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 an heart of flesh.—Eze_36:26.
1. God deals with nations much as He deals with individuals. We may read the Old Testament as addressed to the many or to the one. Very often a man stood for his tribe or class; often the whole were regarded, irrespective of the doing of the few or of the single soul. A nation was looked on as having a character, and a heart, just as much as a person. It was held to be as strictly accountable for its conduct as any member of the body politic for the exercise of his powers. In this chapter the prophet is speaking to Israel. Colossal sins, grossest idolatries, shameful infidelities, had been long persisted in. Warnings, faithful and constant, had been uttered by the servants of Jehovah, only to be ridiculed and disregarded. At length the cup of the nations iniquities was full. Affliction, sad and terrible, came. War and pillage, famine and pestilence, and finally captivity and exile, were their portion.
They became indeed “a nation scattered and peeled.” They were a shepherdless flock now, in the “cloudy and dark day.” Victorious foes exulted over them, holding now in possession their “ancient high places.” Heathen orgies were celebrated in the very shrines which they themselves had polluted, and the care and power of Jehovah over His “own people” were despised. To the sorrowing prophet on the distant plains of Chebar there had been given searching messages to be spoken to the false and wicked ones who had led the nation into impiety. The flaming vision of the cherubim had stirred Ezekiel to valiant witnessing. When judgment had wrought its purpose and the repentant were ready to serve the Lord, then the prophets face was turned toward them in mercy. Of that blessed change and renewing we have here the promise. It is like a sun-burst through thick and angry clouds that have been pouring their fury on the shuddering earth, which, scattering them, discloses a smiling landscape. The grand mountain ranges of his native land loom up before the imagination of Ezekiel now purified, glorified, and Jerusalem becomes again a praise in the earth. As the energizing cause of this return and restored condition of things, we have the distinct assurance of “a new heart” and “a new spirit” in the children of God.
2. In the verse preceding the text, Ezekiel speaks of the spiritual process of regeneration by which Israel is to be transformed into a true people of God. The prophets analysis of the process of conversion is profoundly instructive, and anticipates to a remarkable degree the teaching of the New Testament. The first step in the process is the removal of the impurities contracted by past transgressions. This is represented under the figure of sprinkling with clean water, suggested by the ablutions or lustrations which are so common a feature of the Levitical ritual. The truth symbolized is the forgiveness of sins, the act of grace which takes away the effect of moral uncleanness as a barrier to fellowship with God. The second point is what is properly called regeneration, the giving of a new heart and spirit. The stony heart of the old nation, whose obduracy had dismayed so many prophets, making them feel that they had spent their labour for nought and in vain, shall be taken away, and instead of it they shall receive a heart of flesh, sensitive to spiritual influences and responsive to the Divine will. And to this is added in the third place the promise of the Spirit of God to be in them as the ruling principle of a new life of obedience to the law of God.
The prominence of “heart” as a psychological term in the Bible and in other ancient books is due, doubtless, to the centrality of the physical organ which it primarily denotes, and which, according to the view of the ancients, bulked so much more in the human frame than the brain. Since, in Bible phrase, “the life is in the blood,” that organ which forms the centre of the distribution of the blood must have the most important place in the whole system. By a very easy play of metaphor, therefore, “heart” came to signify the seat of mans collective energies, the focus of the personal life. As from the fleshly heart goes forth the blood in which is the animal life, so from the heart of the human soul goes forth the entire mental and moral activity. By a sort of metaphorical anticipation of Harveys famous discovery, the heart is also that to which all the actions of the human soul return. In the heart the soul is at home with itself, becomes conscious of its doing and suffering as its own. It is therefore the organ of conscience, of self-knowledge, and indeed of all knowledge. Now, because it is the focus of the personal life, in the “heart” lies the moral and religious condition of the man. Only what enters the heart forms a possession of moral worth, and only what comes from the heart is a moral production. On the one hand, therefore, the Bible places human depravity in the heart, because sin is a principle which has penetrated to the centre, and thence corrupts the whole circuit of life. On the other hand, it regards the heart as the sphere of Divine influences, the starting-point of all moral renovation. “A new heart will I give you.”1 [Note: J. Laidlaw, The Bible Doctrine of Man, 121.]
A New Heart
1. How wonderfully the Book of God proclaims the doctrine of the “new”! It speaks of a “new covenant,” and a “new creature,” and a “new song”: it even asserts that there shall be “a new heaven and a new earth.” It proclaims that He that sitteth upon the throne purposes to “make all things new.” It is the unique claim of the gospel that it makes men new. It professes to alter character, not as all other religious and ethical systems in the world have done, by mere influence of reason or of motives, or by a discipline of the flesh; it professes to alter human character by altering human nature. It brings truth, indeed, to satisfy the reason, and powerful motives of every sort to tell upon the will, as well as law to stimulate the conscience; but in the very act of doing so, it pronounces all these external appliances to be utterly insufficient without a concurrent action of God from within the man. The real change it proclaims to be a change of “heart” or spiritual being; and that is the work of God.
All mens attempts at the betterment of human nature begin from without, and the theory is that the work will deepen till it reaches that which is within. They profess to emancipate the man from the grosser vices, trusting that the reform will go farther, that he will be brought under superior influences, and so be elevated in mind and heart. Theirs is an outward ointment for an inward disease—a bandage upon the skin to stay the bleeding of the heart. Miserable physicians are they all! Their remedies fail to eradicate the deep-seated maladies of humanity. Gods way of dealing with men is the reverse. He begins within and works towards the exterior in due course. He is a mere quack who, seeing in a man the signs of disease, operates upon the symptoms, but never looks to the root of the mischief. It is very possible that by potent poisons an empiric may check unpleasing indications, and he may kill the man in doing so; but the wise physician looks to the fountain of the disease, and if it be possible to touch the core and centre of it, he leaves the symptoms to right themselves.1 [Note: C. H. Spurgeon.]
2. The spiritual change indicated in the text is spoken of under the metaphor of the substitution of “an heart of flesh” for “a stony heart”—“stony,” meaning hard, lacking sensitiveness to Gods mystic touch, unresponsive to the calls Divine. Who that has a glimmer of insight into his own heart but will recognize that heart as “stony”? Bishop Lightfoot in pathetic apostrophe speaks of “my sullied heart,” and he speaks for us all. John Bunyan, in his Grace Abounding, says, “I thought that every one had a better heart than I had: I could have changed hearts with anybody.” A stone, to which the natural heart is compared, is a thing upon which one can make little impression—insensitive, cold and heavy, one can do nothing with it. It feels nothing; do what we may, it gives no response; so the heart of man is by nature irresponsive to Gods love and to the gospel of His grace. It takes more than a knife to cut a stone; we may put a stone in water as long as we like, but the water does not penetrate it. The rock of the hills seems impervious to the wind, the rain, and the storm. Heat does not melt it; cold does not make it any harder; it is impenetrable. This world is like a petrifying spring, and the worldly heart is being petrified in its stream, and so grows harder and harder as the years roll on. Moreover, men harden themselves by their own sins. Every time a man sins it becomes more easy for him to sin again. As labour renders the hand hard, so sin makes the heart callous, and each sin makes the stony heart yet more like adamant.
In contrast to this stony heart, God offers to give man “an heart of flesh,” by which is meant a soft heart, an impressible heart, a sensitive heart, a heart which can feel, can be moved to shame, to repentance, to loathing of sin, to desiring, to seeking, to panting, to longing after God; a tender heart, a heart that does not require a thousand blows to move it, but, like flesh with its skin broken, feels the very faintest touch—such is the heart that the Holy Spirit creates in the children of God. It is a teachable heart, a heart willing to be guided, moulded, governed by the Divine will; a heart which, like young Samuel, cries, “Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth”; an obedient heart, ready to be run into the mould, plastic beneath the sacred hand, anxious to be conformed to the heavenly pattern.
As “flesh,” the heart is no longer hard, obdurate, impenetrable to the genial influences of heaven. Once like a hard block of ice, it has now yielded to the beams of the sun, and been melted into flowing water. How it is moved now, by truths once felt no more than dews falling out of starry heavens, in soft silence upon the rugged rock! The heart of grace is endowed with a delicate sensibility, and vibrates to the slightest touch of a Saviours fingers. How the truth of God affects it now! A stone no longer, it melts under the heavenly fire; a stone no longer, it bends beneath the hammer of the Word; no longer like the rugged rock on which rains and sunbeams were wasted, it receives the impression of Gods power, and retains the footprints of His presence.
Do not mistake natural tenderness for that heart of flesh which God gives. A heart of wax is soft, but it is not a heart of flesh. The softness of nature is not the sensitiveness of grace. Often some persons who are religiously sensitive are equally sensitive the other way, and, while you can influence them for good, others can as easily influence them for evil. Mere religious impressibility is not grace, it is nature alone. Some persons are like india-rubber, and every time you put your finger on them you leave a mark; but it is wasted time, because they get back into the old shape again as soon as you have done with them. I was preaching once in a certain city, and a very worthy but worldly man went out of the congregation while I was in the middle of the sermon, the third sermon he had been hearing from me during the week. One who followed him out asked him why he left, and he frankly replied that he could not stand it any longer, “for,” said he, “I must have become religious if I had heard that sermon through. I was nearly gone. I have been,” added he, “like an india-rubber doll under this man, but when he goes away I shall get back into the old shape again.”1 [Note: C. H. Spurgeon.]
3. A new heart can come only as the gift of God. “I” will give you it, saith Jehovah. Can any man renew his own heart? Let a host of poor disappointed attempters tell us their doleful story. Nay, let each of us recount his own pitiful endeavours. Who can renew a heart but God only? Nor priest, nor prophet, nor friend can effect this miraculous transformation. God speaks without reservation. He says that He “will” give a new heart and that He will give it to “you.” Not one of His people need know the deplorable impoverishment of being without this gift Divine. It is assured to all who desire it. God says, “I will,” and yet again, “I will.” It is not “I will if,” or “I will perhaps,” or “I will upon certain conditions,” but—“I will give.” He speaks in a Godlike tone. It is the very word of Him who of old said, “Let there be light” and there was light. He who spoke the world into being now speaks the new world of grace into being in the self-same majestic voice, which here promises the gift of a new heart.
God called for my life and I offered it at His footstool; but He gave it me as a Prey, with unspeakable addition. He called for my will, and I resigned it at His call, but He returned me His own in token of His love. He called for the world and I laid it at His feet, with the crowns thereof; I withheld them not at the beckoning of His hand. But mark the benefit of Exchange! For He gave me, instead of Earth, a Kingdom of Eternal Peace, and in lieu of the Crowns of Vanity a Crown of Glory.… He gave me Joy which no tongue can express and Peace which passeth understanding. My heart was melted with the Height of Comfort; my Soul was immersed in the Depth of Love; my eyes overflowed with tears of greatest pleasure … I begged Himself and He gave me All.2 [Note: A Journal of the Life of Thomas Story, 20.]
Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure. This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with fresh life.
This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over hills and dales, and hast breathed through it melodies eternally new.
At the immortal touch of thy hands my little heart loses its limits in joy and gives birth to utterances ineffable.
Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine. Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill.1 [Note: Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali (Song Offerings), 1.]
4. This gift which God promises is something we all need. We can do without anything else, but a new heart is absolutely requisite. A nature is fundamental. All acts, words, thoughts, are effluences of the nature. The heart is the root and fount of all things. With what finality and power our Lord described the fundamentality of the heart! “Out of the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, railings.” How radical is the teaching of Jesus in this as in all matters! He never treats things superficially. He will not rest in second causes. He traces all evil to the heart of man. And the Bible is equally thorough in all its teachings. It focusses all attention, all prayer, all endeavour, upon the heart. It will not allow that any man is right except his heart be right. Always its deep solicitude is concerning the heart. Hence all manner and types of heart are described in Scripture: a “wicked heart,” a “pure heart,” a “true heart,” a “broken heart,” a “clean heart,” a “perfect heart.” “A new heart also will I give you.” A needed gift indeed, for till the heart is rectified the life is all astray.
In this precious gift of a new heart lies the secret of a wealthy inner life. Inward peace depends upon a new heart. Self-negation depends upon a new heart. Prayer and thanksgiving and praise depend upon a new heart. All generous impulses, all sublime ideals, all lofty and strenuous purposes depend upon a new heart. No inward rightness can be attained unless Gods promised gift of a new heart be received.
Mr. MCullaghs Recollections of my Ministry in East London contains an account of two or three remarkable conversions which followed his mission sermons in Poplar and Limehouse. At one service a stranger presented himself as a penitent. He complained that he did not and could not “feel.” “I have a great stone here,” said he, putting his hand on his breast. He was reasoned with in vain. He repeated several times his complaint of “the stone.” Then the preacher quoted to him the promise to take away the stony heart. The man could not believe it was in the Bible, until a copy was shown to him, for it seemed as though made to suit his case exactly. He, too, believed and entered into rest.1 [Note: Thomas MCullagh, by his eldest Son, 81.]
Describing some of the remarkable conversions among the boatmen who had been induced to attend his Water Street Mission in New York, Jerry McAuley says, “I asked one of them who was saved at that time, when he was testifying, How do you know you were converted?
“ Well, Ill tell you, he replied: I went from here to my boat, and, locking the door, just made up my mind never to open it until converted. And I kept my word!
“ How could you tell when it was done?
“ Well, Ill have to explain that in my own way, he answered, but it seems to me the Lord just took, as it were, something like a barnacle-scraper [a keen, sharp-edged, three-cornered piece of steel, fastened to a long handle, and used to scrape off the shell-fish and other deposits that gather on the bottom of vessels] and scraped my heart all out clean, and I havent felt anything wrong there since! ”2 [Note: Jerry McAuley: An Apostle to the Lost, 75.]
That rare thing, the real Christian, is a genuinely new creation; not an ordinary man with a new and inspiring creed. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature,” said St. Paul; and described in those words a most actual phenomenon, the perennial puzzle of the religious psychologist. The re-birth which is typified by the Churchs sacrament of initiation, and the participation in the Divine Life which is dramatized in its sacrament of communion—“the food of the full-grown”—these are facts, these are things which really happen to Christian mystics; to all those, in fact, who follow this path of development, whatsoever their theological creed. The authentic documents of Christianity—those produced by minds which have submitted to the discipline and experienced the growth—speak with no uncertain voice as to the actual and unique character of this life. Its result, they say, is no splitting up of personality, no isolation of the “spiritual sense”; but the lifting of the whole man to new levels of existence “where the soul has fulhead of perception by divine fruition”; where he not only knows, but is, not only is, but acts. “My life,” said St. Augustine, looking forward to that existence in God which he recognized as his destiny, “shall be a real life, being wholly full of Thee.” “The naked will,” says Ruysbroeck of that same consummation, “is transformed by the Eternal Love, as fire by fire. The naked spirit stands erect, it feels itself to be wrapped round, affirmed and affixed by the formless immensity of God,” since “our being, without losing anything of its personality, is united with the Divine Truth which respects all diversity.” Here is the authentic voice of Western mysticism; and here we indeed recognize spirit pressing forward in a new direction towards new conquests, bringing into expression deeper and deeper levels of life.1 [Note: Evelyn Underhill, The Mystic Way, 33.]
A New Spirit
The gospel claims to make human nature new. This is to recognize what no other religion ever recognized, but what all experience demonstrates—that less than this is not enough. Out of the fact of the Incarnation springs the hope of our renewal. God now is not outside of mankind, but inside. From the inside He can work, and does work, renewingly. The race has within itself a Fountain of renewal, an endless, unfathomable Source of re-creating energy.
1. The text reveals to us how God effects the great change that is promised under the figure of a new heart. “I will put my spirit within you.” The new life-principle is the effluence of the Spirit of God. The promise does not offer merely the influence of a Divine spirit, working on men as from without, or coming down upon them as an afflatus, but the actual planting of Gods Spirit in the deep places of theirs. We fail to apprehend the most characteristic blessing of the gospel if we do not give full prominence to that great gift of an indwelling Spirit, the life of our lives. Cleansing is much, but it is incomplete without a new life-principle which shall keep us clean; and that can only be Gods Spirit, enshrined and operative within us; for only thus shall we “walk in his statutes, and keep his judgments.” When the Lawgiver dwells in our hearts, the law will be our delight; and keeping it will be the natural outcome and expression of our life, which is His life.
“Within you!” This word of our text is one of the keywords of the New Covenant. “I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it.” “I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” God created mans heart for His dwelling. Sin entered, and defiled it. Four thousand years Gods Spirit strove and wrought to regain possession. In the Incarnation and Atonement of Christ the Redemption was accomplished, and the Kingdom of God established. Jesus could say, “The kingdom of God is come unto you”; “the kingdom of God is within you.” It is within we must look for the fulfilment of the New Covenant, the Covenant not of ordinances but of life: in the power of an endless life the law and the fear of God are to be given in our heart, the Spirit of Christ Himself is to be within us as the power of our life. Not only on Calvary, or in the Resurrection, or on the throne, is the glory of Christ the Conqueror to be seen,—but in our heart: within us, within us is to be the true display of the reality and the glory of His Redemption.1 [Note: A. Murray, The Spirit of Christ, 21.]
2. With a new life, cut off from the dreadful moral continuity with the past, eased of ones inheritance of self-reproach, and made quick within with the seed of a new future, all things seem possible to a man. The whole world changes when we change. Old things pass away; all things become new. But it is not in an instant that the old things pass away. Even to get a beginning made, and a seed of newness let into the old life through the first coming of the Holy Ghost, may ask long, sore waiting, with many tears and groans over the sins of the past, and an agony of wrestling desire, and a letting go of ones loved things, even of ones loved self, which is like the spasm of dissolution. And when the new heart begins to beat, and the new-won Holy Spirit begins to breathe in us, the young life must be fostered continually, and the Holy Spirit must not be grieved. The process of renewal in Christ Jesus is a work of every day. Every day the old has to become older and more obsolete; the new, newer and more mighty.
It is here that so many of us blunder. We think of regeneration as a fait accompli, a thing past and done; and we forget that “the inward man” needs to be “renewed day by day.” No man can be a new creature except “in Christ”—within the circle of Christs life and influence. Keep there, in that charmed circle, in personal intimacy with that Living One, and we are in the Life and in the Light; all is new, all is strength, sunshine, and gladness. Go out of it for an instant, and everything is cold and dark as death. But stay not out of it. At all cost get back to Jesus; eye to eye with Him, hand in hand, heart to heart. It is from Him the new being streams into us, and everything—yes, everything—must be sacrificed to have that contact maintained. Is it not worth it? To be ones old self, with ones old bondage, and spiritual incapacity, and dreary remorse, and vain struggles to be good, is to be dead. He alone lives who lives in Christ; and for that true life it is worth while to die to everything beside.
As the self-expression of the Divine life in the world conforms to a rhythm too great for us to grasp, so that its manifestation appears to us erratic and unprepared; so is it with the self-expression, the emergence into the field of consciousness, of that fontal life of man which we have called the souls spark or seed, which takes place in the spiritual adolescence. This emergence is seldom understood by the self in relation with life as a whole. It seems to him a separate gift or “grace,” infused from without rather than developed from within. It startles him by its suddenness; the gladness, awe, and exaltation which it brings; an emotional inflorescence, parallel with that which announces the birth of perfect human love. This moment is the spiritual spring-time. It comes, like the winds of March, full of natural wonder, and gives to all who experience it a participation in the deathless magic of eternal springs. An enhanced vitality, a wonderful sense of power and joyful apprehension as towards worlds before ignored or unknown, floods the consciousness. Life is raised to a higher degree of tension than ever before; and therefore to a higher perception of Reality.1 [Note: Evelyn Underhill, The Mystic Way, 50.]
The feeling of Gods forgiveness, the freedom from the sense of sin, prominent at the critical point in conversion, is one of the most frequently expressed characteristics of sanctification; but the form of expression has changed. While the former was a mere act of pardon, this is usually described as a complete cleansing. These are typical: “I felt pure and clean so that I wished I were made of glass, so that everyone could look within my heart.” “I had the witness of Gods Spirit that a clean heart had been created within me.” “Self-mastery and a real purification of my nature became manifest in me.” The work of forgiveness seems to be more thorough; it involves ones entire being; the person feels not only that his sins have been forgiven, but that he has been made wholly pure.
The specific ways in which sanctification is a culmination of conversion are along the lines of the changes wrought then in ones nature. Evil habits are more completely broken up. For example: “At conversion I experienced pardon for sin, a new heart, a disposition to do right, although an evil tendency remained. Sanctification took away this tendency.” The feeling of harmony with God is heightened. “Sanctification brought a fuller consciousness of the presence of the Holy Spirit.” Sanctification brings with it a fulness, an all-aroundness of experience which is new. The joy at conversion has been enlarged so that it approaches a state of ecstasy in which ones whole nature participates. “I was cleansed from all sin and filled with the fulness of God as I had not been at conversion.” “Conversion was a consecration to God; sanctification was an exalted state of soul, an indwelling of power.” In these instances one sees the heightened subjectivity of experience which is one of the distinguishing aspects of sanctification.1 [Note: E. D. Starbuck, The Psychology of Religion, 379.]
For him, in this sensitiveness of surface and texture, there arose one of the perennially fresh springs of interest for every working day. No method was entirely satisfactory. There were ever fresh discoveries to be made, and the joy of for ever seeking made him glad to be up with the first streak of daylight. “Every day is a birthday, every moment of it is new to us,” he said cheerfully; “we are born again, renewed for fresh work and endeavour.”2 [Note: George Frederic Watts, ii. 91.]
A New Life
1. When a man receives a new heart his temper and disposition are changed and sanctified. A kind, gentle, loving nature is one of the most winning features of religion; by its silent and softening influence one may do more real service to Christianity than by the loudest professions, or by the exhibition of a cold and rigid orthodoxy. The heart that has room in it for God grows so large that it finds room for all that He loves, and for all that He has made. While the love of sin acts as an astringent—contracting the natural heart, shutting and shrivelling it up—the love of God expands and enlarges its capacity. Piety quickens the pulse of love, warms and strengthens our heart, and sends forth fuller streams of natural affection toward all that have a claim on us, just as a strong and healthy heart sends tides of blood along the elastic arteries to every extremity of the body.
This new heart, however, consists mainly in a change of the affections as they regard spiritual objects. Just look at the heart and feelings of an unconverted man. His mind, being carnal, is enmity or hatred against God. This may be latent, not at first sight apparent or suspected, but how soon does it appear when put to the proof. Fairly tried, it comes out like those unseen elements which chemical tests reveal. Let God, for instance, by His providences or laws, thwart the wishes or cross the propensities of our renewed nature—let there be a collision between His will and ours—and the latent enmity flashes out like latent fire when the cold flint is struck with steel.
2. Conversion restores not only God to the heart, but also reason to her throne. Time and eternity are now seen in their just proportions—the one in its littleness, and the other in its greatness. When the light of heaven rises on the soul, what grand discoveries does she make—of the exceeding evil of sin, of the holiness of the Divine law, of the infinite purity of Divine justice, of the grace and greatness of Divine love. The Saviour and Satan, the soul and the body, holiness and sin, have competing claims. Between these reason now holds the balance even, and man finds what the demoniac found in Jesus advent. The man whose dwelling was among the tombs, whom no chains could bind, is seated at the feet of Jesus, “clothed, and in his right mind.” By this change the will is renewed, changed, and sanctified. The attainments of a believer are always beneath his aims; his desires are nobler than his deeds; his wishes are holier than his works. Give other men their will, full swing to their passions, and they would be worse than they are; give that to him, and he would be better than he is. And if we have experienced the gracious change it will be our daily grief that we are not what we know we should be, nor even what we wish to be. To be complaining with Paul, “When I would do good, evil is present with me”; “the good which I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do,” is one of the best evidences of a gracious, saving change.
3. It has been said, change the man and you change his world. The new self will make all around it as good as new, though no actual change should pass on it; for, to a very wonderful extent, a man creates his own world. We project the hue of our own spirits on things outside. A bright and cheerful temper sees all things on their sunny side. A weary, uneasy mind drapes the very earth in gloom. Lift from a man his load of inward anxiety, and the aspect of the universe is changed to that man; for, if “to the pure all things are pure,” it is no less true that to the happy all things are happy. Especially is the world revolutionized and made new to a man by a noble and joyous passion. Any great enthusiasm which lifts a man above his average self for the time makes him like a new man, and transfigures the universe in his eyes. Now, this power of human nature, when exalted through high and noble emotion, to make its own world, will be realized in its profoundest form when the soul is re-created by the free Spirit of God. Let God lift us above our old selves, and inspire us with no earthly, but with the pure flame of a celestial, devotion; let Him breathe into our hearts the noblest, freest of all enthusiasms, the enthusiasm for Himself; and to us all things will become new. We shall seem to ourselves to have entered another world where we breathe lighter air, see an intenser sunlight, and move to the impulses of a more generous spirit.
One peculiarity of the assurance state is the objective change which the world often appears to undergo. “An appearance of newness beautifies every object,” the precise opposite of that other sort of newness, that dreadful unreality and strangeness in the appearance of the world, which is experienced by melancholy patients. This sense of clean and beautiful newness within and without is one of the commonest entries in conversion records. Jonathan Edwards thus describes it in himself:—
“After this my sense of divine things gradually increased, and became more and more lively, and had more of that inward sweetness. The appearance of everything was altered; there seemed to be, as it were, a calm, sweet cast, or appearance of divine glory, in almost everything. Gods excellency, His wisdom, His purity, and love, seemed to appear in everything; in the sun, moon, and stars; in the clouds and blue sky; in the grass, flowers, and trees; in the water and all nature; which used greatly to fix my mind. And scarce anything, among all the works of nature, was so sweet to me as thunder and lightning; formerly nothing had been so terrible to me. Before, I used to be uncommonly terrified with thunder, and to be struck with terror when I saw a thunderstorm rising; but now, on the contrary, it rejoices me.”1 [Note: W. James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, 248.]
Billy Bray, the Cornish evangelist, whose wonderful work in the West of England is well known, speaks thus of the sense of newness that he experienced on his conversion:—“I said to the Lord: Thou hast said, they that ask shall receive, they that seek shall find, and to them that knock the door shall be opened, and I have faith to believe it. In an instant the Lord made me so happy that I cannot express what I felt. I shouted for joy. I preached God with my whole heart.… I think this was in November, 1823, but what day of the month I do not know. I remember this, that everything looked new to me, the people, the fields, the cattle, the trees. I was like a new man in a new world. I spent the greater part of my time in praising the Lord.”2 [Note: F. W. Bourne, The Kings Son—A Memoir of Billy Bray, 9.]
O glory of the lighted mind
How dead Id been, how dumb, how blind.
The station brook, to my new eyes,
Was babbling out of Paradise,
The waters rushing from the rain
Were singing Christ has risen again.
I thought all earthly creatures knelt
From rapture of the joy I felt.
The narrow station-walls brick ledge,
The wild hop withering in the hedge,
The lights in huntsmans upper storey,
Were parts of an eternal glory,
Were Gods eternal garden flowers.
I stood in bliss at this for hours.3 [Note: John Masefield, The Everlasting Mercy, 97.]
Bonar (H.), Family Sermons, 311, 319.
Campbell (J. M.), Bible Questions, 155.
Carroll (B. H.), Sermons and Life Sketch, 149.
Cooper (E.), Fifty-Two Family Sermons, 204.
Farindon (A.), Sermons, i. 497; ii. 1.
Finney (C. G.), The Way of Salvation, 254.
Gibbon (J. M.), Evangelical Heterodoxy, 61.
Gibson (E. C. S.), The Old Testament and its Messages, 194.
Kennedy (J.), in Modern Scottish Pulpit, i. 231.
Kirk (J.), Sermons, 185.
Kuegele (F.), Country Sermons, New Ser., i. 136.
Lewis (H. E.), By the River Chebar, 62.
Oosterzee (J. J. van), The Year of Salvation, ii. 487.