« ПредишнаНапред »
fundamental difference between Christianity, considered as a system of doctrines, and the most refined Heathenism. Many of the ancient Heathens have largely described the vices of particular men. They have spoken much against their covetousness, or cruelty ; their luxury, or prodigality. Some have dared to say
no man is born without vices of one kind or another." But still as none of them were apprized of the fall of man, so none of them knew of his total corruption. They knew not that all men were empty of all good, and filled with all manner of evil. They were wholly ignorant of the entire depravation of the whole human nature, of every man born into the world, in every faculty of his soul, not so much by those particular vices which reign in particular persons, as by the general flood of Atheism and idolatry, of pride, self-will, and love of the world. This, therefore, is the first grand distinguishing point between Heathenism and Christianity. The one acknowledges that many men are infected with many vices, and even born with a proneness to them; but supposes withal, that in some the natural good much over-balances the evil: The other declares that all men are “conceived in sin," and "shapen in wickedness;"—that hence there is in every man a “carnal mind, which is enmity against God, which is not, cannot be, subject to” his “ law; and which so infects the whole soul, that there dwelleth in " him, “ in his flesh,” in his natural state, “no good thing;” but
every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is evil,” only evil, and that “ continually."
2. Hence we may, Secondly, learn, that all who deny this, call it original sin, or by any other title, are but Heathens still, in the fundamental point which differences Heathenism from Christianity. They may, indeed, allow, that men have many vices; that some are born with us; and that, consequently, we are not born altogether so wise or so virtuous as we should be ; there being few that will roundly affirm, “ We are born with as much propensity to good as to evil, and that every man is, by nature, as virtuous and wise as Adam was at his creation.” But here is the shibboleth : Is man by nature filled with all manner of evil? Is he void of all good? Is he wholly fallen? Is his soul totally corrupted? Or, to come back to the text, is “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart only evil continually ?” Allow this, and you are so far a Christian. Deny it, and you are but an Heathen still
3. We may learn from hence, in the Third place, what is the proper nature of religion, of the religion of Jesus Christ. It is Geganeid Yuxns, God's method of healing a soul which is thus diseased. Hereby the great Physician of souls applies medicines to heal this sickness; to restore human naturė, totally corrupted in all its faculties. God heals all our Atheism by the knowledge of Himself, and of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent; by giving us faith, a divine evidence and conviction of God, and of the things of God-in particular, of this important truth, “ Christ loved me, and gave himself for me." By repentance and lowliness of heart, the deadly disease of pride is healed ; that of selfwill by resignation, a meek and thankful submission to the will of God; and for the love of the world in all its branches, the love of God is the sovereign remedy. Now, this is properly religion, “ faith” thus “ working by love;" working the genuine meek humility, entire deadness to the world, with a loving, thankful acquiescence in, and conformity to, the whole will and word of God.
4. Indeed, if man were not thus fallen, there would be no need of all this. There would be no occasion for this work in the heart, this renewal in the spirit of our mind. The superfluity of godliness would then be a more proper expression than the “superfluity of naughtiness.” For an outside religion, without any godliness at all, would suffice to all rational intents and purposes. It does, accordingly, suffice, in the judgment of those who deny this corruption of our nature. They make very little more of religion than the famous Mr. Hobbes did of reason. According to him, reason is only “ a well-ordered train of words :" According to them, religion is only a well-ordered train of words and actions. And they speak consistently with themselves; for if the inside be not full of wickedness, if this be clean already, what remains, but to "cleanse the outside of the cup ?" Outward reformation, if their supposition be just, is indeed the one thing needful.
5. But ye have not so learned the oracles of God. Ye know, that He who seeth what is in man gives a far different account both of nature and grace, of our fall and our recovery. Ye know that the great end of religion is, to renew our hearts in the image of God, to repair that total loss of righteousness and true holiness which we sustained by the sin of our first parent. Ye know that all religion which does not answer this end, all
that stops short of this, the renewal of our soul in the image of God, after the likeness of Him that created it, is no other than a poor farce, and a mere mockery of God, to the destruction of our own soul. O beware of all those teachers of lies, who would palm this upon you for Christianity! Regard them not, although they should come unto you with all the deceivableness of unrighteousness; with all smoothness of language, all decency, yea, beauty and elegance of expression, all professions of earnest goodwill to you, and reverence for the Holy Scriptures. Keep to the plain, old faith, "once delivered to the saints," and delivered by the Spirit of God to our hearts. Know your disease! Know your cure! Ye were born in sin: Therefore,
ye must be born again,” born of God. By nature ye are wholly corrupted : By grace ye shall be wholly renewed. In Adam ye all died: In the second Adam, in Christ, ye all are made alive. that were dead in sins hath he quickened :" He hath already given you a principle of life, even faith in him who loved you and gave himself for you! Now, “ go on from faith to faith," until your whole sickness be healed; and all that “mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus!”
THE NEW BIRTH.
“Ye must be born again." John üii. 7.
1. If any doctrines within the whole compass of Christianity may be properly termed fundamental, they are doubtless these two,--the doctrine of justification, and that of the new birth: The former relating to that great work which God does for us, in forgiving our sins; the latter, to the great work which God does in us, in renewing our fallen nature. In order of time, neither of these is before the other; in the moment we are justified by the grace of God, through the redemption that is in Jesus, we are also“ born of the Spirit ;" but in order of thinking, as it is termed, justification precedes the new birth.
We first conceive his wrath to be turned away, and then his Spirit to work in our hearts.
2. How great importance then must it be of, to every child of man, throughly to understand these fundamental doctrines ! From a full conviction of this, many excellent men have wrote very largely concerning justification, explaining every point relating thereto, and opening the Scriptures which treat upon it. Many likewise have wrote on the new birth: And some of them largely enough, but yet not so clearly as might have been desired, nor so deeply and accurately; having either given a dark, abstruse account of it, or a slight and superficial one. Therefore a full, and at the same time a clear, account of the new birth, seems to be wanting still ; such as may enable us to give a satisfactory answer to these three questions : First, Why must we be born again? What is the foundation of this doctrine of the new birth? Secondly, How must we be born again ? What is the nature of the new birth ? And, Thirdly, Wherefore must we be born again? To what end is it necessary ? These questions, by the assistance of God, I shall briefly and plainly answer; and then subjoin a few inferences which will naturally follow.
I. 1. And First, Why must we born again? What is the foundation of this doctrine ? The foundation of it lies near as deep as the creation of the world ; in the scriptural account whereof we read, “ And God," the three-one God," said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him :* (Gen. i. 26, 27:)—Not barely in his natural image, a picture of his own immortality ; a spiritual being, endued with understanding, freedom of will, and various affections ;-nor merely in his political image, the governor of this lower world, having “dominion over the fishes of the sea, and over all the earth ; -but chiefly in his moral image; which, according to the Apostle, is “ righteousness, and true holiness.” (Eph. iv. 24.) In this image of God was man made. “God is love :" Accordingly, man at his creation was full of love ; which was the sole principle of all his tempers, thoughts, words, and actions. God is full of justice, mercy, and truth; so was man as he came from the hands of his Creator. God is spotless purity; and so man was in the beginning pure from every sinful blot; otherwise God
could not have pronounced him, as well as all the other work of his hands, “ very good.” (Gen. i. 31.) This he could not have been, had he not been pure from sin, and filled with righteousness and true holiness. For there is no medium : If we suppose an intelligent creature not to love God, not to be righteous and holy, we necessarily suppose him not to be good at all; much less to be “ very good."
2. But, although man was made in the image of God, yet he was not made immutable. This would have been inconsistent with that state of trial in which God was pleased to place him. He was therefore created able to stand, and yet liable to fall. And this God himself apprized him of, and gave him a solemn warning against it. Nevertheless, man did not abide in honour : He fell from his high estate. He “ ate of the tree whereof the Lord had commanded him, Thou shalt not eat thereof." this wilful act of disobedience to his Creator, this flat rebellion against his Sovereign, he openly declared that he would no longer have God to rule over him; that he would be governed by his own will, and not the will of Him that created him; and that he would not seek his happiness in God, but in the world, in the works of his hands. Now, God had told him before, “In the day that thou eatest” of that fruit, “ thou shalt surely die." And the word of the Lord cannot be broken. Accordingly, in ' that day he did die: He died to God,—the most dreadful of all deaths. He lost the life of God: He was separated from Him, in union with whom his spiritual life consisted. The body dies when it is separated from the soul; the soul, when it is separated from God. But this separation from God, Adam sustained in the day, the hour, he ate of the forbidden fruit. And of this he gave immediate proof; presently showing by his behaviour, that the love of God was extinguished in his soul, which was
“ alienated from the life of God.” Instead of this, he was now under the power of servile fear, so that he fled from the presence of the Lord. Yea, so little did he retain even of the knowledge of Him who filleth. heaven and earth, that he endeavoured to “ hide himself from the Lord God among the trees of the garden :” (Gen. iii. 8:) So had he lost both the knowledge and the love of God, without which the image of God could not subsist. Of this, therefore, he was deprived at the same time, and became unholy as well as unhappy. In the room of this, he had sunk into pride and self-will, the very image of the devil ;