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flesh, and che sorceries of a tempting world, assaulting the una advised unwary heart with its deceitful pleasures, almost stifle these small beginnings of piety; and for months, sometimes for years together, so violently overpower them, that all their attempts against them seem to be in vain. Yet there are still, in these persons, remorses of conscience, awakening them at times, languid resolutions, and vanishing purposes,of reforming their lives, till by the infinite efficacy of divine grace, insinuating into the languid and decaying breast, they awake as from a deep sleep, and with the greatest sorrow for their past life, and utmost seriousness, apply to the careful practice of piety; the warmth of their zeal then breaks forth being exceedingly desirous to shew, by brighter flames, its having been unwillingly kept smothered under the ashes. Augustine has given us in his own person, a representation of this state in the excellent book of his confessions.
XX. But the Elect are not all favoured with regenerating grace in their infancy. There are some adult persons whom God regenerates, and at once effectually calls, and converts, in the second act, from a worldly and hypocritical condition, or even from a state of profligate wickedness. Thus it is with those, who are born and brought up without God's covenant, or even of those who living where this covenant is dispensed, have sold themselves wholly to sin, Satan and the world. The regeneration of these is usually followed with great consternation of soul and sorrow for sin, with a dread of God's fiery indignation and incredible desires after grace, together with an inexpressible joy, upon finding salvation in Jesus, and a wonderful alacrity in the service of the Lord, which they can scarcely contain. All this may be observed in the jailor of whom we read, Acts xvi.
XXI. On this depends the solution of that question, when ther we are to look upon any as born again, but those who can specify the time, manner and progress of their regeneration ? None indeed are here to be flattered or soothed, as to think it lawful for them securely to presume on their regeneration : but then the consciences of believers are not to be racked with too severe a scrupulosity. We cannot determine this point without a distinction : we have just shewn, that the progress of regeneration is various. Adult persons, who are brought altogether froin a carnal to a spiritual life, indeed may, and ought exactly to know the beginning and manner of so great a change. They who, though regenerated in infancy, have yet been carried away by the entanglernents of the world,
and and for some time have struggled, as it were, with destruca tion, but afterwards have been roused by the grace of God, made to renounce the world, and give themselves wholly to piety, such as we described, sect. 17. These may, and it is their duty to recollect, not so much the beginning of their very first regeneration, as the process of that actual and thorougir conversion. But it would be wrong to require those, who, being regenerated in their infancy, have grown up all along with the quickening spirit, to declare the time and manner of their passage from death to life. It is sufficient if they can comfort themselves, and edify others, with the fruits of regeneration, and the constant tenour of a pious life. It is, however, the duty of all to recollect, not in a careless manner, the operations of the spirit of grace on their hearts : which is
highly useful, both for our glorifying God, and for our own - comfort and excitement to every duty. , ,
XXII. There cannot be the least' doubt of God's being the author of our regeneration. For we become his sons by regeneration, which were born of God, John i. 12. And even in this respect, the sons of God by grace, bear some resemblance to him who is the Son of God by nature : observing only the difference between the infinite excellency of our Lord, and that dark resemblance of it in us. Why is the Lord Jesus called the Son of God ? Because begotten of the Father, Psal. ii. 7. Wherein consists that generation of the Father? In this, that was the Father hath life in himself, so he hath given to the Son to have life in himself,” John v. 26. And why are we in communion with Christ, called the Sons of God ? because his father is our father, John xx. 17. How is he our father? “ He hath begotten us,” James i. 18. 1 John v. 4, 11. Wherein does that generation consist? “ He hath made us partakers of a divine nature,” 2 Pet. i. 4. Thus we åre even transformed into his likeness, and have upon ús no contemptible effulgence of his most glorious holiness.
XXIII. But there is here a special consideration of Christ : Who, as God is, together with the Father and Spirit, the principal, but economically considered, the meritorious and exemplary cause of our regeneration. For when he cast a vail over the majesty of the Son of God, took upon him human form, anel came in the “ likeness of sinful flesh, Rom. viii. 3. he thereby merited for all his elect, their advancement to the illustrious dignity of the sons of God; sons, I say, not anly by adoption, but by a spiritual and heavenly generation. The holy and glo. . rious life of Christ is also the most perfect of our new life, all VOL. I.
the excellence of which consists in a conformity with the life of Christ, who is the “ first-born among many brethren,” Rom. viii. 29. And we may add, that Christ, as the second Adam, is become not only by merit, but also by efficacy, a quickening spirit, i Cor. xv. 45. So that the regenerate do not so much live themselves, as feel, acknowledge and proclaim Christ lia ving in them, Gal. ij. 20. Phil. i. 21.
XXIV. What Christ declares of the Spirit, the author of res generation, deserves our consideration, John iii. 5. “ except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Here interpreters enquire, what we are to understand by water, and what by the spirit? There is one who by water understands the origin of our natural birth; compare ing with this place what we have Isa. xlviii. I. where the Israel. ites are said “to have come forth out of the waters of Judah,” and Psal. lxviii. 26. “ from the fountain of Israel ;” and then the meaning will be; besides that birth, whereby we are born men, there is still another requisite, whereby we are born the sons of God: which appears both simple and agreeable to scripture language. There is another, who understands by water, Christ's obedience; we doubt not but that is the meritorious cause of our regeneration; but wequestion whether it is ever called water in scripture. For no such thing appears from the scriptures they bring to prove it, Heb. X. 22. I John v. 6, 8. Ezek. xxxvi. 25. By water in these places we are more properly to understand the Holy Spirit with his operations. And it is evident, our Lord himself explains the passage in Ezekiel in this manner. Thecommon explication therefore is to be pres ferred, that one and the same thing is meant by water and the spirit,' as it is by the spirit and fire, Matt. iii. 11. For, no thing is more common in the sacred writings, than to represent the Holy Spirit under the emblem of water. See among other passages, Isa. xliv. 3.66 I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed :” where the former figurative expression is explained by the subsequent one, that is plain.
XXV. The seed of regeneration is the word of God. For thus, i Peter i. 23. born again not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, δια λογα ζωντος Θεα, και μετονος εις τον αιωνα, which may be translated, by the word of God, who liveth and abideth for ever; or, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ea ver. But this seed does not operate always in the same man. ner : for adult persons are born again by the word of God, laying before them the deformity, horror and misery of their natural life, or rather of their living death, and at the same time, the excellence of that spiritual life, of which Christ is the
author, fountain and pattern ; pressing them also by the most powerful exhortations, that, denying all carnal lusts and appetites, they may give themselves up to be new moulded and formed by the Spirit of God. And in this manner, the word is to them a moral instrument of regeneratioy, by teaching and persuasiori. If they also be thought to be regenerated of the
seed of the word, it is to be understood, not of the word exter. nally propounded, which they understood not; but of the truths contained in the word, the efficacy of which is imprinted by the Holy Spirit upon their minds, which they will come to the actual knowledge of when they grow up, but the word operates effectually in none unless when impregnated by the efficacy of the Spirit. To the external word must be added the interual, which is no less effectual than that word of God, whe:eby he commanded light to shine out of darkness.
XXVI. It is therefore incumbent on every person who would not profanely despise his salyation, diligently to read, hear and meditate on the word of God, and constantly attend on the public worship and assemblies of his people. For though before his regeneration, he cannot savingly hear, read or meditate on the word of God; yet how does he know which may be the happy hour of his gracious visitation ; which part of holy scripture, what sermon, and by whom, the Lord is to render effectual for his regeneration, by the supernatural efficacy of his spirit? Experience teaches this, that men are born again there where the word of God is preached; a thing which is not the case in those parts of the world which God favours not with the preaching of the gospel. And though we dare not assure any one, that if he continues in hearing the word, he shall certainly be born a. gain : yet we justly insist upon this, that there is a brighter hope of the wished for conversion for tho; e, whoin the best manner they can, use the means which God has prescribed, than forsuch as frowardly neglect them. While Ezekiel was prophesying to the dry bones, behold, a shaking was observed among them, and the breath (spirit) came and they lived, Ezek. xxxvii. 10.
XXVII. Let none think it absurd that we now speak of means for regeneration, when, but a little before, we rejected all preparations for it. We have above sufficiently proved, that none can contribute any thing to his own regeneration: yet God commands every one to “ make himself a new heart, and a new spirit,” Ezek. xviii. 31. to “ awaķe from sleep and arise from the dead," Eph. v. 14. and to “ flee from the wrath to come,”! Mat. iii.7. And what then? Shall we insignificant mortals pretend to reply to God, as if by our sophistry we could catch and entangle the almighty? shall we say, to what purpose are we : 3 A a
enjoined to what none of us can comply with? Shall we exclaim against the counsel of God, and cry out, “ since we can contribute nothing to our regeneration, is it not the best course we can take to put our hands in our bosom, and securely wait till he himself regenerate us?” But would not this be, with our vain and carnal reasonings, to argue with God, whose foolishness will be ever found wiser than our most exalted wisdom? How much better is it, when one hears these commands of God, and at the same time is sensible of his own incapacity, that he learn a holy despair of himself, and in sorrow, anxiety, and a longing desire of soul, and in the use of the means, patiently wait for the coming of the grace of God?
X VIII. Moreover, when a person touched with an unfeigned sense of his misery, and a sincere desire after his salvation, cries out with the jailor, “what must I do to be saved ??? Acts xvi. 30. even then so.ne pious emotions begin to arise, which proceed from an inward, but a very tender principle of new life, and which are solicitously to be cherished. For which purpose it is expedient, ist, That he frequently, and in as affecting a manner as possible, set before his eyes the most wretched condition of allunregenerate persons, and how himselfalso, while hecontinues in the state of nature, has nothing to expect but eternal destruction, a deprivation of the divine glory, and intolerable torments both of soul and of body ; and all this unavoidable, unless he be born again in the image of God. zdly, That, affected by this consideration, he cry, pray to, be earnest with God, and not give over crying till he has obtained his grace. Let him often reprezent himself to himself, as now standing on the very brink of the infernal lake, with the devil standing by him, who, should the supreme Being permit, would instantly hurry him headlong into bell: and in this anguish of his distressed soul, importune God, and, as it were, extort pardon by the warmest prayers, sighs and tears. 3dly, Let him, however, go on to hear, read and meditate on the word of God, expecting the farther motions of the spirit, as the diseased waited for the angel to move the waters of Bethesda 4thly, Let him join himself in society with the godly, and in the exercise of piety, endeavour to catch the Hame.of devotion from their instruction, example, and prayers.