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time, when the contrary to this renewed temper acted in its full force in them. There is a great difference in this matter, between those who, like Samuel, “ grew up before the Lord,” under the advantageous and successful influence of a pious education, and those converted from gross ignorance and a vi. cious course. The apostle in the text speaks to persons converted from heathenism, and from all the licentiousness which reigned with little controul in the pagan world ; such could not but be sensible of the difference between their former state and their present, if they were now become true Christians; what a new thing the Christian temper was in them. And the same can hardly fail to be the case with those still, who are recovered from a very profligate and irreligious course, But though the Christian spirit be to all, who share in it, a new and a different spirit from the temper of depraved nature; yet in some, who have escaped the pollutions that are in the world, and been from their infancy under the means of grace, the change may have begun so early, and proceeded so gradually, that they are not able to trace the steps of their renovation, or to remember the time when the frame of their souls was entirely the reverse of what it is at present. The grand inquiry therefore, which lies upon all, is, whether we can discern in ourselves the change itself, or that temper of mind, which the scripture describes as a new spirit; and which we cannot but see to be a spirit very different from that which works in the children of disobedience? If we cannot remember, when it was entirely otherwise with us, or how our minds came to be thus formed anew ; yet are our souls now prevailingly so set and bent, as the spirits of true Christians are? Does our governing temper answer the gospel description of a new creature ?
2. If we must answer in the negative, or have just ground to fear it; yet let us not despair of a change still, but apply ourselves speedily in the appointed way to seek after it. It is observable that this renovation is made in scripture the subject of a precept, Ezek. xviii. 13. “ Make you a new heart and a new spirit :” and in another place the subject of a promise, Ezek. xxxvi. 26. “A new heart, (says God,) will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.” These two views of the matter may plainly teach us : that on the one
hand there is duty incumbent upon us in order to this end, or else God would never have delivered such a command to a fallen creature ; and yet on the other hand, that we are not sufficient of ourselves to produce such a change; otherwise God would not have interposed with a promise ; but both laid together, carry an intimation that the grace of God, which will be sufficient for us, may be expected, when we apply ourselves to our duty in the case. The precept delivered by St Paul, backed with an answerable promise, runs parallel with this, Phil. ii. 12, 13. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling : For it is God, which worketh in you, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure.”
Our duty in this case we are concerned to mind, in hope of the divine blessing. And it lies upon us to set ourselves to serious consideration; to review our sins in their number and aggravations; to meditate on the indispensible necessity of a new nature, that “except we be born again we cannot enter into the kingdom of God;" to think of the good-will of God to sinners, and the encouragements he has given us to pray for his grace, if we are convinced of our need of it; to call to mind the kind aspect of Christ's death upon the salvation of mankind, and the general, prosmiscuous offer of the grace of the gospel, wherever it comes. These subjects of consideration we are in some measure capable of, as we are reasonable creatures and under the common influences of the divine Spirit accompanying the gospel ; and though no such steps taken by us can deserve his renewing grace; yet they put our souls into the posture which he requires from us, and are a hopeful symptom of success. We should also diligently attend upon God's stated ordinances; remembering that faith usually comes by hearing : and continue instant in prayer to God, upon the foot of the convictions already impressed on our minds. It is worth our notice to this purpose, that after God had made the promise of giving a new heart, and of other covenant blessings, he adds, that “he would yet for this be enquired of, to do it for them,” Ezek. xxxvi. 37. And we know the general encouragement left us to hope, that the “heavenly Father, (the common Father in heaven,) will give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him,” Luke xi, 13.
3. Let the best retain a sense of the imperfection of the new nature in them, and of their obligation still to cultivate it, till it arrive at perfection : that till they put off the body, there will be daily occasion to be “putting off the old man, and putting on the new.” If the change be begun, advance and improvement is a more easy thing, and what we have a covenantsecurity for in the way of duty.
THE CHRISTIAN TEMPER, A DIVINE NATURE.
2 Pet. i. 4.
That by these, ye might be partakers of the
T SHALL look no farther back into the context, than to I observe, that the apostle takes notice in the beginning of this verse, that there are given unto us in the gospel, exceeding great and precious promises : Promises very great in themselves; and such as deserve to be precious and of high esteem with us; because they are quite contrary to what we had reason to expect, and yet perfectly suitable to our wants, and conducive to our happiness. And then, in the words chosen for my present subject, he acquaints us with the design of God, in giving out such excellent promises : “ That by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.” Now,
I. This may be understood as a privilege: and so the divine nature, will mean God himself. That by these promises, by conferring on us the blessings promised in the gospel, ye might have fellowship with the divine nature. That construction may be put upon the words, yévn): Sevas xonwol Purews; and so they will contain a certain truth. It was the gracious purpose of God by the gospel, to raise sinful creatures to a sort of alliance with God, to a federal union with him by Christ, to the dignity of his children, to have his Spirit dwelling in them, and to be allowed fellowship and communion with him. In this view, the intention of God as represented here, would amount to much the same with that assigned by another apostle, 1 John i. 3. “ That which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us ; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” We apostles make known the gospel to you, that you may have a share along with us, in the blessings tendered in it: and it is no contemptible thing we offer you a share in ; it is no less than a share with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ, that is, in the blessings and favours which come from the Father through his Son. But, . 2. This is rather to be understood as bespeaking our duty; the divine nature here, not signifying God himself, but ra. ther divine qualities, or a divine temper and disposition. I incline to think, that this is the sense of the apostle ; partly, because in the original there is no article added, which should fix the construction to be, as in our translation, the divine nature ; and therefore, according to the genius of that language, it rather seems proper to translate it, a divine nature, that is, a temper of soul, which in a metaphorical sense may be called divine, because of the relation it has to God : and principally, because the apostle himself appears so to explain it in the words immediately following ; “ Having escaped the corruptions that are in the world through lust; and besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue ; and to virtue, knowledge,” &c. Wherein he seems to give a description of that which he had before called a divine nature, in the two great branches of it; the one, a purification from the corrupt lusts which prevail in the world ; and over and above that, the graces and virtues of the Christian life.
That which I propose in the consideration of these words, is, to treat of the Christian spirit or frame of mind, in this view of it,
That it is a divine nature. . And it may be so called,
1. In respect of its original and descent; for it derives from God as the great author of it. If we partake of it, “ we are therein God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works,” Eph. ii. 10. This in the import of those phrases so often found in St John's writings, and I think peculiar to them ; when he describes men of a holy disposition, that they are “ of God, and born of God. He that is of God, heareth me,” John viii. 47. This Christ says in op