truly godly are “a peculiar treasure to God above all people,” Exod. 19:5. In the Hebrew it runs: והייתם לי סנלה. To segullah, the last of these, the Latin word sigillum has an affinity: so that סנלה, segullah, denotes a thing which a person declares to be his own property, by impressing it with his seal; nay, indeed, it denotes such a thing, on account of which persons and kings themselves are accounted rich, and by which they display their grandeur. Eccles. 2:8: “I gathered me also silver and gold, וסנלת מלכים, and segulloth (peculiar treasures), of Kings.” Thus “God hath chosen Israel לסנלתד, for his segullah or peculiar treasure,” Psa. 135:4. Concerning this word, see Waserus de Nummis, lib. I. c. 1. The Septuagint express it by περιουσιάσμον ἑαυτώ, Deut. 7:6, עם סגלה, a special people, which Paul, in imitation of the LXX. calls Λαὸς περιούσιος, a peculiar people, Tit. 2:14. And Jerome affirms, he could not learn the meaning of that Greek word from any one that was conversant in profane literature, but gathered it from the above place in Deuteronomy, and the like. Yet I think Grotius has not improperly observed, that περιύσιος is derived from περιεῖναι, which signifies, to excel; and hence περιούσιος denotes the same as εξάιρετος, excellent; and περιύσια, superabundance; in which sense Clemens Alexandrius uses it in Admon. ad Gentes, p. 5. “Μιστον ἡμῖν της μαθήσεως, ἐκ περιούσιας, βασιλεαν οὐρανων ἐπαγγελλεται·, promises to us, superabundantly, or over and above the kingdom of heaven, as the reward of our doctrine.” And again, p. 69. “Φερε ὑμῖν, εκ περιουσίας, την περι του λογου παραθησομαι πειθω· I shall abundantly bring a convincing proof concerning the word.” In the same manner, as Demosthenes says, “Οὑτος, εκ περιουσιας, μου κατηγορεῖ, he superabundantly accuses me.” Polybius, book iv. c. 38, opposes περιουσια to the αἱ αναγκαιαι του βιου χρειαι, the necessaries of life. The godly, therefore, are God’s excellent possession, which he claims and preserves, and in which he boasts as his “crown of glory and royal diadem,” Isa. 62:3. Which he esteems as his riches, and suffers not to become the property of another; and in this sense also may holiness be ascribed to them: “Εθνος ἁγιον, λαος εις περιποιησίν, a holy nation, a peculiar people,” are joined together, 1 Pet. 2:9.
VIII. God also truly seals his servants as his property, which he would keep from being lost; and in this sense he likewise accounts them sacred or inviolable. Rev. 7:2, 3: John saw an angel “ascending from the east,” distinct from the four ministering angels, and giving orders unto them: now Christ himself is ἀνατολη εξ ὑψους, “the day-spring from on high,” Luke 1:78; and the Gospel was published chiefly from Jerusalem to the west; namely, to the isles of the sea, or to Europe. This angel had the seal of the living God, viz. the Spirit of God, who is also “the Spirit of the Son,” Gal. 4:6, and by whom the elect are sealed, Eph. 1:13; because he imprints upon them the character of holiness declared in the Gospel, whereby they are known to be the property of God. This angel gave his orders to the others, not to hurt any one, “till,” says he, “we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads;” from which words we are not to imagine that God has any fellow-labourers in this sealing-work; but Christ says this concerning himself and his Spirit: who may well call God the Father their God, as both are sent from him. Isa. 48:16: “The Lord God hath sent me and his Spirit;” as thus the Hebrew may very properly be rendered. Moreover, this seal was in the foreheads of God’s servants; because, as the forehead is the most conspicuous part of man, so the truth of the Gospel, and the efficacy of true piety, which is impressed upon their hearts by the Holy Spirit, discover themselves in the public profession and open practice of holiness, which strike the eyes and ears of all. Nor is it improbable there is here an allusion to a received custom in the East, by which the names of masters were stamped on the foreheads of their servants, as Grotius has observed from Hesychius and Aristophanes. The godly, then, are God’s peculiar property; for they bear his name on their foreheads, Rev. 14:1. They also profess themselves to be set apart for his service.
IX. And as God sets his seal upon them, so in like manner, they “subscribe with their hand,” to be only the Lord’s, Isa. 44:5. The Roman soldiers of old, according to Vegetius de re Milit., lib. ii. c. 5, being marked with indelible characters in the skin, were wont to be sworn when they were enlisted; and hence in the law of Mauritius, “Signati in manu,” they who are marked in the hand, is a circumlocution for soldiers: for στιγματά εστι των στρατευομένων ἐν ταις χερσον, “the marks of soldiers are in their hands,” says Æliah. This is what Chrysostom, on Rom. 4:11, calls σφραγίδα τοῦ στρατιώτου, “the seal of the soldier:” see Grotius on Rev. 13:16. In much the same manner, believers, being sealed by God with the efficacy of the flaming Spirit,* and a truly indelible and never fading character, do, at the same time, bind themselves by an oath, to be faithful to God, as soldiers to their general. For while they profess themselves to be God’s, they also give themselves up to his service alone. Acts 27:23: “Whose I am, and whom I serve.” In a word, the chosen and called are all saints, because, separated from the rest of the world, they are declared to be God’s on several accounts. But we have not yet mentioned the principal thing.
X. Thirdly, Holiness denotes that purity of a man, in his nature, inclinations, and actions, which consists in an imitation and expression of the divine purity or holiness. God is the great pattern of his rational creatures. His will is expressed in the law, which was the pattern shown to Moses in the mount, according to which the sanctuary of our soul ought to be framed. But his divine virtues or perfections are a pattern, which we are to contemplate with so much diligence, attention, and devotion, as to be ourselves transformed according to that, 1 Pet. 1:15, 16: “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy.” Virtue or holiness may be considered in different respects. As it agrees with the prescription of the law, it is called righteousness; but as it is a conformity to God, and an expression of his purity, it is termed holiness. And it is chiefly in this sense that we shall now speak concerning holiness.
XI. Having thus previously explained these things, it will not be hard to infer what we mean by sanctification; namely, that real work of God, by which they, who are chosen, regenerated and justified, are continually more and more transformed from the turpitude of sin to the purity of the divine image.
XII. We distinguish this work of God from the first regeneration and first effectual calling to Christ. For the immediate term or effect of regeneration is a principle of spiritual life, which, in a moment, is put into the soul, by the immediate energy of the Holy Spirit. The term or effect of effectual calling is the mystical union and communion with Christ. But the term or effect of sanctification are the habits of spiritual virtues or graces, and their lively exercise; and thus sanctification follows upon regeneration and effectual calling, at least in the order of nature, and supposes those actions of God as going before it.
XIII. There is still a further difference between sanctification and justification: for justification is a judiciary act, terminating in a relative change of state; namely, a freedom from punishment and a right to life: sanctification a real work, which is performed by a supernatural influence, and which terminates in a change of state as to the quality both of habits and actions.
XIV. Yet we are to take notice, that the term sanctification is not always taken, by divines, in this strict sense; sometimes they comprehend under it regeneration and the first infusion of a new life, and take sanctification, renovation of the Spirit, regeneration, the new creature, the first resurrection for synonymous terms, as the Leyden professors, SynoPsa. Disput. 33, §. 2. Sometimes also they include justification under the same term. “It is well known,” says the abridger of Chamierus, p. 860, “that the terms justification and sanctification are put one for the other.” Gomarus, in like manner, on 1 Pet. 1:2. Sanctification, taken in a general sense, comprises regeneration and justification. Nay sometimes the word sanctification is taken so largely, as to include the whole of man’s salvation. Polanus in Syntagm., lib. vi. c. 37: “Sometimes both appellations, viz. regeneration and sanctification are taken in a larger sense, for the whole of our salvation or beatification, if I may so speak,” as Heb. 10:10. But yet the accuracy of those is more commendable, who distinguish those terms in the manner I have explained: especially as the Scripture often distinctly mentions those benefits, and describes sanctification as a continued work of God, leading the elect gradually on to perfection, and as I do not remember to have observed it speak so of regeneration.
XV. Nor are we to omit, that sanctification is sometimes held forth as a blessing from God to man, 1 Thess. 5:23, “and the very God of peace sanctify you wholly.” Sometimes as man’s duty towards God, 1 Thess. 4:3, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification.” The former God powerfully works in us, according to the purpose of his gracious decree. The latter he justly requires of us by the will of his holy command. When sanctification denotes the first implantation of spiritual habits, it is a mere blessing from God, in procuring which we do not co-operate with him, but receive it from him. As it signifies the activity, or lively exercise of infused habits, and their corroboration and progress, so far we are active; but then it is as we are acted upon under God, and dependently on him; for these things can never be separated.
XVI. The term from which, in sanctification, is the pollution of sin. Adam, in departing from the prescribed rule, forfeited the ornament of the image of God, in which he was formed, for himself and all his posterity; and whilst he wickedly affected a forbidden equality with God, came most to resemble the devil, and like that evil spirit, deformed himself by his own crime, than which we can imagine nothing more hideous or base. The soul of the sinner is a horrid monster, misshapen, huge, and devoid of light: mere darkness, mere confusion, every thing being disjointed and out of order there; nothing properly placed; the things we should despise are esteemed, and what we should value most are neglected. Were a man to take a clear view of his inward disposition in a faithful mirror, he would certainly, with the utmost horror, fly from himself as from a most terrible spectacle. And indeed, if holiness is the most beautiful ornament of the divine perfections, that thing must needs be the most deformed which is not only the most unlike, but diametrically opposite to, that ornamental beauty. This is that ῥυπαρία και περισσεία κακίας mentioned, James 1:21, “Filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness.” To this it is owing, that man is become abominable in the sight of God, who cannot but turn away the radiant eyes of his unspotted holiness, Hab. 1:13.
XVII. Moreover, Adam propogated this vile resemblance of the devil to his posterity, not excepting those whom grace has sanctified. For he also “begat Seth in his own likeness, after his image,” Gen. 5:3. I do not chiefly apply this to the likeness of the human nature, much less to the likeness of that holiness, which God graciously restored to Adam, as Chrysostom, Lyranus, and Clarius contend for. For, 1st, Holiness and righteousness are not the image of any man, but of God. 2dly, Adam is never proposed in Scripture as the pattern or author of holiness, but as the person by whom sin entered into the world, Rom. 5:12. 3dly, The image of holiness, restored in the parent by grace, is never propagated to the son by natural generation. Things natural are propagated, but things supernatural are “alone of God that showeth mercy,” Rom. 9:16. But by this likeness of Adam, I understand the vicious corruption of his nature. 1st, Because the image of Adam, after Seth was begotten, is set in opposition to the image of God, after which Adam was created. 2dly, Because the apostle, in like manner, opposes 1 Cor. 15:49, the image of the earthly Adam, as consisting of sin and pollution, to the image of the heavenly Adam, which consists in holiness and glory. 3dly, Because the whole analogy of Scripture evinces, that “a clean thing cannot be brought out of an unclean,” and that “what is born of the flesh is flesh,” Job 14:4, John 3:6.
XVIII. This turpitude of sin is, by Paul, called the old man, Eph. 4:22, Col. 3:9. Man, because it overspreads the whole man, and defiles both soul and body; in the soul, it has possession of the understanding, will, and affections.
XIX. It has involved the understanding in horrid darkness, whereby it is grossly ignorant of divine things, Eph. 4:18. So that the ἅνθρωπος ψυχικος, the natural or animal man, or he that has no other spirit but his soul, and destitute of the Spirit of God, Jude 20, “receiveth not the things of God, neither can he know them,” 1 Cor. 2:14. And as he discerns no wisdom in divine things, worthy of God, so, with intolerable presumption, he represents them under those disagreeable notions, which his own foolish and self-conceited wisdom hath devised; and while he attempts to correct the wisdom of God which he cannot understand, he transfigures it, as much as he can, to downright folly. And this is that which is said, Rom. 1:22, 23: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools: and changed the glory of the incorruptible God,” &c.
XX. But the sinner is not only under blindness, but is in love with his blindness. He glories, that he really sees, even when he is most blind, John 9:40, 41. And when, to the utmost of his power, he resists the true light, though discovering itself in a most pleasing manner by the works of divine providence, by the word of God, and by some sparkling rays of the Spirit; “he loves darkness rather than light; hateth the light, neither cometh to the light,” John 3:19, 20. Of such Job witnesseth, “that they are of those that rebel against the light,” Job 24:13. They have an aversion to all light, both that which is natural, which hinders them from perpetrating their crimes in the sight of the world; and that which is moral, which convinces them of the duty they ought certainly to perform, but which they wickedly neglect. They endeavour to stifle it, by disputing both against the word of God and their own conscience. Hence those impious expressions of some, who wish that this or the other truth, that opposes their lusts, was not to be found in the word of God.
XXI. And yet, those very persons that are so foolish in that which is good, are most subtle and crafty in that which is evil, Jer. 4:22. They commit evil by that art, which is exactly conformable to the pattern of the infernal spirits. Emphatical is that of Micah, on this head, chap. 7:3: “על הרע כפים להיטיב, both hands are upon evil, that they may do it well.”* They are not slothful in evil, but apply both hands, exert all their strength. And they take care to do it well, according to the rules of that satanical art, carefully observing all the contrivances of wickedness: nay, they have learned to frame and contrive it with so much art as to impose it on the incautious, under the appearance of good.
XXII. Nor is the will less corrupt; for, 1st, it is averse to all that is truly good. Job 21:14: “Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. And when the great things of the law are written to them, they are counted as a strange thing;” as of no very great moment, and what they have no concern with, Hos. 8:12. And how can it be otherwise? For since, by reason of their blindness, they do not discern the excellency of true virtue, but on the contrary find many things in the practice of it which are opposite to their unruly lusts, their mind is averse to it; “they hate the good,” Micah. 3:2.
XXIII. Secondly, it is driven on to evil, with great impetuosity: “they love the evil,” Micah 3:2, to a degree indeed, that not some, but “every imagination of the heart of man;” not at some, but “at all times;” not in some, but in every measure, “is only evil,” Gen. 6:5. Now this is to be understood, not only of the giants in the first ages, as appears by comparing this place with chap. 8:21, where almost the same words are used concerning men in future periods of time. “I will not again,” says God, “curse the ground any more, because (or though) the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Whereby it is intimated that evil imagination is the common blemish of all mankind. To this also may be referred what Paul writes, Rom. 8:7: “το φρόνημα της σαρκος, the carnal mind (the wisdom of the flesh)” that which it willingly imagines, lusts after as wisdom, or that action which the carnal mind contrives, “is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”
XXIV. Nay, 3dly, the desire of evil is so great, that it is irritated by that very law of God which forbids it; and is more impetuously hurried on to things forbidden, only because they are prohibited. Without the driving or impelling force of the law, sin lies dormant and lifeless; but when the commandment comes, it revives, and is put in motion, and taking occasion by the commandment, works all manner of concupiscence; to a pitch, that, every check being hurtful, “by the commandment sin might become exceeding sinful,” Rom. 7:8, 9, 11, 13. Chrysostom beautifully says, Ὃταν τινὸς ἐπιθυμῶμεν, εῖ τα κωλυώμεθα, αἰρετα· μᾶλλον της έπιθυμίας ἡ φλὸξ. When we lust after any thing, and are afterwards restrained; this only blows up the flame of lust to a higher degree.”
XXV. Surprising and lamentable is the depravity in the affections. For, 1st, When the understanding does not lead them on to things holy, spiritual, heavenly, and eternal, they are basely and madly bent upon things corporeal, carnal, fading, and sinful; and mis-spend all their vigour on things beneath and unworthy a man. 2dly, In all their emotions they are furiously tossed, and not waiting for the direction of the understanding, but throwing off the reins of reason, and having no restraint, they rush headlong with a blind and wicked violence, and basely rack and wound the soul; never allowing her any rest, nor that calmness which would otherwise be her peculiar happiness, but continually crying, “like the daughters of the horse-leach, Give, Give,” Prov. 30:16. Hence God elegantly compares the wicked to “the troubled sea, which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt,” Isa. 57:20. 3dly, They are obstinately bold and lustful, both against the will of God’s decree and of his command; ever lusting after what is contrary to it, with that eagerness, that they can scarcely bear that God and nature should not be subservient to their desire, and all rules of religion not be framed and modelled to their liking. These are those “πὰθη ἀτιμίας, vile affections,” mentioned Rom. 1:26. Which, though they do not rage with equal fury in all, yet they reside in the soul as in a stable, and being restrained to no purpose, burst out at times with the greater fierceness.
XXVI. Nor indeed, is the body itself free from the tyrannical dominion of sin: the members are agitated by such an inordinate flow of blood and spirits, that they easily carry away the mind, while it is forgetful of her own dignity. And indeed, that pleasure which the members have in sin, or which they seek for by sinning, is the cause of most sins, even spiritual sins not excepted, and of their reasoning against the law of God. This perverseness and corruption is by the apostle called “the law in the members,” that is, that power and efficacy of sin dwelling in the body, which had frequently forced it to a criminal compliance, and had “warred against the law of his mind;” that is, against the law of God, inscribed on the mind by nature and grace, and in which the mind delights, “and had brought him into captivity;” and having once taken hold of him, does not let him go, Rom. 7:23. Certainly, the members seduce and prove offensive, which Job, being afraid of, “made a covenant with his eyes, that they should not look upon a maid,” Job 31:1. And David prayed, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity,” Psa. 119:37. And Wisdom advises, to “put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite,” Prov. 23:2. All these plainly declare the danger arising to religion from the members.
XXVII. As therefore this corruption wholly overspreads all the parts and faculties of man, it is therefore called man. But it goes by the name of the old man: 1st, Because it sprung up in paradise itself, at the beginning, by the infection of the tempting serpent, and owes its original to that old dragon, mentioned Rev. 12:9. 2dly, Because it is cotemporary with every man in particular, Psa. 51:7, and, if not always in order of time, yet of nature, precedes man’s gracious regeneration. 3dly, Because we ought to abolish, reject, and abhor it, as a worthless and antiquated thing, which is worn out and disfigured by long use, just as old things pass away, that all things may become new, 2 Cor. 5:17.
XXVIII. This corruption is sometimes held forth under the emblem of an unseemly, filthy, and loathsome garment; and then it is said “to be put off” and laid aside by sanctification, Col. 3:9, and Eph. 4:22. Sometimes under the emblem of a monster, destroying by horrid violence every thing in man; and then it is said to be “mortified,” Col. 3:5, and “crucified,” Gal. 5:24. Now, this putting off and mortification of the old man, is nothing else but the destruction of the dominion of sin, and the purging of corruptions: so that, 1st, We be vexed at the heart and grieved because of them, for nothing dies without pain and anguish. 2dly, That we abhor them as we would a rotten carcase. 3dly, That we have them in execration as things which have put God and man to torment.* 4thly, That we suppress all their motions, as far as possible, both in the soul and the body, and never suffer them to revive again, Rom. 6:6: “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed;” not only some actions and parts of it, but that entire compound, made up of depraved habits, thoughts, lusts, words, and actions, as a body is made up of its members, “that henceforth we should not serve sin.”
XXIX. By another phrase, the godly are said to be “dead to sin,” Rom. 6:2. The meaning of which is, that as a dead body is not a fit habitation for the soul, seeing it has not those organs and that disposition of parts by which the soul operates; so believers, with respect to sin and its motions, are dead bodies, useless and motionless organs, in which it can no longer lodge, live, and exert its efficacy.
XXX. Not much different is that expression of Paul, Gal. 6:14, in which he says the world was crucified to him and he to the world; intimating, that he was no more delighted with the vanities of the world, than a good man would be with the rotten carcase of a malefactor who was justly condemned to a shameful death; and, on the other hand, that the world was unable to act upon, or affect him, with any greater efficacy, than objects of sense affect a dead person.
XXXI. This putting off, and this mortification of the old man, is always accompanied with the putting on, or vivification of the new man, by which are denoted all those qualities wherein the excellency of the divine image is placed. These come under the appellation man, for the same reason we just gave of the depraved qualities, because they overspread the whole man; so that there is nothing in the sanctified person, no part, no faculty, that remains untouched or neglected by the sanctifying Spirit, and unadorned with new habits. And as the citadel and throne of virtue stands in the mind and inward parts, therefore Paul speaks of the “inward man,” Rom. 7:22, and Peter, 1 Epist. 3:4, of the “hidden man of the heart.”
XXXII. A new and gracious light shines upon the understanding: the eyes of the mind are enlightened, Eph. 1:18, by which it sees divine truths, not under false and confused ideas, but in their native form and beauty, “the truth as it is in Jesus,” Eph. 4:21; so that the sanctified person really beholds in those truths, the manifold wisdom of God, the depths of his perfections, and the unsearchable riches of Christ; nor does he see them only, but in a manner not to be expressed, feels them, penetrating themselves into his inmost heart, embraces them with a glowing affection of piety, exults in them, and desires that what is truth in Christ, may be also truth in him, and that he may be modelled to the likeness of those truths, and cast as it were into the very shape of them. In fine, that knowledge of God which flutters not in the brain only, but brings forth the fruit of every good work, from the day that he hath truly heard and known the grace of God, is a part of the new man, Col. 1:6, 9, 10. Whereas that other knowledge which puffs up and boasts itself, and charges the wisdom of God with folly, is vain; and the more boldly it counterfeits the new man, the more it appears to be “earthly, sensual, and devilish,” James 3:15.
XXXIII. Among other things, the understanding of a sanctified person beholds so much purity in God, who is the pattern of the rational creature; so much equity in the law of God, which is the rule of every virtue; so much holiness in Christ Jesus, who exhibited himself to us as a living law; so much beauty in virtue, or holiness itself, which is as it were the native image of the Deity; that he reckons nothing more excellent than exactly to resemble that pattern, that rule, and that image. He sees nothing in any of these that he would correct, nothing he would have otherwise appointed, neither does he imagine that any thing can be better framed, and thus “he consenteth to the law, that it is good,” Rom. 7:16. This is what Paul calls a “being filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,” Col. 1:9.
XXXIV. And as the eyes are with difficulty diverted from a pleasing object, so to him whose mind is enlightened by the Holy Spirit, nothing can be more desirable, nothing more pleasant, nothing more charming, than to dwell on the contemplation of God and the meditation of divine things. He loves to join the night to the day, Psa. 1:2, and then he entertains himself, then he is delighted, then he exults, and seems by his earnestness to enjoy heaven itself; while he is deeply engaged in this sacred meditation, and, at the same time forgetting himself, he is plunged as it were in the immense gulf of the divine perfections and mysteries.
XXXV. Nor is the enlightened mind satisfied to taste things alone by itself, nor enviously to conceal its treasure; but it discovers those sacred truths to the will, to which it frequently presents them as things most precious, which are far more valuable than gold and silver, or even than pearls, which are still more highly esteemed, that the will also may be united to them by the indissoluble band of love, and with the utmost readiness be in holy subjection to them. This is the activity of the sanctified understanding.
XXXVI. Now the will cannot possibly reject so great a good, which is constantly pointed out to it by the understanding as such. It is therefore ravished with the love of it, Psa. 119:97: “O! how love I thy law!” Rom. 7:22. It delights in the law of God, Psa. 40:8: “I delight to do thy will, O my God!” For what is truth in Christ, becomes also truth in its order and degree in those who are Christ’s. The will is never easy, never satisfied, when it finds it has displeased God, and departed from his will.
XXXVII. Hence ariseth a steady and fixed purpose of heart, to be conformable in all things to God, Psa. 119:106. To whom the will wholly resigns itself up, to be swallowed as it were in his will; establishing this into an inviolable and sacred law for itself, to have the same inclinations, the same aversions with God. And God himself declares, that the true reverence or fear of the Deity lies in this, Prov. 8:13: “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogancy and the evil way, and the froward mouth do I hate.” He that truly fears God, will hate what he knows to be hateful to God; and, on the contrary, love what God loves, Psa. 139:21, 22.
XXXVIII. And seeing the will commands the inferior faculties, as they are called, and, in its measure, even the understanding itself; hence, with the greatest alacrity, it makes all things to be ready at the will and pleasure of God and of Christ. So that the soul of one who is sanctified, is like a well marshalled army, in which every individual will, in his place and order, directly move upon the first word or sign of command. This is that “willing mind,” by which we are acceptable to God, 2 Cor. 8:12.
XXXIX. The understanding and will being thus set in order, the tumult of the wild affections gradually comes to subside, which being forced into order, learn to wait the commands of reason before they take a single step, and in proportion to the object, act either more intensely, or more remissly; moreover, they exert themselves in a right and proper manner, with respect to spiritual and heavenly things, with which before they were wont to be scarcely, if at all affected: in short, they calmly resign themselves to be governed by the Holy Spirit, receiving from him, with full submission, the law of motion and of rest. When formerly furious lust held the reins, they were accustomed to run mad after wordly, carnal, and vitious objects, now they suffer themselves to be led, as circumstances require, and being sublimated to a higher pitch, and having obtained a more generous and noble guide, they strongly, by their native vehemence, excite or push forward the mind, otherwise slow in its motion, to objects that are holy, heavenly, and becoming a Christian.
XL. In the mean time, this admonition is continually inculcated upon them, that they must not consult with their affections, whenever they are called to comply with, or submit to, the will of God, whether that of his decree or that of his precept. In that case, they are enjoined to a perfect silent submission. He who is sanctified does not presume so much as to wish, that God would regulate either his precepts or purposes from any regard to his desire, hope, or fear. That self-denial which is the first lesson in Christ’s school, commands all the affections to be silent, and unlimited obedience obliges them to be resigned to God. It is not lawful for a Christian to wish, that any thing that God has done or spoken should be otherwise than it is; and whenever that foolish self-love which is not yet quite rooted out, begins, through its unmortified lusts and vain anxiety, to go away from God to other things, then the superior faculty of the soul, under the conduct and direction of the Spirit, repeats that pious ejaculation, “and thou, my soul, wait thou only upon [be silent unto] God,” Psa. 62:5. This is to “compose the soul, and keep it in quiet;” Psa. 131:2, that it may look upon it as unlawful, either to wish or mutter any thing against the will of God.
XLI. Moreover, that holy disposition of soul communicates itself to the members of the body, which, being before “instruments of unrighteousness unto sin,” are now “instruments of righteousness unto God,” Rom. 6:13. In a sanctified person, the eyes, the tongue, the ears, the hands, and the feet, are not only restrained from giving the least occasion, to entice and disturb the mind, as Paul said of himself, that he “kept under his body, and brought it into subjection,” 1 Cor. 9:27; but all of them are ready, and inclined to obey God, to whom they yield themselves, in order to the practice of righteousness, and even as weapons, by which the kingdom of sin and Satan may be strongly opposed. For, so long as the most eminent virtues lie concealed in the inward recess of the mind, they cannot edify our neighbour, and gain him over from sin to holiness; but when they are exercised by the members of the body, when the tongue lays itself out in the praises of God, and the commendation of virtue or holiness; the hands and feet, in assisting his neighbour, and the other parts of the body, according to their several capacities, in the practice of religion: it is then he fights manfully, for extirpating vice, and promoting virtue. Nor can it be doubted, but the apostle’s expression imports all this.
XLII. From all this it is now evident, that even the new man, no less than the old, possesses the whole man, both soul and body; according to the command of Paul, 1 Cor. 6:20: “Glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s;” and his prayer, 1 Thess. 5:23. “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly, and your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Interpreters differ with respect to the distinction between spirit and soul, and the signification of each term. We agree with those who, by spirit, understand the mind, the ἡγεμονικον, or leading faculty of man, called, by Philo, de Mundo, “ἐξαίρετον ἄνθρὼπον γέρας, the select ornament of man,” in which his principal excellence above the other creatures consists; and elsewhere called by the apostle “νοῦς, mind,” Eph. 4:17: but by soul, the inferior faculties; not as if there were two souls, but that, in the manner commonly received among philosophers, Paul distinguishes the faculties of one and the same soul. And by body, it is plain, is denoted the receptacle of the soul. And the whole man will, at last, be sanctified, when the spirit shall think nothing, the soul desire nothing, the body execute nothing, but what is agreeable to the will of God.
XLIII. Now, these spiritual qualities of a man, are called, the new man. 1st. Because they succeed upon the departure of the old man, 2 Cor. 5:17: “Old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.” 2dly. Because they are quite other than, and very different from, the former. In which sense Christ said of the apostles, Mark 16:17, “They shall speak with new tongues;” that is, other tongues, Acts 2:4, different from their mother-tongue, and from those they had learned before. And certainly these good qualities are not only different from the former, but also quite contrary to them. “For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?” 2 Cor. 6:14. 3dly. Because rare, excellent, and unparalleled. For as new things usually attract, and are esteemed valuable, as being preferable to old things, which are worn out by long use; so that which is excellent and surpassing in its kind, is also called new. In this sense God promises a new name to the godly, Isa. 62:2, Rev. 2:17, and 3:12, that is, a condition far more excellent than what they ever yet had. And, indeed, nothing excels this new man, which Peter declares, 1 Pet. 3:4, “to be in the sight of God of great price.”
XLIV. Sometimes sanctification is called the putting on of the new man, as Eph. 4:24, Col. 3:10. Sometimes vivification, or the quickening of the same. Thus these landable qualities may be considered, either as a precious ornament of the soul, 1 Peter 3:3, 4, Psa. 45:14, 15, and Psa. 93:5, and Psa. 110:3, Prov. 1:9, and then they are said to be put on; or, as a new creature made conformable to the example of Christ, which is all activity and life, and then he is said to live in us. These expressions denote the productions of those new qualities in us, and their continual increase and growth, and their being incentives to action: all which have here the nature of a term, to which they tend.
XLV. We may view the parts of our sanctification in this order: 1st. If we consider them in their whole compass or extent, they are cotemporary. For sin is expelled, virtue or holiness is introduced by the same work, just as he, who at the same time, by his motion and progress, leaves the term from which he set out, and draws near to the term whither he at first intended. 2dly. If we consider its commencement, the vivification or quickening of the new man, is first in the order of nature. For all the virtue and efficacy against sin, proceeds from a principle of a new and spiritual life. Death is removed only by life, darkness by light, poverty by riches, nakedness by clothing, deformity by beauty, hatred of God by love. 3dly. If we consider each act a part, we find a manifold variety in the order. The illumination of the understanding, which is a part of the vivification of the new man, does undoubtedly go before our being displeased with ourselves, and our sorrow for sin, which properly belong to the mortification of the old man. And this sorrow again precedes that holy alacrity of the soul, whereby it rejoices in God: and so of the rest. 4thly. If we view its consummation, the final destruction of the old man, which is effected at the dissolution of the body of sin, that is, of the body by whose lusts we are polluted, and in which we sin, Rom. 6:6, is prior to the complete sanctification of the whole man.
XLVI. Hence it appears, that sanctification does not consist only in the amendment of the actions, according to the Socinians and the favourers of Pelagianism, who do not sincerely acknowledge the corruption of our nature; but in the conferring of new habits, which succeed to the old ones, which gradually give way. Thus Peter, among these precious promises which we obtain, mentions the communication of a divine nature, a large measure of those virtues, which if they be in us, they make us that we shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Pet. 1:8. And Paul, Gal. 5:22, speaking of the fruits of the Spirit, says, that they are “love, joy, peace, long-suffering,” &c. All which virtues or graces are habitual, inherent, and permanent in the soul, 1 Cor. 13:13: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three.” Nay, sometimes the apostle uses the very term, habit, Heb. 5:14, “Who διὰ τὴν ἕξιν, by reason of use (habit), have their senses exercised.” The increase indeed of this habit is acquired by repeated acts of a vigorous endeavour; though its beginning is infused by the Holy Spirit, who fills the elect with the knowledge of the will of God, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,” Col. 1:9.
XLVII. The author and efficient cause of sanctification is GOD. Uncreated, infinite holiness is the source of that which is created and finite, Ezek. 20:12, “that they might know that I am the Lord, that sanctify them.” 1 Thess. 5:23. “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly.” Isa. 63:11. “Who put his Holy Spirit [the spirit of his holiness] within him.” He is the author of sanctification.
XLVIII. For, by a special appropriation, according to the economy of the divine operations, this work is immediately ascribed to the Holy Spirit, 2 Thess. 2:13, “through sanctification of the Spirit.” Tit. 3:5, “renewing of the Holy Ghost:” and so in many other places. This is not, however, done, as if the Holy Spirit alone was immediately concerned in the production of sanctification, and the Father and Son sanctified only mediately by the Spirit. For that power by which holiness is produced in the elect, is common to the undivided Trinity. Nor do the Father and Son operate less immediately therein than the Holy Spirit; and as the power of each divine person is the same, so also the action of all is one. That saying, “διʼ οὕ τα παντα, by whom are all things,” equally belongs to the Father and the Son, as it does to the Holy Spirit. Nor does one person act by the other, as by a mean or instrument. But the reason of this appropriation seems to be thus: because the sanctification of a sinner follows upon the grace and merit of Christ; and seeing the Holy Spirit follows the Son, in the hypostatical order of subsisting and operating, and is therefore also called the Spirit of the Son, Gal. 4:6. To whom then can the application of the grace and merits of the Son be more properly ascribed, than to him who is next to the Son in order? Sanctification is such a divine operation, as supposes the will of the Father, making a testament concerning the seed which was to be given to the Son; and the will of the Son, claiming, by right, that holy seed: who then can better claim that operation, than the Holy Spirit, who is of the Father and of the Son, and who takes of the things of the Son, all that he gives unto them? John 17:14.
XLIX. However, Christ, the mediator, acts here a special part both as to impetration and application. Christ impetrated, or purchased by his merit, the sanctification of the elect. For this cause he himself came “in the likeness of sinful flesh,” Rom. 8:3. “appeared under the load of sin,” Heb. 9:28; for this end also himself “was made sin,” 2 Corinthians. 5:21, “that he might sanctify his church,” Eph. 5:26. The image of God being defaced and lost, could not possibly be restored to sinful man, unless he, who is the personal image of God the Father, should first assume the image of man, and that of a sinner and a slave, and so expose himself to the unjust hatred of men, and the most righteous vengeance of God, as if he had been the greatest of all criminals: and thus he is made unto us, by his merit, “sanctification,” 1 Cor. 1:30.
L. But that which he impetrated, he applies. He unites the elect to himself by his Spirit; and then the virtue of his death and resurrection flows from him to them: “so that being planted together in the likeness of his death, they shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection; and their old man crucified with him, and they being dead with Christ, shall also live with him,” Rom. 6:5, 8, and, “by the cross of Christ, the world is crucified to them, and they to the world,” Gal. 6:14. This is the effect of meditating on the cross of Christ. And the power of his resurrection, Phil. 3:10, produces a new life in them. For, he himself being raised from the dead, has received not only for himself a new and a glorious life, but a fountain of a new and holy life for all his people; from which by a continued influence, the most refreshing streams flow to all his members: hence, from his own life, by a most conclusive argument, he inferred the life of his people, John 14:19, “Because I live, ye shall live also.”
LI. Moreover, that work of God which produces our sanctification, is performed by a real, supernatural and most powerful efficacy, reaching to the full effect, as we have already intimated, when treating on effectual calling and regeneration. “For, we are his ποίημα, workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works,” Eph. 2:10. By the very same power, which was displayed and exerted in the work of the old creation, he forms his own people to good works, or, which is the same thing, he sanctifies them. “He gives an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear,” Deut. 29:4. “He puts his Spirit within them, and causes them to walk in his statutes, and to keep his judgments,” Ezek. 36:27. “He gives them one heart, and one way, that they may fear him for ever,” Jer. 32:39. And certainly none is fit to form again the image of God in man, but he who at first made man after his own image; the one being a work of no less power and excellence than the other.
LII. And hence, the gangrene of the Socinian divinity discovers itself, according to which if a man has got such a full discovery of the will of God, as is made in the Gospel, with a promise of eternal life, he will then have that, whence he may receive strength to perform that very will. They sometimes mention internal assistance for form’ sake, but place it only in this, that the promises of God are inscribed and sealed on the mind: and they will have this to be the case of none, unless he has first made a right use of that external aid. They are truly ignorant of any supernatural influence and real efficiency of God. So much have a fond self-admiration, and their arrogant boasting of the powers of nature infatuated them.
LIII. But some among the heathen have really spoken far better concerning the divine assistance, though unacquainted with the excellency of Christian holiness. Plutarch, de stoic. contradict. “If God give not virtue to men, but men obtain it by their own power; and give them riches and health without virtue, he certainly gives to them what they will not use well, but ill.” Plutarch adds: “If the gods can bestow virtue, but do it not, they are not good and gracious; for, if they cannot render men good, neither can they profit them, since without virtue nothing can be good or profitable.” To the same purpose is the twenty-second dissertation of Maximus Tyrius, entitled, “Whether any one can be made good by God;” in which there are very many things worthy of attention, but too long to be transcribed. These things he borrowed from his master Plato, in whose Menon is extant this notable dissertation: “If in the whole of this present discourse, we we have inquired and disputed correctly, then virtue is neither obtained by nature, nor by teaching, but by divine appointment.” See Clemens Alexandrinus, stromat lib. v. p. 588.
LIV. Nature itself and man’s conscience teach him these two things: 1st, Our inability for virtue. 2dly, The all-sufficiency of God, whereby he is the fountain and author of all true good. Of the former, Epictetus, apud Arrianum, lib. ii. c. 11, says: “the beginning of philosophy to those who enter into it by the gate, as they ought, is a sense of their own impotence and inability.” Of the latter, Maximus Tyrius Dissert. 22. “We are not to imagine, that any good can befall men, but what comes from God: as there is no good to men, which derives not its original from God.
LV. From those generals, the heathen themselves have proved these more particular propositions: 1st. That, to the acquisition and practice of virtue, men stand in need of divine assistance and grace. Hierocles, a Pythagorean philosopher, has excellently taught this in these words: “We are not so much as to preconceive, that virtuous actions are so in our power, as to be performed without divine aid: we stand in need of the assistance of God, both for escaping evil and acquiring good.” 2dly, That, from a sense of our own impotence, we are to ask it of God, Epictet. apud Arrianum, lib. ii. c. 18. “Noble is the struggle, and divine the enterprise, the subject a kingdom; liberty, happiness, calm of mind unruffled by passions, are all concerned; therefore remember God, call him in for thy assistant, thy associate.” See also Seneca, Epist. 10, and 41, and Marc. Antonin. lib. ii. § 40. 3dly, That we are to thank God for it, Epictet. apud Arrian., lib. iv. c. 4. “Then I sinned, now I do not, thanks be to God.”
LVI. But they did not imagine, that this divine assistance consisted only in moral suasion, or in presenting such objects, whereby a man may be excited to virtuous actions; but “in divine suggestions, aids, and inspirations,” as the emperor Antonine speaks, lib. i. §. 17; who in the same place declares, that he had a good disposition of mind “from the gods,” which he ascribes to their beneficence: lib. ix. §. 40, he mentions their co-operation; “for, if they can at all co-operate with men, they also can in this,” namely, in the practice of virtue. But if any should except, that these relate to things in our own power, he answers: “Who has told thee, that the gods do not assist even in these? Set about asking these things of the gods by prayer, and you will see the consequence.”
LVII. And they maintained, that the same divine aid was so necessary to virtue, that even the best disposed souls could not be without it. Maxim. Tyr. Dissert. 22, p. 228, says: “But they, who have acquired the very best natural dispositions of soul, halting between the highest virtue and the lowest vice, stand in need of the divine aid, to give the proper bias and direction to the better side. For their natural weakness makes them easily take the worst path. This, by means of pleasures and lusts, flatters even well-disposed souls, and hurries them into the same paths of vice.”
LVIII. It is, therefore, really a shame that heathen writers have entertained more humble sentiments of the infirmity and inability of our nature for good, and clearer conceptions of the divine assisting grace, and have said finer things about imploring it by prayer, than those professors of the excellency of the Christian religion, who ought to have put a due value on the holiness of true virtue. Thus they who are pagans will, in the day of judgment, rise up against those false Christians, the ungrateful enemies of the grace of God, no less to their condemnation, than the queen of the South, to that of the unbelieving Jews.
LIX. Moreover, seeing the Spirit of God, the author of holiness, is highly generous and noble, and therefore by David, Psa. 51:12, called “free (ingenuous) Spirit:” hence that holiness, with which he adorns the elect is also such as highly surpasses all the painted virtue of the Gentiles, in whatever manner it displays itself, and all the scrupulous diligence of the Scribes and Pharisees. And indeed, if it does not exceed these, it is not acknowledged to be genuine holiness by Christ our Lord, Mat. 5:20.
LX. When the children of God recollect their glorious and heavenly pedigree, they endeavour to excel others, both in a beautiful disposition of soul and manner of life, Psalm 45:13, “the king’s daughter,” that is, the daughter of the heavenly Father, who is also the bride of the king’s son, every believing soul “is all glorious,” adorned with a holiness, not only glorious to herself, but also to the Father and the bridegroom, and is the beginning of a heavenly glory: and that chiefly, “within,” not only when she appears abroad, and presents herself to the view of men; but also when she sits in the inner bed-chamber, in the secret exercises of religion, in which she in private pleases the Father and the bridegroom: who having a regard to the inward man, she above all endeavours to keep that pure and chaste. “Her clothing is of gold,” in comparison of which, whatever excellency natural men were ever possessed of, is but a shining vanity: nay it was “wrought” gold, curiously beautified with various resemblances, which represents the perfections of God himself; and of different colours, on account of the different, yet harmoniously corresponding graces of the Holy Spirit: or, “of needlework” of the Phrygian embroiderers, or rather the work of “the cunning workman,” mentioned Cant. 7:1. Nor is the spouse only beautiful within, but also without; “holding forth the word of life,” Phil. 2:16, she practises charity, glorifies Christ, edifies her neighbour: and in this manner “she is brought unto the king, worthy to be presented to him.” This is the only way by which we are to endeavour to obtain familiarity with him, and the sweetest intercourse of the chastest love, both on earth and in heaven.
LXI. That which we have in Psa. 110:3, is not very different from this encomium: “Thy people, O Jesus Christ, which were given thee by the Father, purchased and redeemed by thee, who acknowledge thee for their Lord, and are bound to thee by a military oath, extremely willing, being devoted to thy service with the greatest readiness of soul, alacrity, inclination, and voluntary obedience. Nor are they willing only, but willingness itself, in the abstract; nay, willingnesses in the plural number, the highest and most excellent willingness: all which add an emphasis. And such it is ביום חילך in the day of thy power” [valour], in which thy generous Spirit, laying hold on them, animates them to some grand and bold enterprise. Then they go forth ‘in the beauties of holiness,’ by which they are a terror to the devil, a delight to God and angels, and a mutual edification to one another.”
LXII. These brave soldiers of Christ are not without their ambition, which Paul describes, 2 Cor. 5:9, Διὸ καὶ φιλοτιμούμεθα εὐάρεστοι αὐτῷ εἶναι, wherefore we labour [make it our ambition], to be accepted of him.” God never beholds himself without the highest complacency; above all, he is delighted with his own perfections, and with holiness, which is the glory of them. When he sees any delineations of this in his creatures, there he in a manner stands still, and delights his eyes with so pleasing an object, and declares by words and actions, that nothing can be more acceptable to him. And this is the holy ambition of believers, so to behave in the whole course of their life, and to have their mind so disposed, as in both to please God. Of old, Satan inspired a wicked ambition into our first parents, to labour after the image of God in a false way, by attempting what was forbidden them. But the heavenly Spirit is the author of a more generous ambition, which stirs the man up to imitate God in the habits of his soul, and the actions of his life, that he may, upon earth, present something before God, in which he may take pleasure, as in a lively image of himself, Nothing can be more noble than this holy ambition.
LXIII. What is said, Cant. 1:9, is very remarkable. “I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharoah’s chariot.” For the understanding this passage, we are to explain. 1st, Why the church is compared to a horse. 2dly, Why to an Egyptian horse. 3dly, Why to a horse in the king’s chariots. As to the first. 1. Al horse suffers itself to be easily managed and led, not only with spur and bridle, but also with the whip. Thus Strabo writes, lib. 17, that the Massylians and Lybians made use of horses so swift and manageable that they could be governed by the whip only: hence Martial says, lib. 9, Epigr. 23, “Et Massylæum virgo gubernet equum. And manage a Massylean horse with a rod.” Wherefore the very learned Bochart, Hierozoic., lib. 2, c. 6, refers the Hebrew word סום to a word used by the Arabs, which signifies to manage and govern. See what Lipsius has collected, Centur. 3, ad Belgas, Epist. 56, concerning the nature, fidelity, and natural affection of horses. Such also are the godly; for, as they have renounced their own will, so they are docile and manageable at the least command of God, saying, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.” 2. A horse is a very strong creature, and hence it is, Jer. 8:16, and 47:3, called, אביר strong. Whence the very learned person ingeniously conjectures, that Epirus, a country famous for horses, had its name. In like manner, the godly “go in the strength of the Lord God,” Psa. 76:6; “they can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth them,” Phil. 4:13. And perform such things in overcoming the world and conquering sin, as far exceed the strength of other men. 3dly, A horse is a generous animal, to which God himself gives an illustrious encomium as an emblem of warlike prowess, Job 39:22, &c. Bochart, 1. c. chap. 8 has given us a very distinct explication of that passage. And certainly there is something heroical in the godly, which, whenever Christ, salvation, and piety, are concerned, discovers itself in a manner that may astonish those who behold it. For, the aged, the young, the helpless of both sexes, have been often seen to behave with such courage and bravery for Christ, and undergo with so much resolution the most cruel deaths in the cause of religion, that it was evident they were actuated by a spirit above that which is human. And they were “as mighty men, which tread down their enemies in the mire of the streets in the battle; and they did fight because the Lord was with them, and the riders on horse were confounded.” Zech. 10:5.
LXIV. Moreover, Egypt was formerly famous for its horses, of which we frequently read in Scripture, 2 Kings 18:24, Isa. 31:1. Nay, the law itself prohihited the kings of Judah too much to multiply their horses, least by that means they should bring the people back to Egypt, Deut. 17:16. However, Solomon had his horses from thence in very great numbers, 1 Kings 10:28, 29; 2 Chron. 9:28. We may then infer from this, that they were extraordinary beyond others. But to such Egyptian horses the church is compared, to show her excellent courage and boldness: for the Egyptian horse was the symbol of this, and in their ensigns they preferred it to the lion, as Clemens Alexandrinus Stromat. lib. 5, p. 567, informs us: “for, of strength and force, the lion is their symbol; but of courage and boldness, the horse.”
LXV. Nor are they compared to this alone, but also to the horses in king Pharaoh’s chariot, which doubtless were the most excellent, and selected from his whole kingdom. For, as the royal chariot excelled, so, who can doubt, that the king’s horses excelled all others? All these comparisons are adapted to set off the nobleness of Christian piety.
LXVI. Nay, God does not stop here; but as if it was too mean, to compare his elect to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariot, he promises to prepare them, כסום הודן, “as the horse of his majesty, his goodly horse in the battle,” Zech. 10:3. Than which nothing could be spoken with greater magnificence. The holy person is really as a horse prepared for the battle of the Lord, and the horse of the Supreme Commander, of the Divine Majesty, which, on account of its strength and valour is worthy to be mounted by the king of heaven himself. Wherefore, even he who had his name written on his vesture and on his thigh, “the King of kings, and Lord of lords,” was seen by John fitting on “a white horse,” Rev. 19:11; by which is denoted the genuine professors of truth, and sincere followers of holiness, with whom Jesus fights, and in whom he rests and is glorified.
LXVII. But that this pre-eminence of Christian virtues may appear more evidently, three things are distinctly to be considered. 1st, Their original. 2dly, Their rule. 3dly, Their end; for in these things their super-excellence consists above all the virtues or graces of the unsanctified.
LXVIII. As to their original, the virtues of the heathen, and the actions proceeding from thence, have their rise from some remains of the divine image, still left in man since the fall; such as innate notions, some love of honesty, the incentives of a natural conscience; besides those, some have had a liberal education, applied themselves to the study of philosophy; and enjoyed some special benefits of the common providence of God, repressing, restraining, and curbing innate corruption, and, on the other hand, exciting them to the practice of a much more regular life than the common herd of mankind, so that these virtues had no higher nor better original than nature, excited by the assistance of common providence, Rom. 2:14, 15: “the Gentiles do, by nature, the things contained in the law, and show the work of the law written in their hearts.”
LXIX. But the practice of Christian holiness has its rise, 1st, From the spirit of grace, which Christ has merited for, and bestows on his elect, “whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him,” John 14:17, who, seeing he is the Spirit of Christ, excites, in the elect, even the very same motions and inclinations of soul which are in Christ, and moulds and forms the whole life of Christ in them: so that they act, not by their own virtue or strength, nor by any innate principle of natural life, but by supernatural grace, and the virtue of Christ. 1 Cor. 15:10: “Not I, but the grace of God, which is with me;” and Heb. 12:28: “Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably.”
LXX. 2dly, From faith, “without which it is impossible to please God,” Heb. 11:6. For, εὐαρεστῆσαι, to please, signifies here to walk before God, as is evident from the foregoing verse, where the apostle says, that Enoch, before his translation, had this testimony, that he pleased God. By which words he undoubtedly has an eye to what we have, Gen. 5:24: “and Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” For to walk with God the Septuagint every where translate, εὐαρεστεῖν τῶ Θεῶ, to please God; they also, in some places, render שרת, to serve, by the same word. The apostle here imitates their way of speaking, in like manner as Tit. 2:9, where he enjoins servants, “ἐν πᾱσιν εὐαρεστους εἰναι, in all things to please them,” that is, so to behave as in every thing to do what is wellpleasing to their masters.
LXXI. But faith, without which nothing can be done that is acceptable to God, is that virtue or grace which is the beginning of the spiritual life, or the first work of the Holy Spirit uniting us to Christ. And there are various ways to prove that without this a man can do nothing that is good. 1st, Seeing faith apprehends and applies to itself all the efficacy of Christ’s merits, it has a power “of purifying the heart,” Acts 15:9. But so long as that fountain of the heart is impure, nothing pure can flow from it: for “unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure,” not even their food; “but their mind and conscience is defiled,” Tit. 1:15. On the contrary, “the end of the commandment is charity, out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned,” 1 Tim. 1:5. 2dly, By faith we are justified and are restored to the favour of God. But it is necessary that the persons of sinners be acceptable to God in Christ before their works can be so. For how can the work of that man please God who is an abomination and execration to him? First, God had respect to Abel, then to his offering, Gen. 4:4. “Be it far,” says Augustine, lib. 4, contra Julianum, c. 3, “that any one should be really virtuous who is not righteous. But be it far that he should be truly righteous who does not live by faith; for the just shall live by faith. 3dly, It is not possible that any can truly love God, and endeavour, from a principle of love, to do what is acceptable to him, unless he know him to be such, as he manifests himself in Christ the Mediator? But it is the proper work of faith to behold God in Christ; and thus faith worketh by love, Gal. 5:6. 4thly, As faith first unites us to Christ, so it continually draws virtue, efficacy, and life from him, by a spiritual suction and attraction, whereby we may be enabled to act in a holy manner. “The life which I live, I live by the faith of the Son of God,” Gal. 2:20.”
LXXII. But besides that common faith, which is the fountain of all spiritual life, another more special faith is requisite to the goodness of our actions, consisting in a certain persuasion of mind, that the work we undertake is good and holy, or at least lawful, and nowhere prohibited. For, whoever does any thing, about which he is not certain, that it is acceptable to God, does by that very action show that he is not affected with a due reverence for the Deity, nor endeavours, as is fit, to avoid the displeasure and indignation of God. And to this, I imagine, the apostle has an eye, Rom. 14:23: “He that doubteth;” that is, who is not persuaded in his conscience, that he may lawfully eat of any food; “is condemned, if he eat;” that is, is judged to have acted amiss: “because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith, is sin.” For here the apostle presses what he had enjoined, ver. 5, “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”
LXXIII. 3dly, The practice of Christian holiness flows from the love of God, and consists in that very ambition which we have recommended from 2 Cor. 5:9, of doing what is acceptable to God. And in this Christian holiness surpasses all the virtuous actions of the heathen, who were very justly commended, if what they did proceeded from the love of that virtue they were acquainted with; but as that love did not ascend to God himself, but centred in a created, nay, and in a very defective thing, such as their virtue was, it was not a holy love, but a vicious affection, which indirectly and sinfully terminates in man himself.
LXXIV. Jansenius, lib. 4, de statu naturæ lapsæ. chap. 11, seq., has treated distinctly and at large on this subject, where he speaks to this purpose: “This therefore was the proper defect of philosophical virtue, even when purest, that being delighted with a certain ruinous height of virtue, they earnestly desired it for this end, that they might be great in their own esteem, delight and please themselves; whereas it became them to please God, or the truth, as Augustine speaks. This vice of self pleasing so closely adheres to those who seek not to please either God or men, that it is not possible such persons should not fall into it.” To which he immediately subjoins: “Whoever lifts not up his eyes to God, in order to please him from the beauty of virtue, but admires it alone, as the end of good, the fairest and the most exalted; it is impossible that either desiring it he should not thence please himself, or not willing thence to please himself, he should desire it. Seeing it is altogether necessary, the soul of man should delight in something. With what other object, pray, can a soul alienated from God be delighted, and looking down, as we suppose, with contempt on the other meaner creatures, than with what he imagines to be most excellent among created things? but this is the mind itself, now adorned with virtue, which ornament it judges the most becoming of all. He therefore necessarily pleases himself from his virtue, who desires not by it to please either God or other men.” All which is sound and solid.
LXXV. Christian virtue, therefore, has a deeper and better original, than any love of virtue whatsoever, or than any complacency in one’s own actions. But faith, which represents God to the soul as infinitely good and perfectly holy, and the most bountiful rewarder of good actions; as also his laws, as full of equity and justice; inflames the soul with the love of a gracious God, and of his most equitable laws; and to deem nothing preferable to, nothing more valuable than, by a conformity to those laws, to resemble him, in his measure, in holiness, and, in that resemblance, to please him. That God, looking down as it were, out of himself and from heaven, may also find upon earth what to delight himself in, as his copy; which is the highest pleasure of a holy soul. So that it loves not virtue for itself alone, but for God, whose image it is, and whom, in the practice of virtue, it pleases. From this love to God springs the practice of true holiness.
LXXVI. I cannot but transcribe an excellent passage of Clemens Alexandrinus to this purpose, who Stromat., lib. v. p. 532, thus gives us the picture of a holy person: “He who obeys the bare call, so far as he is called, labours after knowledge, neither from fear nor from pleasure. For he does not consider whether any profitable gain, or external pleasure, will ensue; but being constrained by the love of what is truly amiable, and thereby excited to his duty, he is a pious worshipper of God. Were we, therefore, to suppose him to have received from God a liberty to what was forbidden, without any apprehension of punishment; nay, moreover, had he a promise of receiving the reward of the blessed; and besides, was he persuaded that his actions should escape the notice of God (which by the way is impossible);—he could never be prevalled with to act contrary to right reason, after he had once chosen what is really lovely and eligible of itself, and on that account to be loved and desired.” Than which nothing more sublime can be said.
LXXVII. He would have a holy or sanctified person do every thing from a principle of love. “It becomes him who is perfect to be in the exercise of love, and so endeavour after the divine favour and friendship, while he performs the commandments by love.” But this love has not renown, nor any other advantage, but virtue itself, pure virtue for its object; so he frames his life after the image and resemblance of God, no longer for the sake of renown, or, as the philosophers speak, Εὐκλειαν, of a splendid name; nor from the view of reward, either from God or men. Moreover, what renders virtue amiable to him, is not that philosophical agreement it has to right reason, but because he beholds in it a resemblance to God, than which nothing can be imagined more amiable; for thus he describes it, what is truly good, he calls truly desirable, saying, “it is good by an assimilation to God to become impassive and virtuous.”
LXXVIII. Yet we are not so to understand these things, as if, in the practice of holiness, we were not allowed to pay any regard to our own advantage, and that all love of ourselves ought in this case quite to disappear. We are not only allowed, but commanded to love ourselves; nor are we bound to love our neighbour without a love for ourselves. And this is not written, but a natural law, which we have learned from no other quarter, but have received from nature herself. “No man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it,” Eph. 5:29. We may also be lawfully stirred up to the diligent practice of holiness, by this love of ourselves. God himself, by this enticing motive, invites his people, promising that “their labour shall not be in vain in the Lord,” 1 Cor. 15:58. And to what, pray, tend all those promises, by which he has recommended his commandments to us, but that, being excited by a desire of them, we should more cheerfully obey him? Not to love the promised good, is to throw contempt on the goodness of a promising God. By the love of them not to be stirred up to piety, is to abuse them to some other purpose than God ever intended. David himself confessed, that the commandments of God were even on that account, “more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and the honey-comb; because in keeping of them there is a great reward,” Psa. 19:10, 12. And the faith of Moses is, for the same reason, commended, because “he had a respect unto the recompense of the reward,” Heb. 11:26. Nay, that faith is required as necessary for all who come to God, whereby they may believe that “he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” ver. 6.
LXXIX. But then, here also the love of ourselves ought to spring from the love of God, be subordinate thereto, and rendered back to him. We must not love God on our own account, so as to consider ourselves as the end, and God as the means, by which we are made happy in the enjoyment of him; but because we are God’s property, whom we ought to love above all, and therefore, for his sake, we are bound to love ourselves. We are further to seek our own good, that therein we may taste the sweetness of the Lord, and that thereby we may be so much the more improved and enriched as God’s peculiar treasure. Thus the love of ourselves is at last swallowed up in that ocean of divine love. Of this we shall speak a little presently.
LXXX. Let us now consider the rule or standard of holiness. Philosophers made the nature of man, right reason and the examples of excellent men, the rule. A few of them spoke of the precepts of God, and of the example which he gives us; but that, indeed, in a very slender manner. Of the nature of man, the emperor Marcus Antoninus speaks thus, lib. viii. §. 11: “Wherein consists a happy life? In doing those things which human nature requires.” They are for ever talking of right reason, and of the examples of illustrious men; see Seneca, Epist. vi. 11, 25.
LXXXI. Epictetus speaks things more sublime concerning the precepts of God than could well have been expected from a heathen. He protests in Arrian., lib. iii. c. 24, towards the end, that he would live and die before God; “As thou hast required,” says he, “as free as thy servant, as knowing what thou commandest and what thou forbiddest.” And a little after, “do not I wholly tend towards God, and his precepts and commands?” And lib. iv. c. 7, “I am set at liberty by God, I know his commandments.” And in the same book, c. 3, “I am set free, and am the friend of God, that I may willingly obey him.” And a little after: “Wherefore I cannot transgress any of his commands.” And to conclude: “These are edicts I must be the interpreter of, I must obey them, before the precepts of Massurius and Cassius.”
LXXXII. Sometimes also they have spoken of the imitation of God, and of conformity to him. Seneca de Benefic., lib. vii. c. 31, “let us imitate the gods.” Marc Antonin., lib. v. §. 27, “we must live with the gods:” and lib. ii. § 5, “live a divine life.” Clemens Storm., lib. ii. p. 403. Plato, the philosopher, defining happiness, says, “it is an assimilation to God, as far as may be.” See above, chap. v. sect. 2.
LXXXIII. These things are spoken in a lofty strain: nevertheless, as they had not the knowledge of any other laws of God but what nature suggests and are inscribed on the conscience; which prescribe the duties of holiness only in general, and in a very confused and imperfect manner; and as they knew not the true God in his perfections, nor ever beheld him in his sanctuary, what they had for the rule of their virtues was very defective.
LXXXIV. But Christian holiness has a far more excellent rule to go by: whether we consider its precepts or examples. Its precepts are taken from the most perfect law of God; not only that of which the rubbish, and as it were, the faint resemblance or shadows like a passing image, still remain in the conscience of a natural man; but also that which, with so much magnificence of heavenly glory, God formerly published before the full assembly of his people, wrote with his own finger on tables of stone, enlarged with the plainest expositions of the prophets and inspired penmen, and which, by the secret efficacy of his Spirit, he writes on the hearts of the elect; which is the most exact expression not only of his most holy will, but also of his nature and perfections, so far as they are imitable by man; nor does it only regulate and order the external actions and conversation; but also reaches to man’s most inward parts, directs the inmost recesses of the heart, and roots out the deepest fibres of vice, even to the very first motions of rising concupiscence; which, in fine, raises man to a perfection worthy of God.
LXXXV. This is that law, which God gave in charge to Israel, Psa. 147:19: “By which יגדיל ויאדיר, he made them great and glorious,” Isa. 42:21; so that, in an astonishing manner, they excelled other nations, Deut. 4:6, 7; in which are דבים, μεγαλεῖα, “the most ample instructions (great things written),” Hos. 8:12: the excellency of which, and not their excellency alone, but also their most exact perfection, the psalmist has nobly set forth, Psa. 19:8, &c.; and indeed, so great was the perfection, that he could find no end to it, as he found in other perfections, Psa. 119:96. And certainly, the more a man is engaged with an attentive mind in the profound meditation of this law, the more distinctly he will understand that he is far from forming in his mind a perfect notion of that holiness prescribed by it. The Lord Jesus has said all in a few words, and comprised the whole summary of the law, calling out to his disciples (but who can understand the full force of those words?) “Be ye perfect, even as your Father, which is in heaven, is perfect,” Matt. 5:48.
LXXXVI. Besides those most holy laws, the believer has illustrious examples of virtues for his imitation; and those not of one kind or order. And the first that here occur are the “Saints that are in the earth, and the excellent, in whom is all his delight,” Psa. 16:3. We have no occasion to present you with a Socrates, a Zeno, a Cato, or a Lælius, whom Seneca recommends for this purpose. We have men actuated by the most noble and generous Spirit of God, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and the like heroes of both sexes, whom God himself honoured with familiarity, with encomiums and commendations; whose manner of life he took care to have exactly described in the most sacred volumes of our religion, and whose number is so great, that Paul calls them “a cloud of witnesses,” by whose example we may be animated to run, with constancy, the race of piety, Heb. 12:1. These are proposed to us for our imitation, 1 Cor. 4:16; and 11:2; Phil. 3:17; Jas. 4:10: Heb. 13:7.
LXXXVII. However, as the most excellent saints on earth have had their blemishes, prudence is necessary in this case, that we may propose, for our imitation, only those actions of theirs, which are the most consonant to the standard of the divine law; where they have departed from the rule, let us be admonished by their mistake, and learn to walk uprightly. For this end Nehemiah wisely proposes the example of Solomon*, Neh. 13:26. And it is of singular use to us, that the backslidings of the holy men of God are recorded in Holy Writ. Spots appear nowhere more disagrecable than when seen in a most beautiful face, or on the cleanest garment. And it is expedient to have a perfect knowledge of the filthiness of sin. We also learn from them to think humbly of ourselves, to depend on the grace of God, to keep a stricter eye upon ourselves, least perhaps we fall into the same or more grievous sins, Gal. 6:1.
LXXXVIII. But our Lord would not have us without perfect examples, and therefore he raises the meditations of his people to the inhabitants of heaven, the choirs of angels, and spirits of just men made perfect, whose conversation he recommends even in our daily prayer, “as it is in heaven.” These being filled with the clearest light, and flaming with the purest love, and continually beholding the face of God, and being altogether conformed to him, incessantly show forth the praises of their Creator, and execute his commands with incredible alacrity. Is. 6:2, 3. Psa. 103:20. Rev. 4:8–11. The sacred writings testify all this concerning them. And faith not only believes, but sees all this; for being endowed with the quickest sight, it penetrates within the veil of the heavenly sanctuary, and, as if mixed with the consort of the heavenly inhabitants, views those exercises of the most consummate holiness, with the love of which the believing soul cannot fail to be inflamed.
LXXXIX. But yet, as it is very desirable to have likewise an example of perfect holiness upon earth; so God has not suffered us to be without one; for he sent his own Son from heaven, who hath left us the brightest pattern of every virtue, without exception, “that we should follow his steps,” 1 Pet. 2:21. It was a part of Christ’s prophetical office, to teach not only by words, but by the example of his life, that both in his words and actions, he might say, “learn of me,” Matt. 11:29. The imitation of him is often recommended by the apostles, 1 Cor. 11:1. 1 Thess. 1:6. 1 John 2:6.
XC. It has been very well observed by a learned person, that we are to distinguish between imitation, whereby we are said to be μιμηται, imitators of Christ, 1 Cor. 11:1; and between following, by which we are commanded to follow Christ; between “follow me,” Matt. 16:24, and “follow after me,” Matt. 10:38. For the former denotes a conformity to an example: the latter, the attendance of servants going after their masters; which words are generally confounded by writers in their own language, though they ought by no means to be so.
XCI. As we have already often inculcated, that Christ is not to be considered in a threefold respect, as man, as Mediator, and as God; so we are to inquire, in what relation or respect he is given us as an example. And first, we are not to doubt that as he represented, in his human nature, the image of God, in which the first man was created, and possessed and practised all the virtues, due by a rational creature, without any defect; in so far he is, in the most perfect manner, proposed to our imitation. Certainly, this world was hitherto destitute of such a pattern, ever since the fatal apostasy of our first parents, viz. to have a man, who, being untainted with vice, “holy, harmless, undefiled,” might as a living and breathing law, converse among his brethren: such a one, God hath exhibited to us in Christ. It is a pleasure to him who loves holiness, to behold a most exact delineation of it in the written law of God. But what is that delineation but only a picture? It is indeed exact, and painted in natural colours; but then it is a picture only, without flesh and blood, without life and motion. How much greater therefore the pleasure, to behold the same holiness which is portrayed in the law, living, as it were, and animated in Christ?
XCII. What was peculiar and proper to his mediatorial office, as the honour of his mediation, whereby we are reconciled to God, and that eminent dignity by which he has the peculiar honour of being prophet, priest, and king; in sum, whatever belongs to that more excellent name, which was bestowed on Christ above his fellows: all this we are neither to imitate, nor follow the example of those who pretend to be imitators; “there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Tim. 2:5.
XCIII. Nevertheless, believers, after the example of Christ, and from a participation of his unction, have the honour of being prophets, priests, and kings, Joel 2:28; 1 Pet. 2:5; Rev. 1:6. And consequently, it is incumbent upon them to conform to the example of Christ, in the spiritual discharge of those offices; in which, however, there is so great a difference, that besides partaking of the name, and some small analogy, scarce any coincidence can be observed. The prophetical, sacerdotal, and regal offices of Christ are of a far different nature from ours.
XCIV. But those virtues which Christ discovered in the discharge of his offices are, by all means, proposed for our imitation; as the demonstration he gave of his humility, faithfulness, love, patience, zeal, and constancy, in the whole discharge of his offices; as also his not intruding into them without a call, Heb. 5:4, 5; his faithfulness to him who had appointed him, Heb. 3:2; his not seeking his own advantage or profit, Phil. 2:4, 5; his not sinking under the reproaches and contradiction of sinners, Heb. 12:2, 3; his zeal for God’s house that had eaten him up, John 2:17; his not seeking his own, but the glory of his Father in all things, John 8:49, 50, and a great deal more to the same purpose.
XCV. In fine, even as God, he, together with the Father and Holy Spirit, is a pattern to us of the purest holiness, Levit. 11:44, and 19:2; Matt. 5:48; Eph. 5:1; 1 Pet. 1:15, 16. The holiness of God is so great an ornament of his other perfections, that, without it, all the rest would be unworthy of God. Hence he is said to be “glorious in holiness,” Exod 15:11: and we are particularly commanded to celebrate the memorial, “or give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness,” Psa. 30:4, and 79:12, after the example of the seraphim, who, having repeated the threefold praise of the divine holiness, added, “the whole earth is full of his glory,” Is. 6:3. God invites his people to imitate this holiness, has set it before them in his word for their contemplation; that while they admire its beauty, they may be inflamed with the love of it, and gradually transformed to that image.
XCVI. In the third place, we proposed to speak of the end of Christian virtues, or graces; which must needs be of all others the most excellent. The true believer does not there fore apply himself to the practice of holiness, to gain praise and reputation with men, which was the crime of the heathen and the Pharisees, of whom our Lord testifies, Matt. 6:5, that “they have their reward.” He does not aim only at his own advantage, either in this or in the life to come, from a mercenary self-love, which all those do, who, endeavouring to establish their own righteousness, profess that all motives to piety are destroyed, if the merits of good works are exploded. He does not only pursue after that tranquillity of soul, which is pleased with what it has done, and which virtue or holiness, when properly esteemed, usually bestows on those who love it. The intention of the godly is far more pure and sublime, whereby they are carried out both towards God, themselves, and their neighbour.
XCVII. Above all, they seek the glory of God. This they love, desire its enlargement, and promote it with all their might. “Let such as love thy salvation, say continually, the Lord be magnified.” Psa. 40:16. Hither all their exercises tend, going on “without offence, until the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God.” Phil. 1:10, 11. They who have the love of God for the source and principle, cannot but have the glory of the same God for their end. For whoever has an ardent love to God, will likewise, above all things, love what is most beloved by him. But such is the love that God has to his own glory, that whatever he does, is with a view to, and for the sake of that; wherefore all things are of him, in order to be again to him, and “to him be the glory for ever!” Rom. 11:36. In this respect the saints are truly like to God, for in all their actions they have the glory of God before their eyes. “Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Cor. 10:31.
XCVIII. Yet these things are not so to be understood, as if in all and every particular, even the most minute actions of life, it was necessary to have that explicit intention of glorifying God before them. For this is not practicable in the present state of things: however, it ought universally to be the firm and fixed disposition of the children of God, that they be so consecrated and dedicated to God, as, for the future, neither to think, speak, meditate, nor do any thing, in which some expression of the perfections of God and manifestations of his glory may not appear. For what is sacred or devoted, cannot, without a considerable injury to him, be applied to profane uses. They are not their own: therefore it is unlawful for them to propose to themselves this end; only to seek what they imagine will be profitable to the flesh. They are not their own: let them therefore, as far as may be, forget themselves and theirs. They are God’s: let them therefore live and die to him. They are God’s: let his wisdom therefore over-rule all their actions. They are God’s: let therefore all the parts of their life tend to him, as their only lawful end. And in this sincere self-denial, and surrender of ourselves to God, that we may firmly propose to do all our works with a holy respect to him, consists this glorifying of God we now speak of.
XCIX. For instance, a person then eats and drinks to the glory of God, when, confessing himself unworthy to enjoy this life and the conveniencies of it, he praises that bountiful favour of God, which abundantly bestows all things upon him, and above all admires that immense love of the Lord Jesus, who willingly was destitute of all the dainties of life, and submitted to drink vinegar and gall, that his people, through the favour of God, might eat the fat and drink the sweet: when also he does not delight so much in the creatures and the gifts of providence, as in the Creator himself and the giver; tasting to his unspeakable pleasure, how sweet the Lord is: when he sincerely proposes faithfully to employ his life, which is lengthened out by these means, and all his faculties, which are thus continually refreshed, to the service of God, who gave and preserves them: when, in fine, he rises in meditation, from the delights of this natural life, to the almost unspeakable pleasures of a future and heavenly life; and having a prelibation of them in thought and faith, with a grateful heart tunes up a song of love to God: “Lord, if thou doest such things in this dark dungeon, what wilt thou not do for us, when admitted into thy palace of light!”
C. Here I choose to transcribe some things from the Jewish catechism of Rabbi Abraham Ben Chanania Jagel, published first at Venice in 1595, under the title לקח טוב, afterwards reprinted at Amsterdam 1658, and at last exhibited to the Christian reader, with a Latin version by John Benedict Carpzovius, entitled, Introductio in Theologiam Judiacam, c. ix. p. 74. Where the Hebrew Catechist instructs his disciple in this manner: “Let all thy works be done to the glory of the divine name, and to the honour of the blessed Creator. In all thy ways think of him; when thou walkest in the way, when thou risest up or liest down. For instance, when thou eatest, know that the blessed God has, by the power of his wisdom, created thy food, and given it virtue to be converted into the substance of him, who is to be nourished by it: when thou goest to sleep in thy bed, consider with thyself, that God ordained sleep for the benefit of man, that his body might rest and his strength be recruited, and himself rendered fit and sound for serving his Creator. And thus, in all thy other bodily actions, take care to give glory and praise to God: for, by this means, all thy works shall be to the glory of the divine name, whose providence will keep close to thee and direct all thy actions.”
CI. Next to this glory of the divine name, a holy person may also, in the exercise of his virtues or graces, have a regard to himself, and endeavour, 1st, To have the assurance of his own eternal election by God, his internal vocation, his faith and communion with Christ, 2 Pet. 1:10. 2dly. To rejoice in the testimony of a conscience void of offence, and in that composure of mind, which is the consequent thereof, 2 Cor. 1:12. 3dly. That, by proving the sincerity of his love towards God by holy actions, he may enjoy for himself that love and familiarity of God, which Jesus, John 14:21, 23, has graciously promised to those that love him. 4thly. That he may gradually become, in the habits and dispositions of his soul, and the actions flowing therefrom, more like the Supreme Being, and so more glorious and happy. 2 Cor. 3:18. 5thly. And that, by proceeding in this way of holiness to eternal glory, he may live at ease, and in assurance of his salvation, 1 Cor. 9:24–27.
CII. Nevertheless, Christian holiness teacheth us to desire all these things, but not to rest in them, as our ultimate end, but even to direct them to the glory of God. For, the more abundantly any one has attained to what we have just now only mentioned, the brighter will the splendour of the divine perfections shine forth in him: the goodness and bounty of God magnificently discover themselves in this reward of virtue: the beloved spouse of Christ, whom he will one day present without spot, and glorious to God the Father, shall be the more adorned: the high value of his satisfaction and merits will be duly esteemed, from the happiness bestowed on the saints. The saints themselves shall be enriched with those rewards of their virtues, and be better fitted for celebrating the praises of their God. And thus it is, that while they piously aim at the happiness promised to them, and seek their own glory in the proper order and measure, they, at the same time, “rejoice in hope of the glory of God,” Rom. 5:2. For then they are made happy, when God is glorified and admired in them, 2 Thess. 1:10.
CIII. In fine, the works of piety are also adapted to gain over our neighbour to God. The holy soul never satisfies itself in glorifying God; but designs to have many companions employed in the same work: to obtain which, he causeth his light to shine before men, that they may see his good works, and glorify his Father, which is in heaven, Matt. 5:16. And having a hearty desire for the salvation of his neighbour, he very willingly employs every means to bring him to the good old way. For this purpose, as nothing is more effectual than a holy life; so Peter calls upon Christian wives to apply thereto, “that if any obey not the word, they also may, without the word, be won by the conversation of the wives,” 1 Pet. 3:1. And certainly, whoever are made partakers of that extraordinary grace of God, and translated out of darkness into his marvellous light, will labour, by the reflected rays of divine love, also to enlighten, inflame, and make others partake of the same happiness with themselves. And who can conceive any thing more holy, more praiseworthy than this?
CIV. This is that generous holiness which the Spirit of grace powerfully operates in the elect, and which he promotes by the use of various means. Though the use of these means is required of man, yet their efficacy depends on the blessing of God alone. Nor indeed, is it without the interposition of God, that man can and will savingly use those means. For daily experience teacheth us how dull and languid we usually are in those things, when the influence of the Spirit either ceases or is but small. Among those means of sanctification, the following deserve to be most recommended.
CV. We justly give the first place to the word of God, and the devout meditation of it. God sanctifieth us through his truth, his word is truth, John 17:17: for as it proceeds from the Holy Spirit, the characters of the divine holiness are imprinted upon it, and as, in every part, it sends forth the most fragrant odour of holiness, so it inspires the pious reader with it, though perhaps he may not understand all that he readeth: which Chrysostom has likewise observed in Orat. 3. in Lazar. “Even though thou dost not thoroughly understand the contents, yet even the reading begets a very great degree of sanctification.”
CVI. And whatever is contained in the word of God is directed to this end. The precepts of the law, which exhibit the exactest delineation of holiness, are adapted to inflame the soul with love to it, Psa. 119:8–10. The threatenings annexed to the law, and the recorded instances of those judgments, by which God has punished sin, are so many powerful dehortations from it, 1 Cor. 10:6, 11. The very ample promises made to godliness and the blessings wherewith the liberal goodness of the Deity has enriched the godly, who love and worship him, are so many incentives to holiness, Isa. 52:2, 3. The examples of the saints both teach and allure at the same time. Heb. 12:1. Their very stumblings and falls remind us of our weakness, inculcate humility, teach us to take heed to ourselves, and point out what things we ought to avoid, Neh. 13:26. But nothing more effectually persuades to piety than the doctrine of grace revealed in the Gospel, Tit. 2:12; and whoever abuse it to lasciviousness, never knew the truth, as it is in Jesus: “for the word of the truth of the Gospel, in all the world bringeth forth fruit, since the day they heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth,” Col. 1:5, 6.
CVII. But in order to obtain this fruit of holiness from the word of God, it is, 1st. To be diligently, daily, and carefully attended to, and as Chrysostom speaks, it is to be read with a mystic silence, or profound attention, John 5:39. 2dly. Diligently heard: for the public preaching of the word has very excellent promises, Rom. 10:14, 15, 17. 3dly. When read and heard it is to be laid up in the inward treasure of the soul, there to be kept as the most valuable treasure, Job 23:12, Psa. 119:11, Luke 2:19. 4thly. But it is not to be kept in some remote corner of the memory, there to rot in mouldiness and dust, but at times it is to be brought forth, and made the object of holy meditation; whereby the soul, by ruminating and sucking as it were, attracts and turns into its own substance, that quickening and nourishing juice, that is to be found in the word of God, Psa. 1:2, Jos. 1:8. 5thly. It is expedient to have always at hand some powerful striking passages of Scripture, wherewith we may be armed against the attacks of sin, and excited to duty. This was what the Lord meant when he ordered Israel to bind his word as a sign upon their hand, and to be as frontlets between their eyes, Deut. 6:8. Why between their eyes? To be a rule of life continually before their mind. Why bound upon their hand? To put them in mind that knowledge was to be reduced to practice.
CVIII. Very wisely indeed, did the emperor Antonine address himself thus, Lib. iii. §. 13, “As surgeons have always their instruments ready for some unexpected operation, so have thou at hand thy philosophical principles, in order to distinguish between things divine and human.” Similar to this is what Seneca has, de Benefic. Lib. vii. c. 1: “Demetrius, the Cynic, was wont to say very well: that it is more beneficial to have a few precepts of wisdom in readiness for practice, than to learn a great deal, and not have it at hand for use.” And c. ii: “Our Demetrius orders the proficient to hold these things fast, and never let them go; nay, to imprint them on his mind, and make them a part of himself; and, by daily meditation, to bring himself to that pitch, that what is useful shall spontaneously occur, and what is wanted shall, upon all occasions, directly present itself.” What they spoke concerning the precepts of wisdom, which Epictetus called πρόχειρα βοηθηματα, ready aids, we may affirm concerning some striking passages of Scripture, which it is expedient to have in such readiness, that, on any occasion, they may spontaneously cast up to the mind.
CIX. Secondly, The attentive consideration of the Lord Jesus is a most powerful means of sanctification. The vileness and hideous nature of sin nowhere more clearly appears, than in the meanness, humiliation, and sufferings of Christ. For what was it that clothed the Lord of glory with the contemptible form of a servant? What overwhelmed the mighty lion of the tribe of Judah with horror and anguish, that he was almost ready to sink under them? What roused the cruel bands of hell to arms against him? What turned the flowing rivers of heavenly consolations into the most melancholy dryness? What mixed those bitterest of bitters in the cup of the divine fury, with which the Son of God’s love was almost struck with astonishment and amaze? Sin, certainly was the cause of all, Isa. 53:5. Who can reflect on this, and not be inflamed with the most irreconcileable hatred to it? Will he not endeavour to avenge himself of that hideous monster, which so cruelly afflicted his most beloved Lord, and which, unless it be first slain, will, with the same fierceness, rage against all those who give it a favourable entertainment? Who can prevail on himself to be again enslaved by that tyrant, from whose chains, burning with hell-fire, he seriously believes and considers, he could not have been delivered but by the accursed death of the Son of God? And thus the meditation of the sufferings of Christ makes us, that “being dead to sin, we should live unto righteousness,” 1 Peter. 2:24.
CX. Nor did the incredible love of God towards wretched mortals ever, on any occasion, more evidently present itself to view, than in Christ Jesus; which may melt down the most frozen hearts, and kindle them into the brightest flames of mutual returns of love; “for the love of Christ constraineth us,” &c. 2 Cor. 5:14, 15. Whoever is deeply engaged in the meditation of this, will he not cry out with admiration, “Wast thou, most loving Jesus, scorched no less in the flames of thy love for me, than in those of the divine wrath against my sins, and shall I be lukewarm in returns of love to thee? Didst thou die for my salvation, and shall I not live to thy glory? Didst thou descend to hell on my account, and shall not I at thy command, cheerfully walk in the way to heaven? Didst thou give thyself up for me to be tormented with hell-pains, and I not render myself to thee, to bear thy yoke, which is easy, and thy burden, which is light?” It cannot be expressed how much the pious soul, while intent on such meditations as these, will be displeased with his own lukewarmness; and wish he had a soul a hundred-fold more capacious, to be all filled with the love of Christ.
CXI. And never does virtue or holiness itself charm us with a more beautiful aspect than in Christ; it is indeed as we have also formerly intimated, seen painted in the law, but here alive and breathing: in such a manner, that the more frequently it is viewed by the eyes of the mind, it transforms the beholder into the same image, 2 Cor. 3:18. When Moses had been admitted into familiar converse with God in the holy mount, where he spent forty days, the skin of his face shone with such effulgence that the eyes of the Israelites could not bear it, Exod. 34:29, 30. Thus it is with those who view Jesus the King of glory in his beauty with open face. The rays of the heavenly spirit, plentifully issuing from him, pervade the inmost parts of the soul, and conciliate to them a new vigour of spiritual life. To which the fixed contemplation of the Lord Jesus greatly contributes. The oftener a believer beholds him in spirit, the more clearly he knows his perfections, of which his holiness is the ornament. The more clearly he knows them the more ardently he loves them. The more ardently he loves them, the more like to them he desires to become. For love aspires after a likeness to the beloved; nay, in love itself there is already a great similitude: for, “God is love,” 1 John 4:8. Moreover, the more ardently he loves God, he will both the more frequently, the more willingly and attentively behold him; and thus often running round that circle of beholding and loving, for ever returning into itself, he gains by every act a new feature of this most glorious image.
CXII. Thirdly. To this contemplation of the Lord Jesus, add the practice of devout prayer, by which we may draw from the most exuberant fulness of Christ, and which he is ever most ready to impart, and grace for grace. God has promised to give all things to those who ask according to his will, 1 John. 5:14. But we can ask nothing more agreeable to the will of God, and which he more willingly gives, than his Spirit, Luke 11:13. Who, as he is the principal cause of our sanctification, so is the author and finisher of it. Let this therefore be our daily prayer to God: “Teach me to do thy will; let thy good Spirit lead me into the land of uprightness,” Psa. 143:10. “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins, let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer,” Psa. 19:13, 14.
CXIII. Fourthly. Whoever seriously endeavours to be a proficient, must in all things give himself up to the government and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Whenever he begins to work internally by his suggestions, impulses, and emotions, we are with care and solicitude, to observe them; and above all, beware that we do not despise and grieve the Spirit, or stifle his operations, Eph. 4:30, 1 Thess. 5:19. For the Spirit of God is a delicate thing; he deals by us, as we deal by him. If with care and alacrity we follow his conduct, he will manifest himself to us with a more cheerful and serene countenance, will carry us forward to higher attainments, bring us nearer to God and to heaven, and abundantly favouring us with his joys, make us cheerfully, and without weariness, run the race that is set before us. But if we indolently neglect his influences, he will not bear that affront, but will withdraw with those his sweetest suggestions, leave us to ourselves, justly expose us to be harassed by the devil and the flesh, and himself disquiet us with his terrors; till being brought to observe how ill we have regarded our own interest, by this indolent carelessness, and how we are nothing without him, we have again reconciled him to us by means of humble prayer and supplication. Let us therefore readily spread all our sails, while this heavenly breeze continues to blow, left this prosperous gale should shortly die away, or the storm come on, and so our sailing to the fair haven of salvation be prevented.
CXIV. Fifthly. It his also expedient that we renew our covenant with God, and those promises by which we formerly bound ourselves to the sincere observance of his commandments; frequently saying, “I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments,” Psa. 119:106. It was an excellent advice of Epictetus, apud Arrianum, Lib. i. c. 14: “You ought to swear to God as soldiers to their general. And to what are you to swear? That you will always obey him, never accuse him, nor find fault with whatever he is pleased to bestow,” &c. And certainly that oath being thus renewed, if no other advantage attend it, will be of use, 1st. To restrain the soul from sin, by being put in mind of its late promise. 2dly. To quicken its indolence into zeal. 3dly. To raise it when fallen, and teach it to mourn for its sins with more than ordinary bitterness, especially as the guilt of treachery and perjury is added to all the rest.
CXV. Sixthly. Holiness is greatly promoted, if, by a careful and frequent examination of conscience, you recollect your deeds and words, nay, and your very thoughts, that with shame and sorrow, you may confess to God what you have done, either altogether wrong, or not sufficiently right, and endeavour to reform for the time to come; or if, by glorifying God for what you have done well, and rejoicing in the testimony of a quiet conscience, you are animated with cheerfulness to pursue that course of religion you have entered upon. David declares that he acted in this manner, to the great improvement of holiness. Psa. 119:59, “I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.”
CXVI. The heathens themselves have recommended this examination of conscience, and, if they made not a false profession, were not negligent in the practice of it. Antoninus, lib. v. §. 31: “Recollect with thyself, how thou hast hitherto behaved towards the gods, thy parents, brethren, wife, &c. Whether thou hast committed any thing towards any of them, either in deed or even word, which did not become you.” Lib. viii. §. 2: “In every action ask thyself, how far is this proper for me, may I not have cause to repent of it?” Seneca, lib. iii., de Ira, c. 36: “The soul is to be called to a daily account. This Sextius did at the close of the day, when, before he went to sleep, he would ask his soul, What evil of thine hast thou cured to day? What vice hast thou resisted? In what respect art thou become better? What therefore can be more excellent than this practice of canvassing the whole day? What sleep is that which ensues on the review of oneself? How calm, how excellent and free, when the soul is either commended or admonished, and a secret spy and censor of herself takes cognizance of her manners?” As to what Seneca adds concerning himself, the reader may see in the author. It is all excellent and divine. But the chosen people of God are to endeavour not to be put to the blush in this respect by the heathen.
CXVII. To conclude, (for should I expatiate on every particular, this chapter would swell to a large volume,) whoever would make progress in holiness, must willingly and thankfully suffer admonition and reproof. “It is peculiar to God, and above human nature, never to commit sin,” said Gregory Nazianzen formerly, Orat. xv., in plagam grandinis. But to cure this evil no remedy is more salutary than prudent and friendly admonition. “As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear,” Prov. 25:12. Hence faithful reproof is acceptable to the godly. “Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness; and let him reprove me, it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities,” Psa. 141:5. It was finely spoken by whoever he was, whether Gregory Nazianzen or Methodius (for the author is not agreed on, as Gataker has observed on M. Antoninus, lib. vi. §. 21): “I think it a greater happiness to be reproved, than to reprove; as it is much greater for oneself to be delivered from evil, than to deliver another.”
CXVIII. There can be no doubt, but whoever carefully walks in this way, shall make very great progress in sanctification, and daily arrive more and more at a nearer conformity to the pattern set before him. However we are not to imagine, that ever any one in this life can attain to that perfection which the law of God requires, that, being without all sin, he should wholly employ himself in the service of God, with that purity, that intenseness of all his powers, that the divine holiness itself could find nothing in him but what was agreeable to it. The contrary is evident: 1st. From express testimonies of Scripture, in which it is asserted, that none liveth who sinneth not, stumbleth and falls not, 1 Kings 8:46, Eccl. 7:20, Prov. 20:9, James 3:2, 1 John 1:8. 2dly. From the humble and sincere confession of the saints, who every where own their blemishes and failings, Psa. 19:12, Rom. 7:18, 19, Phil. 3:13, 14, Isa. 64:6. 3dly. From an induction of particular examples. For there are none, even of the most excellent among the saints, whose actions are more largely described, but who have also some blemishes recorded, which, in some measure throw a shade on the light of the most shining virtues. These things are more notorious than need to be repeated here; nor do we with pleasure mention them. So far are we from taking any delight in the infirmities of the most excellent men of God, or wishing to detract from their heroic virtues, when we sometimes speak of their faults; that, on the contrary, we have an inward horror at the remembrance of them, and deservedly tremble at the consideration of our own weakness, because the latchets of their shoes we are not worthy to loose.
CXIX. The principal and proper cause of this imperfection is to be found in ourselves. It is the still indwelling flesh; or corruption which, though really subdued by the efficacy of the Spirit, with respect to its reign, Rom. 6:14, yet vexes the godly: and, as that unhappy incumbrance retarded Atalanta,* so also believers are retarded by this corruption in their Christian race; while the flesh continually lusts against the spirit, it hinders the elect from cheerfully performing what otherwise they would most earnestly desire to do, Gal. 5:17, Rom. 7:15, 16. By the Spirit the renewed man certainly tends upwards; but the flesh soon with great struggling pulls him down again, like a heavy stone tied to the feet of one of the fowls of heaven. With a courageous boldness believers enter upon all the exercises of every virtue or grace, Psa. 119:128, Acts 24:16, and while they go on in all the strength of the Lord their God, Psa. 71:16, they undertake what far surpasses the capacity and power of natural men, and thus, at a great pace, they press forward to perfection, like those who hunt down some wild beast in hopes to possess it, Phil. 3:14. But inherent corruption, innate perverseness, heightened by so many vicious acts, the sin that easily besets us, Heb. 12:1, again spoils and taints all. And this abides in man till his death: “it dwells, but reigns not; abides, but neither rules not prevails: in some measure it is rooted out, but not quite expelled; cast down, but not entirely cast out,” as Bernard elegantly speaks, in Psa. 90, Sermon 10. According to the law of Moses, when an earthen vessel was once ceremoniously unclean, it remained impure till it was broken. Lev. 11:33. Such earthen vessels are we, 2 Cor. 4:7; for after we are defiled with sin we do not attain to perfect purity, till the earthen vessel of our body is broken by the stroke of death.
CXX. When the apostle speaks of the conflict between the spirit and the flesh, in a sanctified person, we are not to think that the conflict arises only from this, that the glandula pinealis can be impelled on one side by the soul, on the other by the animal spirits, and that these two impulsions are often contrary; so that the flesh may be then judged to prevail when the animal spirits prove the stronger; but the spirit to predominate when the soul, by a determinate judgment, proves more powerful in the impulsions of that pineal gland. For though it is a very great truth that the inordinate motions of the animal spirits excite very many vicious thoughts and appetites in the soul, yet the conflict of the spirit with the flesh does not consist in that of the soul with the body. As new habits are put into the soul by the sanctifying spirit, so there are likewise in the soul itself the remains of the old man; these are two distinct principles of action. But sometimes when the man is left to himself he may think, reason, desire, from that vicious principle; at other times he is excited by the Spirit of God, he acts from a new principle of grace, which has not yet expelled all the power of sin; from these opposite principles, and their reciprocal actings, arises that warfare we are speaking of, which is principally carried on in the soul itself, according as it is either depressed to earth by inherent corruption, or raised to heaven by a principle of a more noble life, produced by the Spirit. And when the Scripture speaks of flesh, it does not mean the body of man, but all the remaining corruption, which in its measure doth really abide in part in the body and its members, while it still has its principal seat in the soul itself, which is the proper immediate subject both of virtue and vice. The enemies therefore in this combat are not soul and body, but the grace of the sanctifying Spirit, and the remains of natural corruption.
CXXI. But known to God are the reasons of his conduct, in dispensing the operations of the Spirit of grace in believers, so that the remains of the flesh are not entirely expelled in this life, for, 1st, He would by this show the difference between earth and heaven, the time of warfare and of triumph, the place of toil and of rest, that we may the more earnestly long for our translation out of this valley of sin and misery into the heavenly country, where every thing shall be made perfect; and may, with open arms, embrace death, which will bring us to that perfection, crying out with the apostle: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Rom 7:24.
CXXII. 2dly, He is willing to exercise and accustom his people to patience, humility, and sympathy or fellow-feeling. As in old time he suffered the Amorites and Philistines to remain in the land of Canaan for the exercise of the Israelites, to prevent their growing indolent through a slothful ease, and dissolved in too much prosperity and quiet; so, in like manner, he exercises his saints by the remains of the flesh. For nothing teaches them to think more lowly of themselves than a daily sense of so many infirmities; nothing is more effectual to bring them to patience than the constant assaults of those most wicked enemies, from whom, to their considerable grief, they have often experienced blows and wounds. Nothing, in fine, is more adapted to render them more sympathizing, with respect to the failings of others, both in judging concerning their state, and their general conversation, than the consciousness of their own defects, Gal. 6:1.
CXXIII. 3dly, By this means he strongly convinces all that the salvation of his people is owing only to his most free grace. For who that is conscious of his own infirmities and daily failings but must be obliged to acknowledge that he obtains life from God, not as the judge of merit, but as the bestower of pardon? The rigour of the law excluded from the priesthood the blind, the lame, the disjointed in any member, or those who had any such blemish, Lev. 21:18. What then can we infer but that the grace of the gospel is unmerited, which admits to the heavenly priesthood and refuses not to admit to the holy of holies made without hands those who have far worse disorders of mind? If, notwithstanding such imperfection, it be scarce if at all possible to banish the arrogance of merits out of the church, what would it be should we teach the possibility of perfection?
CXXIV. 4thly and lastly, It becomes the wisdom of God to raise his people by degrees to the highest pitch of holiness. As in the creation of the first world he began with a rude chaos and indigested mass which, in six successive days, he fashioned into this beautiful frame, till, having given the finishing hand, he rested on the sabbath, Gen. 2:2; so, in the creation of the new world of grace, beginning with nothing, he gradually leads his people higher and higher, till, on the expiration of this earthly week, on the dawn of the heavenly sabbath, he crowns them at once with holiness and glory.
CXXV. It cannot, indeed, be denied that sometimes the scripture makes mention of some who are said to be perfect even in this life. But it is to be observed that the term perfection is not always used in the same sense. For, 1st, There is a perfection of sincerity consisting in this, that a man serves God with an unfeigned heart, without any reigning hypocrisy. In this sense it is said of Job that he was “תם וישר, perfect and upright, and one that feared God and eschewed evil,” Job 1:1. In the same sense Hezekiah protests that he had walked before God “in truth and with a perfect heart, and done what was good in his eyes,” Isa. 38:3. 2dly, There is a perfection of parts, and that both subjective with respect to the whole man, in so far as he is “sanctified wholly, in spirit, soul, and body,” 1 Thess. 5:23. And objective, with respect to the whole law, when all and every one of the duties prescribed by God are observed without exception. Of this David was speaking, Psa. 119:128. “I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.” And it is said of Zacharias and Elizabeth, Luke 1:6, that they “walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” 3dly, There is a comparative perfection ascribed to those who are advanced in knowledge, faith, and sanctification, in comparison of those who are still infants and untaught; in this manner John distinguishes little children, young men, and fathers, 1 John 2:12, 13. In that sense Paul speaks of the perfect, 1 Cor. 2:6, and Phil. 3:15. 4thly, There is also an evangelical perfection, or with a veil or covering of grace, according to which these persons are looked upon as perfect, who sincerely endeavour after perfection, God, for the sake of Christ, graciously accepting the attempts of a ready mind, and accounting every thing to be done, because what is not done is forgiven. The Apostle speaks of this, 2 Cor. 8:12 “For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.” Thus “we are complete in Christ,” Col. 2:10, his most perfect righteousness covering all our defects. However this is to be understood in a proper manner; for the judgment of God is always according to truth: he so judges of us and our actions, as they are; and, seeing we ourselves and our actions are imperfect, he cannot but judge us to be so. This is what we should say agreeable to Scripture, that God, on account of the most perfect obedience of Christ, graciously accepts the sincerity of his people, nor less bountifully rewards them, than if their holiness was in every respect complete. 5thly, and lastly, There is also a perfection of degrees, by which a person performs all the commands of God, with the full exertion of all his powers, without the least defect, having rooted up every depraved lust. This is what the law of God requires. And this is that perfection which we deny the saints to have in this life, though we willingly allow them all the other kinds above mentioned.
CXXVI. It is certainly true that, when God enjoins us by his law to love him with our whole heart, soul, and strength, these expressions denote an absolute perfection, both of degrees and parts. Nor can he require any thing less than the most perfect obedience of man, even of sinful man, as we showed, book. i., chap. ix., sect. xii., &c. But when it is said of Josiah, 2 Kings 23:25, “And like unto him there was no king before him, that turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses,” this is to be understood in a certain diminutive sense, so as to denote his sincerity, and the beginnings of, and endeavours after, a due perfection, and to signify God’s gracious esteem of him in the Messiah. In the same sense the Jews, in the time of Asa, bound themselves by an oath to seek the God of their fathers “with all their heart, and with all their soul,” 2 Chron. 15:12. All which are said to have been done, ver. 15. But yet none will say that the Jewish people completely fulfilled all the holiness that the law required, seeing the high places were not taken away out of Israel, ver. 17. And then who will imagine that the condition of an entirely perfect obedience was exacted of the descendants of David before they could come to be partakers of the promises that were given them, yet this the words of God seem naturally to import, 1 Kings 2:4: “If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before me in truth, with all their heart and with all their soul.” And that the commendation given Josiah cannot be taken in its full import appears from comparing it with 2 Kings 18:5, where it is said of Hezekiah, “after him was none like him, among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him.” If these words be taken in both places, in their full import, and are not reconciled by a favourable interpretation, they involve a manifest contradiction. Wherefore it is evident that in both places there is a kind of hyperbole, or the commendation of both kings is not to be understood absolutely, but conditionally, in the order taken for the reformation of the public worship, in which the one may be said, in a different respect, to have done something more than the other.
CXXVII. We beg, indeed, in the Lord’s prayer that God’s will may be done on earth as it is in heaven, in which consists the utmost perfection of piety; nor did the Lord Jesus prescribe to us that part of the prayer in vain: and John says, 1 John 5:14, “Whatever we ask according to his will, he heareth us;” but yet we cannot infer from hence the absolute perfection of holiness in this life. For the particle, as, does not, in this petition, denote an absolute equality in degrees, but a similitude in the thing, and the manner of it, in the sincerity, readiness, and alacrity of submission to the will of God, as well his commanding as his decreeing will; for it is used, both in the fourth petition and Matt. 5:48, in the same signification. The godly are indeed allowed, nay are commanded, to aspire to perfection, and to endeavour to come the nearest to it possible: it is also acceptable to God to express that love of perfection in their prayers; however, seeing God has expressly declared that he does not give his people absolute perfection in this life, it is the duty of all to acquiesce in this disposition of the divine will, nor are they allowed to beg of God to grant them that perfection here, which they know he has not appointed for this, but for the other life.
CXXVIII. We very well know, that our Lord, Luke 15:7, speaks of one sinner that repenteth, and of ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance. But neither does this favour the pretended perfection of this life; for there is a two-fold repentance. The first universal, whereby the human sinner, who is estranged from the knowledge and worship of God, and all true religion, betakes himself or turns to God and to the practice of virtue; the second renewed and particular, to which, as to a sacred anchor, the regenerate themselves are often obliged to have recourse. And of this again there is a three-fold difference. For, 1st, It is possible that they who are sanctified may fall into some grievous sin, which lays them under the necessity of the greatest sorrow, and a very extraordinary degree of repentance. 2dly, It is also possible, that such may, for a time, fall into a kind of spiritual faintness and listlessness, and, for some space, continue in that state, which may expose them to very many sins; from which they are to rise by a renewal of repentance. 3dly, Should not this be the case, yet, in the very best, there are sins of daily infirmity, cleaving to their actions, words, and thoughts, from which no one, who accurately examines himself, will dare to declare he is free. Now let us apply these distinctions to our present purpose. When our Lord speaks of a sinner causing joy in heaven by his repentance, it is evident, he treats either of that first and universal, or of the renewed repentance from some more grievous fall, and a state not so commendable. This, he says, the just need not, because they have already performed the first, and are solicitously careful that they be under no necessity of the latter; yet he does not say that they are free from all necessity of repentance; for though perhaps there may be some just persons, who, for a considerable time, are careful to be kept from more gross sins, or from falling into that sluggish state we have just described, and so not to stand in need of those ways of repentance; yet there is none upon earth who, on account of his daily failings, is not bound daily to renew his repentance. In a word, what our Lord says comes to this: that there is greater joy in heaven, on account of great sinners, when they are first converted; or for the regenerate, when returning after a shameful backsliding, than for those in whom, on account of their constant practice of a more strict piety, there is no such remarkable and conspicuous change to be observed.
CXXIX. It might here not improperly be asked, why a greater joy is said to be in heaven for the conversion of one repenting sinner, than for the constancy of ninety and nine persons in holiness; seeing a greater good may justly cause a greater joy, as it is certainly better to have kept a steady course of piety, than to return to the right way, after great backsliding. I answer, 1st, That when our Lord made use of parables, and, according to his custom, suited himself to the capacity of his hearers, he spoke of divine things after the manner of men. But it is evident, that when any good comes of a sudden, it causes greater joy than any other greater good one has for some time been in quiet possession of; and that the recovery of things lost more strongly affects the mind than in the uninterrupted keeping of others. The same also in its measure is the case here. The angels doubtless rejoice that the just labour after and press on to happiness; but they have, for a long time, been rescued from the snares of the devil. But when a wicked person is newly delivered from the snares he was in, that conversion, and the salvation of the converted, which was the consequence of it, by how much the more it was unexpected, must also yield so much the greater pleasure. 2dly, Here our Lord speaks according to the old Jewish divinity. The Jews affirmed, “that when a Hebrew sins, the angels weep.” Our Lord says, that, on the conversion of any person, the angels rejoice. The Jews said, “the dignity of the penitent is greater than that of the perfectly just.” And, “in the place where the penitent stand, there the perfectly just stand not.” Which testimonies Drusius, Ludovicus Capellus, and Grotius, have long ago produced. The reason of which is this: because it is more difficult to break off a custom or habit of vice, than, after being brought to a commendable course of life, to go on without stumbling. It yields a greater pleasure when virtue is so very conspicuous. 3dly, The glory of the wisdom, power, and mercy of God, and the efficacy of the merits of Christ shine with greater glory in the conversion of a desperate sinner, than in the preservation of those who walk in the way of righteousness. As therefore the devil is more enraged when that prey is snatched from him, which he imagined he would have held fast for ever, so, in like manner, the angels justly rejoice more, when their and the enemy of their Lord is mortified to such a high degree. 4thly, And generally these are warmer in the practice of righteousness, who are instigated by the sorrow of a past life. An equable tenour of virtue is mostly more remiss: but they who are suddenly brought over from a very bad to a very good course, by the powerful arm of God, usually outstrip others by a quicker pace. They dread sin more, who were deeper plunged therein; have a more ardent love for religion, to whom its beauty has more unexpectedly appeared. And none prize the grace of God towards them more than those who know themselves to be most unworthy of it. And it is not possible but this sense of so great a love must kindle the most ardent flames of a reciprocal love. As is evident from the example of Paul, and the woman who was a sinner, Luke 7:40–48. All which yield matter of greater joy to the angels.
CXXX. Seeing we have now made a frequent mention of repentance μετανοια, we will subjoin something concerning the proper signification of this word. The very learned Beza, either was the first, or among the first, who observed on Matt. 3:2, that the term μετανοιεῖν is properly never put but to denote a good; and that σωφρονισμος is always joined with μετανοια: but that μεταμελεῖσθαι is expressive of a solicitude and anxiety after the doing of a thing: for which the Latins say pænitere: and that it is also used to denote an evil, though simply signifying a kind of solicitude, and δυσαρεστησις, a displicency, which makes us wish the thing that is done, whether good or bad, to be undone, even though it be out of our power to correct it. Hence he thinks, that μεταμελεῖσθαι is denoted by the Hebrew word נחם, as μετανοιεῖν is rather denoted by the word שרב, whence comes תשיבה, conversion. Peter, therefore, having said, Acts 3:19, μετανοήσὰτε, repent, immediately subjoins, καὶ ἐπιστρέψατε, and be converted, in order to explain the former. The same thing Paul does, Acts 26:20. In this the venerable Beza has been followed by very many commentators, especially when they treat of the μεταμελεία, repentance, of the traitor Judas.
CXXXI. But it may be doubted, whether there is any solid ground for this distinction. For it can neither be deduced from the etymology of either of these terms, nor confirmed by the authority of approved authors, nor proved from the constant style of Scripture, nor, in fine, concluded from the corresponding Hebrew terms: which we are now to show in order.
CXXXII. As to their etymology, μετανοέω is a word compounded of μετὰ, after and νοέω, I understand, and as Hen. Stephanus in his Thesaurus translates it, post intelligo, and thus it is opposed to the term προνοέω, ante intelligo. Very elegantly says Clemens Alexandrinus, Stromat. lib. 2: “Εἰ ἐφʼ οἷς ἥμαρτεν μετενόησεν, εἰ σύνεσιν ἔλαβεν, εφʼ οἷς ἐπταισε, καὶ μετέγνω, ὅπέρ ἐστι, μετα ταῦτα ἐγνω. Βραδεῖα γὰρ γνῶσις μετὰνοια. If he has repented of his sins, recollected in what he has offended, and acknowledged it, that is, afterwards known it; for μετάνοια is a slow kind of knowledge, that comes after something is done.” But μεταμελεῖα, according to its etymology, signifies solicitude, after having committed or omitted any thing. And thus μετάνοια, which is properly an act of the understanding, reflecting on itself and its actions, in order of nature goes before μεταμελεῖα, which rather belongs to the will and affections.
CXXXIII. Both words are so used in the best authors, as indifferently to denote an after-sorrow of mind, whether in good or in evil. Hesychius explains μεταμελεῖα by μετάνοια. Suidas in like manner, μεταμελει, μετανοει. And in the Etymologicum Magnum, μεταμέλομαι, μετανοῶ, μεταγινῶσκω are used promiscuously. Gomarus, on Matt. 11:20, adduces a remarkable passage from Plutarch, περὶ εὑθυμἰας, where he varies the terms, μεταμελεία and μετανοία, as words of the same signification, and describes μετανοια, as δακυομἐνη συν αἰσχύνῃ της ψυχῆς, και κολαζομἐνη ὑφʼ αὐτῆς• remorse and torture to itself with shame of soul: which the venerable Beza will have to be appropriated to μεταμελεία. Nay, I have observed instances where μετάνοια denotes a simple displicency: as in Marc Antonin., lib. viii. §. 2: “καθʼ ἑκάστην πράξιν ἐρωτα σεαυτὸν, πῶς μοι αὑτὴ ἕλει; μὴ μετανοησω ἐπι αυτῆ; In every action, ask thyself, How does it affects me? shall I have reason to repent it?” Ibid. §. 10: “ἡ μετάνοια ἐστιν επέληψίς τις ἑαυτοῦ, ὡς χρήσιμόν τι παρεικονος· repentance is a kind of reprehension of ourselves, as having omitted something useful.” On the contrary, μεταμέλεια is sometimes of the same signification with σωφρονισμος, amendment. In which sense Plutarch said, “πάνυ γάρ ἡ μεταμέλεια σωτειρω δαίμων, amendment is altogether a salutary genius.”
CXXXIV. Nor does the Scripture use of these words differ. For even there μεταμέλεια, sometimes denotes a sincere repentance: as Matt. 21:29, “Ὕστερον δε μεταμεληθεὶς ἀπῆλθε, but afterwards he repented and went:” and ver. 32, where our Lord upbraided the Jews for not having true repentance, says: “ὑμεῖς δὲ ἰδόντες οὐ μετεμἐλήθετε ὕστερνια τοῦ πιστεύσαι αὐτῶ• and ye when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.” Where μεταμελεσθαι answers to John’s invitations, expressed by μετανοεῖτε. And on the contrary, μετάνοια sometimes signifies mere sorrow. Thus Christ, Luke 17:3, treating of some degree of sorrow for offending a brother, says, “ἐαν μετανοήση, if he repent,” and ver. 4, if he shall say, “μετανοῶ, I repent,” I could wish it undone. And Matt. 13:41, μετανοεῖν is affirmed of the Ninevites, and their repentance was external only, not internal; civil, not spiritual; temporary, not persevering.
CXXXV. Besides, it is not universally true, that μεταμέλεια answers to the Hebrew נחם; and μετανοια to שוב. For though perhaps the Syriac interpreter of the New Testament renders μετανοεῖν constantly by תוב: yet the Septuagint promiscuously translate נחם by μεταμέλεσθαι or μετανοεῖν. I shall single a few examples of each out of many; as 1 Sam. 15:35: “And the Lord repented (נחם) that he made Saul king.” The LXX., και Κυριος μετεμεληθη. In verse 29. of the same chapter, ולא נחם: the LXX., “οὐδὲ μετανοησει, nor will he repent.” Again, Psa. 110:4, ולא ינחם, the LXX., “καὶ οὐ μεταμελεθησεται, and will not repent.” On the contrary, Joel 2:14, ישוכ וגחם: the LXX., “ἐκιστρέψει καὶ μετανοήσει, he will return and repent.” In like manner, John 3:9, Jer. 4:28, and 8:6, and 31:19, and in very many other places, they have translated נחם by μετανοεῖν. Whence it is evident, they thought these Greek words were synonymous.
CXXXVI. To conclude, it cannot be proved from Acts 3:19, or Acts 26:20, that μετάνοια constantly answers to תשובה, as the contrary may be deduced from these passages. For επιστρέψατε expresses the Hebrew שובו, as we just shewed from Joel 2:14. As μετάνοια properly denotes the act of the soul recollecting its own actings, so, in order of nature, it goes before conversion, and is justly pre-supposed by Peter and Paul. Let these hints, therefore, suffice concerning these words. If any desire more, they may consult Grotius on Matt. 27:3, Schultetus, Exercitat. Evangelic. c. 19. Gataker advers. Miscel. c. 29, and Suiceri Thesaurus.