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I WILL PUT A NEW SPIRIT WITHIN YOU ; AND I WILL TAKE THE STONI
HEART OUT OF THEIR FLESH, AND WILL GIVE THEM A HEART OF
There is a phenomenon in the moral world for which no adequate natural cause has ever yet been assigned. I mean a great and sudden change of temper and character, brought about under a strong impression of scriptural truths; a change in many cases from habitual vice and malignity, to the sweetness and purity of the Christian spirit, and continuing to manifest itself in a new character through life, accompanied, if you will believe the subjects, with new views of God, and Christ, and divine things in general, and with new feelings towards them. This change is discovered in people of all temperaments; in the phlegmatick as well as the ardent, in the slow and cautious as well as the impetuous and sanguine, in minds wholly subject to the understanding, as well as those that
submit more to the dominion of the imagination. It takes place in people of all ranks and conditions, in the wise and learned as well as the simple and ignorant, in persons insulated by society of a different cast, and strongly prejudiced against the belief of such a change. Thousands who are not mad, but cool, dispassionate, and wise, the ornaments of society and of learning, whose word would be taken in any other case, and who certainly ought to be regarded as competent judges, tell you that they have had opportunity to see both sides, as the revilers of this doctrine have not; that they once looked upon the subject with the eyes of their opponents, but have since seen for themselves, and do assuredly know that there is such a thing as a spiritual change of heart. And what witnesses can you oppose to these ? Men who offer mere negative testimony,—who can only say, they know of no such thing.
To this spiritual change, as the Second grand topick of the Course, I am now to draw your attention. But as the reasonings will be founded on truths already established, it is necessary to lay these truths before you again, and at one view. It has been proved that holiness radically consists in universal love, which fixes the heart supremely on God; that sin has its root in affections limited to an individual or a private circle, but chiefly in selfishness, including, as a main part, the love of the world ; that every man makes either God or himself the object of his chief regard ; that supreme
self-love necessarily produces enmity to God, to the utter exclusion of every better affection towards Him; that they who do not love God supremely are destitute of true charity to man, and altogether without holiness ; that this is the native character of all who are born into the world, whether in pagan or Christian countries.
Out of these truths arises the necessity of that moral change which is denominated Regeneration. The reason of this necessity is here laid open to
It is the same that our Saviour assigned to the wondering Nicodemus. He had astonished that Jewish ruler with the solemn asseveration, “ Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God;"> and while the Jew stood doubting and amazed, He added as the sole ground of this necessity, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh :'* in other words, that which is born by natural generation is “ carnal,” is “ enmity against God,” and must be born again.
These truths disclose also the precise nature of the change which is necessary. It is a transition from supreme selfishness to universal love, --from enmity against God to supreme attachment to Him. It is readily seen of course that it must be the greatest change that ever takes place in the human affections.
The first question that will come before us is, Whether Regeneration is progressive or instanta
* John iii. 3, 6.”
neous. From the truths already established and other considerations I shall attempt to prove it instantaneous. It is not necessary however to suppose that the precise time is always known. Conceive of a man sitting in a dungeon, so occupied in thought as not to notice the change gradually produced by a light approaching at a distance. Turning his eye at length he discerns objects, and perceives that there is light in the room ; but when it began to enter he cannot tell. Yet there was a moment when the first ray passed the window. Can we not find the idea of such an instantaneous change more than implied in the text ? What is the blessing promised ? Not the gradual improvement of an old temper, but “ a new spirit;" – heart,” not softened by degrees into flesh, but by one decisive effort removed, and a heart of flesha substituted in its room.
You are told by some that no other change is necessary than what is accomplished by reason, gradually resuming its empire over the passions and appetites. But this theory overlooks the enmity of heart that refuses to yield to reason. It arrays its ethicks against the grosser ebullitions of sin, but leaves the seat of the disorder untouched. You are told by others that through the influence of instruction, example, one's own exertions, and the common operations of the Spirit, the enmity is gradually weakened till it is destroyed, and the taste of the mind, as in many other instances, is brought over by degrees from aversion to love. But
166 the stony
does not this, and every other theory which recognises the principle of progressive Regeneration, wholly overlook the nature of the disease, and the real ground of the native enmity? The disease is supreme self-love; the ground of enmity, that God requires upon penalty of eternal death that universal love which will fix the heart supremely on Him. This enmity will remain and exclude every particle of love, as long as self-love is supreme. Now self-love will remain supreme till the chief regard is transferred to another object. But in the universe there is not another object to receive it but God Himself. Self-love then will remain supreme and support the enmity in all its vigour, till God is supremely loved. As long as the sinner loves himself chiefly he is the enemy of God, to the utter exclusion of every better affection towards Him: the moment he ceases to love himself supremely his highest affection centres in God. There is no intermediate space. No time can elapse between the last moment in which he loves himself supremely, and the first moment in which he does not.
You talk of the taste's being brought over by a gradual process from enmity to love: but can you find any step in that process at which the man does not either love the world better than God, or God better than the world ? If he loves the world better than God he has made no progress at all ; for “ if any man love the world the love of the Father is not in him :" and if no love, then enmity : “He