Ralph Erskine Archive

Ralph Erskine

SERMON XXI


 

CARNAL CONSULTATION UNFOLDED; OR, THE GREAT EVIL OF BEING ACTUATED BY CARNAL PRINCIPLES, IN THE MATTERS OF GOD, EVINCED.

[The First Sermon on this Text]

We are not positively certain, either when or where this Sermon was preached; but, from the place it hath in the Author’s notes, and some passages and references in the discourse itself, it appears to have been delivered in his own church at Dunfermline, some time towards the latter end of the year 1728.

“Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.” Galatians 1:16

When I considered the great spring of all the motions and actions of the most of people, at this day; and what seems to be the grand counselors, with whom they generally confer, I thought it was evident, from universal practice, that flesh and blood are the great principle that influence the deportment and behavior of the generation: And when I considered, that not only the wicked world, but even the most eminent professors of religion, and the truly godly, seem to discover, by their walk at this day, and their sinful conformity at this day with the world, and compliance with the course of the times, their being led by motives from flesh and blood: I say, when I considered these things, I thought the contrary practice and example of the great apostle would, at least, be suitable for discovering the great evil of living under the conduct and influence of such carnal principles: “Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.”

The false teachers, who preached up the ceremonial law, were doing all they could to lessen Paul’s reputation, who preached the pure gospel of Christ to the Gentiles; and, therefore, he is here setting himself to prove the divinity of his mission and doctrine, which he doth several ways in this chapter; particularly from verses 11 and 12. He evidences it by the manner wherein he received the gospel; that it was not by information from men, but by revelation from God, and immediate inspiration of Christ himself. Here he puts them in mind,

1st, Of his education, (vv. 13,14); that he had been not only a rejector of Christianity, but a persecutor of it: this he doth that they might be assured he was not led to this religion purely by education, since he had been bred up in enmity and opposition to it: and that it behooved to be something extraordinary that had made such a change upon him, and conquered the prejudices of his education: and brought him not only to profess, but to preach that doctrine which he had before so vehemently opposed.

2ndly, He puts them in mind of his conversion, (vv. 15,16), which is here described four ways.

1. In the author of it, viz., God, the efficient cause; and the pleasure of God, the moving cause: “It pleased God.” And this God is here described two ways.

(1.) He is described by his separating grace; “He separated me from my mother’s womb.” The change that was wrought in Paul was in pursuance of a divine purpose concerning him, whereby he was appointed to be a believer and an apostle.

(2.) God is here described by his calling grace; “He called me by his grace.” Paul was called in an immediate way and manner: there was something very peculiar, and extremely singular in his conversion, (Acts 9:1‑8).

2. Paul’s conversion is described in the manner of it: “It pleased God to reveal his Son in me.” Christ was not only revealed externally to him, but also in him.

3. It is described in the end of it: “That I might preach him among the heathen.” Paul was both a Christian and an Apostle by revelation.

4. His conversion is described in the effect of his carriage; Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.”

From the words we might lay down and prosecute several doctrinal observations; such as,

(1.) That the Mercy of God is preventing mercy, towards all whom it takes hold upon; it prevents them; before ever they are separate.

(2.) That none are called upon the account of any good work, or sanctity, or blamelessness in themselves; no: they are called of grace, and of the good pleasure of God.

(3.) That the Doctrine of Grace is the revelation of Christ: God, in the gospel, reveals his Son to us; and, by his Spirit, reveals him in us when he calls us effectually.

(4.) That when the Gospel is revealed, it is God that doth it; “It pleased God to reveal his Son in me.”

(5.) That to preach the Gospel is to preach Christ; it is not a preaching of Moses, but Christ.

(6.) That in matters of religion there ought to be no consulting or conferring with flesh and blood. Here the apostle tells us his own practice, that he did not consult therewith; he did not consult man, nor apply himself to any other for their advice and direction; neither, as in the following verse, did he go up to Jerusalem, to those who were apostles before him, as if he needed to be approved by them, or receive any farther instructions or authority from them: so that it could not be pretended that he was indebted to any other for his knowledge of the gospel, or his authority to preach it; but it appeared that both his qualifications for, and his call to the apostolic office, were extraordinary and divine.

But although these observations are couched in the words, and natively deduced from them, yet I choose to confine myself to the consideration of this text, as it may be taken more generally, and as bearing this proposition, viz.:

Doctrine: That in the matters of God, there ought to be no consulting with flesh and blood. “Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.”

In prosecuting this subject, through supernatural assistance, we shall observe the following method and order.

I.     We would explain what is to be understood by flesh and blood; and not conferring with it.

II.   We would confirm the truth of the doctrine by scripture example.

III.  Give the reasons why we ought not to consult with flesh and blood.

IV. Make application of the whole subject in several uses.

I. We would explain the doctrine by inquiring, 1. What we are to understand by flesh and blood. 2. What it is to confer with flesh and blood.

1st, We are to inquire what is understood by flesh and blood. In general, Man, who is flesh and blood, is here principally intended; men, whether good or bad: the apostle consulted not with men, but gave himself up to God. More particularly by flesh and blood we may understand carnal ease, carnal reason, carnal friends, and carnal counsels of spiritual friends.

1. By flesh and blood is meant carnal ease and interest. Master, spare thyself; what need all this toil and trouble? is the language of easy nature. Paul, being now converted, and so in a happy state, having his salvation secured, carnal ease might say, What need you go and essay these travails, and encounter such hardships, in propagating the gospel of Christ, and spreading the knowledge of his name? Nay, but Paul, having got Christ revealed in him, he would not consult with carnal ease: he would now spend and be spent for Christ.

2. By flesh and blood is understood carnal reason. Paul was now divinely taught, as Peter was, of whom Christ says, “Flesh and blood hath not revealed these things unto thee:” so Christ was revealed in Paul, not by flesh and blood: that is, not by carnal reason, or natural understanding; and therefore he would not confer with flesh and blood. We ought not to consult with carnal reason, in the matters of religion.

3. By flesh and blood is meant carnal friends: and by these I understand not only natural relations, as father, mother, brother and sister, who, when loved and followed more than Christ, it is a consulting with flesh and blood; and graceless relations, with whom our conference and consultation cannot but be a conferring with flesh and blood: but also all ungodly neighbors and acquaintances, whether blood‑relations or not: to consult with them, or put any confidence in them, is to consult with flesh and blood.

4. By flesh and blood is meant even the carnal counsels, and carnal arguments of spiritual friends: for godly and pious friends may offer ungodly and impious counsels; such as Peter to his master, when he would dissuade him from going up to Jerusalem to suffer; and Job’s wife to her husband, when she said to him, “Curse God and die;” or, if it may be rendered, “Bless God and die,” it was an impious intention wherewith it was given. They that would not consult with blood, must not rest in the counsel of godly flesh and friends, or trust thereunto.

5. In a word, by flesh and blood we may understand all carnal confidence whatsoever, whether from without or from within; in others, or in ourselves: for, while we have any confidence in the flesh, in our own or other’s natural wisdom, righteousness, or strength, we so far consult with flesh and blood. But this leads me to consider,

2dly, what is to be understood by not conferring with flesh and blood. We shall lay down what we take to be the import thereof, in the following particulars.

1. Not conferring with flesh and blood imports a shunning their company, in a manner. When we would not confer with a man, then we shun his company; we refuse to converse with him: so, when we confer not with flesh and blood, we refuse, in a manner, the company of such ill guests. The man that confers not with flesh and blood in the matters of God, he lets in to his company the wonderful Counselor for his guest, to converse withal: and shuts all carnal counselors to the door. The man that will not confer with flesh and blood, he avoids the salutations thereof, and shuns conversation therewith.

2. Not conferring with flesh and blood, imports a not giving ear thereunto. When a person will not confer with one, if he cannot get his company altogether avoided, yet he will stop his ear, that he may hear what he says: so, if flesh and blood will be into our company, not to confer therewith is to give a deaf ear to the suggestions of carnal reason, in the matters of God, and religion, and conscience. Shut the door against all carnal counsel.

3. Not conferring with flesh and blood, imports, not taking their advice, nor regarding their solicitations, but rejecting their motions. If flesh and blood will be in with a word, and that we cannot get our ear stopped so fast but that we must hear what it says; then, if it will be heard, yet it must not be regarded. It is vastly dangerous to hear, and much more to join with carnal counselors, as Jacob of Simeon and Levi; “O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united,” (Gen. 49:6).

4. Not conferring with flesh and blood, imports a not following the dictates thereof. It may be, that, through the prevalence of corruption, even in the godly, flesh and blood, and carnal counselors, are let in to their company; and, when once admitted, they are heard; and, when heard, they are too much regarded: but here, at least, they are to stop; in regard they have gone too far; for, there wants nothing, in that case, but a putting the carnal counsel into execution: and therefore, they are to go back all the steps, by which they have gone forward, in this course; and to beware of walking in the counsel of flesh and blood, or practicing according to the advice thereof. If we walk in the counsel of the ungodly, we are in danger of standing in the way of sinners: if we stand in the way of sinners, we are next in danger of sitting in the seat of the scornful, as you have it, (Ps. 1:1). If flesh and blood will be in with its word, yet it must not be heard; if heard, yet it must not be regarded; if regarded, its advice must not be followed, otherwise we confer with flesh and blood.

5. In a word, not to confer with flesh and blood, is not only to reject conference and consultation therewith, but to receive, other counselors, and embrace better counsel than flesh and blood can give! and particularly, to consult with the oracles of the living God, and follow the conduct of his word and Spirit.

II. We are next to confirm the truth of the doctrine, by a fee scripture‑examples, that we are not to consult with flesh and blood, in the matters of God and conscience. You may observe these four excellent examples in this matter.

1. To begin with the example of Christ, the great pattern of our imitation, in all his imitable perfections. When Peter came in with his carnal counsel, after Christ had been foretelling his death and sufferings, Peter began, forsooth, to rebuke him, saying, “Be it far from thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee,” (Matt. 16:22). What! wilt thou suffer such indignity? There was the language of flesh and blood. But, how doth Christ entertain it? He turneth himself to Peter, saying, “Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” So, when flesh and blood comes in with its solicitations, we ought to banish the same with a Get thee behind me, Satan.

2. We have the example of Abraham, when he went out of his own country at the commandment of God, not knowing whither he went, (Heb. 11:8), and so not consulting with flesh and blood: yea, when God called him to offer up his son, his only son, Isaac, flesh and blood might have objected a thousand things: that he was the child of promise: nay, that his offering Isaac, would contradict the command of God, “Thou shalt not kill:” and contradict the promise of God, That in Isaac should his seed be called: that it would contradict the rule of natural affection. Yea, but Abraham consulted not with flesh and blood; but by faith offered up Isaac, as it is said, (Heb. 11:17). As little did he consult with flesh and blood, when he took God’s word, and trusted in him, with relation to his having Isaac, when both his body and Sarah’s was dead.

3. We have the example of Moses, of whom it is said, “By faith Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season,” (Heb. 11:24‑27),  &c. If he had conferred with flesh and blood, he had rather chosen to dwell at ease in Pharaoh’s court, and enjoy all the pleasures and treasures thereof: but he had learned, not to confer with flesh and blood.

4. We have the example of Daniel, (3:15-17), when commanded to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s gold image: if Daniel had consulted with flesh and blood, he would easily have complied with the courses of the times, and rather have worshipped the golden image, than have been cast into the fiery furnace: for, flesh and blood would have told him, that it was better to be wise than too precise. Yea, but he and his companions could not be persuaded to a little outward obedience; for, they consulted not with flesh and blood, but consulted with God, saying, “We are not careful to answer thee, O king, in this matter; for, the God whom we serve, is able to save us.” Yea, so far from consulting with flesh and blood was he and they, that they would not defile themselves with a portion of the king’s meat, (Dan. 1:8); nor with the wine which he drank. Flesh and blood would have told him, that there was no harm in meat; that it was a thing indifferent: but they were under another influence and conduct, than that of flesh and blood. Yea, so obstinate was Daniel from consulting with flesh and blood, that notwithstanding the conspiracy of the nobles against him, because of his devotion towards his God, and their obtaining a decree of casting all into the lion’s den that should, for thirty, days, worship any other, or ask any petition of another, except of Darius, Daniel went more openly and worshipped his God than ever, in the view of his very enemies.—Flesh and blood would have told him, that he might have dispensed with a little ceremony of opening windows, and exposing him to danger that way: nay, but he consulted not with flesh and blood.

III. We now proceed to assign the reasons, why we must not consult with flesh and blood. We shall only condescend on the four following.

1. Because flesh and blood are utterly unable to give advice, in the matters of God. Flesh and blood could not so much as tell how a man might be born again or regenerated, unless he should go into his mother’s womb again; as you see in the instance of Nicodemus, a learned man, a ruler of the Jews, and a master in Israel, (John 3:1‑4). Yea, when it was explained in part to him, it was impossible for flesh and blood to understand it, as he himself confessed: “How can these things be?” (John 3:9). Flesh and blood are altogether unable to give advice in the matters of God.

2. Because flesh and blood are unwilling to give advice in the matters of religion; for, they are in a constant rebellion against God and godliness; “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these two are contrary the one to the other,” (Gal. 5:17). Yea, flesh and blood are enmity against God: and is “not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then, they that are after the flesh, cannot please God,” (Rom. 8:7,8). Hence,

3. Because flesh and blood are unfit for giving advice in the matters of God, and conscience, and religion: if they be unable and unwilling, surely they are unfit to be consulted with. It is a folly to consult with them; for, their counsel is like that of Ahithophel, that will be turned to foolishness. Flesh and blood will be sure to give us wrong advice, and bad counsel in the matter’s of God. Is it fit, in the matters of God, to consult the enemies of God? No: for, “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? What concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?” (2 Cor. 6:14-16). Again,

4. Because it is dangerous to consult with flesh and blood. It is very dangerous, in several respects; particularly in the four following ones.

(1.) It is dangerous, because flesh and blood will hinder us from duty, if we confer with them. What hindered those that were bidden to the gospel‑feast? Why one consulted with his Farm, another with his Merchandise; and so they made light of the invitation, by consulting with flesh and blood, and advising with carnal reason, and carnal ease, (Matt. 22:5). What hindered the rulers that believed in Christ from confessing him? Even fear, “Lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for, they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God,” (John 12:42,43). They consulted with flesh and blood.

(2.) It is dangerous, because if we consult with flesh and blood, it will not only hinder us from entering upon a profession of Christ and so lead us to the omission of duty, but also will make us venture upon those things, which God hath expressly discharged, and commanded that we should not do: So Saul, when he went to destroy the Amalekites, he had an express command to spare nothing, (1 Sam. 15:3). But Saul consulted with flesh and blood; “He spared Agag, and some of the best of the cattle.” What might flesh and blood say to Saul? O, I may be in the like case; and he that shows no mercy, shall have no mercy shown him: so he spared him. And he also consulted with flesh and blood concerning the cattle, and sheep, and oxen: carnal reason told him they would serve for burnt‑offerings, (v. 15). But Samuel told Saul afterwards, “That obedience was better than sacrifice; and to hearken, than the fat of rams,” (v. 22). It was consulting with flesh and blood that caused Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit: “She saw it was fair to the eye, and meat to be desired,” (Gen. 3:6).

(3.) It is dangerous, because if we consult with flesh and blood, it will hinder us from suffering, in the cause of God. The apostles rejoiced in this, That they were counted worthy to Buffer shame for his name, (Acts 5:41). They counted it a great honor. It is a gift of God, when it is given, not only to believe, but to suffer for his name. Had Paul consulted with flesh and blood, he would never have been willing to die for Christ’s sake, as “What mean ye to weep, and to break mine heart? I am ready, not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord Jesus,” (Acts 21:11,13). Flesh and blood, instead of suffering for Christ, will tell a man to persecute the cause of Christ, and the followers of Christ, against knowledge and conscience, if he consult his own carnal ease, interest, credit, and honour in the world.

(4.) It is dangerous, because if we consult with flesh and blood, it sends a man at last to consult with the Devil, and to take advice of help as you see in the case of Saul, “Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of her,” (1 Sam. 28:7). Thus he consulted with the witch of Endor. Having so long consulted with flesh and blood, he at last sought to the Devil himself, to consult with. If we still consult with flesh and blood, who are the devil’s friends and favorites, we are in danger of consulting next with the devil himself.

IV. We come now to the Application of the subject, which we shall essay in an Use of Information, Caution, Reprehension, Dehortation, and Direction.

1st, Let us then improve the Doctrine, in an Use of Information. Hence we may see,

1. What advice it is, that the wicked of the world do follow; and what is the counsel that doth destroy them, and mislead them. Why, they are wholly under the conduct and counsel of flesh and blood: they have a daily conference stated with carnal ease, carnal reason: and the conference is held in the heart; and at this council Satan presides; he works in the children of disobedience. And what can be expected, as the result of such a black and hellish consultation? For, at this council, iniquity is established by a law; and no acts passed, but acts of rebellion and hostility against heaven. Indeed, the wicked world listen to no solicitations, no arguments, but what are drawn from flesh and blood: And hence, in a suitableness to the dictates of carnal inclination, some are hotly pursuing their pleasures, some their profits, some their honour: The voluptuous man, his pleasure, his cups, and queans [an immoral woman]; the covetous man, his profits, his worldly gains; the ambitious man, his honor, his credit and grandeur.—Whence is it that all manner of wickedness, profanity, and carnality abound? Why, the world are all busy conferring with flesh and blood: this is the principle that sways them; hence so wearied in duty, secret, private, and public.

2. See wherein it is, that the immortal soul, and its everlasting concerns, are so much slighted and neglected by the world, while the body, and outward things, draw away all the concern after them; why, it is because men consult with flesh and blood; they consult their carnal ease and outward convenience; but do not consult their soul’s everlasting welfare. Flesh and blood goes no higher than itself, and takes no notice of the soul; or, if it doth, it provides no better for the soul than for the body, like the fool in the gospel, who thought his soul might be happy with full barns;—“Soul, take thy rest, thou hast goods laid up for many years.” Alas! Short-lived happiness for an immortal soul; “Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee.”

3. Hence see the root of superstition and will‑worship; it flows from conferring with flesh and blood; which hating the spirituality of worship, is most taken up with carnal ordinances and human inventions, and uninstituted ceremonies: “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” It is too remarkable, that the more carnal that the generation is growing, the more is abjured ceremonies creeping in among us, and the less testifying against the same; though yet it be “A burden, which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear,” as the Apostle says, “Why tempt ye God to put a yoke?” (Acts 15:10)—The Apostle there speaks of a yoke of ceremonies, once enjoined of God himself, that now being abolished, it was a tempting of God; much more is the yoke of ceremonies that never were enjoined. But while we consult with flesh and blood, we tamely submit to the yoke of carnal ordinances, as they are called, (Heb. 9:10); and while the spirituality of worship is neglected and detested, and the internal glory of ordinances is out of sight.

4. See what is the spring of all corruption in the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of the house of God: it will be found that consulting with flesh and blood, in the matters of religion, is at the bottom thereof.

(1.) Whence is it that the doctrines of the gospel have been so much corrupted? it is just from carnal reason, and consulting with that rather than with the word: We err, not knowing the Scriptures, not conferring with the Scriptures: Or, if men confer with the Scriptures, and consult the word, it is not with the word and the Spirit together; but it is with the word and their own spirit, their own carnal sentiments:—Hence so many carnal interpretations of the Scripture, and carnal glosses upon the word, suiting the natural apprehensions of men concerning the Law; as if it was still standing in force, as a covenant, against believers, as well as unbelievers; or, as if personal obedience thereto, were the way to eternal life, while yet the Scripture testifies of Christ, as the only way to life; and our obedience now, when evangelical, as being only the necessary fruit and evidence of union to him. Pride of reason, founds Socinianism; pride of the will, Arminianism; pride of self‑righteousness, Neonomianism.—How is the doctrine of Justification and Sanctification confounded1 by men’s conferring with flesh and blood? Carnal reason suggesting, that God will not justify us, but upon some worthy consideration, or valuable performance of ours, which intimates gross ignorance of the gospel, concerning free justification by the blood of Christ.—It is from this root, even the conferring with flesh and blood, that many also do abuse the doctrine of the gospel to licentiousness, as if it encouraged wickedness, which is blasphemy against Christ, as if he was the minister of sin; nay, those that reproachfully charge the doctrine of grace, as a covert to sin; and the preachers of it, as if they were enemies to holiness; do but grossly betray their ignorance of the gospel, and their consulting with flesh and blood in all their carnal arguments; for, if they consult with the gospel itself duly, in opposition to legal doctrine, they would find, that the more evangelical the doctrine is the more holy and pure it is, and influential upon holiness; for, the more a man is dead to the Law, the more he lives unto God: but this, will remain a mystery to many in the world forever, because of their carnal thoughts and reasoning in favor of the Law, as a covenant; for flesh and blood cannot endure gospel doctrine; nature and carnal reason, cannot make the Law, a rule of obedience, without making it a rule of acceptance. 2

(2.) Whence is it that the Worship which God hath appointed in his house, is so much abused: What is the rise of all that detestable neutrality in the worship of God, and weariness and lukewarmness in the duties thereof? Why, it is just men’s conferring with flesh and blood. Spiritual worship, and a carnal heart, cannot comport, suit, or agree together: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” And flesh and blood cannot endure spiritual work and worship: Hence men draw near to God with the mouth, while the heart is removed far from him. Hence men are careless what way they worship, or what way others worship God; whether it be an idolatrous, superstitious, or instituted way, like Gallio, they care for none of these things. Hence Sabbaths and sermons, are a weariness; praying and praising, are a burden: flesh and blood cannot endure these things. “Take a carnal man, says one, tie him to a post, and you may kill him with praying and preaching.”

(3:) Whence is it that partiality in the exercise of church discipline, doth proceed? When men do not confer with flesh and blood, then discipline is powerful and impartial: but when, by consulting with flesh and blood, they connive at sin, overlook it in some, and dare not reprove it in others.—Flesh and blood says, Such a person is a friend; we must favor him: such a person is a great man, a rich man, we must wink at a fault; we must not meddle with him, lest he make us and the church uneasy.—By these carnal reasonings, the power of discipline is broken. Alas! how far are we, at this day, from the spirit of Ambrose, who excommunicated the emperor Theodosius, for some rash orders of his; while the emperor humbly submitted to the discipline of the church; and, upon his repentance was received? But now, alas; we must not offend this and that great man, otherwise all will go wrong. Oh! where is powerful and impartial discipline! It is sunk in the mire of sinful conference with flesh and blood.

(4.) Whence again proceeds that disorder and confusion that takes place in the government of the church? While men consult not with flesh and blood, the government is beautiful and orderly: but by carnal reasoning and carnal policy, and carnal wisdom, it is turned out of course: tyranny in church government over the souls and consciences of people; such as, in thrusting pastors upon a Christian flock, without their free consent and election, is rooted in conferring with flesh and blood: Why, says carnal wisdom and policy, such a patron must be gratified; such a great man must be pleased, the church cannot stand without the support of such pillars.3 What is all this, but a conferring with flesh and blood.—In a word, all the degeneracy of our day, is owing to this origin.

5. Hence see what is the root of all the divisions of our day, it flows from this consultation with flesh and blood. See, “Whereas there is among you envying, and strife and division: are you not carnal?” (Jam. 4:1; 1 Cor. 3:3). Division among ministers and people flows from this carnal bias; proud flesh and blood cannot be controlled, scorns to be corrected: Who shall be greatest? is still the question of flesh and blood. Who shall be highest? Proud flesh and blood will put a fair face upon the foulest act, rather than take with a fault, or confess a wrong, or forgive an injury.

6. Hence see what it is, that the people of God have to wrestle against, while here, even all the counsels of flesh and blood. Paul rejects the consultation: there he plainly supposes that flesh and blood was ready to suggest, and solicit, and gave their advice; but Paul rejects the same; “Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.” This is a council where Satan presides, and is always at the head of the table. And hence, while they have flesh and blood to wrestle against, they have principalities and powers also, (Eph. 6:12). Much need have they of the whole armor of God, that they may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

2dly, This doctrine may be improven for Caution to prevent mistakes. There are several things that this duty, of not consulting with flesh and blood; doth not prohibit; such as,

1. It doth not exclude the duty of necessary conversation, traffic, and merchandise with the carnal men of this world, providing we do not mingle with their vice, and contract no intimate friendship with them; for, “The friendship of this world is enmity against God:” but otherwise, conversation, company, trade, and traffic with such may be necessary and allowable. This caution the apostle gives us, “I wrote, unto you in an epistle, not to keep company with fornicators. Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters: for then must ye needs go out of the world,” (1 Cor. 5:9,10).

2. It doth not exclude, impeach, or debar the duty of charity toward the poor, and honoring the Lord with all our worldly substance, providing it be not done out of ostentation, to be seen of men, and to gratify flesh and blood. And as it doth not exclude charitable deeds, toward the souls and bodies of all men, doing them all the good services we can; so neither doth it exclude charitable thoughts of them: “Charity thinketh no evil,” but puts the best construction upon all the actions of others, that the nature of the thing will bear, (1 Cor. 13:5).

3. It doth not exclude or debar the duty of spiritual prudence. We are to be wise as serpents, and not to run upon seen hazard, without a call; nor to neglect the duty of consulting our necessary safety in time of danger and persecution; providing we do not fly when God bids us stand; or when the cause of Christ, or the glory of God, oblige us to bear witness for him, and for his truth: but abstract from these, or the like cases, Christian prudence is requisite in shunning whatever hazard we may, through imprudence, cast ourselves into: hence saith Solomon, “The prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself.”

4. It does not exclude or impeach the duty of courtesy and civility towards all men; no: religion doth not allow men to be ill-bred or any way uncivil, more than it allows them to be ill‑natured toward any: so, to be courteous, as the apostle exhorts, (1 Pet. 3:8), is not to be reckoned a conferring with flesh and blood. There is a way of becoming all things to all men, by the duty of courtesy, civility, and hospitality, which may be gaining to all.

5. It doth not exclude of frugality and industry about our worldly concerns. One is not reckoned a consulter with flesh and blood, because he provides for his family: “For, he that doth not so, saith the apostle, hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” One may be a Mary for piety and a Martha for industry too; providing it be managed with moderation, so as not to exclude the better part.

6. It doth not exclude the duty of mercy, pity and compassion towards the body, whether our own, or that of others. It were an abuse of this doctrine, if any, out of pretence of not consulting with flesh and blood, should show no mercy to the outward man, no regard to their own health: but should punish the body with immoderate fasting, or penance, or unmercifully lacerate their flesh, as many in the Popish church, through their superstitious devotion, do. But, in some cases, “Mercy is better than sacrifice.”

7. It doth not exclude or debar the duty of forbearance and tenderness towards those that are overtaken in a fault. It were an abuse, of this doctrine, of not consulting with flesh and blood, to be thereupon untender of weaklings, who are ready to stumble and fall: for, though this doctrine obliges us not to bear with sin, wherever it is, yet it doth not allow us to insult over the infirmities of any; but we are to take the Apostle’s rule, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and fulfill the law of Christ,” (Gal. 6:1,3).

8. It doth not exclude the duty of respect to everyone, in their several stations and relations; particularly, due regard to parents, magistrates, and ministers; and subjection to judicatories of God’s appointment, provided it be in the Lord, and in all things lawful, if not inconsistent with this duty of not conferring with flesh and blood: nay, it is highly consistent therewith, yea, and necessary thereunto; for a man may consult with flesh and blood, by refusing to give a due subjection; as many obstinate offenders do, that despise all discipline. Though, indeed, unlawful subjection or obedience, not in the Lord, is but a consulting with flesh and blood; while we follow the dictates of courts or counsels, in a way disagreeable to the word of God.

9. It doth not exclude the duty of advising with neighbors and Christians, whether about civil or religious matters, wherein any difficulty doth present itself. The doctrine, indeed, excludes the taking of good counsel from man, in an agreeableness to the word of God: nay, many times “In the multitude of counsellors there is safety,” as Solomon saith; who also teacheth us to take advice in matters of weight, saying, “With good advice make war.”

10. If we view this doctrine of not consulting with flesh and blood, as it stands in opposition to self‑righteousness; or seeking to establish our own credit before men, or our own righteousness before God; yet it doth not exclude the duty of desiring and seeking, in a regular way, to have and maintain a good name: studying to have a righteousness of profession before men; and a righteousness of sanctification, both of heart and life, before God. Though we are to deny the righteousness of works, and to seek justification and acceptance elsewhere, otherwise we are of those that put confidence in the flesh, and are not the true circumcision: yet we are not to forsake the works of righteousness, but to maintain good works: “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God, might be careful to maintain good works: these things are careful and profitable unto men.” They are to be maintained before man in all the duties of righteousness respecting them; and sobriety, respecting ourselves, and our deportment before them: they are to be maintained before God, in all the parts of holiness; and that both internal, in the exercise of holy graces; and external, in the performance of holy duties. Though we must deny this righteousness in point of dependence, yet not in point of performance; though we need another righteousness to trust to, yet we need to be possessed of this; otherwise we would expose the faith of Christ to be evil spoken of. By our light shining before men, we must endeavor to make others confess that we are illuminated with the beams of the Sun of Righteousness.—A righteousness without us we need, to give us a title to heaven; and a righteousness within us, for sanctification of heart and way we need, to give us a meetness for heaven. A right of merit we have in justification, by Christ’s righteousness; a right of meetness we have in sanctification, by Christ’s spirit: which latter right may be the meaning of that word, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city,” (Rev. 12:14): or, it may be understood thus, that they may have evidence of their right, according to that word, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you,” (John 15:14).

The third use is of Reprehension. This doctrine reproves many sorts of people that may be said to confer with flesh and blood; and here, by‑the‑bye, you may examine whether or not you be chargeable with this sin of conferring with flesh and blood; and, if we search narrowly, I know few or none will be in case to exculpate themselves, or plead not guilty. There are those seven or eight sorts of people that consult with flesh and blood.

The First sort of persons, that confer with flesh and blood, are those, who, not choosing the word of God for their rule, nor his Spirit for their guide, consult with tradition; yielding themselves to be ruled and conducted with human tradition, and ancient customs of their forefathers: This Paul acknowledges was his sin, before Christ was here revealed in him, “Being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers,” (v. 14).—This is the sin of the Papists, who reject the Scriptures, as sufficient to uphold their religion; no wonder, for if it cannot stand upon that foundation; and therefore they, build upon corrupt traditions, and study to uphold the same with fire and faggot.—Yea, this is the sin of ignorant Protestants, that shape their religion only in a conformity to their ancestors; they will be of their forefathers’ religion, and maintain the principles of their education, like those, Jeremiah 44:17. What is all this but a consulting with flesh and blood?

The Second sort of persons, that confer with flesh and blood, are those that consult with man in the matters of God; and that either in point of trust or fear.—Some consult with man in point of trust, while they put their trust in man, contrary to the command of God, “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the sons of men, in whom there is no help,” (Ps. 146:3). It is dangerous to repose our trust in man: “Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, whose heart departeth from the Lord,” (Jer. 17:5). If we trust in armies or allies, parliaments or potentates, friends or favorites, we trust in lying words: “It is better to trust in the Lord, than to put confidence in princes, (Ps. 118:9). Trust ye not in a friend, put no confidence in a guide, (Micah 7:5). And, “Take ye heed, every one of his neighbour, and trust ye not in any brother: for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbour will walk with slanders,” (Jer. 9:4). That time is come to pass: there is the ordinary character of the men that are the object of our false confidence, when we trust in men like ourselves: yea, “The best of men are like a briar, saith the prophet Micah; and the most upright, sharper than a thorn hedge, which will pierce all that lean to it.” If we depend upon human powers, for the preservation of our church or state; or depend upon human policy, for the reformation of religion, we will find ourselves sadly disappointed: “It is better to trust in the Lord, than to put confidence in princes.” If we depend upon human laws, even for the security of our fortune; or upon our compliance with whatever human authority enjoins, for our freedom from outward troubles and trials, we trust but in man, and so confer with flesh and blood.—Again, some consult with man in point of fear: If ether we trust in them or be afraid of man that shall die, we consult with flesh and blood. It is an awful word to this purpose, “Who art thou that thou shouldst be afraid of man, that shall die; and of the son of man, which shall be made as grass: and forgettest the Lord thy Maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth?” (Isa. 51:12,13). Thus many dare not do their duty for fear of man: they dare not worship God in their families; they dare not abstain from swearing, drinking, tippling, or betake themselves to serious religion, for fear of being scoffed, and scorned, and persecuted; like the Jews that durst not profess Christ, for fear of being cast out of the synagogue, (John 12:42). Thus some even of the godly, perhaps, dare not make public appearances for the cause and truths of the Lord Jesus, for fear of being exposed to the censures of the church, in a time when they are called to appear: But see what the Lord saith in such a case, to those that fear the reproaches and revilings of men: “Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law, fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings: For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool.” It is but the grass of the field that opposeth us; “All flesh is grass.”—Let us not consult with flesh and blood.

The Third sort of persons, that confer with flesh and blood, are these who consult with passion and resentment, so as to seek revenge upon every injury, real or conceived. Why, ask a man why he is so hot in the pursuit of revenge, against those that have wronged him: he will answer, How can flesh and blood bear this? If I put up with this wrong, they will wrong me again; therefore, nothing will serve me but their blood, or some suitable retaliation, for the injury done me: while yet we are commanded to pray for them that persecute us, and to love them that hate us. If we consult with flesh and blood, we will devour one another, (Gal. 5:15). How often hath it happened, that those who have sought revenge have been the destruction of themselves and others, while both parties have been killed in the field; and while others, meditating revenge, they and their whole families have been undone by law-pleas: yea, many times consulting with flesh and blood, in matters of revenge, causeth men to be their own destruction. Saul killed himself, after he had long hunted David. And Judas, who was so cruel to his Master, sold himself to a halter, hanged himself, and his bowels gushed out. Proud flesh and blood is the cause of revenge; “Only by pride cometh contention,” (Prov. 13:10), whereas humility would keep peace. Pliny writes of two ill‑natured goats, that met both together, upon a narrow bridge, over a great stream; the bridge was so narrow, that the one could not pass by the other; and if they had striven, and fought it out, it had been present danger of drowning to them both: but at last one of them lying down, and becoming a bridge to the other, both were saved. Indeed, the example of that brute beast may tell us, it is better, to let persons trample upon us sometimes, than by squabbling and discord, to endanger the drowning and destroying of both ourselves and others. A man, meditating revenge, cannot go to God, and say, as Christ hath taught him, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive them that trespass against us.” If you say this petition with a heart full of revenge, you do nothing but imprecate a curse upon yourselves; and that God would deal with you, as you deal with your brother: if you pray not, then God’s vengeance is ready to be poured out, (Jer. 10:25); if you do pray, then your prayer is a cart‑rope to pull down vengeance upon you. Why, say you, but should my neighbor abuse me at this rate? No, indeed: but because he hath broken one command, in wronging you, will you break another, in malicious revenge against him?—Why put this last question? This is doctrine for them that have no blood in their nails: I tell you, minister, flesh and blood cannot endure the wrong I sustain. I tell you, man, flesh and blood cannot enter into the kingdom of God: wherefore, if you come there, flesh and blood must be mortified, and not consulted with. Why, I would be just reckoned a fool, a sot, an idiot, if I should put up with such an affront; it would be a discredit. Why, the wisdom of God, by the mouth of Solomon, saith, “It is the glory of a man to pass by an injury.” And what saith your carnal wisdom, poor fool that you are, in opposition to God’s wisdom? Let the world judge as they please, it is a greater credit for a man to overcome himself, and his revengeful affections, than to overcome his enemies, either at the bar or in the field. Well, say you, I shall forgive, but I cannot forget. Indeed, it is a wonder what one remarks in Cyprian, that though he had an excellent memory for all things else, yet he could never remember an injury; so ill was his memory on that score, which was his excellency. But we may observe as great a wonder, on the contrary, that men have such ill memories, that they forget all things else almost; yet they have such good memories, that they will remember injuries never so long: yea, they will never forget them; but mind to resent and revenge them, after many years. Ask many a person concerning a sermon, Alas! I have the worst memory in the world, I am so forgetful; I would give anything for a good memory: and yet, perhaps, they will mind an injury, twenty years. Oh! if God so forgive our sins, as yet not to forget them, what would become of us!

The Fourth sort who confer with flesh and blood, are those that consult with numbers and multitudes, in the matters of God: they will be the religion that the most are of; they will follow such a principle and opinion, because the greatest multitude and number of great men, or good men do so: thus, like Roman votaries, they bind their faith to the belt of the church: to believe as the church believes. It is not, “Thus saith the Lord,” that binds them; that were to build upon a divine testimony; but, Thus with the Church, or thus saith an assembly of Divines, or thus saith such and such a great number of men: the greatest multitude of the learned and eminent say so and so; therefore we follow these. Thus they take the gospel upon trust, and have the faith of Christ with respect of persons. Can such a great number be all wrong, and such a small number only right? No; wisdom must dwell with the greatest multitude, saith flesh and blood, without ever proving all things, and holding fast that which is good: or, like the noble Bereans, searching the Scriptures, to see whether these things be so. Perhaps this is as prevailing an evil as any in the present time, with respect to matters controverted in the Lord’s house. It is a carnal argument for one to say, Lord help us, if all others be in the wrong but you; yet, why must we be singular? Yea, but when vice becomes general, singularity becomes a virtue: when error in judgment, or principle, becomes universal, singularity becomes a necessary duty. What though we be called nice, and proud, and singular, affecting a name above others? We must follow Christ, bearing his reproach. Though a man should happen to be on the right side of the question, by following the principles of those whom he takes to be the greatest multitude of learned and eminent men; yet his faith is but an human faith, while it is built upon an human testimony: and a man’s embracing what he thinks the Rabies of the day maintain, is too like that of the Pharisees,—“Have any of the rulers and Pharisees believed in him? But this people, that know not the law are accursed,” (John 7:48,49). Even so will flesh and blood argue: The greatest body and number of the great and learned world, if not the whole tribe of those that are reckoned wise and learned, believe so and so; and it is to be supposed that it is but a pack of ignorant fools, that differ from them; and therefore we will believe as the greatest multitude of our church‑guides direct us they, know the things of that nature better than we; and therefore we must trust that they are in the right; Thus many times the blind lead the blind, and both fall into the ditch: for it may happen that even those may be blind, whom neither themselves, nor others think to be so: so it was with the opinionative Pharisees, who said, “Are we blind also?” (John 9:40).

The Fifth sort that confer with flesh and blood are those who consult with human wisdom, in the matters of God, and whose fear towards God, is taught by the wisdom of men; on which account the Lord threatens, “The wisdom of their wise men shall perish; and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid,” (Isa. 29:14). Many are taken not with the truth, as it is in Jesus, but with the wisdom of fine words, or the wisdom of human literature, and carnal reasonings; both which the apostle cautions against, in the matters of religion; “And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words,” (Col. 2:4). And the apostle’s practice was the very reverse of this,—“Brethren, when I came to you, I came not with excellency of speech, or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified,” (1 Cor. 2:1,2). Enticing words is the bait wherewith the credulous and simple sort of people are taken, as the apostle observes, The simple are they who are caught with the bait of enticing words of men, who, like merchants, set off slight and corrupt wares with the finest words, (Rom. 16:17,18). Another caution is, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, not after Christ,” (Col. 2:8). The former is a bait for the simple, but here is a bait for the learned world, when human philosophy and natural reasonings, are set in opposition to the truth as it is in Jesus Christ.—People confer with flesh and blood, when they are offended at the simplicity of Christ’s doctrine, which is a stranger to the ornament of human wisdom, clothed only with the simple attire of a vulgar style, free from the flourish of lofty eloquence: Thus Augustine, before his conversion, owns his contempt of the word, when he began to read it, because he looked upon the style of the Scriptures as very mean, compared with the eloquence of Cicero, to which he had accustomed himself: hence it is said, “The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:” The Jews, who were accustomed to live under extraordinary dispensations, they would have nothing but miracles and prodigies from heaven; but the Greeks, the Gentiles, they sought for the depth of philosophy in the gospel; and when they missed that, they laughed it to scorn; as you may see in Paul’s reencounter with the Epicurean philosophers and Stoics, (Acts xvii. 18). Great reason then had the apostle to say as he doth, “And my speech, and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power. Howbeit, we speak wisdom among them that art perfect; yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world, unto our glory. Therefore, though the preaching of the gospel be, to them that perish, foolishness; yet to them that are saved, it is the power of God: For God hath made foolish the wisdom of this world; and by the foolishness of preaching saveth them that believe. We preach Christ crucified; to the Jews a stumbling‑block, and to the Greeks foolishness; but to them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God: because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men,” (1 Cor. 2:4,6,7); So you see the apostle speaking at large, (1 Cor. 1:17‑29). These that are only taken then, with a fine style of language, and turns of wit, and the flowers of rhetoric, without searching into the mysteries of the gospel, and seeking to have the gospel coming, not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, (1 Thess. 1:5), are carnal, and conferring with flesh and blood.—But carnal wisdom, and carnal reason runs sometimes in another channel, while it not only, upon the one hand, represents the doctrine of the gospel, as too mean, and therefore despises it; but, on the other hand, represents the mysteries of the gospel, as too high, and therefore discredits it. Thus the devil plays his game at both hands: sometimes suggesting, that the doctrine of the gospel is too coarse and plain; at other times that it is too sublime and mysterious; such as the mystery of the Trinity, the mystery of the incarnation of Christ, the mystery of the spiritual union between Christ and the believer, the mystery of free justification, without works, by the righteousness of another.—Hence a generation of atheists, not only call in question, but impudently deny the mysteries of religion, as incomprehensible and impossible, because inconsistent with their carnal reason, however agreeable to right reason.—But flesh and blood are ready to say of gospel-mysteries, as Nicodemus of the wonders of regeneration, “How can these things be?” We might show how many errors of the day, whether Arian, Socinian, Arminian, or Pelagian, derive their origin from hence; but I proceed.

The Sixth sort of persons, who conferring with flesh and blood, are those that consult with the world in the matters of religion.—Of this sort are these that follow the ill example, and study the carnal politics of the world, and join in therewith, especially when it tendeth to advance or secure their worldly interests. Thus many, in point of worldly example, they rule their actions according to the will and example of their superiors; so Israel followed Jeroboam. And some, to please a great man, will make bold with light and conscience, directing them another way: or, if they suppose him to be a good man, that takes such and such a course, then the example of such will blind the eye of their conscience, and foster the argument of flesh and blood; for, why, saith flesh and blood, may not I do as such a great man, or such a good man doth, that is wiser than I can pretend to be? Yea, but we are to be followers of none, but as they are followers of Christ; otherwise we consult only with flesh and blood.—Of this sort also are those that give up themselves to the conduct of worldly policy, and study the carnal politics of the world, even in the matters of God and conscience; and hence will yield a blind obedience to the commandments of men, as Israel did to the statutes of Omri, (Micah 6:16). And Ephraim, who willingly walked with the commandment, (Hosea 5:11). And perhaps all this, not for conscience‑sake, but for interest‑sake: Why, saith flesh and blood, it is better to be wise than fool‑hardy, and expose ourselves to the fury of the government, civil or ecclesiastic: should we not take the course that will most contribute to obtain some worldly advantage, to secure our worldly interest, or to prevent worldly losses, crosses, and inconveniences; and why should we not obey the higher powers? Well, if it be duty, you are enjoined, why not obey? We ought to obey them in the Lord, and for conscience sake: but though a man may be doing what is duty in this case; yet, if he be swayed thereto, not from conscience, but from such carnal worldly motives, in matters that concern God and religion, then he but consults with flesh and blood; and his fear toward God, is taught by the precepts of men. But, on the other hand, if you truly doubt of its being duty, before God, that you are called to, then, “Whatsoever is not faith is sin:” And if thus it be sin, then, “Whether ye ought to obey God or man, judge ye?” We consult with flesh and blood, if we yield obedience either to civil or ecclesiastical authority, any other way but in the Lord: or, if conscience be merely swayed with interest.—In a word, all sinful shifts to shun the cross, and carnal compliances to secure the world, is a consulting with flesh and blood: yea, when human authority, is more regarded, for the sake of the world, than the authority, of God and Christ.

The Seventh sort of persons that conferreth with flesh and blood, are those that consult outward peace and tranquility, in the matters of God, even though they have little regard to gospel‑truth and piety: they love to be easy, and to live in peace, though it should be at the rate and expense of making shipwreck of faith and a good conscience. But “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, and then peaceable,” (Jam. 3:17). First purity and truth, and then tranquility and peace, is the due order of heavenly wisdom; and hence we are commanded to love the truth and peace; first the truth, and then the peace. Peace without truth, is but a conspiracy against the God of truth: therefore, in studying to “Follow peace with all men,” we are to observe this rule, otherwise it cannot be an holy peace, according to what follows, “And holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. The peace of a church can never be maintained with a blessing on it, if truth be not the foundation of that peace; for, it is a cursed peace that stands not upon that foundation.—But of this sort of people, that confer with flesh and blood, are those also that study their own outward peace and ease, at any rate; and hence will rather sin than suffer: therefore, when persecution comes, they fall away; flesh and blood cannot endure the cross of Christ.—They are content to follow Christ in a fair day; but when foul weather, and a heavy cross comes, by and by they are offended, (Matt. 13:21). Our Lord hath fairly warned all his disciples what a tempest of trouble and trial, reproach and persecution, will blow in their face, saying, “If any man will be my disciple, let him take up his cross, and follow me.” And therefore they are not to promise themselves peace in the world, and a constant flourishing state of outward prosperity; for he hath said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation:” And yet when tribulation comes, hereupon Christ is to many, a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence.—Thus they consult with flesh and blood, who project nothing but peace and ease in the way of duty and religion.

The Eighth sort of persons, who confer with flesh and blood, are those that consult with sense and self, in the matters of God, and of faith, and religion: that is, those who in religion put sense, as it were, in the room of faith, and self in the room of God.

[1.] Some put sense in the room of faith; and hence their faith is governed by sense and feeling: they do not believe the threatening, because they have the sense and feeling of smiling providences: they do not believe the promise, because they have the sense and feeling of adverse and frowning providences: outward providences is made the rule of their faith, not the word of God. Hence, saith flesh and blood, that measures the threatening by sense, “Where is the promise of his coming? For, since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were, from the beginning of the creation: Not knowing, That one day is with God as a thousand years; and a thousand years, as one day: And that the heaven and earth, which are now, are kept in store, reserved unto fire, against the day of judgment, and perdition of ungodly men,” (1 Pet. 3:4‑8). But, “Because sentence against these, is not speedily execute; therefore the hearts of the children of men are fully set in them to do evil,” (Eccl. 8:11), “Despising the riches of the goodness and forbearance of God, and his longsuffering; not knowing, that the goodness of God should lead them to repentance,” (Rom. 2:4). And, on the other hand, hence, saith flesh and blood, that measures the promise by sense, Except I see signs and wonders, I will not believe: and, like Thomas, “Except I see in his hands the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Of this sort are those that distrust all present means of faith, and imagining that extraordinary discoveries, striking upon outward sense, would make such impressions as would do the business, saying, as “If one came from the dead, they would believe,” (Luke 19:30): If they had oracles and miracles; if God did speak to them from heaven, they would believe. But Moses and the prophets are a sufficient ground of faith; “If we do not believe them, neither would we believe, though one should rise from the dead.” If we cannot believe the threatening, till we feel the execution of it, it is like saying, We will not believe, till we be in hell; or, till it be in part execute on earth upon us: why, then our belief of it would not be founded on God’s word, but our own sense and feeling; and so it would not be faith properly, but sense. If we will not believe the promise, till we feel the accomplishment of it, this is like putting the plough before the oxen; a backward way of going to work: yea, it is impossible to believe this way; for sense is not faith: believing and feeling are different things. We may believe, without feeling; but we cannot feel, without first believing.

[2.] Some, again, put Self in the room of God, and the righteousness of God; and so evidently consult with flesh and blood, while we consult with our self; and here take a view both of natural or carnal self, and of spiritual and religious self.

1. When we gratify natural or carnal self, we do but consult with flesh and blood; when we cannot endure the mortification and self‑denial, which Christ calls his disciples to, and by which they evidence themselves to be his disciples. We are called to mortify our members that are upon the earth; to renounce the devil, the world, and the flesh; to be denied all the sinful pleasures of time, and carnal company in the world: this grates hard upon flesh and blood, which is ready to cry out with the Jews, “This is a hard saying, who can hear it?” Flesh and blood think it strange that God should plant desires in them, which he will not allow them to satisfy: but as these carnal desires of men, are of themselves, so it is the natural craving of flesh and blood, that makes people desire to live as they list, and not as they ought: hence arises a secret dislike at the purity of the gospel. But besides this gross consultation with flesh and blood, in gratifying natural or carnal self,

2. When we gratify spiritual and religious self, we do but consult with flesh and blood. And there are two special ways wherein men gratify their religious self, namely, when they seek to establish their own credit before men, and when they seek to establish their own righteousness before God, in all their religious performances.

(1.) When they seek to establish their own credit before men and to have a name, reputation, and applause, without having a single eye to the glory of God: these carnal ends and designs, in men’s spiritual‑like performances and religious duties, are a consulting with flesh and blood, while they love the praise of men more than the praise of God, (John 12:43). This is a piece of self and carnal consultation, which, as it reigns over hypocrites, who yield themselves to the power and government of it: so it may prevail over true believers, who, many times, may find themselves under the tyranny and bondage of it. This is a thief that will steal into the minister’s study and pulpit, to rob God of his glory there, that self may get what belongs to God. This is a robber that follows people from the chamber to the church, and spoils all their duties of hearing, praying, and praising; that, instead of giving praise to God, they may get praise to themselves. Hence flesh and blood makes the man have no pleasure in duty which have brought in no applause to the man; and makes him take pleasure in that performance which brings in most reputation and renown to the performer. From this principle a minister will preach Christ out of envy, that he may be thought as evangelical as the best; and from this principle also, some people will be as throng about religious duties as any can be, that they may be thought as religious as the best. Thus, for a pretence, the Pharisees made long prayers, and did many things to be seen of men. This is an attempt, as it were, to swear by the Lord, and swear by Malcham; to serve Christ and Belial, God and self both. See how our Lord speaks of this, “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men, is abomination in the sight of God,”( Luke 16:15)—Thus, I say, men consult with flesh and blood when, in the matters of God, their great design is to establish their own credit before men.

(2.) When they seek to establish their own righteousness before God, as the Jews did, (Rom. 10:3). These two parts of self do effectually oppose all true religion: for, as in the former respect, those that establish their own credit put self in the room of God and his glory, which is the ultimate end; so, in the latter respect, those that establish their own righteousness, they put self in the room of Christ and his righteousness, which is the mean to that end. And now, while we seek a righteousness in ourselves and in our own duties, for justification and acceptance with God, we do, in effect, bring down Christ, and set up flesh and blood in his room, and consult therewith. Men naturally seek after a righteousness in themselves, or salvation by their own personal obedience, according to the tenor of the covenant of works. Man’s righteousness was once in himself when he remained in his primitive integrity; but, since the fall, the Lord has removed our righteousness from ourselves to Christ, who has become the Lord our Righteousness; yet how few are prevailed upon to relinquish self and self‑righteousness!4 Many seek to establish their own righteousness, that will not take with the charge. 1. These do seek to establish their own righteousness who can hardly be brought, either doctrinally or practically, to own that believers are wholly and altogether delivered from the law, as a covenant of works; but still are for seeking righteousness, as it were, by the works of the law, (Rom. 9:32).—This was the stumbling‑stone over which the Jewish nation stumbled and fell headlong into ruin.

2. Of this sort are those that only cover their legal sentiments with a gospel varnish, while they bring in faith and repentance, and the like, as proper conditions of the covenant of grace, in room of the perfect obedience required in the covenant of works; which is a razing of the foundation of the gospel, and an establishing of a righteousness in our own person, for justification before God.

3. Of this sort are these also that bring in gospel repentance and the like, as necessary conditions and qualifications, in order to our justification before, and acceptance with God. Again,

4. Of this sort are those who, in principle or practice, contend that it is the believer’s duty to be influenced, in his obedience, either by the slavish fears of hell, or the legal hopes of heaven. To obey from a legal hope of heaven, as if we were to obtain heaven by our obedience, as it is contrary to the apostle’s doctrine, where he says, “That God hath appointed us to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that we should live with him,” (1 Thess. 5:9); so it affronts the obedience of Christ, whereby alone our title to heaven is secured. To obey from a slavish fear of hell, as if our obedience and duty would secure us therefrom, is like opposition to, and denial of the virtue of Christ’s death, whereby alone our freedom from bell is secured.

5. Of this sort are those who bring the believer upon every new sin, under a liableness to everlasting death and damnation, which is the penalty of the covenant of works, and which, though his sins deserved, yet the righteousness of Christ imputed to him, not only secures him from it, but from ever being liable to it. Those who thus will make the believer liable to that law‑sentence because of his sin, must of consequence suppose him not liable because of his obedience; and so they make him to be justified by his obedience, and condemned by his disobedience to the law; contrary to our received principles in our Standards, declaring “That the believer is not under the law, as a covenant, either to be justified or condemned.”5 The believer is neither justified by his obedience to the law, nor condemned for his disobedience: but, if he disobeys, his God and Father hath other ways of chastising him in a fatherly manner, according to Psalm 89:30‑33. In all these ways, men do but establish their own righteousness, and so consult with flesh and blood.

In a word, of this sort are all these that suspect the doctrine of the gospel as if it were an enemy to the law and holiness. Such is the propensity of nature towards the law, as a covenant of works, whenever awakened to any thoughtfulness about religion, that when the gospel declares that there is no justification by the deeds of the law; and that we are justified by faith, without the works of the law; and that righteousness is accounted to, or justification conferred upon them that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, (Rom. 4:5): Why, when this evangelical doctrine is opened, presently the legal disposition of men suspect this gospel-doctrine, and say of the publishers of it, as the Jews did of Paul, “This fellow persuades men to worship God, contrary to the law,” (Acts 18:13). Yea, not only contrary to the ceremonial law, but even to the moral law: for, must not men do as well as they can, in obedience to God’s law; and then expect to be justified and accepted. Thus gospel‑doctrine comes to be challenged for Antinomianism; as if it allowed men a carnal liberty for sin, and freedom to break the law, or discouraged the practice of holiness; which is one of the greatest calumnies that can be raised against the gospel of Christ; and betrays dreadful ignorance of the gospel of grace: which shows plainly that a man never lives unto God, in point of holiness, till he be dead to the law in point of righteousness, (Gal. 2:9): nor ever brings forth fruit unto God, till he be dead to the law, and married to Christ, (Rom. 7:9).6 But we need not think strange of this suspicion, nor the calumnies that issue from thence; for Christ Jesus, our glorious Lord himself, was obliged to defend himself against such calumnies as these; and therefore saith, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law:” I see, might he say, that is your thought, that is your suspicion; you suspect my doctrine as if it was an enemy to the law and to holiness: “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” And the apostles had themselves to defend from this charge, “Do we make void the law through faith? God forbid; we establish the law.”7—Thus you see how many respects people may be said to confer with flesh and blood.

 

Footnotes:

1The difference between Justification and Sanctification, is clearly stated by our Author.

2The Reader will find these topics handled to an excellent purpose, by our Author, in the Sermon entitled Law Death and Gospel‑Life.

3That Patronage is a great grievance in the Church, contrary to the Scripture, and repugnant to the Acts of the Church, in her best times, may be seen evinced, Sermon entitled, The Law of the House; Sermon entitled, The Church Besieged; and Sermon entitled, The Stability of Faith; in notes at the foot of the page.

4See this point of doctrine more fully illustrated, Sermon XLI.

5Confession of Faith, Chapter 9, Sect. 6

6This point of doctrine is very copiously handled by our Author, in the Sermon entitled, Love-death, and Gospel-life.

7Agout the time when this Sermon was preached, the contest about the Marrow-doctrine was upon the field, and the supporter thereof were accused as Antinomians.

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