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XVI.-It is obvious that learning will never come to the knowledge of the Truth, if the learner be at fault. If, as Revelation affirms, man's nature is at fault, then his will, or the inclination of his affections, will be at fault; and if his will be faulty, the first principles of his understanding will be faulty; and consequently, his conclusions, though naturally and justly derived from his premises, will nevertheless be false, because his premises, processes and conclusions are in agreement, not with eternal Truth, but with his own fallen nature. God asserts the degeneracy of his nature : he assumes its integrity. Of necessity his whole process of thought must be false, so long as his reason and affections accord with himself and his idol, nature, rather than with God?
And it is worse than frivolous for him to assume, that temporal nature accords with the Divine Nature, after God has testified that it does not. He may not at all relish the charge that he is partial and essentially one-sided :—that his partiality for what he is by nature, has warped his judgment, and that, consequently, his reasoning is within the circle of his own will. But is it not evidence enough of the partiality of his will, and indeed of the guilt of that partiality, that he defends his first birth, or natural condition, after God has
found fault with it? and that he persists in believing, or in affecting to believe, that it is according to God? when God has declared that it is according to corrupt and transitional nature, but not according to His Nature.
God has concluded it under sin. Now he will grant that he has committed sin; but the idea
! that his nature is under sin, is very repugnant to him, and therefore he concludes that it is not under sin. God testifies that the law of his nature is the law of sin, but he likes not to think so, and therefore, he replies, ‘Nay, but it is the law of God.' “The carnal mind is enmity against God :" he answers, the carnal mind is of God, and in agreement with God. “The carnal mind is not subject to the law of God.” The carnal mind contradicts, saying, 'I am subject to the law of my nature, and the law of my nature is the law of God.' “ Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God :" * Nonsense,' his inward thought replies, 'I am already in the kingdom of God.' The blunder of Nicodemus is the universal blunder of the natural man: he thinks that he can be initiated into the kingdom of Truth by teaching. But he no sooner appeals to The Teacher, than he hears, to his vast surprise, that not by teaching, but only by re
generation, can he come to see things as they are. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God : for they are foolishness to him : neither can he know them,” because they are not discernible to the natural mind, for “they are spiritually discerned.” He affirms, that whatever is foolishness to his reason, is foolishness; and that the true things of God are those things which are obtained from the study of nature's laws. which is born of the flesh is flesh," and its affections and its mind are according to the flesh, and all its reasonings are according to the flesh, and its highest wisdom, when it seems farthest from the flesh, is still fleshly ;-that is, within the compass of nature, but utterly without the kingdom of God.
It is both wayward and paltry of a man to determine, that, by abiding in the conditions and limitations of his first birth, he can come to the knowledge of Truth. If he will abide the mere creature of nature, then he shall be the heir of nature : certainly not the heir of God. all know the sad inheritance, or rather the dismal, pitiless “chamber of horrors,” to which nature conducts all her heirs. If he will kick against the doctrine of a second birth, a birth according to God, then he may learn and learn, and be evermore learning, but he will “never be
able to come unto the knowledge of the Truth." “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”—He shall not only not come, but he shall “not be able to come to the knowledge of the Truth." And wherefore shall he not be able ? Because by nature, he is only qualified to know appearance; and Truth he can no more know, without being born again, than the chick in the egg, which is its first birth, can see the light before its second birth, which is the rending of the shell. The caterpillar must be born again in order to know the winged life. Such is the necessity for man's new birth. Till then, the knowledge of the Truth is impossible to him. Every life has its own intelligence, but not that of the sphere above itself. The intelligence of nature's life is intelligence within her own sphere; but it pierceth not nature's veil, and knows nothing of absolute truth. Man may loathe the idea of the inability of his natural understanding to know the Truth, he may resist it, he may even call God to task, for allowing him to be conceived in sin, and born under conditions which render regeneration a necessity ; but let the dear creature of nature writhe, and complain as he please, unless he be "born again, not,” as at first, “of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God," he shall “never be able to come to the knowledge of the Truth.” If
he is too proud and self-willed to acquiesce in God's gracious proposal, to make him a “new creature,” and thus to bring him into harmonious relationship with Himself and His Kingdom, while it is the solemn penalty, it is only the inevitable consequence, of his perverseness, that he should be caught and held in the snare of “strong delusions," and that he should accept from his heart, and confirm with his reason, appearance for Truth.
“He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand ?”
“The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not.”
“Then He opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures."