RELIGION, NATURAL AND SPIRITUAL
To the natural man, even when religiously inclined, the most important teachings of the Gospel are but the dogmas of a creed in which he professes his belief. But he that is spiritual is never satisfied unless these teachings become to him the channel of heavenly blessing.
How differently the two look upon the Lord Jesus! The one is content with the acknowledgment that Christ is all He professes to be, and that His teachings are true, and to be fully received. The other acknowledges all this, but cannot be content unless Christ becomes the salvation, the strength, and the joy of his soul.
In everything outward, the two may appear alike; both professors of religion, and both active in religious duties. But what a difference in God’s sight! What a difference in their condition in view of eternity! The one is in a state of death, ending in a more dreadful realisation of death hereafter. The other possesses a new and spiritual life, ending in a more glorious realisation of life in the world to come.
A correct creed, however well expressed or firmly maintained, does not constitute a man a true believer; for he may possess a perfect creed without possessing that spiritual life, the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is peculiar to the true believer. True, the believer has a creed, but he has behind that creed a new life. His creed may be very imperfect, but the new life is still there. An imperfect creed may hinder its full manifestation, but can never cause its destruction.
It is written, “Ye are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” This faith is the faith of the spiritual man, of the true believer, and is not the mere believing a fact, but is the consciousness of a real life, which finds its deepest affinities in Christ Jesus. It is the consciousness of a need which is only met and satisfied in Him. It is a need so deepened by a truer and fuller view of Divine justice; that nothing but the substitutionary death and righteousness of the Lord Jesus will fully satisfy it. This is very different from a mere intellectual comprehension of, and satisfaction with, certain doctrines about Christ and His salvation, which are only influential in leading to an habitual engagement in religious services, leaving their possessor still an unsaved sinner.
The more excellent a mere natural man is, the less of evil is he conscious of possessing. Not so the child of God; for the more spiritually-minded he becomes, the more conscious is he of his imperfections, and of his utter inability of himself for anything good before God. This is the only feature in the child of God which has no natural imitation. There may be a natural faith in Christ; a natural love for Christ; a natural following of Christ, and even a natural conviction of sin; all without salvation: but never is there a continued natural conviction of utter inability for anything good before God. This is entirely and always the result of a spiritual nature previously given. The more a mere natural man has of natural religious regard for the Lord Jesus, the more satisfied is he with himself; whereas the more there is of spiritual regard for the Lord Jesus, the more is there of increased dissatisfaction with self.
It is written, “But he that is spiritual judgeth (discerneth) all things” (1 Cor. 2.15). One of the first results of this spiritual discernment is in his discernment of himself; as it is again written, ‘In me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7.18).
The natural man has no new spiritual nature, with its spiritual principle, whereby to judge the natural, and therefore the natural judging the natural, he is right well pleased. The child of God, however, possesses a new spiritual nature whereby, with its spiritual principles, he can judge the natural that is in him. He only is able to have a right understanding of the natural; and the more healthy the manifestation of the spiritual nature, the more deep and vivid is the consciousness of the evil of the mere natural.