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the mind, at such a time, finds little inclination to contend about words and phrases, it would be much less proper for me, to enter into any controversy about them here.
Let it suffice for the present, that I have given you this plain representation of that change, which is wrought in a man's apprehensions, when he is made a new creature. When Old things are passed away, he has new apprehensions of God, of himself, of Christ, of eternity, and of the way to obtain the happiness of it: And as at this happy time all things are become new, there are "New affections, new resolutions, new labours, new enjoy. ments, and new hopes," which are the result of the change already described. But it will be much more difficult to reduce what I have to offer on these heads, within the bounds of the next discourse, than proper to attempt any of them in this. Go home, my friends, and try yourselves by what you have already heard; and be assured, that if you are condemned by this part of the description, it is impossible you should be approved by any that will follow; since they have all their foundation in this.
Of the Nature of Regeneration, with Respect to the Change it produces in Men's Affections, Resolutions, Labours, Enjoyments and Hopes.
2 Cor. v. 17.—If any Man be in Christ, he is a New Creature: Old Things are passed away, behold, all Things are become New.
MONG the various subjects, which exercise the thoughts and tongues of men, few are more talked of than religion. But it is melancholy to think, how little it is understood; and how much it is mistaken, and misrepresented in the world. The text before us gives us a very instructive view of it, such a view, that I am sure, an experimental knowledge of its sense would be infinitely preferable to the most critical and exact knowledge of all the most curious passages, both of the Old Testament and the New. From it, you know, I have begun to describe that great change, which the word of God teaches us to represent under the notion of regeneration, or according to the language of St. Paul, in this passage of his writings, by a new creation. I know I am explaining it before many, who have been much longer acquainted with it than myself; and it becomes me to believe, before many, that have attained to much higher advances in it: But I fear also at the same time, I speak of it before many, who are yet strangers to it; and I am labouring, by the plainest addresses that I can, to give them at least some just ideas of it. Oh that to all the descriptions, that either have, or shall be given, God may by his grace add that understanding, which arises from feeling correspondent impressions on the mind!
I have already endeavoured to illustrate those new apprehensions, which arise in the regenerate mind; apprehensions of the blessed God, of itself, of Christ, of the eternal world, and of the way to obtain the happiness of it. It now remains, that I consider those "New affections, resolutions, labours, enjoyments, and hopes," which result from them. I observe therefore,
II. That these new apprehensions will be attended with new affections.
I readily acknowledge, that the degree, in which the affections operate, may, and will be different, in different persons, according to their natural constitution: But as in some degree or another, they make an essential part of our frame, it is impossible but they must be impressed with a matter of such infinite importance, as religion will appear. And the apprehensions described above, must awaken the exercise of correspondent affections, and direct them to objects very different from those, by which they were before excited, and on which they were fixed. And here now,
1. This may be especially illustrated in love.
Love is indeed the ruling passion of the mind, and has all the rest in an avowed and real subjection to it. And here lies the very root of human misery, in our fallen and degenerate state: We are naturally lovers of ourselves in a very irregular degree; Lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God*. But on the contrary, The first and great commandment of the law is written in the breast of every regenerate man: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mindt. It is true indeed, that if his soul were perfectly delivered into this mould, and his attainments in divine love were complete, there would be an end of all sin, and almost of all calamity too: For what evil could assail or impress a mind, entirely and unchangeably fixed upon God? Yet that the love of God should be the prevailing affection, is not merely a circumstance, but an essential part of true religion. While the good man Sees him who is invisible, as infinitely perfect in himself, and as the author of being and happiness to the whole creation, he cannot but acknowledge, that he is beyond comparison the most amiable of all objects. And though it is certain, that nothing can so much induce and inflame our love to God, as a well-grounded assurance, that he is become our God, and our Father in Christ; yet before the regenerate soul has attained to this, a sense of those favours which he receives from God in common with the whole human race, and more especially of those, which are inseparable from a christian profession, together with the apprehension of his being accessible through a Mediator, and reconcileable to sinful men, will diffuse some delightful sense of God over the mind, Heb. xi. 27.
*2 Tim. iii.4.
Mat. xxii. 37, 38.
indeed to a state of brutality. Most deplorable it is, to see the power and energy of those motives, which are taken merely from this earth, and its little concernments; so that if a man did but know what was the favourite vanity, he might almost predict, from the knowledge of circumstances, how a man's actions would be ordered; and might almost be sure, that he would follow, whithersoever this interest, or that pleasure, this ambitious, or that mercenary view called him; though all the prospects for an eternal world pleaded the contrary way. Such is the folly and Madness that is in men's hearts while they live and after that, they go down to the dead*, and spend that immortal duration, which they have despised, in fruitless lamentations. Fatal delusion! which it is the great design of the gospel to cure.
But when a soul becomes wise to salvation, it is taught to Look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; because it has now a full sense of what before it only notionally confessed, that the things which are seen, are temporal; but the things which are not seen, are eternal†.Eternity! it is impossible I should tell you, how much an eye that is enlightened by God, sees, and reads, as it were in that one word; while one scene beyond another is still opening on the mind, till its sight, and its thoughts are swallowed up: And as the creatures are as nothing with respect to God, so all the interests of time, with respect to eternity, appear as Less than nothing, and vanityt. To be made for an everlasting existence appears in so awful a view, that while it has some pleasing hope, it rejoices with trembling; and every remaining fear, with relation to this great interest, seems a greater evil, than the certainty of any temporal calamity.
I might add upon this head, that the regenerate soul has not only new views of the importance, but likewise of the nature of the invisible and eternal state; and particularly of the nature of the celestial happiness. It does not consider it merely, or chiefly, as a state of corporeal enjoyment, formed to gratify and delight the senses; but as a state of perfect conformity to God, and most endearing intercourse with him; of which as it begins already by divine grace to taste the pleasures, so it most ardently thirsts after them; and would be heartily willing to lose this body for ever, and to bid an eternal adieu to every object capable of giving it delight; rather than it would consent to lose,
Eccles. ix. 3.
+ 2 Cor. iv. 18.
Isa. xl. 17.
in a perpetual succession of such objects, the sight of the Father of Spirits, and that sensibility of his love, which adds the most substantial solidity, and exalted relish to every inferior good, that can be desired from it.
5. A regenerate man has also new apprehensions" of the way which God has marked out to this happiness."
Nothing is more common, than for carnal and ignorant men to imagine, that it is a very easy thing to get to heaven; and upon this presumption, they Hew out to themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water*; and often live and die with a Lye in their right hand↑. But the renewed soul, having such awful notions of the blessed God, and such apprehensions of the excellency and glory of the heavenly state, as you have heard, deeply feels how absolutely necessary it is, that something of a very great and important change should pass in the mind of that sinful creature, that ever hopes to be a partaker of it. He sees, that it is impossible, any external profession, or external rite, should secure so great an end; impossible, that baptism should be regeneration, in that sense in which the scripture uses the word, or that by this alone, though ever so regularly administered, a man's eternal happiness should be secured. He sees, that to be associated to this or that party of christians, to join with established, or with separate churches, and to be ever so zealous for their respective order, worship, and discipline, is a thing quite of foreign consideration here; and that the best, or the worst of men, may be, and probably are, on one side, and on another; nay, that ignorance, pride, and bigotry may take occasion from hence, to render men farther from the kingdom of God, than any mistake in judgment, or practice, on these disputed points, could have set them.
No, my brethren, when a man's eyes are enlightened by God's renewing Spirit, he sees and feels, that in the language of scripture, he must be Created anew in Christ Jesus: He sees, that Holiness is a character without which no man shall see the Lords; and he is perhaps little anxious, whether this, or the faith that produces it, shall be called a condition, or a qualification, or an instrument, while he sees he must perish without it: He sees, that as it is absolutely necessary, so it is very extensive, as the Commandment which is its rule is exceeding broad: He sees, that it must not only effectually regulate the actions of his life, but controul all the sentiments of his heart: Nay, he sees,