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ways; he mourns sincerely for his sins; he sees the badness of his heart, from whence they flowed; he ranks himself among the chief of sinners; he wonders at his former boldness in sin; and he wonders at the patience of God in not cutting him off with some sudden stroke of his judgment. In short, he cries, "Behold, I am vile; I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes!"
The new creature has new thoughts of the world; of the men of it, and of the things of it. Once he loved the company of profane and unclean persons; now he shuns them as he would the plague; and his language is, "Depart from me, ye wicked men, for I will keep the commandments of my God." Before, he hated the very sight of a godly person; now, his heart unites with those who fear the Lord; he thinks them "the excellent of the earth," wishing to live and die with them. How different also are his views of the things of the world! Once they were his only portion. He sighed to be great: he longed to be rich; he panted for pleasure. Eating and drinking, cards and plays, music and dancing, or some other vain amusements, were his dear delight; and to enjoy these he would sacrifice every thing. Now he sees the vanity of them all. He sees their danger. They had led him to the brink of ruin; and now he can truly say,
"These pleasures now no longer please,
Far from my heart be joys like these,
But O, what new apprehensions has he of Eternity! He hardly ever used to think of it; now it is almost always on his mind; for now he has that faith which is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Now, therefore, he looks not at things that are seen, for he knows
they are temporal; but at the things which are not seen, for they are eternal. He knows that he must live for ever; either in a glorious heaven, or in a dreadful hell. Compared, therefore, with eternal concerns, all worldly things appear but as shadows, and he considers every thing below according to the relation it bears to his eternal happiness.
The new creature has also very different thoughts of Jesus Christ from what he had before. Once he was without form and comeliness to him; now he appears "the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely." He did not wish to hear of him, or read of him, or speak of him, except to profane his name; now he can never hear enough of him; for he sees, that if ever he is saved, he owes it all to Jesus; and therefore "counts all things but loss, that he may know him, and win him, and be found in him."
He also thinks very differently of religious ordinances. He could not bear to keep the Sabbath holy. Either he wholly neglected public worship, and took his carnal pleasure; or, if he came, it was a burden: he did not join in prayer: singing, at best, was an amusement; he disregarded the word preached, perhaps derided it; and as for private prayer, he hated it. How great the change! Now the Sabbath is his delight; "the holy of the Lord and honourable." The house of God is his home; the word of God his food; the Bible his dear companion; and prayer the breath of his soul.
Thus you see what a change has taken place in his views; and, if time permitted, we might show that these new views are attended with new affections: he loves what before he hated; he hates what before he loved. He has new desires, new fears, new joys, and new sorrows; he makes new resolutions; he is employed in new labours; he has new entertainments; he has new hopes and
prospects. How justly then is he called a new
Having briefly shown the nature of regeneration, let us consider,
II. The necessity of it. Observe how very strongly our Lord asserts it in the text-" Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Surely, these words must have great weight with us, if we believe the God of truth. But you will ask, What is meant by the kingdom of God? I answer, It means the kingdom of grace upon earth, and the kingdom of glory in heaven. Now, without the new birth, no person whatever can see the kingdom of God. It is not said, he may not, or he shall not, but he cannot; it is impossible in the nature of things.
With respect to the gospel state here, in which Christ reigns, no man can be a true Christian unless he be born again; he cannot be a true member of the church of Christ, or of that society which is governed by Christ; he cannot perform any of the duties required of the subjects of this kingdom; nor can he enjoy any of the privileges bestowed upon them.
He cannot perform any of the duties required. Fallen man is ignorant of what is truly good." He calls evil good, and good evil." He is "to every good work reprobate." Tit. i. 16. And he has a dislike to that which is good. "The carnal mind is enmity against God," and shows its enmity by rebellion against the law of God, Rom. viii. 7. Now, remaining in this state, he cannot answer the end of his being, which is to glorify God; and, having that unfitness and unwillingness to answer that end, there is an absolute, an universal necessity for his change. It is "in Christ Jesus we are created to good works." We cannot "pray in the Spirit," till we are born of the Spirit;" we cannot sing
with grace in our hearts," till we have grace; cannot worship God in the Spirit," while we are in the flesh. A dead sinner cannot present a living sacrifice. The duties of a natural man are lifeless and selfish; "he cannot serve God spiritually," because he is carnal; nor graciously, for he is corrupt; nor vitally, because he is dead; nor freely, because he is enmity against God; nor delightfully, for his heart is alienated; nor sincerely, for his heart is deceitful; nor acceptably, " for he that is in the flesh cannot please God."
In like manner, the unregenerate person cannot enjoy any of the blessed privileges of the gospel state. He knows nothing of the joys of salvation. He is a stranger to the peace of the gospel. He has no relish for the sincere milk of the word. He cannot delight in prayer; nor enjoy communion with God, or communion with the saints; for things that are not natural, can never be delightful. And this also
makes it plain that
The unrenewed man cannot see the kingdom of glory. The new birth does not indeed entitle a person to heaven; but it makes him "meet for the inheritance of the saints in light." The unrenewed sinner is shut out from heaven by the unalterable determination of God himself, who has declared that "nothing which defileth" shall enter that place; and that "without holiness, no man shall see the Lord." And if you consider what the joys and employments of heaven are, and what the disposition of a sinner is, it will plainly appear that he cannot see the kingdom of God.-"The happiness of heaven is holiness; and to talk of being happy without it, is as great nonsense as to talk of being well without health, or being saved without salvation. People are ready to think, if they go to heaven they must be happy; but without a new nature, a man would be as much out of his
element in heaven, as a fish, from the bottom of the sea, would be in a green meadow; or an ox at the bottom of the sea." Can a wicked man, who now hates the godly, expect to be happy in the society of saints? Can he, who cannot keep three hours of the Sabbath holy, bear to keep an eternal sabbath? Can he, who now curses and swears, imagine that his tongue shall be for ever employed in praising God? Can he, who now hates to think of God, love to employ his mind in the eternal contemplation of him? No, no. Hell is the sinner's own place; there he will have his own company, and, in some measure, his old employments, though : without the pleasure of them; but as to heaven, he can never see it till he be born again.
From what was first said of the nature of the new birth, let us learn to avoid the common mistake, that baptism is regeneration. It is the sign of it, but not the thing itself. We must "be born of water and of the Spirit," John iii. 5; that is of the Holy Spirit, whose grace is to the soul what water is to the body. Take not the shadow for the substance. Can baptism change the heart? Has it changed yours? Say, poor sinner, how is it with you? Conscience will tell you, "Old things are not passed away; all things are not become new.' Do any of you live in drunkenness, profaneness, Sabbath-breaking, whoredom, or any other sin? Or do you live unconcerned about your soul, careless about salvation, without Christ, without prayer? Know then for certain, that you are yet a stranger to this great and blessed change. And yet, without it, the God of truth assures you it is impossible for you to be saved. You must be "born again." Do not think that outward reformation,