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earth, (except the Son of man, that man Christ Jesus, who was not a mere man, but the eternal Son of God, and God manifest in the flesh,) except him, that best of men, that ever blest the earth with their residence upon it, have had flesh lusting in them, unto sin; and sometimes leading them into captivity, and making them bond slaves for a season: and this enemy is more frequent and constant in his assaults and bickerings, than a Christian's other enemies. If his foreign or external enemies, do at any time stand still, sin, that treacherous inmate and cursed adversary, will rarely give him any truce or respite at all. If there be a cessation (for a time) of the former, he can scarce pass an hour without many fights and skirmages with the latter. As therefore a good soldier must not spare so much as one enemy, when he hath such a command and commission given him: so a Christian must not spare so much as any one iniquity or lust; his orders from his great Commander and Lawgiver are so: but he must endeavor the suppressing, beating down and conquering the same. And how strong and strenuous the apostle Paul was, (who frequently speaks of himself as a soldier, not only as he was a minister of the gospel, but also as he was a Christian : I say how strong and strenuous he was,) as in his spiritual warfare in general, so in particular in beating down his internal enemies; sin and lust: we shall see if we reflect a little upon the latter part of the chapter before us, and particularly the words that have been read unto you. The apostle having in the former part of the chapter, been declaring his liberty in reference to marriage; as also his requiring of maintenance of them among whom he had been laboring in the work of the ministry; and yet how he had abridged himself, and forborne to use the same, that so he might not be overburdensome to them; nor hinder the progress and success of the gospel among them : he doth in the latter part of the chapter, particularly at the 24th verse, endeavor to press his former discourse, by telling them the difficulties of getting to heaven, and also the obligation they lay under to run in that race, and to contend in that warfare, that would bring them thereto. The method chosen by the apostle to do this in, is borrowing an elegant similitude from some of those games the Romans and Corinthians were wont to divert and exercise themselves in. There were several sorts of games celebrated, as the Pythean, the Nemean, the Olympic and the Isthmean games: the latter of which was most proper to Greece. And in which games there were wont to be running and wrestling, and riding, and other feats of activity; by which the apostle doth endeavor to set forth the difficulty that there is in, and the labor that must be exercised by those that would strive and fight in, the way to heaven. And that he might further prevail with them so to run, as to win the prize, so to fight the good fight, as to obtain
the crown; he sets before them the examples not only of other runners and wrestlers, who were wont to be careful and painful, in dieting and ordering themselves before, and straining and putting themselves forth to the utmost in their race and combat (though the crown and garland for which they strove, was mean and inconsiderable, (yea nothing,) compared with that, which the apostle with those to whom he spake, labored and contended for; the former being a corruptible, the latter a crown that is incorruptible) I say, the apostle doth not only set before them the examples of those gamesters, to press them to their duty: But he also proposes to them his own example, telling them what he himself did, and also would do. Like the valiant commander, who doth not say to his soldiers (in an arduous and difficult encounter) Ite illuc, go forth thither, as if they were to go forth upon service, and he tarry behind in his tent; but, Venite huc, come ye hither, follow me, you shall go no further than I will venture my own life. The apostle knew full well, that those that are indisposed and uninclined to duty; if those that dictate duty to them, and exhort them to the performance of it, are slothful and negligent in duty themselves, (I say,) he knew full well, how that those that are uninclined and indisposed to duty, might be ready to allege the old proverb, Physician, heal thyself: Thou that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? To anticipate therefore, and prevent every thing of this nature, and to draw them to be active, industrious and very diligent in their spiritual warfare, he tells them, he ran in the same spiritual race with them, contended in the same spiritual warfare, that he was their fellow-soldier; and gave them no other advice than he himself practised and would only have them follow himself, as Gideon said to his army, Judges vii. 17. "Look on me and do likewise, as I do so shall ye do."
In the words of our text, we have the apostle asserting and declaring, how he fought, and behaved himself, in his spiritual warfare; and this the apostle lays down,
1. Negatively. So fight I, as one not beating the air.
2. Positively. But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection. Where we have,
1. The object, or enemy that he encountered or combated with: in those words, my body.
2. The act, or manner how he managed himself towards that object, or enemy; and this is expressed by two terms. (1.) I keep under my body. (2.) I bring it into subjection.
So fight I, not as one that beateth the air, but I keep under my body. He fought, but it was not as one that beateth the air. He did not act like a young fencer, making only a flourish, and beating only the air; but he fought in good earnest, and beat his adversaries, (the enemies of his salvation.)
My body.-Body is not to be taken here, so much in a physical, as in a moral sense. We are not to understand by his body, only the apostle's fleshly párt, that part of him which consisted of flesh and bones (which, body, is put in Scripture sometimes to signify) but by his body we are to understand, besides his outward man, his sin; that which the apostle elsewhere calls, "the body of sin." Rom. vi. 6. "And the body of death," Rom. vii. 24. "The old man. The flesh, with its affections and lusts," Gal. v. 24. Those carnal lusts and affections, which warred against the peace of his soul. These, he maintained a war with, and endeavored to keep under, and bring into subjection.
I keep under. The Greek word [vлonato] which is here rendered keep under, signifies to seize, to lay hold of, to grasp, and to gripe, as a man would his adversary, and one with whom he contends for the mastery and not only so, but to beat, knock, thump and pound, as wrestlers and champions were wont anciently to do. And as some think the term is borrowed from those runners and wrestlers, who were wont to contend in the aforementioned games, and who were wont to beat and pound one another till they were black and blue, and of a gore blood; and forced to acknowledge themselves vanquished and overcome.
I bring it into subjection.-The Greek word [Sovλaywyɛn] which is here rendered to bring into subjection, is sometime used, for a leading captive; and most properly signifies, to bring under command, in servitutem redigere; to make one a servant. Thus the apostle tells us, how he acted in his spiritual warfare; and in telling us what he did, he tells us what we ought to do. If we would be spiritual fighters, as all the saints in their several generations have been and if we consider what the apostle lays down. here affirmatively, (viz. the keeping under his body, and bringing it into subjection, as some do,) as the means by which he came to be more than such a fighter, as only beats the air; as the means by which he came not to lose his labor in his spiritual warfare: There seems to result this plain truth, which we shall briefly (by divine assistance) insist upon from the words, viz.
Doctrine. That those that would fight to purpose, in the spiritual war, must endeavor to keep under their body of sin, and bring it into subjection. Or thus,
Those, and only those, do fight to purpose in the spiritual war, who do endeavor to keep under, and bring in subjection, all those carnal lusts and affections which they have warring in them.
In the brief speaking to this doctrine, we shall attend only these three things. (1.) We shall endeavor to speak something of the nature of the duty viz. the keeping under the body of sin, and bringing it into subjection. (2.) We shall endeavor to show
how this keeping under this body of sin and bringing it into subjection, is necessary in order to the fighting to purpose, in the spiritual war. (3.) We shall conclude with some brief appli
1. We shall endeavor to speak something of the nature of the duty, the keeping under the body of sin, and bringing it into subjection. All that I shall say to conceive any thing of this, shall be under these two or three following conclusions.
Conclusion 1. Man naturally is in league and correspondence with sin. As he came out of the hands of his Maker, he was in league and correspondence with him. Man was God's friend : but since we have broke our league, and forfeited our correspondence with God; a quarrel is commenced between God and us: we have entered into a league and have kept up a correspondence with God's greatest enemy; this amity and friendship, and the natural man, is very near and intimate; it is got into every part of our souls, it is become our near neighbor, and we naturally love it as ourselves; yea we are naturally under the dominion and power of sin Sin rules and reigns in the natural man; he is its slave and vassal; is as the apostle speaks, and it is a truth, 2 Pet. ii. 19. "Of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought into bondage." Then every natural man being daily overcome and mastered by his lusts and corruptions, he must needs be in servitude, slavery and bondage to them: nor needs there much ado to overcome him; he is naturally willing to obey sin, and so is a servant of it, as the apostle speaks, Rom. vi. 16. "Know you not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death," &c.
Conclusion 2. When a man lists himself under the banner of Christ, he then breaks his league and correspondence with sin, and proclaims a war with it. We cannot give up ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ and be faithful in his service, unless we renounce the service of sin, and wage and maintain an irreconcilable war with that. Christ and this mammon are such different masters (captains) as that it is impossible for a man to march under and serve them both. There must be a forsaking of the latter if we would cleave to the former. The apostle tells us, James iv. 4. "The friendship of the world is enmity with God and whosoever will be a friend of the world, is an enemy of God." It is true of sin and worldly lusts, that those that are in friendship with them are enemies of God and Christ; they wage war against heaven, and bid open defiance to the Lord of hosts. Well, but the friendship of God and Christ is enmity with sin and worldly lusts; and whosoever will be a friend of Christ, will be an enemy of sin; he hath broke his league with it, and wages war against it as when a league and alliance between two princes is broken, a war is wont
to ensue and follow. If therefore indeed we have been brought to engage ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ to serve him in the war against our spiritual enemies, we have been brought to see sin to be an enemy, and a treacherous one also; that which hath been wont to ensnare, and lead us captive, and we have cast off its service, and are resolved to live in perpetual hostility with it.
Conclusion 3. As when a man lists himself under the banner of Christ, he breaks his league and correspondence with sin, and proclaims a war with it; so he hath had a mortal wound given to the habit of it by the Spirit of God. When a man voluntarily offers himself to the service of Christ, upon his proclamation and call, (I say,) when a man is brought effectually to answer that call; as he renounces his correspondence with sin, and enters upon a war with it so, there is by the Spirit of God, a deadly blow given to the old man, our habit of sin. However in a man's natural estate he is under the dominion of sin. Yet when grace comes into a man, the Spirit of God which is stronger than that strong man armed, comes upon him, overcomes him, and takes from him his armor wherein he trusted. Every one that doth indeed actually belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, is freed from the reigning power and dominion of sin: that is accomplished in him, Rom. vi. 12, 14. "That sin hath not dominion over him and sin shall not reign in his mortal body, that he should obey it in the lusts thereof." The Spirit of God hath spoiled sin of its power and dominion, and given it its death wound. An unregenerate man's heart is sin's territory: Sin is in such a man's heart as in its throne, before the Spirit comes, but when that comes, and by that the nature is changed and renewed; sin is cast out of its throne, and condemned to die.
Conclusion 4. Though a mortal wound be given by the Spirit of God to the habit of sin, when a man lists himself under the banner of Christ, yet sin is not then quite overcome and destroyed in a man. However grace doth really subdue sin, yet it does not wholly destroy sin. Though it doth really purify a man's nature, yet in this life it doth not quite perfect his nature. A Christian must not expect to experience a state of perfection here in this life: No, that estate is reserved till he comes to experience a state of glory. The best of men in this life have a double nature in them, as we may see of man in general, that he consists of body and soul; so we may say of every godly man (in a theological sense) that he hath both flesh and spirit, corruption as well as grace. Though sin be beat out of its strong holds, yet it hath betaken itself to its inward castle, where it will remain and have a being in us, as long as we shall have a being here in this world. This Canaanite will dwell in the land, nor can the children of God drive it out of this city. God doth with us, in respect of sin, (our