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our race triumphed over primeval innocence, the nature which we bring with us into the world, is a corrupted nature, and the passions, and the appetites, and desires, and dispositions of this nature are all opposed to the will and the holiness of God. While an individual continues in a state of carelessness and sin, he of course lives under the dominion of the flesh; that is, he is subject to the influence, the unresisted influence, of these dispositions and affections, which are carnal merely. When the terms, , flesh and spirit, are contrasted in the Scripture, the contrast is not between the body of man merely, and the spirit or soul; but the contrast is between the whole of fallen human nature; the man 'as composed of body and soul, and the Holy Spirit of God from which alone any good can be derived. The term, flesh, then is distinctly applied, to mean the whole nature of man, independently of that extra agency of the Spirit of God, which alone can purify and sanctify, or make holy that nature. Between the works of the flesh and the productions of the Spirit, there is a very striking contrast exhibited in the epistle to the Galatians—“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law."
Now every unconverted person is one who is in some measure under the dominion of these lusts of the flesh, comprehending whatever disposition is dishonourable to God, prejudicial to our neighbour, or unreasonable in itself. And although all unconverted persons are not equally under the dominion of the flesh, yet none of this description are free from that dominion. Persons, careless and unconcerned as they are, living in the indulgence of their selfishness in some form of its exhibition, such feel no opposition in the course they are pursuing. The river which meets no obstructions, flows on in its course, and it generally is most deep where its waters appear the stillest. It is when rocks and other impediments are interposed, that it frets, and foams, and lashes itself into fury, and sometimes overbreaks its banks and spreads ruin and desolation around. So in the evil inclinations of the unrenewed heart, left by the carelessness of the individual in a state where no control is attempted, every thing goes on quietly. But let him once have his attention turned to the subject of religion, and then the opposition
All the evil inclinations of corrupted nature rise in rebellion. The inward propensities of the man are all against the purity and holiness of the law of God. Where the Spirit of God would implant love, love to God and men, the flesh interposes its enmity to God and to holiness. Where the Spirit of God would introduce peace, the flesh rises in rebellion and commences that war in the members which wars against the power of the Spirit. Where the Spirit of God would implant longsuffering, gentleness, and goodness; the flesh interposes impatience, ill-tempers, envy, hard-heartedness, and
repinings. Where the Spirit would introduce meekness, the flesh interposes pride, vanity and self-conceit. Where the Spirit would introduce temperance and moderation, the flesh interposes all its inordinate desires, so that well does the Scriptures say—“For the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” All these things stand in dreadful opposition to the individual the moment that he begins to take one step in the way of religion, and to commence, even in its smallest degrees, the work of his salvation.
All the evil desires and dispositions of our nature then, are opponents to the work of religion. This is true of all those whose minds are brought in the least degree under the influence of religious sensibility; and I would faithfully forewarn every individual what he must expect in the way of opposition, if he would seek to escape from eternal ruin. He carries about him a body of sin and death which will be continually striving for the mastery, and strange and paradoxical as it may appear, in the work of religion, one of man's chief opponents is himself, himself. “Oh tell it not in Gath.” Himself, in league with the great adversary of his salvation; himself, in league with his bitterest enemy, and against God. And for what? For the accomplishment of his own eternal ruin, both soul and body in hell. This, in the case of every impenitent and unconverted sinner, makes the work a great work; for before he can effectually work out his salvation, not only every imagination, and every high thing which exalts itself against the knowledge of Christ, is to be subdued, but the evil propensities, desires, and dispositions of his own rebellious nature, are to be overcome, and himself, as a conquered enemy, to be brought in chains to the foot of the cross, there, and there only, to receive such a portion of liberty as consists with the trials of his probationary state. In my
last discourse, while speaking of the apostate spirits as opponents to the great work which I am recommending, I stated, that while careless and impenitent sinners, the moment they are roused to any thing like an attempt at the salvation of souls, find the commencement of this opposition; in the mysterious dealings of God's providence, the individual who has reason to believe himself a Christian, finds this opposition in its most desperate and deadly forms exerted against him. So in the present case; the real Christian is not exempt from the opposition of the flesh, or the evil principles of a degenerate nature. The real Christian has just the same enemy as others to encounter, and so much the more desperate as his sincerity is the deepest. I know that I speak the experience of many. The real Christian is one, my friends, who, though he is, in Scripture phraseology, made a partaker of the divine nature by the infusion into his heart of a different set of principles from those which actuate other men, does, from this very circumstance, find two distinct, , and opposite, and warring principles within him. These principles, in the language of the Scripture, are explicitly denominated the flesh and the spirit. The latter, being imparted from above in his regeneration or new birth, is of course holy and heavenly in its nature, leading to the exercise of every good disposition and of every evangelical virtue, continually prompting him to add to his faith virtue and
every other grace. They who are spiritually renewed, are distinguished in some degree by purity of heart, and have all the lineaments and members of the new man formed within them. Repentance, humility, faith, and love, with every other grace, though comparatively small in measure and manifestation, are nevertheless so many features of their religious and moral character. But with all this they are still mortal, and have this opposition of the flesh to encounter; and deeply sensible of remaining corruption, they freely confess their exceeding sinfulness, and often mourn over their evil and unbelieving hearts. While pursuing this subject, it may be useful to touch upon a topic which is sometimes greatly misapprehended. I have heard it said, and it has been urged in the arguments of infidel objectors to the truth of Christianity, that if those who call themselves Christians, are really half as bad as they confess themselves to be, they are unfit for society, and are really below the level of excellence among the ordinary run of mankind. Christians, therefore, confess themselves worse than other men; and they are placed in the dilemma of being either most inordinately wicked, or of being hypocrites and liars. I have given this infidel objection its full length and breadth. The error is here. The real Christian, in his confessions of sin, measures himself with the standard of the pure and holy law of God, and feels humbled and abased; the worldly man, or infidel, measures himself with himself, or with others, or with some equally imperfect standard, and thus deceives himself. If he would but measure himself with the law of God, and as if the eye of God rested on his heart, he would see at once his utter