Of the Combate between the Flesh and Spirit.
ROM. 7. 17.
THis excellent Chapter, which containeth the heart and life of the Doctrine of Original Sinne, so that it may be called the Divine Map thereof, describing all the parts and extents of it, will afford us many testimonies for the confirmation of it.
We therefore proceed to another name that we find here de∣scribed to us in this Text, viz. The sinne that dwelleth in us. The Apostle you heard (as we take for granted) doth here speak in his own person, and so of every regenerate man, that there is a conflict, and a combate between the flesh and the Spirit. In all such there are two Twins strugling in the womb of the soul, which causeth much grief and trouble of heart, which the Apostle doth in a most palpable and experimental manner relate in this passage, vers. 15. That which I do, I allow not; for what I would, that I do not, but what I hate, that I do. Now you must understand this aright, lest it prove a stumbling bl•ck, For,
First, The Apostle speaks not this, as a man meerly convinced, but yet carried away with strong corruptions; This is not to patrocinate those who live in sinnes against their conscience, but have some check and bitter reluctancy sometimes, so that they can say sometimes, I do the things I allow not, yea I hate; When the Apostle, Rom. Chap. 1. and Chap. 2. speaketh of some Heathens, that had their consciences accusing of them, and that they detained the truth in unrighteousnesse, he supposeth, That those who yet never tasted of the power of the Gospel, may have such truth and light in their consciences, that it shall suggest what is to be done, yet love to their lusts will hurry them the contrary way, but as in time is to be shewed, the combate between reason, and the sensitive appetite, is a farre different thing from the conflict between the flesh and the spirit in the godly.
Neither secondly must you understand Paul speaking of gross and foul sins, as if when he said, The evil he would not, that he doth, were to be understood of scandalous and wicked enormities; No, but it is to be interpreted of those motions Page 88 to sinne, and constant infirmities, which cleave to the most holy. Let not there∣fore any prophane person, that customarily walloweth in his impieties, excuse himself with this, It is true, I am such a beast, I do such soul things sometimes, but I may say with Paul, The things that I allow not, yea that I hate, those I do. This is to turn honey into poyson; This is to make the Scripture an incentive to thy impiety; No, Paul, and such as thou art, differ as much as the Sunne and a dunghill; Paul did not mean, the drunkenness, the uncleanness that he would not do, that he did, but he meaneth such corruptions and infirmities that imme∣diately flow from the polluted nature within us, from which we are never through∣ly cleansed in this life.
Thirdly, Neither when the Apostle saith, The good he would, that he doth not, and the evil he would not, that he doth: Is thus to be so understood, as if it were perpetual, and in every particular act, as if sinne had alwayes the better, and grace the worse, as if in no action he did, grace did conquer sinne; for in other places, the godly are said to have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts thereof: As also, That sinne shall not have dominion over them; but sometimes in some temptations they are captivated against their wils.
Fourthly, Neither may you thus understand Paul, when he saith, He would do good, but evil stops him, as if he had only the sluggards will and wish, who would eat, but doth not labour, who would be rich, but yet lets his field be full of briars and thorns, such velleities and incompleat wishes many formal Christi∣ans have; so that such lazy and sluggish desires without efficacious operations are not to shroud themselves under Paul's expression.
Lastly, Therefore Paul's meaning is, That the good which he would do, be can∣not do it perfectly, he cannot do it with that alacrity and fervency, as he would do; Though the flesh do not wholly conquer the spirit, yet it doth stop and hinder it. Therefore Nazianzen calls it the Echineips, the fish that stops the ship that it doth not go so speedily, though it doth not drown it.