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death and judgment should overtake us just such as we are; or have we not every one something to do, before we are ready? And if so, when shall it be done? Not a moment, beyond the present, are we sure of: and why should the one thing needful be deferred till the next ? Delays are nothing but cheats, that we put upon our souls : and never, I believe, did any one's resolution of amendment hold good, who did not resolve to amend immediately. If then you mean it at all: now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation *. And may God, who now calls upon you by me, grant, that in this our day we may all know the things that belong to our peace, lest they be for ever hid from our eyes t. * 2 Cor. vi. 2.

+ Luke xix. 42.

SERMON XVII.

GAL. VI. 15.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any

thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.

In discoursing on these words you may remember I proposed,

I. To vindicate the justice and goodness of God, in distinguishing the Jews by a peculiar covenant :

II. To give an account of the expiration of that covenant, and its ceasing to oblige or avail any part of mankind :

III. To shew, what alone can avail men : explaining for that purpose, the phrase of a new creature, by which the Apostle here describes it.

I have finished the two first of these heads; and shall proceed, without any repetition, to the third : a point the more worthy of your careful attention, both as the subject itself is of the utmost importance, and as the figurative expressions used in relation to it, here and elsewhere in Scripture, are not only despised and ridiculed by the profane, as unintelligible or extravagant: but, through inconsiderateness or prejudice, too commonly misunderstood by the serious; who from thence fall into notions, which, if they are not rectified, may greatly affect, often their present peace, and sometimes their future happiness.

To explain the new creation, it will be requisite to

*

begin with the old. God created man in his own image *, holy and pure : and unquestionably furnished him with sufficient powers and motives to continue such. But by his miserable fall he became prone to sin, as well as mortal. His primitive uprightness and strength of mind, were by that pernicious indulgence depraved and weakened : his affections and appetites grew irregular : and his now corruptible body pressed down his soul t. The unhappy disorders, which he had thus introduced into his own frame, he must of consequence transmit, as an hereditary disease, to his posterity : and accordingly in fact, a tendency to evil, and inability of doing good, is experienced, more or less, by every one that comes into the world. Then as men grow up, instead of correcting their bad inclinations, they never fail to cherish them, if left to their own ways : by which means they become worse of course; generally so much worse, that the nature, which they received at their conception, may be accounted virtuous and good, in comparison with that second nature, which by evil habits they form to themselves. And thus doubly changed, by original defilement and actual transgression, far from continuing to be the creatures which God first made, and preserving that likeness to their heavenly Father, which would give them the title of his sons, they are justly called in Scripture the children of the devil #, and therefore the children of wrath 5.

The divine goodness, however, was desirous to relieve mankind from the ill effects, not only of Adam's sin but their own: and the divine wisdom provided a method of doing it, consistent with the honour of God's government, through the interposi

* Gen. i. 27. + Wisd. ix. 15. 1 John iii. 10. § Eph. ii. 3.

tion of our blessed Redeemer : which method, from the beginning, was intimated to men sufficiently, though obscurely; and afterwards by degrees more explicitly unfolded. But that he should be reconciled to sinners, wilfully remaining such, was quite impossible. And therefore, together with a provision of mercy on his part, there must also be a provision of amendment on the part of the offenders ; and in these two things, inseparably united, the restoration of the human race to a state of happiness must consist. Accordingly we find them closely joined, not only in the more direct and formal declarations of Scripture concerning this momentous change, but in all the various images, under which it is represented.

Sometimes it is expressed by adoption : because that implies our being aliens and strangers, received into God's family and inheritance : but then it implies also an obligation to obey him, as dutiful sons. Elsewhere, by a stronger figure, it is called a regeneration, or, which means the same, a new birth; because it brings persons forth into a new state of things, where they are to act from other principles than they did before or would have done else, in another manner, with other expectations, and grow up to the maturity of another character. In some places again, the same happy change is described, as a resurrection from the dead: because it raises and restores men, both to the activity of a spiritual life now, and to the wellgrounded hopes of eternal life hereafter. But the most emphatical phrase of all is that in the text, of a new creature, or creation. The inward condition of man, under the full effect of his first parents transgression, answers too exactly, and yet more after the addition of his own personal guilt, to that account in the beginning of the history of the old creation : and the

earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep*. But it follows: and God said, let there be light, and there was light t. Thus the human soul, in the above-mentioned state, is unformed and disorderly, void of reason and rule, gloomy and comfortless; till God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness I, shine upon the dismal chaos, and produce in it new appearances and views of things; till he bring forth order from confusion, and form again in the heart the illuminating image of his own holy nature.

But here it must be observed, that, in some sense and degree, the Scripture expressions and privileges of a new birth and creation belong to all, who are admitted by baptism into the Christian covenant, though none are intitled to future happiness by them, but such as complete their right to them, if God allows them time for it, by performing, from a spirit of inward piety, the several obligations of the Gospel. When that is preached to Jews, or Heathens, every one who believes and is baptized, is buried with Christ in that sacred ordinance, raised up to newness of lifes, and adopted of God for his child. When the infants of believers are baptized, they are, by the solemnity which Heaven hath appointed, born again of water and the spirit ||, into a better state, than that of nature. And till either sort of persons forfeit their claim by wilful wickedness; which it may be hoped some never do, though in many things we offend all; they continue heirs of everlasting life. And even when they fall under the dominion of sin; though, were they to die in that condition, future mercy would be their portion; and therefore, in * Gen. i. 2. + Verse 3.

I 2 Cor. iv. 6. Rom. vi. 4. ll John iïi. 5.

James iii. 2.

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