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starting-post of a new race? What the principle of a new life? What the motive, the master-motive, of a thorough and radical moral alteration ?
There never was, there never can be, any other effectual method proposed for these high purposes, but that which the Scriptures reveal, AN ENTIRE CONVERSION OF THE WHOLE SOUL TO GOD BY THE MIGHTY OPERATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. We must be born again. If ever we are saved, it must be by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, not merely in the sense in which, in the judgment of charity, it may be contended that we have been regenerated in baptism, but in the full and plenary meaning of the expression, by an actual work of new-creating power upon our hearts, giving a right direction to the understanding, infixing a holy impression upon the affections, communicating a right disposition and bias to the will, and thus actually working in us to will and to do of God's good pleasure.
This mighty revolution must take place in all without exception who are living a sinful and irreligious life, whatever difference there may be in such persons as to their external character in the world, and their freedom from gross and scandalous crimes. The commencement of this change is frequently imperceptible,
and its progress commonly gradual; nor is it to be confounded with the wild and dangerous pretensions of mystics or enthusiasts. It is in every case to be judged of by the solid and real fruits of repentance, faith, and new obedience, which it produces. But it constitutes the real turning point in religion. Nothing can break up confirmed habits of sinful indulgence in a fallen creature like man, but a radical and powerful transformation of the heart. Th
There may be some admission of truth in the judgment, there may be some convictions of an alarmed conscience, there may be some cursory thoughts on the theory of religion, there may be some feeble attempts at amendment, where there is no real conversion. But all this is nothing The going over the theory of virtue," says Bishop Butler, “in one's thoughts, talking well, and drawing fine pictures of it; this is so far from necessarily or certainly conducing to form an habit of it in him who thus employs himself, that it may harden the mind in a contrary course, and render it gradually more insensible to all moral considerations."
God alone that created the heart, can renew it after his image. When the soul receives this new and holy bias, then the evil habits in which men formerly lived, will resolutely be relinquished, and other and better habits will succeed. They will then repent of sin and separate from
it. The easily besetting iniquity will be cast aside; the offending right hand cut off, the offending right eye plucked out. They will come out from the world and its practices. They will mourn from the bottom of their hearts over the courses of iniquity in which they before indulged themselves. They will watch and pray against temptation. They will believe iŋ the inestimable promises of life in Jesus Christ, trusting alone in his merits, and renouncing their imagined righteousness which was of the law. They will depend exclusively on the graces and influences of the Holy Spirit for every good thought and every holy action. Thus they will stop at once in the course of their forịner habits, and begin to form new ones. They will now enter on a life of humility and fear, of conscientiousness and circumspection, of mortification and purity, of meekness and temperance, of justice and charity; all springing from faith in the atonement of Christ, and from a genuine love to his name.
Such are the extent and magnitude of true conversion. This is indeed fitly described, in the emphatic language of sacred Scripture, as a birth from above, a regeneration of the Holy Ghost, an uwakening from sleep, a turning from darkness unto light, a new creation, a resurrecțion from the dead, a translation from the
power of Satan into the kingdom of God's dear Son.
But, having now considered the general nature of habit, the consequences arising from our evil habits in particular, and the extent and greatness of that change of nature which is necessary to salvation, it remains to point out, more distinctly than has yet been done, the important practical lessons which the subject suggests. In this view, I would conclude the present discourse with a solemn address to those who are vet living in sinful or worldly habits, who are yet in an unconverted state, and, to all practical purposes, without God in the world. I am the more anxious to address such persons, because, from the lamentable depravity of our nature, the consideration of the force of habit, pregnant as it is with motives to an immediate and earnest repentance, is often employed by the impenitent as an excuse for their continuance in sin, and is thus made to justify that very course of transgression which it produces.
Allow me then, my brethren, affectionately to press on your attention the dangerous and seductive influence of your present habits. Wherever you may have arrived in the slippery road, O stop and consider your ways. God now in
you turn and live. His
blessed Spirit with almighty grace is proposed to you in the Gospel. Weigh then your imminent though unsuspected state of danger. Be not deceived. It is of the nature of sinful habits to blind the mind. The very excuses you make to yourselves for not leading a religious life are proofs of your extreme peril.
You tell us, for example, that you are not conscious of any cause of alarm.-We reply, that this is amongst the most decided proofs and aggravations of your disease.
You assure us that you do not mean to offend the Almighty, and have no intention of provoking his wrath.—We answer, that this is the very effect of an inveterate babit of nega lecting him.
You confidently assert that you think there is no necessity for this surprising rigour, as you term it, in religion.—We take you at your word, and bring forward the very admission as a proof that corrupt custom has darkened your judgment as to spiritual things.
You inform us how profoundly you still reverence Christianity, and how sincerely you approve of its laws. We tell you that this barren speculation only sets you further off from actual piety and holiness.
You profess to rely on your external privileges, your baptism, your attendance on church and the sacrament.-We plainly declare