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of the soil, turns a wilderness into Carmel by his Spirit; and no ground, no heart, can be good till he change it.
And being changed, much care must be had still of manuring, for still that is in it, that will bring forth many weeds, is a mother to them, and but a step-mother to this seed. Therefore,
Consider it, if you think this concerns you; he that hath an ear to hear, as our Saviour closes, let him hear. The Lord apply your hearts to this work; and though discouragements arise without, or within, and little present fruit appear, but corruption is rather stronger and greater, yet watch and pray; wait on, it shall be better, this fruit is to be brought forth with patience, as St. Luke hath it. And this seed, this word, the Lord calls by that very name, the very word of his patience. Keep it,
, hide it in thy heart, and in due time it shall spring up. And this patience shall be put to it but for a little while, the day of harvest is at hand, when all in any measure fruitful in grace shall be gathered into glory
2 Cor. vii. 1.
Having therefore these promises (dearly beloved) let
us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. T is a thing both of unspeakable sweetness and
usefulness for a Christian, often to consider the excellency of that estate to which he is called. It cannot fail to put him upon very high resolutions, and carry him on in the divine ambition of behaving daily more suitably to his high calling and hopes. Therefore, these are often set before Christians in the scripture, and are prest here by the Apostle upon a particular occasion of the avoidance of near combinements with unbelievers. He mentions some choice promises that God makes to his own people, and of their near relation to, and communion with himself. And upon these he enlarges and raises the exhortation to the universal endeavour of all holiness, and that as aiming at the very top and high dę
gree of it.
In the words are, 1. The thing to which he would persuade. 2. The motive. The thing, holiness in its full extension and intension, Purging ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, and perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
The purging out of filthiness, and perfecting of holiness, express those two parts of renewing grace, mortification and vivification, as usually they are distinguished. But I conceive they are not so truly different parts, as a different notion of the same thing, the decrease of sin, and increase of grace being truly one thing, as the dispelling of darkness, and
augmenting of light. So here the one is rendered, as the necessary result, yea, as the equivalent of the other; the same thing indeed, purging from filthiness, and in so doing perfecting holiness; perfecting holiness, and in so doing purging from filthiness. That perfection, by which is meant a growing progressive advance towards perfection.
The words without straining give us as it were the several dimensions of holiness. The breadth, purging all filthiness; the length, parallel to man's composure, running all along through his soul and body, -purging filthiness of the flesh and spirit; the heighth, perfecting holiness; the depth, that which is the bottom whence it rises up,-a deep impress of the fear of God. Perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Cleanse ourselves.] It is the Lord that is the sanctifier of his people, he purges away their dross and tin, he pours clean water, according to his promises, yet doth he call to us to cleanse ourselves, even having such promises, Let us cleanse ourselves. He puts a new life into us, and causes us to act, and excites us to excite it, and call it up to act in the progress of sanctification. Men are strangely inclined to a perverse construction of things, tell them that we are to act and work, and give diligence, then they would fancy a doing in their own strength, and be their own Saviours. Again, tell them that God works all our works in us, and for us, then they would take the ease of doing nothing; if they cannot have the praise of doing all, they will sit still with folded hands, and use no diligence at all. But this is the corrupt logic of the flesh, its base sophistry. The apostle reasons just contrary, It is God that worketh in us, both to will and do. Therefore, would a carnal heart say, we need not work, or at least, may work very carelessly. But he infers, Therefore let us work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, i. e. in the more humble obedience to God, and dependence on him, not obstructing the influ
a Phil. ii. 12.
ences of his grace, and by sloth, and negligence provoking him to withdraw or abate it. Certainly many in whom there is truth of grace, are kept low in the growth of it, by their own slothfulness, sitting stilí, and not bestirring themselves, and exercising the proper actions of that spiritual life, by which it is entertained and advanced.
From all filthiness.] All kind of sinful pollutions. Not as men commonly do reform some things, and take to themselves dispensations in others, at least in some one peculiar sin, their mistress and their Herodias, their Delilah: no parting with that; yea, they rather forego many other things, as a kind of composition for the retaining of that. Of flesh and spirit.] The whole man must be
pilrified and consecrated to God, not only refined from the gross outward acts of sin, but from the inward affection to it, and motions of it, that so the heart go not after it', which under restraints of outward committing sin, it may do and very often does. As the Israelites lusted after the flesh pots
, their hearts remained in Egypt still
, though their bodies were brought out. This is then to be done, viz. Affection to sin to be purged out.
That is, to cleanse the ground, not only to lop off the branches, but to dig about, and loosen and pluck up the root. Though still fibres of it will stick, yet we ought still to be finding them out, and plucking them up.
Further, These not only of the inner part of all sins, but of some sins that are most or wholly inward, that hang not so much on the body, nor are acted by it, those filthinesses of the spirit that are less discerned than those of the flesh; and as more hardly discerned, so when discerned, more hardly purged out, pride, self-love, unbelief, curiosity, &c. which though more retired and refined sins, yet are pollutions and defilements, yea of the worst sort, as being more spiritual, are filthinesses of the spirit. Fleshly pollutions are things of which the devils are not capable in themselves, though they excite men to them, and so they are called unclean spirits. But the highest rank of sins, are those that are properly spiritual wickednesses. These in men are the chief strengths of Satan, the inner works of these forts and strongholds. Many that are not much tempted to the common gross sensualities, have possibly though an inclination to them, yet a kind of disdain; and through education, and morality, and strength of reason, with somewhat of natural conscience, are carried above them ; who yet have many of these heights, those lofty imaginations that rise against God. and the obedience of Christ, all which must be demolished.
b Psalm cxxxi.
Perfecting holiness.] Not content with low measures, so much as keeps from hell, but aspiring towards perfection ; aiming high at self-victory, selfdenial, and the love of God, purer and hotter, as a fire growing and Aaming up, and consuming the earth. Though men fall short of their aim, yet it is good to aim high, they shall shoot so much the higher, though not full so high as they aim. Thus we ought to be setting the state of perfection in our eye, resolving not to rest content below that, and to come as, near it as we can, even before we come at itd. This is to act as one that hath such a hope, 'such a state in view, and is still advancing towards it.
In the fear of God.] No working but on firm ground, no solid endeavours in holiness where it is not founded in a deep heart, a reverence of God, a desire to please him and to be like him, which springs from love.
This most men are either strangers to wholly, or are but slight and shallow in it, and therefore make so little true progress in holiness.
Then there is the motive, Having these promises; being called to so fair an estate, so excellent a condition, to be the people, yea, the sons and daughters of God. Therefore they are called to the coming forth from Babel, and the separating themselves froni
d Phil, iii. 11, 12.
2 Cor. x. 4.