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Any thing of this is the very joy of his heart: vanity, amusement, wealth, company, and mirth, find him an obedient and most willing servant, ever prepared to wait upon them with a ready and glad attendance. But to do good, to pray, to hear, to speak of a serious subject; O what a sluggard he is! How dull the employment! how burdensome the task! how tedious the time! Truly he is out of his element; he likes it not; "his soul loatheth this heavenly food."
You may see now yet more evidently, what I mean by the readiness of the new creature. It is a walking in duty, just as the careless doth in sin; exactly such a forwardness in heavenly things, as he hath in earthly; expressly such a backwardness to sin and temptation, as he hath to holiness and the means of grace. It is not barely a saving a man's self from gross iniquity (which is the way of the formalist), but bearing a resolute course against all sin; not only (with the formal) a show of welldoing, but an address, diligence, and heartiness to the heavenly work.
And yet, to complete the whole of this general character, there must be,
Fourthly, A hunger after growth in this heavenly business. I have intimated what this new work is, and hope you understand it to be this: a contention with the power of sin in us; that is, with our lusts or evil dispositions, which are in us by corrupt nature, and have grown strong by custom and compliance; and a like contention also with every fruit of this corruption in our lives, be it great or little.
This fight with sin is one part of the work. And the other is, the confirming those new dispositions or tempers which are infused into us by the grace of Christ, when by faith we are united to him; and which fail not to show themselves in all holy conversation, in the outward carriage. These dispositions are, in scripture language, called the new heart, or spirit, as being the opposites to the natural frame and disposition of our souls. Now, to grow in this work of mortifying sin, and confirming the power of godliness in the soul, he who is the new creature finds an eager, ceaseless desire. This our Lord himself calls hungering and thirsting; by which he gives us to understand, that as much as the person who is hungry or thirsty longs after and craves the refreshments of meat and drink, even so doth the true Christian desire freedom from sin, and the more perfect renewal of his heart.
Now, if you are the new creature, you are no stranger to this holy and spiritual hunger and thirst; you are inwardly straitened about your work, till it be finished. Insomuch, that should God give you your heart's desire; should he bid you, as he did Solomon, "Ask what I shall give thee;" your answer would be, without the least delay or hesitation, "Give me, O God, out of thy bountiful goodness, that which I would choose, before the honours of a thousand worlds. Give me a heart free from sin, that I may never more offend thee! liver me from the remainders of corruption that dwell in me; mortify all the pride, worldliness, and lust, which still defile my soul; bring every thought
into subjection; yea, deliver me from the whole body of sin. But especially, O my God, kill and destroy my peculiar corruption, that malicious enemy I carry in my heart, which cruelly enslaves, and still obstinately besets me; consume, and cause it to perish utterly. And, heavenly Father, since thou hast made me bold to speak before thee, I will require at thy hand such a spirit as thou wilt delight in. O fill my heart with love towards thee; with submission, dutifulness, zeal for thy glory, and every other disposition which can render me fit for thy service here, and for thy presence for ever." Say now, doth your heart cry Amen to this petition? If not, you are no new creature. And if you are the new creature, your most fervent, constant request, before the throne of grace, is this very thing; that God, by his grace, will free you more and more from the power of sin, and promote in you the power of godliness, so fitting you continually for his presence and everlasting kingdom. For, you know, God hath bid you ask this, and hath promised to grant it. Most expressly doth he give us confidence, that our requests for the renewing influences of the Spirit shall assuredly be heard, through whose merits we may approach God with boldness: "Your heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask." Do you ask this, therefore, with an unwearied importunity, looking that your suit be granted? You do not indeed hunger and thirst after righteousness," if you do not thus importunately ask it, or are content and satisfied, when you see not that you receive growth
in it. Doth, then, a desire of growth in grace make you diligently to pray? And doth prayer keep up, and improve watchfulness against sin, and a desire to please God, upon your heart? These are the immediate fruits of prayer; and if this frame of mind grows upon you, you may be sure that the power of godliness is springing up under it. Without such prayer, and seeking such fruits from it, you may not judge that you have the spiritual hunger and thirst, nor, consequently, are the
But, do you seem to yourself to be well enough already? Are you satisfied with your present measure? Are you in a way wherein you think you need not growth in this new work? And are you without hearty desires of improvement therein? Do months and years pass over you, find and leave you at the same stand in religion, and yet you are well content with yourself? I must be free to assure you, you are quite out of the way. You never humbly and heartily entered upon the Christian business; or, if you did seemingly run a little, you have been hindered; you have this day no life in you; like a dead man, you have lost your appetite; and, whatever you may seem, you are but a formal professor. For see you not, that a constant, earnest desire and endeavour to carry onward the work, the whole work of righteousness; see you not, that such a desire and endeavour to get above every sin, and to grow in every grace, is as evidently the effect of a truly humbled, renewed, and heavenly mind, as a desire and endeavour to amass wealth, is the
effect of covetousness? He is not covetous, who, content with what he hath, desires not, nor labours to be rich; nor are you a new creature, who, resting upon the present stock of holiness, conceive you have ́attained, and are not solicitous for more.
But, observe now the hunger of the careless sinner; and surely the desire of the formalist is like his! He hungers not for righteousness, but for indulgence, wealth, honour; all his appetite is for some earthly thing. And the more he enjoys it, the keener he grows upon it, still running farther from God, daily filling up the measure of his iniquities, and heating the furnace of God's wrath yet hotter against him.
What hath been said, may serve, it is hoped, to give some general notion of the new creature's character; and this with the more distinction and usefulness, as it hath been set in opposition to the character of the careless sinner, and separated and distinguished from the false show of the formalist.
And for the present, we will part with this short observation, that these two characters (for in reality they are no more,) have a directly different tendency. The one of them leads upward, every thing draws towards heaven in that, all the views and pursuits centre, and in that it will gloriously issue. The other is altogether earthly, and bent downwards. And where will that end? O, ye too easy wretches, would God ye might lay it to heart! If God be true, it will assuredly end in eternal damnation !