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This comparing of the work of the Spirit to the wind, shows us, that there is something we cannot understand, and something we can, concerning the New Birth. It teaches this important rule--that we are to judge of the work of the Spirit within us, by its effects. None of us can see the wind going and coming; but we can hear its sound; and we can see the effect of it, by the moving of the trees, and such like.
So the most spiritual man on earth cannot, with his mind, behold the Spirit of God; but he can tell what effects that Blessed Spirit has wrought, and is daily working, on his heart, and in his life.
Perhaps you would like that I should explain what some of these effects are. Most gladly will I try to do so ;—and, at each step, let us solemnly pause to inquire, Am I thus born of God ?
One mark of this new birth of the soul is, Having our Understanding enlightened with new views of things divine. Till then, the soul is dark: but now the Bible becomes plain, and delightful: the words of Christ are to us spirit and life. We see what a hateful thing sin is, and how it needed an infinite atonement in Christ. Beholding Jesus, we adore the mystery of Emmanuel, • God with us.' The blood of Christ, shed upon the cross for our redemption, is seen to be unspeakably precious. We understand what faith is, and what it is to be justified freely by grace. The work of the Blessed Spirit is understood, now, by its being felt. Having received the Spirit, which is of God, we know the
things that are freely given to us of God. Oh! let us reflect-Are the eyes of our understanding thus enlightened ?
Then, another mark of our being born of God, is, that our Affections are truly touched with heavenly things. Once, the heart only thought of heaven in a general way, but without any real joy, or love; but now the new-born soul longs to see Jesus in his glory. The unconverted sinner cared nothing about hell, though he would fain have persuaded himself that there is no such place: but as soon as his heart is awakened by the Spirit of God, he trembles to think how near he was to everlasting torments; and he flies to Jesus, to deliver him from the wrath to come. Once, he loved only himself or his family: and above all, he loved the things of this world: God was not in all his thoughts. But, when he is born again, a holy love is implanted in his soul; and he loves his Saviour, and all his brethren in Christ, with a pure heart, fervently. Formerly, perhaps, he performed some acts of piety; but it was as a task : now, he works from hearty love to the Saviour. Here let us pause again; and ask — Has holy love got the possession of my whole soul?
Another mark is, the bent of the Will. Indeed, it is the will, that chiefly marks our character. As is the will, such is the man. Till we are born of God, our will is contrary to His. The wicked, through the pride of his heart, will not seek after God. He lives on in sin, just as he pleases. If any one entreats him to turn to God, he slights the call ; or, he grows angry at it. He says, “ Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice? Who is Lord over me? I will be my own master.” But when the Spirit of God changes him, he is bowed down in submission, and he cries, « Lord! what wouldest thou have me to do? O teach me to do Thy will !” Methinks you are ready to say— And is my will thus changed ?
The working of the Conscience, and the warring against Sin, are very striking marks of the New Birth. Beforetimes, conscience was dead: now, it is alive, and active. A man begins to stir up the thoughts in his breast, and asks,“ What is here? What ! are my old corruptions still within ? I had hoped they were dead; but I find a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me." This warring against sin is one of the sure marks of real conversion to God: it arises from a man's sincerely aiming at universal holiness. And therefore I would put it closely and affectionately to you-Can your conscience faithfully say, that there is this struggle against sin, in you?
Many more things might be said: but I will add one, and one only. Prayer is a mark of the soul's being born of God. Prayer never comes from the heart, till the Holy Spirit has given us a new life: then, like a little new-born infant, the soul shows its life by its cries. Oh, for this spirit of prayer ! If you have it not, pray that you may be taught to pray: if you have it, “pray without ceasing:" for daily prayer is daily life. And he who is thus born of God, living a life of prayer, shall assuredly, at length, behold his Saviour in glory; when all his cries and struggles against sin, here below, shall be exchanged for perfect holiness and everlasting praises, in heaven above.
O Lord, who knowest the very secrets of our hearts, and without whose teaching we never can know ourselves and Thee; turn the thoughts of our hearts inward, that we may be enabled to know who, and what manner of persons, we are! Raise our benighted souls, to behold thy glory, in the face of Jesus Christ. Olet us not cease from searching our hearts, till we know whether we have the likeness of thy Children in us! And if we find it not, suffer us not to deceive ourselves in this matter. Help us, O Lord, so to exercise our consciences, and so to judge ourselves now, that we may not be condemned hereafter of Thee !
O our heart-searching God, we would ask ourselves, as in thy sight-Whom have we resolved : to serve, and to obey ? Whom have we chosen as our Master? Whom, or what, do we love, above all else? Where is our treasure ? and where is our heart ?-Stir us up, thou quickening Spirit, that we may not waver between two opinions; nor ever rest, till our souls are fully given up to thee!
If, O Lord, thy grace hath already changed our hearts, from a sinful to a holy state, then we would thankfully own that it is Thy work, even thine only. Perfect, O Lord, this good work in us; keeping us, by thy power, through faith, steadfast unto the end: and cause us to abound more and more in all the fruits of the Spirit, which are to the glory and praise of thy holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord !
THE VINE, AND THE BRANCHES.
John xv. 1-5.
Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Now ye are clean, through the word which I have spoken unto you.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing. The vine is a fruit-tree, which grows very abundantly in that country where our Lord Jesus Christ dwelt, when he was on earth. It consists almost entirely of branches; and these are spread out over wood-work, or trained against a wall, so that the sun and air may come to them. In this way,
if they are properly taken care of, they bear plentiful clusters of grapes; which are good for food, as well as for making wine.