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new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of fesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgements, and do them.” *
Surely the change promised to be wrought in these passages is nothing less than a new birth by the Spirit of God. Why then should Nicodemus have marvelled at the doctrine in the text ? Why should he have said, “ how can these things be?” He would not have so marvelled, and so said, had he searched and known the Scriptures. Why then should any of us be surprised at this doctrine ? Why should we marvel at the thought of being born again? Why should we question the Nature, or the Necessity of this change? Let us search the Scriptures, and attend to them, and we shall see no cause for wonder, or for doubt. In addition to the writings of the Old Testament we have those of the New: we have the decisive testimony of Christ himself in this discourse with Nicodemus; we have numberless passages in the Gospels and the Epistles bearing on the same point. Take the following as a specimen. as received Him, to them
gave * Deut. XXX. 6. Ezek. xxxvi, 25, 27.
" As many He power
to become the Sons of God; even to them that believe on his name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." “ You hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” -“ Whosoever be.
: lieveth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.” And to mention only one more passage." If any man be in Christ, he is
“ a new creature: old things are passed away: behold all things are become new.” *
I told you, my brethren, at the beginning of my discourse, that the statement of this doctrine would be a trial of your heart, of its humbled, or unhumbled state ; of its disposition to be taught of God, or to set up its own vain notions in opposition to His truths. For it is a doctrine which is directly levelled at the pride of our hearts, and calculated to excite our prejudices and to provoke our reasonings against it. But, at the same time, it is a doctrine which reason, rightly exercised, cannot but approve. Man is evidently far gone from original righteousness. He is naturally incapable of rendering to God spiritual service. “ Being born of the flesh, he is flesh." He is utterly indisposed to love and obey God. He clearly loves sin, and folly, and the world, and self. These are the
* John, i. 12, 13. Ephes. ii, 1. 1 John, v. 1. 2 Cor. y, 17
idols whom he serves and honours. Do we not all know, and see, and feel this to be the case ? Are we not sensible that we are not now born in that moral likeness, in that spiritual image of God, in which man was at first created? What then can be more reasonable, than that a religion which professes to recover us from the consequences and evils of sin, and to bring us back to the favour, and presence of God, should make provision for recovering us to His image and sikeness; and should insist upon such a recovery as an indispensable requisite to our salvation ? Surely, in this view, “ be born again” is a sentiment the most agreeable to reason, the most plain and level to our understanding. And when God, who first created man, reserves to Himself the power of this new creation ; when He who first said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness," should now claim the prerogative of restoring him to that image, and likeness : when the Spirit of God, who is the author, and giver of all life, should, at his will, quicken the spiritually dead, and impart to them a new principle of life. — Is
there any thing, in all this dispensation, to which reason, rightly exercised, can object? No, she approves it; she sees in it the power, and the wisdom of God. She consents to it as good. She acquiesces in it as right. She
rejoices in it as a dispensation best adapted to the wants of man, and to the glory of God.
And now I might next appeal to the evidence of Facts; and show how they confirm the doctrine as it has been explained. But the time will not admit of my entering far into this subject; I will, therefore, simply state the question thus. Look at those persons in your own immediate neighbourhood, or among the circle of your acquaintance, whom, in your conscience, you believe to be the most faithful servants, the most spiritual worshippers of God, living the most decidedly under the influence of a religious principle, and producing the most evident fruits of righteousness, and true holiness. Look, I say, at such persons. Apply to them. Refer the matter to their decision. Ask them what they think of the doctrine in the text? Do they believe in the Necessity of a new and spiritual birth? Do they believe that a man must be born again of the Spirit, in the way that has been stated, before he can serve God acceptably, and can offer up spiritual sacrifices ? Put these enquiries to them. And I will show you what their answer will be. They will tell
you that they are themselves living witnesses to the truth of this doctrine; that they know by experience the nature and the necessity of a new
birth unto righteousness; that till they were quickened by the holy Spirit of God, they were themselves dead in sin, ignorant of God, and blind to spiritual things. They will tell you that whatever spiritual light, or life, they now have; whatever disposition to fear and love God; whatever desire after Jesus Christ, and his salvation; whatever power to obey, serve, and honour Him that for all these things they are indebted solely to the regenerating influences of the Spirit, by whom they “have been begotten again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.”
And now, my brethren, what will you say to these things ? I have explained to you the nature of that spiritual change, which is intended by the expression of being 66 born again.” I have pointed out to you the Necessity for it. I have shown you that this is the doctrine of Scripture ; that it is agreeable to Reason ; that it is confirmed by Facts and Experience. And now what do you say to these things ? Are you yourselves the subjects of this change ? Have you already experienced it? Are you born of the Spirit ? ' These are questions of very serious moment, and which you are required very seriously to answer to your own hearts