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5. Our fifth proposition imports, that the aids system of delaying conversion accord with this of the Holy Spirit promised to man are gra- idea? What time would you allow for this dually imparted; hence, to misapply the grace change and reformation? A month? a week? a we have, is the most dangerous way to obstruct day the last extremity of a mortal malady? the reception of fresh support. But listen to What! in so short a time would you consumsome of our suprala psarians, and they will say, mate a work to which the longest life would that the design of God in promising these aids, hardly suffice? And in what circumstances is to assure us that how much soever we shall would you do it! In delirium; in the agonies resist one measure of grace, he will still give us of death; at a time when one is incapable of a greater measure, and ever proportion the the smallest application; at a time when we counterpoise of grace to that of a deliberate, can scarce admit among the attendants, a obstinate, voluntary enemy. So many have friend, a child, whom we love as our own life; understood the doctrine of our church respect at a time when the smallest business appears ing irresistible grace; to judge of it consonant as a world of difficulty? to their ideas, this grace redoubles its efforts as But if what we have now said, after this the sinner redoubles his revolts; so that he who “ teacher come from God," on the nature of shall throw the greatest obstacles in its way, regeneration, has begun to excite some scrushall be the very man who shall have the fair. ples in your mind concerning the plan of deest claims to its richest profusion.
laying conversion, let each of you recall, as Poor Christians! are these your conceptions far as he is able, what Jesus Christ has said, of religion? My God! is it thus thy gospel is and what we have said, following him, conunderstood? I hope, my brethren, that not cerning the necessity of regeneration: for since any one of us shall have cause to recognise you are obliged to confess that regeneration himself in this portrait; for I am bold to aver, cannot be the work of the last moments of that of all the most heterodox opinions, and life, I ask, on what ground you found the systhe most hostile to the genius of the gospel, tem of delaying conversion? Do you flatter the one I have just put into the mouth of cer- yourselves that God will be so far satisfied tain Christians, is that which really surpasses with your superficial efforts towards regenerathem all. On the contrary, he who opposes tion, as to excuse the genuine change? Do the greatest obstacles to the operations of you hope that this general declaration of the grace, is precisely the man who must expect Saviour, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, exthe smallest share of it. Grace diminishes its cept a man be born again, he cannot enter the efforts in proportion as the sinner redoubles his kingdom of God," shall have an exception resistance. Obstinate revolt against its first with regard to you have then the reflections operations, is the sure way to be deprived of we made in our second discourse against this the second; and the usual cause which deprives chimerical notion, made no impression on you? us of it, is the want of co-operation with its Do we preach to rational beings? or do we true design.
preach to stocks and stones Have ye not 6. We are now come to the last proposi. perceived that regeneration is founded on the tion, with which we shall close this discourse. genius of the gospel; and that every doctrine However unworthy we may be of the divine of it is comprised in the proposition, "Verily, assistance, and whatever abuse we may have verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born made of it, we should never despair of its aids. again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." We do not say this to flatter the lukewarm- It is founded on the nature of man, and on ness of man, and to soothe his shameful delay the proposed design of Jesus Christ to make of conversion; on the contrary, if there be a him happy; and the acquisition of this end doctrine which can prompt us to diligence; if would imply a contradiction, if a man should there be a doctrine which can induce us to de- revolt at the change and the reformation; bevote the whole time of our life to the work of cause, since the loss of primitive innocence, salvation, it is the one we have just announced our state is become our calamity; and it would in this discourse, and made the subject of our imply a contradiction that we should be detwo preceding sermons. We have considered livered from our calamity, unless we should three points in the conversation of Jesus Christ be delivered from our state. It is founded on with Nicodemus; the nature, the necessity, and the nature of God himself: of the two, God the Author of the "new birth.” And what is must either renounce his perfections, or we there in all this which does not tend to sap must renounce our imperfections; and if I may the delay of conversion?
dare so to speak of my Maker, God must Let each of you recollect, as far as memory either regenerate himself, or we must regeneis able, what Jesus Christ has taught, and rate ourselves. what we have taught after him, on the subject Upon what then do you found your hopes of regeneration. This work does not consist of conversion on a death-bed? Upon the aids in a certain superficial change which may be of that grace without which you never can be made in a moment: in that case, it would suf- converted? But does the manner in which we fice to have a skilful physician, and to com- have just described those aids, afford you any mission him to warn us of the moment when hope of obtaining them, when you shall have we must leave the world, that we may devote obstinately and maliciously resisted them to that precise moment to the work of our salva- the end? tion. But the regeneration which Jesus Christ Meanwhile, I maintain my last proposition; requires, is an entire transformation; a change I maintain that however unworthy you may of ideas, a change of desires, a change of have rendered yourselves of divine aid, you hopes, a change of taste, a change in the ought never to despair of obtaining it. Yes, schemes of happiness. How then does the though you should have resisted the Holy
Ghost to the end of life; though you should tion. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new have but one hour to live, devote" it; call in creature; old things are past away, and behold your ministers; offer up prayers, and take the all things are become new,” 2 Cor. v. 17. kingdom of heaven by violence! We will not Thuis was the change which Jesus Christ andeprive you of this the only hope which can nounced to Nicodemus, though the Rabbi could remain: we will not exclude you from the final not comprehend it. How explicit soever the avenues of grace. Perhaps your last efforts declarations of the prophets had been on this may have effect; perhaps your prayers shall subject; however familiar their style was among be heard; perhaps the Holy Spirit will give the Jews, regeneration, to regenerate a neto effect to the exhortations of his ministers; and, man, were terms whose import Nicodemus to say all in a single word, perhaps God will could not distinguish. He fattered himself work a miracle in your favour, and deviate that it sufficed for admission into the commufrom the rules he is accustomed to follow in nion of the Messiah, to acknowledge the authe conversion of other men.
thenticity of his mission, the sublimity of his Perhaps; ah! my brethren, how little con- doctrine, and the superiority of his miracles. solation does this word afford in the great |“ Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher events of life; and less consolation still when come from God, for no man can do those miraapplied to our salvation! Perhaps; ah! how cles that thou dost, except God be with him." little is that word capable of consoling a soul | He hoped that this avowal would conciliate when it has to contend with death. My bre- the esteem of Jesus Christ, wbile it equally thren, we can never consent to make your preserved that of the Jews. He flattered bimsalvation depend on a perhaps; we cannot see self with having found the just mean of that you would have any other hope of salva- distinction between that of his persecutors, tion than that of a man, who throws himself and his disciples. Jesus Christ undeceived him from a lower; a man actually descending in in the words upon which our discourse must the air, that may be saved by a miracle, but devolve. No, no, said he; God requires no he has so many causes to fear the contrary. such conduct; to him all accommodations are We cannot see that you would have any other odious; you must choose, either to perish with ground of hope than that of a man who is those who fight against me, or become renounder the axe of the executioner, whose arm vated with those who account it their glory to is uplifted, which may indeed be held by a fight under iny stewards. “Verily, verily, I celestial hand; but how many reasons excite say unto thee, except a man be born again, he alarm that he will strike the fatal blow! We cannot see the kingdom of God. Marvel not would wish to be able to say to each of you, that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. “ fear not,” Mark v. 30. We would wish Art thou a doctor of the law, and knowest that each of you could say to himself, “I thou not these things.” know; I am persuaded;" 2 Tim. i. 12. Second We said sometime ago, that one must not our wishes: labour; pray; pray without ceas- confound the change which the gospel requires ing; labour during the whole of life. This is of a weak and diffident Christian, with that the only means of producing that gracious as- which it requires of a man who has not as yet surance and delightful persuasion. May God embraced religion, as it would be wrong to say bless your efforts, and hear our prayers. Amen. of some who hear us, and who, notwithstandTo whom be honour and glory for ever. Amen. ing their weakness and diffidence, are really
members of Christ, that they shall not enter
the kingdom of God, unless they are born SERMON XCVIII.
again. But can we doubt, that among the many who compose the circles of Christian
society, among the many who compose this THE NECESSITY OF REGENERATION. congregation, there are many who are in the
error of Nicodemus? Can we doubt that many
of you also, like this doctor, still divide your (NOW FIRST TRANSLATED.)
selves between God and the world; and who
flatter themselves to have the essence of Chris John iii. 5—7.
tianity, when they have but the exterior name.
It is to men of this class, that we address our Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, selves in this discourse. We proceed conforma
except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, bly to the example of our great Master to he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That make an effort to open their eyes, and show which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that them the inutility of this semi-Christianity to which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel which their views are circumscribed; and denot that I said unto thee, ye must be born again. clare, “verily, verily, except a man be born It is a sublime idea that the prophets give again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." of the change which the preaching of the gos It is thus we shall continue the execution of pel should effectuate in the earth, when they the plan formed in our first discourse. We represent it under the figure of a new crea- there remarked three things in the conversation: “ Behold I create new heavens, and a tion of Jesus Christ with Nicodemus: the nanew earth; and the former things shall not be ture of regeneration; the necessity of regeneraremembered,” Isa. lxv. 17. These new hea- tion; and the Author of regeneration. The vens, and this new earth, my brethren, must first of these articles we have already discusshave new inhabitants. It would imply an ab- ed: we now proceed to the second; and relying surdity for God to unite the disorders of the on the aids of God already implored, and old world with the felicities of the new crea- I which we stiimplore with all the powers
of our souls, we proceed to enforce the neces All the principles of the Christian religion, sity of regeneration, whose nature and charac are in direct opposition to the principles of the ters we have already described.
unregenerate. It is not possible to embrace We take it for granted, that this expression the Christian religion, without being born again so familiar in our Scriptures, “the kingdom in the sense we have given to this expression. of God," or "the kingdom of heaven," can- What is the sense given to this figurative not be wholly unknown to you. The Hebrews phrase, born again, in our first discourse? In substitute heaven for God (and this mode of what does the truth of the metaphor consist speaking is common enough in all languages;) | A change of ideas; a change of desires; a hence come the expressions which abound in change of taste; a change of hope; a change our writings, the aids of Heaven for the aids of pursuits. Examine the nature of the Chrisof God; and death inflicted by the hand of tian religion, and you will at once see that its Heaven, for the hand of God. Just so, the principles are directly opposed to those of the kingdom of heaven, and the kingdom of God, unregenerate; and that the religion of a man are two phrases promiscuously used in the which rejects conversion as to any one of these New Testament. I forbear more texts, which five points, be it which it may, is a religion diwould only waste the time destined for truths rectly opposed to that of Jesus Christ. more important and more controverted.
1. The religion of a man who rejects a Now, this expression, “the kingdom of change of ideas is a religion directly opposed God,” can have but one of those two mean to that of Jesus Christ. The change of ideas ings, of the most common occurrence in our here in question, consists, as already explained, Scriptures. It may signify either the economy not indeed in the renunciation of reason, but of the Messiah, which the prophet Daniel re- in a persuasion that the best possible use a rapresents under the idea of a kingdom, or the tional being can make of reason, is to allow it felicity of the blessed. The first is the import to lead him to God, who is the source of all of our Saviour's words, Matthew the xiith; intelligence. . Now, it is demonstrated by the “If I had cast out devils by the Spirit of God, nature of the Christian religion, that without then the kingdom of God is come unto you." this disposition of mind, no man can be a That is to say, if I have received of God the Christian. gift of miraculous powers; if I eject demons The Christian religion teaches us two sorts by the power of God, you may be fully assur- of truths, some which lie open to our ideas, ed that the Advent of the Messiah, which you and which the mind of man may discover by have awaited with so much desire, is come its own efforts; but which on the coming of unto you; it being impossible that God should Jesus Christ were so beclouded with obscurity, lend his Almighty power to an impostor. and with innumerable prejudices, as to require
This expression, “the kingdom of God,” energies almost more than human to penetrate signifies also the state of the blessed. So it them. Such were the doctrines of a provimust be understood in the encomium which dence, the immortality of the soul, a judgment, our Saviour pronounced on the great faith of a a future state, and some others. The object heathen centurion. “Verily, I say unto you, of the Christian religion has been to substitute that many shall come from the east, and from divine authority for that of discussion. You the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, cannot fully demonstrate the doctrine of a proand Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of hea- vidence, because of the obscurity in which it ven;" that is, many of those gentiles who were is involved. This doctrine is decided in the then“ without God, and without hope in the gospel: hear the words of Jesus Christ. “The world,” shall be admitted with Abraham, hairs of your head are numbered: God feeds the Isaac, and Jacob, to the celestial felicity, re- ravens; a sparrow falls not to the ground withpresented in our Scriptures by the idea of a out his will." You cannot fully demonstrate feast. We think ourselves authorized to take the doctrines of the immortality of the soul, this expression in the first of the meanings we and of a future state, because of the darkness here just assigned it: “ Except a man be born in which they are enveloped. Jesus Christ of water and of the Spirit, he sball not enter has decided these points. Hear his words: the kingdom of God;" that is, to become a "The wicked shall go away into everlasting member of the church of Christ, he must be fire, but the righteous into life eternal.” It is born again; but if any one will adhere to the the same with regard to other doctrines. In latter sense, we feel no interest in disputing this respect, it seems quite clear to me, that the point. Jesus Christ requires us to teach, the principles of the unregenerate are income that his communion affords no mean of attain- patible with the design of the Christian reliing eternal happiness, but that of regenera- gion." Because its designs on all these points tion. The distinction has nothing that should being to supply by authority that of discussion, stop us: to have named it, is enough; perhaps no man can be a Christian who does not subtoo much.
mit to the authority by which they are decidLet us come at once to the essential point, ed. The temper of a man who will believe and prove that this regeneration is absolutely nothing, admit nothing, but what can be denecessary to become a Christian, or as I have monstrated by the efforts of his own mind, is said, to attain to celestial happiness. This we directly opposed to the design of the Chrisshall prove by three arguments.
tian religion; hence, on this point, a man must I. The first is taken from the genius of the be born again before he can enter the kingdom Christian religion.
of God: the religion of the unregenerate, and II. The second from the wants of man. that of the Christian, are not only different, III. The third from the perfections of God. but directly opposed. I. From the genius of the Christian religion. The second order of truths revealed by the
Christian religion are altogether above the be coincident or revolting to his humour, his sphere of the human understanding, and which disposition, and his temporal interests. our reason would never have discovered, 3. An unregenerate man has no taste but though it had been perfectly exempted from for the pleasures of the age. But this princierror and prejudice. Such are all those that ple incompatible with the principles of our relate to the means God has chosen for the re- religion, which is designated to purify our demption of the human kind. God alone taste, and render us alive to pleasures more could reveal those, because none but God worthy of the excellence of the soul. could know what he had chosen. This is the 4. An unregenerate man founds his hopes doctrine of all the sacred authors; it is par- on second causes; on the favour of the great, ticularly that of St. Paul, in the second chap on the course of the winds, on the fertility of ter of his first Epistle to the Corinthians. fields, on the prosperity of trade. Bat these “The wisdom that we preach,” he says, “is principles are incompatible with the design of not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes our holy religion, which prompts us to found of this world:” (by the princes of this world I our hopes solely on the Divine favour, and elehere understand doctors of the first rank, whe- vate the soul above dependence on all created ther they were Rabbins, which in Hebrew good. means masters, or whether princes imports 5. An unregenerate man forms projects of philosophers,) “but we speak the hidden wis- terrestrial happiness. He says, as the worlddom of God in a mystery;" that is, hidden. lings in the 4th Psalm, Who will make "our Why is this the wisdom of God? Why is it a corn and wine to increase?” Who wi}} augmystery? Because none but the God who had ment our revenues? Who will amplify our formed it could have discovered it, and no man fortunes? Who will give us the lustre of a could reason out those things by the efforts of name, and the glare of reputation? Who will his own understanding. The apostle adds, gratify this mad ambition which absorbs the these are the things, " that eye hath not seen, soul, and prompts us to trample on our species, nor ear heard; neither have entered into the and look on men who have, in common with heart of man, the things that God hath pre- ourselves, the same Creator, the same faculties, pared for them that love him:” that is to say, the same grandeur, and the same baseness, as these are plans of God's sovereign pleasure, diminutive worms unworthy of our regards. in favour of the faithful. Now, the plans But these principles are incompatible with our which God had formed by his sovereign plea- holy religion, whose grand design is to inspire sure, the “ things which had not entered into us with the sentiments of confiding in God the heart of man, God hath revealed to us by alone the care of our happiness, how difficult his Spirit; by the Spirit which searcheth the soever the road may appear in which he calls deep things of God," and most impenetrable us to walk. to man; as the mind of man is conscious of its II. We have proved from the nature of our own designs, and most impenetrable to others. holy religion that to be a Christian, we must “For what man knoweth the things of a man, be born again; let us now prove it by what is save the spirit of man which is in him; even requisite for the happiness of man; let us so, the things of God knoweth no man save prove, that God in giving us a religion which the Spirit of God.”
appeared so rigorous, has not acted as a tyrant, The design of the gospel with regard to but as a lenient legislator, and a compassionate truths of the second order has been to substi- Father, whose sole design was to provide for tute authority for reason, to substitute the de- the wants of his creatures. This appears at cisions of Jesus Christ for the natural weak- first insupportable. It seems that the love of ness of man, who is inadequate to discover God would have shone in the gospel with quite these things. One cannot therefore be a Chris- a different lustre had it been his pleasure to extian unless one bow down to divine authority. ercise over us a sovereignty less despotic; had By consequence, to be a Christian one must be he left us the uncontrolled disposal of our faborn again, and change our ideas; hence the culties, and had he been mindful to dispense religion of the unregenerate, and that of a with those renovations which cost so much to Christian are not only different, but incom- the flesh. I am confident, however, of demonpatible.
strating to you, that had God relaxed any part What we have said on the change of ideas of this pretended rigour, he must have rewe equally affirm with regard to the other trenched it from your happiness. changes, in which we have made the nature The happiness of man demands that religion of regeneration to consist: but the limits of should effectuate a change in his ideas in the our time, and the importance of the subjects, sense already explained; the happiness of man which remain for discussion, prevent our prov- demands that Jesus Christ himself should coning it in all its extent.
descend to exercise a sovereign control over 2. An unregenerate man follows his own our reason, and bimself decide whatever we will, and admits no rule of conduct, but that ought to believe on the subject of religion. of his passions. He becomes attached to vir. To the proof of this we now proceed. tue, when it may happen to be in unison with One of the most dangerous, and at the same his humour, with his disposition, with his time the most cruel, dispositions of the mind, worldly interests. But these principles are is to revoke in doubt the fundamental truths wholly incompatible with those of a Christian, of religion. Assuredly this is one of the most who has vowed, on embracing Christianity, to dangerous, for that doubt plunges us into one renounce his own will, and to acknowledge no abyss after another. The speculative truths rule of conduct but the laws of Christ; and to of religion are the basis on which the practical become attached to holiness, whether it may ! are supported. The basis of this practical
truth, that we must detest injustice, is a belief undertaking it, and reduces me to an incapathat there is a God who detests it. If you bility of discharging it. hesitate with regard to the speculative truth, In this state Jesus Christ extends to me his that there is a God who detests injustice, you hand. I find a religion which demonstrates will hesitate with regard to the practical truth, its divine authority by proofs so adapted to my that we ought to detest injustice.—The founda- capacity, that a serious attention, aided by a tion of this practical truth, that we ought not moderate capacity, suffices to perceive its force. to love the world, devolves on the speculative I find a religion which guides me to eternal truth, that the friendship of this world draws life. I understand this truth which decides on down the enmity of God. If then you should all the propositions, on whose account I had hesitate with regard to the speculative truth, doubts so cruel and dangerous: this truth subthat the friendship of this world attracts the stitutes, if one may so speak, the Spirit of enmity of God, you would hesitate with re- God for the knowledge of inan; it requires that gard to the practical truth that we ought not truths so important, which have so great an into love the world, Jam. iv. 4.
fluence on my happiness, shall not be decided But it is equally cruel as dangerous, to che- by the wisdom of man, but by the spirit and rish doubts with regard to the fundamental wisdom of God. Let us acknowledge it, my doctrines of religion. You do not feel the brethren, let us acknowledge that there is no cruelty of this disposition, now that you have thing more assortable to the wants of man a little health, a little strength, and a share of than a religion formed on this plan; there is noprosperity; you consider the game of life which thing we can more desire than the like tribunal; you play, as the most important subject that and there is nothing more advantageous than can occupy your mind: but when you shall an entire submission to its decisions. enter into yourselves; when you shall extend But if the happiness of man demand that your views beyond your senses, and the con- religion should require a change of his ideas in fined circle of surrounding objects; ah! when the sense we have explained, it equally requires you shall arrive at the period in which the that he should change the objects of his pur world shall present nothing but a scene about suits. What men could wish, as most advanto vanish away; Oh! my God! how cruel will tageous, is, that Jesus Christ should condescend those doubts then appear! when you shall be to leave to themselves the sole care of their unable to satisfy your mind on those most im- happiness. Two considerations withhold our portant inquiries. Am I only a material sub assent to this notion. The first is, that we are stance, or is this material substance united to a not sufficiently aware of our ignorance when spiritual substance? Will this spiritual sub- we form imaginary schemes of happiness; the stance to which my body is united be involved second is, that we have no idea of the manner in its dissolution, or will it rise above its ruins in which the Saviour loves, nor in what reIs the religion to which I have adhered, the re- spects he really loves mankind. ligion of Jesus Christ, or is it the religion of 1. Let us acknowledge our ignorance with anti-christ
regard to the schemes of happiness. Do we But is it possible for one to avoid a disposi- really know in what true happiness consists tion so dangerous and cruel when one has no we who do not know ourselves; we who do other guide in the theory of religion than one's not know to what extent the faculties of the own ideas. I know that all men have propen- soul may be improved; we who know not of sities to religion on coming into the world; I what operations an intelligent being is capable know that "the gentiles who have not the law, who has ideas but of two or three substances, are a law unto themselves.” But after having and who wants information to know, whether seriously meditated on the confined limits of there are ten thousand substances besides those my understanding, on the force of my preju- we know; we who have had but perception of dices, on the rashness of my decisions, and on so a few sensations, and who could not form any many other truths which inducc me to distrust sort of notions of an infinity of others; of myself: when after having been profoundly en- whose attainment our souls are susceptible? gaged in these reflections, I find myself called Do we really know in what happiness consists? upon to determine by my own light on the We, who resemble those clowns who have grand question of religion; when I transport never gone beyond their village or hamlet, and myself into the midst of all those systems to who affect to judge of politeness, of high life, which the imagination of men has given birth; of courtly airs, of polished manners, of real when I find myself called upon to dissipate all grandeur, conformably to the ideas formed of those chaoses, to develope all those sophisms, them in those hamlets and villages? Do we and take a decided part among so many con- know in what true happiness consists. We, who troversies, and learned characters; when I find have never gone from the little spot of the unimyself, as before stated, left to determine by verse where the Creator placed, but not conmy own efforts whether the soul be immortal, fined us; we, who have never joined the choirs whether there be a Providence; and especially of angels, of archangels, of cherubim, of sewhen I say to myself, that on the manner in raphim? We, who have never been in the heawhich I shall determine these questions my venly city of God, in the Jerusalem from everlasting happiness or misery depends, that above, where the Divinity discovers the most to deceive myself is to destroy myself, and glorious marks of his presence, receives the that there can scarcely be a mistake on these adorations of the myriads who serve him, and grand points which may not be fatal; I frankly are continually in his presence?-Do we know avow that I fall under the weight, and that the in what true happiness consists? We, whose terror only excited by the magnitude of the taste is spoiled by intercourse with corruptible task imposed, deprives me of the courage of beings, with the avaricious, who think to be