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Yo God as an austere oppressive being, rigorously exacting a hateful and hated service. Cordial devotion to his sera vice, acquiescence in his dispensations, affection for his people, and attention to his worship, will not only appear most reasonable in themselves, but will, in fact, be maintained and cherished as both natural and pleasing to the renewed mind. And, in a word, "whatsoever things are true, and honest, and just, and pure, and lovely, and of good report,” will be thought of, approven, practised, as most consonant with the gracious habits of the soul; and while it finds in the exercise of these things its proper elements, it yields them up in prompt and grateful homage to the authority of him who is its all in all. We do not pretend to say that a regenerate man is freed from the commission of sin so long as he remains in the body. To this no man living can lay claim. The very best find a "law in their members, warring against the law of their mind and bringing them into captivity to the law of sin." Iniquities will, therefore, very frequently prevail against them; too often will they be prompted to lay up treasures upon earth; and, notwithstanding all their care, and all their circumspection, the most spiritual of their services will be tainted with corruption. But "the hidden man of the heart” has nothing to do in these things. He hates, he prays, he struggles, he obtests against them; and while abashed at their frequent success, resisting with constancy all their efforts, and aspiring after conformity to the image of his Maker, he sighs for the coming of that happy, happy hour, when “death shall be swallowed up in victory.” Perfection of graces is not necessary to the ascertaining their reality. And no precise measure of attainment can or should be set in order to our forming an assured judg
ment of a safe condition. If their existence be certainly known, that is all we need. Weak indeed they may be at first; often obscured by the prevalence of corruption, and unceasingly opposed by the arts of satan; but if they really there, they will at times strongly manifest themselves: and though their highly favored possessor may of ten go mourning, and stumble, and fall into the depths, yet in the faith and by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, he shall still press forward, "going on from strength to strength, till at last he appear before God in Zion.”
We will find nothing like this in the character of the carnal man. His heart never expands with a sentiment of love to God; his conduct is never marked with a single instance of acceptable worship or obedience. The highest encomiums he bestows upon the framer of his spirit are but the effusions of hypocrisy; or if here ally speak the sentiments of his mind, it is incense offered to the idol of his own imagination. He does not,
-he cannot love the Jehovah of this bible. If he indeed pretend to such a thing, he offers violence to truth, and flings out calumny against the King of Heaven...... Self is the deity he worships; and to the aggrandizement of self his thoughts and actions are exclusively directed. Take the most promising instance you can find: pass by the choice spirits of philosophy, who are ever venting the virulence of their enmi. ty against the cross of Christ, in precious anthems on the charms of virtue and the dignity of man; pass by your generous, upright, “moral character,” whose conduct none impeaches, and who vaunts a disposition to make every body happy; pass by your wily, calculating professor of religion, who says a great many good things, and performs a great many good actions, only to immolate them upon the altar of his vanity, or convert them into passports to the treasury of mammon; pass by all these and pitch upon the man who feels that he is a guilty miserable sinner, who does look forward to death and eternity, and who is in earnest in his preparation for the judgment to come.
His sighs, his prayers, his strugglings, his good works, give him a claim upon our attention, and speak to the conscience of every candidate for heaven. Yet even in this most promising,--pitiable plight of the unregenerate man, we shall find that self is the origin, self the end of all his actions; and that even when the arrows of the Almighty are drinking up his spirit,” he will say to his own arm, thou art my deliverer; and in the unbelief and pride and self sufficiency of his heart, turn with abhorence from the remedy of God. And what is there really excellent, what that looks like heaven, in all this? What is there like conformity to the image of God, what like love to his commandments in the unnatural and forced obedience of them who have nothing but the fear of hell before their eyes, and whom the lash of conscience, not "the love of Christ constraineth ?" Therr “root," their "root" is "rottenness," no wonder that their “blossom” should go up as “dust." A man may “speak with the tongues of angels,” he may sunderstand all mysteries, and all knowledge,” he may. “have faith to remove mountains," and "bestow all his goods to feed the poor," nay, he may "give his body to be burned,” and after all, if he “have not charity,” if his heart be not right with God, these things shall only serve to heighten the horrors of his hell.
The "trees of righteousness” are the planting of Jeho vah.” “He is a rock, his work is perfect.” Every thing about it proclaims it to be perfect. And we have his own assurance that in whomsoever "he hath begun a good work,” he “will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." Grace and glory are therefore intimately connected. Where the former is not found, there cannot be a shadow of title to the latter. But where the Spirit of God has effectually operated to the bringing from darkness into light, and from the bondage of satan "into the glorious liberty of the children of God,” there we are compelled to acknowledge the beginnings of that life which he will carry on till it be perfected in glory everlasting. The alternative, then, is short and simple; "if we live after the flesh we shall die,” but if God, by his enlivening and illuminating Spirit is fitting us for glory, glory shall be our portion.
In the third place: “The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God.” It is a truth of the utmost importance, and most clearly taught in scripture, that the Holy Spirit dwells in the heart of every believer, from the moment in which they are "delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son;" and that while he is God's seal, whereby they are marked,-set apart -distinguished, as his peculiar property, he is to them the earnest,"'the pledge, of the heavenly inheritance, into the possession of which God thereby binds himself in due time to introduce them. “Hereby we know that God abideth in us, by the spirit which he hath given us." And again: "Be cause ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore, thou art no more a servant, but a son, and if a son, then beir of God through Christ.” And to set this matter beyond the possibility of cavilling or doubt, we are told in the most explicit and universal terras, that “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” The testimony of the Spirit consists either in discovering to the people of God his own gracious operations upon their hearts, and thereby assuring them that “the Spirit of glory and of God rest eth upon" them; or in lifting the soul above the conside eration of marks and characters into sweet and immediate communion with God himself, so that they feel and are persuaded of their interest in his favour without the aid of rational deduction.
Christian experience and the word of God alike bear witness that a high degree of grace may subsist in the heart of a sinner, and yet the soul be so harrassed with fear, or blinded by the arts and influence of satan, that it cannot with certainty lay the finger on any one mark of a gracious state, and say that of a surety that mark belongs to it. But when the Holy Spirit has a mind to convince a person of the truth and efficacy of his workmanship, he shines into the heart with his own native light, and, dispelling the gloom in which it was enveloped, discovers to him clearly the state of his affections, and ascertains beyond all contradiction the nature, origin and motives of his conduct; and then he opens up the scriptures, enables him to apprehend the spirit of his word, and makes application of the principles and characters there laid down to what he feels within. And thus having caused him to see in his own heart a clear and indisputable transcript of these things, he bears in upon the soul, with irresistable evidence, the comfortable, exhilerating truth that it also is "his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus."
But in mentioning the testimony afforded by the Spirit, we have reference principally to that nearnesss of access to the throne of God, that sensible communion