"Who Walk not after the Flesh, but after the Spirit. "
Rom. viii. 1. -- "Who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

Christ is made to us of God both righteousness and sanctification; and therefore, those who are in Christ do not only escape condemnation, but they walk according to the Spirit, and not according to the flesh. These two are the sum of the gospel. There is not a greater argument to holy walking than this, -- there is no condemnation for you, neither is there a greater evidence of a soul having escaped condemnation, than walking according to the Spirit. We have spoken something in general of the evidence that may be had of a man's state, from his walking, and the Spirit's working in him; we would now speak of the conjunction of these two, and the influence that that privilege hath on this duty, and something of the nature of this description, "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

In the creation of man, man was composed of soul and body. There was a right order, and subordination of these, suitable to their nature. In his soul he reached angels above, -- in his body he was like the beasts below; and this part, his flesh, was a servant to the soul, that was acted and affected according to the desires and motives of the soul. Now sin entering, as it hath defaced all the beauty of the creation, as it hath misplaced man, and driven him out from that due line of subordination to God his Maker, for he would have been equal to God, so it hath perverted this beautiful order in men, and turned it just contrary, -- hath made the servant to ride on horses, and the prince to walk on foot. This is the just punishment of our first sin. Adam's soul was placed by creation under the sole command of its Creator, above all the creatures, and his own senses; but in one sin, he proudly exalted himself above God, and lamentably subjected himself below his senses, by hearkening to their persuasion. He saw it was good, and tasted it, and it was sweet, and so he ate of it. What a strange way was this! To be like God, he made himself unlike himself, liker the miserable beasts. Now, I say, this is the deserved punishment of man. His soul, that was a free prince, is made a bond slave to the lusts of his flesh; flesh hath gotten the throne, and keeps it, and lords it over the whole man. Now therefore it is, that the whole man unregenerate, is called flesh, as if he had no immortal spirit, John iii.6, "that which is born of the flesh is flesh;" and this chap. ver.8, has a description of natural men, "they that are in the flesh;" because flesh is the predominant part that hath captivated a man's reason and will. Nay, not only the grosser corruptions in a man, that have their use and seat in his flesh and body, are under that name; -- but take the whole nature of man, that which is most excellent in him, his soul and spirit, his light and understanding, the most refined principles of his conversation, -- all these are now but flesh. Nay, not only such natural gifts and illuminations but even the light of the gospel, and law of God, that someway enters his soul, changeth the nature and name, -- it is all but darkness and flesh in him, because the flesh hath a dominion over all that. The clouds and vapours that arise from the flesh, bemist(166) and obscure all these; the corruptions of the soul are most strengthened in this sort, and most vented here. Sin is become connatural to the flesh, and so a man, by the flesh, is ensnared and subjected to sin. Christ comprehends all our prerogatives and endowments under this. John i.13, "born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh;" and Matt. xvi.17, "flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee." Even all the outwards of religion, and all the common privileges of Christians may be called so. What hath Abraham found according to the flesh? Rom. iv.1, Phil. iii.3; -- which imports so much, that all those outward privileges, many illuminations, and reformations, may so far consist with the corruption of man's nature, may unite so with that, as to have one name with it. It is not all able to conquer our flesh, but our flesh rather subdues all that, and makes it serve itself, till a stronger than it come, even the Spirit, to subdue it and cast it out of the house. Thus the image of God in man is defaced; nay, the very image and nature of man, as man, spoiled. The first creation, -- sin hath marred and disordered it. Now, when this second creation, or regeneration comes, the creature is made new, and formed again by the powerful Spirit of Jesus Christ. This change is made, flesh is put out of the throne, as an usurper; the spirit and soul of a man is put in a throne above it, but placed according to its due order, under a holy and spiritual law of God. And thus Jesus Christ is the repairer of the breaches, and restorer of the ancient paths and old wastes, to dwell in. Now the soul hath a new rule established to act according to, and new principles to act from. He whose course of walking was after the corrupt dictates and commands of his fleshly affections, and was of no higher strain than his own sparks of nature, and acquired light would lead him to, now he hath a new rule established, -- the Spirit speaking in the word to him, and pointing out the way to him. And there is a new principle, that Spirit leading him in all truth, and quickening him to walk in it. Now this is the soul's perfect liberty, to be from under the dominion of sin and lusts; and thus the Son makes free indeed by the free Spirit. The Son was made a servant, that we might be made free, no more servants of sin in the lusts thereof: and the Spirit of the Lord, where he comes, there is liberty; there the spirit and reasonable soul of a man is elevated into its first native dignity; there the base flesh is dethroned, and made to serve the spirit and soul in a man. Christ is indeed the greatest friend of men, as they are men. Sin made us beasts, Christ makes us men. Unbelievers are unreasonable men, {GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER LAMDA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMICRON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER GAMMA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMICRON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER FINAL SIGMA}, brutish, yea, in a manner, beasts; -- this is an ordinary compellation in scripture. Faith makes a man reasonable, -- it gives the saving and sanctified use of reason. It is a shame for any man to be a slave to his lusts and passions. It is the character of a beast upon him. He that is led by senses and affections, is degenerated from human nature; and yet such are all out of Christ. Sin reigns in them, and flesh reigns, and the principles of light and reason within are captivated, incarcerated within a corner of their minds. We see the generally received truths among men, that God is, that he is holy, and just, and good; that heaven and hell is, -- these are altogether ineffectual, and have no influence on men's conversations, no more than if they were not known, even because the truth is detained in unrighteousness. The corruptions of men's flesh are so rank, that they overgrow all this seed of truth, and choke it, as the thorns did the seed, Matt. xiii.7. Now, for you, who are called of Jesus Christ, O know what ye are called unto! It is a liberty indeed, a privilege indeed. Ye are no more debtors to the flesh; -- Christ hath loosed that obligation of servitude to it. O let it be a shame unto you, who are Christians, to walk so any more, to be entangled any more in that yoke of bondage! "He that ruleth his spirit" is greater than the mighty, "than he that taketh a city." Thus we are called to be more than conquerors. Others, when they conquer the world, are slaves to their own lusts; but let it be far from you to be so. Ye ought to conquer yourselves, which is more than to conquer the world. It is not only unbeseeming a Christian, to be led with passions and lusts, but it is below a man, if men were not now through sin below beasts. I beseech you, aspire unto, and hold fast, the liberty Christ hath obtained for you. Be not fashioned any more according to former lusts. Know, ye are men, -- that ye have reasonable and immortal spirits in you. Why will ye then walk as beasts? "Understand, ye brutish! and ye fools, when will ye be wise!" But I say more; know, ye are Christians, and this is more than to be a man, -- it is to be a divine man, one partaker of the divine nature, and who is to walk accordingly. Christians are called to a new manner of walking, and this walking is a fruit that comes out of the root of faith, whereby they are implanted in Christ. You see these agree well together. Those who are in Christ, "walk not after the flesh," &c. Walking after the flesh, is the common walk of the world, who are without God and without Christ, but Christ gives no latitude to such a walk. This is a new nature to be in Christ, and therefore it must have new operations, -- to walk after the Spirit. While we look upon the conversations of the most part of men, they may be a commentary to expound this part of the words, what it is to walk after the flesh. "The works of the flesh," saith the apostle, Gal. v.19, "are manifest," -- and indeed they are manifest, because written in great letters on the outside of many in the visible church, that who runs may read them. Do but read that catalogue in Paul, and then come and see them in congregations. It is not so doubtful and subtile a matter, to know that many are yet without the verge of Christ Jesus, without the city of refuge. You may see their mark on their brow. Is not drunkenness, which is so frequent, a palpable evidence of this, -- your envyings, revilings, wrath, strife, seditions, fornications, and such like? O do not deceive yourselves! There is no room in Jesus Christ for such impurities and impieties. There is no toleration of sin within this city and kingdom. Sinners are indeed pardoned, yea received and accepted, drunkards, unclean persons, &c., are not excluded from entering here, -- but they must renounce these lusts, if they would stay here. Christ will not keep both, -- he must either cast out the sin, or the sinner with it, if he will not part with it. I beseech you, know what ye walk after, the flesh is your leader, and whither will it lead you? -- O! it is sad to think on it, -- to perdition, ver.13, "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die." Ye think flesh your great friend, ye do all ye can to satisfy and please it, and, O how pleasant is the satisfaction of your flesh to you! Ye think it liberty to follow it, and count it bonds and cords to be restrained. But, oh! know and consider, that flesh will lead you by the kingdom, that guide of your way, to which you committed yourself, will lead you by heaven, Gal. v.21. It is a blind guide, corruption and humour, and will have no eyes, no discerning of that pit of eternal misery. They choose the way that is best pathed and trodden -- that is easiest, and that most walk into, and this certainly will lead you straight into this pit of darkness. Be called off this way, from following your blind lusts, and rather suffer them to be crucified. Be avenged on them for your two eyes that they have put out, and their treacherous dealing to you, in leading you the high way to destruction. Come in to Jesus Christ, and ye shall get a new guide of the way, -- the Spirit that shall lead you into all truth, unto the blessed and eternal life. Christ is the way ye must walk in, and the life that we must go into at the end of our way, and the truth according to which we must walk. Now he hath given his Spirit, the Comforter, to be our leader in this way, according to this rule and pattern unto that life. In a word the Spirit shall lead you the straight way unto Christ. You shall begin in him, and end in him. He shall lead you from grace to glory. The Spirit that came down from heaven, shall lead you back to heaven. All your walk is within the compass of Christ, -- out of him is no way to heaven.

But we must not take this so grossly, as if no other thing were a walking after the flesh, but the gross abominations among men, though even these will scrape a great number from being in Christ Jesus, but it must be further enlarged, to the motions and affections of the unrenewed spirit, and the common principles according to which men walk. And therefore the apostle, Col. iii., Gal. v., nameth many things among the works of the flesh, and members of the old man, which I doubt whether many will account so of, -- some natural passions that we account nothing of, because common, as anger, wrath, covetousness. What man is there amongst us, in whom some of these mentioned stir not? Many of your hearts and eyes are given to covetousness, your souls bow downward as your bodies do, and many times before your bodies. Is not the heart of men upon this world, and cannot rise above to a treasure in heaven? And therefore your callings otherwise lawful, and all your pains and endeavours in them, hath this seal of the flesh stamped on them, and pass no otherwise with God. We see how rank the corruptions of men are, anger domineering in them, and leading them often captive. And this is counted a light matter, but it is not so in scripture. How often is it branded with folly by the wise man! And this folly is even the natural fleshly corruption that men are born with, and in how many doth it rise up to the elevation of malice and hatred of others? And then it carries the image of the devil, rather than of human infirmity. And if we suppose a man not much given to any of these, yet what a spirit of pride and self love is in every man, even those that carry the lowest sail, and the meanest port among men, -- those that are affable and courteous and those that seem most condescending to inferiors and equals. Yet, alas! this evil is more deeply engraven on the spirit. If a man could but watch over his heart, and observe all the secret reflections of it, all the comparisons it makes, all the desires of applause and favour among men, all the surmises and stirrings of spirit upon any affront, O how would they discover diabolic pride! This sin is the more natural and inbred, for that it is our mother-sin that brought us down from our excellency. This weed grows upon a glass window, and upon a dunghill. It lodges in palaces and cottages. Nay, it will spring and grow out of a pretended humility, and low carriage. In a word, the ambitious designs of men, the large appetite of earthly things, the overweening conceit of ourselves, and love to ourselves, the stirring of our affections, without observing a rule upon unlawful objects, or in an unlawful manner, -- all these are common to men, and men walk after them. Every man hath some predominant or idol, that takes him most up. Some are finer and subtiler than others, some have their pleasures and gains without, others their own gifts and parts within, but both are alike odious before God, and both gross flesh and corruption before him.

There are two errors among men concerning this spiritual walking, -- the one is the doctrine of some in these days, the other is the practical error of many of us. Many pretending to some near and high discoveries, as to Christ and the Spirit, have fallen upon the most refined and spiritualized flesh instead of the Spirit indeed. They separate the Spirit from the word, and reckon the word and law of God, which was a lamp to David's feet, among the fleshly rudiments of the world. But if they speak not "according to the law and to the testimony," saith Isaiah, "it is because there is no light in them." Thus their new light is but an old darkness, that could not endure even the darker light of the prophets. If they speak not according to the word, it is because there is no spirit in them. Is it not the Spirit the Comforter, which Christ promised to send to the apostles, and all that should believe in his name through their word? For that Spirit was a Spirit of truth, that should lead into all truth. And lest men should father their own fancies and imaginations on the Spirit of God, Christ adds, "he shall bring all things to your remembrance" -- those things that Christ hath spoken, and we have here written. The holy apostle to the Colossians, chap. iii. when he reproves the works of the flesh, and declares they had put them off, commends unto them, in opposition to these, "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching one another in psalms and spiritual songs, with grace in your hearts to the Lord," ver.16, -- the Spirit here, not casting out the word, but bringing it in plentifully, and sweetly agreeing with it. The Spirit that Christ sent, did not put men above ordinances, but above corruptions, and the body of death in them. It is a poor and easy victory to subdue grace and ordinances -- every slave of the devil doth that. I fear, as men and angels fell from their own dignity, by aspiring higher, so those that will not be content with the estate of Christ and his apostles, but soar up in a higher strain of spirit, and trample on that ministration as fleshly and carnal, -- I fear they fall from Jesus Christ, and come into greater condemnation. It is true indeed, 2 Cor. iii.6, "the letter killeth," that is, the covenant of works preacheth now nothing but condemnation to men, but the Spirit of the gospel giveth life, nay, even the gospel separated from the Spirit of life in Jesus, is but a savour of death to souls. Shall we therefore separate the Spirit from the gospel and word, because the word alone cannot quicken us? David knew how to reconcile this, -- "Quicken thou me according to thy word," Psal. cxix.25 -- "Thy Spirit is good, lead me into the land of uprightness, quicken me, O Lord," Psal. cxliii.10, 11. The word was his rule, and the Spirit applied his soul to the rule. The word holds out the present pattern we should be conformed unto. Now if there be no more, a man may look all his days on it, and yet not be changed, but the Spirit within, transforms and changes a man's soul to more and more conformity to that pattern, by beholding it. If a man shall shut his eyes on the pattern, he cannot know what he is, and ought to be. If he look only on the Spirit's work within, and make that his rule, he takes an imperfect rule, and an incomplete copy. And yet this is the highest attainment of these aspirers to new light. They have forsaken the word as their rule, and instead of it, have another law within them, as much as is already written on their hearts, which is in substance this, as they suppose, -- I am bound to do no more than I have already power to do; I am not to endeavour more holiness than I have already. These men are indeed perfect here in their own apprehension, and do not know in part, and believe in part, and obey in part, because they are advanced the length of their own law and rule, their rule being of no perfection. Paul was not so, but forgetting what he had attained, he followed on to what was before him, and was still reaching forward. Let not us, my brethren, believe every spirit, and every doctrine that comes out under that name, -- Christ hath forewarned us. Pray for more of that Spirit, which may quicken the word to us, and quicken us to obey the word. There must be a mutual enlivening. The word must be made the ministration of life by the Spirit of Jesus, which can use it as a sword to divide the soul and spirit; and we must be quickened to the obedience of the truth in the word. The word is the seed incorruptible; but it cannot beget us, or be a principle of new life within us, except a living spirit come along to our hearts. Know that the word is your pattern and rule; the Spirit your leader and helper, whose virtue and power must conform you to that rule, 1 Pet. i.22. Peter joins these two, -- the purification and cleansing the soul, which Christ attributes to the word, "Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken," John xv.3. Peter attributes it to the Spirit working according to the pattern of truth. It is true the Spirit of God needs no pattern to look to; nay, but we must have it, and eye it, else we know not the Spirit of truth from a lie and delusion. We cannot try the spirits but by this rule; and it is by making us steadfastly look on this glorious pattern in the word, and the example of Christ Jesus' life, that we are conformed unto Christ, as by the Spirit of the Lord, 2 Cor. iii.13. Certainly that must be fleshly walking, which is rather conformed unto the imaginations of a man's own heart, than the blessed will of God revealed in his word. Can such walking please God, when a man will not so much as hearken to what is God's will and pleasure? As other heresies, so especially this, is a work of the flesh.

Now there is another principle amongst many of us. We account it spiritual walking, to be separated from the gross pollutions of the world, to have a carriage blameless before men. This is the notion that the multitude fancy of it. Be not deceived, -- you may pass the censure of all men, and be unreprovable among them, and yet be but walkers after the flesh. It is not what you are before the world can prove you spiritual men, though it may prove many of you carnal. Your outside may demonstrate of many of you that ye walk after the flesh; and if ye will not believe it, I ask you if ye think drunkenness a walking in the Spirit? Do ye think ye are following the Spirit of God in uncleanness? Is it not that Holy Spirit that purgeth from all filthiness? Look but what your walk is, ye that are not so much as conformed to the letter of the word in any thing; who care not to read the scriptures and meditate on them. Is this walking after the Spirit of truth? If drunkenness, railing, contention, wrath, envy, covetousness, and such like, be the Spirit's way, then I confess many of you walk after the Spirit; but if these be the manifest works of the flesh, and manifestly your way and work, then why dream ye that ye are Christians?

But I suppose, that ye could be charged with none of these outward things; that you had a form of religion and godliness, yet I say, all that is visible before men cannot prove you to be spiritual walkers. Remember it is a Spirit ye must walk after; now, what shall be the chief agent here? Sure, not the body, -- what fellowship can your body have with him that is a Spirit? The body, indeed, may worship that eternal Spirit, being acted by the spirit; but I say, that alone can never prove you to be Christians. We must then lay aside a number of professors, who have no other ground of confidence but such things as may be seen of men; and if they would enter their hearts, how many vain thoughts lodge there! How little of God is there! God is not almost in all our thoughts; we give a morning and evening salutation, but there is no more of God all the day throughout. And is this walking after the Spirit, which imports a constancy? And what part can be spared most, but the spirit of a man? The body is distracted with other necessary things, but we might always spare our souls to God. Now, thus should a man obey that command, -- "pray always." It is impossible that he should do nothing else but pray in an express formal way; but the soul's walking with God, between times of prayer, should compensate that. And thus prayer is continued, though not in itself, yet in meditation on God, which hath in it the seed of all worship, and is virtually prayer and thanksgiving, and all duties.

Let us then consider, if our bodies be not more exercised in religion than our souls, yea, if they be not the chief agents. How many impertinencies, and roveries, and wanderings, are throughout the day? The most part of our conversation, if it be not profane, yet it is vain, that is, unprofitable in the world. It neither advantageth us spiritually, nor glorifies God. It is almost to no purpose; and this is enough to make it all flesh. And for our thoughts, how do they go unlimited and unrestrained? -- like a wild ass, traversing her ways, and gadding about, fixed on nothing, -- at least not on God; nay, fixed on any thing but God. If it be spiritual service, should it not carry the seal of our spirit and affection on it? We are as so many shadows walking, as pictures and statues of Christians, without the soul and life, which consists in the temper and disposition of the spirit and soul towards God.

sermon iii who walk not
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