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birth was to us the beginning of a new life, and brought us into a society of earthly enjoyments, so Christianity is another birth, that brings us into a condition altogether as new as when we first saw the light.
We begin again to be, we enter upon fresh terms of life, have new relations, new hopes and fears, and an entire change of every thing that can be called good or evil.
This new birth, this principle of a new life, is the very essence and soul of Christianity, it is the seal of the promises, the mark of our sonship, the earnest of the inheritance, the security of our hope, and the foundation of all our acceptance with God.
He that is in Christ, saith the apostle, is a new creature, and if any man hath not the
Rom. viii. 9. Spirit of Christ he is none of his. And again, He who is joined to the
I Cor. vi. 17. Łord is one spirit.
It is not, therefore, any number of moral virtues, no partial obedience, no modes of worship, no external acts of adoration, no articles of faith, but a new principle of life, an entire change of temper, that makes us true Christians.
If the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he thot raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
Rom. viii. 11. many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
Since, therefore, the Scriptures thus absolutely require a life suitable to the spirit and temper of Jesus Christ, since they allow us not the privilege of the sons of God, unless we live and act according to the Spirit of God; it is past doubt, that Christianity requires an entire change of nature and temper, a life devoted perfectly to God.
For what can imply a greater change than from a carnal to a spiritual mind? What can be more
contrary than the works of the flesh are to the works of the Spirit? It is the difference of heaven and hell.
Light and darkness are but faint resemblances of that great contrariety that is betwixt the Spirit of God and the spirit of the world.
Its wisdom is foolishness, its friendship is enmity with God.
All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the 1 John ii. 16. pride of life, is not of the Father.
Worldly opinions, proud reasonings, fleshly cares, and earthly projects, are all so many false judge ments, mere lies, and we know who is the father of lies.
For this reason the Scripture makes the devil the god and prince of this world, because the spirit and temper which reigns there is entirely from him; and so far as we are governed by the wisdom and temper of the world, so far are we governed by that evil power of darkness.
If we would see more of this contrariety, and what a change our new life in Christ implies, let us consider what it is to be born of God.
St. John tells us one sure mark of our new birth, in the following words, He that is born of God overcometh the world.
1 Eph. v. 4. So that the new birth, or the Christian life, is considered with opposition to the world, and all that is in it, its vain cares, its false glories, proud designs, and sensual pleasures; if we have overcome these, so as to be governed by other cares, other glories, other designs, and other pleasures, then are we born of God. Then is the wisdom of this world, and the friendship of this world, turned into the wisdom and friendship of God, which will, for ever, keep us heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.
Again, the same apostle helps us to another sign of our new life in God. Whosoever, saith he, is born
of God doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
1 Ep. iii. 9. This is not to be understood, as if he that was born of God was therefore in an absolute state of perfection, and incapable afterwards of falling into any thing that was sinful.
It only means, that he that is born of God is possessed of a temper and principle that makes him utterly hate and labour to avoid all sin; he is therefore said not to commit sin, in such a sense as a man may be said not to do that, which it is his constant care and principle to prevent being done.
He cannot sin, as it may be said of a man that has no principle but covetousness, that he cannot do things that are expensive, because it is his constant care and labour to be sparing; and if expense happen, it is contrary to his intention; it is his pain and trouble, and he returns to saving with a double diligence.
Thus is he that is born of God; purity and holiness is his only aim, and he is more incapable of having any sinful intentions, than the miser is incapable of generous expense; and if he finds himself in any sin, it is his greatest pain and trouble, and he labours after holiness with a double zeal.
This it is to be born of God, when we have a temper and mind so entirely devoted to purity and holiness, that it may be said of us in a just sense, that we cannot commit sin. When holiness is such a habit in our minds, so directs and forms our designs, as covetousness and ambition direct and govern the actions of such men, as are governed by no other principles, then are we alive in God, and living members of the mystical body of his Son Jesus Christ.
This is our true standard and measure by which we are to judge of ourselves; we are not true Christians unless we are born of God, and we are not born of God, unless it can be said of us in this sense that we cannot commit sin.
When by an inward principle of holiness we stand so disposed to all degrees of virtue, as the ambitious man stands disposed to all steps of greatness, when we hate and avoid all kinds of sins, as the covetous man hates and avoids all sorts of loss and expense, then are we such sons of God as. cannot commit sin.
We must therefore examine into the state and temper of our minds, and see whether we be thus changed in our natures, thus born again to a new life, whether we be so spiritual as to have overcome the world, so holy as that we cannot commit sin; since it is the undeniable doctrine of Scripture, that this state of mind, this new birth, is as necessary to salvation as the believing in Jesus Christ.
To be eminent therefore for any particular virtue, to detest and avoid several kinds of sins, is just nothing at all; its excellency (as the apostle saith of some particular virtues) is but as sounding brass, and a tinkling cymbal.
But when the temper and taste of our soul is entirely changed, when we are renewed in the spirit of our minds, and are full of a relish and desire of all godliness, of a fear and abhorrence of all evil, then, as St. John speaks, may we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him, then shall we know that he abideth
1 Eph.iii. 19, in us, by the Spirit which he hath
24. given us.
We have already seen two marks of those that are born of God, the one is, that they have overcome the world, the other, that they do not commit sin.
To these I shall only add a third, which is given us by Christ himself, I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use
you, and persecute you, that you may
Mat. v. 14, be the children of your Father which is in heaven.
Well may a Christian be said to be a new creature, and Christianity an entire change of temper, since such a disposition as this is made so necessary, that without it we camot be the children of our Father which is in heaven; and if we are not his children, neither is he our Father.
It is not therefore enough that we love our friends, benefactors, and relations, but we must love like God, if we will show that we are born of him. We must, like him, have an universal love and tenderness for all mankind, imitating that love, which would that all men should be saved.
God is love, and this we are to observe as the true standard of ourselves, that he who dwelleth in God dwelleth in lore; and consequently he who dwelleth not in love dwelleth not in God.
It is impossible, therefore, to be a true Christian, and an enemy at the same time.
Mankind has no enemy but the devil, and they who partake of his malicious and ill-natured spirit.
There is perhaps no duty of religion that is so contrary to flesh and blood as this, but as difficult as it may seem to a worldly mind, it is still necessary, and will easily be performed by such as are in Christ new creatures.
For take but away earthly goods and evils, and you take away all hatred and malice, for they are the only causes of those base tempers. He therefore that hath overcome the world, hath overcome all the occasions of envy and ill-nature; for having put himself in this situation, he can pity, pray for, and forgive all his enemies, who want less forgiveness from him than he expects from his heavenly Father.
Let us here awhile contemplate the heighth and depth of Christian holiness, and that god-like spirit