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heavy death indeed, even everlasting death ; though they think they shall escape and enjoy liberty in living'in sin. And that to be judged according to men, is, I conceive, added, to signify the connaturalness of the life of sin to a man's now corrupt nature; that men do judge it a death indeed to be severed and pulled from their sins, and that a cruel death ; and the sentence of it in the gospel a heavy sentence, a hard saying, to a carnal heart, that he must give up all his sinful delights, must die indeed in self-denial, must be separated from himself, which is to die, if he will be joined with Christ, and live in him. Thus men judge that they are adjudged to a painful death by the sentence of the gospel; although it is that they may truly and happily live, yet they understand it not so. They see the death, the parting with sin and all its pleasures; but the life they see not, nor can any know it till they partake of it. It is known to Him in whom it is; It is hid with Christ in God"; and therefore the opposition here is very fitly thus represented, that the death is according to men in the flesh, but the life is according to God in the Spirit.
As the Christian is adjudged to this death in the flesh by the gospel, so he is looked on and accounted, by carnal men, as dead; for that he enjoys not with them what they esteem their life, and think they could not live without it. One that cannot carouse and swear with profane men, is a silly dead creature, good for nothing; and he that can bear wrongs, and love him that injured him, is a poor spiritless fool, hath no metal nor life in him, in the world's account. Thus is he judged according to men in the flesh, he is as a dead man, but lives according to God in the Spirit; dead to men, and alive to God, as ver. 2.
Now, if this life be in thee, it will act: all life is in motion, and is called an act ; but most active of all is this most excellent, and, as I may call it, most lively, life.
It will be moving towards God; often seeking to him, making still towards him as its prin
* Col. iii. 3
ciple and fountain, exerting itself in holy and attectionate thoughts of him; sometimes on one of his sweet attributes, sometimes on another; as the bee amongst the flowers. And as it will thus act within, .so it will be outwardly laying hold on all occasions, yea, seeking out ways and opportunities to be serviceable to thy Lord; employing all for him, commending and extolling his goodness, doing and suffering cheerfully for him, laying out the strength of desires, and parts, and means, in thy station, to gain him glory. If thou be alone, then not alone, but with him; seeking to know more of him, and be made more like him. If in company, then casting about how to bring his name in esteem, and to draw others to a love of religion and holiness by speeches, as it may be fit, and most by the true behaviour of thy carriage. Tender over the souls of others, to do them good to thy utmost; thinking, each day, an hour lost when thou art not busy for the honour and advantage of him to whom thou now livest. Thinking in the morning, “Now, what may I do this day for my God?
I most please and glorify him, and use my strength and wit, and my
whole self, as not mine but his?" And then in the evening, reflecting, “O Lord, have I seconded these thoughts in reality? What glory hath he had by me this day? Whither went my thoughts and endeavours? What busied them most? Have I been much with God? Have I adorned the gospel in my converse with others?" And if thou findest any thing done this way, this life will engage thee to bless and acknowledge him, the spring and worker of it. If any step has been taken aside, were it but to an appearance of evil, or if any fit season of good hath escaped thee unprofitably, it will lead thee to check thyself, and to be grieved for thy sloth and coldness, and see if more love would not beget more diligence.
Try it by sympathy and antipathy, which follow the nature of things; as we see in some plants and creatures, that cannot grow, cannot agree together,
and others that do favour one another, and profit mutually. If thy soul hath an aversion and reluctancy against whatever is contrary to holiness, this is an evidence of this new nature and life. If thou hast this principle within, thy heart rises against wicked ways and speeches, oaths and cursings, and rotten communication; yea, thou canst not endure unworthy discourses, wherein most spend their time; findest no relish in the unsavoury societies of such as know not God; canst not sit with vain persons, but findest a delight in those that have the image of God upon them; such as partake of that divine life, and carry the evidences of it in their carriage. David did not disdain the fellowship of the saints: and that it was no disparagement to him, is implied in the name he gives them“, the excellent ones, the magnific or noble adiri; and that word is taken from one that signifies a robe or noble garment, adereth, toga magnifica; so he thought them nobles and kings as well as he; they had robes royal, and therefore were fit companions of kings. A spiritual eye looks upon spiritual dignity, and esteems and loves them that are born of God, how low soever be their natural birth and breeding. The sons of God have of his Spirit in them, and are born to the same inheritance, where all shall have enough; and they are tending homewards by the conduct of the same Spirit that is in them, so that there must be amongst them a real complacency and delight in one another.
And then consider the temper of thy heart towards spiritual things, the word and ordinances of God, whether thou dost esteem highly of them, and delight in them? Whether there be compliance of the heart with divine truths ? something in thee, that suits and sides with them against thy corruptions? In thy affliction dost thou not seek to the puddles of earthly comforts, but hast thy recourse to the sweet crystal streams of the divine promises, and dost thou find refreshment in them? It may be, at some times, in a spiritual distemper, holy exercises and ordinances will not have that present sensible sweetness to a Christian, that he desires; and some will for a long time lie under dryness and deadness this way; yet there is here an evidence of this spiritual life, that thou stayest by thy Lord and reliest on him; and wilt not leave these holy means, how sapless soever to thy sense for the present. Thou findest for a long time little sweetness in prayer, yet thou prayest still; and when thou canst say nothing, yet offerest at it, and lookest towards Christ thy life. Thou dost not turn away from these things to seek consolation elsewhere, but as thou knowest that life is in Christ, thou wilt stay till he refresh thee with new and lively influence. It is not any where but in him, as St. Peter said, Lord whither should we go, thou hast the words of elernal life".
a Psal. xvi. 2.
Consider with thyself, if thou hast any knowledge of the growth or deficiencies of this spiritual life? for it is here but begun, and breathes in an air contrary to it, and lodges in an house that often smokes and darkens it. Canst thou go on in formal. performances from one year to another, and make no advancement in the inward exercises of grace, and restest thou content with that? it is no good sign. But art thou either gaining victories over sin, and further strength of faith and love, and other
graces, or, at least, art thou earnestly seeking these, and bewailing thy wants and disappointments of this kind? Then thou livest. At the worst wouldst thou rather grow this way, be further off from sin, and nearer God, than grow in thy estate, or credit, or honours? Esteemest thou more of grace than of the whole world? There is life at the root; although thou findest not that flourishing thou desirest, yet the desire of it is life in thee: and, if growing this way, art thou content, whatsoever is thy outward estate? Canst thou solace thyself in the love and goodness of thy God, though the world frown on thee? Art thou not able to take comfort in the smiles of the
b John vi: 68.
world when his face is hid? This tells thee thou livest, and he is thy life.
Although many Christians have not so much sensible joy, yet they account spiritual joy, and the light of God's countenance, the only true joy, and all other without it madness; and they cry, and sigh, and attend for it. Meanwhile, not only duty, and the hopes of attaining a better state in religion, but even love to God, makes them to do so, to serve, and please, and glorify him to their utmost. And this is not a dead resting without God, but it is a stable compliance with his will in the highest point; waiting for him, and living by faith, which is most acceptable to him. In a word, whether in sensible comfort or without it, still this is the fixed thought of a believing soul, it is good for me to draw nigh to God', only good; and it will not live in a willing estrangedness from him, what way soever he be pleased to deal with it.
Now for the entertaining and strengthening this life, which is the great business and care of all that have it, 1. Beware of omitting and interrupting those spiritual means, that do provide it and nourish it. Little neglects of that kind will draw on greater, and great neglects will make great abatements of vigour and liveliness. Take heed of using holy things coldly and lazily, without affection; that will make them fruitless, and our life will not be advantaged by them, unless they be used in a lively way. Be active in all good within thy reach; as this is a sign of the spiritual life, so it is a helper and friend to it. A slothful unstirring life, will make a sickly unhealthful life. Motion purifies and sharpens the spirits, and makes men robust and vigorous.
2. Beware of admitting a correspondence with any sin; yea, do not so much as discourse familiarly with it, or look kindly toward it; for that will undoubtedly cast a damp upon thy spirit, and diminish thy graces at least, and will obstruct thy communion
c Psal. lxxiii. 28. Vol. II.