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2. Who then are ye that are thus born of God? Ye “know the things which are given to you of God.” Ye well know that ye are the children of God, and “ can assure your hearts before him.” And every one of you who has observed these words, cannot but feel, and know of a truth, whether at this hour, (answer to God and not to man !) you are thus a child of God or no. The question is not, What you was made in baptism; (do not evade ;) but, What are you now? Is the Spirit of Adoption now in your heart? To your own heart let the appeal be made. I ask not, whether you was born of water and of the Spirit; but are you now the temple of the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in you? I allow you was “circumcised with the circumcision of Christ;” (as St. Paul emphatically terms baptism;) but does the Spirit of Christ and of glory now rcst upon you ? Else “your circumcision is become uncircumcision.”
3. Say not then in your heart, I was once baptized, therefore I am now a child of God. Alas, that consequence will by no means hold. How many are the baptized gluttons and drunkards, the baptized liars and common swearers, the baptized railers and evil-speakers, the baptized whoremongers, thieves, extortioners? What think you? Are these now the children of God? Verily, I say unto you, whosoever you are, unto whom any one of the preceding characters belong, “ Ye are of your father the Devil, and the works of your father ye do.” Unto you I call, in the name of Him whom you crucify afresh, and in his words to your circumcised predecessors, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?"
4. How indeed, except ye be born again! For ye are now dead in trespasses and sins. To say then that ye cannot be born again, that there is no new birth but in Baptism, is to seal you all under damnation, to consign you to hell, without help, without hope. And perhaps some may think this just and right. In their zeal for the Lord of Hosts, they may say, “ Yea, cut off the sinners, the Amalekites! Let these Gibeonites be utterly destroyed! They deserve no less." No; nor I ; nor you. Mine and your desert, as well as theirs, is hell. And it is mere mercy, free, undeserved mercy, that we are not now in unquenchable fire. You will say, “But we are washed ; ” we were born again“ of water and of the Spiril.”. So were they : this, therefore, binders not at all, but that ye may now be even as they. Know ye not, that " what is highly esteemed of men is an abomination in the sight of God? Come forth, ye "saints of the world,” ye that are honoured of men, and see who will cast the first stone at them, at these wretches not fit to live upon the earth, these common harlots, adulterers, murderers. Only learn ye first what that meaneth, “He that hateth his brother is a murderer.” (1 John iii. 15.) “He that looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Matt. v. 28.) “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God ? (James ir. 4.)
5. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye" also “must be born again." “Except ye” also “be born again, ye cannot see the kingdom of God.” Lean no more on the staff of that broken reed, that ye were born again in baptism. Who denies that ye were then made children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven? But, notwithstanding this, ye are now children of the Devil. Therefore, ye must be born again. And let not Satan put it into your heart to cavil at a word, when the thing is clear. Ye have heard what are the Marks of the children of God : all ye who have them not on your souls, baptized or unbaptized, must needs receive them, or without doubt ye will perish everlastingly. And if ye have been baptized, your only hope is this, that those who were made the children of God by baptism, but are now the children of the Devil, may yet again receive “power to become the sons of God; that they may receive again what they have lost, even the “ Spirit of Adoption, crying in their hearts, Abba, Father!”
Amen, Lord Jesus! May every one who prepareth his heart yet again to seek thy face, receive again that Spirit of Adoption, and cry out“ Abba, Father!" Let him now again have power so to believe in thy name as to become a child of God; as to know and feel he hath “ redemption in thy blood, even the forgiveness of sins," and that he “cannot conimit sin because he is born of God." Let him be now “begotten again unto a living hope," so as to “purify himself as thou art pure;' aud, “because he is a son," let the Spirit of love and of glory rest upon him, cleansing him “from all filthiness of flesh and spirit," and teaching him to “perfect holiness in the fear of God!"
THE GREAT PRIVILEGE OF THOSE THAT
ARE BORN OF GOD.
“ Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.”
1 John iii.9.
1. It has been frequently supposed, that the being born of God was all one with the being justified ; that the New Birth and Justification were only different expressions, denoting the same thing : it being certain, on the one hand, that whosoever is justified, is also born of God; and on the other, that whoever is born of God is also justified; yea, that both these gifts of God are given to every believer in one and the same moment. In one point of time his sins are blotted out, and he is born again of God.
2. But though it be allowed, that Justification and the New Birth are, in point of time, inseparable from each other, yet they are easily distinguished, as being not the same, but things of a widely different nature. Justification implies only a relative, the New Birth a real, change. God, in justifying us, does something for us ; in begetting us again, he does the work in us. The former changes our outward relation to God, so that of enemies we become children; by the latter our inmost souls are changed, so that of sinners we become saints. The one restores us to the favour, the other to the image, of God. The one is the taking away the guilt, the other the taking away the power, of sin : so that, although they are joined together in point of time, yet are they of wholly distinct natures.
3. The not discerning this, the not observing the wide difference there is between being justified and being born again, has occasioned exceeding great confusion of thought in many who have treated on this subject; particularly when they have attempted to explain this great privilege of the children of God; to show how, “whosocver is born of God doth not commit sin."
4. In order to apprehend this clearly, it may be necessary, First, to consider what is the proper meaning of that expression, “Whosoever is born of God;" and, Secondly, to inquire, in what sense he 6 doth not commit sin?
1. 1. First, we are to consider, what is the proper meaning of that expression, “Whosoerer is born of God.” And, in general, from all the passages of Holy Writ wherein this expression, the being born of God, occurs, we may learn that it implies not barely the being baptized, or any Outward Change whatever ; but a vast Inward Change, a change wrought in the soul, by the operation of the Holy Ghost; a change in the whole manner of our cxistence; for, from the moment we are born of God, ire live in quite another manner than we did before; we are, as it were, in another world.
2. The ground and reason of the expression is easy to be understood. When we undergo this great change, we may, with much propriety, be said to be born again, because there is so bear a resemblance between the circumstances of the natural and of the spiritual birth; so that to consider the circumstances of the natural birth, is the most easy way to understand the spiritual.
3. The child which is not yet lort subsists indeed by the air, as does every thing which has life; but feels it pot, nor any thing else, imless in a very dull and imperfect manner. It heurs little, if at all; the organs of hearing being as yet
It sees nothing ; baving its eves fast shut, and being surrounded with utter darkness. There are, it may be, some faint beginnings of life, when the time of its birth draws nigh, and some motion consequent thereon, whereby it is distinguished from a mere mass of matter; but it has no senses; all these arenues of the soul are laitierto quite shut up. Of cousequence, it has scarce any intercourse with this visible world; nor any knowledge, conception, or idea, of the things that occur thercin.
4. The reason why he that is not yet born is wholly il stranger to the visible world, is, not because it is afar off'; (it is very nigh; it surrounds him on every side;) but, partly, because he has not those seoses, they are not yet opened in his soul, whereby alone it is possible to bold commerce with the
material world; and partly, because so thick a veil is cast between, through which he can discern nothing.
5. But no sooner is the child born into the world, than he exists in a quite different manner. He now feels the air with which he is surrounded, and which pours into him from every side, as fast as he alternately breathes it back, to sustain the flame of life: and hence springs a continual increase of strength, of motion, and of sensation; all the bodily senses being now awakened, and furnished with their proper objects.
His eyes are now opened to perceive the light, which, silently flowing in upon them, discovers not only itself, but an infinite variety of things, with which before he was wholly unacquainted. His cars are unclosed, and sounds rush in with endless diversity. Every sense is employed upon such objects as are peculiarly suitable to it; and by these inlets the soul, having an open intercourse with the visible world, acquires more and more knowledge of sensible things, of all the things which are under the sun.
6. So it is with him that is born of God. Before that great change is wrought, although he subsists by Him, in whom all that have life "live, and move, and have their being,” yet he is not sensible of God; he does not feel, he has no inward consciousness of his presence. He does not perceive that divine breath of life, without which he cannot subsist a moment: nor is he sensible of any of the things of God; they make no impression upon his soul. God is continually calling to him from on high, but he heareth not; his ears are shut, so that the voice of the charmer" is lost in him, “charm he never so wisely.” He seeth not the things of the Spirit of God; the eyes of his understanding being closed, and utter darkness covering his whole soul, surrounding him on every side. It is true he may have some faint dawnings of life, some small beginnings of spiritual motion ; but as yet he has no spiritual senses capable of discerning spiritual objects; consequently, he “discerncth not the things of the Spirit of God; he cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
7. Hence he has scarce any knowledge of the invisible world, as he has scarce any intercourse with it. Not that it is afar off: no: he is in the midst of it; it encompasses him round about. The other world, as we usually term it, is not far from every one of us : it is above, and beneath, and on every