Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

which Nicodetnus, 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 bis askiug, " How can these things be?" They cannot be literally:—a man cannot " enter a second time into bis mother's womb, and be born : "—but they may, spiritually: a man may be born from above, born 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 cars, 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 that manner of existence which he then has, 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, be bqgins to see the light, and the various objects with which he is encompassed. His cars 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; he 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 he 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 arc 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 tcachcth man knowledge" is pleased from time to time to reveal to him. He li feels 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; though they have been told again and again, we mean thereby neither more nor less than this: He feels, is inwardly sensible of, the graces which the Spirit of God works in his heart. He feels, he is conscious of, a " peace which passcth all understanding." He many times feels such a joy in God, as is " unspeakable, and full of glory." lie feels " the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto him;" and all his spiritual senses are then exercised to discern spiritual good and evil. By the use of these, he is daily increasing in the knowlodge of God, of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent, and of all the things pertaining to his inward kingdom. And now he may be properly said to live: God having quickened him by his Spirit, he is alive to God through Jesus Christ. He lives a life which the world knoweth not of, a " life which is bill with Christ in God." God is continually 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: and by this intercourse between God and man, this fellowship with the Father ami the Son, as by a kind of spiritual respiration, the life of God in the soul is sustained; and the child of God grows up, till he comes to the "full measure of the stature of Christ."

o. From hence it manifestly appears, what is the nature of the New Birth. It is that great change which God works in the soul, when he 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 love 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 every one that is born of the Spirit."

111. i. It is not difficult for any who has considered these tilings, to sec the Necessity of the New Birth, and to answer the Third question, Wherefore, to what End, is It necessary that \ve 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 holiuess 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, ive are "brought from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God; that is, till we are born again j which therefore is absolutely necessary in order to Holiness.

2. But "without Holiness no man shall see the Lord," 6hall sec the face of God in glory. Of consequence, the New Birth is absolutely necessary in order to Eternal Salvation. Men may indeed flatter 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 virtuous? What fear is there that so honest a man, one of so strict morality, should miss of heaven? Especially, if over ond 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 nethermost hell! You will all lie together in the lake of fire; "the lake of fire burning with brimstone." Then, at length, you will sec, (but God grant you may see it before!) the neccs

[ocr errors]

outward part, or form, in baptism? A. Water, wherein the person is baptized, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Q. What is the inward part, or thing signified? A. A death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness." Nothing therefore is plainer, than that, according to the Church of England, Baptism is not the New Birth.

But indeed the reason of the thing is so clear and evident, as not to need any other authority. For what can be more plain, than that the one is an external, the other an internal work; that the one is a visible, the other an invisible thing, and therefore wholly different from each other ?—the one being an act of man, purifying the body; the other a change wrought by God in the soul: so that the former is just as distinguishable from the latter, as the soul from the body, or water from the Holy Ghost.

2. From the preceding reflections we may, secondly j observe, that as the New Birth is not the same thing with Baptism, so it does not always accompany Baptism: they do not constantly gotogether. Aman maypossiblybe "born of water, "and yet not be "born of the Spirit." There may sometimes be the outward sign, where there is not the inward grace. I do not now speak with regard to infants: it is certain our Church supposes, that all who arc baptized in their infancy, are at the same time bora again 5 and it is allowed that the whole Office for the Baptisw* of Infants proceeds upon this supposition. Nor is it an objection of any weight against this, that we cannot comprehend how this work can be wrought in infants? For neither can we comprehend how it is wrought in a person of riper years. But whatever be the case with infants, it is sure all of riper years, who are baptized, are not at the same time born again. "The tree is known by its fruits :" and hereby it appears too plain to be denied, that divers of those, who were children of the Devil before they were baptized, continue the same after baptism; " for the works of their father they do:" they continue servants of sin, without any pretence cither to inward or outward holiness.

3. A third inference which wc may draw from what has been observed is, that the New Birth is not the same with Sanetification. This is indeed taken for granted by many; particularly by an eminent writer, in his late treatise on "The Nature and Grounds of Christian Regeneration." To waive several other weighty objections, which might be made to that tract, this is a palpable one: It all along speaks of regeneration

« AnteriorContinuar »