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The former of them is indeed the foundation of the rest ; because as religion is a reasonable service, all the change which is made in the affections and resolutions, in the pursuits, enjoyments, and hopes of a good man, arises from that different view, in which he is now taught to look on those objects, the nature of which is to direct his choice, to determine his conduct, and regulate his passions : It will therefore be the business of this evening's discourse to shew you, I. That wherever there is a real principle of regeneration, there
will be new apprehensions of things.
When God created the natural world, he said, in the very beginning of this work, Let there be light, and there was light*: And thus he deals in this new creation, which raises the soul from a chaos, to such a beautiful, well-ordered, and wellfurnished frame. God, says the apostle, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christt; whereas before The understanding was darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that was in them, because of the blindness or perverseness of their heartst.
Now this illumination, of which I am speaking, does not so much refer to a speculative, as to a practical and heartimpressing knowledge. It is true, that when a man once comes to be in good earnest in religion, he generally arrives at a clearer and fuller knowledge even of the doctrines of christianity, than he had before : For he then sets himself to enquire with greater diligence, and to seek light of the great Father of lights with greater earnestness; he gets clear of many evil affections, that put a corrupt bias upon his judgment; and he comes within the reach of those promises, Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lords; and If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God. Yet I think, I may very properly say, that at various times, when our judgment of any object is the same, our apprehensions of it are very differ. ent. It is one thing, for instance, to believe that God is the omnipotent, all-wise, and all-gracious Governor of the World; and another, and very different thing, to have the heart powerfully impressed with an apprehension of bis ability and readis
Ephes. iv. 18.
Gen. i. 3. $ Hos. vi. 3.
+ 2 Cor. iv. 6.
such a light, as to make you judge every thing trilling that can come in competition with it; nay, whatever your views of eternity have been, if you are not practically carrying on a scheme for it; and if you cannot, and do not, deny your worldly interest, when it cannot be secured without hazarding your eternal hopes; it is plain you are friends of the world, in such a sense as none can be, but he must be an enemy of God*. If indeed you were dead to the world, and Your life hid with Christ in God, you would Set your affections on things above, on those things which are there, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of Godt: But the want of this temper shews, that you are carnally minded, which it is death to be I; and that the redeeming love of Christ has never exerted its influence upon your souls, nor his cross had any due esficacy upon you; for if it had, The world would have been crucified to you, and you to the worlds. 7. The soul “ that does not long for greater improvements in
the divine life,” is still a stranger to the first principles of it.
You know, that we are called, as christians, with an High and holy calling|l; and as he that is the author of this calling, is holy, so are we to be Holy in all manner of conversations, and to be perfect, even as our Father which is in heaven is perfect**. Here will therefore be room for improvement, not only during our continuance in the present life, but through all the ages of a glorious eternity; and it is the ardent desire of every good man, that in this sense above all others, his Path may be like the shinging light, that shineth more and more, until the perfect daytt. And this is the one thing that he does, or that in which all his labours centre; being conscious to himself how far he is from having Already attained, or being already perfect, forgetting the things that are behind, he reacheth forth unto those things that are before, and presses toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesusif. In this view he seriously considers the circumstances of life in which providence has placed him; that he may observe the advantages, which these circumstances give him for religious improvements; and it is delightful to him to discover such advantages.
Now if there be any of you, who know nothing of this temper, you are certainly in an unregenerate state: For none can be born of God, that do not love him; and none can truly love him, that do not earnestly desire, more and more to resemble enquiries, and also to impress your minds, and my own, with truths in which we have all so intimate a concern.
* Jam. iv. 4.
+ Col. ii. 1, 2, 3.
Rom. viii. 6.
The divine spirituality and omnipresence is apprehended by the good man in a peculiar manner.
That there is some immaterial substance, and that matter is moved by his active power continually impressed upon it, according to stated laws, is indeed so plain a dictate of reason, that I question not, but the thought influences the minds of some, who have not so much acquaintance with language, as to be able properly to express it: But alas, it easily passes through, as if no way important. It is quite a different thing, to feel, as it were, the presence of an infinitely intelligent, and all-observing Deity, actually surrounding us in all times and places ;
-to say from the heart, Oh Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me, so that thou understandest my thoughts afar off: Whither shall I go frons thy spirit, or whither shall I fee from thy presence ? Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me*;to feel, as it were, the hand of God, which indeed we may feel, if we duly attend to it, in all the impressions made on our bodily senses, and on the
powers of our mind ;-to feel ourselves even now supported by it, and to argue from the constant support of bis hand, the never-failing notice of his eye. present thoughts; he knows, even now, all the secrets of my soul, and has always known them; has always observed my conduct in every the minutest particular, and recorded, in permanent characters, the whole history of my life, and of my heart ; of this depraved sinful life, of this vain, this treacherous, this rebellious heart."
With this conception of the divine observance are closely and intimately connected new apprehensions of the purity of God, and of his infinite majesty ; views, which mutually assist, and illustrate each other. The irreverence with which the generality of men behave in the presence of God; and the easiness with which they admit the slightest temptation to sin against him, plainly shew what low notions they have of him : But God does, as it were, appear to the eye of a renewed mind, arrayed in his robes of light and majesty ; so that he is ready to cry out, “ I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth theet : I see the eternal, self-existent, self-sufficient God, who sits upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers ; who spreadeth out the heavens as a tent to dwell in, and looks down on the nations as the drop of a bucket, and counts them as the small dust of the * Psal. cxxxix. 1-7.
+ Job xlii. 5.
66 He reads my
and with the young men you will utterly fail; while they only that wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength, shall mount up as on eagles wings, and pressing on with an unwearied pace, according to the different degrees of vigour which the different parts of their course may require, shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint*. In short, if you do not thirst after the water of life, that is, as the Evangelist himself explains it, the Spirit, which they that Believe on Christ shall receivet, however bountiful he is, he makes no promise to impart it to you; and if you never receive it, all your other sources of comfort will soon be dried up, and the miserable condition of the creature, that asked in vain for one drop of water to cool his tormented tonguet, will certainly be yours.
Here I apprehend multitudes will miscarry, who have made a fair shew in the eyes of men; and if you are condemned by this mark, I am sure you will not be acquitted by any of the preceding. For all the branches of an holy temper have such a connection with this, and such a dependance upon it, that a man, who is destitute of this, can have only the semblance of the rest.
And thus, Sirs, I have with all plainness and faithfulness, as in the sight of God, and sensible of my account to him, laid before you a variety of hints, by which I think you may safely and truly judge, whether you be, or be not, in an unregenerate state: And I shall now beg leave to conclude this discourse with one plain inference from the whole, viz.
That baptism is not regeneration, in the scriptural, and most important sense of the word.
To prove this as a corollary from the preceding discourse, I shall only assume this most reasonable concession, with which you may remember I at first set out; “that regeneration, and being born of God, signify the same thing.” Now I have shewn you from a variety of scriptures under the former heads, that every one whom the sacred oracles represent as born of God, receiveth Christ, overcometh the world, and sinneth not. But it is too plain, that these characters do not agree to every one that is baptized; and consequently it evidently follows, that every one who is baptized is not of course born of God, or regenerate; and therefore, that baptism is not scripture regeneration.
I think no mathematical demonstration plainer, and more certain than this conclusion ; and therefore, whatever great and ancient names may be urged on the other side of the ques
* Isa. xl. 30, 31.
+ John vü. 39.
| Luke xvi. 24.
tion, I shall rest the matter here, without leading you into the niceties of a controversy so easily decided. I would only farther observe, that they who most vigorously contend for the other manner of speaking, for after all it is but a dispute about a word, acknowledge expressly, that a man may be saved without what they call regeneration, and that he may perish with it. And though persons are taught to speak of their state, in consequence of baptism, in very high, and I fear, dangerous terms; yet when wise and good men come to explain those terins, it evidently appears, that many of whom they are used, are so in a state of salvation as to be daily obnoxious to damnation ; so the children of God, as also to be the children of the devil ; and so inheritors of the kingdom of heaven, as to be children of wrath, and on the brink of hell.
Where persons of real piety apprehend themselves under a necessity of using such phrases with respect to all that are baptized, we cannot blame them for endeavouring to bring down their signification, as low as possible : But they will, I hope, excuse those, who chuse to speak, in what they apprehend to be a more scriptural, rational, and edifying language.
It was a matter of conscience with me, to state the matter as you have heard. I do therefore earnestly intreat you, may dearly beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and for the sake of your own immortal souls, that you deceive not yourselves with vain words; but that where your eternal salvation is so plainly concerned, you bring the cause, the important cause, to an immediate trial : And if you are convinced, as I suppose many of you quickly may be, that you are at present dead in trespasses and sins, then let me beseech you, to reflect on what the most transient survey of the scripture may teach you, as to the danger of such a case. For though it will be my business, in the process of these discourses, more largely to represent it, when I come to speak of the necessity of the new birth, God only knows, whether your lives may be continued, till we advance so far in the subject: And where a case of this kind is in question, the delay of a week, or even of a day, may be inevitable and eternal ruin.