« ZurückWeiter »
Having sinned against God, sinned when at the very moment, we knew better, sinned from design, can any thing be more reasonable than that we should be sorry for these wanton offences? Nothing can be more reasonable; for God commands us thus to believe and repent. Even our love to God will be modified by the truth of the gospel. If we love him as we ought, it will be as Immanuel, as manifest in the flesh, as in Christ, as having first loved us. In the exercises of the new heart are included, gratitude to God for the numberless unmerited favors received from his hand; hope, through his mercy, of eternal blessedness and glory; joy in the Lord; peace of conscience; hatred to sin; an earnest and habitual desire for greater degrees of holiness; together with the firm purpose to live in obedience to all the precepts of the Bible. The man who cherishes these devout and spiritual affections is the happy man; you may bind him with fetters, cast him into the dungeon, break his bones on the rack, consume his body at the stake; but if the love of God warms his heart, if the hope of heaven lives in his soul, he will still be happy. When earthly sources of pleasure are dried up, he will joy in God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Even the bitterest sorrows of re. pentance will be commingled with joys more pure and elevating than earth can yield. It is, therefore, our duty to make this new heart, to exercise these devout affections; because God commands it, and he commands it because it is our interest and our chief happiness.
It is our duty, then, that we should make not only a new heart, but also a new spirit; that we should not only be pious, but eminently so; that we should not only believe, but be strong in faith, giving glory to God; that we should not only love God, but love him with all the heart; that we should not only serve the Lord, but be fervent in spirit in his service; that we should not only commence a religious life, but persevere, grow in grace, and go on to perfection.
3. If we disobey this command, and neglect this duty, we are, most assuredly, guilty; and this guilt, with all its aggravations, will lie at our own door, and, without repentance, will be visited upon our own head. Every day, every month, and every year, that we spend in disobedience to this command, in the neglect of this duty, is a day, a month, and a year of guilt; increasing, not according to the simple ratio of addition, but according to the compound ratio which includes all the aggravations of this guilt. Though they exceed our comprehension, these aggravations are estimated with perfect accuracy, by the mind of our infinite Judge. They arise from a great variety of sources; from the time spent in this wicked rebellion, from the goodness, the kindness, the long-suffering of God towards us; from the solemn warnings, the loud and earnest calls, the precious promises, the gracious invitations addressed to us, from the authority which we resist.
Refusing to make a new heart, is refusing to believe in Christ that divine Saviour who died for us; is refusing to accept of that pardon which is purchased with his blood, which we so much need, and without which we must forever perish. To reject the beloved Son of God, in whom the Father, with a voice from Heaven, has declared himself to be well pleased; to reject this unspeakable gift of God, the evidence and pledge of divine love to our sinful and miserable world; to reject this Saviour, who has endured the agonies of the garden and the cross for us, this compassionate, this Almighty, this only Saviour; is perilous beyond the conception of all created minds. Yet this is implied in refusing to make a new heart. For that faith by which the Saviour is received, and with whom all the blessings purchased by his death, is an essential exercise of the new heart. Can God look with complacency, or without the strongest indignation on the heart from which his beloved Son is excluded? Christ dwells in the heart by faith; where faith does not exist, there Christ does not dwell, and where Christ does not dwell, there the approbation and love of God cannot be enjoyed. Refusing to obey this command, is refusing to love God; for this love is another essentialexercise of the new heart. That which he demands of us is a reason, able service. As our Creator, as our Preserver, as our Father, we ought to love him. And above all, we ought to love him, because he first loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. To refuse, therefore, to love him, is most unreasonable, most criminal, most dangerous. Repentance for sin, is another exercise of the new heart. And have we sinned against God our Creator, our Preserver and Redeemer, as all of us will confess we have, and yet refuse to be sorry for it? And can we persevere in this refusal, and be guiltless? Can we expect that God, who is of purer eyes than to behold evil, will approve of this impenitence? Most assuredly he will not.
But further: there can be no neutrality in this case. The Lord Jesus admits of none. He that is not for me is against me, he that gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad. The heart that is not made new, remains a sinful and wicked heart; for such it is by nature. If the Saviour is not received by faith, he is rejected; designedly rejected by unbelief. Where the love of God is not cherished, there is enmity against God. Where there is no sincere repentance, no godly sorrow for sin, there is the approbation and love of sin. If it were possible for the work of making a new heart to progress so far as to destroy all sinful principles, extinguish all sinful affections, efface all sinful impressions, and stop at this point, this heart could not receive the approbation of God. There must be positive spiritual affections in exercise. There must be an active living faith, working ty love, purifying the heart, and overcoming the world. There must be supreme love of God, resulting in cheerful obedience to all his precepts. There must be a repentance so deep and so permanent as to endear the blood of Christ which cleanses from sin, and will produce unceasing watchfulness against it. The want of this faith, and of these affections, though there were no sinful principles or affections, would be criminal in the sight of God; how much more criminal and guilty will the heart be in which there is a practical unbelief, which rejects the Saviour; an active enmity which resists the Spirit and truth of God; a determined impenitence, which not only loves and delights in sin, but refuses to forsake it? To suppose that such a heart is not most deeply criminal, is to suppose that God can look with approbation on the deliberate rejection of his beloved Son; on the workings of deep-rooted enmity against himself; on that impenitence which implies the supreme love of sin. This he cannot do, unless he can repeal the law which he has given, can recall the declaration, that in his beloved Son he is well pleased, can divest himself of infinite holiness. As he is the Lord and changes not; as he cannot deny himself, cannot become a coworker with his enemies in obscuring his own glory, in destroying the happiness of the universe; so certain is it, so absolutely certain is it, that all men, every where, are deeply criminal in refusing to make a new heart and a new spirit; in refusing to believe in Christ, to love God and to repent of sin.
But it is not more certain that we are guilty in disobeying this command, than it is that God has promised to give a new heart and a new spirit: and he is faithful who has promised; he will accomplish the work; he will redeem his pledge.
II. Let us, then, consider what is implied in this promise:
1. It certainly implies, that we need that which is promised. We may, and often do, promise to each other, that which is not indispensably necessary. A man may promise assistance to his neighbor, when this neighbor could accomplish the object without this aid, though not with the same facility, nor within the same time. Not so with God; he promises that, and that only, which is needed, and without which the purpose would not be accomplished. When he promised to make Ishmael a great nation, it is certain that without the constant support and protection of Jehovah, Ishmael never would have multiplied into a great nation. When the kind and cheering promise was given to Paul, My grace is sufficient for thee; we see clearly, and he felt deeply, the necessity of this grace to sustain him under the numerous trials which awaited him in every place. It is further implied, that none but God can accomplish his own promise. He may employ the instrumentality of second causes; but these can accomplish nothing without the wise and powerful agency of the Great First Cause. Had the highest angel in heaven been required, by his own wisdom and power to preserve Ishmael, his posterity never would have equalled the stars of heaven in number. Had this angel, or an host of such angels, been required to protect, to comfort, to animate, to preserve Paul, till the appointed hour of his departure should come, they must have utterly failed. Although they may and do minister for those who are heirs of salvation, yet it is the power of God alone by which these heirs are to be kept through faith unto salvation.
We need the new heart and the new spirit which God has promised; that is, we need divine assistance that we may believe in Christ, love God and repent of our sins. The promise implies also, that God alone can produce this faith and excite these affections; and that without his omnipotent aid, we never would believe, or love, or repent. But the promise is yea and amen, sure and steadfast. He can and will work in his people the work of faith with power; he will shed abroad his love in their hearts by the Holy Spirit; he will, by his goodness, melt their hearts and lead them to repentance. That they may work out their own sal vation with fear and trembling, he will, of his good pleasure, work in them to will and to do.
It is divine assistance, then, that is promised, and it is divine assistance that we need, by which we are enabled to believe, to love, to repent, and to exercise all spiritual affections included in the new heart. Faith is the act, and love and repentance are the exercises of our own mind. The Holy Spirit does not believe for us, or in our stead; but he enables us to believe through grace; he does not love or repent for us, but he calls into exers cise these affections in our own mind.
This is the doctrine of the Bible, plainly taught in a great variety of passages; especially in all those which refer the work of
regeneration to God. We are his workmanship, created anero in Christ Jesus; born of God; born of the Spirit; you hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and in sin.
This is a doctrine, too, respecting which we hope ard believe there is no diversity of opinion among Christians. However they may differ respecting the mode of the Spirit's operations, all will agree that they need his aid, that through the grace of God they are what they are; that by grace they are saved through faith, and that not of themselves, it is the gift of God; all will unite in the devout exclamation, “ Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake.” That professed disciple of Christ, who believes that he needs not divine aid, is not prepared for the songs of the redeemed in heaven.
. 2. This promise implies our entire dependence on God for the new heart and the new spirit which he has promised to give. We have the utmost assurance that God will accomplish his promise; yet he was under no obligation to make this promise: it is, therefore, a most gracious promise, arising from his infinite mercy and compassion, yearning over our sinful and miserable race. We do not and cannot deserve the blessings included in this promise. At the moment when they are bestowed, we de serve the displeasure of God on account of our sins. Although we are permitted to pray for these blessings, we cannot demand them on the principle of justice, as our right. For all the exercises of the new heart and the new spirit, we are entirely dependent on the mercy and compassion of God.
. This truth is plainly taught in connection with the promise. “ I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for my holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen whither ye went. Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you; be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel.” If the promise itself should fail to convince us of this truth, these declarations will produce the conviction. The same truth is implied in the devout and grateful acknowledgments offered to God by the pious in all ages. Passages containing these expressions of praise, are too numerous to be cited. Thanksgiving and praise are offered to God for blessings both temporal and spiritual, under both the old and new dispensation. The exercises of the new heart have been the same in all ages and will continue the same till the last hour.