supported by the uniform testimony of the inspired writers. We have brought testimonies to this effect from the Old and New Testament, from the prophets and the apostles; and since they all spake and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, we ought to consider every passage which has been quoted, as the voice of God himself, proclaiming in various forms of words the 'solemn truth, “ Ye must be born again.” How fallacious, then, are the hopes of the ungodly! Since Jehovah is immutable, the day of judgment must find him as determined to punish those who die in their sins, as when he issued the first threatening against them. How then can they escape? Will they be able to elude his notice? Is it possible for them to be lost in the crowd? No. When the whole human family shall appear at his tribunal, every individual transgressor, in the vast assembled multitude, will feel that he is as much under the immediate scrutiny of the Judge, as if he were the only delinquent! And, if they cannot escape his notice, can they resist his power? Can they pluck the thunderbolts of vengeance from the hands of Omnipotence? It were worse than madness to imagine this. “Let the potsherds of the earth strive with the potsherds of the earth, but wo be to that man who striveth with his Maker." He will address them, and accompany his address with an energy

which not the whole universe, were it disposed to make the attempt, could resist, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. And these shall go away into everlasting fire, but the righteous into life eternal."

The declarations of the God of truth ought to convince every ungodly man that without regeneration he cannot see the kingdom of God; yet we know they do not always produce this effect; I proceed, therefore, to show that the asserted necessity of regeneration is,

II. In harmony with the conclusions which flow from a consideration of the nature of the case itself.

On this subject it is by no means uncommon to find the grossest mistakes commited by various individuals. There are persons who seem to imagine that there is no interposing



obstacle to the eternal felicity of the ungodly, but the determination of Jehovah to close against them the gates of the celestial city. They forget that, constituted as man is, misery is the natural and necessary result of unholy character;—a sentiment which should be impressed with great earnestness upon the attention of men. For God himself does not attempt the impossible task of saving his people in their sins, but from them. Whatever may be conceived to be the agency of the Judge in the punishment of the ungodly, it cannot be doubted that the misery of the damned will result directly and immediately from the state of their own minds. The unrestrained indulgence of all the malevolent and angry passions, which God has rendered it misery to experience,—the never-dying worm of an accusing conscience,--the unquenchable fire of self-reproach,—the maddening influence of despair,—will constitute the future hell of the wicked; and, if the hand of God should never directly touch them, the doleful abode to which they are consigned must be the constant scene of “weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.”

These remarks are adapted to show that the sentence of the great day of account will not declare the punishment which, by arbitrary infliction, the unregenerate are to be made to undergo, -but the misery which, considering their mental constitution, must necessarily flow from the moral disease with which they are afflicted,—from the inveterate and incurable depravity of their own hearts. The torments of the damned, in short, will not result from the place to which they are adjudged, though it be the place of torment, but from the dispositions which they will carry into it. The hell of the sinner is in his own bosom. He carries it about with him, as his perpetual tormentor, wherever he goes; and, were it possible for him to enter heaven by stealth, it would accompany him into the presence of God himself, and poison the very water of life of which its blest inhabitants are destined to drink! Yet, though it is thus impossible for unregenerate men to experience happiness hereafter, it is a most difficult matter to lodge this conviction in their minds. Ignorant of the nature of celestial bliss, and decking the mansions above with those charms



which are adapted to their unsanctified taste, they are apt to imagine that, if the Judge of all, at the great day, could be induced to treat them with lenity, or that, if they could elude his notice, and pass in the midst of a crowd through the gates of the celestial city, all would then be well with them for eternity. It has never occurred to them that it is possible for any being to be miserable in heaven. And yet such is unquestionably the case. We read of the angels who kept not their first estate; whose pride, prompting to apostacy and rebellion, led to their dethronement and ruin. The misery, then, of these unhappy spirits commenced in the world above. There was hell in heaven, if we may so speak, before they were ejected from it; and the torments which they now endure do not result from the chains with which they are bound, but from the demons of envy and malevolence which reside in their bosoms. Were it possible, then, for an unconverted man to enter heaven, it would yield no delight to him ;—its duties would be irksome—its pleasures insipid and joyless.

1st, Without regeneration, the duties of the heavenly world would be irksome. Heaven is a land of rest, but not of inactivity. While our relations to God, and to the respective members of the family above, continue, there will remain duties to be performed even there. Hence “those who came out of great tribulation," are represented, in one of the sublime visions granted to John, as “standing before the throne," and

serving God day and night in his temple ;” and the ascription of blessing and honour, and glory, and power, unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, constitutes one important branch of the service which they render. Now is this a duty which could yield any delight to an unconverted man? In those statements which are given us by the ungodly of the objects and exercises which are essential to their enjoyment, is the service of God ever included? Is it a fact that they derive pleasure, in this world, from the celebration of his perfections, and especially of that illustrious display of them which is to be seen in the great and glorious work of human redemption? Is it not, on the contrary, the case that they derive no pleasure whatever from such exercises--that





they are indeed a weariness to them? Is there not abundant reason to think that they would never voluntarily engage in them? Now if such be the case with them on earth, would it not continue to be so in heaven, were they to enter it with an unaltered state of mind ? How could the mere difference of place, whatever may be the nature of that difference, produce any difference in their feelings, in this respect ? Must not the objects and engagements, which are grateful to an unrenewed mind on earth, be grateful to it in heaven? Must not the engagements which are destitute of charm to such a mind in the present world, be equally void of it in the future state? No rational being can doubt it for a moment. While the identity of the inner man continues—while the depravity of the heart remains unsubdued, no change of time or of place -not even elevation from earth to heaven, can render a moral exercise delightful, which had been previously disgusting. We must be born again, or the duties of the heavenly world will prove unpleasant and irksome.

2dly, Without regeneration the pure and spiritual delights of the world above would yield no measure of enjoyment, I have said the pure and spiritual delights of heaven, for holiness is inscribed upon all its duties and enjoyments. The bliss of heaven does not spring from any of those sources from which men of the world seek to attain it. It comes from a quarter from which they never sought it. It is of a nature for which they have no taste and relish. Were all the streams of heavenly glory accessible to an unconverted man, in this world, they would be to him insipid, if not distasteful. How, then, can they be expected to yield delight in heaven? The bliss of heaven is holiness. The perfection of knowledge and purity, to which the people of God will there attain--their final and complete deliverance from all darkness of the understanding, all impurity of the affections, all perverseness of the will-transforming them as it will do into the image of God, --will confer upon them a portion of the same enjoyment which he himself experiences. “From the perfection of holiness which will there be wrought into the soul, there will naturally arise," as it has been justly observed, "an unspeakable



complacency and joy, resembling, in some degree, that which the blessed God possesses in the survey of the infinite and unspotted rectitude of his own most holy nature.” It is manifest that both Old and New Testament saints possessed this view of the nature and source of heavenly joy. . "I shall be satisfied," said a psalmist, “when I awake with thy likeness." And “when he shall appear,” adds the beloved disciple, " we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." Since, then, such is the bliss of heaven, the necessity of regeneration is apparent. This will more strikingly appear if we enumerate some of the individual sources of heavenly bliss : and in doing this I observe,

First, That the Scriptures represent the presence and enjoyment of God as constituting one of these sources.

" As for me," said David, “ I shall behold thy face in righteousness;" and he speaks of this as not only essential to perfect enjoyment, but as conferring it. At the time when he uttered these words, David had much in possession, and more in prospect. He was the son-in-law of the reigning monarch ; and he had the promise of the God of truth that, at the decease of Saul, he should ascend the throne himself. But worldly possessions, and worldly glory, could not fill his capacious mind. Nothing less than the presence, and favour, and enjoyment of the God who made him, could do this; and, therefore, in all the sacred glow of confidence and anticipation, he exclaimed, " I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness." “Blessed," said our Lord, "are the pure in heart, for they shall see God;" be admitted to a beatific view of his perfections, and enjoy him as the portion of his soul. But this assurance is only cheering to those who love God. To all unregenerate men, God is an enemy; and, what is more, he is an omnipotent enemy. He can destroy both body and soul in hell! The prospect of seeing God is no solace to them. They will, on the contrary, employ all the energies of their minds will bury themselves in business, and plunge into dissipation, and run into the most fearful and shameful excesses, to banish all thoughts of God from their minds. Rather than encounter their Maker, they would flee to the very ends of the earth! How, then, could the presence of God be a source of joy to such an individual in heaven?

« VorigeDoorgaan »