« AnteriorContinuar »
John's gospel, the third and following verses, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” In the margin it is, “born from above." And in the fifth verse our Lord says, in answer to the objection of Nicodemus, “Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”-what is meant by being '"born of water and of the Spirit” I shall explain by and by: but our Lord chiefly insists upon being “born of the Spirit." In the 8th verse, he says “ the wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth ; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” We cannot doubt, I think, that being “born of the Spirit” means the same as being “ born of God” in the text. It is a birth, spiritual, heavenly, and divine in its nature ; ar is carefully distinguished, in the words of the text, from every
other kind of birth. The apostle in the text affirms that all believers are born, “not of blood;" “nor of the will of the flesh," nor of the will of man,” but, or God. “Not of blood ;" by which I apprehend, is meant not by a natural descent from Abraham, in which the Jews trusted and boasted ; and in which St. Paul once trusted-when he was in a natural state, while neither they nor he resembled their ancestor,
“walked in the steps of his faith." Nor is this birth to be ascribed to the blood of circumcision," on which also the Jews placed much dependence ; just as nominal Christians now do upon baptism, not regarding the circumcision of the heart; and of this the apostle speaks decidedly in the second chapter of his epistle to the Romans, “ for he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward, in the flesh : but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly, and circumcision of the heart ; in the spirit and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men but of God." May
this passage be seriously considered by those who believe that external baptism is enough, and that the internal baptism of the Spirit is unnecessary.
Again, it is said, “not of the flesh”-this inward and spiritual change is not derived from our natural parents ; is not to be ascribed to their piety, their prayers, their good advice, or good wishes for their offspring, for all these, alas ! too frequently fail. Nor is it to be ascribed to the virtue of any ceremonial observances, which are sometimes called flesh, even the appointments of God, of an external kind, when depended upon to the neglect of their spiritual design. St. Paul alludes to these, when he speaks of “confidence in the flesh,” which he once had, when he was in a natural state. (Phil. 3.)
It is further said in our text, “ not' of the will of man;"—not from any innate principle of man; not from any goodness of our own hearts, nor from the eloquence of man ; the most powerful arguments of the most holy and zealous ministers of the gospel may be unavailing; they may be “ instructors, but without the Spirit of God, they cannot be " fathers" in Christ. Paul may plant, and Apollos water, but the increase is of God.
Having stated, then, that it is not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man; he affirms that it is “ of God;" he ascribes this new nature to the will and power of God. It is of his own free, sovereign will, as St. James expresses it. (ch. i. 18.) “ Of his own will, begat he us, with the word of truth; that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures."
And the expression, "born of God,” certainly denotes the holy effect of this spiritual change ; for to be “ born of God” must signify, being made the. “partaker of a divine nature. . As children partake of the same nature with their parents, so he that is born of God must be a partaker of“ a divine nature, as it is affirmed by St. Peter, (2 Pet. i. 4) --"Whereby are given unto us great and precious promises,
that by these we might be partaker of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. Surely, all this must denote something far more and greater than baptism.
We shall now produce from scripture, certain effects of this divine birth, and then let it be fairly examined whether they are always found in persons who have been baptized.
Io the first place, All those who are born of God have received Christ.
The text refers to such persons in the twelfth verse of this chapter" to as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God-éven to them that believe on his name." Here it is affirmed that all who are born of God, receive Jesus Christ : and it is as much the character of believers now, to receive Jesus Christ, as it was then. He is set before us in the gospel; he is exhibited, proposed, and tendered to us, as an all-sufficient Saviour, who by his obedience unto death, has brought in everlasting righteousness. And in Romans, v. 11. we are said “ to rejoice in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the atonement." Believing in Jesus is an evidence of being born of God, as also saith the apostle John, “ Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.” Now can all this bę said of every baptized person? Do not many such persons reject, not receive, Christ? Do not many substitute their own merits, in the room of the righteousness of Christ; not submitting to his righteousness? Do they not refuse to submit to his instructions as the great Teacher, preferring the dictates of their own judgment and the opinions of a mistaken world ? and do not the unholy lives of many declare that they reject him as a king, and will not suffer him to reign over them ?
Secondly. It is affirmed in 1 John, iii. 9. that 6 whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin,
because he is born of God”-that is, because he partakes of a divine nature by means of his new birth. By " committing sin," we are to understand living habitually in sin; for “there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not :" but believers do not make, as it were, a trade of sin ; or live in the wilful habitual practice of it, being " born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever." 1 Pet. i. 23.
But can it be said of the bulk of professing Christians-of baptized persons--that they“ do not commit sin?”—We are constrained to believe the contrary.
Thirdly. It is testified by the apostle John, (1 Eph. v. 4.) that all “ who are born of God, overcome the world.” And in another place it is written—" This is the victory that overcometh the world, even
Believers, that is, persons born of God, are enabled to conquer the pleasures and allurements of this world; faith realizes the great invisibles of eternity, so that the most splendid things of time appear like the baubles and toys of children. So Moses, when he might have commanded the honours and pleasures of the Egyptian court, renounced them all, and chose " rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season ; like the apostle Paul, who said, “ God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Nor can the frowns of the world appal the true believer. It is a certain truth that “all who will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.' In most ages of the church, the people of God have been called to endure fines, imprisonment, racks, torture, and flames, for the sake of Jesus Christ; but still they were made more than conquerors through him that loved them.
But is this the character of all baptized Chris
tians? Do we not see them thronging the broad road that leads to destruction ? Has their baptism changed the disposition of their hearts, so that they do not love the world, nor the things of the world? Are they not profane, drunken, and lewd, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God?
Once more, fourthly, That the great change of which we speak, the new birth, is somewhat infinitely superior to baptism, appears from its being always represented in scripture as effected by the special power of God, particularly in Eph. i. 18—20. St. Paul, writing to the Christians at Ephesus, compares the power of divine grace which had changed their hearts, to the “mighty power exerted on the body of Christ when he was raised from the dead : It is therefore called, a resurrection, as well as a regeneration. “You hath he quickened," says the Apostle to the Ephesians," who were dead in trespasses and sins.” And, in another place, it is said, “ The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” Sometimes it is termed, " A creation,” which must doubtless be the work of God; as St. Paul speaks, “ In Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature," or creation :" and the same sentiment is expressed by “ taking away the heart of stone, and giving a heart of flesh.” But is it possible that the application of water to the body should produce such a change? Do we not see multitudes of baptised persons, who have not had the heart of stone removed? Is it not evident, then, that to be " born of God,” or, to be “ a new creature," must signify something more and greater than to be baptized with water?
I shall now make an observation or two, and then hasten to a conclusion. It is pleaded by the advocates for baptismal regeneration, that our Lord says, John, iji. 5.
“ Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the