صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


be baptized, which is called “the washing of ¡monides affirms, that the children with which regeneration;"** but that greater renovations an Egyptian woman is pregnant at the time she must take place in the heart, than what water becomes a proselyte, are of the second birth. can produce on the surface of the body. Hence some Rabbins have had the odd and

With regard to the other expression, “To confused refinement to suppose, that there is be born again,” it is susceptible of a double an infinity of souls born of I know not what

The original term may perhaps be so ideal mass; that those destined to the just, lodge translated; so is its import in various places, in a certain palace; that when a pagan emwhich are not of moment to recite here. It braces Judaism, one of those souls proceeds from may also be rendered, born from above; as in its abode, and appears before the Divine Mathe third chapter of St. James, “ The wisdom jesty, who embraces it, and sends it into the from above is first pure, then peaceable.” In body of the proselyte, where it remains; that this text, the original term is the same as that as an infant is not fully made a partaker of which we here translate born again; but though human nature, but when a pre-existent spirit the variation might attract the critic's attention, is united to its substance in the bosom of its it ought not to divert the preacher; for to mother, so a man never becomes a true prosewhichsoever of the readings we may give the lyte but when a new spirit becomes the subpreference, the idea of our version invariably stitute of that he derived from nature.* corresponds with the design of the Holy Ghost, Though it be not necessary to prove by nuand with the sense of the original. The uni- merous authorities the first remark we shall form intention of Jesus Christ must be to dis- make on the words of Christ, “ To be born of tinguish our state of grace from that of na- spiritual water," and to be “born again,” it is ture. The state of nature is low and grovelling; proper at least to propose it; otherwise it would that of grace is noble and sublime; consonant be difficult to account for our Saviour's reto what our Saviour said unto the Jews, “ Ye proving Nicodemus, as being "a master in are from beneath, I am from above,” John viii. Israel and not knowing these things.” For a

Now for men whose birth is mean and doctor in the law does not seem reprehensible grovelling, to acquire a great and noble descent, for not understanding a language peculiar to they must be born anew; thus to be born from Jesus Christ, and till then unheard of; whereas above, and to be born again, are the same thing; the blame naturally devolved on this Jew for and both these readings, how different soever exclaiming at expressions familiar to the Rabthey may appear, associate in the same sense. bins. No doubt, Nicodemus was one of those It is of much more importance to remark on men, who, according to an ancient and still the words which follow, "Born of water and existing abuse, had superadded to his rank and of the Spirit;" first, that they are Hebraisms; dignity, the title of doctor, of which he was and we have found the authorities so nume- rendered unworthy by his ignorance. Hence rous, that we have had more difficulty in re- the evangelist expressly remarks, that he was jecting the less pertinent than in making the ruler of the Jews; "" "a ruler of the Jews!">• selection.

here are his degrees; here are his letters; here The Jews call the change which they pre

is his patent. sume their proselytes had experienced a spi- But Jesus Christ, and this is my second reritual birth; a new birth; a regeneration. It was mark, in borrowing, corrected the language of one of their maxims, that the moment a man the Jews. He meant not literally what he said became a proselyte, he was regarded as a child, to Nicodemus, that to enter the kingdom of once born in sin, but now born in holiness. God, or according to the language of Scripture To be born in holiness, was, in their style, to be and of the Jews, to be a disciple of the Messiah, born in the covenant; and to this mode of one “must be born again:” he never imbibed speaking, St. Paul apparently refers in that re- the notion, that a man on embracing Chrismarkable passage in the first Epistle to the tianity, receives a new soul to succeed the one Corinthians, vii. 14. “The unbelieving hus- he received from nature; he had not adopted band is sanctified by the wife, and the unbeliev- the refinement of the Jewish cabalists, concerning wife is sanctified by the husband; else were ing the pre-existence of souls. The expresyour children unclean, but now are they sions are figurative, and consequently subject holy.”—“Now are they holy;" that is, they to the inconveniences of all similes, and figuare accounted as born within the covenant. rative language in general. The metaphor he Consonant to this notion, the Jews presumed employs, when representing by the figure of that a man on becoming a proselyte, had "a new birth,” the change which must take no longer any consanguinity with those to place in the soul of a man on becoming a whom nature had joined him with indissoluble Christian; this metaphor I say, must be ties; and that he had a right to espouse his

1. Restricted. sister, and his mother, if they became prose

2. It must be justified. lytes like himself! This gave Tacitus, a pagan

3. It must be softened. historian, occasion to say, that the first lessons 4. It must be fortified. the Jews taught a proselyte was, to despise the 1. The expression of Jesus Christ must be gods, to renounce his country, and to regard restricted. We cannot well find the import of his own children with disdain.t And Mai- any metaphor, unless we separate whatever is


[ocr errors]

* Our learned Mede prefers the literal reading of * When our Saviour says, that neither the blind man, Titus iii. 6. The washing of the New Birth, and the re- nor his parents, had sinned in a pre-existent state, he newing of the Holy Ghost. From this distinction of St. obviously decides against this doctrine of Pythagorus and Paul, many divines distinguished the New Birth as the the Rabbins. How can a holy God send a holy soul into entrance on Regeneration.-The Translator,

a sinful body? And St. Paul says, that Levi paid tithes | Book i. chap. 5.

in the loins of Abraham.J.S.

[ocr errors]


extraneous to the subject to which it is applied. I who has not yet embraced Christianity, with
The ideas of all authors whatever would be that required of a weak and wandering Chris-
distorted, 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 devia-
regard 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 bas 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


them; the more they would frustrate the pro- 2. The comparison must be restricted to the
posed design, should we not avail ourselves of change itself, which Jesus Christ requires of
this precaution. What absurd systems have those to whom it ought to be applied. But in
not originated from the license indulged on the what respects are those things called a new
comparison of Jesus Christ concerning the ties birth? The metaphor concentrates itself on a
which unite us to himself, with the connexion single point; that as an infant on coming into
they have with the aliments which nourish us, the

world, experiences so great a change in its
and which by manducation, are changed, if we mode of existence in regard of respiration, of
may so speak, into our own substance Pro- nourishment, of sight, and of all its sensations,
perly to understand this comparison, we must and so very different from what was the case
restrict it. We must be aware that it turns on prior to its birth, as in some sort to seem a new
this single point, that as food cannot nourish creature; so a man on passing from the world
us, unless it be received into the body by eat to the church, is a new man compared with
ing; just so, the religion of Jesus Christ will what he was before. He has now other ideas,
be unavailing, if we content ourselves with other desires, other propensities, other hopes,
regarding it in a superficial manner; neglect a other objects of happiness. If you should not
profound entrance into all its doctrines, and a make this restriction: but extend the metaphor,
close application of its maxims to the heart. you would make very injudicious contrasts be-
of other similes we may say the same. How tween the circumstances of the new, and of the
many are the insipid notions which arise from natural birth; and you would form notions,
straining the comparisons between the mystical not only unworthy of reception, but deemed
significance of the ritual law, and the myste- unworthy of refutation in a place like this.
ries of the gospel? I here refer to the types; II. But the change here represented by the
those striking figures, of which God himself idea of a new birth, is not the less a reality,
is the author, and which in the first ages of the for being couched in figurative language.
church traced the outlines of great events, Hence we have said in the second place, that
which could not take place till many ages after the expression of Jesus Christ must be justi-
they had been adumbrated by those figures. fied. In what does the change required of
On contemplating those types in a judicious those that would enter into fellowship with
manner, you will find support for your faith, him consist? In what does this new birth con-
and indisputable proofs of the truth of your sist? We have just insinuated, that it is a
religion. But to contemplate them in a just change of ideas; a change of desires; a change
point of view, they must be restricted in a of taste; a change of hope; a change of the
thousand respects, in which they can have no objects of happiness.
connexion with the object they are designed 1. A change of ideas. An unregenerate
to represent. Into how many mistakes should man, unacquainted with Jesus Christ, is wish-
we 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: Je-
under 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 discern-
on his mysterious pectoral; just so, the mediato- ment.
rial office of Christ consisted in reconciling I have no clear idea of the manner in which
God to the men, with whose nature he was my soul can subsist after the ties which unite

it to matter are dissolved. I do not properly Never had figure more need of this precau- know my soul by idea; I know it solely by sention; 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 i 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 I lime when my brain shall exist no more.

Vol. II.-50


I believe that my soul shall perform all these No one is ignorant of the noise which the operations when my body shall be cold, pale, doctrine of grace excited in the ages which immoyable, and devoured of worms in the followed; of the schisin of Pelagius, and of tomb: I believe it;--but why? Because this the immense volumes which the ancient faJesus to whom I have commended my spirit, thers heaped on this heretic.---The doctrines has said to the penitent thief, and in him to of grace have been agitated in the church of every true Christian, “ Verily I say unto thee, Roine: they formed in its bosom two powerful to-day shalt thou be with me in paradise," parties, which have given each other alternate Luke xxiii. 43.

blows, and alike accused each other of overI have no idea of this awful mystery, where- turning Christianity. No sooner had our reby a God, a God essentially One, associates formers raised the standard, than the disputes in his own essence a Father, a Son, and a Holy concerning the doctrines of grace were on the Ghost; that as the distinction with regard to point of destroying the work they had begun Paternity, Filiation, and Spiration, is as real with so much honour, and supported with sucas the union with regard to the Godhead. cess; and one saw in the cominunion they had These mysteries have no connexion with my just formed, the same spirit of division, as that knowledge; yet I believe them: and why? Be- which existed in the communion they had left. cause I have changed my ideas, because this The doctrines of grace have caused in this reJesus to whom I have yielded up my spirit, public as much confusion as in any other part this Jesus, after preaching the doctrine of the of the Christian world: and what is more deunity of God, has decided, that the Father is plorable is, that after so many questions discussGod, that the Son is God, that the Holy Ghost ed, so many battles fought, so many volumes is God: and he has said to his apostles, “ Go, written, so many anathemas launched, the and teach all nations, baptizing them in the dispositions of the public are not yet concilianame of the Father, of the Son, and of the ted, and the doctrines of grace often remain Holy Ghost."*

enveloped in the cloud they endeavoured to dissipate; and so much so that the efforts they

made to illustrate so interesting a subject, SERMON XCVIII. served merely to confuse and envelope it the

But how notty soever this subject may be, ON REGENERATION.

it is not my design to disturb the embers, and PART II.

revive your disputes. I would endeavour, not to divide, but to conciliate and unite your

minds: and during the whole of this discourse, John iii. 8.

in which the Holy Spirit is about to discover The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hear himself to you under the emblem of a wind, I

est the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence shall keep in view the revelation with which a it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one prophet was once honoured: God said to Elithat is born of the Spirit.

jah, “ Go forth, and stand on the mountain My brethren, it is not in our power to dis- before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed cuss the subject on which we now enter, with- by, and a great and strong wind rent the mounout deploring the contests it has excited in the tains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the christian world. In our preceding discourses Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and you have seen the nature, and the necessity of after the wind, an earthquake; but the Lord regeneration: we now proceed to address you was not in the earthquake: and after the earthon its Author; and to call your attention to quake, a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: this part of Jesus Christ's conversation with and after the fire, a still small voice: (a sound Nicodemus; “The wind bloweth where it list- coy and subtle.) Then Elijah, awed with reeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but verence at the divine presence, wrapped his canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither face in his mantle," and recognised the token it goeth: so is every one that is born of the of Jehovah's presence. The first emblems of Spirit.” How often has this subject armed this vision have been but too much realized in Christian against Christian, and communion the controversies of the Christian church: but against communion? How often has it ba- when shall the latter be realized Long enough; nished from the church that peace which it yea too long, have we seen “ the great and seems so much calculated to cherish? No strong wind which rent the mountains, and sooner had the apostles entered on their minis- brake in pieces the rocks.". Long enough; try, than they nagnified the doctrines of grace; yea too long, has the earthquake shook the pilbut in magnifying them, they seemed sent to lars of the church; but the Lord was not in set the world on fire. The Jews and the phi- the wind; the Lord was not in the earthquake. losophers, prepossessed in favour of human Yet at this very day the Vatican* kindles the sufficiency, revolted at a doctrine so opposed fire, and with thunderbolts in its hand, it preto their pride: they presumed on making a

sumes to determine, or rather to take away, progress in virtue, that they owed the praise the laws of grace: “but the Lord was not in solely to their own efforts of personal virtue. the fire.”

* The Vatican is a most magnificent palace at Rome; * The rest of this posthumous sermon is not in the origi- the residence of the Popes, and celebrated for its library. nal; neither is there any apology for the loss by the pres- The learned Varro says it took its name from the answers byters and deacons who edited the volume. The argu- or oracles called by the Latins raticina, which the Roments being resumed in the next sermon, and especially man people received there from a god of the same name, the sermon on " A Taste for Devotion," will, in some who was said to be the author of the first sounds of insort, develope the author's sentiments,

fants, which is va, from vagire, to cry.-J. S.

May this still small roice, the precursor of | logy, be careful not to injure his moral code; the Divinity, and the symbol of his presence, and under the plea of rendering man orthodox, be heard to-day in the midst of this assembly! do not make him wicked. As there is nothing Excite thy hallowing accents, in these taberna- so rare in the intercourse of life, as a certain cles we have built for thy glory, and in which equanimity of temper, which makes a man alwe assemble in thy name, O Holy Spirit, Spirit ways appear like himself, and unfluctuating, of peace: may thy peace rest on the lips and how much soever he may fluctuate in circumheart of the preacher; may it animate all those stances; so there is nothing more rare in the that compose this assembly, that discord may sciences than that candour of argument, which for ever be banished from our churches, and be in maintaining a proposition, we leave in full confined to the abyss of hell from whence it force some other proposition we had maintaincame, and that charity may succeed. Amen. , ed, and which we had had some particular rea

We must now illustrate the doctrine of the son for so dojng. There are some authors text, and state at large the ideas of the gospel constantly at variance with themselves. What respecting the aids of the Spirit of God, to is requisite to refute what a certain author adwhich regeneration is here ascribed by Jesus vances in a recent publication? We have but Christ, and without which we might justly ex- to adduce what he has presumed to establish in claim with Nicodemus at our Saviour's asser- a former work. By what means may we retion, “How can these things be?” With that fute what a preacher has just advanced in the view I shall propose certain maxims, which last sentences of a discourse? By adducing shall be as so many precautions one should what he presumed to confirm but a moment take when entering on this discussion, and before in the same discourse. Now, my brewhich will serve to guide in a road that con- thren, there is one point of the Christian doctroversies have rendered so thorny and diflicult. trine, on which this caution is very necessary; We shall afterward include in six propositions it is that on which we spake to-day. Let us all which seems to us a Christian ought to take care that we do not merit the censure know, and all he ought to do on this subject. which has been made on the most celebrated This is all that remains for me to say.

of the ancient advocates of grace* (whether Maxim 1. In the selection of passages on correct or incorrect I do not undertake to dewhich you established the doctrine of the aids termine;) the censure is, that when attacking of the Holy Spirit, be more cautious to choose the Manicheans, he favoured the cause of the those that are pertinent, than to amass a mul- Pelagians; and when attacking the Pelagians, titude that are inconclusive. The rule pre- he favoured the cause of the Manicheans. Let scribed in the beginning of this discourse, and us detest the maxims of certain modern preachwhich we shall inviolably follow to the end, ers concerning the doctrines of grace; that a not to revive the controversy, prevents my as- preacher should be orthodox in the body of his signing all the reasons that induce me to begin sermon, but heretic in the application. No; with this precaution. It is a general fault, and let us not be heretics either in the body or in indeed a very delicate propensity in defending the application of our sermons. Let us neither a proposition, to adopt with avidity, not only favour the system of Pelagius, nor that of the what favours it in effect; but what seems to Manicheans. Let us have a theology and a favour it. In the warmth of conversation, and morality equally supported. Let us take heed especially in the heat of debate, we use argu- not to establish the doctrine of the divine aids, ments of which we are ashamed when reason in a way that attacks the other doctrines, as returns, and when we calmly converse. Di- those men do; for God, who is supremely vines are not less liable to this fault than other holy, is not the author of sin. Let us take men. By how many instances might we sup- heed in expounding the passages which estaport this assertion? But not to involve myself blish the doctrine of grace, not to do it in a in a discussion so delicate and difficult, I only way which makes them impugn those pasremark, that if there be in our Scriptures an sages of Scripture, where God “invites all equivocal term, it is that of spirit. It is equi- men to repentance:” Rom. ii. 4. and where it vocal not only with regard to the diversity of is said, that "he is not willing that any should subjects to which it is applied, but also because perish, but that all should come to repentance," of the diversity of its bearings on the same 2 Pet. iii. 9; where he declares that “if we do subject. And what ought to be the more care- perish," " it is of ourselves," and only of ourfully noticed in the subject we discuss, is, that selves, Hos. xiii. 9; where he calls upon the it has significations without number when ap- inhabitants of Jerusalem to confess, that he plied to the aids of the Holy Spirit which hea- had taken all the proper care that his “vineven accords to men. Do not imagine that yard should bring forth grapes, though it every time it is said the Spirit of God is given brought forth wild grapes,” Isa. v. 3, 4; where to man, the gifts of sanctifying grace are to be he introduces himself as addressing to manunderstood. In very many places it signifies kind the most pathetic exhortations, and enthe gift of miracles. Select, therefore, the treaties the most ardent, to promote their conpassages on which you would establish the version, and as shedding the bitterest tears on doctrine of sanctifying grace; and be less soli- their refusal; as saying in the excess of his citous of amassing a multitude, than of urging grief, “O that thou hadst known, at least in those which are pertinent and conclusive. this thy day, the things that belong to thy Maxim 2. In establishing the doctrine of peace,” Luke xix. 41, 42.

“O that my peothe operation of grace, be cautious of overturn- ple had hearkened unto me,” Ps. lxxxi. 13; ing another not less essential to religion. When you establish this part of our Saviour's theo


“O that they were wise; that they understood | nor to make a crime of remaining where I am.” this; that they would consider their latter The second charge the first that in conferring end,” Deut. xxxii. 29.

too much honour on the powers of man, and in Maxim 3. Do not abandon the doctrine of affording him too much reason to believe he is grace, because you are unable to explain all still the arbitrator of his own will, they throw its abstruse refinements, or because you cannot the temptation in his way to crown himself reply to all the inquiries it may have suggest with his own merits, and to become the worked. There is scarcely a proposition which er of his own salvation. Now, supposing we could claim our assent, were we to give it to were obliged to choose either to lean to the those only whose several parts we can clearly pride of man, or to his corruption, for which explain, and to whose many questions we can must we decide? I am fully convinced that fully reply. This maxim is essential to all the the necessity of diligence, which is imposed sciences. Theology has what is common to all upon us, should not give any colour to our human sciences: and in addition, as its object pride: and you will see it instantly; you will is much more noble and exalled, it has more see that however great the application which points, concerning which it is not possible fully the best of saints may have made to the work to satisfy the mind. This is especially the case of their salvation, humility was their invariable with regard to the doctrine we now discuss. I sentiment. You will see that after having might, were it required, give you many de- read, and thought, and reflected; that having monstrations, that the nature of the doctrine endeavoured to subdue their senses, and to is such that we cannot perfectly comprehend sacrifice the passions God requires in sacrifice, it. We know so little of the manner in which they have believed it their duty to abase their certain ideas and certain sentiments are excit- eyes to the earth, and to sink into the dust ed in the soul; we know so little how the un- from which they were made; yea, always to derstanding acquiesces, and how the will de- say with the profoundest sentiments of abase termines, that it is not surprising if we are ment, "O God, righteousness belongeth unto ignorant of what is requisite for the under thee, but unto us shame and confusion of standing to acquiesce, and the will to deter- face," Dan. ix. 7. Hence, if we were obliged mine, in religion: we especially know so little to choose either a system which apparently faof the various means God can employ, when vours the pride of man, or a system which aphe is pleased to work on our soul, that it is parently favours his corruption, we could not really a chance to hit on the right one by hesitate, we must sacrifice the last to the first. which he draws us from the world: it may be The reason is obvious, because in leaning to by his sovereignty over our senses; it may be the pride of man, you do but favour one pasby an immediate operation on the substance sion, whereas, by leaning to the corruption of of our souls. But without having recourse to man, you favour every passion; you favour this mode of reasoning, the doctrine of my hatred, revenge, and obduracy; and in favourtext is quite sufficient to substantiate the maxim ing every passion, you favour this very pride I advance. I presume that you ought to admit you are wishful to destroy. Now, it must be the doctrine of grace, though you can neither incomparably better to favour but one passion, perfectly explain it, nor adequately answer all than to favour them all in one. the questions it may have excited. This is the Marim 5. In pressing the laws of grace, do precise import of the comparison Jesus Christ not impose the law of making rules so general makes between the agency of the Holy Spirit as to admit of no exceptions. I know indeed and the operations of the wind. The wind that God is always like himself, and that there bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the is a certain uniformity which is the grand chasound thereof, but canst not tell whence it racter of all his actions; but on this occasion, cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one as on many others, he deviates from common that is born of the Spirit.”

rules. There are miracles in grace, as in naMaxim 4. When two truths on the doc- ture: so you shall presently see, my brethren, trines of grace are apparently in opposition, in the use of this maxim, and in the necessity and cannot be reconciled, sacrifice the less im- of this precaution. portant to that which is of greater moment. II. Entering now on the doctrine of grace, Two truths cannot in reality be in opposition. and with the precautions just laid down, do It is a fact demonstrated, that two contradic- not fear to follow us into this troubled sea, how tory propositions cannot both be true; but the dangerous soever it may appear, and how limits of our understanding often present a abundant soever it may be, in shipwrecks. I contradiction where in reality none exists. I proceed to associate practice with speculation, frequently hear learned men expound the gos- and to comprise in six propositions all that a pel, but adopting different methods to attain Christian ought to know, and all he ought to the same end, they suggest difficulties alter- do, in regard to this subject. nately. Some press the duty of man; others 1. Nature is so depraved, that man, without enlarge on the inability of man, and on the supernatural aids, cannot conform to the conneed he has of divine assistance. The former ditions of his salvation. tax the latter with giving sanction to the cor- 2. That how invincible soever this corruption ruption of man: and the latter charge the for- may be, there is a wide difference between the mer with flattering the pride of man. The man who enjoys, and the man who is deprived first object to the second, that in totally de- of revelation. stroying the faculties of man, and in straining 3. That the aids which man can neither dethe necessity of grace, they anthorize him to rive from the wreck of nature, nor from exsay, “ Seeing literally that I can do nothing, Iterior revelation, are promised to him in the ought not to blame myself for doing nothing; gospel.

« السابقةمتابعة »