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THE NECESSITY OF REGENERATION.
When we assert the necessity of regeneration, we intend to affirm its absolute and universal necessity.
First, Its absolute necessity. Some changes are of such a nature that it is not a point of great importance whether they take place or not; others are eminently desirable; this is indispensable ;-not, indeed, to the possession of health, or the acquisition of riches, or to the participation of that honour which cometh from men only,—but to the enjoyment of true happiness in the present life, and to admission into that world of glory, by which, in the case of believers, it is succeeded. Into the city of the New Jerusalem, which cometh down from above, “there shall in no wise enter any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie, but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.” (Rev. xxi. 27.) “Verily, verily," said our Lord to Nicodemus, "except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John iii. 5.) The phrase, “the kingdom of God,” imports the great body of his subjects,—those over whom the Lord Jesus Christ-to whom the administration of the affairs of this kingdom is entrusted—reigns by his word, and his Spirit. Some of the members of this body are to be found on earth; others have been taken to heaven; but neither the militant nor the triumphant branch of this kingdom includes a single person who has not been born again. Into the visible church on earth, it is possible, indeed, for individuals, by assuming a form of godliness, to obtain admission
PROVED FROM SCRIPTURE.
but as the Lord seeth the heart, they cannot pass into the church above. To this, regeneration is absolutely essential. We must certainly and for ever lose all the light, and all the blessedness, and all the glory of heaven, if, when called from the present state, we have not been made “ new creatures in Christ Jesus."
Secondly, Its universal necessity. The term which our Lord employed in his conversation with Nicodemus, comprehends the whole of our race. The ruler addressed him, saying, “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher sent from God," &c. Jesus answered him, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a man,” i. e., any man—whether he be Jew or Gentile, bond or free, rich or poor, learned or illiterate—whether he be a prince or a subject—whether his conduct be in harmony with the letter of the law, or whether it be visibly and grossly profane ;-except he be “ born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." This solemn asseveration, by the Son of God himself, of the necessity of regeneration, neither requires proof, nor is it susceptible of any; but, as it may help to strengthen the impression which his words are calculated to produce, I proceed to show, that the declaration is in perfect harmony with the entire statements of Divine revelation, as well as with the conclusions which flow from a consideration of the very nature of the case itself. The necessity of regeneration is then attested,
First, By the uniform testimony of the inspired writers. When Nicodemus expressed his astonishment at the language of Christ, our Lord replied, "Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things ?"-thus intimating that the doctrine, which has just been stated, was taught so plainly in the Old Testament Scriptures, that his ignorance of it might justly awaken surprise. “It is not meant by this that the particular phrase of being born again, or regenerated, occurs in the Old Testament writings, or that it is there expressly said, that no unregenerate man shall be admitted into God's kingdom. But, that what is in effect the same thing, is affirmed in innumerable passages." There is not, in fact, a single page in that important portion of Divine revelation which does not contribute to teach the solemn truth, that no
PROVED FROM SCRIPTURE.
man who persists in a course of iniquity can, on leaving the present state, obtain admission into the heavenly temple. We may especially refer to the following declarations as maintaining it, and as being thus in entire harmony with the language of our Lord to Nicodemus. The first is contained in the 29th chapter of Deuteronomy, in which Jehovah is represented as making his covenant and his oath, not only with those who actually appeared before him when Moses summoned all unto him, but with those who were not there that day; “ Lest,” he adds, in the 18th verse, “there should be among you, man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood;" in other words, lest there should be a man among you who, out of the evil treasure of his heart, bringeth forth evil things; "and it come to pass when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of my heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: the Lord will not spare him; but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy sball smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven.” (Ver. 19, 20.) God,” says the Psalmist, “is angry with the wicked.” How, indeed, can it be otherwise, since his nature and his laws are holy, while their hearts are so thoroughly depraved that the carnal mind may be said to be enmity itself against God? He is, accordingly, angry-angry with them every day; so that the sinner, whether he wakes or sleeps-whether he goes abroad or remains at home, is an object of Divine displeasure; and though the forbearance of God is great, yet, adds the Psalmist, “ If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready; he hath also prepared for him the instruments of death.” (Psa. vii. 12, 13.) A still more awful declaration, exhibiting the same truth, is contained in the 11th Psalm, ver. 5, 6; “ The Lord loveth righteousness; but the wicked, and him that loveth violence, his soul hateth. Upon the wicked he will rain snares, fire and brimstone, and
PROVED BY SCRIPTURE.
an horrible tempest, this shall be the portion of their cup." The testimony of Solomon, also, is to the same effect; for when comparing, or rather contrasting, the death of the righteous and the wicked, he says, Prov. xiv. 32, “The wicked is driven away in his wickedness, but the righteous hath hope in his death.” In precise harmony with this, also, is the solemn language of Isaiah, “Wo unto the wicked, it shall be ill with him, for the reward of his hands shall be given him.” (Isa. iii. 11.) The invitations and promises, also, which he was directed by Jehovah to address to the wicked, set before us the same solemn truth. " Let the wicked forsake his evil way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord who will have mercy upon him, and to our God for he will abundantly pardon ;"—since the language clearly implies that, unless he forsake his evil way, he cannot obtain mercy from God:--and this implication is still more strikingly apparent in the corresponding passages in Ezekiel's prophecy. (Isa. lv. 7; Ezek. xviii. 31 ; xxxiii. 11.)
The entire language of the New Testament, as well as the Old, is adapted to evince the necessity of regeneration. “ Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say unto me in that day,” adds the Saviour, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils; and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; Depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matth. vii. 21-23.) In the parable of the tares, also, after informing us that the tares represent the children of the wicked one, he adds, (chap. xiii. ver. 40–42,) “ As, therefore, the tares are gathered, and burnt in the fire, so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of Man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth!” In the account of the proceedings of the judgmentday, recorded in the 25th chapter of Matthew, we are assured that he will address the unconverted in the following language:
BY THE NATURE OF THE CASE.
“Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Ver. 41.).. " And these," it is added, “shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal." (Ver. 46.)
The apostle Paul declares, also, that at the great day of account, the Judge will render “to those who are contentious, and do not obey the truth," (i.e., who do not receive the gospel, and live under its influence, “but obey unrighteousness, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man," he adds, “that doeth evil, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.” (Rom. ii. 8, 9.) To the same effect is his assurance, in the 12th of Hebrews, ver. 14, that “without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” And in his second epistle to the Thessalonians, chap. i. ver. 7-9, he tells us " that the Lord Jesus Christ will be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” Nor is Paul the only apostle who affirms the necessity of regeneration, for Peter calls the day of judgment, "the day of perdition of ungodly men.” (2 Pet. iii. 7.) Jude, also, must be considered as supporting the testimony of Enoch, the seventh from Adam, when he declares, ver. 14, 15, that he prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints. To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them, of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him." And, to close this long list of quotations, John, writing under the guidance of the Spirit of God, assures us that "into the New Jerusalem, which cometh down from above, there shall in no wise enter any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie, but those," and those only, “who are written in the Lamb's book of life;" and who, by the power of Divine grace exerted upon them, in consequence of that circumstance, are made “new creatures in Christ Jesus."
We have thus seen that the necessity of regeneration is