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Gospel “ And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water; and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized ?" Why may I not receive the benefit which Jesus, whom thou preachest unto me, came to bestow? Why may I not enter into the kingdom of God, being born again of water and of the Spirit ; “putting off the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and putting on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness ?”1 Philip said, “ If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he commanded the chariot to stand still : and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.”
" And he went on his way rejoicing.” Having thus given an evidence of his faith, having been admitted into the covenant of grace, having received the pledge of the Holy Spirit, he went on his way rejoicing.
These are practical illustrations of our Lord's meaning ; Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is a kingdom of holiness : and man is not holy but corrupt. The Saviour of the world has provided a way for his purification. Therefore the entrance into his religion is by an emblematic action, which indicates that man both needs to be renewed and purified, and desires to be renewed and purified : desires that as water removes the defilement of the flesh, so the Spirit
1 See Eph. iv. 22–24.
of God may remove the corruption of the heart. If a man comes like the Ethiopian, or like the Jews, of his own accord, and from personal conviction, and says, “See, here is water ; what doth hinder me to be baptized ?” he makes this acknowledgment for himself. If an infant is brought to baptism, the same acknowledgment is made by those who bring him. The parents, or whoever take the parents' place, come with this avowal. Their child is of a corrupt stock, sinful; but they desire that he may be born again, washed in the fountain “opened for sin and for all uncleanness ;”—and that a new heart may be put within him, “in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” And thus they enrol him as a member of God's kingdom.
It were well if every child, which is presented in the temple for the outward ceremony of baptism, were brought with this intelligent conviction : with a sense of the necessity of this spiritual regeneration, and an earnest desire and prayer that it might be obtained ! The Lord approved of the zeal of those parents who
brought their young children to him, that he might touch them.” It was done in faith, that he was a prophet'; it was done in hope, that a prophet's blessing might avail. It was done in earnestness and with full purpose of heart; for when his disciples rebuked those that brought
2 Hence the ancient custom of putting white robes upon baptized persons, as signifying the purification of the soul expected by virtue of their baptism : and expressed in a form found among the works of Lactantius, Fulgentes animas vestis quoque candida signat.
them, they still persevered, till Jesus “laid his hands upon them and blessed them." there is reason to believe that he will hear and favour the prayers of all parents who come in like simplicity of heart and faith : who feel that they have bestowed upon their offspring an earthly, corrupt nature, which would lead, not to life, but to death :-“for that which is born of the flesh, is flesh :” —and who therefore present their children to him who can change and renew that nature, and make it like unto his own. " For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
Would God, my brethren, that this truth were better understood, and this primitive, this scriptural, this reasonable baptism more generally practised! Then we should not find so many who, though born of water, as far as concerns the baptismal rite, are evidently not made new creatures by the Spirit, who renews and sanctifies the soul.
And let all examine, how it is with themselves. Can it be said of them, that they have been born again? It must be true of them, if they belong to the kingdom of God. For “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.”3
He is entirely different from what he would be, if he were not in Christ Jesus. His trust is different: his views are different: his life is different. For he lives and thinks as one who knows, “that as many as are baptized into Jesus Christ, are baptized into his death." And “therefore they are buried with 32 Cor. v. 17.
him by baptism into death ; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so they also should walk in newness of life.” 4
THE NECESSITY AND MEANS OF REGENE
John iii. 6-8.
6. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
This sentence explains that which was last considered. Jesus had assured Nicodemus, that " except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And now he proceeds to declare, why this is needed. He tells it in short but important words, That which is born of the flesh is flesh.
The flesh is a phrase used in Scripture to signify man's nature. And that nature, as derived from Adam, is a corrupt and evil nature. Adam did not receive it so, for he was created pure and innocent : but he made it so when he transgressed the commands of God, and lost the innocence which he possessed, and the grace with which he had been endowed. And men since born his children are born in his likeness ; inherit the nature of their sinful parents : are very
4 See Rom. vi. 3, 4.
far gone from original righteousness,” and from their earliest years are “ inclined to evil” continually.
This is what our Lord declares : That which is born of the flesh is flesh: that which man brings with him into the world is tainted with the sinfulness which has adhered to the human heart ever since the transgression of Adam.
But this sinfulness, however it may prevail on earth, can have no place in heaven. Corruption cannot inherit incorruption.” Unholy man cannot be admitted into the presence of a holy God. Therefore this corrupt nature must be cleansed and renewed. Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And for this regeneration and renewal, provision is made in the Gospel of Christ Jesus. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. The Spirit fulfils the well-known prophecy, “A new heart will I give you, and a right spirit will I put Spirit purifies the sinful principle, and enables the man to renounce evil, and to cleave to that which is good : to subdue wicked propensities, and to follow love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.
Thus the flesh, the corrupt nature which is contrary to God, shall be subdued, and another nature introduced, which shall be not earthly, but heavenly ; not carnal, but spiritual ; not contrary to God, averse from