« PreviousContinue »
Allowances, indeed, must be made for the natural temper, which conversion does not entirely eradicate: those sins which a man by his natural constitution was most inclined to before his conversion, he may be most apl to fall into still. But yet conversion will make a great alteration even with respect to these sins. Though grace, while imperfect, does not root out
an evil natural temper, yet it is of great power and efficacy to correct it. The change wrought in conversion, is an universal change: grace changes a man with respect to whatever is sinful in bii; the old man is put off, and the new man put on; he is sanctified throughout. He is become a new creature, old things are passed away, and all things are becoine new; all sin is mortified, constitutional sins, as well as others. If a man before his conversion was, by his natural constitution, prone to lasciviousness, or drunkenness, or maliciousness; converting grace will make a great alteration in him, with respect to these evil dispositions; so that however he may be still most in danger of these sins, they shall no longer have dominion over him; nor will they any more be properly his character, Yes, true repentance, in some respects especially, turns a man against his own iniquity; that wherein he has been most guilty, and has chiefly dishonoured God. He that forsakes other sins, but preserves the iniquity to which he is chiefly inclined, is like Saul, who, when sent against God's enemies the Amalekites, with a strict charge to save none of them alive, but utterly to destroy them, small and great; slew the people, but saved the king.
Some foolishly make it an argument in favour of their discoveries and affections, that when they are gone, they are left wholly without any life or sense, or any thing beyond what they had before. They think it an evidence that what they experienced was wholly of God, and not of themselves, because (say they) when God is departed, all is gone; they can see and feel nothing, and are no better than they used to be. It is very true, that all grace and goodness in the hearts of the saints is entirely from God; and they are universally and immediately dependent on him for it. But yet these persons are mistaken, as to the manner of God's communicating himself and his Holy Spirit, in imparting saving grace to the soul. He gives his Spirit to be united to the faculties of the soul, and to dwell there after the manner of a principle of nature : so that the soul, in being endued with grace, is endued with a new nature : but nature is an abiding thing. All the exercises of grace are entirely' from Christ: but are not from him as a living agent moves and stirs what is without life, and which yet remains lifeless. The soul has life communicated to it, so as through Christ's power to have inherent in itself a vital nature. In the soul where Christ savingly is, there he lives.
security to terror, change of life from profaneness to civility, and fashions of the world, to escape the pollutions thereof, change of lusts, vay quenching them for a time: but the nature is never changed, in the best bypocrite that ever was, -SHEPARU'S Parable, Part I. p. 194.
He does not merely live without it, so as violently to actuate it, but he lives in it, so that the soul also is alive. Grace in the soul is as much from Christ, as the light in a glass, held out in the sun-beams, is from the sun. But this represents the manner of the communication of grace to the soul, but in part; because the glass remaining as it was, the nature of it not being at all changed, it is as much without any lightsomeness in its nature as ever. But the soul of a saint receives light from the sun of righteousness in such a manner, that its nature is changed, and it becomes properly a luminous thing. Not only does the sun shine in the saints, but they also become little suns, partaking of the nature of the fountain of their light. In this respect, the manner of their derivation of light, is like that of the lamps in the tabernacle, rather than that of a reflecting glass; which though they were lit up by fire from heaven, yet thereby became themselves burning shining things. The saints do not only drink of the water of life, that flows from the original fountain : but this water becomes a fountain of water in them, springing up there, and flowing out of them, John iv. 14. and chap. vii. 38, 39. Grace is compared to a seed implanted, that not only is in the ground, but has hold of it; has root there, grows there, and is an abiding principle of life and nature there.
As it is with spiritual discoveries and affections given at first conversion, so it is in all subsequent illuminations and affections of that kind, they are all transforming. There is a like divine power and energy in them, as in the first discoveries : and they still reach the bottom of the heart, and affect and alter the very nature of the soul, in proportion to the degree in which they are given. And a transformation of nature is continued and carried on by them, to the end of life, until it is brought to perfection in glory. Hence the progress of the work of grace in the hearts of the saints, is represented in scripture, as a continued conversion and renovation of nature. So the apostle exhorts those that were at Rome,
beloved of God, called to be saints ---the subjects of God's redeeming mercies---to be transformed by the renewing of their mind, Rom. xii. 1, 2. I beseech you therefore, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice ;--and be not conformed to this world: but be ye TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind. (Compared with chap. i. 7.) So the apostle, writing to the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus, who were at Ephesus, (Eph. i. 1.) --- who were once dead in trespasses and sins, but now quickened, raised up, made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ, and created in Christ Jesus unto good works; who were once far off, but now made nigh by the blood of Christ : who were no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; who were built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit ;-tells them, that he ceased not to pray for them, that God would give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of Christ : the eyes of their understanding being enlightened, that they might know, or experience, what was the exceeding greatness of God's power towards them that believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Eph. i. 16. to the end. In this the apostle has respect to the glorious power and work of God in converting and renewing the soul; as is most plain by the sequel. So the apostle exhorts the same persons to put of the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts : and be renewed in the spirit of their minds : and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness, Eph. iv. 22, 23, 24.
There is a sort of bigh affections which leave persons without any appearance of an abiding effect. They go off suddenly ; so that from the very height of their emotion, and seeming rapture, they pass at once to be quite dead, and void of all sense and activity. It surely is not wont to be thus with high gracious affections *; they leave a sweet savour and relish of divine things on the heart, and a stronger bent of soul towards God and holiness. As Moses' face not only shone while he was in the mount, extraordinarily conversing with God, but it continued to shine after he came down from the mount. When men have been con
* “ Do you think the Holy Ghost comes on a man, as on Balaam, by immediate acting, and then leaves him, and then he has nothing !"--SHEPARD's Parable, Part I.
versing with Christ in an extraordinary manner, a sensible effect of it remains upon them; there is something remarkable in their disposition and frame, of which if we take knowledge, and trace to its cause, we shall find it is because they have been with Jesus, Acts iv. 13.
Truly gracious affections differ from those that are false and
delusivé, in that they naturally beget and promote such a spirit of love, meekness, quietness, forgiveness and mercy, as appeared in Christ.
The evidence of this in the scripture is very abundant. If we judge of the nature of Christianity, and the proper spirit of the gospel, by the word of God, this spirit is what may, by way of eminency, be called the Christian spirit; and may be looked upon as the true, and distinguishing disposition of the hearts of Christians, as such. When some of the disciples of Christ said something, through inconsideration and infirmity, that was not agreeable to such a spirit, he told them that they knew not what manner of spirit they were of, Luke ix. 55. implying, that this spirit of which I am speaking, is the proper spirit of his religion and kingdom. All real disciples of Christ, have this spirit in them; and not only so, but they are of this spirit; it is the spirit by which they are so possessed and governed, that it is their true and proper character. This is evident by what the wise man says, Prov. xvii. 27. (having respect plainly to such a spirit as this), A man of understanding is of an excellent spirit ; and by the particular description Christ gives of the qualities and temper of such as are truly blessed, that shall obtain mercy, and are God's children and heirs, Matth. v. Blessed are the meek : for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are the merciful : for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the peace-makers : for they shall be called the children of God. And that this spirit is the special character of the elect of God, is manifest by Col. iii. 12, 13. Put on therefore as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering ; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another. The apostle discoursing of that temper and disposition which he speaks of, as the most excellent and essential thing in Christianity--that without which bone are true
Christians, and the most glorious profession and gifts are nothing, calling this spirit by the name of charity-describes it thus; (1 Cor. xiii. 4, 5.) Charity suffereth long, and is kind ; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself; is not puffed up; doth not behave itself unseemly; seeketh not her own; is not easily provoked; thinketh no evil. And the same apostle, (Gal. v.) designedly declaring the distinguishing marks and fruits of true Christian grace, chiefly insists on the things that appertain to such a temper and spirit, (ver. 22, 23.) The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.
And so does the apostle James in describing true grace, or that wisdom that is from above, with that declared design, that others who are of a contrary spirit may not deceive themselves and lie against the truth, in professing to be Christians, when they are not-James iii. 14---17. If ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeih not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion, and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits.
Every thing that appertains to holiness of heart, does indeed belong to the nature of true Christianity, and the cbaracter of Christians; but a spirit of holiness, as appearing in some particular graces, may more especially be called the Christian spirit or temper. Some amiable qualities and virtues more especially agree with the nature of the gospel constitution, and Christian profession; because there is a special agreeableness in them with those divine attributes which God has more remarkably manifested and glorified in the work of redemption by Jesus Christ, the grand subject of the Christian revelation. There is also a special agreeableness with those virtues which were so wonderfully exercised by Jesus Christ towards us in that affair, and the blessed example he hath therein set us. And they are peculiarly agreeable to the special drift and design of the work of redemption, the benefits we thereby receive, and the relation that it brings us into, to God and one another. And what are these virtues but such as humility, meekness, love, forgiveness, and mercy ;
which belong to the character of Christians, as such?
These things are spoken of as what are especially the character of Jesus Christ himself, the great head of the