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might be revealed." They discover who is willing that the Lord should reign; who has confidence enough in his wisdom, purity, and goodness, to trust all events in his hands; and are adapted to lay open to view the hy pocrisy of those who cry hosannah, but are hostile to the government of Jehovah.
From what has been said we may learn the secret source of that "wrath" which is aroused against these doctrines, especially election, wherever they are maintained. I have no doubt, indeed, that some oppose them merely because they do not understand them. I am led to this belief by the fact, that some who deny them in words, do, notwithstanding, embrace them substantially as matters of experience. They will tell you they never would have chosen God, if he had not first chosen them. They will acknowledge that if he had left them to the natural inclinations of their own hearts, they never would have accepted the Saviour. Now this is the very essence of election. But there are others who hate and oppose it, because they see it in a light which disturbs their sins, and tears away their self-righteous hopes. The idea that they are so depraved as to need the constraining influence of Almighty grace, in order to their salvation, gives a deadly wound to their pride; and leaves them no peace till they are reconciled to God. Hence, on one occasion, when our Saviour preached it, many of his hear ers" went back and walked with him no more." At another time, as we are informed in our text, when he preached it to the Nazarenes, the people were so enraged, that they made a daring attempt upon his life. But against what is all this enmity directed? It is against that glorious purpose of mercy, without which not one sinner would ever have been converted to God; not one of our ruined race would ever have been admitted to glory. *
BY JOHN MATTHEWS, D. D.
PROF. OF THEOLOGY IN THE THEOL. SEMINARY OF INDIANA.
HARMONY OF THE DUTY WITH THE PROMISE IN THE WORK OF REGENERATION.
EZEKIEL 18:31. Make you a new heart and a new spirit.... Ch. 36:26. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.
THERE is no inconsistency, but the most perfect harmony between these two passages. The one is the command, the other is the promise of the same JEHOVAH; made known to us by the same prophet. The one is from Mount Sinai, the other from Mount Zion. The one is the voice of justice, the other of mercy. The one is an exhibition of supreme authority, the other of infinite condescension and kindness. The one is. the law, the other is the gospel. Both require our special attention separately, and in their connection. We must not derive from the command a train of thought, or a course of conduct, inconsistent with the promise; nor are we to suppose for a moment, that the promise is intended to exempt from the claims of the command. Our wisdom and our safety consist in receiving both, according to the letter and spirit. This is not the only instance, in which the same thing is commanded and promised. God now commandeth all men every where to repent, and yet Christ is exalted a Prince and Saviour to give repentance and remission of sin. We are commanded to believe in the Lord Jesus, and yet faith is the gift and the work of God: Wash you, make you clean, and yet the kind promise is, "I will sprinkle clean water upon you and ye shall be clean."
These and other passages, which need not be mentioned, con
tain, like the text, both a command and a promise relating to the same thing. It will be our object then,
I. To consider what is implied in the COMMAND.
II. What is implied in the PROMISE, and,
III. What course we should pursue under the coMBINED INFLU
ENCE OF BOTH.
I. What is implied in the command, make you a new heart and a new spirit? Here it will be proper to ascertain the meaning of the term heart. In Scripture, this term in its metaphorical sense, is frequently used as nearly, if not quite, synonimous with mind, including the operations of the understanding and the exercise of the affections. No person who reads the Bible with attention, will doubt the truth of this statement. The current meaning of the term, however, with us, is more limited, including the affections only. In either sense, therefore, it includes the exercise of the affections, or what is called in other words, the moral character. A change of heart is a change in the objects of the affections, or a change of moral character. But the heart may be frequently, and greatly changed, and yet not become that new heart which God commands us to make. Wicked men and seducers wax worse and worse. There is a progress in wickedness as well as in holiness. One sinful pursuit is relinquished for the sake of another, not less, perhaps more criminal than the former. When a new heart is mentioned, as in the text, there is a reference to the old, or former state of the heart. This reference is carried out by the Apostle Paul. "Put off the old man, &c. and put on the new man," &c. The old heart is that which we all possess by nature, the thoughts of the imagination of which are evil and that continually; which is deceitful above all things, &c. in which the ruling principles are the love of sin and enmity against God. In the new heart, these things are reversed; sin becomes the cause of unfeigned sorrow, and the object of ceaseless hatred; God becomes the object of supreme love and desire. The new heart, in short, is the heart of a Christian; of one who is born of God; in whom old things, &c.; of one in whom the principles of spiritual life exert a supreme control, in whom the spirit of prayer, of meekness, of humility, of submission, of heavenly devotion habitually prevails. This is the new heart and new spirit, which God commands us to make; this is the work we are required to perform.
Another observation is necessary: according to the constitution of the human mind, every affection must have an object,
without which the affection cannot exist. If we cherish the affection of love, there is an object that is beloved; of hope, there is some object which we both expect and desire; of fear, there is some object from which we apprehend danger. These affections can be excited only through the understanding. No man can call forth his affections by a simple act of volition, as he can move his hand: To love an object, it is necessary that he first believe that the object is amiable; that there is in it something good, the possession of which would contribute to his happiness. Where the mind thus believes, the affection springs up spontaneously, without an effort designed to call it forth.
If, then, we would obey the command of God by making a new heart, we must do it according to the constitution which he himself has given to the mind: in no other way can the work ever be done.
Having seen what the new heart is, which we are required to make, and the manner in which the work is to be accomplished, we are now prepared to inquire, what is implied in this command, what useful instruction does it furnish?
1. It implies that God has an undoubted right to that which he commands, to this new heart, which he requires us to make. His commandment is holy and just as well as good. The Psalmist declares that "the statutes of the Lord are right:" "Thy testimonies that thou hast commanded are righteous and very faithful." When his character is considered, he can demand nothing of his creatures but what is perfectly right; for he is a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he. Righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. No proposition in mathematics can be plainer than that God has a right to the new heart and new spirit which he commands us to make.
If infinite excellence deserves to be loved, then it is right that we should love God supremely: for such are the attributes which compose his character. If unbounded goodness, exercised towards sinful and unworthy creatures, towards wilful and determined enemies; if long-suffering and patience, exercised towards those who deserve the deepest perdition; ought to be loved, the great Jehovah deserves our most ardent affection: for both in the dispensations of his providence and in his word he has proclaimed himself, from day to day, and from year to year, the Lord, the Lord God merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth. With the deepest sincerity, our hearts should correspond with the devout exhortation of the psalmist, O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his mercy endureth forever. O, that men would praise the Lord for his goodness!
The first and great_commandment to all intelligent creatures is, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, &c. We have ceased to obey, ceased to love God; yet this law is not repealed, and never will be repealed. It flows from the character of God, which is immutable, and from the relation we sustain to him as his creatures. We have apostatized from God, we have rebelled against him, but no sinfulness, no wickedness of ours, can possibly dissolve this relation; it will forever be a truth that he created us, and has done us good through the whole of life. We may prove incorrigible and perish through our wilful unbelief and impenitence; but even in the pit of perdition it will not be less true than it is now, that God is our Creator; and that we ought to love him supremely. The command to make a new heart, is but an additional claim for that love which is required by this first and immutable precept of the moral law. To the lost spirits from Adam's family, to the apostate angels, even to Satan himself, while infinite ages of misery and despair are rolling on, the command, make you a new heart and a new spirit, with undiminished authority, will continue to present the claims of God.
Whatever they may think, and however they may feel, it will forever be right that they should love God. This right is founded not on their thoughts and their feelings, but on the immutable perfections of his character and on the relation they sustain to him as intelligent creatures.
2. The command in the text implies, that it is our duty to obey; to exercise towards God all that is included in the new heart, which we are required to make. This command is adapted to us as sinful, depraved and condemned creatures, for whom, at the same time, a Saviour is provided, and to whom, through this Saviour, pardon is offered.
Our hearts will never be what God requires, until they are deeply and fully impressed with those doctrines and facts, which constitute the grand peculiarities of the gospel; until in their exercises there is a special reference to Christ, as the only, the allsufficient Saviour. The new heart required of us, can never be complete without faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and repentance towards God. It is our duty then, it is our interest, it is, indeed, the only way in which we can secure our happiness for time and eternity, to believe in this divine, this crucified Saviour, and to repent of our sins with a godly sorrow. Being guilty and condemned, can any thing be more obvious than that we should believe in that Saviour through whom alone pardon can be obtained?