Was that not enough to contain men in obedience to God -- the very essential bond of dependence upon God as the original and fountain of his being! And yet man hath cast away this cord from him, and withdrew from that allegiance he did owe to his Maker, by transgressing his holy commandments. But God, not willing that all should perish, hath confirmed and strengthened that primitive obligation by two other as strong if not more. If the Father did most eminently appear in the first, the Son is manifested in the second, and that is the work of the redemption of man, no less glorious than his first creation. He made him first, and then he sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, to make him again by his Spirit, and now a threefold cord is not easily broken. It seems this should bind invincibly, and constrain us not to be our own, but the Lord's, and now truly, they who are in Jesus Christ, are thrice indebted wholly to God. But the two last obligations are the most special and most wonderful, that God sent his Son for us, to redeem us from sin and misery, and to restore man to happiness took on a miserable and accursed habit, -- that so glorious a person gave himself for so base an one, -- that so excellent a Lord became a servant for the rebel, -- that he whose the earth is, and the fulness thereof, did empty himself of all to supply us, -- and in a word, the most wonderful exchange be made that ever the sun saw, God for men, his life a ransom for their life. All the rare inventions and fancied stories of men come infinitely short of this. The light never saw majesty so abased and love so expressed as in this matter, and all to this purpose, that we who had undone ourselves might be made up again, and the righteousness of the law fulfilled in us. At first he made us, but it cost him nothing but a word, but now, to buy that which was taken captive by sin, and at so dear a rate, -- "ye are bought with a price, and this price more precious than the sum of heaven and earth could amount to." Suppose by some rare alchemy the earth were all converted into gold, and the heavens into precious stones, yet these corruptible and material things come as far short of this ransom as a heap of dung is unproportioned to a mass of gold or heap of jewels. Now, you that are thus bought, may ye not conclude, "therefore we are debtors," and whereof? Of ourselves, for we, our persons, estates, and all were sold, and all are bought with this price, therefore we are not our own, but the Lord's, and, therefore, we ought to "glorify God in our bodies and spirits which are his," 1 Cor. vi.20. Should we henceforth claim an interest and propriety in ourselves? Should we have a will of our own? Should we serve ourselves with our members? O how monstrous and absurd were that! Certainly, a believing heart cannot but look upon that as the greatest indignity and vilest impiety that ever the sun shined upon. Ingratitude hath a note of ignominy, even among heathens, put upon it. They esteemed the reproach of it the compend of all reproaches, ingratum si dixeris, omnia dixeris. And truly it hath the most abominable visage of any vice, yea, it is all sins drawn through other(208) in one table. Certainly a godly heart cannot but account this execrable and detestable, henceforth to have any proper and peculiar will and pleasure, and cannot but devote itself wholly to his will and pleasure, for whose pleasure all were first created, and who then redeemed us by the blood of his Son. I wish we could have this image of ingratitude always observant to our eyes and minds when we are enticed with our lusts to study our own satisfaction. But there is another bond superadded to this, which mightily aggravates the debt. He hath given us his Spirit to dwell within, as well as his Son for us. And O the marvellous and strange effects that this Spirit hath in the favours of men! He truly repairs that image of God which sin broke down. He furnisheth the soul and supplies it in all its necessities. He is a light and life to it, -- a spring of everlasting life and consolation. So that to the Spirit we owe that we are made again after his image, and the precious purchase of Christ applied unto our souls. For him hath our Saviour left to execute his latter will in behalf of his children. And these things are but the first-fruits of the Spirit. Any peace, or joy, or love, or obedience, are but an earnest of that which is coming. We shall be yet more beholden to him. When the walls of flesh are taken down, he will carry forth the soul into that glorious liberty of the sons of God, and not long after he shall quicken our very dust, and raise it up in glory to the fellowship of that happiness. Now, my beloved, consider what all this tends to, -- mark the inference you should make from it. "Therefore we are debtors," debtors indeed, under infinite obligations for infinite mercies. But what is the debt we owe? Truly it might be conceived to be some rare thing, equivalent to such unconceivable benefits. But mark what it is, "To live after the Spirit, and not after the flesh," to conform our affections and actions, and the tenor of our way and course to the direction of the Spirit, to have our spirits led and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and not to follow the indictment of our flesh and carnal minds. Now, truly, it is a wonder that it is no other thing than this, for this is no other thing than what we owe to ourselves, and to our own natures, so to speak, for truly there is a conformity and suitableness of some things to the very nature of man that is beautiful, -- some things are decent and becomes it, other things are undecent and uncomely, unsuitable to the very reasonable being of man, so that they put a stain and blot upon it.
Now, indeed, there is nothing can be conceived more agreeable to the very constitution of man's nature than this, that the far better and more excellent part should lead and command, and the baser and earthly part should obey and follow. That the flesh should minister and serve the spirit, "doth not even nature itself teach it?" And yet no heavier yoke is put upon us than what our own nature hath put upon us already, which indeed is wonderful! And certainly this wonderful attempering of his laws unto the very natural exigence of the spirit of man, makes the transgression of them so much the more heinous.
Now, all these three forementioned bonds do jointly bind on this law upon man. In general they oblige strongly to subjection and obedience to the will of God, but particularly, they have a constraining influence upon this living "after the Spirit," and not "after the flesh." Our very creation speaks this forth, when God made man after his own image, when he beautified the spirit of man with that divine similitude and likeness, in that he breathed a spirit from heaven, and took a body out of the dust, and then exalted that heavenly piece to some participation of his own nature. Doth not all this cry aloud upon us, that the order of creation is now dissolved, -- that the beauty of it is marred, -- that all is turned upside down, -- when men's passions and senses are their only guides, and the principles of light in their conscience are choked and stifled? Doth not all this teach us plainly that we should not "live after the flesh," -- that we owe not so much to this brutish part as to enthrone it and empower it over us, -- that it were vilest anarchy, and most intolerable confusion and usurpation, to give it the power over us, as most men do, -- that there can be no order or beauty in man till the spirit be unfettered from the chains of fleshly lusts, and restored to the native dignity, and so keep the body in subjection? And, indeed, Paul was so, 1 Cor. ix.27. "I keep my body in subjection, and beat it down, because it is an imperious slave, -- an usurping slave, -- and will command, if not beaten and kept under."
Again, Christ, hath put a bond upon us to this very same. He hath strengthened this obligation with a new cord, in that he gave his precious life a ransom for the souls of men. This was the principal thing he paid for -- the body only being an accessory and appendix to the soul -- for it is said, "The redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever," Psal. xlix.8, and, "What can a man give in exchange for his soul," Mark viii.37. For what material thing can equalize a spirit? Many things may be had more precious and fine than the body, but all of them have no proportion to a spiritual being. Now, then, in that so dear a ransom, and so infinite a price must be given for the spirit of man, it declares the infinite worth and excellency of it above the body, and above all visible things. And here is, indeed, the greatest confirmation that can be imagined. God hath valued it, he hath put the soul of man in the balance, to find something equal in weight of dignity and worth and when all that is in heaven and earth is put in the other scale, the soul is down weight by far. There is such distance that there is no proportion; only the life and blood of his own Son weighs it down, and is an overvalue, and thus, in our redemption, we have a visible demonstration -- as it were -- of the infinite obligation of this law, not to live after that contemptible part, our flesh, but to follow after the motions and directions of an enlightened spirit, not to spend our thoughts, care, and time, upon the body, and making provision for the lusts thereof -- as most men do, and all by nature are now inclined to do -- but to be taken up with the immortal precious jewel that is within, how to have it rubbed and cleansed from all the filth that sin and the flesh hath cast upon it, and restored to that native beauty, the image of God in righteousness and holiness. If you, in your practice and affection, turn the scales otherwise, and make the body and things of the body, suppose the whole world, down-weight in your affection and imagination, you have plainly contradicted the just measure of the sanctuary, and, in effect, you declare that "Christ died in vain," and gave his life out of an error and mistake of the worth of the soul. You say he needed not have given such a price for it, seeing every day you weigh it down with every trifle of momentary fleshly satisfaction.
Lastly, The Spirit binds this fast upon us, for the soul of man he hath chosen for his habitation, and there he delights to dwell, in the heart of the contrite and humble, and this he intends to beautify and garnish, and to restore it to that primitive excellency it once had. The spirit of man is nearer his nature, and more capable of being conformed unto it, and therefore his peculiar and special work is about our spirits. First, to enlighten and convince them, then, to reform and direct them and lead them, and this binds as forcibly, and constraineth a believer certainly to resign himself to the Spirit, to study how to order his walk after that direction, and to be more and more abstracted from the satisfaction of his body; else he cannot choose but grieve the Spirit, his best friend, which alone is the fountain of joy and peace to him, and being grieved, cannot but grieve himself next.
Now, my beloved, consider, if you owe so much to the flesh, whether or not it be so steadable(209) and profitable unto you? And if you think it can give you a sufficient reward to compense all your pains in satisfying it, go on, but, I believe, you can reckon no good office that ever it did you, and your expectation is less. What fruit have you of all, but shame and vexation of conscience? And what can you expect but death, the last fruits of it? What then do you owe unto it? Are you debtors to its pleasure and satisfaction, which hath never done you good, and will do you eternal hurt? Consider whether you are so much bound and obliged to it as to lose your souls for it, (one of them must be,) and whether or not you be not more obliged to God the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ, to "live after the Spirit," though for the present it should be painful to beat down your body. You are debtors indeed, but you owe nothing to the flesh but stripes and mortification.