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III. That it is the duty of sinners to make them a new heart.
1. The bare light of nature teaches that every person ought to exercise universal benevolence. This duty results from the nature of things. Every intelligent creature is capable of knowing the difference between moral good, and moral evil, and this knowledge lays him under moral obligation to exercise true benevolence towards all proper objects of it. God is supremely excellent, and sinners are capable of seeing his great and amiable character which they are bound to love supremely. All who know God are under indispensable obligations to glorify him as God. Sinners are as capable of knowing God as saints, and are under the same obligations to love him, notwithstanding the native depravity of their hearts. Their depravity wholly consists in selfish affections, which do not destroy either their capacity, or obligation to exercise holy and benevolent affections. Though sinners have hated God, rejected the gospel, and lived in the exercise of perfect selfishness, in time past; yet this is no reason why they should not immediately love God, embrace the gospel, and live in the exercise of true benevolence, in time to come. It is just as easy for them to put forth benevolent exercises, as if they never had a selfish one before; and their obligation to exercise benevolent affections is as great as if they never had been in the least degree selfish. The reason is, their obligation to exercise benevolence, arises from the nature of things, or their being free, moral agents. Though the Algerines are mere Pagans and destitute of the light of divine Revelation, yet they have no right to treat their prisoners of war with malevolence and cruelty. Neither their native depravity, nor their ignorance of the Bible, excuses them for their malevo
lent and inhuman conduct towards those who fall into their hands. They ought to exercise benevolence in. stead of malevolence, or make them new hearts: The mere light of nature lays them under moral obligation, to put away their hard, cruel, malignant hearts, and become kind, tender, and benevolent towards all nations. And surely sinners under the gospel are no less obliged, by the nature of things, to put away all their selfish affections, and exercise universal benevolence, or immediately turn from sin to holiness. It is just as easy for a sinner to begin to love God, as to continue to love him after he has loved him once; and it is just as easy both to begin and to continue to love God, as to continue to hate him. And for the same reason that he ought not to continue to hate God, He ought immediately to love him; or to put away his old heart of hatred, and make him a new heurt of love.
2. God, who perfectly knows the state and characters of sinners, repeatedly commands them to make them a new heart. He commands them to change their hearts both explicitly and implicitly, in various forms, and in a multitude of places. In the verse which contains our text, he says in plain terms, "Cast away from you all your transgressions whereby ye have transgressed, and make you a new heart and a new spirit." We find a similar command in the tenth of Deuteronomy. “Circumsise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked.” This same command is repeated in nearly the same expressions in the fourth of Jeremiah. “Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskin of your hearts. O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved; how long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?" Nothing less than the making of a new heart is required in the fourth chapter of
James. “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”
double minded.” In these passages, God explicitly commands sinners to make them a new heart; and he implicitly requires the same thing, in every other command he has given them in his word. When he commands them to love himself with all their hearts, and their neighbours as themselves; or when he commands them to repent, to believe, to submit, to pray, to rejoice, or to do any thing else, he implicitly commands them to make them a new heart, or to exercise holy, instead of unholy affections. And for sinners to exercise holy affections, is to exercise the new affections, in which a new heart consists. Thus it appears, that sinners, notwithstanding their total depravity, are capable of making a new heart, and are commanded to make a new heart, and of consequence, that it is their first and indispensable duty, to make them a new heart.
Every argument that can be adduced to prove, that they ought to do any duty, will equally prove that they ought to do this first duty of all.
IMPROVEMENT. 1. If the making of a new heart consists in the exercising of holy, instead of unholy affections, then sinners are not passive, but active, in regeneration. It has been the common opinion of Calvinists, that a new heart consists in a new taste, disposition, or principle, which is prior to and the foundation of all holy exercises. And this idea of a new heart has led them to suppose, that sinners are entirely passive in regeneration. But if a new heart consists in new holy exercises, then sinners may be as active in regeneration as conversion. Though it be true, that the divine agency is concerned in the renovation of the heart, yet this does by no means destroy the activity of sinners,
Their activity in all cases is owing to a divine operation upon their minds.
their minds. In God they live, and move, and have their being. They are not sufficient of themselves, to think any thing as of themselves, but their sufficiency is of God. He always works in them both to will and to do, in all their free and voluntary exercises. When the inspired writers mention only the divine agency in regeneration, and represent men as "born of the Spirit, created anew in Christ Jesus, and raised from the dead by the mighty power of God,” they do not mean to exclude the activity of the subjects of this saving change. They may act, while they are acted upon, in regeneration, as well as in sanctification. It is generally allowed, that sanctification is the work of God's Spirit, and at the same time supposed, that saints are active in the growth of grace, or perseverance in holiness. Indeed, it is expressly said, that God, who begins, carries on the good work in the hearts of believers. But if saints can act freely under a divine influence in sanctification, why cannot sinners act freely under a divine influence in regeneration? Thecases are perfectly similar, and so represented in the word of truth. Sinners are required to make them a new heart, and saints are required to keep themselves in the love of God. But there could be no propriety in these commands to saints, nor to sinners, if they must be passive, in becoming and continuing holy. Every command given to either saints or sinners, requires them to be active, not passive, in obeying the command. And since God requires sinners to make them a new heart, as well as saints to grow in grace; it is just as certain, that sinners are active in regeneration, as that saints are active in sanctification; and it is just as certain, that both saints and sinners are active under the sanctifying and renewing
influence of the divine Spirit, as that the divine commands are holy, just, and good.
2. If sinners are free and voluntary in making them a new heart; then 'regeneration is not a miraculous or supernatural work. Were it even true, that on God's part, regeneration is the production of a new nature, disposition, or principle in the human mind; still it would not be a miraculous or supernatural operation, according to the common acceptation of the phrase. But since in regeneration God does not create any new nature, disposition, or principle of action, but only works in men holy and benevolent exercises, in which they are completely free and active, there is a plain absurdity in calling the renovation of the heart a miraculous or supernatural change. This is carrying the passivity of the creature in regeneration to an extravagant height, and so as to destroy all obligation of sinners to do the least duty, until a miracle has been wrought upon them. How this is consistent with that distinction between natural and moral inability, which has been so clearly stated and strongly supported, by a very acute and eminent Divine, I can by no means conceive. I believe, it was never said by them of old time, that regeneration is a miracle, though they did say it is the production of a new nature, disposition, or principle of action. And in saying this, they set the doctrine of regeneration in direct opposition to all the divine commands, invitations, and threatenings to sinners. It is certain, however, that sinners understand them in this light, and charge them with a palpable contradiction in their discourses opon passive regeneration, in which they exhort them to immediate repentance, faith, and new obedience. And, perhaps, it is beyond the power of man, to reconcile the passivity of sinners in regeneration with their immediate duty to repent, to believe, or to do any thing else, in a holy and