« AnteriorContinuar »
be more repugnant to scripture, reason, and experience, than the notion of our deriving a corrupt heart from our first parents. If we have a corrupt heart, as undoubtedly we have; it is altogether our own, and consists in evil affections and other evil exercises, and not in any moral stain, pollution, or depravity derived from Adam. This clearly appears from the very essence of an evil heart, which consists in evil exercises, and not in any thing prior to; distinct from, or productive of, evil emotions or affections. The absurd idea of imputed and derived depravity originated from the absurd idea of the human heart, as being a principle, propensity, or taste, distinct from all moral exercises. But since every man's corrupt heart is his own, and consists in liis own free and voluntary exercises, he ought to repent, and look to God for pardoning mercy, And unless he does this, he must perish; for God has said, the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, but the soul that sinneth, it shall die.
3. This subject teaches us, that religion wholly consists in good affections. It is generally supposed, that religion partly consists in a good heart, and partly in the good affections, or holy exercises, which flow from the heart. This seems to have been President Edwards's opinion; who, in his Treatise on the affections, expressly says, that religion chiefly consists in affections. It appears, that he was led into this opinion, by supposing that a good heart is a good taste, or good principle, which lays a foundation for good affections or holy exercises. But if the leading sentiment in this discourse be true, there is no ground to suppose, that a good heart consists in a good taste, or a good principle, or in any thing besides good affections. doubtedly true, that all virtue, piety, and moral goodness consists in a holy or benevolent heart. But ac
It is un
cording to scripture and experience, a holy or benevolent heart altogether consists in holy or benevolent affections. These comprize all good exercises, desires, intentions, volitions, and passions, which are the sum and comprehension of all true religion and vital piety.
4. This subject teaches us, that the passions belong to the heart, and consequently are all either morally good, or morally evil. Since they are only the affections carried to a high degree of sensibility, they must partake of the nature of the affections from which they arise. Those which arise from benevolent affections are all virtuous and benevolent; and those which arise from selfish affections are all selfish and sinful. The benevolent passions are to be freely and perfectly exercised, but the selfish passions are to be entirely mortified, and not merely restrained. Those who have treated of the passions, have generally, if not universally, considered them as neither good nor evil, only as they are directed and employed to a good or evil purpose. Hence they strongly urge the duty of properly regulating and employing the passions. They represent them as wings or sails to the soul, which, by a proper regulation, may greatly assist us in the practice of virtue, and more especially in the duties of devotion. But this is a very erroneous representation of the passions, which are all either benevolent or selfish, and in their lowest as well as in their highest degree, either virtuous or sinful. The benevolent passions are, in every degree, virtuous, and need no regulation; but the selfish passions are, in every degree, sinful, and ought to be entirely extinguished. Many seem to imagine, they may innocently indulge any of their passions, if they only restrain them from breaking out into any improper words or actions. But the truth is, every selfish passion, whether outwardly ex
pressed, or inwardly smothered in the breast, is altogether criminal, and ought to be not merely restrained, but instantly and utterly destroyed.
5. It appears from the general tenor of this discourse, that men are active, and not passive, when they experience a change of heart. Under the renewing influence of the divine Spirit, they exercise benevolent, instead of selfish affections. Their new heart consists in new affections, desires, and passions, and not in any new faculty, principle, or taste. They put off the old man, and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. They experience no alteration, or obstruction, or enlargement, in their natural powers. by the transforming influences of the Spirit. Regeneration is altogether a moral, and not a physical change, and wholly consists in new and holy affections, according to the plain declaration of the Apostle, who expressly says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, not the principle of love; joy, not the principle of joy; peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness,” not the principle of these holy and gracious affections. There is no intimation in Scripture, that men are more passive in regeneration, than in sanctification; or that they are ever passive, under the special influence of the Spirit of God.
6. We may justly infer from what has been said, the propriety of God's requiring sinners to change their own hearts. This he certainly does require them to do, either directly or indirectly, in every command he has given them. When he requires them to make them new hearts, to rend their hearts, to purify their hearts, and to give him their hearts, he directly requires them to change their hearts. And heindirectly requires them to do this, when he calls upon them to repent, to borlicye, to turn from their transgressions, and cease to
do evil, and learn to do well. All these commands require them to put forth new affections, desires, and volitions, which is precisely the same thing as changing their hearts. And this appears to be perfectly reasonable. But we could see no propriety in any of these divine precepts, if they required any thing prior to the free and voluntary exercise of holy affections. If a new heart consisted in a new faculty, principle, or taste, there could be no more propriety in God's requiring sinners to change their heart, than in requiring them to add another cubit to their stature. But if a new and holy heart consists in new and holy affections; then there is the same propriety in God's requiring sinners to change their hearts, as in requiring them to do any duty whatever. Indeed, it is only in the view of the heart as consisting in free and voluntary exercises, that we can see the consistency of the divine commands to sinners with the doctrine of regeneration. While they view the new heart as distinct from new affections, and as the principle from which they proceed, they will plead the want of a new heart as an insurmountable obstacle, or natural inability, in the way of their loving God, repenting of sin, or doing any thing in a holy manner. They will plead, that they cannot give themselves a new and holy principle, or change their own hearts. But as soon as they are convinced that a new heart consists entirely in new and holy affections; and that they need no new faculty or principle, in order to exercise such new and holy affections, they necessarily feel their obligation to make* them a new heart and a new spirit, and to obey every divine command. They find they have no excuse for continuing any longer in impenitence or unbelief.
Finally, it appears from the whole tenor of this discourse, that it is the immediate duty of both saints
and sinners to put away all the evil treasure of their hearts. Saints have no right to live any longer in sin, or to have another evil affection, desire, or passion. They ought to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, and perfect holiness in the fear of God. There is but one law for the saint and the sinner; and that is the law of love, which requires perfect purity of heart. It is, therefore, the immediate and important duty of sinners, to change their hearts, to change their course, to return to God, and to devote themselves entirely and forever to his service.