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“ neither circumcision is any thing, nor uncircum“cision, but a new creation.” (8) “ Love one another “ with a pure heart fervently, having been born again “not from corruptible seed, but from incorruptible, “ by that word of God which liveth and remaineth.” (t) “ Every one that doeth righteousness (habitually) is “ born of Him.” (v) “ Whosoever is born of God doth “ not commit sin ” habitually, “ and loveth and be“ lieveth that Jesus is the Christ, and overcometh the “ world.” (w) “ Christ saved us, according to his
mercy, by the washing of regeneration, and the “ renovation of the Holy Spirit.” (x) “ We are his " workmanship, having been created through Christ “ Jesus to his good works.” (y) “ Ye have been in“ structed to put off the old man, who was corrupt “ according to deceitful desires, and to be renewed “ in the Spirit of your mind ; and to put on the new “ man, who is created according to God in righteous“ ness and true holiness.” (2) “Wherefore, if any “ man be in Christ, there is a new creation : the old " things are passed away, behold all things are be6 come new.” (a) “ That which is born of the flesh " is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is " spirit. Wonder not that I said unto thee, Ye must « be born again. The wind bloweth where it will, 66 and thou hearest its sound, but knowest not whence “ it cometh, and whither it goeth : so is every one " that is born of the Spirit.” (6)
(8) John, vi. 15. (t) 1 Pet. i. 23. (v) 1 John, ii. 29. (w) I John, iii. 9. iv. 7. v. 1. 4.
(2) Tit. iii. 5. (y) Eph. ii. 10. (2) Eph. iv. 22—24. (a) 2 Cor, v. 17. (6) John, üi. 6-8.
From these passages it must appear, that the grand transformation we are now contemplating is not ideal : nor does it consist merely in enlightening and convincing the understanding, in a change of sentiments, or a change of outward conduct; though it often includes all these. A man may change his religious opinions, or his outward conduct, without experiencing a change of heart: and, on the other hand, a person may experience a genuine and complete change of heart (and the heart it must never be forgotten is the seat of true religion), without being able to trace the slightest difference in any one article of his creed. Every one knows, that in a certain sense the world is vanity, that he must die, that in the hour of death riches will not profit him, that time is precious, that the portion of it allowed us to prepare for eternity is uncertain and often short, that a death-bed repentance is not an infallible passport to heaven; and many know that they are sinners, that “ Christ Jesus came to 66 save sintiers," that there is one, and only one, way of salvation. Yet though these are known and received as truths, they are not felt as such : they want the Promethean fire to give them life and animation ; or, to drop so profane an allusion on so solemn an occasion, they are but as the new-formed body of Adam, before " God breathed into his nostrils the breath of 6 life," and need a touch from Him, who alone can effectually (whether immediately, or by his own appointed instruments) reach the soul, to render them living, operative, efficacious sentiments.
In regeneration, so much of the light of heaven is
let into the soul as enables us to know (or at least to begin to know) ourselves aright, to know God in his most awful and lovely manifestations, to see the enormity of sin, the “ beauty of holiness,” the worth of the Gospel, the “ riches of divine grace.” It is a light accompanied with warmth and vigour, that produces an internal and permanent change; a change that is universal, reaching to the heart, and evinced in the life: that renovates the powers of the spirit, dissipates folly, guilt, darkness, and despair, introduces holiness, joy, and hope, and creates in the soul an ardent, unquenchable desire to enjoy the life-supporting rays of the Sun of Righteousness, to be altogether holy, altogether heavenly, altogether full of affection towards God.
This change is rightly called conversion : not (as you have often known it represented) because it converts the subject of it from vivacity to lifelessness, from cheerfulness to gloom, from kindness and affability to churlishness and reserve; but because it converts him “ from the error of his way,” from the abuse to the proper use of the blessings with which he is surrounded, from a false to a true hope, from indifference to zeal, from “ the power of Satan unto God."? It is also as rightly denominated regeneration ; for it brings the person who experiences it, not under the influence of the mechanical transports of animal nature, or the blind 'impulses of a heated imagination, or into the delusive paths of enthusiasm ; but into a new state, through the operation of the Spirit of God upon the spiritual part of man. Surely there can be nothing
essentially chimerical, nothing contrary to reason, nothing that is not highly ornamental and infinitely beneficial to our natures, in having the powers of our mind thus changed by energy imparted from God, and having our pursuits directed after such objects as are most worthy the attention and regard of intelligent, accountable, immortal creatures! “ To have our apo prehensions of Divine and spiritual things enlarged, “ and to have right conceptions of the most important “ matters; to have the stream of our affections turned 6 from empty vanities to objects that are proper to “ excite and fix them ;—to have our resolutions set « against all sin, and a full purpose formed within us 66 of an immediate reformation and return to God, with 6 a dependence on his grace to help us both to will “6 and to do ;—to have our labours steadfastly applied “ to conquer sin, and to promote religion in ourselves 6 and others ;—to have our entertainments founded in 66 a religious life, and flowing in upon us from the 66 sweet intercourse we have with God in his word and 66 ordinances, and the delightful conversation that we “ sometimes have with Christian friends :--and, finally, 66. to have our hopes drawn off from earthly things, 6 and fixed upon eternity !-Where is there any thing 66 can be more honourable to us, than thus to be 56 renewed after the image of him that created us, " and to put on the new man, which after God is “ created in righteousness and true holiness? And “ where is any thing that can be more desirable than " thus to have the darkness of our understandings “ cured, and the disorders rectified, that sin had “ brought upon our nature? Who is there that is so “ insensible of his depravity, as that he would not “ long for such a happy change? Or who is there " that knows how excellent a work it is to be trans“ formed by the renewing of the mind, that would “ not with the greatest thankfulness adore the riches of “ Divine grace, if it appear that he is thus become a “ new creature, that old things are passed away, and “ all things are become new ?” (c)
That such improvements of character often have occurred, and are often taking place now, cannot be denied by any philosophic observer of human nature : to disregard them, or to neglect an investigation of their cause, is to neglect one of the most interesting and remarkable classes of facts observable amongst mankind. Who has not either heard of, or witnessed the most extraordinary changes of conduct, produced through the apparent influence (to say the least) of religious motives ? I say nothing here of the three thousand converted in one day at the feast of Pentecost,
-of the conversion of St. Paul and others, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, because those are usually ascribed to the miraculous and extraordinary influences of the Holy Spirit in the apostolic times. But I may call your attention to matters of more recent occurrence. You have witnessed instances of men running eagerly the career of folly and dissipation, who have been suddenly arrested, and changed from “ lovers of pleasure to lovers of God." You have known others who have devoted themselves early to
(c) Doddridge's Sermons on Regeneration.