This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
I. The principle and root of sin and evil — the flesh with its lusts.
II. The opposite principle and root of life and righteousness — the Divine Spirit.
III. The terms and bounds of a Christian's conquest, how far he may hope for victory — "Ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh."
IV. The method and way of conquering — "Walk in the Spirit." The best expedient in the world not to fulfil the lusts of the flesh, is to walk in the Spirit; which what it imports, I come now to show.
1. "Walk in the Spirit;" that is, in obedience to God's commandments, which are the oracles of the Spirit (see Psalm 119:1-3).
2. "Walk in the Spirit;" that is, as becometh those in whom God's Spirit dwells. As if the apostle had said, "The part which ye are now to act, O ye Christian Galatians, it is that of new creatures — see that ye keep the decorum. Demean yourselves like the children of God who are led of the Spirit of God" (Romans 8:14).
3. "Walk in the Spirit;" that is, Fulfil the counsels and advices of the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. But if these three rules are too general and remote, I shall now lay down some more particular and exact directions for checking the beginnings of sin.Rule
I. — Before the paroxysm cometh, prepare and antidote thy soul against these lusts of the flesh, by observing these advices.
1. That notable counsel of Eliphaz to Job: "Acquaint now thyself with God, and be at peace" (Job 22:21).
2. Stir up spiritual and holy lastings in thy soul after the love and favour, the grace and image, of thy God; and thou shalt not fulfil the lastings of the flesh.Rule
II. — Study thoroughly the unchangeable natures, the eternal laws and differences, of moral good and evil. The sum of this rule then is: Deeply possess and dye thy soul all over with the representation of that everlasting beauty and amiableness that are in holiness, and of' that horror, and ugliness, and deformity that eternally dwell on the forehead of all iniquity. Be under the awe and majesty of such clear convictions all day long, and "thou shalt not fulfil the lusts of the flesh."Rule
III. — Understand thyself; be no stranger to thy own breast; know the frame, and temper, and constitution of thy mind. See what grace is principally wanting in thee, which is weakest, in what instances thy greatest failure betrays itself, in which of thy passions and affections thou art most peccable, and what lastings of the flesh they are which give thee the frequentest alarms, and threaten the greatest dangers.Rule
IV. — Get and keep a tender, conscience. Be sensible of the least sin. The most tender-hearted Christian — he is the stoutest and most valiant Christian. "Happy is the man that feareth always: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief."Rule
V. — Keep an exact guard upon thy heart (Proverbs 4:23). Let the eyes of thy soul be open and awake, upon all the stirrings of thy thoughts and affections.Rule
VI. — Be daily training and exercising all thy graces. Have them always in battle-array.Rule
VII. — Be well-skilled in the clenchs of temptation. I mean, in unmasking the sophistry and mystery of iniquity, in defeating the wiles and stratagems of the tempter, and in detecting and frustrating the cheats and finesses of the flesh with its deceitful lusts (Ephesians 4:22; 2 Corinthians 2:11). No small part of spiritual wisdom lies in the blessed art of discovering and refuting sin's fallacies and impostures.Rule
VIII. — Withdraw thyself, if possible, from the occasions of sin. Be thou as the deaf adder to that great charmer: the best entertainment thou canst give him is, "Get thee behind me, Satan!"Rule
IX. — Bind thyself beforehand With the severest of thy resolutions, not to trust thy judgment, when the temptation begins to get within thee. "A man in passion is not himself."Rule
X. — Awe them with the authority of thy reason and understanding. It is infinitely unbeseeming a man, that his lower appetites should grow mutinous and untractable, that "the inferior and brutish faculties of our soul," should rebel against "that sovereign faculty of reason." How soon doth the presence of a grave magistrate allay a popular tumult, if he comes in soon enough, in the beginning of the riot? God hath made reason the magistrate of the little world; He hath given it a commission to keep the peace in our souls.Rule
XI. — If thy distempered affections and lusts slight the authority of thy reason, as thou art a man; bid thy conscience do its office, as thou art a Christian. Try to awe them with God's written Word. Bring out of the register of conscience the laws of Him that made thee; oppose some clear text of Holy Writ, that comes into thy mind against that very lust that is now rising.Rule
XII. — If all this effect nothing, then draw the curtain, take off the veil from before thy heart, and let it behold the God that searcheth it (Jeremiah 17:10; Hebrews 4:13). Show it the majesty of the Lord; see how that is described (Isaiah 6:1-3).Rule
XIII. — If these great real arguments be slighted, try whether an argument, ad hominem, drawn from sense, will prevail. Awe thy lusts with the bitterness of thine own experience. Consider how often thou hast rues their disorders; what dismal consequences have followed upon their transports, and how dearly thou hast paid heretofore for thy connivance at them.Rule
XIV. — Labour to cure thy justings and affections in the first beginning of their disorders, by revulsion, by drawing the stream and tide another way. As physicians stop an hemorrhage, or bleeding at the nose, by breathing the basilic vein in the arm, or opening the saphaena in the foot; so may we check our carnal affections, by turning them into spiritual ones: and those either —
1. Of the same nature. For example: catch thy worldly sorrow at the rise, and turn thy mourning into godly sorrow. If thou must needs weep, weep for something that deserves it.
2. Turn thy carnal affections into spiritual ones of a contrary nature. For example: allay thy worldly sorrow by spiritual joy. Try whether there be not enough in all-sufficiency itself to compensate the loss of any outward enjoyment; whether there will be any great miss or want of a broken cistern, when thou art at the fountain-head of living waters; whether the light of the sun cannot make amends for the expiring of a candle. Chastise thy carnal fears by hope in God. Set on work the grace contrary to the lust that is stilting; if it be pride and vain-glory in the applause of men, think how ridiculous it were for a criminal to please himself in the esteem and honour his fellow-prisoners render him, forgetting how guilty he is before his judge. If thou beginnest to be poured loosely out, and as it were dissolved in frolic, mirth, and joviality, correct that vainness and gaiety of spirit by the grave and sober thoughts of death, and judgment, and eternity.Rule
XV. — If this avail not, fall instantly to prayer.Rule
XVI. — When thou hast done this, rise up, and buckle on the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16). Go forth in the name and strength of the Lord, to do battle with thy lusts. Conclusion: Let me now persuade the practice of these holy rules. Let us resolve, in the strength of Christ, to resist these lustings of the flesh. Let me press this with a few considerations.
1. The more thou yieldest, the more thou mayest. Sin is insatiable; it will never say"enough." Give it an inch, it will take an ell.
2. It is the quarrel of the Lord of hosts in which thou tightest. A cowardly soldier is the reproach of his commanders. Thou hast a noble General, O Christian, that hath done and finished perfectly whatever con. terns thy redemption from the powers of darkness.
3. The lusts of the flesh are thy greatest enemies, as well as God's. "They war against thy soul" (1 Peter 2:11). To resist them feebly, is to do not only the work of the Lord, but of thy soul, negligently.
4. It is easy vanquishing at first in comparison. A fire newly-kindled is soon quenched, and a young thorn or bramble easily pulled up.
5. If thou resistest the victory is thine (James 4:7). Temptation puts on its strength, as the will is. Cease but to love the sin, and the temptation is answered.
6. Consider what thou doest. If thou fulfillest the lusts of the flesh, thou provokest thy heavenly Father, rebellest against Him (and "rebellion is as witchcraft, and stubbornness as idolatry"), thou "crucifiest Jesus Christ afresh, and puttest Him to an open shame." Is this thy love and thanks to thy Lord, to whom thou art so infinitely beholden? Canst thou find in thy heart to put thy spear again in His side? Hath He not suffered yet enough? Is His bloody passion nothing? Must He bleed again? Ah, monster of ingratitude! Ah, perfidious traitor as thou art, thus to requite thy Master! Again, thou grievest thy Comforter: and is that wisely clone? Who shall comfort thee, ii He depart?
(John Gibbon, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
WEB: But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you won't fulfill the lust of the flesh.