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we, running the way of thy commandments, may obtain thy gracious promises, and be made partakers of thy heavenly treasure."
This renovation, therefore, is to be produced in us by the agency of the Holy Spirit, through the instrumentality of our own endeavours and exertions.
1. And in order to this renovation, it is requisite that every baptized person should cherish a strong and lively sense of his need of this change of heart and life.
A deficiency in this sensibility is a fundamental and most dangerous defect. He who is insensible that there are propensities within him which lead to evil, unless directed and controlled by grace; that his passions and affections must be sanctified, in order that he may love and pursue spiritual objects; and that the fountain of his heart must be purified, in order that holy and virtuous actions may proceed from it; he who is insensible to the necessity of this spiritual renovation, will not make it the object either of desire or pursuit. In what terminate the ideas of religion cherished by many professing Christians? In freedom from gross vices, in an adherence to the laws of justice and honour, in the exercise of benevolence, and in perhaps only an occasional attendance at the worship of the sanctuary; while their affections are engrossed by the world, and their pursuits eagerly and supremely devoted to its pleasures. Sayest thou, professing Christian, that this negative and practical virtue is all that religion requires, all that is necessary to carry thee to heaven? What becomes of the command of thy God-" My son, give me thy heart?" What becomes of the declaration of
the Saviour" If any man will be my disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me?" What becomes of the precepts of inspired apostles-"Be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds"-" Crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts"-" Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth"-" Have your conversation in heaven?" Ah! Christians, deceiving yourselves with this empty form of godliness, what becomes of the fervent supplications addressed to God for you in your baptism-" Grant that the old Adam may be so buried, that the new man may be raised up in him"-"Grant that all sinful affections may die in him, and all things belonging to the Spirit may live and grow in him"-" Grant that he may have strength and power to have victory, and to triumph against the devil, the world, and the flesh?" What are all these but empty sounds, if, as you suppose, religion consists in mere correctness of conduct, neither regulating the heart nor supremely engaging the affections? Fatal delusion! Mark your Christian profession, as enforced in your baptism, "to follow the example of your Saviour Christ, and to be made like unto him;" yes, like unto him, who was holy, harmless, undefiled; "to die unto sin, and to rise again unto righteousness; continually to mortify all your evil and corrupt affections, and daily to proceed in all virtue and godliness of living." And these obligations baptism imposes, because reason and Scripture both forcibly teach, that, destitute of these holy tempers and dispositions, and these heavenly virtues, you cannot be the subjects of the favour of God, nor fitted for the joys of heaven. The truth pronounced by the voice of inspiration, is founded
in the eternal and immutable law of reason"Without holiness no man shall see the Lord."
This renovation, therefore, the adult, who rightly and worthily receives baptism, should make the unceasing object of his prayers and his exertions, that its spirit and its fruits may be displayed in him with increasing vigour. This renovation the unworthy recipient of baptism must be awakened to desire, and with earnestness to seek; he must assail, with strong crying and tears, the mercy-seat of heaven-" Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me: wash me thoroughly from my wickedness, and cleanse me from my sin." For a new heart and a new spirit he should pray-he should labour; or he will be condemned for resisting baptismal grace, and counting unholy the blood of the covenant.
That their affections must be made. holy, that it is their important work to crucify the old man, and utterly abolish the whole body of sin, is the lesson which, with anxious care, should be impressed on those baptized in infancy; as, even before exposed to the temptations of the world, their wayward passions proclaim the power of the enemy within.
Christians, of whatever grade of spiritual attainments, the conviction should never for a moment forsake you, that to be daily renewed by God's Holy Spirit, to grow in grace and in the knowledge of your Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and daily to proceed in all virtue and godliness of living, are the only evidences of the Christian character, the only ground of confidence towards God, the only source of present peace, and the only title to eternal felicity.
2. A deep sense of the necessity of this renovation will lead the baptized Christian, as a mean of obtaining it, to acquire, by pious reading and meditation, correct views of the obligations and privileges of the Christian covenant assumed and conferred in baptism. Until these obligations and privileges are understood and properly estimated, no exertions will be made to discharge the one, and to obtain the other. But when the baptized Christian understands that he is a member of Christ, a child of God, and an heir of heaven, and fully appreciates these glorious titles, that indeed elevate him to a rank little lower than that of the angels; when he understands that these divine privileges are to be the reward only of his victories over the enemies who would wrest them from him-the world, the flesh, and the devil-and of his being endued with heavenly virtues; the powers of his soul will be roused, under the banner and in the strength of his divine Leader, to obtain this triumph, and to acquire these virtues. Yes, Christian parent, this is the first lesson which thou shouldst teach thy child, whom thou hast presented to God in the laver of regeneration. As his faculties open, and his affections expand, seek to occupy them with subjects calculated to afford them full employment and substantial pleasure-the nature and the obligations of that covenant, sealed in the blood of that Saviour who loved him even unto death, whereby, from being a child of wrath, he was made a child of grace.
Baptized Christians, your reflections and meditations must be devout and constant on the obligations and privileges of the baptismal covenant. Why is it that so many, who in baptism were made the
children of light, live as the children of darkness! Why is it that so many, who in baptism were made the heirs of glory, live as if their portion was a perishing world? Why is it that so many, who were marked in baptism as the soldiers and servants of Jesus Christ, forsake this divine Leader for the ranks of that rebellious host which the great adversary is leading to perdition? One principal cause is, their almost utter ignorance, or their inadequate conceptions, of the celestial privileges to which they received a title, and of the duties by which these privileges are to be secured.
Christian, in proportion as, by pious reading and meditation, the duties and the privileges of thy baptism are impressed upon thee, will be the desire and the zeal excited to discharge and to secure them. With greater solicitude and zeal than the richest volume of human science, should the charter of thy immortal hopes be prized and studied. Seek for it in its original lustre in the book of inspiration; behold the divine rays there scattered, concentrated in that office of the church by which you were devoted to God, and which displays, with majestic yet simple and affecting perspicuity, this charter of your hopes; there study your Christian obligations, and learn to prize your Christian privileges; and whenever, according to this inimitable office, you behold a child brought to the Saviour, to be embraced with the arms of his mercy, and to enjoy the everlasting benediction of his heavenly washing, call to mind that you were thus embraced with the arms of the Saviour's mercy, that you received this heavenly washing, and then ask yourself, Shall this washing be in vain? Shall I tear myself from these arms of mercy?