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Showing That He Does Not Truly Repent, Is Not A Christian, And Not A Child Of God, Who Does Not, In His Life And Conduct, Follow Christ; Also, Wherein The New Birth And The Yoke Of Christ Consist.
Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.—1 Pet. 2:21.
God has appointed our Lord Jesus Christ to be our prophet or teacher; and, by a voice from heaven, has commanded us to hear him; saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him.” Matt. 17:5. This office was most faithfully executed by the Son of God, not only in words, but (as became a teacher engaged in so sacred a function) by a most holy and unblemished life. In allusion to this, St. Luke thus prefaces his account of the Acts of the Apostles: “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, etc.”; where, it is to be remarked, that he places doing before teaching; intimating that these ought never to be separated. It certainly is the duty of every true teacher, first, to practise himself the duties which he purposes to teach others. Such a teacher was our Lord Jesus; and his conduct is the pattern of teaching, and the book of life which we ought to study.
2. It was for this cause, that the Son of God became man, and conversed with men upon earth, that he might give us a visible example of an innocent, perfect, and divine life; and that we might follow him as a light that shineth in darkness, to lead us in the way in which we should go. Hence he calls himself “the light of the world;” and promises that “he who followeth him shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12.
3. Hence it clearly appears, that they who refuse to follow Christ in his life, and to tread by faith in his steps, remain in darkness, and are not in the way to obtain “the light of life.” But what is this darkness? It is an impenitent and depraved life, called by the apostle “works of darkness,” which are to be cast off, that so we may put on “the armor of light” (Rom. 13:12); and in genuine repentance both these duties are comprised.
4. It has been abundantly proved above, that godly sorrow and true faith thoroughly change a man; that they crucify the flesh, effect an entire transformation in the soul, and beget, through the Holy Ghost, a new life. Lest, however, this should be a mere theoretical knowledge, devoid of life and practice, God has been pleased to set before us his own Son, not only as a ransom and a Mediator, but also as a mirror of perfect godliness, and as a most finished pattern of the new man, who is regenerated after the image of God. In him, the fleshly Adam, the corrupt nature, never reigned; but the blessed God alone. Him it hath pleased God to set forth before our 30 eyes, that, contemplating him and his righteous life, we might be daily more and more renewed after his image. Let us explain this point more fully.
5. Sad experience teaches us continually, that our whole nature, body and soul, is polluted with every kind of sin, vice, and corruption. These are the works of the devil appearing in the carnal man; and it is principally in the depraved and perverted will, that these diabolical operations are most visibly discerned. For the depraved will is the root of all sin: if that were removed, there would be sin no more. With regard to the power and natural bias of this will, it consists chiefly in turning man away from God and from His will. Now, whatever departs from that Being who is the sovereign and supreme Good, cannot but be in itself evil; for it partakes of the nature of the supreme evil, and is a violation of the original constitution of our nature, as derived from God himself. It was this turning away from God that produced the fall both of Satan and of man; whence sin entered into the world, and has, by fleshly generation, passed upon all men.
6. The nature of man is then inoculated with the nature of the devil himself, and his will tainted with satanical wickedness, as with deadly poison. Hence Christ called the Pharisees “children of the devil” (John 8:44); and even to one of his own disciples gave the name of Satan (John 6:70); intimating as though the covetousness, lying, pride, and evil concupiscence, by which the nature of all men is defiled, were Satan himself.
7. Hence it may, with all propriety, be affirmed, that they who lead a life void of repentance, a life of pride, avarice, lust, and envy, live in the devil, and partake of his nature. Such persons may assume the garb of honesty; they may veil their real characters under a fair show of morality and correct deportment; yet, inwardly, according to the saying of Christ to the Jews, they are, nevertheless, devils. John 8:44. Such a declaration is dreadful to be made; but the truth of it is confirmed, both by the Word of God and by continual experience.
8. Our nature, as fallen creatures, being thus miserably depraved, thus desperately perverted, and vitiated in all its springs; there is an absolute necessity that it should be purified and renewed. There must be a total renovation of the soul, in all its powers and all its faculties. But how shall this be effected? We answer: As the chief evil has made a breach upon our nature, and has infused poison into its very springs; so must the chief Good revisit and renew our nature, that it may be assimilated to itself. That which the supreme evil has so radically corrupted, can be corrected only by a thorough and vital penetration of the supreme Good, even of God himself; and, therefore, it was necessary that the Word should be made flesh.
9. The Son of God truly became man, not for his own sake, but for our sakes; that, by reconciling us to God by himself, he might make us partakers of the sovereign good, having cleansed and sanctified us, to that end; for whatever is to be sanctified, must be sanctified by God and with God. And as God is in Christ, so ought we to be united to him by faith, that we may live in God, and God in us; we in Christ, and Christ in us (2 Cor. 5:19, 21); that the will of God be in us, and we in the will of God, being made the righteousness of God in Christ. 2 Cor. 5:21. This is the only way in which Christ administers 31 medicine to our corrupt nature; and the more powerfully he influences man, the more thoroughly will human nature be purified.
10. Oh! how blessed is the man in whom Christ does all and is all; whose will, thoughts, mind, and words, are the will, thoughts, mind, and words of Christ! It was thus the apostle said, “We have the mind of Christ.” 1 Cor. 2:16. And so indeed it must be with the believer; because the life of Christ is the new life, yea, the new man in him; and whoever lives in Christ after the Spirit, hath really put on the new man, and all the graces with which he is adorned. His meekness and obedience are the meekness and obedience of Christ; his patience and humility are the patience and humility of Christ; and his life itself is the life of Christ, by whom and in whom he lives. This is the “new creature” which is created after God (2 Cor. 5:17); and that life of Christ in us, of which St. Paul experimentally says, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” Gal. 2:20. This is to follow Christ truly. This is to walk in the light of his life, and to bring forth “fruits meet for repentance;” for, by this means, the “old man” is destroyed, the carnal life gradually declines, and the new and divine life is established in the soul. He who has this life is not a nominal, but a real Christian; a Christian not in word and in appearance only, but in deed and in truth. He is a true child of God, begotten of Him, and quickened and renewed by faith after the image of Jesus Christ.
11. Although we cannot attain to a state of perfection, while encompassed with so many infirmities that obstruct our progress in the divine life, we ought not, therefore, to be discouraged, but rather to be inspired with more fervor in seeking after a consummation so much to be desired. We ought ardently to wish and pray, to endeavor and study, that the kingdom of Christ be established within us, and the kingdom of Satan destroyed. 1 John 3:9; Eph. 2:5. The object of our cares and efforts, of our groans and prayers, should be—how we may more and more mortify the old man by daily repentance. For, the more a man dies to himself, the more Christ lives in him; the more corruptions are removed by the good Spirit of God, the more divine grace possesses the heart. In proportion as the flesh is crucified, the spirit is quickened; as the works of darkness are put off, the armor of light from above is put on; and in the same degree as the outward man perisheth, the inward man is strengthened and renewed. 2 Cor. 4:16; Col. 3:5. The decrease of the carnal life, is the increase of that which is spiritual and divine. As the affections of the former, self-love, ambition, wrath, covetousness, and voluptuousness, are weakened and subdued, so are opposite affections of the spiritual life invigorated and raised. The farther a man departs from the world, from “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16); the more do God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit enter into the heart and dwell there. And, on the other hand, the more nature, flesh, darkness, and the world, reign in man; the less of grace, light, the Holy Spirit, God, and Christ, is there to be found in him.
12. This spiritual life is enmity to the flesh, because the latter is hereby restrained, subdued, and brought under the yoke, and crucified with its “affections and lusts.” In this, however, consist the power, efficacy, and fruit 32 of true repentance. The nature of flesh and blood is to lead a lawless, dissolute, and voluptuous life, unshackled by restraint, and entirely agreeable to its own will and humor. It is this which it finds sweet, and in which it rejoices. To the flesh and the “old man,” the life of Christ is a most severe cross, and an intolerable burden; but to the new and spiritual man, “this yoke is easy and this burden light” (Matt. 11:30), and attended with divine serenity and peace of mind. For the true rest of the soul will be sought for in vain, unless in faith in Christ; in his meekness and humility, patience and love. Here he hath himself promised, “Ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Yea, he that really loves the Lord Jesus, will not deem it hard to suffer even death for his sake, but account it a joy and a happiness. Such is the yoke of the Saviour, which we are invited to take upon us, that we may find “rest unto our souls.”
13. It is necessary, therefore, that every one who is resolved to take upon himself the yoke of Christ, and to imitate His holy example, should, in the first place, shake off the yoke of Satan, and repress the carnal, selfish, and unruly propensities of his fallen nature, in order that the flesh may vex the spirit no more. All must be subjugated to the obedience of Christ, to the wise and righteous discipline of his law; that is, the will, understanding, reason, and appetites, together with the sensual desires of the old Adam, that before reigned in the mortal body, must henceforth yield a free obedience to the government of the Lord. Rom. 6:12.
14. True it is that the flesh is highly gratified when honored, courted, and praised, and when abounding in the riches and pleasures of this life; but the yoke of Christ, by which the flesh is mortified and subdued, requires us to prefer ignominy, contempt, and poverty, to affluence and honor; to account ourselves unworthy of these things, and freely to give up all that is great in the estimation of the world. It is here that the humility and life of Christ are most striking and apparent. This is the “yoke” and this the “burden,” which are easy and light to the spirit; this is the law of love, the commandments of which are not grievous but delightful. 1 John 5:3. What was the whole life of Christ but holy poverty, extreme contempt, and severe persecution? Is it not true that he “came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many”? Matt. 20:28.
15. It is the tendency of the natural man to desire to excel others, and to be thought of importance; but the spiritual man loves the humility of the Redeemer, and desires to be reputed as nothing in this world. The carnal man, that follows the propensities of corrupt nature, and has never learned of Christ's humility, meekness, and love, deems it folly to live as Jesus lived, and thinks those only are wise who indulge their appetites in security, and satiate themselves with every object which they desire; and when such a one most lives in the devil, he is so blinded by ignorance and darkness as to esteem his own life the happiest that can be desired, and to applaud himself in his own folly. And hence it is that these deluded wretches, following the false light of carnal wisdom, are not only deceived themselves, but are the means of involving others in the same ruin. They, on the contrary, whose minds have been enlightened by the true and eternal light, are struck with 33 horror and surprise whenever they cast their eyes upon the pomps and vanities of this world, upon the ambition and pride, the wrath and revenge, the intemperance and voluptuousness, and the other fruits of the carnal life which universally abound. Their language is: “Alas! how far removed is all this from Christ! How far from true repentance and the knowledge of Jesus is the man that acts thus! How far from the nature and disposition of a child of God! Alas! he is still dead in sins, and a slave of the devil.” That man, therefore, who does not imitate the life of Christ, is an entire stranger to true repentance; he is not a Christian, nor a child of God; nay, he is wholly ignorant of Jesus Christ; for he who desires to know Christ savingly, both as the Saviour of the world and as the great exemplar of life, must know him to be pure meekness, gentleness, and love, and to be wholly composed of patience and humility. This living ensample of goodness and piety which the Lord hath set before him, he must carry in his heart, and must labor to be transformed into its image. The virtues that resided in Christ he must have within himself; and if he would ever effectually know him, he must love and admire them in his inward soul. As a plant discovers its nature by the fragrance which it diffuses around, so the knowledge of Christ discovers itself by the sweet and sacred odors which proceed from it. Then is acquired an experimental knowledge of the life, power, rest, and consolation which flow from the Saviour; which circulate through all the faculties of the soul, and quicken them by a kind of spiritual sweetness. Thus is man made to “taste how good the Lord is” (Ps. 34:8); thus is the truth known, and the supreme and eternal good apprehended and enjoyed. And thus is it certainly ascertained that the life of Christ is infinitely superior to every other life in goodness and sweetness, in dignity and in peace; yea, that it resembles life eternal itself, being indeed the foretaste of such a life upon earth.
16. As there is nothing more excellent than the life of Christ, nothing more delightful, more peaceful, or more satisfying to the soul, it ought to have no rival in our affections, but to be endeared to us above all things else. He who is destitute of Christ and of his knowledge, can form no conception of the rest and quiet of eternal life; or of the sovereign good; or of the everlasting truth; or of the imperishable word; or of the joy of the soul; or of the true light of love; for all these centre in Christ, and he who has him has them; because Christ is all these to the man who truly believes in his holy name. “Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love.” 1 John 4:7, 8.
17. It is, therefore, most evident that the fruits and effect of the new birth do not consist in words, however sound, or in a form of godliness, however specious, but in an abiding substance, even in that love which is God himself. A son bears the image of him who begat him; and whoever is born of God should evidence it by love, for God is love; and hence it is clear that “he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.” 1 John 4:16.
18. The knowledge of God, in like manner, does not consist in words, nor in merely speculative and superficial knowledge, but in a vital, consolatory, 34 and divine feeling, in a pure and unmixed pleasure, gently infusing itself into the heart by faith, and penetrating it with an unutterable and heavenly sweetness. This is a true, living, and efficacious knowledge of God; such as that which the Psalmist means when he says, “My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Ps. 84:2); and again, “Thy loving kindness (as experienced in the divine sensations of my soul) is better than life” (Ps. 63:3); that is, this divine life infinitely transcends every other life; in which it is evident that he means that unutterable joy which is produced by an experimental knowledge of God, and which is infused into a believing heart. Thus man liveth in God, and God in man; and thus man knoweth God in truth, and is known of God.
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