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Flesh and spirit are opposed to one another in Gal. v. in the same manner as in the 8th of Romans: And there, by flesh cannot be meant only the human nature of body and soul, or the mere constitution and powers of a man, as in its natural state, innocent and right. In the 16th ver. the apostle says, “ Walk in the spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh :" Where the flesh is spoken of as a thing of an evil inclination, desire or lust. But this is more strongly signified in the next words : " For the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other.” What could have been said more plainly, to shew that what the apostle means by flesh, is something very evil in its nature, and an irreconcileable enemy to all goodness? And it may be observed, that in these words, and those that follow, the apostle still figuratively represents the flesh as a person or agent, desiring, acting, having lusts, and performing works. And by works of the flesh, and fruits of the spirit, which are opposed to cach other, from ver. 19, to the end, are plainly meant the same as works of a sinful nature, and fruits of a holy, renewed nature. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these : Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, &c. But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, &c. The apostle, by flesh, does not mean any thing that is innocent and good in itself, that only needs to be restrained, and kept in proper bounds ; but something altogether evil, which is to be destroyed, and not merely restrained. Cor. v. 5. “ To deliver such an one to Satan, for the destruction of the flesh. We must have no mercy on it ; we cannot be too cruel to it; it must even be crucified.” Gal. v. 24. « They that are Christ's, have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts."
The Apostle John, the same apostle that writes the account of what Christ said to Nicodemus, by the spirit means the same thing as a new, divine, and holy nature, exerting itself in a principle of divine love, which is the sum of all Christian holiness. 1 John iii. 23, 24. And that we should
love one another, as he gave us commandment; and he that keepeth his commandments, dwelleth in him, and he in him: And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the spirit that he hath given us." With chap. iv. 12, 13. “ If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us : Hereby know we, that we dwell in him, because he hath giv. én us of his spirit.” The spiritual principle in ús being as it were a communication of the spirit of God to us.
And as by v a is meant a holý nature, so by the epithet, drivvatixo, spiritual, is micant the same as trúlý virtuous and holy. Gal. vi. 1. “ Ye that are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness." The aposile refers to what he had just said, in the end of the foregoing chapter, where he had mentioned meekness, as a fruit of the spirit. And so by carnal, or fleshly, saprotams, is meant the same as sinful. Rom. vii. 14. “ The law is spiritual (i, e. holy) but I am carnal, sold under sin.”
And it is evident, that by flesh, as the word is used in the New Testament, and opposed to spirit, when speaking of the qualifications for eternal salvation, is not meant only what is now vulgarly called the sins of the flesh, consisting in inordinate appetites of the body, and their indulgence ; but the whole body of sin, implying those lusts that are most subtle, and furthest from any relation to the body ; such as pride, malice, envy, &c. When the works of the flesh are enumerated, Gal. v, 19, 20, 21, they are vices of the latter kind chiefs, that are mentioned ; idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strise, seditions, heresies, envyings. So; pride of heart is the effect or operation of the flesh. Col. ii. 18. “ Vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind :" in the Greek, by the mind of the flesh. So, pride, envying, strise and division, are spoken of as works of the flesh. I Cor. iii. 3. 4. “ For ye are yet carnal (capxizos, fleshly.) For whereas there is envying, and strife, and division, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul, and another, I am of Apollos, are ye not carnal ? Such kind of luses do not depend on the body, or external senses ; for the devil himself
has them in the highest degree, who has not, nor ever had, any body or external senses to gratify.
Here, if it should be inquired, how corruption or deprav. ity in general, or the nature of man as corrupt and sinful, came to be called flesh; and not only that corruption which consists in inordinate bodily appetites, I think, what the apos, tle says in the last cited place, Are ye not carnal, and walk as men? Leads us to the true reason. It is because a corrupt and sinful nature is what properly belongs to mankind, or the race of Adam, as they are in themselves, and as they are by nature. The word flesh is often used in both Old Testament and New, to signify mankind in their present state. To enumerate all the places, would be very tedious; I shall therefore only mention a few places in the New Testament. Matth. xxiv. 22. “ Except those days should be shortened, no flesh should be saved.” Luke iii. 6. “ All flesh shall see the salvation of God.” John xvii. 2. “ Thou hast given him power over all flesh.” See also Acts ii. 17, Rom. iii. 20, 1 Cor. i. 29, Gal. ii. 16. Man's nature, being left to itself, forsaken of the Spirit of God, as it was when man fell, and consequently forsaken of divine and holy principles, of itself became exceeding corrupt, utterly depraved and ruined: And so the word flesh, which signifies man, came to be used to signify man as he is in himself, in his natural state, debased, corrupt and ruined : And on the other hand, the word spirit came to be used to signify a divine and holy principle, or new nature ; because that is not of man, but of God, by the indwelling and vital influence of his Spirit. And thus to be corrupt, and to be carnal, or fleshly, and to walk as men, are the same thing with the apostle. And so in other parts of the scripture, to savor the things that be of men, and to savor things which are corrupt, are the same ; and sons of men, and wicked men, also are the same, as was observed before. And on the other hand, to savor the things that be of God, and to receive the things of the Spirit of God, are phrases that signify as much as relishing and embracing true holiness or divine virtue.
All these things confirm what we have supposed to be Christ's meaning, in saying, “ That which is born of the Vol. VI.
Alesh, is flesh ; and that which is born of the spirit, is spirit.** His speech implies, that what is born in the first birth of man, is nothing but man as he is of himself, without any thing divine in him ; depraved, debased, sinful, ruined man, utterly unfit to enter into the kingdom of God, and incapable of the spiritual, divine happiness of that kingdom : But that which is born in the new birth, of the Spirit of God, is a spiritual principle, and holy and divine nature, meet for the divine and heavenly kingdom. It is a confirmation that this is the true meaning, that it is not only evidently agreeable to the constant language of the Spirit of Christ in the New Testament ; but the words understood in this sense, contain the proper and true reason, why a man must be born again, in order to enter into the kingdom of God; the reason that is given ev. ery where in other parts of the scripture for the necessity of a renovation, a change of mind, a new heart, &c. in order to salvation : To give a reason of which to Nicodemus, is plainly Christ's design in the words which have been insisted on.
Before I proceed, I would observe one thing as a corolla ry from what has been said. .. Coroll. If by flesh and spirit, when spoken of in the
New Testament, and opposed to each other, in discourses on the necessary qualifications for salvation, we are to understand what has been now supposed, it will not only follow, that men by nature are corrupt, but wholly corrupt, without any good thing. If by flesh is meant man's nature, as he receives it in his first birth, then therein dwellcth no good thing ; as appears by Rom. vii. 18. It is wholly opposite to God, and to subjection to his law, as appears by Rom. vii. 7, 8. It is directly contrary to true holiness, and wholly opposes it, and holiness is opposite to that ; as appears by Gal. v. 17. So long as men are in their natural state, they not only have no good thing, but it is impossible they should have or do any good thing; as appears by Rom. viii. 8. There is nothing in their nature, as they have it by the first birth, whence should arise any true subjection to God; as appears by Rom. viii. 7. If there were any thing truly good in the flesh, or in man's nature, or natural disposition, under a moral view, then
it should only be amended ; but the scripture represents as though we were to be enemies to it, and were to seek nothing short of its entire destruction, as has been observed. And elsewhere the apostle directs not to the amending of the old man, but putting it off, and putting on the net man ; and seeks not to have the body of death made better, but to be delivered from it, and says, “ That if any man be in Cbrist, he is a new creature (which doubtless means the same as a man new born) old things are (not amended) but passed away, and all things are become new."
But this will be further evident, if we particularly consider the apostle's discourse in the latter part of the second chapter of 1 Cor. and the beginning of the third. There the apostle speaks of the natural man, and the spiritual man ; where natural and spiritual are opposed just in the same manner, as I have observed carnal and spiritual often are.” In chap. ii. 14, 15, he says, “ The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: For they are foolishness unto him ; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual, judgeth all things." And not only does the apostle here oppose natural and spiritual, just as he elsewhere does carnal and spiritual, but his following discourse evidenty shews, that he means the very same distinction, the same two distinct and opposite things. For immediately on his thus speaking of the difference between the natural and the spiritual man, he turns to the Corinthians, in the first words of the next chapter, connected with this, and says, “ And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal.” Referring manifestly to what he had been saying, in the immediately preceding discourse, about spiritual and natural men, and evidently using the word carnal, as synonymous with natural. By which it is put out of all reasonable dispute, that the apostle by natural men means the same as men in that carnal, sinsul state, that they are in by their first birth ; notwithstanding all the glosses and criticisms, by which modern writers have endeavored to palm upon us another sense of this phrase ; and so to deprive us of the clear instruction the apostle gives in that 14th verse;