by James Buchannan
THE grand result of the Spirit's work in conversion is described by the apostle, when he says, 'Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.' (2 Corinthians 5:17).
When a sinner is converted to God, he is said in Scripture to be united to Christ. He becomes a living member of that spiritual body of which Christ is the Head; and it is from his union with Christ that he derives all those blessings, which he enjoys now, or hopes to enjoy hereafter. In virtue of this union, he is identified, as it were, with Christ, and Christ with him; insomuch that he is represented as having died with Christ when he died, and as having risen with Christ when he arose from the dead; his sins are reckoned to Christ's account, and Christ's righteousness is imputed to him; so that, as Christ suffered his punishment, he will share in Christ's reward: he is 'a joint heir with Christ,' and has an interest in every privilege or promise which God has given to his Son on behalf of his people. The legal or judicial effect of this union is his entire justification, the pardon of his sins, the acceptance of his person, his adoption into God's family, and his final admission into heaven. And to this effect of his union with Christ the apostle refers, when he says, 'Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.' But there is another effect of this union, which is equally important. By being united to Christ as a member of his spiritual body, he comes to be animated by that Spirit which pervades it, the Spirit of Christ, which is, as it were, the vital power of his body, and which actuates every member belonging to it, the Spirit with which the Head was anointed, and by reason of which he was called the Christ of God, being like the ointment which was poured on the head of Aaron, and which went down to the skirts of his garments. Every member of his body shares in this anointing, and the spiritual effect of this vital union is, that 'from Christ the Head, the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.' Or, as the same truth is elsewhere represented under another figure, every believer is a branch in Christ, the true vine, and from Christ derives that sap and nourishment which renders him fruitful: 'Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without,' or out of, 'me ye can do nothing.'
Such is the union which is declared to subsist between Christ and his people, and in virtue of which every converted man is said to be 'in Christ.' If we inquire by what means this union is affected, or how it is that we may be grafted into the vine, we shall find that it is by faith. Faith is the bond, which unites the sinner with the Saviour. No unbeliever is in Christ; no believer is out of Christ. Nominal and formal professors may be said, indeed, to be in Christ externally or apparently, by reason of their connection with his visible body, the Church; and to their case our Lord seems to refer when he says, 'Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away,' referring to fruitless and faithless professors, who are as withered branches that receive no vital sap or nourishment from the vine to which they seem to belong; but the reason is, that they have no faith; his word does not abide in them, nor does his Spirit animate them. That which constitutes the vital union is Faith. The Jews, the natural branches, were broken off because of unbelief; and, says the apostle, 'Thou standest by faith. Thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree.' The Jews, the natural branches, were in this tree as members of God's visible Church, but through unbelief they were broken off; the Gentiles, who were branches of a wild olive, and had no connection at all with the true vine, were grafted in by faith: so that in both cases, faith is the bond of union.
Now of every man who is thus united to Christ, it is said he is a new creature, or, that there is a new creation. And if we would understand the import of this statement, or what is meant by the new creation here spoken of, we may derive much instruction from a comparison of two other passages (Galatians 6:15 and 5:6), where the same expression occurs, and which throw much light on each other, and also on the text. In the first the apostle says, 'In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature;' and, in the second, he says, 'In Jesus Christ, neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love';and from a comparison of the two we may infer that by a new creature in the one, he means the same thing as is described by 'faith which worketh by love' in the other; or, that 'faith working by love' is the new creation which is wrought in the soul of a sinner when he is converted to God and united to Christ.
The production of true faith is often spoken of in Scripture as equivalent to the whole work of regeneration: 'Whoso believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God;' and 'He that believeth shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life;' 'He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life;' and, 'Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith into this grace where we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.' But then it must be a vital faith, such as is required in the Gospel, a living and active principle, serving at once to connect us with Christ, and to constrain us to live no longer to ourselves, but to him that died for us, and that rose again. In a word, it must be 'the faith which worketh by love.' Love is the sum of God's law, and the spring of all acceptable obedience; for, said our Lord himself, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart: this is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets;' and, says the apostle, 'Love is the fulfilling of the law.' Now love is the spring which faith touches, and through which it brings into plays every faculty of soul and body in the service of God. The Gospel, being a message of love from God, cannot be believed without awakening a responsive love in our own bosoms: we will, we must love him, because he first loved us; and loving him, we will love one another for his sake; and if it be true that 'whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God,' it is equally true that every child of God must love his Father in heaven, and that 'every one that loveth him that begat, loveth those also that are begotten of him.' The Gospel message is fitted to call this powerful principle into operation; and wherever it does so, we see the Gospel fulfilling the very end of the law; we see faith producing that love which is the bond of perfectness, and through love all the peaceable fruits of righteousness. And thus, and thus only, is the whole character changed, and changed so thoroughly as to justify the strong language of the apostle, when he says, 'Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.'
You cannot fail to see the connection between the two clauses of the passage, when they are thus explained: we are united to Christ by faith, and the new creation consists in 'faith which worketh by love;' so that it follows, 'if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.'
It is of considerable practical importance to view the subject in this light, not only because it affords a clear and definite explanation, in a few comprehensive words, of all that is essentially implied in the new creation, but also because it may serve to guard us against two very opposite errors, into one or other of which many hearers of the Gospel are apt to fall. Some, when they read of the great change which must be wrought on a sinner before he can enter into the kingdom of God, and are visited with some remorseful reflections on the carelessness or delinquencies of their past life, are so far impressed with God's truth as to resolve on breaking off some of their former habits, and may actually begin a work of outward reformation, - forsaking the tavern and the haunts of profligacy, and the company of the careless and profane; and repairing to church, and sacrament, and assuming the outward observances of a religious life. Far be it from us to discourage or despise these practical reforms; they are included in the duty which you owe to God and your own souls; and they will materially promote your present comfort, as well as bring you more frequently and more hopefully into contact with the means of grace. Persevere, then, in the course of outward amendment, and in the practical work of self-reform. But oh! remember, lest even your amendment should become a snare to you, that a new creation is God's work; that it consists, not in an amendment of life merely, although that will assuredly flow from it, but in a change of mind and heart, and that the only root on which the fruits of true righteousness will grow is 'faith that worketh by love.' Mere civil virtue may spring from many roots - from law, from policy, from prudence, from education, from example; but Christian virtue is the fruit and product of Christian faith. The nature of the fruit depends on the nature of the tree: first make the tree good, says our Lord, and the fruit will be good also: let the heart be changed, and the life will be reformed. But if you rest in mere outward reformation, while you are destitute of the 'faith that worketh by love,' you are only 'cleansing the outside of the cup and platter,' and you will resemble whited sepulchres, which are outwardly beautiful, while they inclose a mass of putrid corruption. It is by faith that you must be justified; it is by the same faith, working by love, that you must be sanctified; and any external reformation that is grafted on another stock, although it may have the semblance of sanctification, has nothing in it of its substance, and will neither suffice for your safety now, nor for your welfare hereafter. This is the first great error against which you should be warned by the doctrine of the apostle, when he declares that in Christ Jesus nothing that is merely external or ceremonial will avail you, but 'a new creation;' and when he tells you that this new creation consists mainly in the production of 'faith that worketh by love.'
But there is another error, at the opposite extreme from the former, which is equally dangerous, and which, it is to be feared, not a few are prone to embrace. Some, when they read of the privileges and promises which are given to faith, - when they hear that 'whoso believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God,' and that 'he that believeth shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life,' immediately conclude, that because they have never questioned the truth of the Gospel, and have, on the contrary, acquired a good measure of speculative knowledge, and ranged themselves on the side of those who profess the faith of Christ, they need give themselves no uneasiness; their creed is sound, their orthodoxy is unquestionable; and they flatter themselves, therefore, that their souls are safe. Oh! would to God that a sound creed were always combined with a new heart, and that an orthodox profession were never separated from a holy and spiritual character; but God's Word, as well as our own experience, testifies the reverse. And hence the necessity of urging the great principle, that 'faith without works is dead,' that speculative knowledge if nothing if it have no spiritual fruits, and, that, if any man be in Christ, 'he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.'
When a man believes so as to be united to Christ, his faith works by love so as to change his whole character; and for this reason he is said to be a new creature, and to have 'put off the old man with his deeds, and to put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.' And that we may understand the nature and extent of that change which is wrought on a sinner at the time of his conversion to God and union with Christ, I observe—
He is a new creature, because he is brought into a new state; or, in other words, because his relation to God is entirely changed. Formerly he was in a state of wrath; for the 'wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men;' now he is in a state of peace; for 'being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.' Formerly he was in a state of enmity, for 'the carnal mind is enmity against God;' now he is in a state of reconciliation, for 'them that were some time alienated, and enemies in their minds by wicked works, yet now hath Christ reconciled.' Formerly he was in a state of imminent danger, 'without Christ, without God, and without hope in the world;' but now he is in a state of perfect safety; for 'if God be for us, who can be against us?? 'All things are yours; and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's.' Thus thoroughly is the state and condition of a sinner changed when he is united to Christ: he is brought, as it were, into a new world, every thing assumes a new aspect, he has passed from death unto life, and exchanged the bondage of Satan for the liberty of a child of God.
He is a new creature, because, under the teaching of the Spirit, he has acquired new views, new views of himself, his nature, his character, his sins, his duties, his trials, his proper business, his everlasting prospects; new views of life, its vanity, its shortness, its uncertainty, its real nature and momentous importance, as the only season of preparation for eternity; new views of the world, its gorgeous pageantry and broken cisterns, its deceitful and ensnaring pleasures, its destructive lusts, its utter repugnance and opposition to God; new views of the truth, that same truth with which he may have long been familiar as it is presented in the letter of Scripture, or in the terms of an orthodox catechism or creed, but to which he now attaches a new meaning, his eye being opened to see, and his heart to feel, its spirituality, its certainty, its awful magnitude and importance with relation to his own soul. God hath shined into his heart, to give him the light of this knowledge, and he feels as if a veil had been removed from before his eyes; so that, although he may still see only as 'through a glass darkly,' and perhaps at first more confusedly still, as did the man who 'saw men as trees walking,' still he is ready to exclaim, 'One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see.' He has now new views of God, his infinite nature, his perfect character, his wonderful works, his ways in Providence, his purpose and plan of grace; these things, which were formerly dark and doubtful, or which had no power to arrest and fix his thoughts, or which flitted before his fancy as shadowy and unsubstantial forms, have now acquired a reality, and a power, and a magnitude which render them the most frequent objects of his contemplation, and leave a sense of awe on his spirit, insomuch that whereas formerly 'God was not in all his thoughts,' he 'now sets the Lord continually before him.' He has new views of sin, of sin in its relation to God, as opposed to every perfection of his character, to every precept of his law, and every principle of his government, 'the abominable thing which the Lord hateth;' and of sin in its relation to his own soul, exposing it to the wrath and curse of God, polluting and defiling it, so that it becomes utterly vile; infecting it with loathsome spiritual disease, like an overspreading leprosy, disturbing, or rather destroying, its inward peace; perverting and depraving every one of its faculties, and binding them down by an intolerable tyranny, in a state of self-imposed bondage. Thus conceiving of sin, he sees its heinousness, its demerit, and the justice of that sentence which God has denounced against it; and instead of making light of it, as he once did, he feels it to be a heavy burden; instead of rolling it as a sweet morsel under his tongue, he feels it to be a root of bitterness; and instead of excusing it, he condemns himself on account of it, saying, 'The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good;' 'but I am carnal, sold under sin.' He has new views of salvation, of its absolute necessity, of its infinite value as 'the one thing needful,' the pearl of great price, for which he is willing to bear the loss of all things, and to count them but dung; 'for what is a man profited if he should gain the whole world and lose his soul; or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? - of its difficulty, or rather its impossibility, in so far as his own resources or efforts are concerned; for his new views of God, and of his government, of sin, and its demerit, teach him to entertain new thoughts also of the conditions on which salvation depends, and he is prepared to acquiesce with admiration and gratitude in that scheme of grace and redemption which formerly appeared foolishness to him, but which now, to his awakened conscience, commends itself as 'the wisdom of God, and the power of God.' 'The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned;' but when he is converted by the teaching of the Spirit, all his views are changed: doctrines which he was at first disposed to ridicule or dispute, come to be regarded as first truths, or self-evident principles, which carry their own evidence along with them to an awakened conscience, and he is as a man awaking out of sleep, and exchanging the dreams of night for the realities of day - 'old things have passed away; all things have become new.'
He is a new creature, because he has been endued with new affections, or rather his affections have been directed to new and worthier objects. Formerly they were withdrawn from God, and as they must have some object, they were centred on some worldly thing - power, or pleasure, or wealth, or fame - and hence he was ungodly, as having no supreme affection for God, and subject to worldly lusts, 'the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.' These lusts are not eradicated by conversion; they may long continue to be to the believer what the Canaanites were to the people of Israel: 'They shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you; that through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the Lord or not.' But their power is broken, when, under the teaching of the Spirit, the mind is turned from lying vanities to the living God, and new, and holier, and better objects are embraced by the heart's affections. Faith worketh by love love to God as a reconciled and forgiving Father, which, springing from a lively sense of his mercy in the scheme of redemption, is evermore nourished and strengthened by new instances and tokens of his goodness, and rises at length into a complacent esteem and profound adoration of his essential character, so that he is loved the more in proportion as he is better known; and every new discovery of his boundless perfections, every new manifestation of his wisdom, and faithfulness, and power, adds fuel to the flame of this holy affection: love to Christ, as God and man, uniting in his own person the perfections of the divine with the sympathies of the human nature; and endeared by the recollection of what he did and suffered, the humiliation to which he submitted, the agony which he endured, the lovely graces which he exercised, the precious benefits which he purchased, and the freeness with which they are conferred. Christ is precious to the believer, and 'the love of Christ constraineth him;' and love to God as his Father, and to Christ as his elder brother, is combined with, and tends to nourish a disinterested love towards his people as brethren, and towards all men as God's offspring; so that he will be ready to 'do good to all men as he has opportunity, but especially,' as being more closely related to them by the most sacred bonds, 'to such as are of the household of faith.'
As the objects of his affections are new, so also are his desires and aims. Formerly, these were directed solely to the world; he knew of nothing better, and cared for nothing more than its fleeting vanities; but now they are raised above the world to God as his chief good; and extend beyond the world to heaven as his everlasting home. His supreme desire is to know and enjoy God, to maintain communion with him, to acquire larger views of his perfections, and a sweeter sense of his presence, to become conformed to his will, and to be transformed into his image. 'There be many that say, Who will show us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon me. Thou hast put gladness into my heart more than in the time that their corn and wine increased.' 'My soul followeth hard after God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and parched land, to see thy power and thy glory as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.' This being his chief end and chosen good, his desires will be set on every thing that has a tendency as a means to lead towards it; and hence his deep concern as to his saving interest in Christ, his earnest prayers for pardoning mercy and sanctifying grace, his patient waiting upon God in the way of his own appointment, and his spiritual appetite when, 'like a new-born babe, he desires the sincere milk of the word, that he may grow thereby.' For spiritual life has its instincts as well as natural; and just as surely as a new-born child will crave the food which nourishes the body, so will a soul that has been born again desire and seek after its congenial aliment. And seeing that here every thing is imperfect, and that in its present state he cannot enjoy God as he would, he will look beyond the world for the full satisfaction of his desires. The world was once his all; but now another world, infinitely greater and more glorious, has been brought into view; and, by its surpassing worth and loveliness, has attracted his affections towards it; so that, in some measure he feels that his citizenship is in heaven, that his home is there, and that it is alike his duty and and his privilege to 'set his affections on things above, and not on things which are on the earth; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.'
He is a new creature, because he has new enjoyments, enjoyments springing from the exercise of his gracious affections, from the enlarged and elevated views which have been imparted to his mind, from the blessed privileges of which he has been made a partaker, from the sweetness of that inward peace which passeth all understanding, from the comfortable communion which he holds with God, and the new aspect in which every thing within and around, above and before him, appears to one who has been reconciled to his God. He may have enjoyed nature before, and may have looked with rapt admiration on its smiling landscapes, and swelling seas, and peaceful lakes; but a new element of joy mingles with his thoughts, when, looking on all these in the light which religion sheds on them, he can say, 'My Father made them all.' He may have delighted in the exercise of his faculties before, and may have felt a conscious elevation when engaged in some lofty study; but a new element of joy is infused into his spirit, when, raising his thoughts from things terrestrial to things celestial and divine, he contemplates them in the light which God himself has shed upon them in his Word, and in the delightful assurance that 'what he knows not now he shall know hereafter.' And so he enjoys what he never knew before, peace of conscience, even the very peace of God, which passeth all understanding, and the blessedness of him whose iniquity is forgiven, 'whom God chooseth and maketh to approach unto him;' and finds that 'in the very keeping of his commandments, there is a great reward,' that 'wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.'
He is a new creature, because his habits are totally changed, in so far as they were previously inconsistent with the will of God. He leaves the broad way, and walks in the narrow path. Whatever in his previous course of life was at variance with God's law is at once abandoned; whatever duty he had formerly neglected, whether religious, personal, or relative, he now honestly seeks to discharge. His own will is no longer his guide, but God's will; by that unerring rule his whole life is regulated: 'Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? is the language of his heart. If he had previously been intemperate, or dishonest, or profane, or profligate, inattentive to the Word, and sacraments, and prayer, the change which has been wrought on his spirit will appear in his altered habits; and if, as is sometimes the case, he had been always decent in his external deportment, and regular even in his religious observances, although the change will not be so visible to his fellow-men, he will be conscious of it in his own bosom, inasmuch as he will now be actuated by new motives, and will really feel that he is leading a new life; that what was once form has become power; and that 'old things have passed away, and all things have become new.'
He is a new creature, because he has now new expectations and hopes. He does not merely desire, he also hopes to obtain the unspeakable things which God has prepared for them that love him. Seeing that life and immortality have been brought to light in the Gospel, and that, besides being certified as infallibly true, the way to reach them has been revealed, and a gracious invitation given to betake himself to that way, and a promise of all needful grace vouchsafed, he conceives the possibility of his being admitted to the glory which remains to be revealed; and although his hope may for a time be feeble, and often well-nigh extinguished by his remaining corruptions, still it is within him, and if not sufficiently lively to assure, it may be strong enough to sustain him in the posture of waiting patiently for God. This hope is an anchor to his soul, 'both sure and steadfast, entering into that which is within the vail;' and it is altogether a new thing: the unconverted sinner may have no sense of danger, and may cherish a false security, but he has no such hope: this is one of the fruits of the Spirit, for 'the fruit of the Spirit is hope.'
He is a new creature, because he has now a new experience, and especially a new conflict in his soul, even that same conflict to which the apostle refers in Romans 7, betwixt the law in his members and the law of his mind. There is a conflict of which an unconverted man may be conscious; I mean the conflict betwixt sin and the conscience; but a new conflict begins when he is born again, and that is a conflict betwixt sin and the will. The difference betwixt the two consists entirely in the position of the will. In the former, the will is on the side of sin, and both are opposed to the conscience; in the other, the will is on the side of conscience, and both are opposed to sin. This may be said to be the characteristic difference betwixt the converted and the unconverted; both are subject to an inward conflict, but the one is willing to side with conscience, the other is willing to side with sin. When the will is made to change its position, when it is brought off from its alliance with sin, and ranges itself on the same side with conscience and God, the great change is wrought; there may be, there will be a conflict still; for, 'there is a law in the members warring against the law of the mind,' and our whole life must be a warfare; and this conflict may be severe, and arduous, and protracted, insomuch that often the believer may be ready to exclaim, '0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me? But the very existence of such a conflict, in which the prevailing bent and disposition of the will is on the side of God and holiness, is a proof that 'we have been renewed in the Spirit of our minds,' and that God has begun that good work in us which he will carry on unto perfection.
This experience of a spiritual conflict is really one of the new things which belong to the new creature; and I have thus briefly adverted to it, with the view of obviating an injurious misapprehension which is too apt to be entertained by those who, considering the description which is here given of the new creature, in whom 'old things have passed away, and all things have become new,' and contrasting it with their own manifold imperfections and remaining corruptions, are ready to question whether it can be applicable to them. Now you will carefully observe, that while it is said that 'all things become new,' it is not said that any thing is yet made perfect; there is a great change, a change so great that it is called, and fitly called, 'a new creation,' a change in the sinner's state, and views, and affections, and desires, and enjoyments, and habits, and hopes, and experience, such as God only can effect, and such as makes the sinner a new man, and to live, as it were, in a new world, and to lead a new life; but not only is the new creature like a new-born child, weak and feeble, and destined to grow and gather strength by degrees; it is also surrounded and closely connected with a body of sin and death; nay, sin still dwells, although it no longer reigns, in the believer's heart: it is there, not now as a tyrant, but as a traitor; not as a sovereign, but as a watchful spy; and he is called to watch against it, and to pray against it, and to fight against it, until the Lord shall release him from his warfare by calling him to his everlasting reward.
The most serious question that any man can put to himself is, Am I in Christ? To be in Christ is to be safe in life and death, in time and in eternity; to be out of Christ is to stand exposed every hour to the most appalling danger. To be in Christ is to be in a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; to be out of Christ is to stand defenceless before that storm which will, ere long, burst forth to consume his adversaries, and to sweep away every refuge of lies; to be in Christ is to be reconciled to God, pardoned and accepted; to be out of Christ is to be at enmity with God, guilty and condemned; to be in Christ is to be adopted into God's family as children, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ; to be out of Christ is to be aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, without Christ, and therefore without God, and without hope in the world; to be in Christ is to be a new creature, renewed, sanctified, and made meet for glory; to be out of Christ is to be dead in trespasses and sins, polluted in our own blood; to be in Christ is to be prepared for death, and judgment, and eternity; to be out of Christ is to have nothing but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation.
Would you come to a safe decision as to your present state, so as to be able to answer the question, Am I in Christ or no? Permit me to suggest another question, Are you a new creature? 'If any man be in Christ,' says the apostle, 'he is a new creature;' he is converted and changed, 'so that old things pass away, and all things become new.' It is by faith that we are united to Christ; and wherever that faith exists, it works; it works by love, and thereby produces the peaceable fruits of righteousness. The particulars which have been illustrated may aid you in arriving at a safe and satisfactory answer to this inquiry, if, in the exercise of serious self-examination, and with fervent prayer for the guidance of the Spirit, you apply them closely each to his own soul. Are you conscious of having undergone any such change as has been described, any change in your views, any change in the object of your affections, any change in the prevailing bent of your desires, any change in the sources of your most cherished enjoyments, any change in your outward habits or in your inward experience, such as corresponds with thee account given in Scripture of the 'new creation,' or 'the second birth? In prosecuting this momentous inquiry, permit me to caution you against the danger of either requiring more, or being satisfied with less, than the Bible declares to be implied in this great change. Nothing short of a new birth, a radical heart change, will suffice; for 'except a man be born again, and born of the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God;' and this should be a solemn thought to the careless, and to mere nominal Christians, to those who are at ease in Zion, having a name to live while they are dead. But on the other hand, in seeking to ascertain the state of your soul, you must not insist on finding more than what is, in your experience or character, essentially implied in conversion, for thus you may unwarrantably deprive yourselves of the comfort which God has provided for you in the Word.
Excerpt from The Office and Work of the Holy Spirit by James Buchanan