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That which is born of the Spirit, is spirit. THE apostle represents the different states of men, accord
ing to the different temper of their minds, as they are either carnal or spiritual; the misery and deadliness of the former; that “to be carnally minded is death :” the life and peace which is involved in the other ;
that “to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Rom. 8.6. We are presented in this text with a view of the two great fountains of that carnality and spirituality, which are themselves so great fountains of evil and good, unto the children of men, according as the one or the other hath place in them. The whole verse presents us with a view of both; "that which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit; is spirit”: though I am to insist, as my design requires, only upon the latter,
Some perhaps, taking some notice, that there is a universal death reigning over this world, by reason of that carnality which hath spread itself through it; may be prone to inquire, From whence is it, that so prevailing a carnality should so mortally have tainted the spirits of men every where? And this our Lord, gives no other account of, and only resolves the matter, into ordinary human propagation ; "that which is born of the flesh, is flesh.” His account is not such as seems to aim at gratifying the curious, but such as wherein the sounder minded might very well be expected to acquiesce. It being taken for granted, that the higher original of human nature, was very well understood and known; it might seem a sufficient account of the original of that corruption, which is now connate with the nature of man; that from apostate creatures, such as were like themselves have descended, and what is born of the flesh, is nothing else
* Preached November 25th, 1677. at Cordwainer's Hall.
but flesh: it being manifest that our Saviour intends to comprehend under that name, with the nature of man, the corruption which is now adhering to it. But serious and awakened inquirers, would not surcease here, though they were never so well satisfied thus far; but at least having gotten an intimation that there is a design on foot, for the restoring of life and peace among men, who were universally sunk into carnality, earthliness and death ; they would carry the inquiry farther : that is, In what way this is ever to be brought to pass ; by whom it is to be effected; what course is to be taken to bring about so happy and glorious a change, with any of this wretched and forlorn world? At least they would take notice that here and there is a renewed spirituality appearing, and putting forth itself to open view; though there is too little of it, the Lord knows. Why.whence is it, how comes it to pass, that here and there, we can perceive spirit and life flourishing afresh in the world, which was so universally over-run with carnality and death! This matter our Lord gives an account of in the words which I have designed more especially to consider; and resolves it wholly into a spiritual production. This is owing to nothing else but the spirit, or a new kind of creation,' and generation : the Spirit of the living God has taken the matter into his own hands to recover and rerive and raise up life and spirit, out of this wretched world, which is so lost and buried in flesh and sin. What is born of the Spirit; 'is spirit's if there is any such thing as spirit, any thing worthy of that name to be found now among men; that spirit is not of mản, but the
production of the Eternal, Almighty Spirit.
And certainly to such whose hearts are deeply and thoroughly concerned about a matter of this consequence, this of our Lord here cannot but be a very grateful discovery, and carry with it a very pleasant and joyful sound; that there is so great and mighty an undertaker, who is engaged in this affair, th us to retrieve things among men, and make life and spirit spring up in this world, so universally under the dominion of death. Nor can it be more grateful to some than it is certainly necessary to all; and we may wonder that it should not be more generally apprehended so, and that more eyes are not looking wishly round about. What, is there no deliverer ; no one to undertake? Is there no one suitable to such an undertaking as this; or who will engage in it? To repair the ruins of perishing flesh, and restore the life of God among men, who were alienated from the life of God? But, alas ! instead of such solicitous inquiries, it appears, we are fallen into an age, wherein some deny, and others deride, and most. utterly disregard the operations of the blessed and glorious Spirit of God,
for such purposes. There are multitudes to whom the mention of such a thing is matter of laughter. What, to have the Spirit! for men to talk of having the Spirit !-And there are a great many more, we have reason to suppose, who do as little concern themselves, whether they ever are the subjects of such operations of this Spirit, as if they were yet to learn, or had never heard, whether there were any Holy Ghost; as is said concerning some, Acts xix. 2.
It is therefore my design and purpose from sundry texts of Scripture, which may successively suit our purpose, to assert unto you the office of the Holy Ghost, in reference to the refining the spirit of men, and restoring the life of God among them; to shew that such a work is attributed to it; to let you see the necessity of so great an undertaker for this work; and kis abundant sufficiency for it; to shew you by whose procurement, and for whose sake, and in whose name, it is employed and set on work, and in what way, and through what dispensation it is communicated, and by what methods and steps and degrees, it carries on this work upon the spirits of the elect of God, till having brought them to sow, to the Spirit, they do at length of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
The scripture which I have now read doth plainly hold forth so much in general, as that it doth belong to the Holy Ghost, and is attributed and ascribed to it, to produce spirit, and bring forth such a thing as spirit in them who appertain to God, and are in purpose, and shall be actually, taken into communion and participation with him. For if we refer this verse to the foregoing verses of the chapter, we find our Saviour designedly insists upon this argument of regeneration ; and doth not only discover to us that there is such a thing, but gives some account wherein it doth consist, or what kind of work it is; and represents the indispensable necessity of it to any man's entrance into the kingdom of God; that is, his coming into it, or seeing, and having any part in it. And so the truth which we shall
recommend to you as both answering the text and our present purpose, is, that there is a work to be done
upon whomsoever shall be taken into the kingdom of God, by his own blessed Spirit, whereby they are to be created, or begotten, spirit of that Spirit. We have three things before us which require our consideration, in order to the more distinct and clear notion of it.
1. The effect to be wrought, or produced; which is here called by the name of the spirit.
II. The author or productive cause of this great effect, it is called with an emphasis, the Spirit.
III. The way or manner of production: and that is said to be by begetting, or being born: for so it is indifferently rendered.
1. We are to consider the product or the effect wrought, and that is defined by the name spirit; what is born or begotten of the Spirit, is spirit. It is needful to give some account here what we are not to understand by it, and then what we are.
1. It is very manifest we are not to understand by it the natural spirit of a man; for our Saviour is not speaking here of bringing men into the world, but bringing them into the church : He is not speaking of such a sort of begetting whereby men are produced, but christians. Nor is it a distinct substance from that, or another substance diverse from the spirit of a man ; for then a regenerate person, and an unregenerate ; the same person in his unregenerate, and in his regenerate state, would substantially differ from himself; and that you may easily apprehend how absurd it would be. But,
2. As to the reason of the name and the more general import of it; by spirit we are to understand something spiritual, and which is of a spiritual nature ; the abstract being put for the concrete, which is a very ordinary elegance in the Scripture; as well as it is many times in a contrary sense : You were darkness, but now ye are light in the Lord, Eph. 5. 8. The name is no more intended to hold forth to us, spirit, considered under a merely natural notion, without any adjunct, than, flesh, is intended to signify without any adjunct, and only in a merely natural sense. The thing which in general is intended to be held forth to us by this name, 'is, that frame of holiness, which is inwrought in souls by the Spirit of God in Tegeneration; and which because it is a spiritual production, most agreeable to its productive cause, is therefore called here by the name of spirit. It is something which is many times in Scripture held furth to us by such other names as these ; sometimes it is called simply by the name of light ; “ Now are ye light in the Lord ;” as if this product were nothing else but a beam of vigorous vital light, darted down from heaven into the hearts of men. Sometimes it is called by the name of life; that is used, it is true, as an expression of a larger extent, than for the internal work of the Spirit, but it comprehends that too; “Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life.” John v. 45. Many times it is so used as that the circumstances of the place do determine it more limitedly, to that peculiar sense. It is sometimes expressed by the seed of God, an incorruptiblc seed which is put into the souls of men. 1 Pet. 1. 23. i John. 3. 8, 9, 10. Sometimes it is called the new creature. In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature, Gal. 6. 15.
If any man is in Christ he is a new creature. It is very usual to speak of the effect, and the operation too, by which that effect is wrought, the former under the name of creature: the latter under the name of creation : ąs here it is spoken of as a thing begotten; and the causative action, under the name of begetting. It is sometimes called the new man; the image of God ; and God's workmanship. These different forms of expression, and if there are any more which are not in my thoughts, which are parallel to these, are only intended to signify one and the same thing ; and what is here signified by the name of spirit.
But to give you somewhat a more particular account of this thing, this being, this creature, which is here signified by the name of spirit. Of this we have said it is not a distinct substance from the spirit of a map, and yet we must know concerning it in the
(1.) Place, that it is a distinct thing; or something, though not of another substance, which is yet superadded to the spirit of a man; and which the spirit of a man, considered according to its mere naturals, is destitute of; and which therefore lies without the whole sphere and compass of mere nature, or any, of the improvements thereof. It is spoken of in the Scripture as a thing put on : Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness Col. 4. 10. There is something put off, and laid away; the old man, with his deeds. This shews it to be an adjunct, or a thing superadded to us; which is not only out of the compass of our natures, but is no more to be conceived as comprehended in that state, than a man's clothes which he puts on, are comprehended in the notion of his body. And in that it is called a new thing, as the new creature and the new man; it shews it to be an additional thing.
(2.) Though it is diverse and distinct from the spirit of a man; yet it is a most intimately inherent thing, and is most closely united, wherever it comes to obtain and take place. It is a spirit which gets into a man's spirit, a spirit put into spirit. That you may be renewed in the spirit of your minds, Eph. 4. 23. Create in me a clean heart, renew a right spirit within me, Ps. li. 10. It is the divine Spirit which is the formal renovating principle by which we are renewed ; and our former natural spirit is the subject of it. And it is a thing which most inwardly seats and centers itself in a man's soul, and takes possession of his inmost soul, which is called the spirit of the mind; and which we must conceive to be to the soul, as the heart is to the body, so very inward and midille a part, and upon the account of which analogy it is that the name of heart is so often transferred thither to signify the inward part, or the