"So Then they that are in the Flesh Cannot Please God. "
Rom. viii. 8. -- "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God."

It is a kind of happiness to men, to please them upon whom they depend, and upon whose favour their well-being hangs. It is the servant's happiness to please his master, the courtier's to please his prince; and so generally, whosoever they be that are joined in mutual relations, and depend one upon another; that which makes all pleasant, is this, to please one another. Now, certainly, all the dependencies of creatures one upon another, are but shadows unto the absolute dependence of creatures upon the Creator, for in him we live, and move, and have our being: the dependence of the ray upon the sun, of the stream upon the fountain, is one of the greatest in nature; but all creatures have a more necessary connexion with this Fountain-being, both in their being and well-being; they are nothing but a flux and emanation of his power and pleasure, and, as the Psalmist expresseth it, He hides his face and they are troubled; he takes away their breath, and they die, and return to their dust: He sends forth his Spirit, and they are created, and he renews the face of the earth, Psal. civ.29, 30. You may extend this to the being and well-being, the happiness and misery of creatures; our souls which animate our bodies are but his breath which he breathed into the dust, and can retract when he pleaseth; the life of our souls, the peace, and tranquillity, and satisfaction is another breathing of his Spirit, and another look of his countenance; and as he pleases to withdraw it, or interpose between his face and us, so we live or die, are blessed or miserable. Our being or well-being hath a more indispensable dependence on him, than the image in the glass hath upon the living face.

If it be so then, certainly of all things in the world it concerns us nearest how to please him, and to be at peace with him. If we be in good terms with him in whose hands our breath is, and whose are all our ways, (Dan. v.23.) upon whose countenance our misery or felicity hangs, then certainly we are happy. If we please him, it matters not whom we displease; for he alone hath absolute, uncontrolled, and universal power over us, as our Saviour speaks, over both soul and body. We may expect that his good pleasure towards us will not be satisfied, but in communicating his fulness, and manifesting his favour to us, especially since the goodness of God is so exundant,(190) as to overflow even to the wicked world, and vent itself as out of super-abundance, in a river of goodness throughout the whole earth. How much more will it run abundantly towards them whom he is well pleased with. And therefore the Psalmist cries out, as being already full in the very hope and expectation of it, that he would burst, if he had not the vent of admiration and praise, O how great is his goodness, and how excellent his loving-kindness laid up for them that fear him! Psal. xxxii 19. and xxxvi.7. But, on the other hand, how incomparable is the misery of them who cannot please God! even though they did both please themselves and all others for the present. To be at odds with him in whom alone they can subsist, and without whose favour is nothing but wretchedness and misery, O that must be the worst and most cursed estate imaginable: to be in such a state, as do what they can, they cannot please him, whom alone to please is of only concernment, what can be invented(191) to that? Now, if you ask who they are that are such? These words speak it plainly, in way of inference from the former doctrine, "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." Not they in whom there is flesh; for there are remnants of that in the most spiritual man in this life: we cannot attain here to angelic purity, though it should be the aim and endeavour of every Christian. But they that are in the flesh, or after the flesh, imports the predomination of that, and an universal thraldom of nature unto it, which indeed is the state of all men that are but once born, till a second birth come, by the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

The ground of this may be taken from the foregoing discourse, and it is chiefly twofold. One is, because they are not in Jesus Christ, in whom his soul is well pleased; another is, because they cannot suit and frame their carriage according to his pleasure. Since all mankind hath fallen under the displeasure of the most high God, by sinning against him, in preferring the pleasure of the flesh, and the pleasure of Satan, to the pleasure of God, there can be no atonement found to pacify him, no sacrifice to appease him, no ransom to satisfy his justice, but that one perfect offering for sin, Jesus Christ, the propitiation for the sins of the elect world. This the Father accepts in the name of sinners; and in testimony of his acceptance, he did two several times, by a voice from heaven, declare, first to a multitude, (Matth. iii.17.) and then to the beloved disciples, (Matth. xvii.5.) and both times with great majesty and solemnity (as did become him), that this is his well-beloved Son, in whom his soul is well-pleased. It pleased God to make the stream of his love to take another channel after man's sin, and not to run immediately towards wretched man, but he turned the current of his love another way, to his own Son, whom he chose for that end, to reconcile man, and bring him into favor, and his love going about, by that compass, comes in the issue towards poor sinners with the greater force. He hath appointed Christ the meeting place with sinners, the Daysman to lay his hand on both, and therefore he is God to lay his hand on God, and man to lay his hand on man, and bring both into a peaceable and amiable conjunction. Now then, whoever are not in Jesus Christ, as is spoken, certainly they cannot please God do what they can, because God hath made Christ the centre in which he would have the good pleasure of sinners meeting with his good pleasure, and therefore, without faith it is impossible to please God, (Heb. xi.6) not so much for the excellency of the act itself, as for the well pleasing object of it, Christ. The love of the Father is terminate in him, his justice is satisfied in him, his love is well-pleased with the excellency of his person, he finds in him an object of delight, which is nowhere else, and his justice is well pleased with the sufficiency and worthiness of his ransom, and without this compass, there is neither satisfaction to the one, nor to the other, so then, whatsoever you are, how high soever your degree in the world, how sweet soever your disposition let your natures be never so good, your carriage never so smooth, yet certainly there is nothing in all this that can please God, either by an object of love, or a price for justice. You are under that eternal displeasure, which will fall on and crush you to pieces. Mountains will not be so heavy, as it will appear in that great day of his wrath (Rev. vi.). I say, you cannot come from under that imminent weight of eternal wrath unless you be found in Jesus Christ, -- that blessed place of immunity and refuge -- if you have not forsaken yourselves and your own natures, and denied your own righteousness as dung, to be found in him, clothed with his righteousness and satisfaction. If the delight and pleasure of your soul do not coincide and fall in at one place with the delight and good pleasure of the Father, that is, upon his well beloved Son, certainly the pleasure and good will of God hath not as yet fallen upon you, and met with you; therefore, if you would please God, be pleased with Christ, and you cannot do him a greater pleasure than believe in him, (John v.23) that is, absolutely resign yourselves unto him, for salvation and sanctification.

The other ground is, -- Such as are in the flesh cannot frame their spirits, affections, and ways to God's good pleasure, for their very wisdom, the very excellency that is in them, is enmity to God and cannot be subject to his law, and therefore they cannot please him. I am sure you may easily reflect upon yourselves, and find, not with much search, but upon all these, as the prophet (Jer. ii.34) speaks, that it is not the study and business you have undertaken to please God, but the bent and main of your aims and endeavours is to please yourselves, or to please men. This makes many men's pains, even in religion displeasing to God, because they do not indeed mind his pleasure, but their own or other's satisfaction. What they do, is but to conform to the custom of the time, or commandments of men, or their own humour, and all this must needs be abominable to God. Truly, that which is in great account among men, is an abomination to God, as our Saviour speaks of the very righteousness and professed piety of the Pharisees, Luke xvi.15, the more you please yourselves and the world, the further you are from pleasing God. The very beginning of pleasing God is when a soul falls in displeasure at itself, and abhorrence of his own loathsomeness, therefore it is said, The humble and contrite spirit I will look unto, and dwell with him, and such sacrifices do please God, Isa. lxvi.2, Psal. li.17. For the truth is, God never begins to be pleasant and lovely to a soul till it begins to fall out of love with itself, and grow loathsome in its own eyes. Therefore you may conclude this of yourselves, that with many of you God is not well-pleased, although you be all baptized unto Christ, and do all eat of that same spiritual meat, and drink of that same spiritual drink, though you have all church privileges, yet with many of you God is not well pleased, as 1 Cor. x.2-5, not only because those works of the flesh that are directly opposite to his own known will, such as fornication, murmuring, grudging at God's dispensation, cursing and swearing, lying, drunkenness, anger, malice, strife, variance, and such like, abound as much among you as that old people, but even those of you that may be free from gross opposition to his holy will, your nature hath the seed of all that enmity, and you act enmity in a more covered way; you are so well pleased with yourselves, your chief study is to please men, you have not given yourselves to this study, to conform yourselves to the pleasure of God, therefore know your dreadful condition, you cannot please God, without whose favour and pleasure you cannot but be eternally displeased and tormented in yourselves. Certainly, though now you please yourselves, yet the day shall come that you shall be contrary to yourselves and all to you, as it is spoken as a punishment of the Jews, (1 Thess. ii.15) and there is some earnest of in this life. Many wicked persons are set contrary to themselves, and all to them, they are like Esau their hand against all, and all men's hands against them, yea, their own consciences continually vexing them. This is a fruit of that fundamental discord and enmity between men and God, and if you find it not now, you shall find it hereafter.

But as for you that are in Jesus Christ, who being displeased with yourselves, have fled into the well beloved, in whom the Father is well pleased, to escape God's displeasure, I say unto such, your persons God is well pleased with in Christ and this shall make way and place for acceptance to your weak and imperfect performances. This is the ground of your peace and acceptance, and you would take it so, and it shall yield you much peace, when you cannot be pleased with yourselves. But I would charge that upon you, that as you by believing are well pleased with Christ, so you would henceforth study to "walk worthy of your Lord unto all well pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God," Col. i.10. This is that to which you are called, to such a work as may please him, to conform yourselves even to his pleasure and will. If you love him, you cannot but fashion yourselves so as he may be pleased. O how exact and observant is love of that which may ingratiate itself in the beloved's favour! It is the most studious thing to please, and most afraid of displeasing. Enoch had a large and honourable testimony, as ever was given to man, that he pleased God, Heb. xi.5. I beseech you be ambitious of this after a holy manner, labour to know his will, and that for this end, that you may approve it and prove it that you may do that good and acceptable will of God. Let his pleasure be your rule, your law, to which all within you may conform itself. Though you cannot attain an exact correspondence with his pleasure, but in many things you will offend, yet certainly this will be the resolved study of your hearts how to please him, and in as far as you cannot please him, you will be displeased with yourselves. But then, I would advise you, in as far as you are displeased with yourselves for not pleasing God, be as much well pleased with Christ, the pleasing sacrifice and atonement, and this shall please God as much as your obedience could do, or your disobedience can displease him. To him be praise and glory.

sermon xxi the carnal mind
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