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THE FIRST FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT.
ROMANS viii. 1.
" There is therefore now no Condemnation to them which
are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the Flesh, but after the Spirit.”
1. “ BY them which are in Christ Jesus,” St. Paul evi. dently means, those who truly believe in him: those who
being justified by faith, have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” They who thus believe do no longer“ walk after the flesh," no longer follow the motions of corrupt nature, but “ after the Spirit:" both their thoughts, words, and works, are under the direction of the blessed Spirit of God.
2. There is therefore now no condemnation to" these. There is no condemnation to them from God : for he hath justified them “ freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus.” He hath forgiven all their iniquities, and blotted out all their sins. And there is no condemnation to them from within; for they “ have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that they might know the things which are freely given to them of God," 1 Cor. ii. 12: which Spirit “ beareth witness with their spirits, that they are the children of God.” And to this is added, the testimony of their conscience : “ that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, they have their conversation in the world,” 2 Cor. i. 12.
2. But, because this scripture has been so frequently misunderstood, and that in so dangerous a manner ; because such multitudes of « unlearned and unstable men," (ou Qua Seis xat esniqixtos, men untaught of God, and consequent. ly unestablished in the truth, which is after godliness) have wrested it to their own destruction; I propose to shew, as clearly as I can, first, Who those are " which are in Christ Jesus, and walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit :" and, secondly, How “ there is no condemnation to" them. I shall conclude with some practical inferences.
I. 1, First I am to shew, Who those are that " are in Christ Jesus." And are they not, those who believe in his name? Those who are “ found in him, not having their own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of God by Faith?” These, who have redemption through his blood, are properly said to be in Him. For they dwell in Christ, and Christ in them. They are joined unto the Lord in one Spirit. They are ingrafted into him as Branches into the Vine. They are united, as Members to their Head, in a manner which words cannot express, nor could it before enter into their hearts to conceive.
2. Now, “ whosoever abideth in him, sinneth not; walk. eth not after the flesh.” The flesh, in the usual language of St. Paul, signifies corrupt nature. In this sense, he uses the word, writing to the Galatians, « The works of the flesh are manifest,” Gal. v. 19. And a little before, “ Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust (or desire) of the flesh,” v. 16. To prove which, namely, that those who 6 walk by the Spirit, do not fulfil the lusts of the flesh,” he adds, “ For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit ; and the Spirit lusteth against the flesh, (for these are contrary to each other), that ye may not do the things which ye would.” So the words are literally translated, (ινα μη α αν θελητε ταυτα monle.) Not, “So that ye cannot do the things that ye
would," as if the flesh overcame the Spirit : a translation which hath not only nothing to do with the original text of the Apostle, but likewise makes his whole argument nothing worth; yea, asserts just the reverse of what he is proving.
3. “ They who are in Christ, who abide in him, have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts.” They abstain from all those works of the flesh; from “ adultery and fornication;" from " uncleanness and lasciviousness;" from “ idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance;" from “ emulations, wrath, strife, sedition, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings:" from every design, and word, and work, to which the corruption of nature leads. Although they feel the root of bitterness in themselves, yet are they endued with power from on high, to trample it continually under foot, so that it cannot “ spring up to trouble them:" insomuch, that every fresh assault which they undergo, only gives them fresh occasion of praise, of crying out, “ Thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
4. They now “ walk after the Spirit,” both in their hearts and lives. They are taught of him to love God and their neighbour, with a love which is as “ a well of water, springing up into everlasting life.” And by him they are led into every holy desire, into every divine and holy temper, till every thought, which arises in the heart, is holiness unto the Lord.
5. They who “ walk after the Spirit,” are also led by him, into all holiness of conversation. Their speech is “ always in grace, seasoned with salt,” with the love and fear of God. “No corrupt communication comes out of their mouth, but only that which is good ;” that which is “ to the use of edifying," whieh is 5 meet to minister grace
to the hearers.” And herein likewise do they exercise themselves day and night, to do only the things which please God: in all their outward behaviour to follow him, “ who left us an example that we might tread in his steps:" in all
their intercourse with their neighbour to walk in justice, mercy, and truth; and “ whatsoever they do," in every circumstance of life, to “ do all to the glory of God.”
6. These are they who indeed “ walk by the Spirit.” Being filled with faith and with the Holy Ghost, they possess in their hearts, and shew forth in their lives, in the whole course of their words and actions, the genuine fruits of the Spirit of God, namely,“ love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, fidelity, meekness, temperance,” and whatsoever else is lovely or praise-worthy. They “ adorn in all things the gospel of God our Saviour;" and give full proof to all mankind, that they are indeed actuated by the same Spirit, “ which raised up Jesus from the dead.”
II. I proposed to shew, in the second place, How " there is no condemnation to them which are thus in Christ Jesus, and thus walk, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
And, first, To believers in Christ, walking thus, “ there is no condemnation” on account of their past sins. God condemneth them not for any of these ; they are as though they had never been. They are cast “as a stone into the depth of the sea,” and he remembereth them no more. God having " set forth bis Son to be a Propitiation for them, through faith in his blood, hath declared unto them his righteousness, for the remission of the sins that are past.” He layeth therefore none of these to their charge; their memorial is perished with them.
2. And there is no condemnation in their own breast; no sense of guilt, or dread of the wrath of God. They “ have the witness in themselves :" they are conscious of their interest in the Blood of Sprinkling. “ They have not received again the Spirit of Bondage unto fear," unto doubt and racking uncertainty; but they “ have received the Spirit of Adoption, crying in their hearts, Abba, Father.” Thus being " justified by faith, they have the peace" of God ruling in their hearts: flowing from a continual sense of his
who now his name.
pardoning mercy, and “the answer of a good conscience toward God.”
3. If it be said, “But sometimes a believer in Christ may lose his sight of the mercy of God; sometimes such darkness may fall upon him that he no longer sees Him that is invisible, no longer feels that witness in himself of his part in the atoning Blood; and then he is inwardly condemned, he hath again the sentence of death in himself;" I answer, supposing it so to be, supposing him not to see the mercy, of God, then he is not a believer : for faith implies light; the light of God shining upon the soul. So far, therefore, as any one loses this light, he, for the time, loses his faith. And, no doubt, a true believer in Christ, may lose the light of faith. And so far as this is lost, he may, for a time, fall again into condemnation. But this is not the case of them
are in Christ Jesus, who now believe in
For so long as they believe and walk after the Spirit, neither God condemns them nor their own heart.
4. They are not condemned, secondly, for any present sins, for now transgressing the commandments of God. For they do not transgress them: they do not " walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” This is the continual proof of their “ love of God, that they keep his commandments :" even as St. John bears witness, “ whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin. For his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God:” he cannot, so long as that seed of God, that loving, holy faith remaineth in bim. So long as " he keepeth himself” herein, “'that wicked one toucheth him not.” Now it is evident, he is not condemned for the sins which he doth not commit at all. They, therefore, who are thus “ led by the Spirit, are not under the law," Gal. v. 18. Not under the curse or condemnation of it; for it condemns none but those who break it. Thus, that law of God, “ Thou shalt not steal,” condemns none but those who do steal. Thus, “ Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy,” condemns those only who do