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journey; it is true, we still march through an enemy's country, and must expect to combat ; vigilance and watchfulness are as necessary to the veteran as to the recruit.
“A living faith in full exercise I have found to be the only and the speediest remedy against the fierce onsets of Satan ; such a faith, after a season of spiritual desertion, or an assault of the enemy, has caused to flow bitter tears of joy!”
Would the reader feel inclined to indulge the thought that the consideration of such a subject as the Christian conflict has a discouraging tendency ? Were it so, still it forms part of that knowledge which every Christian ought to possess. We are not equally tried, but we are all tried in one way or other. In a field of battle, some regiments are more hotly engaged than others, and of course the same may be said of
It was remarked at the field of Waterloo, that the most athletic men and the best swordsmen in the horse-guards, where they had opportunities of encountering the enemy hand to hand, fell earlier in the day, and more in number, than men of less power and skill. The former, from a feeling of confidence in their powers, put themselves forward to engage the enemy; the latter, from diffidence, kept themselves back. Of the former, very many fell ; of the latter, very many escaped without a wound.
Of the former there were men who killed of the enemy, with their own hands, from three to eleven in number; of the latter, there were men who did not give a single wound. The former obtained high honour, the latter got a Waterloo medal !
May not this be the case in the spiritual conflict, that those who most resolutely oppose the kingdom of the wicked one, and strenuously exert themselves to
“pull down strongholds, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God," are those who are called to endure the greatest conflicts with the powers of darkness ? Suppose that it is so, should this be a reason for relaxing exertions advance the kingdom of Christ, and to overturn the enemy's reign ? Should it? surely not. It was for this very object and end that we enlisted into Immanuel's army, and would we for fear of conflict betray his cause who is “ King of kings, and Lord of lords”? Do we not know that “greater is he who is for us, than all they that are against us”? Do we not know that “the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations”? What if we should be slain in combat? The soldier enters the field of battle with the probability of that result; and then, as we fight to obtain an incorruptible crown, “a crown of glory that fadeth not away,” we gain possession of it the sooner. “ Hallelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth !”
THE NEW BIRTH.
We read in the Bible that when Samson, who was the strongest man, was about to be married to a daughter of the Philistines, he propounded a riddle to his companions ; that is, a difficult and obscure sentence for them to solve—“Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.” And they could not expound the riddle, for it was difficult; but this is not the only riddle that the Bible contains. Here is another: “How can a man be born when he is old ?" It is a difficult and abstruse question for the individual to answer who never heard of regeneration. Reader, it is a question that has puzzled wiser heads than yours and mine. Nicodemus, who put this question to our Lord, was an old man, a ruler of the Jews, and both great and learned, conversant with the law of Moses, and an expounder of that law. He was one of the Sanhedrim, or great council of seventy elders ; and yet he put a question which appears to be childish in the extreme: “How can a man be born when he is old ? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born ?”.
The solution of the riddle which Samson put to his companions ended in slaying thirty of the Philistines ; but, if in solving the question that is now fairly be
fore is, but one Philistine were slain, but one sinner were convinced of the necessity of being born again, our time in writing and in reading will not have been misspent.
Nicodemus, though a master in Israel, and conversant with the external rites of the law, was, like all the Pharisees, chiefly occupied in attending to the works of the law, and the traditions of the fathers, unmindful of the spirituality of the law, and its inward requirements, or they could not have failed to have attached some meaning to the words of Moses, where he commands them to “ circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and to be no more stiff-necked.” Had the Pharisees searched beyond the letter of the sacred text, they could not have failed to have discovered the subject of the new birth, treated of in many passages, and to which the Lord Jesus Christ alluded in conversation with Nicodemus : “ Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things ?" implying evidently that the subject of regeneration was treated of, and to be learned from the writings of the Old Testament. In the prophecies of Ezekiel it is said, “ Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you,
ye shall be clean ; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you ; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh ; and I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them.” And this was the same thing that David prayed for in the fifty-first Psalm : “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”
These and similar passages the Pharisees either
entirely overlooked, or else attached no spiritual meaning to them.
Are there not many modern Pharisees who, while they punctually perform the outward observances of religion, attend conscientiously to keeping holy the Sabbath-day, by appearing at the house of God, reading the word of God, and with pharisaical strictness rule their children and their households, and yet are in the very gall of bitterness, not having their hearts renewed by grace ? Are there not many modern Pharisees who scrupulously abstain from swearing, drunkenness, uncleanness, and from every glaring species of sin, but who, notwithstanding, have not their hearts circumcised and their minds renewed by the Spirit of God—who in secret, if they do not roll some easily besetting sin as a sweet morsel under the tongue, yet idolize their own doings, hoping to commend themselves to God for their morality and correct living?
Notwithstanding Nicodemus was so ignorant of the new birth, and so defective of the knowledge of the spirituality of the law, which was his disgrace as a teacher of the law, yet there was something in his character which was very commendable and praiseworthy, and that was his simplicity and sincerity. Usually, when the Pharisees came to Christ, it was to endeavour to entangle him in his talk, that they might have something to catch at; and for this purpose they frequently came to him with captious questions. But Nicodemus in the simplicity of his heart put the question to our Saviour, desirous of being taught; it was not a premeditated one, but arose from the conversation, from the important truth which Christ had just stated: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man