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regeneration in the scripture sense, then, whatever the scripture : says concerning persons regenerated, born again, or created
anew, will also hold true concerning persons baptized. This is šo plain a principle, that it is hard to make it plainer ; for if baptism be the same with regeneration, the new birth, or the new creation, then the same things may be said of it. Proceeding upon this obvious principle, let us make the trial in a few instances. It may be truly said of him that is born of God, in the scripture sense, that he does not habitually sin, &c. Now substitute baptized, instead of born of God, and consider how it will read, “ Every one that is baptized sinneth not ; but he that is baptized keepcth himself; and the evil one toucheth him not.” Has this the appearance of truth? Do not all of you know so much of the conduct of many who have been baptized, as to see this is most notoriously false ? for where can we find more audacious sinners upon earth, than many who have been baptized ! Let us make another trial. Whosoever is born of God, in the scripture sense, overcom. eth the world. But will it hold true, that whosoever is baptized, overcometh the world ? If any man be in Christ, in the scripture sense, he is a new creature ; old things are past away, and all things are become new. But how will it sound if you read, If any man be baptized, he is a new creature : old things are past away, and all things are become new ? Does baptism universally make such a change in the subject, as that it may, with any tolerable propriety be called a new creation ?-I might easily make the same experiment with many other passages of scripture ; but these may suffice as a specimen. And now, must it not be as evident as any mathematical demonstration, that regeneration, or the new birth, in the scripture sense, is something else, something more divine, more intrinsical, more transformative of the whole man, than baptism ? That man must labour to be deceived, who can work up himself to believe, after such a representation of the case, that if he has been baptized, he has all that regeneration which is nec. essary to his admission into the kingdom of heaven. I know no absurdity parallel to it, except the doctrine of transubstantiation, the characteristical absurdity of the church of Rome. Because Christ, in the distribution of the elements in the Eucharist, said of the bread, This is my body, putting the sign for the thing signi. fied, therefore Papists conclude, the bread is subst ntially the very same with the body of Christ signified by it, though it still retains all the sensible properties of bread. Some protestants VOL. II.
have fallen into the same error as to the other sacrament of baptism, and that with less plausibility. I can find no scripture that says of baptism, “ This is regeneration :" and yet, they insist upon it, that it is the very thing; and make the sign and the thing signified one and the same.
Let me borrow a very plain and popular, and yet substantial argument from Limborch.
“ The great design of Christ's coming into the world was, to renew and regenerate men; this is a work worthy of his own immediate hand." And yet we are told, Jesus baptised not, but his disciples. John iv. 2.
“ A plain evidence that he made a distinction between baptism and regen. eration. St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, says, I thank God that I have baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius. 1 Cor. i. 14. But if baptism be regeneration, his meaning must be, I thank God that I regenerated none of you. But is this cause of thanksgiving? Could he give thanks to God that he had not regenerated any of them ? Christ, says he, seni me not to baptize. But can we think Christ did not send the chief of the apostles to promote the great work of regeneration ? He elsewhere calls himself their spiritual father, for, says he, in Christ Jesus I have begotten you, through the gospel. I Cor. iv. 15. But if baptism be the new birth, he could not have been their father, or begotten them, unless he had baptized them. From which it is evident, that St. Paul made a great difference between baptism and regeneration."
Therefore, let no man deceive you with vain words. 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. Believe it, this is not that kind of regeneration which you must be the subjects of, if you would enter into the kingdom of God.
Another thing which I would now leave to yoar consideration is, whether regeneration, or the new birth, in the sense I have explained it, be not a rational, poble thing? And whether so great a change in a man's temper and conduct may not emphatically be called a new birth ? When a man is born again, the ru. ins of his nature are repaired, and every noble and divine grace and virtue are implanted in his heart. His heart is made capa. ble of generous sensations ; his understanding has suitable views of the most interesting and sublime objects ; and his temper and behaviour are rightly formed towards God and man. In short, the mean, depraved, earth-born creature, is made an infant-angel ; nay, St. Peter tells you, he is made partaker of the divine nature. 2 Pet. i. 4. What a glorious and surprising change is this ! Should you see a clod of earth rising from under your feet, and brightening into a sun, it would not be so glorious a transformation. This change gives a man the very temper of heaven, and prepares him for the enjoyments and employments of that sacred region.
Therefore, marvel not that I say unto you, ye must be born again. Do not gaze and wonder at me, as if I told you some strange, new, absurd thing, when I tell you, you must be regene. rated in the manner I have explained, if ever you would enter into the kingdom of heaven. Consult your own reason and experience, and they will tell you, that as heaven is the region of perfect holiness, and as you are indisputably corrupted, depraved creatures, you must be so changed, as to be made holy ; or in other words, you must be born again, before you can enjoy the happiness of that holy place : or consult the Bible, which you must own to be true, or own yourselves to be the most gross hypocrites in professing the christian religion ; consult your Bible, I say, and you will find the absolute necessity of being born again asserted in the strongest terms. Need I remind you of the solemn asseveration of Christ in my context, verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven? The same blessed lips have assured us, that, except we be converted, and become as little children, we cannot enter into his kingdom. Matt. xviii. 2. St. Paul speaks in the same strain : If any man be in Christ, as we all must be before we can be saved by him, he is a new creature, &c. We are his workmanship, says he, created in Christ Jesus to good works. Eph. ii. 10. In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but the new creature. All external forms of religion, whether Jewish or christian, are of no avail, without this new creation. Gal. vi. *15. This is also more than intimated in that comprehensive promise of the old testament, Ezek. xxxvi. 25, 26. A new heart will I give you ; and a new spirit will I put within you, &c. And are not these repeated declarations sufficient to convince you of the necessity of this great change? Will you any more marvel, when you are told, you must be born again ? No; rath. er marvel to hear the contrary : it may make you wonder indeed, to be told, that an unholy siņner, without any change, is fit for the presence of an holy God; fit to relish the holy enjoyments of heaven : and capable of being happy in what is direcily con. trary to his nature. This would be strange, absurd doctrine in. deed! and wherever you hear it, you may justly wonder at it, and despise such nonsense.
Now if this be true, that except a man be born again he cannot enter into the kingdom of God, then it will follow, that just as many persons in this assembly as have been born again, just so many are in a state of favour with God, and prepared for the happiness of heaven. And, on the other hand, just as many as are unregenerate, just so many lie dead in sin, under the wrath of God, and liable to everlasting misery. Let each of you particu. larly admit this conviction : “ If I am not born again, I have not the least ground to hope for happiness in my present state."
Upon this follows another inquiry, of the utmost importance ; and that is, Whether you have ever experienced the blessed change of the new birth? Have your views, your dispositions, and your conduct been changed in the manner described ? and can you lay claim to those distinguishing characters of a regenerate soul, which have been mentioned ? Pause, and think seri. ously ; recollect your past experiences ; look into your own hearts ; observe the tenor of your practice ; and from the whole, endeavour to gather an bonest answer to this grand question, “ Have I ever been born again ?"
If you can answer this in your favour, St. Peter will tell you the happy consequence ; and I shall only desire you to read those most comfortable verses, 1 Pet. i. 3-6. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again to a lively hope to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, re. served in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time ; wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season (if need be) ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.
But if, on the other hand, you find you have never been bom again, what is to be done ? Must you lie still in that condition ! or should you try to get out of it? I am sure my design in en. deavouring to let you see your condition, is, that you may escape out of it and be happy; and if you are so kind to yourselves as to cončur with me in this design, I hope, through divine grace, we shall succeed. This introduces the next inquiry, namely,
II. Who is the Author of this divine change, called the new - birth?
The change is so great, so noble, and divine, that from thence alone we may infer it can be produced only by divine power.
And the nature of man, in its present state, is so corrupt and - weak, that it is neither inclined nor able to produce it. It is also uniformly ascribed to God in the sacred writings. The regenerate soul is repeatedly said to be born of God; born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God John i. 13. All things are become new, says St. Paul, and all things (that is, all these new things) are of God. 2 Cor. v. 17, 18, Every good gift, and every perfect gift, says St. James, is from above and cometh down from the Father of lights--who of his own will hath begotten us with the word of Truth. James i. 17, 18. The Spirit is repeatedly mentioned as the author of the new birth, in the chapter where my text lies. This may suffice for the truth of so plain a point.
Here then, sinners, you see to whom you must look for this blessing. You can no more regenerate yourselves, than you coull beget yourselves at first. And this you must be deeply sensible of. But be that made you at first is able to new-make you, and to repair his own workmanship, which you have demolished. And it is he who has actually changed many a heart in our guilty world. Here the next inquiry comes in very seasonably, namely,
III. In what way does this divine agent produce this change?
He is pleased to use such a variety, as to circumstances, that I cannot take time to describe them. But as to the substance of the work, which is the same in all adults, he generally carries it on in the following manner. The first step is, to convince the sinner of his need of this change, by discovering to him his guilt and danger, and particularly the universal corruption of his nature. He is roused out of a state of stupid security by an affecting view of the holiness of God, of the purity of his law, of the terror of its penalty, of the great evil of sin, and of his own exposedness to the divine pleasure upon the account of it. Upon this he becomes sad and serious, uneasy in his mind, and anxious about his condition. He endeavours to reform his life ; he prays, and uses the other means of grace with earnestness unkoown before. And when he has gone on in this course for some time,