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EVIDENCES OF REGENERATION.
conceptions I form in regard to the law of God? Do I consider it improperly strict, if not unjust, in requiring absolute perfection, and in pronouncing the sentence of condemnation against those who are the subjects of a single unhallowed desire? Or, am I ready to acknowledge that the law of God is exactly what it should be? that it ought to extend to the thoughts and intents of the heart? That the evil of sin is so tremendously, so infinitely great, that the justice of God absolutely requires that the least violation of its precepts should expose the transgressor to everlasting destruction? What, again, are my views of myself? Do I fancy that I am rich, and increased in goods? Or, if disposed to admit that there is some defect in my moral constitution, am I reluctant to believe that it has become totally deranged? Do I hesitate to receive the testimony of God concerning the heart of man by nature, that it is evil, only evil, and that continually? Or, do I unfeignedly believe that "the carnal mind is enmity against God"-that the whole of the human family are by nature earthly, sensual, and devilish? What, further, are my views of the way of salvation? Do I indulge the hope of being able to atone for my own sins?—or, do I see that the free and sovereign grace of God must be the source of all my hopes of mercy?—that transgression has occasioned so wide, and vast, and apparently so incurable a breach between man and his Maker, that even the goodness of God, unbounded and infinite as it is, can find no honourable channel through which it may flow to men, but the bitter agonies and death of his Son? And am I actually building upon this atonement as the exclusive ground of a sinner's confidence before God?
Thirdly, "Have the views I have been brought to entertain of the things of the Spirit of God, had the effect of drawing out my affections towards them, with a supreme degree of attachment? Have I been made to love all things that bear a character of moral excellence, and on account of the moral excellence by which they are adorned? What is the state of my heart towards God? Is he the object of my habitual thoughts, and of my supreme regard? Do I constantly meditate upon his character, perfections, and government? Do I
THE GOSPEL ENLIGHTENS THE MIND.
hibited in the gospel, there must be an apprehension of that excellence and glory in their minds. The great facts of the gospel, in their implication, and bearing, and importance, must be understood; and the infinitely important subjects concerning which revelation treats, must appear to them in an aspect similar to that which they assume to the holy intellect of God himself. How otherwise could their conceptions of Divine truth be correct? This perception of the excellence and glory of the things of the Spirit of God, constitutes mainly, if not exclusively, that illumination of the understanding in which regeneration partly consists. It is possible for an unconverted man to attain to a correct knowledge of the theory of the gospel, to be able to give an accurate account of the doctrine of Scripture in reference to the Divine character,— the condition of man as a sinner against God, and the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. He may assent to the great facts of the gospel. He may even believe them, as we have formerly stated, in the sense which he attaches to them; but he does not see them in their moral importance and glory. He understands that God is holy and just, as well as good; but he perceives nothing attractive in this view of the Divine character. He understands that mankind can only be saved by faith in Christ, but there is, in his apprehension, nothing glorious in this plan of salvation. He is like a man destitute of taste for the beauties of nature. The same objects meet his view by which others are enraptured and entranced; but they present not the same appearance to him, as to them, and hence produce no effect upon him. On the contrary, an individual into whose heart God hath shined, has had a full discovery of the depravity of his nature; he has an impressive view of the awful evil of sin; he perceives a glory surrounding the character of Jehovah, of which he had formerly no conception; and he is free and loud in his acknowledgments, that so vast and unbounded was the expenditure of wisdom, and of love, in the plan of salvation through the Redeemer, that eternity itself will not be more than adequate to express our gratitude to him, from whose gracious heart it emanated; and by whose omnipotent arm it was accomplished.
THE GOSPEL PURIFIES THE AFFECTIONS.
In describing, in detail, the nature of that moral change which is effected upon man by the gospel of Christ, we proceed to observe,
2nd, That the gospel purifies the affections, as well as enlightens the understanding, so that love to whatever is morally excellent, constitutes another branch of regeneration.
Such is the nature of our mental constitution that we cannot love what does not appear excellent, nor fail to love that which does so appear. It is necessary to express ourselves guardedly here; because, though an object should possess unrivalled attractions, if we do not see them, or if they do not appear attractions to us, we do not love it. And, on the contrary, though an object should possess no intrinsic value whatever, though it should even be utterly unworthy of the esteem of a rational and an immortal creature, yet if our imaginations array it in charms which do not belong to it, we invariably regard it with love. In consequence of the entire perversion of his moral taste, degraded pleasures appear excellent to the sinner; holiness, on the contrary, unattractive and repulsive. He accordingly loves the former, and hates the latter. But when God, by the power of his Spirit, removes the veil from his heart,-when he gives him a discovery of the excellence, importance, and glory of the things of the Spirit of God; when he leads him, by an influence which we cannot explain, to take that view of their nature and superlative value, which is presented in his blessed word,—then will the affections of this individual flow to them as naturally, and necessarily, as they receded from them before. The purification of the affections, then, not only cannot take place without the illumination of the understanding, which is perfectly self-evident to those who know any thing of the constitution of the human mind, but it must necessarily result from that illumination. No sooner is an individual brought to see the extent and spirituality of the Divine law, and to feel that he stands before it in the character of a transgressor, than he prostrates himself in the dust of abasement before Jehovah. No sooner is he made to discover the infinite evil of sin, than he begins to hate it with a perfect hatred; to behold the glory
EVIDENCES OF REGENERATION.
love to contemplate his works, especially his work of works, the work of redemption, tracing it from the moment when the first promise of salvation beamed upon man, till the period of its full accomplishment, as the Saviour hung upon the cross? And then, borne forwards by faith and hope, do I anticipate the arrival of the time when all its blessings will be unveiled unto my view in the mansions above? With regard to God, can I adopt the language of the Psalmist, "Whom have I in heaven, but thee?" &c. Is He the sweet resting-place-the home of my affections, to whom, though they should wander for a season, they invariably return, while the language of my soul is, Here will I stay, and this shall be my rest for ever? What, again, is the state of my heart towards the Lord Jesus Christ? Is he, in my estimation, "fairer than the children of men," "the chiefest among ten thousand," "yea, the altogether lovely?" Do I conceive of every blessing as the effect of his mediation, and while partaking of the gifts, does my soul rise in adoring gratitude to him through whose gracious hands they have been communicated? What, further, is the state of my heart towards that "one family of which God is the Father, and Jesus Christ the elder brother?" Do I love its members "with a pure heart fervently?" Do I love them because they bear the image of Christ, and do I love them "not in word only, but in deed and truth?" What is the state of my heart towards the word of God? Is it more precious to me than gold of Ophir? Can I say, with David, "O how love I thy law; it is my meditation all the day?" Do I love it for the discoveries it gives of the Divine character and law, of the plan of mercy through Jesus Christ, and of the boundless and everlasting blessings which flow to the world in consequence of his mission, and death? And, consequently, is my habitual perusal of it not regarded as a task, but engaged in with feelings more allied to those of the miser when surveying his secret hoard of gold, or of the half-starved wretch who is sent to a plentiful table? What, finally, is the state of my heart in reference to the worship, and ordinances of God? Can I say, with the Psalmist, "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell
EVIDENCES OF REGENERATION.
in the house of the Lord for ever?" "How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord God of Hosts, my soul longeth for thy courts."
Fourthly, "Has my will been brought into a state of habitual subjection to the Divine will? Do I fret, and murmur, at the allotments of Divine Providence concerning me, saying, 'Why were not wealth, and honour, and affluence, and splendour, given to me, as well as to others, who certainly deserve them no better?' Or, have I so deep a consciousness of my own unworthiness of the least of all God's mercies, and so perfect a conviction of his unerring wisdom, and unspeakable goodness, that I am sensible I ought to be content; and that it is my earnest desire, and habitually successful endeavour, "in whatever state I am, therewith to be content?" Do I habitually rebel against God, when he lays his hand upon me -stretches me upon the bed of affliction-touches me in some tender point-withers some shade-giving gourd? Ah! these are the seasons which, like the blasts of the assayer's furnace, try the character of what sort it is. At periods like these am I like a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke, or do I habitually walk quietly, and resignedly, under the burden which the hand of God lays upon me?
Finally, "Am I yielding cheerful, and implicit, and habitual obedience to the commands of God? Let me not forget that any other evidence I may conceive myself to possess that I am born again, must be insufficient, if this evidence be wanting. "Show me," said the apostle James, "thy faith without thy works;"" perform," as though he had said, "the impossible task, if you can;"" and I will show thee my faith, by my works." "By their fruits," said one who is greater than James, "shall ye know them." "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit."
Again, then, let the reader inquire, "Is the obedience I yield to the commands of God, a cheerful obedience? Is it the obedience of the heart? Does it spring from a principle of love? Is it the offspring of those grateful, and devout affections, which render duty a delight?