Of the different judgement that Faith and Flesh passe upon Afflictions.
2 COR. 1. 8.
WE have already considered this trouble which came upon Paul in Asia, in respect of the occasion of it. Let us proceed to the Aggravation of it; For out of the strong cometh sweet. From this affliction con∣quered doth arise much encouragement and consolation to those that are follow∣ers of Paul.
And in the Description, we have the Aggravation of it from the Quan∣tity:
- 1. We were pressed out of measure.
- 2. The Quality, Above measure.
- 3. From the Event, So that we despaired of life. And in the next verse it is further illustrated from a two-fold end; of which in its time.
Let us take notice of the first particular; wherein we have this trouble height∣ned, viz. from the Quantity or Extension of it, It was above measure,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. The word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, is applied sometimes to the en∣during of a burden, Matth. 20. 12. Gal. 6. 2. whether it be a temporal burden, or a spiritual. Sometimes it is applied to the heavinesse of the eyes by drowsiness, Mark 14. 40. In this place it seemeth to be taken from Porters, who have a burden imposed upon them more than they are able to stand under: or as Chry∣sostome, from ships who are overmuch burdened, and so are in danger of being lost: And as if there were not emphasis enough in the word pressed, he addeth Page 270 another to aggravate it, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. Pareus saith, The Scripture never useth an hyperbole, because that strictly taken is a lie. But this opinion can∣not be justified, neither is an hyperbole, if you do regard the intention of the speaker a lie. For such an expression he meaneth not so much the thing sig∣nified by the words; as when the Evangelist saith, The world would not contain all the books that might be written about Christs deeds; but thereby to represent to the Reader some further degree, then ordinarily is in other things. But the Apostle doth not here speak of a verbal hyperbole, but a real one, that which was above expression. The Apostle useth this expression, when he speaketh of the riches of Gods grace and power to believers, 2 Cor. 9. 14. Ephes. 2. 7. Eph. 1. 19. No ordinary expression will serve Paul, when he cometh to speak of the admirable, and wonderfull riches of Gods grace, to those that do believe in him. As he thus speaketh of the grace of the Gospel, so also of his own sinful∣nesse, both original and actual, there is an hyperbole in both, Rom. 7. 13. Ori∣ginal sinne improved and excited by the Commandment, is said to be 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Above measure sinfull; and for his actual wickednesse and im∣piety, Gal. 1. 13. there he saith, He did〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, persecute the Church, but when he cometh to speak of the glory in Heaven, there one hyperbole will not serve, according to that of Luther, Coelum & infernus, non patiuntur hyper∣bolen; but there he addeth, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉.
By the expression then in the Text we see, That this trouble the Apostle was exercised with, was no little inferiour trouble, but that which was of the most pressing nature that could be, that was out of measure heavy and burdensome.
But you will say, How doth this agree with that which we have Paul speak∣ing in the 4th Chapter of this Epistle, where he calleth all the afflictions that do befall the godly, light, Our light affliction, vers. 17. Can it be light, and yes out of measure heavy also?
It may be answered and reconciled thus, It is called light in respect of everla∣sting * glory. So that although it be exceeding heavy and pressing in it self, yet if compared with the weight of glory hereafter, so it is light. Or
Secondly, It may be answered, By distinguishing of the times, when Paul cal∣leth his affliction heavy, it relateth to the time, that he was exercised with it. For Christianity doth not require Stoicism, yea patience is the more admirable, by how much the more apprehensive we are of the trouble upon us. Thus the Apostle, Heb. 12. 11. No chastisement is joyous for the present, but grievous. Or,
Thirdly, We may speak of afflictions when they are over, when we are de∣livered from them, and find the great good they have done to us, then we may call them light, and judge them nothing to the benefit we received by them. But
In the fourth place, I conceive that the most genuine answer is, That Paul doth here speak of his trouble according to the sense and apprehension of his flesh; even as afterwards he saith, It was above his strength, that is, his hu∣mane, natural strength, as will appear afterwards. If therefore flesh and blood be consulted with, then Paul saith, It is an affliction above measure; but then at vers. 17. of the 2 Cor. 4. as also in other places, he speaketh according to the workings of faith, and the operations of Gods Spirit within him. So that a godly man speaketh one thing according to the flesh, and another thing ac∣cording to the Spirit. That is bitter and heavy to the flesh, which may be sweet * and welcome to the Spirit. From whence observe,
That godly men judge otherwise of their afflictions by the principles of sense and flesh in them, then they do by the principles of grace and reason in them.
Page 271Paul calleth it, An affliction above measure, in the lower sphere of na∣ture; but again he calleth it, A light one, in the higher sphere of grace. Even as an Astronomer, beholding the Sunne with his bodily eye, judgeth it lesse than the Earth; but then again, beholding it with the instruments of Art, doth conclude, that it is many degrees bigger than the Earth. Thus the godly man, while he thinketh and speaketh according to the law of the flesh within him, he cryeth out of his burdens, he is discontented at them, he look∣at them as destructive: but then again, when the same man considereth them by the principles of faith, and Scripture-grounds, then he seeth that those stones may be turned into bread; and from these thorns he may gather grapes. Even as we see in Christ, because he had two distinct Natures in a personal Union; therefore we say, Christ died, Christ was in agonies, and that because of his humane Nature; yea it is called, The blood of God. And again on the other side, Christ is said to be God, to create the world, to raise himself from the dead, and that because of his Divine Nature. As he was Sonne of God, so he was full of power and might upon the earth; As he was the Sonne of man, so he was subject to weaknesse and infirmi∣ty. Now here was no impossibility or repugnancy, that it should be thus different with Christ under several respects. Thus also it is with every mem∣ber of Christ; As he is born of God, so he puts forth divine and gracious operations; but as he doth still retain some reliques of his old birth: So there are sinfull and infirm actions coming from him. Therefore when a godly man doth any thing, we must consider from what fountain it is, either the sweet fountain, or the bitter fountain that it sloweth from.
To discover this truth: *
First, We must know, That in every regenerate man, there are two selfes, (as it were) the carnal self, and the spiritual self; From which issue all the works we do, Galat. 5. 17. and also Rom. 7. For although Amyraldus. Expos. in cap. 7. ad Rom. (yet professing both against Socinians and Arminians) doth industriously labour to understand it of a man only legally wrought upon, and that it would be a dishonour to Paul, and injurious to the work of Sancti∣fication, to affirm, That Paul speaketh those things in his own person while regenerated: yet by that Text in the Galatians, Chap. 5. 17. it is plain, That those who are godly like Rebeccah, have these two twins struggling in their womb; and that as a man consisting of soul and body, we may say, he is mor∣tal and immortal, visible and invisible; in different respects mortal and visible, in respect of his body; but immortal and invisible, in respect of his soul. Thus also it is with a godly man in a theological consideration; he hath both corru∣ption and grace, he hath both flesh and spirit. Now although this be so, yet a godly man is not to be called an unregenerate person, as well as a rege∣nerate; a sinner and a wicked person, as well as holy: Because denomina∣tions are alwayes from the more noble part; and this corruption, though remaining, yet is to be subdued and conquered. Even as Canaan might be called the possession and inheritance of the Israelites, although many Je∣busites did still continue therein, and could not be cast out. Let not then any godly man look for such perfection in this life, as to have only one principle within him, and that of grace. Do not look that it should be al∣together as the Spirit will have it in thee, not finding the least oppositi∣on, or renitency from the flesh: No, this estate is to be enjoyed onely in Heaven.
Secondly, As these two selfes, or principles are in a man that is regene∣rate,*so they doe actually oppose and contradict one another. Hence cometh that Christian combate and conflict which the godly find within themselves. Page 272 Not like that of the Heathens, Aristotles incontinent person, or the Poets Medea, a conflict between reason, and their lusts only. But this opposi∣tion is universal and diffusive in every part of the soul. The carnal part in the mind opposeth the spiritual. The carnal part of the will contradict∣eth the spiritual. So that they have heart against heart, affections against affections. We are not therefore to conceive of these two principles, as dormant and latitant in the soul, but they are as fire and water in the same subject, labouring to expell each other; and according to the three-fold estate or degree, that we may conceive in persons regenerate, so is this fight and congress more or lesse vehement.
The first degree is of such who are newly converted. These although in Regeneration, they have the seed and root of all grace, yet because of their former custom in evil wayes cannot so immediately conquer and subdue their lusts; and therefore like children that begin to walk, because of their feebleness they get many fals.
A second degree is of those, who are in some measure proficients, and have obtained much victory over sinne. And although in such there be many combates, yet grace hath the possession of the whole man, notwithstanding the many assaults made against it. And then
Lastly, There are such, whom the Scripture calls perfect, not absolutely; but comparatively to others, because they are as Gyants, when others are but Dwarfs; these are said, To have their senses exercised to discern between good and evil. Now such, although they do overcome the world, and the Devil by faith, yet they are not free from this combate within. It is true, some think, that though it be granted that Paul, Rom. 7. speaketh in the person of a regenerate man, yet it is of one in the lowest forme, that is but newly come into the state of Christianity. And Amyraldus doth therefore think Paul cannot mean those things of himself, because he had attained to an higher degree of grace: Insomuch that he inviteth others to follow him, and to take him for an example. Hence he is said to know nothing by himself: Whereby the same Authour concludeth, That there would be no blame or fault to be found with that man, who should say, Paul had as much grace here in this life, as some shall have in the world to come. But although we grant Paul to be among other Chri∣stians, like Saul among other men, higher by the shoulders, yet that he did find the rebellion and corruption of the flesh debasing his best duties, appeareth by his accounting all things drosse, and desiring to be found in the righteousnesse of Christ, Phil. 3. 8. So that while these endeavour to exalt the sanctifying grace of God in Paul, they eclipse his justifying; and while they advance his inherent righteousnesse, they obscure his imputed righteousnesse. Whether Paul then, or any other eminent servant of God, They all find a law of sinne within them, rebelling against the law of the mind; by which they look upon themselves as miserable captives, and do groan for a perfect and full redemption by Christ.
Thirdly, These two principles therefore not onely residing in them, but act∣ing*contrarily, it is very necessary in a Christian, exactly to observe, to what mother (as it were) the child doth belong. To which principle thou art to attribute thy actions. For the not duly dividing and separating here, doth many times cause great confusion in the godly soul. We see it many times in David's Psalmes, that there are such different expressions, some∣times of faith and joy, and then again of diffidence and dejection, that we would not think the Psalme was made by the same man; we would think there were contradictions, and all, because sometimes it is the voice of Esau, and sometimes the voice of Jacob, (as I may so say;) Some∣times Page 273 grace speaketh, and sometimes the filth speaketh. In the Disciples al∣so our Saviour taketh notice of this, and thereby excuseth them, saying, The Spirit is willing, Matth. 26. 41. Now although it is very necessary in all our practicals to go to the bottome, to know what is of the flesh, and what is of the Spirit; yet in the matter of afflictions, and our bearing of them, there we are much more to attend to it. For afflictions being grievous to flesh and blood, draweth out the corruptions thereof very much. So that the voice of the flesh is many times farre louder than the voice of the Spirit, which ma∣keth the godly ready to conclude, that they are nothing but flesh, that they have not the Spirit of Christ dwelling in them, because they feel so much distrust, so much diffidence and disquietness of heart within them.
More usefull particulars are to be insisted upon; only for the present, let those who truly fear God, make this Use of the Doctrine, viz. Not to conclude con∣cerning their estate, as if it were wholly carnal, because they feel the struglings and motions of sinfull flesh within them; let them not despair, if they feel that they cannot alwayes keep up spiritual apprehensions about their afflictions; if they cannot say, I bless God for these chastisements, I see the great advantage cometh to me by them. Though they appear like anger, yet they are indeed the effects of love. If this be not alwayes the blessed and serene disposition of thy soul, but thy flesh like Job's wife provoketh thee to charge God foolishly, to be impatient and diffident; remember that you have a two-fold self, a carnal self, and a spiritual self; one saith one thing, and another saith another thing. It is as impossible to have a mans own heart free f•om divisions, as it is for the Church of God. That which faith saith is light, flesh saith is heavy. That which faith rejoyceth at, flesh repineth at. Thus it hath been, and thus it will be with the generation of those that seek God.