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for perhaps it would appear upon a diligent inquiry, that neither grand nor beautiful objects please, any longer than they are new; that when the novelty of them is over, the greatest part, at least, of the pleasure they give, is over ; and in the same proportion as they hecome familiar, they become flat and insipid. But let us experience this ever so often, the same desire will remain still. The inbred thirst continues fixed in the soul; nay, the more it is indulged, the more it increases, and incites us to follow after another, and yet another object; although we leave every one with an abortive hope, and a deluded expectation. Yea,
“ The hoary fool, who many days
Has struggled with continued sorrow,
The desperate bet upon to morrow!
This day, like all the former flies:
To morrow, till to night he dies !" 11. A third symptom of this fatal disease, the love of the world, which is so deeply rooted in our nature, is "the pride of life;" the desire of praise, of the honour that cometh of men. This the greatest admirers of human nature allow to be strictly natural ; as natural as the sight, or hearing, or any other of the external senses. And are they ashamed of it, even men of letters, men of refined and improved understanding ? So far from it, that they glory therein! They applaud themselves for their love of applause ! Yea, eminent Christians, so called, make no difficulty of adopting the saying of the old, vain heathen, “ Animi dissoluti est et nequam negligere quid de se homines sentiant :" “ Not to regard what men think of us, is the mark of a wicked and abandoned mind.” So that to go calm and unmoved through honour and dishonour, through evil report and good report, is with them a sign of one that is, indeed, not fit to live: “Ăway with such a fellow from the earth.' But would one imagine that these men had ever heard of Jesus Christ or his apostles; or that they knew who it was that said, “ How can ye believe who receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour which cometh of God only ?” But if this be really so, if it be impossible to believe, and consequently to please God, so long as we receive or seek honour one of another, and seek not the honour which cometh of God only; then in what a condition are all mankind! The Christians as well as heathens ! Since they all seek honour one of another! Since it is as natural for them so to do, themselves being the judges, as it is to see the light which strikes upon their eye, or to hear the sound which enters their ear; yea, since they account it a sign of a virtuous mind, to seek the praise of men, and of a vicious one, to be content with the honour that cometh of God only!
III. 1. I proceed to draw a few inferences from what has been said. And first, from hence we learn one grand fundamental difference between Christianity, considered as a system of doctrines, and the most refined heathenism. Many of the ancient heathens have largely described the vices of particular men. They have spoken much against their covetousness, or cruelty; their luxury or prodigality. Some have dared to say, that “ no man is born without vices of one kind or another.” But still, as none of them were apprized of the fall of man, so none of them knew of his total corruption. They knew not that all men were
empty of all good, and filled with all manner of evil. They were wholly ignorant of the entire depravation of the whole human nature, of every man born into the world, in every faculty of his soul, not so much by those particular vices which reign in particular persons, as by the general flood of atheism and idolatry, of pride, self will, and love of the world. This, therefore, is the first, grand, distinguishing point between heathenism and Christianity. The one acknowledges that many men are infected with many vices, and even born with a proneness to them; but supposes withal, that in some the natural good much over balances the evil : the other declares that all men are
“ conceived in sin," and shapen in wickedness;"—that hence there is in every man a mind, which is enmity against God, which is not, cannot be subject to [his) law;" and which so infects the whole soul, that “there dwelleth in [him,] in his flesh,” in his natural state, “no good thing;” but "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is evil,” only evil, and that “ continually.”
2. Hence we may, secondly, learn, that all who deny this, call it original sin, or by any other title, are but heathens still, in the fundamental point which differences heathenism from Christianity. They may, indeed, allow, that men have many vices ; that some are born with us; and that, consequently, we are not born altogether so wise or so virtuous as we should be; there being few that will roundly affirm,“ We are born with as much propensity to good as to evil, and that every man is, by nature, as virtuous and wise as Adam was at his creation.” But here is the shibboleth : Is man by nature filled with all manner of evil? Is he void of all good? Is he wholly fallen? Is his soul totally corrupted ? Or, to come back to the text, is “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart evil continually ?" Allow this, and you are so far a Christian. Deny it, and you are but a heathen still.
3. We may learn from hence, in the third place, what is the proper nature of religion, of the religion of Jesus Christ. It is Osgateia Yuxns, God's method cf healing a soul which is thus diseased. Hereby the great Physician of souls applies medicines to heal this sickness; to restore human nature, totally corrupted in all its faculties. God heals all our atheism by the knowledge of himself, and of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent; by giving us faith, a divine evidence and conviction of God, and of the things of God; in particular, of this important truth, “ Christ loved me, and gave himself for me." By repentance and lowliness of heart, the deadly disease of pride is healed; that of self wil! by resignation, a meek and thankful submission to the will of God; and for the love of the world in all its branches, the love of God is the sovereign remedy. Now this is properly religion, " faith (thus] working by love;" working the genuine meek humility, entire deadness to the world, with a loving, thankful acquiescence in, and conformity to, the whole will and word of God.
4. Indeed, if man were not thus fallen, there would be no need of all this. There would be no occasion for this work in the heart, this renewal in the spirit of our mind. The superfluity of godliness would then be a more proper expression than the “superfluity of naughtiness." For an outside religion, without any godliness at all, would suffice to all rational intents and purposes. It does accordingly suffice, in the judgment of those who deny this corruption of our nature. They make
very little more of religion than the famous Mr. Hobbes did of reason. According to him, reason is only " a well ordered train of words :" according to them, religion is only a well ordered train of words and actions. And they speak consistently with themselves; for if the inside be not full of wickedness, if this be clean already, what remains, but to “cleanse the outside of the cup ?" Outward reformation, if their supposition be just, is indeed the one thing needful.
5. But ye have not so learned the oracles of God. Ye know, that he who seeth what is in man gives a far different account both of nature and grace, of our fall and our recovery. Ye know that the great end of religion is, to renew our hearts in the image of God, to repair that total loss of righteousness and true holiness, which we sustained by the sin of our first parents. Ye know that all religion which does not answer this end, all that stops short of this, the renewal of our soul in the image of God, after the likeness of him that created it, is no other than a poor farce, and a mere mockery of God, to the destruction of our own soul. Oh beware of all those teachers of lies, who would palm this upon you for Christianity! Regard them not, although they should come unto you with all the deceivableness of unrighteousness; with all smoothness of language, all decency, yea, beauty and elegance of expression, all professions of earnest good will to you, and reverence for the Holy Scriptures. Keep to the plain, old faith, "once delivered to the saints,” and delivered by the Spirit of God to our hearts. Know your disease! Know your cure ! Ye were born in sin: therefore"ye must be born again,” born of God. By nature ye are wholly corrupted: by grace ye shall be wholly renewed. In Adam ye all died: in the second Adam, in Christ, ye all are made alive. 66 You that were dead in sins hath he quickened :" he hath already given you a principle of life, even faith in him who loved you, and gave himself for you! Now,“go on from faith to faith," until your whole sickness be healed, and all that “mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus !"
SERMON XLV. The New Birth.
“Ye must be born again,” John iii, 7. 1. Ir any doctrines within the whole compass of Christianity may be properly termed fundamental, they are doubtless these two; the doctrine of justification, and that of the new birth: the former relating to that great work which God does for us, in forgiving our sins; the latter, to the great work which God does in us, in renewing our fallen nature. In order of time, neither of these is before the other; in the moment we are justified by the grace of God, through the redemption that is in Jesus, we are also “ born of the Spirit;" but in order of thinking as it is termed, justification precedes the new birth. We first conceive his wrath to be turned away, and then his Spirit to work in our hearts.
2. How great importance then must it be of, to every child of man, thoroughly to understand these fundamental doctrines ? From a full conviction of this, many excellent men have wrote very largely concerning justification, explaining every point relating thereto, and opening the scriptures which treat upon it. Many likewise have wrote on
the new birth : and some of them largely enough: but yet not so clearly as might have been desired; nor so deeply and accurately ; having either given a dark, abstruse account of it, or a slight and superficial
Therefore a full, and at the same time a clear account of the new birth, seems to be wanting still ; such as may enable us to give a satisfactory answer to these three questions: first, Why must we be born again? What is the foundation of this doctrine of the new birth ? Secondly, How must we be born again ? What is the nature of the new birth ? And, thirdly, Wherefore niust we be born again ? To what end is it necessary? These questions, by the assistance of God, I shall briefly and plainly answer, and then subjoin a few inferences which will naturally follow.
I. 1. And first, Why must we be born again ? What is the foundation of this doctrine ? The foundation of it lies near as deep as the creation of the world; in the scriptural account whereof we read, " And God," the three-one God," said, Let us make man in our image, after our like
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him," Gen. i, 26, 27:-not barely in his natural image, a picture of his own immortality; a spiritual being, endued with understanding, freedom of will, and various affections ;-nor merely in his political image, the governor of this lower world, having “ dominion over the fishes of the sea, and over all the earth ;”—but chiefly in his moral image; which, according to the apostle, is "righteousness and true holiness,” Eph. iv, 24. In this image of God was man made. “God is love:” accordingly man at his creation was full of love; which was the sole principle of all his tempers, thoughts, words, and actions. God is full of justice, mercy, and truth; so was man as he came from the hands of his Creator. God is spotless purity; and so man was in the beginning pure from every sinful blot; otherwise God could not have pronounced him, as well as all the other works of his hands, “very good,” Gen. i, 31. This he could not have been, had he not been pure from sin, and filled with righteousness and true holiness. For there is no medium: if we suppose an intelligent creature not to love God, not to be righteous and holy, we necessarily suppose him not to be good at all; much less to be “
very good.” 2. But, although man was made in the image of God, yet he was not made immutable. This would have been inconsistent with that state of trial in which God was pleased to place him. He was therefore created able to stand, and yet liable to fall. And this God himself apprized him of, and gave him a solemn warning against it. Nevertheless, man did not abide in honour : he fell from his high estate. He “ate of the tree whereof the Lord had commanded him, Thou shalt not eat thereof." By this wilful act of disobedience to his Creator, this flat rebellion against his Sovereign, he openly declared that he would no longer have God to rule over him; that he would be governed by his own will, and not the will of him that created him; and that he would not seek his happiness in God, but in the world, in the works of bis hands. Now God had told him before, “In the day that thou eatest [of-that fruit) thou shalt surely die." And the word of the Lord cannot be broken. Accordingly, in that day he did die, he died to God, the most dreadful of all deaths. He lost the life of God: he was separated from him, in union with wbom his spiritual life consisted
The body dies when it is separated from the soul; the soul, when it is separated from God. But this separation from God, Adam sustained in the day, the hour, he ate of the forbidden fruit. And of this he gave immediate proof; presently showing by his behaviour, that the love of God was extinguished in his soul, which was now " alienated from the life of God.” Instead of this he was now under the power of servile fear, so that he fled from the presence of the Lord. Yea, so little did he retain even of the knowledge of him who fileth heaven and earth, that he endeavoured to “ hide himself from the Lord God, among the trees of the garden,” Gen. iii, 8: so had he lost both the knowledge and the love of God, without which the image of God could not subsist. Of this therefore he was deprived at the same time, and became unholy as well as unhappy. In the room of this he had sunk into pride and self will, the very image of the devil; and into sensual appetites and desires, the image of the beasts that perish.
2. If it be said, “ Nay, but that threatening, 'In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die,' refers to temporal death and that alone, to the death of the body only;" the answer is plain : To affirm this is flatly and palpably to make God a liar; to aver that the God of truth positively affirmed a thing contrary to truth. For it is evident, Adam did not die in this sélise, “ in the day that he ate thereof." Ile lived in the sense opposite to this death, above nine hundred years after. So that this cannot possibly be understood of the death of the body, without impeaching the veracity of God. It must therefore be understood of spiritual death, the loss of the life and image of God.
4. And in Adan all died, all human kind, all the children of men who were then in Adam's loins. The natural consequence of this is, that every one descended from him comes into the world spiritually dead, dead to God, wholly dead in sin ; entirely void of the life of God void of the intage of God, of all that righteousness and holiness wiercin Adam was created. Instead of this, every man born into the world now bears the image of the devil, in pride and self will; the image of the beast; in sensual appetites and desires. This then is the foundation of the new birth,--the entire corruptiori of our nature. Hence it is, that being born in sin, we must be " born again.” Hence every one that is born of a woman, must be born of the Spirit of God.
II. 1. But how must a man be born again? What is the nature of the new birth? This is the second question. And a question it is of the highest moment that can be conceived. We ought not therefore, in so weighty a concern, to be content with a slight inquiry; but to examine it with all possible care; and to ponder it in our hearts, till we fully understand this important point, and clearly see how we are to be
2. Not that we are to expect any minute, philosophical account of the manner how this is done. Our Lord sufficiently guards us against any such expectation, by the words immediately following the text; wherein he reminds Nicodernus of as indisputable a fact as any in the whole compass of nature, which notwithstanding the wisest man under the sun is not ably fully to explain. “The wind bloweth where it listeth," --not by thy power or wisdom; "and thou ) cärest the sound thereof;'
;"-thou art absolutely assured, beyond all doubt, that it doth blow ; " but thou canst not tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth;' VOL. I.