Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

Christ and him.crucified, that whether they live or die they may be the Lord's? If this is the case; you have juft ground to fear that you are of that unhappy number who “ favor not the things that be of God, but the things that “ be of man."

3. Another excellent evidence of regeneration is, the moderation of our attachment to worldly enjoyments in general, and habitual submission to the will of God. So foon as this change takes place, it will immediately and certainly abate the measure of our attachment to all earthly things. Formerly they were the all of the foul, its portion and its reft ; but now a clear discovery being made of greater and better bleffings, they must fall back into the second place. There is a wonderful difference between the rate and value of present poffeslions of any kind, in the eye of him who lives under the impressions of eternity, and of him who believes it but uncertainly, who understands it very imperfectly, and who thinks of it as seldom as confcience will give him leave. It must be confessed we are all apt to be immoderate in our attachment to outward blessings ; this is the effect and evidence of the weakness of our faith : but, fo far as faith is in exercise, it must mortify carnal affection. There is no way in which an object appears so little, as when it is contrasted with one infinitely greater, which is plainly the cale here. The truth is, time and eternity, things temporal and things spiritual, are the opposite and rival objects of human attention and esteem. It is impossible that one of them can be exalted, or obtain influence in any heart, without a proportional depression of the other. They are, also, as they severally prevail, the marks to distinguish those who are, and those who are not, brought again from the dead. For as the apostle says, “To be carnally mind. " ed is death, but to be fpiritually minded is life and " peace.”*

Further, it is not only in abating the measure of our attachment to worldly things that religion shews itself, and the change is discovered, but in the use and applica.

* Rom. viii. 6.

tion of them. The real Christian's powers and faculties, possessions and influence, are consecrated to God. His abilities are laid out for the glory of God. He no more considers them as a mean of excelling others, and getting to himself a name, but of doing good. He finds it his highest pleasure to serve God with his talents; he thinks it his duty to plead for him in his conversation, to honor him with his substance, to enforce and ratify the divine laws by his authority and example.

The same thing shews plainly why a Christian mult manifest his new nature by submission to the divine will. Does he receive his mercies from God ? Does he love thein less than God? Does he esteem it his duty to use them in his lervice? And can he possibly refuse to resign them to his pleasure ? I am sensible that resignation to the will of God, absolute and unconditional, is a very difficult duty, but it is what every believer habitually studies to attain. He chides his remaining impatience and complaints, grieves at the continuing struggles of his imperfectly renewed will, and is sensible that in this the fuperiority of his affection to God above the creature ought to appear. Unrenewed persons, when their earthly hopes are disappointed, immediately renew the pursuit ; they only change the object to one more within their reach, or they alter their measures, and endeavor to amend the scheme; but real Christians, receiving a conviction of the vanity of all created things, seek their refuge and consolation in the fulness and all-sufficiency of God.

SE C T. IV.

A more particular enquiry into what properly constitutes the

sincerity of the change.

[ocr errors]

THUS I have given a succinct view of the most re.

markable effects and visible evidences of regenera. tion. I cannot, however, satisfy myself with this, be. · cause I am persuaded the great question is, how far they ought to go, ad to what measure of strength and uniformi. ty they ought to arrive. There are not a few who may,

[ocr errors]

in a certain degree, sincerely think themselves possessed of most or all the dispositions mentioned above, whose state is nevertheless very much to be fufpected. On the other hand, perhaps, some of the humblest, that is to say, the very best, may be in much fear concerning themselves, because they do not perceive either that vigor or steadiness in their holy dispositions which they greatly desire and are fensible they ought to attain. Besides, what hath been hitherto said is only general, viz. that those who are born again will have new apprehensions of things, will be hunible, mortified to the world, and submissive to the will of God. In this way it will be most applicable to, or at least most sensible in those, who had once gone great lengths in profanity, and were, by the almighty and lovereign grace of God, snatched as “ brands from the burning." The opposition between their new and old characters is ordinarily so great, that it will not admit of any doubt. To some others it may be necessary to make a more strict and particular enquiry into the nature of sincerity, and what is the full and proper evidence of the reality of the change..

That the reader may form as clear and distinct concep. tions on this subject as poslible, he may be pleased to recollect what was observed above, That perfect holiness consists in having the heart wholly posseft by the love of God, without the mixture of any inferior or baser passion; and that regeneration consists in a supreme desire to glorify God, and a preference of his favor to every other enjoyment. Now what chiefly occasions difficulty in difcerning the reality of this change is, that there is much unsubdued fin remaining in the children of God, and that there are many counterfeit graces, or appearances of religion, in those who are, notwithstanding, in the “ gall of “ bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.”

That there is a great degree of unmortified corruption still remaining in the saints of God, and that not so much as one is wholly free from it, is apparent from too many melancholy proofs. It appears from the pathetic complaint of the apostle Paul, formerly referred to, of the law in his members warring against the law of God in his mind. It appears, also, from the gross fins into which some eminently holy persons have been suffered occasion. ally to fall, through the strength of temptation, as David's adultery and murder, Solomon's idolatry, the apostle Pe. ter's denial of his master, and several others recorded in fcripture,

On the other hand, there are also counterfeit graces, common or imperfect operations of the Spirit, which do not issue in a real conversion and saving change. This it will be proper to keep in mind, and perhaps, also, to attend a little to the proofs of it both from fcripture and experience. That the word of God has some effect even upon those who continue unrenewed, is plain from many examples recorded in the sacred volume. We read of a Felix trembling at the thoughts of a judgment to come : " And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance and “ judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go " thy way for this time, when I have a convenient season 56 I will call for thee.”* But we are not informed that he ever found that convenient season, or desired to hear any more of such words.

in the parable of the lower we have a character described of those who not only “ heard” the word, but“ received it with joy,” and on whom it had an immediate and visible, though only a temporary effect. “ Some fell upon “ (tony places, where they had not much earth, and forth" with they sprung up, because they had no deepness of “ earth ; and when the sun was up they were scorched, “and, because they had no root, they withered away.t“ He that received the feed into ftony places, the same is “ he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth “it; yet hath he no root in himself, but dureth for a " while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth be“ cause of the word, by and by he is offended.”! We read also of a Herod, who not only heard the word gladly, but did many things." For Herod feared John, know“ing that he was a just man, and an holy, and observed “ him, and when he heard him he did many things, and * Acts xxiv, 25. † Matth. xiii. 5, 6, Ibid. ver. 20, 21.

Vol. I.

Y

• heard him gladly."* Nay, we see even Ahab, the pro. fane prince of Israel, humbling himself, and putting on fackcloth, under the denunciation of divine wrath. Neither have we any reason, from the circumstances of the story, to believe that this was wholly hypocritical, but the coiitrary. “ And it came to pass when Ahab heard these “ words, that he rent his clothes, and put fackcloth on his “ flesh, and fasted, and lay in fackcloth, and went softly.”+ These things, and all others of the fame kind, even in wicked men, are represented as the effect of the operation of the Spirit, in many passages of scripture. I shall only mention one, which is pretty remarkable, and well merits our atten. tion. “For it is impossible for those who were once enlight“ ened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made

partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good “ word of God, and the power of the world to come, if " they should fall away, to renew them again to repen. “ tance, feeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God o afresh, and put him to an open shame.”'I

The same thing indeed appears plainly from the state of the world, and in a particular manner from that variety of partial characters which I have formerly described. There are many things which have a religious appearance, and are taken by the deluded possessor for religion, when at bottom there is no real religion at all ; and “ mene tekel” Mall be written upon them in the day of trial. There is a long gradation of characters between the openly profane finner, with a hardened heart, a feared conscience, and a shameless countenance, on the one hand; and the refined, self-deceiving hypocrite, with his duties and his forms, on the other : between those who are furious, vio. lent, and malignant enemies to religion in profession and practice; and those, who answer discreetly with the young man in the gospel ; and of whom it may be said, as our Saviour says of him, that they " are not far from the king“ dom of God." This shews at once the importance and difficulty of pointing out the great and distinguishing characters of real religion, and shewing how it essentially differs from all counterfeits.

* Mark vi. 20. † 1 Kings xxi. 27. Heb. vi. 4.

« VorigeDoorgaan »