THe next Proposition that may give light to the weighty truth about the spiritual conflict that is in the most regenerate persons is this, That be∣sides the reasons formerly produced, and many others which might be named, there are two famous places of Scripture, which do most signally and eminent∣ly declare such a combate in the most holy men. The first is this of my Text, which hath sufficiently been explained and vindicated from corrupt Interpreta∣tions. And truly the light of this Text shineth so clearly, that there are very few who are not convinced that this speaketh of the fight which regenerate per∣sons find in themselves between those two contrary principles of the Spirit and flesh which are within them. The second place, which doth so firmly establish such a conflict in those who by grace are made new creatures, is Rom. 7. from v. 14. to the end of the Chapter, where we have a most palpable delineation of this duel that is fought in the inwards of a godly man; but that place is not so freely consented unto, as this Text I am upon.
Page 484 Now because the clearing of that is of special use, and because it is of such affinity with my Text, I shall inlarge my self (for I will not call it a digression) in the full explication of that part of the Chapter, shewing, How that it must be a regenerate person, and him only of whom those things are there spoken. And you will find that the distinct opening of that portion of Scripture will afford us many necessary things both for Instruction, Consolation and Admonition, and all immediately adhering to this point I am now upon. This I intend to di∣spatch in several particulars, which will be as so many branches growing from the flock of that Proposition I have already named. And
First, You are to know, that the Discourse which Paul there useth concern∣ing the combate within himself, is by some interpreted, as if Paul, though he name himself, Yet doth not mean himself, while regenerated, but while unregene∣rated. So that (say they) Paul doth therein take upon himself the person of one that is not yet in the state of grace. This they conceive must necessarily be so, because such a person is said to be carnal and sold under sinne. The flesh is alwayes said to have the better, whereas regenerate persons they have crucified the flesh and the Spirit; And the Law of the Spirit of life hath freed them from the Law of sinne and death, Rom. 8. 2. Onely when they expound it of an unregenerate person, they distinguish of such,
1. One who is grosly ignorant and prophane, wallowing in his sinnes in a most senslesse and stupid manner, whose conscience are wholly dead within them; and such are carried out to sinne with all impetuousness, having no check or re∣morse of conscience within them, of such the Apostle doth not speak. But
2. There are others who are in a Legal state, under the powerfull convictions and operations of the Law, as Amyraldus expresseth it: Men who besides the meer knowledge of the Law have by the efficacy of Gods Spirit the convincing power of it so set home, that now their inlightned minds do greatly incline them to that which is good; but because their hearts are not sanctified, their affections are not mortified, therefore these lusts do hurry them away against those legal convictions that are upon them; or as Arminius expresseth it (in cap. 7. ad Rom.) not in a much different way, the Apostle speaketh of one, who is in some preparatory way to conversion. By the Law he is so farre wrought upon, that he is afraid because of his sinnes, he cryeth out of them, mourneth because of them, hath many wishes and desires: Oh that I could leave these lusts, I do not like or consent to such evil things that I do! Thus this person is supposed to have a servile fear, which is initial to the work of conversion. And this frame of spirit, although it be not regeneration, yet is to be reckoned among the good and spiritual gifts of God.
In the second place, There are others who do zealously contend, that that discourse cannot be applied to any, but a regenerate person; and to understand it otherwise would be to plunge the godly in a deep gulph of discouragements, and to attribute such things to unregenerate persons, which those that are truly sanctified cannot go beyond; And this way Austin, and others of old do, wil∣lingly go. Yea most of the Popish Interpreters, Estius, Contzen, Pererius, Sasb•lt, &c. Tolet is taken notice of, as the most eminent dissenter. The Lu∣therans also generally, and the Calvinists, yea most Protestant Writers. Even Musculus, whom the adversaries of this Interpretation do so much alledge in this point, and labour to decline all suspicion by his name, yet doth clearly and fully expound it of a man truly regenerated and converted, but in the lowest degree and initials of grace; although in the lowest form, yet sanctified and regenerated he confesseth him to be. Arminius and Amyraldus have indeed in a peculiar manner set themselves against this Exposition. Yea there is an Eng∣lish Writer, who goeth so high, as to call the explication of this portion of Scripture, as spoken in the person of a regenerate man, An encouragement of an evil life, and a scorn cast upon the holy Ghost; yea that it is verbum dictum contra Spiritum sanctum. (Vnum Necessarium, chap. 7. pag. 456.) But here∣in he followeth Arminius, out of whom also he seemeth to borrow all that he hath in this point of any appearing strength and validity. In cap. 7. ad Rom. where he would have it considered, whether this fight described here in the Text, can be attributed to the Spirit of God, Citra apertam gratiae Christi, & ejus Spiritus contumeliam & ignominiam. And a little after, Constabit diligenter inspicienti, citra enorme Spiritus sancti dedecus, illi luctam istam attribui non posse. Thus Aristotles speech is very true, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Ethi•. lib. 7. cap. 10. Yea the late Annotatour is so farre from thinking, That doing the ill we would not, and the not doing the good we would, to be a fit ingredient in the character of a regenerate man, that he maketh it the aggravation of a wic∣ked man. Thus he saith, The Heathens made the highest pitch of villany in Me∣deas person, when she is said to see and like that which was good, and do the direct contrary. So that it should seem by this, That the Annotatour would think Arminius, and those who think this Discourse to be understood of a man in a preparatory way to conversion, and as it were not farre from the kingdom of God, to yeeld too much: We must rather look upon it as spoken in the person of some enormious and transcendent sinner: but I think herein he is primus and solus. Besides his assertion is against Aristotle, who writing of the incon∣tinent person, that in some respects knoweth the actions to be sinnes, yet doth them, saith notwithstanding, that he is not a wicked man, but 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a se∣mi-wicked man, Ethic. lib. 7. cap. 9. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. But concerning this sin∣ning against knowledge in a regenerate person, as also the collation of him with an incontinent person more hereafter. Only by the way we may wonder, why Page 486 the above mentioned Annotatour in his Annotations on this place, is so industri∣ous to prove this passage cannot be meant of a regenerate person, from verse the eighth and the ninth in this Chapter, where it's said, Sinne wrought all man∣ner of concupiscence in him, that sinne revived and he died. For surely he cannot but know, That none of the Dissenters from him in this Exposition, do apply those verses to a regenerate man; but that the application to such a person begin∣neth at the fourteenth verse, or else as Calvin, at the fifteenth verse; But it is not so material to know what men say, as what may be evinced out of the Chapter it self. Only we may adde, That the Socinian is likewise very stiff and zealous in the Interpretation of this Chapter concerning a non-regenerate person. Yea the Polonian Knight, that writeth the life of Socinus, would have us take no∣tice of a wonderfull work of God, convincing an eminent man of this Expositi∣on; for thus he relateth, Pag. 21.
Thirdly, We cannot say it is heresie and an errour in fundamentals, to expound this place of an unregenerate person; yet as the grounds and reasons may be, such an exposition may be either heretical, or bordering thereupon. For there are two prin∣ciples, which may be supposed, upon which the Exposition of this Discourse concerning an unregenerate person may be built; for either some will not un∣derstand it of a regenerate person, Because they think it opposeth perfection in this life, whereas they think a man may and ought to be altogether pure and without sinne in this life; or else they do acknowledge the imperfection of out regeneration, and the reliques of original sinne abiding in us, whereby we are not able to answer the purity and holiness of the Law: Only they think this is not a proper place to prove such a truth, but is rather injurious to the grace of God work∣ing in believers. And in the number of these later Arminius doth acknowledge himself: Now if such men be real in what they say, and do not secretly nourish some monster within, till they have a fit time to bring it forth, they are not much to be blamed. For as long as they agree in the true Doctrine, though they differ in the Texts, that do prove it, that is not so material. Certainly Cal∣vin was most unjustly traduced by Hunnius the Lutheran, for Judaizing and de∣nying the Trinity; yet he did not think that Doctrine was to be proved out of every Text, that the Ancients did make use of. But then to deny the exposition of this place concerning a regenerate person, Because they hold perfection in this life, and an immunity from sinne, for which end the Pelagians of old did seem to oppose it; yea and that this perfection was to be obtained by our own free-will, this may justly be looked upon as heretical, Upon which account Castalio is inexcusa∣ble, for he interpreteth it of an unregenerate man, only subject to the Law, meerly to establish perfection; affirming, that the old man is wholly crucified in this life, denying Christs imputed righteousness, and affirming men may be without sinne. (De Justific. pag. 67. & frequenter alibi.) This is certain that the true Exposition of this place doth powerfully overthrow the Doctrine of perfection in this life: For if a Paul doth find this civil warre within himself; if Page 487Paul creep thus upon the ground comparatively to the admirable holiness requi∣red in the Law, who then may not have cause to be humbled for that spiritual agony he feeleth within himself?
Fourthly, Although we affirm this later part of the Chapter is to be under∣stood of a regenerate person, yet we also acknowledge, that a Minister is to manage this truth with much wisdom and dexterity, that so the Doctrine of imper∣fection in regenerate persons, may not be an occasion to •ull men a sleep in their lazinesse, that hereby they do not content themselves with incompleat and sluggish wishes in the wayes of holinesse. If any do abuse this Doctrine to lukewarmness or indulgence in sinfull wayes, saying, their estate is like Paul's the evil they would not do, they do: This is not the fault of the Doctrine, but either of the Minister, who doth not wisely dispense it; or of the hearer, who doth wilfully suck poison out of the sweet herb: Even as the whole Doctrine of the Gospel, and Gods grace, may be abused to licentiousness. It is true, that the proper character of Christianity is, That it is an acknowledgement of the truth, which is after godlinesse, Tit. 1. 1. And certainly there is no point may more quicken up to godliness, s•ur on the most holy to greater growth in piety, then this truth about the imperfection of the graces, that are in the best; and also that we have a treacherous enemy within us (the reliques of original sinne) which without daily watching and praying, will quickly plunge us into confusion, Now the Minister of Christ will so handle this Exposition, though of a regene∣rate person, very profitably and advantagiously to the increase of godliness, if he adde these qualifications to his Interpretation:
1. That the evil which this person is said to do, is not to be understood of grosse and enormieus crimes, but partly of the very motions to sinne within us, and sometimes a consent thereunto, and (it may fall out so, as to be) an acting of them in our lives; but this is not of grosse sinnes, or if of a foul sinne, yet not continued in, but with repentance and greater hatred recovered out of it. Unlesse the Preacher do thus limit his Exposition, he leaveth the battlements without rails, he doth not fence against the pit wherein some may fall. Let no man therefore think that this passage of Pauls is to be extended to grosse sinnes, as if many prophane sinners, who sinne, and their consciences check them, and then they sinne again and have remorse again, could take any comfort from these places, as if they might say with Paul, It is not I, but sinne that dwelleth in me; The evil that I would not, that I grieve for, in the temptation, I do: Oh take heed of abusing the holy Word of God to such corrupt ends! Austin some where speaketh to this occasion, when this part of Paul's Epistle was read, I fear (saith he) left this may be ill understood, but let none think, as if Paul's meaning was, he would be chaste, but he was an adulterer, he would be mercifull, but he was cruel, &c. Thus it would be very dangerous to interpret this passage of grosse sinnes, and yet it cannot be denied, but that men who sinne grosly, yet with some remorse and grief of conscience are apt to cover themselves with these fig-leaves, and think this is sanctuary safe enough to runne unto, that though they do sinne, yet it is not with full consent and delight. Arminius affirmeth (in cap. 7. ad Rom. pag. 753. as he saith, Verè & sanctè)
Secondly and lastly, This Exposition will be advantagiously managed for godliness, 〈…〉 also inform, That Paul doth not here speak of every particular temptation, as if in every conflict he had the worse, and the flesh had the better; but he speaks of good and evil in the general, and that in the whole course of his con∣versation. In the general his heart was set upon the good commanded, and against the evil forbidden, but yet he could never attain to his fulness of desire, though in several combars, the spirit might and did conquer the flesh. And certainly the Arminians, who will hold us to the rigid letter, as if this person never had he better, no not at any time in any sinne, must take heed of that fault they charge upon us (viz.) that they be not injurious to the grace of God, even according to their own Exposition; for they acknowledge those workings of the Law in this person against sinne, are from the Spirit of God: These are the good gift of God, and although they come not from the Spirit, as regenerating, yet as moving and preparing the heart for Regeneration. Now will it not be derogatory to say, that in this conflict the Spirit of God is over∣come in every conflict, that at no time he cannot do the good he would? This is to make the conflict of a man in this legal estate inferiour to Aristotle's incontinent person, who hath only the meer light of natural reason to help him; for he compareth (Lib. 7. Ethic. cap. 9.) intemperance to the disease of a Dropsie or Consumption, because incurable, but incontinency to the falling-sickness, because curable. And then because the former is continual, the later some∣times only. If then in very Heathens, whose conflict is only between a natu∣ral conscience, and their lusts, conscience doth sometimes prevail, their lusts do not alwayes overcome; Shall we think lesse is done by the Spirit of God in Page 489 them, who are in this legal conflict? It is true, if we speak of perfect obedi∣ence to the Law of God: so at all times in all things, the Law of sinne within a godly man doth retard and make him to come short; but then in particular combates, there the flesh doth not alwayes prevail; only the Apostle instanceth in the tyranny of sinne, and not the dominion of grace, because hereby he would inform the Jews how much they were to sigh and groan under this bur∣den, and thereupon to have higher thoughts of Christ. For seeing there were two things that did keep them off from Christ, The ignorance of the power of original sinne, and a desire to find out a righteousness by the works of the Law: The Apostle doth take an excellent way to cure them of these two evils, by shew∣ing what deep root original sinne hath in the most holy, and how opposite and fighting it is against the grace of God within us, insomuch that we cannot have our full comfort but in Christ alone.