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they of wickedness. When they have once trampled on the motives to piety and virtue which the gospel offers, their repentance, in human view, becomes more difficult and improbable, because no new mo. tives can be placed before them. If they turn from the holy commandment delivered to them, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
A few reflections here offer themselves to you.
1. You see how extremely dangerous it is, to continue in sin under the gospel. While you do so, you act in opposition to the most powerful motives, that ever have been, or can be proposed to the human mind and therefore are filling up the measure of your sins with amazing rapidity, that wrath may come upon you to the uttermost.
Sin, in its own nature, is exceedingly heinous. It acquires a peculiar criminality in those, who practice it in opposition to the light which the gospel affords, the terrors which it denounces, and the calls which it sends. The indulgence of it hardens the heart more awfully, and leads to a more dreadfut issue, than under circumstances of inferior light. If he who despised Moses's law, died without mercy--of how much sorer punishment shall they be thought worthy, who have trodden under foot the Son of God ?
2. You see that you have need to guard against the beginnings of sin.
Vice indulged lays waste the conscience, blinds the understanding, perverts the judgment, hardens the heart, and may bring the sinner to such a state, that he will be without feeling. It is madness to venture on a vicious course at all. You now feel a timidity in vice; conscience reproves you ; fear checks you ; shame restrains you : But you know not how soon you may break down all these barriers, and commit iniquity with greediness; therefore now turn your feet into the paths of virtue. Make haste, delay not any longer, lest you become so entangled in your evil habits, that you can.
not cease from sin. “ His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself; he shall be holden in the cords of his sin; he shall die without instruction, and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray."
3. My Christian friends, consider, what you once were, that you may be humble for your past sins, thankful for recovering grace, careful to walk in newness of life, and prayerful for those who are still in their guilt.' The apostle cautions the Ephesian converts, that henceforth they walk not as other Gentiles. He reminds them that in time past, they had so walked. He would have them know what religion is, and make it appear, by the change in their lives, that they had experienced its transforming power. Absurd is it to pretend, that we are the subjects of a real conversion, if still we live according to the course of the world, and walk according to our former lusts.
4. Christians must be watchful, lest they be led away by the influence of corrupt examples.
" Walk not,” says the apostle, “as other Gentiles walk.”Keep yourselves from the vices of an untoward generation. " Be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation.”—“ Sleep not as do others, but watch and be sober."
5. Religion lies much in the temper of the mind. It is the opposite to that character of the Heathens, which the text describes. It implies just apprehensions of, and pious affections to God; an influential knowledge of divine truth ; a zeal for á godly life ; a tenderness of conscience ; a hatred of sin ; and a resolution for every duty. To judge then, whether we are really religious, we must look into our hcarts, cxamine our tempers, and observe the tendency of our thoughts, and the motion of our affections.
Finally : Since God has placed us under the dispensation of the gospel, which teaches us the life of godliness, and urges it by the most powerful motives, VOL. III.
let us not walk, as others walk, who being blinded in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, hardened in their heart, and stupified in their conscience, have given themselves over to work iniquity with greediness ; but having been taught, as the truth is in Jesus, let us put off the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness; and let us walk worthy of him, who has called us to his eternal glory by Jesus Christ.
Renovation after the Image of God.
EPHESIANS iv. 20_24.
But ye have so learned Christ ; if so be that ye have heard him,
and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus ; that ye put off, concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts ; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind ; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
The true happiness of man consists in the favor and enjoyment of God. Of this happiness fallen man is incapable, until he has become the subject of a moral change. What this change is, the apostle clearly instructs us in our text. To the several things contained in the passage row read, I shall endeavor to lead your attention.
1. The change here spoken of is radically seated in the mind. re have been taught, that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind.
It is not assuming the name and badge of the Christian; joining ourselves to this, or that religious sect; or even reforming the outward manners; but it is a re. Rewal of the temper and disposition of the soul, which qualifies us for, and entitles us to the happiness of the heavenly world. This is elsewhere in scripture ex
pressed by a new creature-newness of Spirit-a new heart--and the renewing of the mind.
These terms do not import the creation of new powers and faculties, but the introduction of new tempers and qualities. The apostasy has not extinguished, but perverted the natural faculties; and renovation does not introduce a new set of faculties, but it gives a holy direction to those which already exist.
It enlightens the eyes of the understanding, and gives new apprehensions of divine things. The doctrinal knowledge, and speculative sentiments, may still be the same as before ; for the Apostle supposes, that a man may have all knowledge, and understand all mysteries, and yet not have charity ; but the things before known are now viewed in a new manner; they they are spiritually discerned; they appear real, excel. lent and important, and thus obtain a commanding influence on the heart and life.
This renovation takes away the stony heart and gives a heart of flesh; a tender sensible heart—a heart which feels divine truths, is afraid of sin, is jealous of itself, stands in awe of God's judgments, and trembles at his word.
It subdues the carnal mind, which is enmity against God, and brings in its place the spiritual mind which is subject to his law. It casts down imaginations, and every high thing, which exalts itself against the knowledge of God; and captivates every thought to the obc. dience of Christ,
It purifies the affections, and directs them to their their proper objects. Love and desire no longer centre in things below; but they rise to things above. The character of God appears amiable, his laws just, his
grace wonderful, and heaven supremely desirable. Sin appears hateful, as it is contrary to the nature and command of God, and ruinous to the soul.
The svorld and all its interests appear contemptible, in com.