תמונות בעמוד

Nature. Hence it is, that being born in sin, we must be " born again.” Ilence every one that is born of a woman, must be boru of the Spirit of God.

Jl. I. But flow must a man be born again? What is the Nature of the New Birth? This is the Second question. And il question it is of the highest moment that can be conceived. We onglit not therefore, in so weighty a concern, to be contcut with a slight inquiry; but to examine it with all possible care; and to ponder it in our hearts, till we fully understand this important point, and clearly see how we are to be born again.

2. Not that we are to expect any minute, philosophical account of the manner how this is donc. Our Lord sufficiently guards as against any such expectation, by the words immediately following the text; wherein he reminds Nicodemus ot as indisputable a fact as any in the whole compass of nature, which, notwithstanding, the wisest man under the sun is not able fully to explain. “The wind bloweth where it listethi," --not by thy power or wisdom; "and thou bearest the sound thereof;”-thou art absolutely issured, beyond all doubt, that it cloth blow; “but thou canst not tell whence it cometh, por whither it goei;'-the precise manner bow it begins and cuds, rises and falls, do nan can tell. “So is cvery oue that is born of the Spirit :”-thou mayest be as absolutely assured of the fact, as of the blowing of the wind; bui the precise manner how it is doise', hour the Iloly Spirit works this in the soul, neither thou wor the wisest of the children of men is able to explain.

3. However, it sufiices for cvery rational and christian pirpose, tbit without descending into curious, critical inquiries, we can give a plain scriptural account of the nature of the New Birth. This will satisfy every reasonable man, who desires ouly the salvation of liis soul. The expression, being born again, ilus not first used by our Lord in his conversation with Nicodemus: It was well known before that time, and was in common use among the Jews when our Saviour appeared among them. When an adult Heathen was convinced that the verrish religion was of God, and desired to join therein, it was the custom to baptize him first, before he was admitted to circumcision. And when be was baptized, he was said to bielom again; by which they meant, that he who was before a child of the Devil, was now adopted into the family of God, and accounted one of his children. This expression, therefore, which Nicodemus, being “a teacher in Israel,” ought to have understood well, our Lord uses in conversing with him; only in a stronger sense than he was accustomed to. And this might be the reason of his asking, “How can these things be?” They cannot be literally :-a man cannot “ enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born :”-but they may, spiritually: a man may be born from above, horn of God, born of the Spirit, in a manner which bears a very near analogy to the natural birth.

4. Before a child is born into the world, he has eyes, but sees not; he has ears, but does not hear. He has a very imperfect use of every other sense. He has no knowledge of any of the things of the world, or any natural understanding. To tbat manner of existence which he then bas, we do not even give the name of life. It is then only when a man is born, that we say, he begins to live. For as soon as he is born, he begins to see the light, and the various objects with which he is encompassed. His ears are then opened, and he hears the sounds which successively strike upon them. At the same time, all the other organs of sense begin to be exercised upon their proper objects. He likewise breathes, and lives in a manner wholly different from what he did before. How exactly doth the parallel hold in all these instances? While a man is in a mere natural state, before he is born of God, he has, in a spiritual sense, eyes and sees not; a thick impenetrable veil lies upon them; be has ears, but hears not; he is utterly deaf to what he is most of all concerned to hear. His other spiritual senses are all locked up: he is in the same condition as if be had them not. Hence he has no knowledge of God; no intercourse with him; he is not at all acquainted with him. He has no true knowledge of the things of God, either of spiritual or eternal things; therefore, though he is a living man, he is a dead Christian. But as soon as he is born of God, there is a total change in all these particulars. The “eyes of his understanding are opened;” (such is the language of the great Apostle ;) and, He who of old “commanded light to shine out of darkness shining on his heart, he sees the light of the glory of God,” his glorious love, “in the face of Jesus Christ.” His ears being opened, he is now capable of hearing the inward voice of God, saying, “Be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven thee;” “ go and sin no more.” This is the purport of what God speaks to his heart; although perhaps not in these very words. He is now ready to hear whatsoever “ He that tcacheth man knowledge " is pleased from time to time to reveal to him. lle “ fcels in his heart (to use the language of our Church) the mighty working of the Spirit of God;” not in a gross, carnal sense, as the men of the world stupidly and wilfully misunderstand the expression ; thonglí they have been told again and again, we mean thereby neither more nor less than this : Ile feels, is inwardly sensiblc of, the graces which the Spirit of God works in his heart. He feels, he is conscious of, it "peace which passeth all understanding." He niany times feels such a joy iu God, as is “ wspeakable, and full of glory;" He feels “ the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Iloly Ghost which is given unto him ;” and all his spiritual senses are then exercised to discern spiritual good and cvil. By the use of these, he is daily increasing in the knoirledge of God, of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent, and of all the things pertaining to his invard kingdom. And now he may be properly said to live : God baring quickened him by his Spirit, he is alive to God throngh Jesus Christ. He lives a life which the world knowcih not of, a “life which is luid with Christ in God.” God is coutiuually breathing, as it were, upon the soul; and his soul is breathing unto God. Grace is descending into his heart; and prayer and praise ascending to heaven : avd by this intercourse betireen God and man, this fellowship with the Father and the Son, as by a kivd of spiritual respiration, the life of God in the soul is sustained; and the child of God grows up, till lic comes to the “full measure of the stature of Christ.”.

5. From hence it manifestly appears, what is the nature of the New Birth. It is that great change which God works in the soul, wlieu le brings it into life; when he raises it from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. It is the change wrought in the whole soul by the Almighty Spirit of God, when it is “ created anew in Christ Jesus,” when it is “renewed after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness;” when the love of the world is changed into the lore of God; pride into humility; passion into meekness; hatred, envy, malice, into a sincere, tender, disinterested love for all mankind. In a word, it is that change whereby the earthly, sensual, devilish mind is turned into the “mind which was in Christ Jesus.” This is the nature of the New Birth : “ So is crcry one that is born of the Spirit."'.

II. 1. It is not difficult for any who has considered these things, to see the Necessity of llic New Birth, and to answer

the Third question, Wherefore, to what End, is it necessary that we should be born again? It is very easily discerned, that this is necessary, first, in order to Holiness. For what is Holiness according to the Oracles of God ? Not a bare external religion, a round of outward duties, bow many soever they be, and how exactly soever performed. No: Gospel holiness is no less than the image of God stamped upon the heart; it is no other than the whole mind which was in Christ Jesus; it consists of all heavenly affections and tempers mingled together in one. It implies such a continual, thankful love to Him who hath not withheld from us his Son, his only Son, as makes it natural, and in a manner necessary to us, to love every child of man; as fills us “ with bowels of mercies, kindness, gentleness, longsuffering :” It is such a love of God as teaches us to be blameless in all manner of conversation; as enables us to present our souls and bodies, all we are, and all we have, all our thoughts, words, and actions, a continual sacrifice to God, acceptable through Christ Jesus. Now this holiness can have no existence, till we are renewed in the image of our mind. It cannot commence in the soul, till that change be wrought; till by the power of the Highest overshadowing us, we are “brought from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God; that is, till we are born again ; which therefore is absolutely necessary in order to Holiness.

2. But “without Holiness no man shall see the Lord,” shall see the face of God in glory. Of consequence, the New Birth is absolutely necessary in order to Eternal Salvation. Men may indeed Aatter themselves, (so desperately wicked, and so deceitful is the heart of man !) that they may live in their sins till they come to the last gasp, and yet afterwards live with God; and thousands do really believe, that they have found a broad way which leadeth not to destruction. What danger,' say they, 'can a woman be in that is so harmless and so vir- tuous ? What fear is there that so honest a man, one of so strict morality, should' miss of heaven ? Especially, if over and above all this, they constantly attend on Church and Sacrament.' One of these will ask with all assurance, What, shall not I do as well as my neighbours ?' Yes, as well as your unholy neighbours; as well as your neighbours that die in their sins! For you will all drop into the pit together, into the netbermost bell! You will all lie together in the lake of fire ; “ the lake of fire burning with brimstone." Then, at length, you will see, (but God grant you may sce it before!) the neces

sity of Ilolivess in order to glory; and consequently of the New Birt, sincc none can be holy, except he be born again.

3. For the same reason, except he be born again, none can be Happy even in this world. For it is not possible, in the nature of things, that a man should be happy who is not holy: Even the poor, ungodly poet could tell us, Nemo malus feli.x : no wicked man is happy. The reason is plain : All unholy tempers are ueasy tempers: vot only malice, hatred, envy, jealousy, revenge, create il present hell in the breast, but even the softer passions, if not kept within due bounds, give a thousand times more pain than pleasure. Even “ hope," when “ deferred," (and how often must this be the case?) “maketh the heart sick;" and every desire which is not according to the will of God, is liable to “pierec (us) throngh with many sorYOU's:" and all those gencral sources of sin, pride, self-will, and idolatry, are, in the same proportion as they prevail, general sources of misery. Therefore, as long as these reign in any soul, happiness bas no place there. But they must reign till the bent of our nature is changed, that is, till we are born again ; consequently, the New Birth is absolutely necessary in order to Happiness in this world, as wel as in the world to come.

11. I proposed in the last place to subjoin a few Inferences, which naturally follow from the preceding observations.

1. And, first, it follows, that Baptism is not the New Birth : tbey are not one and the same thing. Many indeed scem to imagine that they are just the same; at least, they speak as if cluy thought so; but I do not know that this opinion is publicly

Volled by any denomination of Christians whatever. Certainly it is not by any within these kingdonis, whether of the Established Churchi, or dissenting from it. The judgment of the daiter is clearly declared, in their large Catechism : * Q. “What ile the parts of a Sacrament? A. The parts of a Sacrament are two: the one, an outward and sensible sign; the other an inkard and spiritual grace, thereby signified. Q. What is Bapristu?' . Baptism is a Sacra:neut, wherein Christ bath ordained the washing will water, to be a sign and scal of regeneration by luis Spirit." Here it is manifest, baptism, the sign, is spokeu of as distinct from regeneration, the thing signified.

In the Church Catechism likewise, the judgment of our Church is declared with the utwost clearness : “What meanest thou by this word, Sacrament? A. I mean an outward and visible sind of an inward and spiritual grace. Q. What is the

* Q. 10.5, 163,

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