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selves; by which you may be "changed into his image,”—“ beholding the glory of the Lord” therein. “I have begotten you,” saith Paul, “ through the gospel.” This is God's workhouse, where he shapes and forms this new creature; of how many an ordinance may it be said this and that man was born there.* O therefore, be constantly waiting at the posts of wisdom, hear the most warm, lively preachers, prepare
for hearing, set yourselves as in the presence of God. Say thus with thyself, I am going to hear the word of the living God, “which is the ministration of the Spirit,” apt and able to give life to dead souls. It is not so much the word of men, but of God. O that it may work effectually in my soul! It is not man, but God, who is now treating with me; “God himself is now
6 beseeching me,” and the minister“ praying me in Christ's stead, to be reconciled to God." I perceive it rests with me, God hath declared himself reconciled, if my depraved heart were at last prevailed with to be reconciled to him. O that this may be the day when, and this the sermon whereby, thou wilt mould and form
my soul for thyself: now, Lord, let thy words be spirit and life to me: O for renewing grace !
5. Let convictions by the word have their due effect. Strike while the iron is hot, let not impressions die or wear off, postponement lost both Felix and Agrippa their souls, stifled convictions leave the heart harder, heated water, cooled again, is sooner frozen: who knows how long the Spirit may strive? When God is working, work then, put not off warnings; when Gòd convinceth thee of the evil of a sin, presently discard it; when of a duty, without delay commence the
* James i. 25. 2 Cor. iii. 18. 1 Cor. iv. 15. Psal. lxxxvii. 5. + 2 Cor. iii. 8. 1 Thess. ii. 13. 2 Cor. v. 20.
practice of it; when a wound is made, take heed lest the air get in and it begin to fester, and at last grow incurable : our “Lord is standing at the door, and knocking.” He will not always wait thy leisure; the Spirit will not always strive with thee. You must sail when the wind blows. There are (candida tempora) proper seasons for every thing. It is a dangerous thing for “a man not to know his time,” * If you miss the opportunity, it may never return; the market lasts not all the year. If the tide have brought you thus far, go with it, it may never return to fetch you off: “Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation,” not to-morrow. O quench not the Spirit. Think thus, I have stood out many a day of grace, lost many a golden season, it is infinite mercy that God is still calling; if I lose this, I may never have more; yea, I may be in hell before another sermon, even before morning. O that I could "know the day of my visitation !”+ Othat now at last, my soul were effectually changed !
6. Get thy heart affected with thy sin and misery, by nature and practice; look on thyself as dead in trespasses and sins, and thus incapable of quickening thyself. Let your language be, alas, my praying, reading, hearing, reforming, will never attain the end; I am sunk far below the possibility of human or angelic help; means must be used, but means must not be rested in, they cannot effect the purpose; nay, alas, “I am without strength,” and can do nothing; “ in me, that is, in my flesh dwells no good thing;" I am a miserable leper, full of “wounds, bruises, putrefying sores;” woe is me, I am defiled in Adam, and actually polluted; averse to all good, and prone to all evil ; “I am in the gall of bitterness, and bonds of iniquity. Satan is leading me hell-wards, I must be changed or perish; for aught I know I stand tottering on the brink of eternal misery; I hang by the slender thread of my natural life over everlasting burnings ; my case is worse than the brutes, that are not capable of moral evil. I am already condemned, and liable to the execution of the righteous sentence, “having a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation ;” another step may set me past hope, for any thing that I know, “this night may devils require my soul,” † and hurry it into the infernal lake. ( what will become of me! whither am I going ? Lord, awake my sleepy conscience, to see my danger, that I may haste out of the Sodom of fire and brimstone to the mountain ; God forbid, I should stay another day in my unregenerate state.
* Acts xxiv. 25–27. Rev. iii. 20. Gen. vi. 3. Eccles. ix. 12. + 2 Cor. vi. 2. 1 Thess. v. 19. Luke xix. 9.
7. Learn to know and exercise faith on Jesus Christ: the life of holiness as well as righteousness is in him; “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” There is no spiritual life, but what is derived from Christ, who saith, “ Because I live, you shall live also.” Sinners are dead ; the nearer they come to Christ, the more hope of life; as the nearer to the sun, the more light; we only come to have the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Nothing doth so transform a sinner, as looking on God through Christ; the woman that did but touch the hem of Christ's garment, derived virtue from him; none are branches of this vine, but they have life and fruitfulness :f all that
* Rom. v. 6. vii. 18. Isa. i. 6. Acts viii. 23. + Eccles. iii. 21. Heb. x. 27. Luke xii. 20.
Gal. ii. 20. John xiv. 19. 2 Cor. iv. 6. John xv. 5,
are “ grafted in the olive, partake of the root and fatness of that olive tree.” Labour after faith and love; faith unites the soul to Christ, for “he dwells in our hearts by faith.” Love assimilates the soul to God, and the more we are like God, the more of meetness we have for heaven. Faith is the spiritual ligament which binds the soul to Christ. Love is a voluntary mover of the soul to Christ; faith is the receiver, love the worker; “ faith worketh by love;"* and both are
» absolutely necessary to the new creature. Christ is the image of God, and the new creature is the image of Christ, and so of God. Love sees all good in the enjoyment of God, and in conformity to him as the means to attain that end. Faith unites the soul to God mystically, love morally; there can be no new creation without both these ; therefore to believe in
; God, and to love God, are the only means to be like God, and therein consists the new creature; therefore study these.
8. Rest not till you be divorced from sin and sinners. You
may and “must amend your ways,” Jer. vii. 3; if you cannot mend your hearts, “ Cease to do evil, learn to do well ; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and return to the Lord;" be no more slaves to your sensual appetites, which are as cords to hold you in the devil's service, and drag you down hell-wards. This day, bid an everlasting farewell to sin, say to every idol, “Get thee hence; what have I any more to do with idols.”+ If you cannot cut up sin by the roots, yet be sure to lop off its branches; it is true, this is not enough, but this is something, and who knows what may be its tendency, and termination ? Departing from iniquity,” is one
* Rom. xi. 17. Eph. iii. 17. Gal. v. 6. 4. Isa. i. 16. lv. 7. Prov. v. 22. Isa. xxx. 22. Hos. xiv. 8.
part of the new creature; you cannot find “mercy, except you forsake as well as confess sin;" spare but one sin, and God will not spare thee; "turn from all sins, and you shall live.” If you fall out with sin,
, there are some hopes; and then away with sinners, “ forsake the foolish and live;* but “a companion of fools shall be destroyed,” Prov. xiii. 20. There is no hopes of that man who delights in vain company; how many have been laughed out of their serious purposes, or allured from hopeful beginnings by loose associates-; if ever God begin this new work in you,
this will be the first evidence of it; and it is even a singular help to it, to change your companions, and to run from the tents of the wicked into the society of the godly; I recommend this in a special manner to all persons, young and old, and desire you to read and study, Prov. i. 10–18. ii. 12, 20. iv. 14, 18. 2 Cor. vi. 17. Be sure you join with christian society, open your cases to them ; beg their counsel and prayers ; company is assimilating, sin is infectious, holiness imitable. Let communion of saints be in your practice as well as in your creed. New society, is a sign and means of new hearts ; I despair of your being new creatures in old company.
9. Enter into a solemn covenant with the Lord, by taking God as your chief good, and by making a deed of gift of yourselves entirely to the Lord. I shall not much need to enlarge upon this, having treated on it fully elsewhere, only as it is subservient to this design. Enter into an oath, “and swear the Lord liveth,” Jer. iv. 2; Deut. xxvi. 17, “and avouch him to be yours.” Do this understandingly, solemnly, resolutely, deliberately; set some time apart, place God before thine eyes, make him witness of the singleness of thy heart, that thou * 2 Tim. ii. 19. Prov. xxviii. 13. Ezek. xviii. 21. Prov. ix. 6.