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THE PROCESS OF REGENERATION.
A Discourse, by J. Hyde, jun. “ He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock; butter of kine and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats; with the fat of kidneys of wheat; and thou didst drink of the pure blood of the grape."-Deut. xxxii. 13, 14. The grand and only object of the Eternal in communicating His sacred Word to man, or in interfering in any way with mundane affairs, is the regeneration and salvation of mankind. All that we know of the trifling importance of all merely temporal interests, the pettiness of all temporal anxieties, the narrowness of our merely temporal range of thought and action, or the transitory term of natural life itself; and all that we know, too, of the character and nature of the eternal Jehovah, prove to us that this design is the only one that is worthy of omniscience to conceive, or of omnipotence to accomplish.
Man's days in this natural and material world are all numbered, and the prophetic “ threescore years and ten" by very far exceed the average of our natural life. Millions die in infancy, millions more before they are twelve years old, and nearly one-half of the world's inhabitants never attain the age of manhood or womanhood before they pass the tremendous portal; their bodies return to dust, and their spirits are heralded into another state of being, to play their parts in other acts of the great drama of existence. And even those who remain,—who live out to their fortieth, sixtieth, or eightieth year, or more,—who dwell on till they seem to be relics of a past century,--who pass through all the stages of perception, and memory, and passion, and reason, and care incident to [Enl. Series.- No. 71, vol. vi.]
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this sphere of being, on looking back at their old objects of pursuit, are forced to confess with the preacher, that “all has been vanity and vexation of spirit.”
As the boy looks back with a strange mingling of pity and contempt at the pursuits of his childhood, so the strong man regards the pursuits of his youth ; and so, too, the old man views almost the whole bent and tenor of his life. Time has worn off the tinsel from the gew-gaws of earthly ambition. Possession has revealed the hollow mockery of his passionate aspirations, until he has grown palled with satiety of the very objects he desired and obtained. The longings after fame, or wealth, or power,-for earthly distinction and temporal success, have waned away in their attainment, for their attainment has shown him how empty and unsatisfactory they really are. He has learned by experience, what reason would have taught him years before, that it would be unworthy of the Infinite to interfere in mundane affairs, to subvert temporal dynasties, to crush and crumble earthly sovereignties, to overwhelm one natural system or establish another, if He had no further object in view than the mere external result He had accomplished. Convinced as we all must be of the action of an ever-present providence of God, ruling in the smallest things, in order that it may rule in the greatest, still, unless we can discover some higher purpose
than mere natural objects pervading its operation, our observations do not exalt our conception of Deity; they do not come up, indeed, to what our deep intuitions tell us that God must be and do.
And to precisely the same results shall we be brought, by considering how short is the longest life on earth, compared with that future and eternal existence for which we are destined, and toward which we are hastening. One single grain of sand, compared with all the grains of sand that bestrew 'our globe; one single globule of water, compared with all the drops that constitute our streams, and seas, and oceans ; one solitary leaf, compared with all the leaves that have bloomed and fallen upon our world ; one atom of matter, compared with all the atoms that
compose the natural universe of worlds, are more in proportion than the longest natural life is, in comparison with the eternity that belongs to us.
These natural things, however vast in number, and not to be computed by our finite capacities, are still limited in that number, because bounded in dimensions, while that eternity is uncircumscribed and limitless. Our present natural existence is, therefore, only “ an atom in the balance laid against infinity.” The infinite and eternal God, consequently, in all His interferings with His creatures, must have for His object not the petty and paltry concerns of this narrow and re
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stricted existence, but the future and eternal welfare of the beings he has so wondrously formed, and so beneficently endowed.
The most important interference that the Lord has made in human interests, is in the bestowal of His sacred Word. Must we not therefore conclude, that every word therein contained is pregnant with import as to fitting us for this eternal state of being ;—that it is teeming with lessons of spiritual instruction, with food for the invigoration of our spiritual strength, -with promises far more referring to spiritual blessings than to any natural and external comforts sought after by the natural and carnal man, and which the experience of the natural man even proves, after all, to be only hollow and false, sating in their gratification, fleeting in their possession, only adding to the crushing weight of earthly anxieties, and becoming in their loves a new canker worm gnawing into the heart, inducing it to be carnal, while "to be carnally minded is death, and to be spiritually minded only is life and peace.”
"Set your minds on things above," is the grand injunction of the apostle ; and as a school book of instruction, as a help to our efforts, as a light to our feet in treading the upward path to spiritual-mindedness, this glorious volume must have been accorded to us. “The things of God are to be spiritually discerned, for they are foolishness to the natural man,” is the illuminated decision of the Apostle Paul. This Word of the Lord is the greatest of the things of God; and unless it be spiritually discerned, it is only foolishness, as empty and vague, as hollow and unsatisfactory as any other merely natural gift. The world has been labouring for centuries to understand the things of God contained in this Book, according to the “foolishness of the natural mind," until they have bewildered the faith of the simple with mysteries that exist nowhere but in their own brains; and until they have justified the scruples of scepticism, which has learned to regard the whole Word, and faith in it, as foolishness altogether.
This rule of “spiritual discernment" must not only be applicable the Word as a whole, but to every part of it; coming from God alike, it must all alike be important to all and for all, and in all its parts, because it must all alike refer to eternal things, rather than to temporal and transitory interests. As, therefore, the regeneration and salvation of mankind must be the great object of the Lord in the bestowal of the Book, so every verse and every phrase of the Book must contain spiritual lessons for every individual who is toiling onwards in the pilgrimage of the regenerate life. Regeneration must
be the purport and burden of every word of it, because regeneration is the sole object and intention of the whole. Its predictions, consequently, must all primarily refer to
THE PROCESS OF REGENERATION.
this subject; its injunctions must relate primarily to this subject; its promises, however couched in natural language, and however ostensibly naming external things, must all really refer to spiritual blessings for the regenerating man; because this was the sole object with which it has been written, and for which it has been bestowed upon man, and because it is, too, the sole benefit that could accrue to the world from possessing it.
These important principles, which from a hundred considerations, and with numberless arguments, can be proved to be correct, are eminently illustrated in the passage selected for this evening's discourse. Supposing, as many persons presume, that these promises of Moses' prophetic song, refer only to the natural and external things, very many grave objections may be urged against the whole passage. The first of these is, that it is not true. When did the children of Israel literally suck honey out of the rock, or oil out of flinty rocks? When did they literally eat of the fat of kidneys of wheat? And the only answer that can be returned is, Never! The very phraseology that Moses employs must convince us all that these promises did not and could not relate merely to external objects. Then comes the important question—To what do they refer? Not only to what do they generally refer, but to what do they refer specifically? Are we to understand that these specific promises are only vague and tautological repetitions of the same general blessings,—that a part might be left out without injury to the signification, or that other things might have been added without increasing their force or enlarging their meaning? We naturally revolt from such a jumble of ambiguity as unworthy of man and impossible to God! No, all the promise must have a rational spiritual signification, and every clause of the promise must have its specific meaning and definite importance; to add to which, or to take away from which, must mar the sense and destroy the intention of the whole. They must, as & whole, contain lessons of life to the man who is becoming regenerate, and a distinct spiritual lesson and a definite spiritual promise must be contained in each of them.
But, secondly, if we suppose, as many presume, that these promises were intended for the children of Israel exclusively,—that having been accomplished in them, they are designed for no one else,-of what possible utility can the comprehension of their real meaning be to you or me? If they be shown to contain lessons of spiritual life, then, unless these be of universal application, they are valueless to us. They are even worse than valueless ; for, like giving to a starving man a bill of fare enjoyed a long time ago by some other person, they
THE PROCESS OF REGENERATION.
only exasperate his hunger and increase his despair. They could only embitter our want with the thought that God was a respecter of persons, and had favoured the Jews at the expense of all the world. No, my friends: we also “hunger and thirst after righteousness," we pant
as does a thirsty hart for water” after spiritual drink, we also desire to make the pilgrimage of regeneration, we feel our spiritual ignorance, and demand lessons of spiritual life. It is a God-implanted want that pants and yearns within us, and we require that the children of Israel shall only bave been representative of all those who are in a like spiritual condition, and that the bread of life, and the water of life, and the blessings of life bestowed on them, shall only have been given through them as mediums, but really designed for all mankind. Children of the same great universal Father, we feel that the instructions bestowed upon elder sons must have been intended for us all, and that they were only the mediums and instruments through whom the Word came, by whom the Word has been preserved, and that from its first bestowal it was designed for all. As the sunshine beams glowingly and vivifyingly down on all men, without respect to any party or individual, so the sunshine of divine truth contained in the sacred Word beams lovingly and cheeringly for all mankind, both gifts of the same august Eternal, and both equally impartial in beneficence and universal in application, and on the broad front of both of which stands inscribed—“ God is no respecter of persons."
We have, therefore, attained to the conviction of these two important facts, first, that our text must have a spiritual signification, and second, that this spiritual signification is designed for, and applicable to all men; and, consequently, we have arrived at the proper point for commencing an inquiry as to what is that exact signification.
Men are all sunk into the lowest degree of goodness and truth, because of the evil hereditary to their nature inducing them to the commission of actual transgression or sin. “ The whole head is sick and the whole heart faint," says the prophet. This is true, not only of the whole of mankind, but of every individual man. 6. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” The genesis of every man is in evil; and to become saved all must be regenerated into righteousness. As the fall of man has been caused by the gradual but complete and foul marriage of evil and falsity in every degree of his nature, so regeneration must be consummated by the gradual but complete and blessed marriage of good. ness and truth in every degree of his being. Evil must be supplanted by good, and falsity by truth, in every particular and in every degree. Not only must men “ cease to do evil,” which is only negative goodness,