« PreviousContinue »
a's of its resemblance ? If the discoveries which furnish us with the accommodations and conveniences of hu. man life, if the skill of the husbandman, and the wisdom of the mechanic, be in scripture ascribed to his influence; who gives us the genius to live divinely, and to have " our conversation in heaven ?" The ex. pressions “ to be born again;" to be “made a new « creature;" to be “ raised from the dead;" applied to the subjects of divine grace, are allowed to be metaphorical ; but they are designed to convey a truth, and to teach us, not only the greatness of the change, but also the Author. If religion were a: human production, it would wear the resemblance of man; it would not be the reverse of all he now is. After what the scripture hath said respecting the total depravity of human nature, and which by experience and observation we find every day to be true in fact; nothing can be more wonderful than to find any of the children of men possessing true holiness; and the question is, how it came there? It could not spring from themselves, for “who can bring a clean thing « out of an unclean ?" No effect can exceed its cause; and an inadequate cause is no cause. Whence then does it proceed ? “ To the law, and to the testimony." The scripture assures us it is the work of God, and leads us to trace back the grand whole, and the separate parts; the perfection, the progress, the com. mencement of religion in the soul, to a divine agency. “ Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the “ flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” “He " that hath wrought us for the self same thing is God, “who hath also given unto us the earnest of the
“ By grace are ye saved through faith ; “and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; " not of works, lest any man should boast : for we are « his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good “ works, which God hath before ordained that we “ should walk in them."
Nor is this a curious, or useless speculation. The importance of it equals the evidence. To know things in their causes has been deemed the highest kind of knowledge; to know salvation in its source is necessary, First to guide and to encourage the concern of awakened sinners, who are asking, “ Men and breth“ren, what shall we do ?" Such persons will not cheerfully and courageously enter on a course of godliness, without an assurance of effectual aid. Seeing so many difficulties and dangers before them, and feeling their corruption and weakness, after a few unsuccessful struggles, they will sink down in hopeless despair ; unless, with a sense of their own inability, you shew them that grace which is sufficient for them, and meet them in their conviction with the promise, “ Ask, and it shall be given you : seek, and ye shall find; “ knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for if ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your “ children, how much more shall your heavenly Father
give his holy Spirit to them that ask him !" This decides ; this animates. “ The grace of the promise “is adequate to the duty of the command. Does the “ work to which I am called, look fitter for an angel, “than for a man? I have more than an angel's re
sources ; my sufficiency is of God. Without him I “ can do nothing; but through his strengthening of
“ I can do all things." Secondly, The same discovery is necessary to call forth the acknowledgments, and to regulate the praises of those who are sanctified by divine grace. The original cause determines the final end. If their recovery originate from themselves, it may terminate in themselves ; and being the authors of the cure, they may lawfully appropriate the glory arising from it. But the gospel assures us, that God has com. pletely excluded boasting; that he has arranged the whole economy of our salvation, with the express view “that no flesh should glory in his presence.” An experience of divine truth delivers a man from that ignorance and pride, which once led him to think of being his own saviour: he feels that “by the “ God, he is what he is ;" thus he is reduced again to the proper condition of a creature; lives a life of dependence and of praise, and acknowledges his obli. gations to “Him, of whom, and THROUGH whom, “ and to whom are all things.” We have seen the origin of religion, Behold,
II. The disposition which it produces. It is characterized by its uniformity, its novelty, and its sensibility, “I will give them one heart, and I will put a new « spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart
out of their flesh, and I will give them an heart of 66 FLESH,"
First, He promises to give them one heart; and this shews the sameness of religion, as to the leading views, sentiments, and pursuits of christians. Of the converts at Jerusalem it is said, “the multitude of them that believed were of one heart, and of ONE
“ soul.” Feeling the same wants, and attracted to the same source of relief, they assembled and blended to. gether ; they had many hearts before ; they “ fol“ lowed divers lusts and pleasures ;” they “ turned “every man to his own way.” From these various wanderings they are called to enter, and to travel one and the same way. Grace produced a unity, and a unity it always will produce. But a unity of what? Of opinions ? Of forms and ceremonies ? Of dress and phraseology? No: but of something infinitely superior ; a oneness of reliance ; of inclination; of taste; of hopes and fears; of joys and sorrows. Though divided and distinguished from each other by a thousand peculiarities, they all hate sin, they ALL “hunger and “ thirst after righteousness,” they all follow “hard " after God,” they all feel the spiritual life to be a warfare, they all confess themselves to be only “ strangers and pilgrims upon earth.” Thus with cir. cumstantial diversity we have essential identity; the substance as unalterable, as the modes are various; the dress changing with times and places; the figure, the members, the soul, always the same. " For by one
spirit, we are all baptized into one body, whether “ we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; “ and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." He engages also to produce,
Secondly, A NEw spirit: “and I will put a new spirit within you,” not only different from that which still animates others, but distinguished from that which once influenced them; it was not born with them; they were once strangers to it; but designed for a new world, new work, new pleasures, it is necessary
for them to have a new spirit. Elevation will only serve to embarrass and encumber a man, unless he is suited to it. A king may advance a slave to a station of eminence ; but with a change of condition, he cannot give him a change of disposition ; with his new office, he cannot bestow a new spirit. But in this manner, the Lord qualifies his people for their situation and engagements; and thus they are at home in them; there is a suitableness productive of case and enjoyment. This is the peculiar glory of the gospel. Observe all false religions; they take man as he is ; they accommodate themselves to his errors and his passions; they leave him essentially the same. THEY follow the man, they are formed after his likeness ; whereas here the Man changes; he is modelled after the image of religion. The gospel, instead of flattering, tells him that nothing is to be done while he remains as he now is; that in his present state, he is incapable of performing its duties, and of relishing its joys; that he must be transformed; or he “ cannot "enter into the kingdom of God," and what it in.. dispensably requires, it provides for and secures; hence all is order and harmony. For every thing in the sublime dispensation of the gospel, and the constitution of the christian church is new; we have “a new cove. “ nant;" we have a “NEW Jerusalem, which is the “ mother of us all :” “we approach God by a New “ and a living way :" we sing “a new song: " we are called by “a new name :" “ according to his promise, "we look for new heavens, and a new earth, where. “ in dwelleth righteousness ;” “He that sitteth up" on the throne, saith, behold I create all things