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Your final and bodily resurrection cannot, indeed, take place till you have passed through the grave. It is appointed unto you once to die. But your Redeemer has taken away the sting of death. Is death dreaded by you because it is the wages of sin? But Christ has procured the forgiveness of sins by his death, and has declared the justification of every believer by rising from the dead. Are you afraid of the pains of death? But Christ has gone before, and smoothed and sanctified the way; and he has promised to accompany you when you are called to pass through it. You may, therefore, say with the Psalmist, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." Fear not then, Christian, you need not dread to meet death—you need not be afraid of its consequences. To die will be your everlasting gain. You are now united to Christ by his Spirit; immediately after death, your soul will be still more closely united to him, though your body will be consigned to the tomb; and when the glorious morning of the resurrection shall arise, then the perfect union shall take place, when by his mighty power he shall raise you from your bed of dust, and make you like himself, "It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." "The body is sown in corruption, but it will be raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power: it is
sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body." "The resurrection will give you beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." Then "God himself shall wipe away all tears from your eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain ; for the former things are passed away; and he that sat upon the throne, said, Behold, I make all things new. And there shall be no more curse; but the throne of God and the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him. And they shall see his face, and his name shall be in their foreheads, and there shall be no night there, and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light, and they shall reign for ever and ever."
John iii. 3—7.
"JESUS ANSWERED AND SAID UNTO HIM, VERILY, VERILY I SAY UNTO THEE, EXCEPT A MAN BE BORN AGAIN, HE CANNOT SEE THE KINGDOM OF GOD. NICODEMUS SA1TH UNTO HIM, HOW CAN A MAN BE BORN WHEN HE IS OLD? CAN HE ENTER THE SECOND TIME INTO HIS MOTHER'S WOMB, AND BE BORN? JESUS ANSWERED, VERILY, VERILY' I SAY UNTO THEE, EXCEPT A MAN BE BORN OF WATER AND OF THE SPIRIT, HE CANNOT ENTER INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD. THAT WHICH IS BORN OF THE FLESH IS FLESH, AND THAT WHICH IS BORN OF THE SPIRIT IS SPIRIT. MARVE1 NOT THAT I SAID UNTO THEE, YE MUST BE BORN AGAIN."
The doctrine of regeneration is undoubtedly one of the most important that occupy the pages of the word of God. This is evident from that awful declaration of our blessed Lord, by which he excludes every human being, who is not a subject of the new birth, from the kingdom of God. The essential character of the doctrine is also evident from the order in which it is placed by the great Teacher: for in the portion of scripture containing the conversation of our gracious Redeemer with Nicodemus, regeneration is assigned to the first place. Jesus opens his discourse with a solemn asseveration, "Verily, verily I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
The doctrine of regeneration is so clearly asserted in our blessed Lord's discourse with Nicodemus, as well as in numberless other passages of the word of God, that it is embraced by all churches, sects, parties, and individuals, who receive the Bible as a revelation from God. However they may differ respecting its meaning, all profess to believe regeneration to be one of the leading tenets of the holy scriptures;—assert its necessity in order to salvation, and acknowledge that whatever be our external profession of Christianity, and the ordinances we may enjoy, unless we are born again, we cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
This is a subject, therefore, of most serious consideration; the great doctrine in which as a centre all others meet. If we are partakers of the new birth, all other essentials of religion will rise and flow from this great principle. Without this work of God in the soul, we have only the form of godliness without the power, and are destitute of repentance, faith, and love; for these graces can never exist in a being born in sin and shapen in iniquity, unless it undergo that change which is implied by the term regeneration.
May the Holy Spirit so illuminate the mind of the speaker, that he may not darken counsel by words without knowledge; and so enlighten your understandings, and open your hearts, that you may receive the truth in faith and love, while I attempt to speak to you of the Import, the Nature, the NecesSity, the Author, and the Evidences of regeneration.
I. Let us, in the first place, consider the Import of the term regeneration.
What is regeneration? or in other words, what is it to be born again. Let us attend to our Lord's words; "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Does the great teacher refer to this indispensable spiritual change, in connexion with the ordinance of baptism, or independently of that sacrament? I take it for granted, with the generality of commentators, and with the compilers of our baptismal service, that Jesus spoke of it in connexion with that sacred rite. Regeneration, therefore, becomes a complex term, and implies to be born of water and of the Spirit. But what is it to be born of the Spirit? It is to undergo that spiritual change without which we cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven. Every descendant of Adam is born in a state of sin, with a depraved and corrupted nature, which must be changed and renewed before he can possibly see or enter into the kingdom of God. Regeneration is, therefore, the implanting of a holy nature in the soul of a fallen sinner. This principle is called in scripture an " incorruptible seed;" and became necessary in consequence of the fall. It is the re-commencement of that spiritual life which was lost by original transgression; and it is the germ of all those spiritual graces, which are connected with true religion here, and eternal felicity hereafter. This, I apprehend, affords a true explanation of the words "to be born