Page images

because you are conscious to yourselves that you have not this Spirit, that you are" without hope and without God in the world." But when the Comforter is come, "then your heart shall rejoice; yea, your joy shall be full, and that joy no man taketh from you," John xvi. 22. "We joy in God," ," will ye say, "through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the Atonement:" "by whom we have access into this grace," this state of grace, of favour, or reconciliation with God, "wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God," Romans v. 2. "Ye," saith St. Peter, "whom God hath begotten again unto a lively hope, are kept by the power of God unto salvation:" "Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith may be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ: In whom, though now ye see him not, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory," 1 Pet. i, 5, &c. Unspeakable indeed! It is not for the tongue of man to describe this joy in the Holy Ghost. It is "hidden manna, which no man knoweth, save he that receiveth it." But this we know, it not only remains but overflows in the depth of affliction. "Are the consolations of God small" with his children, when all earthly comforts fail? Not so. But when sufferings most abound, the consolation of his Spirit doth much more abound; insomuch, that the sons of God "laugh at destruction when it cometh;" at want, pain, hell, and the grave; as knowing him who hath the keys of death and hell," as hearing even now the great voice out of heaven, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying; neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away," Rev. xxi. 3, 4.

III. 1. A third scriptural mark of those who are born of God, and the greatest of all, is Love: even the love of


God shed abroad in their hearts, by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto them," Rom. v. 5. "Because they are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into their hearts, crying, Abba, Father!" Gal. iv. 8. By this Spirit, continually looking up to God, as their reconciled and loving Father, they cry to him for their daily bread, for all things needful, whether for their souls or bodies. They continually pour out their hearts before him, knowing "they have the petitions which they ask of him," 1 John v. 15. Their delight is in him. He is the joy of their heart: their shield, and their "exceeding great reward." The desire of their soul is toward him: it is their "meat and drink to do his will;" and they are "satisfied as with marrow and fatness, while their mouth praiseth him with joyful lips," Psalm lxiii. 5.

2. And, in this sense also, "Every one who loveth him that begat, loveth him that is begotten of him," 1 John v. 1. His spirit rejoiceth in God his Saviour. He "loveth the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity:" he is so "joined unto the Lord," as to be one Spirit. His soul hangeth upon him, and chooseth him as altogether lovely, "the chiefest among ten thousand." He knoweth, he feeleth what that means, "My beloved is mine, and I am his." "Thou art fairer than the children of men; full of grace are thy lips, because God hath anointed thee for ever!" Psalm xlv. 2.

3. The necessary fruit of this love of God, is the love of our neighbour, of every soul which God hath made: not excepting our enemies, not excepting those who are now "despitefully using and persecuting us:" a love, whereby we love every man as ourselves, as we love our own souls. Nay, our Lord has expressed it still more strongly, teaching us to "love one another even as he hath loved us." Accordingly, the commandment written in the hearts of all those that love God, is no other than this, "As I have loved you, so love ye one another." Now, "herein perceive we the love of God, in that he laid down his life for us," 1 John iii. 16. "We ought" then, as the Apostle justly infers," to lay down our lives for our brethren." If


we feel ourselves ready to do this, then do we truly love our neighbour. Then " we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we thus love our brethren," ver. 14. "Hereby know we" that we are born of God, that we "dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of bis [loving] Spirit," ch. iv. 13. For "Love is of God, and every one that thus loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God," I John iv. 7.

4. But some may possibly ask, Does not the Apostle say, "This is the love of God, that we keep his command, ments?" I John v. 3. Yea, and this is the love of our neighbour also, in the same sense as it is the love of God. But what would you infer from hence? That the keeping the outward commandments, is all that is implied in loving God with all your heart, with all your mind, and soul, and strength, and in loving your neighbour as yourself? That the love of God is not an affection of the soul, but merely an outward service? And that the love of our neighbour is not a disposition of heart, but barely a course of outward works! To mention so wild an interpretation of the Apostle's words, is sufficiently to confute it. The plain indisputable meaning of that text is, this is the sign or proof of the love of God, of our keeping the first and great commandment, to keep all the rest of his commandments. For true love, if it be once shed abroad in our hearts, will constrain us so to do; since, whosoever loves God with all his heart, cannot but serve him with all his strength.

[ocr errors]

5. A second fruit then of the love of God, (so far as it can be distinguished from it), is universal obedience to him we love, and conformity to his will: obedience to all the commands of God, internal and external: obedience of the heart and of the life, in every temper, and in all manner of conversation. And one of the tempers most obviously implied herein is, the being "zealous of good works;" the hungering and thirsting to do good in every possible kind, unto all men; the rejoicing to "spend and be spent for them," for every child of man, not looking for any recompense in this world, but only in the resurrection of the just.

[ocr errors]

1. Thus have I plainly laid down those marks of the New-Birth, which I find laid down in Scripture. Thus doth God himself answer that weighty question, What is it to be born of God? Such, if the appeal be made to the Oracles of God, is "every one that is born of the Spirit." This it is, in the judgment of the Spirit of God, to be a son or a child of God. It is, so to believe in God through Christ, as "not to commit sin," and to enjoy at all times, and in all places, that "peace of God which passeth all understanding." It is, so to hope in God through the Son of his love, as to have not only the "testimony of a good conscience," but also the Spirit of God, "bearing witness with your spirits, that ye are the children of God:" whence cannot but spring, the "rejoicing evermore in him, through whom ye have received the atonement." It is so to love God, who hath thus loved you, as you never did love any creature: so that ye are constrained to love all men as yourselves; with a love, not only ever burning in your hearts, but flaming out in all your actions and conversation, and making your whole life one labour of love, one continued obedience to those commands, "Be ye merciful, as God is merciful: Be ye holy, as I the Lord am holy: Be ye perfect, as your Father who is in heaven is perfect."

2. Who then are ye that are thus born of God? Ye "know the things which are given to you of God." Ye well know, that ye are the children of God, and "can assure your hearts before him." And every one of you who has observed these words, cannot but feel, and know of a truth, whether at this hour, (answer to God and not to man!) you are thus a child of God or not? The question is not, what you were made in baptism: (do not evade.) But, what are you now? Is the Spirit of Adoption now in your heart? To your own heart let the appeal be made. I ask not, whether you were born of water and of the spirit. But are you now the temple of the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in you? I allow you were "circumcised with the cir cumcision of Christ," (as St. Paul emphatically terms Bap, tism.) But does the Spirit of Christ and of glory now rest

upon you? Else "your circumcision is become uncircumcision"

3. Say not, then in your heart, I was once baptized, therefore I am now a child of God. Alas, that consequence will by no means hold. How many are the baptized gluttons and drunkards, the baptized liars and common swearers, the baptized railers and evil-speakers, the baptized whoremongers, thieves, extortioners? What think you? Are these now the children of God? Verily, I say unto you, whosoever you are, unto whom any one of the preceding characters belong, "ye are of your father the devil, and the works of your father ye do." Unto you I call, in the name of him whom you crucify afresh, and in his words to your circumcised predecessors, "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?"

4. How indeed, except ye be born again! For ye are now dead in trespasses and sins. To say then, that ye cannot be born again, that there is no new-birth but in baptism, is to seal you all under damnation, to consign you to hell, without help, without hope. And perhaps some may think this just and right. In their zeal for the Lord of Hosts, they may say, "Yea, cut off the sinners, the Amalekites! Let these Gibeonites be utterly destroyed! They deserve no less." No; nor I: nor you. Mine and your desert, as well as theirs, is hell. And it is mere mercy, free, undeserved mercy, that we are not now in unquenchable fire. You will say, "But we are washed, we are born again of water and of the Spirit." So were they. This therefore hinders not at all, but that ye may now be even as they. Know ye not, that "what is highly esteemed of men is an abomination in the sight of God?" Come forth, ye "saints of the world," ye that are honoured of men, and see who will cast the first stone at them, at these wretches, not fit to live upon the earth, these common harlots, adulterers, murderers. Only learn ye first what that meaneth, "He that hateth his brother is a murderer," 1 John iii. 15. "He that looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath

« PreviousContinue »