« PreviousContinue »
curiosity, and hear what every minister has to say; not with any desire that God would manifest himself unto him, that he would teach him to know himself, a poor, benighted, perishing, yet never-dying soul; not with any concern about getting an interest in the favour of that God who is a consuming fire to the unregenerate; of that God before whom his naked soul shall soon be dragged by the cold hand of death. No, he never thought of this; it never came into his head that he should wait upon God in his holy temple, as the vilest of sinners, a sinner under sentence of eternal death, is to wait upon the Majesty of heaven and earth, to ask, beg, implore a reprieve, if by any means he may be spared a week longer, to seek for repentance and pardon, for glory and immortality. No, he did not think of any one of these things, but he comes with an intent to behave as usual, to see and to be seen, to shew all the signs of the most listless, careless indifference. Though he seems to use a prayer to God for his blessing on what he is entering upon ; he comes either to fall asleep during the awful service, or to recline in the most convenient posture for it; and sometimes, as though he supposed God to be asleep too, he comes to talk to another, or look round, as utterly void of employment; or, at best, he comes to say his prayers, as he calls it, that is, to kneel or to stand, because others do so, and repeat with his lips, without any true concern of heart, the most moving pleas for mercy. But, though he rushes into the presence of God with these shameful anti-christian dispositions, yet he is upon the Lord's ground, though he is insensible of it; and the dread of that Lord, whom the heavenly hosts cannot behold without veiling their faces, and prostrating themselves with the deepest acts of ado. ration; the dread of that God, whose eyes are like a flame of fire, who with one look tries the hearts and searches the reins; the dread of that Lord whom he has so long insulted in his very temple, may rest upon him in a moment, and he may at last apprehend it to be “a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.' In spite of his presumption and carelessness, God may thy law. As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, yea, for the living God. O when shall I come and appear before God !'
Now I ask you before the Searcher of hearts, if this be seeking God, did you ever seek God in sincerity ? Do you think you seek him when you come into his house with the shameful dispositions I mentioned ? Alas! so far from seeking him, you bid him depart from you; you mock him in his very temple, for though you know that Christ does not dwell in you nor you in him, though you know that your heart is far from him at the very time that you make as if you worshipped him with all your soul; yet so far from being troubled at your hypocrisy, through the pride of your heart you cry, Peace, peace,' and persuade yourself that you do not need to seek God in another manner. O awake from that delusion, throw off the mask in the Lord's presence, and own yourself ripe for destruction. This is the first step towards that true repentance which shall never be repented of. O if you could be prevailed upon to take it in this hour, how soon would it lead you to inward vital religion ; how surely would it introduce you to the presence of a reconciled God, and give you, in the enjoyment of Christ, a foretaste of the joys of heaven ! But, alas ! hitherto you have resisted all the calls of God. Yes, brethren, nothing, I fear, has made a lasting impression upon the minds of some of you; neither the Lord's mercies, nor his judgments ; neither the deliverances from imminent dangers he has granted you, nor the death of many dear friends, which he permitted to fall into the grave in your presence, beckoning to you to prepare to follow them. But though neither the threat, enings nor the promises of his holy word bave hitherto been able to awake you into a true concern for your immortal souls,-into a lively sense of God's fear, and a real desire of giving yourselves up to him :-Yet if you are willing to awake now, if now you own yourselves undone; if you have nothing to plead but God be merciful to me a sinner :' If you resolve to plead this continually till he seals the forgiveness of your sins to your heart ; if you are willing to be saved upon any terns; in a word, if you truly repent, God is willing to cast the mantle of his love over what is past, to sink all your sins into the sea of his mercy, and love you freely after all your wanderings; nay, and to rejoice over you as a good shepherd over a poor returning sheep, which he thought lost for ever, and to enable you to delight in him a thousand times more than you ever did in all the pleasures of sin. Choose then between life and death, eternity and time, God and the world ; choose, but be sincere and wise in your choice; O choose life, God, and eternity. The angels of God, nay God himself, fix their eyes upon you in this moment; they consider whether you will be barbarous enough to your own soul to prefer the world and the trifles it offers, as you have hitherto done, to heaven and the endless joys that wait for you there. Nay, Jesus Christ, who is always where two or three are gathered together in his name, stands before you, with his vesture dipt in blood, and waits to see if his agony and bloody sweat, his wounds and sufferings, his tears and strong cries, his cross and passion, shall have any effect upon you: To see whether you will not at last resolve to part even with the most pleasing sins, rather than not to come to him, choose him, and enjoy bim for your portion for ever. Ah! let him not wait in vain ; rather let us lift up our hearts together to him, and say, “Loril, turn us, and so shall we be turned !' Are you willing ? Shew it, by renouncing sin, and beginning to make conscience of keeping your baptismal
Will you become true Christians, the members of the Lord Jesus, the temples of the Holy Ghost ? Let the world go ; you cannot serve two masters. What have you to do with the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, with the pride of dress, balls and plays, cards and useless visits ? Leave these things to those who choose to sleep on; they belong not to an awakened sinner, to one who sees himself with one foot in time and the other in eternity, just going to receive sentence of eternal death or endless life.
What have you to do with the devil and all his
works, with lying, evil speaking, and slandering, with pride and passion, with envy and strife, with revenge and covetousness, with cursing and swearing, with sabbath-breaking and profaneness; all these are the works of the devil. O keep these his commandments no more; leave them to those who choose to have their portion in the eternal fire prepared for bim and his angels, and be you
of the few who follow the Lord Jesus in the rege. neration, that they may enter with him into the city of God.
Again. What have you to do with all the sinful lusts of the flesh; with surfeiting, drunkenness, and indulgence in lasciviousness and impurity. Leave them, I shall not say, to devils, for the devils wallow not in these beastly pleasures; leave them to the brutes, to? which alone they belong. And, since you are endued each with an everlasting spirit, worship ūod in spirit and in truth. But this you cannot do without the grace of Jesus. Ask it, then, continually. When you get up and when you lie down; when you sit in your house or walk by the way, O let this be the ceaseless cry of your soul, “ Lord Jesus, forgive me my sins, and give me thy good Spirit, that I may not sin against thee! O make me to love thee with all my heart, and let me now live the life of the righteous, that my latter end may be like his.” And be not discouraged by the ridicule that the children of the world will pour upon you on every side, when you begin this life of prayer ; remembering that the things of God are foolishness to the natural man, and that all the saints who are now in glory, experienced, in their way to it, the truth of St. Paul's asser. tion, “Every one that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But go on praying without fainting, and seeking the Lord till he sends his light and truth into your soul, and makes it an habitation for God through the Spirit ; and then shall you begin to rejoice that ever you were awakened to work out your salvation with fear and trembling; and the angels of God shall rejoice for your conversion through the endless ages of eternity, which may God grant, for his mercy's sake..!; Amen.
If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.
I Cor. v. 17.
St. Paul says, in his Epistle to the Romans, that "he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, but he who is such inwardly,' by the circumcision of the heart. This being applied to Christianity, it follows, that he is not a Christian who professes to be so, but he who has got a new heart and a new spirit,' by being truly born again, not of water only, but of the Spirit of Christ. That regeneration is absolutely necessary in order to be a true Christian, and that there is no surer mark whereby we may know whether we are living members of Jesus than to be really new men, appears in the clearest light in the words of the text, “If any man be in Christ,' or be a true Christian, “he is a new creature.' You see then, brethren, how necessary it is to have right notions of the doctrine of regeneration, since without it there can be no Christianity. I hope you will therefore follow me with an attention answerable to the vast importance of the subject, whilst I endeavour to shew you,
First. What we must understand by 'regeneration, or becoming a new creature.
Secondly.—What are the causes that concur to the work of regeneration : And
Thirdly.--Why regeneration is so necessary to salva. '. tion.—May what shall be spoken in God's name, be so applied by his grace to every one of our hearts, that the important work of regeneration may be powerfully beguri, or carried on in each of our souls !
Regeneration, brethren, is that mighty change whereby a natural man is made a spiritual, or new man; and he that was a child of the devil, becomes by grace a child 1