happy persons, whose affections are renewed, and set on things above, are adopted into the family of God; they bear the lovely image of the Divine nature which is reflected in their lives; they are sealed by the Holy Spirit, in order that they might be the exclusive property of God; they are favoured with the approving smile of their heavenly Father, who conducts them safely through this life, to his holy habitation above. But the glory which awaits them in a future state is above all description: there, rejoicing eternally in the sunshine of God's beatifying presence, the full measure of their promised happiness will be completed. Besides a total exemption from pain, sorrow, disease, death, and all the imperfections of the present state, they will be satisfied with the enjoyment of their spiritual desires. There, they will attain higher degrees of perfection in holiness;there, beholding the ineffable glory of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ, to whom they are indebted for their salvation, they will, with all the redeemed people of God, possess a source of unmixed felicity, as satisfying as it is eternal. "The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion, with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away'.

"How supremely blessed, then, are those truly noble souls, whose privilege it is to be thus born again, and to be admitted into the choirs of holy angels, and to be 'clothed with those glorious robes which are whiter than snow! They will follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth; and he will lead them to the crystal streams, and to the fountain of eternal life itself."

Isa. xxxv. 10. "Archbp. Leighton's Works, vol. iv. p. 173.


7. But a regenerate state is necessary to qualify men for a participation of such blessedness. Our Lord's solemn and repeated declaration to Nicodemus shews the necessity of regeneration for all who would enter heaven : Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Now, as the proposition contained in these words is universal, and includes the whole human species, there is no method by which a man can evade its application to himself, unless he can impiously imagine that Christ is mistaken, or that he will lower the demands of his word to suit the inclinations of depraved creatures;-suppositions as derogatory to his truth and wisdom, as to his justice. "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away."

The most cogent reasons may be offered to prove the absolute necessity of the new birth, to fit men for inheriting the kingdom of God.

8. That affirmation of our Lord Jesus Christ, concerning men's natural depravity, should carry convietion to every heart; "That which is born of the flesh is flesh." Every thought, device, word, and work, which emanates from an unrenewed soul, is corrupt, because of the polluted source from whence it flows. For this reason it is positively declared, "that they who are in the flesh cannot please Godd." Indeed, so long as men continue in that depraved state, they are objects of his utmost displeasure. Spiritually dead, and devoid of love and reverence for him, they are enemies to God by wicked works." The Lord is excluded from their thoughts, and all his righteous ways are irksome to them, for want of an


[blocks in formation]

enlightened understanding to discern their excellence. Further, they have no ability to serve their Maker, or to perform one devout act, from faith and love. They feel no delight in any of the exercises of religion: prayer, thanksgiving for mercies' received, abasement of soul under a consciousness of manifold sins, love to the brethren of Christ for his sake, and the cultivation of holy affections, are spiritual duties in which they cannot engage with alacrity; nor can they know any thing of the extent of a Christian's obligations to the Saviour, in delivering him from hell, and raising him to heaven. Persons in this state are obnoxious to Divine wrath, which they can never hope to escape without regeneration. To all such, the words of Christ are especially addressed, "Ye must be born again."

9. It is equally obvious, that the holiness of God opposes an insuperable barrier to the happiness of an unregenerate man. God is absolutely and unchangeably righteous. "He is the rock; his work is perfect; for all his ways are judgment; a God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is he." He must, therefore, always behold sin with utter abhorrence; and we need not wonder that he should express his determination to punish the impenitent according to their demerits. "God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day: 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: he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.


If, then, unholy persons were to be admitted into heaven, what pleasure could they derive from beholding the presence of a sin-avenging God? Is it 'John iii. 7. s Deut. xxxii. 4.

Psalm vii. 11-14.

possible that they could contemplate his justice and purity, without the utmost trepidation? or could the matchless grace and perfections of Jehovah draw forth the admiration of sinful beings, who have so often despised the one, and insulted the other? On the contrary, we may be certain, that the exhibition of such unsullied righteousness would fill them with confusion and horror. The remorse of a guilty conscience, and a lively apprehension of deserved vengeance, would render them a terror to themselves, and constrain them "to say to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to standi !"

And what satisfaction would the unhallowed services of unrighteous men afford to a holy God? He is truly pleased with the devout homage of his servants who obey him from principles of love and gratitude; but how could he be gratified in heaven with the forced and insincere worship of those who had dishonoured him through their whole lives? It seems then as impossible, on a view of the rectitude of the Lord of Hosts, for him to take any delight in men whilst they live under the dominion of an unsanctifed heart, as it is to reconcile light with darkness, or loyalty with rebellion.

Unrenewed men! "you must be born again," before you can do the will of God, or entertain a filial affection for him; or before he can regard you as dútiful children, and subjects whom he delights to honour.

10. Moreover, the constitution of heaven is such as to exclude the unregenerate from ever sharing its blessedness. Heaven is the habitation of the eternal i Rev. vi. 16, 17.

God, who sanctifies it by his presence: for this reason, it is positively declared by him, that "there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth."

The employments of the glorified state could not afford any happiness to an unregenerate man, were he to be allowed to engage in them: for how could he profitably join in services for which he had no relish or qualification? Those songs of thanksgiving which fill the courts of heaven with rapture, would disgust one who felt himself under no obligations to God for his mercy. Those adorations paid by glorified saints to their great Redeemer, would not accord with his self-justifying notions: for, being ignorant of the infinite demerit of sin, and of the boundless compassion of the Saviour, the heartfelt acknowledgments of beatified souls to Christ would sound harsh and discordant in his ears'.


Again the enjoyments of heaven are of such an exalted nature, as to require dispositions suited thereto. "No being can receive gratification from pleasures which it has not a capacity for enjoying. Every species of animals requires a mode of living peculiar to itself. They are quite satisfied with their own food and raiment; but the moment they are removed into another situation, they are uneasy. It is evident, also, that different men have inclinations that are wholly dissimilar. No one is comfortable, unless his own inclinations be gratified; and every man feels surprise that others can receive pleasure from that which is disquieting or offensive to himself."

Upon the same principle, an unregenerate man would not be happy, if he were to be translated to heaven. He could derive no gratification from celes

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« VorigeDoorgaan »