CARNAL CONSULTATION UNFOLDED; OR, THE GREAT EVIL OF BEING ACTUATED BY CARNAL PRINCIPLES, IN THE MATTERS OF GOD, EVINCED.
[The Second Sermon on this Text]
“Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.” Galatians 1:18
Having finished what we intended upon the doctrinal part of the subject, by explaining what is to be understood by flesh and blood; confirmed the truth of the doctrine, by showing that we are not to confer therewith in the matters of God; assigned the reasons therefore; entered upon the application of the subject, and have applied it in an use of information, caution, and reprehension; this doctrine may next be applied for dehortation and direction. And,
The dehortation is, O sirs, consult not with flesh and blood. And for motives, consider the reasons of the doctrine, formerly assigned. Flesh and blood are unable to give advice in the matters of God; and as unable, so they are unwilling, and consequently unfit to consult with; yea, to consult with flesh and blood is dangerous; for, if we consult therewith, flesh and blood will hinder us from duty; flesh and blood will lead us to sin; flesh and blood will impede our suffering for Christ and his cause: yea, if we consult with flesh and blood, we will consult with the devil, as Saul did; and so to consult with flesh and blood, is to consult with our own ruin: yea, the dishonor of God, and the discredit of the gospel. But these I pass, having formerly insisted upon them.
But for direction in this matter, it may be asked, 1. What are we to consult with, if we may not consult with flesh and blood. 2. What are the most proper means for preventing our conferring with flesh and blood?
I. Whom or what are we to consult with, if we may not consult with flesh and blood? Who are we to consult? To this we reply; in general, we ought to consult with God: with God, in Christ, by the Spirit; or, with the Father, in the Son, by the Holy Ghost: I mean, we ought, under the conduct of the Spirit, to consult with God, as he is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that in all the duties of religion, and ordinances of his appointment, whether public or private: especially in prayer, saying, with David, “Thy Spirit is good: lead me to the land of uprightness,” (Ps. 143:10).—We ought to seek that he would guide by his counsel, till he bring unto glory; and give his Spirit for our guide: for he hath given us the greatest encouragement so to do; “If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children; how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13). Every good gift cometh from him; and therefore, to whom should we go, for counsel and direction, but to the Father of lights, and to Christ, the wonderful Counsellor: and to the Spirit of truth, who is promised to lead his people into all truth? If we do not acknowledge the Lord in all our ways, and consult with him, we will certainly consult with flesh and blood.
But more particularly, because God hath given us counselors over him, we are to consult such things, or persons, as he allows us to consult with, in a subordination to himself. If we would know then, more particularly, how we are to consult with God, we may do it by consulting, 1. The oracles of God. 2. The children of God. 3. The messengers of God. 4. The glory of God. 5. The analogy of faith. 6. The conscience, God’s deputy in our breast.
1. We are to consult the oracles of God; I mean the Scriptures of truth, in the matters of faith, in the matters of God and conscience; “Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and these are they which testify of me,” (John 5:39). The Scripture is the judge of controversy. General assemblies and councils may err; so cannot the Scripture: For, it is “The more sure word of prophecy, to which we do well to take heed, as to a light shining in a dark place,” (2 Pet. 1:19-21). We are therefore exhorted to let the word of God dwell in us richly, in all wisdom; and to receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save our souls; being doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving our own souls, (Jam. 1:21,22). See how Timothy is commended for his consulting with the Scripture from his youth, (2 Tim. 3:15-17). Thus we are to consult with God in the Scripture.
2. We are to consult the children of God, the saints of God; especially such of them as are most tender, and live nearest unto God, and have most of the mind of God; and especially at such times when they and their God are in good terms together. Though we are not to consult with carnal friends in the matters of God; nor yet to follow the carnal counsel of godly friends; yet we do not consult with flesh and blood when we follow the godly counsel of godly friends, and the spiritual advice of spiritual friends: the word encourages us to confer with such, “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written for them that feared the Lord, and thought upon his name,” (Mal. 3:16). And, again, “He that walketh with the wise shall be wise.” It is good consulting with those whom God is communicating his secrets unto; and now, “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him,” (Ps. 25:14).
3. We are to consult the messengers of God, for so we are warranted to do, “The priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should keep the law at his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts,” (Mal. 2: 7): “Believe in the Lord your God, and so ye shall be established: believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper,” (2 Chron. 20:20). But what if the prophets be deceived? What if the minister be mistaken, or the priest’s lips do not keep knowledge, or hold by the truth? Why, we are to receive nothing indeed from men, by an implicit faith, without laying it to the rule, “To the law, and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them,” (Isa. 8:20). We must “Prove all things, and hold fast that which is good;” and, like the noble Bereans, “Search the Scriptures daily, whether these things be so,” (Acts 17:11). And if they were commended for not crediting the apostles themselves, that were immediately inspired from heaven, without comparing their doctrine with the Scripture; how much more commendable is it for people to compare the doctrine of ordinary teachers with the word, and the analogy of faith? Neglect, in this particular, makes many grossly ignorant; and hence to be carried about with every wind of doctrine, not knowing whom to trust, or what to believe: they err, not knowing the Scriptures,—Well, but those that know the Scriptures better than we do explain it so and so, in a different manner from others. It may be so, but the Scripture is the best explainer of itself; if we searched it dependently upon the Lord, light would arise out of darkness; such light as would darken and confound all the false glosses the devil put upon it in his debating with Christ; but our Lord Jesus did, with other Scriptures, refute the devil’s corrupt glosses, which he put upon the Scriptures that he cited. However, I say “The priest’s lips should preserve knowledge, and we should seek the law from his mouth.” He ought to be a good counselor, a faithful guide: and we ought to consult and confer with him in the matters of God: and we ought to take the counsel that is agreeable to the Word of God, and to be followers of such, as far as they are followers of Christ, and no further.
4. We are to consult the glory of God in all. If we consult our own ends, it is but flesh and blood: but if, in all things, we consult the glory of God, as our ultimate end, then we consult not with flesh and blood. “Whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we ought to do all to the glory of God.” And in all the matters of God and conscience, it is always safest to consult what is most for advancing this great end, the glory of God in Christ; the glory of his sovereign grace; the glory of his infinite holiness and other perfections. Whatever tendeth to the dishonor of God, and of his name, comes of flesh and blood; and of devilish carnal consultation. The world are set upon pleasing of flesh and blood, though it should be never so displeasing to God: they are set upon the exalting of self, and the debasing of Christ; the enthroning of self, and the dethroning of God. But, O sirs, if the glory of God was consulted, how remote would people be from consulting with flesh and blood? God’s glory would lead people up to the hill of God: but flesh and blood takes them down to the stream of the world. Why are so many carried down with the stream of the times? Why, they do not consult God’s glory.
5. We are to consult the analogy of faith, and purest antiquities: “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls,” (Jer. 6:16). And indeed, in order to the right use of the oracles of God, or the unerring rule of the Scripture, that rule is to be used in an agreeableness to the analogy of faith, i.e., There are some fundamental truths that are; as first principles, founded upon the clearest testimony of the word; and whatever is not agreeable in principle or practice to that analogy of faith, we may be sure is not agreeable to the word of God, and consequently savors not of God, but of flesh and blood. If you ask, What these fundamental truths or first principles are? Why, they are such, with respect whereunto all, that know anything experimentally about religion, are beyond doubt: such as, that there is a God: that he is an eternal, immutable, and independent Being: hath ordained all things, executing his decrees in the works of creation and providence: that he created man after his own image: that man fell from his own happiness, and brought himself into a state of sin and misery: that God sent his Son, to take on our nature; that therein he might suffer and satisfy divine justice, pay the price of redemption; and there is no remedy for us but in him, and by him: that to all the elect he applies this redemption, enlightening their minds in the knowledge of himself, subduing their wills; and that whom he thus regenerates and converts, he justifies, adopts, and sanctifies, giving them his Spirit to quicken them, and guide them from step to step, till he land them in glory, and they be eternally blessed in and with himself: and that all others, being left in their sins, shall be eternally damned, and destroyed with everlasting destruction, from the presence of God. These, and the like, are fundamental truths, founded upon the clearest and strongest grounds of Scripture, and linked together inseparably: and whatever doctrine or principle runs in a direct opposition to any of these, savors not of God, but of flesh and blood. And therefore, we ought, I say, carefully to consult the analogy of faith.
6. We are to consult with the deputy of God in our breast; I mean, Conscience, when it is under the government and regulation of the word and Spirit of God; for, if it be not thus regulated and governed, I dare not say it is fit to be consulted with; nay, I am not for conscience being consulted with, and regarded in this matter, unless it be, guided by the word and Spirit of God: for many may pretend they act according to the light of conscience, while yet they are but under the conduct of a blind mind and misled conscience; “And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the ditch.” Paul pretended conscience, when a Pharisee; yea, when he was persecuting the church of Christ; “He verily thought with himself, that he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth,” (Acts 26:9). Yea, Christ hath told us, that many persecutors of his members, will think that they do God good service: and so, following a blind conscience, they may be but consulting with flesh and blood. But conscience, guided by the word and Spirit of God, is to be consulted with; and then the man’s walk a conscientious walk, living in all good conscience before God: and studying to have a conscience void of offence toward God and toward man: and herein should we exercise ourselves: for, conscience reaches all relative duties between magistrate and subject, minister and people, parent and child, master and servant: yea, all religious duties toward God and man; and so far as we cross the light of conscience, and go over the belly thereof, we do but consult with flesh and blood, and cast an affront upon God’s deputy.
II. What are the most proper means for preventing our conferring with flesh and blood? I shall observe two things in the text, which were the notable means for preventing Paul’s conferring with flesh and blood. The first was, his getting a saving revelation of Christ in him; “He revealed his son in me.” The next was his speedy rejecting the counsel of flesh and blood: “Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.”
1st, The first was, his getting a saving revelation of Christ in him; “It pleased God to reveal his Son in me.” Here is the best antidote in the world, against carnal consultation. It is true, some that have Christ savingly revealed in them, may yet consult too much with flesh and blood; for true believers may miscarry far, through unbelief; but surely, the more that Christ is revealed in a man, the less will he consult with flesh and blood, in the various ways condescended upon, in the doctrinal part of the subject. Here two things may be inquired into: 1. What is the nature of this revelation of Christ. 2. What influence it hath to prevent and hinder our consulting with flesh and blood?
(l.) What is this revelation of Christ? For understanding this, you would know, that the revelation of Christ is twofold, viz. external and internal.
(1.) The external revelation of Christ by the word. The light of nature and reason cannot reveal Christ: that light hath its own use to guide us in the things of nature, but not in the things of God; “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God,” (2 Cor. 2:14). It is by the word that Christ is revealed, and the gospel notified and made known to us; and yet, where there is no more but this external revelation, there is no saving change. Therefore,
(2.) There is the internal revelation of Christ, by the Spirit; when Christ is not only revealed to us, but in us: “He revealed his Son in me.” Now, the question is, What is this internal, saving revelation of Christ? I think the best way to understand it, is under the conduct of the Spirit of God, to consider every word of this emphatic description of the matter; “He revealed his Son in me.” And every word will afford a thought for opening up the nature of his saving work of divine illumination, in the knowledge of Christ: and, by the nature of this light wherein Paul was here enlightened, we may try, whether “The God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, hath ever shined into our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of his glory, in the face of Jesus Christ:” For,
1. It is a clear and manifest light: this is imported in the very word revelation; “He revealed his Son in me.” Revelation speaks out clearness and evidence. As God, in creation, and making the world, began with light, saying, “Let there be light and there was light:” so in conversion, he begins the illumination: “They that know thy name, will put their trust in thee.” None will believe, till they clearly and plainly take up the object, though they cannot know it fully and perfectly: “He that seeth the Son, and believeth in him, hath everlasting life,” (John 6:40). The revelation of Christ doth effectually dispel the massy clouds of spiritual darkness and ignorance, that sits hard and heavy upon the eyes of the understanding; for by nature we are as ignorant and brutish, in the things of God, as the beasts that perish, till the Spirit be sent, as a Spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of Christ, and then the man sees clearly; not like the man that saw with his eyes half‑open, men like trees walking; but, in God’s light, he sees light clearly, and gets some suitable uptakings of God’s testimony concerning his Son, testifying that he is a well qualified Saviour, able to save to the uttermost: testifying that salvation is to be had no other way; “That there is no other name given under heaven, whereby we can be saved;” testifying that he is ready to save all comers; and that whoever will is welcome: yea, testifying that every one who hears of him, hath a warrant to come to him, and accept of him; and that it is not presumption in poor sinners to come. This revelation, I say, imports a clear light opening up the object of faith, and giving the soul some distant uptaking of God’s testimony concerning Christ; “For, whatsoever maketh manifest, is light.” Again,
2. It is a supernatural light; “He revealed his Son in me. It pleased God to do it,” saith Paul: this light was from above, from the Father of lights: flesh and blood revealed not this to Paul, but his father which is in heaven: this is given from heaven; “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to others it is not given,” (Matt. 13:11). Human parts and literature could not give Paul this insight and discerning; he wanted not his share of all the learning of that age: but the natural man, let him be never so learned, and have never such a stock of natural parts, and acquired literature, yet he receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned: the man must be taught of God. True saving light is spiritual and supernatural: “He that hath heard and learned of the Father, cometh to the Son;” and the Father revealeth the Son in a sovereign way and manner; not from any regard to some good qualifications in the sinner, but from his own sovereign goodwill and pleasure: “It pleased God to reveal his Son in me.”
3. It is an evangelical light; “He revealed his Son in Me.” His Son: it is not an absolute God, a God out of Christ, as he is revealed to the sinner by the law, as a covenant of works, but God, in his Son Jesus Christ, according to the gospel, which discovers him as a God in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. He revealed his Son; the Son of his love, in whom he is well pleased. His Son who is the Sent and Sealed of the Father: his Son, who is the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person: his Son, in whom it pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell; and in whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead: And so it is a revelation of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ; “He revealed his Son in me.” The law, as a covenant of life and works, doth not reveal Christ; when God reveals himself, according to that dispensation, he is a consuming fire out of Christ to the sinner; and at best is revealed as a commanding God, and a wrathful threatening God: but when God reveals himself in his Son, then he is known as a promising God, a gracious God, a reconciled God. And this gospel‑revelation, this evangelical light, brings in peace and quiet to the whole soul: Hence Christ says to his disciples, when it seems their views of God were more dark and legal, apprehending God in the law, without apprehending Christ in the gospel, “Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me,” (John 14:1). And there he shows them, (v. 6), that he is the way to the Father; and that no man cometh to the Father but by him. Hence, lest any should imagine, that a view of the Son would lead them off from a view of the Father, he adds, “He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father,” (v. 9): and so, when the Father reveals the Son, he reveals himself in him. How sweet is it then to consider, that first the Father reveals the Son, according to John 6:4b; and then the Son reveals the Father, according to John 1:17 and 18. Where, after it is said, that “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ;” it follows, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” And thus “He revealed his Son in me;” i.e. He showed me his own glory, in the face of his Son. Here is the saving gospel‑revelation.
4. It is an internal light; this is evident from the particle in, “He revealed his Son in Me;” not only to me by an external objective revelation; but in me, by an internal subjective revelation. It is not light without presented to the bodily eye, shining outwardly, like that wherewith some poor ignorant creatures are deceived, who speak of their having seen about them, or in such a part of the room, or of the bed, a strange light, or a pleasant representation: while yet they may be brutishly ignorant of Christ: for, though I shall not disprove, all external manifestation, as if God, in extraordinary cases, might not, by the ministry of angels, make some outward glorious appearance to his own; yet, as Christ himself is not now to be seen any other way, than by the eye of faith, in the light of internal saving manifestation, by the Spirit, so these external manifestations are evidently delusive, especially where there is nothing but gross darkness and ignorance in the mind. It is not light without, I say, but light within; and that not enthusiastical, like the Quaker’s light, but spiritual and scriptural, suitable to the objective revelation of Christ in the word and in the gospel: nor is it national internal light, making impression upon the fancy, like a strong imagination: but it is light irradiating the whole soul; “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ,” (2 Cor. 4:6), “In our hearts;” and hence cometh that heart‑melting, when this sun of righteousness ariseth, with his warm beams. And hence also cometh heart-persuasion; a full persuasion of the truth of God’s testimony concerning Christ; the man believes, and is sure; knoweth, and is persuaded upon the testimony of God. Hence also heart‑approbation of Christ, and the device of salvation, in him and through him. O! says the soul, this way of salvation is worthy of all acceptation. Hence also heart‑satisfaction: it is sweeter than honey or the honey‑comb. There is a savor in the name of Christ; it is as ointment poured forth: the heart and soul acquiesces in Christ, as fully answering all its necessities, and all its desires. Hence heart-purification: the more the man sees him, the more he is like him; for it is a begun heaven; and in heaven the saints are like him, for they see him as he is; so here in proportion to the sight.—And, in a word, hence heart‑experience: there is a feeling of power , and virtue in the revelation of Christ; a taste of his sweetness and excellency. Other knowledge and learning is merely speculative; and hence the pavement of hell is laid with the sculls of many great scholars, who have had their heads freighted with notions of God and Christ, but never their hearts irradiated with the light of life, so as to have experience of the soul‑quickening and sin‑killing efficacy of divine light. Thus it makes much heart‑work, being internal light.
5. It is a close, appropriating light; this I draw from the me, in the words, “He revealed his Son in me.” The saving knowledge of Christ is appropriating: therefore Paul calls it, “The knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord,” (Phil. 3:8). The devils have some knowledge of Christ; but cannot say he is their Savour; Nebuchadnezzar could say, “There is a God of power;” but he is the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: Darius calls him the God of Daniel. But this saving revelation comes close home to the man himself; and natively tends to the man’s participation of the good that he seeth: if Christ be revealed savingly as a Prophet, it is for teaching me; if as a Priest it is for atoning for me; if as a King, it is for conquering me to himself, and subduing my foes under him; if as a Saviour it is for saving me. There is a particular application of Christ for wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption to the man’s self. It is not a general speculation, saying, Here is a full, suitable, glorious Saviour for sinners: but it is like a marriage, application and appropriation, saying, Here is a match for me; I apprehend him and take him as given to me: “He revealed his Son in me.” According to the measure of illumination and faith, accordingly it comes to this particular me; “He loved me, and gave himself for me.”
6. It is a glorious and manifest light, as may be gathered from the whole context of this verse; which shows, at least, four things that contribute to make it very glorious.
(1.) It is glorious in the spring and origin of it, viz., the goodwill and pleasure of God; “It pleased God to reveal his Son in me: even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.” Proud flesh and blood may dispute the sovereignty of grace: but it is beyond dispute with all the children of grace, when in their right wits, that all saving blessings are owing to, and resolve in this origin, the good pleasure of God.
(2.) It is glorious in the method and manner of it; “He revealed his Son in me:” here is a glorious Trinity all at work; He, namely, the Father, did reveal his Son by the Holy Ghost, in me. For this is the work of the Spirit, as a Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ, (Eph. 1:7); given of the Father for this end, as that verse doth show us: and promised of the Son for this end, “When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you, from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me,” (John 15:26). And again, “He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you,” (John 16:14). This is what is here made out in Paul: so it is also made out in all that are savingly illuminated in the knowledge of Christ; the Father reveals the Son by the Holy Ghost. This is the glory and saving light of knowledge: it is God the Father that enlightens the mind in the knowledge of Christ, by the powerful irradiation and operation of the Spirit.
(3.) It is glorious in the end and design of it; “That I might preach him among the Gentiles.” It is true, indeed, every real Christian is not enlightened for this end, to preach Christ among the Gentiles, as Paul was: but all that have Christ revealed in them are enlightened for some such glorious end, namely, that they may commend Christ unto the world, both by their words and by their walk: that they may serve and honour him on earth; and that they may praise and glorify him for ever in heaven; yea, that they may preach him forth unto others, according to their call and station; if not in a ministerial and authoritative way, yet in a practical and charitative way. And hence all that are savingly enlightened, according to the measure of illumination, in the knowledge of Christ, will find a sweet disposition to proclaim him in the world, and to do all that they can to recommend him to others, like the psalmist, “Restore to me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free Spirit: then will I teach transgressors thy way, and sinners shall be converted unto thee,” (Ps. 51:12,13).
(4.) It is glorious in the immediate effect of it, as the words of the text declare; “Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood;” instantly a change is wrought upon the man, so soon as Christ is revealed in him; for, “Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are changed.” It is a fair owning and confession, that before this time he had been all along consulting with flesh and blood; and under the conduct of carnal reason, self, and self‑righteousness: but now he is made to rejoice in Christ Jesus, and hath no confidence in the flesh. The conference with flesh and blood is so far broken up, as Christ is revealed: “Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.”—Thus much of the nature of this revelation of Christ. And now I am led to the other question, namely,
[2.] What influence this revelation of Christ hath upon preventing our consulting with flesh and blood? This question is of great moment, as being the hinge of the doctrine, stating the connection between the revelation of Christ, and not consulting with flesh and blood in the matters of God. For the doctrine may be thus framed,
That, as there ought to be no consulting with flesh and blood in divine matters, so the best preservative against this evil is a saving internal revelation of Christ: or thus, That freedom from carnal consultation is a fruit of saving illumination.
Now, to give answer to this question, you would know that the influence which the revelation of Christ hath to prevent our consulting with flesh and blood is twofold.
1. Moral and argumentative.
2. Physical and operative.
(1.) The saving revelation of Christ influences this not consulting with flesh and blood, in a moral and argumentative way, while it affords the most powerful arguments and strong persuasions not to consult with flesh and blood. For the revelation of Christ natively leads the soul to reason, and argues thus: “O! hath God revealed his Son in me? Is it God himself that hath revealed Christ savingly to and in me? And shall I fight against this God, with these carnal weapons of flesh and blood? Did it please him to do so to me? Was it his good pleasure to reveal Christ? And shall I follow my carnal pleasure, to the displeasure of this God? Hath he revealed such an one as his Son in me? And shall I hug self in me?—Flesh and blood hath not revealed Christ in me: and shall I follow the carnal conduct of flesh and blood?”
But, more particularly, this moral influence it hath to prevent consulting with flesh and blood will further appear if we consider that, when Christ is revealed, there is such a display made of the glory of God in him, as tendeth mightily to reason the man out of all his carnal reason. For instance,
1. The revelation of Christ displayeth the wisdom of God; for, “In him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge;” yea, herein the man sees the manifold wisdom of God; and the wisdom of God in a mystery: and, when this is discovered, surely it spoils all carnal politics; yea, and makes carnal wisdom to hide its face with blushing; yea, “God makes foolish the wisdom of this world.”
2. The revelation of Christ displays the power of God; for he is Christ the power of God, as well as the wisdom of God, (1 Cor. 1:24). And now, says the enlightened soul, when Christ the wisdom of God, and the power of God is displayed, “O! what need I trust to the policy of men? Or, what need I fear the power of men that are against me? Or trust in the power and policy of men, even when they seem to be for me? Here is almighty power that I am called to confide in; even the power of a God in Christ:” “Trust ye in the Lord for ever; for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength: he is able to save to the uttermost.”
3. The revelation of Christ displays the holiness of God: and so this makes the unholiness and sinfulness of all carnal consultation to appear so: it shames the man out of his carnal counsels. “O! is he such an infinitely holy God, that he hated sin as much as he loved his eternal Son? And shall I take any unholy course? Is this conferring with flesh and blood agreeable to the infinite holiness of God, in the face of Christ, which I have seen.”
4. The revelation of Christ displays the justice of God; both his vindictive justice, in punishing sin, to the utmost, upon the Surety, when it was imputed to him; and retributive justice, in giving all good things to Christ and his seed, as a reward of his obedience to the death: and in all this God has given the most noble indication; that, as he will not let sin go unpunished, wherever it is, whether it be in his own, by fatherly chastisement; or in others, by wrathful resentment; so he will not let gospel obedience and holiness, wherever it is, want its reward of grace in Christ; and therefore, saith the enlightened soul, “Oh! this consulting with flesh and blood is altogether disagreeable to that revelation of divine justice in Christ, whether vindictive or remunerative, that I have got. Shall I run upon the thick bosses of his buckler, and provoke him to anger? Or, shall I take a course that hath nothing of that promise of the sweet reward of grace in Christ? Alas! this I must not do.”
5. The revelation of Christ displays the faithfulness and truth of God: for so he is the truth, as he hath sealed the truth of all the words of God, and all the promises of the covenant. “Now,” saith the enlightened soul, “is God so true to me, and shall I be so false to him? Is his veracity engaged in the promise, and his promise sealed with the blood of Christ? And shall I not take his word for my support? And take his word as a sufficient security for my protection, provision, and direction? And what need I take any sinful shift, by consulting with flesh and blood? Faithful is he that hath promised, saying, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” (Heb. 13:5).
6. The revelation of
Christ displays the mercy, grace, and love of God: for, when Christ is seen,
then the soul sees God in Christ, reconciling the world to himself; and he is
seen to be well‑pleased in Christ: when he appears, then the kindness and love
of God towards men appears, (Titus 3:4). And now, this kindness and love of
God, is a most powerful argument, against the consulting with flesh and blood.
“What! saith the soul, under a discovery of this love, Shall I thus requite the
Lord? Is this my kindness to my friend? Shall I fight against infinite love? And
spurn against the bowels of divine pity and compassion, yearning towards me?
Shall he consult my welfare, and I consult his dishonour? O! tell it not in
(2.) The saving revelation of Christ hath a physical operative influence upon the prevention of this consultation with flesh and blood: for the revelation of Christ doth not only strenuously urge and press, but powerfully conquer and overcome the soul, so as to deliver it from consulting with flesh and blood: according to the measure of the saving revelation of Christ, accordingly is the soul transformed; “Beholding as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image,” (2 Cor. 3:18). And surely, the more of God’s image any hath, the less consulting with God’s enemies.
Now that this physical operative influence may the more evidently appear, consider a little, in some particulars, what it is that this internal revelation of Christ doth powerfully work and effectuate: for, the Spirit of power reveals Christ in the soul, and you will see how it cannot but natively work out all carnal consultation.
1. This revelation of Christ works faith; for they that know his name, cannot but put their trust in him; they that see the Son, they believe in him; “He manifested forth his glory, and the disciples believed in him.” And this faith purifies the heart; and, consequently, according to the measure thereof, cleanseth from carnality; and now the man walks by faith, and so cannot walk by carnal reason, which is faith’s greatest opposite and antipode. The revelation of Christ dashes unbelief quite out of countenance. Now, this unbelief is the main root of carnal consultation, the main cause of consulting with flesh and blood. This revelation of Christ then, strikes at the root of the disease: for the man’s eyes are opened to see the King in his beauty; and so the power of this fatal plague is checked.—While unbelief prevails, flesh and blood prevails, saying, “Except I see the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I cannot believe;” but whenever Christ appears, unbelief is put to the blush; and faith cries out, “My Lord, and my God.”
2. This revelation of
Christ works love; they that see him, cannot but love him, though they see him
not with the bodily eye; “Whom having not seen, we love.” Yea, this revelation
of Christ fills the soul with ardent love to Christ, and such as many waters
cannot quench. And this love is strong as death; it is stronger than flesh and
blood. The revelation of Christ, breaks the power of natural enmity; “The carnal
mind is enmity against God.” Paul goes to
3. This revelation of Christ works humility: when the soul sees him, then, with Job, the man abhors himself, and repents in dust and in ashes. A sight of Christ doth sink the soul into the lowest pit of self‑annihilation, self‑abhorrence, and self‑detestation: and when once the power of self‑confidence is broken, inasmuch as the man hath no confidence in the flesh, in his own self‑sufficiency, self‑righteousness, self‑wisdom, self‑will, then one of the strongest holds of flesh and blood is broken down. The day of the revelation of Christ, is the day wherein self is sentenced to death, that Christ may live and reign by faith in the soul; like that, “We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God, which raiseth the dead,” (2 Cor. 1:9): intimating, that when, by whatever mean, self‑confidence is broken, then the man is brought to confidence in the Lord. Now, when by the revelation of Christ, self is abased, then consulting with flesh and blood, is turned to confidence in the Lord alone.
4. This revelation of Christ works zeal; true zeal for God and his glory, for Christ and his honour; and true zeal against every false way. Many have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge: but this revelation of Christ, bringing in the saving knowledge of him, makes zeal regular and right, being according to knowledge: and this zeal will lead the soul to do and suffer for Christ, maugre [in spite of] all the arguments of flesh and blood to the contrary. Where there is no revelation of Christ, these is no true zeal for him: where faint revelation, faint zeal; where clear and full revelation, great zeal: and where great zeal takes place, flesh and blood are burnt in the flame thereof; for then the man takes joyfully the spoiling of his goods. None of these things move him; neither counts he his life dear unto himself, so that he may finish his course with joy. Hence,
5. This revelation of Christ, works joy in the heart; “In whom, believing, we rejoice, with joy unspeakable, and full of glory.” The revelation of Christ brings gladness into the soul; “Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.” O but a sight of Christ is a gladdening joyful sight; “Abraham rejoiced to see my day afar off, and he saw it, and was glad,” (John 8:56). I will see you again, saith Christ, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you,” (John 16:22). Now, this joy of the Lord is their strength, (Neh. 8:10). And surely the more strong in the Lord that they are, the less confidence in flesh and blood will take place.—A sight of Christ, is a heart‑strengthening, grace‑strengthening thing; and the stronger that the new man is, the weaker is the old man. The Dagon of flesh and blood falls before the Ark of God.
6. This revelation of Christ, creates contempt of the world, and of all that is in the world: “The lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life:” and this prevents all consultation with flesh and blood. The internal revelation of Christ, will eclipse and darken the beauty and glory of the world, and all things therein. Love of the world makes men to consult with flesh and blood; and Demas‑like to forsake Christ, even after a considerable time’s profession of him openly: but now, when Christ appeareth, the glory of the world disappears; and the man is content to forsake all, and follow the Lamb: counting all but loss and dung for him: yea, selling his all to buy the pearl. The internal revelation of Christ doth effectually loose the heart from all lusts and idols: (see Isa. 49:29 and 42:1, compared).—It makes the man cry out, with Ephraim, “What have I any more to do with idols?” As the stars vanish upon the appearance of the sun, so doth the world, and the lusts thereof, upon the rising of the Sun of Righteousness, and our beholding thereof; and, as it disengages from idols, so it effectually engages the heart to himself; yea, the man is content to engage ten thousand hearts, if he had them, to the Lord.—And thus he is delivered from consulting with flesh and blood.
7. In a word, The revelation of Christ doth effectually dispel the massy clouds of spiritual darkness and ignorance, that sit hard and heavy upon the eyes of our understanding, whereby a man is buried under the mud of flesh and blood, and prejudices against Christ are fomented. It is said of the Jews, “If they had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory:” Even so, if we knew Christ, we would not consult with his enemies, or confer with flesh and blood. When Christ is revealed, then the man is in the light, and sees about him: the revelation of Christ, discovers the subtlety of Satan, the deceitfulness of the heart, and the sophistry of carnal reason; and dashes down Satan’s strong holds; “For Christ is manifested, to destroy the works of the devil.”—Thus you see what influence, both moral and physical, both argumentative and operative, this revelation of Christ hath, for preventing this sin of conferring with flesh and blood; and how necessary a saving sight of Christ is, for attaining this end.
2dly, The second mean was, his speedy rejecting the counsel of flesh and blood; “Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.” And this immediately seems to import these four things.
1. That before this time, the set and disposition of his heart was carnal: Why, “That which is born of flesh is flesh.” While he was in a state of unregeneracy, he was wholly under the conduct of flesh and blood: even when he was, touching the righteousness of the law, blameless: and profiting in the Jews religion above many of his equals, in his own nation: yet, for all that time, he now sees that he was but a proud Pharisee; yea, he put himself among the number of these that were foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, hateful, and hating one another, (Titus 3:3). When converting grace took hold of him, then he understood what a fool he had been, before conversion; and how much he had been under the conduct of carnal sense and reason: but now, when Christ was revealed in him, immediately he conferred not with flesh and blood, as he had always done before.
2. It imports, that, upon the revelation of Christ, a change was instantly wrought, from a carnal to a spiritual disposition; beholding the glory of the Lord, he was changed immediately.—No sooner doth the sun shine upon a man, than light and heat is conveyed with the beams thereof: and thus, no sooner is Christ savingly revealed, than the soul is enlightened, warmed, transformed, and spiritualized: the new light and saving sight brings in a new quality and disposition, at the same time. In order of nature, the revelation of Christ is first; but in order of time, no sooner is the revelation given, but the spiritual disposition is wrought: for, the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ, doth enter into the man, and brings grace with him.
3. It imports, that this spiritual disposition was instantly put in exercise; “Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.” He got not a new disposition to lie dormant, like a sleeping habit, without any vigor and activity: but whenever he got grace implanted, he stirred up the same to an holy exercise. True holiness is not only passive, in the principle and habit, but active; and that both internally, in the exercise of grace; and externally, in the performance of duty. The apostle was in haste, like David; in that holy haste, mentioned, “I made haste, and delayed not, to keep thy commandments,” (Ps. 11960). Thus did the apostle, upon his first illumination; “Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.”
4. It imports, that now he was in the straight way of duty; whereas formerly he was in a crooked way. For the word here in the original, rendered immediately, comes from another that signifies straight; and is so rendered, “Make his paths straight,” (Matt. 3:3). And the adverb of the same nature, is rendered straight-way, “He went up straight‑way out of the water,” (Matt. 3:16): and now, compare the noun, which signifies Straight, and the adverb, which signifies Immediately, or Straightway; comparing them, I say, together, we may turn the adverb into the sense of the noun, and see this lesson in it, namely, that to do what is right straight‑way, is to take the straight way of doing it; whereas, to delay what is right, and what ought to be done instantly, and not to do it straight‑way, is so far a going out of the straight way. He that delays to do good, and to do what the Lord calls him to do, and doth it not straight‑way, he is not walking in the straight way of duty: but Paul delayed not at this rate; “Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood;” he instantly and speedily rejected the counsel of flesh and blood. They that would not consult with flesh and blood, had need to take care that they do not stand to parley with the temptation; for, when a man enters upon speaking‑terms with carnal reason, and doth not immediately reject its solicitations, he is in danger to be drawn aside therewith. Evil parleyed with the temptation; and so was overcome; so did Samson, and was conquered; so did David, and he was vanquished. Peter’s fall also discovered the danger of parleying with the temptation; he entered upon the consultation with flesh and blood, when he expressed his confidence in himself, saying, “Though all men forsake thee, yet will not I:” next he entered into the judgment‑hall; and upon his being first attacked, flesh and blood suggested fears of death; from one step he goes on to another, in conferring with flesh and blood: and then he is overcome so far, as to sway with the time, in cursing and swearing, and denying his Master. The suggestions of carnal reason, of flesh and blood, are to be rejected at their first appearance: the cockatrice must be crushed in the shell; and the first motions of flesh and blood must be abhorred, otherwise danger is at hand; thus did Paul here; “Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.” Thus much for the import of this, Immediately.
Now, I would offer some corollaries from the doctrine, in this complex view, That the revelation of Christ is the best preservative, against consulting with flesh and blood Hence see,
1. Whence it is, that a world of mankind are living wholly under the conduct of flesh and blood, and corrupt carnal reason; even because they are strangers to Christ; Christ was never revealed in them. Ignorance of Christ is at the root of all that profanity and ungodliness, that bears such a sway in the world; why doth the drunkard continue in his drunkenness, the whoremonger in his whoredom, the hypocrite in his hypocrisy, and every wicked man in his wickedness? And what is the reason of all the laxness, looseness, and lasciviousness of our day? Why, it is ignorance of Christ; Christ, in his person, and offices, hath never been revealed in them; they are destroyed for lack of knowledge; the god of this world hath blinded their eyes. As Christ said to the Sadducees, “Ye err, not knowing the Scriptures;” so say I of such, They err in principle and practice, not knowing Christ, nor the glory of God in him; for, if they beheld his glory, they would be changed.
2. See whence it is that people, who enjoy a clear gospel‑revelation, may yet be under the conduct of flesh and blood; Why, Christ is revealed to them, but not in them; while people have only the external objective revelation of Christ to them, without the internal subjective revelation of Christ in them, all their knowledge and common illumination, hath not so much power and virtue, as to deliver them from their carnal bias; the gospel comes to them in word only, not in power, and in the Holy Ghost. Hence many live under the gospel, and have attained a measure of the knowledge of Christ; and perhaps have, through the knowledge of Christ escaped many pollutions of the world’s lusts; and yet are never delivered from the power and dominion of this evil, of consulting with flesh and blood; carnal ease, carnal reason, carnal interest, carnal pleasure reigns over them, and leads all the faculties of their soul into subjection: Why, Christ, who is revealed to them by the word, was never revealed in them by the Spirit: they rest satisfied without the saving knowledge of Christ.
3. See whence it is, that so many of the truly godly, do so much consult with flesh and blood, at this day; and give so much way to carnal reason, in the matters of God: it flows from this, even on the one hand, partial ignorance of Christ, or the small measure of the knowledge of him: though Christ be revealed in them, yet it is but very darkly; and perhaps the impression that the first revelation of Christ made upon them much obliterated by their defection, in leaving their first love, and little growth in grace, and in the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: whereas growth therein, and clearer views of his glory, would advance their mortification of flesh and blood. It flows also from this, on the other hand, their not taking Paul’s course, in rejecting speedily the suggestions of flesh and blood: upon the back of the manifestation of Christ, immediately he rejects the conference with them. Whereas, if this course be not followed, though a man should get a saving manifestation of Christ, if upon the back of it, he stands parleying with the tempter, and dallying with the temptation, he is in danger, as in the case of Peter, who instantly after a manifestation, ran into the camp of flesh and blood; yea, the camp of Satan, (Matt. 16:17, compared with verses 22 and 23). Though manifestations are of a transforming nature; yet, if a child of God give up his watch, and turn secure, after Christ is revealed to him and in him, flesh and blood may trip up his heels very quickly.
4. Hence see what is God’s method of sanctifying an elect soul, and carrying on the work of sanctification in the believing soul: his method is first to reveal Christ, and so, by discovering his glory, to change and transform the soul; having convinced the man of his sin and misery, he then enlightens his mind in the knowledge of Christ: and this saving illumination carries the will and affections towards the Lord; and the man, being renewed after the image of God, is enabled, by the means of more and more illumination, in the knowledge of Christ, to die unto sin, to mortify the deeds of the body, and to live unto God: consulting with him, and not with flesh and blood.—Many, at this day, discover their ignorance of God’s method of converting souls, and sanctifying of sinners, by magnifying the maxims of morality; and supposing as if the mere preaching of moral duty was enough to make men holy: but to reveal Christ for that end, and harp upon this theme, they cannot think this is adapted for such a purpose. But my text and doctrine shows that it is the revelation of Christ that works true sanctification: “He revealed his Son in me:” add then, “Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.” The knowledge of the law will not do it; the knowledge of all moral systems will not do it; but the internal knowledge of Christ will effectuate it.
5. Hence see the excellency and necessity, of the knowledge of Christ, and of the gospel: when once Paul came to this knowledge he counted all but loss and dung in comparison of the excellency of it. And how necessary it is, is evident in this, that there is no sanctification without it; no freedom from carnal courses and consultations without it. The gospel is the revelation of Christ and his righteousness; and, as such, it is the power of God to salvation; and the power of God to sanctification, (Rom. 1:16,17). It is the organical power of God unto salvation from sin; because therein is revealed the righteousness of God, even Christ, who is the Lord our righteousness, from faith to faith. No wonder that flesh and blood, or men that are in the flesh, think the gospel needless, and cannot endure that Christ should be the minister’s habitual theme: for the revelation of Christ is the greatest enemy, and the strongest battering ram to bring down the walls of it; “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every, high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ,” (2 Cor. 10:4,5). Flesh and blood opposes the gospel and revelation of Christ, because when Christ is once revealed, immediately the man conferreth not with flesh and blood.
6. Hence see how ignorantly men suspect the gospel of God’s grace, as a nurse of licentiousness, and an enemy to the holiness required in the law; for the quite contrary is the truth. That ignorance of Christ and his gospel is the root of all carnality: and the knowledge of Christ and the gospel, in a saving way, is the root upon which true holiness and piety doth grow. The preaching of Christ was Paul’s work, as you see in the bosom of this text, “he revealed his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles;” he was revealed unto me, that I might reveal him unto others; and might be the instrument of their conversion and sanctification thereby; as I myself was sanctified by this mean. To preach duty without Christ is the way to make moralists: to preach duty before Christ, and more than Christ, or in order to Christ, and to make men Christians, is the way to make men legalists; and to make the world think they can be religious without Christ, and that a good moral life will bring them to heaven; but true gospel‑preaching lies in preaching Christ, in order to duty; it is to preach Christ in order to holiness, and so to preach duty in preaching Christ: for, till Christ be revealed in us there is no true holiness, no freedom from consulting with flesh and blood.
7. Hence see what it is
that contributes to make a corrupt ministry in a church: why, Christ is not
revealed in all that profess to preach him among the Gentiles; and therefore
they never stand to consult with flesh and blood. What is it that qualifies a
man for the ministerial work? Here is the best qualification, when Christ is
revealed in him for this end, that he may preach him among the Gentiles. Whom
God sends he thus qualifies, according to the measure of the gift of Christ. But
many ran without being sent: and, as the Athenians worshipped an unknown God, so
they preach an unknown Christ; which is very melancholy work, and can have
little success: yea, the want of the saving knowledge of Christ in such lays a
foundation for doctrinal error and practical error both, while they want the
main preservative against the consulting with flesh and blood. Some are wholly
corrupt, because wholly destitute of the saving knowledge of Christ; and so the
doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of Christ’s house cannot be long
safe and free from corruption among their hands: especially if they, by reason
of their gifts, parts, and authority in the church, bear a considerable sway
therein. Others are tainted with corruption, though truly, gracious, and carried
down with the stream of carnal consultation, while any saving knowledge of
Christ that they have is so small, that flesh and blood hath the ascendant; or,
if their knowledge of Christ be great in one respect, yet it is defective in
other respects. So Peter, for, example, was greatly enlightened in the knowledge
of Christ, as the Son of the living God: a most glorious fundamental article of
faith, (Matt. 16:16); but yet his knowledge of Christ was defective, and
exceeding dark concerning Christ as a sacrifice, a ransom; and hence he takes
upon him, forsooth, to reprove Christ, when he spoke of his suffering at
Jerusalem, saying, “Far be it from thee, Lord; this shall not be done unto
thee,” (v. 22); for which Christ calls him a devil, saying, “Get thee behind me,
Satan; for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of
men.” Though he was extraordinarily enlightened in the knowledge of Christ in
one respect, yet he was extremely ignorant of Christ in another respect; and
hence in that matter savored of flesh and blood, and consulted with carnal ease
and carnal reason, under color of zeal for his Master’s safety and honor. Hence
we will find such corruptions, creeping into the
8. Hence see what is the
best antidote against corruption, both in ministers and people; and the best
antidote against the power of corruption in any particular person: it is even a
transforming revelation of Christ. A day of power is necessary for this end,
making a display of God’s power and glory in the sanctuary.—When God builds up