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2. The imperfection of saints ought to be no disparagement to Christianity, but it is a great disgrace and shame to themselves. The gospel contains the most perfect precepts, and exhibits to us a complete example, and furnishes us with every motive fit to strike any affection which God has given us. But no motive is stronger, or more distinguishing from every other institution, than the discovery of the blessed Spirit, able and willing to aid our weakness, and supply our wants for every part of obedience, and never unready to furnish an upright mind for the highest possible advances in universal goodness. He would fill us, but we will not be filled by him. We too often neglect him, and grieve him, and quench him, and resist him and were it not for his singular grace, should be given over by him for ten thousand misbehaviours, so as never to have "the good pleasure of divine goodness fulfilled in us, or the work of faith with power." Our faces should be overspread with a penitent confusion at the thought; while our mouths are filled with praise for his condescension and grace, that he will yet continue a teacher to such unapt scholars, a guide to such heedless followers, a principle of perfection, and an earnest of the inheritance to souls so unlike him, and so unmeet for the promised reward.
3. The proper temper prescribed by Christianity toward the Holy Spirit, is evident from these discourses. To own him with thankfulness as the author of all spiritual good found in man in his fallen state. To believe his ability and readiness to help us according to our wants. To receive his testimony in his word, and hearken to every good motion in our minds conformable to it, as proceeding from him. To pray for and depend upon his grace in the whole course of life, in the performance of every duty, in our conflict with every sin, and in our endeavours to cultivate every grace and virtue. To be deeply humbled, wherever we have treated him unworthily. And under his gracious influences, to "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and Spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God."
THE SPIRIT OF BONDAGE, AND THE
ROM. VIII. 15.
For ye have not received the Spirit of bondage again to fear: but ye have received the Spirt of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
HRISTIANS are described in the former part of this
tion to the blessed Spirit. They "walk after the Spirit," ver. 1, 4. "They are after him, and mind the things of the Spirit," ver. 5. "They are in the Spirit," ver. 9. "And he dwells in them," ver. 9, 11. "Through him they mortify the deeds of the body," ver. 11. And they " are led by him," ver. 14. Which various phrases, intimate on the one hand, a special presence and stated agency of the divine Spirit, in the minds of believers; and on the other hand, that the prevailing temper of their spirits and tenor of their lives, are moulded and fashioned into a holy conformity to him; they are after him in disposition, and walk after him in course; they mind and relish most the things which he dictates and is pleased with; they make use of his aids for carrying on the purposes of the divine life; and are willingly led by him as their guide, whether he would carry them.
Blessed souls who partake of such a guest and guide, and are disposed by his grace so to treat and use him. For they "are in Christ Jesus, and so there is no condemnation to them," ver. 1. They shall live, live eternally, ver. 13.
"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God, ver. 14. Their participation of him brings them into a filial relation to God; and their being led in so kindly a manner by him, is a proof of that relation, and consequently of their being heirs to the heavenly inheritance. In confirmation of which, the words of the text are added: "For ye have not received the Spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." Which is a proof of their being admitted for the sons of God, from the free and liberal manner of the Spirit's influence upon them, and the correspondent temper produced in them. If they had received the spirit of bondage, that would not evidence their being sons, but only servants: but now it was plain, that they were adopted by God for his sons, because they had received the Spirit of adoption, and not of bondage.
But what are we to understand by the spirit of bondage unto fear, and the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father?
For the general nature of them; by the spirit of bondage, is plainly meant such a temper and spirit toward God, as slaves usually have to their masters, which leads them chiefly to be influenced by fear, or by an apprehension of the severity of their masters, and of the rod always hanging over them. Slaves are commonly good for nothing, but when they are handled with rigour, and swayed to subjection and obedience by the terror of present punishment. To this the apostle-opposes the Spirit of adoption. He thought it not enough to say, the spirit of liberty, which the opposition seemed to require; but more emphatically the Spirit of adoption. Servants might be made free, and often were so among the Romans, without being taken for sons; but Christians are made more than bare freemen, even sons: And therefore they have a filial spirit, such as sons have; a spirit, which sways them not only or mainly by fear, but by love to God as their Father: an ingenious disposition, and a liberal boldness and confidence. By virtue of this, "they cry, Abba, Father." The two words signify the same thing. Abba in Syriac, is father, or my father; arig, the same in Greek. Christ had used both these words in his agony, Mark xiv. 36. and possibly the apostle chose to use both in conformity to him, to bespeak the more fully, that it was "the
Spirit of his Son, which God sent into their hearts," as in Gal. iv. 6. Or when he was speaking of the common privilege of believing Jews and Gentiles, he would signify that glory of the evangelical state, by repeating it in both languages; in the Syriac, which was the common language of the Jews at that time in Judea; and in Greek, which was so much used in the Gentile world. Or it may be, he only doubles the word for the greater emphasis. I need not say, that by their crying Abba, Father, under the influence of the Spirit, the bare pronouncing of the words is not all intended; but all that disposition of mind toward him, which becomes the relation; a filial affection and manner of application, and a childlike frame in the performance of duty.
But still it may be inquired, what sort of persons, or what period of time the apostle refers to, wherein the servile spirit prevailed, in distinction from the filial spirit.
And I think it is plain, that he designs the one eminently for the character of those under the law, and the other of those under the gospel. When he says in general to the believing Romans, that they had not received, the one but the other; he must be understood to speak of a thing belonging to Christians in common, and not of that which is peculiar to some. In the spirit of bondage, he would express the state of the Jewish church under the discipline of the Mosaical law. That dispensation is upon many accounts in the New Testament, represented as a state of bondage, and as leading to a servile spirit. But the greater grace of the gospel more directly leads to a filial spirit. And so the participation of the Spirit, whereby we cry, Abba, Father, is directly opposed by this same apostle writing to the Galatians, to the state of the church under the law; as we shall see presently.
The sense of the words may be included in this observation.
That the temper to which we are led by Christianity, is not such a servile spirit, as that which prevailed under the law but a spirit of adoption, leading us to consider God, and to act toward him as a Father.
In the consideration of this truth, I shall shew,
I. IN what sense it is made the character of those under
the law, to have received the spirit of bondage: and of those under the gospel, to have received the spirit of adoption.
II. How the Old Testament dispensation contributed to a servile spirit: and how on the contrary, the gospel leads to a filial temper.
III. How therefore our deliverance from the one, and our participation of the other, should influence us.
I. It will be proper to shew, in what sense it is made the character of those under the law, to have received the spirit of bondage; and of those under the gospel, to have received the Spirit of adoption. It is needful the sense of this should be.. stated; for,
We must not suppose, that the sincere members of the church of God under the Old Testament, were destitute of the agency of the same Spirit of God, as is communicated under the New He was the author and spring of sanctification to all good men then, as well as now. Nor were the saints of those times altogether without a share in his influences, to produce in them a filial temper. David in his psalms, plainly shews a great deal of such a disposition.
On the other hand, it cannot be said, that all under the gospel, even all sincere Christians, express a more filial temper, than some saints did under the Old Testament. Nor is all fear unsuitable to the evangelical spirit. We are required by the gospel itself, to "serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear," Heb. xii. 28. "to pass the time of our sejourning here in fear, and that because we call on the Father," 1 Pet. i. 17. "to work out our salvation with fear and trembling," Phil. ii. 12. "and because a promise is left us of entering into rest, therefore to fear, lest we should seem to come short of it," Heb. iv. 1. There is still room for a reverential fear, and no small use to a Christian of some fear of punishment, as long as he sojourns below.
But when the apostle mentions these as the distinguishing characters of the two dispensations, I apprehend he intends two things.
1. To express, what the two dispensations mainly and most naturally lead to: or, what I may call the most proper and distinguishing genius of each., The covenant into which God entered with the Jews on mount Sinai, "gendered unto bond