« السابقةمتابعة »
think, nor desire, nor speak, nor act any thing good, or well pleasing in his sight.
No man, I say, has a title to the praise of God, till he feels his want of God; nor indeed, till he seeketh that“ honour which cometh of God only;" and neither desires nor pursues that which cometh of man, unjess so far only as it tends to this.
2. Another truth, which naturally follows from what has been said, is, that none shall obtain the honour that cometh of God, unless his heart be circumcised by faith; even a "faith of the operation of God:" unless, refusing to be any longer led by his senses, appetites, or passions, or even by that blind leader of the blind, so idolized by the world, natural reason, he lives and walks by faith; directs every step as seeing Him that is invisible;" “ looks not at the things that are seen, which are temporal, but at the things that are not seen, which are eternal ;” and governs all his desires, designs, and thoughts, all his actions and conversations, as one who is entered in within the vail, where Jesus sits at the right hand of God.
3. It were to be wished, that they were better acquainted with this faith, who employ much of their time and pains in laying another foundation; in grounding religion on the eternal fitness of things, on the intrinsic excellence of virtue, and the beauty of actions flowing from it ; on the reasons, as they term them, of good and evil, and the relations of beings to each other. Either these accounts of the grounds of Chris tian duty, coincide with the scriptural or not. If they do, why are well meaning men perplexed, and drawn from the weightier matters of the law, by a cloud of terins, whereby the easiest truths are explained into obscurity ? If they are not, then it behoves them to consider who is the author of this new doctrine; whether he is likely to be an angel from heaven, who preacheth another gospel than that of Christ Jesus; though, if he were, God, not we, hath pronounced his sentence, “ Let him be accursed."
4. Our gospel, as it knows no other foundation of good works than faith, or of faith than Christ, so it clearly informs us, we are not his disciples, while we either deny him to be the author, or his Spirit to be the inspirer and perfecter both of our faith and works.
“ If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." He alone can quicken those who are dead unto God, can breathe into them the breath of Christian life, and so prevent, accompany, and follow them with his grace, as to bring their good desires to good effect. And“ as many as are thus led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” This is God's short and plain account of true religion and virtue ; and "other foundation can no man lay."
5. From what has been said, we may, thirdly, learn, that none is truly “ led by the Spirit," unless that “Spirit bear witness with his spirit, that he is a child of God;" unless he see the prize and the crown before him, and "rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” So greatly have they erred who have taught that, in serving God, we ought not to have a view to our own happiness! Nay, but we are often and expressly taught of God, to have " respect unto the recompense of reward;" to balance the toil with the “joy set before us," these “light afflictions" with that “exceeding weight of glory." Yea, we are " aliens to the covenant of promise, we are “ without God in the world,” until God
“ of his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a living hope of the inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.'
6. But if these things are so, it is high time for those persons to deal faithfully with their own souls, who are so far from finding in themselves this joyful assurance that they fulfil the terms, and shall obtain the promises of that covenant, as to quarrel with the covenant itself, and blaspheme the terms of it; to nplain They are too severe; and that no man ever did, or shall live up to them !” What is this but to reproach God, as if he were a hard master, requiring of his servants more than he enables them to perform ? As if he had mocked the helpless works of his hands by binding them to impossibilities; by commanding them to overcome, where neither their own strength nor his grace was sufficient for them ?
7. These blasphemers might almost persuade those to imagine themselves guiltless, who, in the contrary extreme, hope to fulfil the commands of God, without taking any pains at all. Vain hope ! that a child of Adam should ever expect to see the kingdom of Christ and of God, without striving, without agonizing first,“ to enter in at the strait gate;" -that one who was conceived and born in sin,” and whose“ inward parts are very wickedness,” should once entertain a thoug it of being "purified as his Lord is pure," unless he tread in his steps, and “take up his cross daily;"? unless he“ cut off his right hand," and "pluck out the right eye, and cast it from him;"—that he should ever dream of shaking off his old opinions, passions, tempers, of being“ sanctified throughout in spirit, soul and body," without a constant and continued course of general self denial !
8 What less than this can we possibly infer from the above cited words of St. Paul, who, living "in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses," for Christ's sake ;-who, being fidl of "signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds," who, having been “cauglit up into the third heaven;"—yet reckoned, as a late author strongly expresses it, that all his virtues would be insecure, and even his salvation in danger, without this constant self denial ? “ So run I,” says he,
not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air :" By which he plainly teaches us, that he who does not thus run, who does not thus deny himself daily, does run uncertainly, and fighteth to as little purpose as he that “ beateth the air.”
9. To as little purpose does he talk of " fighting the fight of faith," as vainly hope to attain the crown of incorruption, (as we may, lastly, infer from the preceding observations,) whose heart is not circumcised by love. Love, cutting off both the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life ;--engaging the whole man, body, soul, and spirit, in the ardent pursuit of that one object; is so essential to a child of God, that, without it, whosoever liveth is counted dead before him. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge ; and though I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.” Nay, "though I give all my goods to feed the poor, and my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing."
10. Here then is the sum of the perfect law, this is the true circum-' cision of the heart. Let the spirit return to God that gave it, with the
whole train of its affections. “Unto the place from whence all the rivers came," thither let them flow again. Other sacrifices from us he would not ; but the living sacrifice of the heart he hath chosen. Let it be continually offered up to God through Christ, in flames of holy love. And let no creature be suffered to share with himn : for he is a jealous God. His throne will he not divide with another : he will reign without a rival. Be no design, no desire admitted there, but what has him for its ultimate object. This is the way wherein those children of God once walked, who being dead, still speak to us : "Desire not to live, but to praise his name: let all your thoughts, words, and works, tend to his glory. Set your heart firm' on him, and on other things only as they are in and from him. Let your soul be filled with so entire a love of him, that you may love nothing but for his sake. “ Have a pure intention of heart, a steadfast regard to his glory in all your actions.” “Fix your eye upon the blessed hope of your calling, and make all the things of the world minister unto it.'
.” For then, and not till then, is that“ mind in us which was also in Christ Jesus;" when, in every motion of our heart, in
every word of our tongue, in every work of our hands, we “pursue nothing but in relation to him, and in subordination to his pleasure ;" when we too, neither think, nor speak, nor act to fulfil our own will, but the will of him that sent us ;" when, whether we
eat, or drink, or whaterer we do, we do all to the glory of God.”
SERMON XVIII.—The Marks of the New Birth.
“ So is every one that is born of the Spirit,” John iii, 8.
1. How is every one that is “ born of the Spirit,”—that is, born again, born of God? What is meant by the being born again, the being born of God, or being born of the Spirit? What is implied in the being a son or a child of God, or having the Spirit of adoption ? That these privileges, by the free mercy of God, are ordinarily annexed to baptism (which is thence termed by our Lord in the preceding verse, the being "s born of water and of the Spirit”) we know; but we would know what these privileges are: what is the new birth ?
2. Perhaps it is not needful to give a definition of this, seeing the Scripture gives none. But as the question is of the deepest concern to every child of man; since, “except a man be born again,” born of the Spirit, “ he cannot see the kingdom of God;" I propose to lay down the marks of it in the plainest manner, just as I find them laid down in Scripture.
I. 1. The first of these, and the foundation of all the rest, is faith. So St. Paul, “ Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus," Gal. iii, 26. So St. John, “ To them gave he power (egsclav, right or privilege, it may rather be translated) to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name ; which were born,” when they belicved, “not of blood, nor of the wiil of the flesh,'' not by natural generation, "nor of the will of man,” like those children adopted by
men, in whom no inward change is thereby wrought," but of God, · chap. i, 12, 13. And again in his general epistle, “Whosoever be
lieveth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God," 1 John v, 1.
2. But it is not a barely notional or speculative faith that is here spoken of by the apostles. It is not a bare assent to this proposition, Jesus is the Christ; nor indeed to all the propositions contained in our creed, or in the Old and New Testament. It is not merely an assent to any or all these credible things, as credible. To say this, were to say (which who could hear ?) that the devils were born of God; for they have this faith. They, trembling, believe, both that Jesus is the Christ, and that all Scripture, having been given by inspiration of God, is true as God is true. It is not only an assent to divine truth, upon the testimony of God, or upon the evidence of miracles; for they also heard the words of his mouth, and knew him to be a faithful and true witness. They could not but receive the testimony he gave, both of himself, and of the Father which sent him. They saw likewise the mighty works which he did, and thence believed that he “came forth from God." Yet, notwithstanding this faith, they are still “reserved in chains of darkness, unto the judgment of the great day."
3. For all this is no more than a dead faith. The true, living, Christian faith, which whosoever hath is born of God, is not only assent, an act of the understanding; but a disposition, which God hath wrought in his heart; a sure trust and confidence in God, that through the merits of Christ his sins are forgiven, and he reconciled to the favour of God." This implies, that a man first renounce himself; that, in order to be “ found in Christ,” to be accepted through him, he totally rejects all “ confidence in the flesh;” that “ having nothing to pay," having no trust in his own works or righteousness of any kind, he comes to God as a lost, miserable, self destroyed, self condemned, undone, helpless sinner; as one whose mouth is utterly stopped, and who is altogether "guilty before God.” Such a sense of sin, (commonly called despair, by those who speak evil of the things they know not,) together with a full conviction, such as no words can express, that of Christ only cometh our salvation, and an earnest desire of that salvation, must precede a living faith, a trust in Him, who for us paid our ransom by his death, and for us fulfilled the law in his life. This faith then, whereby we are born of God, is “not only a belief of all the articles of our faith, but also a true confidence of the mercy of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ."
4. An immediate and consiant fruit of this faith whereby we are born of God, a fruit which can in no wise be separated from it, no, not for an hour, is power over sin ;-power over outward sin of every kind; over every evil word and work ; for wheresoever the blood of Christ is thus applied, it “purgeth the conscience from dead works ;"_and over inward sin ; for it purifieth the heart from every unholy desire and temper. This fruit of faith St. Paul has largely described, in the sixth chapter of his epistle to the Romans, “How shall we,” saith he, "who [by faith) are dead to sin, live any longer therein ?" "Our old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”—“ Likewise, reckon ye yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign [even) in your mortal body, yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead.” For sin shall not have dominion over you.—God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin,-but being made free,”-the plain meaning is, God
99 or but “we have
be thanked, that though ye were, in time past, the servants of sin, yet now" being free from sin, ye are become the servants of righteousness.
5. The same invaluable privilege of the sons of God, is as strongly asserted by St. John; particularly with regard to the former branch of it, namely, power over outward sin. After he had been crying out, as one astonished at the depth of the riches of the goodness of God,
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God! Beloved, now are we the sons of God: and 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;" 1 John iii, 1, &c;—he soon adds, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God,” verse 9. But some men will say, " True : whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin habitually.” Habitually! whence is that? I read it not. It is not written in the book. God plainly saith, “He doth not commit sin ;” and thou addest habitually! Who art thou that mendest the oracles of God ?-that “addest to the words of this book ?" Beware, I beseech thee, lest God “ add to thee all the plagues that are written therein !" Especially when the comment thou addest is such as quite swallows up the text: so that by this Medo@eia Thavns, this artful method of deceiving, the precious promise is utterly lost; by this xusla avdywow, this tricking and shuffling of men, the word of God is made of none effect. Oh beware, thou that thus takest from the words of this book, that taking away the whole meaning and spirit from them, leavest only what may indeed be termed a dead letter, lest God take away thy part out of the book of life!
6. Suffer we the apostle to interpret his own words, by the whole tenor of his discourse. In the fifth verse of this chapter, he had said, “ Ye know that he (Christ] was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.” What is the inference he draws from this ? « Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him," ch. iii, 6. To his enforcement of this impor tant doctrine, he premises a highly necessary caution : "Little child ren, let no man deceive you,” ver. 7; for many will endeavour so to do; to persuade you that you may be unrighteous, that you may commit sin, and yet be children of God; "he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning.". Then follows, “ Whosever is born of God doth not commit sin ; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this,” adds the apostle, “the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil.”
By this plain mark (the committing or not committing sin) are they distinguished from each other. To the same effect are those words in his fifth chapter,
“ We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not: but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not,” ver. 18.
7. Another fruit of this living faith is peace. For, “ being justified by faith," having all our sins blotted out,
with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ,” Rom. v, 1. This indeed our Lord himself, the night before his death, solemnly bequeathed to all his followers: “Peace,” saith he," I leave with you;" (you who“ believe in God," and " believe also in me ;'') “ my peace I give unto you.” “Not