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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 Nicodemus of as indisputable a fact, as any in the whole compass of nature; which, notwithstanding, the wisest man under the sun is not able fully to explain. ". The wind bloweth where it listeth," not by thy power, or wisdom," and thou bearest 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.” The precise manner how it begins and ends, rises and falls, no man can tell. “ So is every one that-is born of the Spirit.” Thou mayest be as absolutely assured of the fact, as of the blowing of the wind: but the precise manner how it is done, how the Holy Spirit works this in the soul, neither thou, nor the wisest of the children of men, is able to explain.
3. However, it suffices for every rational and Christian purpose, that, without descending into curious, critical enquiries, we can give a plain scriptural account of the nature of the New-Birth. This will satisfy every reasonable man, who desires only the salvation of his soul. The expression, being born again, was not first used by our Lord in his conversation with Nicodemus. It was well known before that time, and was in common use among the Jews when our Saviour appeared among them. When an adult Heathen was convinced, that the Jewish religion was of God, and desired to join therein, it was the custom to baptize him first, before he was admitted to circumcision. And when he was baptized, he was said to be born again: by which they meant, that he who was before a child of the devil, was now adopted into the family of God, and accounted one of his children. This expression therefore, which Nicodemus, being “ a teacher in Israel,” ought to have understood well, our Lord uses in conversing with him; only in a stronger sense than he was accustomed to. And this might be the reason of his asking, “ How can these things be?” They cannot be literally, “A man cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born.” But they may, spiritually. A man may be « born from above, born of God, born of the Spirit:" in a manner which bears a very near analogy to the natural birth.
4. Before a child is born into the world, he has eyes, but sees not; he has ears, but does not hear. He has a very imperfect use of every other sense. He has no knowledge of any of the things of the world, or any natural understanding. To that manner of existence which he then has, we do not even give the name of life. It is then only when a man is born, that we say, he begins to live. For, as soon as he is born, he begins to see the light, and the various objects with which he is encompassed. His ears are then opened, and he hears the sounds which successively strike upon them. At the same time, all the other organs of sense begin to be exercised upon their proper objects. He likewise breathes and lives, in a manner, wholly different from what he did before. How exactly doth the parallel hold in all these instances ? While a man is in a mere natural state, before be is born of God, he has, in a spiritual sense, eyes and sees not; a thick impenetrable veil lies upon them. He has ears, but hears not; he is utterly deaf to what he is most of all concerned to hear. His other spiritual senses are all locked up: he is in the same condition as if he had them not. Hence be bas no knowledge of God, no intercourse with him ; he is not at all acquainted with him. He has no true knowledge of the things of God, either of spiritual or eternal things. Therefore, though he is a living man, he is a dead Christian. But, as soon as he is born of God, there is a total change in all these particulars. The eyes of his understanding are opened,” (such is the language of the great Apostle:) and he, who of old “ commanded light to shine out of darkness, shining on bis heart, he sees the light of the glory of God,” his glorious love, “in the face of Jesus Christ.” His ears being opened, he is now capable of bearing the inward voice of God, saying, “ Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee:” go and sin no more.” This is the purport of what God speaks to his heart : although “ peace
perhaps not in these very words. He is now ready to bear whatsoever “ he that teacheth man knowledge,” is pleased, from time to time, to reveal to him. He “ feels in his heart (to use the language of our Church) the mighty working of the Spirit of God:” not in a gross, carnal sense, as the men of the world stupidly and wilfully misunderstand the expression : though they have been told again and again, we mean thereby neither more nor less than this : be feels, is inwardly sensible of the graces, which the Spirit of God works in his heart. He feels, he is conscious of a wbich passeth all understanding.” He many times feels such a joy in God, as is “ unspeakable, and full of glory.” He feels the “ love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto him.” And all his spiritual senses are then exercised to discern spiritual good and evil. By the use of these, he is daily increasing in the knowledge of God, of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent, and of all the things pertaining to his inward kingdom. And now he may be properly said to live: God having quickened him by his Spirit, be is alive to God through Jesus Christ. He lives a life which the world knoweth not of, a life which is hid with Christ in God.” God is continually breathing, as it were, upon the soul, and his soul is breathing unto God. Grace is descending into his heart, and prayer and praise ascending to heaven. And by this intercourse between God and man, this fellowship with the Father and the Son, as by a kind of spiritual respiration, the life of God in the soul is sustained and the child of God grows up, till he comes to the “ full measure of the stature of Christ."
5. From hence it manifestly appears, what is the nature of the New Birth. It is that great change which God works in the soul, when he brings it into life; when he raises it from the death of sin, to the life of righteousness. It is the change wrought in the whole soul by the Almighty Spirit of God, when it is created anew in Christ Jesus," when it is “ renewed after the image of God, in righteous ness and true holiness ;" when the love of the world is
upon the heart.
changed into the love of God, pride into humility, passion into meekness; hatred, envy, malice, into a sincere, tender, disinterested love for all mankind. In a word, it is that change whereby the earthly, sensual, devilish mind, is turned into the " mind which was in Christ Jesus." This is the nature of the New-Birth. “ So is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
III. 1. It is not difficult for any who has considered these things, to see the necessity of the New-Birth, and to answer the third question, · Wherefore, to what end is it necessary that we should be born again ?' It is very easily discerned, that this is necessary, first, in order to boliness. For what is holiness, according to the Oracles of God ? Not a bare external religion, a round of outward duties, how many soever they be, and how exactly soever performed. No: gospel-holiness is no less than the image of God stamped
It is no other than the whole mind which was in Christ Jesus. It consists of all heavenly affections and tempers mingled together in one. It implies such a continual, thankful love, to him who hath not withheld from us his Son, his only Son, as makes it natural, and in a manner necessary,
every child of man; as fills us with “ bowels of mercy, kindness, gentleness, long-suffering.” It is such a love of God as teaches us to be blameless in all manner of conversation; as enables us to present our souls and bodies, all we are, and all we have, all our thoughts, words, and actions, a continual sacrifice to God, acceptable through Christ Jesus. Now this holiness can have no existence, till we are renewed in the spirit of our mind. It cannot commence in the soul, till that change be wrought, till by the power of the Highest overshadowing us, we are“ brought from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God :" that is, till we are born again; which therefore is absolutely necessary in order to holiness.
2. But “ without holiness no man shall see the Lord,” shall see the face of God in glory. Of consequence, the New-Birth is absolutely necessary, in order to eternal salvation. Men may indeed flatter themselves (so desperately
us, to love
wicked and so deceitful is the heart of man!) that they may live in their sins till they come to the last gasp, and yet afterwards - live with God. And thousands do really believe, that they have found a broad way which leadeth not to destruction. “What danger, (say they,) can a woman be in that is so harmless and so virtuous ? What fear is there that so honest a man, one of so strict morality, should miss of heaven? Especially, if over and above all this, they constantly attend on the church and sacrament.” One of these will ask with all assurance, What, shall I not do as well as my neighbours ?" Yes, as well as your unholy neighbours ; as well as your neighbours that die in their sins. For you will all drop into the pit together, into the nethermost hell. You will all lie together in the lake of fire, “ the lake of fire burning with brimstone.” Then, at length you will see (but God grant you may see it before!) the necessity of holiness in order to glory: and consequently of the New-Birth, since none can be holy, except he be born again.
3. For the same reason, except he be born again, none can be happy even in this world. For it is not possible, in the nature of things, that a man should be happy who is not holy. Even the poor, ungodly poet could tell us, Nemo malus felix: No wicked man is happy. The reason is plain. All unholy tempers are uneasy tempers. Not only malice, hatred, envy, jealousy, revenge, create a present hell in the breast, but even the softer passions, if not kept within due bounds, give a thousand times more pain than pleasure. Even hope, when deferred, (and how often must this be the case ?) maketh the heart sick. And every desire which is not according to the will of God, is liable to “pierce us through with many sorrows.” And all those general sources of sin, pride, self-will, and idolatry, are in the same proportion as they reign, general sources of misery. Therefore, as long as these prevail in any soul, happiness has no place there. But they must reign, till the bent of our nature is changed, that is, till we are born again. Consequently, the New-Birth is absolutely neces