Chapter VIII.—Christianity, by Its Provision for the Flesh, Has Put on It the Greatest Honour. The Privileges of Our Religion in Closest Connection with Our Flesh. Which Also Bears a Large Share in the Duties and Sacrifices of Religion.
Now such remarks have I wished to advance in defence of the flesh, from a general view of the condition of our human nature. Let us now consider its special relation to Christianity, and see how vast a privilege before God has been conferred on this poor and worthless substance. It would suffice to say, indeed, that there is not a soul that can at all procure salvation, except it believe whilst it is in the flesh, so true is it that the flesh is the very condition on which salvation hinges. And since the soul is, in consequence of its salvation, chosen to the service of God, it is the flesh which actually renders it capable of such service. The flesh, indeed, is washed, in order that the soul may be cleansed; the flesh is anointed, that the soul may be consecrated; the flesh is signed (with the cross), that the soul too may be fortified; the flesh is shadowed with the imposition of hands, that the soul also maybe illuminated by the Spirit; the flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ, that the soul likewise may fatten on its God. They cannot then be separated in their recompense, when they are united in their service. Those sacrifices, moreover, which are acceptable to God—I mean conflicts of the soul, fastings, and abstinences, and the humiliations which are annexed to such duty—it is the flesh which performs again and again 7341 to its own especial suffering. Virginity, likewise, and widowhood, and the modest restraint in secret on the marriage-bed, and the one only adoption 7342 of it, are fragrant offerings to God paid out of the good services of the flesh. Come, tell me what is your opinion of the flesh, when it has to contend for the name of Christ, dragged out to public view, and exposed to the hatred of all men; when it pines in prisons under the cruellest privation of light, in banishment from the world, amidst squalor, filth, and noisome food, without freedom even in sleep, for it is bound on its very pallet and mangled in its bed of straw; when at length before the public view it is racked by every kind of torture that can be devised, and when finally it is spent beneath its agonies, struggling to render its last turn for Christ by dying for Him—upon His own cross many times, not to say by still more atrocious devices of torment. Most blessed, truly, and most glorious, must be the flesh which can repay its Master Christ so vast a debt, and so completely, that the only obligation remaining due to Him is, that it should cease by death to owe Him more—all the more bound even then in gratitude, because (for ever) set free.
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