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finally to fall fhort of it. He fometimes glorifies his pow. er and mercy at once, by converting his moft inveterate enemies, and making them the moft zealous, active and fuccefsful advocates for his caufe. Such an inftance was the apoftle Paul, who from a perfecutor became a preacher. Sometimes converfion is fpeedily and fuddenly brought about, and the times and circumftances of the change mav be eafily afcertained. This was the cafe with the jailor recorded in the hiftory of the Acts of the Apoftles. The fame may be faid of the apoftle Paul; and there have been particular examples of it in every age. Sometimes, on the other hand, the reception of the truth, and renovation of the heart, goes on by flow and infenlible degrees; nor is it eafy to fay by what means the change was begun, or at what time it was compleated. This was perhaps the cafe with moft, if not all, the difciples of our Lord, during his perfonal miniftry.

Sometimes the change is very fignal and fenfible, the growth and improvement of the fpiritual life fpeedy and remarkable, the greateft finners becoming the moft eminent faints; like the woman mentioned in the gofpel,to whom many fins were forgiven, and who loved her Redeemer much. Sometimes, on the other hand, the change is very doubtful, and the progrefs of the believer hardly difcernible. Some of this fort are reproved by the apoftle Paul in the following words, which are but too applicable to many profeffing Chriftians of the prefent age: "For "when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need "that one teach you again, which be the firft principles *' of the oracles of God, and are become fuch as have need "of milk, and not of ftrong meat,"*—Sometimes the convert hath much peace and fenfible comfort, rejoicing with joy unfpeakable and full of glory; and fometimes, on the other hand, he is diftreffed with doubts and fears, and made to walk in darknefs. Once more, fome finners are brought in by deep and long humiliation, and are almoft diftracted with legal terrors, while others are powerfully, though fweetly, conftrained by the cords of divine love. All thefe " worketh the felf fame fpirit, who divi* Heb. v. 12.

"deth to every man feverally as he will." I defire, that what has now been faid, may be ftill kept in mind; fo that if the evidences of a faving change can be produced, there need be little folicitude about the time or manner of its being wrought.

What I propofe to offer on this part of the fubject, is not to be confidered as in the leaf t degree contrary to, or inconfiflent with, thefe truths. Nay, I am not to lay down a plan and fay, this is the ordinary way in which finners are brought to the faving knowledge of God, leaving it to him, in fome few, uncommon, and extraordinary cafes, to take fovereign fteps, and admit exceptions from the ordinary rules. This is a way of fpeaking common enough; but though it may be very well meant, I apprehend it hath not in it much, either of truth or utility. The falvation of every child of Adam is of free, abfolute, fovereign grace: and the actual change may be wrought at any time, in any manner, by any means, and will produce its effe&s in any meafure, that to infinite wifdom fhall feem proper. Neither ought we to pretend to account for the diverfity in any other manner than our Saviour does: "Even fo, Father, "for fo it feemed good in thy fight."* Therefore what I have in view, is to fpeak of fuch fteps in the changes as are, in fubflance at leaft, common to all true converts. It will be a fort of analyfis, or more full explication of the change itfelf, and ferve, among other ufes, further to diftinguifh the real from the counterfeit. Too much can hardly be faid on this fubject: "For what is the chaff to "the wheat? faith the Lord." It will alfo illuftrate the divine wifdom, as well as fovereignty, by fhowing how that diverfity of operation, fo remarkable in different fub~ jefts, produces in all at lafl the fame blefled effect.

SECT. I.

There must be a discovery of the real nature of God.

I

N the firft place, one important and neceflary ftep in bringing about a faving change, is that the finner get

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a difcovery of the real nature, the infinite majefty, and tranfcendent glory of the living God! Perhaps fome will be furprifed, that, as ufual, a convi&ion of fin is not menttoned firft, as the preliminary ftep. I enter into no quarrel or debate with thofe who do lb; but I have firft mentioned the other, which is but feldom taken notice of, from a firm perfuafion, that a difcovery of the nature and glory of the true God lies at the foundation of all. This alone can produce (alutary convictions of fin; for haw can we know what fin is, till we know him againft whom we have finned. The fame thing only will point out the difference between real conviction, and fuch occafional fears as never go farther than a lpirit of bondage.

In fupport of this, you may obferve, that in fcripture, thofe who are in a natural or unconverted hate, are often defcribed as lying in a ilate of ignorance or darkneis. They afe faid to be fuch as know not God: "Hewbeit then "when ye knew not God, ye did fervice unto them which '.' by nature are no gods.''* See alfo the following description: "Having, the underftanding darkened, be"ing alienated from the life of God, through the igno. 44 ranee that is in them, becaufe of the blindnefs of tbeir "hearts."| Agreeably to this, the change produced in them is reprefented as giving them light or underftandipg, in oppofition to their former ignorance; "to open "their eyes, and to turn them from darknefs to light, and "from the power of Satan unto God.^ But if our gofpel "be hid, it is hid to them that are loft, in whom the god of "this world /hath blinded the minds of them which be"lieve not, left the light of the glorious gofpel of Cbrift, "who is the image of God, fhould fhine unto them. For "God, who commanded the light to fhine out of dark"nefs, hath fhined in our hearts, to give the light of the "knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jefus "Chrift."|| In this way is the matter reprefented in fcripture, much more frequently than is commonly obferved; and, as the underftanding is the leading faculty in our nature, it is but reafonable to fuppofe that the change

« Gal. iv. 8. t Eph. iv. 18. { Afts xxvi. 18. || 2 Cor. iv. 4,6. /hould begin there, by a difcovery of the nature and glory of God, as the foundation of all that is afterwards to folio*.

This will be further evident, if we reflect upon the account formerly given, and fufficiently fupported from the holy fcriptures, of the nature of this change, That it confifts in a fupreme regard to the glory of God, and an habitual prevailing delire of his favor. To this it is abfolutely neceffary, as a preliminary, that there be a difcovery of the real nature and tranfeendent glory of God. How can any man have that as the chief and leading motive of action which he doth not underftand? How can any man have that as the fupreme object of defire, which he doth not know? Neither of thefe is poffible ; there muft, therefore, be fome fuch difcovery as I have mentioned above. It is true, this is but imperfect at firft ; there will be in the truly regenerate a growing difcovery of the glory of God, as well as a growing delight in him, as its confequence: yet there muft be fame view of his nature, as the beginning of the change, and the ground-work of every holy difpofition.

This difcovery of God implies two things, which, as they are both neceffary, fo they deferve our particular attention; and it is not improper to diftinguifh carefully the one from the other. 1. It muft be a difcovery of his real nature. 2. A difigovery of the worth and excellence of his nature, which is, properly fpeaking, the glory of God. 1. It muft be a difcovery of the real nature of God. He muft be feen to be juft fuch a Being as he really is, and no falfe or adulterated image muft be placed in his room, or adored in his ftead. He mull be feen in his fpiritual nature, as almighty in his power, unfearchable in his wifdom, inviolable in his truth; but above all, he muft be feen as infinite in his holinefs and hatred of fin, as impartial in his juftice, and determined to punifh it. Such is the fcripture reprefentation of God, as " glorious in his "holinefs.—Evil cannot dwell with him, and finners ean"not ftaud in his prefence." It is the error of the wicked to fuppofe the contrary; and, indeed, it is the very fource of wickednefs to deny the being, or to deny the holinefs of God % and thefe amount much to the fame thing. "Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God; he hath faid "in his heart thou wilt not require it.*—The fool hath "faid in his heart there is no God.f—Thefe things thou 4t haft done, and I kept filence; thou thoughteft that I was "altogether furh an one as thyfelf, but I will reprove thee, "and fet them in order before thine eyes."J

God muft be feen as he is reprefented in his own word, which is the only rule of faith, " the pillar and ground of "truth." This is a matter of the greateft importance, which, I am forry to fay, is in this age very feldom attended to, but which is moil manifeftly and undeniably juft. If God is not feen in his real nature, as he is in truth, he can never be acceptably ferved. If a wrong or falfe character of God is formed, no worfhip we can offer to him, no love or refpect we can bear to him is genuine; or rather, to fpeak more properly, our fervice and attachment is, in that cafe, wholly mifplaced, and not directed to him at all, but fomething elfe is loved, honored, and ferved in his room. I befeech the ferious reader to obferve, what an unfpeakable jealoufy God difcovered under the Old Teftament difpenfation, as to the purity of his worfhip, and what a heinous crime all idolatry was efteemed. How great was the divine difpleafure at the making and worfhipping of the golden calf, although it is very probable Aaron only intended to reprefent the true God, by the fame fymbol they had feen in Egypt? Did not this belong to the fubftance, and not only to the circumftances of religion ? h it not then equally interefting under the New Teilament as under the Old? Was the unchangeable God fo much difpleafed at giving him a falfe name, and will he not be equally difpleafed with thofe who attribute to him a falfe nature?

As this truth ferves to explain the nature and rife of regeneration, fo it alfo receives particular light and evidence itfelf from what has been faid in the preceding parts of this fubject. Regeneration confifts in having the image of God again drawn upon the heart; that is, its being car

* Pfal. x. 12. f Pfal. xiv. 1. J Pfal. 1. 21.

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