Imágenes de páginas

of the next world, just as sense does with the visible things of the present world; but still the result of the enquiry must be, in a great degree, vague and uncertain-we have been treading, I might almost say, on air-we have abandoned altogether the sphere of sight, and may be said to have thrown ourselves into the region of faith before we have shown that such a region existed. The converse proof is, in practice, the satisfactory proof-the works of love proving that there must be faith, not faith proving that there should be the works of love.

Now I have passed almost unnecessarily from regeneration to justification, but our argument holds equally good, whichever of these spiritual operations be brought under review. The regenerate man is, in fact, the justified man; and if we call to mind the assertion of St. Paul in writing to the Romans, "for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation," we shall be ready to concur with the words of the martyred Bishop Hooper, who says, "that as there can be no fire without heat, so neither can there be the faith of Christ in the heart without the confession of Christ with the mouth ;" and if the inward principle be thus invariably manifested by the outward demeanour, then it must be most agreeable to the capacities of our nature that we should gather our evidences from solid and tangible material, rather than from that which is invisible and impalpable.


Now I desire to follow this method of investigation in discoursing to you on the text, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of GOD." I wish to lay the especial emphasis on the assertion, "he cannot see"—the Greek is still more decisive, "he is not able to see the kingdom of I assume your familiar acquaintance with the doctrine of re


generation, and I would turn your thoughts not so much to the doctrine itself, as to that proof of a man's being regenerate, which is contained in the saying of Christ to the Jewish Ruler Nicodemus, "If a man be not born again, he cannot see the kingdom of GoD"-if, therefore, he can see the kingdom of God he is born again; and thus, the text becomes precisely moulded into that shape which, as I have shown you, is best adapted for application to enquiries into personal religion, evidence which is deduced from an effect being appealed to in the proof of the existence of a cause.

But before I can expect you to make application of a proof, it is necessary you should be satisfied of the validity of that proof; and I think that under God's blessing, by opening before you in some detail, the truth that an ungenerate man cannot see the kingdom of GoD, I shall have made it easy, for each amongst you, to decide whether he himself hath been born again, by examining whether he is or is not able to see the kingdom of God. By the expression, "the kingdom of God," we are warranted in understanding, not merely heaven in which GoD reigns with an immediate and majestic presence, but the whole of the Gospel dispensation, which is emphatically the setting up of God's dominion upon earth. It will readily occur to the minds of most whom I address, that a considerable number of our Saviour's

parables are introduced by an expression nearly synonymous with the one employed in our text, and that it is the kingdom of heaven which Christ likens unto a variety of the objects presented in the natural creation. It is universally conceded that, by the kingdom of heaven, we must in such cases understand that spiritual empire which the Redeemer came to establish amongst men; and the analogy seems to require that we should allot the like sig

nification to that kingdom of GOD, which is invisible to the eye of him who is still in an unregenerate estate.

I suppose, then, the phrase to denote the whole of that Gospel of reconciliation, which lays open an ample provision for the rescue of man from the ruins of the fall, and for his final admission into that glorious abode, which, in a peculiar sense, is the kingdom of GOD; and when it is affirmed that an unregenerate man cannot see this kingdom, I understand the meaning to be, that until we are born again, we are incapable of estimating the Gospel, either in respect of the condition from which it rescues us, or the blessedness into which it admits us. Such are the two topics on which I shall study separately to enlarge;-THE GOSPEL



Now I know not that there is any subject of enquiry more perplexing to those who have not been acted on by the renewing influences of Almighty grace, than that which deals with the enormity of sin as committed by man against his Maker. We are accustomed to look for some just and settled proportion between crime and punishment, and, gathering our notions from the established principles of human judicature, we look upon guilt as differing in degrees, which are to be marked by corresponding degrees in the penalties which it incurs. And without question the principle is a sound principle, inasmuch as the offences of man against man are marked by a great variety of relative enormity, and whilst some may be dealt with leniently, others demand the very extreme of penal severity. But when we turn to the Scriptural accounts of sin as committed against the Creator, then there appears to be a complete renouncement of the principle to which

we have been accustomed to adhere; and an eternity of woe following the indulgence of an unclean thought, just as the commission of flagrant iniquity, this would seem so diametrically at variance with all those notions of equity which are implanted in us by our very nature, that revelation might be pronounced contradictory to reason, and thus all its claims to divinity at once be falsified.

And here, I say, is a difficulty which the unregenerate heart is unable to master; I admit that it is possible to introduce into the discussion a kind of philosophical apparatusyou may set before the view the Almighty as a Being infinite in all his attributes, and you may then exhibit sin, even the tiniest and most insignificant, according to our apprehensions, as clashing with every point of this unbounded expansion, and as, therefore, multiplying itself by this collision with eternal perfections into a vast mass of bold insult and despite ; you might, in other words, pronounce sin (and the verdict would certainly be most accurate), to be an offence against a whole series of infinite properties, and deriving, from the extent of the surface over which it throws injury, an enormity which, considered abstractedly in itself, it might not seem to have possessed. But such metaphysical disquisition will scarcely be tolerated in a religious inquiry; and if men are not to learn the evil of sin until they gather it from an abstruse logic, they will live and die in their ignorance, not so much because the subject admits not of rational demonstration, but rather because the least attention to it presupposes a spiritual conversion. And with every concession that the enormity of human guilt is susceptible of a philosophical proof, a proof consequently which might commend itself even to a carnal understanding, I may yet contend that the justest estimate of sin is not a

theoretical estimate, but a practical esti- | liever than just a religious education, mate; and that the cross of the Saviour is virtually the only standard by which we can judge the guilt of the sinner.

If it be asked, how can you measure, how can you delineate that fearful disruption which has severed the sinful and erring world, on which we dwell, from the obedient ranks of an unfallen creation, how can you set forth that total alienation which transgression has introduced between the creature and the Creator? then I simply speak to you of the enormous machinery which was needful in order to bring back the wandering planet into the galaxy of heavenly favour-I dwell only on the mightiness of the process by which the alienation was overthrown, and the very extremes of intelligent being, a righteous GOD, and a fallen man, were brought into harmonious union, and thus I would presume man's degradation by Christ's humiliation, and use no plumb-line with which to fathom the abyss of human corruption, save the golden chain of mercy, which was let down from heaven at the Redeemer's incarnation.

or an enlistment under the banners of a human party, or an expertness in quoting and applying the terms and phrases of an evangelical vocabulary, why then you might go round pew by pew in the crowded arena of a professing congregation, and write down the name of almost every individual in the listening mass, as of a being who well knew the enormity of transgression against the LORD. But the historical acquaintance is not enough,-and the verbal familiarity is not enough; the obedience of Christ, the passion of Christ, the crucifixion, the burial, the resurrection of Christ, an intellectual knowledge of those, a mere mental and scientific dealing with salvation, oh, it is nothing better than the showy pomp of a baby's pageant, and just places its possessor on the level with the fireside student of military tactics, every thing as a describer of a warrior's evolutions, nothing as an achiever of a warrior's exploits.

If a man have been taught to gaze on Christ with mingled awe and amazement and agony, to read in his every pang the bitter wrath of the Almighty against sin, to discover in the mysterious and fearful woe which poured itself over his spotless soul, the rush

And now, brethren, if I carry with me your acquiescence to this statement, that the heniousness of sin can only be known from an accurate acquaint-ings of that tremendous deluge which ance with the mediatorial offices of Christ, then you at once agree to the shutting out from such knowledge all those who have not been born by the Spirit which is from above. Oh, if it were enough to possess a familiar historical acquaintance with Redemption, to know the mission and the deeds of Christ just as a school-boy does the exploits of Cæsar—if it were enough to have perused the written record, and to have mastered systematically the arrangements of the scheme which the Bible developes-if there were nothing more required to constitute a sincere and steadfast be

human transgression hath let loose upon creation, why then truly, he knows something of a crucified Redeemer, and something consequently of the immensities of sin; but I maintain, that such a contemplation was never produced, by the keenest exercise of mere natural faculties. All men, by their unassisted vision, can see Christ dying-no man without the aid of a spiritual telescope can see Christ dying for him; he will tell you that it is for sin Christ dies, but he does not feel that it is for sin Christ dies; and not feeling it, he does not see it; if he saw it, he would be aghast

accounted strange and inexplicable. What can be seen of the atonement until we see sin as deserving an infinite penalty? What can be seen of imputed righteousness until we see ourselves so depraved by the fall, that we can present to GoD no obedience of our own? What can be seen of the sanctifying influences of faith, influences which supply unto their possessors all the place of an extended code of moral

and shrink and grow suddenly perturbed, for he would see his own condemnation beneath the holy and violated law of his Maker. Whereas he sees the cross only as he might see a pillar set up on some distant mountain; there may be an inscription on this pillar, a direction, a threatening, a warning; but his naked eye conveys to him no notices save of a tall monument resting, as it were, against the blue heavens; and unless he be fur-enactments, until we see the utter nished with some instrument from the optician's manufactory, he will remain as utterly ignorant of the engraving as if he had never beheld the pillar. And this lack of a magnifying glass is precisely the deficiency which in spiritual things is supplied by regeneration; the Spirit places nothing new on the cross of Christ, but it helps the sinner to discern what is there already; it strengthens his vision, or rather gives him fresh organs, so that he can decypher the inscription, and thus it comes to pass, that "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of GOD."

Now, brethren, I have thus discoursed to you on the knowledge of sin, just as though our whole acquaintance with the Gospel, so far at least as our present condition is concerned, were resolvable into this knowledge of sin; and, in real truth, although a knowledge of the Gospel comprehends a vast variety of departments, yet a knowledge of sin is, as it were, the passport which admits us into the secrets of the kingdom. Until there be a knowledge of the disease, it is not possible there should be any knowledge of the remedy; and the scheme of salvation adapts itself with such nice and accurate precision to the peculiar circumstances of fallen beings, that unless there be a due appreciation of these circumstances, there is much in the scheme which must appear useless, and much which will be

vileness of the estate from which Christ rescues, and the magnitude of the obligation which binds us to him with all the bonds of a most loving devotion?

I am persuaded, that the more you search into the causes of that repugnance which is manifested by carnal men towards the humbling but glorious doctrines of the Gospel, the more will you find that an erroneous estimate of the heinousness of sin is at the root of all this virulent opposition. What are all the denials of free grace, of God's electing to himself a believing remnant of the sufficiency of faith —of man's need of supernatural assistance-what, I say, are the denials of these doctrines, doctrines which may be called the very life's-blood of Christianity, save just so many natural and necessary results of an ignorance of the poisonous and pestilential character of sin? In proportion as man thinks lightly of sin, he thinks well of himself; and in proportion as he thinks well of himself, he presumes on his own capacities; and so long as there is a conceit of human ability, there will be a correspondent contempt of Divine interference. Hence it were certainly lawful to affirm, that the knowledge of sin is the very eye-glass in the spiritual telescope-take it away, and the whole field of view becomes dim and misty and confused-insert it, and all the magnificient forms of mercy and victory and deliverance walk brilliantly before us in their native stature,

even when thus taken, it is true in the present life just as well as in the next, that " Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." If he be not regenerate, he will have no re

and man looks upon the Gospel just as an astronomer on the milky way in the firmament, so that where he had discerned nothing but a general brightness, he finds separate stars, each illustrious in its splendours. And all Ilish for such a heaven as is described ask of you is, whether, since it is impossible that the Gospel be seen unless the evil of sin is known, and this evil of sin cannot be known, as I have explained to you, except by the regenerate, is it not a most just assertion, an assertion that may be vindicated in its literal and grammatical acceptation, that "Ex-spiration; and thus it will be true, cept a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God?"


to us in the Bible; he will not see, he will not discern, any thing of heaven, any thing of joy, any thing of rapture, any thing of deep and lovely tranquillity, in those sketches and portraitures of Paradise which are scattered up and down in the pages of in

that he cannot see the kingdom of GOD, inasmuch as he cannot see aught of gladdening and gorgeous dominion in those descriptions of the saint's empire which have been put forth by Deity.

Now I shall study to follow out this topic in some few of its details, my first enquiry being, whether any of those theorists, who have arisen amongst men, were ever able to conceive or express in what true happiness consists ? There has been much written, and much prated concerning that which philosophers are wont to call the chief good; but oh, it were enough to cloud with melancholy the spirit of man, in his most joyous moments, just to remember in what a hopeless and heart-sickening pursuit of painted shadows they have involved themselves, by whom any of these academical treatises have been adopted as manuals, and who have followed a polished moral essayist as their guide in searching after solid enjoyment. There is a void in man which incontestibly proves that something has been

But I dismiss the first head of discourse as sufficiently considered, and I turn now your attention to the SECOND, which proposes to enlarge on the Gospel as invisible to the unregenerate man, in respect of THE FINAL BLESSEDNESS INTO WHICH IT ADMITS US. The idea most naturally suggested to the mind by the expression, The kingdom of God," is that of the rich and beautiful home which, honoured by the especial presence of the Most High, is fashioned and prepared for the residence of justified spirits; and when mention is made of our seeing this kingdom, or of our entering into this kingdom, then the mind almost unavoidably turns to that future reception into the celestial abode, which awaits the faithful followers of the Lamb. I do not argue that this idea is in any sense erroneous, but I argue that it is much too straitened and confined. Heaven is a scene, the full enjoyment of which is future, but foretastes of which are allotted us during our present pil-wrenched away which belonged to him grimage; and hence, though it can- in the days of his young creation; and not be gazed on in all the realities of into this void you may empty the gold its shining circuits, it may still be seen and the silver of earth, and the honours through the radiant vistas of a sunny of distinction, and the pleasures of voprospective. I am ready, therefore, to luptuousness, and the more precious take this expression, "The kingdom of stores of intellectual wealth and virtuGod," in its most common significa-ous endeavour, and the effect is the tion; but I would also maintain, that same as though a child had thrown

« AnteriorContinuar »