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veniently attend to matters of seriousness on the present occa: sion. He quiets himself with hopes of a more suitable time.The feebly convinced sinner is quickly discouraged, and readily warps out of the uncomfortable harbour of concern. But this is not the case with the soundly convinced sinner. He retires from business and the world, and betakes himself to a woody cops, or some secret covert, prostrates himself on the earth, and cries, “ God be merciful to me a sinner.” Fear impels him,. necessity urges him, and all is horror within. And a peradventure of salvation is a sufficient motive for all his distress and exertions.
It may be liere enquired from whence this anxious concern arises.
It arises from the movings of the Spirit of God upon the na. Tural principle of self-preservation. This principle appertains to all created intelligences aside from moral goodness. This principle will always lave force in every state to dispose the creature to seek natural happiness and avoid natural evil. This is a law of nature, and operates necessarily to influence a persuit of happiness and an avoidance of misery. This principle, touched by the holy Spirit, awakens the most alarming concern. The sitzner, viewing himself, his guilt and danger, the connection between sin and damnation ; feeling his conscience stung with the wrath of God, and beholding himself ready to be plunged into the gulf of eternal misery, it is impossible he should not be filled with anxious concern, and most solicitously enquire with the jailor in our text, “ What shall I do to be saved ?" Hence the creature will fiy to every mean which recommends deliverance. Sin and their consequences, seen in their proper light, must effict every power and passion of the soul. And a trembling concern will stize the heart, low to escape the wrath to come.
These few hints upon the doctrine of convictions, must be concluded with a very brief improvement.
First, We liere learn the reason why sinners are entirely quiet
about their salvation, is the want of a suitable concern of heart of their sin and danger. When persons have no anxiety about their future state, the fundamental ground of their security is, they have no proper convictions. They have no views of their evil case, or that they are in any danger. Let the Spirit of God, by the application of the law to their hearts, set their iniquities before them, they can no more help being concerned than the poor jailor. Many laugh at religious convictions, who with pale countenances, run first from approaching danger. If they could see hell uncovered before them, how would they stand aghast, and their souls be filled with agonizing fear and horror ?
This would instantly silence the pipe and tabret, put an end to the dance, scatter the dice, and throw the cards under the table. If real convictions should take place, the midnight revels would cease, and wicked gaming would vanish from every board and every shop . Secondly, We are here taught what judgment we should form, of persons who acknowledge their state is bad, and yet are per fectly unconcerned about it. The proper conclusion is, they have no true convictions. They have no more concern about their salvation, than the brutes who fancy death to be an everlasting sleep. They are in their sins, impending over the pit of destruction, yet, notwithstanding all their confessions, they neither see, hear, feel, nor are they afraid.
Thirdly, We infer from this discourse, till persons are con: vinced of their sin and danger, they will never be in earnest about salvation. No one will be in earnest about escaping danger, unless he feels an apprehension of his exposedness thereto. Until persons are brought to a seriousness about their salvation, they are never likely to be saved.
But you will here ask to what end and use are convictions, if they do not ensure conversion ? I answer as the Apostle did witla regard to circumcission, they are profitable every way. Their use is not to work in us any real goodness, but to convince us that we have none ; not to lay a foundation in us for any thing recommendatory to God, but to show us we are destitute of all recommendations, and that there is nothing in us to induce God to extend mercy to us. Their end is not to dispose us to believe in Christ, but to make us know we have no disposition to this purpose. They are not to adorn and qualify us for the favor of God, but to strip us of all ornaments, qualificatious and worthiness, and reduce us to the feet of a righteous God ; to lie at the threshold of sovereign mercy, to be disposed of according to divine pleasure.
Convictions are designed to stain the pride of all flesh, and to give the glory of the salvation of every sinner to God.
Convictions prick the sinner to the heart; he dies to every thing in himself. This is the true sense of St. Paul's experience when he says, " when the commandment came, sin revived and * I died."
THE DOCTRINE OF REGENERATION CONSIDERED..
JOHN. 111. 3 Stesus answered and said unto him, verily, verily, I say unto
thee, except a mon be born again, he cannot see the kinga dom of Goda
WHEN God was pleased to create man, he not only formed him after his natural image, that is, with an immaterial spirit, commonly called the soul, but this was adorned with his moral image, consisting in knowledge, righteousness and holiness. This is the principle of the holy nature of all intelligences. This principle is a distinct thing from the nature or essence of the soul. Ai spirit may loose it, and be a spirit still. This was the case with the apostate angels; this principle departed from them; yet, by no means, was their essence affected hereby ; for they remained spirits still, though their tempers were changed from angels to devils. And such was the unhappy fate of man, when he revolted from his God. This holy principle ceased in his heart, yet the nature of his soul remained the same. All that took place was a change of its temper, from love to God to a hatred of him, and every thing that was morally good. This is the deplorable state into which man fello “ We are now all become “sinners ; shapen in sin and brought forth in iniquity ; by na
“ ture children of wrath, and enemies in our minds by wicked “ works.” And this will remain the condition of man forever, unless this moral image, this holy principle be restored. Now, by the redemption of Christ Jesus, God can, consistent with all his prerogatives, and to the glory of all his perfections, reproduce this principle in the soul of man. Hence the doctrine of the necessity of the reproduction of this holy principle, is so strongly asserted by our Lord in the text, and is what is stiled regeneration, or being born again. A certain great man, a ruler among the Jews, named Nicodemus, applied to our Saviour by night, to learn of him the doctrines which he taught. Our Lord informed him, that a leading doctrine in his whole system was, that man must have a new and holy principle formed in him, in order to his turning to God, and becoming eternally happy, which he terms being “ born again."
The phrase astonished and disconcerted this Jewish doctor; hence he cries with unbelieving amazement, "Born again ! how 6 can these things be ?" He appears thrown into the utmost perplexity, how such an event could come 'to pass, or such a mighty change be effected. Our Lord repeats the sentence again with very little variation. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, ex“cept a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter “ into the kingdom of God.” By the kingdom of God, and by seeing and entering into it, is plainly meant, becoining the subjects of divine grace here, and the partakers of eternal life here. after. And no man, without being regenerated, or being bora again, can ever enjoy these priviledges, immunities, and bless sings.
Regeneration and conversion are terms generally used in the sacred oracles, as expressing the same idea. But when they would be accurately distinguished, the former is used to mark a simple principle, and the latter the motions or actions of this principle. However proper it may be at times, for the sake of thcoretic instruction, to go into those distinctions, yet they will al.