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the terms of it: to complain, “ They are too severe, and that no man ever did, or shall live up to them !". What is this, but to reproach God, as if he were a hard Master, requiring of his servants more than he enables them to perform; as if he had mocked the helpless works of his hands, by binding them to impossibilities; by commanding them to overcome, where neither their own strength, nor his
grace was sufficient for them?
7. These blasphemers' might almost persuade those, to imagine themselves guiltless, who, in the contrary extreme, hope to fulfil the commands of God, without taking any pains at all. Vain hope! that a child of Adam should ever expect to see the kingdom of Christ and of God, with. out striving, without agonizing first, “ to enter ini at the strait gate!” that one who was “ conceived and born in sin," and whose " inward parts are very wickedness," should once entertain a thought of being " purified as his Lord is pure," unless he“ tread in his steps,” and “ take
bis cross daily:" unless he « cut off his right hand," and " pluck out the right eye, and cast it from him;" that he should ever dream of shaking off his old opinions, passions, tempers; of being “sanctified throughout in spirit, soul, and body," without a constant and continued course of general self-denial.
8. What less than this can we possibly infer from the above cited words of St. Paul, who, living in “infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake,” who, being full of “ signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds," who, having been “ caught up into the third heaven;" yet reckoned, as a late author strongly expresses it, that all his virtues would be insecure, and even his salvation in danger, without this constant self-denial. “ So run I, (says he), not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air.” By which he plainly teaches us, that he who does not thus run, who does not thus deny himself daily, does run uncertainly, and fighteth to as little purpose as he that beateth the air.
9. To as little purpose does he talk of " fighting the fight of faith,” as vainly hopes to attain the crown of incorruption, (as we may, Lastly, infer from the preceding observations), whose heart is not circumcised by Love. Cutting off both the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, engaging the whole man, body, soul, and spirit, in the ardent pursuit of that one object, is so essential to a child of God, that, “ without it, whosoever liveth is counted dead before him.” " Though I speak with the tongue of men and angels, and have not Love, I am as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, and have not Love, I am nothing.” Nay,
though I give all my goods to feed the poor, and my body to be burned, and have not Love, it profiteth me nothing."
10. Here, then, is the sum of the perfect law, this is the true Circumcision of the Heart. Let the spirit return to God that gave it, with the whole train of its affections. “ Unto the place from whence all the rivers came," thither let them flow again. Other sacrifices from us he would not; but the living sacrifice of the heart he hath chosen. Let it be continually offered up to God through Christ, in flames of holy love. And let no creature be suffered to share with him : for he is a jealous God. His throne will he not divide with another : be will reign without a rival. Be no design, no desire admitted there, but what has him for its ultimate object. This is the way wherein those children of God once walked, who being dead, still speak to us, “ Desire not to live, but to praise his name; let all your thoughts, words, and works, tend to his glory. Set your heart firm on him, and on other things only as they are in and from him. Let your soul be filled with so entire a love of him, that you may love nothing but for his sake.” “ Have a pure intențion of heart, a steadfast regard to his glory in all your actions.” “ Fix your eye upon the blessed hope of your
calling, and make all the things of the world' minister unto it.” For then, and not till then, is that “mind in us wbich was also in Christ Jesus," when, in every motion of our heart, in every word of our tongue, in every work of our hands, we“ pursue nothing but in relation to him, and in subordination to his pleasure:" when we too, neither think, nor speak, nor act, to fulfil our own“ will, but the will of him that sent us:" when, whether we “ eat, or drink, or whatever we do, we do all to the glory of God.”
THE MARKS OF THE NEW-BIRTH.
John iii. 8.
“ So is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
1. HOW is every one that is born of the Spirit, that is, born again, born of God? What is meant by the being born again? The being born of God? Or, being born of the Spirit? What is implied in, The being a son or a child of God? Or, having the Spirit of Adoption? That these privileges, by the free mercy of God, are ordinarily annexed to baptism (which is thence termed by our Lord in the preceding verse, the being born of water and of the Spirit) we know; but we would know what these privileges are: What is the New-Birth?
2. Perhaps it is not needful to give a definition of this, seeing the Scripture gives none. But as the question is of the deepest concern, to every child of man, (since, “ except a man be born again, (born of the Spirit], be cannot see the kingdom of God,”) I propose to lay down the marks of it in the plainest manner, just as I find them laid down in Scripture.
I. 1. The first of these (and the foundation of all the rest) is Faith. So St. Paul, “ Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus," Gal. iii. 26. So St. John,
them gave he power (egedlay, right or privilege, it may rather be translated), to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, (when they believed,] (not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh," not by natural generation, “nor of the will of man,” like those children adopted by men, in whom no inward change is thereby wrought, but) of God," ch. i. 12, 13. And again in his general epistle, “ Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God,” i John v. 1.
2. But it is not a barely notional or speculative faith that is here spoken of by the Apostle. It is not a bare assent to this proposition, “ Jesus is the Christ;" nor indeed to all the propositions contained in our Creed, or in the Old and New Testament. It is not merely an assent to any, or all these credible things, as credible. To say this, were to say (which who could hear?) that the devils were born of God. For they have this faith. They trembling believe, both that Jesus is the Christ, and that all Scripture, having been given by inspiration of God, is true as God is true. It is not only “ an assent to divine truth, upon the testimony of God," or, “ upon the evidence of miracles," for they also heard the words of his mouth, and knew him to be a faithful and true witness. They could not but receive the testimony be gave, both of himself, and of the Father who sent him. They saw likewise the mighty works which he did, and thence believed that he came forth from God. Yet, notwithstanding this faith, they are still “ reserved in chains of darkness, unto the judgment of the great day."
3. For all this is no more than a dead faith. The true, living, Christian faith, which whosoever hath is born of God, is not only an assent, an act of the understanding, but a disposition which God hath wrought in his heart; a sure trust and confidence in God, that through the merits of Christ his sins are forgiven, and he reconciled to the favour of God.” This implies, that a man first renounces himself ; that, in order to be found in Christ, to be accepted through him, he totally rejects all “ confidence in the flesh;" that, “having nothing to pay," having no trust in his own works