Imatges de pàgina

and open statement. But on the point before us, the writings of the Old Testament are sufficiently plain, and explicit; for otherwise Nicodemus could not have been expected to know the Doctrine in question. In fact, when we are told in the first chapter of Genesis, that man was originally created in the image, and after the likeness of God, that is, in righteousness and true holiness; and when, in the fourth chapter, we read that Adam, after the fall, begat a son in his own image, after his own likeness ; nothing can be plainer, than that a great spiritual change, equivalent to a new birth, is necessary in order to fit mankind for that happiness, and for those services for which he was originally designed. Again, when we read such declarations as the fol. lowing; “ The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." -" The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” — “ How abominable and filthy is man, who drinketh iniquity like water !"

“ God looked from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back; they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no not one.” * -I say, when we read such declarations, as these, and compare them with the descriptions given of true religion, which represent it as a spiritual service; as truth in the inward parts; as consisting in the fear and love of God, in a desire of pleasing him, in a rejoicing in the light of his countenance; what can be more evident, than that the heart of man must be spiritually renewed, before it can be the seat of true religion? What are the commands of the Old Testament, “ Circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked.” — “ Wash you, make you clean ; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes;" that is inwardly in the heart, “ Cast away from you all your transgressions, and make you a new heart, and a new spirit; for why will ye die ?” * Surely the doctrine contained in these commands, differs but little from that contained in the text, “ Ye must be born again." Look next at the promises in reference to these commands. - The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed after thee, to love the Lord thy God, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live." — And again, “then will I sprinkle clean water upon you; and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you. A * Deut. x. 16. Isaiah, i. 16. Ezek. xviii. 31.

* Genesis, viii. 21. Jerem. xvii. 9. Job, xv. 16. Psalm liii. 2, 3.

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 addi. tion 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 He power

* Deut. XXX. 6. Ezek. xxxvi, 25, 27,

“ As many


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 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 Iikeness; and should insist upon such a recovery as an indispensable requisite to our salvation? Surely, in this view, “ye must 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

* John, i. 12, 13. Ephes. ii, 1. 1 John, v. 1. 2 Cor. v, 17.

power, and the wisdom of God. She consents to it as good. She acquiesces in it as right. She

« AnteriorContinua »