« AnteriorContinua »
spirit, the grace that will convert and renew the corrupt and disordered soul, and qualify it for those celestial courts on which the victorious Lord hath entered, where he is preparing for his faithful people a place also. Be ever glad, then, to come to this house of the Lord, to behold and to feel, in his word, his sacraments, his worship here ministered, his power and glory; that so (this is our prayer-this should be your desire and aim) you may go from strength to strength, until at length, before the God of God, Jesus the King of glory, you appear in the heavenly Zion.
Risen, Christians, as you are with your Saviour Christ, set not your affections, devote not your supreme desires to a perishing world, from which you must soon be separated. Seek those joys that never will decay, that flourish for ever in that heavenly kingdom where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Seek, earnestly seek, through the power of his Spirit, that purity of heart, that holiness of life, which will render you fit, through his merits, to "ascend into the hill of the Lord, and to stand up in his holy place;" to ascend into the everlasting mountain where Jehovah hath fixed his habitation, and to stand up in that holy płace where Jesus, the King of glory, reigns for ever, dispensing joys unutterable and without end.
But what will be the destiny of the ungodly-of those whose hearts are not pure, whose hands are not clean, who have lift up their hearts unto vanity, and sworn deceitfully! Alas! instead of ascending the celestial hill of the Lord, they shall be turned into hell with all the nations that forget God. Instead of standing up in the holy place of the Most High, they shall dwell where is the de
vouring fire, and make their bed where are everlasting burnings. According to the moral constitution of nature, as well as by the righteous decree of the Sovereign of the universe, the ungodly cannot stand in the judgment, neither sinners in the congregation of the righteous. A day, a fearful day is at hand, when they will behold the righteous ascending the hill of the Lord, while they must descend to the place prepared for the devil and his angels.
Now then, all ye who are enemies to God by wicked works, we beseech you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled unto God. Cease to do evil, learn to do well. Supplicate the influences of the Divine Spirit, and seek their quickening and sanctifying power in the ministrations and ordinances of Christ's church, that you may have clean hands and a pure heart-may not lift up your minds unto vanity, nor swear to deceive your neighbour. Then you too shall ascend into the hill of the Lord, and stand up in his holy place: you too shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of your salvation. Your lot shall be here with the righteous, in the light of God's countenance; and your final portion shall be also with them-in the presence, the life-giving, joy-inspiring presence of the King of glory; to whom be ascribed all honour, power, majesty, and dominion, world without end.
JOHN iii. 7.
Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
It was a spiritual change, a death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness, which our Saviour, enforced on Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, as an indispensable qualification of being his disciple. Of this change, indeed, baptism was constituted both a mean and a pledge-imposing on those who receive it the obligation of dying unto sin and rising again unto righteousness-conveying to them, as members of Christ's mystical body, into which it admitted them, the grace by which this spiritual renovation is to be effected, and pledging to them, on the fulfilment of the conditions, all the blessings of the Christian covenant. For in another part of this conversation with Nicodemus, our Saviour declared, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." This use of water as the mode of admission into new and spiritual relations, was a ceremony at which a learned Jew ought not to have expressed astonishment; for washing with water was the significant emblem employed to receive proselytes from the Gentiles into the fold of God's chosen people. And therefore there was
great justice and force in the remark of our Saviour to the Jewish ruler-" Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things?"
In a certain sense, then, every baptized person undergoes a change of spiritual condition-is born again. He is entered by baptism into a new state -into the Christian church. New obligations, the obligations of the Christian covenant, are imposed upon him. He enjoys a claim, on the fulfilment of these conditions, to new privileges, the privileges of the Christian covenant; and the Holy Spirit, which animates that mystical body of Christ into which he is admitted, is pledged to him to enable him to fulfil all the new obligations, and to secure the new privileges imposed and conferred upon him. Thus, in that sacrament which the apostle styles the washing of regeneration, he who receives it is born again.
But in a more enlarged, and in the full sense of the expression, every baptized person must be born again: for there is "a renewing of the Holy Ghost” entirely distinct from the regeneration of baptism, of which this sacrament may or may not be the mean and pledge. In the case of the adult indeed, who is properly qualified by that grace which, given to all men, and going before, as well as co-operating with every good work, enabled him to exercise true repentance and saving faith, the reception of baptism conveys to him the sanctifying power of the Divine Spirit, and pledges to him its continued influences. The adult who receives baptism without the necessary qualifications, is wholly destitute of the renewing influences of the Holy Spirit, and is in no other sense born again, than as he is admitted into the Christian church, is bound by the
obligations of the Christian covenant, and become, as a member of the mystical body of Christ, the subject of that grace which, while it enables him to repent, and to turn to God, increases, while he resists it, his guilt and his condemnation. The infant, in virtue of the declaration of the Saviour, that "of such is the kingdom of God," receives in baptism a full title to all the privileges of the Christian covenant, among which is the gift of that Divine Spirit which, as soon as the corrupt passions of nature exercise their sway, furnishes the means of counteracting and subduing them, and of acquiring the holy graces and habits of the new man. The "renewing of the Holy Ghost," in the death unto sin and rising again unto righteousness, is that completion and consummation of the baptismal regeneration which alone fully entitles a person to the title of being a new creature.
This renewal of the affections of our fallen nature, and this exhibition of every holy grace, and practice of every virtue, afford the only evidence of the operations of the Divine Spirit in the soul. These operations are incomprehensible, except as to these their effects; and thus known as to their power or their effects, their transcending our comprehension constitutes no sound objection to their reality. For the agency of the wind is inscrutable; it is known only by its effects. This was the analogy of our Saviour. "Marvel not I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth. So is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
Since, then, baptismal regeneration confers only a conditional title to the blessings of the Christian