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" of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the « Spirit is spirit”, Can auty man savingly believe in Christ, before he is able in the least degree to perceive the nature of the kingdom of God? And is it not by faith in Christ that the sinner enters into that kingdom ??
; tus · St. Paul affirms that “ The natural man receiveth “ not the things of the spirit of God; for they are fool“ ishness to him, neither can he know them; because “they are spiritually discerned 3. · The contrast between the natural man and the spiritual man, and indeed the whole context, fully proves, that he spoke of an unregenerate person, one in a state of nature, born of the flesh, and not of the Spirit: and would we know what & " things of the Spirit of God are foolishness" to such persons; another text from the same epistle informs us; “ The preaching of the cross is to them that perish fool" ishness 4.” Now can he, to whom the doctrine of a crucified Saviour is foolishness, and who cannot receive or know this doctrine and other truths connected with it, for want of spiritual discernment, be at the same time a true believer in Christ? or does the apostle mean, that this is the case with only some of the unregenerate ?
The language of St. John is equally decisive on this subject. “ As many as received him, to them gave he “ power to become the sons of God, even to them that " believe in his name; which were born of God 5."The concluding words of this passage evidently point out the source of that difference, which subsisted between the believing and the unbelieving Jews. The former being born of God, received Christ by faith, and were by adoption admitted into the family of God, and to all the privileges of his children: the latter notwithstanding their descént from Abraham, continuing unregenerate, rejected the promised Saviour, and were not owned as the children of God. -I am aware, that this text is confidently brought forward in proof, that faith
's John iii. 1-8. 2 Col. i. 13, 14. 3. 1 Cor. ii. 14.
4 i Cor. i. 18. 5 John i, 11-13.
precedes regeneration; and in that case it would stand single in Scripture: but a careful consideration of the passage and context is sufficient to evince, that this was by no means the evangelist's design.--Christ came to the Jewish nation as his own professing people, and they received him not: but a remnant received him, and were admitted to the privileges of the children of God. This remnant, were not distinguished from others, by their descent from the patriarchs, by a more docile and tractable natural disposition, or by the inclination of parents, teachers, or others, respecting them; but by a supernatural influence: they were born, not of blood, “nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but •ó of God."--So that regeneration was the immediate cause of their receiving Christ, and believing in his name; and adoption into the family of God with all its privileges was the effect. And this accords with the language of the same apostle in another place, “Whosoever believeth “ that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.”—Ilis faith is the effect and evidence of his regeneration, and not the cause of it. This is generally allowed to be the order of construction, where he says, “Every one that loveth is “.born of God;” and “ Every one that doeth righteous“ ness is born of God.” And by what rule of interpretation do we reverse it when speaking of faith?
• He that is dead in sin can only have a dead faith, and perform dead works: for living faith can only be predicated of a living subject. How then can the dead faith of an unregenerate sinner be the instrumental cause of divine life – But it may be readily understood, that, when the word of truth appears ,with convincing evidence to the natural understanding, and with alarining energy to the conscience; one man may be left under the power of carnal enmity to resist the light, or to flee from it; while the heart of another, under the regenerating-influences of the Holy Spirit, may be subdued, softened, humbled, and disposed to receive the truth in faith and love.- Men who are dead in sin may acquire much doctrinal knowledge, and have a natural conviction that the gospel is true; though their whole religion
be a notion and form, with a few transient emotions and affections : but, sometimes even while at a distance from instruction, when in urgent danger, or deep affliction, “ the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" takes possession of their souls. Then the truths, before coldly assented to, are recollected and believed in a more cordial manner, and living faith begins to produce all its genuine effects. This change of heart, I apprehend, is called in Scripture, being born again, born of the Spirit, born of God, begotten of God; it is regeneration, the beginning of sanctification: and the life thus communicated, is not merely light in the understanding, but spiritual perception and sensibility in the judgment and conscience, submission in the will, and holy love in the affections, though in a small and feeble measure. “As new-born babes desire the “ sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.”
The language used concerning those who believed the gospel, confirms this conclusion. Thus when Apollos visited Corinth, he “ helped them much, who had believ“ed through grace." The word grace may mean, either the special sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit, or unmerited mercy; and the former seems here to be meant; but if the latter signification be insisted on, St. Paul expounds the passage when he says, “God who is rich in “ mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even “ when we were dead in-sins, hath quickened us together 56 with Christ;-by grace ye are saved"." “ For we " ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, de“ ceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in “ malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But " after that the kindness and love of God our Savi" our toward man appeared, not by works of righteous“ ness which we have done, but according to his mercy “ he saved us by the washing of regeneration, and renew“ ing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly " through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified “ by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the “ hope of eternal life 2." Now it is evident beyond dis
pute, that in the judgment of the apostle, as here stated, the first effect of the Lord's special love to those who are dead in sin and slaves to divers lusts, consists in quickening and regenerating them; and they are regenerated, that they may be justified, by being made capable of believing in the Lord Jesus Christ,
In like manner, when the gospel was preached at Antioch, “ the hand of the Lord was with them,” (both the teachers and their auditories,) “ and a great number be“ lieved, and turned to the Lord'.” By the regenerata ing power of the Holy Spirit the dead in sin were made alive to God, and in consequence, they believed and turned to the Lord as his worshippers and servants.--Here the distinction between regeneration and conversion, though often treated as scholastick and subtile, ought to de noted. We are passive in receiving divine life, though it may be communicated while we are using the appointed mcans, or bestowing much diligence from natural principles : but we are active, in turning to the Lord by true repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. The former is regeneration, the latter conversion: and it has principally arisen from the disregard of this obvious, and I must add important, distinction, (important to accurate views and just reasoning in controverted subjects) that many have spoken of regeneration as the effect instead of the immediate cause of faith: for it cannot be denied that conversion, the soul's active turning itself to the Lord, is always the effect of faith, in some of its exercises, and generally of explicit faith in Christ; but then regeneration precedes both faith and conversion, as the cause and source of them; in the same manner that life precedes all kinds of vital motion,
“I have planted,” (says the apostle,)." and Apollos "watered: but God gave the increase.” Surely this proves that no wisdom of words or excellence of speech ; no full and faithful declaration of the truth; no clear explanations, conclusive arguments, or apt illustrations ;
1 Acts xi, 21:
no eloquent addresses to the passions, or solemn appeals to the conscience; no alluring representation of the Sa. viour's compassion and love; no urgent persuasions or alarming expostulations; no power of truth forcing it. self upon the understanding; no undeniable miracles wrought before men's eyes, or even on their persons; no, not even the gift of miracles itself, can prevail with an unregenerate sinner to welcome the humbling holy salvation of the gospel. His carnal mind will, after all, be “ enmity against God :” and as it is not, and cannot be subject to the law; so it will certainly either reject or abuse the gospel, which was expressly intended to “ magnify the law and make it honourable." “ Do we “ then make void the law through faith? God forbid; “ yea we establish the law.” A dead faith, a presumptuous confidence, selfish affections, and formal worship and obedience, is the sum total, which can be produced without regeneration.
« God commended his love to us, in that while we “ were yet sinners Christ died for us.”—“ God was in “ Christ reconciling the world unto himself.” Thus the way of reconciliation was opened. He sent his ambassadors of peace, and by them besought us to be reconciled to God: and thus the way of reconciliation was made manifest. He regenerates our souls; and then we repent, believe, are justified and reconciled, and become the friends of God; and we may adopt these words: “ If when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God “ by the death of his Son; much more being reconciled “ we shall be saved by his life".” “ You, who were “ some time, alienated, and enemies in your minds by “ wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 2.”
The apostle says in one place, “ They that are in the “ flesh cannot please God.” And in another he states that “ Enoch before his translation had this testimony “ that he pleased God. But without faith it is impos66 sible to please him ; for he that cometh unto God “ must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of