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Pneumatologia: Chapter 3 - Eph. 5:29

By John Flavel

      For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.

      Having given some account of the nature and immortality of the soul, we next come, from this text, to discourse of its love and inclination to the body, with which it is united. The scope of the apostle is, to press Christians to the exact discharge of those relative duties they owe to each other; particularly, he here urgeth the mutual duties of husbands and wives, ver. 22. wives to an obedient subjection, husbands to a tender love of their wives. This exhortation he enforceth from the intimate union, which, by the ordinance of God, is betwixt them, they being now one flesh. And this union he illustrates by comparing It with,

      1. The mystical union of Christ and the church.

      2. The natural union of the soul and body.

      And from both these, as excellent examples and patterns, he, with great strength of argument, urgeth the duty of love: ver. 28. "So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies; he that loveth his wife, loveth himself." Self love is naturally implanted in all men, and it is the rule by which we measure out and dispense our love to others. "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

      This self love he opens in this place, by,

      (1.) The universality of it.

      (2.) The effects that evidence it.

      1. The universality of it. No man ever yet hated his own flesh. By flesh, understand the body by an usual metonymy of a part for the whole, called flesh. By hating it, understand a simple hatred, or hatred itself. It is usual for men to hate the deformities and diseases of their own bodies, and upon that account to deal with the members of their own bodies as if they hated them; hence it is, they willingly stretch forth a gangrened leg or arm to be cut off for the preservation of the rest: but this is not a simple hatred of a man's self, but rather an argument of the strength of the soul's love to the body, that it will be content to endure so much pain kind anguish for its sake. And if the soul be at any time weary of, and willing to part, not with a single member only, but with the whole body, and loaths its union with it any longer, yet it hates it and loaths it not simply in, and for itself, but because it is so filled with diseases all over, and loads the soul daily with so much grief, that how well soever the soul loves it in itself, yet upon such sad terms and conditions it would not be tied to it. This was Job's case, Job 10: 1. "My soul is weary of my life;" yet not simply of his life, but of such a life of pain and trouble. Except it be in such respects and cases, no man, says he, ever yet hated his own flesh, i.e. no man in his right mind, and in the exercise of his reason and sense; for we must expect distracted and delirious men, who know not what they do, as also men under the terrors of conscience, when God suffers it to rage in extremity, as Spira and others, who would have been glad with their own hands to have cut the thread that tied their miserable souls to their bodies, supposing that way, and by that change, to find some relief. Either of these cases forces men to act beside the stated rule of nature and reason.

      2. This love of the soul to the body is further discovered by the effects which evidence it, viz. its nourishing and cherishing the body, "ektrefei kai talpei". These two comprise the necessaries for the body, viz. food and raiment. The first signifies to nourish with proper food; the latter to warm by clothing, as the word "talpein" is rendered, James 2: 16. to which the Hebrew word "yitchamam" answers, Job 31: 20. The care and provision of these things for the body evidences the soul's love to it.

      Doct. That the souls of men are strongly inclined, and tenderly affected towards the bodies in which they now dwell.

      The soul's love to the body, is so strong, natural, and inseparable, that it is made the rule and measure by which we dispense and proportion our love to others, Mat. 19: 19. Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself: And the apostle, Gal. 5: 14. tells us, That the whole law, i.e. the second table of the law, is fulfilled, or summoned up in this precept, Thou shalt lope thy neighbour as thyself. The meaning is not, that all and every one who is our neighbour, must be equally near to us as our own bodies; but it intends, (1.) The sincerity of our love to others, which must be without dissimulation, for we dissemble not in selflove. (2.) That we be as careful to avoid injuring others, as we would ourselves, Mat. 7: 12. To do by others, or measure to them, as we would have done or measured unto us: for which rule, Severus, the Heathen emperor, honoured Christ and Christianity, and caused it to be written in capital letters of gold. (3.) That we take direction from this principle of self-love, to measure out our care, love, and respect to others, according to the different degrees of nearness in which we stand to them. As, (1.) The wife of our bosom, to whom, by this Rule, is due our first care and love as in the text. (2.) Our children and family, 1 Tim. 5: 8. (3.) To all in general, whether we have any bond of natural relation upon them or no; but especially those to whom we are spiritually related, as Gal. 6: 10. And indeed, as every Christian has a right to our love and care above other men, so in some cases, we are to exceed this rule of self-love, by a transcendent act of self-denial for them, 1 John 3: 16. And Paul went higher than that, in a glorious excess of charity to the community or body of God's people, preferring their salvation not only to his own body, but to his soul also, Rom. 9: 3. But to these extraordinary cases we are seldom called; and if we be, the gospel furnisheth us with an higher rule than self-love, John 13: 34. But by this principle of self love, in all ordinary cases, we must proportion and dispense our love to all others; by which you see what a deep-rooted and fixed principle in nature self-love is, how universal and permanent alone this is, which else were not fit to be made the measure of our love to all others.

      Two things well deserve our consideration in the doctrinal part of this point.

      First, Wherein the soul evidenceth its love to the body.

      Secondly, What are the grounds and fundamental causes or reasons of its love to it; and then apply it.

      First, Wherein the soul evidenceth its love to the body, and that it does in divers respects.

      1. In its cares for the things needful to the body, as the text speaks, in nourishing and cherishing it, i.e. taking care for food and raiment for it. This care is universal, it is implanted in the most savage and barbarous people; and is generally so excessive and exorbitant, that though it never needs a spur, yet most times, and with most men, it does need a curb; and therefore Christ, in Matth. 6: 32. shews how those cares torture and distract the nations of the world, warns them against the like excesses, and propounds a rule to them for the allay and mitigation of them, ver. 25, 26, 27. So does the apostle also, 1 Cor. 7: 29, 30, 31. To speak as the matter is, most souls are over heated with their cares, and eager pursuits after the concerns of the body. They pant after the dust of the earth. They pierce themselves through with many sorrows, 1 Tim. 6: 10. They are cumbered like Martha with much serving. It is a perfect drudge and slave to the body, bestowing all its time, strength, and studies about the body; for one soul that puts the question to itself, "What shall I do to be saved?" a thousand are to be found that mind nothing more but "What shall I eat, what shall I drink, and wherewithal shall I and mine be clothed?" I do not say, that these are proofs of the soul's regular love to the body; no, they differ from it, as a fever does from natural heat. This is a coating fondness upon the body. He truly loves his body, that moderately and ordinately cares for what is necessary for it, and can keep it under, 1 Cor. 9: 27. and deny its whining appetite, when indulgence is prejudicial to the soul, or warm its lusts. Believers themselves find it hard to keep the golden bridle of moderation upon their affections in this matter. It is not every man that has attained Agur's cool temper, Prov. 30: 8. that can slack his pace and drive moderately where the interests of the body are concerned: the best souls are too warm, the generality in raging heats, which distract their minds, as that word, Mat. 6: 25 "me merimnate" signifies. If the body were not exceeding dear to the soul, It would never torture itself, day and night, with such anxious cares about it.

      2. The soul discovers its esteem and value for the body in all the fears it has about it. Did not the soul love it exceedingly, it would never be affrighted for it, and on its account, so much and so often as it is. What a panic fear do the dangers of the body cast the soul into? Isa. 7: 2. When the body is in danger, the soul is in distraction, the soul is in fears and tremblings about it: these fears flow from the souls tender love and affection to the body; if it did not love it so intensely, it would never afflict and torment itself at that rate it does about it: Satan, the professed enemy of our souls, being thoroughly acquainted with those fears which flow from the fountain of love to the body, politicly improves them in the way of temptation to the utter ruin of some, and the great hazard of other's souls; he edges and sharpens his temptations upon us this way; he puts our bodies into danger, that he may thereby endanger our souls; he reckons, if he can but draw the body into danger, fear will quickly drive the soul into temptation; it is not so much from Satan's malice or hatred of our bodies, that he stirs up persecutions against us: but he knows the tie of affection is so strong betwixt these friends, that love will draw, and fear will drive the soul into many and great hazards of its own happiness, to free the body out of those dangers. Prov. 29: 25. "The fear of man brings a snare:" and Heb. 11: 37. "Tortured and tempted."

      Upon this ground also it is, that this life becomes a life of temptation to all men, and there is no freedom from that danger, till we be freed from the body, and set at liberty by death. Separated souls are the only free souls. They that carry no flesh about them, need carry no fears of temptation within them. It is the body which catches the sparks of temptation.

      3. The soul manifests its dear love and affection to the body, by its sympathy, end compassionate feeling of all its burdens: whatever touches the body, by way of injury, affects the soul also by way of sympathy. The soul and body are as strings of two musical instruments set exactly at one height; if one be touched, the other trembles. They laugh and cry, are sick and well together. This is a wonderful mystery, and a rare secret (as a learned man observes) how the soul comes to sympathise with the body, and to have not only a knowledge, but as it were a feeling of its necessities and infirmities; how this fleshly lump comes to affect, and make its deep impressions upon a creature of so different a nature from it, as the soul or spirit is. But that it does so, though we know not how, is plain and sensible to any man. If any member of the body, though but the lowest and meanest, be in pain and misery, the soul is presently affected with it, and commands the eyes to watch, yea, to weep, the hands to bind it up with all tenderness, and defend it from the least injurious touch; the lips to complain of its misery, and beg pity and help from others for it. If the body be in danger, how are the faculties of the soul, understanding, memory, invention, &c. employed with utmost strength and concernment for its deliverance! This is a real and unexceptionable evidence of its dear and tender love to the body. As those that belong to one mystical body show their sincere love this way, 1 Cor. 12:25,26 so the soul.

      4. The soul manifesteth its love to the body, by its fears of death, and extreme aversion to a separation from it. On this account death is called in Job 18: 14. "The king of terrors, or the black prince, or the prince of clouds and darkness, as some translate that place: We read it, "The king of terrors, meaning, that the terrors at death are such terrors as subdue and keep down all other terrors under them, as a prince does his subjects. Other terrors compared with those that the soul conceives and conflicts with at parting, are no more than a cut finger, to the laying one's head on the block. Oh! the soul and body are strongly twisted and knit together in dear bands of intimate union and affection, and these bands cannot be broken without much struggling: Oh! it is a hard thing for the soul to bid the body farewell, it is a bitter parting, a doleful separation: Nothing is heard in that hour but the most deep and emphatical groans; I say emphatical groans, the deep sense and meaning of which the living are but little acquainted with: For no man living has yet felt the sorrows of a parting pull; whatsoever other sorrows he has felt in the body, yet they must be supposed to be far short of these.

      The sorrows of death are in scripture set forth unto us, by the bearing throes of a travailing woman, Acts 2: 24. "odinas tou tanatou", and what those mean, many can tell. The soul is in labour, it will not let go its hold of the body, but by constraint: Death is a close siege, and when the soul is beaten out of its body, it disputes the passage with death, as soldiers use to do with an enemy that enters by storm, and fights and strives to the last. It is also compared to a battle or sharp fight, Eccl. 8: 8. that war. That war with an emphasis. No conflict so sharp, each labour to the utmost to drive the other from the ground they stand on, and win the field. And though grace much over-powers nature in this matter, and reconciles it to death, and makes it desire to be dissolved, yet saints wholly put not off this reluctation of nature, 2 Cor. 5: 2. Not that we would be unclothed; as it is with one willing to wade over a brook to his father's house, puts his foot into the water, and feels it cold, starts back, and is loth to venture in; Not that we would be unclothed. And if it be so with sanctified souls, how is it, think you, with others? Mark the scripture language, Job 27: 8 God taketh away their souls, says our translation; but the root is, "kashal", extrahere, and signifies to pull out by plain force and violence. A graceless soul dieth not by consent, but force. Thus Adrian bewailed his departure, O Animula, vagula, blandula, heu, quo vadis! Yea, though the soul have never so long a time been in the body, though it should live as long as the Antediluvian fathers did, for many hundred years, yet still it would be loth to part; yea, though it endure abundance of misery in the body, and have little rest or comfort, but time spent in griefs and fears, yet for all that it is loth to part with it. All this shews a strong inclination and affection to it.

      5. Its desire of re-union continuing still with it, in its state of separation, speaks its love to the body. As the soul parted with it in grief and sorrow, so it still retains, even in glory, an inclination to re-union, and waits for a day of re-espousals: and to that sense some searching and judicious men understand those words of Job, chap. 14: 14. "If a man die, shall he live again?" viz. by a resurrection: if so, then all the days of my appointed separation, my soul in heaven shall wait till that change come. And to the same sense is that cry of separated souls, Rev. 6: 9,10,11. "How long, O Lord, how long?" i.e. to the consummation of all things. when judgement shall be executed on them that killed our bodies, and our bodies so long absent restored to us again? In that day of resurrection, the souls of the saints come willingly from heaven itself; to repossess their bodies, and bring them to a partnership with them in their glory: for it is with the soul in heaven as it is with an husband who is richly entertained, feasted, and lodged abroad, but his dear wife is solitary and comfortless; it abates the completeness of his joy. Therefore we say, the saints joy is not consummate till that day.

      There is an exercise for faith, hope, and desire, on this account in heaven.

      The union of soul and body is natural, their separation is not so: many benefits will redound to both by a re-union, and the resurrection of the body is provided by God, as the grand relief against those prejudices and losses the bodies of the saints sustain by separation. I say not that the propension or inclination of the soul to re-union with its body, is accompanied with any perturbation or anxiety, in its state of separation; for it enjoys God, and in him a placid rest; and as the body, so the soul rests in hope, it is such a hope as disturbs not the rest of either; yet when the time is come for the soul to be re-espoused, it is highly gratified by that second marriage, glad it is to see its old dear companion, as two friends after a long separation. And so much of the evidence of the soul's love to the body.

      Secondly, Next we are to enquire into the grounds and reasons of its love and inclination to the body. And,

      1. The fundamental ground and reason thereof will be found in their natural union with each other. There my text lays it: "No man ever yet hated his [own] flesh." Mark, the body is the soul's own; they are strictly married and related to each other: the soul has a property in its body, these two make up, or constitute one person. True, they are not essentially one, they have far different natures, but they are personally one; and though the soul be what it was, after Its separation, yet to make a man the who he was, i.e. the same complete and perfect person, they must be re-united. Hence springs its love to the body. Every man loves his own, John 17: 19. All the world is in love with its own, and hence it cares to provide for its welfare; 1 Tim. 5: 8. "If any man provide not for his own, he is worse than an infidel." For nature teacheth all men to do so. Why are children dearer to parents than to all others, but because they are their own? Job 19: 17. But our wives, our children, our goods are not so much our own as our bodies are; this is the nearest of all natural unions.

      In this propriety and relation are involved the reasons and motives of our love to, and care over the body, which is no more than what is necessary to their preservation. For, were it not for this propriety and relation, no man would be at any more cost or pains for his own body, than for that of a stranger. It is propriety which naturally draws love, care, and tenderness along with it; and these are ordered by the wisdom of providence, for the conservation of the body, which would quickly perish without it.

      2. The body is the soul's ancient acquaintance and intimate friend, with whom it has assiduously and familiarly conversed from its beginning. They have been partners in each others comforts and sorrows. They may say to each other, as Miconius did to his colleague, with whom he had spent twenty years in the government of the Thuringian church: Currimus, certavimus, laboravimus, pugnavimus, vicimus, et viximus conjunctissime. We have run, striven, laboured, fought, overcome, and lived most intimately and lovingly together. Consuetude, and daily conversation, begets and conciliates friendship and love betwixt creatures of contrary natures: Let a lamb be brought up with a lion, and the lion will express a tenderness towards it, much more the soul to its own body.

      8. The body is the soul's house and beloved habitation, where it was born, and has lived ever since it had a being, and in which it has enjoyed all its comforts, natural and supernatural, which cannot but strengthen the soul's engagement to it. Upon this account the apostle calls it the soul's home, 2 Cor. 5: 6. "While we are at home in the body." It is true, this house is not so comfortable an habitation, that it should be much desired by many souls; we may say of many gracious souls, that they pay a dear rent for the house they dwell in: or as it was said of Galba, Anima Galbae male habitat, their souls are but ill accommodated; but yet it is their home, and therefore beloved by them.

      4. The body is the soul's instrument by which it does its work and business in the world, both natural and religious, Rom. 6: 13. Through the bodily senses it takes in all the natural comforts of this world, and by the bodily members it performs all its duties and services. When these are broken and laid aside by death, the soul knows it can work no more in that way it now does, John 9: 4. Eccl. 9: 10. Natural men love their bodies for the natural pleasures they are instrumental to convey to their souls; and spiritual men, for the use and service they are of to their own and other souls, Phil. 1: 23.

      5. The body is the soul's partner in the benefit of Christ's purchase. It was bought with the same price, 1 Cor. 6: 20. sanctified by the same Spirit, 1 Thess. 5: 28. interested in the same promise, Mat. 22: 82. and designed for the same glory, 1 Thess. 4: 16, 17. So that we may say of it as it was said of Augustine and his friend Alippius, they are sanguine Christi conglutinati, glued together by the blood of Christ. And thus of the grounds and reasons of its love.

      Inf. 1. Is it so? Learn hence the mighty strength and prevalence of divine love, which, overpowering all natural affections, does not only enable the soul, of men to take their separation from the body patiently, but to long for it ardently, Phil. 1: 23. While some need patience to die, others need it as much to live, 2 Thes. 3: 5. It is said, Rev. 12: 11. "They loved not their lives. And, indeed, on these terms they first closed with Christ, Luke 12: 26. "to hate their lives for his sake," (i. e.) to love them in so remiss a degree, that whenever they shall come in competition with Christ, to regard them no more than the things we hate.

      The love of Christ is to be the supreme love, and all others to be subordinate to it, or quenched by it. It is not its own comfort in the body, it principally and ultimately designs and aims at, but Christ's glory; and if this may be furthered by the death of the body, its death thereupon becomes as eligible to the soul as its life, Phil. 1: 20. Oh! this is an high pitch of grace, a great attainment to say as one did, vivere renuo, ut Christo vivam; I refuse life, to be with Christ: Or another, when he was asked whether he was willing to die? answered, illius est nolle mori, qui nolit ire ad Christum; let him be loth to die, that is loth to go to Christ. So 2 Cor. 5: 8. "We are willing rather to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord."

      It is not every Christian that can arrive to this degree of love, though they love Christ sincerely, yet they shrink from death cowardly, and are loth to be gone. There are two sorts of grounds upon which Christians may be loth to be unbodied;


      1. The sinful and unjustifiable grounds are such as these, viz. (1.) Guilt upon the conscience, which will damp and discourage the soul, and make it loth to die. It arms death with terror, "the sting of death is sin." (2.) Unmortified affections to the world, I mean in such a degree as is necessary to sweeten death, and make a man a volunteer in that sharp engagement with that last and dreadful enemy. It is with our hearts as with fuel; if green, and full of sap, it will not burn; but if that be dried up, it catches presently. Mortification is the drying up of carnal affections to the creature, which is that which resists death, as green wood does the fire. (3.) The weakness and cloudiness of faith. You need faith to die by, as well as live by. Heb. 11: 13. All these died in faith. The less strength there is in faith, the more in death. A strong believer welcomes the messengers of death, when a weak one, unless extraordinarily assisted, trembles at them.

      2. There are grounds on which we may desire a longer continuance in the body, warrantably and allowably: As (1.) to do him yet more service in our bodies, before we lay them down. Thus the saints have pleaded for longer life, Psal. 30: 9. Psal. 88: 11,12, 13. and Isa. 38: 18, 19. (2.) To see the clouds of God's anger dispelled, whether public or personal, and a clear light break out e'er we die; Psal. 27: 13. (3.) They may desire, with submission, to out-live the days of persecution, and not to be delivered into the hands of cruel men, but come to their graves in peace, Psal. 31: 15. and 2 Thess. 3: 2. that they may be delivered from absurd men.

      3. But though some Christians shun death upon a sinful account, and others upon a justifiable one; yet others there be, who seeing their title clear, their work done, and relishing the joys of heaven, in the prelibations of faith, are willing to be unclothed, and to be with Christ. Their love to Christ has extinguished in them the love of life; and they can say with Paul, Acts 21: 18. I am ready. Ignatius longed to come to those beasts that were to devour him; and so many of the primitive Christians: Christ was so dear, that their lives were cheap, and low prized things for this enjoyment. And here indeed is the glory and triumph of a Christian's faith and love to Christ: For (1.) It enables him to part cheerfully with what he sees and feels, for what his eyes never yet saw, 1 Pet. 1: 8. "Whom having not seen, ye love." (2.) To part with what is dearest on earth, and lies nearest the heart of all he enjoys for Christ's sake. (3.) To reconcile his heart to what is most abhorrent and formidable to nature. (4.) To endure the greatest of pains and torments to be with him. (5.) To cast himself into the vast ocean of eternity, the most amazing change, to be with Christ, O the glorious conquests of love!

      Inf. 2. Then the apostasy of unregenerate professors in times of imminent danger, is not to be wondered at. They will, and must warp from Christ, when their lives are in hazard for him. The love of the body will certainly prevail over their love to Christ and religion. Amor meus pondus meum. Self-love will now draw. Love is the weight of the soul, which inclines and determines it, in the competition of interests' and the predominant interest always carries it. Every unregenerate professor loves his own life more than Christ, prefers his body before his soul; such an one may, upon divers accounts, as education, example, slight convictions of conscience, or ostentation of gifts, fall into a profession of religion, and continue a long time in that profession, before he visibly recede from Christ; hope of the resurrection of the interest of religion in the world; shame of retracting his profession; applause of his zeal and constancy in higher trials, the peace of his own conscience, and many such motives, may prevail with a carnal professor to endure a while: but, when dangers of life come to an height, they are gone, Matth. 24: 8, 9,10. And therefore, our Lord tells us, that they "who hate not their lives, cannot be his disciples," Luke 12: 26. Now will they lose their lives by saving them, Matth. 16: 25. and the reasons are plain and forcible: For,

      1. Now is the proper season for the predominant love to be discovered, it can be hid no longer: and the love of life is the predominant love in all such persons; for do but compare it with their love to Christ, and it will easily be found so. They love their lives truly and really, they love Christ but feignedly and pretendedly; and the real will, and must prevail over the feigned love. They love their lives fervently and intensely, they love Christ but coldly and remissly: And the fervent love will prevail over the remiss-love. Their love to their bodies has a root in themselves, their love to Christ has no root in themselves, Matth. 13: 21. And that which has a root must needs out-last and out-live that which has none.

      2. Because when life is in hazard, conscience will work in them by way of discouragement; it will hint the danger of their eternal state to them, and tell them they may cast away their souls for ever in a bravado; for though the cause they are called to suffer for be good, yet their condition is bad; and if the condition be not good as well as the cause, a man is lost for ever, though he suffer for it, 1 Cor. 13: 3. Conscience, which encourages and supports the upright, will discourage and daunt the hypocrite, and tell him, he is not on the same terms in sufferings that other men are.

      8. Because then all the springs by which their profession was fed and maintained, fail and dry up. Now the wind that was in their backs is come about, and blows a storm in their faces; there are no preferments nor honours now to be had from religion. These men's sufferings are a perfect surprise to them, for they never counted the cost, Luke 14: 28. Now they must stand alone, and resist unto blood, and sacrifice all visibles for invisibles; and this they can never do.

      O therefore, professors, look to your hearts, try their predominant love; compare your love to Christ with that to your lives. Now the like question will be put to you, that once was put to Peter, John 21: 15. "Lovest thou me more than these?" What say you to this? You think now you do, but alas your love is not yet brought to the fire to be tried: you think you hate sin, but will you be able to strive unto blood against sin? Heb. 12: 4. Will you choose suffering rather than sin? Job 26: 21. O try your love to Christ, before God bring it to the trial. Sure I am, the love of life will make you warp in the hour of temptation; except,

      1. You sat down and counted the cost of religion beforehand: if you set out in procession only for a walk, not for a journey? If you go to sea for recreation, not for a voyage; if you be mounted among other processors, only to take the air, and not to engage an enemy in sharp and bloody encounters, you are gone.

      2. Except you live by faith, and not by sense, 2 Cor. 4: 18. "While we look not at the things that are seen." You must balance present sufferings with future glory. You must go by that account and reckoning, Rom. 8: 18. or you are gone. "Now the just shall live by faith;" and if faith do not support, your fears will certainly sink you.

      3. Except you be sincere and plain-hearted in religion, driving no design in it but to save your souls, you may see your lot in that example, 2 Tim. 4: 10. "Demas has forsaken me." O take heed of a cunning, deceitful, double heart in religion; be plain, be open, care not if your ends lie open to the eyes of all the world.

      4. Except you experience the power of religion in your own souls, as well as wear the name of it. O my brethren, it is not a name to live that will do you service now. Many ships are gone down to the bottom, for all the brave names of the Success, the Prosperous, the Happy Return, and so will you. There is a knowing of ourselves by taste and real experience, Heb. 10: 34. which does a soul more service in a suffering hour, than all the splendid names and titles in the world.

      5. Except you make it your daily work to crucify the flesh, deny self for Christ, in all the forms and interests of it. He that cannot deny himself, will deny Jesus Christ, Matth. 16: 24. "Let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me," else he cannot be my disciple. Ponder these things in your hearts, while yet God delays the trial.

      Inf. 8. If the souls of men be naturally so strongly inclined and affected towards the body; Then hence you may plainly see the wisdom of God in all the afflictions and burdens he lays upon his people in this world, and find that all is but enough to wean off their souls from their bodies, and make them willing to part with them.

      The life of the saints in this world, is generally a burdened and a groaning life; 2 Cor. 5: 2. "In this tabernacle we groan, being burdened." Here the saints feel, (1.) A burden of sin, Rom. 7: 24. this is a dead and a sinking weight. (2.) A burden of affliction; of this all are partakers, Heb. 12. though not all in an equal degree, or in the same kind, yet all have their burdens equal to, and even beyond their own strength to support it; 2 Cor. 1: 8. "pressed above measure." (3.) A burden of inward troubles for sin, and outward troubles in the flesh both together, so had Job, Heman, David, and many of the saints.

      Certainly this befals them not, (1.) Casually, Job 5: 6. "It rises not out of the dust:" (2.) Nor because God loves and regards them not, for they are fruits of his love; Heb. 12: 6. "Whom he loveth he correcteth:" (3.) Nor because he takes pleasure in their groans; Lam. 3: 34. "To tread under his feet the prisoners of the earth, - the Lord has no pleasure:" it is not for his own pleasure, but his children's profit, Heb. 12: 10. And among the profits that result from these burdens, this is not the least, to make you less fond of the body than you would else be, and more willing to be gone to your everlasting rest. And certainly all the diseases and pains we endure in the body, whether they be upon inward or outward accounts, by passion or compassion from God or men, will be found but enough to wean us, and loose off our hearts from the fond love of life. Afflictions are bitter things to our taste, Ruth 1: 20. so bitter, that Naomi thought a name of a contrary signification fitter for her afflicted condition: call me Marah, i.e. bitter, not Naomi, pleasant, beautiful. And the church, Lam. 3: 9. calls them wormwood and gall.

      The great design of God in afflicting them, is the same that a tender mother projects in putting wormwood to her breast when she would wean the child.

      It has been observed by some discreet and grave ministers, that before their removal from one place to another, God has permitted and ordered some weaning providence to befal them;. either denying wonted success to their labour, or alienating and cooling the affections of their people towards them, which not only makes the manner of their departure more easy, but the grounds of it more clear. Much so it falls out in our natural death, the comfort of the world is imbittered to us before we leave it; the longer we live in it, the less we shall like it. We over-live most of our comforts which engaged our hearts to it, that we may more freely take our leave of it. It were good for Christians to observe the voice of such providences as these, and answer the designs of them in a greater willingness to die.

      1. Is thy body which was once hale and vigorous, now become a crazy, sickly, pained body to thee, neither useful to God, nor comfortable to thee? a tabernacle to groan and sigh in; and little hopes it will be recovered to a better temper; God has ordained this to make thee willing to be divorced from it: the less desirable life is, the less formidable death will be.

      2. Is thy estate decayed and blasted by providence, so that thy life which was once full of creature comforts, is now filled with cares and anxieties? O it is a weaning providence to thee, and bespeaks thee the more cheerfully to bid the world farewell. The less comfort it gives you, the less it shall entangle and engage you. We little know with what aching hearts, and pensive breasts, many of God's people walk up and down, though for religion, or reputation sake, they put a good face upon it; but by these things, God is bespeaking and preparing them for a better state.

      3. Is an husband, a wife, or dear children dead, and with them the comfort of life laid in the dust? why this the Lord sees necessary to do to persuade you to come after willingly? It is the cutting asunder thy roots in the earth, that thou mayest fall the more easily. O how many strokes must God give at our names, estates, relations, and health, before we will give way to the last stroke of death that fells us to the ground?

      4. Do the times frown upon religion? Do all things seem to threaten stormy times at hand? Are desirable assemblies scattered? nothing but sorrows and sufferings to be expected in this world? by these things God will imbitter the earth, and sweeten heaven to his people.

      5. Is the beauty and sweetness of Christian society defaced and decayed? Is that communion which was wont to be pithy, substantial, spiritual, and edifying, become either frothy or contentious, so that thy soul has no pleasure in it? this also is a weaning providence to our souls: Strigelius desired to die that he might be freed ab implacabilibus theologorum odiis, from the wranglings and contentions that were in his time. Our fond affection to the body requires all this and much more to wean and mortify them.

      Inf. 4. How comfortable is the doctrine of the resurrection to believers, which assures them of receiving their bodies again, though they part with them for a time!

      Believers must die as well as others; their union with Christ privileges them not from a separation from their bodies, Rom. 8: 10. Heb. 9: 27. But yet they have special grounds of consolation against this doleful separation above all others. For,

      1. Though they part with them, yet they part in hopes of receiving them again, 1 Thes. 4: 13, 14. They take not a final leave of them when they die. Husbandmen cast their seed-corn into the earth cheerfully and willingly, because they part with it in hope; so should we, when we commit our bodies to the earth at death.

      2. Though death separates these dear friends from each other, yet it cannot separate either the one or other from Christ, Luke 20: 37, 38. "I am the God of Abraham," &c. Your very dust is the Lord's, and the grave rots not the bond of the covenant.

      3. The very same body we lay down at death, we shall assume again at the resurrection; not only the same specifical, but the same numerical body; Job 19: 25, 26. "With these eyes shall 1 see God."

      4. The unbodied soul shall not find the want of its body, so as to afflict or disquiet it; nor the body the want of its soul; but the one shall be at rest in heaven, and the other sweetly asleep in the grave; and all that long interval shall slide away without any afflicting sense of each others absence. The time will be long, Job 14: 12. but if it were longer, it cannot be afflicting, considering how the soul is clothed immediately, 2 Cor. 5: 1, 2. and how the body sleeps sweetly in Jesus, 1 Thes. 4: 14.

      5. When the day of their re-espousals is come, the soul will find the body so transformed and improved, that it shall never receive prejudice from it any more, but a singular addition to its happiness and glory. Now it clogs us: Matt. 26: 41. "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." It encumbers us with cares to provide for it, and eats up time and thoughts; but then it will be a spiritual body, 1 Cor. 15: 43. like to the angels for manner of subsistence, Luke 20: 35, 36. 1 Cor. 6: 13. and, which is the highest step of glory, like unto Christ's glorious body, Phil. 3: 21. Well therefore might the father say, Resurrectio mortuorem est consolatio Christianorum; the resurrection of the dead is the consolation of Christians.

      Use second, of reproof.

      In the next place, let me press you to regulate your love to your bodies, by the rules of religion and right reason. I must press you to love them, though nature itself teacheth you so to do; but I press you to love them as Christians, as men that understand the right use and improvement of their bodies. There are two sorts of errors in our love to the body, one in defect, the other in excess; both come fitly here to be censured and healed.

      First, Some offend in the defect of love to their own bodies, who use them as if they had no love for them, whose souls act as if they were enemies to their own bodies; they do not formally and directly hate them, but consequentially and eventually they may be said to hate them, and that,

      (1.) By defiling them with filthy lusts; so the apostle speaks, 1 Cor. 6: 18. "Every sin that a man does, is without the body, but he that committeth adultery sinneth against his own body:" In other sins it is the instrument, but here it is both instrument and object; not only God, but your own bodies are abused and wronged by it. The body may be considered two ways, Either,

      1. As our vessel; or

      2. As the Spirit's temple.

      1. As our vessel or instrument for natural and spiritual uses and services: and on that account we should not injure or defile it, 1 Thess. 4: 4, 5. but possess it in sanctification and honour. The lusts of uncleanness, gluttony, and drunkenness, quench the vigour, wast the beauty, and destroy the health and honour of the body; and so render it both naturally and morally unfit for the service and use of the soul.

      2. And the injury is yet greater, if we consider it as the Spirit's temple. On this ground the apostle strongly convinceth and dissuadeth Christians from these abuses of the body, 1 Cor. 6: 15, 16. He argues from the dignity God will put upon our bodies by the resurrection, ver. 13, 14. They are to be transformed, and made like unto Christ's glorious body; and from the honour he has already put upon the bodies of the saints in their union with Christ, ver. 15,16. They, as well as the soul, are ingrafted into him, and joined with him; they are his temples, to be dedicated, hallowed, and consecrated to his service. O let them not be made a sink for lusts, or mere strangers for meat and drink.

      (2.) By macerating them with covetous lusts, denying them their due comforts and refreshments, and unmercifully burdening them with labours and sorrows about things that perish. (1.) Some deny their bodies due comforts and refreshments, which the natural and positive laws of God both allow and command. Their souls are cruel step-mothers to their bodies, and keep them too short; not out of a prudent and Christian design to starve their lusts, but to advance their estates. Of this Solomon speaks, Eccl. 6: 22. "There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men; A man to whom God has given riches, wealth and honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth; yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it. This is vanity, and it is an evil disease." Tenacity is a disease of the soul, like that of a dyscrasy in the stomach, which so indisposeth it that it cannot receive with any appetite or delight the best refreshments at a plentiful table. (2.) And others there are that wrong and abuse their own bodies, by laying unreasonable and unmerciful loads upon them, especially loads of grief and sorrow, wasting and weakening them beyond all rules of reason or religion. If a friend or relation die, they have less mercy on their own bodies than a conscientious man has on the horse he rides. Cares and sorrows are as deadly to the body as a sword, 1 Tim. 6: 10. Intense and immoderate griefs about worldly losses and crosses have slain their ten thousands; and, which is strange, the soul seems to take a certain kind of pleasure in loading and tormenting the body. There is a real truth in that strange expression of Seneca, "Sorrow itself has a certain kind of pleasure attending it."

      The souls of some mourners do willingly excite and provoke their own grief, when they begin to abate, which is like the whetting of the knife that grows dull, to make it cut the deeper into the body. Thus, as Seneca observes, "some parents that have lost their beloved children, willingly call to mind their pleasant sayings, and pretty actions to find a kind of pleasure in a fresh shower of tears for them;" when, poor hearts! sorrow has so broken them already, that they need consolations under their present sorrows, rather than irritations of new ones. And the soul's unmercifulness to the body, is in such causes farther discovered by its obstinate refusal of all that is comforting and relieving. So it is said of Rachel, Jer. 31: 15. "Rachel weeping for her children, would not be comforted, because they were not." So the Israelites hearkened not unto Moses, because of the anguish of spirit, and the cruel bondage, Exod. 6: 9. Thus we studiously rake together and exasperate whatsoever is piercing, wounding, and overwhelming; and shut our ears to all that is relieving and supporting, which is cruelty to our own bodies, and that which has so far broken the health and strength of some bodies, that they are never like to be useful instruments to the soul any more in this world; such deep and desperate wounds have their own souls given them by immoderate grief, as will never be perfectly healed, but by the resurrection. Of those wounds the body may say, as it is Zech. 13: 6. These are the wounds "with which I was wounded in the house (or by the hand) of my friend;" thus my own soul has dealt cruelly and unmercifully with me.

      Secondly, Others offend in the excess and extravagancy of their love to the body, and these are a hundred to one in number compared with those that sin in defect of love. My friends, upon a due search, it will be found, that the love of our souls generally degenerates into fondness and folly: there is but little well-tempered and ordinary love found among men. We make fondlings, yea, we make idols of our bodies; we rob God, yea, our own souls, to give to the body. It is not a natural and kindly heat of love, but a mere feverish heat, which preys upon the very spirits of religion, which is found with many of us. The feverish distemper may be discovered, by the beating of our pulse, in three or four particulars.

      (1.) This appears by our sinful indulgence to our whining appetites. We give the flesh whatsoever it craves, and can deny it nothing it desires; pampering the body, to the great injury and hazard of the soul. Some have their conversation in the lusts of the flesh, as it is, Eph. 2: 3. trading only in those things that please and pamper the flesh, "They sow to the flesh," Gal. 6: 8. i.e. all their studies and labours are but the sowing of the seeds of pleasure to the flesh. Not a handful of spiritual seed sown in prayer for the soul all the day long: what the body craves, the obsequious soul like a slave, is at its beck to give it; Tit. 3: 3. "Serving divers lusts and pleasures;" attending to every knock and call, to fulfil the desires of the flesh. O how little do these men understand the life of religion, or the great design of Christianity! which consists in mortifying, and not pampering and gratifying the body, Rom. 14: 13, 14. And according to that rule, all serious Christians order their bodies, giving them what is needful to keep them serviceable and useful to the soul, but not gratifying their irregular desires; giving what their wants, not what their wantonness calls for. So Paul, 1 Cor. 9: 27. "I beat it down, and keep it under;" he understood it as his servant, not his master. He knew that Hagar would quickly perk up, and domineer over Sarah, expect more attendance than the soul, except it were kept under: these two verbs, "hupopiadzo" and "doulagogo", are very emphatical; the former signifies to make it black and blue with buffeting, the other to bring it under by checks and rebukes, as masters that understand their place and authority use to do with insolent and wanton servants.

      It was a rare expression of a Heathen, Major sum, et ad majora natus, quam ut corporis mei sim mancipium; I am greater, and born to greater things, than that I should be a slave to my body. And it was the saying of a pious divine, when he felt the flesh rebellious and wanton, Ego faciam, aselle, ut ne calcitres; I will make thee, thou ass, that thou shalt not kick. I know the superstitious Papists place much of religion in these external things, but though they abuse them to an ill purpose, there is a necessary and lawful use of these abridgements and restraints upon the body; and it will be impossible to mortify and starve our lusts without a due rigour and severity to our flesh. But how little are many acquainted with these things? They deal with their bodies as David with Adonijah, of whom it is said, 1 Kings 1: 6. His father had not displeased him at any time, in saying, Why hast thou done so? And just so our flesh requites us, by its rebellions and treasons against the soul; it seeks the life of the soul, which seeks nothing more than its content and pleasure; this is not ordinate love, but fondness and folly, and what we shall bitterly repent for at last.

      (2.) It appears by our sparing and favouring of them, in the necessary uses and services we have for them in religion. Many will rather starve their soul, than work and exercise their bodies, or disturb their sluggish rest: thus the idle excuses and pretences of endangering our health, oftentimes put by the duties of religion, or, at least, lose the fittest and properest seasons for them: we are laying upon our beds, when we should be wrestling upon our knees: the world is suffered to get the start of religion in the morning, and so religion is never able to overtake it all the day long. This was none of David's courses, he prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried, Psal. 119: 147. and Psal. 5: 3. "My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord, in the morning will I direct my prayers unto thee, and will look up." And indeed we should consecrate unto God the freshest and fittest parts of our time, when our bodily senses are most vigorous; and we would do so, (except God by his providence disable us) were our hearts fully set for God, and religion lay with weight upon our spirits.

      Some, I confess, cannot receive this injunction, being naturally disabled by prevailing infirmities; but those who can, ought to do so. But oh, how many slothful excuses does the flesh invent to put off duty! We shall injure our health, &c. O the hypocrisy of such pleas! If profit or pleasure calls us up, we have no shifts, but can rise early and sit up late.

      O, friends, why has God given you bodies, if not to waste and wear them out in his service, and the service of your own souls! If your bodies must not be put to it, and exercised this way, where is the mercy of having a body? If a stately horse were given you on this condition, that you must not ride or work him, what benefit would such a gift be to you? Your bodies, must and will wear out, and it is better to wear them with working, than with rusting: we are generally more solicitous to live long than to live usefully and serviceably; and it may be our health had been more precious in the eyes of God, if it had been less precious in our own eyes. It is just with God to destroy that health with diseases, which he sees we would cast away in sloth and idleness. Think with thyself, had such a soul as Timothy's or Gaius's been blest with such a body as thine, so strong and vigorous, so apt and able for service, they would have honoured God more in it in a day, than perhaps you do in a year. Certainly this is not love, but laziness; not a due improvement, but a sinful neglect and abuse of the body, to let it rust out into idleness, which might be employed so many ways for God, for your own and others souls. Well, remember death will shortly dissolve them, and then they can be of no more use; and if you expect God should put glory and honour upon them at the resurrection, use them for God now, with a faithful, self-denying diligence.

      (3.) It appears by our cowardly shrinking from dangers that threaten them, when the glory of God, our own and others salvation, bid us expose and not regard them. Some there are, that rather than they will adventure their flesh to the rage of man, will hazard their souls to the wrath of God. They are too tender to suffer pain or restraints for Christ, but consider not what sufferings are prepared for the fearful and unbelieving in the world to come, Rev. 21: 8. How many sad examples do the church histories of ancient and latter times afford us, of men, who, consulting with flesh and blood in time of danger, have, in pity to their bodies, ruined their souls!

      There be but few like-minded with Paul, who set a low price upon his liberty or life for Christ, Acts 20: 24. or with those worthy Jews, Dan. 3: 28. who yielded their bodies to preserve their consciences. Few of Chrysostom's mind, who told the empress, Nil nisi peccatum timeo, I fear nothing but sin; or of Basil's, who told the emperor, God threatened hell, whereas he threatened but a prison. That is a remarkable rule that Christ gives us, Mat. 10: 28. The sum of it is, to set God against man, the soul against the body, and hell against temporal sufferings; and so surmounting these low fleshly considerations, to cleave to our duty in the face of dangers. You read, Gal. 1: 16. how in pursuit of duty, though surrounded with danger, Paul would not confer, or consult with flesh and blood, i.e. ask its opinion which were best, or stay for its consent, till it were willing to suffer; he understood not that the flesh had any voice at the council-table in his soul, but willing or unwilling, if duty call for it, he was resolved to hazard it for God.

      We have a great many little politicians among us, who think to husband their lives and liberties a great deal better than other plain hearted, and too forward Christians do: but these politics will be their perdition, and their craft will betray them to ruin. They will lose their lives by saving them, when others will save them by losing them, Mat. 10: 39. For the interest of the body depends on, and follows the safety of the soul, as the cabin does the ship.

      O my friends, let me beg you not to love your bodies into hell, and your souls too for their sakes: be not so scared at the sufferings of the body, as, with poor Spira, to dash them both against the wrath of the great and terrible God. Most of those souls that are now in hell, are there upon the account of their indulgence to the flesh, they could not deny the flesh, and now are denied by God. They could not suffer from men, and now must suffer the vengeance of eternal fire.

      (4.) In a word; it appears we love them fondly and irregularly, in that we cannot with any patience think of death and separation from them. How do some men fright at the very name of death! And no arguments can persuade them seriously to think of an unbodied, and separated state. It is as death to them, to bring their thoughts close to that ungrateful subject. A Christian that loves his body regularly and moderately, can look into his own grave with a composed mind, and speak familiarly of it, as Job 17: 14. And Peter speaks of the putting off of his body by death, as a man would of the putting off of his clothes at night, 2 Pet. 1: 13, 14. And certainly such men have a great advantage above all others, both as to the tranquillity of their life and death. You know a parting time must come, and the more fond you are of them, the more bitter and doleful that time will be. Nothing, except the guilt and terrible charges of conscience, puts men into terrors at death, more than our fondness of the body. I do confess, christless persons have a great deal of reason to be shy of death; their dying day is their undoing day: but for Christians to startle and fright at it, is strange, considering how great a friend death will be to them that are in Christ. What are you afraid of? What, to go to Christ? to be freed of sin and affliction too soon? Certainly this has not been so comfortable a habitation to you, that you should be loth to change it for a heavenly one.

      Use third, of exhortation.

      To conclude; Seeing there is so strict a friendship and tender affection betwixt soul and body, let me persuade every soul of you to express your love to the body, by labouring to get union with Jesus Christ, and thereby to prevent the utter ruin of both to all eternity.

      Souls, if you love yourselves, or the bodies you dwell in, shew it by your preventing care in season, lest they be cast away for ever. How can you say you love them, when you daily expose them to the everlasting wrath of God, by employing them as weapons of unrighteousness, to fight against him that formed them? You feed and pamper them on earth, you give them all the delight and pleasure you can procure for them in this world; but you take no care what shall become of them, nor your souls neither, after death has separated them. Oh cruel souls! cruel, not to others, but to yourselves, and to your own flesh, which you pretend so much love to! Is this your love to your bodies? What, to employ them in Satan's service on earth, and then to be cast as a prey to him forever in hell? You think the rigour end mortification of the saints, their abstemiousness and self-denial, their cares, fears, and diligence, to be too great severity to their bodies: but they know these are the most real evidences of their true love to them, they love them too well to cast them away as you do. Alas! your love to the body does not consist in feeding, and clothing, and pleasing it; but in getting it united to Christ, and made the temple of the Holy Ghost: in using it for God, and dedicating it to God.

      I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies living sacrifices to God, which is your reasonable service, Rom. 12: 1. The soul should look upon the body as a wise parent upon a rebellious or wanton child, that would, if left to itself; quickly bring itself to the gallows; the father looks on him with compassion and melting bowels, and says, with the rod in his hand, and tears in his eyes, "My child, my naughty, disobedient, headstrong child, I resolve to chastise thee severely. I love thee too well to suffer thee to be ruined, if my care or correction may prevent it." So should our souls evidence their love to and care over their own rebellious flesh. It is cruelty, not love or pity, to indulge them to their own destruction.

      Except you have gracious souls, you shall never have glorified bodies: except your souls be united, with Christ, the happiness of your bodies, as well as your souls is lost to all eternity. Know you not that the everlasting condition of your bodies follows and depends on the interest your souls now get in Christ? Oh that this sad truth might sink deep into all our considerations this day; that if your bodies be snares to your souls, and your souls be now regardless of the future state of themselves, and them; assuredly they will have a bitter parting at death, a terrible meeting again at the resurrection, and horrid reflections upon each other, naturally charging their ruin upon each other to all eternity. While they that are in Christ, part in hope, meet with joy, and bless God for each other for evermore.

Back to John Flavel index.

See Also:
   The Epistle Dedicatory
   The Preface
   Chapter 1 - Gen. 2:7
   Chapter 2 - Rev. 6:9,10,11
   Chapter 3 - Eph. 5:29
   Chapter 4 - 2 Pet. 1:13,14
   Chapter 5 - Heb. 12:23
   Chapter 6 - 1 Pet. 3:19
   Chapter 7 - Matth. 16:26
   Chapter 8 - Eph. 5:16


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