« AnteriorContinuar »
but disobedient to the divine will in his habitual and prevailing inclination. This is the character given not of one man only, but of the human race. “And God faw " that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and “ that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was 6 only evil continually."*
He became, at the same time, not only unworthy of, but wholly disinclined to communion with God, and habitually disposed to prefer the creature before the Creator, who is “God blessed for evermore.” In regeneration, therefore, the finner must be restored to the image of God, which, in a created nature, is but another expreflion for obedience to his will. He must also be rellored to the exercise of love to him, and find his happiness and comfort in him. His habitual temper, his prevailing difpofition, or that which hath the ascendency, must be the same that was perfect and without mixture, before the fall, and shall be made equally, or perhaps more perfect, in heaven, after death. · As the change must be entire and universal, correspond ing to the corruption of the whole man, it is not unusual to say it may be fully comprehended in the three following things, giving a new direction to the understanding, the will, and the affections. And no doubt, with respect to every one of these, there is a remarkable and fenfible change. But as the understanding is a natural faculty, which becomes good or evil, just as it is applied or employed, it would be scarce possible to illustrate the change in it without introducing, at the same time, a view of the difpofition and tendency of the heart and affections. As, therefore, the change is properly of a moral or spiritual nature, it seems to me properly and directly to consist in these two things, I. That our fupreme and chief end be to serve and glorify God, and that every other aim be subordinate to this. 2. That the soul rest in God as its chief happiness, and habitually prefer his favor to every other enjoyment. These two particulars I shall now en.. deavor to illustrate a little, in the order in which I have named them.
* Gen. vi. 5.
1. Our supreme and chief end must be to serve and glorify God, and every other aim must be subordinate to this.
All things were originally made, and are daily preser. ved for, nay, they shall certainly in the issue tend to the glory of God; that is, the exercise and illustration of di. vine perfection. With this great end of creation the inclination and will of every intelligent creature ought to coincide. It is, according to scripture and reason, the first duty of man to "give unto the Lord the glory due 64 unto his name.” This, I know, the world that lieth in wickedness can neither understand nor approve. “The “ natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of
God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he sc know them, because they are spiritually discerned."* The truth is, we ought not to be surprized to find it so, for in this the fun of man originally consisted, and in this the nature of all sin, as such, doth still consist, viz. withdrawing the allegiance due to God, and refusing subjection to his will. The language of every unrenewed heart, and the language of every sinner's practice is, “Our lips " are our own, who is lord over us?” But he that is renewed and born again, hath seen his own entire dependance upon God, hath seen his Maker's right of domi. nion, and the obligation upon all his creatures to be, in every respect, subfervient to his glory, and without referve submissive to his will. He hath seen this to be most “ fit” and “ reasonable," because of the absolute perfecti. on and infinite excellence of the divine nature. He is convinced that all preferring of our will to that of God, is a criminal usurpation by the creature of the unalienable rights of the great Creator and sovereign proprietor of all.
Regeneration, then, is communicating this new principle, and giving it such force as that it may obtain and prelerve the ascendency, and habitually govern the will. Every one may easily see the different operation and effects of this principle and its opposite, by the different carriage and behavior of men in the world. The unre
* I Cor. ii. 14.
newed man seeks his own happiness immediately and ul. timately : it is to please himself that he constantly aims.
This is the cause, the uniform cause, of his preferring one action to another. This determines liis choice of em. ployment, enjoyments, companions. His religious actions are not chofen, but submitted to, through fear of worse. He considers religion as a restraint, and the divine law as hard and severe. So that a short and summary defcription may be given of man in his natural stateThat he hath forgotten his subjection, that God is de. throned, and self honored, loved, and served in his room,
This account will appear to be just, from every view given us in scripture of our state and character, before or · after conversion. It appears very clearly, from the first condition required by our Saviour of his disciples, viz. self-denial. “Then said Jesus to his disciples, If any “ man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take “ up his cross, and follow me.”* All those who are brought back to a sense of their duty and obligation as creatures, are ready to say, not with their tongues only, but with their hearts, “ Thou art worthy to receive glory “ and honor, and power, for thou hast created all things, “and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”+ lo ought to be attended to, what is the import of this, when spoken from conviction. They not only consider God as being most great, and therefore to be feared; but as infinitely holy, as absolutely perfect, and therefore to be loved and served. They esteem all his commands concerning all things to be right. Their own remaining corruption is known, felt, and confessed to be wrong. This law in their members, warring against the law of God in their minds, is often deeply lamented, and, by the grace of God, strenuously and habitually resisted.
Perhaps the attentive reader may have observed, that I have still kept out of view our own great interest in the service of God. The reason is, there is certainly, in every renewed heart, a sense of duty, independent of interest, Were this not the case, even supposing a desire of
reward or fear of punishment, should dispose to obedience, it would plainly be only a change of life, and no change of heart. At the same time, as it did not arise from any inward principle, it would neither be uniform nor lasting. It is beyond all question, indeed, that our true interest is inseparable from our duty, so that self-seeking, is felf. lofing; but still a sense of duty must have the precedency, otherwise it changes its nature, and is, properly speaking, no duty at all.
To honor God in the heart, then, and to serve him in the life, is the first and highest desire of him that is born again. This is not, and cannot be the case, with any in a natural state. But, before we proceed to the other par. ticular implied in this change, it will not be improper to make an observation, which I hope will have the greater weight, when the foundation of it is fresh in the reader's mind. Hence may be plainly seen the reason why profane and worldlly men have such a tendency to self-righteousness, while the truly pious are filled with an abhorrence of that foul destroying falshood. This, I dare say, appears strange to many, as I confess it hath often done to me, before I had thought fully upon the subject : that those who are evidently none of the strictest in point of morals, and have least of that kind to boast of, should yet be the most professed admirers and defenders of the doctrine of justification by works, and despisers of the doctrine of the grace of God. But the solution is easy and natural. Worldly men have no just sense of their natural and unalienable obligation to glorify God in their thoughts, words, and actions, and therefore all that they do in religion, they look upon as a meritorious service, and think that certainly soniething is due to them on that account. They think it fırange if they have walked soberly, regularly, and decently, especially if they have been firict and punctual in the forms of divine worship, that God should not be obliged (pardon the expression) to reward them according to their works. It is a hard service to them, they do it only that they may be rewarded, or at least may not suffer for the neglect of it, and therefore cannot but insist upon the merit of it. .
On the other hand, those who are born of God, are sensible that it is the duty of every rational creature to love God with all his heart, and to confecrate all his powers and faculties to his Maker's service. They are convinced that, whoever should do so without fin, would do only what is just and equal, and have no plea of nierit to ad. vance. But when they consider how many sins still cleave to them, how far short they come of their duty in every instance, they ask for mercy, and not for reward, and are ready to say with the Plalmist David, " if thou, Lord, “ shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand ? but “ there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be fear. “ ed.”* To sum up this reasoning in a few words. The reluctant obedience which some pay to the divine law, is considered as a debt charged upon God; whereas real obedience is considered as a debt due to God. And therefore it must always holl, that the very imperfection of an obedience itself increases our disposition to overvalue and rest our dependance upon it.
THE next thing implied in a saving change is, that
the soul rests in God as its chief happiness, and ha, bitually prefers his favor to every other enjoyment. On this branch of the subject I would beg the reader to observe, not only the meaning and substance of the proposition, but the order in which it is placed. There must be first a devotedness of mind to God, and a supreme leading concern for his honor and glory. He must be, if I may lo speak, again restored to his original right, his dominion and throne, while the creature is reduced to its obedience and subjection. In consequence of this, there is an unfeigned acquiescence in God, as the source of comfort, and a high esteem of his favor as better than life. This does not go before, nay, is hardly distinct or separated
* Psal. cxxx. 3, 4,