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where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but thou canst not tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth ; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.' As if he had said, You do not doubt but the wind is some. thing real. Meantime you can neither paint it, nor describe it to a man who could neither feel nor hear it; much less could you say whence it ariseth, or whither it goeth. In like manner a sinner, who is regenerated, into whose soul God has breathed the breath of spiritual life, knows that the clouds of his understanding are dissipated : That God has called him out of darkness into his marvellous light, and that the Sun of Righteousness has risen upon him. He discovers with transports of holy joy the happy revolution it has made within him. He sees that he has passed from death unto life; and he feels that he is the child of God, because he has the Spirit of adoption, which cries in his heart, Abba, Father!' Because the consolations of the Lord, as a spiritual zephyr (if I may so express myself) refresh his soul; and because he was made partaker of a power which was before unknown to him, and of a felicity which 6eye hath not seen, which ear hath not heard,' and which has never elevated the heart of the man who is not regenerated. But although he feels these changes in himself, it is impossible for him to paint them, or describe how the Spirit of God has wrought them. No, he cannot make a man, whose eyes the Lord has not opened, see this kingdom of God which is established in his soul. He cannot make him taste these waters springing up into life eternal, this happiness unutterable, which inundates the heart of a believer. It is the pearl of great price, the concealed treasure, and the • new name, which none knoweth but he who receiveth it.' It is the word of life, the hidden manna, which each must see, which each must touch with his own hands, which each must taste with his own mouth. It is the “Mystery of the Faith preserved in a pure conscience.'- It is the seed incorruptible, without which no
An answer so positive might have satisfied Nicodemus, but his incredulity forced him to cry out, “How can these things be?' How true it is, that the natural man, though he should be just, sincere, temperate, and in some sort religious, cannot comprehend the things of the Spirit of God!' How true it is, that they are foolishness to him, and that he regards them always as things impossible, unless God reveals them to him as he does not to the world. Be not then surprised at their behaviour, to whom we often apnounce the profound truths of Christianity. The virtuous Nicodemus himself cried out, “How can these things be?' The halfchristians may also cry out, This is carrying things too far; this is yielding to enthusiasm ; this is to lose ourselves in the clouds. The best way to stop the mouths of these unbelievers, is to answer them as our Lord answered Nicodemus: "Art thou,' said he, "a teacher in Israel, and knowest pot these things ? That which we know we deelare, and that which we have seen we testify :' But, blinded by your false wisdom, you receive not our testimony.' If I have spoken to you of things material and terrestrial, of the properties of the wind which you feel, and which you hear blowing every day upon the earth, and ye believe not, being neither able to understand, or render a reason for it, how could you believe and comprehend my discourse, if I should speak to you of spiritual and heavenly things ; of the secret opera. tions of regenerating grace, the particularities of that second birth, without which no man can see the Lord ? It is thus that Jesus Christ confounds the ignorance and incredulity of this teacher in Israel, who knew not yet that which he should teach to others. Thus he gives him to understand, and us with him, that religion does not consist in speculative dissertations upon the doci trines which it proposes, but in an experimental know. *i! ledge of its mysteries, in an unshaken faith in the la promises of God; in the joyful anticipation of that good in which this faith procures for us, and in the living and, powerful sentiments which lead instantly to the practice
of all the duties of a new life. Reader, do you desire to profit by these instructions of the Son of God ? If you believe that he who cannot lie or deceive, has declared, that you must be born again in order to enter his kingdom, do not lose a moment in vain speculations. Fall upon your knees before him who can soften your heart, and cause the scales to fall from your eyes. Demand of him that he may enable you to see and feel the absolute necessity of regeneration, and that you may receive the grace to seek it with tears of sincere repentance. This is that which Nicodemus did. Notwithstanding the repug. nance which he at first felt to receive the doctrine of regeneration, being convinced by the words of our Savi. our, he at length devoted himself. He believed, and became a new creature; for the gospel teaches us, that he who dared not come to Jesus but by night, and had spoken to him only to make objections, confessed him openly (and by consequence his doctrine) even when all his disciples had abandoned him. O let us be strength ened, that we may be as ready to imitate his faith, as the worldlings are to object with him, “How can these things be ?'
PART THE SECOND.
What are we to understand by these Expressions, “ to
be born again ; to be regenerated ?”
ALTHOUGH our Saviour refused to answer an unpro. itable question of the Jewish Doctor, upon the manner d'a soul being regenerated, it is nevertheless not impossible to explain what is the state of a soul that is born again, and in what regeneration doth consist. In general we may say, it is that great change by which a man passes from a state of nature to a state of grace. He was an asimal man; in being born again, he becomes a spiritual
His natural birth had made him like to fallen
Adam, to the Old Man, against whom God had pronounced the sentence of death, seeing it is the wages of sin. But his spiritual birth makes him like to Jesus Christ, to the New Man, which is created according to God in righteousness and true boliness.' He was born
a child of wrath,' proud, sensual, and unbelieving ; full of the love of the world, and of self-love; a lover of money, and of earthly glory and pleasure, rather than a lover of God. But by Regeneration he is become a child, and an heir of God, and a joint heir with Christ.' The humility, the purity, the love of Jesus, is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Spirit, which is given to him, making him bear the image of the Second Adam. He is in Christ a new creature, old things are passed away, and all things are become new.' All the faculties and powers of his soul are renovated. His understanding, heretofore covered with darkness, is illuminated by the experimental knowledge which he has of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ. His conscience, asleep and insensible, awakes and speaks with a fidelity irreproachable. His hard heart is softened and broken. His will, stubborn and perverse, is softened, yields, and becomes conformable to the will of God. His passions, unruly, earthly, and sensual, yield to the conduct of grace, and turn of themselves to objects invisible and heavenly; and the members of his body, servants more or less to iniquity, are now employed in the service of righteousness unto holiness.—Hence his soul, his body, his spirit, run with equal rapidity into the straight path of obedience; and all that is within him cries out, • God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of Jesus Christ my Saviour, by which I am crucified unto the world, and the world unto me. I know no man after the flesh. I live not, but Christ liveth in me, and the life I live, is by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.'
Such is the prodigious change which a living faith produces in the soul of a repentant sinner. Such is the change which the apostle calls 'a new creation, a resurrection from the dead, a passing from death unto life, the power of God unto salvation, unto every one that believeth; and by which he is raised with Christ, and walks in newness of life.'
But to be more particular. We may reasonably suppose that when our Lord said to Nicodemus, ' A man cannot see the kingdom of God without being born again,' he meant to compare the spiritual birth of a child of God, with the natural birth of a child of Adam :- Thus, to have just ideas of the first, it is needful to consider the second, and to rise from that which is visible and material, to that which is invisible and celestial.
An infant which is not yet born, feels neither the air nor the fluids by which it exists. It understands not:-The organs of sense are not in a condition to act. It discovers nothing ; its eyes being closed to the light, and all sorts of objects. It is true, that when it approaches the birth, a principle of life is manifested, and some feeble movements begin to distinguish it from a mass of matter ; but the objects which surround it are not the less unknown. Although it is in the world, it has no more idea of that which passes therein, than if the world did not exist; not only because the senses are not yet unfolded, but because of the thick veil which surrounds, and hinders its discovering the objects that are so near it. So it is with the man who is not regenerated. In God he lives, and moves, and has his being.' But he is not sensible of his presence, nor of that divine breathing which nourishes the spiritual life of those who are born again. The things of God, which present themselves continually to the minds of the children of God, make no impression upon him..God calls, but he understands not his voice. Christ offers himself to him as the bread that cometh down from heaven,' but he cannot taste that the Lord is good.' God would manifest himself to him, as he does not unto the world,' but the eyes of his understanding are covered with so thick a cloud that he cannot discover him. He is a
stranger and foreigner,' as St. Paul declares ; he is alienated from the life of God by the ignorance that is