RPM, Volume 13, Number 41, October 9 to October 15 2011


By Walter Marshall

Chapter Twelve

Make diligent use of your most holy faith for the immediate performance of the duties of the law, by walking no longer according to your old natural state, or any principles or means of practice that belong unto it; but only according to that new state which you receive by faith, and the principles and means of practice that properly belong thereunto; and strive to continue and increase in such manner of practice. This is the only way to attain to an acceptable performance of those holy and righteous duties, as far as it is possible in this present life.

Here I am guiding you to the manner of practice, wherein you are to make use of faith, and of all other effectual means of holiness before treated of, which faith lays hold on, for the immediate performance of the law, which is the great end aimed at in this whole treatise. And therefore this deserves to be diligently considered, as the principal direction, to which all the foregoing and following are subservient. As for the meaning of it, I have already showed that our old natural state is that which we derived from the first Adam by natural generation, and it is called in the Scripture 'the old man'; and while we be in it, we are said to be 'in the flesh'. And our new state is that which we receive from the second Adam, Jesus Christ, by being new-born in union and fellowship with Him through faith; and it is called in Scripture 'the new man' and, when we are in it, we are said to be 'in the Spirit'. The principles and means of practice belonging to a natural state are such as persons do or may attain and make use of before they are in Christ by faith. Such as belong properly to the new state are the manifold holy endowments, privileges and enjoyments which we partake of in Christ by faith, such as have already appeared to be the only effectual means of a holy life.

We are said to walk according to either of these states, or to the principles and means that belong to either of them, when we are moved and guided by virtue of them to such actings as are agreeable to them. Thus kings act according to their state in commanding authoritatively, and in magnificent bounty; poor men, in a way of service and obedience, and children, indiscriminately (Esther 1:7; Prov. 18:23; 1 Cor. 13:11). So the manner of practice here directed to consists in moving and guiding ourselves in the performance of the works of the law by gospel principles and means. This is the rare and excellent art of godliness, in which every Christian should strive to be skilful and expert. The reason why many come off with shame and confusion after they have a long time laboured with much zeal and industry for the attainment of true godliness, is because they were never acquainted with this holy art, and never endeavoured to practice it in a right gospel way. Some worldly arts are called mysteries, but above all this spiritual art of godliness is, without controversy, a great mystery (1 Tim. 3:16), because the means that are to be made use of in it are deeply mysterious, as has been shown; and you are not a skilful artist till you know them and can reduce them to practice. It is a manner of practice far above the sphere of natural ability, such as would never have entered into the hearts of the wisest in the world, if it had not been revealed to us in the Scriptures and, when it is there most plainly revealed, continues a dark riddle to those that are not inwardly enlightened and taught by the Holy Spirit; such as many godly persons guided by the Spirit do in some measure walk in, yet do but obscurely discern: they can hardly perceive their own knowledge of it and can hardly give any account to others of the way wherein they walk; as the disciples that walked in Christ, the way to the Father, and yet perceived not that knowledge in themselves: 'Lord, we know not whither You go, and how can we know the way?' (John 14:5). This is the reason why many poor believers are so weak in Christ and attain so small a degree of holiness and righteousness. Therefore, that you may the better be acquainted with a mystery of so high concernment, I shall show, in the first place, that the Holy Scriptures do direct you to this manner of practice, as only effectual for the performance of holy duties; and then I shall lay before you some necessary instructions, that you may understand how to walk aright in it, and continue and go forward therein, until you be made perfect in Christ.

For the first of these, the Holy Scriptures are very large and clear in directing us to this manner of practice, and to continuance and growth therein. And here it is useful for us to observe the great variety of peculiar words and phrases whereby the Holy Ghost teaches this mystery, which many that frequently read the Scriptures, yea, that pretend to be preachers of the gospel, do little understand or regard - showing thereby that the things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to them, and that they are not yet acquainted with the form of sound words, and are strangers to the very language of the gospel which they profess and pretend to teach.

I shall, therefore, present to your view several of these peculiar words and phrases, whereby this mysterious manner of practice is expressed in the Holy Scriptures and commended to you as the only way for the sure attainment of all holiness in heart and life. I shall rank such of them together as agree in sense, that the multitude of them may not breed confusion in your thoughts.

1. This is the manner of practice in Scripture, which is expressed by 'living by faith' (Hab. 2:4; Gal. 2:20; Heb. 10: 38); 'walking by faith' (2 Cor. 5:7); 'faith working by love' (Gal. 5:6); 'overcoming the world by faith' (1 John 5:4); 'quenching all the fiery darts of the wicked, by the shield of faith' (Eph. 6:16). Some make no more of living and walking by faith than merely a stirring up and encouraging ourselves to our duty by such principles as we believe. Thus the Jews might account that they lived by faith, because they professed and assented unto the doctrine of Moses and the prophets, and were moved thereby to a zeal of God, though they sought righteousness not by faith, but as it were by the words of the law (Rom. 9:32). Thus Paul might think he lived by faith while he was a zealous Pharisee, but afterwards he knew that the life of faith consisted in dying to the law and living to God, and that not himself, but Christ lived in him (Gal. 2:19, 20). As it is one and the same thing to be justified by faith, and by Christ believed on (Rom. 5:1), so to live, walk and work by faith, is all one with living, walking, working by means of Christ and His saving endowments, which we receive and make use of by faith, to guide and move ourselves to the practice of holiness.

2. The same thing is commended to us by the terms of 'walking, rooted and built up in Christ' (Col. 2:6, 7); 'living to God, and not to ourselves but to have Christ living in us' (Gal. 2:19, 20); 'good conversation in Christ' (1 Peter 3:16); 'putting on the Lord Jesus Christ, that we may walk honestly, as in the day' (Rom. 13:13, 14); 'being strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might' (Eph. 6:10); 'doing all things in the name of Christ' (Col. 3:17); 'walking up and down in the name of the Lord' (Zech. 10:12); 'going in the strength of the Lord; making mention of His righteousness, even of His only' (Ps. 71:16). These phrases are frequent and do sufficiently explain one another, and do show that we are to practice holiness, not only by virtue of Christ's authority, but also of His strengthening endowments moving us and encouraging us thereunto.

3. It is also signified by the phrases of 'being strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus' (2 Tim. 2:1); 'having our conversation in the world, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God' (2 Cor. 1:12); 'having or holding fast grace, that we may serve God acceptably, labouring abundantly,' in such manner as that the whole work is not performed by us, but 'by the grace of God that is with us' (1 Cor. 15:10). By 'grace', therefore, we may well understand the privileges of our new state given to us in Christ, whereby we ought to be influenced and guided in the performance of holy duties.

4. It is also signified when we are to 'put off the old' and 'put on the new man'; yea, to continue in so doing, though we have done it in a measure already; and that we avoid our 'former sinful conversation' (Eph. 4:21, 22, 24); and to avoid sin, because we have 'put off the old', and 'put on the new man' (Col. 3:9, 10). I have already showed that by this twofold man is not meant merely sin and holiness; but by the former is meant our natural state, with all its endowments, whereby we are furnished only to the practice of sin; and by the latter, our new state in Christ, that whereby we are furnished with all means necessary for the practice of holiness.

5. We are to understand the same thing when we are taught not 'to walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit', that we may be 'free from the law of sin', and 'that the righteousness of the law may be fulfilled in us' (Rom. 8:1, 2, 3); and, 'through the Spirit, to mortify the deeds of the body'; and 'to be led by the Spirit', because we 'live by the Spirit', and have 'crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts' (Gal. 5:24). The apostle shows by these expressions not only that we are to practice holiness, but also by what means we may do it effectually. By 'flesh' is meant our old nature, derived from the first Adam; and by 'Spirit' is meant the Spirit of Christ and that new nature which we have by Him dwelling in us. We are said to walk after either of these natures, when we make the properties or qualifications of either of them to be the principles of our practice. So, 'that we may bring forth fruit unto God', the meaning is that we must endeavour to bring forth the fruits of holiness, not by virtue of the law, that killing letter, to which the flesh is married, and by which the motions of sin are in us; but by virtue of the Spirit and His manifold riches, which we partake of in our new state by a mystical marriage with Christ (Rom. 7:4, 5, 6); and by virtue of such principles as belong to the new state declared in the gospel, whereby the Holy Spirit is ministered to us.

6. This is the manner of walking which the apostle Paul directs us to, when he teaches us, by his own example, that the continual work of our lives should be 'to know Christ, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death; if by any means we may attain unto the resurrection of the dead,' and to increase and press forward in this kind of knowledge (Phil. 3:10-12, 14). Certainly, he means such an experimental knowledge of Christ, and His death and resurrection, as effectually makes us conformable thereunto in dying unto sin and living unto God. And he would hereby guide us to make use of Christ and His death and resurrection by faith, as the powerful means of holiness in heart and life, and to increase in this manner of walking until we attain unto perfection in Christ.

The second thing proposed was to lay before you some necessary instructions, that your steps may be guided aright to continue and go forward in this way of holiness, until you be made perfect in Christ. And, seeing we are naturally prone to mistake this way, and are utterly unable to find it out, or discern it, by our own reason and understanding, we should the more diligently attend to these instructions taken out of the Holy Scriptures. And we should earnestly pray that God would give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, that we may discern the way of holiness thereby and walk aright in it, according to that gracious promise: 'The wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein' (Isa. 35:8).

1. Let us observe, and consider diligently, in our whole conversation that though we are partakers of a new holy state by faith in Christ, yet our natural state remains in a measure with all its corrupt principles and properties. As long as we live in this present world, our apprehension of Christ and His perfections in this life is only by faith; whereas by sense and reason we may apprehend much in ourselves contrary to Christ, and this faith is imperfect, so that true believers have cause to pray to God to help their unbelief (Mark 9:24). Therefore, though we receive a perfect Christ by faith, yet the measure and degree of enjoying Him is imperfect; and we hope still, so long as we are in this world, to enjoy Him in a higher degree of perfection than we have done. We are yet but weak in Christ (2 Cor. 13:4); children in comparison to the perfection we expect in another world (1 Cor. 13:10, 11); and we must grow still, till we come to the perfect man (Eph. 4:13); and some are weaker babes than others, and have received Christ in so small a measure that they may be accounted carnal, rather than spiritual (1 Cor. 3:1). And because all the blessings and perfections in our new state - as justification, the gift of the Spirit, and of the holy nature, and the adoption of children - are seated and treasured up in Christ and joined with Him inseparably, we can receive them no further than we receive Christ Himself by faith, which we only do in an imperfect measure and degree in this life.

The apostle Paul proposes himself as a pattern for all those that are perfect in truth of grace to imitate, and yet he professes that he was not yet made so perfect in the degree and measure of saving endowments but that he did still 'press forward towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus', labouring still to 'apprehend and win Christ more perfectly, and to be found in Him, not having his own righteousness, but that which is of God by faith', and to gain more experimental 'knowledge of Christ, and of the fellowship of His sufferings, and power of His resurrection, being made conformable thereunto' (Phil. 3:8, 10, 14). Believers are justified already, yet 'wait for the hope of righteousness, by faith', that is, for the full enjoyment of the righteousness of Christ (Gal. 5:5). They have received but the 'first fruits of the Spirit', and must wait for a more full enjoyment of it. The Spirit witnesses now to them that 'they are the children of God', and yet they groan within themselves, waiting for more full enjoyment of adoption (Rom. 8:23).

Now, seeing the degree and measure of our reception and enjoyment of Christ, with all the blessings of our new state in Him, in this life is imperfect, it follows clearly that our contrary natural state, with its properties, remains still in us in some degree and is not perfectly abolished; so that all believers in this world do in some degree partake of these two contrary states. Believers have, indeed, put off the old man, and put on the new, where Christ is all and in all (Col. 3:10, 11); yet they are to put the old man off and the new man on more and more, because the old man remains still in a measure. They are said to be, 'not in the flesh', but 'in the Spirit', because their being in the Spirit is their best and lasting state; as denominations are usually taken from the better part; but yet the flesh is in them, and they find work enough to mortify the deeds of it (Rom. 8:9, 13).

Therefore several things which are contrary to each other are frequently attributed to believers in the Scripture with respect to these two contrary states, wherein one place seems to contradict another, and yet both are true in divers respects. Thus holy Paul says truly of himself, 'I live, yet not I' (Gal. 2:20); because he did live to God by Christ living in him, and yet in another respect, according to his natural state, he did not live to God. Again, he professes that he was 'carnal, sold under sin', and yet, on the contrary, that he 'allowed not sin', but 'hated' it. He shows how both these were true concerning himself in divers respects. He says, 'In me (that is in my flesh) dwells no good thing', and 'I delight to do the will of God according to the inward man', 'With the mind I myself serve the law of God; but, with the flesh, the law of sin' (Rom. 7:14, 15, 18, 22, 25). John says, 'He that says he has no sin, deceives himself, and is a liar' (1 John 1:8); and also that it is true that 'Whatever is born of God, does not commit sin; for his seed, [that is Christ, the new spiritual nature] remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God' (1 John 3:9). It is true that we are weak and can do nothing, and yet strong and able to do all things (2 Cor. 12:10, 11; Phil. 4:13). It is true that believers are dead, because of sin, but alive, because of righteousness (Rom. 8:10); and that, when they die a natural death, they shall never die (John 11:25, 26). They are sons, that have the inheritance by their birthright, and yet in some respects may differ nothing from servants; and so they may be under the law in a sense, and yet under grace and heirs, according to the free promise at the same time (Gal. 4:1, 2). They are redeemed from the curse of the law, and have forgiveness of sins, and a promise, that God will never be wrath with them, nor rebuke them any more (Gal. 3:13; Eph. 1:7; Isa. 54:9); and yet, on the contrary, the curse written in the law is sometimes poured out upon them (Dan. 9:11); and they have need still to pray that God would deliver them from their guiltiness, and forgive their debts (Ps. 51:14; Matt. 6:12); and they may expect that God will punish them for all their iniquities (Amos 3:2).

These contrary things asserted concerning believers in Scriptures do sufficiently manifest that they partake of two contrary states in this life. And this is a plain, easy and ready way to reconcile these seeming contradictions, whatever other ways may be used to reconcile some of them. And what reason is there to question that the old state remains in believers in some degrees, seeing all sound Protestants acknowledge that the sinful depravation and pollution of our natures, commonly called 'original sin', which is one principal part of this old state, does remain in all as long as they live in the world? Now, though some penal evils may be said to remain in us, yet we cannot suppose that this original pollution is continued in us as considered in Christ, but as considered in our old state, derived from the first Adam.

Therefore, the first sin of Adam is imputed in some respect even to those that are justified by faith; and they remain in some measure, as aforesaid, under the punishment and curse denounced: 'In the day you eat thereof, you surely will die' (Gen. 2:17). And, on this account, the same original guilt and pollution is propagated to the children of believing parents, as well as other, by natural generation. And, if such a great and fundamental part of our natural state continues in believers as subjection to the guilt of the first sin and corruption, which is one great part of the punishment and death threatened, and by which we are prone and inclined to all actual sins, why should we not judge that other parts of the same state do likewise continue in them, as the guilt of their own actual sins, and subjection to the wrath of God, and the curses and punishments denounced against them in the law? And why should we not judge that all the miseries of this life, and death itself, are inflicted upon believers at least in some respect as punishments of sin?

It may be objected that this doctrine of a twofold state of believers in this life derogates much from the perfection of our justification by Christ, and from the fullness of all the grace and spiritual blessings of Christ, and from the merits of His death, and the power of His Spirit, and that it greatly diminishes the consolation of believers in Christ. But it may be easily vindicated from this objection if we understand it rightly, for, notwithstanding this twofold state, it still holds true that believers while they are on earth have all perfections of spiritual blessings, justification, adoption, the gift of the Spirit, holiness, eternal life and glory, in and with Christ (Eph. 1:3). In the person of Christ, who is now in heaven, the old man is perfectly crucified; they are dead to sin and to the law and its curse, and they are quickened together with Him, and raised up with Him, and made to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (E h. 2:6). And believers do in their own persons receive and enjoy by faith all these perfect spiritual blessings of Christ, as far as they receive and enjoy Christ Himself dwelling in them, and no farther.

Thus far they are in a new state, free from guilt, pollution and punishment of sin, and so from the wrath of God, all miseries and death itself, while they are in this world; yea, all the guilt, pollution and punishments of sin, and all evils whatever, which they are subject to according to their natural state, do them no harm according to this new state but work for their good, and are no evils, but rather advantages to them, tending to the destruction only of the flesh, and to the perfection of the new man in Christ. Yet it holds true also that our reception and enjoyment of Christ Himself and all His perfections is but in an imperfect measure and degree, until faith be turned into heavenly vision and fruition of Christ and therefore, our old sinful state, with the evils thereof is not perfectly abolished during this life. The kingdom of heaven, or the grace of Christ within us is like leaven in meal, which does not unite itself perfectly to the meal in an instant, but by degrees until the whole be leavened (Matt. 13:33); or, like the morning light that expels darkness, shining more and more unto the perfect day (Prov. 4:18).

This cannot be justly accounted any derogation from the merits of Christ's death or from the power of His Spirit, seeing Christ never intended to bring to pass by His death, or by the power of His Spirit, that we should enjoy His spiritual blessings any farther than we are in Him, and enjoy Him by faith; or that we should be made holy or happy according to the flesh, by a reformation of our natural state, as has been shown. Neither does this diminish the consolation of believers in Christ, for thereby they may know that they have the perfection of grace and happiness in Christ, and that they enjoy it in this world, as far as they enjoy Christ Himself by faith; and that they shall enjoy it in a perfect measure, and be fully freed from their sinful and miserable state, when that frame of nature, which they received from the first Adam, is dissolved by death.

This instruction is very useful to frame our souls aright for the practicing holiness only by those gospel principles and means that belong to our new state, which we are partakers of by faith in Christ. And thus it is easily vindicated from another great objection, wherein the Papists and Quakers do much triumph. They appeal to men's consciences to answer this question: 'Which doctrine is most likely to bring people to the practice of true godliness?' Theirs, which teaches that perfect holiness may be attained in this life; or ours, which teaches that it is impossible for us to keep the law perfectly, and to purge ourselves from all sin, as long as we live in this world, though we use our best endeavours?

They think that common reason will make the verdict pass for them against this doctrine, as that which discourages all endeavours to perfection and hardens the hearts of people to allow themselves in sin, because they cannot avoid it. But, on the contrary, the doctrine of the perfectionists hardens people to allow themselves in sin, and to call evil good: as the Papists account that the concupiscence of the flesh against the spirit is no sin, but rather good matter for the exercise of their virtues, because the most perfect in this life are not without it. It also discourages those that labour to get holiness in the right way, by faith in Christ, and makes them to think that they labour in vain because they find themselves still sinful and far from perfection, when they have done their best to attain it. It hinders our diligence in seeking holiness by those principles and means by which only it can be found; for who will be diligent and watchful to avoid walking according to his own carnal principles, if he thinks that his own carnal state, with its principles, is quite abolished and is out of him, so that at present he is in no danger of walking according to them? Whatever good works the doctrine of the perfectionists may serve to promote, I am sure it hinders a great part of that work which Christ would have us to be employed in as long as we live in this world. We must know that our old state, with its evil principles, continues still in a measure, or else we shall not be fit for the great duties of confessing our sins, loathing ourselves for them, praying earnestly for the pardon of them, a just sorrowing for them with a godly sorrow, accepting the punishment of our sins and giving God the glory of His justice, and offering to Him the sacrifice of a glory and contrite spirit, being poor in spirit, working out our salvation with fear and trembling.

Some have doubted how it can consist with our justification by Christ that we should be still liable to be punished for our sins, and obliged to pray for the pardon of them, because they have not well considered the twofold state of believers in this life. And, except we know this, and keep it in mind, we shall never be fit to practice continually the great duties that tend to the putting off the old man, and putting on the new man, and mortifying the deeds of the body by the Spirit, praying continually that God would renew a right spirit in us, and sanctify us throughout, pressing forward unto perfection, desiring the sincere milk of the Word, and the enjoyment of other ordinances. Christ has appointed that His church on earth should be employed in such works, and perfectionists either do, or feign would account them needless for them, and that they have no longer need of Christ Himself to be their spiritual Physician and Advocate with the Father, and propitiation for their sins; therefore, they are not fit to be members of the church on earth, and are never likely to be members of the church in heaven, except they can make a ladder and climb up thither before their time.

2. Despair of purging the flesh, or natural man of its sinful lusts and inclinations, and of practicing holiness by your willing and resolving to do the best that lies in your own power, and trusting on the grace of God and Christ to help you in such resolutions and endeavours: rather resolve to trust on Christ, 'to work in you to will and do, by His own power, according to His own good pleasure'. They that are convinced of their own sin and misery do commonly first think to tame the flesh, and to subdue and root out its lusts, and to make their corrupt nature to be better natured and inclined to holiness by their struggling and wrestling with it. And if they can but bring their hearts to a full purpose and resolution to do the best that lies in them, they hope that, by such a resolution, they shall be able to achieve great enterprises in the conquest of their lusts and the performance of the most difficult duties. It is the great work of some zealous divines, in their preaching and writings, to stir up people to this resolution, wherein they place the chiefest turning-point from sin to godliness. And they think that this is not contrary to the life of faith, because they trust on the grace of God, through Christ, to help them in all such resolutions and endeavours. Thus they endeavour to reform their old state and to be made perfect in the flesh, instead of putting it off and walking according to the new state in Christ. They trust on low carnal things for holiness, and upon the acts of their own will, their purposes, resolutions and endeavours, instead of Christ; and they trust on Christ to help them in this carnal way; whereas true faith would teach them that they are nothing, and that they do but labour in vain. They may as well wash the blackamoor white as purge the flesh, or natural man, from its evil lusts and make it pure and holy. It is desperately wicked, past all cure. It will unavoidably lust against the Spirit of God, even in the best saints on earth (Gal. 5:17). Its mind is enmity to the law of God and neither is, nor can be subject to it (Rom. 8:7). They that would cure it and make it holy by their own resolutions and endeavours do act quite contrary to the design of Christ's death, for He died, not that the flesh, or old natural man, might be made holy, but that it might be crucified, and destroyed out of us (Rom. 6:6), and that we might live to God, not to ourselves, or by any natural power of our own resolutions and endeavours, but by Christ living in us, and by His Spirit bringing forth the fruits of righteousness in us (Gal. 2:20; 5:24, 25). Therefore, we must be content to leave the natural man vile and wicked as we found it, until it be utterly abolished by death; though we must not allow its wickedness, but rather groan to be delivered from the body of this death, thanking God that there is a deliverance through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Our way to mortify sinful affections and lusts must be, not by purging them out of the flesh, but by putting off the flesh itself and getting above into Christ by faith, and walking in that new nature that is by Him. Thus 'the way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath' (Prov. 15:24). Our willing, resolving and endeavouring must be to do the best, not that lies in ourselves, or in our own power, but that Christ and the power of His Spirit shall be pleased to work in us; for in us (that is, in our flesh) there dwells no good thing (Rom. 7:18). We have great ground to trust in God and Christ for help in such resolutions and endeavours after holiness, as in things that are agreeable to the design of Christ in our redemption, and to the way of acting and living by faith. It is likely that Peter sincerely resolved to die with Christ, rather than to deny Him, and to do all that he could by his own power for that end; but Christ made him quickly to see the weakness and vanity of such resolutions. And we see by experience what many resolutions made in sickness and other dangers mostly come to. It is not enough for us to trust on Christ to help us to act and endeavour so far only as creatures; for so the worst of men are helped: He is the JEHOVAH in whom we live, move and have our being (Acts 17:28). And it is likely the Pharisee would trust on God to help him in duty, as he would thank God for the performance of duty (Luke 18:11). And this is all the faith that many make use of in order to a holy practice.

But we must trust on Christ to enable us above the strength of our own natural power, by virtue of the new nature which we have in Christ and by His Spirit dwelling and working in us; or else our best endeavours will be altogether sinful, and mere hypocrisy, notwithstanding all the help for which we trust upon Him. We must also take heed of depending for holiness upon any resolution to walk in Christ, or any written covenants, or any holiness that we have already received; for we must know that the virtue of these things continues no longer than we continue walking in Christ, and Christ in us. They must be kept up by the continual presence of Christ in us; as light is maintained by the presence of the sun, and cannot subsist without it.

3. You must not seek to procure forgiveness of sins, the favour of God, a new holy nature, life and happiness, by any works of the moral law, or by any rites and ceremonies whatever; but rather you must work as those that have all these things already, according to your new state in Christ; as such who are only to receive them more and more by faith, as they are ready prepared and treasured up for you, and freely given to you, in your spiritual Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. If we walk as those that are yet wholly to seek for the procurements of such enjoyments as these, it is a manifest sign that at present we judge ourselves to be without them, and without Christ Himself, in whose fullness they are all contained; and therefore we walk according to our old natural state, as those that are yet in the flesh, and that would get salvation in it, and by our carnal works and observances, instead of living altogether on Christ by faith.

This practice is according to the tenor of the covenant of works, as I have before showed. And we have no ground to trust on Christ and His Spirit to work holiness in us this way, for we are dead to the legal covenant by the body of Christ (Rom. 7:4). and, if we be led by the Spirit, we are not under the law (Gal. 5:18). When the Galatians were seduced by false teachers to seek the procurement of justification and life by circumcision and other works of the Mosaical law, the apostle Paul rebuked them for seeking to be made perfect in the flesh, directly contrary to their good beginning in the Spirit, for rendering Christ of none effect to them, and for falling from grace (Gal. 3:3; 5:4). And when some of the Colossians sought perfection in like manner by observation of circumcision, holy meats, holy times and other rudiments of the world, the same apostle blamed them for not holding the head Jesus Christ, and as such as were not dead and risen with Christ, but living merely in the world (Col. 2:19, 20; 3:1). He clearly shows that those who seek any saving enjoyments in such a way to walk according to their old natural state; and that the true manner of living by faith in Christ is to walk as those that have all fullness in Christ by faith and need not seek for them any other way to procure them for themselves.

In this sense it is a true saying that believers should not act for life, but from life. They must act as those that are not procuring life by their works, but as such who have already received and derived life from Christ, and act from the power and virtue received from Him. And hereby it appears that the Papists and all others that think to justify, purify, sanctify and save themselves by any of their own works, rites or ceremonies whatever, do walk in a carnal way, as those that are without any present interest in Christ and shall never attain unto holiness or happiness until they learn a better way of religion.

4. Think not that you can effectually incline your heart to the immediate practice of holiness by any such practical principles as do only serve to bind, press and urge you to the performance of holy duties; but rather let such principles stir you up to go to Christ first by faith, that you may be effectually inclined to the immediate practice of holiness in Him by gospel principles that strengthen and enable you, as well as oblige you thereunto. There are some practical principles that do only bind, press and urge us to holy duties, by showing the reasonableness, equity and necessity of our obedience, without showing at all how we that are by nature dead in sin, under the wrath of God, may have any strength and ability for the performance of them: as, for instance, the authority of God the lawgiver, our absolute dependence on Him as our Creator, Preserver, Governor, in whose hand is our life, breath and all our happiness here, and for ever; His all-seeing eye, that searches our heart, discerns our very thoughts and secret purposes; His exact justice, in rendering to all according to their works; His almighty and eternal power, to reward those that obey Him, and to punish transgressors for ever; the unspeakable joy of heaven, and terrible damnation of hell.

Such principles as these do bind our consciences very strictly, and work very strongly upon the prevalent affections of hope and fear, to press and urge our hearts to the performance of holy duties, if we believe them assuredly, and work them earnestly upon our hearts, by frequent, serious, lively meditation. And therefore, some account them the most forcible and effectual means to form any virtue in the soul, and to bring it to immediate performance of any duty, though never so difficult; and that the life of faith consists principally in our living to God in holiness, by a constant belief and meditation on them. And they account those things that serve to mind them of such principles very effectual for holiness - as looking on the picture of death, or on a death's-head, keeping a coffin by them ready made, walking about among the graves, etc. But this is not that manner of living to God of which the apostle speaks when he says, 'I live, yet not 1, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me' (Gal. 2:20).

If a man make use of these obliging principles to stir him to go to Christ for strength to act holily, he walks like one that has received Christ as his only life by faith; otherwise he walks like other natural men. For the natural man may be brought to act by these principles, partly by natural light, and more fully by Scripture light, without any true knowledge of the way of salvation by Christ, as if Christ had never come into the world. And he may be strictly bound by them, and vehemently urged and pressed to holy duties; and yet, all this while, is left to his own natural strength, or rather weakness, being not assured by any of these principles that God would give him strength to help him in the performance of these duties; and can do noting aright until he get new life and strength by Christ, by a more precious saving faith. There would be no need of a new life and strength by Christ, if these principles were sufficient to bring us to a holy conversation. Therefore, this manner of practice is no better than walking after the flesh, according to our corrupt state, and seeking to be made perfect in the flesh. No question but Paul was very diligent in it while he was a blinded Pharisee. Yea, the heathen philosophers might attain to it, in some measure by the light of common reason. The devils have such principles, as they do believe assuredly, yet they are never the better for them. It is a part of the natural wisdom, whereby the world knew not God, not that wisdom of God in a mystery, discovered in the gospel, which is the only sanctifying wisdom and power of God unto salvation.

What can you produce but corruption, by pressing with motives to holiness one that has no soundness in him, from the sole of the foot, even to the head, only wounds and bruises and putrefying sores? He that is made truly sensible of his own vileness and deadness by nature will despair of ever bringing himself to holiness by such principles that afford him no life and strength, but only lay an obligation upon him to urge and press him to duty.

What are mere obligations to one that is dead in sin? While the soul is without spiritual life, sin is the more moved and enraged by pressing and urging upon the soul the obligations of the law and its command. The motions of sin are by the law; and sin, taking occasion by the commandment, works in us all manner of concupiscence (Rom. 7:5, 8). And yet these obliging principles are very good and excellent in this right gospel use of them; as the apostle says of the law, that it is good, if it be used lawfully (1 Tim. 1:8). The humbled sinner knows well his obligations; but it is life and strength that he wants, and despairs of walking according to such obligations until he get this life and strength by faith in Christ. Therefore, these obliging principles do move him to go, in the first place, to Christ, that so he may be enabled to answer their end by the strengthening and enlivening principles of God's grace in Christ.

Some there are that make use of gospel principles, only to oblige and urge to duty, without affording any life and strength for the performance; as they that think 'that Christ died and rose again to establish a new covenant of works for our salvation, and to give us a pattern of good works by His own obedience, rather than to purchase life, obedience and good works for us'. Such as these do not understand and receive the principles of the gospel rightly, but they pervert and abuse them, contrary to their true nature and design; and thereby they render them as ineffectual for their sanctification, as any other natural or legal principles. 5. Stir up and strengthen yourself to perform the duties of holiness by a firm persuasion of your enjoyment of Jesus Christ, and all spiritual and everlasting benefits through Him. Set not yourselves on the performance of the law with any prevailing thoughts or apprehensions that you are yet without an interest in Christ, and the love of God through Him; and the curse of the law, the power of sin and Satan, having no better portion than this present world; no better strength, than that which is in the purposes and resolutions of your own free will. While such thoughts as these prevail and influence your actings, it is evident that you walk according to the principles and practices of your old natural state, and you will be moved thereby to yield to the dominion of sin and Satan, to withdraw yourselves from God and godliness, as Adam was moved, from the sight of his own nakedness, to hide himself from God (Gen. 3:10). Therefore, your way to a holy practice is first to conquer and expel such unbelieving thoughts by trusting confidently on Christ, and persuading yourselves by faith that His righteousness, Spirit, glory and all His spiritual benefits are yours, and that He dwells in you, and you in Him. In the might of this confidence, you shall go forth to the performance of the law; and you will be strong against sin and Satan, and able to do all things through Christ that strengthens you. This confident persuasion is of great necessity to the right framing and disposing our hearts to walk according to our new state in Christ. The life of faith principally consists in it. And herein it eminently appears that faith is a hand, not only to receive Christ, but also to work by Him, and that it cannot be effectual for our sanctification except it contain in it some assurance of our interest in Christ, as has been shown.

Thus we act as those that are above the sphere of nature, advanced to union and fellowship with Christ. The apostle maintained in his heart a persuasion that Christ had loved him, and given Him for him; and hereby he was enabled to live to God in holiness, through Christ living in him by faith. He teaches us also that we must maintain the like persuasion, if we would walk holily in Christ. We must know that our old man is crucified with Him, and we must reckon ourselves 'dead indeed to sin, and alive to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord' (Rom. 6:6, 11). This is the means by which we may be 'filled with the Spirit, strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might', which God would not require of us, if He had not appointed the means (Eph. 6:20). Christ Himself walked in a constant persuasion of His excellent state; He 'set the Lord always before Him,' and was persuaded that because 'God was at His right hand He should not be moved' (Ps. 16:8).

How should it be rationally expected that a man should act according to his new state, without assurance that he is in it? It is a rule in common prudence, in worldly callings and conditions, that every man must know and well consider his own state, lest he should act proudly above it, or sordidly below it. And it is a hard thing to bring some to a right estimate of their own worldly condition. If the same rule were observed in spiritual things, doubtless the knowledge and persuasion of the glory and excellency of our new state in Christ would more elevate the hearts of believers above all sordid slavery to their lusts, and enlarge them to 'run cheerfully in the way of God's commandments'. If Christians knew their own strength better, they would enterprise greater things for the glory of God. But this knowledge is difficulty attained: it is only by faith and spiritual illumination. The best know but in part; and hence it is, that the conversation of believers falls so much below their holy and heavenly calling.

6. Consider what endowments, privileges or properties of your new state are most meet and forcible to incline and strengthen your heart to love God above all, and to renounce all sin, and to give up yourself to universal obedience to His commands; and strive to walk in the persuasion of them, that you may attain to the practice of these great duties. I may well join these together, because 'to love the Lord with all our heart, might, and soul', is the first and great commandment, which influences us to all obedience, with a hatred and detestation of all sin, as it is contrary and hateful to God. The same effectual means that produces the one will also produce the other; and holiness chiefly consists in these. So the chief blessings of our holy state are most meet and forcible to enable us for the immediate performance of them, and are to be made use of to this end by faith. Particularly, you must believe steadfastly that all your sins are blotted out, and that you are reconciled to God, and have access to His favour by the blood of Christ; and that He is your God and Father, and altogether love to you, and your all sufficient everlasting portion and happiness through Christ.

Such apprehensions as these do present God as a very lovely object to our hearts, and do thereby allure and win our affections, that cannot be forced by commands or threatenings, but must be sweetly won and drawn by allurements. We must not harbour any suspicions that God would prove a terrible everlasting enemy to us, if we would love Him; for 'there is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear; because fear has torment; he that fears is not made perfect in love. We love Him, because He first loved us' (1 John 4:18, 19). David loved the Lord, because he was persuaded that He was his strength, rock, fortress, his God, and the horn of his salvation (Ps. 18:1, 2). Love, that causes obedience to the law, must proceed from faith unfeigned, whereby we apprehend the remission of our sins, our reconciliation with God by the merits of the blood of Christ (1 Tim. 1:5; Heb. 9:14).

For the same end, that your hearts may be rightly fitted and framed for the performance of these principal duties, the Holy Scripture directs you to walk in the persuasion of other principal endowments of your new state - as that you have fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3); that you are the temple of the living God (2 Cor. 6:16); that you live by the Spirit (Gal. 5:25); that you are called to holiness, and created in Christ Jesus to good works; that God would sanctify you wholly, and make you perfect in holiness at the last (1 Thess. 5:23; Eph. 2:10); that your old man is crucified with Christ; and through Him you are dead to sin, and alive to God; and, being made free from sin, you are become the servants of righteousness, and have your fruit to holiness, and the end everlasting life (Rom. 6:6, 22); 'You are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with Him in glory' (Col. 3:3, 4).

Such persuasions as these, when they are deeply rooted, and constantly maintained in our hearts, do strongly arm and encourage us to practice universal obedience, in opposition to every sinful lust; because we look on it, not only as our duty, but our great privilege, to do all things through Christ strengthening us: and God does certainly work in us both to will and to do by these principles, because they properly belong to the gospel, or New Testament, which is the ministration of the Spirit, and the power of God unto salvation (2 Cor. 3:6, 8; Rom. 1:16).

7. For the performance of other duties of the law, you are to consider not only these endowments, privileges and properties of your new state, which are meet and forcible to enable you to the love of God and universal obedience, but also those that have a peculiar force and aptitude suitable to the special nature of such duties, and you must endeavour to assure yourselves of them by faith, that you may be encouraged and strengthened to perform the duties. I shall give you some instances of this manner of practice in several duties, by which you may the better understand how to guide yourselves in the rest.

And as to the duties of the first table, if you would draw near to God in a duty of His worship with a true heart, you must do it in full assurance of faith, concerning your enjoyment of Christ and His salvation. And would you perform the great duty of trusting on the Lord with all your heart, casting your care upon Him and committing the disposal of yourself to Him in all your concerns? Persuade yourself through Christ that God, according to His promise, will never fail you or forsake you; that He takes a fatherly care of you; that He will withhold no good thing from you, and will make all things to work for your good. And thus you will be strong and courageous in the practice of this duty, whereas, if you live in a mere suspense concerning your interest in the privileges, you will be subject to carnal fears and carking cares, in despite of your heart; and you will be prone to trust on the arm of flesh, though your conscience tell you plainly that, in so doing, you incur the heinous guilt of idolatry.

Would you be strengthened to submit to the hand of God with a cheerful patience in bearing any affliction, and death itself? The way to fortify yourselves is to believe assuredly that your 'afflictions, which are but for a moment, do work for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory'; that Christ is your gain in death and life; that His grace is sufficient for you, and His strength made perfect in your weakness; and that He will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able: and will, at last make you more than conquerors over all evil. Until you attain to such persuasions as these, you will be prone to fret and murmur under the burden of affliction and to use indirect means to deliver yourselves, notwithstanding the clearest convictions to the contrary.

Would you limit yourselves to the observation of God's own institutions in His worship? Believe that you are complete in Christ, and have all perfection of spiritual blessings in Him, and that God will build you up in Christ by the ordinances of His own appointment. This will make you account His ordinances sufficient, and men's traditions and inventions needless in the worship of God, whereas, if you do not apprehend all fullness in Christ, you will be like the Papists, prone to catch at every straw and to multiply superstitious observations without end for the supply of your spiritual wants.

Would you confess your sins to God, pray to Him and praise Him heartily for His benefits? Would you praise Him for affliction, as well as prosperity? Believe assuredly that God is faithful and just to forgive your sin through Christ, and that you are made a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praises that are acceptable to God through Christ; and that God hears your prayers, and will fulfil them so far as they are good for you; and that all God's ways are mercy and truth towards you, whether He prosper or afflict you in this life. If you be altogether in doubt, or otherwise persuaded concerning these privileges, all your confessions, prayers and praises will be but heartless lip-labours, slavish or pharisaical works.

In like manner you will be enabled to hear and receive the Word as the Word of God, and to meditate on it with delight; and you will be willing to know the strictness and spirituality of the commands of God, and to try and examine your ways impartially by them, if you believe assuredly that the Word is the power of God unto salvation; and that Christ is our great Physician, willing and able to heal you, be the case never so bad; and, where your sin abounds, His grace towards you does so much the more abound; whereas, without these comfortable apprehensions, all the works of hearing, meditation, self-examination will be but uncouth, heartless works; and they will be performed negligently, and by halves, or hypocritically, and out of slavish fear, with much reluctancy, without any good will, or readiness of mind. So also, for the right receiving the sacraments, you will find yourself much strengthened by believing that you may have communion with God and Christ in them, and that you have a great High Priest to bear the iniquity of your holy things, and to make you for ever accepted before the Lord.

In the same way you are to apply yourselves to all duties towards your neighbour required in the second table of the law, by acting in a persuasion of such privileges of your new state as have a peculiar force to encourage and strengthen you for the performance of them. That you may 'love your neighbour as yourself, and do to him in all things as you would he should do to you, without partiality and self-seeking; that you may give him his due honour, and abstain from injuring him in his life, chastity, worldly estate, good name, or from coveting anything that is his, according to the several commands in the second table of the decalogue,' you must walk in a persuasion, not only that these things are just and equitable towards your fellow creatures, and that you are strictly bound to the performance of them, but that they are the will of your 'heavenly Father, who has begotten you according to His own image, in righteousness and true holiness, and has given you His Spirit, that you may be likeminded in Him in all things; and that they are the mind of Christ, who dwells in you, and you in Him'; that God and Christ are kind, tender-hearted, long-suffering, full of goodness to men, whether good or bad, friends or enemies, poor or rich; and that Christ came into the world, not to destroy, but to save; and that you are of the same spirit; that injuries done to you by your neighbour can do you no harm; and you need not seek any good for yourselves by injuring them, because you have all desirable happiness in Christ; and all things, though intended by your enemies for your hurt, certainly work for your good through Christ.

Such apprehensions as these, wrought in us by the spirit of faith, will certainly beget in us a right frame of spirit, thoroughly furnished for every good work towards our neighbour. Likewise your hearts will be purified to unfeigned love of the brethren in Christ; and you will walk towards them with all lowliness, meekness, long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, if you maintain a steadfast belief and persuasion of those manifold bonds of love by which you are inseparably joined with them through Christ; as particularly, that there is 'one body, and one Spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all'. Finally, you will be able to abstain from all fleshly and worldly lusts that war against the soul, and hinder all godliness, by an assured persuasion, not merely that gluttony, drunkenness, lechery are filthy swinish abominations, and that the pleasures, profits and honours of the world are vain, empty things; but that you are crucified to the flesh and the world, and quickened, raised, and sit in heavenly places together with Christ; and that you have pleasures, profits, honours in Christ, to which the best things in the world are not worthy to be compared; and that you are 'members of Christ, the temple of His Spirit, citizens of heaven, children of the day, not of the night, nor of darkness,' so that it is below your state and dignity to practice deeds of darkness, and mind fleshly worldly things.

Thus I have given instances enough to stir you up to acquaint yourselves with the manifold endowments, privileges, properties of your new state in Christ, as they are discovered in the gospel of your salvation, by which the new nature is fitted for holy operations, as the common nature of man is furnished with the endowments necessary for those functions and operations to which it is designed; and also to stir you up to make use of them by faith, as they serve to strengthen you either for universal obedience, or for particular duties. And by this manner of walking, your hearts will be comforted and established in every good word and work, and you will grow in holiness until you attain unto perfection in Jesus Christ.

8. If you endeavour to grow in grace and in all holiness, trust assuredly that God will enable you by this manner of walking to do everything that is necessary for His glory, and your own everlasting salvation; and that He will graciously accept of that obedience through Christ, which you are enabled to perform, according to the measure of your faith, and pardon your failings, though you offend in many things and fall short of many others, as to degrees of holiness and high acts of obedience. And therefore, attempt not the performance of duty in any other way, though you cannot yet attain to do so much as you would in this way. This is a necessary instruction to establish us in the life of faith, that the sense of our manifold failings and defects may not move us either to despair or to return to the use of carnal principles and means for help against our corruptions, as accounting this way of living and acting by faith to be insufficient for our sanctification and salvation. The apostle Paul exhorts the Galatians to 'walk in the Spirit', though 'the flesh lusts against the Spirit', so that 'they cannot do the things they would' (Gal. 5:16, 17). We are to know that though the law requires of us the utmost perfection of holiness, yet the gospel makes an allowance for our weakness, and Christ is so meek and lowly in heart that He accepts of that which our weak faith can attain to by His grace, and does not exact or expect any more of us for His glory and our salvation until we grow stronger in grace. God showed His great indulgence to His people under the Old Testament, that Moses, the lawgiver, suffered them, because of the hardness of their hearts, to put away their wives, though from the beginning it was not so (Matt. 19:8), and also in tolerating the customary practice of polygamy. Though Christ will not tolerate the continuance of such practices in His church, since His Spirit is more plentifully poured forth under the gospel, yet He is as forward as ever to bear with the failings of His weak saints that desire to obey Him sincerely.

We have another instance of God's indulgence, more full to our present purpose, in His commanding that the fearful and faint-hearted should not be forced to enter into the battle against their enemies, but suffered to return home to their houses, though fighting in battle against their enemies, without fear and faint-heartedness, was a duty that God did much exercise His people in at that time (Deut. 20:3, 8). So under the gospel, though it be an eminent part of Christ's service to endure the greatest fight of afflictions and death itself courageously for His name's sake, yet if any be so weak in faith that they have not sufficient courage to venture into the battle, no doubt but Christ allows them to make use of an honest means whereby they may escape the hands of persecutors, with safety to their holy profession. He will accept them in this weaker kind of service, and will approve of them better than if they should hazard a denial of His name by venturing themselves upon the trial of martyrdom when they might have escaped it. Peter came off with sin and shame by venturing beyond the measure of his faith into the hands of his persecutors, when he went after Christ to the high priest's hall, whereas he should rather have made use of that indulgent dismission that Christ gave to him and the rest of His disciples: 'Let these go their way' (John 18:8). Christ deals with His people as a good careful shepherd that will not overdrive His sheep: 'He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young' (Isa. 40:11). He would not have His disciples urged rigorously upon the duty of fasting when their spirits were unfit for it, because He knew that imposing duties above their strength is like putting a piece of new cloth in an old garment, and new wine into old bottles, which spoils all at last (Matt. 9:14-17).

That precept of Solomon, 'Be not righteous over much' (Eccles. 7:16) is very useful and necessary, if rightly understood. We are to beware of being too rigorous in exacting righteousness of ourselves and others beyond the measure of faith and grace. Overdoing commonly proves undoing. Children that venture on their feet beyond their strength have many a fall, and so have babes in Christ when they venture unnecessarily upon such duties as are beyond the strength of their faith. We should be content at present to do the best that we can, according to the measure of the gift of Christ, though we know that others are enabled to do much better; and we are not to despise the day of small things, but to praise God that He works in us anything that is well-pleasing in His sight, hoping that He will sanctify us throughout and bring us at last to perfection of holiness through Jesus Christ our Lord. And we should carefully observe in all things that good lesson of the apostle: 'Not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God has dealt to every man the measure of faith' (Rom. 12:3).

This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor.

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