« PreviousContinue »
the Members of this Body. Such is our Union, Such our mutual Relation: most endearing, moft honourable, most happy, provided we be careful to improve upon, and fulfil the Purposes of it. In order whereunto it is, that I propose, under my
II. Second Head, To consider the Obligations arising from hence, upon the Parties thus united and related. In this Confideration my Thoughts must be guided, by the Particulars, which St. Paul hath laid before me. And because These are set down in great variety, and promiscuous manner; for the containing what I have to say within due Bounds, and treating of the Subjects more distinctly, it may be convenient, First, To observe the general Topicks of Virtue, to which the Precepts are reducible; and then to treat of those, not in all their Latitude of Obligation, but only so far forth, as this Union, now in hand, is a proper Argument, for recommending them to, or binding them upon us.
Now the Portion of this Chapter, at present directed to employ your Meditations, mentions Three. These I shall endeavour, first of all to explain ; and then to fhew, how our being Members in the Body of Christ enforces the Practice of them. Both, as clearly, and as briefly, as I can.
1. The First of these is Mortification of our Sensual Appetites, with which St. Paul begins his Exhortation, when beseeching these Romans by the Mercies of God, to present their Bodies a living Sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which, (says he ) is your reasonable Service. Advice, in subItance the same, with that to the Ephesians, on a like occasion, I beseech you, that ye walk worthy of the Vocation wherewith ye are called ; and to the Colossians, after declaring our Union with Christ, Mortify therefore your Mem
Coloff. iii. 5. bers which are on the Earth. The Equi
Eph. iv. 1.
Rom. vi. 19.
ty whereof he had urged upon the Romans, in the for
mer part of this Epistle, As ye have yield
ed your Members Servants to Uncleanness, and 10 Iniquity, unto Iniquity: even so now yield your Members Servants to Righteousness, unto Holiness. But, though these places be in Substance the same, yet is there a particular Energy in the Expressions here before us, which deserves to be taken notice of.
The Apostle had been demonstrating the Excellence of the Evangelical, above the Legal Institution ; And, with Allusion to the way of Worship used in That, he advises Christians to present a Sacrifice too: but this consisting, not of the Bodies of Beasts, but their own Bodies. The thing therefore offered here is still alive. And yet there is somewhat in the matter, that bears some resemblance and proportion to the saying of Victims heretofore. Because, by subduing our vicious Inclinations, which are the Incentives to Impurity and all manner of Wickedness, the
body of Sin, (as we find it very frequent
ly and emphatically called) is destroyed, tbat henceforth we should not serve Sin. By thus cleansing
our selves from all filthiness both of Fles
and Spirit, we answer the spiritual Intent of that Law, which incapacitated all Beasts for the use of the Altar, wherein any Blemish or Defect was discovered. We render this living a holy Sacrifice, qualified for the Acceptance of God. And therefore fo, because, as the Reason of the thing demands it from us, so the Value of the Obligation is greatly enhansed, by being that of a Rational Creature, consecrated and devoted entirely to his Service. The Consequence whereof is, that our Persons, thus separated from common and profane Uses, cannot, without the Guilt of Sacrilege, be afterwards employed in the Gratification of our own Lufts.
Rom. vi. 6.
2 Cor. vii. 1.
Nor must we look upon that any longer in our own Disposal, the whole Right whereof hath been solemnly transferred, from our selves to God.
Now this, in effect, hath been already done, by every Christian, from the moment of his being made such, in A Sacrament, by which Baptism
Bapt. Service. we all renounce the carnal Desires of the Flesh, so that we will not follow nor be led by them. A Sacrament, representing to us our Profession, which is to imitate the Example of our Saviour Christ, and to be made like unto Him; that, as He died and rose again for Us, so We, who are Baptized into the Belief of that Death and Resurrection, pould die from Sin, and rise again unto Rigbleousness, continually mortifying all our evil and corrupt Affe Etions, and daily proceeding in all Virtue and Godliness of living. This Act of Religion is repeated and confirmed, by Every one, as oft as he receives that other Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. For there again we offer and present unto God our Selves, cur Souls and Bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively Sacrifice unto him. In the mean while, though this Dedication convey over the whole of our Persons, yet was it proper and sufficient for the Apostle, to mention the Offering of our Bodies. Because our Bodies are the Instruments of committing those Sins, from which it was intended to debar us: Because the seeking and Gratification of bodily Pleasures is the End, which the Appetites, pushing on to those Sins, propose to themselves: And therefore, as the Persons indulging them are very significantly said to fin against their own Body; so the keeping this Body in Subjection to the reasonable Mind, and employing it in the Exercises of Religion and severe Virtue, (by all that Abstinence, and other Hardships and Self-denials, necessary for this purpose,) is offering not It alone, but our Whole Selves to God. For
Communion - Service.
i Cor. vi. 18.
1 Cor. vi. 20. Rom. vi. 22.
(as I faid) in It the whole Cause, and End, and Instrument, of our Corruptions is included ; and not to serve the Body, is, in effect, and certain Consequence, not to serve Sin. So that, when this Servant of Sin is it self fanctified, and devoted a Servant to Righteousness; the very Principle of Moral Actions is changed, the Dominion of Death spiritual subverted, the Matter, upon which Temptations work, withdrawn, and, by
making our Body as well as Spirit God's the Fruit is his Glory and our own Holi
ness, in both Spirit and Body: which leads me to the second thing enjoined ; 2. Newness of Heart and Life. For that's the Sub
stance of the next Verse, and be not con
formed to this World, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfeet Will of God. Counsel necessary to the perfecting that Virtue, which the Last Particular begins. And both together, of a like
importance with that to the Ephesians, Ephef. iv. 22,
That ye put off, concerning the former Con
versation, the Old-man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful Lufts, and be renewed in the fpirit of your mind, and that ye put on the New-man, which after God is created in rightcousness and true boliness.
By the former Conversation in the one, and Conformity to this World in the other, of these Texts, is not forbidden all sort of Compliance with the lawful and innocent Customs in use, (as if it were a Duty in Chriftians to distinguish themselves, by a Dress or Demeanour fantasticaland singular ) but only the not suffering our felves to give into the false Judgments, or the prevailing Fashions, of the Men of the World: So far as any of these, either are themselves sinful, or may to us become, the probable occasion of any thing that is so. In short, with the Men, who have no view beyond, no Principle of governing their Actions beside, the Pro
fits, or Honours, or Pleasures of this World, we must not consent in Opinion, we must not join in Practice; No prospect of Interest, No influence of Example and common Vogue must byass us, No, not the natural Bent of our own mind. But, having entirely offered up our selves to God, there is no taking back part, and dividing the Oblation between Him, and Mam
The virtue of that new Turn, given to our Thoughts and Affections, and that different Judgment of things, wrought in our Hearts by the Grace of God, and our own pious Endeavours, will, and must, make us quite another fort of Men. Creatures, as much new and changed, as the Condition of a reasonable Mind can admit; and such, as, for the future, allow no rule of Action, no Measure of Good and Evil, of Wisdom and Folly, but the Gospel: Which was intended to compleat our Holiness, and recommend us effectually to the Favour and Love of God.
3. The Third thing we are concerned with, as enjoined in this Day's Epistle, is Humility. For This is the Virtue S. Paul aims at, when saying to every man, not to think of himself more highly than be ought to think, but to think soberly, according as God bath dealt to every man the measure of Faith. These Words are hy some supposed, a Caution against Curiosity in matters of Religion, and affecting to be wise in unprofitable parts of Knowledge. But it seems more agreeable to the Apostle's purpose, to understand that Vanity, and Over-valuing of a Man's self, which are so very apt to grow upon us, when we feel our selves superior to others, in any sort of commendable Quality. Such were exceeding remarkable in many of the Primitive Church, who were distinguished by extraordinary Gifts of the Spirit. And, because those Gifts were differently distributed, both as to kind, and to degree ; the Fault and Folly of preferring those of one kind above the rest, or being immoderately exalted