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and consciences, for there is no alternative in this matter. There is no choice left to you: “ye must be' born again.” Till this be the case with you, you cannot enter into, you cannot see the kingdom of God. You may have some notion of what true religion should be; but you have no experience of what it really is. You may have heard of Jesus Christ, but you have not so seen Him, as to believe on Him. You may have the body, the form of godliness; but you are destitute of its spirit, its power. You may belong to the outward, visible church of God, but you have as yet nothing to do with his inward and invisible kingdom. Perhaps you will say, • We have been bap• tized unto Christ, we have been washed in • the laver of regeneration, and were we • not at that time, and in that ordinance, • born again ?' My brethren, you may, indeed, have been partakers of this ordinance, and by it may have been admitted into the external fellowship of Christ's religion. You may have been baptized with water ; but have you also been baptized with the Holy Ghost? The outward washing with water is but the sign and emblem of that inward washing by the Spirit, of that “ death unto sin," and that “ new birth unto righteousness,” which is real regeneration. Rest not then in the outward ordinance, nor deceive
yourselves with the hope that you are thus « born again." Think not, because you may have been baptized with water, that therefore you are necessarily baptized with the Holy Ghost. You might as reasonably urge that every Israelite who was circumcised in the flesh, was also necessarily circumcised in heart. Correct so erroneous an opinion. Give no credit, no countenance to so false and unscriptural a position. If, indeed, you will persist in retaining this notion, if
will still maintain that at baptism you received the seed of spiritual life : what, I would ask, has been the product ? Has the seed sprung up, and grown, and - budded, and blossomed, and brought much, or even any fruit to perfection ? If it has, well. If you are now a spiritual worshipper of God, and are living a spiritual life by - faith in His Son, you may justly conclude that you have been born of the Spirit, whether at baptism, or at some other period. But if you are still carnally-minded, and are living a carnal life, you may be sure, that whenever you may have been baptized with water, you are still a stranger to the baptism of the Holy Ghost; you are still unrenewed, uncircumcised in heart, and with Nicodemus must be born again. -And will you quietly continue in this state of death and sin ? Will you boast of being a Christian, while you have nothing belonging to one but the
name? “ Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” O that, while I am speaking, the Spirit, the blessed Author of the glorious change, who goeth where He listeth, and quickeneth whom He will, would quicken some souls among us, and by his powerful energies would call forth into life some hearts, hitherto lying dead in trespasses and sins! One of the first fruits and marks of such a work would be a secret conviction of the truth, and the reality of this change of which we speak; a conviction producing an inward desire to partake of it. My brethren, have any of you
this conviction? Do you find this desire in you? Welcome, O welcome, the
O beginnings of
in your soul. Quench not the sacred light. It may be the dawn of that day which will never end : the forerunner of that sun which will never go down. Strive to impress and increase this conviction on your heart. Turn your desire into prayer. . Pray “that you may be born again;" that you may experience in your own soul the power of renewing grace; that you may know what it is to have the heart quickened, enlightened, regenerated by the Spirit of God. Persevere in such prayers. Doubt not of their being heard and answered. Ask all in the name of Jesus Christ; and rely upon that most comfortable promise, “ God will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him."
ADOPTION THE FRUIT OF FAITH AND
John, i. 12, 13.
But as many as received Him, to them gave
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.
It is the great and peculiar privilege of true Christians that they “ have received the adoption of sons," have been taken “ into the household of God,” and “ have a name and a place in his family.” Being made members of Christ, they are become the children of God. It is this privilege, of
. which St. John speaks in the text. He tells us of some, who had “ power to become the Sons of God;" and he tells us also whence they had obtained this power ; by what means they were become the Sons of
God. On this point indeed he enters very fully into particulars. So that in discoursing on this passage, I shall naturally be led to enlarge on the previous Causes, by which our adoption into the family of God under the Christian covenant is brought about and accomplished.
In speaking indeed of the Causes by which our adoption is accomplished, it must ever be remembered that this privilege, like every other blessing of redemption, springs solely from the spontaneous mercy and the rich loving-kindness of the Lord. Admission into his family is exclusively the work and the gift of God. His grace is the first moving Cause of our adoption : and if we receive this adoption, it is solely because He freely bestows it on us. Such is the view exhibited in the text. Those who had the power to become the Sons of God are described as having received this power from Him. It is expressly said, that He "
gave it to them.” Once children of wrath, are they now children of grace ? Once children of darkness, are they now children of light ? Once children of disobedience, the slaves of sin and Satan, are they now the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty ? Whence did they obtain this privilege? How was this glorious change in their state effected? Did they merit or purchase it for themselves ? Did they pro