Paul’s Law of Mind Examined
“So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God.”
It is known by sad experience, to all that love the Almighty, that the carnal mind is enmity against God. And it is the application of the law that discovers this; for the law working wrath in the soul, and ministering nothing but death to it, stirs up this enmity; this Paul calls the reviving of sin at the coming of the commandment.
But God has provided and promised a remedy for this disease. He promises, by his Spirit in Noah, that he would persuade Japheth, and he should dwell in the tents of Shem, Genesis 9:27. This is a promise made to the Gentiles. And this work of persuading seems to be the working faith in the minds of men by the power of the Holy Ghost; hence God is said to send the word of the gospel to the souls of men with power in the Holy Ghost, and with much assurance, 1 Thessalonians 1:5.
And the operation of this divine power put forth is said to produce faith; “God fulfills all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power,” (2 Thessalonians 1:11).
The whole of this work is called a persuasion in the mind; “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind,” (Romans 14:5); and this persuasion Paul asserts to be the faith of Abraham; “And, being fully persuaded that what he [God] had promised, he was able also to perform, therefore it was imitated to him for righteousness,” (Romans 4:21-22).
This matter is more fully set forth in the proclamation of God in the promises of the covenant, where it is expressly said that God would put his laws into their hearts, and in their minds he would write them, Hebrews 10:16.
Some folks may be ready to say that there is no call for a divine power displayed in persuading the minds of men to believe in Christ. But let such try their skill upon a sinner convinced of the sin of unbelief, and of the enmity of his mind, the hardness of his heart, and the rebellion of his will, and who has all his crimes before his eyes, and nothing but guilt and wrath in his heart.
Tell such that all their afflictions are in love; that, although they are enemies to God, they are reconciled by Christ; and that, though they are ungodly, yet they shall be justified; and, although they are filled with wrath, yet they are loved with an everlasting love; and, though exercised with the snares of death and pains of hell, yet they are the adopted sons of God, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven; and they will tell you that all men are liars. None but God can persuade Japheth.
In allusion to the impression that the Holy Ghost made, called the finger of God, upon the two tables of stone in the hand of Moses, is this law of faith said to be written on the mind; and I believe it is the same in substance as the contents of Habakkuk’s vision, which he was bid to write and make plain upon tables, Hab. 2:2; for this law and the Spirit of life come both together, and the contents amount to this, “The just shall live by his faith.” Paul calls it a writing by the Spirit on the fleshly tables of the heart, 2 Corinthians 3:3.
The writing the law of faith is called a persuading of the mind; and every child of God knows that, when he is fully persuaded of his interest in Christ, and that the righteousness of Christ is imputed, and the sentence of justification passed, the sentence of death is abolished, the witness of our sonship and justification is received into the court of conscience; and the peace of God, as the fruit and effect of righteousness, reigns and rules in the heart. These are the fleshy tables of the heart which Paul speaks of, alluding to God’s promise of giving us a new heart and a new spirit. When this most glorious work is done, the troubled and disquieted mind confides in the power of God, so sweetly displayed or put forth in the soul at its happy and blessed deliverance. And, conscious of its own weakness, and of the deceit of its own heart, by breaking all its resolutions vows, and promises, it cleaves to the power it feels, and enjoys both rest and peace in God its Saviour. Righteousness goes forth as brightness to the understanding, and as a lamp that burneth to the affections; it brings pardon to the conscience like the rays of the sun, and peace to the heart like a river. To this power displayed the soul cleaves, in this power it rests, and dreads every thing that disturbs, disquiets, or removes it; and finds the promise fulfilled; “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee,” (Isaiah 26:3).
Having touched upon God’s promise to persuade the mind, by sending the word with power and much assurance, and of the fleshy tables of the heart feeling the impression, the apostle tells us of the change made in this mind: “Be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,” (Romans 12:2).
This renewing is making something new which was once new before; having its filth purged, its enmity subdued, and furnished with something from above, that it may be taken off from its apostacy, and be replaced, refixed, and re-established upon the same object, as it was when it was first made. This is what I understand by renewing.
The apostle says of himself, and of all such, “We have the mind of Christ,” (1 Corinthians 2:16); which many good men understand of our having a knowledge of the mind and will of God in Christ Jesus, as revealed in the word of the gospel. But I do not believe that this is the apostle’s meaning, because men may have all knowledge, and understand all mysteries, and yet be nothing. The apostle seems to me to mean the Holy Spirit; that we have the spirit of Christ, which he calls the spirit of love, of power, and of a sound mind, 2 Timothy 1:7.
Thus we see that faith is first called a persuasion in the mind.
2. A full assurance, attended with a divine power.
3. The law of faith written on the mind, and put in the heart, and in the fleshy tables of the heart.
4. It is called the mind of Christ; and
5. The Holy Ghost, which we receive, is called the spirit of a sound mind.
And I am fully persuaded that the Holy Ghost is a spirit of light and revelation in our understanding; the spirit of judgment in the judgment of them that sit in judgment; the spirit of peace in our conscience; the spirit of love in our affections; the spirit of power in our will; and the spirit of faith, life, truth and soundness in the believer’s mind. This most certainly is the mind of Christ, or the same spirit that was in him; and, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” for, in the Spirit, Christ and the believer are one: “He that is joined to the Lord, is one spirit.”
Such souls have the mind of Christ by the Spirit’s influence; they mind the same things as he did; they are engaged in the same labour and warfare; they meet with the same oppositions; they pursue the same end; they aim at the same joy set before them; they are joint heirs of the same inheritance; and they share in the honour, glory, and majesty, of the same kingdom. This is what I understand by the mind of Christ; and this appears to me to be confirmed by the following texts; “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 2:5); one mind in both.
“We know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the heart knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit.”
Here our most evangelical apostle brings us gradually to a point. He tells us plainly that the human mind is furnished with carnality, and that this carnal mind is enmity against God, and cannot be subject to his law. That we must be transformed by the renewing of our mind. Then he intimates that one branch of this renewing is a divine confidence, which he calls a persuasion in the mind. Then he tells us that such have the mind of Christ, being partakers of the spirit of power and of a sound mind; and then he is express in the whole, and screws us up to the highest key, calling it the mind of the Spirit. And this accounts for what I have often been amazed at, and in a most singular manner was exercised with, in one day, not long since.
I found, in the early part of the day, much undeserved and unexpected indulgence in my approaches to the Lord. I had received some accounts of success in the ministry, and some cheering rays of the Lord’s countenance, and not a few smiles of his providence. My soul moved in concert with the sweet impressions, and nothing was uppermost in my mind but God my Saviour, his goodness to me, his work in me, and my expectations of future bliss anticipated by faith, and already in hope. Soon after this, in the same day, things counter to all the above indulgences occurred, and I found my mind as inflexible, stubborn, envious, and as rebellious as the enemy of souls could make it, which covered me with shame and confusion; and, if I do not forget, I had no less than three of these changes that same day.
At this time Paul’s law in the members and in the mind came fresh into my thoughts; and upon these I meditated, pondered, and exercised myself at times for a month or six weeks, before I began to preach upon these subjects; and I came to this conclusion, that, when we are, as John says, in the Spirit, faith, life, power, and heavenly things, are uppermost, yea, all in all: and at other times, when in the furnace, there is the reverse of all these.
John, in Revelation, twice mentions being in the Spirit; “And immediately I was in the Spirit.” And again, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day;” which shows that these indulgences were not perpetual, and that at certain seasons he was in some things the reverse of this; and what can that be but being, in some sense, in the flesh? which is the only opposite to being in the Spirit.
That faculty of the soul, which is called the mind, is but one, although we read of a carnal mind and a spiritual mind. The Spirit is said to transform us by renewing the mind; and to have the mind spiritual is life and peace. The life of the Spirit is in the mind, and peace with God in the conscience. And, to raise our thoughts still higher, he says, this is the Spirit of a sound mind, and then he says, “We have the mind of Christ;” and, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus;” and, lastly, he expressly calls it, the mind of the Spirit, because he is the sole and whole controller, influencer, and operator in the mind of the believer, and produces all the lively exercises, motions, delights, pleasure, and satisfaction, which are enjoyed under his quickening and comforting administration.
And this is a wonderful mystery, that the mind of the Spirit, life, peace, and heavenly things, should be so sensibly and so deeply felt and enjoyed, as to make the soul a heaven upon earth, Jeremiah 31:26; and then, in less than an hour after, carnality, enmity, rebellion, wrath, and bitterness, should work so powerfully in the selfsame part, Lamentations 3:15.
But this is Paul’s touchstone; “They that are after the Spirit do mind the things of the Spirit,” Romans. 8:5. The believer sets his heart upon these, be his inward frames what they may; and the things of the Spirit, that he minds, and feels, and follows after, are the following: He highly prizes the promises of the Spirit helping his infirmities in prayer; he knows without this there is no freedom of speech or of soul, no enlargement, no energy, no boldness, no access, no pouring out the soul before God, nor casting our cares and burdens on him, no troubles left behind, nor refreshings brought down. The soul returns from the well of salvation with the pitcher empty, and covers his head because there is no water.
2. The grand evidences of the believer’s adoption are the things of the Spirit, which a child of God sets his heart much upon; and these are, first, the Spirit’s cry of “Abba, Father,” with a full persuasion in the heart of the truth of it; and likewise the witness of the Spirit, be bearing witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God.
3. The liberty of the Spirit, or deliverance from legal bondage and slavish fear, is highly esteemed by the believer also; “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free Spirit.”
4. The consolations of the Spirit, springing from a lively hope, from the powerful application of the promises, from a sense of God’s gracious presence, and of his acceptance and approbation of us in Christ Jesus. These are highly prized by spiritual men, and the reverses of them are a sore trouble; “The Comforter that should relieve my soul is far from me,” (Lamentations 1:16).
5. The graces of meekness and humility are highly prized by the believer, for in the exercise of these he finds the greatest access to God, and the sweetest union with him; and he is then in the best frame to receive any instruction, impression, or love-token, from him. “Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness,” (Zephaniah 2:3).
6. The love of the Spirit is a most choice treasure to the child of God, because it is the bond of the covenant, the marriage ring, the badge of the Christian profession, and the noblest member of the new man. It enlarges the heart, and makes the face to shine; it purges the heart of its idols, of fear and torment, and of all the mercenary meanness which reigns and rules in the beggarly souls of servants. “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his lips; for thy love is better than wine,” (Song of Solomon 1:2). I might have added patience, submission, joy, peace, light, life, knowledge, etc., for the believer minds all these things, and these are the things of the Spirit.
Now the apostle says, “With the mind I myself serve the law of God;” by which he means not the moral law, but the law of faith, or the gospel, which he declares when he says, “God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son,” Romans 1:9. Serving under the law is serving in the oldness of the letter; but Paul served in the newness of the Spirit, Romans 7:6.
And indeed I believe that the Holy Ghost, by his implantation of grace, and by his operations on that grace, is the sole agent of every branch of religious service which is acceptable to God through Christ; and this Paul owns: “I laboured more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me,” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
Paul’s labour and service were performed by grace; and the Spirit of grace was the efficient and moving cause of all Paul’s service. The Spirit prepares the heart, and creates the fruit of the lips. By faith Paul spake as the gospel does, Yea and amen. The love of Christ constrained him, the Spirit’s might strengthened him, hope emboldened him, patience bore the daily cross, and the quickening Spirit gave him all his activity, life, zeal, and motion; and the apostle owns that the three principal labourers in the souls of the saints are faith, hope, and love: “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ,” (1 Thessalonians 1:3).
And again; “God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name,” (Hebrews 6:10): from all which we may conclude that all works without faith are dead works; all labour without love is lost labour; and patience without hope is not the patience of Christ. Once more, and I have done.
Paul says, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man,” (Romans 7:22). By the inward man he means the whole crop of divine grace, love being the most noble member or principle of this inner man, and the heart and soul of all the rest. This love delights in the gospel of Christ; for there can be no delight where there is no love, which Paul himself says “Charity rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.” Here is the love of the new man, called Charity; and the delight of charity is here called rejoicing; and here is Paul’s law explained, called Truth. Paul does not say, I rejoice, although this is true; but he says that charity, which is the love of God, rejoiceth in God’s truth; and, if ever there was an evangelist in this world, Paul was one. Take it in short thus – the Spirit of life, of faith, and of a sound mind, prompts me to the service of God; and the love of the Spirit in me delights in the glorious gospel of Christ, and rejoiceth in it: but my corrupt affections find no pasture, no delight in these things; all that these affect, and suck their sweetness from, are the imaginary lusts of the flesh: which, being against God, and a corruption of the ways of God, they are in love with sin, and at enmity with God. These are not to be pressed into God’s service, nor to be expected to embark in it; for, if they did, it would amount to no more than voluntary humility and will-worship. “Put off the old man, which is corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts,” (Ephesians 4:22).
Observe also that corrupt affections are the life of sin in men; for what men love they are alive to, and delight in. But the love of God in Christ Jesus, dethroning the idols of corrupt love, subduing our corruptions, ravishing the soul, and making it alive to God; this is called the death of corrupt affections, and of the things these affections crave after and feed on: “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts,” (Galatians 5:24); and this crucifixion is a dying daily, 1 Corinthians 15:31.
THE COALHEAVER – William Huntington