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spiritual strength, and motion, and sensation. All the senses of the soul being now awake, and capable of discerning spiritual good and evil.
9. "The eyes of his understanding" are now "open," and he "seeth Him that is invisible." He sees what is "the exceeding greatness of his power," and of his love towards them that believe. He sees that God is merciful to him a sinner, that he is reconciled through the Son of his love. He clearly perceives both the pardoning love of God, and all his "exceeding great and precious promises." "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined," and doth shine, in his heart, to enlighten him with the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." All the darkness is now passed away, and he abides in the light of God's countenance.
10. His ears are now opened, and the voice of God no longer calls in vain: He hears, and obeys the heavenly calling: he "knows the voice of his Shepherd." All his spiritual senses being now awakened, he has a clear intercourse with the invisible world. And hence he knows more and more of the things which before" it could not enter into his heart to conceive." He now knows what the peace of God is what is joy in the Holy Ghost: what the love of God which is shed abroad in the hearts of them that believe in him through Christ Jesus. Thus the veil being removed, which before interrupted the light and voice, the knowledge and love of God, he who is born of the Spirit, "dwelling in love, dwelleth in God and God in him."
II. 1. Having considered the meaning of that expression, "Whosoever is born of God," it remains in the second place to enquire, in what sense he "doth not commit sin."
Now one who is so born of God as hath been above described, who continually receives into his soul the breath of life from God, the gracious influence of his Spirit, and continually renders it back: one who thus believes and loves; who by faith perceives the continual actings of God upon his spirit; and by a kind of spiritual re-action, re
turns the grace he receives in unceasing love, and praise, and prayer; not only doth not commit sin, while he thus keepeth himself; but so long as this seed remaineth in him, he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
2. By sin, I here understand, outward sin, according to the plain, common acceptation of the word; an actual, voluntary transgression of the law: of the revealed, written law of God: of any commandment of God, acknowledged to be such, at the time that it is transgressed. But "whosoever is born of God," while he abideth in faith and love, and in the spirit of prayer and thanksgiving, not only doth not, but cannot thus commit sin. So long as he thus believeth in God through Christ, and loves him, and is pouring out his heart before him, he cannot voluntarily transgress any command of God, either by speaking or acting what he knows God hath forbidden. So long as that seed which remaineth in him, that loving, praying, thankful faith compels him to refrain from whatsoever he knows to be an abomination in the sight of God.
3. But here a difficulty will immediately occur; and one that to many has appeared insuperable, and induced them to deny the plain assertion of the Apostle, and give up the privilege of the children of God.
It is plain, in fact, that those whom we cannot deny to have been truly born of God, (the Spirit of God having given us in his word, this infallible testimony concerning them) nevertheless, not only could, but did commit sin, even gross, outward sin. They did transgress the plain, known laws of God, speaking or acting what they knew he had forbidden.
4. Thus David was unquestionably born of God before He knew in whom he
he was anointed king over Israel.
had believed; he was strong in faith, giying glory to God. “The Lord, saith he, is my shepherd; therefore can I lack nothing. He shall feed me in green pastures, and lead me forth beside the waters of comfort. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me." Psalm xxxiii. 1, &c. He
was filled with love; such as often constrained him to cry out, "I will love thee, O Lord, my Strength: the Lord is my strong Rock, and my Defence: the Horn also of my salvation, and my Refuge," Psalm xviii. 1, 2. He was a man of prayer, pouring out his soul before God, in all circumstances of life: and abundant in praises and thanksgiving; "Thy praise, saith he, shall be ever in my mouth,” xxxiv. 1. "Thou art my God, and I will thank thee; thou art my God, and I will praise thee," cxviii. 28. And yet such a child of God could and did commit sin; yea, the horrid sins of adultery and murder.
5. And even after the Holy Spirit was more largely given, after "life and immortality were brought to light by the gospel," we want not instances of the same melancholy kind, which were also doubtless written for our instruction. Thus he who (probably from his selling all that he had, and bringing the price for the relief of his poor brethren) was by the Apostles themselves sirnamed Barnabas, that is, the Son of Consolation, Acts iv. 36, 37; who was so honoured at Antioch, as to be selected with Paul out of all the disciples, to carry their relief unto the brethren in Judea, Acts xi. 29; this Barnabas, who at his return from Judea, was by the peculiar direction of the Holy Ghost, solemnly" separated from the other Prophets and Teachers, for the work whereunto God had called him," ch. xiii. 1-4. even to accompany the great Apostle among the Gentiles, and to be his fellow-labourer in every place; nevertheless, was afterwards so sharp, chap. xv. 35, 39, in his contention with St. Paul (because he " thought it not good to take with them John" in his "visiting the brethren," a second time," who had departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work") that he himself also departed from the work that he "took John, and sailed unto Cyprus," Acts xv. 39; forsaking him to whom he had been in so immediate a manner joined by the Holy Ghost.
6. An instance more astonishing than both these, is given by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians. When Peter, VOL. VII.
the aged, the zealous, the first of the Apostles; one of the three most highly favoured by his Lord; "was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles," the heathens converted to the Christian Faith, as having been peculiarly taught of God, that he "should not call any man common or unclean." But "when they were come, he separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly, according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter, before them all, If thou being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles," not regarding the ceremonial law of Moses, "why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?" Gal. ii. 11, &c. Here is also plain, undeniable sin committed by one who was undoubtedly born of God. But how can this be reconciled with the assertion of St. John, if taken in the obvious literal meaning, That" whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin ?"
7. I answer, what has been long observed is this: So long as "he that is born of God keepeth himself," (which he is able to do, by the grace of God) "the wicked one toucheth him not." But if he keep not himself, if he abide not in the faith, he may commit sin even as another man.
It is easy therefore to understand, how any of these children of God might be moved from his own steadfastness, and yet the great truth of God, declared by the Apostle, remain steadfast and unshaken. He did not keep himself, by that grace of God which was sufficient for him. He fell, step by step, first, into negative, inward sin, not "stirring up the gift of God which was in him," not " watching unto prayer, not pressing on to the mark of the prize of his high calling:" then into positive inward sin, inclining to wickedness with his heart, giving way to some evil desire or temper. Next, he lost his faith, his sight of a pardoning God, and consequently his love of God. And being then weak and
like another man, he was capable of committing even outward sin.
8. To explain this by a particular instance: David was born of God, and saw God by faith. He loved God in sincerity. He could truly say, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth" (neither person nor thing)" that I desire in comparison of thee?" But still there remained in his heart the corruption of nature, which is the seed of all evil.
"He was walking upon the roof of his house," 2 Sam. xi. 2, probably praising the God whom his soul loved, when he looked down, and saw Bathsheba. He felt a temptation, a thought which tended to evil. The Spirit of God did not fail to convince him of this. He doubtless heard and knew the warning voice. But he yielded in some measure to the thought, and the temptation began to prevail over him. Hereby his spirit was sullied; he saw God still; but it was more dimly than before. He loved God still; but not in the same degree, not with the same strength and ardor of affection. Yet God checked him again, though his Spirit was grieved; and his voice, though fainter, and fainter, still whispered, "Sin lieth at the door; look unto me, and be thou saved." But he would not hear. He looked again, not unto God, but unto the forbidden object, till nature was superior to grace, and kindled lust in his soul.
The eye of his mind was now closed again, and God vanished out of his sight. Faith, the divine, supernatural intercourse with God, and the love of God, ceased together. He then rushed on as a horse into the battle, and knowingly committed the outward sin.
9. You see the unquestionable progress from grace to sin. Thus it goes on, from step to step. 1, The divine seed of loving, conquering faith, remains in him that is born of God. He keepeth himself, by the grace of God, and cannot commit sin. 2, A temptation arises; whether from the world, the flesh, or the devil, it mattters not. 3. The Spirit of God gives him warning that sin is near, and bids