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sbame to us, and highly injurious to Him, if we cannot commit our paltry cares and petty anxieties to his will, perfectly assured " that all things shall work together for our good.”
Let the irresistible argument of our text come home with power to our hearts, and perfectly satisfy our minds that the dealings of the Lord will be merciful with regard to us, all the days of our life. Under every anxiety, and in every trouble, let us reason with our fears, and say, “He that spared not his only Son, but freely delivered him up for us all, how will he not with him also freely give us all things."
POWER AND EFFICACY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT:
RECTOR OF CHRIST CHURCH, LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY.
Ezekiel xi. 19, 20.--" And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you,
and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh; thal they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances and do them, and they shall be my people, and I will be their God."
Few subjects have been more obscured and injured, by the injudicious and unauthorized remarks and representations of its friends, than a change of heart wrought by the power of the Holy Ghost, and making the followers of Christ new creatures. This, indeed, might have been expected from the unenlightened and fiery zeal of some of its advocates, especially when the difficulty and the extreme delicacy of the subject is considered. When the operations of the mind on ordinary subjects are spoken of, great obscurity and confusion often result from the unavoidable imperfection of human language: it being in the nature of the case impossible to speak of spirit, in other words than those which are strictly appropriate only to matter. And this is even more obviously the case when the subject of mental operations and emotions is religion; a subject in itself of an elevated and spiritual nature; and which has suffered far more than any other from the disadvantage of being treated of, in words not strictly or adequately appropriate to its delicate, hallowed, and spiritual exercises and sentiments.
But although these dificulties are such that vast allowance ought, in all fairness, to be made for them; yet they by no means proceed to an extent seriously to embarrass the diligent inquirer ; much less to throw the subject beyond the field of legitimate and fair investigation ; or to render the truth illusory or dubious. Very far the reverse. For, when the point of inquiry is substantial matter of fact, it is, comparatively, of little consequence whether it be on the world of matter or of mind. The actual spiritual phenomena of our natures are as demonstrable as those which relate only to the body. In the latter case, indeed, we use words derived from
matter in their plain and obvious sense. But the figurative meaning of these forms of expression, when there is a change of subject from matter to mind, is no less clear and convincing, though it may be somewhat less definite and precise, than the literal meaning. For example: an heart of stone gives me as strong an idea of a persisting, callous, ungenerous, wrong state of feeling, as an hand of flesh gives me the idea of a material instrument which I daily use; and an heart of flesh, when evidently used in a figurative sense, in like manner, gives me as clear an idea of a warm, active, generous, right state of feeling, as, in a literal sense, it does of the great organ of motion to the vital fluid.
Bearing these remarks, on the use of figurative language upon religious subjects, in mind, let us next address ourselves to the immediate object of our present argument, which is
I. To show that every moral feeling of our hearts is in such a state as to render some change desirable, and necessary.
II. That the expectation of a change to absolute perfection, does not appear to be authorised either by Scripture or by experience:
III. That a change of external conduct evidently does not amount to the thing desired : and
IV. That the change effected by the Gospel is of that kind, and goes to that extent, which the necessities and peculiarities of the case require: and
V. Is effected in the most obvious and reasonable manner by the operation of adequate and appropriate causes.
I. Before treating of a change of heart, it is very natural and proper that inquiry should be made whether the heart and affections of men are so wrong, and in such disorder, as to be susceptible of being amended. For, if the point were established, that the motives of the heart were as pure as possible, and the internal, real, moral character of men absolutely faultless, there would evidently be no room for improvement; and all further inquiry into the reality of a change of heart would be precluded.
In what summary method, then, shall we demonstrate the fact, that the innermost motives, feelings, and desires of the hearts of
all men, are far from being pure and good; and that a moral change is desirable? What method more summary and conclusive than to seize the concessions of the very panegyrists of human nature, and to prove, from these concessions, enough for our present purposes? All such eulogists, if they have written much, will be found to have conceded, first, that all history is virtually a record of the foibles, follies, and vices of men; and next, that, however pure the virtuous may pretend to be, they are, nevertheless, inwardly actuated by some secret bad motive. It is believed that no opposer of the scriptural doctrine of a depraved and bad heart, living or dead, could be named, who has not, an hundred times over, either in words or writing, deliberately or inadvertently, made admissions to the above effect. Must not, then, an incalculable number of convincing facts have extorted these confessions from the most unlikely quarters ? and must not that be obviously, as well as demonstrably, true, which even objectors cannot speak or write about, without admitting either virtually or expressly ? Sustained by this solitary argument, I fearlessly appeal to your candor at once to admit, that human nature is in such a disordered and depraved condition that improvement is manifestly possible and exceedingly desirable.
II. Our next inquiry is, supposing this most desirable change to be amply provided for, under the blessed government of God, whether it may be expected to be instantaneous and entire. An argument from the nature and reason of things, and from the analogies of the divine government, is certainly not the best method of demonstration ; nevertheless, it often serves an admirable purpose in predisposing and preparing the mind for demonstration. Reason and analogy, then, are decidedly against such an expectation. Barren and intractable portions of land cannot be instantaneously reclaimed, even by the best possible methods of cultivation. And uncivilized and barbarous hordes, cannot, by any process of civilization, be elevated, at once, from their condition of wretchedness. So far as we know, all ameliorating processes are, of necessity, gradual and slow. And there is nothing in Scripture, or in experience, to show that the moral benefits of Christianity, either in the case of nations or individuals, are dispensed by any
heir rifies a
other law. The apparent operation of these causes, may, in respect to the suddenness of the process, differ very considerably, and the real difference, indeed, between one case and another, may be very great; and yet the general law of a gradual progressive change may still prevail.
I do not speak thus of the turning point, or precise moment of time, when and where the moral changes may begin; but I speak complexly, and generally, of the change as a whole. And the Bible, experience, and observation, constrain me to believe that no good man was ever made perfectly good in a moment; indeed that no perfectly good man (save the LORD JESUS Christ alone, as far as HE WAS man,) ever did exist upon earth. And I am, therefore, constrained to believe that the moral change, for which the Lord of the whole earth hath made ample provision in the Gospel, is not, in strict propriety of speech, either perfect or instantaneous. In looking for a changed man, then, we must not be looking for a faultless and perfect man; and in seeking for evidence that there is a reality in the moral change sometimes wrought by the influence of the Bible, we are not to look for a change which leaves no room for further amendment.
III. What, then ? it may be asked—is this change superficial, apparent, external only? a change from being notoriously vicious and bad, to being outwardly strict and exemplary; from living in the indulgence of personal and social vices; to a most pure and blameless moral deportment ? This question is easily answered by another; does a change of outward deportmént necessarily involve a change of the inward feelings and motives of the heart? Is it not possible for a man to cover up the basest principles and designs, under the graces of a moral and attractive exterior, just as he can hide many personal defects by his attitudes and his dress? If so, then a change of heart, as the very form of expression itself implies, is far more than a mere change of the outward conduct.
IV. This brings us to a nearer inspection of the real nature of a change of heart. And, to make the point more abundantly clear apd convincing, some of the disorders of our moral natures will be recounted, both as it regards ourselves, our fellow creatures, and our moral Governor, and then the inquiry will be, whether the