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May God be with us herein, both one and another, that neither our preaching, nor your faith, may be found vain!
That you may enter with me the more readily into this description, I shall lay before you the plan upon which I intend to proceed, and the particular views I am to have before me, whilst I shall be describing the character of the new creature.
As to the plan, it is this:
First, To let you into the nature of the character, from a general account of it; and then,
Secondly, To go through a survey of this character, in the several branches of it; and this, by laying open his soul to you, in an illustration of the apprehensions of his understanding, the choice of his will, and the exercise of his affections.
Thirdly, I will represent to you the expressions and workings of such a renewed soul, in his thoughts, words, and actions, whether they regard what he doth not do, or what he doth.
As to the views I have with me, they are these: principally, to give an account of the new creature; secondarily, to show the opposition there is between this character, and that of the careless sinner; collaterally, to undeceive the formal professor. In pursuit of which scheme, I shall make it my business, as I go along describing the new creature, to set the natural man over against it; and also carefully to mark the difference, wherever the formal professor, who is indeed altogether unrenewed, (as he will find by the two characters to be drawn up of the new man and the old,) seems to carry a resem
blance of the new creature. And in all this, my design is to be as practical as possible; and therefore I purpose to lead you into all these points, in a way of inquiry; wishing, that while you are made to see what the new creature is, you may take the matter to yourself, and examine if you have, or have not a title to that character.
The first thing I have to do is, to let you into the nature of the new creature's character, from a general account of it.
And here I will represent him to you, as one whose eyes are opened to a right sense of himself and all things, or who is humble; whose main business in life is the care of his soul; who is ready to this spiritual work; and who hungers for growth in it.
1. His eyes are opened to a right sense of himself and all things, or, he is humble. It is only a just estimation of ourselves, and of the other things with which we are concerned, that can show us our friends and our enemies, the path we must take and that we must avoid, our interests and our dangers. This is what leads the way with the new creature, putting every thing upon its right footing, and keeping a man's face directly set towards God; and therefore I place this just estimation of things, this humility, in the front of the new creature's walk. So our Lord places it, you know, as the introductory grace, in his sermon upon the mount. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Now by this I mean, not that humiliation or
heart-breaking concern, which attends the first awakenings out of a state of sin, brings the sinner to the foot of the cross for pardon, grace, and acceptance, and so lays the foundation of the Christian building; but I am supposing the foundation already laid, and therefore intend here no more than humility, the Christian grace, which alone keeps up, as well as raises, this spiritual house. And this I have called a just sense and estimation of all things.
I shall now show you more particularly, what I mean by it. More fully, therefore :
Humility hath placed the man in his right station in the order of beings, causing him to regard himself as a creature of God's power and goodness, and a dependant upon his sovereign will and government; and, in this connexion, hath taught him to know, that by his sins, the perverse rebellion of his heart, and the wanton licentiousness of his life, he hath darkened God's glory, disturbed his government, abused his goodness, wearied his patience, and provoked his justice to a deserved sentence of exclusion from rest and happiness. But then it hath disposed him to see withal, that God's mercy is infinite, that Jesus, the Son of God, is the messenger of unbounded peace and love, and, leaning upon that merciful loving-kindness, he hath learned to grieve for those transgressions of his, which made such a contrivance of suffering goodness needful, and to apply thereto with a heart full of selfloathing sorrow. He hath learned to see himself "less than the least of all God's mercies;" and there
fore he is in a way, wherein he receives the very least blessing with thankfulness and acknowledgment, and parts with it again, when God sees fit, without murmuring; a way wherein he quietly bears the visitations of God's hand, and patiently waits for the gifts of providence and grace. Whatever he hath of endowment, wealth, or influence, he considers it is a trust, to be used for the interests of God, and the welfare of man. Of a lowly mind, he is apt to esteem others better than himself. He feels vanity and insufficiency in every earthly thing, but knows, that there is an abundance of substantial bliss, which he cannot now comprehend, in the world which shall be. In his passage through life to glory, he finds himself sadly beset with wakeful and mighty adversaries without, and continually in danger of being betrayed by a treacherous heart within; he perceives himself without all skill to observe, and strength to oppose, the one and the other; and experience hath told him, that he must be overpowered unless he be divinely supported. In a word, he finds himself a sinful creature, (and none he finds worse than himself,) a poor helpless creature cast upon mercy, and whose main business is, by God's help, to get out of sin, and above this world, and to work out salvation, the eternal state of holiness and happiness.
This is what I mean by humility. This is seeing with clear eyes, and making a right estimation and judgment of all things. And even thus the new creature thinks and determines of himself. He regards himself as a sinner deserving death, whom
mercy only suffers to live and hope. He regards himself as a creature subject to God's government, and as a sinner, in need of, and liable to, his corrections. With all obedience, he would submit to God's rule; with all patience and thankfulness, he would endure his chastisements. All that he hath and is, he regards as God's property, and to be employed to his glory: he regards heaven as a treasure indeed; the delights of time, as a toy; and the devil, the world, and the flesh, as his adversaries, opposing his entrance into life. He walks forward, impressed with a needful fear, in circumstances of so much hazard, and so much importance, as he plainly sees his are, while in the body.-If you can say now, "This is the sight and sense I have of myself, and of the things present and eternal," I may not withhold from you the truth and the blessedness of your state; you are assuredly a new creature. This I shall quickly help you to prove, if you do, upon sure grounds, apply this humility to yourself, when I shall come to speak of the remaining parts of this general description.
The careless sinner is the very contrary of all this; and, I fear, a character too frequently to be met with. He hath his eyes sealed up, and his heart hardened, to all spiritual and eternal things. He may know, that God made him; but he lives entirely at his own will and pleasure. He hath not the least thought of the dishonour he is doing to his Maker; and very little reflection he makes, of the danger himself is in, and of the wrath which hangs over him. He is more insensible to God's good