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Nay permit me to add once more upon this head, that if all your compassion is only moved by men's temporal calamities, and works not in any degree with respect to their spiritual and eternal interests, you have reason to fear, that it is no better than an unsanctified humanity; and indeed, that you never have learnt the worth of your own souls, while you set so little value on the souls of others, even of those, to whom you profess and intend friendship. And this concluding hint is of importance to prevent a dangerous mistake, in which too many good natured sinners are ready to flatter themselves, and in which perhaps others are too ready to join in flattering them.
5. He "that does not know what it is, to struggle with indwelling sin, and heartily to resolve against indulging it in any kind or degree," is undoubtedly still in an unregenerate
You will observe, I do not say, "that every one who knows what it is, to feel a struggle in his own mind, when assaulted by temptations to sin, is a truly good man :" The contrary is dreadfully apparent. A principle of natural conscience often makes very strong remonstrances against sin, and sends out bitter cries when subjected to its violence; and this is so far from denominating a man a real christian, that it rather illustrates the power of sin, and aggravates its guilt. But when a man's inclinations run entirely one way, and when he gives a swing to his natural passions without any guard or restraint; when he is a stranger to any inward conflict with himself, and any victory over his own lusts, and his corrupted will; it is a certain sign, he is yet under the dominion of satan, and is even to be numbered among the tamest of his slaves. For They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts* ; have learnt to Deny themselves†, and to Mortify their members upon earth.
It is also of great importance to add, that there must be "a resolution to oppose sin in every kind, and in every degree:" For he that is born of God sinneth not§; nay, it is elsewhere said, He cannot commit sin||: And though it is too visibly true in fact, and apparent from several other passages in the very epistle whence these words are taken, that this expression is to be interpreted with some limitation; yet the least that it can be imagined to signify is this, that he does not wilfully allow himself in the practice of any sin. He has learnt to Hate every false way, and to esteem all God's precepts, con
important issue; or trying himself by false characters, he may come to a conclusion, which will be so much the more dangerous, as it has been the more deliberate. For the sake of such therefore, I add,
2. The soul" that is not deeply convinced of its guilt before God, and desirous to seek deliverance from it by the Lord Jesus Christ," is still in an unregenerate state.
All the promises of God's paternal favour do certainly imply the promise of forgiveness; and you well know, that these are appropriated to such as humble themselves before God: And that humbling which is merely external, and implies no deep sense of inward guilt, can pass for very little with that God, who searches the heart, and tries the reins of the children of men*.
The scripture assures us, that Whosoever believes that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God; and nothing can be more certain from the whole tenor of it, than that he that believes not, shall be damned; and surely a state of damnation is not, and cannot be, a state of regeneration. But what is this faith in Christ? Is it no more than a bare notional persuason, that he is the Son of God? If this were all, the Devils themselves believe§; and many were the instances, in which you know that they confessed it, and trembled before him. You cannot then be ignorant, that the faith, to which the promises of salvation are made, is a faith, which receives the Lord Jesus Christ in all his offices; which trusts his atonement, as well as admits his revelation; and flies to him for righteousness and life. And how can that man seek righteousness from Christ, who is insensible of his own guilt? Or how can he depend upon him for life, who is not aware that he is under a sentence of death and condemnation?
But imagine not you are secure, because you acknowledge yourselves to be sinners. If that acknowledgment be slight and formal, it shews you are strangers to the operation of that Spirit, whose office it is to convince men of sin. If you have not been made sensible of the pollution of your hearts, as well as the rebellion of your lives: if you have not received as it were a sentence of death in yourselves, and submitted to that sentence as righteous, though ever so dreadful; if you have not been made to loath and Abhor yourselves, and to repent in dust and ashes¶¶; if you have not Laid your hand on your mouth**, and your mouth in the dust††, crying out, unclean, unclean‡‡; and in this
Jer. xvii. 10. ¶Job xlii. 5.
+1 John v. 1.
Mark xvi. 16. †† Lam. iii. 29.
§ Jam. ii. 19.
John xvi. 8.
such a light, as to make you judge every thing trifling that can come in competition with it; nay, whatever your views of eternity have been, if you are not practically carrying on a scheme for it; and if you cannot, and do not, deny your worldly interest, when it cannot be secured without hazarding your eternal hopes; it is plain you are friends of the world, in such a sense as none can be, but he must be an enemy of God*. If indeed you were dead to the world, and Your life hid with Christ in God, you would Set your affections on things above, on those things which are there, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of Godt: But the want of this temper shews, that you are carnally minded, which it is death to be‡; and that the redeeming love of Christ has never exerted its influence upon your souls, nor his cross had any due efficacy upon you; for if it had, The world would have been crucified to you, and you to the world§.
7. The soul" that does not long for greater improvements in
the divine life," is still a stranger to the first principles of it.
You know, that we are called, as christians, with an High and holy calling, and as he that is the author of this calling, is holy, so are we to be Holy in all manner of conversation¶, and to be perfect, even as our Father which is in heaven is perfect**. Here will therefore be room for improvement, not only during our continuance in the present life, but through all the ages of a glorious eternity; and it is the ardent desire of every good man, that in this sense above all others, his Path may be like the shinging light, that shineth more and more, until the perfect day++. And this is the one thing that he does, or that in which all his labours centre; being conscious to himself how far he is from having Already attained, or being already perfect, forgetting the things that are behind, he reacheth forth unto those things that are before, and presses toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus‡‡. In this view he seriously considers the circumstances of life in which providence has placed him; that he may observe the advantages, which these circumstances give him for religious improvements; and it is delightful to him to discover such advantages.
Now if there be any of you, who know nothing of this temper, you are certainly in an unregenerate state: For none can be born of God, that do not love him; and none can truly love him, that do not earnestly desire, more and more to resemble
* Jam. iv. 4. Gal. vi. 14.
+ Col. iii. 1, 2, 3.
Phil. iii. 14. 2 Tim. i. 9.
Rom. viii. 6.
¶ 1 Pet. i. 15.
And our Lord strongly intimates the same thought, when he exhorts his disciples to the most universal and unlimited benevolence by this argument, That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven*; plainly implying, that otherwise they could not really be born of God, or claim him for their Father. Regeneration is to form a man for intimate communion with The general assembly and church of the first-born†, and to prepare him for the region of complete and everlasting love; and the first fruits of it are to appear, and to be manifested here. It is a faithful saying, that they who have believed in God, should be careful to maintain good works; and unfeigned love is to be the root of them: So that if you cannot stand this trial, your religious hopes are all delusive and vain.
Let me intreat you therefore, that you would now look into your lives, and hearts. Do any of the malignant passions harbour there? Ask yourselves," Is there any of my fellow-creatures, whom I wish to see miserable; or would make so, if it were in my power to do it by the secret act of my will, so that no mortal on earth should ever know me to be the cause of the calamity?" If it be so, and this be your settled temper, you Hate your brethren, and are murderers§; and therefore are the children of the devil, who was a murderer from the beginning: And we may thus say of you, in the very words of our Lord, who never uttered a rash censure, You are of your father the devil, for his passions you cherish, and his lusts you would do.
But reflect farther, If you wish others no harm, do you really wish them well? and that so really, and so sincerely, as to be ready to do them good; For merely to say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled, when you have it in your power to help them, is at once to Mock the poor, and to despise him that made him**. You that are conscious of a mean selfish temper, and wrap yourselves up, as it were, in your own separate interests, or in those of your own families, and can feel a concern for no others; you that devise what you may imagine shrewd and prudent things, but none that are liberal and compassionate; you whose eye does not affect your heart, when you see the distresses of your brethren, while you have this world's good, How dwelleth the love of God in you++? how can you imagine, you are the children of him, whom you so little resemble?
* Mat. v. 45. John viii. 44. VOL. II.
+ Heb. xii. 23.
Tit. iii. 8. § 1 John iii. 15. ** Prov. xvii. 5, ++ 1 John iii. 17.
and with the young men you will utterly fail; while they only that wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength, shall mount up as on eagles wings, and pressing on with an unwearied pace, according to the different degrees of vigour which the different parts of their course may require, shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint*. In short, if you do not thirst after the water of life, that is, as the Evangelist himself explains it, the Spirit, which they that Believe on Christ shall receivet, however bountiful he is, he makes no promise to impart it to you; and if you never receive it, all your other sources of comfort will soon be dried up, and the miserable condition of the creature, that asked in vain for one drop of water to cool his tormented tonguet, will certainly be yours.
Here I apprehend multitudes will miscarry, who have made a fair shew in the eyes of men; and if you are condemned by this mark, I am sure you will not be acquitted by any of the preceding. For all the branches of an holy temper have such a connection with this, and such a dependance upon it, that a man, who is destitute of this, can have only the semblance of
And thus, Sirs, I have with all plainness and faithfulness, as in the sight of God, and sensible of my account to him, laid before you a variety of hints, by which I think you may safely and truly judge, whether you be, or be not, in an unregenerate state: And I shall now beg leave to conclude this discourse with one plain inference from the whole, viz.
That baptism is not regeneration, in the scriptural, and most important sense of the word.
To prove this as a corollary from the preceding discourse, I shall only assume this most reasonable concession, with which you may remember I at first set out; "that regeneration, and being born of God, signify the same thing." Now I have shewn you from a variety of scriptures under the former heads, that every one whom the sacred oracles represent as born of God, receiveth Christ, overcometh the world, and sinneth not. But it is too plain, that these characters do not agree to every one that is baptized; and consequently it evidently follows, that every one who is baptized is not of course born of God, or regenerate; and therefore, that baptism is not scripture regeneration.
I think no mathematical demonstration plainer, and more certain than this conclusion; and therefore, whatever great and ancient names may be urged on the other side of the ques