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our reach, a good that we do not possess, and that we have no hope so to do, does not excite any desire. Hope is the food of the passions. Men do indeed sometimes pursue phantoms; and they frequently run after objects which they never enjoy; but it is always in hope of enjoying them.
The last proposition is, that avocations fill the capacity of the soul. A mind which is empty, at leisure, and unoccupied with ideas and sentiments, is much more liable to be animated with a passion, than one which is already attracted, occupied, and absorbed, by certain objects unconnected with that passion. IV. These propositions may lead us to an acquaintance with the causes of our antipathies and our sympathies. We have laid them down with a view to assign the reasons why most people fall short of the piety of taste and sentiment. This is the point we proceed to prove. We shall also trace the sources of the evil, and prescribe the principal remedies which ought to be applied. We shall hereby make the fourth part, combined with the third, the conclusion of this discourse.
1. Are we destitute of the piety of taste and sentiment? It is because that a sensible object naturally makes a deeper impression upon us, than an object which is abstract, invisible, and spiritual. The God we adore, is a God that hideth himself. The lustre of the duties imposed by religion, appear so to the mind only; they have nothing that can attract the eyes of the body. The rewards promised by Jesus Christ, are objects of faith; they are reserved for a world to come, which we never saw and of which we have scarcely any conception: whereas the pleasures of this world are presented to our taste; they dazzle the eye, and charm the ear. They are pleasures adapted to a creature which naturally suffers itself to be captivated by sensible objects. Here is the first source of the evil. The remedy to be applied is to labour incessantly to diminish the sovereignty of the senses. To animate the soul to so laudable a purpose, we must be impressed with the base and grovelling disposition of the man who suffers himself to be enslaved by sense. What! shall the senses communicate their grossity and heaviness to our souls, and our souls not communicate to the senses their purity, their energies, and divine flame? What! shall our senses always possess the power, in some sort, to sensualize the soul, and our souls never be able to spiritualize the senses? What! shall a concert, a theatre, an object fatal to our innocence, charm and ravish the soul, while the great truths of religion are destitute of effect? What! do the ideas we form of the perfect Being; of a God, eternal in duration, wise in designs, powerful in execution, magnificent in grace; what! does the idea of a Redeemer, who sought mankind in their abject state, who devoted himself for their salvation, who placed himself in the breach between them and the tribunal of justice; what! does the hope of eternal salvation, which comprises all the favours of God to man, do all these ideas still leave us in apathy and indifference? This consideration should make a Christian blush; it should induce him to call to his aid, meditation, reading, retirement, solitude, and whatever is
calculated to enfeeble the influence of his senses, whose sovereignty produces effects so awful and alarming.
2. Are we destitute of the piety of taste and sentiment? It is because the tyranny of the senses is succeeded by the tyranny of the imagination; it is because the objects of piety are not accompanied with that sensible charm with which the imagination is struck by the objects of our passions. This is the second source of the evil, and it points out the second remedy which must be applied. A rational man will be ever on his guard against his imagination. He will dissipate the clouds with which it disguises the truth. He will pierce the thin bark with which it covers the substance. He will make appearances give place to realities. He will summon to the bar of reason all the illusive conceptions his fancy has formed. He will judge of an object by the nature of the object itself, and not by the chimeras with which they are decorated by a seductive imagination.
Are we destitute of the piety of taste and sentiment? It is because that a present, or, at least, an approximate good, excites in us more ardent desires than a good which is absent, or whose enjoyment is deferred to a distant period. This third source of evil suggests the remedy that must be applied. Let us form the habit of anticipating the future, and of realizing it to our minds. Let us constantly exercise that "faith which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen." Let us "not look at the things which are seen which are temporal; but at eternal things, which are not seen," Heb. xi. 5; 2 Cor. iv. Let us often launch beyond the confined sphere of objects with which we are surrounded. Our notions must be narrow, indeed, if they do not carry us above the economy of the present life. It may terminate with regard to you in twenty years, or in ten years: it may terminate with regard to you in a few days, or in a few hours. This is not all, we must often reflect on the awful events which must follow the narrow sphere assigned us here below. We must often think that the world "shall pass away with a great noise, and its elements melt with fervent heat," and its foundations shall be shaken. "The mighty angels shall swear by Him that liveth for ever and ever, that time shall be no longer," 2 Pet. iii. 10; Rev. x. 6. We must often think on the irrevocable sentence which must decide the destiny of all mankind; on the joys, on the transports of those who shall receive the sentence of absolution; and on the dreadful desponding cries of those whom the Divine justice shall consign to eternal torments.
4. Are we destitute of the piety of taste and sentiment? It is because, to a certain degree, recollection is a substitute for presence. This is the fourth source of evil. You would your selves, and without difficulty, prescribe the remedy, if, in this discourse which requires you to correct your taste by your reason, you did not consult your reason less than your taste. But plead for certain pleasures with all the energy of which you are capable; make an apology for your parties, your games, your diversions; say that there is nothing criminal in
those dissipations against which we have so often declaimed with so much strength in this holy place: be obstinate to maintain that preachers and critics decry them from misconceptions of their innocence. It is certain, however, that the recollection of pleasure attracts the heart to pleasure. The man who would become more sensible of the pleasures of devotion, should apply himself to devotion; and the man who would become less attracted by the pleasures of the age, should absent himself from the circles of pleasure.
5. Are we destitute of the piety of taste and sentiment? It is because that a good, known and experienced, is much more capable of inflaming our desires, than that which is imperfectly conceived, and known merely by the report of others. Why do we believe that a soul profoundly composed in meditation on the glories of grace, is "satisfied as with marrow and fatness" We believe it on the positive testimony of the prophet. We believe it on the testimony of illustrious saints, who assert the same thing. But let us endeavour to be convinced of the fact in a better way. "Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us." So was the prayer of Philip to Jesus Christ, John xiv. 8. This request proceeded from the ignorance of the apostles, prior to the day of pentecost. The request was, however, founded both on reason and truth. Philip was fully persuaded, if he could once see with his own eyes the God, whose perfections were so gloriously displayed, that he should be ravished with his beauty; and that he should, without reluctance, make the greatest sacrifices to please him. Let us retain what is rational in the request of Philip, rejecting what is less enlightened. Let us say to Jesus, but in a sense more exalted than this disciple, "Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us." Lord, give me to know by experience the joy that results from the union of a soul reconciled to its God, and I shall ask no other pleasure; it shall blunt the point of all others.
whether it be the part of religion, or the part of the world, this life is invariably a life of labour, we should prefer the labours attended with a solid peace, to those which involve us in anguish and inquietude.
7. The affairs of life engross the capacity of the soul. A mind which is empty, at leisure, and unoccupied with ideas and sentiments, is much more liable to be animated and filled with a passion, than one that is already concentrated on certain objects, which have no connexion with that passion. This is the last reason assigned for our non-attainment of the consolations of religion. Let us keep to the point. Casting our eye on the crimes of men, we regard, at first view, the greater part of them as monsters. It would seem that most men love evil for the sake of evil. I believe, however, that the portrait is distorted. Mankind are perhaps not so wicked as we commonly suppose. But to speak the truth, there is one duty, my brethren, concerning which their notions are quite inadequate; that is, recollection. There is likewise a vice whose awful consequences are by no means sufficiently perceived; that vice, is dissipation. Whence is it, that a man, who is appalled by the mere idea of death and of hell, should, nevertheless, brave them both? It is because he is dissipated; it is because his soul, wholly engrossed by the cares of life, is unable to pay the requisite attention to the idea of death and hell, and to the interests of this life. Whence is it, that a man distinguished for charity and delicacy, shall act in a manner so directly opposite to delicacy? It is because the dissipations inseparable from the office he fills, and still more so, those he ingeniously procures for himself, obstruct attention to his own principles. To sum up all in one word, whence is it, that we have such exalted views of piety, and so little taste for piety? The evil proceeds from the same source our dissipations. Let us not devote ourselves to the world more than is requisite for the discharge of duty. Let our affections be composed; and let us keep within just bounds the faculty of reflection and of love.
If we adopt these maxims, we shall be able to reform our taste; and I may add, to reform our sentiment. We shall both think and love as rational beings. And when we think and love as rational beings, we shall perceive that nothing is worthy of man but God, and what directly leads to God. Fixing our eyes and our hearts on the Supreme object, we shall ever feel a fertile source of pure delight. In solitude, in deserts, overtaken by the catastrophes of life, or surrounded with the shadows and terrors of death, we shall exult with our prophet, “My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips, when I remember thee in the night-watches;" and when I make thy adorable perfections the subject of my thought. May God enable us so to do: to whom be honour and glory for ever. Amen.
6. Are we destitute of the piety of taste and sentiment? It is because all things being equal, we prefer a good, easy of acquisition, to one that requires labour and fatigue. And would to God, that we were always disposed to contract our motives with our fatigues; the estimate would invert our whole system of life. We should find few objects in this world to merit the efforts bestowed in their acquisition; or, to speak as the Supreme Wisdom, we should find that "we spend money for that which is not bread, and labour for that which satisfieth not," Isa. lv. 2. Would to God, that the difficulties of acquiring a piety of taste and sentiment, were but properly contrasted with the joy it procures those who surmount them. In this view, we should realize the estimate, "that the sufferings of this present life, are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us," Rom. viii. 18. Seeing then, that whatever part we espouse,
JOHN iii. 1-8.
There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do those miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. 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. Nicodemus saith unto him, how can a man be born when he is old? he enter the second time into his mother's womb and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
THE transition which happened in the condition of Saul was very remarkable. Born of an obscure family, actually employed in seeking strayed asses, and having recourse on this inconsiderable subject to the divine light of a prophet, Saul instantly found himself anointed with a mystic oil, and declared king, by the prophet, who added, "It is because the Lord hath anointed thee to be captain over his heritage." I Sam. x. 1.
To correspond with a rank so exalted, it was requisite that there should be as great a change in the person, as there was about to be in the condition, of Saul. The art of government has as many amplifications as there are wants and humours in those that are governed. A king must associate in some sort in his own person, every science and every art. He must be, so to speak, at the same juncture, artificer, statesman, soldier, philosopher. Those who are become gray-headed in this art find daily new difficulties in its execution.. How then could Saul expect to acquire it in an instant? The same prophet that notified the high honour to which God had called him, discovered the source whence he might derive the supports of which he had need. "Behold (said he,) when thou shalt come to the hill of God, where there is a garrison of the Philistines, thou shalt meet a company of prophets. Then the spirit of the Lord shall come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy, and thou shalt be changed to another man," 1 Sam. x. 5, 6. The Spirit of the Lord shall come upon thee: here is support for the regal splendour; here is grace for the adequate discharge of the royal functions.
Does it not seem, my brethren, that the sacred historian, in reciting these circumstances, was wishful to give us a portrait of the change which grace makes in the soul of a Christian. "Conceived in sin, and shapen in iniquity, he
is by nature a child of wrath. His father is an Amorite, and his mother a Hittite; yet he is called out of darkness into marvellous light." He is called to be a prince and a priest. But in vain would he be honoured with a vocation so high, if the change in his soul did not correspond with that of his condition. Who is sufficient for so great a work? How shall men whose ideas are low, and whose sentiments are grovelling, attain to a magnanimity assortable with the rank to which they are called of God? The grace which elevates, changes the man who is called unto it. The Spirit of God comes upon him; it gives him a new heart, and he becomes another man.
These are the great truths which Jesus Christ taught Nicodemus in the celebrated conversation we have partly read, and which courses, if God shall preserve our life, and our we propose to make the subject of several disministry. Here we shall discover the nature, the necessity, and the Author, of the regeneration which Christianity requires of us.
I. The nature of this change shall be the subject of a first discourse. Here in giving you a portrait of a regenerate man, and in describing the characters of regeneration, we shall explain to you the words of Jesus Christ, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit."
II. The necessity of this change shall be the subject of a second discourse. Here, endeavouring to dissipate the illusions we are fond of making on the obligations of Christianity, we shall press the proposition which Jesus Christ collects and asserts with so much force, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again. Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things?"
III. The author of the change shall be the subject of a third discourse. There using our best efforts to penetrate the vast chaos with which ignorance, shall I call it, or corruption, has enveloped this branch of our theology, we shall endeavour to illustrate and to justify the comparison of Jesus Christ; "the wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof; but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth."
I. In giving a portrait of the regenerate, and in tracing the characters of regeneration (which is the duty of the present day,) we must explain the expressions of the Lord, "to be born again;-to be born of the Spirit," though it be not on grammatical remarks we would fix your attention, we would, however, observe, that the phrase, to be born of water and of the Spirit, is a Hebraical phraseology, importing to be born of spiritual water. By a similar expression, it is said in the third chapter of St. Matthew, "I indeed (says John Baptist) baptize you with water unto repentance, but there cometh after me one mightier than I; he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire;" that is, with spiritual life. When Jesus Christ says, that we cannot see the kingdom of God, except we are born of water and of the Spirit, he wishes to apprise us, that it is not sufficient to be a member of his church, to
be baptized, which is called "the washing of regeneration;"* but that greater renovations must take place in the heart, than what water can produce on the surface of the body.
With regard to the other expression, "To be born again," it is susceptible of a double sense. The original term may perhaps be so translated; so is its import in various places, which are not of moment to recite here. It may also be rendered, born from above; as in the third chapter of St. James, "The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable." In this text, the original term is the same as that which we here translate born again; but though the variation might attract the critic's attention, it ought not to divert the preacher; for to whichsoever of the readings we may give the preference, the idea of our version invariably corresponds with the design of the Holy Ghost, and with the sense of the original. The uniform intention of Jesus Christ must be to distinguish our state of grace from that of nature. The state of nature is low and grovelling; that of grace is noble and sublime; consonant to what our Saviour said unto the Jews, "Ye are from beneath, I am from above," John viii. 23. Now for men whose birth is mean and grovelling, to acquire a great and noble descent, they must be born anew; thus to be born from above, and to be born again, are the same thing; and both these readings, how different soever they may appear, associate in the same sense. It is of much more importance to remark on the words which follow, "Born of water and of the Spirit;" first, that they are Hebraisms; and we have found the authorities so numerous, that we have had more difficulty in rejecting the less pertinent than in making the selection.
The Jews call the change which they presume their proselytes had experienced a spiritual birth; a new birth; a regeneration. It was one of their maxims, that the moment a man became a proselyte, he was regarded as a child, once born in sin, but now born in holiness. To be born in holiness, was, in their style, to be born in the covenant; and to this mode of speaking, St. Paul apparently refers in that remarkable passage in the first Epistle to the Corinthians, vii. 14. "The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; else were your children unclean, but now are they holy."-"Now are they holy;" that is, they are accounted as born within the covenant. Consonant to this notion, the Jews presumed that a man on becoming a proselyte, had no longer any consanguinity with those to whom nature had joined him with indissoluble ties; and that he had a right to espouse his sister, and his mother, if they became proselytes like himself! This gave Tacitus, a pagan historian, occasion to say, that the first lessons the Jews taught a proselyte was, to despise the gods, to renounce his country, and to regard his own children with disdain. And Mai
monides affirms, that the children with which an Egyptian woman is pregnant at the time she becomes a proselyte, are of the second birth. Hence some Rabbins have had the odd and confused refinement to suppose, that there is an infinity of souls born of I know not what ideal mass; that those destined to the just, lodge in a certain palace; that when a pagan embraces Judaism, one of those souls proceeds from its abode, and appears before the Divine Majesty, who embraces it, and sends it into the body of the proselyte, where it remains; that as an infant is not fully made a partaker of human nature, but when a pre-existent spirit is united to its substance in the bosom of its mother, so a man never becomes a true proselyte but when a new spirit becomes the substitute of that he derived from nature.*
Though it be not necessary to prove by numerous authorities the first remark we shall make on the words of Christ, "To be born of spiritual water," and to be "born again," it is proper at least to propose it; otherwise it would be difficult to account for our Saviour's reproving Nicodemus, as being "a master in Israel and not knowing these things." For a doctor in the law does not seem reprehensible for not understanding a language peculiar to Jesus Christ, and till then unheard of; whereas the blame naturally devolved on this Jew for exclaiming at expressions familiar to the Rabbins. No doubt, Nicodemus was one of those men, who, according to an ancient and still existing abuse, had superadded to his rank and dignity, the title of doctor, of which he was rendered unworthy by his ignorance. Hence the evangelist expressly remarks, that he was
a ruler of the Jews;" "a ruler of the Jews!" here are his degrees; here are his letters; here is his patent.
But Jesus Christ, and this is my second remark, in borrowing, corrected the language of the Jews. He meant not literally what he said to Nicodemus, that to enter the kingdom of God, or according to the language of Scripture and of the Jews, to be a disciple of the Messiah, one "must be born again:" he never imbibed the notion, that a man on embracing Christianity, receives a new soul to succeed the one he received from nature; he had not adopted the refinement of the Jewish cabalists, concerning the pre-existence of souls. The expres sions are figurative, and consequently subject to the inconveniences of all similes, and figurative language in general. The metaphor he employs, when representing by the figure of "a new birth," the change which must take place in the soul of a man on becoming a Christian; this metaphor I say, must be
* Our learned Mede prefers the literal reading of Titus iii. 6. The washing of the New Birth, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. From this distinction of St. Paul, many divines distinguished the New Birth as the entrance on Regeneration.-The Translator.
Book i. chap. 5.
2. It must be justified. 3. It must be softened. 4. It must be fortified.
1. The expression of Jesus Christ must be restricted. We cannot well find the import of any metaphor, unless we separate whatever is
* When our Saviour says, that neither the blind man, nor his parents, had sinned in a pre-existent state, he obviously decides against this doctrine of Pythagorus and the Rabbins. How can a holy God send a holy soul into a sinful body? And St. Paul says, that Levi paid tithes in the loins of Abraham.-J. S.
extraneous to the subject to which it is applied. | who has not yet embraced Christianity, with The ideas of all authors whatever would be that required of a weak and wandering Chrisdistorted, did we wish to extend their figures tian, who makes daily efforts to attain the beyond the just bounds. What is indisputable knowledge of the truth, and to practise virtue; with regard to all authors, is peculiarly so with or, who recovers from his errors and deviaregard to the orientals, for excelling other na- tions. It would be unfair to say, that such a tions in a warm imagination, they naturally Christian has need to "be born again," at abound in bolder metaphors. Hence the bolder least, in the sense which Jesus Christ attaches the metaphors, the more is the need to restrict to the words of my text. them; the more they would frustrate the proposed design, should we not avail ourselves of this precaution. What absurd systems have not originated from the license indulged on the comparison of Jesus Christ concerning the ties which unite us to himself, with the connexion they have with the aliments which nourish us, and which by manducation, are changed, if we may so speak, into our own substance? Properly to understand this comparison, we must restrict it. We must be aware that it turns on this single point, that as food cannot nourish us, unless it be received into the body by eating; just so, the religion of Jesus Christ will be unavailing, if we content ourselves with regarding it in a superficial manner; neglect a profound entrance into all its doctrines, and a close application of its maxims to the heart. Of other similes we may say the same. many are the insipid notions which arise from straining the comparisons between the mystical significance of the ritual law, and the mysteries of the gospel? I here refer to the types; those striking figures, of which God himself is the author, and which in the first ages of the church traced the outlines of great ents, which could not take place till many ages after they had been adumbrated by those figures. On contemplating those types in a judicious manner, you will find support for your faith, and indisputable proofs of the truth of your religion. But to contemplate them in a just point of view, they must be restricted in a thousand respects, in which they can have no connexion with the object they are designed to represent. Into how many mistakes shouldman, unacquainted with Jesus Christ, is wishwe run on neglecting this precaution; and on ful to be the arbitrator of his own ideas. He straining the striking metaphors taken from admits no propositions but what are proved at the priests, the victims, and other shadows in the bar of reason; he takes no guide but his the ritual law? To understand those types and own discernment, or that of some doctor, figures, we must restrict them; we must be often as blind, and sometimes more so, than aware that they bear on this single point; I himself. On the contrary, the regenerate man would say, that as the office of the high-priest sees solely with the eyes of his Saviour: Jeunder the law was to reconcile God to the sus Christ is his only guide, and if I may so tribes of Israel, whose name he bore engraved speak, his sole reason, and his sole discernon his mysterious pectoral; just so, the mediato- ment. rial offic of Christ consisted in reconciling God to the men, with whose nature he was clothed.
2. The comparison must be restricted to the change itself, which Jesus Christ requires of those to whom it ought to be applied. But in what respects are those things called a new birth? The metaphor concentrates itself on a single point; that as an infant on coming into the world, experiences so great a change in its mode of existence in regard of respiration, of nourishment, of sight, and of all its sensations, and so very different from what was the case prior to its birth, as in some sort to seem a new creature; so a man on passing from the world to the church, is a new man compared with what he was before. He has now other ideas, other desires, other propensities, other hopes, other objects of happiness. If you should not make this restriction: but extend the metaphor, you would make very injudicious contrasts between the circumstances of the new, and of the natural birth; and you would form notions, not only unworthy of reception, but deemed unworthy of refutation in a place like this.
II. But the change here represented by the idea of a new birth, is not the less a reality, for being couched in figurative language. Hence we have said in the second place, that the expression of Jesus Christ must be justified. In what does the change required of those that would enter into fellowship with him consist? In what does this new birth consist? We have just insinuated, that it is a change of ideas; a change of desires; a change of taste; a change of hope; a change of the objects of happiness.
1. A change of ideas. An unregenerate
I have no clear idea of the manner in which my soul can subsist after the ties which unite it to matter are dissolved. I do not properly know my soul by idea; I know it solely by sen
Never had figure more need of this precaution; never had figure more need to be re-timent, and by experience; and I have never stricted than that employed by Jesus Christ in thought without the medium of my brain; the words of my text. The restriction has a I have never perceived objects without the medouble bearing. First, it must be restricted to dium of my eyes; I have never heard sounds the persons of the unregenerate who are not in without the organs of my ears; and it does communion with his people; and secondly, to not appear to me that these sensations can be the things which Jesus Christ requires of the conveyed in any other way. I believe, howunregenerate. The comparison of Jesus Christ ever, that I shall hear sounds when the organs must be restricted to the profligate, or to the of my ears are destroyed; I believe that I self-righteous, who are not in communion with shall perceive objects when the light of my his people. If we fail to make this distinction, eyes is extinguished; I believe that I shall but indiscriminately apply the expression to think, and in a manner more close and suball, we confound the change required of a man lime when my brain shall exist no more. VOL. II.-50