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O generation of vipers ! well might Christ exclaim, Where in you is the fruit of repentance and sorrow for sin ? where in you is a sense of the misery of a fallen nature? where in you is a sense of your lost and undone condition? It no where exists in the hearts of such. But in the child of God, when the covenant mercies of the holy Three are first applied to his soul, the Holy Spirit of God convicts him of sin, and speaks to him, in language which he will never be able wholly to forget, that the life be bas led up to this moment, has been one of self-gratification; and that his own appetites, so far as they have not been molested by the laws and discipline of his country, have been his only rule of life. He is now convinced that he has been seeking his own honour and dignity, and not the bonour and glory of Christ. Moreover, he discovers, from the frightful imagery of his own mind, that he is totally unfit for that kingdom where nothing unclean or unholy possibly can dwell : at the same time, he is overwhelmed with an apprehension of death, and a fearful looking for of judgment. Life he hourly perceives is so uncertain, that every movement and footstep be takes may plunge bim into his grave. The former charms.of life have now lost their allurements; for he knows their tendency and their brevity. The world to come-eternity, occupies his thoughts. The law of God, by which his sipful life has been discovered (for by the law is the knowledge of sin) glares full upon himand convicts him of statutes broken in the spirit, if not in the letter, without number. This, brethren, is a true sense of misery, the first dawn of the love of God to the soul of a poor helpless sinner. For those whom the “ Lord loveth, he chasteneth” with a sense of the bitterness of sin.” And this, brethren, every child of God, one that is born of the will of God through the ministration of the Spirit, more or less experiences. Not that all the children of the kingdom feel equally the strength and bondage of sin. As the wind bloweth where it listeth, so its force and duration are equally free. To some it speaks in whisperings to the conscience, so small and still, that the poor sinner begins to doubt whether he has not deceived himself, and almost is assured that the Lord has not spoken unto him at all—were he not convinced that the atoning blood of Jesus Christ appears precious in his sight, and that the enmity of his heart to the free sovereign grace of God is rooted out. However powerfully or mildly the Spirit of God acts upon the heart, to be genuine, faith must produce a sorrow for sin, before the sinner can perceive that he or who was far off has been brought
nigh by the blood of Christ,” before he can understand that the “Lord has been merciful to his unrighteousness, and his sins and iniquities he will remember no more;” but ever carefully remember, that this commencement of a new life in the soul is purely, and altogether the work of God. The sinner no more co-operates or causes this “death unto sin, and new birth unto righteousness,” in himself, than he cooperated or caused the generation of his own body and soul : “he is born not of the will of man, but of the will of God.” If you presume to have effected any part of this almighty change in your soul; if you place your true repentance to the account of your sincerity, your endeavours, your self-denials, your faith, your prayers--you stain the purity of God's gifts with the filth of your own self-righteousness, which Isaiah tells us is no better than filthy rags in the sight of God. You rob his diadem of the brightest jewel, the sovereignty of his grace; and audaciously attempt to apply and administer the blood which he freely shed upon the cross.
Moreover be pleased to remember, that since the Lord's appearance upon earth was purely voluntary, and induced by no act of man, but the result of his own sovereign wisdom, power, and love, so the administration of the grace of the Spirit is likewise an act of his own free will
and pleasure. With these remarks upon your memory, you will be led, I trust, to see that the misery which is caused by a heart-broken sense of divine wrath is to you the greatest and freest act of the mercy of God. Hence arises an expression of love to God in the soul of the sinner. The sinner, before this on the brink of despair through the severity of God's law, and bis own incapacity to keep it, flees from it, as from an in. exorable and unrelenting executioner. He has been terrified at the exactions it requires. He has read the words, and almost dropt dead before them: “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.” He has seen the fiery sword of vengeance ready to cut him down as a camberer of the ground. But in the midst of his despairing delinquency, the love of God in the Cross of Christ is beheld ; the brightness of whose glory completely outshines the fiery book of the law. Hence, I repeat, the love of God is experienced. He has known miseryhe now beholds mercy! Mercy the most free and unlooked for that ever visited a benighted world. He now does not so much wonder at his former blindness and ignorance, as at the mercy of God in permitting a creature so vile and abominable to be interested in the covenant of the Lord's Christ. He now meditates and searches the Scriptures, to discover how it has come to pass, that the Lord has poured the irresistible grace of his Spirit upon the heart of one, by nature no better, and apparently to himself more unclean, sensual, and devilish, than all the rest of the world. He therefore betakes himself to prayer, in the hope that the Lord will reveal unto him something of the reason of his electing love and mercy to him, once a poor darkened and unworthy sinner. In reading his Bible, he finds it written in Isaiah, “I am found of them that sought me not.”—In Jeremiah; “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.” The contemplation of passages like these every moment increases his love, and inclines him to exclaim, “Thee only will I serve all the days of my life:" and the more he examines and the more he meditates and prays over the word of God, the more the love of God is evidenced unto his soul; for he reasons thus :If I have been loved with an everlasting love, the love of God was upon me before I was born into the world; and to confirm this truth, he remembers it is recorded, “In thy book were all my members written when as yet there was none of them.”