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Of the Nature of Regeneration, and particularly of the Change
it produces in Men's Apprehensions.
2 Cor. v. 17.-If any Man be in Christ, he is a new Creature; old Things are
passed away, behold, all Things are become new. THE knowledge of our true state in religion, is at once a matter of so great importance, and so great difficulty, that in order to obtain it, it is necessary we should have line upon line, and precept upon precept. The plain discourse which you heard last Lord's day, was intended to lead you into it; and I question not, but I then said enough to convince many, that they were in an unregenerate condition. Nevertheless, as there are vari. ous approaches towards regeneration and conversion, which on the whole fall short of it; I think it very expedient now to give you, what I may properly enough call the counter-part of this view ; which I shall, by divine assistance, attempt from the words I have now been reading.
The apostle who wrote them, was transported to such a zeal for Christ, and for the souls of men, that some thought him Beside himself* ; and no doubt many would represent him, as the greatest enthusiast upon the face of the earth. But as it was A very small thing to him to be judged of man's judgmentt, he calmly vindicates himself, by declaring that there was a cause for all this warmth, as the honour of God and the Redeemer, and the eternal salvation of men, were so intimately concerned in the affair : The love of Christ, says he, constrains ust, or as the wordş properly signifies, it bears us away with it, like a mighty torrent, which we are not able to resist; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead, under the sentence of God's righteous law, or they would not have needed such an atonement as the blood of his Son; and we farther judge, That he died for all, that they who now live, only in consequence of his dying love, should not henceforth live unto
* Ver. 13.
1 2 Cor. v. 14.
f 1 Cor. iv. 3.
themselves, but unto him that died for them. We therefore live to this Jesus; we consecrate our lives and labours to this purpose, and in consequence of it, we henceforth know no man after the flesh, that is, we do not regard our temporal interests, nor consider how we may most effectually obtain the favour and friendship of those who may be useful to us in life ; yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, or have expected a temporal Messiah, who should make our nation triumphant over the Gentiles, and enrich it with the spoils of other nations, yet now henceforth we know him no more under such a charactert. And in this respect the same temper will prevail in the heart of every real christian ; and therefore, i. e. in consequence of what was said before of the Redeemer's love, if any man be in Christ, if he be really one of his faithful servants united to bim by a lively faith, and in consequence of that union interested in bis salvation, he is a new creature; his views and sentiments, his affections and pursuits, are so entirely changed, that he seems, as it were, to be come into a new world, and to be transformed quite into another person from what he form.erly was : Old things are passed away, and, behold the astonishing transformation! All things are become new. This is the thought, that I am now to illustrate; and you cannot but sec, how proper a foundation it will be for our discourse on the second general I proposed, which is,
Secondly, Particularly to describe the nature of that great change, which passes on every soul, that is truly regenerate, in the scriptural, and most important sense of the wordf.
And here it may hardly seem necessary to tell you, that I do not mean to assert that the substance of the soul, and its natural faculties, are in a strict and proper sense changed: A man might as reasonably assert from such a scripture, that the former body was annihilated, and a new one produced ; and common sense and decency will not allow us to inagine, that the apostle meant any thing of this nature, by the general terms he uses here. But the plain meaning is, that, when a becomes a real christian, the whole temper and character of his
2 Cor. v. 15.
+ Ver. 16. Some chuse to call the change here described, renovation, rather than regeneration. I have given my reasons before, (page 394.) why I use the words promiscuously: But I shall endeavour through the whole of these discourses, so to state the nature of this change, as to have no controversy with good men of any persuasion about any thing but the name of it; concerning which, I hope they will not contend with me, as I am sure I will not quarrel with them. VOL. II.
mind is so changed, as to become different from that of the generality of mankind, and different from what it formerly was, while in an unenlightened and unrenewed state. It is not merely a little circumstantial alteration ; it is not assuming a new name, professing new speculative opinions, or practising some new rites and forms: But it is becoming, (as we frequently say in our usual forms of speech,) a different creature, or a new man. And thus the sacred writers express themselves in many other passages, which very happily serve to illustrate this. They, in particular, represent God as promising, with relation to this work*; A new heart will I give them, and a new spirit will I put within them; and I will take away the heart of stone, the stubborn, obstinate, impenetrable disposition they once had, and will give them an heart of flesh, a tender, compliant temper, which shall incline thein to submit to my will with humility, and to obey it with delight. And thus, when the apostle had exhorted the Ephesianst, to Put off, with respect to their former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt according to its deceitful lusts; he adds, And be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, which after God, or in conformity to his image, is created in righteousness and true holiness : Which is further illustrated by his important exhortation to the Romansi, Be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. And on the same principles, whạt in one place be calls the New creatures, in another parallel place he expresses, by Faith that works by lovell, and by Keeping the commandments of God; for all these, as equivalent characters, he opposes to circumcision and uncircumcision, or to the mere externals of a religious profession ; declaring the utter insusbciency of the latter, and the ab. solute necessity of the former.
The general nature of this change may then be understood, by an attentive consideration of such scriptures as those mentioned above ; which indeed contain what is most essential on this subject. But for the more complete illustration of the matter, I shall particularly shew you, that where there is reason to speak of a man, as one of those who are in Christ Jesus, or who are truly regenerate, there will be “ New apprehensions, new affections, new resolutions, new labours, new enjoyments, and new hopes ;” and perhaps there are few important branches of the christian character, which may not be introduced, as illustrating one or other of these remarks.
* Ezek, xxxvi, 26.
+ Ephes. iv. 22-24.
Rom. xij. 2.
The former of them is indeed the foundation of the rest ; because as religion is a reasonable service, all the change which is made in the affections and resolutions, in the pursuits, enjoyments, and hopes of a good man, arises from that different view, in which he is now taught to look on those objects, the nature of which is to direct his choice, to determine his conduct, and regulate his passions : It will therefore be the business of this evening's discourse to shew you, I. That wherever there is a real principle of regeneration, there
will be new apprehensions of things.
When God created the natural world, he said, in the very beginning of this work, Let there be light, and there was light*: And thus he deals in this new creation, which raises the soul from a chaos, to such a beautiful, well-ordered, and wellfurnished frame. God, says the apostle, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christt; whereas before The understanding was darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that was in them, because of the blindness or perverseness of their heartst.
Now this illumination, of which I am speaking, does not so much refer to a speculative, as to a practical and heartimpressing knowledge. It is true, that when a man once comes to be in good earnest in religion, he generally arrives at a clearer and fuller knowledge even of the doctrines of christianity, than he had before : For he then sets himself to enquire with greater diligence, and to seek light of the great Father of lights with greater earnestness; he gets clear of many evil affections, that put a corrupt bias upon his judgment; and he comes within the reach of those promises, Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lords; and If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God l. Yet I think, I may very properly say, that at various times, when our judgment of any object is the same, our apprehensions of it are very different. It is one thing, for instance, to believe that God is the omnipotent, all-wise, and all-gracious Governor of the World; and another, and very different thing, to have the heart powerfully impressed with an apprehension of his ability and readi
Ephes. iv, 18.
Gen. i. 3. $ Hos. vi. 3.
+ 2 Cor. iv. 6.
ness to help us. I will therefore a little more particularly illustrate those respects, in which the apprehensions of such as are really regenerate, differ from those which they formerly had: And I hope you will do yourselves the justice to reflect, as we go along, how far you have ever felt these apprehensions which you hear me describe ; and I have a pleasing persuasion, that many
you have felt them, in a much livelier manner than they can be described. I would observe then to you, that a regenerate soul has new apprehensions of God--of itself, of Christ,-of eternity,—and of the way and method that God has marked out for its being happy there." 1. A regenerate soul has new apprehensions “ of the blessed
There are very few, who pretend so much as to doubt of the being of a God ; and fewer yet, that will venture to deny it : and even among those, who have denied it, and disputed against it, some, by their own confession, have felt their hearts give them the lie, and upbraid them for using the powers of reason and speech, against the giver and preserver of both. I persuade myself at least, there are none that hear me this day, who would not look upon a professed atheist as a monster, unworthy to be a member of human society, and little to be trusted in any of its relations. Yet after all, while the being of the blessed God is warmly asserted, his nature is so little understood and considered, that there are thousands who may still properly be said, to be Without God in the world*, or in practice and temper, though not in notion, to be atheists in it. Wicked men therefore in general are described, as those That know not Godt : But where God has determined to glorify his mercy in the salvation of a sinner, he Shines into the heart for this blessed purpose, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of Godt. And thus the glories of the Divine Being are known to the regenerate soul in such a manner, as they are not to the most acute metaphysician, or the sublimest philosopher, who is himself a stranger to the spiritual life.
The person of whom we now speak, has new apprehensions “ of the spirituality and omnipresence of God,-of his majesty and purity,-of his power and patience,-of his goodness,--and his intimate access to men's spirits, with the reality and importance of his operations upon them.”—Permit me a little to represent the views of each, both to direct your
Eph. ii, 12.
* 2 Thcss. i. 8.
# 2 Cor. iv. 6.