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2dly. These observations also teach us the necessity, as well as usefulness, of that preaching, which explains, and enforces, the nature of the Law.
It is not unfrequent to hear both preachers themselves, and many other persons, condemn the preaching of the Law. These per sons dwell much on the endearing benevolence of the Gospel, the riches of the Divine Goodness displayed in it, and the importance, and wisdom, of winning sinners to embrace it. On the other hand, they censure with no small severity the preaching of the law, and those who, in this manner, attempt to alarm sinners concerning their moral condition. If the things, which have been said in this discourse, are admitted to be just; it must also be admitted, that these persons know very litile of the important subjects, which they handle in this free and unhappy manner. They must plainly be ignorant of the nature both of the Law and the Gospel; of the sinner's danger and guilt; the means of his deliverance; the nature of both conviction and conversion; the use of convictions to wards conversion; and the use of the Law in exciting them.
It has, I trust, been clearly shown, that the Law is absolutely necessary to rouse the sinner from his sleep of death, to point out to him his danger, and to induce him to seek for relief.' To the necessity of the Law for this purpose, the necessity of preaching it, is exactly proportioned. Nothing else will accomplish the end. So long as this is kept out of view, other things will only sooth the sinner. If he views God as merciful without any regard to his justice, as forgiving without solid reasons : without an atonement, and without the application of that atonement to himself; he will be fearfully deceived; and trust in that mercy, on terms, and with views, agrecably to which it can never be exercised.
This method of decrying the divine Law, and the preaching of it, is a dangerous method of flattering sinners to destruction, and of sewing pillows under all arm-holes.
Christ, the Prophets, and the Apostles, acted in a very different manner. They stung sinners to the quick; pricked them to the heart with strong, solemn, and affecting representations of their guilt, their danger, and their approaching damnation ; roused them from their slumbers; and forced them to listen, feel, and act.
The nature of the case shows the reasonableness, and excellency, of their example, and the propriety and wisdom of following it: while, at the same time, it holds out the folly of those who disuse, as well as those who censure, preaching of ihis nature. We need not be at all afraid, lest sinners in modern times should be more easily affected, than they were in ancient times. Their hearts are by no means peculiarly tender; but, like the hearts of those who lived in former days, resemble the rock, and need both the fire and the hammer to break them in pieces.
Some persons are probably afraid to preach in this manner, lest they should give pain to their hearers, and hazard their own popu
larity. These men either destroy, or prevent, much good, by standing in the place of such preachers, as, like Boanerges, would thunder
an alarm in the ears of sleeping guilt, and rouse the torpid soul to a sense of its danger.
3dly. From these observations we also learn the necessity of the Gospel to the accomplishment of this great work.
If the sinner were left wholly to the Law, he would sink, and die: for it gives him neither encouragement nor hope. While the Law is of mighty and indispensable use, to rouse him from his sloth, and awaken him to vigorous exertions for his deliverance; the Gospel is the only foundation of hope, that these exertions will be of any use. Without this hope he would do nothing, but despair. It is indispensable, therefore, that the Gospel should follow the Law in all sound preaching; that, when the sinner is roused to inquire what he shall do to be saved, he may find encouragement in its glorious promises and invitations. In this manner he learns, on the one hand, his ruined condition by nature and by practice, and, on the other, that safe and happy state, into which he may be introduced by the grace of God. Thus the adaptation, and utility, of the whole Word of God, to the purposes designed by it, are strongly manifest; the wisdom of all things contained in it
, as the word of life; their excellency, their glory, and their resemblance to its Author. Thus, also, is it commended to our study, contemplation, wonder, and praise.
REGENERATION.-ITS ATTENDANTS.--GENERALLY CONSIDERED.
EPoesiaNs iv. 22–24.—That ye put off, concerning the former conversation, the
old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righieousness and true holiness.
In the last discourse, I described the situation and conduct, of a Convinced sinner. It is now my intention to exhibit the Conversion of the same sinner to God: or to exhibit what in that discourse I called the attendants of Regeneration.
In the text, connected with the 17th verse, the Ephesians are commanded to put of the old man with his deeds, and to put on the new man; or, in a more strict accordance with the original language, to
the old, and be clothed with the new man. It has been supposed, that the passage contains an allusion to the conduct of the new Converts, at their baptism; who are said at this ordinance to have cast away their old garments, as a symbol of their renunciation of sin, and to have been clothed with new ones, as a token of their assumption of holiness. It has also been supposed, that the Apostle alludes to the custom of Actors, who changed their clothes whenever they changed their characters. The allusion is, however, so natural and familiar, that it seems unnecessary to look far for an explanation.
To put off the old man, and to put on the new man, are, in the text, exhibited as equivalent to being renewed in the spirit of their mind, that is, to being the subjects of Regeneration. This doctrine is still further illustrated in the declarations, that the old man is corrupt, and that the new man is created, after God, in righteousness and true holiness. That to renounce the former of these characters, and to assume the latter, is the same thing with being regenerated, no person, probably, who is acquainted with this subject, will dispute.
Under these two heads, then, I shall now consider the further progress of this Convinced Sinner ; viz.
I. His renunciation of sin ; and, II. His Assumption of holiness, as his future character. As these co-exist in the mind, it will be unnecessary to consider When the convinced sinner has, by a succession of earnest efforts to save himself, proved his utter inability to accomplish this important work; the next natural step, and that, which he then becomes convinced it is absolutely necessary for him to take, is to
cast himself wholly upon God. He sees himself perfectly helpless; and, if left to himself, utterly ruined. In the anguish of mind, produced by this view of his situation, he casts himself at the footstool of Divine Mercy, as a mere suppliant; as devoid of any recommendation to the favour of God; as a ruined, miserable creature; as justly condemned; as justly to be punished; as having no hope, but in mere forgiveness; as desiring salvation of mere grace and sovereign love; as without any power of atoning for his sins, by any thing which he can do; as capable of being saved, only on account of the atonement of Christ; and as incapable of renewing himself, or of being renewed, but by the power of the Holy Ghost. All these things are felt, and not merely understood; not merely considered as being proved, or capable of proof, by sound argument. The several trials, which the mind has made, have of themselves become proofs of the highest kind, to which it now opposes neither objection nor doubt. Its views have been too clear to be denied, or questioned ; and the frame of the mind, its anxiety and distress, renders it even impatient of the suggestion of uncertainty.
Self-righteousness is, therefore, now relinquished. The pride of saving himself, either wbolly or partially, is now given up; and the sinner is humbly, and easily, satisfied to be saved by Christ. To his alonement, to his infinite compassion, he looks for the aid, which, though felt before to be unnecessary, he now regards as absolutely and infinitely necessary to prevent him from being lost.
When the sinner has come to this state of views and disposition, God in his infinite mercy usually, perhaps always, communicates to him the new heart, the right spirit, so often mentioned in the Scriptures.
It will here be useful, and probably necessary, to guard the minds of those 'who hear me against a common and very natural error concerning this important subject.
It has often been supposed, that in some part, or in the whole, of that process of the mind, which has been here described, there is something done, of a meritorious nature ; something so pleasing to God, that on account of it he bestows this incomprehensible blessing. In my own view, this opinion is wholly unscriptural, and altogether dangerous. If God gives the virtuous disposition intended, then it did not exist in the mind before it was thus given : and, as this disposition is the only source of virtuous action in the mind; it is perfectly clear, that there can be no such action before it is communicated. That God does in fact give it by his Spirit has, I trust, been heretofore proved. Antecedently to Regeneration, then, there is no virtuous action in the mind, in the true and Evangelical sense; unless we are to suppose two distinct sources of virtue, and two different kinds of virtuous action.
It will, here, be naturally asked, What, then, is the true nature of this subject? What is the use of Conviction of sin? Why does
God communicate such a disposition to such sinners, as are effectual. ly convinced of their sins, rather than to any others ?
In answer to these reasonable questions I observe, that the use of such conviction is to bring the sinner to a just view of his own condition and character, as a sinner ; of the character of God, as his Sovereign; of the divine law, as the rule of his conduct; of the character of Christ, as his Saviour ; of the absolute necessity of an interest in his redemption for the attainment of salvation; and of the escellency and importance of holiness, in all its branches, as a moral character indispensable to entitle him to the favour and approbation of God. Without these apprehensions it would be very difficult to conceive how a sinner could become the subject of those exercises, which belong to the nature of Conversion to God. For example, how can the sinner, who does not clearly see the evil, odiousness, and malignity of sin, ever be supposed to hate sin, mourn for it, or abstain from it in future periods? How, unless he discern the excellency and obligation of the law, as a rule of duty for himself, can he discern either the guilt of his transgressions, or the necessity and value of his future obedience? How, unless he be fully convinced, of the justice and glory of God in hating, and condemning sin, can he acknowledge God to be a reasonable or righteous Sovereign? And how can he ingenuously, and voluntarily, turn to him at all? Finally; if he do not perceive his own helplessness, and his insufficiency to save himself, how can he betake himself at all to Him for salvation? How, if he does not realize the fitness of Christ to be trusted with his soul, and all its concerns, as able, willing, and faithful, to save to the uttermost, all that will come unto God by him, can he believe on him, or trust in him, for these infinite blessings?
When God bestows the new disposition on the sinner, in the state above described, rather than in his ordinary state, he does this, I apprehend, not because the sinner has merited this blessing, or any other, at his hands; but because he has now become possessed of such a character, and such views, as render the communication of it fit and proper in itself. God never extends mercy to sinners, because of their desert, or worth, but because they need
When he sent his Son into the world, to save the Apostate race of Adam, it was not because these apostates had merited, but because they needed, such kindness at his hands. It was a mere act of grace; or free, sovereign love. The communication of it was not a reward, conferred on worth ; for they plainly had none; but a free gift to mere necessity and distress. Christ came, to seek and to save that which was lost; and to call, not righteous beings, but sinners to repentance. The Father, in the parable, did not admit the Prodigal into his family and favour, on account of any services which he had rendered; for he had rendered none; but on account of the misery and ruin of his Son, pleading strongly with his own compassion. Such I conceive to