« הקודםהמשך »
thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirito."
“ There is no doubt but that regeneration, which is the infusion of a new and divine principle of life into a person spiritually dead, is accomplished in a moment; for there is no delay in the transition from death to life. No person can be regenerated, so long as he is in a state of spiritual death ; but in the instant he begins to live, he is born again : wherefore no intermediate state, between the regenerate and the unregenerate, can be imagined so much as in thought : for every person is either dead or alive; has either the spirit of the flesh and the world, or the Spirit of God, actuating him; is either in the state of grace, or in the te of malediction; either the child of God, or of the devil; either in the way of salvation, or damnation. There neither is, nor can be, any medium here. The Holy Seripture divides all mankind into two classes, sheep and goats ; and compares their goings to two ways, whereof the one", which is broad, leads to destruction; the other, which is narrow, to life, and there is no man who does not tread in one or other of these two ways
3. The Holy Spirit most generally exerts his new creating power on the hearts of men, through the instrumentality of the written word. The simple preaching of Christ crucified, consisting of the cardinal truths of the Gospel, is often made the means of salvation. The faithful annunciation of men's ruined condition as sinners by nature and practice, and their restoration to spiritual life and happiness
e John ji. 8. Mat. xxv. 32, 33. * ib. vii. 13, 14. 55 Witsius on Regeneration.
through the atonement of Christ, produces, when savingly applied to their souls by the Holy Ghost, the most striking effects.
Because the efficacy of the Divine word is so great to vivify and sanctify the hearts of sinners, it is called "the word of life",” “the power of God unto salvationi.” The Apostles James and Peter bear testimony to its effects in their days. “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creaturesk.” “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit, unto unfeigned love of the brethren; see that ye love one another with a pure heart, fervently; being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for everkk.”
How marveļlous were the effects of the Gospel, in the case of the three thousand who were converted by the first discourse of St. Peter! They were so deeply affected by a representation of their guilt in crucifying the Lord Jesus, that they feelingly inquired, “Men and brethren, what shall we do."
Even now, the word of God, when blessed by his Spirit, “is mighty to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God; and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christm." Even now, when the word comes “in the demonstration of the Spirit and power,” a conviction of the danger of sin is produced, and the penitent is led to pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me"!" We cannot wonder at the success which, in every age, has attended the Gospel, if we believe what St. Paul affirms of it : “ The word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow; and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the hearto."
Phil. ii, 16. i Rom. i. 16. * James i, 18.
1 Pet. i. 22, 23. I Acts ii. 37. in 2 Cor. x. 4,5. * Psalm li, 10a
The administration of the Divine word is, in some degree, assisted by the dispensations of Providence, by the loss of our dearest connections, or by crosses in our temporal concerns. These afflictions are sent from God, to awaken men to a sense of remorse for past transgressions, to convince them of the insufficiency of worldly objects to make them happy, and to direct them to God, from whom they have wandered, for that peace and repose which alone can satisfy their souls. Many, thus disciplined in the school of adversity, and instructed by the oracles of God, have learnt to renounce the world, and to seek heaven as the sum of true felicity. Reader, has the word of God, in the hand of the Spirit, led you to turn from lying vanities, which cannot profit, to God, the only source of comfort ? Have your eyes been opened to see your need of salvation? Do you seek that purity of heart, without which no man shall see God P? If this is not the case, then you are still in natural darkness, even unto this hour; and you " must be born again?,” before you can serve God acceptably in this life, or enjoy his glory in the next.
4. Spiritual regeneration is evidenced by the illumination and progressive sanctification of the heart. The Fall has spread a thick veil of darkness over the human mind, which renders it incapable of perceiving the hatefulness of iniquity, and the beauty of holiness.
• Heb. iv, 12. P Mat. v. 8. 9 John iii. 3-9.
To remove this film of moral ignorance, which obstructs its
powers of vision, light is communicated to the heaven-born soul. There is given unto the regenerate “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God; the eyes of their understanding being enlightened, that they may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the Saints.” Now the heinous nature of transgression begins to appear; and the discovery excites awakened sinners to endeavour, in the strength of God, to free themselves from its usurped dominion, and to pursue with ardour that course of righteousness for which their souls have acquired a relish. Faith is vouchsafed, which assures them of Christ's ability to save; and, relying with an unshaken trust in his merits, they obtain redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of their sins, and all other benefits of his passion. And finally, by an intimate union with Jesus, they draw from his fulness continued supplies of grace, which enable them to maintain the spiritual life on which they have entered, and to discharge its proper functions. And thus they daily advance in wisdom and virtue, till death transports them to the abodes of bliss, where they serve God perfectly, in the full exercise of their renewed faculties. “ Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee ; in whose heart are thy ways. They will go from strength to strength, and unto the God of gods appeareth every one of them in Sion'."
5. It is directly contrary to the express affirmations of Scripture, to imagine that they, who have been truly regenerated, can ever totally lose that gracious state. Though they are subject to frailties and infirmities so long as they live in this world, yet are they not liable to spiritual death any more, or to such an habitual practice of sinning as would extinguish this heavenly life. The perpetuity of regeneration in the Faithful is maintained by the apostle John, when he says, “Whosoever is born of God doth not comınit sin, for his seed remaineth in him ; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” The reason which he assigns, is the same that another Apostle gives ; the permanent and incorruptible nature of the word, which is the holy seed of God, that liveth and abideth for ever".
* Eph. i. 17, 18. ib. i. 6, 7. * Psalm lxxxiv. 5, 7.
6. We can neither fully conceive nor express the happiness which attaches to a regenerate state ; " for eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him *." Yet the Scripture speaks of that felicity in such animated terms as are calculated to excite our most ardent desires after it. When the redeemed arrive in heaven, for the enjoyment of which they are fitted by regeneration, they are “clothed with white robes, and have palms (of victory) in their hands. They are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell anong them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat: for the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes *.”
Now, wherever those holy dispositions exist, which the grace of God produces in the heart, there is a capacity for the sublime pleasures of heaven. Those * 1 John iii.9.
1 Pet. i. 23. * Cor. ii. 9. ** Rev, vii. 15-17.