This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.
WHEREIN SAINTS AND SINNERS DIFFER.
(15.) The saints overcome Satan.
This is expressly taught in the scriptures. "I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father," 1 John ii. 13. The wicked are characterized as the "children of the devil;" "as led by him captive at his will;" as being "the subjects of Satan, the god of this world," and as having Satan ruling in their hearts.
But the saints are represented as being set at liberty from his power, as being delivered, not from his temptations, but actually saved from his dominion. The difference between the saint and the sinner, in this respect, is represented in the scriptures as consisting, not in the fact that sinners are tempted, while saints are not, but in this, that while Satan tempts both the saint and the sinner, he actually overcomes the sinner and the deceived professor, and leads him captive at his will. The true saint, through faith and strength in Christ, overcomes, and is more than a conqueror. The saint, through Christ, triumphs, while the sinner yields to his infernal influence, and is bound fast in his infernal chain.
(16.) The true saint denies himself. Self-denial must be his characteristic, just for the reason that regeneration implies this. Regeneration, as we have seen, consists in turning away the heart or will from the supreme choice of self-gratification, to a choice of the highest well-being of God and of the universe. This is denying self. This is abandoning self-indulgence, and pursuing or committing the will, and the whole being to an opposite end. This is the dethroning of self, and the enthroning of God in the heart. Self-denial does not consist, as some seem to imagine, in acts of outward austerity, in an ascetic and penance-doing course of starvation, and mere legal and outward retrenchment, in wearing plain clothes and using plain language, or in wearing a coat with one button, and in similar acts of "will worship and voluntary humility, and neglecting the body;" but self-denial consists in the actual and total renunciation of selfishness in the heart. It consists in ceasing wholly to live for self, and can be exercised just as truly upon a throne, surrounded with the paraphernalia of royalty, as in a cottage of logs, or as in rags, and in caves and dens of the earth. The king upon his throne may live and reign to please himself. He may surround himself with all that can minister to his pleasure, his ambition, his pride, his lusts, and his power. He may live to and for himself. Self-pleasing, self-gratification, self-aggrandizement, may be the end for which he lives. This is selfishness. But he may also live and reign for God, and for his people. He may be just as really self-denying on his throne, and surrounded by the trappings of state and of royalty, as any person in any other station of life. That is, he may be as really devoted to God, and render this as a service to God, as well as anything else. No doubt his temptation is great: but, nevertheless, he may be perfectly self-denying in all this. He may not do what he does for his own sake, nor be what he is, nor possess what he possesses for his own sake, but, accommodating his state and equipage to his relations, he may be as truly self-denying as others in the humbler walks of life. This is not an impossible, though, in all probability, a rare case. A man may as truly be rich for God as poor for him, if his relations and circumstances make it essential to his highest usefulness that he should possess a large capital. He is in the way of great temptation; but if this is plainly his duty, and submitted to for God and the world, he may have grace to be entirely self-denying in these circumstances, and all the more commendable, for standing fast under these circumstances. So a poor man may be poor from principle, or from necessity. He may be submissive and happy in his poverty. He may deny himself even the comforts of life, and do all this to promote the good of being, or he may do it to promote his own interest, temporal or eternal, to secure a reputation for piety, to appease a morbid conscience, to appease his fears, or to secure the favour of God. In all things he may be selfish. He may be happy in this, because it may be real self-denial; or he may be murmuring at his poverty, may complain, and be envious at others who are not poor. He may be censorious, and think everybody proud and selfish who dresses better, or possesses a better house or equipage than he does. He may set up his views as a standard, and denounce as proud and selfish all who do not square their lives by his rule. This is selfishness, and these manifestations demonstrate the fact. A man may forego the use of a coat, or a cloak, or a horse, or a carriage, or any and every comfort and convenience of life. And all this may proceed from either a benevolent or a selfish state of mind. If it be benevolence and true self-denial, it will be cheerfully and happily submitted to, without murmuring and repining, without censoriousness, and without envy towards others, without insisting that others shall do and be, just what and as he is. He will allow the judge his ermine, the king his robes of state, and the merchant his capital, and the husbandman his fields and his flocks, and will see the reasonableness and propriety of all this.
But if it be selfishness and the spirit of self-gratification instead of self-denial, he will be ascetic, caustic, sour, ill-natured, unhappy, severe, censorious, envious, and disposed to complain of, and pick at the extravagance and self-indulgence of others.
The true saint, in whatever relation of life, is truly self-denying. Whether on a throne, or on the dunghill, he neither lives, nor moves, nor breathes, nor eats, nor drinks, nor has his being for himself. Self is dethroned. God is enthroned in his heart. He lives to please God, and not to please himself. And whether he wears the crown and the purple, the ermine of the judge, or the gown of the counsellor, whether he cultivates the field or occupies the pulpit, whether he is engaged in merchandize, or whether he opens the ditch or plies a handicraft, whether in affluence or poverty, it matters not how circumstanced or how employed, as certainly as he is a true saint, just so certainly does he not live to or for himself. Of this he is as conscious as he is of living at all. He may be mistaken by others, and selfish ones may suppose him to be actuated by selfishness as they are; but in this they are deceived. The true saint will be sure to be found self-denying, when observed by the spirit of love, and judged by the law of love. Love would readily perceive, that those things which a censorious and selfish spirit ascribe to selfishness are to be accounted for in another way; that they are really consistent with, and indeed instances of self-denial. The spirit of self-pleasing and of accommodating ourselves to our circumstances and relations for benevolent reasons, may by a candid mind be generally readily distinguished from each other. The selfish will naturally confound them and stumble at them, simply because they have only the experience of selfishness, and judge others by themselves. A truly self-denying mind will naturally also judge others by itself, in such a sense as to take it for granted, that others are self-denying, unless the manifest indications strongly urge to an opposite opinion.
A man of truth is not wont to suspect others of lying, without strong evidence of the fact, and then, although he may be sure that he tells a falsehood, the man of truth is ready rather to ascribe the falsehood to mistake, than to call it a lie. So the truly benevolent man is not wont to suspect others of selfishness without strong evidence. Nor will the truly self-denying man readily suspect his brother of selfishness, even in things that, prima facie, have that appearance. He will rather naturally infer, that his health, or circumstances, or something consistent with self-denial accounts for what he does.
Especially does the true saint deny his appetites and passions. His artificial appetites he denies absolutely, whenever his attention is called to the fact and the nature of the indulgence. The Christian is such just because he has become the master of his appetites and passions, has denied them, and consecrated himself to God. The sinner is a sinner just because his appetites and passions and the impulses of his desires are his masters, and he bows down to them, and serves them. They are his masters, instead of his servants, as they are made to be. He is consecrated to them and not to God. But the saint has ceased to live to gratify his lusts. Has he been a drunkard, a rake, a tobacco user? has he been in self-indulgent habits of any kind; he is reformed: old things are past away, and behold all things are become new. Has he still any habit the character of which he has either mistaken or not considered; such as smoking, chewing, or snuffing tobacco, using injurious stimulants of any kind, high and unwholesome living, extravagant dressing, or equipage, retiring late at night and rising late in the morning, eating too much, or between meals, or in short, has there been any form of self-indulgence about him whatever? only let his attention be called to it, he will listen with candour, be convinced by reasonable evidence, and renounce his evil habits without conferring with flesh and blood. All this is implied in regeneration, and must follow from its very nature. This also the Bible everywhere affirms to be true of the saints. "They have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts." It should be for ever remembered, that a self-indulgent Christian is a contradiction. Self-indulgence and Christianity are terms of opposition. The states of mind designated by these two words are opposite states of mind. This is precisely the difference between a saint and a sinner, that the saint is self-denying, and the sinner self-indulgent. The saint is the lord and master of all his appetites and passions. He rules them, and not they him. Whether he eats or drinks, or whatever he does, he does all for God and not to gratify himself. The sinner is the slave of his appetites and passions. It is not in his heart to deny them. Some appetite or propensity always rules over him. He complains that he cannot abandon certain indulgences. He is in bondage to his own lusts, and led captive by them. Seest thou then a self-indulgent professor of religion? If he be really so, imagine not that you have found a Christian, but know assuredly, that you behold a hypocrite; for this is as certain as that he is alive. The true saint does not complain that he cannot give up any self-indulgent habit whatever. He can, and must, and does, if he be truly regenerate, give up and forsake every species of mere self-indulgence. Grace has obtained for him a victory; and instead of his complaining that he cannot conquer his propensities, he knows that he is more than a conqueror through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(17.) The sinner does not deny himself. He may not gratify all his desires, because the desires are often contradictory, and he must deny one for the sake of indulging another. Avarice may be so strong as to forbid his indulging in extravagance in eating, drinking, dressing, or equipage. His love of reputation may be so strong as to prevent his engaging in anything disgraceful, and so on. But self-indulgence is his law notwithstanding. The fear of hell, or his desire to be saved, may forbid his outward indulgence in any known sin. But still he lives, and moves, and has his being only for the sake of indulging himself. He may be a miser, and starve and freeze himself, and deny himself the necessaries of life, yet self-indulgence is his law. One propensity may lord it over and starve the rest; but it is only self-indulgence after all. The nun may take the veil; the monk may retire to the cloister; the miser take his rags; the harlot seek the brothel; the debauchee his indulgences; the king his throne; the priest his desk; all for the same ultimate reason, to wit, to gratify self, to indulge each one his reigning lust. But in every possible case every sinner, whatever may be his station, his habits or pursuits, is self-indulgent, and only self-indulgent, and that continually. Some lusts he may and must control, as they may be inconsistent with others. But others he knows, and it will be seen that he does not control. He is a slave. He bows down to his lusts and serves them. He is enslaved by his propensities, so that he cannot overcome them. This demonstrates that he is a sinner and unregenerate, whatever his station and profession may be. One who cannot, because he will not, conquer himself and his lusts; this is the definition of an unregenerate sinner. He is one over whom some form of desire, or lust, or appetite, or passion has dominion. He cannot, or rather will not, overcome it. This one is just as certainly in sin, as that sin is sin. Do you hear that professor of religion? He says he knows that he ought to give up such a lust or habit, but he cannot give it up. Why, in thus saying, he gives higher evidence of being an unregenerate sinner or a loathsome backslider, than if he should take his oath of it. O that it were known and constantly borne in mind, what regeneration is! How many thousands of deceived professors would it undeceive! A self-indulgent regenerate soul is a perfect contradiction, as much so as to speak of a disinterestedly benevolent selfishness, or of a self-indulgent self-denial, or an unregenerate regeneration, a sinful holiness, or a holy sinfulness. These things are eternal and necessary opposites. They never do nor can, by any possibility, be reconciled, or dwell together in the same heart. With the sinner or selfish professor, self-denial is a theory, an opinion, an article of faith. But he knows if he will but admit the conviction, that he does not live for God; that he does not eat and drink, and dress, and sleep, and wake, and do whatever he does--for God. He knows he ought to do so, and hopes he does in some measure, but he knows all the while that the preponderance of his life is self-indulgent. When this is so, nothing but infatuation can cause him to cling to his delusion.
(18.) The truly regenerate soul overcomes sin.
Let the Bible be heard upon this subject. "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him."--1 John ii. 3, 4. "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you; he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin, is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil; whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother."--1 John iii. 3-10. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God, and every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."--1 John v. 1-4.
These passages, understood and pressed to the letter, would not only teach, that all regenerate souls overcome and live without sin, but also that sin is impossible to them. This last circumstance, as well as other parts of Scripture, forbid us to press this strong language to the letter. But this much must be understood and admitted, that to overcome sin is the rule with every one who is born of God, and that sin is only the exception; that the regenerate habitually live without sin, and fall into sin only at intervals, so few and far between, that in strong language it may be said in truth they do not sin. This is surely the least which can be meant by the spirit of these texts, not to press them to the letter. And this is precisely consistent with many other passages of Scripture, several of which I have quoted; such as these:-- "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."--2 Cor. v. 17. "For in Jesus Christ, neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love."--Gal. v. 6. "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature."--Gal. vi. 15. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."--Rom. viii. 1-4. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is free from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him; knowing that Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace."--Rom. vi. 1-14.
There is not a greater heresy and a more dangerous dogma, than that true Christians actually live a great majority of their days in sin. Such an opinion is in palpable contradiction of the Bible, and absurd in principle. Many persons seem to have the idea, and this idea is often dropped, directly or indirectly implied from the pulpit, that truly regenerate souls may, and do often live mostly in sin; that they live by far the greater part of their time in a backslidden state, so far at least as their heart is concerned; that they seldom or never truly and fully obey God, and live up to their duty. Now such representations are not only flatly contrary to the Bible, but they are a greater snare and stumbling-block than universalism, or almost any form of heresy that can be named. The fact is, if God is true, and the Bible is true, the truly regenerate soul has overcome the world, the flesh, and Satan, and sin, and is a conqueror, and more than a conqueror. He triumphs over temptation as a general thing, and the triumphs of temptation over him are so far between, that it is said of him in the living oracles, that he does not, cannot sin. He is not a sinner, but a saint. He is sanctified; a holy person; a child and son of God. If at any time he is overcome, it is only to rise again, and soon return like the weeping prodigal. "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand."--Psalm xxxvii. 23, 24.
I know that it is natural and common to appeal to experience and observation, in support of the dogma I am opposing. But how infinitely dangerous and wicked this is! What! appeal to supposed facts in history and Christian experience, to confront and withstand the express assertions of inspiration? When God expressly tells us who are Christians, and what is true of them, does it become us to turn round and say, Nay, Lord, for we and our neighbours are Christians, and this is not true of us. Who does not see the guilt and danger of this? And yet it seems to be common for professors of religion tacitly to assume, if not openly to avow, that true Christians may and do live, for the greater part of their lives, in sin.
This persuasion seems to be strengthened by the supposed fact, that David and Solomon lived a greater part of their time in sin. But this is an unwarrantable assumption. The psalms of David, taking their subject, and spirit, and dates into view, as well as many other considerations, render it evident, that he was a highly spiritual man, and that his backslidings were few and far between, and of but short duration.
The Proverbs, the Song and the Ecclesiastes of Solomon, are sufficient proof, that most of his days were not spent in sin. Some have supposed that, inasmuch as the high places were not removed, and that idolatry was openly practised under a great part of his reign, that therefore he must all this time have been away from God. But this may be accounted for if we consider, that the high places and idolatry continued through the reigns of some of the pious kings who succeeded him, doubtless for the reason, that neither he nor they had political power and influence enough to suppress it. The book of Ecclesiastes gives, on the face of it, the highest evidence of having been written after his return from a season of backsliding and scepticism, for very much of it is only a statement of his sceptical views at that time. But really there is no sufficient proof that Solomon, who was manifestly a type of Christ, lived a majority, or anything like a majority, of his days in sin.
But whatever may have been true of Solomon, and of the saints of those comparatively dark days, the New Testament has settled the question, that now, under the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, whoever is born of God doth not commit sin. The passages that I have quoted must settle this point. The sixth and eighth of Romans is the experience of the regenerate soul.
In considering the attributes of benevolence, I have shown, that stability is one of its attributes, to which I would here refer the reader (Lecture XXII. 24). In respect to the philosophy of Christians overcoming sin, I would observe, that the Bible assures us, that whosoever is born of God does not, cannot sin, because his seed remaineth in him, that is, God's seed remaineth in him. "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." In 1 Peter i. 23, we are informed, that this seed is "the word of God." "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." God has begotten him (for so the word should be rendered in 1 John iii. 9.) by his word, and his seed remaineth in him. The truth that overcame his will, and subdued or regenerated him, remains in him, in such a sense, that it is said he cannot sin. It is so lodged in his memory, and so pressed upon him by the indwelling Spirit of Christ, as to secure his habitual obedience; and he is only sometimes overcome by force of strong temptation, when, for the time, his attention is drawn away from the truth or seed of God, which after all is lodged within him. It has a permanent lodgement in his memory, although it may not be attended to in some moments of strong temptation. Now, whatever the philosophy of this fact may be, it is a declared fact of inspiration that "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." The connection in which these words are found, as well as other parts of scripture, shows that this must respect the general character of regenerate souls; that having been subdued by the word and the Spirit of God, and the seed remaining in them, they cannot consent to live in sin; that they love God and hate sin so much by virtue of their new and heavenly birth, that they will not sin, unless it may possibly be, that by force of great temptation they may fall into occasional sins, and those so seldom, that it can be said in general language that they do not, cannot sin.
(19.) The sinner and the deceived professor is the slave of sin. The seventh of Romans is his experience in his best estate. When he has the most hope of himself, and others have the most hope of his good estate, he goes no further than to make and break resolutions. His life is but a death in sin. He has not the victory. He sees the right, but does it not. Sin is his master, to whom he yields himself a servant to obey. He only tries, as he says, to forsake sin, but does not in fact forsake it, in his heart. And yet, because he is convicted, and has desires, and forms resolutions of amendment, he hopes he is regenerated. O, what a horrible delusion! Stop short with conviction, with the hope that he is already a Christian! Alas! how many are already in hell who have stumbled at this stumbling-stone!
(20.) The Christian is charitable in his judgments.
This is natural to him by reason of his regeneration. He now loves everybody, and seeks their good. "Love hopeth all things, and believeth all things." It is natural to us to judge charitably of those whom we love, and whose virtue and happiness we greatly desire. It is also natural for us to interpret the conduct of others by reference to our own consciousness. If we are conscious of uprightness of intention, it is natural to ascribe the conduct of others to upright intentions, unless it be manifest that it is not so. Not only the Bible forbids rash and censorious judging of the motives or character of others, but it everywhere assumes, and implies, and teaches that truly regenerate persons are charitable in their judgments. This is an attribute of true religion, and there is scarcely anything in which the difference between saints and sinners is more manifest, than in regard to this feature of their characters. A truly benevolent mind cannot be censorious. It is a contradiction to say, that one who is benevolent can judge, and think, and speak censoriously of any one. Charity is kind, is courteous, is forbearing. A ruling disposition to promote the good of any one, cannot lead or allow us rashly to impeach his motives, to judge him in a manner more severe than the circumstances of the case compel us to do.
Again: as a regenerate state consists in benevolence or good-will to all beings, it implies as sacred a regard to the feelings and reputation of our neighbour, as we have to our own. Therefore a regenerate soul cannot be a slanderer, a tale-bearer, or a busy-body in other men's matters. A regenerate soul will not, and, remaining regenerate, cannot, take up an evil report of a neighbour, and believe it, but upon the strongest evidence. And when compelled to believe an evil report, he will not give any greater publicity to it, than the interests of religion seem imperiously to demand. This must be universally true of a truly benevolent mind. A disposition to believe evil, and to report it of any one, is totally incompatible with good-will to universal being, so that, if we see this disposition in a professor of religion toward any one, we may know that his profession of religion is vain. "If any man seemeth to be religious and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain."
The saint loves his enemies. The things commanded in the gospel are really true of the saints. They are not only required of all men, but they are facts in the life and experience of the saints. The saints really love their enemies, bless them that curse them, do good to those that hate them, and pray for them that despitefully use and persecute them.
(21.) The impenitent, whether professors of religion or not, are censorious in their judgments, and slanderous in their conversation. They are selfish, and, of course, have ambitious projects and envious feelings, and these petty interests and projects are continually interfered with by the interests and projects of others around them. They judge others by themselves. They know themselves to be hypocritical in their professions, selfish in their aims, false in their pretences, ambitious in their schemes, envious in their spirit; and, in short, they are conscious of so much that is wrong, that they naturally interpret the motives and character of others by their own. They do not realize, that their censorious speeches and rash and uncharitable judgments are but a result and a revelation of their hypocrisy. But their own oath, that they are hypocrites, could not add to the weight of evidence afforded by their manifest want of charity, as revealed in their taking up a suspicion, a rumour, and giving it publicity to the dishonour and injury of their neighbour. I have learned never to confide in a censorious man or woman. "O my soul, come not thou into their secret! unto their assembly, mine honour be not thou united." They are false, and will betray Christ to justify self.
(22.) Christians, or truly regenerate souls, experience great and present blessedness in their religion. They do not seek their own happiness as the supreme good, but find it in their disinterested efforts to promote the well-being of others. Their state of mind is itself the harmony of the soul. Happiness is both a natural result of virtue, and also its governmental reward. Christians enjoy religion just for the reason, that they are disinterested in it, that is, precisely for the reason, that their own enjoyment is not the end which they seek: and selfish professors do not enjoy their religion, just for the reason, that their own enjoyment is the end at which they aim. If I seek the good of being as an end, I am happy for three reasons:--
(i.) It results from the approbation of my own conscience.
(ii.) From the smile of God upon my soul, and the conscious communion and fellowship I have with him; and:--
(iii.) I gain my end upon which my heart is set, and this is a sweet gratification. Thus I am triply blessed. But if I seek my own happiness as an end, I fail to obtain it, for three reasons:--
(i.) My conscience, instead of approving, upbraids me.
(ii.) God, instead of smiling, either withholds his face altogether from, or frowns upon me. He withdraws communion and fellowship from me.
(iii.) I do not secure my end, and therefore I am not gratified but disappointed. Suppose I seek the conversion of a sinner, not from disinterested love to his soul, but from a desire to promote my own happiness. Now, if he is converted, I am not made happy thereby, for three reasons--
(i.) My conscience is not satisfied with my motives.
(ii.) God is not; therefore, he does not smile upon me.
(iii.) His conversion was not the end I sought, and therefore in his conversion I am not gratified; that is, I have not attained my end, which was not the salvation of that soul, but my own happiness. But, if I seek his salvation disinterestedly, I am doubly blessed if he is not converted, and triply blessed if he is:--
(i.) Whether he is saved or not, my conscience approves my intentions and efforts, and smiles upon my soul.
(ii.) God accepts the will for the deed, and blesses me, as if I had succeeded. Thus, I am doubly blessed.
(iii.) But, if he is saved, I have gained my end, and thus am gratified.
So, I am triply blessed. A saint is and must be happy in his religion. He has his temptations, but the Lord delivers him, and makes him blessed.
(23.) The selfish professor--
(i.) Has not true peace of conscience.
(ii.) He has not the smile, communion, and fellowship of God.
(iii.) He is not disinterested, and cannot rejoice in the glory of God, and the advancement of his kingdom for its own sake, and, therefore, his soul is not filled with peace and joy in believing. His religion is rather his task, than his life, and his joy. He is rather religious, because he must be, than because he may be. He prays because he must, rather than because he may. With him, religion is rather what it will not do to neglect, than what he delights in for its own sake. His enjoyment, such as it is, is only a self-righteous enjoyment. It is not the soul's harmony with itself, with God, and with all the holy, and with the eternal laws of order. He knows that his religion is not soul-satisfying, but sees so many professors around him manifesting the same state of mind in which he knows himself to be, that he thinks that all Christians find religion in this world rather a task and a burden than a delight, and therefore he is not disposed to relinquish his hope. He anticipates happiness in future, but, at present, he knows he is not happy.
(24.) True saints rejoice to see souls converted and God glorified by any instrumentality. But hypocrites do not rejoice in this for its own sake, and are apt to be envious and jealous, unless they, or their friends, or denomination, are the instruments.
(25.) Christians would do all they could for God's glory and the world's conversion, whether it was ever known or rewarded, or not. But sinners would do little or nothing, except out of respect to applause and reward.
(26.) Christians have the Spirit of Christ.
(i.) Their bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?"--1 Cor. vi. 19. "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now, if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you."--Rom. viii. 9-11.
(ii.) Their bodies are the temple of Christ. "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness."--Rom. viii. 9, 10. "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you except ye be reprobates?"--2 Cor. xiii. 5. "To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."--Col. i. 27. "Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."--John xiv. 23. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."--Gal. ii. 20. "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love."--Eph. iii. 17.
(27.) Christians have the Spirit of adoption. "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father."--Rom. viii. 15. "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father."--Gal. iv. 6.
(28.) They have the fruits of the Spirit. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts."--Gal. v. 22-24.
(29.) Christians are led by the Spirit. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."--Rom. viii. 14. "But if ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."--Gal. v. 18, 25.
(30.) They have the Spirit of prayer. "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God."--Rom. viii. 26, 27.
(31.) They have the law written in their hearts. "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith the Lord: but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."--Jer. xxxi. 31-34. This passage the apostle quotes in Heb. viii. 8-12, and applies to Christians under the new dispensation. The law that was written upon the tables of stone is written, by the Holy Spirit, in the hearts of Christians. That is, the spirit of love demanded by the law, is begotten in their hearts. In other words, they are truly regenerated, and love God with all their hearts, and their neighbour as themselves.
I might notice many other particulars in which saints and sinners differ, but perhaps I have said enough for this course of study. If you return to the attributes of selfishness and benevolence, you will there find a fuller developement of this subject. Of course, the manifestation of the attributes of benevolence is conclusive proof of a regenerate state, for all those attributes are only so many modifications of true religion, and their manifestation is proof of its existence.
So, on the other hand, the attributes of selfishness are only so many modifications of sin, and their manifestation is proof positive of an unholy and unregenerate state of mind.
There are many other things that might be said, indeed volumes might be written upon this subject, in addition to what has appeared. But one thing is worthy of special remark. Mistaken notions in regard to the nature of regeneration have led to false methods of estimating the evidences of regeneration. Most persons and most writers seem to appeal almost exclusively, or at least in a great measure, to the feelings or states of the sensibility, for evidence of regeneration. Nothing can be more dangerous and deceptive than this. They, regarding regeneration as a change in or of the sensibility, look thither of course for the evidences of the change. The Bible appeals to the life, instead of the feelings, for evidence of regeneration. It assumes the true philosophy of regeneration, that it belongs to the will, and that it must, of course, and of necessity, appear directly and uniformly in the life. So many circumstances influence the feelings that they cannot be depended on. They will effervesce, or be calm, as circumstances change. But the outward life must, by a law of necessity, always obey the will. Therefore the appeal can more safely be made to it than to anything else that lies open to the inspection of human eyes.
The subject of regeneration may know, and if honest he must know, for what end he lives. There is, perhaps, nothing of which he may be more certain than of his regenerate or unregenerate state; and if he will keep in mind what regeneration is, it would seem that he can hardly mistake his own character, so far as to imagine himself to be regenerate when he is not. The great difficulty that has been in the way of the regenerate soul's knowing his regeneration, and has led to so much doubt and embarrassment upon this subject, is that regeneration has been regarded as belonging to the sensibility, and hence the attention has been directed to the ever-fluctuating feelings for evidence of the change. No wonder that this has led conscientious souls into doubt and embarrassment. But let the subject of regeneration be disenthralled from a false philosophy, and let it be known that the new heart consists in supreme disinterested benevolence, or in entire consecration to God, and then who cannot know for what end he lives, or what is the supreme preference or intention of his soul? If men can settle any question whatever beyond all doubt by an appeal to consciousness, it would seem that this must be the question. Hence the Bible enjoins it as an imperative duty to know ourselves, whether we are Christians. We are to know each other by our fruits. This is expressly given in the Bible as the rule of judgment in the case. The question is not so much, What are the man's opinions? as, What does he live for? Does he endeavour to promote true religion, love to God and man? Does he manifest a charitable state of mind? Does he manifest the attributes of benevolence in the various circumstances in which he is placed? O, when shall the folly of judging men more by their opinions and feelings, than by the tenor of their lives cease? It seems difficult to rid men of the prejudice that religion consists in feelings and in experiences, in which they are altogether passive. Hence they are continually prone to delusion upon the most momentous of all questions. Nothing can break this spell but the steady and thorough inculcation of the truth, in regard to the nature of regeneration.