Page images

man living be justified." If I look at the new creature, there are many defects therein: if I reflect on the purest actings of grace, alas, they are imperfect. I must "be found in Christ," or I am lost for ever; "not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is by the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." O my Lord, when I am standing before the angel of the Lord, "Satan stands at my right hand to resist me;" and justly he may, "for I am clothed with filthy garments." Oh speak the word, that "mine iniquity may pass away from me," and "clothe me with change of raiment."* My change of principles will not do without an upper garment to cover all my defects and faults, in which I must stand as righteous before God at the great day. The sum of all this is contained in that excellent text, with which I conclude this head. Phil. iii. 3, "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh."



I AM sensible I have insisted too long upon the first division in reference to instruction, concerning the evidences of this change in our souls, from its preparatives, parts, properties and effects, I shall be the briefer on the rest.

II. The next is to give some instructions to those

* Psal. cxxx. 3. cxliii. 2. Phil. iii. 9. Zech. iii. 1-4.

that feel or fear they are not yet new creatures, how they are to conduct themselves, and what course they are to take that they may become new creatures.

I am much anticipated in this by the worthy labours of those excellent men, Mr. Baxter, Mr. Joseph Allein, and many others in their directions about conversion, which are coincident with my design; to which I refer the reader.

Yet this must not be understood, as though it were in any man's power to change his own heart, any more than he can create himself, or put life into a dead carcass, but it becomes men-not to hinder or obstruct the strivings of the Spirit that may work this graceand to improve their natural faculties to the utmost, in order to the attainment of this end. I shall but briefly lay before you what a natural man can do, by the help of common providence, and what he must do, as he will answer for the contrary another day, to that God that hath given him a command, and rational faculties capable of compliance.

1. Own and improve natural principles, such are Kovaι vvo, innate notions, common to man, as a being endowed with reason; namely, that there is a God, that this God must needs be an excellent Being, the ultimate end of all things, the chief good, that all things depend upon him, and must bow to him; that this God must be worshipped, that his will is the rule of man's obedience; that there is moral good and evil, and that there will be a retribution in this or in another world. Natural conscience even of heathens discovers something of these grand principles; for saith the blessed apostle, Rom. ii. 14, 15, "Though the Gentiles have not the written law before their eyes," yet they have a transcript thereof in their hearts, which declares to them some good and evil, and con

science accordingly excuseth them if they do well, and "accuseth them if they do evil," Rom. i. 18-24. The imprisoning of these truths in unrighteousness, produced a judicial hardening, and giving them up to uncleanness, and rendered them without excuse: and can we think that men now disclaiming and obliterating these notices of religion will fare better? Surely not. So on the contrary, the way to obtain more, is to improve what we have. I say not, that God is bound to give special grace to such as improve what is common, but an instance can hardly be produced to the contrary; and this is God's method in vouchsafing his grace, to engage men to cherish and excite moral principles by diligent endeavours, which he usually seconds with his blessing; yea, this course doth naturally tend to weaken vicious inclinations. Set yourselves about this work, and you little know what it may come to at last. O that unconverted sinners had but the integrity of king Abimelech, Gen. xx. 6, to act according to the light which they have, and the restraining grace afforded them, which the Lord calls integrity, which is however only of a moral nature, yet good, so far as it goes, and a means of more.

2. Be jealous, lest you be mistaken in this point, lest you misapprehend the nature of the new creature, or lest your own hearts deceive you, for they are "deceitful and desperately wicked,” Jer. xvii. 9. And Satan may attempt to substitute some production of his own in the room of this new creation. Counterfeit grace may look like saving grace: reformation looks like regeneration. How often is a Bristol stone taken for a pearl? Painted grapes once cheated living birds. You must first get a scriptural definition of this new creature; "To the law and to the testimony,"


Isa. viii. 20. Judge yourselves by that word which must judge you at the last day, Rom. ii. 16. Be afraid of self-deceit; "blessed is he that feareth You live in the midst of deceptions, a deceitful heart, allurements of pleasure, an ensnaring world, and a tempting devil, all set against you, and we are apt to believe that to be true, we would have to be so but put the case to thyself; What if I be mistaken? I read of some that "think themselves something, when they are nothing." Others put a false estimate upon themselves, "deceiving their own selves." What if this be my case? What if I be in a delusive dream, imagining I am bound for heaven, when I am descending into the pit? What if I be found without the oil of grace in the vessel of my heart; a foolish virgin amongst the wise? *


if I prove the only guest at the gospel feast, without a wedding garment, and be struck speechless? Oh what an overwhelming disappointment will it be! Hath none proved such? Why may not I? Some have gone off the stage with "a lie in their right hand," and have lain down in sorrow, notwithstanding the sparks of their own kindling. O what need have I to fear, lest "a promise being left of entering into rest, I should finally come short of it!"†

3. Deal faithfully with your own souls, in self-examination. Flatter not yourselves, examine not only your actions, but the internal state of your souls, how your principles are formed; you may do it, for God hath given you a self-reflecting faculty, "The spirit of a man is the candle of the Lord, that searcheth the inward parts of the belly." You must do it, you are commanded "to commune with your own heart, to

Gal. vi. 3. James i. 22. Matt. xxv. 1-10.

+ Matt. xxii. 12, 13. Isa. xliv. 20. 1. 11. Heb. iv. 1. VOL. V.


examine yourselves," prove your work, God's servants have made diligent search:* and will you continue strangers to your own hearts? will you be such unkind neighbours, as never to ask your hearts how they do? or will you be put off with a frivolous or dilatory answer? O, sirs, come to a point, drive yourselves to this dilemma, I am either a new creature or not, a child of God, or of the devil; I am bound either for heaven or hell; I had not need to remain in suspense about this weighty case; I will now put this doubt out of doubt; I cannot rest satisfied with uncertainties in so important a concern; God forbid I should weigh it light, or be mistaken; I must not take preparatives for parts of the new creature; the porch for the house; I will try and try again, and prove my evidences by scripture rule, and appeal to God for the sincerity of my heart; "Examine me, O Lord, and prove me, and try my reins and my heart," Psal. xxvi. 2. I must be a new man, or no man in Christ; I will not be put off with morality or uncertainty; irresolvedness breeds disquietude; I am determined to come to some conclusion.

4. Attend diligently on the most powerful ministry. Not such a dull, formal, heartless preaching, as will rock you asleep in security, or "sew pillows to your arm-holes ;" preaching pleasing things, promising life in a sinful state, and crying, peace, peace, when God proclaims war against you; thousands are undone by flatteries. Oh frequent a rousing, convincing ministry, which is the "power of God to salvation." The word is the proper medium of communicating divine grace; by which Christ is formed in the heart,† the glass in which you may behold a true representation of your

* Prov. xx. 27. Psal. iv. 4. 2 Cor. xiii. 5. Gal. vi. 4. Psal. lxxvii. 6. + Ezek. xiii. 17-22. Rom. i. 16. Gal. iv. 19.

« PreviousContinue »