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The Method of Grace in the Gospel Redemption: Sermon 26

By John Flavel

      2 Cor. 5: 17.

      Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

      After the explication of the sense of this scripture, we observed,

      Doct. That God's creating of a new supernatural work of grace in the soul of any man, is that man's sure and infallible evidence of a saving interest in Jesus Christ.

      You have heard why the regenerating work of the Spirit is called a new creation; in what respect every soul in Christ is renewed; what the eximious properties of this new creature are; the indispensableness and necessity thereof have been also proved; and how it evidences our interest In Christ, was cleared in the doctrinal part: Which we now come to improve, in the several uses serving for our

      1. Information.
      2. Conviction.
      3. Examination.
      4. Exhortation.
      5. Consolation.

      First use, for information.

      Is the new creature the sure and infallible evidence of our saving interest in Christ? From hence then we arc informed,

      Inference 1. How miserable and deplorable an estate all unrenewed souls are in; who can lay no claim to Christ during that state, and therefore are under an impossibility of salvation. O reader! if this be the state of thy soul, better had it been for thee not to have been God's natural workmanship as a man, except thou be his spiritual workmanship also, as a new man. I know the schoolmen determine otherwise, and say, that damnation is rather to be chosen than annihilation: a miserable being is better than no being: and it is very true, with respect to the glory of God, whose justice shall triumph for ever in the damnation of the unregenerate; but, with respect to us, it is much better never to have been his creatures, in the way of generation, than not to be his new creatures, in the way of regeneration. So Christ speaks of Judas, that son of perdition, Mark 14: 21. "Good had it been for that man if he had never been born:" For what is a being without the comfort of it? What is life without the joy and pleasure of it? A damned being is a being without comfort; no glimpse of light shines into that darkness; they shall, indeed, see and understand the felicity, light, and joy of the saints in glory; but not partake, in the least measure, of the comfort, Luke 13: 28. "They shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God, but they themselves shut out:" Such a sight is so far from giving any comfort, that it will be the aggravation and increase of torment. O it is better to have no being at all, than to have a being only to capacitate a man for misery; to desire death, while death flies from him, Rev. 4: 6. The opinion of the schoolmen will never pass for sound doctrine among the damned. Think on it, reader, and lay it to thine heart, better thou hadst died from the womb, better the knees kind prevented thee, and the breasts which thou hast sucked, than that thou shouldst live and die a stranger to the new birth, or that thy mother should bring thee forth only to increase, and fill up the number of the damned.

      Infer. 2. And, on the contrary, we may hence learn, what cause regenerate souls have to bless God, for the day wherein they were born. O what a privileged state does the new birth bring men into! It is possible, for the present, they understand it not; for many believers are like a great heir lying in the cradle, that knows not to what an estate and honour he is born: nevertheless, on the same day wherein we become new creatures by regeneration, we have a firm title and solid claim to all the privileges of the sons of God, John 1: 12, 13. God becomes our Father by a triple title, not only the Father of our beings by nature, which was all the relation we had to him before, but our Father by adoption, and by regeneration: which is a much sweeter, and more comfortable relation. In that day the image of God is restored, Eph. 4: 24. this is both the health and beauty of the soul. In that day we are begotten again to a lively hope, 1 Pet. 1: 3. a hope more worth than ten thousand worlds, in the troubles of life, and in the straits of death: this is a creature which lives for ever, and will make thy life happy for ever. Some have kept their birth day as a festival, a day of rejoicing; but none have more cause to rejoice that ever they were born, than those that are new-born.

      Infer. 3. Learn frown hence, that the work of grace is wholly supernatural; it is a creation, and a creation-work is above the power of the creature. No power but that which gave being to the world, can give a being to the new creature: Almighty Power goes forth to give being to the new creature. This creature is not born of flesh, or of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God, John 1: 13. The nature of this new creature speaks its original to be above the power of nature; the very notion of a new creation spoils the proud boasts of the great asserters of the power and ability of the will of man. When God, therefore, puts the question, who maketh thee to differ? And what hast thou that thou hast not received? Let thy soul, reader, answer it with all humility and thankfulness. It is thou, Lord, thou only, that madest me to differ from another; and what I have received, I have received from thy free grace.

      Infer. 4. If the work of grace be a new creation, let not the parents, and friends of the unregenerate utterly despair of the conversion of their relations, how great soever their present discouragements are. If it had been possible for a man to have seen the rude and undigested chaos before the Spirit of God moved upon it, would he not have said, Can such a beautiful order of beings, such a pleasant variety of creatures, spring out of this dark lump? Surely it would have been very hard for a man to have imagined it. It may be, you see no dispositions or hopeful inclinations in your friends towards God and spiritual things; nay, possibly they are totally opposite, and filled with enmity against them; they deride and jeer all serious piety wherever they behold it; this, indeed, is very sad; but yet remember the work of grace is creation-work: though there be no disposition at all in their wills, no tenderness in their consciences, no light or knowledge in their minds; yet God, that commanded the light to shine out of darkness, can shine into their hearts, to give them the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ: he can say to the dry bones, live; to the proud and stubborn heart, come down and yield thyself to the will of God; and if he command, the work is done. God can make thee yet to rejoice over thy most uncomfortable relations; to say with the father of the prodigal, Luke 15: 24. "This my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found; and they began to be merry." Difficulties are for men, but not for God: he works, in conversion, by a power which is able to subdue all things unto itself.

      Infer. 5. If none but new creatures be in Christ, how small a remnant among men belong to Christ in this world! Among the multitude of rational creatures inhabiting this world, how few, how very few, are new creatures? It is the observation of the learned Mr. Brerewood, that if the world be divided into thirty parts, nineteen parts are heathenish Idolaters; six parts Mahometans, and only five out of thirty which may be, in a large sense, called Christians; of which the far greater part is overspread with Popish darkness: separate from the remainder, the multitudes of profane, merely civil, and hypocritical professors of religion; and how few will remain for Jesus Christ in this world? Look over the cities, towns, and parishes in this populous kingdom, and how few shall you find that speak the language or do the works of new creatures? How few have ever had any awakening convictions on them? And how many of those that have been convinced have miscarried, and never come to the new birth? The more cause have they, whom God has indeed regenerated, to admire the riches of God's distinguishing mercy to them.

      Infer. 6. If the change by grace be a new creation, how universal and marvellous a change does regeneration make upon men! The new creation speaks a marvellous and universal alteration, both upon the state and tempers of men; they come out of darkness, gross, hellish darkness, into light, a marvellous and heavenly light, 1 Pet. 2: 9. Eph. 5: 8. their condition, disposition, and conversation, (as you have heard) are all new; and yet this marvellous change, as great and universal as it is, is not alike evident, and clearly discernible in all new creatures: and the reasons are,

      First, Because the work of grace is wrought in divers methods and manners in the people of God. Some are changed from a state of notorious profaneness unto serious godliness; there the change is conspicuous and very evident; all the neighbourhood rings ofit: but in others it is more insensibly distilled in their tender years, by the blessing of God, upon religious education, and there it is more indiscernible.

      Secondly, Though a great change be wrought, yet much natural corruption still remains for their humiliation and daily exercise; and this is a ground of fear and doubting; they see not how such corruptions are consistent with the new creature.

      Thirdly, In some, the new creature shews itself mostly in the affectionate part, in desires and breathings after God; and but little in the clearness of their understandings, and strength of their judgements; for want of which they are entangled and kept in darkness most of their days.

      Fourthly, Some Christians are more tried, and exercised by temptation from Satan than others are; and these clouds darken the work of grace in them.

      Fifthly, There is great difference and variety found in the natural tempers and constitutions of the regenerate; some are of a more melancholy, fearful, and suspicious temper than others are; and are therefore much longer held under doubtings and trouble of spirit; nevertheless, what differences soever these things make, the change made by grace is a marvellous change.

      Infer. 7. Lastly, How incongruous are carnal ways and courses to the spirit of Christians! who being new creatures, can never delight or find pleasure in their former sinful companions and practices. Alas! those things are now most unsuitable, loathsome and detestable, how pleasant soever they once were; that which they counted their liberty, would now be reckoned their greatest bondage; that which was their glory, is now their shame; Rom. 6: 21. "What fruit had ye then in those things, whereof ye are now ashamed; for the end of those things is death:" they need not be pressed by others, but will freely confess of themselves, what fools and mad men they once were. None can censure their former conversation more freely than themselves do, 1 Tim. 13, 14.

      Second use, for conviction.

      If none be in Christ but new creatures, and the new creation makes such a change, as has been described; this may convince us, how many of us deceive ourselves, and run into dangerous and fatal mistakes, in the greatest concernment we have in this world. But before I urge this use, I desire none may make a perverse and ill use of it; let not the wicked conclude, from hence, that there is no such thing as true religion in the world, or that all who do profess it, are but hypocrites; neither let the godly injure themselves by that which is designed for their benefit: let none conclude, that seeing there are so many mistakes committed about this near creature, that therefore assurance must needs be impossible, as the Papists affirm it to be. The proper use that should be made of this doctrine, is, to undeceive false pretenders, and to awaken all to a more deep and thorough search of their own conditions; which being precautioned, let all men be convinced of the following truths:

      First, That the change made by civility, upon such as were lewd and profane, is, in its whole kind and nature, a different thing from the new creature; the power and efficacy of moral virtue is one thing, the influence of the regenerating Spirit is quite another thing, however some have studied to comfort them. The Heathens excelled in moral and homolitical virtues: Plato, Aristides, Seneca, and multitudes more, have outvied many professed Christians, in justice, temperance, patience, &c. yet were perfect strangers to the new creation. A man may be very strict and temperate, free from the pollutions of the world, and yet a perfect stranger to regeneration all the while, John 3: 10.

      Secondly, That many strong convictions and troubles for sin may be found where the new creature is never formed. Conviction, indeed, is an antecedent unto, and preparative for the new creature, as the blossoms of the tree are to the fruit that follows them; but as fruit does not always follow where those blossoms and flowers appear, so neither does the new creature follow all convictions and troubles for sin. Conviction is a common work of the Spirit both upon the elect and reprobate; but the new creature is formed only in God's elect. Convictions may be blasted, and vanish away, and the man that was under troubles for sin, may return again, with "the dog to his vomit, and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire," 2 Pet. 2: 22. but the new creature never perishes, nor can consist with such a return to sin.

      Thirdly, That excellent gifts and abilities, fitting men for service in the church of God, may be where the new creature is not; for these are promiscuously dispensed by the Spirit both to the regenerate and unregenerate: Math. 7: 22. "Many will say unto me, in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?" Gifts are attainable by study; prayer and preaching are reduced to an art; but regeneration is wholly supernatural. Sin, in dominion, is consistent with excellent gifts, but wholly incompatible with the new creature. In a word, these things are so different in nature from the new creature, that they oft-times prove the greatest bars and obstacles in the world to the regenerating work of the Spirit. Let no man, therefore, trust to things whereby multitudes deceive and destroy their own souls. Reader, it may cost thee many an aking head to attain gifts, but thou wilt find an aking heart for sin if ever God make thee a new creature.

      Fourthly, Be convinced that multitudes of religious duties may be performed by men, in whom the new creature was never formed. Though all new creatures perform the duties of religion, yet all that perform the duties of religion, are not new creatures; regeneration is not the only root from which the duties of religion spring, Isa. 58: 2. "Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinances of their God, they ask of me the ordinances of justice, they take delight in approaching to God." These are but weak and slippery foundations for men to build their confidence and hopes upon.

      The third use, for examination.

      Next, therefore, let me persuade every man to try the state of his own heart in this matter, and closely consider and weigh this great question: Am I really and indeed a new creature? or am I an old creature still, in a new creature's dress and habit? Some light may be given for the discovery hereof, from the consideration of the

      1. Antecedents, of the new creation.

      2. Concomitants, of the new creation.

      S. Consequents, of the new creation.

      First, Weigh and consider well the antecedents of the new creature; have those things passed upon your souls, which ordinarily make way for the new creature, in whomsoever the Lord forms it?

      1. Has the Lord opened the eyes of your understanding in the knowledge of sin and of Christ? Has he showed you both your disease and remedy, by a new light shining from heaven into your souls! Thus the Lord does wherever he forms the new creature, Acts 26: 18.

      2. Has he brought home the word with mighty power and efficacy upon your hearts to convince and humble them? This is the method in which the new creature is produced, Rom. 7: 9. 1 Thes. 1: 5.

      3. Have these convictions over-turned your vain confidences, and brought you to a great concern and inward distress of soul, making you to cry, What &hall we do to be saved? These are the ways of the Spirit, in the formation of the new creature, Acts 16: 29. Acts 2: 37. If no such antecedent works of the Spirit have passed upon your hearts, you have no ground for your confidence, that the new creature is formed in you.

      Secondly, Consider the concomitant frames and workings of spirit which ordinarily attend the production of the new creature, and judge impartially betwixt God and your own souls, whether they have been the very frames and workings of your hearts.

      1. Have your vain spirits been composed to the greatest seriousness, and most solemn consideration of things eternal, as the hearts of all those are whom God regenerates? When the Lord is about this great work upon the soul of man, whatever vanity, levity, and sinful jollity was there before, it is banished from the heart at this time; for now heaven and hell, life and death, are before a man's eyes, and these are the most awful and solemn things that ever our thoughts conversed with in this world. Now a man of the most airy and pleasant constitution, when brought to the sight and sense of those things, saith of "laughter, It is mad; and of mirth, What does it?" Eccl. 2: 2.

      2. A lowly, meek, and humble frame of heart accompanies the new creation; the soul is weary and heavy laden, Mat 11: 28. Convictions of sin have plucked down the pride and loftiness of the spirit of man, emptied him of his vain conceits; those that were of lofty, proud, and blustering humours before, are meekened and brought down to the very dust now: it is with them (to speak allusively) as it was with Jerusalem, that lofty city, Isa. 29: 1, 4. "Wo to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt; thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust" Ariel signifies the Lion of God: so Jerusalem in her prosperity was; other cities trembled at her voice; but when God brought her down, by humbling judgements, then she whispered out of the dust. So it is in this case.

      3. A longing, thirsting frame of spirit accompanies the new creation; the desires of the soul are ardent after Christ; never did the hireling long for the shadow, as the weary soul does for Christ, and rest in him: if no such frames have accompanied that which you take for your new birth, you have the greatest reason in the world to suspect yourselves under a delusion.

      Thirdly, Weigh well the effects and consequents of the new creature, and consider whether such fruits as these are found in your hearts and lives.

      1. Wherever the new creature is formed, there a man's course and conversation is changed: Eph. 4: 22. "That ye put off, concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind", the new creature cannot but blush and be ashamed of the old creature's conversation, Rom. 6: 21.

      2. The new creature continually opposes and conflicts with the motions of sin in the heart; Gal. 5: 17. "The spirit lusteth against the flesh". Grace can no more incorporate with sin, than oil with water: contraries cannot consist in the same subject longer than they are fighting with each other; if there be no conflict with sin in thy soul, or if that conflict be only betwixt the conscience and affections, light in the one, struggling with lust in the other; thou wantest that fruit which should evidence thee to be a new creature.

      S. The mind and affections of the new creature are set upon heavenly and spiritual things, Col. 3: 1, 2. Eph. 4: 23. Rom. 8: 5. If, therefore, thy heart and affections be habitually earthly and wholly intent upon things below, driving eagerly after the world, as the great business and end of thy life, deceive not thyself, this is not the fruit of the new creature, nor consistent with it.

      5. The new creature is a praying creature, living by its daily communion with God, which is its livelihood and subsistence, Zech. 12: 10. Acts 9: 11. If, therefore, thou be a prayerless soul, or if, in all thy prayers, thou art a stranger to communion with God; if there be no brokenness of heart for sin in thy confessions, no melting affections for Christ and holiness in thy supplications; surely Satan does but baffle and delude thy over-credulous soul, in persuading thee that thou art a new creature.

      Fifthly, The new creature is restless, after falls into sin, until it have recovered peace and pardon; it cannot endure itself in a state of defilement and pollution, Psal. 51: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. It is with the conscience of a new creature, under sin, as it is with the eye, when any thing offends it; it cannot leave twinkling and watering till it have wept it out: and in the very same restless state it is, under the hiding of God's face and divine withdrawments, Cant. 5: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. If, therefore, thou canst sin and sin again without such a burdensome sense of sin, or restlessness, or solicitude how to recover purity and peace, with the light of God's countenance shining, as in days past, upon thy soul; delude not thyself, thou hast not the signs of a new creature in thee.

      Fourth use, of exhortation.

      If the new creation be a sound evidence of our interest in Christ, then hence let me persuade all that are in Christ, to evidence themselves to be so, by walking as it becomes new creatures.

      The new creature is born from above, all its tendencies are heavenward; accordingly, Get your affections on things that are above, and let your conversation be in heaven: if you live earthly and sensual lives, as others do, you must cross your new nature there in; and can those acts be pleasant unto you which are done with so much regret? wherein you must put a force upon your own spirits, and offer a kind of violence to your own hearts. Earthly delights and sorrows are suitable enough to the unregenerate and sensual men in the world, but exceedingly contrary unto that Spirit by which you are renovated. If ever you will act becoming the principles and nature of new creatures, then seek earthly things with submission, enjoy them with fear and caution, resign them with cheerfulness and readiness; and thus "let your moderation be known unto all men," Phil. 4: 5. Let your hearts daily meditate, and your tongues discourse about heavenly things; be exceeding tender of sin, strict and punctual in every duty; and hereby convince the world that you are men and women of another spirit.

      Fifth use, for consolation.

      Let every new creature be cheerful and thankful: if God has renewed your natures, and thus altered the frame and temper of your hearts, he has bestowed the richest mercy upon you that heaven or earth affords. This is a work of the greatest rarity; a new creature, may be called, One among a thousand: it is also an everlasting work, never to be destroyed, as all other natural worlds of God (how excellent soever) must be: it is a work carried on by Almighty Power, through unspeakable difficulties and mighty oppositions, Eph. 1: 12. The exceeding greatness of God's power goes forth to produce it; and indeed no less is required to enlighten the blind mind, break the rocky heart, and bow the stubborn will of man; and the same Almighty Power which at first created it, is necessary to be continued every moment to preserve and continue it, 1 Pet. 1: 5. The new creature is a mercy which draws a train of innumerable and invaluable mercies after it, Eph. 2: 13, 14. 1 Cor. 3: 20. When God has given us a new nature, then he dignifies us with a new name, Rev. 2: 17. brings us into a new covenant, Jer. 31: 33. begets us again to a new hope, 1 Pet. 1: 8. entitles us to a new inheritance, John 1: 12, 13. It is the new creature which through Christ makes our persons and duties acceptable with God, Gal. 6: 15. In a word, it is the wonderful work of God, of which we may say, "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes." There are unsearchable wonders in its generation, in its operation, and in its preservation. Let all therefore, whom the Lord has thus renewed, fall down at the feet of God, in an humble admiration of the unsearchable riches of free grace, and never open their mouths to complain under any adverse or bitter providences of God.

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See Also:
   The Epistle To The Reader
   Sermon 1
   Sermon 2
   Sermon 3
   Sermon 4
   Sermon 5
   Sermon 6
   Sermon 7
   Sermon 8
   Sermon 9
   Sermon 10
   Sermon 11
   Sermon 12
   Sermon 13
   Sermon 14
   Sermon 15
   Sermon 16
   Sermon 17
   Sermon 18
   Sermon 19
   Sermon 20
   Sermon 21
   Sermon 22
   Sermon 23
   Sermon 24
   Sermon 25
   Sermon 26
   Sermon 27
   Sermon 28
   Sermon 29
   Sermon 30
   Sermon 31
   Sermon 32
   Sermon 33
   Sermon 34
   Sermon 35


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