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be prosperous while all is ruin, and misery, and desolation within? O that he may be undeceived before it be too late; for whatever is done to promote the prosperity of our souls, must be done soon. The reader is in life now, but it is life in the midst of death; and to-morrow he may be in eternity.
What a gloomy prospect has the ruined sinner before him! He is under condemnation, and, as a child of wrath, there is nothing before him but "a fearful looking for of vengeance and fiery indignation to devour the adversaries." Suppose the deluded and unregenerated sinner should plead for the pleasures and vanities of the world, and say, he has no other comfort but in pursuing them. Then how much is he to be pitied! He must be a miserable man; for “there is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” All the pleasures of sin are shortlived and unsatisfactory, like the momentary blaze of a few dry thorns in the fire. Behold yonder path: it lies in the most enchanting form, through groves, parks, and shrubberies. It is lined with pots of flowers, &c. from the green-house; it is mossy and soft, with beautiful avenues here and there; and in many places it is strewed with roses, with various benches placed, on which the fair and the delicate may recline. But by a gentle ascent it leads to a tremendous precipice, down which all who pass
that way are cast in a moment and dashed in pieces ! Lo, this is the sad course of vain mortals through this world! They may think for the present, all is well, and amuse themselves with the trifles and baubles devised to ensnare them. But look to the end of the way, and say what is the prospect
REGENERATION BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.
then ? Dreadful, and gloomy beyond description, “ a lake which burns with fire and brimstone,” “the smoke of whose torrents ascendeth and goeth up for ever and ever."
This is man's natural state. He is a lost, ruined, and condemned creature. How is he to escape? What must be do to be saved ? This leads me to consider briefly, the important subject of
REGENERATION BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Every sinner is awfully criminal before God, but no man can change bis own heart. He is indeed a moral and voluntary agent, but man of himself is not naturally inclined to any thing good. Left to himself, he rushes on in sin, “ as the unthinking horse rusheth into the battle:" nor would he ever stop of his own accord, till he had “ filled
the of his iniquities.” O miserable man! “without hope, and without God in the world." Is it the reader's case ? If so, may God help him to lay it to heart, and bring him to the knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins.
In this helpless and awful state, the grace of God, always sovereign and free, finds the sinner“ dead in trespasses and in sins," and altogether as helpless as an infant cast out as soon as born, “ into the
open field,” where vultures and other birds of prey may devour it, equally devoid of succour and of ability to help itself. The infant indeed can cry, and so let the sinner cry speedily and mightily to God, saying, “save Lord, or I perish."
The Lord's time is a time of love. He graciously
casts his skirt over the abject, miserable sinner, and says to him, " Live." Grace is always etficacious, new life is imparted, and a total change takes place. The sinner is “ born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."
“ The sov'reign will of God alone,
Creates us heirs of grace;
A new peculiar race.”
Light beams on his understanding, suddenly, or more gradually, as it pleases God. His soul becomes divinely quickened by the Holy: Ghost. Through his sacred influence, a new nature is imparted ; a vital principle, and the law of God, are put into the regenerated soul, enabling that soul to die unto sin, and to live unto God. Now, since he is thus renovated, and created anew in Christ Jesus, holy comfort and joy take the place of sensual pleasures and delights. He becomes a nero creature, “ old things pass away, and all things become new."
How all-important and necessary is such a change! Hence
says our Lord to a master in Israel, “ Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again.
The word of God is the instrument in producing this change, and the instrument becomes effectual in the hand of the Holy Spirit, while the change itself is made evident, by a correspondent change in the temper and life. Old sims are forsaken, and old companions exchanged for the society of those who “ fear God and work righteousness.” The holy scriptures are loved and read with a pleasure and
delight wholly unknown before. Communion with God and his people is desired ; and the mind, leaving, comparatively, all earthly joys and earthly loves behind, rises, and grasps after eternal realities, with an eternal desire.
Such a change as this is indeed important; for it secures a good portion of happiness here, and leads to eternal happiness hereafter, where peace, and joy, and love, will grow into full maturity. The subjects of this effectual calling, this gracious change, shall never perish, nor shall any pluck them from the om nipotent hand by which they were plucked as brands from the burning, and by which they shall be kept " through faith unto salvation.” The Saviour loved them, died for them, and rose again; he intercedes for them in beaven, and supplies all their need
upon earth. “He guides them by his counsel, and afterwards will receive them to glory." Satan triumphs over them while they are his slaves, but bis “triumph is short.” The serpent's head is bruised, and all who are called, shall be justified, and sanctified, and eternally glorified. Hence Satan shall never destroy any sheep or lamb, however feeble and tender, belonging to the redeemed flock of Christ, He redeemed them with his own blood, and “they shall be his in the day when he maketh up his jewels."
Sanctification is an important part of our salvation. God calls his people "not unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.” They must die unto sin, and live more and more to him that “ died for them and rose again.” Their souls are capable of improvement, they are exhorted to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of Christ, they are told to go forward towards perfection, to advance in the Christian race, to " fight the good fight of faith, and to lay hold on eternal life.” Though the nature of sin can never be altered, the old man must be put off, and be crucified day by day. The new man must be put on, and be renewed in knowledge and holiness, after the image of him that created us. The second Adam, who is the Lord from heaven, impresses his image on the souls of believers; and that image he loves. O may it never be defaced, but stand more and more fair and bright upon us. The Lord commands his people to be holy, because he is holy; and he sends his Holy Spirit to consecrate them to himself, that they may be honourable vessels, sanctified and meet for the Master's use.
The language of Archbishop Usher on this subject is admirable. “Sanctification,” says that worthy man," is nothing less than for a man to be brought to an entire resignation of his will to the will of God, and to live in the offering up of his soul continually in the flames of love, and as a whole burnt-offering to Christ.” This is truly noble, and what every real christian must desire; but, alas! how few have made sufficient progress to enable them to say, “ This is precisely the state of our hearts.” When the soul is holy in its affections and desires, the little things of time dwindle almost to an imperceptible point; and, as our experience becomes enlarged, our religion becomes more and more solid, and visible to ourselves and others, and eternal things rise in their importance.
It may not be amiss, just to show here how sánctification, which is but the regeneration of our hearts,