« PreviousContinue »
happiness in his holy service: and, I am persuaded that sober reflection will convince any candid inquirer, that the most rational man living is, while unregenerate, as incapable of the pleasures which angels enjoy in heaven, as animals are of sharing the satisfactions of the philosopher. This appears in one remarkable circumstance: when any person renounces all other pursuits for the sake of religion, it is always supposed that he leads a joyless life, and is in danger of becoming melancholy; as if the felicity of "angels, and of the spirits of just "men made perfect," were wholly unsuited to man's nature on earth, and incapable of affording him delight!
The same internal renovation is called "the "circumcision of the heart to love the Lord;" and described under the image of "putting his law in "the heart, and writing it in the inward parts." "For the grace of God, which bringeth salvation, "teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, "and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in "this present world."
This change begins the " renewing in the spirit "of our mind," the "transformation by the renew❝ing of our mind," " the putting off the old man,' and "the putting on the new man:" for these expressions relate to the growth of the new creature, and the removal of every thing that retards it. So that regeneration is the beginning of sanctification, which signifies the making of that person or thing holy, which was before unholy.
We cannot, however, fully explain, or even comprehend, the manner in which the new nature is communicated. In general we may observe that,
as natural life subsists in every part of the animal, so spiritual life pervades all the faculties of the soul. It is light, knowledge, and judgment in the understanding; sensibility in the conscience; purity, spirituality, and fervour in the affections, and submission in the will: and this entire inward revolution produces proportionable effects upon the whole conduct and character of the real Christian. But this will appear more distinctly, while,
III. We consider the effects of the change: “Old things are passed away; behold, all things "are become new."
This language is general, and no exceptions are intimated. He who has thus "passed from death "unto life" will find that his old sentiments and thoughts are vanished. His high opinion of himself, of his abilities, actions, and heart, are no more: he ceases to shine in his own eyes, and gradually discovers that he is "wretched, poor, "miserable, blind, and naked :" he is constrained to renounce all dependence on his wisdom and righteousness; to distrust his own heart as "de"ceitful and desperately wicked ;" and to abhor himself as a guilty polluted criminal. Nor can he ever again recover those lofty thoughts of himself, which once were natural to him.
His hard thoughts of the divine law, as unreasonably strict and severe, are passed away: and he can no longer entertain his former palliating notions concerning the evil of sin. He perceives the commandment to be holy, just, and good; and the transgression of it to be replete with ingratitude, rebellion, and contempt of God. He dares no longer impeach the divine justice and
goodness, in respect of the punishments denounced against sinners: his old thoughts and reasonings on these subjects are gone, and he is astonished at his own presumption, in having formerly indulged them.
His sentiments concerning the happiness to be enjoyed in worldly pleasures, and the gloom and melancholy of a religious life, are wholly changed. He can no longer think of eternity as uncertain or distant and no temptation or discouragement can henceforth prevail with him, to give up his hope of everlasting life, to rest satisfied with a portion in this world, or to risk the tremendous consequences. "He looks not at the things which "are seen, but at the things which are not seen: "for the things which are seen are temporal, but "the things which are not seen are eternal.”
His former thoughts of Christ and his salvation are passed away. He once despised the glorious Redeemer in his heart; perhaps he deemed those to be hypocrites or enthusiasts, who spoke in animated language of his love and preciousness: but these imaginations are no more; he is now ready to exclaim, "How great is his goodness! how "great is his beauty!" He "counts all but loss " for Christ," and fears exceedingly coming short of his salvation. He cannot think meanly of him, or be indifferent to his favour, cause, or glory; yet he continues dissatisfied with the degree of his admiring love and gratitude to his great benefactor.
His former opinions concerning the wise and happy among the sons of men are irrecoverably gone. He pities the very persons, whom he once
admired or envied; and he counts the despised and afflicted disciples of Christ "the excellent of "the earth, in whom is all his delight." He longs to share their privileges and felicity: nor could he recover his former aversion to them, even if he supposed that he should be for ever excluded from their company. «
When any one is "in Christ a new creature," his old pursuits and pleasures also pass away.—As the man of business has done with the pastimes of childhood, so the believer ceases to relish those scenes of dissipated or sensual indulgence, which once were his element. He finds himself uneasy, when they come in his way: not only deeming them a criminal waste of time and money, and a wilful hindrance to serious reflection; but feeling them to be a chasm in his enjoyment, and an interruption to his comfort in communion with God, and in the company of his servants.
His conduct is still more decided in things directly evil. "How shall he that is dead to sin live any longer therein ?" He hates and dreads sin as his worst enemy: "His seed remaineth in him, "that he cannot sin, because he is born of God." He does not indeed forsake his lawful employments, but he gradually learns to follow them from new motives, and in a new manner; not from covetousness or on worldly principles, but as his duty, from love to God and man, and according to the precepts of the sacred scriptures.
It will readily be perceived, that the old companions of such a man will pass away. Even when relative duties and other causes render some intercourse with ungodly persons unavoidable, it will
become less cordial and intimate. When such opposite characters meet, one of them must be out of his element; all those associates therefore of the new convert's former years, who have no interest in continuing the acquaintance, will drop off, as leaves from the trees in autumn: and he will find that the society of his most agreeable old companions is become irksome; for they seem far more profane and frivolous than they used to be.
Time would fail, should we particularly consider how the new convert's former discourse is passed away: and how his idle, slanderous, profane, or perhaps polluting, words are exchanged for such as are pure, peaceable, and edifying. And it is almost needless to state, that his old course of behaviour also is finally renounced. The particulars that have been mentioned may serve for a specimen and it should be remembered that, in every respect in which "old things pass away, all things "become new," the apostle, by inserting the word "behold," hath emphatically demanded our attention to this circumstance.
This too might be illustrated by considering the various operations of the believer's mind, and the objects of his affections. He hopes and fears, grieves and rejoices, desires and hates, in a new manner; and his passions have respect to new objects. He fears the wrath and frown of God; he hopes for glory and immortality; he mourns for his own sins, and for the miseries of other men ; he rejoices in God, "hungers and thirsts after " righteousness," and "abhors that which is evil."
Eph. iv. 29; v. 4. Col. iv. 6. James i. 26. iii.