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the ways by which each of them is to be obtained; the one being attainable only by rational investigation, the other only by faith—Reason indeed must judge whether such or such things be revealed; but when that point is clearly ascertained, faith must receive the truth simply on the authority of God: and that too, no less when it lies beyond the sphere of our reason, than when it may easily be comprehended by it—The manner in which revealed truths are inculcated seems to imply this; for the prophets enforced their declarations, not with arguments, but with, " Thus saith the Lord:" and our Saviour, with an authority which none but himself ever presumed to exercise, and which strongly marked his equality with the Father disdained to use any other confirmation than that of his own assertion: this appears, as in numberless other passages, so particularly in his conversation with Nicodemus; when, instructing him in the mysterious doctrine of regeneration, he required-a full assent to it upon the testimony of his own word—May we bow to his authority, while we consider
I. The nature of regeneration
The mistakes which very generally obtain respecting this subject being first rectified, the truth will be more clearly seen—
Many suppose that baptism is the same with regeneration
[In the early ages of Christianity these terms were often Tised as synonymous, because it was taken for granted that none but truly regenerate persons would submit to a rite which engaged them to separate themselves from an ungodly world, and exposed them to the most imminent peril of their lives—But there is a wide difference between the two; regeneration being absolutely necessary to salvation, while baptism, as in the case of the dying thief, may under some circumstances be dispensed with—Besides, it was doubtless the great design of our Lord and his apostles to regenerate and convert men: but were they so intent on administering the rite of baptism? Our Lord, we are told, "baptized no man;" and it is said of Paul, that " God sent him not to baptize;" yea, he himself "thanks God that he had baptized none but Crispus and Gaius:" but if he had regenerated none other, would-he have thought that a proper ground for thanksgiving?—Again, if baptism and regeneration be the same thing, we may use them altogether as synonymous terms: now it is said that " Whosoever is born of God overcometh the world,"* and that " he neither doth sin nor can sin, because he is born of God."b But if we should say the same of all that are baptized, would not the worldly and sinful lives of many flatly contradict us?—It appears then from the superior importance of regeneration, from the design of Christ and his apostles respecting it, and from the properties ascribed to it in scripture that it neither is nor can be the same with baptism'—Baptism is an outward work of man upon the body; regeneration is an inward work of God upon the soul—] >
Others think that regeneration imports no more than an outward reformation, or, at most, a partial change of the inward man
[But can we conceive that, when a ruler of the Jews came to our Lord, acknowledging him to be a teacher sent from God, and desiring to be instructed in those things which he was come to reveal, our Lord would tell him that wicked men could not be saved without reforming their lives? Did Nicodemus need such information as that? Or, if this was all that our Lord meant, would this teacher in Israel have been so astonished at it? And would not our Lord have instantly rectified his misapprehension, and shewn him that there was no cause for astonishment? Can we imagine that our Lord would have confirmed the mistake, by representing this doctrine as an incomprehensible mystery, which man can no more fathom, than he can ascertain the hidden causes, or mark the exact boundaries, of the wind? Yea, would he have left this man so bewildered, saying, How can these things be! if he had meant no more than, that a wicked man must reform his life?—Nor is it less evident that regeneration does not consist in a partial change even of the inward man. To what purpose should we boast of having experienced the illumination of Balaam,« the humiliation of Ahab,d the confession of Judas,e the faith of Simon Magus,f the confidence of the unbelieving Jews,* the attention of Ezekiel's auditors,b the reformation of Herod,' or (what perhaps includes all these together) the promising appearance of the stony-ground hearers,k if, like them, we rest in any partial change? Surely, if our righteousness exceed not theirs, we can not hope that we shall be happier than they in our final doom—]
In opposition to all such erroneous notions, the scripture itself defines regeneration to be "a new creation,
» 1 John v. 4. b 1 John iii. 9. c Numb. xxiv. 4.
a 1 Kin. xxi. 29. « Matt, xxvii. 4. t Acts viii. 13,21, 2«.
S John viii. 41, 42. * Ezek. xxxiii. 31. » Mark vi. 20, 27. * Matt. xiii. 20, 21.
wherein old things pass away, and All things become new."i
[The author of this work is the Holy Spirit, who by a supernatural agency renews our inward man, and makes us partakers of a divine naturem—Our faculties indeed remain the same as they were before; but there is a new direction given to them all—Our understanding is enlightened, so that we behold ourselves, and Christ, and the world, yea, every thing else too, in a very different from what we ever did
before>> Our will is changed, so that instead of following,
or even desiring to follow, our own way, we surrender up ourselves altogether to God's government, saying most unfeign
edly, Not my will, but thine be doned Our affections
also are exercised in a very different manner from what they were before, so that, instead of being called forth principally by the things of time and sense, they are set upon things spiritual and eternalP We say not that this change is perfect in any man, (for there still are sad remains of the old and corrupt nature even in the best of men; the leprosy is never wholly removed till the walls be taken down)—But the change is universal in all the faculties, and progressive throughout our lives: nor can it be affected by any efforts of man, or bv any other power than that of God>i—]
As the scriptures give this extensive view of regeneration, so the)r fully declare II. The necessity of it
"The kingdom of God" sometimes imports the kingdom of grace on earth, and sometimes the kingdom of glory in heaven—Indeed both are one and the same kingdom, subject to the same head, composed of the same members, and governed by the same laws: grace is glory begun; glory is grace consummated—But for the purpose of illustrating our subject we observe that, without regeneration,
1. We cannot enter into God's kingdom of grace [There are many duties to be performed, and many privileges to be enjoyed, by the subjects of God's spiritual kingdom, 'which an unregeiierate man can neither perform nor enjoy— Who can doubt whether it be our duty to " repent in dust and ashes," to " live by faith on the Son of God," or to "cruHfv the flesh with its affections and lusts?" But can an unrege? nerate man do these things? We acknowledge that he may restrain in many le pects his outward conduct; but can he
root out from his heart the love of the world, and the love of sin? Can he truly loath and abhor himself as well for the unhallowed corruptions of his heart as for the grosser transgressions of his life?—-As well may he attempt to create a world as to efTect these things by any power of his own—Again; it , is the Christian's privilege to enjoy that " peace of God which passeth all understanding," to ". abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost," and to be transported with that "joy which is unspeakable and full of glory"—But can an Unregenerate man possess that peace, when his iniquities are not forgiven? Can he look forward with delight to the coming Of the day of Christ, when all his desires and pursuits terminate in this lower world? Can he be so elevated with holy joy, when there is nothing in his state which does not rather call for rivers of tears?—But if any one doubt what answer he must return to these questions, let him go to his chamber and see whether he be competent to form his mind to these sublime employments; and he will soon find that no power but that which created our souls at first, can form them anew after the divine image—] 2. We cannot enter into the kingdom of glory
[There is a meetness for the heavenly inheritance,r which every one must attain, before he can enjoy the felicity of the saints in light—As, on earth, no occupation can afford us pleasure, if we have not an inward taste and relish for it, so, in heaven, we must have dispositions suited to the state of those above—But where is this disposition to be obtained, if not in this life? Can it be thought that there shall be "repentance in the grave," and that we shall become regenerate in a future state? Shall he, who never supremely loved his God, become at once inflamed with devout affection towards him? Shall not he, who never was renewed after the divine image, rather behold with dread and horror the holiness of God, and tremble at the sight of that Lamb, whose dying love he despised, and whose blood he trampled under foot?—Shall he, who never sought one hour's communion with God in secret, delight to have no other employment to all eternity?—No; " as the tree falleth, so it lieth;" "he that was unjust will be unjust still; and he that was filthy will be filthy still."—As there is this reason on the part of man, so is there a still more cogent reason on the part of God—God has declared, with repeated and most solemn asseverations, that "except a man be born again he shall never enter into his kingdom:'' and has he spoken thus merely to alarm us? w Is he a man that he should lie, or the son of man that he should repent?" Will he dishonour himself to favour us? Will he violate the rights of justice, heli
ness and truth, in order to. save those, who, to their dying hour, rejected and despised his proffered mercy?—Let us not deceive ourselves with such vain hopes, which can terminate in nothing but disappointment and ruin—]
l. The unregenerate
* [You cannot surely be at a loss to know your real state, if your will examine candidly whether you have ever experienced such a change in your views, desires, and pursuits, as has been before described?—0, let every one put home to his conscience this question, Am I born again?—-And know that neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision will avail you any thing, but a new creation1— Tent must be bom again, or perish ]
2. The regenerate
[St. Peter, writing to such persons under the severest persecution, begins his epistle with congratulations:c and St. Paul bids us under the heaviest calamities to be thankful for renewing grace."—Do ye then bless God in every state, and ** shew forth the virtues of him who hath called you to his kingdom and glory""' ]
CCXXII. THE LIVING WATER.
John iv. 14. Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give Jiim, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
OUR Lord invites us to learn of him—To encourage us, he declares that he is meek and lowly in heart— Never was this disposition more displayed than in his conversation with the Samaritan woman—She was of the most abandoned character; yet he condescended to instruct her -And, when she slighted his proffered mercies endeavoured to recommend them to her more favourable acceptance.—We shall consider
I. What is that water which Clirist will give
The.woman understood our Lord only in a literal sense —But in his words there was a mystical meaning.