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when he would do good: it is the flesh that lusts · against the Spirit. From what an eminent Apostle and
Christian felt of this he declared ; " I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing."
To reduce the remaining power of this principle ought to be the believer's constant employment. “ Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.” Gal. v. 16. Every motion, and inclination, of this principle towards evil is a lust of the flesh, and ought to be opposed as soon as it is felt. Every thing that tends to excite it, or afford it gratification, must be avoided. This cannot be done, to any good effect, but by an improvement of Christ, in receiving his Spirit. “ But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil it in the lusts thereof." Rom. xiii. 14. This evil principle in the heart may be compared to a tree, the body of which has been cut down, many of its ramifications and fi. bres cut, and the soil around it cultivated and improved: but the root still remains. If this root is let alone it will soon extend its fibres and take a more extensive hold of the soil; it will also pour forth a number of young cions or shoots on all sides, which if not pruned, will gradually advance and become strong. But if these are lopt off as they spring up, if the culture of the soil is preserved, and carried still closer to the root, its productions will be kept down, and itself at last extirpated. In like manner, if the root of enmity in the believer's heart is let alone, it it will spread more extensively in the soul, strike its roots still deeper, and pour forth its noxious productions more luxuriantly. On the other hand, if the work of grace which is already begun is properly atten. ded to, and advanced in the soul, the noxious root
will not only be checked but at last destroyed. This is to " put off the old man with his deeds, and to put on the new man.” If the believer is active in this work, the evil principle will be suppressed and gradually weakened, and the new man will be strong and vigorous: but if he indulge in negligence and inactivity, the remaining evil principle will acquire strength, and the result of this will be deadness, carnality, and prevail. ing unbelief in the soul. “ For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” Rom, viii. 13. The believer's success in this work lies radically in improving Christ, and deriving from him all that is necessary to promote it. Jesus wishes to meet his people at his table to communicate his Spirit, to enable them to crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts, If they receive not the Spirit; if they gain no new advantage over corruption; if their faith acquires no additional strength; unbelief will unquestionably gain ground. In proportion as this prevails, all other gra. ces will languish, carnality will prevail, and the soul will become listless in religious duties. The evil heart of unbelief produces these effects, because it departs from the living God, the life of the soul, and refuses to receive any favour from him. To all who act such a part, the ordinance of the supper will prove a killing letter.
3. It will afford a favourable opportunity to enemies to assault the believer with greater probability of success.
At no time are they more vigilant and alert, than on such an occasion, when the believer is in expectation of his highest enjoyments. One point gained now may be of more consequence than on some other occasion. Satan presented himself among the sons of
God; and stood on Joshua's right hand to resist him. He is a most malignant spirit, full of all subtilty; and will leave no means untried to disturb and injure the believer. This ought to put him upon his guard lest he afford him a favourable opportunity to assault with success.
Thę whole of the believer's security lies in Christ the captain of his salvation; but if, at any time, a right improvement of him is neglected, the danger will be great. Nor is he to expect that Jesus will interpose to ward off the attack while himself does not seem to wish it. An Apostle considered this to be of very great importance, as appears from his exhortation to the Ephesians, Chap. vi. 10, 11, 12. “ Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." The assault, by violence or stratagem, may be made the moment the believer takes his seat at the holy table, and if his mind is not suitably exercised on Christ, according to the nature and design of the ordinance, he cannot expect his interposition; and the temptation may be successful. Should the believer enter on this ordinance with a bad frame, unbelief and carnality prevailing, Jesus will stand at a distance, and he will find he has to engage a powerful adversary, single handed. He cannot have Jesus near him but by faith, nor, without it, derive any divine influences from him; and this grace being too languid, to make him strong in the Lord, the enemy will carry the advantage against him. The shield of faith being now awanting, Satan discharges one volley of fiery darts
after another; which have a powerful tendency to inflame lust, and to weaken the spiritual ability of the heart. But where this ordinance is duly observed, the believer acquires new strength, and new courage, to face his adversary, “ whom he now resists, steadfast in the faith.”
4. An improper frame obstructs intercourse between God and the soul. Such a frame is the effect of the old leaven which ought to be purged out, that the believer may become a new lump, and so be prepared to eat the passover with Jesus.
To approach this ordinance in an unworthy frame, is to degrade and insult Jesus. He has appointed all preparatory means, which ought to be carefully attended to, in order to prepare the soul for commu. nion with himself; but when these are disregarded his authority is rejected, and communion with him despised. Besides it implies that he is carnal like themselves, and will hold intercourse with them although they are not prepared. This provokes him to keep at a distance. “ By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth; I sought him, but I found him not.” Song ii. 1. This mode of seeking was too carnal, and indifferent to be successful. She must have a more lively frame ere her beloved will deign to meet with her. In another case, when the work of grace in her soul was very low, he visits her, and calls for admission, that he might fit her for communion with himself; she, refused him: “I have put off my coat how shall I put it on?” Having made her feel the smart of her conduct he withdrew, cand left her, for a time, in painful search for him. I sought him, but I could not find him: I called hiin but he gave me no answer.” Who. ever shall presume to approach his table in such a. frame, may expect similar treatment, because they have rejected him in preparatory means.
But though Jesus were willing to grant his presence, the believer, in such a frame, could not relish it; as one, whose natural taste is depraved by some disorder, nauseates those things which were formerly most delicious. At one time nothing will satisfy the believer but Christ; at another time nothing is treated with more indifference. This was strikingly verified in the case of the spouse. She recognizes the voice of her beloved, saying to her, “ Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night." Song v. 2. Such was the moving language in which he ad. dressed her; but how listless and contemptuous is her reply! “ I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?” She now saw nothing in Jesus that she could relish: her state of carnal ease yielded her more satisfaction, than he could do in such a frame. Afterwards, however, when her sense was better exercised, “ He is white and ruddy, the chief among ten thousand. His mouth is most sweet; he is altogether lovely.” To take a place at the king's table with prevailing improper dispositions cannot fail greatly to hurt the interest of the soul. Christ will not manifest his love, will not associate with them; and though he would they cannot associate with him. Though they take their seat at his table, it cannot be to meet with him.
5. It tends to judicial hardness and insensibilty. This is God's work; a very terrible, yet righteous work. Believers themselves may sometimes be subjected to it; though not like the wicked who are finally left under it.