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mus, therefore, was laudable; and the inquiry he made was proper and important. He had seen Jesus perform such miracles as indisputably proved that God was with him; and he considered those miracles as attestations :o the truth of the doctrines he delivered. We know," says he, “that Thou art a Teacher come from God.” But though he was persuaded of this, he does not appear yet to have been satisfied respecting the peculiar nature of the doctrine of Christ; and he therefore comes to him by night, to seek information on that subject.

In answer to his inquiry, our Lord without further preface, lays down with a solemn asservation, a doctrine so intimately connected with every other part of Christianity, that it may be justly called the fundamental article of the Christian faith: and further to enforce the practical observance of this great truth, he declares, that except a person experienced the change of which he spoke, he could not enter the kingdom of God.

Regeneration has, by some, been supposed to mean little more than the being admitted into the church by the act of baptism. I shall not on this occasion enter into the refutation of this doctrine, which I think is supported neither by reason nor Scripture. It will be sufficient for my present purpose to observe, that this supposition would degrade the character of the Most High, since it represents him as punishing with eternal destruction the neglect of an appointed rite; and that it is derogatory to the person and mission of our Redeemer, who is thus exhibited as enforcing with the utmost solemnity, and by the most awful sanctions, the observance of an outward ceremony.

Baptism is, however, both a type or figure of regeneration, and in some measure connected with it. “Except a man be born of water and the Spirit;" that is, unless a man be admitted into the spiritual church of Christ, by that new birth of which the rite of baptism is illustrative; "he cannot enter into the kingdom

of God.” It is, indeed, at once a great evidence of the truth of the doctrine of regeneration, and strong illustration of its importance, that the rite by which we are admitted into the Christian Church, bears so close an analogy and reference to it.

Some, whose interpretation of this doctrine has been substantially consistent with the word of God: have yet, in their statements, exceeded the limits of scriptural truth, and have made many rash and unwarrantable assertions on this subject. Yet, however injurious such errors may be, the danger of the present times arises not so much from enthusiasm, as from an indifference to spiritual things. There is a sober sense of the doctrine, in which good men have been generally agreed; and, taken in this sense, it is justly ranked as one of the most important of Christianity, securing the interests of true holiness, equally from the carelessness of the world and the abuse of the enthusiast. This sense I cannot better express, than in the words of our Church, wherein the "outward and visible sign” of baptism is represented to signify “an inward and spiritual grace;" viz. “a death unto siu and a new birth unto righteousness;" for being by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath, we are hereby made the children of grace.

The doctrine, thus interpreted, I .propose, as the subject of our present consideration. It is not my intention to enter into an explanation of the new birth, but to offer some remarks on its genius and character, and to explain how Christianity is distinguished from other religions by this important article of faith.

1. The foundation of the doctrine of regeneration, is the acknowledgment of human depravity; for it is necessary we should be born again of the Spirit, only because we are totally corrupt in our natural state, Now the character which Christianity thus gives of mankind, is not to be discovered in any other religious system. I except, indeed, the Jewish religion, in which all the particular doctrines of Christianity were obVol. 11.


scurely delineated. But the religion of Jesus Christ, as it has required a degree of purity, such as was never taught before, so it has given a description of the depravity of man which, till its promulgation, was utterly unknown. The whole world, by which is meant all who are not regenerate, are represented as lying in wickedness, as in enmity to God, and as opposing truth; and this evil character of mankind is attributed, in the New Testament to the depraved state of human nature: “men are born in sin;" they are “children of wrath," and "under the curse."

That this representation of the state of the world is peculiar to Christianity, is sufficiently evident, and is indeed a very strong presumption of its Divine origin. The sad experience of our own hearts, when enlightened by the Spirit of God, our inability to conceive justly of the true nature of sin and holiness, are sufficient, independently of other proofs, to confirm the truth of what Jesus Christ and his Apostles have revealed on this awful subject. But to give so shocking a description of the state of mankind required in the teacher of a new religion, not only the deepest insight into human nature, but a measure of firmness and resolution which nothing but the confidence of truth could have inspired. What false teacher could have dared to give so unfavourable an account of his fellow-creatures? I might almost say, what person of a benevolent mind, who was not speaking by the immediate authority of God, could have done so?

But Christianity, though it probes the wound deep, does so with a pitying hand and with a kind intention. For from this description of mankind, which no one who has not put off humanity, can read without pity, or acknowledge without grief, is derived that humility which is peculiar to a Christian, and a train of virtuous dispositions connected with it which are only of Christian growth. Of humility, as a virtue, the heathens had so little conception, that the Roman language did not even contain a word to express it. That poverty of spirit to which the kingdom of heaven is promised; that contrition for sin, and deep repentance, which are only the next degree below innocence; that tenderness of conscience which, knowing its danger, watches with jealous sensibility against the approach of sin; that spirit of earnest supplication at the Throne of Grace which in a posture so justly befitting man, humbly implores mercy; that confidence in the Divine help which they who distrust themselves will cherish, and which tends equally to ascribe glory to God and produce security to man;-all these virtuous emotions take their rise from that very affecting description of human depravity which Christianity alone has given.

How striking is the difference between some of the wisest of the ancient philosophers and those who are real Christians! Regard the former! conceited of their wisdom, boasting, confident, and vain glorious. Behold the latter! After all their present prayers, their works of piety, labours of love, and earnest endeavours to be more pure and holy; you see them still lamenting their depravity, and acknowledging with sincere griet their utter unworthiness. Is it that these men are really more corrupt and unworthy than the former? Or is it that their confessions are insincere? Or is it not that the pride of the human heart, which the Gospel proposes to eradicate, is removed; and the humility which the Gospel implants has taken root and flourished.

II. Nearly connected with the doctrine of the depravity of man, is that of the insufficiency of human righteousness to justify a sinner in the sight of God. This truth is also implied by the necessity of spiritual regeneration. And this is a doctrine wlich no other religion but that of Christ ever inculcated: on the contrary, however inconsistent the different opinions of the nature of virtue have been, whatever different methods men have taken to obtain it, still their whole dependence has been placed upon the sufficiency of their own

attainments. They have looked to their own virtue and goodness, to secure eternal happiness.

But how different, how much more noble, more worthy of God, and more suitable to man, are the sentiments which Christianity. inculcates! We see in the religion of Jesus Christ, a regular design to glorify and exalt the holiness of the Divine Being, in the sight of whom the utmost purity of man is unclean, in whose holy balance his best works are found wanting. Forbidden to place any confidence in himself, and taught that every good desire and purpose of his heart proceeds from God; the Christian, while he is as holy as the frailty of human nature will permit, trusts not in his holiness, but, in consequence of his enlarged views of duty, sees so much imperfection even in his best services, that he gladly embraces the offer of salvation made to sinners, through the mediation and mercy of a Redeemer.

We may always suspect the truth of any article of faith which does not tend to produce good practical effects. Utility is among the surest tests of any doctrine; and in the case before us, not only is the Saviour's Name magnified, by a renunciation of our own righteousness, but a greater degree of purity results from it: for the absence of genuine piety seems to be chiefly owing to the opinion which too generally prevails of the sufficiency of human virtue. He who entertains a deep-rooted opinion that his own virtue must recommend him to God, is naturally led to establish a low standard of virtue, and to form a loose and general idea of holiness, as meaning little more than a freedom from acts of gross sin.

But when Christianity teaches man, that he cannot by any righteousness of his own obtain the pardon or favour of God, the intention is not to make him easy in the neglect of virtue. No! the Gospel overthrows a weak edifice, but to build on more secure foundations. It reminds man of the insufficiency of his works, that he may be induced to apply to Him who is the fountain of all sufficiency, and the source of all help. It

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