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This obedience is briefly suinmed up
in the direction; to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, that is, to take care, agreeably to the double obligation imposed upon us by the distinct parts of our constitution, that we consult the integrity both of our bodies and minds;, and preserve them both from that defilement which each of them, according to its nature, is liable to contract in this state of moral probation.
I. With regard to the FLESH, gross
vices which defile that part of our frame, are so expressly condemned by the law of reason, as well as of the gospel, and are so repugnant to the inbred modesty of every man, especially of such as have had their natural sense of decency quickened by a good education, that but to mention them in this place, I would hope, is quite sufficient. If I go farther, it shall only be to remind you of one thing, which I have explained at large on a former occasion', That Christianity hath added unspeakably to the worth and dignity of the human body, by considering it no longer as the store-house of impure lusts, but as the habitation, the temple of the living God, to whose sole use it is now dedicated d.
c See Sermon XXVI. in the preceding volume, p. 378. d 2 Cor. vi. 16. 1 Cor. üi. 16.
The turpitude, the dishonour, the impiety of desecrating this sanctuary of the holy Spirit by sordid, carnal excessęs, is then apparent to
But the vices of the $PIRIT do not always strike the attention so forcibly; though they be as real as those of the body, and sometimes more fatal. The reason is, that the spiritual part of man does not lie so open to observation as the corporeal. The mind is not easily made an object to itself; and, when it is, we have a strange power of seeing it in a false light, and of overlooking its blemishes, or of even mistaking them for beauties. In short, the filthiness of the spirit may be long unobserved, and therefore uncleansed, if it be not pointed out to us by some friendly monitor, who is more practised in this mental inspection than ourselves, or has less interest, however, to conceal our depravity from us.
Permit me, then, to assume the charitable office of holding up to your view these spiritual vices; not all of every sort (for that would be endless) but the chief of those which tend more immediately to defeat the gracious promises made to us in the gospel.
II. I say nothing of that corruption which direct and positive infidelity strikes through the soul, whether it be the infidelity of Atheism, or what is called Deism ; because, on men who espouse either of these systems, the promises of the gospel take no hold; and because it ought not, cannot be supposed, that men of no religion, or of no faith, appear in these Christian assemblies. You will think me better employed in pointing out such corruptions, as may not improbably adhere even to believers; though concealed from their own observation, it may be, or disguised, at least, to themselves, under various pretences.
1. The first of these that I shall mention is a sort of HALF-BELIEF, which floats in the mind, and, though it do not altogether renounce the hopes of the Gospel, is far from reposing a firm trust in them. Many professed believers have, I doubt, this infirmity, this taint of infidelity, still cleaving to them. They think Christianity an useful institution; nay, they think it not destitute of all divine authority. But then they reduce this authority to just nothing, by allowing themselves to put it as low as they can —
— by taking great liberties in explaining both its doctrines and precepts by admitting such parts of this revelation, as they believe themselves able to make out to the satisfaction of their own minds, and by rejecting, at least by questioning in some sort, whatever they cannot perfectly understand by treating some things as incredible, others, as impracticable; one part of their religion as too mysterious, and another as too severe. “ They believe, they say, what they can: but, after all, there are many strange things in this religion; and the evidence for the truth of them is not so controuling, but that there is room for some degree of doubt and hesitation,”
All this, perhaps, they do not say to others; nay, not to themselves, except when they are pressed by some conclusion from scripture, which either their prejudices, or their passions, make them very unwilling to admit; and then they take leave to be as sceptical as the occasion requires.
But now from such a faith as this, no wholesome or permanent fruits can be expected. It has no root in them; and the promises, that should feed and nourish it, have but a faint and feeble effect; just enough, perhaps, to keep their hopes from dying out
right, but much too little to push them into any vigorous efforts of obedience.
The way for such to cleanse themselves from this pollution of spirit (for to the several defects, the proper remedy in each case shall, as we go along, be subjoined) is, once for all, to examine the foundations of their religion; and, if they find them, on the whole, solid and satisfactory, to rely upon them thenceforth with a confidence entire and unshaken. They should reflect, that every revealed doctrine, of whatever sort, as standing on the same ground of infallible truth, is equally to be admitted. There is no compromising matters with their divine Master: they must either quit his service, or follow him without reserve. And this, upon the whole, they will find to be the manly. and the reasonable part for them to take. To halt between two opinions so repugnant to each other, to embrace so interesting a thing as religion by halves, is neither for the credit of their courage, nor of their understanding.
Having then the promise of eternal life, let them reckon upon that promise, like men who know its value, and do not mistrust on what ground it stands. If they are Christians at all, they cannot justify it even to themselves not to