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strives to be contented with his condition, and he charges God with the evil that is in him. To the eye of purity this creature is a mass of loathsome corruption. There is no faculty in him which has not been prostituted to the service of the devil, and corrupted by sin. He is a fallen being, a polluted creature, a lost sinner. He does not look into his own heart; he dares not look into eternity. He drives on, heedless of the admonitions of his friends, imagines himself as good as his neighbors, and judges the whole system of religion a falsehood. This wicked man has a soul in his body-an immortal soul. This makes him the subject of christian solicitude, and impels some one to mention his name in prayer, and to pursue him with the voice of love and entreaty. He is induced to go to the house of God. He opens his ears to hear the preacher. He looks into the mirror which the Holy Spirit has made. His own image is therein presented in all its offensive features and horrid deformity, and appears exceedingly vile by contrast with the image of Jesus Christ. The glory of the latter blinds him, but its loveliness stirs his insensible soul, and its look of affection astonishes him. Can it be possible that Christ can love so vile a being? Will he save one so deeply fallen, so perfectly depraved? Hearing produces thought; thought merges into reflection; reflection creates fear; fear urges the question, “ What shall I do ?" The way is open for instruction. The preacher brings out of his treasury things new and old. He shows him his sinfulness and guilt and danger, and his heart breaks ; his spirit becomes contrite; he renounces his sins, he consecrates himself to God. The gospel glass is kept before him. He beholds the image of Christ hanging on the cross, buried in the sepulchre, arising from the tomb, ascending into heaven, interceding with God. He apprehends these events as facts. The doctrines are explained, the promises are read. He embraces these a3 realities and truths. By some power working in him, to which he submits, he is able to see that all the provision of the gospel is adapted to his wants, and by faith he appropriates it to himself and claims it as his own. In this act he commits himself to Jesus Christ, as perfectly as the sick man commits himself to the physician. In that instant he is changed-yes, changed into the image of Christ-metamorphosed by the power of God into a new man This is the work of God. It is the beginning of salvation in this life. No man can change himself. If he is changed at all, God must do it.
This change is spoken of in the Bible, and different terms are used to represent it. It is called “born again,” or “ born from above,” in Christ's sermon to Nicodemus—hence, we get the term “ birth." And that no man may mistake about this matter, the evangelist tells us that all who receive Christ,“ are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." This conveys to our minds the same idea as that expressed by James, in these words : “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures,” with the addition of the instrument which God uses. The Holy Spirit uses the truth contained in the gospel in changing men from nature to grace. So, also, Paul admonishes us thus, “Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed (metamorphosed) by the renewing of your minds ;” and “Put off the old man, which is corrupt, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds; and that ye put on the new man, whịch after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” This is the work of regeneration, and is experienced by all who believe in Christ with hearts unto righteousness; for God hath “ given us exceding great and precious promises, that by these we might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world.” This change is called in our theology conversion, and we get the term from the Bible. The Psalmist says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting [the margin has it restoring] the soul.” Our Lord said to his disciples, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” And James says, “ Brethren,
any do err from the truth, and one convert him, let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” From these we learn that conversion restores men to the image of God; makes them like little children in humility, affection, and docility; brings them under the operation of the truth, relieves them from the guilt of a multitude of sins, and saves their souls from death. All who experience this “ in Christ Jesus,” and “are new creatures, old things having passed away, and all things having become new."
The model character to which this change assimilates men, is that of our Lord — We are changed into the same image.” We may search the records of history, and we find no one whose nature was so perfect, and whose example was so lovely as Christ; hence, there is
no one who can be followed with so much safety. During his life he was pursued by malignant men who commanded civil and ecclesiastical forces, and these were held under fretful restraint by their incapacity to find out anything which they could use against him. His private character was irreproachable, his labors were disinterested, his whole time was consumed in doing good. When he was arraigned and charged with blasphemy, the specification did not sustain the charge, though the high priest with hypocritical zeal gave judgment against him. When he was carried before Pilate, and charged with rebellion, the specification could not be proved. And when the multitude called for his crucifixion, the judge after much perplexity and thorough examination, said, “Take him and crucify him, for I find no fault in him.” No man has passed through more searching scrutiny, and yet his reputation for piety, zeal, purity, wisdom, and all the graces which ennoble man and perfect the christian, stands this day unquestioned. The truths which he taught are embraced by all who believe in him. These are planted in them by the Holy Spirit, and they become the principles by which they are controlled and sustained. The love which was in him “is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto them,” and this impels them to do his will. The grace which sustained him in all his labors and trials is given to them, and may be had in quantity equal to their wants. Converting grace puts the believer in this state of assimilation to Christ, that is to say, it begins this assimilation. There may be in the heart of the converted man much that is evil, but the truth is opposing, and the grace of God is eradicating this evil; and in case this grace is not frustrated by unbelief, and truth is not choked by the cares of this world, or the deceitfulness of riches, or the lust of other things, then the likeness shall be perfect enough to insure a title to the inheritance of heaven. “ Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus," is the admonition of Paul.
Secondly. This change shall go on towards perfection—“ We are changed into the same image from glory to glory.” The work of conversion is always sudden, and it may be attended by such evidences as shall satisfy the subject of it that he has passed from the natural to the spiritual or gracious state. The conversion of the three thousand on the day of Pentecost, of Saul of Tarsus, of Cornelius of Cæsarea, of the jailor in Philippi, was sudden and powerful. No man is regenerated partially, born of God gradually. This work must be done at once. The evidence of it however may not satisfy the mind of the young convert at first. He may pass through hours and days doubting and fearing, until the production of the fruits of the Spirit shall convince him that God has converted him. Right instruction concerning the effect of conversion, and careful self-examination, will enable any man to find out whether he is a converted man. Let this change be wrought by the Holy Spirit, and then let the babe in Christ” be fed with what St. Paul calls “ the sincere milk of the word,” and there will be growth in the knowledge and grace of Christ. The believer will progress into a state in which he may be fed with what the same apostle calls “strong meat."* Let this strong meat be eaten and digested, and he who was a babe will pass rapidly through the state of childhood and youth into the maturity of christian character. He must walk by the same faith he exercised when the Holy Spirit changed him; he must continue in the use of the same means ; “ he must, with open face, behold the glory of the Lord” in the Gospel, as he did at first, and the work of grace will go on assimilating him to the image of Christ, from glory to glory.
This is set before us clearly by the apostle in these words : “And besides this, (that is being made partakers of the divine nature) giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity; for if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall be neither barren (the inargin has it idle, which is the right word] nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ: ... for if ye do these things ye shall never fall; for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”+ Herein we see the faith of the converted man urging him to the exercise of courage, the use of study, the practice of obedience, and God carries on his gracious work in the production of the fruit which he values highly, and promises to own and approve in eternity.
At the same time the believer is applying himself to the use of the means of grace, the Holy Spirit is imparting the “wisdom which cometh down from above, which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and
* Heb. v, 12. 1% Peter, ii, 3-11.
without hypocrisy."* He is shedding abroad in his heart the love of God; He is fixing in his soul the kingdom of God, which is “ righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost;” and He is so mingling the influences of His grace and providence as to cause tribulations to produce patience, and patience to produce experience, and experience to produce hope of eternal life. “And every man who has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he (i. e. Christ) is pure.” In all this work, man and God are co-workers. The former is performing the conditions and using the means, and the latter is applying his truth, is increasing the measure of his grace, and augmenting the power of his love. Here we have faith working, love laboring, and hope patiently enduring the whole of God's will.7 And the fruit which results therefrom consists of the virtues which ennoble human character, the graces of true religion, the qualities which Jesus Christ cultivated, and the purity or holiness which is necessary for residence in heaven.
In conclusion we state
1. We are taught by moral philosophy that the moral quality of an action resides in the motive or the intention ; and we are taught by observation that there is connection between principles and conduct. Hence there is need for knowledge of truth, faith in truth, and realization of the power of truth. No man cultivates right motives and has sound inoral principles unless he receives into his mind and believes with his heart what God has revealed concerning his Son. This will produce sound experience, and Christian experience consists in the love of God in the heart; and he who has this in full measure is changed into the image of Christ. All who desire to obey God must have their hearts renewed by grace; and this will always accompany genuine faith. “Do we make void the law through faith? God forbid ! Yea, we establish the law."
2. Capacity to see and understand the truth depends on the state of our minds and hearts. If the former be full of prejudice, and the latter be estranged from God, there will result darkness, and ignorance, and sin.
“ When the heart shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away," is the declaration of Paul. “ If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light,” is the promise of Christ.