« PreviousContinue »
fignt of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these " things, God will bring thee into judgment.”* This is the path of the abandoned and heaven-daring profligate, who caits off all fear of God, who bursts asunder every bond, " who craws iniquity with cords of vanity, and fins " as it were with a cart-rope."
Again, There are some whose hearts are set upon present gain. Instead of making that sober and moderate use of this world and its enjoyments, which becometh mortal creatures, they look upon it as their home. In stead of considering it only as a mean to a higher end, they have it as their chief or principal view, to secure or en
their poffesfion of it. These “ fay to the gold, Thou * art my refuge, and to the fine gold, Thou art my confi. " dence.”—They think their “ houses will endure for
ever, and their dwelling-places to all generations." This is often the sin of riper years : and, that the brutish folly of sinners may more eminently fhow itself, it is often the reproach and scandal of old age, when its abfurdity is most sensible and apparent. What doth it signify how much men of this character despise the levity of youth, or hate the filthy receptacles of fenfuality and lust, while their affections are supremely set upon the present world, while
they bless the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth ?”
It is often fufficient to raise in every serious person a mixture of compassion and indignation, to hear those with whom poverty is the only crime, openly pleading for, and boasting of their attachment to the worid, or treating with a sinile of contempt those who tell them, from the word of God, that it is vain. Though nothing is more frequently confirmed by experience, it is usual to consider this as only pulpit declamation, a part of our business and profeffion, but containing a maxim that cannot be applied to common life. Let all such be informed, whether they will hear it or not, that, however regular and abstemious they may be as to all fenfual indulgence, however diligent, cager, and successful in tradle, “except they be born again,
they cannot see the kingdo:n of Gocl.” And, that they niay not deceive themselves, but know in part at least, wherein this change consiseth, let them peruse and ponder the following pallage of the apostle John : “ Love not the
* Eccles. xi.
world, neither the things that are in the world: if any " man love the world, the love of the Father is not in “ him." *
Once more. There are some who walk in the path of ambition. Pride and vain glory is the idol at whose shrine they low. These, indeed, may be divided into very different classes. Pride, which may be called the masterpassion of the human frame, takes in the most extensive and universal range.
There is scarce any state in which it is not able to exert itself, scarce any circumstance which it is not able to convert into the means of its own gratification. All natural advantages which men enjoy over others, whether in respect of body or mind; all the additional trappings of society, viz. wealth, station, and office; all acquired advantages, intellectual, or even moral, become the fuel of pride. As fome endeavor by extraordinary actions to spread their fame in public life, others, though in a narrower sphere, are under the habitual government of the same desire. While great men are taking cities, and destroying kingdoms, to get themselves a name, others of meaner rank are vying with one another in dress, furniture, and equipage, or such inferior arts as they have been able to attain. Nay, those who never did any thing that could merit praise, too often fhew themselves under the government of the most hateful and detested kind of ambition, by a rancorous malice and envy against such as excel or outshine them. We may go a step farther, and fay, there is great reason to believe, that in fome the cultivation of their minds, long and afsiduous application to study, zealous and successful endeavors to promote the public good, ought to be ascribed to no other source, to no higher motive.
I thought I could not fall upon any way to illustrate this part of my subject, which would make it more intelligible, than to give this short view of the characters and pursuits
* 1 John ii. 15.
of the men of the world; and then to observe, That the change in regeneration doth properly consist in a strong inward conviction of the vanity of wordly enjoyments of every kind; and a persuasion, that the favor and enjoy. ment of God is infinitely superior to them all. Whatever other differences there may be, this will be found in every child of God, from the highest to the lowest, from the richest to the poorest : from the wifest to the most ignorant; and from the oldest to the youngest. Every such one will be able to say with the Pfalmift, “ There be many that say, “ Who will shew us any good ? Lord, lift thou up the light “ of thy countenance upon us.
Thou hast put gladness “ in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and “ their wine increased. I will both lay me down in peace, " and sleep, for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in fafe
Í shall afterwards have occasion more fully to explain the comparative influence of this defire; but before I con. clude this section, must make the two following remarks: 1. That the favor of God must appear to the believer as absolutely necessary to his comfort. 2. As full and sufficient for that purpose.
1. He that is born again, considers the favor of God as absolutely necessary to his comfort. He sees the emptiness and inherent vanity of all things else. Even when the world smiles, even when things succeed with him to his widh, he will not rest satisfied with any, or all temporal mercies. He will, above all, desire an interest in that love which God beareth to his chosen people," a right by promise or covenant to the use of present comforts, and the favor and protection of his special providence. How contrary this to the temper of many, who have a name to live while they are dead? If the world smiles, they follow it with eagerness, and embrace it with complacency, while they are cold and indifferent in their desires towards God. Perhaps, when they are distressed with outward calamitics; when experience constrains them to confess the vanity of the creature, they cry to God for relief. But when cafe
Plil. iv. 6, 7, 8,
and prosperity return, they foon forget his works, are well pleased with their condition, and neither grieve for his absence, nor are afraid of his anger. This shews plainly, that whatever occasional symptoms they inay discover, they are supremely and habitually possessed by a love of the world, and defire of fensual gratification. In oppofition to this, every real Christian fees the favor of God to be fo absolutely necessary, that he cannot be without it. He sees it to be more necessary than riches, honors, or pleafureś; nay, than health, or even life itself; all which he values chiefly as they are the fruits of the divine bounty, as tokens of divine love, and as they afford him an opportunity of promoting the divine glory. He is ready to say with the Pfalmift, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and “ there is none upon earth that I defire besides thee: my “ flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my “ heart, and my portion for ever."'*
2. He that is born again, considers the favor of God as full and fufficient for his comfort and happiness. That is to say, he is habitually satisfied with this as his portion, whether there be abundance or straitness as to outward provision. He counts the favor of God as absolutely necellary, but nothing else is considered as such. No earthly enjoyments can fatisfy him without God's favor ; but this will satisfy him, be his outward condition what it will. I am far from meaning to affirm, that every good man is free from the least rising murmur, the least iipalient or rebellious thought. If it were fo with any man, he would be perfect in holiness; but I mean to signify, that this is his habitual and prevailing temper. He is inwardly convinced, that those alone are happy; and that they are, and hall be, compleatly happy, who are reconciled to God, and the objects of his special love. His own remaining attachment to present things and immoderate forrow under outward calamity, he fincerely laments as his weakness, and humbly confeßles as his fin. He endeavors to supply the void left by every earthly comfort, when it is withdrawn, by the fulness and all-sufficiency of God. He
Pr. lxxiii. 25, 26.
possesses, in fome measure, and breathes after more and more of the temper expressed in the two following pallata ges of scripture: Although my house be not fo with God, yet
he hath made with me an everlafling convenant, or“ dered in all things, and sure; for this is all my filvation, " and all my desire.”* Although the fig-tree ihall not “ blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor “ of the olive fall fail, and the field fhall yield ro meat; " the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be "no herd in the stalls; yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I, * will joy in the God of my falvation.”
Thus I have endeavored to point out whertin the change in regeneration doth immediately and properly contiit. It is just the recovery of the moral image of God upon the heart ; that is to say, to love him supremely, and serve him ultimately, as our highest end; and to dilight in him fuperlatively, as our chief good. This recovery, however, is but begun on earth. It is gradually improved in the progress of fanctification, and ihall be fully compleated at the resurrection of the juít. The sum of the moral law is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and soul, and strength, and mind. This is the duty of every rational creature ; and, in order to cbey it perfectly, no part of our inward affection or actual service ought to be, at any time, or in the least degree, misapplied. This is the case with no mere man, while he continues in the body. But regeneration consists in the principle bcing implanted, obtaining the afcendancy, and habitually prevailing over its opposite. Even in those who are bom again, there will fill be many struggles between the "law
of fin in their members,” and the “ law of God in their “ minds.” This we find deeply lamented by the apolls -Paul : “ O wretched man that i am, who hall deliver
me from the body of this death ”lioucht to give unspeakable consolation to the chilian, winn he reflects, that the fece which is planted by divine grace, ihall be preserved by ilivine power. A gracious God wili neither luifer it to be fimothered by contending wecis, 1.cr destroy.
* 2 Sam. xxiii. 5. † 1.b.l. i. !,!2. R:... vi24.