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NEW." Do you wonder therefore, my brethren, that we are required to “put off the old man with his “ deeds; and to put on the new man;" to " walk
in NEWNESS of life;" to serve him in the NEW“Ness of the Spirit, and not in the oldness of the let. "ter?” that we are assured that neither circumcision is availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a NEW < creature ?" and “ that if any man be in Christ, he " is a new creature;” that “old things are passed away, and behold all things are become NEW ?”
Thirdly, He gives “them an heart of Flesh.” It was a heart of “ stone” before. Take a stone, feel it, how cold! Strike it, it resists the blow. Lay upou it a burden, it feels no pressure. Apply a seal, it re. ceives no impression. Such were your hearts once, thus cold, impenetrable, 'senseless, unyielding, and unsusceptible. What a mercy is it to have this curse removed, and to have “ hearts of flesh !” to be able to feel; to feel spiritually; to be alive to “the powers of the " world to come !" to be no longer insensible to divine and heavenly things, when they come in contact with us! And remember, christians, this holy sensibility is evidenced, not only by your pleasing emotions, but also by your distressing ones. Your tears of sorrow indicate sensation, as well as your tears of joy. Is not pain a proof of feeling? Yes, the christian's heart is “ an heart of Aesh.” Bring it to the word of God, it feels. “My heart," says David, “standeth in awe of “thy word.” He « trembles at thy word,” says Isaiah. He opens it with reverence; he bows to its authority; he often compares himself with its demands; he reads the character and doom of apostates, and turns pale ; he dreads its threatenings, and longs for an interest in its promises ! O how many feelings will one sermon set in motion !
Bring it to sin, it feels. A tender conscience, like the eye, is offended with a mote. A dead corpse is unaffected with the deepest wound; the point of a needle makes the living body to writhe. While others do not groan, though charged with heinous crimes, the christian complains even of infirmities, of wandering thoughts, of earthly affections; and a look from his offended Lord, will make him “ go out and weep « bitterly,"
Bring it to the dispensations of Providence, it feels.
My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid “ of thy righteous judgements.” Or does he prosper? He is no stranger to a fear, lest “ his table should be
come a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling block, and “ a recompence unto'him."
Bring it to the divine glory, it feels. " Rivers of * waters run down mine eyes, because men keep not “thy law."
Bring it to the concerns of others, it feels. weeps with them that weep. He considers them that are in adversity, as bound with them."
6 Who “ is weak, and he is not weak? who is offended, " and he burns not ?" For a tender heart is always accompanied with a tender hand, and a tender tongue. Such is the disposition which is formed in all the subjects of divine grace; and why is it produced ? To enable us to observe the whole revealed will of God, in a course of cheerful and active obedience.
III. Brings us to observe the PRACTICĘ which re. ligion demands : “ That they may walk in my STAT»
UTES, and keep mine ORDINANCes, and to them.” It is strange, that a system of religion should be ever advanced, which if it comprehend obedience and good works at all, places them in a very inferior situation; seems always afraid to bring them forward ; dares not hold them forth as the end and peşfection of the whole, to which every thing else leads, and in which every thing else is to terminate ; or insist on their being so essentially necessary, that without them all our pret ensions to godliness are vain. But in this decisive manner does he speak of them, “who came to bear wit"ness to the truth.” “Not every one that saith unto
me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of “ heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father " who is in heaven." “ If ye know these things, happy if ye do them.”
“ He that hath my come “ mandments, and KEEPETH them,' HE it is that love "
But is it not equally absurd to expect this practice where there is nothing to secure it? or to suppose that a man's life will be in perpetual contradiction to all his bias and inclinations ! “Do men gather grapes of " thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree “ bringeth forth good fruit ; but a corrupt tree bring“eth forth evil fruit. A good tree CANNOT bring “ forth evil fruit : neither can a corrupt tree bring forth “good fruit.” In order, therefore, to do justice to this part of our subject, I would state two femarks, which We hope you will always remember and unite. First, principle must precede practice. Secondly, practice must follow principle.
First, Observe the order in which these things are arranged. “I will give them one heart, and I wilt “ 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.” Thus principle precedes practice, and prepares for it. And here I admire the plan of the gospel ; to make the fruit good, it makes the tree so; to cleanse the stream, it purifies the fountain ; it renews the nature, and the life becomes holy of course. What is the religion of too many ? They are like machines impelled by force; they are influenced only by external considerations. Their hearts are not engaged. Hence in every religious exercise they perform a task. They would love God much better, if he would excuse them from the hateful obligation. They put off these duties as long as possible, resort to them with reluctance, adjust the measure with a niggardly grudge, and are glad of any excuse for neglect. While labouring at the drudgery, they entertain hard thoughts of the cruel Taskmaster, who can impose such severities upon them, and sigh inwardly “ when will the sabbath be over ?” When shall we unbend from these spiritual restraints, and feel ourselves at liberty in the world? Can this be religion? Is there any thing in this, suitable to the nature of God, “ who is a Spirit ?" or to the demands of God, who cries, My son, give me thine heart ;" “ serve the “ Lord with gladness, and come before his presence “ with singing ?” Behold a man hungry, he needs no argument to induce him to eat. See that mother, she needs no motive to determine her to cherish her dar,
ling babe ; nature impels. The obedience of the chriftian is natural, and hence it is pleasant and invariable ; “ he runs and is not weary, he walks and is not faint."
Secondly, It is equally true that practice must follow principle. The one is the necessary CONSEQUENCE of the other. This influence will operate ; if it be fire, it will burn; if it be leaven, it will pervade and assimilate; if it be in us “a well of water," it will “ spring up into everlasting life.” The one is the proper EVIDENCE of the other.
The cause is ascertained by the effect. It is not necessary to lay open the body of a tree, to determine by the grain, to which class it belongs : there is an easier, and a surer mode of judging; "the tree is known by its fruits.” Some, while leading very indifferent lives, tell us their hearts are good ; but goodness in the heart will appear in the life; a good conscience will always be accompanied with a good conversation ; and though faith justifies the soul, works justify faith-shew me thy “ faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith “ by my works.” The one is the chief RECOMM\NDATION of the other. It is by practice only you can shew the value of principle. Your views and feelings are beyond the reach of others ; your experience is invisible ; but it is otherwise with your actions ; these come under their observation ; and they can form an estimate of your religion, by the excellency of its influence. And when your lives correspond with your profession ; when you are “ followers of God as dear “ children;" when you are humble in prosperity ; cheerful in adversity ; ready to forgive; willing to bear one another's burdens; attentive to the duties of