Natural honesty, moral virtue, prudence, justice, liberality, temperance—these are not the new creature. The Stoics were moralists and had sublime notions about virtue—yet were the deadliest enemies Paul had. Morality is but a counterfeit jewel—not the new creation.
Religious education is not the new creature. Education greatly cultivates and refines nature. Education is a good wall to plant the vine of grace against—but it is not grace.
A form of godliness is not the new creature. Every bird which has fine feathers, does not have sweet flesh. All who shine with the golden feathers of profession, are not saints. Formalists so counterfeit and play at devotion—that others think they are living saints. They are religious charlatans!
Every change of opinion does not amount to the new creature. Man may change from error to truth—yet be no new creature. Here is a change in the head—but not in the heart. He who is changed only in opinion, is not changed with any eternal benefit whatsoever.
Every sudden passion or stirring of the affections, is not the new creature. One may have trouble for sin—yet not be a new creature. Every abstaining from sin, is not the new creature.
So what happens in regeneration. What changes?
It is an inward change—a change of heart. Though the heart is not newly made—it is newly molded. The outward change will do no good, without the inward change. What will become of those, then—who have not so much as an outward change?
Old pride, old ignorance, old malice; the old house must be pulled down, before you can set up a new one. We must know that the change wrought in the new creature, though it is a thorough change—yet it is not a perfect change. Sin will remain. As there is a principle of grace—so there is a principle of corruption. Like wine and water mixed, there is in the regenerate, flesh as well as spirit.
QUESTION: So what is the difference between a formal morally strong unregenerate man and a weaker man. If outward morality is not the ruler of regeneration what is?
There must be a GRIEVING for the remains of corruption not for the remains of immorality. In the new creature, there must be a mourning for the indwelling presence of corruption.
There must be a DETESTATION of old things—as one would detest a garment in which is the plague. It is not enough to be angry with our sinfulness—but we must hate the sin. Hatred is the highest degree of enmity, and we must hate sin in us not only for its hurtful effect—but its loathsome nature, as one hates a toad for its poisonous quality. Something that you see as poison will not tempt you to drink from it!
There is an OPPOSITION against all old things. A Christian not only complains of the sin that is within him—but fights against it.
QUESTION: But may not a natural man oppose sin?
Yes—but there is a great difference between his opposing sin—and the new creature's opposing it. First, there is a difference in the MANNER of opposition. The natural man opposes sin only for the shame of it—as it eclipses his reputation; but the new creature opposes sin for the filth of it. It is the spirit of mischief; it is like rust to gold, or as a stain to beauty.
The biggest difference between the natural man's opposing sin and the new creature's opposing sin—in regard to the MOTIVES is that a natural man opposes sin from carnal motives—to stop the mouth of conscience, and to make himself feel good. But the new creature opposes sin because he see's it through the eye's of Christ for what it really is. He hates sin because He loves God.
Did you notice that the motive was not to gain Heaven or to avoid Hell. This is critical.
He knows Christ after another manner. An unconverted man, by the light of common grace, may believe Christ to be the Son of God; but the new creature knows Christ after another manner—so as to esteem Him above all, to adore Him, to touch Him by faith, to fetch a healing virtue from Him.
The new creature knows himself better than he did. When the sun shines into a room—it reveals all the dust and cobwebs in it. Just so, when the light of the Spirit shines into the heart—it reveals that corruption which before lay hidden; it shows a man his own vileness and nothingness no matter how “moral” he was before he was saved!