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Of the Character of the Unregenerate.
Eph. ii. 1, 2. And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time pust ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.
AMONG all the various trusts which men can repose in each
other, hardly any appears to me more solemn and tremendous, than the direction of their sacred time, and especially of those hours which they spend in the exercise of public devotion. These seasons take up so small a part of our lives, when compared with that which the labours and recreations of them demand; and so much depends upon their being managed aright; that we, who are called to assist you in the employment and improvement of them, can hardly be too solicitous, that we discharge the trust, in a manner which we may answer to God and to you. If this thought dwell upon the mind with due weight, it will have some sensible influence upon our discourses to you, as well as on the strain of those addresses which we present to the throne of grace in your name, and on your account. We shall not be over anxious about the order of words, the elegance of expression, or the little graces of composition or delivery; but shall study to speak on the most important subjects, and to handle them with such gravity and seriousness, with such solemnity and spirit, as may, through the divine blessing, be most likely to penetrate the hearts of our hearers, to awaken those that are entirely unconcerned about religion, and to animate and assist those, who, being already acquainted with it, desire to make continual advances, which will be the case of every truly good man.
It is my carnest prayer for myself, and for my brethren in the ministry of all denominations, that we may, in this respect, approve our wisdom and integrity to God, and Commend our
selves to the consciences of all men. It is our charge, as we shall answer it another day to The God of the spirits of all flesh, to use our most prudent and zealous endeavours, to make men truly wise and good, virtuous and happy: But to this purpose, it is by no means sufficient to content ourselves, merely with attempting to reform the immoralities and irregularities of their lives, and to bring them to an external behaviour, decent, honourable, and useful. An undertaking like this, while the inward temper is neglected, even when it may seem most effectual, will be but like painting the face of one who is ready to die, or labouring to repair a ruinous house, by plaistering and adorning its walls, while its foundations are decayed. There is an awful passage in Ezekiel to this purpose, which I hope we shall often recollect 'o to the foolish prophets,-because they have seduced my people, saying, peace, when there was no peace; and 'one built up a wall, and lo, others daubed it with untempered mortur, say unto them that daub it with untempered mortar, that it shall fall:-Thus saith the Lord God, I will even rent it with a stormy wind in my fury; and there shall be an overflowing shower in mine anger, and great hail-stones in my fury to consume it: So will I break down the wall that ye have daubed with untempered mortar, and bring it down to the ground, so that the foundation thereof shall be discovered, and it shall fall, and ye shall be consumed in the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.
If there be any, in one body of christians, or another, that abet men's natural disposition to flatter themselves in a way that is not good, by encouraging them to hope for salvation, because they were regularly baptized in their infancy; because they have diligently attended on public worship, in its established, or its separate forms; or merely because they do no body any harm, but are rather kind and helpful to others; or because their faith is orthodox, their transports of affection warm, or their assurance confident; I pray God to awaken them by the power of his grace, before they are consumed, with their hearers, in the ruins of their deceitful building. Those of you who are my stated hearers can witness for me, that in this respect, I have delivered my own soul. It has been the steady tenor of my doctrine among you, that our hope and confidence must be in Christ, and not in ourselves; and that, if we desire to be interested in the righteousness he has wrought out, and in the blessings he has purchased by his sacred blood, we must be ex
perimentally acquainted with the work of God's renewing grace upon our souls, during the inward distempers of our degenerate hearts, and transforming us into the image of his holiness: This is what we are taught in scripture to call by the name of regeneration; and considering how much the subject is neglected by some, and I fear I may add, misrepresented and disguised by others, I apprehend I shall profitably employ an eveninghour for several succeeding sabbaths, in giving a larger account than I have yet done, of the scripture-doctrine on this important subject, in its various parts. It shall be my care in the series of these discourses, as God shall enable me, to Speak the words of truth and soberness*; and I intreat you to have recourse To the law and to the testimony+, that you may judge of the truth and weight of what I say. I desire not to be regarded any farther, than I produce evidence from reason and scripture: But so far as we are disregarded, while we have the concurrent testimony of both, our hearers must see to it ; and their danger will then be proportionable to the importance of those truths, which their negligence, or their prejudice, engage them either to reject, or to overlook.
The plan on which I intend to proceed in the course of these lectures, is this:
I. I will endeavour to describe the character of those, whom we may properly call persons in an unregenerate state.
II. I will describe the nature of that change, which may properly be called regeneration, or conversion.
III. I will show at large the absolute necessity of this change, and the consequent misery of those that are strangers to it.
IV. I shall endeavour to prove the reality and necessity of the divine influences on the mind, in the production of such a change.
V. I shall describe some of those various methods, by which God is pleased to operate in the production of this holy and important work.
VI. I shall propose some advices to those who are already awakened, as to the method in which they are to seek renewing and converting grace. After which,
VII. I shall conclude these discourses with an address to those who have experienced this happy change, as to the man
ner in which they ought to be affected with such a series of sermons as this, and the improvement they should make of what they hear, and what they have felt, agreeable to it.
I should be peculiarly inexcusable, if I entered upon such a subject, without earnest and importunate prayers to the fountain of light, grace, and holiness, that while you hear of this important doctrine, you may have that experimental knowledge of it, without which such discourses will indeed seem obscure and enthusiastical, according to the degree in which they are rational and spiritual. I shall only add, that these lectures will take their rise from a variety of texts, which I shall not according to my usual method, largely open and dilate upon, but only touch on them as so many mottos to the respective sermons to which they are prefixed.
As I intend not philosophical essays, but plain, practical, and popular addresses, I shall begin,
First, With describing the character of those, whom we may properly call unconverted and unregenerate persons.
It is absolutely necessary that I should do this, that you may respectively know your own personal concern in what is further to be laid before you in the process of these lectures.
Now you have the general character of such, in the words of my text; and a very sad one it is: They are represented, as dead in trespasses and sins, utterly indisposed both for the actions and enjoyments of the spiritual and divine life; as walking according to the course of this world, a sad intimation that it was the state of the generality of mankind; nay, according to the Prince of the power of the air, that impure and wicked Spirit, who works, or exerts his energy, in the children of disobedience, that is, in those who reject and despise the gospel; in which it is implied, and a dreadful implication it is, that the course and conduct of those who reject the gospel, is according to the desire and instigation of the prince of darkness: They are going on as the devil himself would have them, and chuse that path for themselves, which he chuses for them, as leading them to most certain and most aggravated ruin.
And who are these unhappy persons? Surely there must be some of them among us: For who can flatter himself, that in so numerous an assembly, the course of all is different from that of the world; and that all have happily triumphed over the artifices of that accursed spirit, who is, by God's righteous per
state? I shall however think it a very happy point gained, if I could convince any of you, who are justly liable to that conviction, that you are the men; if I could, as it were, render visible to your eyes, those subtil, yet strongly complicated chains, in which Satan is binding you, and by which he is drawing you on to eternal ruin; that you might Recover yourselves out of the snare of the devil, who are led captive by him at his pleasure*.
I am this evening to describe the character of unregenerate men. But I cannot pretend to do it in all the variety of circumstances which may attend it. I shall therefore mention only some particulars which are most important, and which most certainly demonstrate a person to be of that wretched number. There are a great variety of countenances in the human species; yet the principal features in all are the same, though their proportion and lineaments may differ: And I apprehend, the characters which I am now to lay down, will most of them suit every unregenerate person, though they may appear in various persons in different degrees and different instances. I shall chiefly lay down these characters in negatives, as I apprehend it is the safest way and only would observe, that you may easily imagine, that I speak only of the adult; for I would cautiously avoid intangling this discourse, with what relates purely to the case of infants, lest satan should get an advantage over us, and turn that into an occasion to amuse curiosity, which I humbly hope, under the influence of the Spirit of God, will be a means of awakening conviction, and of breaking that delusive peace, in which like the strong man armed he keeps his vassals, till the fatal hour come which is to complete their ruin.
To wave the formality of laboured demonstrations in a case which admits of such easy evidence, I shall go upon this obvious principle in the whole of my reasoning: "That to be regenerate, and to be born of God, are in scripture terms of the same import; and consequently, that whatever temper and disposition is in scripture declared to be inconsistent with the character of a child of God, must necessarily denominate a man an unregenerate person." And one would think this principle could hardly be disputed, since all that allow of regeneration at all, in a christian sense, seem to understand by it that change, whatever it is, by which a person is made a child of God, and by consequence an heir of heaven.
* 2 Tim. ii. 26.