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Chrift and him crucified, that whether they live or die they may be the Lord's? If this is the cafe, you have juft ground to fear that you are of that unhappy number who "favor not the things that be of God, but the things that "be of man."
3. Another excellent evidence of regeneration is, the moderation of our attachment to worldly enjoyments in general, and habitual fubmiffion to the will of God. So icon as this change takes place, it will immediately and certainly abate the meafure of our attachment to all earthly things. Formerly they were the all of the foul, its portion and its reft; but now a clear difcovery being made of greater and better bleffings, they muft fall back into the fecond place. There is a wonderful difference between the rate and value of prefent poffeflions of any kind, in the eye of him who lives under the impreffions of eternity, and of him who believes it but uncertainly, who underftands it very imperfectly, and who thinks of it as leldom as confeience will give him leave. It muft be confeffed we are all apt to be immoderate in our attachment to outward bleffings; this is the effect and evidence of the weaknefs of our faith: but, fo far as faith is in exercife, it muft mortify carnal affection. There is no way in which an object appears fo little, as when it is contralled with one infinitely greater, which is plainly the cafe here. The truth is, time and eternity, things temporal and things fpiritual, are the oppofite and rival objects of human attention and efleem. It is impoffible that one ol them can be exalted, or obtain influence in any heart, without a proportional depreflion of the other. They are. alfo, as they feverally prevail, the marks to diftinguifh thofe who are, and thole who are not, brought again from the dead. For as the apollle fays, "To be carnally mind"ed is death, but to be fpiritually minded is life and "peace."*
Further, it is not only in abating the meafure of our attachment to worldly things that religion fhews itfelf, and the change is difcovered, but in the ufe and application of them. The real Chriftian's powers and faculties, pofleffions and influence, are confecrated to God. His abilities are laid out for the glory of God. He no more confiders them as a mean of excelling others, and getting to himfelf a name, but of doing good. He finds it Ms higheft pleafure to ferve God with his talents; he thinks it his duty to plead for him in his converfation, to honor him with his fubftance, to enforce and ratify the divine laws by his authority and example.
* Rom. viii. 6.
The fame thing fhews plainly why a Chriflian muft manifeft his new nature by fubmiffion to the divine will. Does he receive his mercies from God? Does he love them lefsthan God? Does he efteem it his duty to ufe them in his fervice? And can he poffibly refufe to refign them to his pleafure? I am fenfible that refignation to the will of God, abfolute and unconditional, is a very difficult duty, but it is what every believer habitually ftudies to attain. He chides his remaining impatience and complaints, grieves at the continuing ftruggles of his imperfectly renewed will, and is fenfible that in this the fuperiority of his affe&ion to God above the creatura ought to appear. Unrenewed perfons, when their earthly hopes are difappointed, immediately renew the purfuit; they only change thetobject to one more within their reach, or they alter their meafures, and endeavor to amend the fcheme; but real Chriftians, receiving a conviction of the vanity of all created things, feek their refuge and confolation in the fulnf fs and all-fufficiency of God.
A more particular enquiry into what properly constitutes the sincerity of the change.
THUS I have given a fuccinct view of the moft: remarkable effects and vifible evidences of regeneration. I cannot, however, fatisfy myfelf with this, becaufe I am perfuaded the great queftion is, how far they ought to go, ad to what meafure of ftrength and uniformity they ought to arrive. There are not a few who may, in a certain degree, fincerely think themfelves pofielfed of moft or all the difpofuions mentioned above, whole ftate is neverthelefs very much to be fufpected. On the other hand, perhaps, fome of the humbleft, that is to fay, the very beft, may be in much fear concerning themfelves, becaufe they do not perceive either that vigor or fteadinefs in their holy difpofitions which they greatly defire and are fenlible they ought to attain. Befides, what hath been hitherto faid.is only general, viz. that thofe who are born again will have new apprehenfions of things, will be humble, mortified to the world, and fubmiffive to the will of God. In this way it will be molt applicable to, or at leaft moft fenfible in thofe, who had once gone great lengths in profanity, and were, by the almighty and fovereign grace of God, matched as "brands from the burning." The oppofition between their new and old characters is ordinarily fo great, that it will not admit of any doubt. To fome others it may be neceflary to make a more ltrict and particular enquiry into the nature of fincerity, and what is the full and proper evidence of the reality of the change.
That the reader may form as clear and diftinct conceptions on this fubject as poffible, he may be pleafed to recollect what was obferved above, That perfect holinefs confifls in having the heart wholly pofleft by the love of God, without the mixture of any inferior or bafer paffion; and that regeneration confifls in a fupreme defire to glorify God, and a preference of his favor to every other enjoyment. Now what chiefly occafions difficulty in difcern'mg the reality of this change is, that there is much unfubdued fin remaining in the children of God, and that there are many counterfeit graces, or appearances of religion, in thofe who are, notwithstanding, in the "gall of "bitternefs, and in the bond of iniquity."
That there is a great degree of unmortified corruption ftill remaining in the faints of God, and that not fo much as one is wholly free from it, is apparent from too many melancholy proofs. It appears from the pathetic complaint of the apoftle Paul, formerly referred to, of the law in his members warring againft the law of God in his mind. It appears, alfo, from the grofs fins into which foms eminently holy perfons have been fuffercd occafionally to fall, through the ftrength of temptation, as David's adultery and murder, Solomon's idolatry, the apoflle Peter's denial of his mailer, and feveral others recorded in fcripture.
On the other hand, there are alfo counterfeit graces, common or imperfect operations of the Spirit, which do notifiue in a real convevfion and faving change. This it will be proper to keep in mind, and perhaps, alfo, to attend a little to the proofs of it both from fcripture and experience. That the word of God has fome effect even upon thofe who continue unrenewed, is plain from many examples recorded in the facred volume. We read of a Felix trembling at the thoughts of a judgment to come: "And as he reafoned of righteoufnefs, temperance and "judgment to come, Felix trembled, and anfwered, Go "thy way for this time, when I have a convenient feaforv "I will call for thee."* But we are not informed that he ever found that convenient feafon, or defired to hear any more of fti«h words.
In the parable of the fower we have a character defcribed of thofe who not only " heard" the word, but " received it with joy," and on whom it had an immediate and vifible, though only a temporary effect. "Some fell upon "ftony places, where they had not much earth, and forth"with they fprung up, becaufe thev had no deepncfs of "earth; and when the fun was up they were fcorched, "and, becaufe they had no root, they withered away.f—"He that received the feed into ftony places, the fame is "he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth "it; yet hath he no root in hi;»*relf, but duieth for a "while: for when tribulation or perfecution arifeth be"caufe of the word, by and by he is offended."^ We read alfo of a Herod, who not only heard the word gladly, but did many things.—" For Herod feared John, know"ing that he was a juft man, and an holy, and obferved "him, and when he heard him he did many things, and
* Acls xxiv. 25. t Matth. xiii. 5, 6, $ Ibid. ver. 20, 31,
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"heard him gladly."* Nay, we fee even Ahab, the profane prince of Ifrael, humbling himfelf, and putting on fackcloth, under the denunciation of divine wrath. Neither have we any reafon, from the circumftances of the ftory, to believe that this was wholly hypocritical, but the contrary. "And it came to pafs when Ahab heard thefe "words, that he rent his clothes, and put fackcloth on his "flefh, and fafted, and lay in fackcloth, and went foftly."f Thefe things, and all others of the fame kind, even in wick, ed men, are reprefented as the effect of the operation of the Spirit, in many paffages of fcripture. I fhall only mention one, which is pretty remarkable, and well merits our attention. "For it is impolfible for thofe who were once enlight"ened, and have tafted of the heavenly gift, and were made "partakers of the Holy Gholl, and have tafted the good "word of God, and the power of the world to come, if "they fhould fall away, to renew them again to repen"tance, feeing they crucify to themfelves the Son of God "afrefh, and put him to an open fhame."J
The fame thing indeed appears plainly from the ftate of the world, and in a particular manner from that variety of partial characters which I have formerly defcribed. There are many things which have a religious appearance, and are taken by the deluded poffeffor for religion, when at bottom there is no real religion at all; and '* mene tekel" fhall be written upon them in the day of trial. There is a long gradation of characters between the openly profane finner, with a hardened heart, a feared confeience, and a fhamelefs countenance, on the one hand; and the refined, felf-deceiving hypocrite, with his duties and his forms, on the other: between thofe who are furious, violent, and malignant enemies to religion in profeffion and pra&ice; and thofe, who anfwer difcreetly with the young man in the gofpel; and of whom it may be faid, as our Saviour fays of him, that they *' are not far from the king"dom of God." This fhews at once the importance and difficulty of pointing out the great and diftinguifhing characters of real religion, and Jhewing how it effentially differs from all counterfeits.
* Mark vi. 20. f 1 Kings xxi. 27. J Heb. vi. 4.