« AnteriorContinuar »
WORKS OF THE FLESH AND SPIRIT DISTINGUISHED.
JOHN III. 6.
That which is born of the flesh is FLESH; and that
which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.
The doctrine of the new birth, which the prophet of the church has declared to be the original of all spiritual character, and all heavenly hope, and without which he has decided most peremptorily, a man cannot enter into the kingdom of God, sounds most uncouth in the ears of corrupted reason. It is so entirely out of the way of human wisdom—it contains a fact so utterly anomalous, or rather so repugnant to the known constitution of either physical or moral nature, that even masters in Israel have pronounced the plain meaning of the terms in which it is proposed, to be absurd and fanatical, and have had recourse to a monstrous figure in order to make our Redeemer's language intelligible, and vindicate him from the charge of Puritanism. Men, to whom the things of the Spirit of God in their obvious construction are foolishness, love to take refuge in this system of figuring; and when they have so strained and altered the phraseology of the Bible as not to leave standing a syllable which savors of its sense, or from which you.could by any possibility guess at its propositions, they please themselves with having made it speak a rational Christianity, when they have only destroyed every character which can alarm the guilty, or give peace to the alarmed. Thus it has fared with the doctrine of regeneration. The words of our Lord are so. very simple and plain, that it requires some effort of ingenuity to mistake them. Yet they have not been able to escape.
Criticism has laid her foul hands upon them, and by the aid of that machine called a figure, had at one time diluted them into baptism of water by the hands of a regularly ordained priest, and at another has made them typical of outward reformation, though always in such a form as to bespeak something clearly within the power of corrupted man, and effectually to exclude the similitude of a birth. But it is so palpable as to need no proof that our Lord designates every effect produced by the agency of man flesh, and the effects produced by the agency of the Spirit of God spirit-that these effects are essentially contrasted—that they allow of no mixture, no concurrence, in the formation of the new birth—that they are, and necessarily must be, as different and opposite as flesh and spirit are--that alter, modify, refine, as much as you will, that which proceeds from the flesh, it is flesh still and nothing else, partaking exclusively of the nature of its author-so alter, modify, debase, if you can, that which proceeds from the Spirit of God, it is spirit still and nothing else, partaking exclusively of the nature of its blessed Author. He therefore denies that in this new birth there can be any copartnership, co-operation, or concern whatever, of the power of man with the power of the Holy Spirit. They who become the subjects of it are born, not of the flesh, nor of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Our unrenewed nature, with all its propensities and habits, acts and inclinations, the scripture emphatically terms FLESH; using it as equiv: alent with our old man—with the body of sin, which is to be put off, to be crucified, to be destroyed, but never to be amended. There is not
such an idea to be found in the whole Bible, nor any thing which contains a shadow of it, as that of reforming the works of the devil. The Lord performs his gracious work by creating a new man in Christ Jesus, not by repairing the old
Yet it is a common and ruinous error for a sinner to imagine, that if he can do all that is requisite to insure the kingdom of heaven, he can do much. If he cannot completely renew his heart, and make himself meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, he can do a great deal-or if not a great deal, can do something towards forwarding this desirable work. So that the Spirit of God, though he may have a large or even principal share in the glory, shall not have it all; but he shall himself receive due credit for improving the opportunities he had. Without taking up your time in exposing the ignorance and arrogance of such a pretension, I shall briefly observe, that it finds its way into the heart of every unconverted man, and has wound its insidious coil so firmly around many hearers of the gospel, that nothing short of a divine deliverer can set them at liberty.
To counteract so pernicious but natural a mistake is the manifest design of the text.
Hear it, professed disciple, and let it stir thee up to a rigorous examination of thy exercise and attain