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· Our Saviour having told him of this new and spiritual Birth, he goes on to confirm it in the next Verse'; That which is born of the Flesh is Fles, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. Whatsoever is born of another, partakes of the Nature and Qualities of its Sire or Original ; that which is born of the Flesh, is carnal and fleshly, dispos'd to Vice and Corruption ; that which is born of the Spirit, is spiritual, and hath the Seeds of Grace and eternal Life. Marvel not therefore (faith Christ) that I said unto thee, ve must be born again; for in your first natural and unregenerate State, ye are dead in Trespasses and Sins, Children of Wrath, and Heirs of Damination : whereas by this new Birth ye are made Children of Grace, the Sons of God, and Inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven. All which proceed from the free Grace and Bounty of the Holy Ghost, and its prolifick Operation upon the Waters of Baptism : for as the Wind bloweth where it lifteth, fo the Inspirations of the Holy Spirit are free and voluntary : and as thou hearest the Sound of the Wind, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and mobither it goeth ; fo the Calls and Motions of the Spirit are secret and invisible, and the Influences thereof are better felt and heard, than seen. So the Wiseman tells iis, As thou knowejt not the way of the Spirit, or how the Child groweth in the Womb, even so thou knowest not the Works of God, who maketh all; Eccles. 11. 5. And therefore let not this Doctrine stumble thee; for tho the Manner of the Holy Ghost's working herein be supernatural and incomprehensible, yet the Effects thereof are as apparent and visible as thofe of the Wind.
Upon this Discourse, Nicodemus, as yet backward of Belief, or a Man of little Faith, answer'd and said unto him, How can these things be? Which Question supposes not only his doubting, but denying the Truth of them : and his demanding the Reason and Manner of them, implies his looking upon them as incredible or impossible. 'To whom therefore our Saviour with some Smartness reply'd, Art thou a Master of Israel, and knoweft not these things Is it poftible that a Řuler of the Jews, and a Doctor in Ir. rael, 'should be so great a stranger to these things; it being a known Custom and Practice among the Jews, to receive Proselytes into their Church by Baptisin as well as Circumcision, and to stile them new-born that were thus receiv'd into it?
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Now as Nicodemus was thus offended at the Doctrine of the Baptismal Regeneration, because he could not fee how these things should be, tho he might daily fee and know it from the Doctrine of his own Church in the Cafe of Profelytes; fo the Nicodemus's, or great Pretenders to Reason, in our days, deny the Doctrines of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and other Mysteries of the Gospel, because their shallow Reason is not able to fathom the Depth of them nor their Senses show them how these things can be, tho they have been receiv'd and own'd by the whole Christian Church throughout all Ages...
Fio" 4161 Hence we find the Scepticks and Sensualists often asking, how one should be three, and three one? How the fanie Perfon should be God, and Man, finite and infinite, when to be finite is not to be infinite, and to be infinite is not to be finite? Thus loading thefe Divine Doctrines with all the Absurdities and Contradictions they can; and so the Mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation are Stumbling-blocks to the Socinians, and to the Deists Foolishness : and all be. cause their Reason cannot see the Way and Manner of their Existence. .
But canst thou by searching find out God? (faith holy Job) Canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection. It is high as Heaven, what canst thou do? deeper than Helly what cani chou know? The Measure thereof is longer than the Earth, and broader than the Sea: Job 11.7, 8, 9. Canst thou mete out the Heavens with a Span, or fathom the Sea with a Bucket, or measure the Earth with a Conipass? And yet these things are infinitely more easy, than to comprehend him that is incomprehensible. Holy Fob elsewhere tells us, that God accuses the very Angels of Folly, in prying too far into things which they cannot fully understand: And how much more justly nay he condemn the Sons of Men of Madness, in searching too much into things that are un, fearchable, and pait finding out by human Reason? Can a Worm know the Nature of Man, or can Man understand much of the Nature of Angels? And how then should we know much of God, between whom and us the distance is infinitely greater? Alas! all the Creatures of the World, in coniparison of him, are but as the small Drop of the Bucket, that diminishes not the Measure, or as the light Dust upon the Ballance, that alters not the Weight; yea, they are all nothing, less than nothing, and Vanity and how then can our short Sight penetrate into the Divine
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Nature, Nature, and the Manner of its Existence? or our finite Understandings grasp Infinity? But to cure this Itch of Curiosity, or rather Scab of Infidelity, let us consider,
Ift, The Shortness of our Sight, even in natural things that lie more level to it: there are Mysteries in Nature, Art and Providence, that baffle and confound our Reason ; and many things which we daily behold and believe too, are above the reach of our Underftanding. How Shallow and imperfect is our Insight into many common and ordinary Matters ? : Are not the wiselt Philosopher's puzzled about the Nature of Sounds and Colours, which are the daily and ordinary Objects of our Senses? Who can folve the Riddles of Sympathy and Antipathy? or fhew why the Loadstone draws Iron, when its Influence reaches not things of a more likely and eafy Attraction ? Is not Reafon at a loss about the ebbing and Howing of the Sea ? And can it tell why the Needle of the Conipass should fo faithfully and conftantly observe the North Pole? Does not every little Fly Or Worm puzzle us to find out the secret Springs of their Life and Motion? Who can tell what kind of Knot it is that ties our Soul and Body together? or explain that Sacred Band that unites Tinte to Eternity ? And is it reasonable to doubt or deny either, because we cannot know how they subfist and are united together? But if our Reason be thus short fighted in natural and common things, that daily occur to our senses, then consider,
2dly; How weak it must needs be in Divine and Spiritual Matters, which are so much above them; here certainly our Candle must burn very dim, and stand in need of some brighter Light to illuminate and direct it: The natural Man difcerns not the things of God (faith the Apostle) neither ina deed cun be, because they are spiritually discern'd; i Cor. 2. 14. And therefore it niust be great Folly and Presumption in any to reject the Mysteries of the Gospel, because their weak Reason cannot discover how these things should be. Does not the Splendor of fome Objects dazzle and confound the Sight? Can our weak Eyes stedfastly behold the Sun? And if our shallow Understandings cannot comprehend natural and earthly Matters, why should we think them able to fathom fupernatural and heavenly Truths ? So our Sac viour here argues with Nicodemus ; If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how fall ye believe if I tell you of beavenly things? Ver. 12. Moreover confider,
3dlya i 3dly, That these things are reveald from Heaven by hina that is Truth it self, and therefore there can be no reason to doubt or disbelieve them. We are expresly told, that there are three that bear Record in Heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghoft; and these three are one : 1 john - $.7. Where a Trinity of Persons is asserted in the Unity
of the Godhead; and we may safely build upon the Word of him, that can neither deceive or be deceiv'd. There are some Truths in Religion that were never propounded to our Reason, being above the Ken and Discovery of it: fuch is this Doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which we are to take upon God's Word, and to believe without scanning. For to oppose our Reason to Revelation, is to seta Candle above the Sun; yea, 'tis to chuse Darkness rather than Light, and to follow a blind Guide before an infallible Director. Reaa fon indeed is a good Guide, as far as it can reach ; but as the Eye is limited in its Prospect, and cannot see beyond its Sphere, so hath God fet Bounds to our Reafon, saying, Hi-. ther mall it come, and no farther : it may fee a great way in visible and corporeal Objects, but 'tis blind in Mysteries, and cannot look within the Veil; here it must yield to Faith, and resign to Revelation. We know but in part here; and therefore in these sublime and mysterious Truths we must be content to be ignorant, and submit our Reason to Faith, without prying too far into the manner of them, or faying with Nicodemus, How can these things be?
But to go on with the Conference; our Saviour having acquainted Nicodemus with the great Mysteries of the Baptismal Regeneration, and the Holy Trinity, he proceeds to the Testimony given for the Proof of them, viz. the Tef timony of Miracles and Eye-witnesses, the best Evidence that can be given of any Truth ; call'd therefore in Scriptare, The Demonstration of the Spirit and Power. Now this Evidence we have in the next Verse; Verily, verily I say unto thee, We speak that we do knom, and testify that we have seen, and ye receive not our Witness: that is, I and my Difciples teach you Doctrines that we know by Divine Revelation, and have been confirm’d to us by Miracles before our eyes. So St. John, That which we have seen with our Eyes, and our Hands have handled of the Word of Life, declare me into you, that ye may have Fellowship with us; and truly our Fellowship is with the Father, and with the Son, and with the Holy Ghost : 1 John 1. 1. Yea, Christ here adds concerning himself, that no Man hath afcended up to Heaven, to gain
the Knowledg of these things, but he that came down from Heaven, to reveal his Father's Will, even the Son of Man who is in Heaven, by his Divine Nature ; even whilst in his Human Nature he converses with, and teaches us here upon Earth: And yet (faith he to Nicodemus and the rest of the Jews) ye receive not our Witness in these heavenly things, tho they stand so well confirm'd by Divine and Human Tef timony, which must render your Unbelief the more unreasonable and inexcusable.
But yet for all this, As Moses. lifted up the Serpent in the Wilderness on à Pote, fo muft the Son of Man be lifted up on a Cross; to the end, that whosoever believeth in him Mould not perih, but have everlasting Life: that is, as all that look'd up to the brazen Serpent were heal'd of all manner of Dira eases, so all that by an Eye of Faith look up to Jesus shall be freed from all the Maladies of the Soul, and made Partakers of eternal Life.
· This is briefly the Substance of this Day's Gospel; which may serve,
IA, To convince us of the great and indispensable Necefsity of Baptism: for tho Nicodemus here made a good Confession, by owning Christ to be a Teacher come from God, and believing his Miracles to be such, as none could do except God were with him ; yet this was not sufficient without Baptism, for Christ tells him, that except a Man be born again of Water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. Where, being born again of Water can be ineant only of Baptism, there being no New-Birth by that Element, but by that Sacrament. And this is here made so necessary, that there is no Admission into the Church here, or into Heaven hereafter without it. And therefore Christ gave a Commission to his Apostles, To go and baptize all Nations, in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost ; Mat. 28. signifying, that Disciples are to be receiv'd into the Church by the Waters of Baptism. Accordingly we read, that all the Profely tes and Converts to Christianity, mention'd in the Acts of the Apostles, were admitted into it by this Ceremony; Repent and be baptized (faith St. Peter to the three thousand Converts) Acts 2. 38.
Arise, why tarriest thou ? and be baptized (faith Ananias to Saul upon his Conversion to Christianity) Acts 22. 16. Lydia and her House were admitted into the Church this