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happy by making their heaps of gold and silver; ferred upon us the pleasures of eternity reservwith the impure, who think that happiness con- ed for virtue, could he not in this case bave sists in impudence, and in violating the bound- made a better provision for the happiness of aries of modesty; with the vain and haughty, man? That is to say, that because you have who think that to be happy one must be able obstinately adhered to your sins, you would to trace a pedigree with kings and princes in have God cease to be just; that is to say, bethe line of our ancestors; and that a connexion cause you have refused to be holy, you would with worms of earth, with dust, with those have the Holy One become an accomplice in phantoms of grandeur, can make us truly your crimes; to say all in a word, because you great? Do we know in what true happiness would not change your corrupt nature, you consists? No, Lord, if thou should this day would have him cease to be holy, who is all place my destiny in my own choice; if thou pure, all holy; I would say, purity and holishould bid me form for myself whatever kindness itself. For I do contend, that when the of happiness I should please; if thou should degree of indulgence which God has extended place before me the whole scale of grandeur to sinners in the gospel, is fully viewed, he and glory, leaving me at full liberty to take could not have extended it farther, without laywhatever portion I might please, I would en- ing aside his perfections. This is what was treat thee still to let me retain those bonds with understood when we indicated the necessity of which I willingly fettered myself on embracing regeneration for our third head, as founded on religion; I would address to thee the most ar- the attributes of God. This part demands our dent prayers, not to leave my felicity in hands serious attention. I will therefore proceed to so bad as mine, and that thou alone should be considerations of another kind, provided those the dispenser of my happiness. among you who have formed the habit of thought and reflection, will deign to follow me in this short meditation.
2. But we should especially feel how salutary it is, that Jesus Christ should require us to renounce ourselves with regard to schemes of III. The finest idea that we can form of the happiness, if we knew the greatness of his love Divinity; and at the same time, that which is to men. Yes, my brethren, if we fully knew the foundation of the confidence we place in this love, we should leave all to its decision. his word, and the assurance with which we Venture, O my soul, on this ocean of love rely on his promises, is that of a uniform Bethat thy Saviour expands in the gospel; lose ing, whose attributes have the exactest harthyself in the immensity of the love of God; mony, and who is always in perfect accordance make vigorous efforts to attain "to its length with himself. The want of harmony is chaand breadth, its height and depth, which pass-racteristic of the greatest imperfection in a eth knowledge." Ŏ think of what thy Re- finite intelligence; that when one of his attrideemer has done for thee. Think, that in the butes is opposed to another, or even at varibosom of the Father, enjoying infinity of de- ance with itself; when his wisdom fails to selights, he thought of thee. Think, that he cond, or rather to support his power, in such has come to thee, that he has clothed himself sort, that though he has means to collect mawith thy infirmities; that he has placed him- terials for building a town, yet he may want self in the breach before the tribunal of his the talent of arrangement; or, though he may Father; that he has covered thee with his per- have the wisdom of arrangement, yet he may son that the arrows shot by celestial anger be destitute of power to collect the materials. might not reach thee, but stick fast in himself It is the same in all like cases. This characalone; think that when enduring those tor- ter of imperfection, inseparable from all creatments which men and demons caused him to ed intelligences, is the cause of all our disapsuffer, he sustained himself by the thought pointments whenever we have placed our conthat his sufferings and death would render a fidence in an arm of flesh. Put not your creature happy who to him was unspeakably trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in dear; think, that from the height of glory to whom there is no help. His breath goeth which he was exalted after having finished the forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very work the Father had given him to do, he cast day his thoughts perish. Cursed be the man his eyes on thee, makes thy salvation his grand that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his concern, and tastes redoubled delights of feli- arm." Ps. cxlvi. 3, 4; Jer. xvii. 5. Why so? city by the thought, that thou must become a Because we cannot safely trust a being unless joint-heir with him. Lose thyself in this most he has the harmony of the perfections of which delightful, this ravishing thought, and see, see we have spoken, and because this harmony is now whether there be any thing hard, any never found in man. His power may be fathing difficult, any thing which ought not to vourable to you; but his wisdom failing in the transport thee with joy in the conditions which support of his power, he may make you misethy Saviour imposes, of sacrificing to him thy rable by the very means he employs to make imaginary schemes of happiness, and leaving you happy. His power also may not act in thy condition wholly to his love. unison with his wisdom. Though he may today be adequate to your wants, he may not be so to-morrow. This man, this first of men, who lives to-day, may die to-morrow; the breath which animates him, may be gone; he may return to earth, and all his flattering designs to promote your happiness shall vanish away. But this harmony of attributes, which cannot be found in the creatures, may be found in the Creator.
Is it then, speaking absolutely, beyond the Divine omnipotence to harmonize our happiness with our concupiscence? If God had testified a greater lenity towards our defects than what he has revealed in the gospel; if he had deigned to receive us into favour with our errors, prejudices, our passions, our caprices; and if after we have indulged during life in the pleasures of the age, he would have con
This principle being established, I discover, my brethren, in the perfections of God a new source of reasons for the doctrines already advanced; and I ask, which of the two religions best represents the Divinity as a Being, whose attributes are exactly harmonized, and ever in perfect unison with himself? Is it the religion of the regenerate, or that of the unregenerate? When is it that the power of God is in perfect accordance with the wisdom of God? It is when his wisdom destines to a certain end, the things proper for that end, which his power has produced. This is the idea of the Divinity every where found in the religion of the regenerate. God has provided in the gospel whatever is requisite to make us holy; light, motives, examples, aids. These are the effects of his power. The things which his power has afforded, so proper to make us holy, he has connected with their destination. God requires that we should be holy; these are the effects of his wisdom. Here is the harmony of his wisdom with his power; while, on the contrary, in the religion of the unregenerate there exists not the smallest trace of harmony between his wisdom and his power. God confers upon us in the gospel every requisite to make us saints: here is an effect of his power: but if he should dispense with our being made holy, what would become of his wisdom?
When is it that the goodness of God accords with his justice? It is when the rights of his justice are not invaded by the effects of his goodness. This is the idea of the Divinity which is given by the religion of the regenerate. God saves sinners; here is the effect of his goodness: but it is on condition of their renouncing sin; here is the right of his justice. See now the harmony of justice and goodness. On the contrary, in the religion of the unregenerate there exists no harmony between goodness and justice. God saves sinners; here is the effect of his goodness: but should he dispense with their being saved from sin, what would become of his justice?
When does the justice of God appear to accord with his goodness? It is when testifying his love of order on one occasion, he evinces no indifference for order on another occasion. This is the idea of the religion of the regenerate! His love of order has appeared in the most striking manner in the satisfaction he has required of the Redeemer. This love is demonstrated by the conditions under which he proposes to rescue the fruits of his passion. On the contrary, in the religion of the unregenerate, there is not the slightest harmony between his justice and his goodness. He requires of the Redeemer a perfect satisfaction. Here is the effect of his love of order. If he put the redeemed in possession of the fruit of his passion, however rebellious their passions, however execrable their purposes, however notorious their ingratitude, where would be his love of order? where would be the harmony of his goodness with his justice?
Let us therefore conclude, that unless God should renounce his perfections, unless he should set one attribute at variance with another, and sometimes the same attribute at variance with itself, he cannot save hardened sinners, without changing his own nature;
without setting one of his perfections against another, and even the same perfection against itself. And if the same perfection of God be at variance with itself, if one perfection be in opposition to another, if God must renounce himself, if the perfect nature of the Divinity be liable to change, as is supposed by the system I now attack, how can we in future repose confidence in his word? How can we venture on his promises? Let a God imperfect and contradictory be once supposed, (and such he is in your system,) let it once be supposed, that he has said you may enter heaven without regeneration, and all faith in his word, and reliance on his promises must for ever cease.
Thus, what we pledged ourselves to prove, we have endeavoured to execute; that to be a Christian, we must be born again. But we fear lest a remark we made in our first discourse, and which was repeated at the beginning of this, should frustrate our expectation. The proposition of our Saviour "ye must be born again," we said, ought to be restricted; that the term ought not to be applied indifferently to all; that it regarded those only whose sins separate them from his table; that one must not confound the change Jesus Christ requires of a man who is not a Christian, but would embrace religion, with that which he requires of a weak Christian who recovers from his defects.
This remark, then, so requisite to illustrate the nature of regeneration, does it not enfeeble, in some of our minds, the necessity of the change we proposed to establish? The evasions of the heart are innumerable, and when the multitude of those Christians is considered to whom "our gospel is hid, because the god of this world hath blinded their mind," I fear lest many nominal Christians should reason in this way: at least, so far as to say, that what we enforce concerning the necessity of regeneration does not concern them. I belong to a Christian congregation, and though some farther reformation must yet be effectuated in my conduct, it is only such as Jesus Christ requires of the weak and wandering Christian; I am not the character which he requires to be born again. My brethren, if I have opened a breach, I must endeavour to heal it; if I have given occasion to false inferences, I must endeavour to correct them; if I have preached the necessity of regeneration in general, I must now preach it in particular, and as applicable to Nicodemus, to whom Jesus Christ spake; and in drawing the character of many of my hearers, and say to them as the Saviour said to Nicodemus, "marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again; Verily, verily, I say unto thee, that except a man be born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."
What was the character of Nicodemus? Nicodemus was one of those men who temporize between Christ and the world; whose minds are sufficiently enlightened to know the truth, but who have not a sufficiency of courage to honour it, except it can be done without danger; who would indeed be saved, but who cannot find resolution to make all the sacrifices which salvation requires; who come to Christ, but they come by night; who are Christians in
judgment, but they dare not avow it to the Jews.
What was the idea which Jesus Christ formed of the real state of this ruler in Israel? What duties did he impose upon him? On what conditions did he receive him for a disciple? Did he regard him as already a Christian? Did he require merely the change which subsists in a weak and wavering Christian, or the change indispensable in one who is yet in a carnal state? Did he prescribe the merely superficial change, or require the transformation of a new birth? It is not you, my brethren, but the gospel, which gives the answers to these inquiries. Jesus Christ said to this doctor, to this man, who was a teacher from God, to this man whose mind was enlightened to know the truth, to this man who wished to be saved, who came to him, and who was a Christian in judgment; Jesus Christ said, "Except a man be born again he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again."
But why did the Saviour address the ruler in so decided a manner? Because the ruler was a Christian in judgment, and would not be one in conduct; because this man came to him by night, and would not come by day; because this man wished to be saved, and would not make the sacrifices which salvation required; because this man was sufficiently enlightened to know the truth, and had not courage to avow the truth; and to say all in one word, because this man was a servant of God by profession, and at the same time a servant of the world; because such a man, according to the morality of Jesus Christ, cannot be a Christian; I would say, he cannot, conformably to the new covenant, be a member of the Christian church. "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again he cannot enter 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?"
Conclude then, my brethren; preach, and make yourselves the application of this discourse: see then to what end you pervert our doctrine, that one must not confound the change Jesus Christ requires in a man who has not yet embraced Christianity, with that he requires of a weak and inconstant believer! But ah! we must not abandon so important a conclusion to the caprice of man; it belongs to us to enforce it; it belongs to us to make its whole evidence, its whole propriety felt as much as is in our power; it belongs to us to unite our whole mind, and strength, and voice, to dissipate, if possible, so many evasions which the most part of us cease not to oppose to the decisions of eternal truth.
First, the whole of what we have said on the necessity of regeneration, has a direct bearing on you, the true disciples of Nicodemus; who, finding yourselves in similar circumstances, adopt a similar conduct; and unable to come to Jesus Christ by day without danger, venture to approach by night: you, whom we know not for the future how to determinate, because of certain feelings of com
passion we cannot eradicate, and which forbid the refusal of the appellation of brethren; but which a supineness of many years continuance, does not allow us to regard you as Christians. These incessant evasions; those procrastinations of making an open profession of religion; these complicated pretexts; these frivolous excuses; this obstinate resistance of the voice which cries, "Come out of Babylon, my people;” all these dispositions which give you so striking a resemblance to Nicodemus, and which give you so just a title to be called Nicodemites, do but too much justify the proposition addressed to the Rabbi, your hero, and your model, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." Verily I say unto you, if you do not abjure so monstrous a system of religion on which you form your conduct, if you continue to confound the communion of light with darkness, and Christ with Belial; if you persist in the wish to drink the cup of Christ, and the cup of devils; if you rally not under the banners of the reformation, and seek places where you may profess Christianity, verily I say unto you, that you cannot enter the kingdom of God; and that so far as you shall resemble Nicodemus, so far will the declaration of Christ affect you as Nicodemus.
But what is it I say, that you are like Nicodemus? Ah! your state is incomparably worse. What do I say, that the words of Christ regard you as they regarded Nicodemus? They regard you in a more serious manner. Nicodemus feared the Jews, but you have nothing to fear from them. Where are the barriers, where are the guards, where are the obstacles which hinder you from emigrating to a land of liberty? Where are the galleys? Where are the dungeons? Where are the fagots reserved for those only who bid defiance to them? Nicodemus neither built houses, nor formed establishments, nor married his children, in a country which his conscience pressed him to abandon: these are modes of conduct which seem reserved to you. Nicodemus had not promised, had not sworn on the august symbols of the body and blood of Christ, that he would decide for the true religion; but many of you have taken this solemn oath, and after having unworthily violated it, you sleep secure in carnal enjoyments. Nicodemus had not been exhorted for ten, for twenty, for thirty years, to come to a decision; but we have announced to you for ten, twenty, or thirty years, in the name of God, that "without are the fearful." "Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.-Whosoever shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, before this adulterous and sinful generation, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father, and with his holy angels. If any man shall worship the beast and his image, or receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God; he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone; and the smoke of their torment shall ascend for ever and ever," Matt. x. 33; Mark viii. 38; Rev. xiv. 9-11.
Perhaps you will say, that we dwell too
much on terrific truths? Perhaps you will ask for whom these discourses are intended which can but directly interest such characters as are out of the reach of our voice? For whom are these discourses, do you yet ask? For some of those who hear us, whom God has saved from these calamities, but who hesitate, perhaps, about a relapse. For whom? For this father of a family, who has left his country, but unable to induce his children to follow, he has established them there; and they will curse him, perhaps, to all eternity, for having procured them worldly wealth at the expense of their immortal souls. It is for this father, that he may feel the horror of a crime which cannot be repaired by too many regrets, by too many sighs, by too many tears. For whom? For a very considerable number of ourselves, who have intercourse with those base Christians, to use unremitting efforts, that they may feel their situation, and be delivered from it. For whom? For you, our high and mighty lords, defenders of the faith, nursing fathers of the church, so often importuned by our solicitations, that you still deign to bear them; and that the protection you have extended to those who take refuge in your country, having but their souls for a prey, may encourage those to come hither, who yet remain in an idolatrous country. For whom? For the whole, how many soever we be, that impressed with the greatest of our calamities, we may endeavour to move by ardent prayers the bowels of a compassionate God, and prevail on him to rebuild the ruins of our Jerusalem, and the dust of our sanctuaries, and to restore to us the great number of souls which the persecution, and more so, the love of the world, have rent away. O God! "God of vengeance, a consuming fire, a jealous God: how long wilt thou be angry with the prayers of thy people? Ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence; give him no rest till he establish, and make Jerusalem a praise in the earth." O God, though we can indeed resolve to abandon our country for ever, yet we cannot resolve to abandon the soul of our brethren. O God, so long as access to the throne of thy mercy shall be open, we will thither approach to ask for the souls of our brethren; and so long as a single moment of life and strength shall remain, we will raise our suppliant cries, and say, "Behold, O Lord, and consider to whom thou hast done this! Return, O Lord, return to the many thousands of Israel." Shut the pit of the abyss which is ready to swallow up the souls of our brethren. Lam. ii. 20; Numb. x. 36.
from this discourse, which so naturally occur to my mind as those that a prophet declared to a queen of Israel; I would say, as Ahijah to the wife of Jeroboam, "I am sent to thee with heavy tidings," 1 Kings xiv. 6. And all those tidings are not less true than heavy. I confess my inability to comprehend the facility with which some people apply to themselves the evangelical promises, and arrogate the first place in the kingdom, into which Jesus Christ says, none shall enter without a new birth. Each of the articles in which we have made the nature of this change to consist, supplies us with arguments against this class of people.
To become a Christian, we must have other desires, other hopes, other sentiments, and other pursuits, than those of the world: unless you are born again, you can neither become a member of the church, nor apply to yourselves the promises made to the church. So long as you persist in conserving this conformity to the world, though against the better feelings of your heart, from the sole desire of not rendering the world implacable, or as the gospel says of some, "for fear of the Jews," you are not Christians; and thus the proposition of Jesus Christ is just as much demonstrated with regard to you, as with regard to Nicodemus, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."
This last article is worthy of our attention. There are some men, who, if they should follow their inclination, would wholly devote themselves to God, but are deterred from doing so, by I know not what shame, the world is pleased to attach to those who openly declare for virtue. For it must be remarked, that our age is come to that pitch of depravity which attaches a note of infamy on those who openly declare for religion, and thereby exposes them to a kind of persecution. This consideration induces Nicodemus to come to Jesus by night, "for fear of the Jews." Hers also is what hinders a vast number of men from glorifying the truth. Why does this young man affect outwardly to adopt certain airs of gallantry and profaneness, which he detests in his heart? It is "for fear of the Jews." Because it has pleased men of fashion to account those vices in youth a sort of courtly graces: it is because they attach a badge of infamy on a young man, who is chaste and pious, and expose him to a kind of persecution. Why is it in politics that one dares not openly avow, that religion is the best policy, and that the most consummate statesman cannot save his country when pursued by the vengeance of heaven? It is "for fear of the Jews;" it is be
But does the proposition of Jesus Christ solely regard the Nicodemites properly so call-cause we attach a note of infamy, and expose ed? Are all those Christians who belong to to a kind of persecution, the statesman who Christian communions? Among all our hear- does not make every thing depend on the iners, among those who adhere to our worship, terested maxims of carnal men. Why does who believe our mysteries, and who partake this pastor fail to magnify in his sermons the of our sacraments, is there no one to whom high morality of the gospel? It is "for fear of we may justly apply the words of the Saviour, the Jews:" it is because the world accounted "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man us visionaries, in fact, and persecuted us as be born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of disturbers of the public peace, when we confiheaven?" Oh! my brethren, what is the mi- dently enforced the truth. Do you, alas! fear nistry we are commissioned to exercise to-day? the Jews, like Nicodemus? Then you have What is the gospel which God has this day need like him to be born again. Do you come put into our mouth? I can draw no conclusions to Jesus only by night, like this Rabbi? Then
If in this economy of the proposition of Jesus Christ is as much de- will also support us. monstrated with regard to you, as with regard confusion we are born from above, we shall reto him: "Verily, I say unto thee, except a ceive the reward in the great day of universal man be born again, he cannot enter the king-regeneration; and we shall apply to ourselves the answer of Jesus Christ to St. Peter, when dom of God." that apostle had asked, "Behold, we have left all, and followed thee, what shall we have therefore?" Jesus said unto them, “Verily, I say unto you, that ye who have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel," Matt. xix. 27, 28. To sit on thrones with Jesus Christ when he shall come in his glory; O! what a motive, my dear brethren! Here is our support constantly to endure the cross, as he endured it. Here is our support to despise reproach, as he despised it. God grant us grace so to do. To him be honour and glory now and for ever. Amen.
Let us, my dear brethren, laying aside world-❘ ly prudence, seriously apply this doctrine; more especially if we are happy enough to know the glory of the gospel, let us never be ashamed to avow it; let us never blush to say, I am a Christian. It costs us much, in some situations, I fully agree, to make the avowal: but what matter? He who supported the martyrs on the fagots and piles; he who enabled St. Stephen to say, when the stones were falling on him, "Behold, I see heaven open, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God;" he who made the apostles exult in the midst of the greatest tribulations, saying, "Thanks be to God who hath always caused us to triumph in Jesus Christ:" the same God