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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 parents. 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 souls. O beware of 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 good-will to you, and reverence for the Holy Scripé tures. 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.” “You that were dead in sins bath 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!"
ON THE NEW.BIRTH.
JOHN iii. 7.
“ Ye must be born again.'
1. IF any doctrine, 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, thoroughly to understand these fundamental doctrines ? From a full conviction of this, many excellent men have written very largely concerning Justification, explaining every point relating thereto, and opening the Scriptures which treat upon it. Many likewise have written on the New-Birth : and some of them largely enough : but yet not
80 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 be born again? What is the foundation of this doctrine? The foundation of it lies nearly 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 own 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 boliness,” 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 works of his hands, “ very good,” Gen. i. 21. This he could not have been, had he not been pure from sin, and filled with righteousness and true boli. ness. 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: be fell from his high estate. He“ ate of the tree whereof the Lord had commanded bim, Thou shalt not eat thereof." By 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 bim : that he would be governed by his own will, and not the will of him that created him, and that he would not seek bis 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 shewing, by his behaviour, that the love of God was extinguished in his soul, which was now " 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; and into sensual appetites and desires, the image of the beasts that perish.
3. If it be said, “ Nay, but that threatening, In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die,' refers to temporal death and that alone, to the death of the body only;" the answer is plain; to affirm this, is flatly and palpably to make God a liar; to aver, that the God of truth positively affirmed a thing contrary to truth. For, it is evident, Adam did not die in this sense, “ in the day that he ate thereof." He lived in the sense opposite to this death, above nine hundred years after. So that this cannot possibly be understood of the death of the body, without impeaching the veracity of God. It must therefore be understood of spiritual death, the loss of the life and the image of God.
4. And, “ in Adam all died," all human-kind, all the children of men who were then in Adam's loins. The natural consequence of this is, that every one descended from him, comes into the world spiritually dead, dead to God, wholly dead in sin: entirely void of the life of God, void of the image of God, of all that righteousness and holiness, where in Adam was created. Instead of this, every man born into the world, now bears the image of the devil, in pride and self-will; the image of the beast, in sensual appeties and desires. This then is the foundation of the New-Birth, the entire corruption of our nature. Hence it is, that being “ born in sin," we must be s born again.” Hence every one that is born of a woman, must be born of the Spirit of God.
II. 1. But how must a man be born again? What is the nature of the New-Birth? . This is the second question. And a question it is of the highest moment that can be conceived. We ought not therefore, in so weighty a concern, to be content with a slight enquiry; but to examine it with all possible care; and to ponder it in our hearts, till we fu understand this important point, and clearly see, how we are to be born again.