Where hath Sin its Lodging Place in the Regenerate?

by Thomas Boston

"GOD made man upright, but he found out many inventions." He was a glorious creature, as he dropt from the forming finger of God, all whose works are perfect. It was man's glory, that he was created after the image of God. It was God's will he should be created mutably so. Of his mutability there can be no controversy. Sad experience teacheth us, that man is not now perfect; but, on the contrary, a mass of sin, and lump of hell, the noble kind being affected with diabolic contagion, which he voluntarily received. Whereby it comes to pass, that all is infected. The understanding, which formerly was a sun of light in this little world, is not only overclouded, but utterly darkened, as to any saving uptaking of spiritual things. The will, which before was the Lord's deputy-governor there, endued with principles of true loyalty to its Supreme Master, is now turned traitor, and utterly perverse: having forsaken its allegiance to the great King, gathers in the rents of the crown to itself, and in very deed, with sacrilegious audacity, attemps to occupy the throne of the Highest. call it no more Naomi, but Marah; no more will, but lust; for we have dealt bitterly with ourselves. The affections, formerly subject to right reason, having lost their master, go up and down roving as lawless miscreants; set themselves on lawful objects excessively, and unlawful objects are their desire. Neither conscience nor memory can do their work. And the body with its members is made slave to this unruly beast; which also is made to serve the polluted piece of clay, which wants not a miserable influence on the more noble part of man.

But grace makes a change, and sets right the disjointed members, though not perfectly; for the saint's complete deliverance cometh not till the pins of this tabernacle of the body be loosed. The body of death remains till the death of the body. Then shall they be made perfect in holiness. But now they groan under the burden of indwelling sin, and, with Paul, cry out, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death!" That sin doth remain in the regenerate, is evident from Scripture and experience, against deluded perfectionists. Where it remains, is the question. The Dominican monks,* and some others, were of opinion, that though original sin remains after baptism, yet it is only in the inferior part of the soul, as they speak, or in the sensitive part; but not in the mind and will. Some have been of opinion that it remained only in the body, and that it was nothing else but desire of meat, &c. or sensual pleasures. No wonder these things entered into the minds of men, who were left to grow vain in their imaginations, without a due sense of the remaining corruption of nature. But I find some express themselves in this matter to this purpose, viz. That sin which is left in the regenerate, dwelleth in the body properly so called, and is as an enemy beat out of the town or stronghold, and lodging in the outworks, and as it were about the walls; from whence it makes its sallies, and infests the soul. Which I suppose we may soon find contrary to Scripture, reason, and experience.

ARGUMENT I. The Scripture plainly holds forth sin dwelling in the heart: Jer. 17:9, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" There is an unfathomable depth of wickedness therein, which none can search out unto perfection. Our Lord tells us, that the heart is the spring and source of all evil, Mark 7:21, "For from within, out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, &c. So Matth. 12:34, he brings a general reason to prove that the Pharisees being evil could not speak good things: "For" says he, "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." These places are manifestly general, and agree both to good and bad. Is there not deceit and desperate wickedness even in the hearts of the regenerate? Have any such perfectly known their own hearts? Do not evil words proceed out of their mouth? This then is from the abundance of the heart. Hereunto add the necessary qualification requisite in those who shall have access to God in duties, "That they know every one the plague of his own heart," 1 Kings 8:38. Not without reason doth the wise man call for "keeping of the heart with all diligence,"* that we may set double guards on it. It plainly tells us that the heart is a deceitful thing, and bent to turn aside after crooked ways. Say not, that all the hazard is from the influence which the body hath on it; for the heart can go astray in such things wherein it is not capable of being influenced by the body, as will appear afterwards. But indeed if that were so, we should rather have been directed to keep the body with all diligence. But it is plain, the greatest hazard is from the heart; as Moses teacheth in that parallel place, Deut. 4:9, "Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently," &c. Mr. Gray speaks feelingly, and no less truly, concerning the heart: "I think," says he, "such is the desperate deceitfulness of our hearts, that if all the saints since Adam's days, and who shall be to the end of the world, had but one heart to guide, they would misguide it."

ARGUMENT II. The Spirit of God calls the regenerate to carry on the work of renovation in their souls, minds, and wills; which evidently holds forth, that there is much of the old man remaining there still, even in their souls, and that in the most noble faculties thereof: Rom. 12:2, "Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind;" where it is clear the apostle is speaking to regenerate persons. Eph. 4:23, he calls those who had learned Christ, yet to be "renewed in the spirit of their minds." And the apostle speaking of himself, 2 Cor. 4:16. tells us, that "the inward man is renewed day by day." If any shall say, that by the renewing of the inward man, is meant the strengthening of the soul to bear afflictions; I grant the same without any prejudice to what we assert; for it supposeth a culpable weakness, in regard of which the soul hath need to be renewed. The apostle, Col. 3:10, teacheth the same doctrine; "And have put on the new man, which is renewed; kai endusamenoi ton neon, ton anakainoumenon; where I pray you take notice of the apostle's changing of the tense, "Ye have put on the new man which is renewed;" he speaks of the renovation in the present tense, denoting the continuance of the action. And that it relates to the mind is no less clear; for this new man is expressly said to be "renewed in knowledge." Hereunto add the apostle's prayer for the believing Thessalonians, 1 Thess. 5:23, "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."

And how frequently doth the Scripture discover the particular evils that are to be found in the soul as their proper place? as we may see in the apostle's prayer for the believing Ephesians, chap. 1:17, &c. So Col. 1:9, 10. How frequently does the Lord reprove his disciples for the relics of unbelief in them? The apostle confesseth, in the name of all believers, the great remains of darkness that are yet on their minds, 1 Cor. 13:12. But to recount such places as teach that sin is yet remaining in the mind and will, were an endless labour.

ARGUMENT III. There are many members of the body of death, which the godly groan under, that are purely spiritual; whereof the body can be no receptacle; and must needs remain in the soul, even in the mind and will; such as, Atheism, ignorance, hatred of God, unbelief, want of love to God, &c. That these and the like cannot be said to lodge in the body, is evident: for, 1. Some of these sins are mere privations; as, ignorance of, and want of love to God, &c.; privations, I say, of rectitude, that ought to be, not in the act, (for there is no act, but a cessation from action); but in the power, which is nothing else than the soul, mind, and affections; unless you will say that the body is capable to love God, which is most absurd. And no less absurd is it to assert the same anent the sensitive part of the soul, as they call it. 2. How can these sins be said to lodge there, where there cannot be so much as an imagination of their objects; as in hatred of God. The body is not capable thereof; in regard God is not the object of the fancy, but of the mind; so that we can have no imagination of him; he being infinitely removed from matter; and therefore as far from the imagination, as colours from hearing, sounds from the taste, or the most abstract notions from the soul of a beast. 3. Moreover, there are some sins founded on reflection, which the body is not capable of; as, pride, and lifting up of the soul, upon the account of its perceiving in itself ideas of the most sublime things, far removed from the knowledge of others. How such can be said to be driven out into the body, I persuade myself no man can show with any colour of reason; yet pride is not the least of the members of the body of death.

ARGUMENT IV. If the remains of original sin in the regenerate be not in the soul, but whatever remains of it be driven to the body; then original sin is quite razed out in regeneration, not only ut non imputetur, but ut non sit; it hath no more a being in the saints: and so there is no sin the regenerate are chargeable with but actual sin; and so all the children of God have been under a miserable mistake, while they confessed and bewailed their original corruption. All which is contrary to the Scriptures, and the sentiments of orthodox divines. I prove the connection: for if the remains of natural corruption lodge not in the soul, it hath no lodging in the man at all. The reason is, because the body, considered as contradistinct to the soul, is not subjectum capax; for the body as such is subject to no law; now, "where there is no law, there can be no transgression;" and if the body as such were subject to a law, then all bodies should be so; I mean of a moral law. If you say, the body is not considered here simply as a body, but as a constituent part of the man; I answer, That indeed the whole suppositum is under the law. But the formal reason of a man's being subjectible to a law, is rationality, which is the only thing that makes him capable to be directed by a law. So that, although sin may be from the body occasionally, as madness from the distemperature of the brain; and may be also in it terminatively, as whoredom, drunkenness, &c.; yet formally it is in the soul; which, against the law, complies with the temptation, which in some cases the body may have a deep share in; and the soul useth the members of the body for fulfilling the desires of sin, to which it is incited by the body. Whatever power we grant unto the body for stirring up the soul to sin, and whatever we say of that incitation considered simply as an action of the body; we judge it highly agreeable to reason, that the inciting to sin which is by the body, as it ariseth from a view of the object, is, at least interpretatively, an imperate act of the soul, which takes fire upon the first view of the species of the external object presented by the eyes, ears, &c.; and consequently follows that act of the soul, though the motion of the blood and spirits, thus commanded by the soul, adds fuel to the fire. For whence, I pray you, is the motion of the blood and spirits in the body inciting to sin, but from the soul, which, upon a view of the object, judgeth the same to be fit for it to enjoy hic et nunc; and so wills it with a sort of velleity at least; whereupon natively follow such motions in the body? This is evident from this, that when the practical judgment goes a contrary way, these motions in the body follow it in the same: though indeed, when once the devil is raised thus in the blood and spirits, the soul cannot easily lay him; because the will hath but a politic, not a despotic power over the fancy once set upon an object; as is too evident from experience. Had Achan, when he saw the Babylonish garment, and wedge of gold, judged they had been devils appearing in shape of bodies, doubtless quite contrary motions tending to aversation would have arisen in him. So that I think it is clear, that incitation to sin by the body, follows the conception of lust in the soul; and that the body is only the midwife helping to bring forth the unhappy birth.

From what is said it appears, that even actual sin is not formally in the body, but in the soul: for though the body may contribute something thereto in genere entis, yet the soul only gives all in genere moris. From thence is the anomia of the action. Now, if it be driven to the body, as is alleged, it surely stirs there; that is, original sin there breaks forth into action; which cannot be said, as we have already declared. And therefore we may safely thence conclude, it is not there; for where it is, there it will bring forth its unhappy births.

One thing more I add: That if the patrons of this opinion be of the judgment, that the soul doth not always think, by this argument they shall be obliged to say, that regenerate infants have no sin in them at all; nor godly persons adult, when they sleep, and do not dream: for sin is put out of the soul, they say, and the body is at rest.

ARGUMENT. V. If in regeneration indwelling sin be driven out of the soul into the body, then it is in the body, either in more or less, or in equal measure, as before conversion. In greater measure it cannot be, or then the renewing in the whole man falls to the ground; yea, the body is the worse of regeneration, and is so far from having old things done away, that they are increased to a greater height; which to reconcile to the privilege which the bodies of believers have in their union with Christ, and being the temples of the Holy Ghost, is impossible. If it be said, it is there in lesser measure than before; let them shew how that can be. Surely, according to their principles, sin properly had part of its lodging in the body before conversion. Now, what room it had in the soul, it has lost according to them. Wherefore it cannot be in less measure there than before; unless you say, that it bad less before conversion in the soul, than it had in the body. But experience flies in the face of this assertion: for those that are converted before they come to maturity, when they do come to years, find tenfold more difficulty in guiding their bodies, than they had before their conversion. If the last be said, then the body is nothing the better of regenerating grace; which is inconsistent with the union with Christ. If you say, that we just now confessed the body may be in a worse case after regeneration than before, wherefore much more equally evil with what it was before, I answer, That I ever denied the body to be a subject capable formally either of moral goodness or evil; and therefore in that respect it neither can be better nor worse. But otherwise, we must distinguish the state of the body with respect to nature, and with respect to grace. With respect to nature, and in itself, it may be indeed in a worse case, as was said; in so far as, by the power of nature grown up, it is more hard to be tamed and holden in than before. But in respect of grace conferred on the soul, when it is at its worst, it is in better case than when it was in its best natural state, the soul being graceless; as one is in a better case when he hath drunk in the precepts of sobriety, and has a faithful tutor, than when he was a child; though now both have more ado than formerly. This will more clearly appear, if we consider how the body is partaker of regenerating grace. Grace is not, nor cannot be formally and subjectively in the body, but objectively and reductively. It is not by way of inherence in it, but in respect of usefulness it is for it; for grace makes no change in the body, but in respect that the members of the body are thereby better employed than before, as the apostle teacheth, 1 Thess. 4:3, 4; 1 Cor. 6:19; Rom. 6:13. So then grace in the soul is the guide and tutor of the body, though the body be not formally gracious; even as the eye which sees alone, serves the whole body for light; for if the eye be single, the whole body will be full of light.

ARGUMENT VI. ult. The experience of the godly testifies, that sin is not so driven out of the soul as is pretented: for "who is so holy,* that he does not find much darkness in his understanding? great self-love in his will? that all his faculties do frequently go astray from what is true, just, and good?" &c. says Zanchius. Although the godly have much ado with their bodies, yet I conceive that the hardest work of all is with the heart. Nothing is more ordinary with exercised souls, than complaints of the deceitfulness of the heart; which they believe, though it wanted a corrupt body, or a devil to tempt, yet would prove a tempter and a devil to itself. Who finds not, when the body lies quite by from troubling, sufficient matter of exercise from a hard and dead heart? Who does not discern in themselves a root of Atheism, blasphemy, hatred of God, &c. all which are the kindly fruits of old Adam, springing from the cursed ground of the heart? And I doubt not, but if I could have access to the closet-doors of some such as stickle for this banishment of sin into the outworks, but I should hear them confess sin's lodging in the prime faculties of their souls, though in conference they refuse it.

One thing more I must add: That seeing distempers having their seat in the body are to be cured, not by the word, but by physical applications, when ministers have done their work in converting souls, they ought to turn them over into the hands of skilful physicians, the proper object of whose art is the body, as curable of distempers. But enough of this.

OBJECTION 1. The apostle (Rom. 7) teacheth us that sin dwells only in the body; ver. 24. "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death!" ver. 23. speaking of indwelling sin, he tells us, he "finds a law in his members;" and ver. 18. "I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, (i. e. the body), there dwells no good thing."

ANSWER. Vehemency of affection, whether of love or hatred, produceth several designations to the thing beloved or hated, the more to express the vehemency of the mind for or against the object. So was it with the apostle in the matter of indwelling sin, which was a most grevious burden to him. Wherefore sometimes he calls it sin by way of eminency, as being the great master-devil, Rom 5:12; sometimes lust, Rom. 7:7. to express the vehemency of its activity, Gal. 5:17; sometimes he speaks of it as an officious troublesome guest, Rom. 7:17, 20; sometimes he calls it a man, and an old man, Eph. 4:22. because of its antiquity, and subtilty, and strength. It is old indeed, yea the elder brother, though made to serve the younger. Here he calls it a body, and a body of death. The meaning is, says Piscator,* "Who shall deliver me from this death, which as a sort of body, or thing subsisting by itself, exerceth its power in me, and miserably vexeth me? But by death metonymically he understands indwelling sin." And indeed this very well agrees with the scope of the apostle; and chap. 6:6. he had called it a body. But why he should call his own body, which he knew was the temple of the Holy Ghost, a body of death, I see not. On good reason doth he call indwelling sin a body, in regard that as a body hath many members, so hath indwelling sin. It is not one simple lust, but a compound of all iniquity, and the seed and spawn of all unrighteousness. It is a complete body; it wants not one member: for as a believer hath every grace in the root and habit, so hath he every sin the same way dwelling in him; for let grace once be withdrawn there shall be a compliance with any temptation. And well might he call it a body of death, as being in its own nature a deadly thing, as loathsome as carrion, and devoted to death or destruction, being already nailed to the cross of Christ, Gal. 5:24. from which it was not to come down till it had breathed out its last. As to what the apostle says of his members, Piscator doth indeed understand it properly of the members of his body,* in which sin exerts its strength; yet doth not dream that the seat of sin is only or mainly in the body. And so we may understand it without prejudice to our cause; for it is plain sin may exert its strength there where it hath not its proper place of abode. Others think, that by members he means every faculty of soul and body; and so they will have the word taken, Rom. 6:13. James 4:1. If this be admitted, it weakens the cause of our adversaries. But I suppose the apostle here distinguishes two opposite parties in and from himself. The one he calls the inner man; the other he must be supposed to call the outer man. Let us see then what he means by those men which he speaks of. That he does not thereby understand the soul and the body, is clear to me upon these three accounts: 1. Because the inner man, in the act of sin, still stands out against the outer man; so that the inner man is blameless, ver. 20. But this cannot be said of the soul. 2. In the outer man there dwells no good thing, ver. 18; which to understand of the body, I shall afterwards shew to be absurd. I add, 3. That, as I said before, the outer and the inner man are really distinct from the man himself. Though they both be ours, yet they are not ourselves; which is plain, if ye consider, that, through the whole of this discourse, the man himself is holden forth as tossed betwixt these two; sometimes led by the one, sometimes by the other: the man himself is the prey; they are the two combatants that fight for the mastery over him; and accordingly the strongest party carries away the poor captive. According to the inner man, he delights in the law of God; which gives us to understand, that, according to the outer man, he is averse to it. Whence it is evident, these two are distinct from himself, and therefore cannot be his soul and body. Moreover, these two are elsewhere called by the apostle the new and old man; whereof the one is said to be put on, the other to be of the man himself. But though they be distinct really from the man himself, yet are they not divided or separated from him; both of them are in him, and diffused through the man, according to the capacity of each part. Whence it plainly appears, that these men are nothing else but grace and corruption, as the apostle teacheth, ver. 20.—"Sin that dwelleth in me." And hence we may easily perceive what he means by the members he speaks of. Why, even as the several graces of the Spirit are the members of the inner and new man, Eph. 4:24. so the several particular lusts of the heart are the members of the old and outer man; which members the apostle calls us to mortify, Col. 3:5. Now, in these members of his he finds a law; that is, activity, power and efficacy; for "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit," Gal. 5:17. "As laws," says Flavel,* "by virtue of their annexed rewards and punishments, have a mighty power and efficacy; so sin, indwelling sin, that root of all our trouble and sorrow, hath a mighty efficacy upon us." And by this law indwelling sin brings the soul into captivity to itself, the man being made captive to that law of sin which is in his members. Where we must take notice, that the apostle does not refer that being in his members to sin; if so indeed, this exposition would be ridiculous; but the words in the original plainly refer it to the law, to nomo tes hamartias to onti, holding forth the power and efficacy of original sin, which sets its several members on work. But to proceed: That the apostle calls his body his flesh, is false. For, 1. No good thing dwells in his flesh; but the Holy Spirit dwells in his body. 2. Will any say, that the law of sin is served only with the body, and the law of God only with the soul? But the apostle tells us, ver. 25. that with the mind he serves the law of God, with the flesh the law of sin; where he assigns to each part its proper work and service. We say then, that the apostle does not here distinguish the soul from the body, but corrupt nature from grace, and himself as regenerate, from himself so far as he was unregenerate. And so the apostle, Gal. 5:19, &c. while he reckons up the works of the flesh, he placeth among them heresies; which, if any thing, do belong to the soul: and among the works of the Spirit we find temperance; which the body may claim on as good grounds as any good thing else. And it is remarkable, that when the apostle speaks of the state of non-regeneration, while men are totally under the power of corruption, he calls it being in the flesh, Rom. 7:5. not in the body I am sure. And in this way of speaking of corruption the apostle follows Christ himself, in his conference with Nicodemus, about the necessity of regeneration, John 3:6. "That which is born of the flesh, is flesh;" not a body in opposition to a soul, but corrupt, and therefore standing in need to be born again. Only, to hold forth the necessity more strongly, he calls it not fleshly, but flesh itself, in the abstract: q. d. It is nothing but a very lump of sin and corruption.

OBJECTION 2. Rom. 6:12. "Let not therefore sin reign in your mortal body:"* Ergo, Sin remains only in the body, not in the soul.

ANSWER. Some tell us here that by the body is meant, synecdochially, the whole man; as, upon the other hand, the Spirit of God, in the Scripture, under the name of soul, comprehends the body also. But the epithet given by the apostle to the body while he calls it mortal, seems to restrain it to the body properly and strictly taken. Therefore we pass that, and deny the consequence, on good grounds: for it is plain here, the apostle speaks metaphorically of sin's power as a king: but who will say, but a king may reign there where his seat is not? wherever sin remains, it is certain where it hath not lost the reigning power, it reigns through the whole man, soul and body. Shepherd tells us, that here is, 1. Obedience, i. e. the outward acts; 2. Lusts, the inward breathings; 3. Sin itself, where the lusts are seated. "This, therefore," says he, "is the reigning sin, which hath taken possession of every part." And no doubt sin may work there where it hath not its proper seat, as a king reigns in the remotest parts of his dominions.

OBJECTION 3. ult. "That which is born of the Spirit, is spirit," John 3:6. Ergo, There are no remains of sin left in the soul.

ANSWER. The body is, suo quodam modo, born of the Spirit, as well as the soul: for the leaven of grace leavens the whole man; grace makes not a new soul only, but a new creature; "Old things are done away, and behold, all things are become new," 2 Cor. 5:17. The body, as well as the spirit, is Christ's, 1 Cor. 6. ult.; yea the bodies of the regenerate are members of Christ; yet are they not wholly renewed. So say we of the soul: the whole soul is cleansed, but not wholly. Were men perfectly born of the Spirit, they should be altogether spirit; but this renovation is carried on by degrees only.

"For," as Luther saith, "we have got the first-fruits of the Spirit; the leaven is hid in the lump; but the lump is not wholly leavened; it is begun to be leavened."


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