Page images
PDF
EPUB

82

LECTURE XV.

Of Regeneration. The Platonists divide the world into two, the sensible and the intellectual world. They imagine the one to be the type of the other, and that sensible and spiritual things are stamped, as it were, with the same stamp or seal. These sentiments are not unlike the notions which the masters of the cabalistical doctrine among the Jews held concerning God's sephiroth and seal, wherewith, according to them, all the worlds and every thing in them are stamped or sealed. And these are probably near akin to what Lord Bacon of Verulam calls his “ Parallela signacula” and “Symbolizantes schematismi.”. According to this hypothesis, these parables and metaphors, which are often taken from natural things to illustrate such as are divine, will not be similitudes taken entirely at pleasure, but are often, in a great measure, foạnded in nature and the things themselves. Be this as it may, that great change which happens in the souls of men by a real and effectual conversion to God, is illustrated in the holy scriptures by several remarkable changes, both natural and civil, particularly by a deliverance from chains, prison, and slavery; by a transition from one kingdom to anotber, and from darkness to light; by a restoration from death to life; by a new creation; by a marriage; and by adoption and regeneration. Concerning this great change as it is represented under the last of these figures, we propose, with divine assistance, to offer a few thoughts from those words of St. John's gospel which we have already mentioned; As many as received him, to them gave

power or the privilege to become the sons of God; together with these words of our Saviour in another place of the same gospel; Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

If indeed we consider the nature and the original of man, it is not without reason that he is called the son of God, according to that passage which the apostle, in his short but most weighty sermon to the Athenians, quotes from the poet Aratus, and at the same time approves of, For we are all his offspring. Our first parent, in St. Luke's

he

any

gospel, is also expressly called the son of God; not only because he was created immediately by God without earthly father, but also on account of the divine image that was originally impressed upon the human nature.

And this glorious title, which distinguishes man from all other corporeal beings, he has in common with the angels, who are also so called in several places of the book of Job. Job, i. 6; xxxviii. 7. It is indeed true, to use the words of St. Basil, that “every piece of workmanship bears some mark or character of the workman who made it;" for I should rather choose, in this case, to use the word mark or character, than likeness. But of man alone it is said, Let us make him after our image. And this distinction is not improperly expressed by the schoolmen, who say, as we have already observed, that all the other works of God are stamped with the print of his foot, but that man only of all the visible creation is honoured with the image or likeness of his face. And indeed on account of this image or resemblance it is, that he is in dignity very nearly equal to the angels, though made inferior to them. Here it is to be observed, that this inferiority is but little. Who was made, saith the apostle, a little lower than the angels. So that, with regard to his body, he is nearly related to the brute creatures, and only a little superior to them with regard to temperament and the beautiful elegance of his frame, but made out of the very same materials, the same moist and soft clay, taken from the bosom of their great and common mother ; whereas, to use the words of the poet,

- The soul is the breath of God, which takes its rise from heaven, and is closely united to his earthly body, like a light shut up in a dark cavern.”

That divine part of the human composition derives its original from the Father of spirits, in the same manner with those ministers of fire who are not contined to corporeal vehicles; concerning whom, the oracle having acknowledged one supreme and divine Majesty, immediately subjoins, “ And we angels are but a small part of God.”

And with regard to this principle which excels in man, which actually constitutes the man, and on account of which he most truly deserves that name, he is a noble and

divine animal. And whatever some fanciful and proud men may boast concerning their families, “ if we consider our original, and that God was the author of the human kind, none of Adam's race can be called ignoble.” But if on the other hand, we regard our woeful fall, which was the consequence of sin, we are all degenerate. We have all fallen from the highest honour into the greatest disgrace, and the deepest gulf of all sorts of misery. We have given away our liberty and greatest dignity, in exchange for the most shameful and most deplorable bondage. Instead of the sons of God, we are become the slaves of Satan; and if we now want to know 10 what family we belong, the apostle will tell us, that we are children of wrath and sons of disobedience.

But as the overflowing Fountain of goodness and bounty did not choose that so noble a monument of his wisdom should be entirely ruined by this dismal fall, could any one be more proper to raise it up again, or better qualified to restore men to the dignity of the sons of God, than his own eternal Son, who is the most perfect and express image of the Father? Nor does this glorious person decline the severe service. Though he was the son of his Father's love, the heir and lord of the whole universe; though he might be called the delight of his most exalted Father and of all blessed spirits, and now, with the greatest justice, the darling of the human kind ; yet he left bis Father's bosom, and, O wonderful condescension! became the son of man, that men might become anew the sons of God. Whence he is also called the second Adam, because he recovered all that was lost by the first.

That all who sincerely receive him might be again admitted into the embraces of the Father, and no more be called children of wrath, he himself submitted to the punishment due to our disobedience; and, by bearing it, removed our guilt and pacified justice. He also went into the faines of divine wrath to deliver us from them, and, by a plentiful stream of his most precious blood, quite extinguished them. He likewise took effectual care that those who were now no longer to be called children of wrath, should also cease to be children of disobedience, by pouring out upon them a plentiful effusion of his sanctifying spirit; that their hearts being thereby purged from

RETUL LUNAR

OF THE

UNIVERSIT REGENERATION. CALIGER NIN all impure affections and the love of earthly things, they might, under the influence of the same good Spirit, cheerfully lead a life of sincere and universal obedience. Now it cannot be doubted, that those who are so actuated and conducted by the divine Spirit, are truly the sons of God. Whence that Spirit whereby they call God their Father, and with confidence apply to him as such, is called the Spirit of adoption.

Moreover, this wonderful restoration is often called adoption, not only to distinguish it from the natural and incomparable dignity which belongs to the only begotten Son, but also because we by no means derive this privilege from nature, but absolutely from the free donation of the Father through the mediation of his only Son. We must not, however, conclude from this, that this privilege has nothing more in it than an honourable title, or, as they call it, an external ion ; for it is not only inseparably connected with a real and internal change, but with a remarkable renovation and, as it were, a transformation of all the faculties of the soul, nay, even of the whole man. You will accordingly find these words applied to this purpose, by the apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, xii. 2. And to conclude—it is with a view to convince us, that, together with the title of sons, the Spirit of God is given to believers and they are inwardly renewed thereby, that we so often in scripture meet with this regeneration which is the subject of our present discourse.

If we consider the lives of men, we shall be apt to imagine, that the generality of mankind who live in the world under the name of Christians, think it sufficient for them to be called by this name, and dream of nothing further. The common sort of mankind hear with pleasure and delight of free remission of sins, imputed righteousness, of the dignity of the sons of God, and the eternal inheritance annexed to that dignity; but when they are told that repentance, a new heart, and a new life, contempt of the world and the pleasures of the flesh, fasting and prayer, are absolutely necessary for a Christian-these are hard sayings; who can bear them? Though at the same time it must be said, that they who do not regard these necessary duties will have no share in the reward annexed to them.

There are many things which distinguish this divine adoption from that which obtains among men.

1. The former is not an expedient to supply the want of children, which is commonly the case among men; for God has his only begotten Son, who is incomparably preferable to all the rest taken together, who is immortal as his father; and though from a principle of wonderful humility he condescended to become mortal and even to die, yet be rose again from the dead, and liveth for ever. From him is derived all that felicity which our heavenly Father is pleased to confer upon us out of his mere grace and bounty, through the merits and mediation of bis dear Son. And is there any one, on whom this felicity is bestowed, wbo will not freely acknowledge himself to be quite unworthy of so great an honour ? Yet such honour bas the eternal and incomprehensible love of God condescended to bestow on us, who are quite unworthy and undeserving. And in this also the divine adoption differs from that which is customary among men, who generally choose the most deserving they can meet with ; but all those whom God makes choice of are unworthy, and some even are remarkably so.

2. Men generally adopt but one each, or, at most, a few; but divine adoption admits into the heavenly family a most numerous host, extending even unto myriads, that Jesus, who is the head of the family, may be the first born among many brethren.

3. They are all heirs. Whence it is said, in another place, that he might bring many sons unto glory. Nor is the inheritance of any individual in the least diminished in consequence so vast a multitude of heirs; for it is an inheritance in light, and every one has the whole of it. Nor do the children come into the possession of this inheritance by the death of the Father, but every one when he dies himself; for the Father is immortal, and, according to the apostle, the only one that has immortality, that is, in an absolute, primary, and independent sense. Nay, he himself is the eternal inheritance of his sons, and death alone brings them into his presence, and admits them into the full enjoyment of him.

4. This Divine adoption is not a matter of mere external honour, nor simply the bestowing of riches and an inheritance; but it is always attended with a real internal

of

« PreviousContinue »