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bastards, but sons. All this takes place within them, not to give them a title to heaven, nor yet to augment that title; but to demonstrate, that they have really an interest in it, and that the title, which always rests in Christ, as its proper foundation, is extended with its happy effects unto them. Without this particular extension, they might talk of a title, and might have a name to live; but they would be dead before God, and would have no real possession of or right to any thing.
When they are of age, which with God is measured not by years but by designation and fitness, they are translated from their present mean condition into the full enjoyment of their estates. Death strips off the garments of corruption and bondage; and, immediately upon their entrance into glory, they are clothed upon with life and immortality. We know not, and cannot know, what that dress, that inheritance, fully is: but if we could now by our present faculties know them, it is very certain, they must be much meaner than they are, and consequently less worthy of Christ's purchase and our enjoyment.
Probably, the state of angels will be inferior to that of the redeemed. Of them it is never said, that they are to be one in the Father and Son, and partakers of the glory of the Messiah. They are called ministring spirits, and represented as attendants upon the heirs of salvation, One, who not only lay upon, but saw deeply into, the bosom of his master, hath told us; Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be
like him; for we shall see him as he is.* It was well said by a gracious man; "How little do the mourning attendants of believers think, what visions of God, what ravishing sights of Christ, the souls of their departed friends may have, while they are closing their eyes with tears!"
Christian reader, I cannot tell thee the greatness of thine inheritance, for it is infinite; nor its worth, for it is inestimable; nor its blessedness, for it is unspeakable; nor its duration, for it is everlasting. But I can tell thee, upon the best authority, that it is sure to all the seed, and that, if thou art one of them, it is infallibly sure to thee. If thou art called by grace, if sin be thy hate and thy load, if thou live by faith, if thou walk with Christ, if thy hope and expectation be only in him, if earth be thy wilderness and thou art kept in due measure un spotted from the world, if heaven be thy home, and thy heart burn within thee at times to be there;-these are signs and tokens, which the devil puts not upon his children, nor which the world endures; these are pledges and proofs, that thou art an heir of the kingdom, and that the kingdom itself shall be thine. Go on, blessed soul, go on, and fight the good fight of faith, and hold fast, through the arm which sustains thee, and thus hold out unto the end. Soon shalt thou hear those animating words, Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!
* 1 John iii. 2.
BORN OF GOD, OR REGENERATE.
THIS title is given to the redeemed, in order to distinguish their present from their former state, and their persons from all other men, as born naturally of the offspring of Adam. It implies that great doctrine of regeneration, which is so offensive to the world, and the peculiar privilege of God's children in being redeemed from it.
The absolute necessity of experiencing this truth in order to salvation is most forcibly stated by our Lord in those memorable words: Verily, verily, I say unto thee (Nicodemus,) Except a man be born again, or from above, he cannot SEE the kingdom of God; and again; 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.*
The people of God are naturally born as all other men, and, till they are new-born, have the same spirit which is in the men of the world, and live like them in error of life and darkness of mind. Who maketh them to differ, at length, from others? No answer doth the scripture afford than this; They are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of
* John iii. 3, 5.
God.* They could not contribute to their own natural birth, though other human agents might and did; but, in this case of spiritual life, both their own will and the will of man, the will of all flesh, the constitution of nature itself and its life, signified by the blood, are wholly excluded from the primary cause, which is entirely referred to that divine Agent, who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.
This is a sore grievance to the world, and to the wisdom and powers of fallen man, who cannot endúre the exclusion of boasting: but it is God's word, and his inviolable truth, notwithstanding. It is revealed as doctrine; and it is confirmed by fact.
Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? This question to Nicodemus might be offered to thousands, who are learned like him; but can receive no answer from reason, darkened and doubtful reason, which for a guide, though blind in these matters, is the only guide they desire. Another instructor must unfold the mystery of that wisdom, which none of the princes or great men of this world knew or can know. Our Lord teaches us, how any man attains this gracious information. I thank thee O Father, Lord of heaven and earth [this marks his sovereignty;] because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Futher; and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father: neither knoweth any
man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.*
Here we behold the cause of regeneration; and now we may contemplate the nature of it, and, finally, its effects.
Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? The question returns, and is equally applicable to Nicodemus, and to all others, who have studied their bibles. "It is no new doctrine, which I declare unto you, though new to and ever unattainable by carnal reason. The principle of it is evident in the faith and grace of Abel: the operation is expressly delineated in the book and experience of Job."
God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. He is ever speaking by his word. He cometh at last in visions of the night, after the manner of the Old Testament dispensation, and openeth the ears of men, which before were stopped, and sealeth their instruction by the seal of his Spirit; that he may draw man from his work [nwy] his own purpose and designs, and hide pride from man. Thus he keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from the overpassing sword, which, as in type the Egyptians, shall ere long destroy the unbelieving world. He is chastened also with pain upon his bed, and the multitude of his bones with strong pain: Thus he hath no rest from the deep and thorough conviction of his sin. So that his life abhorreth bread, and his soul dainty meat; that which he formerly lived on, that which engrossed his whole delight and desire. His flesh
'Matt. xi, 25—27.