Imatges de pàgina

covenant, and pledges and conveys only that grace which is necessary to the fulfilment of these conditions, it is a misapprehension, or a misstatement of this doctrine, which represents it as denying or superceding the necessity of that spiritual change which it sets forth and enforces, and for which it affords the means; and which is denoted by "the renewing of the Holy Ghost," the becoming a new creature in Christ Jesus.

In the following discourse it shall be my object to enforce the necessity of this spiritual change, as it regards man in his general character, and in the particular circumstances in which he may be placed.

I. In his general character, man must be born again, must undergo a spiritual change, as a fallen and corrupt creature.

Not that all his powers and propensities are totally depraved; for, on the contrary, all his powers and propensities, in their original destination and nature, are wise and good. The misdirection of them, and the excessive indulgence of them, in consequence of the fall, constitute man's depravity. His understanding is now liable to be perverted, and so far from intuitively and invariably discerning and attaining divine truth, is incapable of spiritual discernment without the enlightening influences of divine grace. His will, instead of choosing constantly and uniformly the objects of duty which an enlightened conscience presents, fixes its choice on the sinful pursuits and pleasures which corrupt appetite presents to it: and the affections of the human soul, instead of lifting themselves to the adoration, the love, and the service of him who,

possessed of every perfection, and exercising upon man his boundless goodness, claims man's supreme homage-instead of indulging in the lawful objects of temporal pursuit and gratification in that moderation which reason and the divine law prescribe, the affections of the soul are devoted to the things of time and sense, forgetful of the higher pursuits and joys of a spiritual and immortal existence. Blind to spiritual truth, and incapable of spiritual good, except as he is enlightened and sanctified by the Divine Spirit, it is apparent that fallen and corrupt man requires the renewing agency of this divine Guide and Sanctifier. On account, then, of the misdirection and abuse of his powers and propensities, his state by nature, independently of divine grace, is characterized as a state of blindness, impotency, and sin. "The natural man discerneth not the things of the Spirit of God." "The carnal mind is enmity against God." "We are not sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves." This is the language of Scripture. What is the language of fact! Who are they that understand and relish the sublime and holy truths of the Gospel? Who are they that exhibit a uniform and consistent course of piety and virtue? Who are they that not only "do justly and love mercy, but walk humbly with their God"-revering and loving his attributes, serving him in righteousness and holiness, submitting to his institutions and ordinances? Are there any who thus merit the character of holy and righteous men-none but those who, in humility and sincerity, have invoked, and, in the use of the prescribed means, have received, the enlightening and sanctifying influences of the Divine Spirit? Fact, then, as well as Scripture,

enforces the necessity of a spiritual change in man, as a fallen and corrupt being.

The same truth would be forced on the conviction of each individual, by the faithful examination of his own heart and conduct. Are there no passions which thy reason and thy conscience condemn, which are exercising their corrupt power in thy bosom, and exciting in it uneasiness, shame, remorse? Are there no vices derogatory to the purity of thy nature, which are habitually cherished? Have any efforts of reason and resolution subdued these passions and conquered these vices? On the contrary, do they not defy the utmost strength of unassisted nature? Hast thou been able to attain that purity of heart, that meekness of temper, that humility of spirit, that devotedness to thy supreme Creator and Benefactor, that uniform rectitude of conversation and conduct which reason and conscience enforce, and the law of God enjoins? Self-love may attempt to blind and to flatter thee; and yet, successful as may be her efforts, she cannot conceal from thee the lamentable fact, that, under the guidance, and with the efforts of thy own reason and strength, thou art, in a greater or less degree, under the dominion of corrupt passion, and far, very far from those holy attainments that mark the righteous man. What, then, should be the conclusion? That thy corrupt nature must be purified by a power superior to thine own, by that agency which in mercy God has provided for the sanctification of his fallen creatures-the renewing of the Holy Ghost. "Thou must be born again."

II. But from man, in his general character, we VOL. II. 9

shall see the necessity of this spiritual change, in reference to the peculiar circumstances in which he may be placed. Baptized in infancy, he may have, from infancy, faithfully fulfilled his baptismal engagements; or he may have superficially attended to them; or he may have neglected them, without indulging in gross transgressions; or he may have entered on the course of impiety and profligacy. Baptized in adult age, he may have come to this ordinance in repentance and faith, and since persevered in his pious course; or he may have, in a measure, apostatized from his bap-. tismal covenant; or he may have come to this ordinance in a state of impenitence or insincerity. Baptized neither in infancy nor at adult age, he may still be without the Christian fold.

Under all these varying circumstances, there will be a propriety in addressing to mankind the language "You must be born again." And reversing the order in which we have stated them, let us begin with the case of him who has never received baptism, and who is still without the Christian fold.

1. Do you contend that the baptism of water is unnecessary? How is it possible to evade the force of the declaration of Christ, and the exhortation and practice of his inspired apostles, all establishing, as plainly as words and facts can establish, the necessity of being baptized with water, and by this washing of regeneration placed in a covenant state, and entitled to the renewing influences of the Spirit of God?

Do you admit the necessity and obligation of baptism, and yet neglect it? Can there be safety, think you, in this inconsistency in acknowledging

the necessity and obligation of baptism, and yet neglecting it? Perhaps you are destitute of the qualifications of repentance and faith. Can you be safe in this condition? Safe! While impenitent, you are exposed to God's wrath. Safe! While unbelieving, you practically reject the great salvation which God hath purchased for you. How shall you escape?

2. But you may have come to this ordinance in a state of impenitence and insincerity.

Awful profanation! You have indeed trampled under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant, which this holy sacrament is designed to apply to the soul, an unholy thing. Your lips pronounced vows which your heart rejectedpronounced them, not to man, but to God. Perjury is a crime light when compared with yours. Repent, God hath not yet withdrawn his Spirit from you. The name and the obligations of Christian are imposed upon you, and you are within the fold of the Redeemer. These circumstances, indeed, will only aggravate your guilt and increase your condemnation, if you continue impenitent. Repent, then, and by the aids of that grace which, through the mercy of God, strives in the hearts of all men, and is pledged to all the members, however unworthy, of the mystical body of his Son, escape from the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity. You must be born of God-changed and renewed from your present state of ungodliness, impenitence, and impiety, to contrition, to holiness, to devotedness to God.

3. Have you apostatized from the vows which, in your own persons, you deliberately made at baptism? You have forfeited the renewing of the

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