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show this to be wrong. By faith we are to understand a believing of those truths that God has exhibited in his word with a friendly heart. Now, to suppose that a man believes with this friendly heart antecedent to regeneration, is to suppose that a man is a friend to God while in a state o/ unregeneracy, which is contrary to Scripture. Now, if to believe with a friendly and right-disposed heart is absolutely necessary in order to constitute a true faith, and such a heart is peculiar to the regenerate only, then we must be possessed with this heart (which is given in regeneration) before there can flow from it any such exercises. So that the man must become a good man, or be regenerated, before he can exercise faith, or love, or any grace whatever. Hence we read of men's receiving Christ, and then becoming the sons of God.—John i., 12. Therefore, what lies before us is to show what those fruits and effects are, and what are those inward feelings that come in consequence of the new birth. And,
1. He loves God supremely. He loves holiness for what it is in itself, because it agrees with his new temper. He chooses and prefers that to any thing else. He loves the law of God. He loves the gospel, and every thing that is Godlike. He loves the holy angels and the spirits of just men made perfect. His affections are set on things that are above. His treasure is there, and his heart will be there also. He loves the people of God in this world; nay, wherever moral rectitude is to be seen, he falls in love with it. He loves all mankind with a holy and virtuous love. Although he cannot love those that are the enemies of God with a love of complacency, yet he loves them with the love of benevolence. He is of a noble and generous spirit. He is a well-wisher to all mankind. And this supreme love to God and benevolence to man is spoken of in Scripture as the very essence of true religion.
2. He repents of all his sins. He feels guilty before God. He sees and owns that God is right and he is wrong. He sees and gives in that it would be just with God to consign him over to the regions of despair. Now the man which could take no delight in any thing else but sin, hates it beyond any thing whatever. Now he can acknowledge his sin with holy David—" Against thee, and thee only, have I sinned."—"Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities." He sees that the sacrifice of God is a broken and a contrite spirit. Like the publican, afraid to look up, he smites upon his breast, saying, "God be merciful to me, a sinner."
3. He believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. I just observed what it was to believe. It is believing the record that God has given of his Son with a friendly heart. He gives in to the truths of the gospel with his heart, and he knows the truth by his own happy experience.
4. He is disposed to walk in all the ordinances of God blameless.
He evidences by his holy walk that he has a regard for the honour of God. He endeavours to imitate his Divine master in all his imitable perfections. Knowing that he saith " he that abideth in him, ought himself so to walk, even as he has walked." Oh, happy change indeed! The man is made like God in some good measure. He has the same kind of affections and dispositions as there are in God/ He has a living principle within him, which is active and vigorous, springing up into everlasting life.
But we pass on to take notice of the third thing in the method, which was,
III. To show what we are to understand by seeing the kingdom of God.
Now we are not to suppose that it is an intuitive view that we have of the kingdom of God, as we behold objects with our eyes; but we are to understand enjoying, or being admitted to possession of, the blessings and entertainments of the heavenly world, or being brought into the Divine favour. He cannot be a partaker of that unspeakable happhless that is in God; he cannot enjoy that blessed intercourse and holy communion that comes to the believer in consequence of his being united to Christ in this world, or be admitted to those more sublime entertainments that are above Something like this we are to understand by seeing the kingdom of God. But it will not be amiss to inquire a little what is meant by the kingdom of God. And we may understand,
1. The spiritual kingdom of Christ here in this world. I mean that gracious temper of mind, or those holy dispositions that are implanted in the heart by regeneration, and also when a number of such do unite together in an ecclesiastical body. This is called Christ's kingdom, because they not only have Christ's kingdom in their hearts, but also, being visibly united together to promote the cause of Christ, they may, by way of eminence, be so styled. And,
2. We may understand the kingdom of glory, or this principle of divine life consummated in the heavenly world, so that this kingdom that believers have set up in them in this world, is the same in kind as it is in heaven. But when we shall come to put off this tabernacle, and be imbodied spirits in the upper world, our love will be increased, and we shall drink full draughts out of that crystal stream that glides gently through the paradise of God.
Oh! did believers once know adequately what is prepared for them in the heavenly world, how would they despise all things here below, and long to bw on the wing for heaven! Well may it be called a kingdom, where are crowns not of gold, but of glory;— where the King of kings sits amid the heavenly throng, and feeds them with his celestial dainties. And when the body is reunited to the soul at the resurrection, there will no doubt be much higher degrees of glory. Oh! then, let us live as becometh those that are so highly favoured of the Lord.
1. Hence see the propriety of our blessed Lord's assertion in the text, that, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God, or enjoy the favour and love of God, either in this world or that to come. If men are totally depraved, as has been considered, from thence arises the absolute necessity of the new birth, and, it is no strange or unaccountable thing that men must be born again. There is no obtaining the blessings of heaven without it. Therefore, says our Lord, "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again."
2. Hence learn the folly of all those that rest in any thing short of regeneration or the new birth. For, however far we may go in the things of religion, yet, if we are destitute of this divine and holy principle, we may be assured of it, from scripture as well as from the nature of things, that we cannot see the kingdom of God.
3. Let iis examine ourselves whether we are possessed of this holy temper of heart or not. Have we new dispositions ?—new affections ?—and new desires? Are God and divine things the centre and object of our supreme love? Have we repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Have we got that universal benevolence which is the peculiar characteristic of a good man? Do we love the law of God? Have we viewed it in its purity and spirituality? Are we heartily disposed to walk in the ways of holiness? Do we freely and voluntarily choose that way? Are we well pleased with the gospel way of salvation?
Lastly. Let all those that are strangers to the new birth be exhorted no longer to live estranged from God, but labour after this holy temper of mind. Flee to Christ before it be too late. Consider that there is an aggravated condemnation that awaits all impenitent sinners. There is a day of death coming. There is a day of judgment coining. A few turns more upon the stage and we are gone. Oh how will you answer it at the bar of God, for your thus remaining enemies to him? It is sin that separates from God. But it is the being or remaining such that wjll eternally separate you from him. Never rest easy till you feel in you a change, wrought by the Holy Spirit. And believe it,— until then you are exposed to the wrath of God; and without repentance you will in a few days be lifting up your eyes in torment.
The Lord grant that we may lay these things suitably to heart;—that we, having the kingdom of Christ set up in our hearts here, may grow up to the stature of perfect men in Christ Jesus. This will lay a foundation for union with all holy beings, and with this everlasting happiness in the kingdom of glory is inseparably connected, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The manuscript from which the above is a transcript, nearly verbatim, was found among the papers of Rev. Ebenezer Bradford, of Rowley, Massachusetts, with the following note on a blank leaf.
"This sermon was composed by Lemuel Haynes, a young fellow who was brought up a farmer, not favoured with so much as a good common education.
The papers with which this was found bear the date of 1776, and it is unquestionably one of Mr. Haynes's early productions; and from a careful comparison of this with his other manuscript sermons, there is nearly conclusive evidence that this is the very discourse read on the occasion as stated above. The manuscript was kindly furnished by Rev. James Bradford, Sheffield, Massachusetts.