Imatges de pàgina



ROMANS xii. 2.

Be ye

transformed by the renewing of your mind.

THIS is the great object to which the Christian is to devote his exertions. His transformation into that purity and goodness which human nature lost at the fall, is indispensable to his enjoyment of the favour of God and the happiness of heaven. The renovation of the soul consists in an understanding enlightened, in a will rectified, in affections purified and fixed on heavenly things; it consists in the possession of all those virtues which reason approves and admires, but which the grace of Jesus Christ alone can confer. Love to God, the source of all perfection; reliance on his goodness and his power; gratitude for his mercies; submission to his dispensations; a steadfast and uniform desire to obey, in all things, his will; reverence, adoration, hope, fear, trust, love, towards our Maker, Governor, Benefactor, Saviour, Judge; justice, mercy, charity, in our intercourse with our fellowmen; sobriety, temperance, purity, in reference to ourselves these are the virtues which are essential to his welfare and happiness in his social relations, which advance him to a fellowship with saints and angels, which secure to him the favour of his God,

and the enjoyment of a felicity endless and infinitely exalted. They are fruits of the Divine Spirit aiding and sanctifying man's endeavours, and constitute that renewing of the Holy Ghost, that spiritual renovation which the Gospel represents as the very essence of the Christian character, and which baptism sets forth, and by the most powerful aids and motives enforces.

This spiritual renovation, then-essential to the perfection and happiness of man in this life, and in that life which will have no end; to which he is called by the command of God, by the voice of his Saviour, by the monitions and the strivings of the Holy Spirit; in the attainment of which alone he can fulfil the engagements, secure the inestimable privileges of the baptismal covenant, and escape the condemnation of contemning the blood and resisting the grace of a Saviour-is the object to which all the thoughts, desires, and exertions of the Christian should ultimately be directed.

A change so radical and important is certainly above human power: it is the work of the Divine Spirit. It is not, however, to be attained but by the diligent application of the faculties of the mind in the use of means. As the first step in attaining this renovation, we must cherish a strong and lively sense of our need of it. We shall then be excited to acquire, by pious reading and meditation, correct views of the obligations and privileges of the Christian covenant. To render these means effectual, they must be accompanied by earnest prayer to God for the continued and increasing aids of that Holy Spirit, a title to which was conferred in baptism. By the aids of this Spirit we must exercise repentance and faith-repentance, terminating in

forsaking sin-faith, operating in supreme reliance on Christ's merits, and in holy obedience to his laws.

These are some of the means of obtaining spiritual renovation, and they were urged in a preceding discourse. I proceed now to explain other important and essential means of attaining the same end.

6. The ordinance of confirmation, which is especially appointed and designed to effect this spiritual renovation.

This ordinance operates as a mean of renovation, by the moral effects which it is calculated to produce, and the positive grace which it conveys.

Confirmation requires the baptized Christian to review his baptismal covenant; to understand and deeply to feel the obligation of its holy requisitions; to discern and to apply its powerful aids; to realize with lively solicitude and awe its momentous sanctions. It requires him to exercise genuine repentance and lively faith; to humble himself under a sense of his natural infirmity and corruption; to acknowledge his actual transgressions, his violations of his baptismal vows, and with sincere contrition to implore forgiveness. It requires him with holy purpose of heart to renew these vows; to profess his allegiance and faith in his God, his Maker, his Redeemer, and Sanctifier; to renounce the temptations of the great adversary, the corrupting pomps and vanities of a wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh.

These exercises and resolutions which are required in confirmation, most powerfully tend to fix the sentiments of piety in the soul, and to make the life of the Christian conformable to his holy profession.

But confirmation operates as a renewing and sanctifying ordinance, by the divine grace which for this purpose it conveys. "Then laid they their hands on them," it is recorded of the apostles, "and they," converts who had been regenerated in baptism, "received the Holy Ghost;" not merely his miraculous gifts-for no reason can be given why this dispensation of the Holy Ghost should in this instance be confined to his miraculous giftsbut those moral graces by which all unholy affections are made to die in the Christian, and all things belonging to the Spirit live and grow in him. In the kingdom of nature, its divine Author produces the most powerful effects by the most simple causes; why should it then be a subject of surprise that, in the kingdom of grace, the most important spiritual blessings should be conveyed by the most humble instruments?

When the ordinance of confirmation is not accompanied with this renewing and sanctifying energy, we must impute this, not to the insufficiency of the ordinance, but to the defect of qualifications in those who receive it. Let the baptized person come to this holy rite deeply impressed with his baptismal engagements, sincerely resolving, in the strength of God, to fulfil them, and earnestly imploring that strength without which he can do nothing, and he will find that he will be strengthened by the Holy Ghost in the inner man; and God will increase in him the manifold gifts of grace, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and ghostly strength, the spirit of knowledge and true godliness, and the spirit of holy fear.

7. But in the great work which baptism imposes VOL. II.


on the Christian, of becoming a new creature in Christ Jesus, a most powerful and essential mean is prayer, public and private.

It is a truth founded in the reason and nature of things, that no man can live in the habitual exercise of prayer, and at the same time in the habitual commission of sin. Transient devotions and occasional sallies of confession and supplication, may consist with a careless, a sinful, and even a profligate life; but it is morally impossible that a man should possess the spirit of true devotion, and yet live in habitual forgetfulness of God and transgression of his laws. It is morally impossible that he should daily and habitually contemplate and adore God as the greatest and best of beings, and yet neither fear the power nor love the goodness of him who is able to save and to destroy. It is morally impossible that he should prostrate himself before his insulted Sovereign, his abused Benefactor, his incensed Judge, and in bitterness of spirit confess his sins, and in fervour of soul supplicate mercy; and habitually rise from the footstool of the Divine Majesty to the commission of the very sins which he has confessed, to the renewal of the very guilt for which he has implored pardon, and to the reiterated insult, abuse, and provocation of the Sovereign, the Benefactor, the Judge before whom he has been prostrate. It is morally impossible (the supposition strikes one with a degree of horror) that a man should feel and acknowledge himself a sinner, should deprecate the wrath of Jehovah, and present, as the powerful and effectual plea for his pardon, the precious blood and intercession of the Son of God; and habitually crucify afresh, by his sins, this Saviour whose merits he

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