« AnteriorContinuar »
acceptable manner. But the doctrine of active regeneration is perfectly consistent with all the gospel requires, or promises, or threatens in respect to sinners, and approves itself to their reason and consoience in the sight of God. It is, therefore, a matter of serious importance, that the true doctrine respecting the new heart should be exhibited in a plain scriptural light, and so as to convince sinners, that there is nothing but their free, voluntary, selfish affections, which prevents their immediately embracing the gospel and securing the salvation of their souls.
3. If it be a duty, which God enjoins upon sinners, and which they are able to perform, to make them a new heart; then there is no more difficulty in preaching the gospel to sinners, than to saints. Those ministers, who hold to passive regeneration, and maintain that sinners neither can, nor ought to make them a new heart, always find great difficulties in applying their discourses to the unregenerate. They feel constrained, either to omit exhorting sinners to any duty, or to exhort them to wait for a new heart, or to exhort them to seek for a new heart, or to exhort them to make them a new heart. They feel a difficulty in exhorting them to make them a new heart, because they expressly tell them, that they cannot do it. They find a difficulty in exhorting them to seek for a new heart with their old heart of enmity and unbelief, because this is exhorting them to continue in sin, and actually joining with them in their rebellion against God. And they find a difficulty in exhorting them to stand still and do nothing, because this is contrary to every dictate of reason and scripture. What then to say to sinners consistently with truth, and consistently with their own opinion, that they cannot and ought not to make them a new heart, they are totally at a
loss. Pressed with these evils on every side, they commonly of late, choose what they esteem the least; that is, to neglect preaching the gospel to sinners. The essence of preaching the gospel to sinners consists in urging and exhorting them to the duty of immediate repentance and faith. So John the Baptist preached. “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” So Christ preached after his forerunner. “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; Repent ye, and believe the gospel.” After Christ had finished his ministry, he commanded his Apostles and their successors to preach the gospel in the same manner as he did. “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Paul and the other apostles obeyed his command, and said plainly to sinners, "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you
in Christ's stead, Be ye reconciled to God.” Do not many ministers, at the present day neglect to follow the example of Christ and the Apostles, and totally omit exhorting sinners to repent and believe the gospel? If we look into the late publications of some very eminent Divines,* shall we find a single exhortation to sinners, to become reconciled to. God, to give God their hearts, to repent, to submit, or to do any thing whatever in a holy and benevolent manner? Such a want of conformity to the divine standard of preaching, is undoubtedly owing, in all cases, to a be
* Pr. Smalley and Dr. Strong,
lief that sinners are passive in regeneration, and cannot make them a new heart. Let ministers, therefore, only renounce the false notion of passivity in regeneration, and they will find no more difficulty in exhorting sinners, than in exhorting saints, to do their duty. They will see the same propriety in exhorting sinners to make them a new heart, or to repent and believe immediately, as in exhorting saints to grow in grace, and perfect holiness in the fear of God. And such preaching will approve itself to the consciences of both saints and sinners.
4. Since it is the duty of sinners to make them a new heart, they have no excuse for the neglect of any other duty. When they are urged to love God, repent of sin, believe the gospel, make a publick profession of religion, or to do any thing in a holy and acceptable minner, they are always ready to excuse themselves for their negligence, by pleading their inability to change their hearts. This they say is the work of God; and until he pleases to appear for them, and takes away their stony hearts and gives them hearts of flesh, they cannot internally obey any of his commands, and therefore must be excused for all their delays, neglects, and deficiences in duty. But if it be their duty, in the first instance, to make them a new heart, then, according to their own plea, they have no excuse for neglecting any other act of obedience to the divine commands. If it were their duty to begin, they acknowledge, it would be their duty to persevere in obedience; and by acknowledging this, they virtually give up every excuse, and become self-condemned for all their internal as well as external transgressions of the divine law. The moment, they feel the propriety and force of the precept in the text, “to make them a new heart and a new spirit,” their mouths are stops
ped, and they stand guilty and inexcusable before God. As soon as this commandment comes, sin re. vives, and they die. They find, that they cannot love God, merely because they hate him, and that they hate him without a cause, which is their criminality, not excuse.
5. If sinners ought to make them a new heart, then it must be their own fault, if they finally perish. They will have no right to plead, that God did not do enough for them; but must forever own and feel, that they did not do enough for themselves. They cannot be lost, if they only do their duty, and make them a new heart. But if they finally neglect this duty, they will justly expose themselves to eternal death. Hence God solemnly reminds them, that their future happiness or misery depends upon their choice; and if they perish, it must be wholly owing to their own folly and guilt. “Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed, and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God. Wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.”
THE TREASURES OF A GOOD AND EVIL HEART.
MATTHEW xii, 35. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart
bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out
of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. IT was never our Saviour's intention to preach against Moses and the prophets, but only to explain their writings, and take off the false glosses, which were put upon them by false teachers. Though these men adopted the language of the inspired writers, and acknowledged the distinction between saints and sinners; yet they had no idea of what constituted this distinction. They ignorantly supposed, that the precepts and prohibitions of the divine law had no respect to the heart, but only to external actions. And hence they denominated men either good or bad, saints or sinners, according to their outward appearance, rather than according to their internal views and feelings. But our Saviour represented this notion as a great and essential error. He said to his hearers, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of God.” And after this, he told the Scribes and Pharisees themselves, that their righteous ness was no better than hypocrisy, because it wholly consisted in mere external obedience. “Wo unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." But as Christ meant to instruct