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his place ; we have followed the devices and desires of our own depraved nature ; yea, as the Prophet speaks, “ All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way.
Beloved brethren, have you ever been led deeply to feel this? Have you made confession of it sincerely and seriously before your God? Have you looked into your hearts, and mourned to find the law of God not written there, as it ought to be? Has it grieved you to think how you have dishonoured God, by taking idols, and putting them into his place, and obeying laws exactly opposed to his law ?
It is one of the first signs and proofs of a saving change in any sinner's soul, when a sense of his wicked waywardness in this preference, not of his Maker's authority, but of his own inclination, not of God's commands, but of his own conceits, awakens him to shame, and sorrow, and unfeigned repentance, and he learns to abhor himself, and is heard to sigh and cry for his own vileness, and his language is, 'O for a new heart, O for a will subdued to God's will, O that my own proud, foolish, selfish spirit were brought down, and the law of my God set up, as it should be, in my soul !'
Brethren, it is well when a man begins so to feel, and so to speak. Perhaps some of you are actually at this moment in this state of mind. Then let me take them again to our text.
II. You will observe, that if the text shews us our natural state of lawless disobedience, it
also tells us HOW, AND IN WHAT WAY, THE CHANGE WE WANT IS TO BE WROUGHT: how the law of God is to be established in our souls. Almighty God Himself undertakes to do it. "I will put my Laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts."
When Israel is converted unto God, it will be God's own work. So He speaks by his prophet Ezekiel, “ Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh, and I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”
Thus the Lord declares that Israel's conversion unto Him shall be the work of his own hand. When their idols are cast down, and the Lord alone exalted; when their stony disobedient heart is changed into a meek submissive heart, a heart of flesh ; when God's statutes and judgments shall be loved, and reverenced, and obeyed, -it shall be through the power
of his Almighty Spirit working the wondrous change
Now, brethren, so it is with us.
Our change of heart and will is the work of God. The writing of his law within us must be done by the operation of his Holy Spirit.
Hence, when our Lord was speaking of this great change, He described it as a being " born
of the Spirit:” a new creation of the soul, to, be wrought by the power of the Holy Ghost. And so St. Paul, speaking of all who are living in holy obedience to God, saith to them, “We are His workmanship,” the workmanship of God, “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Awakened sinner, what dost thou desire ? Is it not this, to be changed in heart, to have thy soul renewed, to be freed from the law and dominion of thy sins, to have thyself subjected and conformed to the law of thy God?
Then learn this day whither thou must go to have all this acomplished in thee.
God alone can do it. And God himself undertakes the work. The Holy Spirit it is who makes it his own special office to cleanse the hearts of sinners from their sin, to put the law of God into their minds, and write it in their hearts: He has done it already for thousands : He will do it for thee. Go then, and ask Him : • Create in clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
But, perhaps, some of you will inquire what right you have to expect so great a blessing ? What claim have you on the Divine regard ? It is true, God makes a promise, but then, you say, are not you to do something on your part to make yourselves deserving that the promise shall be fulfilled to you? In answer to this, I would have you notice a still further and very important matter in our text.
III. We remark THE PECULIAR WAY IN WHICH THE LORD DECLARES HIS PLAN OF GRACE. It is by a new covenant. The promise of our text is a new covenant engagement.
"This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, saith the Lord ; I will put my laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts."
You remember the Lord is speaking of Israel ; the Jewish people. Now there was a covenant which He had once made with them, even at the time when He led them forth out of Egypt, and was about to fix them in the land of Canaan. Then it was that He entered into his first covenant with them. He gave them a law: and He told them that as long as the nation kept that law, as long as they obeyed and served their God, so long He would favour them, protect them, and bless them: but if they broke his law, and departed from his service, and obeyed not his voice, then would He“ turn to be their enemy, and they should feel all the weight of his wrathful indignation.
Now you notice the nature of this covenant: it was conditional : that is to say, God's favour, or wrath, depended on their own conduct: if they obeyed his will, He would bless them: if they disobeyed, He would cast them off.
So you read in the book of Deuteronomy how Moses sums up this covenant : “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil, in that I command thee to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments, that thou mayest live, and
the Lord thy God shall bless thee : but if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not fear, ye shall surely perish. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before
life and death, blessing and cursing. These were then the terms of the covenant. If, as a nation, Israel served God, then, as a nation, they should prosper. If they sinned against Him, then, as a nation, they should suffer.
Now what did Israel do ? Did they serve God ? No. They wofully departed from Him, and rebelled against Him. What was the consequence? God kept to his word. He poured his wrath most terribly upon them. He has cast them out of their land. They are under his curse.
So then, by the first covenant, Israel is a lost and ruined race.
Now, therefore, what hath God done? In wondrous mercy He proclaims a new covenant: a very different covenant from the first : it is the covenant of the Gospel. That Gospel, Israel, as a nation, shall ere long receive : and then shall we see our text fulfilled in them.
Meanwhile, let us mark wherein this new covenant differs from the old : the second from the first.
Surely it differs in many points. But the particular I want to have noted now is this, the kind of engagement which this new covenant makes. The old covenant, as we have seen, made every thing depend on Israel's own conduct. The new covenant is altogether of another kind. It leaves nothing to depend on Israel.