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A SIGN OF AN UNRENEWED HEART
If you have any known sin which you do not hate, and had not rather leave it than keep it, and do not pray, and strive, and watch against it, as far as you know and observe it, but rather excuse it, plead for it, desire it, and are loath to part with it, so that your will is habitually more for it than against it, it is a sign of an impenitent and unrenewed heart,
GENUINE REFORMATION OF CONDUCT.
Ax unrenewed man may reform. Under the influence of shame, or remorse, or terror, or interest, he may improve his conversation, his temper, his manners; and this change may be gradual, and the result of much thought, strong resolution, and vigorous effort—and we see no reason to doubt that in some cases it may be permanent. But if this change has not sprung from the interference of Him who alone sets men free from sin-if it does not spring from a knowledge and faith of his mediation, and from those principles which this acknowledgment of his mediation involves—and if the change be not more radical and deep than we have now supposed,the soul is as really under the dominion of evil as it was before. In that soul the reign of God is established no more than ever. It owns a law above his law—the law of its own inclinations and interests. And the struggle, to use a figure, is only a contest for precedency among the various bands of the enemy,—rot a contest betwixt the interests of the enemy and those of God. It
is the conflict of corruption with corruption; not of corruption with grace. It is an effort to give a new form to the old government, whilst all its worst corruptions are retained, not to subvert and abolish that government, and to substitute a new and holy one in its place.
PRODIGAL SON. OVERWHELMED with rief, the prodi exclaimed, sighing, What have I abandoned, and what have I found! O my father's house! habitation of abundance, peace, and liberty, when shall I see thee again ? Far from thee, an unhappy slave, tormented by the recollection of my sins, devoured by remorse, covered with shame, I languish, I droop, I die : here “I perish with hunger.” Ah! “I will arise.” Behold here the language of penitence; behold the first expression of the new heart which grace has just created in him. I will arise, I will deceive the vigilance of the cruel master who tyrannizes over me; I will go out of this strange land, which is desolated by famine and death. I will arise,” in spite of the railleries of libertines, in spite of the revolt of my senses, in spite of the repugnancy of nature, in spite of the ascendency of my passions. “I will arise," whatever it may cost me: and what will it cost? What more have I to sacrifice ? Alas! I have given every thing to the world; sin has deprived me of all: I have now nothing to offer but my tears, my griefs, and the confession of my crimes. Be it so; full of confidence, “I will arise and go.” But where shall this unfortunate son, this afflicted sinner, take refuge? Does an
asylum remain open for him ? O where shall he
Can you ask such a question ? He will go to his father: “I will arise, and go to my father.” What! go to that God whom he has insulted with so much audacity ? Let him not deceive himself. No, he is no longer his father; he is an avenging God. Let him rather dread his indignation. He only fears his aversion and his absence; he only fears that he may not sufficiently love him. But how shall he be able to soften him? Ah, you little know the power of that divine love that inflames Him! That love is stronger than the most inveterate habits: it breaks in pieces every chain: it is stronger than human respect—it braves it ; it is stronger than death—it triumphs over it; it is stronger than the justice of God-it disarms it; it is stronger than the sovereign Judge—it converts him into a Father.
SCRIPTURE SUPERIOR TO AFFLICTION IN
CONVERSION OF MEN.
The scripture is full of instances, to prove that if the word of God will not awaken sinners, nothing will. And we see enough in these days to convince us of it. Men sometimes meet with things, by which we should think it impossible that they should not be reformed, if we did not see the fact. They sometimes hear the warnings of dying men, who are expecting to go to hell ; they are affected for a while; but the solemn warning does but just touch them, and passes away. Sometimes they themselves are laid upon a bed of sickness and their lives hang in doubt before them : they are brought to the sides of the grave, and their hearts are full of terror; yet, if they recover, they soon forget it, and return to the ways of folly and wickedness. Sometimes this is repeated—they are taken sick again-are again in extreme danger—their hearts are again full of terror, and many promises and vows are made; yet, on recovery, they forget all, and again return to sin and folly! Such things may convince us, that where the word of God is not effectual, neither sickness, nor any thing else, is likely to be so.
The brightest beam, the warmest ray of the fire of divine love that ever broke into the region of creation, and shone upon the children of men, was God's declaration-that the offspring of nature, the heirs of corruption and death, should be his own children, and the heirs of immortality and infinite fullness.—Who, upon such terms, would not choose to say to corruption, “ Thou art my father; and to the worm, thou art my brother and my sister ?" Infinite love surmounts all impossibilities. He deigns not to say to the miserable victim of corruption, descending into the unrelenting jaws of death, I will remit the sentence; I will award the blow: No; but he says, Let it fall; be not afraid ; thou art my son. Look up to heaven ; behold the sun by day, and the moon and the stars by night. When your eyes can penetrate no further, call in your imagination, and soar infinitely beyond them. While you are walking in darkness, stumbling amongst the rubbish of corruption, under the momentary apprehension of which shall be your last fall; when you shall never gather your feet, nor rear your head again upon the theatre of nature : then lift up your eyes. Do they fail you ? No matter.—Give unbounded scope to your most towering conceptions; let them break through the barriers of creation-launch into the regions of eternity, the realms of uncreated day, and say,
-Yonder I still live—there I have a Father still - if I am to be a reptile of nature no longer; still I am what is infinitely greater,-I am his son.
DIVINE GRACE VICTORIOUS. When all our spiritual foes rise up, as it were, to pursue us; when guilt, and terror, and despair surround us; when the wrath of God seems just overtaking us, and Satan is ready to seize us as his captives; when all seems lost, and self-condemned, and with no apparent way of escape, we can scarcely utter even a short impassioned prayer -at this gloomy moment divine grace hastens forward—a frec pardon rescues the sinner; Satan and all his forces are stopped at the very instant of victory; their legions roll back with dismay; the deep swells around them; it repels, it covers, it overwhelms them; and the ransomed fugitive celebrates on the shore the glory of his deliverer.
He that is entirely of the world finds it a world of conflicts, and cannot escape many a wound from it. But the worst of his case is, that he has no physician to apply to, “ though the sorrow of the world worketh death.” What a blessed thing