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tread in His steps, and “take up bis cross daily ;” unless he “cut off his right hand,” and “pluck out the right eye, and cast it from him ;”-that he should ever dream of shaking off his old opinions, passions, tempers, of being “sanctified throughout in spirit, soul, and body," without a constant and continued course of general self-denial !
8. What less than this can we possibly infer from the abovecited words of St. Paul, who, living “in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses” for Christ's sake;-who, being full of “signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds," who, having been “caught up into the third heaven;”-yet reckoned, as a late author strongly expresses it, that all his virtues would be insecure, and cren his salvation in danger, without this constant self-denial ? “ So run 1,” says he, “not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:” By which he plainly tcaches us, that he who does not thus run, who does not thus deny himself daily, does run uncertainly, and fighteth to as little purpose as he that “beateth the air.”
9. To as little purpose does he talk of “fighting the fight of faith," as vainly hope to attain the crown of incorruption, (as we may, lastly, infer from the preceding observations,) whose hcart is not circumcised by Love. Love, cutting off both the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life ;-engaging the whole man, body, soul, and spirit, in the ardent pursuit of that one object ;-is so essential to a child of God, that, without it, whosoever liveth is counted dead before him. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all inysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.” Nay, “though I give all my goods to feed the poor, and my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing."
10. Here then, is the sum of the perfect Law, this is the true Circumcision of the Heart. Let the spirit return to God that gave it, with the whole train of its affections. “Unto the place from whence all the rivers came," thither let them flow again. Other sacrifices from us he would not; but the living sacrifice of the heart he hath chosen. Let it be continually offered up to God through Christ, in flames of holy love. And let no creature be suffered to share with him : for he is a jealous God. His throne will he not divide with another: he will reigo without a rival. Be no design, no desire admitted there, but what has Him for its ultimate object. This is the way wherein those children of God once walked, who, being dead, still speak to us : “Desire not to live, but to praise his name: let all your thoughts, words, and works, tend to his glory. Set your heart firm on him, and on other things only as they are in and from him. Let your soul be filled with so entire a love of him, that you may love nothing but for his sake.” “Have a pure intention of heart, a steadfast regard to his glory in all your actions.” “Fix your eye upon the blessed hope of your calling, and make all the things of the world minister unto it.” For then, and not till then, is that “mind in us which was also in Christ Jesus ;” when, in every motion of our heart, in every word of our tongue, in every work of our hands, we “pursue nothing but in relation to him, and in subordination to his pleasure;” when we too, neither think, nor speak, nor act, to fulfil our “own will, but the will of him that sent us;” when, whether we “eat, or drink, or whatever we do, we do all to the glory of God."
THE MARKS OF THE NEW BIRTH.
“So is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
John ii. 8.
1. How is every one that is “born of the Spirit,”-that is, born again, born of God? What is meant by the being born again, the being born of God, or being born of the Spirit ? What is implied in the being a son or a child of God, or haring the Spirit of Adoption? That these privileges, by the free mercy of God, are ordinarily apuesed io baptism (irhich is thence termed by our Lord in the preceding verse, the being “bora of water and of the Spirit'') we know; but we would know what these privileges are: what is the New Birth?
2. Perhaps it is not needful to give a definition of this, seeing the Scripture gives none. But as the question is of the deepest concern to every child of man; since', “ except a man be born again,'' born of the Spirit," he cannot see the kingdom of God;” I propose to lay down the Marks of it in the plainest manner, just as I find then laid down in Scripture.
1. 1. The first of these, and the foundation of all the rest, is Faith. So St. Paul, “Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. iii. 20.) So St. John, “ To them gave he power (Edsik', right or privilege, it may rather be translated) to become the sons of God, (ven to them that believe on his name; which were born,” when they believed, “not of blood, nor of the rill of the fiesh," pot by patural generation, “por of the will of inan," like those children adopted by mer, in whom no inward change is thereby wrought, “but of God.” (Chi.i. 12, 13.) And again in his General Epistle, “Thosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.” (1 Jo!ın v. 1.)
2. But it is not a barely notional or speculative Faith that is here spoken of by the Apostles. It is not a bare assent to this proposition, Jesus is the Christ; nor indeed to all the propositions contained in our Creed, or ju the Old and New
Testament. It is not merely an assent to any or all these credible things, as credible. To say this, were to say (which who could hear ?) that the Devils were born of God; for they have this faith. They, trembling, believe, both, that Jesus is the Christ, and that all Scripture, having been given by inspiration of God, is true as God is true. It is not only an assent to divine truth, upon the testimony of God, or upon the evidence of miracles; for they also heard the words of his mouth, and knew him to be a faithful and true witness. They could not but receive the testimony he gave, both of himself, and of the Father which sent him. They saw likewise the mighty works which he did, and thence believed that he " came forth from God." Yet, notwithstanding this faith, they are still “reserved in chains of darkness, unto the judg. ment of the great day.”
3. For all this is no more than a dead faith. The true, living, Christian Faith, which wbosoever hath is born of God, is not only assent, an act of the understanding ; but a disposition, which God hath wrought in his heart; "a sure trust and confidence in God, that through the merits of Christ (his sins are forgiver, and he reconciled to the favour of God.” This implies, that a man first renounce himself; that, in order to be “found in Christ,” to be accepted through him, he totally rejects all “ confidence in the flesh;” that, “having nothing to pay,” having no trust in his own works or righteousness of any kind, he comes to God as a lost, miserable, selfdestroyed, self-condemned, undone, helpless sinner; as one whose mouth is utterly stopped, and who is altogether "guilty before God.” Such a sense of sin, (commonly called despair, by those who speak evil of the things they know not,) together with a full conviction, such as no words can express, that of Christ only cometh our salvation, and an earnest desire of that salvation, must precede a living faith, a trust in Him, who for us paid our ransom by his death, and for us fulfilled the law in his life. This faith then, whereby we are born of God, is not only a belief of all the articles of our faith, but also a true confidence of the mercy of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
4. An immediate and constant fruit of this Faith whereby We are born of God, a fruit which can in no wise be separated from it, no, not for an hour, is Power over Sin ;-power over outward sin of every kind; over every evil word and work; for irberesoever the blood of Christ is thus applied, il "purgcila the conscience from dead works;”-and over inward sin ; for it purifieth the heart from every upholy desire and temper. This fruit of faith St. Paul has largely described, in the sixth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans. “How shall we,” saith he, “who [by faith) are dead to sin, live any longer therein ?" “Our old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”
-“ Likewise, reckon ye yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alire unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign [even) in your mortal body," “but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead.” “For sin shall not have dominion over you.—God be thanked, that ve were the scrvants of sin,but being made free,”—the plain meaning is, God be thanked, that though ye were, in time past, the serrants of sin, sct noir “ being free from sin, ye are become the serrants of righteousness.”
5. The same invaluable privilege of the sons of God, is as strongly asserted by St. John; particularly with regard to the former branch of it, namely power over outward sin. After he had been crying out, as one astonished at the depth of the riches of the goodness of God,-“ Behold, what manner of love the Fatlicr hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God! Beloved, now are re the sous of God: aud it doth not yet appear what we shall be ; but we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like bim ; for we shall see him as he is ;” (1 John iji. ), &c. ;) -besoon adds, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for bis seed remaineth in him : and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (Ver. 9.) But some men will say, “True : whosoerer is born of God doth not commit sin habitually." Habitually! whence is that? I read it not. It is not written in the book. God plainly saith, “He doth not commit sin; ” and thou addest, habitually! Who art thon that mendest the Oracles of God ?—that “addest to the words of this book!" Beware, I beseech thee, lest God “add to thee all the plagues that are written thereiu!" Especially when the comment thou addest is such as quite swallow's up the text: so that by this Le fodera Thawns, this artful method of deceiving, the precious promise is utterly lost; by this xécsZ zbęwtwr, this tricking and shuffling of men, the Word of God is made of none effect. O beware, thou that thus takest from the words of this book,