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Lord, they must constitute our habitual practice, form the dispositions of our hearts, and influence all our tempers, and our conduct.
On the other hand, let not the contrite mourner for sin despond : remember, poor trembling penitent, that "there is joy among the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” Yea, the Lord of angels,“ sees of the travail of his soul, and is satisfied.” Only then beseech the Lord, that your repentance may be genuine, and your conversión entire ; thus you will surely find the Lord ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy; and ere long you will joyfully sing, “ O Lord, I will praise thee; though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away and thou comfortest me.”
“ For they that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” “Let then the hearts of those rejoice that seek the Lord.”
Finally, my Christian brethren, while you are careful in other respects to do works meet for repentance ; let me exhort you to enter into the spirit of the gospel, by using every means, and encouraging every endeavour, to bring sinners to repentance; and to welcome every penitent with cordial joy and affection, as Ananias did the converted persecutor, “ Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight.” Thus you will manifest the excellency of your principles, and be honoured as instruments in promoting that cause, for which the divine Saviour came into the world and shed his blood upon the cross; and all men will know that you are his true disciples.
2 CORINTHIANS v. 17.
If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold,
all things are become new.
The circumstances of the church at Corinth obliged the apostle to use such methods of re-establishing his authority, as he apprehended might be misunderstood and censured; he therefore says, “ whether we be beside ourselves it is to God, or whether we be sober it is for your cause.” The zealous servants of God have constantly been slighted and despised, as beside themselves; nay, the Son of God, the perfection of wisdom and excellency, was involved in the same charge, even by his friends and relations, as well as by his enemies. 2 Kings ix. 11. Jer. xxix. 26, 27. Hos. ix. 7. Mark iii. 21. John x. 20. The apostle therefore had no great cause to complain, if not only Festus said, “ Paul thou art beside thyself, much learning doth make thee mad,” but if some of his Corinthian converts formed a similar judgment of him. Surely then we ought not to be disconcerted by such sutmises, provided we give no just cause for them: and all, who attend to the Scriptures, should be very careful, lest aspersions of this kind prejudice them against the ministers and disciples of Christ.
• But,' says the apostle, both the ardour that gives occasion to such imputations, and the wisdom which regulates its effects, spring from regard to the glory of God, and affectionate longing after your souls:' “ For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that he died for all, that they which live should not þenceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh; yea though we have known Christ after the flesh; yet now henceforth know we him no more." No ties of blood, friendship, or gratitude, must influence the conduct of the minister of Christ, to render him partial in his pastoral office. Even the brethren, or nearest friends of Christ himself, according to the flesh, might not be regarded by the apostles, in dispensing instructions, reproofs, censures, or encouragements; but they were required, and constrained by spiritual love to him who had died for them, to do all things with unbiassed impartiality. And this must be our conduct likewise in respect of our relations, benefactors, or patrons, if we would approve ourselves to be indeed their genuine successors in the sacred ministry. “ Therefore,” says the apostle, “ if any man be in Christ he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new: and all things are of God who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ.”
The text contains the following subjects for our present discussion.
" If any
I. The apostle's definition or description of a real Christian ; man be in Christ.”
II. His account of that inward change, which every real Christian has experienced, “ He is a new creature."
III. The effects of this change, “ Old things are passed away ; behold all things are become new.”
I. Then we consider the apostle's definition or description of a real Christian, “ If any man be in Christ."
However strange this expression may seem to many who are now called Christians, it is the uniform language of the Scripture, especially of the New Testament: and whenever any set of men seem earnest to change the language of inspiration, we may be sure that they either mistake its meaning, or have some concealed objection to its doctrines. “If any man speak, let hịm speak as the oracles of God.". New terms will imperceptibly introduce new doctrines; nor has any subtlety of Satan or his servants better succeeded, in “privily bringing in damnable heresies,” than that of modernizing the language of divinity.
The words under consideration commonly signify a true disciple of our Lord and Saviour. “ There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." “ I knew a man in Christ fourteen years ago." was also in Christ before me.” “ Of whom are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us, wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” Rom. viii. 1. xvi. 7. 1 Cor. i. 30. And in this chapter, “ That we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Many of the epistles also are addressed “ to the saints in Christ Jesus,” or “ to the church-in God the Father, and in the Lord Jesus Christ."-Which accords to the language of the prophet, “ Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation.
Surely, shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.” “ In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified and shall glory” 2 Cor. xii. 2. Isaiah xlv. 17, 24, 25.
The apostle John also employs similar expressions; “ And now, little children, abide in him.” “ We are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John ii. 28. v. 20. But the words of our Lord himself are most decisive; * He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me and I in him.” John vi. 56. Accordingly, when we administer the Lord's Supper, that outward sign of this inward life of faith in a crucified Saviour, we pray that we may so eat the flesh of Christ, and drink his blood ;-that we may dwell in him and he in us.'-"Neither," saith our divine Redeemer, when interceding for his disciples, “. pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word ; that they all may be one as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us." John xvii. 20—23.
But we must endeavour to explain this language and to shew its propriety and energy ; lest it should be thought, that the whole argument rests upon our translation of the original particles. St Paul says, “ The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through," or in “ Christ Jesus our Lord:” for John says, “ This is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son : he that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” Rom. vi. 23. 1 John v. 11, 12. The salvation of Christ is completed, as far as his mediatory work is concerned : but who are they that shall eventually be saved from wrath by him?” To this question the Scripture answers with the most decided precision ; “ they that receive him," “ they that believe in him,” “they that are found in him." Union with Christ is necessary in order to communion with him: he saves all those, and those only, who thus stand related to him. True faith forms this union and relation, and makes the sinner a partaker of Christ and his salvation.
According to the illustrations of Scripture, the believer is in Christ, as the stone is in the building. God is preparing a spiritual temple, in which he may dwell and be glorified for ever. The person of Christ is the precious foundation and corner stone of this temple, and believers “come to him and as living stones are built up a spiritual house," "an habitation of God through the Spirit.” 1 Peter u. 4-8. Eph. ii. 20—22. But this emblem, taken from things wholly inanimate, only represents our dependence on Christ and consecration to God through him: we therefore learn more fully the nature of this mystical union, by the parable of the vine and its branches. Nominal Christians, who are related to the Saviour merely in an external manner, continue unfruitful; and at length are taken away, withered, and gathered to be burned: but true believers are vitally united to him, and abiding in him receive the fructifying influences of the Holy Spirit. John xv. 1-8. Yet even this illustration falls short of fully elucidating the subject; nay, the nearest of all relative unions does not entirely answer to it: for believers are in Christ, as the members are in the human body. He is the Head of the church, and every Christian is a part of his mystical body, bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh. All believers live spiritually by virtue of this union with their Head; they are placed under his guidance and authority; have one common interest, and fill up their stations in the church for the benefit of the whole. 1 Cor. xii. 12–31. Thus says the apostle, “ I am crucified with Christ ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”—“ Your Life, is hid with Christ in God; when Christ, who is your life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” Gal. ii. 20. Col. ii. 3, 4.
There is, however, another way of illustrating the subject, which may help us to conceive aright of this great mystery, Eph. v. 32. and explain the way in which a sinner attains to so high an honour, and so blessed a distinction. The believer is in Christ, as Noah was in the ark. “ By faith Noah being warned of God was moved with fear, and prepared an ark.” Heb. xi. 7. 1 Peter iii. 20. He believed the sure testimony of God, both respecting the deluge, and the appointed method of preservation; he feared the impending judgment, and revered the justice and power of God; and thus he was moved to follow the directions he had received. To prepare the ark was a vast undertaking ; his labour and expence must have been exceedingly great, and his perseverance, amidst the scorn and hatred of an unbelieving world, most exemplary.-But when the deluge came, he was found in the ark, and preserved to be the progenitor of a new race of men; and even of the promised Redeemer, on whom doubtless his faith had ultimately been placed: while all the rest of the human species, however distinguished, or to whatever refuges they fled, were swept away with one common desolation. Thus the sinner, hearing of the wrath of God revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” believing the divine record
is moved with fear," and takes warning to flee from the wrath to come.
He hears also of Christ, the true ark, which God himself hath provided; and renouncing all other confidences, by faith he betakes himself to this sure refuge, applies for admission into the ark, and endures the self-denial, contempt, and persecution to which this may expose him. And whatever difficulties he may now encounter; his wisdom will be acknowledged, and his felicity envied, when no unbeliever shall find any shelter from the overwhelming deluge of divine vengeance, which perhaps he now despises or blasphemes.
Under the Mosaic dispensation, the guiltless man-slayer was exposed to the sword of the avenger of blood, the nearest relation of the deceased ; but cities of refuge were provided, to which he might flee for security.- In this perilous situation an Israelite had no choice: he must scarcely turn back to take his clothes, and by no means go home to bid farewell to his dearest relatives : he must leave all his outward comforts, employments, and interests: he must flee without delay, and hardly stop for necessary refreshment: he must not yield to indolence, or sit down when weary; and could never think of loitering, to interfere with other men's business, to view curiosities, or to join in vain diversions. W'ith all speed he must urge his course to the city of refuge; as if he had seen the avenger of blood with his drawn sword close behind, and heard him uttering most dreadful menaces. When he had gained the appointed asylum, he was required to abide there, at a distance from all his connections, those excepted who chose to follow him; and this restriction continued, till the death of the high-priest set him at liberty from his confinement.
In like manner, the sinner, perceiving himself exposed to the wrath of God, and the curse of his violated law, must “ flee for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before him" in the gospel. Without delay he must diligently use all the means of grace, and separate from the vain pursuits and pleasures of an unbelieving world. He must not give “ sleep to his eyes or slumber to his eye-lids; but flee as a bird from the snare of the fowler, and as a roe from the hand of the hunter." He must “ work out his own salvation with fear and trembling,” and earnestly apply to Christ for an interest in his atonement; knowing that if death should overtake him, before he be made a partaker of this blessing, the avenging justice of God will prove the ruin of his immortal soul. And when he hath obtained a good hope of his acceptance, he must still keep close to his refuge; renouncing the society of all those, that refuse to join with him in his new course of life : remembering that “ if any man love father, or mother, wife or children, more than Christ, he cannot be his disciple.”
Thus the true believer is in Christ, as in the city of refuge: and if we do not wish to deceive ourselves, we may know whether our experience, conduct, and confidence bear any resemblance to this representation, and whether we desire to join the apostle in saying, “ Yea, doubtless, I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord ;-I count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness which is of the law; but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." Phil. iii. 8, 9.
He that is thus united unto the Lord Jesus is finally delivered from condemnation; all his sins are blotted out, and buried in the depths of the sea; “ being justified by faith he hath peace with God;" to whom being reconciled when an enemy “by the death of his Son, he shall be saved by his life.” He is admitted into a covenant of friendship with the everlasting God, and adopted into his family as a son and heir. * All things shall work together for his good,” and “ nothing shall separate him from the love of Christ.”. All the promises without exception belong to him, and shall be fulfilled in due season and order ; “ for,” says the apostle, ” all things are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's."-We consider, then,
II. The apostle's account of that inward change, which every real Christian has experienced. “He is a new creature."
“ If any man be in Christ," whether he were before a Jew or a Gentile ; whether he were moral, civil, learned, ingenious, devout, zealous, or superstitious and enthusiastical, a sceptical reasoner, or a scoffing infidel; when he becomes a Christian, “he is a new creature.”- “ We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” “ For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature." Gal. vi. 15. Eph. ii. 10. What are we then to understand by these energetic expresa sions ?-Will any sensible man maintain, that a new creed or name may properly be called a new creation ? Will he affirm that nothing more was meant, than a decent moral conduct, or an external reformation? Does this amount to any thing more, than the cleansing of the outside, while the heart remains full of polluting affections? And let it be remembered, that such frigid interpretations are merely the word of man; for “ the word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword; piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is · a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Jer. xxiii. 29. Heb. iv. 12.
It is, however, proper to observe, that he, who is a new creatnre, continues in many respects the same as before. His body, with all its members and senses, is the same; though he finds himself disposed to make a new use of them: his soul and all its faculties are the same, though his judgment, inclinations, and affections are entirely changed. He possesses his former measure of capacity and learning ; with the peculiarity of his genius, and the original complexion of his mind. The man of enlarged powers does not lose that superiority of talent; while he is content to be thought a fool for Christ's sake, to seek wisdom from him with the teachableness of a little child, and to devote all his endowments to the glory of the Giver. The man of slender abilities and illiterate education makes no advances in learning or ingenuity, except as he becomes of “ good understanding in the way of godliness." No alteration takes place in a person's relative situation or rank in society: he can claim no additional civil immunities or advancement, when he is in Christ a new creature: nor does he forfeit any of his rights ; though persecution may deprive him of them, and love of Christ make him willing to renounce them.-In general he abides in his calling, if lawful ; but endeavours to fill it up in a new manner.
What then is especially intended ?-Here again the Scripture assists our inquiry by apt illustrations. “ Ye were,” says the apostle, “ the servants of sin, but ye obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine, which was delivered you.” Rom. vi. 17. Learned men generally agree, that the concluding words would be more exactly rendered, “ into which ye were delivered;" alluding to the mould, into which melted metal is poured, that it may thence take its intended fashion and impression. When vessels of silver have been thus formed again, they are as really new, as if the metal had just been brought from the mine. Thus sinners are in themselves, “ vessels of wrath fitted for destruction,” bearing the image of fallen Adam, and disposed to imitate his rebellion and apostacy; but the new creation forms us into "vessels of mercy, prepared for glory," stamped with the image of Christ, fitted for our Master's use, and ready for every good work. We are the same men, yet new creatures.
The grafted tree also is in many respects the same as before: yet it is 'a new tree, and as the poet beautifully expresses it,
· Miraturque novas frondes, et non sua poma." • It wonders at its new leaves, and fruit that is not its own.'--_Thus when the word of truth is ingrafted in the heart by the Holy Spirit, the same man becomes a new creature, and his thoughts, words, and actions also become
The Scriptural emblems of sinners, according to their different propensi