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OF THE CHARACTER OF THE UNREGENERATE.
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.
AMONG all the various trusts which men can repose in each other, hardly any appears to be more solemn and tremendous, than the direction of their sacred time, and especially of those hours which they spend in the exercise of public devotion. These seasons take up so small a part of our lives, when compared with that which the labors and recreations of them demand; and so much depends upon their being managed aright, 26that we, who are called to assist you in the employment and improvement of them, can hardly be too solicitous, that we discharge the trust, in a manner which we may answer to God and to you.
If this thought dwell upon the mind with due weight, it will have some sensible influence upon our discourses to you, as well as on the strain of those addresses which we present to the Throne of Grace in your name, and on your account. We shall not be over-anxious about the order of words, the elegance of expression, or the little graces of composition or delivery; but shall study to speak on the most important subjects, and to handle them with such gravity and seriousness, with such solemnity and spirit, as may, through the Divine blessing, be most likely to penetrate the hearts of our hearers; to awaken those that are entirely unconcerned about religion, and to animate and assist those, who, being already acquainted with it, desire to make continual advances—which will be the case of every truly good man.
It is my earnest prayer for myself, and for my brethren in the ministry of all denominations, that we may, in this respect, approve our wisdom and integrity to God, and commend ourselves to the consciences of all men. 2 Cor. iv. 9. It is 27our charge, as we shall answer it another day to the God of the spirits of all flesh, to use our prudent and zealous endeavors, to make men truly wise and good, virtuous and happy: but to this purpose, it is by no means sufficient to content ourselves, merely with attempting to reform the immoralities and irregularities of their lives, and to bring them to an external behavior, decent, honorable, and useful. An undertaking like this, while the inward temper is neglected, even when it may seem most effectual, will be but like painting the face of one who is ready to die, or laboring to repair a ruinous house, by plastering and adorning its walls, while its foundations are decayed. There is an awful passage in Ezekiel to this purpose, which I hope we shall often recollect; (Ezek. xiii. 10-14;) "Wo to the foolish prophets--because they have seduced my people, saying Peace, when there was no peace; and one built up a wall, and lo, others daubed it with untempered mortar: say unto them that daub it with untempered mortar, that it shall fall:—Thus saith the Lord God, I will even rend it with a stormy wind in my fury: and there shall be an overflowing shower in mine anger, and great hailstones in my fury to consume it: so will I break down the wall that ye have daubed with untempered mortar, and bring it down to 28the ground, so that the foundation thereof shall be discovered, and it shall fall, and ye shall be consumed in the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I am the Lord."
If there be any, in one body of Christians or another, that abet men's natural disposition to flatter themselves in a way that is not good, by encouraging them to hope for salvation, because they were baptized in their infancy; because they have diligently attended on public worship, or merely because they do nobody any harm, but are rather kind and helpful to others; or because their faith is orthodox, their transports of affection warm, or their assurance confident; I pray God to awaken them by the power of his grace, before they are consumed, with their hearers, in the ruins of their deceitful-building.
Those of you who are my stated hearers can witness for me, that in this respect I have delivered my own soul. Ezek. xxxiii. 9. It has been the steady tenor of my doctrine among you, that our hope and confidence must be in Christ, and not in ourselves; and that, if we desire to be interested in the righteousness he has wrought out, and in the blessings he has purchased by his sacred blood, we must be experimentally acquainted with the work of God's renewing grace upon our souls, curing the inward distempers of 29our degenerate hearts, and transforming us into the image of his holiness. That is what we are taught in Scripture to call by the name of Regeneration; and considering how much the subject is neglected by some, and I fear I may add, misrepresented and disguised by others, I apprehend I shall profitably employ an evening hour for several succeeding Sabbaths, in giving a larger account than I have yet done, of the scripture doctrine on this important subject and its various parts.
It shall be my care, in the series of these discourses, as God shall enable me, to speak the words of truth and soberness; (Acts xxvi. 27;) and I entreat you to have recourse to the law and to the testimony, (Isa. viii. 20,) that ye may judge of the truth and weight of what I say. I desire not to be regarded any farther, than I produce evidence from reason and scripture; but so far as we are disregarded while we have the concurrent testimony of both, our hearers must see to it; and their danger will then be proportionable to the importance of those truths, which their negligence, or their prejudice, engage them either to reject, or to overlook.
The plan, on which I intend to proceed in the course of these lectures, is this: I will endeavor to describe the character of those whom we may 30properly call persons in an unregenerate state. I will describe the nature of that change, which may properly be called regeneration, or conversion. I will show at large the absolute necessity of this change, and the consequent misery of those that are strangers to it. I shall endeavor to prove the reality and necessity of the Divine influences on the mind, in the production of such a change. I shall describe some of those various methods, by which God is pleased to operate in the production of this holy and important work. I shall propose some advice to those who are already awakened, as to the method in which they are to seek renewing and converting grace. After which, I shall conclude these discourses with an address to those who have experienced this happy change, as to the manner in which they ought to be affected with such a series of sermons as this, and the improvement they should make of what they hear and what they have felt agreeable to it.
I should be peculiarly inexcusable, if I entered upon such a subject, without earnest and importunate prayers to the Fountain of light, grace, and holiness, that while you hear of this important doctrine, you may have that experimental knowledge of it, without which such discourses will indeed seem obscure and enthusiastical, according 31to the degree in which they are rational and spiritual. I shall only add that these lectures will take their rise from a variety of texts, which I shall not, according to my usual method, largely open and dilate upon, but only touch on them as so many mottoes to the respective sermons to which they are prefixed.
As I intend not philosophical essays, but plain, practical, and popular addresses, I shall begin,
First, With describing the CHARACTER OF THOSE WHOM WE MAY PROPERLY CALL UNCONVERTED AND UNREGENERATE PERSONS. It is absolutely necessary that I should do this, that you may respectively know your own personal concern in what is further to be laid before you in the process of these lectures.
Now you have the general character of such, in the words of my text; and a very sad one it is. They are represented, as dead in trespasses and sins, utterly indisposed both for the actions and enjoyments of the spiritual and divine life; as walking according to the course of this world, a sad intimation that it was the state of the generality of mankind; nay, according to the prince of the power of the air, that impure and wicked spirit, who works, or exerts his energy, in the children of disobedience, that is, in those who reject and despise the gospel; in which it is 32implied, and a dreadful implication it is, that the course and conduct of those, who reject the gospel, is according to the desire and instigation of the prince of darkness: they are going on as the devil himself would have them, and choose that path for themselves, which he chooses for them, as leading them to most certain and most aggravated ruin.
And who are these unhappy persons? Surely there must be some of them among us: for who can flatter himself, that in so numerous an assembly, the course of all is different from that of the world: and that all have happily triumphed over the artifices of that accursed spirit, who is, by God's righteous permission, become its prince, while it continues in its apostate state? I shall however think it a very happy point gained, if I could convince any of you, who are justly liable to that conviction, that you are the men; if I could, as it were, render visible to your eyes those subtile, yet strongly complicated chains, in which Satan is binding you, and by which he is drawing you on to eternal ruin; that you might recover yourselves out of the snare of the devil, who are led captive by him at his will.
I am now to describe the character of unregenerate men; but I cannot pretend to do it in all the variety of circumstances which may attend it. 33I shall therefore mention only some particulars which are most important, and which most certainly demonstrate a person to be of that wretched number. There are a great variety of countenances in the human species; yet the principal features in all are the same, though their proportion and lineaments may differ: and I apprehend, the characters which I am now to lay down, will most of them suit every unregenerate person, though they may appear in various persons in different degrees and different instances. I shall chiefly lay down these characters in negatives, as I apprehend it is the safest way: and would only observe, what you may easily imagine, that I speak only of the adult; for I would cautiously avoid entangling this Discourse with what relates purely to the case of infants, lest Satan should get an advantage over us, and turn that into an occasion to amuse curiosity, which I humbly hope, under the influence of the Spirit of God, will be a means of awakening conviction, and of breaking that delusive peace, in which, like the strong man armed, he keeps his vassals, till the fatal hour come which is to complete their ruin.
To waive the formality of labored demonstrations in a case which admits of such easy evidence, I shall go upon this obvious principle in the whole of my reasoning: That to be regenerate, 34and to be born of God, are in scripture terms of the same import; and consequently, that whatever temper and disposition is in scripture declared to be inconsistent with the character of a child of God, must necessarily denominate a man an unregenerate person. And one would think this principle could hardly be disputed, since all that allow of regeneration at all, in a Christian sense, seem to understand by it, that change, whatever it is, by which a person is made a child of God, and by consequence an heir of heaven.
Now on this principle, you may take the marks of an unregenerate person in such particulars as these; and let those, whose conscience owns them, hear and tremble.
1. The soul that never seriously inquired into its spiritual state, is, beyond all doubt, an unregenerate soul.
The Apostle earnestly presses it upon the Christians to whom he wrote, that they should diligently examine themselves whether they were in the faith; (2 Cor. xiii. 5;) and he who has entirely neglected to do it, seems to express, not merely a forgetfulness of religion, but even a contempt of it too. Nevertheless, be it known unto you, Sirs, that an humble return to God, and a cordial dedication of soul to his service, is not so slight an act of a man's life, that it should pass without any observation 35in doing it, or any serious reflection on having done it. Religion is a deliberate thing; it brings a man seriously to consider his ways, that he may turn his feet to God's commandments; (Psal. cxix. 59;) to search and try them, that he may turn again unto the Lord. Lam. iii. 40. A good man is so impressed with the thoughts of God, and of eternity, that perhaps he is rather ready to be over anxiously afraid and suspicious, in a matter of so great importance: and therefore will review on the one hand, the plan of salvation that God has laid down in his word, and on the other, the correspondency to it that he may discover in his own soul; and if there are any of you that have never been thus employed, any that have never separated yourselves awhile from other employments, that you might seek and intermeddle with this Divine wisdom, (Prov. xviii. 1,) you are assuredly strangers to it. If there are any of you that have never studied God's word, to learn his will from thence; that have never attended to sermons, that you might try yourselves by them, and, if possible, carry home something of the chief of what you hear, to assist your retired, and more diligent inquiries; you may now come to a very quick conclusion, and before you leave this place, yea, before I proceed to any further particulars, you may set it down as 36the memorable beginning of these lectures, and of this discourse, "I am already proved to be an unregenerate creature: I am in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity." Acts viii. 23. Nay, you may add, that there are perhaps thousands of those that are unregenerate sinners, who have not been so careless and so insensible as you. For, indeed, Sirs, a man may begin an examination, and start back from the prosecution of it, before it is brought to any important issue; or trying himself by false characters, he may come to a conclusion, which will be so much the more dangerous, as it has been the more deliberate. For the sake of such therefore, I add,
2. The soul that is not deeply convinced of its guilt before God, and desirous to seek deliverance from it by the Lord Jesus Christ, is still in an unregenerate state.
All the promises of God's paternal favor do certainly imply the promise of forgiveness; and you well know, that these are appropriated to such as humble themselves before God: and that humbling which is merely external, and implies no deep sense of inward guilt can pass for very little with that God, who searches the heart, and tries the reins of the children of men. Jer. xvii. 10.
The Scripture assures us, that whosoever believes that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God; (1 John v. 1;) and nothing can be more certain from the whole tenor of it, than that he that believes not, shall be damned, (Mark xvi. 16,) and surely a state of damnation is not, and cannot be, a state of regeneration. But what is this faith in Christ? Is it no more than a bare notional persuasion, that he is the Son of God? If this were all, the devils themselves believe; (Jam. ii. 19;) and many were the instances, in which you know that they confessed it, and trembled before him. You cannot then be ignorant, that the faith, to which the promises of salvation are made, is a faith, which receives the Lord Jesus Christ in all his offices; which trusts his atonement, as well as admits his revelation; and flies to him for righteousness and life. And how can that man seek righteousness from Christ, who is insensible to his own guilt? or how can he depend on him for life, who is not aware that he is under a sentence of death and condemnation?
But imagine not you are secure, because you acknowledge yourselves to be sinners. If that acknowledgment be slight and formal, it shows you are strangers to the operation of that Spirit, whose office it is to convince men of sin. John xvi. 8. If you have not been made sensible of the pollution of your hearts as well as the rebellion of your lives; if you have not received as it were a sentence of death in yourselves, and submitted to 38that sentence as righteous, though ever so dreadful; if you have not been made to loathe and abhor yourselves, and to repent in dust and ashes; (Job xliii. 5;) if you have not laid your hand on your mouth, (Mich. vii. 16,) and your mouth in the dust, (Lam. iii. 29,) crying out, Unclean, unclean, (Lev. xiii. 46,) and in this sense at least, adopted that pathetic complaint, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me? (Rom. vii. 24,) it is a certain sign, that sin still reigns in your mortal bodies, (Rom. vi. 12,) and is unto this day bringing forth fruit unto death. Rom. vii. 5.
3. The soul that is unconcerned about the favor of God, and communion with him, is still in an unregenerate state.
Common reason may tell you, that a soul destitute of the love of God, can never be the object of his complacential regards; and that it is impossible you should love him, while you are unconcerned about his favor, and habitually indifferent to converse with him. You believe there is a God; you acknowledge that he is the great benefactor of the whole world; you know your happiness depends upon his favor; you wish therefore that you may enjoy it; that is, you wish that some way or other you may be happy, rather than miserable. But let conscience say, whether you have ever felt, that in his favor is life; (Psal. xxx. 5;) whether you have ever known what it is to cry out with intenseness and ardor of soul, Lord lift up the light of thy countenance upon me. Psal. iv. 6. Alas, Sirs, had you been sons, God would have sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts; (Gal. iv. 6;) and if this be not the sincere, if it be not the habitual language of your soul; if you do not thus earnestly desire to live under the manifestations of the divine love, and to be able to say, truly our communion is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ; (1 John i. 3;) you are spiritually dead, and under the fatal influences of that carnal mind, which, being enmity against God, (Rom. viii. 7,) engages men to live contented without God in the world, (Eph. ii. 12,) so long as their corn and their wine increase. Psal. iv. 7. A heart, thus alienated from God, was never savingly turned to him, and can have no just reason to imagine itself the object of his paternal favor.
4. The soul that is destitute of a sincere love to mankind, has reason to consider itself as in an unregenerate state.
You may, perhaps, think it unnecessary to mention this; but the Apostle was undoubtedly a much better judge, and his own words suggest this particular to me: Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God; he that 40loveth not, knoweth not God, and consequently cannot be born of him; for God is love. 1 John iv. 7, 8. And our Lord strongly intimates the same thought, when he exhorts his disciples to the most universal and unlimited benevolence by this argument, that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; (Matt. v. 45;) plainly implying, that otherwise they could not really be born of God, or claim him for their Father. Regeneration is to form a man for intimate communion with the general assembly and church of the first born, (Heb. xii. 23,) and to prepare him for the region of complete and everlasting love; and the first fruits of it are to appear, and to be manifested here. It is a faithful saying, that they who believe in God should be careful to maintain good works; (Tit. iii. 8;) and unfeigned love is to be the root of them; so that if you cannot stand this trial, your religious hopes are all delusive and vain.
Let me entreat you therefore, that you would now look into your lives and hearts. Do any of the malignant passions harbor there? Ask yourselves, "Is there any of my fellow-creatures, whom I wish to see miserable; or would make so, if it were in my power to do it by the secret act of my will, so that no mortal on earth should ever know me to be the cause of the calamity?" If it be so, 41and this be your settled temper, you hate your brethren and are murderers; (1 John iii. 15;) and therefore are the children of the devil, who was a murderer from the beginning; and we may thus say of you in the very words of our Lord, who never uttered a rash censure: You are of your father the devil, for his passions you cherish, and his lust you would do. John viii. 44.
But reflect farther, If you wish others no harm, do you really wish them well? and that so really, and so sincerely, as to be ready to do them good? For merely to say unto them, depart in peace, be warmed and filled, (Jam. ii. 16,) when you have it in your power to help them, is at once to mock the poor, and to despise him that made him. Prov. xvii. 5. You that are conscious of a mean selfish temper, and wrap yourselves up, as it were, in your own separate interests, or in those of your own families, and can feel a concern for no others; you that devise what you may imagine shrewd and prudent things, but none that are liberal and compassionate; you whose eye does not affect your heart, when you see the distresses of your brethren, while you have this world's good, how dwelleth the love of God in you? 1 John iii. 17. How can you imagine you are the children of him, whom you so little resemble?
Nay, permit me to add once more upon this, 42that if all your compassion is only moved by men's temporal calamities, and works not in any degree with respect to their spiritual and eternal interests, you have reason to fear, that it is no better than an unsanctified humanity; and indeed, that you never have learnt the worth of your own souls, while you set so little value on the souls of others, even of those, to whom you profess and intend friendship. And this concluding hint is of importance to prevent a dangerous mistake, in which too many good natured sinners are ready to flatter themselves, and in which, perhaps, others are too ready to join in flattering them.
5. He that does not know what it is, to struggle with indwelling sin, and heartily to resolve against indulging it in any kind or degree, is undoubtedly still in an unregenerate state.
You will observe, I do not say, that every one who knows what it is, to feel a struggle in his own mind, when assaulted by temptations to sin, is a truly good man: the contrary is dreadfully apparent. A principle of natural conscience often makes very strong remonstrances against sin, and sends out bitter cries when subjected to its violence; and this is so far from denominating a, man a real Christian, that it rather illustrates the power of sin, and aggravates its guilt. But when a man's inclinations run entirely one way, and 43when he gives a swing to his natural passions without any guard or restraint; when he is a stranger to any inward conflict with himself, and any victory over his own lusts, and his corrupted will; it is a certain sign, he is yet under the dominion of Satan, and is to be numbered among the tamest of his slaves. For they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts; (Gal. v. 24;) have learnt to deny themselves, (Matt. xvi. 24,) and to mortify their members upon the earth. Col. iii. 5.
It is also of great importance to add, that there must be a resolution to oppose sin in every kind, and in every degree; for he that is born of God sinneth not; (1 John v. 18;) nay, it is elsewhere said, He cannot commit sin; (1 John iii. 9;) and though it is too visibly true in fact, and apparent from several other passages in the very Epistle whence these words are taken, that this expression is to be interpreted with some limitation; yet the least that it can be imagined to signify is this, that he does not wilfully allow himself in the practice of any sin. He has learnt to hate every false way, and to esteem all God's precepts, concerning all things to be right; (Psal. cxix. 128;) so that upon the whole, if he might have his request, and God would grant him the thing that he longs for, (Job vi. 3,) it would be this, to sin no 44more, and get rid of every sentiment, desire, and affection, in any degree contrary to the purity of God's nature and law. If, therefore, there be any of you, that spare one accursed thing, though you should seem eager on destroying all the rest--if it be the secret language of your soul, "There is but one lust that I will indulge; there is but one temptation that I will comply with;" I perceive your hearts are not right in the sight of God; (Acts viii. 21;) for though you could according to your pretended purpose, keep all the rest of the law, and yet offend in this one point alone, you would, in effect, be a transgressor of all. Jam. ii. 10. In short, He that commitetth sin is of the devil; (1 John iii. 8;) but he that is begotten of God, keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. 1 John v. 18.
6. He that does not know what it is, to overcome this world, and to place his happiness in another, is yet in an unregenerate state.
This is another of those certain marks, which God has given us of his own children. Whatsoever is born of God--as it is very emphatically expressed in the original--overcometh the world. 1 John v. 4. (πᾶν τὸ γεγεννημένον ἐκ του Θεου.) It is not, you see, the extraordinary attainment of a few more eminent Christians; but it is an essential branch of every good man's character; 45for he is begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, even to the hope of an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away. 1 Pet. i. 3, 4.
You have reason, therefore, to judge very sadly concerning your state, if you are strangers to this lively hope; which is a very different thing from that hope to be saved, of which some people talk in so indolent, not to say in so profane a manner, as to show, that it is the hope of the hypocrite, which will perish, when God takes away his soul. Job viii. 13; xxvii. 3. If you are conscious to yourselves, that you mind earthly things, your end will be destruction, (Phil. iii. 19,) for having your heart on earth, it is plain your only treasure is here; (Matt. vi. 21;) and if you govern yourselves by worldly maxims alone, and your great care be to obtain those riches and honors, which the children of the world pursue; if the importance of eternity has never appeared in such a light, as to make you judge everything trifling that can come in competition with it; nay, whatever your views of eternity have been, if you are not practically carrying on a scheme for it: and if you cannot, and do not, deny your worldly interest, when it cannot be secured without hazarding your eternal hopes; it is plain you are friends of the world, in such a sense as none can be, but he must 46be an enemy of God. Jam. iv. 4. If indeed you were dead to the world, and your life hid with Christ in God, you would set your affections on things above, on those things which are there where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God; (Col. iii. 1, 2, 3;) but the want of this temper shows that you are carnally minded, which it is death to be; (Rom. viii. 6;) and that the redeeming love of Christ has never exerted its influence upon your souls, nor his cross had any due efficacy upon you; for if it had, the world would have been crucified to you, and you to the world. Gal. vi. 14.
7. The soul that does not long for greater improvements in the divine life, is still a stranger to the first principles of it.
You know, that we are called, as Christians, with an high and holy calling; (Phil. iii. 14; 2 Tim. i. 9;) and as he that is the author of this calling is holy, so are we to be holy in all manner of conversation, (1 Pet. i. 15,) and to be perfect, even as our Father which is in heaven is perfect. Matt. v. 48. Here will therefore be room for improvement, not only during our continuance in the present life, but through all the ages of a glorious eternity; and it is the ardent desire of every good man, that in this sense above all others, his path may be like the shining light, that 47shineth more and more, until the perfect day. Prov. iv. 18. And this is the one thing that he does, or that in which all his labors centre; being conscious to himself how far he is from having already attained, or being already perfect, forgetting the things that are behind, he reacheth forth unto those things that are before, and presses toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Phil. iii. 12-14. In this view he seriously considers the circumstances of life in which Providence has placed him; that he may observe the advantages, which these circumstances give him for religious improvements; and it is delightful to him to discover such advantages.
Now if there be any of you, who know nothing of this temper, you are certainly in an unregenerate state; for none can be born of God, that do not love him; and none can truly love him, that do not earnestly desire, more and more to resemble him. So that if your hearts can indulge such a thought as this, "I wish I knew how much religion would be just sufficient to save me, and r would go so far, and stop there;" your conscience must tell you that you secretly hate religion, and are unwillingly dragged towards the form of it, by an unnatural and external violence--the fear of misery and ruin in neglecting it; and that you 48are not actuated by the free and liberal principle of a nature savingly renewed.
8. The soul that does not know what it is, to live by faith in Christ, and in dependence on his Spirit, is still in an unregenerate state.
We are all the children of God, by faith in Christ Jesus, (Gal. iii. 26,) if indeed we are so at all; and he that is joined to the Lord, in this sense, is one spirit with him. 1 Cor. vi. 17. But if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his, (Rom. viii. 9,) for as God has predestined us to the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ, to himself, (Ephes. i. 5,) so of his fullness it is, that all believers do receive, even grace for grace, (John i. 16,) or an abundance and variety of grace, by virtue of their union with him, who is the head: from whom the whole body being fitly joined together and strengthened by what every joint supplies, by an energy proportionable to every part, increases to the edifying of itself in love. Eph. iv. 15, 18.
These things, as you see, are not only hinted in Scripture, but are copiously insisted upon, as very material points; and though I readily acknowledge, good men may apprehend and consider them very differently, and may express those apprehensions in different phrases; yet as experience makes it plain, that those souls generally flourish most, who have the most distinct conceptions 49of them, and the most habitual regard to them; so I think it is plain from these Scriptures, that there can be no religion at all, where there is a total insensibility of them.
If, therefore there are any of you, that apprehend it is enthusiasm to talk of the assistances of the Spirit; nay, I will add, if there are any of you, that do not earnestly desire these assistances, and do not seek them daily from the hand of Christ as the great covenant head of his people, you are, I fear, strangers to some of the first principles of the oracles of God, (Heb. v. 12,) and are sensual, not having the Spirit. Jude, verse 9. And though you may now and then form a hasty, and perhaps a warm resolution in religion, you will quickly, with the proud youth that are conceited of their own sufficiency, faint and be weary, and with the young men you will utterly fail; while they only that wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength, shall mount up as on eagles' wings, and, pressing on with an unwearied pace, according to the different degrees of vigor which the different parts of their course may require, shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. Isa. xl. 30, 31. In short, if you do not thirst after the water of life, that is, (as the Evangelist himself explains it,) the spirit, which they that believe on Christ shall receive, (John vii. 39,) however bountiful he is, he makes no promise to impart it to you; and if you never receive it, all your other sources of comfort will soon be dried up, and the miserable condition of the creature, that asked in vain for one drop of water to cool his tormented tongue, (Luke xvi. 24,) will certainly be yours.
Here I apprehend multitudes will miscarry, who have made a fair show in the eyes of men; and if you are condemned by this mark, I am sure you will not be acquitted by any of the preceding. For all the branches of a holy temper have such connection with this, and such a dependence upon it, that a man, who is destitute of this, can have only the semblance of the rest.
And thus, I have with all plainness and faithfulness, as in the sight of God, and sensible of my account to him, laid before you a variety of hints, by which I think you may safely and truly judge, whether you be, or be not, in an unregenerate state: and I shall now beg leave to conclude this Discourse with one plain inference from the whole, viz:
That BAPTISM IS NOT REGENERATION, in the scriptural and most important sense of the word.
To prove this as a corollary from the preceding Discourse, I shall only assume this most reasonable concession, with which you may remember I 51at first set out: that regeneration, and being born of God, signify the same thing. Now I have shown you from a variety of scriptures, under the former heads, that every one whom the Sacred Oracles represent as born of God receiveth Christ, overcometh the world, and sinneth not. But it is too plain, that these characters do not agree to every one that is baptized: and consequently it evidently follows, that every one who is baptized is not of course born of God, or regenerate; therefore, that baptism is not scriptural regeneration.
I think no mathematical demonstration plainer, and more certain than this conclusion; and therefore, whatever great and ancient names may be urged on the other side of the question, I shall rest the matter here, without leading you into the niceties of a controversy so easily decided.22See Postscript, at the end. I would only further observe, that they who most vigorously contend for the other manner of speaking, (for after all it is but a dispute about a word,) acknowledge expressly, that a man may be saved without what they call regeneration, and that he may perish with it. And though persons are taught to speak of their state, in consequence of baptism, in very high, and, I fear, dangerous terms; yet when wise and good men come to explain those terms, it evidently appears, that many 52of whom they are used, are so in a state of salvation as to be daily obnoxious to damnation! so the children of God, as also to be the children of the devil! and so inheritors of the kingdom of heaven, as to be children of wrath, and on the brink of hell!
Where persons of real piety apprehend themselves under a necessity of using such phrases with respect to all that are baptized, we cannot blame them for endeavoring to bring down their signification as low as possible; but they will, I hope, excuse those who choose to speak, in what they apprehend to be a more scriptural, rational, and edifying language.
It was matter of conscience with me, to state the matter as you have heard. I do therefore earnestly entreat you, my dearly beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and for the sake of your own immortal souls, that you deceive not yourselves with vain words; but that where your eternal salvation is so plainly concerned, you bring the cause, the important cause, to an immediate trial. And if you are convinced, as I suppose many of you quickly may be, that you are at present dead in trespasses and sins, then let me beseech you to reflect on what the most transient survey of the Scriptures may teach you, as to the danger of such a case. For though it will 53be my business, in the process of these Discourses, more largely to represent it, when I come to speak of the necessity of the new birth, God only knows, whether your lives may be continued, till we advance so far in the subject: and where a case of this kind is in question, the delay of a week, or even of a day, may be inevitable and eternal ruin.54
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