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But since in regeneration God does not create any new nature, disposition or principle of action, but only works in men holy and benevolent exercises, in which they are completely free and active; there is a plain absurdity in calling the renovation of the heart a miraculous or supernatural change. This is carrying the passivity of the creature in regeneration to an extravagant height, and so as to destroy all obligation of sinners to do the least duty, until a miracle has been wrought upon them. How this is consistent with that distinction between natural and moral inability, which has been so clearly stated and strongly supported by a very acute and eminent divine, I can by no means conceive. I believe it was never said by them of old time, that regeneration is a miracle, though they did say it is the production of a new nature, disposition, or principle of action. And in saying this, they set the doctrine of regeneration in direct opposition to all the divine commands, invitations and threatenings to sinners. It is certain, however, that sinners understand them in this light, and charge them with a palpable contradiction in their discourses upon passive regeneration, in which they exhort men to immediate repentance, faith, and new obedience. And perhaps it is beyond the power of man to reconcile the passivity of sinners in regeneration with their immediate duty to repent, to believe, or to do any thing else, in a holy and acceptable manner. But the doctrine of active regeneration is perfectly consistent with all that the gospel requires, or promises, or threatens, in respect to sinners, and approves itself to their reason and conscience in the sight of God. therefore, a matter of serious importance, that the true doctrine respecting the new heart should be exhibited in a plain scriptural light, and so as to convince sinners that there is nothing but their free, voluntary, selfish affections, which prevents their immediately embracing the gospel, and securing the salvation of their souls.
3. If it be a duty which God enjoins upon sinners, and which they are able to perform, to make them a new heart, then there is no more difficulty in preaching the gospel to sinners, than to saints. Those ministers who hold to passive regeneration, and maintain that sinners neither can, nor ought to make them a new heart, always find great difficulties in applying their discourses to the unregenerate. They feel constrained, either to omit exhorting sinners to any duty, or to exhort them to wait for a new heart, or to exhort them to seek for a new heart, or to exhort them to make them a new heart. They find a difficulty in exhorting them to make them a new heart, because they expressly tell them that they cannot do it. They find a difficulty in exhorting them to seek for a new heart with
their old heart of enmity and unbelief, because this is exhorting them to continue in sin, and actually joining with them in their rebellion against God. And they find a difficulty in exhorting them to stand still and do nothing, because this is contrary to every dictate of reason and scripture. What, then, to say to sinners, consistently with truth and consistently with their own opinion that they cannot and ought not to make them a new heart, they are totally at a loss. Pressed with these evils on every side, they commonly, of late, choose what they deem the least; that is, to neglect preaching the gospel to sinners. The essence of preaching the gospel to sinners, consists in urging and exhorting them to the duty of immediate repentance and faith. So John the Baptist preached.“ In those days
. came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." So Christ preached, after his forerunner. “ Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, Repent ye and believe the gospel.” After Christ had finished his ministry, he commanded his apostles and their successors to preach the gospel in the same manner as he did. " And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Paul and the other apostles obeyed his command, and said plainly to sinners, “ Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, Be ye reconciled to God." Do not many ministers at the present day neglect to follow the example of Christ and the apostles, and totally omit exhorting sinners to repent and believe the gospel ? If we look into the late publications of some very eminent divines,* shall we find a single exhortation to sinners to become reconciled to God, to give God their hearts, to repent, to submit, or to do any thing whatever in a holy and benevolent manner? want of conformity to the divine standard of preaching is undoubtedly owing, in all cases, to a belief that sinners are passive in regeneration, and cannot make them a new heart. Let ministers, therefore, only renounce the false notion of passivity in regeneration, and they will find no more difficulty in exhorting sinners, than in exhorting saints, to do their duty. They will see the same propriety in exhorting sinners to make them a new heart, or to repent and believe immediately, as in exhorting saints to grow in grace, and to perfect holiness in the
* Dr. Smalley and Dr. Strong.
fear of God. And such preaehing will approve itself to the consciences of both saints and sinners.
4. Since it is the duty of sinners to make them a new heart, they have no excuse for the neglect of any other duty. When they are urged to love God, repent of sin, believe the gospel, make a public profession of religion, or to do any thing in a holy and acceptable manner, they are always ready to excuse theinselves for their negligence, by pleading their inability to change their hearts. This they say is the work of God; and until he pleases to appear for them, and take away their stony hearts and give them hearts of flesh, they cannot internally obey any of his commands, and therefore must be excused for all their delays, neglects, and deficiencies in duty. But if it be their duty, in the first instance, to make them a new heart, then, according to their own plea, they have no excuse for neglecting any other act of obedience to the divine commands. If it were their duty to begin, they acknowledge it would be their duty to persevere in obedience; and by acknowledging this, they virtually give up every excuse, and become self condemned for all their internal as well as external transgressions of the divine law. The moment they feel the propriety and force of the
. precept in the text, “ to make them a new heart and a new spirit,” their mouths are stopped, and they stand guilty and inexcusable before God. As soon as this commandment comes, sin revives, and they die. They find that they cannot love God merely because they hate him, and that they hate him without a cause, which is their criminality, not their excuse.
5. If sinners ought to make them a new heart, then it must be their own fault, if they finally perish. They will have no right to plead that God did not do enough for them, but must for ever own and feel that they did not do enough for themselves. They cannot be lost if they only do their duty, and make them a new heart. But if they finally neglect this duty, they will justly expose themselves to eternal death. Hence God solemnly reminds them that their future happiness or misery depends upon their choice; and that if they perish, it must be wholly owing to their own folly and guist. " Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed, 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, saith the Lord God. Wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.”
THE TREASURES OF A GOOD AND EVIL HEART.
A G000 man, out of the good treasure of the heart, bringeth forth good things ; and an evil man, out of the evil treasure, bringeth forth
evil things. — MATT. xii. 35.
It was never our Saviour's intention to preach against Moses and the prophets, but only to explain their writings, and take off the false glosses which were put upon them by false teachers. Though these men adopted the language of the inspired writers, and acknowledged the distinction between saints and sinners, yet they had no idea of what constituted this distinction. They ignorantly supposed that the precepts and prohibitions of the divine law had no respect to the heart, but only to external actions. And hence they denominated men either good or bad, saints or sinners, according to their outward appearance, rather than according to their internal views and feelings. But our Saviour represented this notion as a great and essential error. He said to his hearers, “ Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." And after this, he told the scribes and Pharisees themselves, that their righteousness was no better than hypocrisy, because it wholly consisted in mere external obedience.
1 Wo unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith; these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." But as Christ meant to instruct the ignorant, as well as refute the erroneous, he clearly described the essential distinction between a good man and a bad man, and expressly asserted that this distinction lies in the heart, which stamps the moral quality of all the actions that proceed from it. “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things." This, like many other figurative expressions of Christ, has often been misunderstood and misapplied. It has frequently been employed in favor of a sentiment, which appears totally inconsistent with that very distinction between saints and sinners which Christ plainly intended to assert. In order, therefore, to investigate and establish the important truths which our Lord meant to convey in this passage, I shall endeavor,
I I. To describe the good treasure of the heart. II. To describe the evil treasure of the heart. III. To make it appear that it is the treasure of the heart which justly denominates men either good or evil.
I. I am to describe the good treasure of the heart.
The whole of this good treasure summarily consists in general benevolence. Our Saviour comprises all true virtue, holiness, or moral goodness, in love to God and man. When he was asked, Which is the great commandment in the law ? he said, “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” According to this infallible exposition of the law, it requires nothing morally good but what partakes of the nature of pure, disinterested benevolence.
The question now is, Why does Christ call this benevolence, which comprises all moral goodness, a good treasure? Treasure is a general name for abundance; and Christ uses the term in this sense, in the verse immediately preceding the text, where he says, “ Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” But what abundance, or what treasure, can there be in a good heart, which consists in love? Is not love perfectly pure, simple and uncompounded? How then can there be any propriety in calling it a treasure, which generally comprises both a variety and a multiplicity of things? It is easy, however to discover the propriety of this expression. Though true love be of a simple uncompounded nature, yet it is capable of spreading into a variety of branches, which, taken all together, form a rich treasure of moral goodness. I will now lay open as clearly and distinctly as I can, all the parts or parcels of the good treasure of the good heart.
1. A good heart contains good affections.
It is always more or less affected by every object presented to it. If a proper object of benevolence be presented to it, it feels benevolence. If a proper object of complacence be pre