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THE NEW BIRTH.
less millions in Christendom had so received them for many generations. It was a bold thing, and seemingly presumptuous to suppose that I was right and all Christendom wrong; but I soon found that mine was no new discovery, and that if millions who followed traditions without comparing them with the Bible, thought on one side, there were also millions who did read their Bibles, and thought on the other.
It was perfectly clear, moreover, that one obvious motive or policy had dictated the false application of the three chapters. It will be observed that priest rule is established in them; for, according to this teaching, no one can enter the kingdom of God without priestly operation in baptism; no one abide or be fed in it without the same in Holy Communion; nor any one receive absolution from sin, and final release from hell to heaven, apart from sacerdotal action.
On the other hand, I saw spiritual men, as sure as they were of their own existence that their new birth took place, not at baptism, but at their conversion. Therefore they were convinced that the third chapter of St. John, in which our Lord's conversation with Nicodemus is recorded, refers to that spiritual change which takes place at conversion, and not to baptism, which was not even instituted for two or three years afterwards (Matt. xxviii. 19).
Again, as to the sixth chapter. A spiritual man knows that he feeds continually on the body and blood of Christ, it is the "Bread which came down from heaven" for him. The Lord said, "He that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me" (John vi. 57). They know how they received spiritual life, and also how it is continually maintained; therefore they could not allow themselves to be carried away with such a palpable fiction as transubstantiation, or any other doctrine kindred to it. The sixth chapter does not refer to
the Lord's Supper, but the Lord's Supper refers to the reality which is mentioned in it.
Lastly, as to the twentieth chapter of St. John, on the authority of which it is supposed and asserted that Christ left power with His Church and priests to forgive sins. Of this we may say, He has not delegated any such powers at all. When He gave commission to His disciples (not exclusively to the apostles), He said, "Lo, I am with you." Our power is not imparted to us from Him, but is in Him. We have no power at all, but in Him, and no grace but that which is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. ii. 1). It is His presence, His real, promised presence by the Holy Ghost, which is spiritual power; and this is given directly to individuals by God Himself, and is not transmitted through other channels.
The Lord Jesus, on His resurrection day, said to His disciples, in the upper room-and, be it remembered, that all the eleven were not there (and some women may have been)" Peace be unto you. Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained" (John xx. 23).
Is it possible or reasonable to suppose that our Lord intended by these words to constitute all that assembly absolving priests? The apostles and early Christians (both men and women) never thought so, either before or even after the day of Pentec when they were taught and led by the Holy Ghost. The apostles did not exercise any socalled priestly functions; they all preached the Gospel, and as ministers and witnesses, declared, through Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sins. Their testimony was then, as such testimony ever will be, the savour of life or the savour of death. It was thus they remitted and retained sins; and yet not they, but God by them.
LIFE OF ADelaide NEWTON.
While I was thus ruminating, a book came into my hands which interested me greatly. This I read and reread, and made an abstract of it. It was the "Life of Adelaide Newton." What struck me in it so much was, to find that this lady was able to hold spiritual communion with God by means of a Bible only. Is it possible, I thought, to have such close communion with God, apart from the Church and her ministrations? I do not hesitate to say that this was the means, under God, of stripping off some remains of my grave-clothes, and enabling me to walk in spiritual liberty, instead of legal and sacramental bondage.
Human reasoning would say, "What, then, is the use of ministry and sacraments? Let us dispense with them, and be independent of them altogether." This is no better than saying that we will continue in sin that grace may abound; and the same answer which the apostle gives will do for this also: "God forbid !"
It does not follow, because some people make too much of ministry and sacraments, making them absolutely necessary to salvation, that we should, on the other hand, disregard them. There is another and a happier alternative, and that is, to realize they were made for us, not we for them; therefore we should not be subject to them, but rather they should be subject to us, and be used by us, not in order to obtain God's grace and salvation, but to show that we have already done so. In our obedience to God's ordinances, we acknowledge our allegiance to Him, and our submission to His will.
For fear that my people should go off, as too many do, into disregard of the "means of grace," because sacramental people make too much of them, I began a class for exposi tion and explanation of the Prayer-book. I commenced by showing them that the Church of England is the Lord's
candlestick in this country, not the candle, and certainly not the light, but the candlestick which the Lord set up here, possibly even as early as the days of the apostles, to show the true light, which is Christ. And though Romish corruptions supervened, it pleased God, at the time of the Reformation, to raise up men to deliver us from them, and to restore true Bible teaching.
Thus I endeavoured to show them, that the system of the Church of England was one which should commend itself to their regard, as quite agreeable to Scripture; and if it is not carried out according to its intention, that is not the fault of the system, but rather of those who administer it.
Next, as to worship.
The object of our assembling in the house of God is not, I said, so much to hear sermons, or get instruction, as in Bible, or other classes, but rather "to render thanks for the great benefits we have received at God's hands, to set forth His most worthy praise, to hear His most holy word, and to ask those things which are requisite and necessary as well for the body as the soul." That worship is devotion towards God; it consists more in giving than in getting. Some of the people were greatly interested when I pointed out to them, that the order of our Service was exactly the same as the order of their spiritual experience, in conviction, conversion, and Christian life.
For example, the Morning Service begins with a sentence such as, 66 To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against Him;" then comes the Exhortation, which moves us to surrender ourselves; then the Confession, which is the act of surrender. Immediately after this is declared the Absolution and forgiveness of sins, "to all who truly repent, and unfeignedly believe the Gospel."
Then comes the Lord's Prayer, which leads us, at once,
into the place of children, accepted in the Beloved: then follow acts of thanksgiving
"Open Thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise." "Oh, come let us sing unto the Lord, let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation."
These, and such-like explanations, helped to enlist the interest of the people; and whereas, before, they only used to endure the prayers, while waiting for the sermon, now they engaged in them intelligently, and even with more delight than in extempore prayer.
As to the Communion Service I bade them notice that it begins with the Lord's Prayer, in which we draw near to our Father, not as sinners, but as His children; asking for a clean heart and for grace to live according to His will; then, we approach the table, unworthy, indeed, to take even the crumbs under it, but trusting in His mercy. We do not go there to offer a sacrifice of Christ's body, but of our own, as a thanksgiving to God, offering and presenting ourselves—spirit, soul, and body—a living sacrifice to His
Every week we took some subject from the Prayer-book, noticing the special seasons in their order, such as Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension, and Whitsuntide, each with their respective teaching.
I was now happy in my work; but it did not, of course, go on as sweetly as the theory sets it forth. We made, however, as straight a course as we could, under contending winds and currents. The intelligent part of my congregation, however interested they were in the work outside the church and the worship within, nevertheless, had their misgivings and doubts, which they did not hide. They said: "This teaching seems all true and scriptural; but what will become of us if you go away, and another man