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If we are regenerated, we shall have not only new desires, but also new objects of aversion. Formerly, we hated the restraints imposed on our inclinations by reason and conscience, by the word of God, or the admonitions of the godly. But, now the remonstrances of our own mind, or the directions of scripture are esteemed as salutary counsellors, to which we shall do well to take heed, for guiding our feet in the way of peace. Now, those serious friends, who are disposed to impart to us suitable advices for our correction and amendment are listened to with deference, and regarded as the excellent ones of the earth. Now, we shun the company of the irreligious and profane, abhor those practices which are wicked and pernicious, guard against those sins to which by constitution or habit we have been long addicted, and strive to check the irregular indulgence of those lusts and passions which war against the soul.
According to the prevalence of unhallowed affections, or the self-government which we maintain, we shall have new sources of fear or hope, joy or sorrow. We shall dread the compunctions of conscience, and the indignation of God; fear the temptations to which we are exposed, lest they should cause us to fall from our stedfastness; and fear lest hy an unworthy conduct we should dishonour our profession, and afford occasion to others to speak reproachfully. While we daily find, that, notwithstanding our utmost vigilance, our long contracted habits still gain the ascendancy over our better resolutions; that some perverse temper still exhibits itself in the intercourse of life, and that lukewarmness in our religious services still affects us, in spite of our exertions to excite the feel ings of devotion ;-on these accounts, we shall be not a little oppressed with sorrow for the inconsiderable progress we have made in the reformation of our heart and life. But, if on the contrary, we experience from time to time of benevolence; that the love of God, and the love of man are predominant in our hearts, and all the principles of our souls are brought in subjection to the law of rectitude, we shall rejoice that the good work of grace is begun, and hope that we shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.—Let us ask ourselves, whether these affections prevail in our hearts, that we may know whether the Spirit of God be in us of a truth.
As we know, however, that we should still aim at greater degrees of perfection, therefore, we shall be induced to form new purposes of confirmed obedience during the remainder of our lives.-We may have indeed been accustomed formerly to entertain some feeble determinations to renounce the practice of those habits which we could not help condemning, but our resolutions were “ like the morning cloud, and the early dew, which soon passeth away.” But now we are resolved to reform instantly whatever is amiss,“ to think on our ways, and turn our feet into the divine testimonies, to make haste and delay not to keep God's commandments.” We shall not satisfy ourselves, that there will be time sufficient hereafter to amend any fault which still cleaves to us; but while it is called to-day, we shall endeavour after new obedience, lest by stifling the convictions of conscience, our hearts should be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin,
Our resolutions will not only be immediate, but universal. We shall not wish to be indulged in the practice of any one sin, though dear to us as a right hand, or a right eye, for we know that whosoever keepeth the whole law, and yet offendeth habitually in one point, is guilty of all. We shall consider, that there are only some few vices to which we are addicted, and that it is the trial of our virtue to subdue them by discipline and self-denial. Therefore, we shall study to know what manner of spirit we are of, what are the defects with which we are chargeable, and the absolute necessity of amending them, that we may endeavour for the future to cease from doing evil, and learn to do well. But, as we are conscious of the frailty of our nature,
and that though the spirit is willing, yet the flesh is weak; therefore, we shall maintain a humble sense of our dependence on divine aid to strengthen us with might in the inner man, and pray with earnestness and importunity, that “ God would hold up our goings, so that our footsteps may not slide, and that he would lead us in the way everlasting.” Thus, trusting for support from the Almighty, we shall be enabled to go on our way rejoicing, till at last, we finish our course with joy, and receive in the end the crown of life. Such is the character superinduced by regeneration, and if we are born of the Spirit, we shall exhibit such unequivocal symptoms of newness of life. If we possess such mental dispositions as these, which have been now described, the image of God has been in some measure renewed on our souls, we are brought from death unto life, and by perseverance in well-doing, shall at last be qualified through the merits of our Saviour, for the enjoyment of that happiness which is prepared for the faithful in a future state. If such be the case, may it not be justly said, that we are saved by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost ?
Having explained this subject so fully in detail, I shall conclude the whole by a few practical inferences.
1. We may hence learn, what gratitude is due from us to God, for renewing us in the spirit of our minds, by the powerful influences of the Holy Ghost. Of oursclves we can do nothing effectually in working out our salvation, but his inspirations have excited us to give heed to the things which concern our welfare, and enabled us to enter upon a course of religious obedience. All the means of grace, such as religious education, the preaching of the gospel, and the advices of the godly, have produced in us the fruits of righteousness, because they have been accompanied by the demonstration of the Spirit, and with power. If they have been blessed to our use, while they have been disregarded by others, let us acknowledge, " that it is not of him who willeth, nor of him who runneth, but of God who hath shewed us mercy.”
Let us co-operate with him, in employing all our faculties in the service of religion ; let us work out our salvation with fear and trembling, since God worketh in us both to will, and to do his holy will. The divine Spirit does not supersede our own exertions, but strengthens our infirmities; “ he puts a new heart within us, that we may walk in his statutes, and keep his commandments to do them.” Unless, therefore, we labour to make our calling and election sure, by adding to our faith virtue, and every good habit, we shall receive his grace in vain, and from us shall be taken away, even that which we have received.
3. Let us beware of grieving the Spirit who dwelleth in us, by resisting his suggestions, or continuing in the practice of any sin, whereby he might be induced to depart from us. If he remind us by the dictates of conscience, or by accidental reflections, or the precepts of scripture, that this is the way in which we should walk, let us comply with his admonitions, and do what is well. pleasing in his sight. And if he persuade us to forsake any wicked way, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
4. Let us constantly pray for his directing agency, and depend upon his assistance to help us in time of need. Since we feel the impotence of our own strength, the perversity of our hearts, and the inconstancy of our resolutions to engage in the service of God; we shall be led to trust in him who is able to save us from falling, and preserve us faultless to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we do so, we shall be upheld in the ways of well-doing, and kept by his mighty power through faith unto salvation.
EXCELLENCE OF CHRISTIANITY,
JOHN VI. 67, 68, 69. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord ! to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure, that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
WE are informed in the latter part of this chapter, that the doctrine of our Saviour respecting the influence of divine grace, had given such offence to several of his hearers, that many of those who had declared their attachment to his religion, henceforth renounced it as incredible in itself, and requiring too much self-denial from those who professed it. As numbers had thus abandoned the profession of the gospel, our Lord was desirous to try the fidelity of bis original disciples, by interrogating them whether they would follow the example of those apostates, whose conduct was so worthy of reprehension. To his question which was addressed to them all, St. Peter replied in their name, with that determined intrepidity for which he was distinguished, and declared his resolution to adhere to his Master through good report, and through bad report. He was persuaded, that the system of faith which Christ promulgated, was the most consonant to reason of all that had ever before been discovered to man.