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Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ contains the moral power correcting these disorders; or, in other words, of changing our hearts in these several respects.
1. I am persuaded that it is but too apparent to every one of you, that your impatience, irritability, pride, and passion, miserably impair and prevent your own happiness. In other words, that every man is his own worst enemy-far the worst. That he might be contented, cheerful, and happy, notwithstanding the frailties of his body, the disappointment of his hopes, and the afflictions and trials of his lot; if it were not for the wrong feelings, which live, and rule, and scatter wretchedness through all his in
His restless ambition ; his inordinate love of money; his unreasonable anxieties; his feverish, unfounded hopes and fears, constitute the real secrets of his dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Upon looking thus into your own bosoms, must you not at once admit, that any power which could regulate these internal disorders; dissipate the illusions under which you are sensible that you are led astray; correct what is inordinate and wrong; and purify what is unholy and bad, would be as welcome as the creative voice of the Omnipotent, in speaking life and harmony out of the dreariness of chaos; and the change that would follow would be as great, and real, and glorious, as that change which did attend the utterance of that creative voice? This power is faith in the ever blessed Son of God.
2. Are the inward feelings of our hearts towards our neighbors any better, or more under control, than those which have respect to our own immediate personal happiness? Are there, amongst us, no unholy strifes and emulations; no envious or slanderous thoughts; no covetings and hatreds ; no feelings of malice or revenge? Whilst there are, how utterly impossible it must be that men should live in quietness and peace together ; or that they should enjoy any real satisfaction in their own bosoms? From whence come party contentions and bitterness, wars and fightings; come they not hence even of the wrong and sinful feelings of the heart? From whence come theft and rapine, lying and chicanery, backbitings, strifes, and murders; do they not spring as naturally and spontaneously from a bad heart as water
from a fountain ? And let me ask, if by any means men could
a be brought always to tell the truth, to deal with honesty, and to do to others as they would have others do to them ; above all, if
1 they could ever be brought to do good to those who despitefully use them and persecute them, to love as brethren, and to pray for their persecutors and enemies; whether such a revolution in all the natural propensities and strong passions of our natures would not deserve to be called a change of heart, a new birth, or even a new creation ? Could any forms of expression, indeed, suffice to describe so great a change? And yet this the Gospel of Jesus Christ has often done, and is daily doing; and we shall see directly that He who designed that it should effect this change, implanted in it a power vast enough to produce it.
3. But the true secret of all the other faults and disorders of our moral natures evidently lies in our not having right feelings toward God, our most holy and rightful moral Governor. Who is there that habitually refers all his actions to the will of God? Who, before he acts, thinks of asking, not what is agreeable to himself, or what will exalt or benefit him amongst his fellow earthworms, but what is acceptable to God; what is well pleasing right, and in His eyes? And yet, though so few act as if the eye of God were upon them, and they strictly accountable to Him for every thought, and feeling, and desire, it is perfectly evident that no one can be sure of feeling and acting always as he should, unless he is in the habit of referring his actions to the will of God; and scrutinizing his motives, as they appear in His sight. Here it is, at the very source and centre of the motives of action, that every thing in the moral nature of man not only appears out of place, but positively sinful and wrong. Self-indulgence of any and of every kind appears most sinful of all, when regarded in the true point of light, as being an abuse of the gifts of God; as tending to the confusion and destruction of social happiness; as precipitating the ruin of the slaves of passion, when God willed their happiness. Lying, stealing, oppression, wrath, revenge, assume their appropriate hues of guilt, when regarded as breaches of the benevolent and gracious laws which our Creator hath placed as the safe guards of the best interests of his creatures ; and therefore are even less injurious to society than they are odious and offensive to the holy and good God. And surely the grand disorder of our moral nature; the forgetfulness of God; the dislike of his wholesome restraints; the hatred of his holy requirements; the idolatrous preference of self gratification, of honor, wealth or pleasure, to his favor; is that grand master-sin of the soul, which brings along with it the deepest degradation and misery, because it entails His sorest curse: and is that disorder which must, in the very first instance, be set right, before we can even begin to do as we ought. Here, therefore, it is that the inconceivable force of the Bible motives is brought to bear. This is the mountainous difficulty which Jesus Christ came to remedy and remove. Here it is that God places his healing touch ; or rather, manifests his new creating power.
The heart has new and right feelings implanted in it towards God, and towards His Son JESUS CHRIST through faith in His name, and by the power of the Holy Ghost. Herein the vital essence of the new birth consists. Herein the promise of the text is fulfilled. "I will be their God," is the new
“ relation formed; the immediate result is "the giving of a new spirit;" and the fruits are, that “they walk in his statutes, and his ordinances, and do them.” Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gifts; immortal praise, for the new creating grace of his Spirit !
V. The only point which remains to be discussed is, whether there is remarkable fitness in Bible considerations to produce these great and most desirable changes. That there is, might have been inferred from the benevolent design of the Gospel, and from considering who is its author ; it being self-evident that our moral Governor would not have provided a religion for a race of beings alienated from him, without infusing into it a power to restore them to his service and his favor. And the same result comes to us abundantly attested by observation : exceedingly bad men have been made radically better by the Gospel, but never by any other religion ; never by any other moral influence. But it has, throughout this discourse, been my aim, not so much to bring forward the strongest arguments, as the plainest exhibition in my power, of the real merits of the case before us. And I shall, therefore proceed to make my appeal to your understanding and your hearts,
by asking, whether constant reference to the kindness and love of the Savior, in parting for a time with the enjoyments of Heaven, and consenting to humble himself to be made man, and to die for us upon the cross, would not possess power beyond all other considerations, to correct all that is evil and depraved in the heart of man? What sin of the human heart would any reasonable person wish to retain or cherish, if he were all the time standing near the cross upon
which his dearest friend, and that friend the ever blessed Son of God, was dying for his sake ? Could he in such a place be puffed up with pride, or be misled by self-love, or indulge discontent and murmuring under the allotments of ALMIGHTY GOD? Impossible. All the base, inbred secret passions and desires of the heart of man, perish when the Cross of CHRIST is in view ! Neither can the malevolent or wrong feelings of our heart towards our fellow creatures, any more than their inward and selfish feelings, bear the light that beams from the face of the crucified Jesus. Falsehood, deceit, anger, malice, revenge, appear insupportably wrong in the presence of the most meek, forgiving, and bleeding Savior. Nor is there any manner of sinful feeling or action towards our fellow beings which does not receive an insupportable rebuke, and an absolute death blow from the tender words and pleading actions of the Son of God, when he died for transgressions not his own, and died praying for his enemies. And, surely, if ever the alienated thoughts and feelings of rebellious creatures are made to rush back towards God, in the full tide of overflowing sorrow, thankfulness, and love; it must be when, for their sake, and for their salvation, He gives up his dear, his only begotten Son, that “whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” When the heart is once prostrated, and thoroughly pervaded by a sense of the love of God in Christ Jesus, from that moment it begins to love what God loves, and to hate what he hates. And then it is that the God and Father of our LORD JESUS CHRIST regains his lost supremacy in the hearts of his creatures; which is, as I conceive, the new birth ; and which therefore is the very thing intended in the glowing prediction of our text.
I have scarcely time left, my dear hearers, to turn to you and
ask whether you do not often feel humbled and distressed, and sometimes seriously alarmed at the power which your depraved and sinful feelings have over you; whether it does not seem to you most unaccountable and unmanly that you should find it so easy to break your most solemn vows and engagements, and so hard to keep the slightest good resolution ? whether the frequent and numberless instances of your pride, duplicity, anger, and unkind feelings, do not sometimes distress you greatly, and make you feel that the thraldom of your sins is deeply degrading and wretched ? And when your thoughts hurry to the confines of the dead; when you think of leaving your house and lands, your business and your pleasures, your friends and your companions; when, in imagination, you stand before the bar of God, in order to give account of the deeds done in the body; do you not shudder to own to yourselves that you are not fit to die; not fit to stand before an holy God; not fit to enter through the pure portals of the better world? If not fit, what is the reason? Is it not that your hearts are evil, and need changing? But how can they be changed ? When will they be? Who will do the great, the benevolent, the all-important work for you?
Have you ever asked these questions with intense interest and feeling until now? Do you so ask them even now? Would to God I could hope that you did, for then my reply would be given with a sense of satisfaction and joy, never felt before in all my ministrations amongst you. Then should I speak to you of a throne of grace, satisfied that you would go there to pray for the blessed influences of the Holy Ghost. There should I point you to a Savior, and repeat some of his gracious promises, convinced that they would be to you words of life and joy.
But whether you feel as I could wish or not, I cannot dismiss you without expressing the profound conviction of my mind and heart, that you are very depraved, and very unhappy, and must remain so—nay, must be growing daily worse and worse for ever, until you are born again; and that nothing can make you better ; nothing can impart true happiness to you, except it be such a view of the love of God, in the gift of his Son, to die for you; as shall constrain you to hate and to forsake all that is evil, and to choose