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move more entirely according to His will than the hearts of all His reasonable creatures.
All things that cause to offend, all things that do offend, shall be gathered out of His kingdon and cast away; there shall be nothing, no not so much as the most secret murmur of a single heart, to break the full concord of the elders' hymn, who rest not day and night giving glory to Him who made them.
Into this kingdom of God, into this new and divine life, we can by no natural process be born. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. God's ordinary laws, God our Creator,-has provided our natural birth; perishable and evil as we are, for we can give life to other beings; but they must be perishable and evil likewise. But for our second birth, our birth into the kingdom of God, we require, not the natural laws of God our Maker, but the interference, in a manner different from the known laws of our present nature, of God our Sanctifier; of that most Holy Spirit who in a particular manner is the Lord and Giver of life eternal. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. By His new creation a new nature is wrought for us, incapable of decay, incapable of sin, and so fit for the eternal society of God. It is said of Christ that He was put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit; and it is said again, that if the
Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in us, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken our mortal bodies, by His Spirit that dwelleth in us. Without venturing to be wise beyond what is written, we can see from these and other passages of Scripture, that God the Holy Ghost, who forms our hearts to love Him and to cleave to Him, is in a peculiar sense our Maker in our second birth, when we arise incorruptible to enter into the kingdom of God.
This is the literal sense of being born again, and of entering into the kingdom of God. But undoubtedly these terms are used in a lower and figurative sense also, like the terms death and resurrection. Properly, that is the kingdom of God where God is perfectly obeyed, where all evil is shut out utterly. But as compared with the common state of things in this life, that may well be called the kingdom of God, where God is acknowledged to be King; where, if He be not perfectly obeyed, yet every act of disobedience is self-condemned, because he who is guilty of it knows that it was against his duty, that it is his privilege to be a servant of God. And therefore the Christian Church or society, where all acknowledge themselves to be God's redeemed people, and to be bound to live wholly to Him, who has purchased them with the blood of His dear Son; this also is called the kingdom of God. Further,—because to
belong to such a society is a great change from the principles of common men, because it is a great thing for those who have been used to live to themselves to begin to live unto God,—therefore the entrance into the Christian society on earth is called by the same name which belongs properly to our entrance into the society of just men made perfect in heaven; it is called by no less a name than being born again.
Now the second birth-in its literal sense, our being raised up incorruptible to enter into the true kingdom of God,—is the work of God's Holy Spirit. “ That which is born of the Spirit, is Spirit.” And of the second birth figuratively,– that is, our being so changed in principles as to be willing to enter into what may be called the kingdom of God on earth,- it is said no less, that it is the work of the same Holy Spirit. “Except a man be born of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” But of this second birth figuratively, it is said also, that a man must be born“ of water and of the Spirit ;” and it is this expression, “ being born of water,” that has given occasion to many frivolous controversies and foolish superstitions. But consider the various passages in which the baptism by water is opposed to the baptism by the Holy Spirit.
“ I, indeed," says John the Baptist of himself, “ baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, who shall
baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” So our Lord to His disciples, after His resurrection, " John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” Again, speaking even of Christians, it is said in the Acts of the Apostles, that Peter and John were sent down to Samaria, to give the Holy Spirit to the converts whom Philip had made; " for as yet,” it is added, “ He was fallen upon none of them, only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus ;” that is, they had received the baptism of water, but not the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Now what is meant by these two things? For it is clearly impossible that a mere outward ceremony, such as putting a person into the water, or pouring water upon him, should be spoken of in such language as is here used by our Lord. First, what is meant by the baptism by water? This John the Baptist explains, when he says, “ I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance.” The natural meaning of the ceremony of baptizing with water was the putting off the defilements of sin, the being cleansed in spirit from sin, as the body is washed by water. To be born of water then, is in other words to be prepared for the society of Christ by a hearty repentance; to have cast off all former sins, and to be ready with a pure and single heart to receive the teaching of His Spirit. To be baptized with the Spirit, as an in
troduction into the Christian society, has had at some times a wider signification than at others. In the time of the first Christians it meant particularly the receiving the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, which were bestowed by the laying on of the Apostles' hands, as a sign of the great power of God. But as it does not appear that all Christians received these gifts, the baptism of the Spirit is to be looked for in another thing which was more universal, namely, the faith in Jesus Christ, required of every man, together with his repentance, before he was admitted into the Christian Church. No man,” says St. Paul,
that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost ;” and it was an especial work of the Spirit to present to the mind the things which concerned the Person of Christ. So that the water and Spirit here spoken of by our Lord, so far as they relate to the entrance into the kingdom of God in its lower sense, that is, into the Christian Church on earth, seem to apply most properly to the repentance of past sins, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, required of those who are received to baptism.
But this is not the sense in which it most concerns us to dwell upon them. We have been all long since admitted into the Christian Church, and the value of that admission depends very much on the state of the church at any given time; it may do very little towards gaining us an entrance into