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shall be no rupture, nor the least drop of any grief at all? The main subject of these verses is, that which is the main comfort that supports the spirits of the Godly in all conditions.
1. Their after inheritance in the 4th ver. 2dly, Their present title to it, and assured hope of it, ver. 3. 3dly, The immediate cause of both assigned, viz.
Jesus Christ. 4thly, All this derived from the free mercy of God, as the first and highest cause, and Teturned to his praise and glory as the last and highest end of it.
For the first. The inheritance.] But because the fourth verse which describes it, is linked with the subsequent, we will not go so far off to return back again, but first speak to this third verse, and in it.]
Consider 1. Their title to this inheritance, Begotten again. 2. Their assurance of it, viz. A holy or lively hope.
The title that the Saints have to their rich inheritance is of the validest, and most unquestionable kind, viz. by birth. Not by their first natural birth: by it we are all born' to an inheritance indeed; but we find what it'is®, Children of wrath, heirs apparent of eternal flames. It is an everlasting inheritance too, but so much the more fearful, being of everlasting 'misery, or (so to speak) of immortal death, and we are made sure to it, they who remain in that condition cannot lose their right, although they gladly would escape it, they shall be forced to enter possession. But it is by a new and supernatural birth, that men are both freed from their engagement to that woeful inheritance, and invested into the rights of this other here mentioned, as full of happiness' as 'the former is miserable: therefore are they said here to be begotten again to that lively hope. God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ liath begotten us again. '. And thus are the regenerate, the children of an immortal Father, and so entitled to an inheritance of immortality, If children, then heirs, heirs of Goda
Eph. ii. 3.
This sonship is by adoption in Christ, therefore it is added, Joint heirs with Christ'. We adopted, and he the only begotten Son of God, by an eternal ineffable generation.
And yet this our adoption is not a mere extrinsical denomination, 'as is adoption amongst men'; bút accompanied with a real change in those that are adopted, a new nature, and Spirit infused into them, by reason of which, as they are adopted to this their inheritance in Christ, they are likewise begotten of God, and born again to it, by the supernatural work of regeneration. They are like their heavenly Father, they have his image renewed on their souls, and their Father's Spirit. They have, and are acted, and led by it. This is that great mystery of the kingdom of God, that puzzled Nicodemus, it was darkness to him at first, till he was instructed in that night, under the covert whereof he came to Christ.
Nature cannot conceive of any generation or birth, but that which is within its own compass; only they that are partakers of this spiritual birth, understand what it means; to others it is a riddle, an unsavoury unpleasant subject. It is sometimes ascribed to the subordinate
means, to baptism, called therefore the laver of regene rations. To the word of God. It is that immortal seed; whereby we are born again, by the ministry of this word, and the seals of it, as', For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many Fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel. As also*: But all those have their vigour and efficacy in this great work, from the Father of Spirits, who is their Father in their first creation, and infusion, and in this their regeneration, which is a new and second creation', If any man be in Christ he is a new creature.
Divines have reason to infer from the nature of
f Rom. viii. 17. 8 Tit. ii. 5.
k Gal, iy. 19.
h Jam, i. 18. 1 Cor. iv, 15.
2 Cor. y. 17.
conversion thus expressed, that man doth not bring any thing to this work himself. It is true he hath a will, as his natural faculty; but that this will embraces the offer of grace, and turns to him that offers it, is from renewing grace, that sweetly, and yet strongly; strongly, and yet sweetly, inclines it.
1. Nature cannot raise itself to this, more than a man can give natural being to himself. 2. It is not a superficial change, it is a new life and being. A moral man in his changes and reformations of himself, is still the same man. Though he reform so far, as men, in their ordinary phrase call him, quite another man; yet in truth, till he be born again, there is no new nature in him. The sluggard turns on his bed as the door on the hinges, says Solomon. Thus the natural man turns from one custom and posture to another, but never turns off; But the christian by virtue of this new birth, can say indeed, ego non sum ego, I am not the same man I was.
You that are nobles, aspire to this honourable condition, add this bobleness to the other, for it far surpasses it; make it the crown of all your hohours and advantages. And you that are of mean birth, or if you have any stain in your birth, the ennoble you, is this, to be the sons of a King, yea of the King of Kings, and this honour have all his Saints. To as many as received him, he gave this privilege to be the Sons of God.
Unto a lively hope.] Now are we the Sons of God, (saith the Apostle".) But it doth not yet appear what we shall be. These Sons are heirs; but all this lifetime is their minority; yet even then being partakers of this new birth and Souship, they have right to it, and in the assurance of that right, ihis living hope; as an heir when he is capable of those thoughts, hath not only right of inheri, tance; but may rejoice in the hope he hath of it, and please himself in thinking of it. But hope is said
ni Joh. iii, 2.
to be only of an uncertain good: true, in the world's phrase it is so: for their hope is conversant in uncertain things, or in things that may be certain, after an uncertain manner, all their worldly hopes are tottering, built upon sand, and their hopes of Heaven are but blind, and groundless conjectures ; but the hope of the Sons of the Living God, is a living hope. That which Alexander said when he dealt liberally about him, that he left hope to himself, the children of God may more wisely and happily say, when they leave the hot pursuit of the world to others, and despise it, their portion is hope. The thread of Alexander's life was cut off in the midst of his victories, and so all his hopes vanished; but their hope cannot die, nor disappoint them.
But then it is said to be lively, not only objectively, but effectively, enlivening and comforting the children of God in all distresses, enabling them to encounter and surmount all difficulties in the
way. And then it is formally so, it cannot fail, dies not be fore accomplishment. Worldly hopes often mock men, and so cause them to be ashamed, and men take it as a great blot, and are most of all ashamed of those things that discover weakness of judgment in them. Now worldly hopes do thus, they put the fool upon a man: when he hath judged himself sure, and laid so much weight and expectation on them, then they break, and foil him; they are not living, but lying hopes, and dying hopes; they die often before us, and we live to bury them, and see our own folly and infelicity in trusting to them; but at the utmost, they die with us when we die, and can accompany us no further.
But this hope answers expectation to the full
, and much beyond it, and deceives no way, but in that happy way, of far exceeding it.
A living hope, living in death itself. The world dare say no more for its device, but dum spiro spero; but the children of God can add, by virtue of this living hope, dum exspiro spero. It is a fearful thing when a man and all his hopes die
together. Thus saith Solomon of the wicked", When he dieth, then die his hopes, (many of them before, but at the utmost then all of them) but the righteous hath hope in his deatho. Death alone that cuts the sinews of all other hopes, and turns men out of all other inheritances, fulfils this hope, and ends it in fruition; as a messenger sent to bring the children of God home to the possession of their inheritance.
By the resurrection of Christ from the dead.] This refers to both begotten again by his resurrection, and having this living hope by his resurrec
and well suits both, it being the proper cause of both, in this order. First then of the birth; next of the hope.
The image of God is renewed in us by our union with him, who is the express image of his Father's person?. Therefore this new birth in the conception is expressed by the forming of Christ in the soul”, and resurrection particularly is assigned as the cause of our new life; this new birth is called our resurrection, and that in conformity to Christ, yea by the virtue and influence of his. His resurrection is called a birth, he the first begotten from the dead'. And that prophecy", Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee, is applied to his resurrection as fulfilled in it. God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesu's again; as it is also written in the second Psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. Not only is it the exemplar, but the efficient cause of our new birth. Thus", at large, and often elsewhere.
And thus likewise it is the cause of our living hope, that which indeed inspires and maintains life in it, because he hath conquered death, and is risen again; and that is implied which followeth, he is set down at the right hand of God, hath entered into possession of that inheritance: this gives us a n Prov. xi. 7. o Prov. xiv. 32. P Heb. i. 3. 9 Gal. iv. 19.
I Rey, i. 5. s Psal. ii. 7. t Act. xiii. '33, u Rom, vi.