« PreviousContinue »
nothing doth it so much injury as sin, or what hath a tendency to it: any act of omission or commission lies heavy upon it, pierces and wounds it, and makes it bleed; hence it is called a heart of flesh, which is a soft and sensible thing. Defects of grace, inroads of temptation, intermissions of duty, or worldliness, are more laid to heart by the new creature, than gross outbreakings of sin in the hypocrite. Whatsoever it perceives to be annoyance or disturbance, is a grievous affliction. Oh, saith the soul, I found at such a time God's withdrawing the assistance of his Spirit; being puzzled, I bungled in a duty, and could make nothing of it: woe is me, what had I done to banish
God? I find a weight on me, “and a sin that easily besets me.” Did I not quench, grieve, or resist the Spirit ? Was I not sluggish, heartless, or formal? Lord, forgive me that sin, and quicken me with thy grace. The hypocrite hath none of these experiences, soul-exercises, or agonies, but runs on in a heartless formality, and customary performance, knowing nothing of God's access, or his recess, coming or going.
4. It is distinguished by its growth, it is never stationary; the pious man is compared to the sun, “ that shineth still brighter to the perfect day;" and to "calves of the stall,” that are still growing: as “new-born babes, believers desire the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby;"* it is their duty, yea, their privilege to “grow stronger and stronger, to perfect holiness in the fear of God;" for the new creature helps, spurs on the child of God to improve his talents, to use God's appointed means for increase, and to derive communications from Jesus Christ, that “ he may increase with the increase of God." This new creature has a new appetite, which in this imperfect state,
• Prov. iv. 18. Mal. iv. 2. 1 Pet. ï. 2, 3.
makes him desire and long after more; and he never saith he hath enough in this lower world. It is said of the crocodile, as long as he lives he grows; .so it is with the believer. O, saith the soul, I am short, still defective; the greatest part of what I have attained, is the least part of what I want; O that I could be more like God! “ be changed into his image from glory to glory.”* I can never be enough like God; this is the clearest evidence of the truth of grace; a dead picture will not grow as a living child, a dead stake grows not as a living plant. Lord, make me more humble, holy, heavenly, self-denying, watchful, fruitful.
5. Consciousness of dependance characterizes the new créature, the soul becomes sensible of its own weakness, it feels not its own feet, it cannot stand alone, therefore leans on its beloved, every step through this wilderness state, Cant. viii. 5. Woe be to me, saith the Christian, if I be alone, I have long found by too dear bought experience, that I am like a staff, and can stand no longer than I am upheld by an Almighty hand; if God bid me come upon the fluid waves, and reach out his hand, I will venture, as Peter did, my feet will not fail, if faith fail not; Lord, “ hold up my goings in thy path, that my footsteps slip not;” alas, “ without thee I can do nothing;” but by thee I can
run through a troop,” and by my God, “I can leap over a wall;" I am able “to do all things through Christ that strengthens me.”+ I find by experience, that the least difficulty overmatcheth me without divine assistance, and the “greatest mountains become a plain before Zerubbabel,” my Lord of hosts, who out of weakness can make strong; if he say, “My grace is sufficient for thee,” 2 Cor. xii. 9, I will encounter a
* Job xvii. 9. 2 Cor. vii. 1. Col. ii. 19. 2 Cor. iii. 18. + Psal. xvij. 5. John xv. 5. Psal. xviii. 29. Phil. iv. 13.
Goliah, and in the name of the Lord do wonders ; my only strength is thy all-sufficient grace; “ by the grace of God I am what I am,” 1 Cor. xv. 10.
6. The new creature is watchful; the soul never sleeps. 'Grace in the soul is still waking: “I sleep, but
I my heart wakes," Cant. v. 2. The wise virgins as well as the foolish may nod, Matt. xxv. 5, 6; but they are quickly awaked with the Bridegroom's coming. Grace may lie in the unexercised, passive habit, or as a spark of fire in the ashes, but it will revive: there needs not the impartation of a new life, but the stirring up of the vital principle. It may seem a paradox that the Christian is distinguished from his heart: a suspension of the actings of spiritual liveliness and vivacity there may be, whereby the senses are at present bound up by indisposition to duty, yet a principle of grace, inclining to action there may be also: thus there are two different natures in the child of God, like two distinct persons ; so Paul saith, Rom. vii. 20, “ If I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” Such a distinction he often makes. These different natures have opposite actings; in the worst state of a Christian's spiritual dulness, he is very apprehensive things are not right with him; there are some convictions, challenges, purposes, protestations of the inward man against this indolent frame, it displeases him, and he hath some faint and languid strugglings to raise himself. The new creature gives not full consent, though it can act little vigorously, but there is a “lusting against each other,” Gał. v. 17. Peter's faith did not act, yet did not totally fail, when he denied his Master; for Christ's prayer was heard for him, Luke xxii. 32. There is some tendency in the heart God-wards, in the saint's lowest ebbs: he is not satisfied in his sleepiness. VOL. V.
7. The new creation will abide, it will remain and overcome all opposition, and continue as long as the soul continues, as was said before. It is an immortal seed; “ the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doth the will of God, abideth for ever," 1 John ii. 17: “ This anointing abideth in believers,"
. and causeth them to abide in him, verse 27: this principle will be as “a well of water springing up to everlasting life :" this “ fear of the Lord endureth for ever:” his " righteousness endureth for ever.” Morality withers and decays, but sincerity will run parallel with the life of God, and line of eternity. If thou art an apostate, thou wast never such a new creature as I have described : “ If you continue in my word,” said :
” Jesus, “ then are you my disciples indeed.” * Look you to your sincerity, and God will look to your perseverance; nay, that principle will be attended with a holy jealousy, which is the awe-band of the soul, and a special preservation against apostacy : Jer. xxxii. 40, “ I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.”. This fear will teach them to incline God-wards, and abhor what tends to departing from God. Scripture makes this a clear evidence of a state of grace, and interest in Christ : and the contrary, evidence of a soul going off. + Try yourselves by this character: do you persevere ?
Objection. How can I evidence myself to be a new creature? I am not yet at the end of my journey, who knows what I may do, or be ? I have a backsliding heart, I may fall away before I die.
Answ. It is true, thou canst not presage what may come; but thou mayest form an opinion of time to come from what thou hast met with in times past ; thou hast had experience of the operations of grace, the witnessings of God's Spirit, healing of backslidings, conquest of some strong lusts, victory over the world, and the vanquishing of Satan's assaults, so that thou canst set up thy “ Ebenezer, and say, Hitherto hath the Lord helped,” 1 Sam. vii. 12. And dost thou not find it upon record, Phil. i. 6, “ Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it to the day of Jesus Christ ?”
* John iv. 14. Psalm xix. 9. cxii. 3. John viii. 31. + Col. i. 21-23. Heb. iii. 6_14. 1 John ii. 19.
, It is true, you are not absolute conquerors till the last enemy be destroyed, which is death ; but Scripture style reckons sincere combatants to be conquerors : “ Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them," 1 John iv. 4. v. 4.
v. 4. And“ this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith ;” yea, we “are more than conquerors, through him that loved us,” Rom. viii. 37. And it is often said, “To him that overcometh, will I give to eat' of the tree of life,” Rev. ii. 7. Mark it, it is not said, to him that hath overcome, but to vikurti, to him that is overcoming ; dost thou keep thy ground, fight still, though sometimes thou art foiled ? dost thou not even gain ground by thy falls, mourn for sin, and grow more watchful? As long as thou art in the field against sin, sin is not on the throne in thy heart; “ and if sin have not dominion over you, you are not under the law, but under grace,” Rom. vi. 14. This victory may have acceptance with God, though not satisfactory to thyself.