« PreviousContinue »
fettered with the cords of love, and how the rebel is made a willing captive, we can no more tell, than we can tell “ how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child," Ecol. xi. 5. As a man bears the sound of the wind, and finds it stirring ; but knows not where it begins, and where it ends; “ so is every one that is born of the Spirit;" he finds the change that is made upon him; but how it is produced, he knows not.
One thing be may know, that whereas he was blind, now he seeth; but “the seed of grace doth spring, and grow up, be knoweth not how." Mark iv. 20, 27.
In both, the creature comes to a being it had not before. The child is not, till it be generate; and a man has no gracious being, no being in grace, till he be regenerate. Regeneration is not so much the curing of a sick man, as “ the quickening of a dead man.” Eph. ii. 1, 5. Man in bis depraved state is a mere non-entity in grace, and is brought into a new being by the power of him “ who calleth things that be not, as though they were ; being created in Jesus Christ unto good works,” Eph. ii. 10. Therefore our Lord Jesus, to give ground of hope to the Laodiceans, in their wretched and miserable state, proposed himself as the “ beginning of the creation of God;" Rev. iii. 14. namely, the active beginning of it; for all things were made by him at first, John i. 3. From whence they might gather, that seeing he made them when they were nothing, he could make them over again, when worse than nothing: the same hand that made them his creatures, could make them new creatures,
As the child is merely passive in generation, so is the child of God in regeneration. The one contributes nothing to its own generation, neither does the other contribute any thing, by way of efficiency, to its own regeneration; for though a man lay bimself down at the pool, yet he hath no band in moving of the water, no efficacy in performing the cure. One is born the child of a king, another the child of a beggar: the child hath no band at all in this difference. God leaves some in their depraved state; orbers he brings into a state of grace or regeneracy. If thou be thus honoured, do thanks to thee; for who maketh thee to differ from another ? 1 Cor. jv. 17.
The carnal mind, in every age of the Church, hath been disposed to receive the doctrine of regeneration as a mere figure of speech. They are unable to explain it upon any principles of their own, and therefore wish, of all things, to class it under the character of me taphor, or parable.
But it will be found by all the unawakened and unregenerated, in eternity, an awful reality to them. I well remember to have heard it said concerning a prelate of the highest rank in the esta blishment, who, in the close of life, expressed himself on this subject in these very solemn words--"I have read (said he) much on the subject of regeneration, and I have beard much upon it ; I should hope it is, after all, but a mere figure of speech; but if it be a real truth, I can only say, that I know nothing of it in my own experience,” What a dreadful confession this for a man in his dying
Our blessed Lord, wbo brought life and inmortality to light by bis gospel, brought this doctrine of regeneration also, as a fundamental part of that gospel, to the full and complete testimony of it, in his conversation with Nicodemus the Jew, John iii. 1—21. I beg the reader to pay a close attention to this blessed scripture, looking up to God the Holy Ghost to render it plain and intelligible; and, under his divine teaching, the doctrine itself cannot fail to appear in
its true light.
Let us inquire in what this new birth consists. Some make it to consist in water baptism. Baptism is an ordinance of Jesus Christ, which you should think highly of; but do not put it out of its place, by substituting it for quite another thing. I can find no scripture that says of baptism, this is regeneration : many confound the sign and the thing signified, and make them one and the same thing. The great design of Christ coming into the world was, to renew and regenerate men. This is a work of his own immediate hand, and yet we are told Jesus baptized not, but his disciples; a plain evidence that he made a distinction between baptism and regeneration, St. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, says, I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius. But if baptism be regeneration, bis meaning must be, I thank God that I regenerated none of you.
Some make it to consist in a round of external duties. You may profess religion, till you are damned. Outward forms will leave the soul as far from God, as a picture is from a man. Some make it to consist in speculation—in a sound creed-head kaowledge ; which is equally false and dangerous.
The phrase "born again" is metaphorical, and brings in natural things, with which we are familiarly acquainted, to assist our conceptions. At our first birth we become men, or partake of human pature; by our second birth we become Christians, are made takers of a divine and spiritual nature. As our first birth introduces us into this world and into human society; so our second birth introduces us into the Churei of Christ. As by our first birth we resemble our parents, at least in the principal lineaments of buman nature; so, by our second birtb, we are made partakers of the divine nature, we are made to resemble the blessed God in holiness, Eph. iv. 24. We are renewed after bis image, in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that wbich is born. of the Spirit is spirit.” President Davies.
Except a man be born again from above, be cannot see the kinga dom of God. He must bave a regeneration. And what is this te generation ? It is not to be christened in water, as these firebrands
(i.e. the Papists) would have it. How is it to be expounded then? St. Peter showeth, that one place of Scripture declareth another. St. Peter saith, And we be born again. How ? Not by mortal seed, but by immortal. What is this immortal seed ? By the word of the living God, by the word of God preached and opened: thus cometh in our New Birth
Latimer-Fox's Book of Martyrs.
Regeneration is a spiritual change. Conversion is a spiritual motion. In regeneration there is a power conferred : conversion is the exercise of this power. In regeneration there is given us a principle to turn; conversion is our actual turning. That is the principle whereby we are brought out of a state of nature into a state of grace; and conversion the actual fixing on God as the terminus ad quem.
In regeneration man is wholly passive; in conversion he is active. As a child, in its first formation in the womb, contributes nothing to the first infusion of life; but after it hath life is active, and its motion natural. The first receiving of us is wbolly the act of God, without any concurrence of the creature; but after we are received, we do actually and voluntarily live in his sigbt. Charnock.
The Evangelist John is clear on our side, touching this original and pedigree of it, both whence it is not, and whence it is, It is not born of blood, i.e. it belongs not 10, nor is brought forth in any, as they are men, made of flesh and blood; por as they are Abraham's seed according to the flesh; Rom. ix. 7. nor is it born of the will of the flesh, the carnal and sensual affections having nothing to do in the spiritual birth: nor of the will of man; the rational faculties, by which men are set above the rank of other creatures, even these contribute nothing to our divine sonship. But it is of God; Joha i. 13. i. e. it is his work alone, and the natural man has nothing to do in it; be is as perfectly unactive in it as the dry bones in causing themselves to live; (Ezek. xxxvii. 5.-9.) or as Lazarus in reviving himself; of whom it is said, “ He that was dead came forth, bound band and foot;” (John xi. 44.) which was such a demonstration of divine power, that the Pharisees themselves acknowledge, If they now let him alone, all men will believe in him. (ver. 48.) And if
be of the
ond hi ont la niks otely s of the tot
it were not so, the Lord alone should not be exalted. And with this falls in that other beloved disciple, James: “Of his own will begat he us;" ch. i. 18. 2 Pet. i. 3. i. e, by bis own divine power he forms and brings forth the new creation, without any assistance from the old, or co-operation of it. They contribute no more to it, than those who sleep in the dust, to their own resurrection. Peter, he also tells us, “ It is boru of incorruptible seed.” I Pet. i. 23. And John again, “ that it is born of the Spirit;" Jobo iii. 8. which is, plainly, to be the offspring of God. Of the same tenor is that of the prophet, “Thou hast wrought all our works in us." Isa, xxvi. 12. Aud that of Paul, “We are his workmanship.” Eph. ii. 13. As also that of the Psalmist, “ It is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves." We find it here, and in John, expressed both negatively and positively, as purposely and for ever to exclude whatever is in man from being so much as thought contributory to the New Creation; and that the whole work might be fathered upon God only, which is indeed the natural result of all those scriptures, which speak of it under the notion of a creature; which necessarily implies, that the whole of it, both matter and form, is from the Creator: for, in truth, a creature's fouudation is notbing, besides tbe good pleasure of God. It may further be noted, tbat in James, the Father of lights is said to beget it; and in the Galatians, Jerusalem, which is above, to be the mother of it; and in John as aforesaid, tbat it is born of the Spirit. Now if father avd mother, begetter and bringer-forth, are both in heaven; what shall the inau of earth found his pretensions upon, as to the parentage of the New Creature ?
Elisha Cole In regeneration the mind is savingly enlightened. There is a new light let into the understanding, so that they who were “ sometime darkness, are now light in the Lord,” Epb, v. 8. The beams of the light of life make their way into the dark dungeon of the heart; then the night is over, and the morning light is come, wbich will shine more and more unto the perfect day. Now the man is illuminated,
In the knowledge of God. He has far other thoughts of God than ever be had before, Flos. ii. 20. “ I will even betroth thee