« הקודםהמשך »
ties, are taken from lions, tigers, foxes, swine, and serpents, and other fierce, crafty, ravenous, or filthy animals : but a sheep or a dove is the emblem of a Christian ; and the new creation effects this marvellous change. wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox: and the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp; and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice den: they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain.” Isaiah xi. 6–9. Does not every man perceive, that if Almighty God should' dispose these animals to live together in perfect amity, as here described, they would be new creatures ; though the same outward form, and many other peculiarities of each species should remain ? And who can deny, that if the grace of God so change the ambitious, rapacious, covetous, fraudulent, contentious, revengeful, cruel, sensual and profane, that they willingly live together, “ in all the commandments and ora. dinances of the Lord blameless,” they are to 'all religious purposes new crea-, tures ?
Let any considerate and impartial man compare the character and spirit of St Paul, before and after his conversion; and determine for himself whether the apostle was not a new creature. His body and soul, his abilities and ardent turn of mind continued the same; but in all other respects, he differed as much from his former self, as from any other man in the world. The change would probably appear as remarkable in the case of Matthew, Zaccheus, or Onesimus, had we as copious an account of them, as we have of the apostle.—Nay, the thief upon the cross gave evident proofs that the tree was made good; for the fruit began to be good, and would doubtless have been abundant, had his life been spared.-Even when a man's outward conduct has been irreproachable, the internal change in his views, purposes, and desires, is clearly manifest to his own mind, though the effects be less visible to others.
The various metaphors, in which this new creation is spoken of in Scripture, confirm the explanation that hath been given. “ A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you, saith the Lord.” Ezek. xi. 19, 20. xxxvi. 25—27. But reformation, without an inward change of disposition, would be a mere counterfeit of the promised blessing." Ye must be born again." “ Blessed be God who hath begotten us again to a lively hope.” John iii. 1–8. 1 Peter. i. 3, 23. The allusion is made, in this com,mon Scriptural language, to the production of a creature, which before had no separate existence, but now possesses life, has capacities of action and enjoyment, wants nourishment, and may be expected to grow up to maturity: and it is the invariable rule of nature, that the offspring bears the image, and inherits the propensities of the parent animal. The emphatical meaning of “ being born again," “ born of the Spirit,” “ born of God," must be very manifest: and had our Lord only intended an outward ordinance or reformation, when he said, “ Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except ye be born again, ye cannot see the kingdom of God;" it could not have been denied, that he had perplexed a plain subject by a needless obscurity of expression.
“ You hath he quickened," saith the apostle, “who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Man, as the Lord created him, possessed animal life and its propensities; as a rational creature, he was capable of actions and enjoyments of a higher order ; and as spiritual, he was capable of finding happiness in the love and service of God: but he has lost his spiritual life by the fall, and is dead in sin. Fallen angels possess the powers of reason to a very great degree ; yet they are spiritually dead; they are incapable of loving and enjoying God, and finding happiness in his holy service: and, I am persuaded that sober reflection will convince any candid inquirer, that the most rational man living, is, without regeneration, as incapable of the pleasures
angels enjoy in heaven, as animals are of sharing the satisfactions of the philosopher. This appears in one remarkable circumstance: when any person renounces all other pursuits for the sake of religion, it is always supposed that he leads a joyless life, and is in danger of becoming melancholy: as if the felicity of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect, were wholly unsuited to man’s nature on earth, and incapable of affording him delight!
The same internal renovation is called, “ the circumcision of the heart to love the Lord;" and described under the image of “putting his law in the heart, and writing it in the inward parts.” “ For the grace of God which bringeth salvation, teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world."
This change is the beginning of that “renewing in the spirit of our mind," that “ transformation by the renewing of our mind,” which we read of in the apostolical epistles : « the putting off the old man,” and “the putting on the new man," relate to the growth of the new creature, and the removal of every thing that retards it. Regeneration is the beginning of sanctification, which signifies the making of that person or thing holy, which was before unholy. So that, while it is an undoubted truth, that “if any man be in Christ he is a new creature ;" it should be remembered that men's growth and attainments are immensely different : but the inward evidence of union with Christ must bear proportion to the degree in which it is manifest that this new creation has been experienced.
This doctrine therefore is clearly contained in the Scriptures; but we cannot fully explain or even comprehend the manner, in which the new nature is communicated. In general we may observe, that as natural life subsists in every part of the animal; so spiritual life pervades all the faculties of the soul. It is light, knowledge, and judgment in the understanding,— sensibility in the conscience,--purity, spirituality, and fervour in the affections,mand submission in the will; and this entire inward revolution produces proportionable effects upon the whole conduct and character of the real Christian. But this will appear more distinctly, while,
III. We consider the effects of the change, “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
The language employed is general, and no exceptions are intimated : but we can only illustrate it by selecting some particulars for a specimen.-He who hath thus “ passed from death unto life," will find that his old sentiments and thoughts are vanished away. His high opinion of himself, of his abilities, actions, and heart, are no more; he ceases to shine in his own eyes, and gradually discovers that he is wretched, poor, miserable, blind, and naked; he is constrained to renounce all dependence on his wisdom and righteousness, to distrust his own heart as deceitful and desperately wicked, and to abhor himself as a guilty polluted criminal. Nor can he ever again recover those lofty thoughts of himself, which once were natural to him.
His hard thoughts of the divine law, as unreasonably strict and severe, are passed away: and he can no longer entertain his former palliating notions concerning the evil of sin. He perceives the commandment to be holy, just, and good; and the transgression of it to be replete with ingratitude, rebellion, and contempt of God. He dares no longer impeach the divine justice and goodness, in respect of the punishments denounced against sinners; bis old thoughts and reasonings on these subjects are gone, and he is astonished at his own presumption, in having formerly indulged them.
His sentiments concerning the happiness to be enjoyed in worldly pleasures, and the gloom and melancholy of a religious life, are wholly changed.
He can no longer think of eternity as uncertain or distant; and no temptation or discouragement can henceforth prevail with him, to give up his hope of everlasting life, to rest satisfied with a portion in this world, or to risk the tremendous consequences. “ He looks not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
His former thoughts of Christ and his salvation are passed away. He once despised the glorious Redeemer in his heart; perhaps he deemed those to be hypocrites or enthusiasts, who spoke in animated language of his love and preciousness : but these imaginations are no more; he is now ready to exclaim, “ How great is his goodness! how great is his beauty!"-He counts all but loss for Christ, and fears exceedingly coming short of his salvation. He cannot think meanly of him, or be indifferent to his favour, cause, or glory; yet he continues dissatisfied with the degree of his admiring love and gratitude to such a benefactor.-His former opinions concerning the wise and happy among the sons of men are irrecoverably gone. He pities the very persons whom he once admired or envied: he counts the despised and afflicted disciples of Christ, “the excellent of the earth, in whom is all his delight." He longs to share their privileges and felicity: yet could not recover his former aversion to them, even if he supposed that he should be for ever excluded from their company.
When any one is in Christ a new creature, his old pursuits and pleasures also pass away.--As the man of business has done with the pastimes of childhood: so the believer ceases to relish those scenes of dissipated or sensual indulgence, which once were his element. He finds himself uneasy, when they come in his way: not only deeming them a criminal waste of time and money, and a wilful hindrance to serious reflection; but feeling them to be a chasm in his enjoyment, and an interruption to his comfort, in communion with God, and the company of his servants.
His conduct is still more decided in things directly evil; “ How shall he that is dead to sin live any longer therein ?" He hates and dreads sin as his worst enemy.
“ His seed remaineth in him, that he cannot sin, because he is born of God." He does not indeed forsake his lawful employments; but he gradually learns to follow them from new motives, and in a new manner; not from covetousness, or on worldly principles; but as his duty from love to God and man, and according to the precepts of the sacred Scriptures.
It will readily be perceived, that the old companions of such a man will pass away. Even when relative duties, and other causes render some intercourse with ungodly persons unavoidable, it will become less cordial and intimate. When such opposite characters meet, one of them must be out of his element: all those associates therefore of the new convert's former years, who have no interest in continuing the acquaintance, will drop off, as leaves from the trees in autumn: and he will find, that the society of his most agreeable old companions is become irksome; for they seem far more profane and frivolous than they used to be.
Time would fail, should we particularly consider how the new convert's former discourse is passed away: and how his idle, slanderous, profane, or perhaps polluting words, are exchanged for such as are pure, peaceable, and edifying. Eph. iv. 29. v. 1. Col. iv. 6. James i. 26. iii. . And it is needless to insist on it, that his old course of behaviour also is finally renounced. The particulars that have been mentioned may serve for a specimen; and it should be remembered, that in every respect in which “old things pass away, all things become new :" for the apostle, by inserting the word behold, hath emphatically demanded our attention to this circumstance.
This too might be illustrated by considering the various operations of the believer's mind, and the objects of his affections. Ae hopes and fears, grieves and rejoices, feels desires and aversions, in a new manner, and concerning new objects. He fears the wrath and frown of God; he hopes for glory and immortality; he mourns for his own sins, and the miseries of other men ; he rejoices in God, hungers and thirsts after righteousness, and abhors that which is evil. His judgment and taste are gradually formed upon God's word ; his memory is replenished with divine truths, and his imagination employed in realizing invisible things. The company of his choice, the
places of his willing resort, the books he prefers, bis select topics of discourse, the use he makes of his time and talents, the manner in which he conducts his business, and enjoys the comforts of life, might be enlarged upon, to shew in what respects “ all things are become new." For the real Christian desires, “ that whether he eat or drink, or whatever he do, he may do all to the glory of God.”
The extent of the apostle's meaning may however be further illustrated, by stating how the believer does the same things in a new manner, in respect of that which was the best part of his former conduct, and that which is the worst of his present.—He used perhaps to attend on religious ordinances; and though his heart was not engaged, nor his professions sincere, he returned home well satisfied with having done- his duty, or elated with an idea of his own goodness. But now, when his prayers and praises are the language of his habitual judgment and desires, and he is upon the whole a spiritual worshipper ; he is continually humbled for the unallowed defects and evils of his services, and seeks to have them all washed in the atoning blood of Christ.
On the other hand, it must be allowed that sin dwelleth even in the true convert; and he may possibly fall into the same evil, in which he once habitually indulged with little remorse. But in this case he is filled with anguish, he deeply abases himself before God, confesses his guilt, deprecates deserved wrath, submits to sharp correction, craves forgiveness, and “ prays
to be restored to the joy of God's salvation, and upheld by his free Spirit.' - Even in these respects, “ all things are become new.”
In short the proposition is universal; and the true believer, in all things acts from new motives, by a new rule, and to accomplish far other purposes, than he formerly had in view. But the more particular examination of the subject must be left to your private meditations, while we conclude at present with a brief application.
There are persons professing to be Christians, who avowedly disregard this subject; and if we speak of regeneration, or the new creature, are ready to answer, “ how can these things be;" or perhaps to retort an indiscriminate charge of enthusiasm. But do you intend to answer your Judge in this man-, ner? Do you expect to enter heaven, by disproving the truth of his most solemn and repeated declarations? Is your judgment the standard of truth? Can nothing be needful to salvation which you do not experience? If God be indeed glorious in holiness: if the society and joys of heaven be holy, and if man be unholy; an entire change must, in the very nature of things, take place, before man can possibly delight in God or enjoy heaven ; were there no other obstacle to his salvation. Let me therefore earnestly beseech you to re-consider the subject : let me prevail with you to search these Scriptures, and to beg of God to shew you the true meaning of them; and to grant, that if these things be indeed true and needful, you may know them by your own happy experience.
Again, some religious people profess to know that their sins are forgiven, and others are anxious to obtain this assurance. If then it be asked, how can any man be thus certain in this matter? I answer, by a consciousness that “he is in Christ a new creature, that old things are passed away, and all things are become new.' When our Lord forgave the sins of the paralytic, he enabled him to carry his bed ; this proved his sins forgiven, both to himself and others. And in like manner, when we know that, in consequence of having applied to Christ for salvation, we abhor all sin, love the ways of God, and delight in pious company; we have a witness in ourselves, and the testimony of God in his word, that we partake of the gift of righteousness by faith. The clearer this evidence of our new creation appears, the fuller ground of assurance we possess; we are therefore exhorted" to give all diligence to make our calling and election sure:" but without this, all impressions and supposed revelations, declaring our sins to be pardoned, are manifest delusions; for they contradict the express testimony of God in his holy word.
Too many profess the gospel, who give no evidence of this gracious change, and stumble others by their unholy lives: but the text at once cuts off such men's pretensions ; and the reproach ought to rest on themselves, and not on the holy doctrines which they disgrace.
But as "the path of the just shineth more and more unto the perfect day," I would earnestly and affectionately caution the serious inquirer, not to undervalue the feeble beginnings which he experiences; but to take encouragement from them to press forward, in the diligent use of the means of grace ; that the change may be rendered more evident, and that he may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Ghost.”
Let discouraged souls likewise, who feel sin to be their burden, grief, and terror, and who are ready to say to the Saviour, “ Lord, to whom shall I go, thou hast the words of eternal life :" let such fainting and feeble-minded' believers, learn to derive encouragement from their very fears, jealousies, sighs, groans, and tears, because « of the sin that dwelleth in them;" and “ because they cannot do the things that they would: for these are without doubt, effects and evidences of the new creation.
Finally, my brethren, if you can rejoice in the assurance that you are partakers of these inestimable benefits, shew your gratitude to God, by endeavouring to communicate the same blessings to your fellow-sinners : knowing that his mercy and grace are sufficient for them also; that he makes use of reconciled enemies, as instruments in reconciling others also to himself; and that he preserves them in life especially for this most gracious purpose.
THE DANGER OF REJECTING THE GOSPEL.
PSALM, JI. 12.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled
but a little: blessed are all they that put their trust in him.
Whatever were the immediate occasion of this psalm, it evidently contains a most remarkable prophecy concerning Christ, and the divine vengeance to be inflicted on those who opposed the establishment of his kingdom. The Jews were the peculiar objects of the threatened indignation ; and they are also the witnesses of the authenticity of those Scriptures, in which the prophecy is contained ; for by them the Old Testament has been preserved; and they now unanimously attest that the psalm before us was written at least a thousand years before Jesus of Nazareth was born.
It may therefore be useful in the first place to call your attention to this remarkable prophecy of things already accomplished, or hastening to an accomplishment.--" Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? the kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his anointed.” Let us hear the apostle's application of this passage: “ For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” Acts iv. 25. 28. These concluding words are well worthy of our notice: as they illustrate the plan of divine providence in the government of the world. We are apt to wonder,