« PreviousContinue »
standing. “Sin is the transgression of the Law ;" that is, of the revealed Will of God. Therefore, sin is the transgression of the Divine Will; that is, sin consists in the perverseness of man's will, when considered in reference to the Will of God. The renovation of fallen man to the Divine image, consists then, principally, in the conversion of the will of man to that of God. But, since the will depends on the strongest motive in the understanding, it becomes evident that the will cannot be completely changed, without the previous or accompanying illumination of the understanding.
When the understanding has been enlightened, and the will rectified, the understanding and the will are in unison; and the regenerate Christian acts more from the impulse of his will, than from the perceived exercise of his understanding. This is called by the great Apostle being "led by the SPIRIT of God;" and yielding the “obedience of faith,” which "works by love."
“Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt ; for the tree is known by his fruit. A good man, out of the good treasure of the heart, (that is, of the renewed will,) bringeth forth good things ; and an evil man, out of the evil treasure, (that is, of the unrenewed will,) bringeth forth evil things.”
The enlightening of the understanding, and the rectifying of the will, are generally, but not always, the simultaneous work of the SPIRIT. Without this union of the understanding and the will, the speculative believer may know the truth without loving it; he may“approvethings that areexcellent,' and yet follow a contrary course ; because bis will remains perverse, although his understanding may have been partially enlightened. To such St. Paul says: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound !” “Shall we continue in sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace?" They are described as “abusing their christian liberty, and turning the grace of Christ into lasciviousness.”
Our words and actions determine the state of the will; since these "proceed out of the heart.” We first think, then will, and lastly speak or act ; and on this account it is, that judgment is appointed to be by works. And, on the converse, our thoughts and motives must form the true character of our words and actions. By the Holy SPIRIT, our minds are enlightened to discern spiritual things; and our wills are renewed to love the intrinsic beauty of holiness and truth, and to hate the inherent deformity of vice and falsehood. The understanding receives the gifts of faith and spiritual discernment ;
and the love of God and of His moral character is shed abroad in the will. With the understanding, therefore, we believe the truth; with the will we love it, and in our actions we practise it. This is what the Apostle intends, when he says: "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Thus, by the gracious influences of the Holy SPIRIT, the Christian "puts on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge, after the image of Him that created him.” He is inwardly conformed to the character of CHRIST, and enabled outwardly to follow His example. The penitent believer is thus born again of the Spirit, and his natural character reversed. A new principle is implanted, which, like a well of water, is ever springing up into everlasting life. This activity of the new man is generally termed sanctification; which, therefore, cannot be properly considered as begun in the soul, until after the new birth. This sanctifying work is gradual, and will never terminate, till the state of grace is exchanged for that of glory. *Regeneration is completed by the new birth; but the activity of sanctification
* Vide Appendix D.
will not cease before death, or the last transforming change, shall inflict a mortal wound on the corrupt principle of the surviving flesh. For the "Pesh still lusteth against the Spirit," and will increase its power as sanctification proceeds. The subdued flesh in the believer's soul may be aptly compared to a steel-spring, of which the power is increased, according to that of the substance which acts on it. Action and re-action must always be equal. The re-action of the flesh will ever be commensurate with the strivings of the Spirit : for the flesh is subdued only, without its power being destroyed. The saint, in this life, swimming against the reciprocating waves of fleshly lusts, will ever be buffeted by their force ; whereas, the natural man, moving with the tide, experiences no 'resistance. The more our souls are sanctified by the Holy Ghost, the more will the power of indwelling sin be felt. The nearer our resemblance to the character of our blessed Redeemer, the greater