Page images
PDF
EPUB

it tolerable to me; he will give me so much of it, as he sees consistent with my highest interest; he will enable me to derive instruction, and it may be consolation, out of its disappointments and distresses : But he reserves my inheritance for the eternal world. I am Begotten again to a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, even to the hope of an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away*: And though it be for the present reserved in heaven, it is so safe, and so great, that it is well worth my waiting for, though ever so long ; for The things which are not seen, are eternalt." And this indeed is the true character of a good man. Eternity fills his thoughts ; and growing sensible, in another manner than he ever was before, of the importance of it, he pants after the enjoyment of eternal happiness. Assign any limited duration to his enjoyment of God in the regions of glory, and you would overwhelm him with disappointment: Talk of hundreds, of thousands, of millions of years, the disappointment is almost equal : Periods like these, seem scarce distinguishable from each other, when compared with an eternal hope. To eternity his desires and expectations are raised ; and he can be contented with nothing less than eternity: Perfect holiness, and perfect happiness for ever and ever, without any misture of sin, or any allay of sorrow; this he firmly expects, this he ardently breathes after ; a felicity, which an immortal soul shall never outlive, and which an eternal God shall never cease to communicate. This Heavenly country he seeks; he considers himself as a citizen of it, and endeavours to maintain his conversation theref; to carry on, as it were, a daily trade for heaven, and to Lay up a treasure theres; in which he may be rich and great, when all the pomp of this earth is passed away as a dream, and all its most precious metals and gems are melted down and consumed among its vilest materials in the last universal burning.

This is the change, the glorious change which regeneration makes, in a man's character and views: And who shall dare to speak, or to think, contemptibly of it? Were we indeed to represent it as a kind of charm, depending on an external ceremony, which it was the peculiar prerogative of a certain order of men to perform, and yet on which eternal life was suspended; one might easily apprehend, that it would be brought into much suspicion. Or should we place it in any mechanical transports of animal nature, in any blind impulse, in any strong feelings, not to be described, or accounted for, or argued upon, but

*1 Pet. i. 3,1.

+ 2 Cor. iv. 18.

Phil, iii. 20.

§ Mat, vi, 20.

known by some inward inexplicable sensation to be divine; we could not wonder, if calm and prudent men were slow to admit the pretension to it, and were fearful it might end in the most dangerous enthusiasm, made impious by excessive appearances of piety.—But when it is delineated by such fair and bright characters, as those that have now been drawn; when these divine lineaments on the soul, by which it bears the image of its Maker's rectitude and sanctity, are considered as its necessary consequence, or rather as its very essence ; one would imagine, that every rational creature, instead of cavilling at it, should pay an immediate homage to it, and earnestly desire, and labour, and pray, to experience the change: Especially as it is a change so desirable for itself; as we acknowledge health to be, though a man were not to be rewarded, for being well; nor punished, any farther than with the malady he contracts, for any negligence in this respect.

Where is there any thing can be more ornamental to our natures, than to have all the powers of the mind thus changed by grace, and our pursuits directed to such objects, as are worthy of the best attention and regard ?—To have our apprehensions of divine and spiritual things enlarged, and to have right conceptions of the most important matters ;-to have the stream of our affections turned from empty vanities, to objects that are proper to excite and fix them ;—to have our resolutions set against all sin, and a full purpose formed within us of an immediate reformation and return to God, with a dependance on his grace to help us both to will and to do ;-to have our labours stedfastly applied, to conquer sin, and to promote religion in ourselves and others ;-to have our entertainments founded in a religious life, and flowing in upon us from the sweet intercourse we have with God in his word and ordinances, and the delightful conversation that we sometimes have with christian friends ; -and finally, to have our hopes drawn off from earthly things, and fixed upon eternity ?-Where is there any thing can bę more honourable to us, than thus to be Renewed after the image of him that created us*, and to Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holinesst?-And where is any thing that can be more desirable, than thus to have the darkness of our understandings cured, and the disorders rectified, that sin had brought upon our nature? Who is there that is so insensible of his depravity, as that he would not long for such a happy change? Or who is there that knows how excellent

of Col. üi. 10.

Eph. iv. 240

a work it is, to be Transformed by the renewing of the mind", that would not with the greatest thankfulness adore the riches of divine grace, if it appear that he is thus become a new creature; that old things are passed away, and behold, all things are become new ?

But I shall quickly shew you, that regeneration is not only ornamental, honourable, and desirable ; but absolutely necessary, as ever we would hope to share the blessings of God's heavenly kingdom, and to escape the horror of those, that are finally, and irrevocably excluded from it. This argument will employ several succeeding discourses. But I would dismiss you at present with an earnest request, that

you

would in the mean time renew your enquiries, as to the truth of regeneration in your own souls ; which, after all that I have been saying, it will be very inexcusable for you to neglect, as probably you will hear few discourses in the whole course of your lives, which centre more directly in this point, or are more industriously calculated to give you the safest and clearest assistance in it. May God abase the arrogance and presumption of every selfdeceiving sinner, and awaken the confidence and joy of the feeblest soul, in whom this new creation is begun!

* Rom. xii. 2.

SERMON IV.

ON REGENERATION.

The Necessity of Regeneration argued, from the immutable

Constitution of God.

John iii. 3. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto

thee, Except a Man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.

WHILE the ministers of Christ are discoursing of such a

subject, as I have before me in the course of these lectures, and particularly in this branch of them which I am now entering upon, we may surely, with the utmost reason, address our hearers, in those words of Moses to Israel, in the conclusion of his dying discourse: Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day; which ye shall command your children to observe and do, even all the words of this law; for it is not a vain thing for you, because it is your life*. That must undoubtedly be your life, concerning which the Lord Jesus Christ himself, the incarnate wisdom of God, The faithful and true witnesst, has said, and said it with a solemn repeated asseveration, that without it a Man cannot see the kingdom of God.

The occasion of his saying it deserves our notice ; though the niceties of the context must be waved in such a series of sermons as this. He said it to a Jew of considerable rank, and, as it appears, one of the grand Sanhedrim, or chief council of the nation; who came not only for his own private satisfaction, but in the name of several of his brethren, to discourse with Christ concerning his doctrine, at the first passover he attended at Jerusalem, after he had entered on his public ministry. Our Lord, would, to be sure, be peculiarly careful, what answer he returned to such an enquiry: And this is his answer, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God: As if he should have said, “ If the princes of Israel enquire after my character, let them know,

* Deut. xxxii, 46, 47. VOL. II.

+ Rov. iii. 14.

3 H

that I came to be a preacher of regeneration ; and that the bles. sings of that kingdom which I am come to reveal and erect, are to be peculiar to renewed and sanctified souls; who may, by an easy and natural figure, be said to be born again.And the figure appears very intelligible, and very instructive to those, that will seriously consider it; and might lead us into a variety of pertinent and useful remarks.

You easily perceive, that to be born again, must intimate a very great change; coming, as it were, into a new world, as an infant does; when after having lived a while a kind of vegetative life in the darkness and confinement of the womb, it is born into open day ; feels the vital air rushing in on its lungs, and light forcing itself upon the awakened eyes; hears sounds before unknown; opens its mouth to receive a yet untasted food; and every day becomes acquainted with new objects, and exerts new powers, till it grows up to the maturity of a perfect man. Such, and in some respects greater and nobler than this, is the change which regeneration makes in a heart, before unacquainted with religion; as you may have seen at large from the preceding discourses.

But I might further observe, that the phrase in the text may also express the humbling nature of this change, as well as the greatness of it. Erasmus gives this turn to the words; and it is so edifying, that I should have mentioned it at least, though I had not thought it so just, as it appears. To be born again, must signify To become as a little child*; and our Lord expressly and frequently assures us, that without this We cannot enter into the kingdom of heavent. He has pronounced the very first of his blessings on Poverty of spirits; and where this is wanting, the soul will never be entitled to the rest. A mild and humble, a docile and tractable temper, a freedom from avarice and ambition, and an indifference to those great toys of which men are generally so fond, are all essential parts of the christian character; and they have all, in one view or another, been touched upon in the preceding discourses. Let it be forgiven however, if, considering the importance of the case, you are told again, that In malice ye must be childrens; and that If any man think himself wise, he must become a child, and even a fool, that he may be wise indeed l.

I might observe once more, that these words intimate the divine power, by which this great and humbling change is

* Mat. xviii. 3. $ 1 Cor. xiv, 20.

| Mat, v. 3.

+ Mark x. 15. Luke xviii. 17.
| 1 Cor. iii. 18.

« PreviousContinue »