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doing, cleansing from filthiness. By perfection is meant a growing, progressive advance towards perfection.
The words, without straining, give us as it were the several dimensions of holiness. The breadth-cleansing from all filthiness ; the length, parallel to inan's composition, running all along through his soul and bodyfrom all filthiness of the flesh and spirit; the heightperfecting holiness ; the depth, that which is the bottom whence it rises up—a deep impress of the fear of God, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Let us cleanse ourselves. It is the Lord who is the sanctifier of his people. He purges away their dross and tin. He pours clean water, according to his promises ; yet doth be call to us to cleanse ourselves. Even, haring such promises, let us cleanse ourselves. He puts a new life into us, and causes us to act, and excites us to excite it and call it up into act in the progress of sanctification. Men are strangely inclined to a perverse construction of things. Tell them that we are to act and work, and to give all diligence, then they would fancy a doing in their own strength, and be their own saviours. Again, tell them that God works all our works in us and for us, then they would take the ease of doing nothing. If they cannot have the praise of doing all, they will sit still with folded hands, and use no diligence at all. But this is the corrupt logic of the flesh, its base sophistry. The apostle reasons just contrary; It is God that worketh in us, both to will and do ; - therefore, would a car. nal heart say, We need not work, or, at least, may work very carelessly; but he infers, Therefore let us work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, that is, in the more humble obedience to God and dependence on him ; not obstructing the influence of his grace, and by sloth and pegligence provoking him to withdraw or abate it. Certainly, many in whom there is truth of grace, are kept low in the growth of it, by their own slothfulness, sitting still, and not bestirring themselves, and exercising the proper actions of that spiritual life by which it is entertained and advanced.
From all filthiness ; all kinds of sinful pollutions. Not as men commonly do, reform some things, and take to
themselves dispensations in others, at least in some one peculiar sin, their mistress, their Herodias, or their Delilah: no parting with that ; yea, they rather forego many other things, as a kind of composition for the retaining of it.
Of flesh and spirit. The whole man must be purified and consecrated to God; not only refined from the gross outward acts of sin, but from the inward affection to it, and from the secret motions of it, that so the heart, like a weaned child, go not after it, which, when restrained from the outward commission of sin, it may do, and very often does, a's the Israelites lusted after the flesh pots; their hearts remained in Egypt still, though their bodies were brought out. This then is to be done ; affection to sin is to be purged out; that is, we are to cleanse the ground; not only to lop off the branches, but to dig about, and lvosen and pluck up the root. Though still fibres of it will stick, yet we ought still to be finding them out, and ,!ing them up. pagether; this applies not only to the inner part of all
but to some sins that are almost or wholly inward, that hang not so much on the body, nor are acted by it; those filthinesses of the spirit which are less easily discern. ed than those of the flesh, and, as more hardly discerned, ,50, when discerned, more hardly purged out ; pride, selflove, unbelief, curiosity, &c., which, though more retired and refined sins, yet are pollutions and defilements, yea, of the worst sort, as being more spiritual, filthinesses of the spirit. Fleshly pollutions are things of which the devils are not capable in themselves, though they excite men to them, and so they are called unclean spirits, But the highest rank of sins are those that are properly spiritual wickednesses. These in men
are the chief strengths of Satan, the inner works of his forts and strongholds ; 2 Cor. x, 4. Many who are not much tempted to the common gross sensualities, who have possibly though an inclination to them, yet a kind of disdain of them, and through education, and morality, and strength of reason, with somewhat of natural conscience, are carried above them, yet they have many of those heights the apostle speaks of, those lofty imaginations that rise against Div. No. IX.
God and the obedience of Christ, all which must be demolished.
Perfecting holiness. Not content with low measures, with just so much as keeps from hell, but aspiring toward perfection ; aiming high at self-victory, self-denia), and îhe love of God becoming purer and hotter, like a fire, growing, and flaming up, and consuming the earth. Though men fall sliort of their aim, yet it is good to aim high : they will shoot so much the higher, though not full so high as they aim. Thus we ought to be setting the state of perfection in our eye, resolving not to rest content below that, and to come as near it as we can, even before we come at it. Not as though I had already attained, says the apostle, but this one thing I do; forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those which are before, I press towards the mark. This is to act as one who hath such a bope, such a state in view, and is still advancing towards it.
In the fear of God. There is no working but on firm ground; there are no solid endeavours in boliness where it is not founded in a deeply-felt reverence of God, a desire to please him and to be like him, which springs from love. This most men are either wholly strangers to, or are but slight and shallow in it, and iherefore make so litile true progress in holiness.
II. Then there is the motive ; Having these promises. Being called to so fair an estate, so excellent a condition, to be the people, yea, the sons and daughters of God, therefore they are called to the coming forth from Babel, and the separating themselves from sin, and purging it oui. Holiness, is his image in his children : the more there is of it, the more suitable are they to that blessed relation and dignity, and the firmer are their hopes of the inheritance of glory.
Consider sin as a filthiness; hate it. O how ugly and vile is lust, how deformed is swelling pride! And all sin is an aversion from God, a casting of the noble soul into the mire, the defacing of all its beauty. Turning to present things, it pollutes itself with them. He who is clad in scarlet, embraces the dunghill, as Jeremiah in another sense laments.
The purity of things is an unmixture and simplicity corresponding with their own being; and such is the purity of the soul when elevated above the earth and sense, and united to God, contemplating him, and delighting in him. All inordinate bent to the creatures, or to itself, which is the first and main disorder, doth defile and debase it. And the more it is sublimed and freed from itself, the purer and more heavenly it grows, and partakes the more of God, and resembles him the more.
This then is to be our main study; first, to search out our iniquities, the particular defilements of our nature ; not only gross filthiness, drunkenness, lasciviousness, but our love of this earth or of air, our vanity of mind, our self-will and self-seeking. Most persons, even most Christians, are short-sighted in respect to their own secret evils, the filthinesses of the spirit especially, and use little diligence in this inquiry. They do not seek light from God, to go in before bim, and to lead them into themselves, as the prophet had in the discovery of idolatries at Jerusalem. O that we could once see what heaps of abominations lie hid in us, one behiud another !
Then, having searched out, we must follow on to purge out. We are not to pass over, nor to spare any, but to delight most in casting out the best beloved sin, the choicest idol, that hath had most of our service and sacrifices, to make room for Jesus Christ.
And never cease in this work, for still there is need of more purifying. One day's work in this disposes for and engages to a further work in the next; for as sin is purged out, light comes in, and more clear discoveries are made of remaining pollutions. So then still there must be progress, less of the world and more of God in the heart every day. O this is a sweet course of life! What gain, what preferment, is to be compared to it?
And in this, it is good to have our ambition growing ; the higher we rise, to aspire still the higher, looking further than before, even toward the perfection of holiness. It is not much we can here attain to, but surely it is commonly far less than we might; we improve not our condition and advantages as we might do.
The world are busy driving forwards their designs. Men of spirit are
animated both by better and by worse success. thing miscarry, it sets them on the more eagerly to make it up, in the right management of some other design : and when they prosper in one thing, that enables and encourages them to attempt further. Shall all other things seem worth our pains? Are only grace and glory so cheap in our account, that the least diligence of all goes that way? O strange delusion !
Now our cleansing is to be managed by all holy meansthe word and sacrament more wisely and spiritually used than commonly they are with us—and private prayer, which purifies and elevates the soul, takes it up into the mount, and makes it shine—and particularly supplicating for the Spirit of holiness and for victory over sin is not in vain ; the soul obtains its desires of God, becoming that which it is fixedly set upon-holy resolution; Cbristians are much wanting in this, are faint and loose in their purposes—the consideration of divine truths, the mysteries of the kingdom, the hope of Christians, yea, rich and great promises—all these are means, and holy means they are, as their end is the perfection of holiness.
Having these promises. Now consider whether it is better to be the slaves of Satan or the sons of God. Measure delight iu God, with the low base pleasures of
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God: these gradually go on together, and are perfected together.
Why then is there such an invincible love of sin in the hearts of men ? At least, why so little love of holiness and endeavour after it, such mean thoughts of it, as a thing either indecent or unpleasant, when it is the only noble and the only delightful thing iu the world? The soul by other things is drawn below itself, but by holiness it is · raised above itself, and made divine. The pleasures of sin are for a season ; they are the pleasures of a moment exchanged for those of eternity. But even in the mean time, in this season, the holy soul is fed with communion with God, one hour of which is more worth than the lougest life of the highest of the world's delights.