Imágenes de página



childhood of religion, the believer muft CHAP. fucceffively pass through the stages of youth and manhood, till he attain to the rank of what St. John styles a father. This may be denominated his growth in holiness. In the mean time he will fuffer a variety of defeats from his fpiritual adverfaries, and will daily discover more and more the extreme corruption of his finful and difordered heart. So far from arrogantly claiming perfection, he acknowledges, that when he has done all, he is ftill an unprofitable fervant. But he is not difcouraged; he boldly preffes forward, relying upon him, who is able to make us more than con

[ocr errors]

are agreeable to the will and commandment of God, fuch as otherwife of their own crooked and perverfe nature they should never have. That, which is born of the Spirit, "is fpirit. As who fhould fay, man of his own nature is “fleshly and carnal, corrupt and naught, finful and disobe"dient to God, without any spark of goodness in him, "without any virtuous or godly motion, only given to evil "thoughts and wicked deeds. As for the works of the

Spirit, the fruits of faith, charitable and godly motions, "if he have any at all in him, they proceed only of the "Holy Ghoft, who is the only worker of our fanctification, "and maketh us new men in Chrift Jefus-Such is the power of the Holy Ghoft to regenerate men, and as it were bring them forth anew, so that they shall be nothing "like the men that they were before."



k 1 John ii. 12, 13, 14.


SECT. querors. Here, thanks be to God through II. Jefus Chrift, the parallel ceafes. Every

The neceffity of re

fon of Adam is fubject to the condition of mortality; but regeneration opens to the Chriftian the full profpect of a glorious immortality. "Death is fwallowed up in

victory." At the close of a life spent in the service of God, the aged believer can raise his eyes, moist indeed with the tears of gratitude, but glistening with hope, towards that heaven, in the joys of which he will foon be removed to participate.

One awful confideration yet remains, the generation. abfolute neceffity of regeneration. It is a remarkable circumstance, that our Saviour exprefsly declares it no less than three times, in the short space of five verses. It is first introduced with a ftrong affeveration; "Verily, verily, I fay unto thee, Ex"cept a man be born again, he cannot fee "the kingdom of God'." The nature of regeneration, and its attendant symbol, are next declared 66 ; Except a man be born "of water and of the spirit, he cannot en"ter into the kingdom of God." And, as if to prevent all poffibility of mistake or perverfion, the necefity of it is a third

• John iii. 3.

time ftrongly enforced; "Ye must be born CHAP.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

The kingdom of God, or of heaven, does indeed occafionally fignify the vifible church upon earth, which includes undoubtedly tares as well as wheat; and fo it may primarily fignify in the present paffage, as alluding partly to baptismal regeneration: but I cannot think that the expreffion folely conveys any fuch limited and inferior meaning, when the idea of Spiritual regeneration is involved. It feems abfurd and improbable, to the laft degree, that, in a folemn difcourse with one of the leading men among the Pharifsees, our Lord fhould firft acquaint his anxious auditor, merely that a man cannot become a member of the visible society which he was about to establish upon earth, without being initiated into it by a particular ceremony; and fhould afterwards, when Nicodemus required an explanation, involve, in a kind of awful mystery and obscurity, that which, upon fuch a fuppofition, was totally devoid of mystery. Let any perfon attentively perufe the converfation between our bleffed Lord and the Jewish Ruler, and then judge, whether the kingdom of God can be ultimately taken in any lefs limited sense, than the kingdom of everlasting glory and bappiness.

[ocr errors]

So Bp. Hopkins: "Thefe two interpretations may be given of the text; Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit; that is, except he be externally regenerated by baptism, when he hath such an opportunity to receive that "ordinance, that nothing but his own wilful contempt of "it can hinder it, and be also internally regenerated by the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Spirit of God working a mighty thorough change upon "his heart, he shall never be faved. Or again, it may be "understood thus; Except a man be renewed by the effi

[ocr errors]

cacy of the Holy Ghost, cleansing the inward man from


“ fin,



Scripture then has decided, that none but the regenerate can be faved. It has pro

nounced that none can be admitted into the kingdom of heaven, but those, whose hearts have been renewed after the image of God. All the reft are utterly excluded from the flock of Chrift, by our Lord himfelf. And this determination is perfectly confonant to reason. A man can never be happy in a fociety compofed of perfons, whose sentiments and inclinations are totally at variance with his own. A fimilarity of tastes and purfuits is effentially neceffary to the full enjoyment of our exiftence. Even heaven itfelf would be no heaven to a fallen angel. By the very conftitution of his being, he labours under a natural incapacity of fruition. His whole temper must be changed in every respect, before it is poffible for him to be an inhabitant of the realms of blifs. Arguing then from analogy, all those, whofe hearts are at variance with God, who live in the al


"fin, as water cleanfeth the outward man from filth, he "shall never enter into heaven." Sermons, p. 519..

It is almost fuperfluous to remark, that the fame diftinction between internal and external regeneration, with which the prefent difquifition commenced, is in this citation likewife accurately preferved."


lowed practice of any fin, whether it be CHAP. mental or corporeal; whether it be envy, III. hatred, and malice, or fornication, drunkennefs, and uncleannefs; all thofe likewife, who live in a state of forgetfulnefs of God, or, to use the emphatical words of Scripture, who live without God in the world; in short, all persons, who more or less partake deliberately of the nature of Satan, cannot poffibly be faved without a total change, and a thorough renewal. How can that man, who works all uncleanness with greediness, enjoy the prefence of a God, who is of purer eyes than to behold the least iniquity? How can he, who detests the very name of religion, and who hates the company of thofe to whom it affords a delightful, a never-failing theme of focial converfe; how can he bear to spend an eternity in chanting forth the praises of God; an eternity, in that very employment which on earth is the object of his bittereft averfion? Direct oppofites can never coalefce. We must either conform to the tempers and habits of the heavenly fociety; or we must submit to an everlasting exclufion from it. A man in his unregenerate state cannot, from the very


« AnteriorContinuar »