Imágenes de página

in its plain and obvious meaning, to penetrate the mind with the magnitude and importance of this radical change of nature. For, if all this variety of metaphor signify merely that a man may become deeply pious and spiritual, with only some slight and external improvement; if it mean that habit, and education, and instruction, with the occasional assistance of the Holy Spirit, are adequate, or nearly adequate, of themselves to this end; then we must allow that the language of Scripture is forced and unnatural; and that a very simple meaning is conveyed under a load of strong expressions, which overwhelms, rather than exhibits, the sense: a supposition the more inadmissible, because the Scripture, on every other occasion, even when it would develop the mysteries of redemption, or paint the glories of heaven, is remarkable for extraordinary sublimity indeed in the things described, but for unparalleled simplicity in the language in which it describes them. But, if the thing here spoken of is also great and sublime, if this inward reformation of the soul be mighty and universal, a change far above the ordinary notices of reason, and which, whilst it embraces amendment of the outward conduct, and is ordinarily effected in the use of the various means of instruction, demands also a principle and spring of life in the heart; rises above all the impressions and dictates of nature, and unites man again to

God; makes religion our delight as well as our duty, and gives a choice and freedom in the pursuit of it; then the language we have detailed is natural and intelligible; then, instead of surpassing the dignity of the change, no images can reach it; the things spoken of here, as elsewhere, are deep and mysterious, but the terms are simple and appropriate; then our concern is to rise with the help they afford, to the grandeur of our heavenly calling, and, neglecting minor points, to imbibe the main purport and sentiment of the infallible word of God.

We shall be the more impressed with the paramount importance of this subject, if we bear in mind, in the next place, the rank which the general doctrine of a change of heart, thus emphatically described in Scripture, holds in the system of Christianity. Our Lord's discourse with Nicodemus,-one of the most solemn discourses in the whole of our Saviour's ministry; a discourse with a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews, a master of Israel, one convinced of our Lord's divine mission, and evidently desirous of instruction,-is an eminent instance in point. The very abruptness with which our Lord appears at once to have addressed him, and the extent and force of his remarks, are calculated to strengthen the impression. In like manner, the circumstance of a sacrament having been instituted under the law, and con

tinued, though with circumstantial variations, yet in substance the same, under the Gospel, as the sign and seal of inward purification, displays its real magnitude. For, as the institution of the Passover first, and then of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, is designed to show the supreme importance of the doctrine of our Lord's vicarious sacrifice; so the rite of circumcision of old, and the sacrament of baptism now, equally exhibit the necessity of internal holiness; and thus the two branches of salvation, the pardon of sin and the regeneration of the heart, are perpetually set forth and displayed to the church. It deserves great

consideration also, that this is the chief blessing of the evangelical covenant. A law written on the mind, and put into the heart, a right spirit, a heart of flesh, are predicted by the Prophets as the leading peculiarity of that covenant of grace which was to surpass and supersede that of the law 3.

It will, however, confirm us in the view which we are now taking of the importance of this inward renewal, to point out its connexion with the other essential truths of revelation. Because, if we should discover that the other doctrines of the Gospel necessarily require this particular one, in order to render them complete; and that, so far from standing by itself

3 Jer. xxxi. 33. Ezek. xxxvi. 26. Heb. viii. 10.

as an insulated doctrine, it is harmoniously accordant with them all, then the conclusions which we have drawn from the preceding separate considerations, will be obviously strengthened and confirmed.

The greatness of this spiritual renovation, then, naturally arises from the scriptural statement of the corruption of man. The carnal mind is enmity against God; the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God; the imaginations of the thoughts of his heart are only evil continually; he is born in sin, and shapen in iniquity; his heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. If this, then, be the state of man; if, in other words, and those the words of our own Church, he be


very far gone from original righteousness, and be of his own nature inclined to evil;" and "if the condition of man since the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot prepare and turn himself by his own natural strength and good works to faith and calling upon God;" then the alteration must be great indeed, by which he begins really to delight in God, and to adore and love his Saviour. It is no slight improvement which will suffice to restore him to holiness, because it is no slight corruption with which he is tainted. He needs a radical change. Whatever light may be left in the understanding, or however the natural conscience may be

capable of being informed by instruction or aroused by danger, still, as to all effectual efforts, man is dead in trespasses and sins; and can only know and love God, as he is transformed by the renewing of his mind. The whole question unfolds itself here. The real state of our fallen nature involves every other topic, and this among the rest. If this corruption is once fairly admitted, as set forth in Scripture, and deeply felt, as agreeing with the painful and daily conviction of experience, a commanding position is gained. The penitent inquirer will at once see the magnitude of that correspondent renewal of all the faculties of man which such a state demands.

The infinite holiness of the divine character will serve also to raise our conceptions of the great subject we are considering. Who can stand before the inconceivable majesty of God under the defilements of sin? His holiness is his glory. He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. The very angels are charged by him with folly, and the heavens are not clean in his sight. How then can man approach him without a holy state of heart? If, indeed, we "think wickedly, that God is even such an one as ourselves," our conceptions of this work of the Holy Spirit will proportionably sink. But, if we contemplate him as the King eternal, immortal, invisible, before whom the seraphim

« AnteriorContinuar »