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2. Though the new heart receives no addition to the intellectual faculty, yet this faculty is employed in a new manner.
The sinner, by false reasoning, often perverts the doctrines of religion to his encouragement in sin, or to the excuse of his misconduct. The convert enquires, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” He prays,
“What I know not, teach thou me." He searches God's word, that he may find his duty, learn the truth, know himself, rectify his mistakes, and strengthen his good resolutions.
The sinner applies his reason chiefly to the purposes of the present life. The convert directs his intellectual powers to the great work of his salvation. He has a new object, and his thoughts run very much in a new channel.
3. In the new heart there is a sensibility of conscience or habitual tenderness with respect to duty, and a watchful fear with respect to sin.
The sinner, in his former state of security and indolence, felt little remorse for his transgressions, and little concern about the consequences of them. Conscience, if by any means it was awakened, easily sunk down again to its wonted rest and quiet
It seldom reproved him for his sins, or warned him of his danger. It overlooked smaller iniquities. It started only at more gross enormities, and these it palliated and excused. Now it is afraid of sin in every form, and in its remotest appearance. It trembles at God's word, and stands in awe of his judgments. It is quick to discern, and severe to condemn iniquity. It dictates with authority and commands with power.
These properties of the new heart are comprehended in the heart of flesh, which is opposed to the heart of stone.
4. In the new heart there is a new choice and intention.
The chief end, which the sinner has in view, is temporal convenience, pleasure and interest. The convert has a purpose and design superior to these. His governing aim is to obtain the approbation and secure the favour of God. He looks more at things future and unseen, than at things present and sensible.
In his former state, he chose the interests of the world for his happiness, the customs of the world for his rule, and the men of
the world for his companions. Now he chooses God for his portion, Jesus Christ for his Saviour, the Divine Spirit for his helper, the word of God for his guide, heaven for his home, and them who fear God for his friends. Once his enquiry was, “Who will shew me any good ?" Now he prays, “Lord lift up the light of thy countenance upon me.”
5. His affections operate in a new manner, and with regard to different objects.
Worldly things were once the great objects of his desires; now he intreats God's favour with his whole heart. Nothing used to alarm his fears like poverty, reproach, or adversity : now he is far more afraid of sin and the Divine displeasure. Temporal calamities and disappointments formerly awakened the most painful anxiety: but his own sins and follies are now his greatest trouble. Indignities and affronts from men were once the only incentives to anger : but now his indignation turns on himself, for the injuries he has done to God, his Saviour, and his soul. He sees reason to be displeased with none so much as himself, because he has suffered from no man's sins so much as his own. Spiritual things are now the chief springs of his joy. The victories which he gains over sin and the world, the hopes of a heavenly inheritance, and the foretastes of future happiness, give him more satisfaction than the greatest earthly possessions.
6. He who is renewed in the spirit of his mind, walks in newness of life.
The actual turning from sin to holiness will be more or less observable, according to the manner of his former life. If he has lived in the open indulgence of vice, or neglect of duty, his conversion will be visible. If he has lived in the regular performance of external duties, the alteration will be, indeed, less remarkable; but still it will be real. He now acts from new principles, with new zeal, with growing constancy, and with respect to all God's commandments.
Having illustrated the nature of the change expressed by a new heart, we proceed,
II. To consider the importance of it.
This is supposed in the solemn manner, in which it is promised; "A new heart will I give you,” as well as in the blessings annex
ed to it, "I will put my spirit within you—and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.”
This new heart is the recovery of our nature from its depravity and corruption, to the image and likeness of God himself. “The new man is created after God, in righteousness and true holiness."
It prepares and disposes us to honour God, and promote the happiness of mankind. It raises us above those low and unworthy ends, which govern the corrupt and vicious part of the world: It qualifies us for great and good designs, and prompts us to pursue them with constancy and zeal.
It is a great security against temptations, as it excludes the dominion of fleshly lusts which war against the soul, and admits the stated residence of the Divine Spirit, who dwells with the humble and contrite, and helps their infirmities. Where God gives a new heart, there he puts his own Spirit; and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
This renewal of the heart renders us objects of God's approbation and complacence. · He is of purer eyes than to behold evil; but he takes pleasure in them who fear him, and his countenance beholds the upright.
The subjects of this spiritual change find new sources of pleasure and enjoyment. They look with aversion on some, and with , contempt on other of their former entertainments. They are convinced, that they then had no fruit in the things, whereof they are now ashamed. They experience joys, which strangers intermeddle not with. They delight in communion with God-in contemplating his perfections and works—in meditating on his great and precious promises, and the wonders of redeeming love in attending on his worship and ordinances—and in anticipating, by hope, the good things hidden within the veil. They have pleasure in the order and harmony of their affections in the practice of duty--in the consciousness of their sincerity, and in the peace of their minds. “Great peace have they who love God's law, and nothing shall offend them."
This new heart is a necessary qualification for heaven. “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” A man under the dominion of an impure and corrupt heart, has no relish for the enter
tainments, and no capacity for the employments of the world of glory and love. His own temper subjects him to misery, in whatever place he may be. “The pure in heart," and they only, “shall see God.” “Into his presence nothing enters that defiles or works abomination." Hence our Saviour says, "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Great and important then is the change under consideration. But great as it is, the text teaches us, III. That it is attainable. "A new heart will I give you." It
“ follows in the next verse, "My Spirit will I put within you, and
“ cause you to walk in my statutes.'
We cannot understand this as an absolute promise, that all the people returning from Babylon should have a new heart put within them; for, in this unqualified sense, the promise was never performed. Neither are we to suppose, that the promise was of such a nature, as to supersede the necessity of means on their part, for obtaining this new heart. For what is here promised as a blessing, is elsewhere required as a duty. “Cast away from you all your transgressions, and make you a new heart and a new spirit, for why will ye die, O house of Israel ? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth ; wherefore turn yourselves and live ye.” But the import of it must be, that God would grant them such external means, and such internal influences, as were proper, on his part, to be given; and that, in the due improvement of, and concurrence with these means and influences, they should have a new heart and a new spirit.
This is God's gift. The means themselves, the opportunity to enjoy them, the excitement to apply them, the success which attends them, are from him. But still, converts are said to make themselves a new heart, as this is ordinarily given in consequence of their applying the stated means of grace, and improving the common influences of the Spirit.
Whatever connection there is between the endeavours of sinners and their conversion to holiness, it is a connection founded, not in their desert, but in God's abundant grace. And those convictions of sin, apprehensions of the importance of religion and desires of a new heart, which excite their endeavors, and animate their prayers, are from him, from whom comes every good gift. In their corrupt and depraved state, they are not sufficient to think any thing as of themselves, but their sufficiency is of God. But then, it should be thankfully remembered, that where God sends his word, he sends his Spirit to accompany it; and that there is an influence of the Spirit common to those, who enjoy the word. When the gospel is called a ministration of the Spirit, and the Spirit is said to be ministered in the hearing of faith—when Christ is said to stand at men's door and knock, that they may hear his voice and open the door-when the Spirit is said to strive with sinners, in order to their conversion—when God promises the people whom he has taken into his covenant, that he will pour his Spirit on their seed and his blessing on their offspring, and that his Spirit which is upon them, and his words which he has put in their mouths, shall not depart from them nor from their seed when sinners are reproved for having always resisted the Holy Ghost, and for having rebelled and vexed the Spirit of God—when men are cautioned not to grieve and quench the Spirit—when they who oppose the gospel are said to do despite to the Spirit; it is manifestly supposed and implied, that there is a common and promiscuous agency of the Spirit, which attends the publication of God's word, and which is, in some degree, afforded to all who attend on the dispensation of the word; and that, in consequence of this agency, of which they are the subjects, they are capable of such a use of appointed means, as may, through the farther work of the Spirit, issue in their real conversion.
It is often asked, Whether the unregenerate can do any thing of themselves, and whether any thing is expected, or required of them. But the answer is, They who enjoy the gospel are not left to themselves.
Suppose a man under the power of vicious propensities and habits, a stranger to gospel instructions and motives, and destitute of all divine influence; and then you will have the idea of a sinner, properly left to himself
. But this is not your case. You have the gospel; and where this comes, there is an influence of the Spirit which attends it. You have been, and, it may be hoped, you still
, • are the subjects of its induence. With these means and excite