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2 CORINTHIANS V, 17. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:
old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
HERE are few subjects so imperfectly understood by Christians, as the doctrines of their own religion: other branches of science are cultivated with care; and the want of a certain degree of acquaintance with them is supposed to argue a defect, either of education or of intellect; but ignorance of the Bible is attended with no disgrace.
Were we now in the predicament of our forefathers who were debarred the free use of Scripture by the obstacles of a foreign language, such ignorance would excite less surprise; but happily the period of Romish bigotry is past-the sacred volume is now accessible and the small degree of literature necessary for understanding it has descended to the lowest classes of Society. It might therefore be reasonably expected of us all, that we should be
not merely acquainted with the facts recorded in Scripture, but able to discern the distinguishing features of that way of salvation which is pointed out in it. The want of such discriminating knowledge of the peculiar nature of the Gospel, leaves us exposed, either to the attacks of unbelievers, who would challenge us to shew what greater evidence there is for believing this religion to be of God than another, or to the still greater danger of self-deceit. Hence it is of importance that we set before you from the words of the text first, the state of a real Christian; secondly, the evidence of his being in that state.
I. The state of a real Christian, or his situation in reference to God, is thus expressed by the Apostle, he is in Christ. To be a Christian is not to have been born in a Christian country and of Christian parents——to have received the sacramental ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper-and to live a moral and honest life, but it is to be in Christ; the strength and peculiarity of which expression suggests the idea of a state very different in nature and importance from the mere external possession of Christian privileges, or the performance of relative duties. To illustrate the meaning of this expression let us contrast it with our state as we are in Adam, partaking of his guilt, and inheriting his corruption. God in his covenant engagements with Adam treated with him as with the head and representative of mankind. Adam fell, and with him fell the whole human race; every individual as he comes into the world being now considered by God as involved in the first transgression. Hence the natural condition of men, whether their lives be more or less stained with actual wickedness, is a state of guilt, as well as depravity, at its very beginning. “We are by nature the children of wrath.»* Such is our state in Adam.
In this state all of us remain who have not turned unto God from the world. To be in Christ, is to be related to him in the same sense as we were said to be related to Adam; and the blessings Aowing from the former relation correspond to the miseries of the latter. For as those that are in Adam are considered by God as partakers of his guilt, independently of any disobedience of their own, so those that are in Christ are regarded by God as partaking of Christ's merit, and possessed of a justifying righteousness in him, independently of any previous obedience of their own. And again, as those that are in Adam receive from him at their natural birth, an entire depravity of nature, so those that are in Christ receive from him the renovation of their nature. former, the anger of an offended God is continually suspended, and will fall on them with overwhelming weight if they die unchanged; on the latter, the blessings of a gracious God
. Epb. Ü, 3.
rest perpetually. His protecting Providence, his influencing Spirit, his tenderest compassion and everlasting love are secured to them for time and for eternity. He looks upon them as free from guilt, innocent in Christ's innocence, and righteous in Christ's righteousness; and will give them the reward of his merits when they die.
Those who do not attend to the Scripture account of this subject are more accustomed to consider God as dealing immediately with ourselves than as in Adam. It will be of use therefore, to contrast our state in Christ with what may be called the being in ourselves. In whatever degree we depend on our own works for recommending us to the divine favor, or imagine the ability to be holy is originally in ourselves, in that degree a mediator becomes unnecessary for us. We transact our own affairs with God we stand on our own foundation; and God deals with us accordingly. He beholds us under that law of works which requires perfect obedience, and when once we fail of absolute perfection passes sentence on us as condemned criminals. Alas! how sad and pitiable is the condition of natural men! chieîly pitiable because they know not their case. He that keepeth the whole law and offendeth in one point is guilty of all. One act of dishonesty brands a man a thief; and one transgression of the divine law exposes to its condemning sentence, though they will not believe it.
The state of those who have fled from this danger, to be found in Christ, is to be contrasted with the former, in this particular, that God no longer deals with them immediately in their own persons. The whole method of his
proceedings towards them is changed-he regards them in a new light-adopts, and adheres to a new system respecting them. He always thinks of them as in Christ-overlooks what they are in themselves—all he gives to them, all he receives from them is through Christ
, who is now the sole channel of grace, and the repository of spiritual blessings.
Once he looked to them for merit; now he looks for it in Christ-once be remembered their sins, but he has now forgotten them-formerly every blessing was suspended upon the performance of.conditions, but now all is freely given, or freely promised, and every promise not left conditional, but made and secured in Christ. There is no longer any uncertainty hanging over those that are in Christ, whether at the end of life they shall be accepted or rejected: for already are they pardoned and justifiedalready are they made the children of God by adoption-already they are at peace, and have everlasting life.
If Christ is worthy, then are they worthy, Did the Son of God fulfil the law in their stead, and thus obtain righteousness? then they also are perfectly righteous in the righteousness of Christ. Was he filled with the Spirit? then shall they also receive the anointings of