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He cannot expatiate on the love of Jesus with the heavenly inhabitants. It would be insupportable for him now to meditate one hour on the perfections of God. What then shall he do among the Cherubim and Seraphim, and the spirits of just men made perfect, who draw from thence their transporting delights ? He loves the pleasures and comforts of an animal life; but are these the same with the exercises of the spiritual life ? Are they not rather insupportable to him ? And although he will not acknowlege it, does he not hate God in his heart? Yes, he hates him, if his actions are to be credited rather than his words. He cannot employ him. self one hour in prayer to Jesus, without secretly wish. ing that the burdensome toil were concluded. His conversations, his readings, his amusements, as void of edification as of usefulness, rarely fatigue him ; but one hour of meditation or prayer is insupportable. If he be not born again, not only he cannot be in a state to rejoice in the pleasures of paradise, any more than a deaf man to receive with transport the most exquisite music, or a blind man to admire the works of the most eminent painters ; but the most ravishing delights of angels would cause in him an insupportable distate. Yes, he would banish himself from the presence of God, rather than pass an eternity in prostrating himself before the throne, and crying day and night, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts! who is, and who was, and who is to come!'
It is very easy for such a one to say with the crowd of worldlings, “I hope that God will be merciful, and open to me the gate of heaven.” But it is not so easy to have just ideas of the heaven to which he flatters himself he shall go. It were to be wished that he would consider those words of our Lord, “The kingdom of God is within you.' They prove clearly that paradise consists more in the heavenly dispositions of the hearts of the faithfal, than in the glorious pomp of a local heaven. We see in the book of Job, that Satan, intermingling himself with the saints, presented himself with them before the throne. But was he the more happy ?
No, the kingdom of darkness, and consequently his own hell, was within him. On the contrary, we may easily conceive a saint in a local hell; an Abednego in the burning fiery furnace, or a St. John in the caldron of burning oil, yet happy by virtue of the kingdom of God within them, even righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.' We conclude, that the gate of heaven must be opened upon earth by regeneration, and by the love of God, or that it will remain shut for ever ; and that a local paradise would only be a sorrowful prison, to a man who was not regenerated ; because, carrying nothing thither but depraved and earthly appetites and passions, and finding nothing there but spiritual and celestial objects, disgust and dissatisfaction must be the consequence; and, like Satan, his own mind would be his hell. Sinners cannot now comprehend this. But when their day of grace shall be past, and they shall be given over to a reprobate mind, they shall terribly feel the necessity of a spiritual birth, in order to be delivered from hell, and to see the kingdom of heaven; but, alas! it will be then too late.
To all these considerations, permit me to add another, which arises from the nature of the thing, aud of itself claims our attention. Good sense cannot but dictate to us, that drunkards, gluttons, and impure persons, in a word, all the servants of Belial, will, in that great day, follow the master whom they now serve. And is it not also clear, that the unjust, the extortioners, the covetous, and all those who defend the interests of the kingdom of darkness, under the standard of Mammon, shall be excluded the kingdom of heaven, as well as their infernal leader? And can we doubt that the worldlings, whose minds are more occupied with the pleasures and comforts of this life, than with the love and glory of God, will baye their portion with Satan, who is the god of the world ? Besides, does not reason convince us, that a depraved soul, loaded with the weight of its own sensua. lity, will precipitate itself into the abyss, as a stone, pressed by its own weight, falls towards the centre ? And is it not as easy to conceive, that the heaviest and
dullest of the feathered animals should soar like an eagle towards the sun, as to imagine that a soul that never had its conversation in heaven; that a soul who had never received by regeneration the wings of a firm faith, a lively hope, and a burning love, should be able to follow Jesus, and ascend to heaven with the triumphant army of the sons of God? We may then conclude, that our Saviour's words are founded on eternal reason and justice, and if a man be not born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
PART THE FOURTH.
DIVIDED IN TO
How dangerous it is to take the Regularity of our Man
ners for the Regeneration of our Souls. PERHAPS some one will say, "I am convinced that perjured persons, debauchees, murderers, and those who act unjustly, shall never see the kingdom of heaven without being born again. But I thank God I am not of this number. From my youth I have lived in the practice of temperance and justice: And I flatter myself I am also no stranger to religion. I constantly attend the church : I read the word of God: I pray and communicate regularly. Are not these indubitable marks of my regeneration ? And was I not born again of water, and of the Holy Spirit, in my baptism ?”
Before I answer this question, permit me to ask some which are not less important. Have you peace with God ? Have you the remission of your sins?, Has God revealed his Son in you? When you examine yourself, do you feel that Christ is in you the hope of glory?
Have you received the Spirit of Adoption, witnessing with your spirit, that you are a child of
God?' Have you ever beheld the light of God's coun. tenance, and felt the powers of the world to come? Do you taste the heaven which faithful souls enjoy even in this life, the love of God shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto them ?' Is your soul athirst for the living God? Does it pant after him as the thirsty hart after the brooks of water ? Do you count all things as dung and dross, for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus Are you no longer conformed to this evil world, but do you live as a stranger and a pilgrim upon earth? Do you press with joy towards the heavenly Jerusalem in which are already your treasure and your heart ? Does your soul ascend to God, even as the flame towards heaven? Do you celebrate in all your conversation the praises of him • who has called you out of darkness into his marvel. lous light ?' And do you find within you the humility, the patience, the disinterestedness, the renunciation of the world, the holy joy, the tender zeal, the constant sweetness, the desire to be with Christ, the modest gra. vity, the unfeigned love, which characterizes true believers ?
If these questions do not surprise you ; if the Spirit of God have enabled you to sound the depths which they contain ; if your most lively concern be, that you experience those heavenly dispositions only in a low degree; and if it be your most vehement desire that you may grow in grace every moment, until you feel all the power of the resurrection of Jesus, you are a child of God, you are born again! Whether as Samuel you have walked in the way of the Lord from your infancy, or like St. Paul, beheld the light of the Sun of Righteousness in the midst of your career, it imports not: - All is yours, for you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.'
But if, far from finding in your heart, and in your conversation, these marks of a new and spiritual birth, your conscience rises against you, and you are forced to confess, that you feel within you rather the natural than the spiritual man, being more occupied with earth than with heaven ; with yourself and the world, than with
the love of Jesus, and the glory to which he calls you ; we should only lay a stumbling-block in your way, if we did not cry to you in the words of our Divine Master, • Ye must be born again, or you cannot see the kingdom of God.' We mean not by this, that you must reform your life even as scandalous sinners. No, you live, it may be, according to the strict rules of justice and temperance. You give alms, you fulfil the exterior duties of religion. We may believe even that, with Nicodemus, you do all this in the integrity of your heart, and as unto God. But the Lord declares that although you have the form of godliness, you have hitherto denied its power. He declares that your righteousness, which does not exceed that of the Pharisees, will never introduce you into the kingdom of God. Yes, were you a second Cornelius, a devout man, fear. ing God with all your house, giving much alms to the people, seeking God with fasting and continual prayer, if God hath not accepted you in the Beloved; if by faith in the name of Jesus you have not received remission of your sins; if the Holy Spirit have not descended upon you ; if God, who knoweth the heart, beareth not witness to you as to him, purifying your heart by faith ; your baptism has not saved you. And although you may pot be far from the kingdom, you are not yet possessed of it, you are not yet regenerated. You have the fear of the Lord, but not his love. You are not yet a child of God. You still want the Spirit of adoption in order to be a Christian ; for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision availeth any thing, but a new creation ; an entire change of our soul, as well as of our life. In a word, .a new heart, a right spirit: The kingdom of God within us.'
If these things be so, (and they cannot be denied without trampling underfoot the truth as it is in Jesus,) suffer the word of God to penetrate into your soul. This day hear the voice of God, and harden not your heart. The things which you read, regard your eternal peace. Ah! beware lest your unbelief hide them from your