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have we not need of every awakening motive to urge us forward in the narrow way? No arguments, no forcible appeals, no spirit-stirring eloquence, are needful to induce men to seek after the honours, the wealth, or the pleasures of the world; sin is manifestly indigenous in our hearts, it grows, and flourishes, and bears fruit, noxious and plentiful, without culture or attention; but religion droops and withers, and dies within us, if left to itself for a moment. The soul of man in its natural state is perfectly blind to spiritual truths, and incapable of appreciating them. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”* Therefore he must be born again, a new heart, an understanding heart, and new perceptions must be given to him, or he will perish in his ignorance and folly. “The carnal mind is enmity against God : for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed CAN BE! So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God !”ť If therefore they continue “ in the flesh,” in their natural unconverted state, they will continue at enmity with God, and incapable of pleasing Him; wherefore“ they must be born again."
Men by nature find no pleasure in spiritual ordinances and exercises ; they look upon all religious duties as a burthen, a tax upon * 1 Cor. ii, 14.
+ Rom. viii. 7,8.
their inclinations, a sort of penance which they must undergo in order to attain to eternal life. They keep the Sabbath in some measure holy, but they often exclaim in their hearts, “What a weariness is it !” A long and dreary day! In the house of God how soon are they weary and impatient; their hearts are not engaged, their thoughts wander, they have no pleasure in such employments; therefore“
they must be born again.” There must be a signal change in the very constitution of their minds, or heaven itself would be irksome to them. They would find nothing there suited to their tastes and habits; they could not speak its language, breathe its pure atmosphere, nor relish its occupations; its society would afford them no pleasure, and the very brute creation could not be more incapable of appreciating its spiritual enjoyments. Nay, man in his natural state is, for this very reason compared in Scripture to “ the beasts that perish!”
But under the transforming efficacy of the creative Spirit, man becomes a new and spiritual being. To his natural sinfulness a divine principle is superadded; he feels new affections stirring in his bosom; he is conscious to himself of “the workings of the Spirit of Christ drawing up his mind to things high and heavenly.' He desires salvation as “the pearl of great price;" he is comparatively estranged from the
* Art. xvii.
world, and occupied with eternal things; prayer and praise, and the hearing of the word, become pleasant occupations, and sometimes exceedingly delightful to his soul.
“ Sin becomes exceeding sinful” in his eyes; it is his curse, his enemy, his burden: holiness he loves and after it he strives : in a word he is “ a new creature, old things have passed away, and all things are become new." His mind is enlightened and enlarged; he sees many
sees many truths in a different light, many passages of Scripture become intelligible to him which before he had regarded as obscure and enigmatical; his affections have received a new and opposite impulse ; and his flesh is continually subdued to the spirit by the effectual operation of the Holy Spirit. “He is born again,” “ born from above,” and “he sees the kingdom of God;" enters into the nature of that spiritual kingdom which Christ has established upon earth, and whose faithful members are as certain of entering into the heavenly kingdom as if they were already there. In heaven and earth there is but one family ; converted sinners and glorified saints are the same persons in different stages of spiritual existence; and they “are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Who then would not earnestly inquire, Am I a member of this blessed family? I know I am a sinful child of sinful parents; I know that I inherit from them a corrupt and fallen nature; my own experience confirms the fact, and I need no stronger proof of it than the emotions of evil that stir in my own bosom. But am I a member of this adopted family? Have I been called out of darkness into light, from the power of Satan to God? In a word, am I “ born again ?" By water I have been received into the visible church, but am I also“ renewed by the Holy Ghost ?” Has this great, this saving change passed upon me? Without it I cannot see the kingdom of God. I am shut out from His presence in whose favour is life; and there is no middle state: to be excluded from heaven is to be shut up in hell. Who would not wish to solve this question, as he desires to be saved? And if we are honestly intent upon coming to a true conclusion, the tests of Scripture, even those arising out of this subject alone, are amply sufficient to guide us.
* 2 Cor. v. 17.
There are internal evidences of conversion which can be known only to ourselves and to our God. Have we those marks upon us ? did we ever sorrow deeply for sin ? did we ever taste its bitterness and feel its burden? are we continually found near to the cross of Christ, seeking mercy through his atoning blood ? do we rest all our hopes on Him and Him alone for salvation ? are we often engaged in secret prayer, conversing with God and with our own hearts? is the word of God precious to us? do we study its sacred
pages with holy diligence, reverence, and dependence on the teaching of the Spirit ? are we upright before God, wholly following the Lord ? keeping nothing back from Him, conscious of no secret heart-treachery or veiled iniquity ? do we love to say, “God, thou knowest my simpleness,
faults are not hid from thee?” Every true christian, every converted sinner is familiar with these things; and if they are strange to us, it must be because we are stran
gers to God!
But if “our hearts do not condemn us” in, these things, and we appear to ourselves “to have confidence towards God,” how are we in the eyes of others, of our fellow Christians, and of the world.? Do they recognize in us the image and similitude of our divine Master? are we like unto Him? have we His spirit and temper? His meekness, gentleness, and love? His devotedness to his work ? His glowing philanthropy, His selfdenying benevolence, His purity and faithfulness? Do all around us perceive that we are in earnest, and acknowledge that our walk, conversation, and conduct are worthy of Him whose name we bear, and whom we call Master and Lord ? Let us judge ourselves severely, that we may be judged mercifully of Him. To be unconscious of any change of mind and heart is, generally speaking, presumptive evidence that we are unchanged. To feel no difficulty in religion, is proof that our