« PreviousContinue »
we have seen. "To do good and to communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." The Redeemer at the last day will acknowledge, "Forasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me."
Why? Profit requires it. What is it that attaches one man so powerfully to another and gives him a resource in the tears, the prayers, the attentions, of his fellow-creatures in the day of evil? Power may cause the possessor to be feared; wealth, to be envied; genius, to be admired; righteousness, to be respected: but, "for a good man some would even dare to die." Yea, goodness secures a man much higher resources than human. "Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord shall deliver him in time of trouble. Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy." But it would be needless to mention all the promises made to beneficence by a God that cannot lie, and is never at a loss to perform.
Why? Pleasure requires it. If you are strangers to the pleasures of benevolence, you are to be pitied; for you are strangers to the most pure, the most durable, the most delicious, the most satisfactory, the most God-like pleasures to be enjoyed on this side heaven.
And here I unite the two parts of our subject into one. I have called upon you to rejoice in your portion, and to do good with it: but it is possible to rejoice in doing good. The most beneficent life is the most happy life. We talk of pleasure! What are the feelings of the most successful and indulged worldling compared with those of Job? "When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me. Because I delivered the poor that eried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy." O the delight of resembling Him, "who went about doing good!" O the joy of being followers of God, at once the greatest and the best of Beings!" GOD IS LOVE: AND HE
THAT DWELLETH IN LOVE DWELLETH
that now is, and of that which is to come;" it must be desirable to know wherein it consists, what are its peculiar attributes, and how it may be distinguished from every thing that would speciously usurp its place.
THE NEW CREATURE, For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.-Gal. vi. 15.
To afford us this necessary satisfaction is the aim of the Apostle, in several parts of bis writings; and as he wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, his decisions are infallible. "We are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith that worketh by love." "For in Christ Jesus neither cir cumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.”
The negation extends, by a parity of reasoning, to a thousand other things. In Jesus Christ neither episcopacy, nor dissenterism; a liturgy, or prayer without a form; kneeling, or sitting at the Lord's-supper; sprinkling in baptism, or immersion; availeth any thing. We say not, that all these are equally true and proper in themselves, and that no degree of importance is attached to them; but that real religion is not essentially involved in them: real religion may subsist without them, and they may subsist without real religion.-Neither will mere orthodoxy, knowledge, gifts, profession, avail-What then? "A new creature.” “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature." Let us endeavour to explain and improve this subject,
I. BY EXAMINING WHAT IS IMPLIED IN "A NEW CREATURE." II. WHAT IS TO BE INFERRED FROM ITS UNRIVALLED IMPORTANCE.
I. LET US EXAMINE WHAT IS IMPLIED IN
First. In what sense is a Christian a new creature? Is it a physical or a moral one? It is only a moral one. New faculties are not given him; but his faculties have new qualities and applications. Hence the original complexion, or constitutional peculiarity, remains; and the man is seen even in the Christian. His very religion takes a kind of hue from his natural character, whether it be or mildness. And this is no inconsiderable sanguine or phlegmatical, tending to severity proof of sincerity: for it is custom, it is formality, it is hypocrisy, that produces same
Ir religion be, as it is commonly acknow-ness; that constrains the lively to revolt ledged, the one thing needful; if it be ab- from cheerfulness; the talkative to keep sisolutely indispensable to every character: lence; and the young to look demurely, and and in every condition; if it be "profitable speak and move with the gravity of old age. unto all things, having promise of the life Had I known the individual turn and temper
A NEW CREATURE.
Four explanatory questions may be asked upon this subject,
His desires are new. He no longer asks,
of Martha and Mary before our Lord entered their house, I should have viewed them as hypocrites had Mary acted as Martha did, or Martha acted as Mary did: but when I see the one "sitting at his feet," and the other "cumbered about much serving," I see a difference; but it is principle, operating accord-"Who will show us any good?" but he "huning to character. To proceed. The man, gers and thirsts after righteousness." "Yea, therefore, continues the same as before, and doubtless," says he, "and I count all things yet is a new creature. His soul, and all its but loss for the excellency of the knowledge powers, are the same; he has not another un- of Christ Jesus, my Lord. That I may win derstanding, another memory, another imagi- Christ, and be found in him, not having mine nation, another genius: but these are changed own righteousness, which is of the law, but in their use, and sanctified. His body is the that which is through the faith of Christ, the same, and all its senses: grace does not give righteousness which is of God by faith: that him another tongue, or other eyes and ears; I may know him, and the power of his resurbut they are now sacred to new purposes. rection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, His condition is the same: he is not another being made conformable unto his death." husband, another father, another master; but These are the desires of the new creature. he is a different one: he is godly in each of these relations. He carries on the same business: but now he abides with God in his calling. He eats and drinks as before: but now, whether he eats or drinks, or whatever he does, he does all to the glory of God. If the covetous become liberal, the proud humble, and the prayerless devout; they are new creatures as to religious purposes-and this is the subject in question. Compare Paul after his conversion with Paul before his conversion: his body and soul, his learning and abilities, and the ardour of his disposition, continued the same; and yet, was there ever a being so different?
Secondly. How far does this change extend? The reason of this question is obvious; it is to keep persons from resting in things, which, though good in themselves, come short of it. A man may be baptized, and not regenerated. A new creed, or a new denomination, does not make a man a new creature. It is pleasing to see a man reformed externally; but he may abandon a course of profligacy, and live soberly and righteously, and yet not live godly in the present world. The new creation is not a change from vicious to virtuous only; but from natural to spiritual, from earthly to heavenly, from walking by sight to walking by faith. To go still farther: a man may be convinced, and not converted; he may be alarmed, and not have the fear of God in his heart; he may receive the word with joy, and be a stranger to the comforts of the Holy Ghost. Let us hear Paul. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things
are become new."
His conceptions are new. His views of himself are changed. He discovers that he is a guilty creature, and deserves to perish; that he is a depraved creature, and that his heart is infinitely worse than his life; "wherefore he abhors himself, and repents in dust and ashes:" nor does he ever again recover those lofty thoughts of himself he once had. His
views of the Saviour are changed. He once neglected, or despised him: but now he cries, How great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty! and deems only those happy, who enjoy and serve him.
His pleasures are new. The pleasures of sin he abhors. The dissipations of the world he despises; but it is his meat to do the will of his heavenly Father. He calls the sabbath a delight. He is glad when they say unto him, Let us go into the house of the Lord. He finds his word and eats it, and it is unto him the joy and the rejoicing of his heart.
His pains are new. He once felt the sorrow of the world that worketh death; but he now understands that godly sorrow, which worketh repentance unto life. He is not insensible under the afflictions of life; but says he, What is every other loss, to the loss of the soul? O this evil heart of unbelief! O this ingratitude towards the God of my mercy! O this unprofitableness under the means of grace! O this insensibility under the corrections of his Providence! O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death!" These are the groans of the new creature.
His life is new. In simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, he now has his conversation in the world. How shall he that is dead to sin, live any longer therein? If he was not vicious before, he now abhors, from disposition, what he once only shunned from selfish motives: if moral before, his morality is now evangelized; and whatsoever he does "in word or deed, he does all in the name of the Lord Jesus."-After all, this is only a specimen; the proposition is universal in its reference: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new!" This, however, regards the extent, not the degree of this change. We therefore ask,
Thirdly. Is this work produced instantaneously, or is it gradually advanced to perfection? Were we to affirm, that it is completed at once, we should offend against the generation of God's children; for, though believers often question the reality of their religion, they never doubt the imperfection of
it. We should lose the evidence of analogy. | in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth If we examine the world of nature, we shall any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new see God producing nothing in immediate per- creature," this should regulate your inquiries fection; but from imperceptible beginnings-your prayers-your praise-your esteem carrying them, by numberless degrees, to and your zeal. maturity. Look into the field-there is first the blade, then the ear, and after that the full corn in the ear. Look into the fold-there are lambs as well as sheep. Look into the family there are babes as well as young men: even our Saviour himself “increased in wisdom, and in stature, and in favour with God and man." We should lose the authority of Revelation. For what are the commands of Scripture? "Grow in grace." "Be filled with the Spirit." What are its promises? They shall grow as the vine. The righteous shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall wax stronger and stronger." What are its representations? It describes Christians as going "from strength to strength:" as "renewed day by day:" as 'changed into the same image, from glory to glory." Who then would reject the bud, because it is not the flower; or contemn the dawn, because it is not the day? "Who has despised the day of small things?" Of whom is it prophesied, “a bruised reed shall he not break, the smoking flax shall he not quench, till he bring forth judgment unto victory?"
First. It should regulate your inquiries. You are commanded in the Scripture to examine yourselves; and, therefore, the examination is necessary. But on what is it to turn? Not on the place, the time, the manner, the means of your conversion, but the reality. Can you say, "one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see?" On what is it to turn? On that which is of the highest moment. What is it to know that you are right in every thing else; in your opinions of church government, in your views of Divine ordinances, in your notions of Gospel grace, if your heart is not right in the sight of God? Are you "saved by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost?" This is the question. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature."
It should regulate your prayers. If you are strangers to this work, an experience of it should be your immediate, your prevailing, your supreme concern. You should lay your unhappy condition to heart. You should reflect on what has been done for millions of Fourthly. Who is the Author of this new your fellow-sinners, who are by nature chilcreation? The question seems answered by dren of wrath, even as others. You should the very terms employed. Creation is a work consider, that what is impossible to man, is of omnipotence, and belongs exclusively to easy with God. You should remember, that God. This is not denied in any other instance. his power is under the direction of his goodMen will allow, that God alone can make a ness; and that he is not only the Lord God blade of grass; they will allow that in him Almighty, but the God of all grace, and the we live, and move, and have our natural be- God of all comfort. You should remember, ing; and yet, with marvellous inconsistency, that he has provided for your weakness and they would be their own saviours, and derive depravity, as well as your guilt and danger; from themselves that spiritual life, which is and that "if ye being evil know how to give emphatically called "the life of God," not good gifts unto your children, how much only to show its resemblance, but its origin. more will your Father that is in heaven give If the stream can rise no higher than the his Holy Spirit to them that ask him." At fountain; if no effect can exceed its cause; his dear footstool, you should plead and pray if no one can bring a clean thing out of an as David did, "Create in me a clean heart, unclean: how is it to be accounted for, that O God, and renew a right spirit within me." those who were once so depraved as to need Without this, you are undone for ever. Coma universal change, should be in the posses-pared with this, every thing else you want, sion of real holiness? of spiritual excellency? is a trifle. "For in Christ Jesus neither cirIf we appeal to the Scripture, the case is ex- cumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumplained. There we shall find this work, in cision, but a new creature." the perfection, the progress, and the commencement, ascribed to the agency of God. We are said to "live in the Spirit: to walk in the Spirit: to be born of the Spirit." "You hath he quickened," says the Apostle, "who were dead in trespasses and sins. You are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."-Having shown what is implied in a "new creature,"
II. OBSERVE WHAT IS TO BE INFERRED FROM ITS UNRIVALLED IMPORTANCE. And, "if
Thirdly. It should regulate your praise. You ought to be thankful for every thing you enjoy: and in a proper frame of mind you will say, with Jacob, “O Lord, I am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies, and of all the truth which thou hast showed to thy servant." But gratitude should be wise, and measure out its favours according to the value of the blessing acknowledged. You should be thankful if you are favoured with civil freedom; if you have the comforts of life; if your body is free from pain and disease: but you should be much more so if the Son has made you free;
if you have the comforts of the Holy Ghost; | thing, to nothing." And says not the Apos-
But if our text should regulate our zeal, it should also enliven and increase it. "Brethren," says James, "if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." Here is an object worthy of all our powers. And is the attainment practicable? Can we convert a sinner, save a soul, hide a multitude of sins? Yes, the honour, the pleasure, unspeakable and full of glory,—is placed within our reach. O ye who are the subjects of his grace, be anxious to become the instruments too! Let David's prayer and resolution be your's"Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee."
Surely, if there was only a probability, yea, a possibility of this success, in one instance only, it should be enough to awaken all your powers, and employ all your efforts, for life!
"Pleasure and praise run through God's host
To see a sinner turn;
THE HAPPY PARENT.
Fourthly. It should regulate your esteem. It is said of a citizen of Zion, "In his eyes, a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord." And what are all adventitious distinctions, or bodily or mental accomplishments, compared with the grace of God? The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour: a man's real worth is his My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall religious worth. But in judging of this, do rejoice, even mine.-Prov. xxiii. 15. not inquire after his particular opinions, his mode of worship, or the denomination to which he belongs; but the evidence he gives of being a partaker of the Divine nature. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his:" and if he has, let this be sufficient to endear him. "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature."
Finally. This should regulate your zeal. You ought to be concerned to do good: but let it always appear, that your aim is, to win souls to the Redeemer, and not to a party; not to proselyte, but to christianize. To bring men into the way everlasting, is something, is every thing; but what is it to detach them from one place of worship, and fix them in another, where the same truth is already preached? When, therefore, a person who gave little evidence of her being under the power of godliness, one day, said to an eminent minister, now with God, "Sir, I am going to turn from the Dissenters to the Church;" "Madam," replied he, who knew fill all future offices? that they are the sources her disposition, "you are turning from no-l of families and churches? that the nation and
No person can read the works of Solomon without observing how frequently he addresses the young. Two considerations not only justify his conduct, but render it exemplary. The first is, The probability of success. This, indeed, is only comparative; for owing to the depravity of human nature, many attempts to promote the welfare of mankind will fail at every age. How often have the young themselves been "wooed and awed," admonished and encouraged, in vain! Yet, surely, the hope of usefulness is greater, before the heart is hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, and the offender is entrenched in long-established habits of iniquity, which he has learned to defend by those erroneous reasonings which vice always renders necessary. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to evil." The second is, The importance attached to it. For who can view the young without concern? Who knows not that they are to
the world will be influenced by the character | speaking in their name. Not that all parents with which they grow up? are concerned for the spiritual welfare of their children: some have no more regard for the souls of their offspring than if they had none, and were to die like the beasts that perish; but this is what every parent ought to feel, and what every godly parent will feel. Let us consider,-I. THE ATTAINMENT REQUIRED: II. THE CONSEQUENCE ANTICIPATED.
In doing good it is always wise to make those peculiarly our aim by whom, if good is received, it is likely to be multiplied, diffused, perpetuated. Now this is the case with the young. If you do good to an old man it is of importance to himself; but it is confined to himself, and dies with him. But communicate right views and dispositions to a child, and it will be impossible to calculate the degree of his usefulness: for as he rises up and spreads abroad, he exemplifies and extends First, to show us that religion is wisdom. them; and in time, thousands may be im- I know, my young friends, that some will enproved and blessed by his instruction, his ex-deavour to make you think that it is folly, ample, and his influence. and at your time of life, many who have not been reasoned, have been ridiculed out of every serious notion; for a laugh with you often does more than an argument. But hear what the Judge of all says, "Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting, get understanding."
Solomon well knew all this: hence he so often bespeaks the attention of youth. And what motive has he not seized and employed in this all-interesting service? Is it the certainty of eternal judgment? Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment." Is it old age as the most unfavourable season for commencing a religious course, when infirmities and afflictions, instead of allowing exertion, call for consolation? "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them." Is it the peculiar regard of Him, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge? "I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me." Is it the condescension of God, in asking for a surrender which he might demand; and addressing not our fear, but our affection? "My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways." Is it the poignant anguish, or the delightful satisfaction, a child is capable of yielding to those who have the tenderest claims upon him; according as he chooses the way of folly, or of life? "The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice; and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him. Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice. My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine."
I. THE ATTAINMENT REQUIRED. "My son, if thy heart be wise." A pious youth is said to be wise in heart
And though our faith standeth not in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God, reason, as well as Scripture, is on our side. Men, the most pre-eminent in every department of genius and learning; men, who perfectly understood the value and force of evidence; men, the last in the world to be the dupes of delusion; these men have expressed a conviction of mind with regard to the truth and importance of Revelation, such as they felt upon no other subject.
Yea, and even those who are so wise in their own conceit, and even treat the godly as visionaries and madmen, will, in a very little time, change their sentiments and their language, and exclaim, "We fools counted their lives madness, and their end to be without honour! Now are they numbered with the children of God, and their lot is among the saints!"
It is a fine representation which the apostle John gives us of vital Christianity, when he says, "we have an unction from the Holy One, and we know all things." Not that a Christian is taught the secrets of nature, the inventions of art, the mysteries of politics and trade: in all these he may be inferior to a man of the world. But he knows all that is essential to his safety and welfare. He is made
Let us enter into our subject. Solomon was a parent himself; Rehoboam was his son; and probably the very person here ad-wise unto salvation." He is "wise towards dressed. You know what a foolish, rash, im- God." He knows himself. And he knows provident, irreligious character he proved; the Saviour of sinners. He that is ignorant yet was he the son of Solomon! And if So- of Him knows nothing: he that knows Him lomon perceived these rising evils when he knows every thing. wrote this passage, with what feelings did he utter the words, "My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine."
Secondly. That this wisdom is not notional; but consists principally in dispositions and actions. Speculative knowledge is, indeed, necessary to experimental and practical; but does not always produce it. We
Let us consider Solomon as the representative of every father and mother, and as