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the fulfilment of all the prophecies relating to the blessing and the curse contained in the preceding chapters, mentions this as the chief_" The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine beart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” (Deut. xxx. 6.) Here is a great work in the heart of Man ascribed to Divine power; and the fruit thereof is love and obedience-" Thou shalt return and obey the voice of the LORD, and do all his commandments, which I command this day.” (Deut. xxx. 8.) And Moses complains, in the preceding chapter, that no such work had been wrought (generally) in the hearts of the children of that generation; and that, therefore, they had remained unaffected by all the wonders and mercies, which God had continually been working around them, and before them; “ Ye have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; The great temptations which thine
eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles : Yet the Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.” (Deut. xxix. 2—4.) Whence it is evident, that Moses considered the corruption and perverseness of their nature to be such, that, without a Divine influence, enlightening their minds, and inclining their hearts, they never would rightly perceive or obey. It is true in a spiritual, as well as in a natural sense, “ The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them." (Prov. xx. 12.) The prophets are yet more express, and speak more at large upon this subject, especially Ezekiel: “I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you ; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” And again, “ Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean : from all
your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you : and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgements and do
them.” (Ez. xi. 19, 20, and xxxvi. 25–27.) Here it is more distinctly taught, that the Lord would effect this great and holy change, by putting His Spirit within them.
David well understood the nature and importance of this inward change. Therefore he prays for it, in immediate connexion with prayer for the pardon of his sins, and with equal earnestness. For when he had said,
“ Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness : according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions,”—he adds immediately, “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” And when he repeats the former part of the prayer,
6. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities,” he repeats the latter also, with increasing earnestness, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Ps. li. 1, 2, 9, 10.) On which last expression it should be observed, that he regards this cleansing and renewal of the heart and spirit as a work of Divine power, and uses the same word which is applied to the creation of the world (7 from 177 creavit). Which also agrees with what appears from a comparison of the two clauses of verse 6, “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts;—and in the hidden part THOU SHALT MAKE me to know wisdom.” The Lord required this inward uprightness and purity; and the Lord alone could give it. And his prayers in other places accord with this conviction, “Who can understand his errors ? cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my Redeemer.” (Ps. xix. 12—14.) From which expressions it is evident, that he thought all deliverance from sin and pollution, and all inward purity, were to be asked of the Lord in earnest prayer : for He alone could bestow them, by the operation of his power, and by the influences of His Spirit. Therefore it is that, in the psalm above quoted, he deprecates the withdrawing of God's Spirit as the greatest possible misfortune, and prays for the continuance of that precious gift as matter of the greatest rejoicing. “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not the Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation : and uphold me with thy FREE Spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sin: ners shall be converted unto Thee.” (Ps. li. 11–13.)
Upon this point it is, further, only needful to remark, that this renewal of the heart and mind, by a Divine influence, is one of the blessings specially mentioned in the promises of the future glory of Israel; and it is a distinguishing and characteristic feature of that new and better Covenant, which the Lord will establish with his people in the latter days. This is apparent from some of the passages already quoted; which also should be compared with the following,
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; (which my covenant they brake, although was an husband unto them, saith the LORD ;) but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel ; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people." “ I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.' (Jer. xxxi. 31-33, xxxii. 39, 40.) The doctrine of this spiritual change and renovation stands, therefore, in intimate connexion with all your prospects of future redemption and glory. It ought, then, one would think, to come home to the heart of every child of Israel, as a matter of deep and peculiar interest,—to be considered diligently, and sought with earnest prayer.
Compare the foregoing passages from the Old Testament with the following declarations of the New. When a certain Pharisee, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, came to our Lord Jesus Christ, and acknowledged him to be a teacher come from God, this great Apostle and HighPriest of our profession, immediately addressed him in these terms; “ Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be
born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This was a truth, entirely consonant with those Scriptures which Nicodemus ought to have well understood: but “ Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old ? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born ?” He had come to enquire about spiritual things, but he took this expression in a gross and carnal
But à truth so important must needs be urged and insisted upon : "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth : so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” It is, therefore, a heavenly and spiritual birth which is here intended : to be born again after the gross and carnal manner supposed in the objection, could profit a man nothing, as (even if that should take place,) he would remain corrupt and carnal still. But the new nature and life, originated in the soul by the creative power of the Divine and most free Spirit, will partake of the holy and spiritual nature of its Author; and (however men may marvel and object) it is a matter of absolute necessity, that the soul should thus be born again. And, though we cannot tell when, or where, or how, it may please this sovereign Agent to exert his power, yet He is known by the effects which He produces ; and the mighty :hange and wonderful renewal of the heart and mind of :very one that is born of the Spirit, is a matter sufficiently lain and intelligible, and a clear proof of the operation of Him, whose office it is to give man a new heart, and to put a new spirit within him. But, having lightly passed ver so many passages of his own Scriptures which spoke of such a change, “ Nicodemus answered, and said unto im, How can these things be?” This disposition still to
bject was a proof of sinful and lamentable ignorance in one who (from his station) was, or ought to have been, a eacher of others. Therefore, “ Jesus answered, and said into him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not hese things ?” (John iii. 3—10.) Whence it is evident, that some doctrine clearly revealed in the Old Testament was alluded to; which Nicodemus, therefore, ought to have understood: and we shall best understand it, by comparing the declarations of Jesus, respecting a new birth, with the passages above quoted, which speak of a change of heart, that, in David's eyes, was a new creation. This image is also used in the New Testament-for it is said expressly, “If any man be in Christ, he is a NEW CREATURE: old things are passed away ; behold, all things are become new, (2 Cor. v. 17,) which is further explained by the declaration, “We are his workmanship, Created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them:" (Eph. ii. 10,) and, yet again, by the exhortation addressed to the same people, “ If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus :-Put off, concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and put on the new man, which after God is CREATED in righteousness, and true holiness.” (Eph. iv. 21—24.) In all which passages a mighty and inward change is spoken of, of which God is the author, and the consequence is a holy life and conversation, according to His will and commandments. Such a change the same apostle describes himself, and his fellow-Christians, to have undergone: for, after describing their former state of sin and pollution, he proceeds ; “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour towards man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that, being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying; and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works.” (Tit. iii. 4-8.) One other expression is used in the New Testament, to describe this spiritual change, which is also found in the Old, “ Ye are CIRCUMCISED with THE CIRCUMCISION MADE WITHOUT HANDS, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh.” (Col. ii. 11.) Compare this with the expressions of Moses, already quoted