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For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.—Eph. II. 10.
THE apostle in the context asserteth that our whole salvation is of grace, not of works; he now proveth it. That which is the effect of salvation cannot be the cause of it. But our well-doing is the effect of salvation, if you take it for our first recovery to God; but if you take it for full salvation, or our final deliverance from all evil, works go before it indeed, but in a way of order, not meritorious influence. To think them altogether unnecessary, would too much depreciate and lessen their presence or concurrence; to think they deserve it would as much exalt them, and advance them beyond the line of their due worth and value. The apostle steereth a middle course between both extremes. They are necessary, not meritorious. They go before eternal life, not as a cause but a way; for they are wrought in us by God, and are 385effects of the begun salvation; so that the good that we do is a part of the grace that we have received, a fruit of regeneration: ‘For we are his workmanship,’ &c.
In the words are two things:—
I. The state of believers: for we, are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.
II. The end why we are brought into this estate: unto good works, which, &c.
I begin with the former, and there note:—
1. God’s efficiency: ποίημα αὐτοῦ, his workmanship.
2. The manner of his efficiency: κτισθεντες, created; all proceedeth from the infinite creating power of God.
3. The meritorious cause: ἐν Χριστῷ, created in Christ Jesus.
From the whole observe:—
Doct. That those that are renewed and recovered out of the apostasy of mankind, are, as it were, created anew through the power of God and grace of the Redeemer.
I. Let us explain the words of the text
II. Prove it.
I. For explication of what is here asserted, three things must be explained:—
1. Our relation to God.
2. His way of concurrence to establish this relation.
3. How far the mediation of Christ is concerned in this effect.
First, Our relation to God: ‘We are his workmanship.’ We are so
two ways;—(1.) By natural creation; (2.) By supernatural renovation.
1. By natural creation, which giveth us some kind of interest in him, and hope of grace from him. As Ps. cxix. 73. ‘Thy hands have made me and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn thy commandments,’ God is our Creator, and the end of our creation is to serve God; therefore he gives some kind of encouragement to ask the grace whereby we may serve him. But the apostle speaketh here not of the first creation, but
2. Of regeneration or renovation, which is called a second or new creation. As 2 Cor. v. 17, ‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature,’ καίνη κτίσις; a new creation hath passed upon him. By the first creation we are made men; by the second, holy men. Holiness is a thing of God’s making; we are regenerated and sanctified by his grace, and made capable of doing good by his Spirit. Now this new workmanship bestowed on us implieth:—
[1.] A change wrought in us, so that we are other persons than we were before, as if another kind of soul came to dwell in our bodies. This change is represented in scripture in such terms as do imply a broad and sensible difference between the two states—that wherein we were before, and that into which we are translated; such a difference as is between light and darkness, Eph. v. 8; life and death, 1 John iii. 14; the new man and the old, Eph. iv. 22, 24. We seem to be, as it were, creatures transformed out of beasts into men. Instead of being governed by sense and appetite, we are led by reason; and reason is not only put into dominion, but grace, which is reason sanctified, directing and inclining us to live unto God.386
[2.] This change is such as must amount to a new creation. There are some changes which go not so far, as—
(1.) A moral change, from profaneness and gross sins to a more sober course of life; for there are some sins which nature discovereth, and may be prevented by such reasons and arguments as nature suggesteth, Rom. ii. 14. This may be done by ordinary discretion and advisement. But the new creature signifies such a change, whereby not only of vicious we become virtuous, but of carnal we become spiritual, John iii. 6. Man naturally inclineth to things pleasing to the flesh, and only seeketh, savoureth, and affecteth these things; but in this change the Spirit interposeth and maketh him spirit. Before, man only lived as a nobler and better-natured animal or living creature, and pleased himself, that is, his flesh, either in a grosser or more cleanly manner, being ignorant, mindless of God and another world; but new creatures become spirit, have a spiritual inclination, cannot content themselves with a happiness on this side God and heaven. Mere human nature can never bring men to this, but only the power of God.
(2.) A temporary change, as to fall into a sudden religious frame, which is soon worn off; as Ahab’s humiliation, 1 Kings xxi. 27; or those that howled on their beds, &c., Hosea vii. 14, frighted into a little religiousness in their straits and deep necessities, like ice in thawing weather, soft at top and hard at bottom; or those the prophet speaketh of, Jer. xxxiv. 15, ‘Ye were turned to-day and had done right, but ye returned again and polluted my name.’ They seemed to be changed awhile from evil to good, and then they change again from good to evil This will not amount to the new creature, for that is a durable thing: 1 John iii. 9, Σπέρμα μένει, ‘His seed remains.’
(3.) A change of outward form, without a change of heart; as when a man changeth parties in religion, and from an oppressor becomes a professor of a stricter way. No; the scripture opposeth this to the new creature, Gal. vi. 15. The new creature lieth more in a new mind, new will and affection, than in a new form of religion. Lead is lead still, whatever stamp it beareth.
(4.) A partial change. Men are altered in some things, but the old nature still remaineth; their religion is but like a new piece in an old garment; the heart is not new moulded, so as to leave an impression upon all our actions. The renewed are ‘holy in all manner of conversation,’ ἐν πάσῃ ἀναστροφῇ, 1 Peter i. 15; 2 Peter iii. 11; 2 Cor. v. 17. They drive a new trade for another world, and set upon another work to which they were strangers before; must have new solaces, new comforts, new motives. The new creature is entire, not half new half old; but with many the heart is like ‘a cake not turned.’
[3.] When thus new framed and fashioned, it belongeth to God, it hath special relation to him, James i. 18. It must needs be so; they have God’s nature and life. (1.) Nature, 2 Peter i. 4. They are made like God, bear his image and superscription; it is a curious piece of workmanship, in which God hath showed his wisdom, goodness, and power; and so they are sealed and marked out for his peculiar ones. (2.) The life of God, that came from him, and tendeth to him. Others are ‘alienated from the life of God,’ Eph, iv. 18. They recover it, 1 Pet. iv. 6. His spirit is a principle of life in them, so that they are really alive to God, and dead to sin and the world.
[4.] This workmanship on us as new creatures far surpasseth that which maketh us creatures only. That came from his general goodness, this from his peculiar love; there it is goodness, here it is grace: 2 Tim. i. 9, ‘He hath called us with an holy calling, according to his own purpose and grace.’ Creatures are sustained by his common providence, but new creatures by his special care and covenant: ‘He openeth his hand, and satisfieth the desire of every living thing,’ Ps. cxlv, 16. But he especially preserveth and supplieth believers, 1 Tim. iv. 10. He giveth others bodily comforts; but these, soul-refreshings and spiritual graces, Eph. i. 3. There is vestigium, a tract or footprint of God in all the creation; these have his image restored in them: Eph. iv. 24, ‘The new man is created after God.’ Well, then, this is that we should look after, that we may be his workmanship made again. It is a woful thing to be God’s workmanship by creation and not by renovation. It is better never to have been God’s creature in the first making, if not his creature in the second making. Better thou hadst been a beast, yea, a toad or serpent, than a man; for when the beasts die, death puts an end to their pains and pleasures at once, but all thy comforts end with death, and then thy pains begin: the beasts have no remorse to sour their pleasures, but man hath conscience, and therefore can have no rest till he return to God.
Secondly, God’s way of concurrence to establish this relation. It is a creation. The phrase is often used: Eph. iv. 24, ‘The new man is created after God.’ No other hand could finish this piece of workman ship. God often sets it forth by this term: Isa. xliii. 7, ‘I have created him for my glory, I have formed him, yea, I have made him.’ So ver. 21, ‘This people have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise.’ So in other places. Now, creation is a work of omnipotency, and proper to God. There is a twofold creation. In the beginning God made some things out of nothing, and some things ex inhabili materia, out of foregoing matter, but such as was wholly unfit for such things as were made of it; as when God made Adam out of the dust of the ground, and Eve out of the rib of man. Take the notion in the former or latter sense, and it will suit with the matter in hand. (1.) We are formed anew of God, as it were out of a state of nothing, and get a new being and a new life. To this there are frequent allusions in scripture; as Rom. iv. 17, ‘He calleth the things that are not as though they were;’ 2 Cor. iv. 6, ‘Who speaketh (Ὁ ἔρνη) light out of darkness,’ he bringeth. life out of death, something out of nothing. Now there is such a distance between these two terms that the work can only be accomplished by a divine power. (2.) Creation out of unfit matter. We were wholly indisposed, averse from good, perverse resisters of it. Now, to bring us to love God and holiness, to restore God’s lost image to us, it is a new forming or making of us, and must be looked upon, not as a low, natural, or common thing, but as the work of him who gave us his image at first: Col. iii. 10, ‘The new man is renewed after the image of him that created him.’ To turn a heart of stone into a heart of flesh, God challengeth it to himself, Ezek. xxxvi. 26. This creation showeth two things:—388
1. The greatness of the disease; that is clearly seen in the difficulty of the remedy. Nothing doth make a man so sensible of the corruptness of his nature, as when we hear by what terms our recovery or restitution by grace is set forth. It is a second creation, a new birth, a resurrection, a raising up of stones to be children to Abraham; yea, in a sort, beasts are turned into angels. From these things we may a little conceive of the greatness of that disease which all mankind were sick of. Every faculty of our souls was both weakened and corrupted, and God only by his divine power can restore us; for to be cured we must be wholly new made, and who can make or create but God? Surely we contributed nothing to it. What enemies were we to our own mercies! It is no small matter for darkness to become light in the Lord; for a rugged, stubborn creature to be mollified, and submissive to the Spirit’s discipline; for a slave of the devil to become the subject of Christ; that a heap of rubbish should be erected into a temple of God, and a dunghill turned into a bed of spices.
2. It teaches us to magnify this renewing work. If you think the cure is no great matter, it will necessarily follow that it deserveth no great praise, and so God will be robbed of the honour of our recovery. But why then is this work so magnified in the scriptures, and such high expressions used about it .? Why is it called an opening of our blind eyes; a turning us from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God;’ a ‘quickening them that were dead,’ and making us ‘new creatures’? Why must the Holy Ghost be shed so abundantly upon us for our renovation? Surely it is some great thing which all these expressions do intend, and should be more magnified in our thoughts, that we may give God his due praise and honour. And they sin greatly that have contemptuous thoughts or a low esteem of it, or see not the absolute necessity of it; and by extenuating this great change, gave shrewd suspicion they were never acquainted with it. Surely all that have felt what God hath done for their souls, they know how little they have contributed to it, they dare not make light of it, and ascribe it to their own wit or will, or entertain undervaluing thoughts of this grace. Alas I there is an enmity in every carnal heart against holiness, till God remove it and subdue it, Rom. viii. 7; Col. i. 21. And what shall conquer this enmity but his invincible power? Surely this is the gracious and powerful work of the ever-blessed God, and to be ascribed to him alone. Can a stony heart of itself become tender? or a dead heart quicken itself? or a creature wholly led by sense, and addicted to the pleasures of sin, be brought of itself to seek its happiness in an unseen world, and of its own accord deny present things, and lay up all its hopes in heaven? No; it is God must take away the heart of stone, quicken those that are dead in trespasses and sins.
Thirdly, How far the mediation of Christ is concerned in this effect We are renewed by God’s creating power, but through the intervening mediation of Christ.
1. This creating power is set forth with respect to his merit. The life of grace is purchased by his death: 1 John iv. 9, ‘God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live by him;’ here spiritually, hereafter eternally; life opposite to the death incurred 389by sin. And how by him? By his being a propitiation; that he speaks of there, ver. 10. We were in a state of death when the doors of mercy were first opened to us, under the guilt and power of sin; for while the guilt and tyranny of sin remaineth, we are said to be dead, and strangers to the life of God; and we begin to live when first regenerated by the Spirit of Christ. Now this we have not without Christ being a propitiation for our sins, that is, without doing some thing whereby God, without any impeachment of his honour, might show himself placable and propitious to mankind; his justice, holiness, and hatred of sin being sufficiently demonstrated in the sufferings of Christ. Now the honour of his governing justice being kept up, his pardoning mercy is the more freely exercised. God may be propitious to mankind, and yet still be acknowledged as a sin-hating God.
2. In regard of efficacy. Christ is a quickening head, or a life-making Spirit, 1 Cor. xv. 45. Whatever grace we have comes from God, through Christ as Mediator; and from him we have it by virtue of our union with him: 2 Cor. v. 17, ‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.’ As soon as joined to him as our head, his grace is applied to us by his Spirit. It is first applied by converting grace, and then continually supplied by the confirming grace of the Spirit; and so we are fitted to every good work. Christ first applieth it in conversion, when he giveth us repentance and a new nature, Acts v. 31; and supplieth it by continual influence, John xv. 5. We live on him as the branch doth on the root. Now from hence we learn what a great benefit renewing grace is; it is a fruit of reconciling grace: 2 Cor. v. 18, ‘All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Christ,’ God giveth grace only as the God of peace, that is, as pacified by Christ’s death. The Holy Spirit is the gift of his love, and the fruit of this peace and reconciliation which Christ made for us. First, our Lord Jesus Christ merited this grace by the value of this sacrifice and bloody sufferings, and then doth apply it by the almighty power of his Spirit; and Christ is first our ransom, and then the fountain of life unto our souls; and so the honour of our whole and entire recovery is to be ascribed to our Redeemer. When he satisfied God’s justice for our sins, he purchased a power to change the heart of man; and he purchased this power into his own hands, not into another’s, and therefore doth accomplish it by his Spirit, 2 Cor. iii. 18. We should often think what a foundation God hath laid for the dispensation of his grace, and how he would demonstrate his infinite love in giving his Son to be a propitiation. for us. When he would show forth his infinite power in determining and changing the heart of man, all the persons concurred: the Father purposing, the Son by way of redemption and purchase, the Holy Ghost by effective power; and all to bring back our souls to God, and to make us capable of serving and pleasing him. It is surely a workmanship of much cost.
Two reasons why they are as it were created anew:—
1. Because of the badness of our former estate. Ruinous and decayed buildings are only to be thrown down, to make way for a new structure and house to stand in the same place. Man naturally is a creature in a state of apostasy and defection, under a loss of original righteousness, averse from God, yea, an enemy to him, prone to all evil, 390weak, yea, dead to all spiritual good. And what must be done with such a creature to bring him out of his misery, but wholly to new mould him and make him, that he may have a new being and life? The scripture represents man as blind in his mind, 2 Peter i. 9; perverse in his will, Zech. vii. 12; rebellious in his affections, Eph. ii. 3, ‘fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.’ What sound part is there left in us to mend the rest? If we will be brought home to God, we must of sinful and polluted become clean and holy; and ‘Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one,’ Job xiv. 4. We must of carnal become spiritual, and therefore we must be new born, new made, John iii. 6. That instead of minding the things of the flesh we may mind the things of the Spirit, we must of worldly become heavenly. ‘Now, he that formeth us for this very thing is God,’ 2 Cor. v. 5. Ὁ κατεργαζόμενος, he that frameth and createth us for this heavenly state, is God. He that is the framer and maker of all things, of infinite wisdom, power, and love, he createth us anew in Christ, that we may look after eternal life. The heavenly disposition wrought in us is a pledge of it.
2. From the nature of God’s work, which is not merely by helping the will, but by giving us the will itself, or the act of volition of it; not by curing the weakness of it, but by sanctifying it, and taking away the sinfulness of it, and inclining it to himself. If the will were only in a swoon and languishment, a little moral persuasion and excitation, outward or inward, by the word and Spirit, would serve the turn; but. we cannot say of it, as Christ of the damsel, ‘She is not dead, but sleepeth.’ No; the scripture saith, We are ‘dead in trespasses and sins,’ Eph. ii. 1. God’s grace is not only necessary for facilitation, that we may more easily pursue and choose that which is good; as a horse is necessary that a man may pass on his journey more easily, which otherwise he might perform on foot with difficulties. No; it is impossible as well as difficult to escape; the carnal life without God, Mat. xix. 26. He doth work such a change on a carnal man’s heart that he contemns the world and seeks after heavenly things. Nay, he doth not only give us a remote power to will if we please, or a remote power to do if we please, but he giveth ‘to will and to do,’ Phil. ii. 13; the will itself and the deed itself. Thus is God’s operation set forth; he reneweth the faculties and exciteth the act of willing and doing by his powerful and victorious influence, Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27. Otherwise, if grace did only give us an indifferency, so that a man may or may not, then man would be ‘the principal cause of his own conversion, and God lose the glory of his grace, and the honour of it be ascribed to the liberty of man’s own will. God doth not give a power to repent and believe, and leave it to the determination of man’s will to make it effectual; but he giveth faith itself, and repentance itself. Faith is his gift: Eph. ii. 8, ‘To you it is given to believe;’ Phil. i. 29. The Redeemer was raised ‘to give repentance.’ Acts v. 31. This is the grace which the saints pray for, faith itself, repentance itself: Ps. li. 10, ‘Create in me a clean heart;’ Heb. xiii. 21, ‘The Lord make you perfect to do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight.’ We pray not only for a grace that gives the possibility, but the effect; not only for such as doth invite 391and solicit us to good, but such as doth incline and determine us to good. And this is the grace we give thanks for; not a power to repent and believe if we please, but for repentance and faith wrought in us. If God did only give a power to will if we please, to do if we please, man would difference himself, 1 Cor. iv. 7.
3. With respect to Christ: ‘We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus,’ who is the head of the new world, or renewed estate. All things are new in the kingdom of Christ; there is a change of everything from what it was before. There is a new Adam, which is Jesus Christ; a new covenant, which is the gospel; a new paradise, not that where Adam enjoyed God among the beasts, but where the blessed enjoy God among the angels; a new ministry, not the posterity of Aaron or tribe of Levi, but a ministry of reconciliation, put into their hands whom God hath qualified and fitted to be dispensers of these holy mysteries; new ordinances, ‘We serve God not in the oldness of the letter, but the newness of the spirit;’ therefore, if we be in Christ, we must be new creatures. We are both obliged and fitted by this new estate to be so. Some are in Christ externally by baptism and profession; they are visibly in covenant with him, and de jure, of right, are bound to be new creatures. Others are in Christ by real internal union. These not only ought to be, but de facto are, new creatures; they are made partakers of his Spirit, Rom. viii. 9, and by that Spirit they are renewed and sanctified. Well, then, since there is a new Lord and a new law, all is new; there must be a new creation; for as the general state of the church is renewed by Christ, so is every particular believer.
4. With respect to the use for which this new creation serveth. One is mentioned in the text: ‘Created unto good works;’ but other things must be taken in.
[1.] In order to our present communion with God. Till we are created anew, we are not fit to converse with a holy and invisible God earnestly, frequently, reverently, and delightfully, which is our daily work and business. The effects of the new creature are life and likeness; those that do not live the life of God are estranged from him, Eph. iv. 18. Trees cannot converse with beasts, because they do not live their life; nor beasts with men, for they have sense only, but no reason; nor men with God, till they have somewhat of the same nature and life. If one had power to put the spirit of man into a brute beast, that beast would discourse reasonably. God hath power to put a divine Spirit into his people, to sanctify their souls, that fits them for converse with God. Look, as in innocency Adam was alone, though compassed about with a multitude of creatures, beasts, birds, and plants, yet there was none, till Eve was made, fit to converse with him, because they did not live his life; therefore the Lord God said, Gen. ii. 18, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.’ The man was alone, because he had none like himself that he might converse withal as a man in the exercise of speech and reason; the beasts of the field and fowls of the air were no fit companions for him; they wanted the means of converse, reason and speech: so without grace we are not meet for communion with God, till we have faith and love to admire, reverence, and delight 392in him. So for likeness. Conformity is the ground of communion: Amos iii. 3, ‘How can two walk together except they be agreed?’ Our state of sin is a state of enmity, and our state of holiness a state of love. Our old course made the breach between us and God, Isa. lix. 2; but the new life and likeness qualifies us for communion with him: 1 John i. 6, 7, ‘An holy creature may sweetly come and converse with the holy God.’
[2.] In order to our service and obedience to God. Man is unfit for God’s use till he be new moulded and framed again: In the text, we must be ‘created in Christ Jesus to good works.’ Every creature hath faculties suitable to the operations that belong to that creature; so man must be new created, new formed, that he may be prepared and made ready for the Lord. You cannot expect new operations till there be a new nature and life. When a man is turned from sin, he is ‘made meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work,’ 2 Tim. ii. 21. Our first care must be to get the heart renewed. Many are troubled about this or that duty, or particular branches of the spiritual life; first get life itself. There must be principles before there can be operations. In vain do we expect strengthening grace before we have received renewing grace. This is like little children, who attempt to run before they can go or stand. Many complain of this or that corruption, but they do not groan under the burden of a corrupt nature; as suppose wandering thoughts in prayer, when at the same time the heart is habitually averse and estranged from God: as if a man should complain of an aching tooth when a mortal disease hath seized upon his vitals, or of a cut finger when at the same time he is wounded at the heart,—of deadness in duty and want of quickening grace when they want converting grace. This is like blowing to a dead coal, to complain of infirmities and incident weakness when our habitual aversion from and enmity to God is not yet cured, and of unfitness for service, when we are not come out of the carnal state.
[3.] In order to our future enjoyment of God, and that glory and blessedness which we expect in his heavenly kingdom; none but new creatures can enter into the new Jerusalem. It is said, John iii. 3, ‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Seeing is put for enjoying; yet the expression is emphatical, as if he should not be suffered so much as to peep or look within the veil; therefore the mere carnal man neither knoweth his true happiness, nor careth for it, but followeth after his own lusts, till he be new moulded and framed. By nature men are opposite to the kingdom of God, it being invisible, future, spiritual, mostly for the soul; and by nature men are for things seen, present, and bodily. The interest of the flesh governeth all their choices and inclinations; and how unmeet are these for heaven! In short, our frail bodies must be changed before they can be brought to heaven: ‘We shall not all die, but we shall all be changed,’ saith the apostle. If the body must be changed, how much more the soul? if that which is frail, much more that which is filthy; if flesh and blood cannot enter into heaven till it be freed from its corruptible qualities, certainly a guilty, corrupted soul cannot enter into heaven till it be freed from its sinful qualities.393
Use 1. Of information.
1. That there is such a thing as the new nature, regeneration, or the new birth, and the new creature. It is one thing to make us men, another to make us saints or Christians. We have understanding, and will, and affections, and sense as men, but we have these sanctified as Christians. The carnal world thinks Christianity puts strange names upon ordinary things; but is it an ordinary thing to row against the stream of flesh and blood, and to raise men above those inclinations and affections by which the generality of the world are mastered and captivated? For a man to be another kind of creature than the rest of men are, surely proceeds from a new nature put into him, 1 Peter iv. 4. The world wondereth at believers in their contemning the pleasant, powerful attractives of sensible things.
2. That by this new nature a man is distinguished from himself as carnal; he hath somewhat which he had not before, something that may be called a new life and nature; a new heart that is created, Ps. li. 10; and may be increased, 2 Peter iii. 18. In the first conversion we are mere objects of grace, but afterwards instruments of grace. First God worketh upon us, then by us. On the unregenerate the Spirit worketh while they do nothing that is good, sometimes the contrary; the regenerate he helpeth whilst they are working, striving, labouring; he quickeneth and exciteth their inclination to God. They have some principles of operation, there is life in them; and where there is life there is some power to act, or else God’s most precious gifts would be in vain; therefore it is their duty to bestir themselves, 2 Peter i. 3-5. We have understanding and memory sanctified and planted with a stock of divine knowledge, and can retain things on the conscience, which if we do not, we are highly culpable before God: Mat. xxv. 25, 26, ‘Thou wicked and slothful servant,’ &c. We have an inclination to God and heavenly things, and we must blow it up: Isa. lxiv. 7, 4 There is none that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee;’ 2 Tim. i. 6, ‘Stir up the gift of God that is in thee.’
3. How little they can make out their recovery to God, and interest in Christ, who are not sensible of any change wrought in them. They have their old thoughts, their old discourses, their old passions, and their old affections, and their old conversations still; the old darkness and blindness which was upon their minds, the old stupidity, dullness, deadness, carelessness that was upon their hearts, knowing little or nothing, or regarding nothing of God; the old end and scope governeth them, to which they formerly referred all things. If there were a change, there would be some hope the Redeemer had been at work in their hearts. You can remember how little savour you had once of the things of the Spirit, how little mind to Christ or holiness, how wholly you were given up to the pleasures of the flesh, or the profits of the world; what a mastery your lusts had then over you, and a hard servitude you were in. Is the case altered with you now? Is your taste of fleshly delights deadened, your souls taken up more with the affairs of another world? Is the drift, aim, and bent of your lives now for God and your salvation, and the great business you attend upon 394the pleasing of God and the saving of your souls? Are ye not servants to your senses and fleshly appetites, and things here below, but can ye govern yourselves, and master these desires? This is a change in deed, but in many that profess Christ, and pretend to an interest in him, there is no such change to be sensibly seen; their old sins, and their old lusts, and the old things of ungodliness are not yet cast off. Surely so much old rubbish and rotten building should not be left standing with the new. Old leaves in autumn fall off in the spring, if they continue so long; so old things should pass away, and all become new.
4. It informeth us in what manner we should check sin, by remembering it is an old thing to be done away, and ill becoming our new estate by Christ: 2 Peter i. 9, ‘But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see far off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins,’ Former sins ought to be esteemed as old rags that are cast off, and as vomit never to be licked up again. If we are, and do esteem ourselves to be pardoned, we should never build again what we have destroyed, nor tear open old wounds—so 1 Peter i. 14, ‘Not fashioning yourselves to the former lusts of your ignorance’—nor cast ourselves into the old mould and shape, and return to our old bondage and slavery. So 1 Cor. v. 7, ‘Purge out the old leaven, that you may be wholly a new lump;’ so ver. 8, ‘Therefore keep the feast not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth,’ The unsuitableness of sin to our present state should stir up our indignation: Hosea xiv. 8, ‘What have I to do any more with idols?’ Worldly things are pleasing to the old man, therefore we should not over-much esteem them; they are not new creatures that have not put off the lusts of the old man.
Use 2. To put us upon self-reflection; are we the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus? that is, are we made new creatures? It will be known by these things,—a new mind, a new heart, and a new life.
1. Have we a new mind? A new creature hath a new sight of things, looketh upon all things with a new eye. He seeth more odiousness in sin, more excellency in Christ, more beauty in holiness, more vanity in the world, than ever he saw before. Before they did φρονεῖν κατὰ σάρκα they knew all things after the flesh, A new value and esteem of things doth much discover the temper of the heart: Heb. xi. 26, ‘Moses esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.’ They esteem the decay of the outward man to be abundantly recompensed with the increase of the inward, 2 Cor. iv. 16. A new creature is not only changed himself, but all things seem to be changed with him. Heaven is another thing, and earth is another thing than it was before, so is sin and righteousness; yea, he looketh on his body and soul with another eye.
2. As he hath a new mind and judgment, so the heart is new moulded. The great blessing of the new covenant is a new heart. Now the heart is new when we are inclined to the ways of God, and enabled to walk in them.
[1.] There is a new inclination, poise, and weight upon the soul, bending it to holy and heavenly things. The inclination to holiness 395David prayeth for: Ps. cxix. 36, ‘Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.’ To heavenly things: Paul asserteth, 2 Cor. iv. 18, ‘We look not to the things which are seen, but to the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal;’ when we always live in delightful foresight and expectation of blessedness to come.
[2.] The heart is enabled also: Ezek. xxxvi. 27, ‘I will put a new spirit into you, and cause you to walk in my ways.’ Where there is a new heart, there is new strength or grace given to ‘serve God acceptably, and with reverence and godly fear,’ Heb. xii. 28. Indeed God assists this power, or else we fail and wax faint; but a power there is in some measure to will and do; for ‘the kingdom of God stands not in word, but in power.’ There is a power to overcome fleshly lusts; the heavenly mind is not given us in vain: 1 Peter ii. 11, ‘Dearly beloved, I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.’ A power to overcome worldly lusts, Phil. iv. 13. When we seek no great things for ourselves here in this world, we can the better bear all conditions. I do confess (as I said before), God must assist this power both in willing and doing, purposing and performing. We may have assistance in one kind and not in another, Paul saith, τὸ θελεῖν, &c., Rom. vii. 18, ‘To will is present with me, but how to perform that which I would, I have no power.’ To will is more than to think, to exert our will into action is more than both. In all we need God’s help. Some may have the power to will, when no power to do; so Peter se posse putabat quod se velle sentiebat. But yet I describe a Christian, or a new creature, by his power; because God’s children are never so deserted but that there is some help from God. There are auxilia necessaria, helps of grace simply and absolutely necessary, which are not denied, when liberal and plentiful aids of grace are suspended; and therefore a Christian is to be described by his power, though still in a dependence upon God.
3. A new life, or a new conversation, called walking ‘in newness of life,’ Rom. vi. 4. Surely he that hath a new principle, the Spirit, and not the flesh; a new rule, the law of God, and not the course of this world; a new scope, the pleasing, glorifying, and enjoying of God, and not the pleasing of men and his own fleshly mind, must needs walk in a different course both from other carnal men, and from what he himself carried on before. But all these are true of the new creature; he is influenced by another principle, Rom. viii. 12, Gal. v. 16; looketh upon himself as having another rule, Gal. vi. 16, Ps. i. 2; and propoundeth to himself another design and scope, Phil. iii. 20, 2 Cor. v. 9; and therefore must needs live another life. Well, then, by these things you may judge of your estate.
Use 3. To exhort you to look after this, that you be the workman ship of God, created in Christ Jesus. You will say, What can we do? This is God’s work, in which we are merely passive.
I answer—It is certainly an abuse of this doctrine if it lull us asleep in the lap of idleness; and we think that because God doth all in framing us for the new life, we must do nothing. The Spirit of God reasoneth otherwise: Phil. ii. 12, 13, ‘Work out your salvation with 396fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of his own good pleasure.’ This principle can neither be a ground of looseness nor laziness. You are under an obligation both to return to God, and to use the means whereby you may return. Your impotency doth not dissolve your obligation. A drunken servant is a servant, and bound to do his work; his master loseth not his right by his default. An insolvent debtor is a debtor, and if he cannot pay all, he is bound to pay as much as he can. Besides, you are creatures in misery; if you be sensible of it, your interest will teach you to do what you can to come out of it; and God’s doing all is an engagement to wait upon him in the use of means, that we may meet with God in his way, and he may meet with us in our way. I say, in his way; for God hath appointed certain duties to convey and apply this grace. Now we are to lie at the pool till the waters be stirred, to continue our attendance till God giveth grace, Mark iv. 24. And I say, that God may meet with us in our way; for God influenceth all things according to their natural inclination. God, that enlighteneth the world by and with the sun, burneth with fire, reasoneth with man, acteth necessarily with necessary causes, and freely with free causes,—he doth not oppress the liberty of the new creature, but preserveth the nature and interest of his own workmanship; draweth men ‘with the cords of a man,’ Hosea xi. 4. He propoundeth reasons and motives, which we must consider, and so betake ourselves to a godly course. The object of regeneration is a reasonable creature, upon whom God worketh, not as on a stock or stone, but maketh use of the faculties which we have, showing us our lost estate, and the possibility of salvation by Christ, sweetly inviting us to accept of this grace, that he may pardon our sins, sanctify and heal our natures, and lead us in a way of holiness unto eternal life. Now these means we are to attend upon; and it is some advantage when you own your duty, and are sensible of a necessity of changing your estate, who would otherwise be altogether careless and mindless of such a thing. But when you look on it as a duty, that must be speedily and earnestly gone about if you mean to be saved, you are in a fair way of cure. By exhortation we demand God’s right, and make the creature sensible of his own obligation, that he may go about this work as well as he can, at least that he may acknowledge the debt, confess his impotency, and beg grace. Besides, there are some things to be done before this renovation in order thereunto, as wood is dried before it is kindled. There are some preparations before conversion, and we are to be active about them. As, for instance, that we should rouse up ourselves, and consider our case: Ps. xxii. 27, ‘All the ends of the earth shall remember, and turn unto the Lord;’ Ps. cxix. 59, ‘I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.’ Man is very inconsiderate; his soul is asleep till consideration awaken it again. We are to search and try our estate whether it be good or bad, Lam. iii. 40. Let us ‘search and try our ways, and turn unto the Lord.’ We are to observe God’s rebukes: Prov. i. 23, ‘Turn ye at my reproof;’ to set ourselves to seek after God in the best fashion we can: Hosea v. 4, ‘They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God,’ that is, think of recovering themselves and bending their course to him. Chiefly we are to take heed that we 397do not hinder God’s work, and obstruct our own mercies: Prov. i. 25, ‘They set at nought my counsel, and would none of my reproof.’ Sometimes conscience is startled, either as being excited by the word, Acts xxiv. 25, or some notable affliction and strait, Gen. xlii. 21; by one means or another the waters are stirred, great helps are vouchsafed to us; observe these seasons. However, check despair. He that did turn water into wine, can turn sinners into saints, lions into lambs; he hath not excluded you from his grace, therefore do not exclude yourselves. When did he ever forsake the anxious and waiting souls that would not give over seeking till they did obtain the sanctifying Spirit?
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