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than his appearances to us: yet both would be more evident, if we were more watchful and observant. Christ was with Mary at the sepulchre, when she took him to be the gardener: he was also with his disciples on the sea when they were afraid, and took him to be a spirit. The promise is, "Lo, I am with you always: I will never leave you, nor forsake you.' "Heb. xiii. 5. (5.) They are powerful and influential, always bringing peace and comfort to the soul. "It is the voice of my beloved," says the spouse in a rapture. His returns were as delightful as his departures had been distressing. The latter caused an agony of grief: "I sought him, but I found him not:" but the former produced an extasy of joy. These visits of love, while they are cheering to the people of God, are intimidating to their enemies. The beasts of prey rove about in the night, but retire to their dens and thickets when the morning dawns. The soul is invulnerable to temptations and dangers when God is with us, and we are armed on the right hand and on the left. These visits of love tend also to kindle desire, and endear the Saviour. "Did not our hearts burn within us," said the two disciples, "whilst he talked with us by the way, and opened unto us the scriptures?" They quicken us to holy duties, and fill the soul with humble joy. "The Lord God is my strength," says the prophet: "He maketh my feet like hind's feet. My soul shall make her boast in God," says the psalmist : "I will go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy." It was the divine presence that supported Paul in the midst of his persecutors, when no man stood by him; and this it is that will arm us against the fears of death. The christian, with the Saviour in his arms, may say as good old Simeon did, "Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace!" By the presence of God the valley of the shadow of death becomes lightsome, and a safe and delightful passage to the heavenly Canaan. (Psal. xxiii. 4.) Well then

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might Jeremiah say, and well may each of us say, "Remember me, O Lord, and visit me.”

II. Offer a few concluding remarks.

1. Though God hath promised his presence with his people, yet he may for a time withhold the manifestation of it. There may be a change in his countenance, as Jacob observed concerning Laban, though there is none in his heart. Many have mourned his departures as well as ourselves. "I go forward," says Job, "but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him; on the left hand where he doth work, but I cannot behold him; he hideth himself on the right hand that I cannot see him." The church also in captivity is full of tears and lamentation for the same reason. "Mine eye, mine eye runneth down with water, because the Comforter that should relieve my soul is far from me." (Job xxiii. 8, 9. Lam. i. 16.) Such departures are very distressing, though but temporary, and those who have been most indulged with the divine presence are most affected with its withdrawment; while those who have never experienced the former are insensible and unconcerned about the latter.

2. When God forbears his visits, his people are apt to think that he has forgotten them. They know that they deserve to be rejected, and fear that they are so. This arises from misapprehension of the divine conduct, impatience and unbelief. They judge of things by outward appearance, and suppose that they are out of God's mind because he is too much out of theirs. Hence it is that we hear such complaints as the following: "I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel-Lord, why castest thou off my soul; why hidest thou thy face from me? I am afflicted, and ready to die, from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted." Psal. xxxi. 12. lxxxviii. 14, 15.

3. To be remembered and visited of God is a blessing infinitely to be desired, and those especially who fear they are forgotten by him feel it to be so. If others should remember and visit them ever so often, yet this will not suffice. The loss of the divine presence is such as cannot be compensated by the presence and friendship of any other: even millions of angels cannot supply the place of an absent God. When he promised to send an angel to guide and guard the children of Israel through the wilderness, Moses said, "If thy presence go not with us, carry us not up hence!" No one but God himself can meet the wants and wishes of his people, and his presence is more to them than all creation put together. "In thy favour is life, and thy loving-kindness is better than lifeWhom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none on earth that I desire besides thee?" Psal. lxxiii. 25.

4. Those who desire God's presence must seek it by earnest prayer. "Remember me, and visit me," was the language of Jeremiah, and will be that of every good man. Many are saying, Who will shew us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us! Earth would be hell, and heaven itself no heaven without thee! "What do I here," said Absalom in Geshur, "unless I see the king's face?" What do I here, says the christian, in the house of God, and at his table, without the presence of my Lord? I cannot enjoy myself, my friends, my children, my estate, nor means, nor ordinances, unless I enjoy God. In this all my desires meet; here all my hapiness is found. "My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God!" Psal. xlii. 2.

SERMON V.

JOHN iii. 7.

Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born.

No

again.

o subject in religion is of greater importance than that of the new birth, and yet no one has been more misunderstood. Some have supposed that we are regenerated by baptism, made children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven: but baptism is "not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God." Sin lies too deep to be thus removed, and can only be put away by the sacrifice of Christ. A person may be baptised in infancy or in riper years, and yet, like Simon Magus, remain in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity, and know no more of the new birth than those did of the Holy Spirit who had not so much as heard whether there was one. A change of moral conduct, especially if attended with some light in the understanding and warmth of affection, has also been mistaken for the new birth: but it is possible for a person to become "another man," like Saul, and yet not be a new man. Ahab humbled himself, and yet was not truly humble; and Jehu drove on furiously, but not towards heaven. A man may perform a multitude of duties, and yet have an unholy heart; be honest and fair in his dealings, and yet be an enemy to God. He may be of a generous, and yet not of a gracious disposition may go through the round of all religion, and

yet have no religion. He may be able to say, with the young ruler, "All these things have I kept from my youth up," and yet want the one thing needful.

Let us then inquire into the nature of the change intended in our text-notice some of its evidences-and consider its necessity.

1. Inquire what it is to be born again.

In general, it is that change in which sinners, dead in trespasses and sins, are made alive to God. He who was once darkness is now made light in the Lord, and he who was a child of wrath now becomes a child of God, and heir of the kingdom of heaven. It is a change which brings him into a new world, a new state of existence, and gives him a new capacity for action. The temper of the heart is renewed, as well as the outward conduct; a spiritual and vital influence is felt, and a spiritual and vital principle imparted. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new:" 2 Cor. v. 17. More particularly,

1. It is a divine and supernatural change, effected by the agency of the Holy Spirit. When out of stones, as it were, children are raised up to Abraham, we may well say, This is the finger of God. He who gave man his being at first, can alone create him in Christ Jesus unto good works. Ministers may be the instruments, but God is the agent. He alone can enstamp his own image, and make us partakers of a divine nature. He every where assumes this work to himself, and all who are born again ascribe it to him. "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth-who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God-He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God-You hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sinsGod, who commanded the light to shine out of dark

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