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OF THE NATURE OF REGENERATION, AND PARTICULARLY OF THE CHANGE IT PRODUCES IN MEN'S APPREHENSIONS.
If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.
THE knowledge of our true state in religion, is at once a matter of so great importance, and so great difficulty that, in order to obtain it, it is necessary we should have line upon line and precept upon precept. The plain discourse, which you before heard, was intended to lead you into it; and I question not but I then said enough to convince many, that they were in an unregenerate condition. Nevertheless, as there are various approaches towards regeneration and conversion, which on the whole fall short of it; I think it very expedient now to give you, what I may properly enough call the counterpart of this view; which I shall, by Divine assistance, attempt from the words I have now been reading.55
The Apostle, who wrote them, was transported to such a zeal for Christ, and for the souls of men, that some thought him beside himself, (verse 13,) and no doubt many would represent him as the greatest enthusiast upon the face of the earth. But as it was a very small thing to him to be judged of man's judgment, (1 Cor. iv. 3,) he calmly vindicates himself, by declaring that there was a cause for all this warmth, as the honor of God, and the Redeemer, and the eternal salvation of men, were so intimately concerned in the affair. The love of Christ, says he, constrains us, or, (as the word properly signifies,) it bears us away with it, like a mighty torrent, which we are not able to resist; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead, under the sentence of God's righteous law--or they would not have needed such an atonement as the blood of his Son; and we farther judge, that he died for all, that they who now live, only in consequence of his dying love, should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him that died for them. 2 Cor. v. 14, 15. We therefore live to this Jesus; we consecrate our lives and labors to this purpose; and in consequence of it, we henceforth know no man after the flesh, that is, we do not regard our temporal interests, nor consider how we may 56most effectually obtain the favor and friendship of those who may be useful to us in life; yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, or have expected a temporal Messiah, who should make our nation triumphant over the Gentiles, and enrich it with the spoils of other nations, yet now henceforth we know him no more under such a character. Verse 16. And in this respect the same temper will prevail in the heart of every real Christian; and therefore, i. e. in consequence of what was said before of the Redeemer's love, if any man be in Christ, if he be really one of his faithful servants, united to him by a lively faith, and in consequence of that union interested in his salvation, he is a new creature: his views and sentiments, his affections and pursuits, are so entirely changed, that he seems, as it were, to be come into a new world, and to be transformed quite into another person from what he formerly was; old things are passed away, and, behold the astonishing transformation! all things are become new. This is the thought that I am now to illustrate; and you cannot but see, how proper a foundation it will be for our Discourse on,
The second general head I proposed, which is, Particularly to describe the nature of that great change, which passes on every soul, that is truly 57regenerate, in the scriptural, and most important sense of the word.33Some choose to call the change here described, renovation rather than regeneration. I have given my reasons, (in the Postscript,) why I use the words promiscuously: but I shall endeavor, through the whole of these Discourses, so to state the nature of this change, as to have no controversy with good men of any persuasion about anything but the name of it; concerning which, I hope, they will not contend with me, as I am sure I will not quarrel with them
And here it may hardly seem necessary to tell you, that I do not mean to assert, that the substance of the soul, and its natural faculties, are in a strict and proper sense changed; a man might as reasonably assert from such a Scripture, that the former body was annihilated, and a new one produced; and common sense and decency will not allow us to imagine, that the Apostle meant anything of this nature, by the general terms he uses here. But the plain meaning is, that when a man becomes a real Christian, the whole temper and character of his mind is so changed, as to become different from that of the generality of mankind, and different from what it formerly was, while in an unenlightened and unrenewed state. It is not merely a little circumstantial alteration; it is not assuming a new name, professing new speculative opinions, or practising some new rites and forms; but it is becoming, as we frequently 58say, in our usual forms of speech, a different creature or a new man.
And thus the sacred writers express themselves in many other passages, which very happily serve to illustrate this. They, in particular, represent God as promising, with relation to this work; (Ezek. xxxvi. 26;) a new heart will give them, and a new spirit will I put within them; and I will take away the heart of stone, that stubborn, obstinate, impenetrable disposition they once had, and will give them an heart of flesh, a tender, compliant temper, which shall incline them to submit to my will with humility, and to obey it with delight. And thus, when the apostle had exhorted the Ephesians, (Ephes. iv. 22-24,) to put off, with respect to their former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt according to its deceitful lusts, he adds, And be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, which after God, or in conformity to his image, is created in righteousness and true holiness; which is further illustrated by his important exhortation to the Romans. Rom. xii. 2. Be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. And on the same principles, what in one place he calls the new creature, (Gal. vi. 15,) in another parallel place he expresses, by faith that works by love, (Gal. v. 6,) and by keeping the commandments 59of God; (1 Cor. vii. 19;) for all these, as equivalent characters, he opposes to circumcision and uncircumcision, or the mere externals of a religious profession; declaring the utter insufficiency of the latter, and the absolute necessity of the former.
The general nature of this change may then be understood by an attentive consideration of such Scriptures as those mentioned above: which indeed contain what is most essential on this subject. But for the more complete illustration of the matter, I shall particularly show you, that where there is reason to speak of a man, as one of those who are in Christ Jesus, or who are truly regenerate, there will be new apprehensions--new affections--new resolutions--new labors--new enjoyments--and new hopes.
Perhaps there are few important branches of the Christian character, which may not be introduced as illustrating one or other of these remarks. The former of them is indeed the foundation of the rest; because, as religion is a reasonable service, all the change which is made in the affections and resolutions, in the pursuits, enjoyments, and hopes of a good man, arises from that different view, in which he is now taught to look on those objects, the nature of which is to direct his choice, to determine his conduct, and regulate his passions; 60it will therefore be the business of this Discourse to show you,
I. That wherever there is a real principle of regeneration, there will be new apprehensions of things.
When God created the natural world, he said, in the very beginning of his work, Let there be light, and there was light. Gen. i. 3. And thus he deals in this new creation, which raises the soul from a chaos, to such a beautiful, well-ordered, and well-furnished frame. God, says the Apostle, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ; (2 Cor. iv. 6;) whereas before, the understanding was darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that was in them, because of the blindness or perverseness of their hearts. Ephes. iv. 18.
Now this illumination, of which I am speaking, does not so much refer to a speculative, as to a practical and heart-impressing knowledge. It is true, that when a man once comes to be in good earnest in religion, he generally arrives at a clearer and fuller knowledge, even of the doctrines of Christianity, than he had before: for he then sets himself to inquire with greater diligence, and to seek light of the great Father of Lights with 61greater earnestness; he gets clear of many evil affections, that put a corrupt bias upon his judgment; and he comes within the reach of those promises, Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord; (Hos. vi. 3;) and if any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God. John vii. 17.
Yet, I think, I may very properly say, that at various times, when our judgment of any object is the same, our apprehensions of it are very different. It is one thing, for instance, to believe that God is the omnipotent, all-wise, and all-gracious governor of the world; and another, and very different thing, to have the heart powerfully impressed with an apprehension of his ability and readiness to help us. I will, therefore, a little more particularly illustrate those respects, in which the apprehensions of such as are really regenerate, differ from those which they formerly had: and I hope you will do yourselves the justice to reflect, as we go along, how far you have ever felt these apprehensions which you hear me describe. I have a pleasing persuasion, that many of you have felt them, in a much livelier manner than they can be described. I would observe then to you, that a regenerate soul has new apprehensions of God--of itself--of Christ—of eternity62--and of the way and method that God has marked out for its being happy there.
1. A regenerate soul has new apprehensions of the blessed God.
There are very few who pretend so much as to doubt of the being of a God; and fewer yet, that will venture to deny it. And, even among those who have denied it, and disputed against it, some, by their own confession, have felt their hearts give, them the lie, and upbraid them for using the powers of reason and speech against the Giver and Preserver of both. I persuade myself at least, there are none that hear me this day, who would not look upon a professed Atheist as a monster, unworthy to be a member of human society, and little to be trusted in any of its relations. Yet after all, while the being of the blessed God is warmly asserted, his nature is so little understood and considered, that there are thousands who may still properly be said to be without God in the world, (Eph. ii. 13,) or in practice and temper, though not in notion, to be Atheists in it. Wicked men therefore, in general, are described as those that know not God; (2 Thess. i. 2;) but where God has determined to glorify his mercy in the salvation of a sinner, he shines into the heart, for his blessed purpose, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. 2 Cor. iv. 6. 63And thus the glories of the Divine Being are known to the regenerate soul in such a manner, as they are not to the most acute metaphysician, or the sublimest philosopher, who is himself a stranger to the spiritual life.
The person of whom we now speak, has new apprehensions of the spirituality and omnipresence of God,—-of his majesty and purity,—-of his power and patience,—-of his goodness,—-and his intimate access to men's spirits, with the reality and importance of his operations upon them. Permit me a little to represent the views of each, both to direct your inquiries, and also to impress your minds, and my own, with truths in which we have all so intimate a concern.
The divine spirituality and omnipresence is apprehended by the good man in a peculiar manner. That there is some immaterial Being, and that matter is moved by his active power continually impressed upon it, according to stated laws, is indeed so plain a dictate of reason, that I question not but the thought influences the minds of some, who have not so much acquaintance with language as to be able properly to express it: but, alas I it easily passes through, as if no way important. It is quite a different thing to feel, as it were, the presence of an infinite, intelligent and all-observing Deity, actually surrounding us in all times and 64places: to say from the heart, O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me, so that thou understandeth my thoughts afar off: whither shall I go from thy spirit, or whither shall Iflee from thy presence? Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me; (Psal. cxxxix. 1-7;) to feel, as it were, the hand of God, which indeed we may feel, if we duly attend to it, in all the impressions made on our bodily senses, and on the powers of our mind;—-to feel ourselves even now supported by it, and to argue from the constant support of his hand, the never-failing notice of his eye. He reads my present thoughts; he knows, even now, all the secrets of my soul, and has always known them; has always observed my conduct in even the minutest particular; and recorded, in permanent characters, the whole history of my life, and of my heart; of this depraved, sinful life, of this vain, this treacherous, this rebellious heart.
With this conception of the divine observance are closely and intimately connected new apprehensions of the purity of God, and of his infinite majesty; views which mutually assist and illustrate each other. The irreverence with which the generality of men behave in the presence of God, and the easiness with which they admit the slightest temptation to sin against him, plainly 65show what low notions they have of him; but God does, as it were, appear to the eye of a renewed mind, arrayed in his robes of light and majesty; so that he is ready to cry out, 'I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee; (Job xiii. 5;) I see the eternal, self-existent, self-sufficient God, who sits upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; who spreadeth out the heavens as a tent to dwell in, and looks down on the nations as the drop of a bucket, and counts them as the small dust of the balance. Isa. xl. 15, 22. Who would not fear before him? who would not tremble at his presence? (Jer. v. 22,) who would not revere that God, who is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look upon iniquity? (Hab. i. 13,) who cannot be tempted with evil, (Jam. i. 13,) but must see it, and hate it, even in all its forms?’
And such too are the views it has of his almighty power, that the enlightened mind will further add, ‘A God of almighty power, who could speak a whole world into ruin. as he spoke it into existence--who by one single thought, by one silent volition, could easily abase the proudest creature in the universe, must have it in his power to bring me in a moment to the dust of death, and to the flames of hell; to lay me as low in misery, and to hold me as long in it as he should please. This, 66O my soul, this is the God, against whom such feeble worms as we are daily offending, and whom we madly presume to make our enemy.’
This gives the regenerate man a further sense of the patience of God, than ever he had before. Others may look round upon the world, and wonder there is so much penal evil in it; but the renewed soul wonders there is not a thousand times more. When he sees, how the world lieth in wickedness; (1 John v. 19;) when he observes, how poor, impotent mortals are, many of them perhaps, in words blaspheming the God of Heaven; many more of them, most presumptously violating all the plainest and most important precepts of his law; and most of the rest, living in a perpetual forgetfulness of him, as if he were not at all, or were not so considerable as to be any way worth their notice; such an one cannot but wonder, that the Almighty Majesty of Heaven does not in a moment make himself known by the thunder of his power, and confound all their madness and folly, by crushing the world, with its inhabitants, into ruin. He often sees the rising sun, and the descending rain, with astonishment that it should be sent down on such a world as ours.
He has also more affecting views than ever of the Divine Goodness. Most men speculatively believe 67it; and they take occasion, even from that belief, to affront it; but a good man views it at once as a delightful and a venerable thing: he fears the Lord and his goodness; (Hos. iii. 5;) and while it encourages him, guilty as he is, to repose himself upon it as his hope, it awakens a generous kind of confusion at the thought of ever having offended him, and fills his very soul with indignation at the thought of repeating such offences.
And once more, the regenerate man has quite different notions than before, of the intimate access which God has to the spirits of men, and his power of operating upon them. The greatest part of men indeed consider not, as they ought, how the whole material world perpetually depends upon a Divine agency, and is no other than one grand machine, on which the great artificer continually acts, to make it an instrument of mercy to his sensitive and intelligent creatures. But there are yet fewer, who seriously consider, how entirely the hearts of men are in the hand of the Lord, and how much depends on his influences upon them. Nevertheless, experience teaches the renewed soul, that he is the God of the spirits of all flesh, (Numb. xxviii. 16,) and he not only views, but manages them as he pleases. "Lord," does he say, "this spirit of mine is shaded with thick 68darkness, but thou canst illuminate it; it is diseased, but thou canst cure it; it is unstable as water, (Gen. xlix. 4,) and lighter than a feather, yet thou canst fix and establish it; and whatever thou wouldst have me to be, and to do, for thy glory, and mine own happiness, thou canst work in me both to will and to perform it: (Phil. ii. 13:) so that all I need, to the rectitude and felicity of my nature, is only this, that I may have more of thine inward, vital, operative presence." It is not easy to conceive, what efficacy this thought has, for the transformation of the soul. But again,
2. New apprehensions are connected with these sentiments in the regenerate soul, concerning itself, and its own state.
It is surprising to think, how many run through successive years in life, without ever turning the eye of the mind inward, that the soul may survey itself. I speak not of a philosophical survey of the faculties of the mind; which, though indeed in its place it be useful and entertaining, is no more necessary in its refinement to a well-ordered state, than skill in anatomy is to a healthful constitution: but I speak of those views of the mind, which are in the reach of all, how low soever their genius, or their education may have been.
As all true happiness is an internal thing, 69wherever God intends to produce it in the heart of a revolted, corrupted creature, and such, alas! we all naturally are, he leads it into a view of itself; and shows it, if I may be allowed the expression, a mixture of grandeur and misery, that lies within; which yet the greatest part of mankind live and die without ever observing. "I am here," does the awakened creature say, "an intelligent being; far superior to this well-wrought frame of flesh and blood, which God has given me for a little while to command, and which I must quickly drop in the dust; I am made capable of determining my own choice, of directing my own actions, of judging concerning the importance of ends, and the propriety of means in subserviency to them; and while I see a vast variety of creatures in different forms beneath me, I see no rank of creatures above me, nothing nobler than man, here on earth, where I dwell. Yet I see man, in the midst of his glory, a feeble, dependent, mortal creature, who cannot possibly be his own end, nor can of himself alone, by any means command or ensure his own happiness. Everything tells me, that he is the creature of God; and that it is the greatest honor and felicity, to know, and practically to acknowledge himself to be so: everything tells me, that it is most reasonable, that God, who is the great Original of man, should also be the 70end of his being; but have I made him the end of mine? My soul, thou art conscious to thyself, thou hast lived in many instances without him in the world. Ephes. ii. 12. He has given thee, even in the system of thine own nature, and of the visible beings that are round about thee, compared with his providential interposition in the management of them, the intimations of his holy and righteous will; he has expressed these dictates far more plainly in his written word: and when thou comest to examine them, how art thou condemned by them! When thou comest to think of the spirituality and purity of his being, and his law, how shameful does thy temper, and thy life appear to have been! what an infinite disproportion is there between that, and its perfect rule!
"And whom, oh my soul, hast thou offended? whose law hast thou broken? whose grace hast thou despised? The law, the grace of that eternal God, of whom I have now been hearing; who is here present with me, who is even within me, and who sees, O my heart, more distinctly than thou canst see, all thy guilt, and all its aggravations. Oh Lord! I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. Job xlii. 6. I have talked of sin, and of the sentence of God against it, as a thing of course: but oh, my soul, it is thine own concern! The guilt, the stain of sin is still upon 71thee; the sentence of God is pronounced against thee; and it must be reversed, or thou art undone forever! These irregular habits and dispositions that prevail in thee, must be corrected, or they will prove thy mortal disease, and everlasting torment. Thou art a poor, weak, irresolute creature; the experience of every past day of life, since I began to think of religion at all, proves it; yet thou must, by some means or other, attain to inward strength and inward purity, or thou art lost: and all these great capacities, and glorious faculties, will but make thy ruin so much the more distinguished. Oh how weighty the care! oh how great the charge! What shall I do, that thought, that reason, that immortality, may not be my destruction? Where shall I find a rock, that will be firm enough for my support and safety? Where shall I find the means, to build the fabric of such a happiness as thine, O my soul, must be, if ever I am happy at all?"
Thus does God teach the mind, by its inward reviews and reflections, this important lesson of its own impotence and guilt, of its depravity and ruin; and so prepares it for those new apprehensions of Christ; which I mentioned as the third particular.
3. The regenerate soul has new apprehensions concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, considered as 72a Mediator in general, and as such a particular Mediator as he is exhibited in the word of God.
That affecting view which the regenerate soul has of the majesty, glory, power, and purity of the blessed God, will undoubtedly convince him how unfit he is in himself to appear before his awful presence. He is ready to sink down in the dust at the very thought, and to say, "Who is able to stand before such a great and holy God, as thou art? 1 Sam. vi. 20. If I were in all the original rectitude and glory of my nature, I could not do it: how much less, surrounded as I am, with so much guilt, with so much pollution! I need, as it were, a daysman betwixt us, who might lay his hand upon us both, (Job. ix. 33,) who should transact affairs in my name with God, and bring the peaceful messages of God to me: let such an one speak with me and I will hear; but let not God speak with me, lest I die." Exod. xx. 19.
And when he comes to take a more near and intimate view of this Mediator which GOD has exhibited in the Gospel, the renewed soul is even charmed and transported with the view: and that Jesus, whose name he before pronounced with so much coldness, that the very mention of it was a kind of profanation, now is regarded by him as the chiefest among ten thousand. Cant. v. 10. He beholds his glory, as that of the only begotten of the 73Father, full of grace and truth. John i. 14. The union of the divine and human nature in the person of Christ, though it appears indeed a mystery, which he cannot fully explain, is nevertheless a glorious certainty, which in the general, he most cordially believes. He sees Emanuel--God dwelling with us in human flesh, and acquiesces in the sight; while the rays of Divine Glory are attempered by passing through the veil, that is to say, his flesh. Heb. x. 20. He considers Christ as made of God unto him wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption; (1 Cor. i. 30:) and each of these views rejoices him to the very heart. "Ignorant as I am, I shall be taught and instructed by him, that great Prophet, whom God sent into the world; by him, who is incarnate wisdom, as well as incarnate love; whose words resound in the Gospel, and whose Spirit seals the instructions of his word. Guilty as I am, my crimes shall be expiated; for there is redemption in his blood; even the forgiveness of sins; (Eph. i. 7;) there is an everlasting righteousness that he has introduced: and oh, how richly will it adorn my soul! This pollution of mine shall not forever exclude me from a comfortable intercourse with the pure majesty of Heaven; for Christ is come to be my sanctification; and he can cleanse me by his Spirit, and transform 74me into that divine, delightful image which I have lost. Victorious Lord, how easily canst thou redeem me from that state of servitude, in which I have been kept so long complaining! How easily, and how powerfully, canst thou vindicate me into the glorious liberty of the children of God! Rom. viii. 21. Blessed Jesus, thou art my light and my strength, my hope and my joy! Thou art just such a Saviour as my necessity requires; thou fillest up all my wants, and all my wishes; thou art all in all to me! I would not be ignorant of thee for ten thousand worlds. I would not live a day, nor an hour, without recollecting who, and what thou art, and maintaining that intercourse with thee, which is the life of my soul."
4. The regenerate soul has also new apprehensions of the importance of eternity, when compared with time and all its concerns.
It is indeed a most pitiable thing, and awakens our astonishment, grief,—and indignation, to observe how the things of this world press down immortal spirits, and reduce them almost indeed to a state of brutality. Most deplorable it is, to see the power and energy of those motives, which are taken merely from this earth, and its little concernments, so that if a man did but know what was the favorite vanity, he might almost 75predict, from the knowledge of circumstances, how a man's actions would be ordered; and might almost be sure that he would follow, whithersoever this interest, or that pleasure, this ambitious, or that mercenary view, called him; though all the prospects for an eternal world pleaded the contrary way. Such is the folly and madness that is in men's hearts while they live; and after that they go down to the dead, (Eccles. ix. 3,) and spend that immortal duration, which they have despised, in fruitless lamentations. Fatal delusion I which it is the great design of the Gospel to cure.
But when a soul becomes wise to salvation, it is taught to look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; because it has now a full sense of what before it only notionally confessed, that the things which are seen, are temporal; but the things that are not seen, are eternal! 2 Cor. iv. 18. Eternity! it is impossible I should tell you how much an eye, that is enlightened by God, sees, and reads, as it were. in that one word; while one scene beyond another is still opening on the mind, till its sight and its thoughts are swallowed up: and as the creatures are as nothing with respect to God, so all the interests of time, with respect to eternity, appear as less than nothing and vanity. Isa. xl. 17. To 76be made for an everlasting existence appears in so awful a view, that while it has some pleasing hope, it rejoices with trembling; and every remaining fear, with relation to this great interest, seems a greater evil, than the certainty of any temporal calamity.
I might add upon this head, that the regenerate soul has not only new views of the importance, but likewise of the nature of the invisible and eternal state; and particularly of the nature of the celestial happiness. It does not consider it merely, or chiefly, as a state of corporeal enjoyment, formed to gratify and delight the senses; but as a state of perfect conformity to God, and most endearing intercourse with him; of which, as it begins already by Divine Grace to taste the pleasures, so it most ardently thirsts after them; and would be heartily willing to lose this body forever, and to bid an eternal adieu to every object capable of giving it delight; rather than it would consent to lose, in a perpetual succession of such objects, the sight of the Father of Spirits, and that sensibility of his love, which adds the most substantial solidity, and exalted relish, to every inferior good that can be desired from it.
5. A regenerate man has also new apprehensions of the way which God has marked out to this happiness.77
Nothing is more common than for carnal and ignorant men to imagine, that it is a very easy thing to get to Heaven; and upon this presumption, they hew out to themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water; (Jer. ii. 13;) and often live and die with a lie in their right hand. Isa. xliv. 20. But the renewed soul, having such awful conceptions of the blessed God, and such apprehensions of the excellency and glory of the heavenly state, as you have heard, deeply feels how absolutely necessary it is, that something of a very great and important change should pass in the mind of that sinful creature, that ever hopes to be a partaker of it. He sees, that it is impossible any external profession, or external rite, should secure so great an end--impossible, that baptism should be regeneration, in that sense in which the Scripture uses the word, or that by this alone, though ever so regularly administered, a man's eternal happiness should be secured. He sees, that to be associated to this or that party of Christians, to join with established, or with separate churches, and to be ever so zealous for their respective order, worship, and discipline, is a thing quite of foreign consideration here; and that the best, or the worst of men, may be, and probably are, on one side and on another; nay, that ignorance, pride, and bigotry may take occasion 78from hence to render men farther from the kingdom of God, than any mistake in judgment or practice, on these disputed points, could have set them.
No, my brethren, when a man's eyes are enlightened by God's renewing Spirit, he sees and feels that, in the language of Scripture, he must be created anew in Christ Jesus; (Ephes. ii. 10:) he sees, that holiness is a character without which no man shall see the Lord; (Heb. xii. 14;) and he is perhaps little anxious, whether this, or the faith that produces it, shall be called a condition, or a qualification, or an instrument, while he sees he must perish without it: he sees, that as it is absolutely necessary, so it is very extensive, as the commandment, which is its rule, is exceeding broad: (Psal. cxix. 96:) he sees, that it must not only effectually regulate the actions of his life, but control all the sentiments of his heart: nay, he sees it must not only be submitted to as a necessary, but be chosen as a most amiable thing: and, accordingly, he does choose it as such. The unregenerate soul, when he hears of repentance and reformation, though he understands not half that it means, nor is aware of what will, in fact, be the greatest difficulty of it, looks upon it at best as a nauseous medicine, which he must take, or die: but the regenerate man finds his heart so 79wonderfully and so happily changed, that he regards it for itself, as the food, the health, and the life of his soul; as that which necessarily brings its own pleasures, and, in a considerable degree, its own reward along with it; so that now, as David beautifully expresses it, He openeth his mouth, and panteth, because he longs for God's commandments. Verse 131.
And I will add once more, the good man is also made sensible of the place which faith and holiness hold, in the scheme which God has laid, for our justification before him, and our acceptance with him. I do not say that all Christians conceive of this with equal perspicuity, or express their conceptions with equal exactness: the most candid allowance should here be made for the different ideas they fix to the same phrases, as they have been used to look upon them with veneration, or with suspicion. But this I will venture to say, because I am persuaded the Scripture will bear me out in it--that the confidence of a regenerate soul is not fixed on his own holiness, or faith, as the meritorious cause of his acceptance with God. He is deeply and cordially sensible, that he is made accepted in the Beloved; (Ephes. i. 6;) and seeing nothing but guilt, and weakness, and ruin in himself, he ascribes to the blessed Jesus, and to the riches of God's free grace in him, his 80righteousness, his strength, and his salvation. And where a man is thus persuaded, I think he must, in effect, believe, even though he might scruple in words expressly to own it, "that Christ as our great Surety having perfectly obeyed the law of God himself, and by his blood having fully satisfied the Divine Justice for the breach of it, we, on our believing in him by a vital faith, are justified before God by the imputation of his perfect righteousness." This latter way of stating it, when rightly explained, appears just equivalent to the former; and it is a manner of conceiving and expressing it, which, when rightly understood, seems extremely suitable to that deep humility, and poverty of spirit, to which the renewed soul is brought, when, like a new-born babe, it desires the sincere milk of the word, that it may grow thereby. 1 Pet. ii. 2. But as the mind, at such a time, finds little inclination to contend about words and phrases, it would be much less proper for me, to enter into any controversy about them here.
Let it suffice for the present, that I have given you this plain representation of that change, which is wrought in a man's apprehensions, when he is made a new creature. When old things are passed away, he has new apprehensions of God, of himself, of Christ, of eternity, and of the way to obtain the happiness of it: and as at this happy time all 81things are become new, there are, "new affections, new resolutions, new labors, new enjoyments, and new hopes," which are the result of the change already described. But it will be much more difficult to reduce what I have to offer on these heads, within the bounds of the next Discourse, than proper to attempt any of them in this. Go home, my friends, and try yourselves by what you have al. ready heard; and be assured, that if you are condemned by this part of the description, it is impossible you should be approved by any that will follow; since they have all their foundation in this.82
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