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ence is there, in God's eye, betwixt an unwashed
profane heart, in the same exercise, and a soul purified in some measure in obeying the truth, and desirous to be further purified by further obeying it.
Secondly, That which is the subordinate means of this purity, is the truth, or the word of God. It is truth, and pure in itself, and begets truth and purity in the heart, by teaching it concerning the holy and pure nature of God, Thewing it his holy will, which is to us the rule of purity; and by representa ing Jesus Christ unto us as the fountain of our purity and renovation, from whose fulness we may receive grace for grace, John i. 16.
Thirdly, The nature of this work ; that wherein the very being of this purifying consists, is, the receiving ar obeying of this truth. So Gal. iii. 1. where it is put for right believing. The chief point of obedience is believing; the proper obedience to truth is, to give credit to it; and this divine belief doth necessarily bring the whole soul into obedience and conformity to that pure truth, which is in the word: And so the very purifying and renewing of the soul is this obedience of faith, as unbelief is its chief impurity and disobedience; therefore, Ads xv. 9. faith is said to purify the beart.
Fourthly, The chief worker of this sanctification, is, the Holy Spirit of God. They are here said to purify themseloes: For it is certain and undeniable, that the soul itself doth act in believing or obeying the truth; but not of itself, it is not the first principle of motion. They purify their souls, but it is by the Spirit. They do it by his enlivening power, and a puri. fying virtue received from him. Faith or obeying the truth, works this purity : But the Holy Ghost works that faith ; as in the forecited place, God is said to purify their hearts by faith, he doth that by giving them the Holy Ghost, ver. 8. The truth is pure, and purifying, yet can it not of itself purify the soul, but by the obeying or believing it; and the soul
cannot obey or believe but by the Spirit, which works in it that faith, and by that faith purifies it and works love in it. The impurity and earthliness of mens minds is the great cause of difunion and difaf. fe&tion amongst them, and of all their strifes, Ja. iv. I.
This Spirit is that fire that refines and purifies the foul from the dross of earthly desires that possess it, and sublimates it to the love of God, and of his faints, because they are his, and are purified by the same Spirit. It is the property of fire to draw together things of the same kind ; the outward fire of enmities and persecution that is kindled against the godly by the world, doth somewhat, and if it were more considered by them, would do more, in this knitting their hearts closer one to another, but it is this inward pure and purifying fire of the Holy Ghost that doth most powerfully unite them.
The true reason why there is so little truth of this Christian mutual love amongst those that are called Christians, is, because there is so little of this purifying obedience to the truth, whence it flows; faith unfeigned would beget this love unfeigned : Men may exhort to them both, but they require the hand of God to work them in the heart.
Ver. 23. Being born again, not of corruptible feed,
but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which livetb and abideth for ever. THE two things that make up the Apostle's ex
hortation, are the very suin of a Christian's duty; to walk as obedient children towards God, and as loving brethren one towards another : And that it may yet have the deeper impression, he here represents to them anew, that new birth he mentioned before, by which they are the children of God, and so brethren.
We shall first speak of this regeneration : And then of the feed is, of the regeneration itself: This is
the great dignity of believers, that they are the song of God, John i. 12. and the great evidence of the love of God, that he hath bestowed this dignity on them, 1 John iii. 1. For they are noway needful to him; he had from eternity a Son perfectly like himself, the character of his Perfon, Heb. i. 3. and one Spirit proceeding from both ; and there is no creation, neither the first nor the second, can add any thing to those, and their happiness; it is most true of that blessed Trinity, Satis amplum alter alteri theatrum fumus. But the gracious purpose of God, to impart his goodness, appears in this, that he hath made himself such a multitude of sons, not only angels that are so called, but man, a little lower than they in nature, yet dignified with this name in his creation, St Luke iii. 38. Which was the Son of Adam, which was the son of God. He had not only the impression of God's footsteps, as they speak, which all the creatures have, but his image ; and most of all in this is his rich grace magnified, that fin having defaced that image, and so degraded man from his honour, and divested him of that title of sonship, and stampt our polluted nature with the marks of vileness and bondage, yea, with the very image of Satan, rebellion, and enmity against God; that out of mankind thus ruined and degenerated, God should raise to himself a new race and generation of fons.
For this design was the Word made flesh, John i. 12, 13, 14. The Son was made man, to make men the sons of God; and it is by him alone we are restored to this; they that receive him, receive with him, and in him, this privilege, ver. 12. : And therefore it is a sonship by adoption, and is so called in Scripture, in difference from His eternal and ineffable generation, who is and was the only begotten Son of God: Yet that we may know that this divine adoption is not a mere outward relative name, as that of men, the fonship of the saints is here, and often elsewhere in Scripture, expressed by new generation, and new birth. They are begotten of God, John i. 13. 1 John ii. 29. A new being, a (pi
ritual life is communicated to them, they have in them of their Father's Spirit, and this is derived to them through Christ, and therefore called his Spirit, Gal. iv. 6. They are not only accounted of the family of God by adoption, but by this new birth they are indeed his children, partakers of the divine nature, as our Apostle expresseth it.
Now, though it be easy to speak and hear the words of this doctrine, yet the truth itself that is in it, is so high and mysterious, that it is altogether impossible, without a portion of this new nature, to conceive of it. Corrupt nature cannot understand it. What wonder that there is nothing of it in the subtilest schools of philosophers, when a very doctor in Israel mistook it gruirly, John iii. 10. It is indeed a great mystery, and he that was the sublimest of all the Evangelists, and therefore called the Divine, the soaring eagle, as they compare him, he is more abundant in this subject than the reit.
And the most profitable way of confidering this regeneration and sonship, is certainly to follow the light of those holy writings, and not to jangle in disputes about the order and manner of it; of which, though somewhat may be profitably said, and safely, namely, so much as the Scripture speaks, yet much that is fpoken of it, and debated by many, is but an useless expence of time and pains. What those previous dispositions are, and how far they go, and wbere is the mark or point of difference betwixt them, and the infusion of fpiritual life, I conceive not easily determinable.
If naturalists and physicians cannot agree upon the order of formation of the parts of the human body in the womb, how much less can we be peremptory in the other? If there be so many wonders, as indeed there are, in the natural structure and frame of man, how much richer in wonders must this divine and fupernatural generation be! See how David speaks of the former, Psal. cxxxix. 14. Things spiritual being more refined than material things, their workmanship must be far more wonderful and curious. But then it must VOL. I.
be viewed with a spiritual eye. There is an unspeakable lustre and beauty of the new creature, by the mix: ture of all divine graces, each setting off another, as so many rich colours in embroidery ; but who can trace that invisible hand that works it, so as to determine of the order, and to say which was first, which second, and fo on, whether faith, or repentance, and all graces, &c.? This is certain, that these and all graces do inseparably make up the same work, and are all in the new formation of every soul that is born again.
If the ways of God's universal providence be untraceable, then most of all the workings of his grace are conducted in a secret unperceivable way in this ne v birth : He gives this spiritual being as the dew, which is filently and infenfibly formed, and this generation of the sons of God is compared to it by the Plalmilt, Pfal.co
They have this original from heaven as the dew, John ini. 3. Except a man be born from above, be cunnot enter inid the kingdom of God. And it is the peculiar work of the Spirit of God, as he himfelf speaks of the dew to Job, Job xxxviii. 28. Harb the rain a father, or who hath btgotten the drops of the dew? The tharpest wits are to seek in the knowledge and discovery of it, as Job fpeaketh of a way that no fowl knoweth, and which ihe vulture's eye bath not Jeen, Job xxviii. 7.
To contest much, how in this regeneration He works upon the will, and renews it, is to little purpose, provided this be granted, that it is in His power to regenerate, and renew a man at his pleasure: And how is it poflible not to grant this, unless we will run into that error to think, that God haih made a creature too hard for himself to rule, or hath willingly exémpted it? And shall the works of the Almiglity, especially this work, wherein most of all others he glories, fail in his hand, and remain imperfect ? Shall there be any abortive births whereof God is the father? Shall I bring in the birth, says he, and not cause to bring forth ?