תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

sufficient power to captivate the mind, no longer charm and delude it. Indeed, seen through a spiritual medium, they appear emptier than the wind, or lighter than the bubble of the ocean, when contrasted with the glory of Paradise ; whilst death, judgment, heaven, hell, and the eternal scenes which they will disclose, are viewed as solemn realities, which arrest the attention and influence the conduct of a regenerate man.

11. The new desires, hopes, fears, joys, and sor: rows, which prevail in the breast, are indicative, also, of a transformation of the soul. These passions of the mind are excited by those objects which are calculated to call them forth; and they are chiefly of a heavenly nature. The absence or presence of spiritual good, are the causes which depress or enliven them.

12. Besides, the soul is governed by a new set of principles. No longer held in slavish subjection by the world and its maxims, the renewed man asserts his liberty. The love and fear of God are the motives which henceforth constrain him to action; whilst the precepts of the Gospel are observed and honoured, as they never were in the days of his unregeneracy. Love, then, is the main-spring of his obedience; in default of which, the highest efforts which natural men can make, are only the effect of terror and selfishness : but that gratitude which arises from the display of the Divine benevolence, is warm and lasting, and impels the soul to the cheerful performance of “those things which God would have done.”

13. Furthermore-We may reasonably expect, that a work of this divine nature will be followed by a line of conduct answerable thereto. Nor are

our expectations disappointed ; for the pursuits of the Children of God clearly evince their heavenly original. Natural inen covet no greater enjoyments than those which the present life affords. If they can but secure the honours, applause, pleasures, and riches of the world, they are satisfied, and look no further, as if they had certainly attained all that is wanting to complete their felicity. But the man of God, though he may possess them in the highest degree, will not be contented with such “ things as perish in the using." Accounting spiritual things the only objects deserving his regard, he pursues them with unabated diligence.

“ He that is born of God is endued with a greatness of soul, that makes him easily despise and consider as nothing those things which he prized before at a very high rate: he considers heaven as his country, even while he lives a stranger on this earth; he aspires at the highest objects, and, flying up towards heaven with expanded wings, looks down with contempt upon the earth".

To mortify depraved habits, and to obtain a daily conquest over the sins which beset us ; to cultivate every gracious disposition that can assimilate us more to the blessed God, and to advance, as far as possible, in the path of moral excellence, are the great objects at which a pious man uniformly aims, that he may acquire a meetness for that glorified state of existence, on which he will hereafter enter. It is plain, therefore, that repentance, and faith, and obedience, with love to God, and benevolence to men, and marked affection to the brethren of Christ, deliverance from the uncontrolled domination of sin and Satan, together with a victory over the world

"! Archbishop Leighton's Works, vol. iv. p. 167.

yy"

and the evil propensities of our nature, hatred to all unrighteousness, accompanied with spirịtuality and devotion, humility, resignation to the Divine will, patience under chastisements and afflictions, meekness, temperance, justice, purity, and truth, are the natural consequences of regeneration.

14. Such is a brief statement of the immediate effects of renewing grace ; which as strikingly demonstrate the reality and importance and extent of the new birth, as the omnipotence of Him who accomplishes it. The soul of that inan which is thus renovated in all its faculties, which are sanctified and directed to heavenly pursuits, so changed in its taste and views and desires, as to love those

exalted things which it once despised, and to trample upon all the blandishments of sense, the honours, pleasures, and advantages which others seek their happiness in, is certainly born of God, and endued with a rectitude of principle, which distinguishes him from the unregenerate part of mankind, and restores him, in a considerable degree, to that state of primitive integrity in which our first parents were created”.

Who, except those whose minds are awfully debased by sin, can contemplate the renewal of a soul in righteousness with any other sensations than those of admiration and joy? To behold an intelligent being, capable of the most sublime enjoyments, rescued from the degrading tyranny of Satan, returning to the bosom of his heavenly Father, whom he had ungratefully deserted for the society of enemies ; to see that heart, which was once the seat of every diabolical lust and passion, softened, humbled, and spiritualized, and become the depository of every virtue which flourishes here, and ripens into perfec

Gen. i. 26, 27.

tion hereafter, is a sight which affords the highest satisfaction to God az, and the greatest joy to the inhabitants of heavena.

We shall participate in this feeling, in proportion as we are acquainted with a change so divine in its origin, and so blessed in its results.

22 Isa. Ixvi. 2.

a Luke xv. 10.

LECTURE XX.

ON REGENERATION, OR THE NEW BIRTH. John iii. 3. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily,

I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see

the kingdom of God. The nature and effects of the new birth have been briefly considered in the former Chapter. Our business in this is to speak of the Agent who operates our regeneration, the means by which he accom. plishes the arduous work, the happiness belonging to that state of salvation, the necessity of attaining it, and the certain misery which must ensue from the neglect of it.

1. The Almighty Father of the universe claims the glory of affecting this blessed change on the human soul exclusively for himself. “This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise." And how can such a claim be disputed ?-for, to produce in the perverse mind of man a prevailing delight in the will and service of God, a salutary fear of offending him, and a constant habit of referring all our actions to his glory; to excite in us a dread of the loss of his favour as the greatest evil; to induce

* Isa. xliii. 21.

were

us to iinplore his presence as the only source of real happiness; and to manifest an unshaken attachment to his cause, by cheerfully submitting to loss, reproach, and suffering, for his sake ;--this is evidently a work, to which none but a Divine

power

is equal. To declare the heavenly origin of regeneration, and to cut off all ground of boasting from men, as if they had any

share in effecting it, St. John expressly affirms of those who believed in the Divine mission of Christ, and received him as their Saviour, that “to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believed on his name; which born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of Godb.” Will any one, after this, arrogate to himself the ability to renew his own soul, or ascribe it to natural agents and means, instead of the mighty operation of God himself, whose exclusive province it is, to give life to those who are dead in trespasses and sins ? Let us rather suppress such an impious thought, by joining in the devout acknowledgments of pious men: “Lord, thou hast wrought all our works in uso.”

“ Not unto us, o Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake.

2. The manner in which this transformation from sin to holiness is accomplished, cannot be investi, gated. The agency of God's Spirit, in managing the process of regeneration, is always spoken of in Scripture as being utterly incomprehensible: it is compared to the uncontrolled and inexplicable nature of the wind ; like to which, its 'reality and existence may be clearly inferred from its effects. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound • John i. 12–14. Isa. xxvi, 12.

Psalm cxv. 1.

[ocr errors]
« הקודםהמשך »