Page images

date's piety. In this manner, there is reason to fear, multitudos are miserably led astray, both by being induced beforehand to labour that these things may be truly said of themselves; and by settling down in a state of security on this false foundation afterwards.

Nor is the case less unhappy, when persons rest their hopes on their exactness in performing the external duties of religion and morality. Yet vast numbers of mankind repose themselves on these, as on a bed of down; and feel satisfied that God will not finally condemn persons who have laboured so much in his service. All of them will, however, find in the end, that to such as have done all this, and nothing more, one thing is lacking ;' viz. an interest in Christ; a thing without which they cannot be saved.

3. We see the danger of being strongly confident in the piety of ourselves or others.

All or nearly all such confidence, so far as I have observed, has been derived from these supposed evidences of religion; any part or the whole of which may be possessed by men totally destitute of Christianity. It is a fatal mark on them all, that the Scriptures have nowhere alleged them as proofs of religion. As they are not scriptural proofs, they cannot be sound. To trust in them is to trust in a nullity. Accordingly, those who give the fairest proofs of Christianity in their life and conversation, never make these things the foundation of their hope, and are very rarely found to be strongly confident of their acceptance with God.

To pronounce boldly that others are Christians, is, in many cases at least, equally hazardous. There are many persons, however, who roundly declare others, of whose life they have had little or no knowledge, to be Christians ; and others not to be Christians, whose conduct and conversation give them at least as fair, and often fairer, claims to this character. Nay, they will peremptorily make these assertions concerning ministers of the Gospel; and pronounce some to be sanctified, and others unsanctified, from a sermon or a prayer, or even from the tones of voice with which they are uttered. • Judge not, saith our Saviour, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.'

· Who

art thou,' saith St. Paul, ! that judgest another man's servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth. It is sufficient, to show the impropriety and rashness of these unwarrantable decisions, that they are founded on no scriptural or solid evidence. They are generally built on the very things exploded in this Discourse, or others of still less importance ; all of which united go not a single step towards proving a religious or an irreligious character.








In the last Discourse I attempted to point out several things which furnish no real evidence of regeneration, although they have been supposed to furnish it by multitudes in the Christian world. I now propose to mention several other things which actually furnish such evidence.

By all who believe the doctrine of regeneration, as formerly taught in these Discourses, it must be admitted, that the disposition communicated when this work is accomplished in us, is new ; and something which before did not exist in the soul. If it were the mere increase, or some other modification, of the former disposition, man could not be said to be born again; to be created anew; to be a new creature; to be renewed in the spirit of his mind. It could not be said by St. Paul, concerning persons who were the subjects of Regeneration, that • old things were passed away in them, and that all things bad become new.'

It must further be acknowledged, that this new disposition is in its nature opposite to that which before existed in the mind. The former disposition is sin, condemned and punished by the law of God; the new disposition is holiness, required and rewarded by the same law. The former disposition is hateful in the sight of God; the new one lovely, and of great price.'

The former disposition is frequently and justly styled selfishness; as being perpetually employed in subordinating the interests of any and all others to the private personal interests of the individual in whom it prevails. The new disposition is, with the same propriety, styled disinterestedness, love ; goodwill, benevolence : a spirit inclining him in whom it exists to subordinate his own private interest to the general welfare, and to find his own happiness in the common prosperity of the divine kingdom. The part, the place, and the enjoyments wbich God assigns to him as a member of this kingdom, he is inclined to take, not with submission only, but with cheerfulness; as being that, which is ordered by infinite wisdom, and is therefore the best, and most desirable.

This new disposition is also opposed to the former, particularly as it regards our Maker. The former, or carnal mind is enmity against God,' opposed to his character and to his pleasure ; the new one is conformed to his pleasure, and delighted with his character. He in whom it exists • delights in the law of God after the inner man; and esteems it as to be chosen than the most fine gold, and sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.'

The former disposition is an impenitent devotion to sin; attended, at times, and after some of its grosser perpetrations, by remorse perhaps, and self-condemnation; but never by a real loathing of the sin itself, nor by that ingenuous sorrow for it, which is after a godly sort.' The new disposition is a real 'aatred of sin; a sincere, and, if I may so term it, an instinctive sorrow for every transgression of the divine commands, whenever such transgression is present to the view of the mind.

The former disposition was a general spirit of unbelief or distrust towards God, his invitations, promises, and designs; a distrust especially exercised towards the Redeemer, and towards his righteousness as the foundation of our acceptance with God. The new one is a humble, stedfast, affectionate


confidence in God, his declarations and designs; exercised particularly towards Christ, as the Saviour of mankind, the propitiation for sin, and the true and living way to eternal glory. This confidence, or, as it is most usually termed in the New Testament, this faith, is a vital principle in the soul, producing every act of real obedience, every act in man which is pleasing to God.

In all these particulars united the new disposition is termed godliness, or piety.

The former disposition is inclined to the indulgence of those lusts, or passions and appetites, which immediately respect ourselves ; such as pride, vanity, sloth, lewdness, and intemperance. The new one is opposed to all these ; is humble, modest, diligent, chaste, and temperate. In this view, it is styled, temperance, moderation, or self-government.

As in all these things the spirit communicated in our regeneration not only differs so greatly from that which we possess by nature, but is so directly opposed to it; it must be admitted, that, in all its operations it carries with it some evidence of its existence, in the same manner as our sinful disposition carries with it evidence of its existence. He who denies that holiness in a renewed mind can be evidenced by its nature and operations, must also deny, either that any moral character whatever can be perceived to exist, or that a boly, disposition is capable of the same proof as a sinful one. That this is philosophy too unsound to be adopted by a sober man, is so evident as to need no illustration. Indeed, it may be doubted whether any man will openly aver this doctrine; although multitudes assert that which involves it. Certainly, a sinner who examines his own heart and life must discern that he is sinful ; with equal certainty an angel must discern that he himself is holy.

From what has been said of the nature of the renewed disposition it is clear, that the man, who repents of his sins, who believes in Christ, who loves and fears God, who disinterestedly loves his neighbour, and forgives his enemies, and who employs himself daily in resisting and subduing his own passions and appetites, must have some consciousness that he does these things. In this consciousness, as it continually rises up to the view of the mind, consists the primary or original evidence that we are Christians. Indeed, all the evidence of

« PreviousContinue »