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ness to help us. I will therefore a little more particularly illustrate those respects, in which the apprehensions of such as are really regenerate, differ from those which they formerly had: And I hope you will do yourselves the justice to reflect, as we go along, how far you have ever felt these apprehensions which you hear me describe ; and I have a pleasing persuasion, that many
you have felt them, in a much livelier manner than they can be described. I would observe then to you, that a regenerate soul has new apprehensions of God-of itself,of Christ,-of eternity,—and of the way and method that God has marked out for its being happy there.” 1. A regenerate soul has new apprehensions “ of the blessed
There are very few, who pretend so much as to doubt of the being of a God; and fewer yet, that will venture to deny it : and even among those, who have denied it, and disputed against it, some, by their own confession, have felt their hearts give them the lie, and upbraid them for using the powers of reason and speech, against the giver and preserver of both. I persuade myself at least, there are none that hear me this day, who would not look upon a professed atheist as a monster, unworthy to be a member of human society, and little to be trusted in any of its relations. Yet after all, while the being of the blessed God is warmly asserted, his nature is so little understood and considered, that there are thousands who may still properly be said, to be Without God in the world*, or in practice and temper, though not in notion, to be atheists in. it. Wicked men therefore in general are described, as those That know not Godt: But where God has determined to glorify his mercy in the salvation of a sinner, he Shines into the heart for this blessed purpose, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of Godf. And thus the glories of the Divine Being are known to the regenerate soul in such a manner, as they are not to the most acute metaphysician, or the sublimest philosopher
, who is himself a stranger to the spiritual life.
The person of whom we now speak, has new sions “ of the spirituality and omnipresence of God, --of his majesty and purity,—of his power and patience,of his goodness,--and his intimate access to men's spirits, with the reality and importance of his operations upon them.”_Permit, me a little to represent the views of each, both to direct your
Eph. ii. 12.
* Thcss, i, 8.
* 2 Cor. iv. 6.
enquiries, and also to impress your minds, and my own, with truths in which we have all so intimate a concern.
The divine spirituality and omnipresence is apprehended by the good man in a peculiar manner. That there is some immaterial substance, and that matter is moved by his active power continually impressed upon it, according to stated laws, is indeed so plain a dictate of reason, that I question not, but the thought influences the minds of some, who have not so much acquaintance with language, as to be able properly to express it: But alas, it easily passes through, as if no way important. It is quite a different thing, to feel, as it were, the presence of an infinitely intélligent, and all-observing Deity, actually surrounding us in all times and places ;
ces; to say from the heart, Oh Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me, so that thou understandest my thoughts afar off: Whither shall I go from thy spirit, or whither shall I flee from thy presence? Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me* ;to feel, as it were, the hand of God, which indeed we may feel, if we duly attend to it, in all the impressions made on our bodily senses, and on the powers of our mind ;-to feel ourselves even now supported by it, and to argue from the constant support of his hand, the never-failing notice of his eye. present thoughts; he knows, even now, all the secrets of my soul, and has always known them; has always observed my conduct in every the minutest particular, and recorded, in permanent characters, the whole history of my life, and of my heart; of this depraved sinful life, of this vain, this treacherous, this rebellious heart."
With this conception of the divine observance are closely and intimately connected new apprehensions of the purity of God, and of his infinite majesty ; views, which mutually assist, and illustrate each other. The irreverence with which the generality of men behave in the presence of God; and the easiness with which they admit the slightest temptation to sin against him, plainly shew what low notions they have of him : But God does, as it were, appear to the eye of a renewed mind, arrayed in his robes of light and majesty ; so that he is ready to cry out, “ I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth theet : I see the eternal, self-existent, self-sufficient God, who sits upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers ; who spreadeth out the heavens as a tent to dwell in, and looks down on the nations as the drop of a bucket, and counts them as the small dust of the * Psal. cxxxix. 1-1.
† Job xlii. 5.
66 He reads my may
balance* : Who would not fear before him ? who would not tremble at his presencet ? who would not revere that God, who is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look upon iniguity! ; who cannot be tempted with evils, but must see it, and hate it, even in all its forms ?”
And such too are the views it has of his almighty power, that the enlightened mind will further add, “A God of almighty power, who could speak a whole world into ruin; undoubtedly he could, for he spoke it into existence; who by one single thought, by one silent volition, eould easily abase the proudest creature in the universe ; must have it in his power to bring me in a moment to the dust of death, and to the fames of hell; to lay me as low in misery, and to hold me as long in it as he should please : This, O my soul, this is the God, against whom such feeble worms as we are daily offending, and whom we madly presume to make our enemy.
This gives the regenerate man a further sense of the patience of God, than ever he had before. Others look round upon the world, and wonder there is so much penal evil in it; but the renewed soul wonders, there is not a thousand times more. When he sees, how The world lieth in wickednessl ; when he observes, how poor impotent mortals are, many of them perhaps, in words blaspheming the God of heaven ; many more of them, most presumptuously violating all the plainest and most important precepts of his law; and most of the rest, living in a perpetual forgetfulness of him, as if he were not at all, or were not so considerable as to be any way worth their notice ; such an one cannot but wonder, that the Almighty Majesty of heaven does not in a moment make himself known by The thunder of his power, and confound all their madness and folly, by crushing the world with its inhabitants into ruin. He often sees the rising sun, and the descending rain, with astonishment that it should be sent down on such a world as ours.
He has also more affecting views than ever of the divine goodness. Most men speculatively believe it ; and they take occasion, even from that belief, to affront it : But a good man views it at once as a delightful, and a venerable thing : He Fears the Lord and his goodness; and while it encourages him, guilty as he is, to repose himself upon it as his hope, it awakens a generous kind of confusion at the thought of ever having offended him, and fills his very soul with indignation at the thought of repeating such offences. Isa, xl. 15, 22. of Jer. v. 22.
Hab. i. 13. Jam. i, 13. 8 3 Joha v. 19. . Hos, iii. 5.
And once more, The regenerate man has quite different notions than beforo, of the intimate access which God has to the spirits of men, and his important power of operating upon them. The greatest part of men indeed consider not, as they ought, how the whole material world perpetually depends upon a divine agency, and is no other than one grand machine, on which the great artificer continually acts, to make it an instrument of mercy to his sensitive and intelligent creatures. But there are yet fewer, who seriously consider, how entirely The hearts of men are in the hands of the Lord, and how much depends on his influences upon them. Nevertheless experience teaches the renewed soul, that he is The God of the spirits of all flesh*, and that he not only views, but manages them as he pleases. “ Lord,” does he say, “ this spirit of mine is shaded with thick darkness, but thou canst illuminate it; it is diseased, but thou eanst cure it; it is Unstable as watert, and lighter than a fea. ther, yet thou canst fix and establish it; and whatever thou wouldest have me to be, and to do, for thy glory, and mine own happiness, thou canst Work in me both to will and to perform itt: So that all I need, to the rectitude and felicity of my nature, is only this, that I may have more of thine inward, vital, operative presence.” It is not easy to conceive, what efficacy this thought has, for the transformation of the soul. But again, 2. New apprehensions are connected with these sentiments in
the regenerate soul, “ concerning itself, and its own state.”
It is surprising to think, how many run through successive years in life, without ever turning the eye of the mind inward, that the soul may survey itself. I speak not of a philosophical survey of the faculties of the mind; which, though indeed in its place it be useful and entertaining, is no more necessary in its refinements to a well-ordered state, than skill in anatomy is to a healthful constitution : But I speak of those views of the mind, which are in the reach of all, how low soever their ges nius, or their education may have been.
As all true happiness is an internal thing, wherever God intends to produce it in the heart of a revolted corrupted crea. ture, and such alas, we all naturally are, he leads it into a view of itself; and shews it, if I may be allowed the expression, a mixture of grandeur and misery, that lies within ; which yet the greatest part of mankind live and die without ever observing. “I am here," does the awakened creature say, “an
Numb. xxvï. 16.
+ Gen. xlix. 4.
+ Phil. ii, 13,
intelligent being ; far superior to this well-wrought frame of flesh and blood, which God has given me for a little while to command, and which I must quickly drop in the dust: I am made capable of determining my own choice, of directing my own actions, of judging concerning the importance of ends, and the propriety of means in subserviency to them: And while I see a vast variety of creatures in different forms beneath me, I see no rank of creatures above me, nothing nobler than man, here on earth where I dwell. Yet I see man,
in the midst of his glory, a feeble dependant mortal creature, who cannot possibly be his own end, nor can of himself alone, by any means command or insure his own happiness.--Every thing tells me, that he is the creature of God; and that it is his greatest honour and felicity, to know, and practically to acknowledge himself to be so: Every thing tells me, that it is most reasonable, that God, who is the great original of man, should also be the end of his being : But have I made him the end of mine? My soul, thou art conscious to thyself, thou hast lived in many instances Without him in the world*. He has given thee, even in the system of thine own nature, and of the visible beings that are round about thee, compared with his providential interposition in the management of them, the imitations of his holy and righteous will : He has expressed these dictates far more plainly in his written word: And when thou comest to examine them, how art thou condemned by them? When thou comest to think of the spirituality and purity of his being, and his law, how shameful does thy temper, and thy life, appear to have been? what an infinite disproportion is there between that, and its perfect rule !And whom, oh my soul, hast thou offended ? whose law hast thou broken? whose grace hast thou despised? The law, the grace of that eternal God, of whom I have now been hearing; who is here present with me, who is even within me, and who sees, oh my heart, more distinctly than thou canst see, all thy guilt, and all its aggravations. Oh Lord, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashest. I have talked of sin, and of the sentence of God against it, as a thing of course: But oh my soul, it is thine own concern! The guilt, the stain of sin is still upon thee; the sentence of God is pronounced against thee; and it must be reversed, or thou art undone for ever.
These irregular habits and dispositions that prevail in thee, must be corrected, or they will prove thy mortal disease, and everlasting torment.-Thou art a poor weak irresa.
* Eph. ü. 12.
Job xlii. 6.