Page images
PDF
EPUB

rows :" And all those general sources of sin-pride, self-will, and idolatry—are, in the same proportion as they prevail, general sources of misery. Therefore, as long as these reign in any soul, happiness has no place there. But they must reign till the bent of our nature is changed, that is, till we are born again; consequently, the new birth is absolutely necessary in order to happiness in this world, as well as in the world to come.

IV. I proposed in the Last place to subjoin a few inferences, which naturally follow from the preceding observations.

1. And, First, it follows, that baptism is not the new birth : They are not one and the same thing. Many indeed seem to imagine that they are just the same; at least, they speak as if they thought so; but I do not know that this opinion is publicly avowed by any denomination of Christians whatever. Certainly it is not by any within these kingdoms, whether of the estatlished Church, or dissenting from it. The judgment of the latter is clearly declared in their large Catechism :*_Q.“ What are the parts of a sacrament? A. The parts of a sacrament are two: The one an outward and sensible sign; the other, an inward and spiritual grace, thereby signified.-Q. What is baptism ? A. Baptism is a sacrament, wherein Christ hath ordained the washing with water, to be a sign and seal of regeneration by his Spirit.” Here it is manifest, baptism, the sign, is spoken of as distinct from regeneration, the thing signified.

In the Church Catechism likewise, the judgment of our Church is declared with the utmost clearness : “ What meanest thou by this word, sacrament? A. I mean an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. Q. What is the outward part or form in baptism ? A. Water, wherein the person is baptized, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Q. What is the inward part, or thing signified ? A. A death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness." Nothing, therefore, is plainer, than that, according to the Church of England, baptism is not the new birth.

But indeed the reason of the thing is so clear and evident, as not to need any other authority. For what can be more plain, than that the one is an external, the other an internal, work; that the one is a visible, the other an invisible thing, and therefore wholly different from each other?—the one being

. Q. 163, 165.

an act of man, purifying the body; the other a change wrought by God in the soul: So that the former is just as distinguishable from the latter, as the soul from the body, or water from the Holy Ghost.

2. From the preceding reflections we may, Secondly, observe, that as the new birth is not the same thing with baptism, so it does not always accompany baptism : They do not constantly go together. A man may possibly be “born of water," and yet not be “ born of the Spirit." There may sometimes be the outward sign, where there is not the inward grace. I do not now speak with regard to infants : It is certain our Church supposes that all who are baptized in their infancy are at the same time born again ; and it is allowed that the whole Office for the Baptism of Infants proceeds upon this supposition. Nor is it an objection of any weight against this, that we cannot comprehend how this work can be wrought in infants. For neither can we comprehend how it is wrought in a person of riper years. But whatever be the case with infants, it is sure all of riper years who are baptized are not at the same time born again. “ The tree is known by its fruits :" And hereby it appears too plain to be denied, that divers of those who were children of the devil before they were baptized continue the same after baptism; “ for the works of their father they do ;” They continue servants of sin, without any pretence either to inward or outward holiness.

3. A Third inference which we may draw from what has been observed, is, that the new birth is not the same with sanctification. This is indeed taken for granted by many ; particularly by an eminent writer, in his late treatise on “ The Nature and Grounds of Christian Regeneration.” To wave several other weighty objections which might be made to that tract, this is a palpable one: It all along speaks of regeneration as a progressive work, carried on in the soul by slow degrees, from the time of our first turning to God. This is undeniably true of sanctification ; but of regeneration, the new birth, it is not true. This is a part of sanctification, not the whole; it is the gate to it, the entrance into it. When we are born again, then our sanctification, our inward and outward holiness, begins; and thenceforward we are gradually to “grow up in Him who is, our Head.” This expression of the Apostle admirably illustrates the difference between one and the other, and farther points

reaking, foregoing, says & tably to

out the exact analogy there is between natural and spiritual things. A child is born of a woman in a moment, or at least in a very short time: Afterward he gradually and slowly grows, till he attains to the stature of a man. In like manner, a child is born of God in a short time, if not in a moment. But it is by slow degrees that he afterward grows up to the measure of the full stature of Christ. The same relation, therefore, which there is between our natural birth and our growth, there is also between our new birth and our sanctification.

4. One point more we may learn from the preceding observations. But it is a point of so great importance, as may excuse the considering it the more carefully, and prosecuting it at some length. What must one who loves the souls of men, and is grieved that any of them should perish, say to one whom he sees living in sabbath-breaking, drunkenness, or any other wilful sin ? What can he say, if the foregoing observations are true, but, “You must be born again?” “No,” says a zealous man, “that cannot be. How can you talk so uncharitably to the man ? Has he not been baptized already ? He cannot be born again now.” Can he not be born again ? Do you affirm this ? Then he cannot be saved. Though he be as old as Nicodemus was, yet “except he be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Therefore in saying, “He cannot be born again," you in effect deliver him over to damnation. And where lies the uncharitableness now ?-on my side, or on yours? I say, he may be born again, and so become an heir of salvation. You say, “He cannot be born again :" And if so, he must inevitably perish! So you utterly block up his way to salvation, and send him to hell, out of mere charity!

But perhaps the sinner himself, to whom in real charity we say, “ You must be born again,” has been taught to say, “I defy your new doctrine; I need not be born again : I was born again when I was baptized. What! would you have me deny my baptism ?” I answer, First, there is nothing under heaven which can excuse a lie; otherwise I should say to an open sinner, If you have been baptized, do not own it. For how highly does this aggravate your guilt! How will it increase your damnation! Was you devoted to God at eight days old, and have you been all these years devoting yourself to the devil ? Was you, even before you had the use of reason, consecrated to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost ? And have you, ever since you had the use of it, been fying in the face of God, and consecrating yourself to Satan? Does the abomination of desolation—the love of the world, pride, anger, lust, foolish desire, and a whole train of vile affections-stand where it ought not ? Have you set up all these accursed things in that soul which was once a temple of the Holy Ghost; set apart for an “ habitation of God, through the Spirit;” yea, solemnly given up to him ? And do you glory in this, that you once belonged to God? O be ashamed ! blush! hide yourself in the earth! Never boast more of what ought to fill you with confusion, to make you ashamed before God and man! I answer, Secondly, you have already denied your baptism ; and that in the most effectual manner. You have denied it a thousand and a thousand times; and you do so still, day by day. For in your baptism you renounced the devil and all his works. Whenever, therefore, you give place to him again, whenever you do any of the works of the devil, then you deny your baptism. Therefore you deny it by every wilful sin ; by every act of uncleanness, drunkenness, or revenge ; by every obscene or profane word; by every oath that comes out of your mouth. Every time you profane the day of the Lord, you thereby deny your baptism ; yea, every time you do any thing to another which you would not he should do to you. I answer, Thirdly, Be you baptized or unbaptized, “you must be born again ;” otherwise it is not possible you should be inwardly holy; and without inward as well as outward holiness, you cannot be happy, even in this world, much less in the world to come. Do you say, “ Nay, but I do no harm to any man; I am honest and just in all my dealings ; I do not curse, or take the Lord's name in vain ; I do not profane the Lord's day ; I am no drunkard ; I do not slander my neighbour, nor live in any wilful sin?" If this be so, it were much to be wished that all men went as far as you do. But you must go farther yet, or you cannot be saved : Still, “ you must be born again.” Do you add, " I do go farther yet; for I not only do no harm, but do all the good I can ?" I doubt that fact; I fear you have had a thousand opportunities of doing good which you have suffered to pass by unimproved, and for which therefore you are accountable to God. But if you had improved them all, if you really had done all the good you possibly could to all men, yet this does not at all alter the case; still, “ you must

honest and just in al Nay, but I do no hass in the

be born again.” Without this nothing will do any good to your poor, sinful, polluted soul. “Nay, but I constantly attend all the ordinances of God: I keep to my church and sacrament." It is well you do: But all this will not keep you from hell, except you be born again. Go to church twice a day; go to the Lord's table every week; say ever so many prayers in private ; hear ever so many good sermons ; read ever so many good books ; still, “ you must be born again :" None of these things will stand in the place of the new birth ; no, nor any thing under heaven. Let this therefore, if you have not already experienced this inward work of God, be your continual prayer : “Lord, add this to all thy blessings,-let me be born again! Deny whatever thou pleasest, but deny not this; let me be • born from above !' Take away whatsoever seemeth thee good, -reputation, fortune, friends, health,—only give me this, to be born of the Spirit, to be received among the children of God! Let me be born, “not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever ;' and then let me daily 'grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!””

SERMON XLVI.

THE WILDERNESS STATE.

“ Ye now have sorrow : But I will see you again, and your

heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." John xvi. 22.

1. Arter God had wrought a great deliverance for Israel, by bringing them out of the house of bondage, they did not immediately enter into the land which he had promised to their fathers; but " wandered out of the way in the wilderness," and were variously tempted and distressed. In like manner, after God has delivered them that fear him from the bondage of sin and Satan; after they are “justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus," yet not many of them immedi

« PreviousContinue »