« ForrigeFortsett »
“ lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, “ and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treaa fure in heaven; and come, take up the crofs, « and follow me. And he was sad at that say. “ing, and went away grieved, for he had great “ pofleflions *."
3. Sometimes a partial change is produced, in a great measure, even by the love and attachment which men have to some one darling and governing fin. The less willing they are to cut off the right hand and to pluck out the right eye, the more zealous and diligent they will be in other things, to atone for the indulgence, or to cover it from their own observation. How careful is a Pharisee to tythe mint, anise, and eummin, while he neglects the weighter matters of the law? How does he “ make broad his phy
l'acteries, and enlarge the borders of his gar" ment," while he is defective in a judgment,
mercy, and faith?” How did the ancient Jew's come with thousands of rams, and ten thousand sivers of oil, while living in the habitual neglect of some of the most important branches of the divine law! We have an apposite example of this in the conduct of Saul, when sent against Amalek : he spared of the spoil what was good, though he was commanded to destroy it, and then pretended to make a free uncommanded offering
# Mark X. 21, 22,
of sacrifice unto God, for which he met with this just and severe reprimand : “ Hath the Lord “ as great delight in burnt-offerings and facrifi“ces, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Be" hold, to obey is better than facrifice, and to "I hearken than the fat of rams *." We ree every day innumerable instances of the same kind; when there is any sin which men are willing to (pare, which they defend with arguments, or palliate with excuses, they are so much the more ready to overdo in such duties as are not so contrary to the present current of unfanctified affection. From all this you will plainly see, that no man ought to judge of himself by the greatness of the change in any particular, unless it is univerfal, and without exception.
SECT. III. From these words, Except A MAN BE BORN
AGAIN HE CANNOT SEE THE KINGDOM OF God, and other similar expressions in the holy fcriptures, we may infer that the change here in
tended is not merely EXTERNAL and IMPERFECT, .but INWARD, ESSENTIAL, and COMPLEAT.
I Might have divided this observation into
two parts, and treated of them separately, first fhewing that it is not an outward and appa
rent only, but an internal and real change; secondly, that it is not an imperfect change, or difference in degree only, but a compleat and efsential change of the whole character. But as the illustration of these two must have necessarily in a great measure coincided, and they are very closely connected, I have chosen to join them together.
That what shall be said on this subject may be the more useful and profitable, I will endeavour to explain, in as distinct and simple a manner as I am able, what you are to undersfand by the above remark. The first part of it will be most easily comprehended, that it is not an external only, but an internal change; that the most apparently strict and regular conversation, the most faultless discharge of outward duties, will not be fufficient, while the heart continues enslaved to fin in general, or under the dominion of any particular luft. The other part of the remark is, that the change must not only be imperfect, or in degree, but effential and compleat. That is to say, it is not sufficient that a man be somewhat less wicked than before, that be not only gives up some fins, but usė moderation in others; nay, though he be under fome degree of restraint universally, if still there is not what may be called an essential change of character, if Itill sin has
the ascendancy upon the whole, though its dominion be not so uncontrolled as before.
Sin may certainly have the chief seat in the affections, though it hath not altogether quiet and peaceable poffeffion. There must always be some governing principle, which, properly speaking, constitutes the character. As our Saviour tells Us, co No man can serve two mafters; for either “ he will hate the one and love the other, or “: else he will hold to the one and despise the " other : ye cannot serye God and mammon'*.” Grace and corruption are opposite in their natures, and mutually destructive of each other, so far as they prevail : and therefore the great quel tion is, not how far any of them is altered from what it was formerly in itself, but how far it prevails in opposition to the other, and hath truly the government of the man. I find it extremely difficult to communicate this truth in a fimple and intelligible manner, so as to be level to the meanest capacities. And it is little wonder ; for here lies the chief part of the deceitfulness of fin. It will, I hope, be better understood by what is now to be added, both for its proof and illustration.
That what I have above asserted is agreeable to the analogy of faith, and a part of the will of God, may eafily be made appear. It is the con fant uniform doctrine of the holy scriptures.
There we find it is the peculiar prerogative of God, that he seeth and judgeth the heart. By this his knowledge is distinguished from, and excels all created understanding, and, therefore, as no appearance will deceive, so no insincere profession will be accepted by him: “ For the Lord “ feeth not as man feech, for man looketh on “ the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh
on the heart *" To this purpose is the exhortation of David to his fon Solomon :
" And " thou Solomon, my son, know thou the God " of thy father, and ferve him with a perfect “ heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord 5 searcherh all hearts, and understandeth all the 56 imaginations of the thoughts t."
The stress that is laid on this in fcripture, and the frequent repetition of the word “ heart,” can hardly have escaped the notice even of the most cursory reader, or the moft fuperficial observer. We find the consent of the heart required as indispenfibly and chiefly necessary, and that as diftinguished from outward and apparent obedience, which, without it, will be of no value.
My “ fon, give me thine heart," says Solomon, « and let thine eyes observe my ways.$.” We find an inward change of heart and disposition promised by God as the work of his Spirit and
i Sam, xvi. 74 xxiii, a6.
+ Chron.. xxviii. 9.