« السابقةمتابعة »
to live holily: therefore “men's destruction is of themselves,” Hos. xiii. 9 : they “ will not come to Christ, that they may have life,” John v. 40. It is God's ordination, that men's own estimate, choice, and endeavours shall be the necessary preparatives to fruition : 1 and hence it is, that the slothful servant, was a wicked servant, and fared and sped according to his sloth, Matt. xxv. 26.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE TRIAL OF OUR SPIRITS,
WHETHER WE BE INDEED NEW CREATURES.
The fourth and last thing proposed, is what the apostle calls παιδείαν την εν δικαιοσύνη, that is, instruction in righteousness; and this I shall rank under these four divisions : I shall,
I. State the nature, parts, and properties of the new creation, for our assistance in the examination of our state.
II. Direct what those should do to obtain it, who feel or fear they are yet deficient.
III. Show how such should act, live, and conduct themselves, as do find upon Scripture grounds, and good experience, that this change is savingly wrought within them.
IV. Answer some queries or cases of conscience, for the satisfaction of such as are doubtful of their sincerity, or would be further informed on some points about this new creature. All these I must briefly despatch.
Nemo nolens bonus aut beatus est.
I. It is of very great concernment for every rational soul to know and be sure on some certain grounds, whether he be a new creature.
I might here refer the reader to the description I gave at first of this new creation. It was called a supernatural grace, as to its general nature—for its particular property or nature, it was styled a gospel grace—as to its subject, it is in the soul of a sinnerthe instrumental cause of it, is the word of God—the efficient cause, is the Holy Ghost—the proper immediate effect, is a great spiritual change—the completeness of this change, has a reference to state, constitution and relation—the pattern is the divine image or likenessthe rule of it, is the word of God—the end, is the glory of God, and the soul's happiness in its communion with him.
You see then this new creature is very comprehensive, it includes the whole encyclopædia, as I may say, or compass of experimental and practical religion.
It is a relation, not one quality, nor yet one single habit, neither one star, nor yet a constellation of graces, but a relation or rectitude, and orderly correspondence of the faculties proceeding from the impartation of all those habits and qualities to a person, (as a learned man observes,)* wherein the appetite is subject to the will, the will to reason, the rectified reason to God, and the conversation corresponding to this inward principle, not completely or perfectly in point of degree, as it was in Adam's soul, in the state of innocency, but by integrity of the parts, so far as the soul is sanctified in this life, till it become perfect in heaven. It is, say divines, avevụATIK alvois, a spiritual chain, wherein all virtues and graces are linked, concreated with Adam, and imparted to the Christian in
* Dr. Arrow's Tract. Sacra. page 138.
this new creation, whereby he hath a power to act as a Christian in this lower world, in all christian exercises, to which God in his word calls him.
This examination of the new creature, I shall reduce to the following particulars :
Preparatives to it, parts of it, properties thereof, and its effects and fruits.
Had I time and room, these might be largely insisted upon; but I shall restrict myself to a short review of them.
First, For the preparatives or antecedents that lead to the new creation; not that a creature can prepare himself for it, but the same God who creates, doth something on the soul preliminary, as the chaos and darkness preceded the beautiful fabric of the world : so God produces,
1. A sense of sin, wrath and the undone state of the soul, this is a new state of feeling; for formerly the sinner neither felt not feared evil, but thought his state as good as any one's; nor doubted his own salvation; now a spirit of bondage to fear hath seized on him; “he is shut up as a sheep for the slaughter.”.
“ The law is a severe schoolmaster, and worketh wrath.”* Now the sinner cries, “Woe is me, I am undone, I never thought I had been in this miserable state; I see I am a condemned malefactor at the dreadful bar of a sin-avenging judge; my mouth is stopped, I have not a word to say for myself, why sentence should not be executed upon me; woe is me, I shall perish for ever.”
2. A discovery of his helpless state. He cannot help or deliver himself, the whole world cannot; it is not within the power of men or angels to bring any relief to his forlorn, perishing soul. I am, saith the poor sinner, helpless, fatherless, Hos. xiv. 3, succour-, less; I am “without strength, in me dwells no good thing.” I could provoke God, but I cannot please him; heaven is shut against me, and I have no key to open it, hell gapes for me, and I know not how to escape it; I hang over flames, I lie in chains, and all the world cannot break them, “silver and gold will not redeem me.”
* Rom. viii. 15. Gal. iii. 22-24. Rom. iv. 16.
“Great men are vanity, good men have no oil to spare.” If I sat upon a prince's throne, I could not purchase or command a pardon, " The redemption of the soul is precious, it ceaseth for ever.”* My case grows worse and worse.
3. A serious inquiry after a remedy. When the poor sinner is thus puzzled and non-plust, and knows not which way to turn himself, then he begins to ask new questions, not as he was wont, “Who will shew us any good” of worldly advantage? Psal. iv. 6, no, but his tune is altered, now he cries, “Men and brethren what shall I do ?” Aets ii. 37, xvi. 30; O sirs, “ What shall I do to be saved ?” O you ministers, christian friends, did you ever know any case like mine? Is it possible that ever I should find mercy ? Is not the day of grace past? I fear I have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, woe is me, what course shall I take ? I see nothing but bare walls at home; is there relief to be found for a poor pining soul ? tell me, O tell me, what door I must knock at, and how I must knock, that I may speed ?
4. Sad thoughts of heart upon discovery of the remedy. Oh, saith the poor sinner, you tell me God is a “merciful God, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin,” Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7; but I spy one red letter in his name, that will by no means clear the guilty. Now I am guilty, and I have read that the arms of justice and mercy are of equal length, both infinite; how must justice be satisfied ? I am sure not by me, in my own person. Well, the gospel tells the sinner, that the wards of the lock are fitted ; this chancery will relieve the condemned sinner; Christ in our room hath suffered and satisfied justice for us; yea, saith the penitent, but how shall I have interest therein ? It is answered, by faith. Alas, saith he, I am but where I was, I can no more believe, than I can keep the whole law; O this unbelieving heart kills me, binds me over to wrath; still I would believe, but I cannot, my faith is but unbelief; I thought believing was the easiest thing in the world, now the Spirit hath convinced me, I neither do, nor can believe without divine influence. * I would give all the world, that I could believe.
* Rom. v. 6, 7. 1 Pet. i. 18. Matt. xxv. 9. Psal. xlix. 7.
5. The removal of obstructions. A stubborn will is by grace made “willing in the day of God's power.” Now prejudices are removed, though Nathaniel say, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth ?” yet if he come and see, he will believe; this was the woman of Samaria's case. Alas, saith the soul, I have been foolish, and ready to find fault with God's way of justifying and saving poor sinners, and said of the gospel dispensation, how can these things be? but I am at last satisfied, that a revelation from God is not only authentic, but most rational; still I have within me strange imaginations, and “high things that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God.” Well, God comes with his spiritual weapons, and pulls down these strong holds, dismounts the sinner's carnal confidence, and levels these high mountains of opposition, leading captivity captive, 2 Cor. x. 4, 5. And now the sinner is content, that God should take his own method in
Isa. lv. 4. 1 Pet. ii. 24. Mark ix. 24. John xvi. 9. Eph. i. 19. + Psal. ex. 3. John i. 46-49. iv. 9, 19.