« Prev Sermon XLII. Preached April 22, 1694. Next »

SERMON XLII.4444   Preached April 22, 1694.

1 John v. 1.

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.

AND thus, what this faith, concerning Jesus’s being the Son of God, or the Christ, doth in itself import, hath been largely shown. And now,

II. What is said of such as do believe this with this faith, we are to open to you, to wit, what this being “born of God” imports. And concerning it, I shall first note to you two things in general; and then come to give you a more distinct and particular account of it afterwards. In general,

1. That this must needs be a very great difference, which such a work as this makes between men and men, this being “born of God.” The difference cannot but to every one’s understanding appear very great, between one that is born of God, and one that is riot born of God: especially too, when you consider, that every one that is not born of God, is of the seed and offspring of the worst father that ever was. For there are but two great Fathers whose posterity divide all mankind; they that have not God for their Father, as being born of him, our Lord tells them, “You are of your father the devil, and his works ye will do.” John viii. 44. “And by this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil.” 1 John iii. 10. It hath enough in it to amaze a man’s soul, to have this matter represented as a thing doubted of, and to be inquired about, To which of these Fathers do I relate? If the one of them be not my Father, the other is. This must be understood (as any ordinary understanding will easily apprehend), 524riot concerning a person’s naturals, but his morals. When a man is said to be a child of the devil, it is not as if there were any thing of positive natural being wrought in him by the devil, but only a moral depravation. And so when any are the children of God, it is not that any new natural faculty is created, but the faculties that were created at first, and that are depraved, and upon which the image of the devil is impressed, are sanctified; defaced, and purged of that impurity, and stamped with an impression from the Spirit of holiness, which is the regenerating Spirit.

That is one consideration, and a mighty one it is; and very obvious, one would think, to every one’s thoughts, that this must make a very vast difference between men to be born of God, and not to be born of him, and to be either of his, or of the devil’s seed. And,

2. This is to be generally noted too, that this difference is universal upon all believers. The greatness of it, and universality of it, are the two things that I would have previously noted. And this latter you have expressly in the text, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.” Every one, without exception. So that there is no room left for such an imagination to any one, Is it not possible that some or other may pass for believers, without having this work pass upon them, so vastly differencing men from one another, as this being born of God is? A great thing indeed! What? May none pass for a believer but such as are born of God? May not in the census some or other escape without that mark upon them? No, saith the Apostle, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.” Let him call himself whatsoever he will, he is real infidel; let him be never so much a nominal believer, if he be not born of God, his believing of this, that Jesus is the Christ, is as nothing; it is no believing. As in another case, circumcision goes for no circumcision, if it be not of the heart and spirit, and not only of the letter. As circumcision will go for no circumcision (where there is the very thing figured and represented), if it be the figure and no more, so doth such a pretended faith go for no faith (let men say never so long we believe Jesus is the Christ), if they be not born of God, they will never pass in the divine estimate for believers.

And now these two generals being noted, we must come to give you a more distinct and particular account what this being “born of God” doth import. And that we shall do 525in this twofold gradation: 1st, Speaking to it as it is a birth; and, 2dly, As it is a being born of God, as it is a divine birth. As it is a being born; and as it is a being born of God. The latter whereof, as you may easily apprehend, doth greatly sublimate the former and raise it higher, and should raise our thoughts and apprehensions proportionably higher about it.

(1.) As this work done upon the soul is called a birth, let us consider it so. And that is a more general consideration, and a lower one; and as a fountain and substratum to what is afterwards to be added under the other more specifying notion. Why, as it is said to be a birth, it signifies such things as these,

[1.] A real new product in the soul, that there is some what really produced anew in it. This must be signified by being born. Being born is not a fiction, is not a fancy; it is not an imaginary thing. Being born signifies a real new production, that there is really somewhat new brought forth into being, that before was not; and so as to make the subject so far another thing from what before it was; or works such an imitation, as that the person in whom this work is wrought, is not what before he was. It brings the matter to this, that he may truly say, Ego non sum ego, I am not the same (I) that I was. As the Apostle saith of himself, 1 Tim. i. 11, “I was a blasphemer, I was a persecutor, I was injurious, but I obtained mercy.” And that mercy which he had obtained, had made him quite another man. And this he doth not speak of himself as a single person separately considered, but he speaks of himself as a pattern to all that should thereafter believe; that he was taken herein as set for a pattern (as the expression is in the original) what mighty changes the power and spirit of grace could work in the souls of men, so as to make them so much other men from themselves. It is very true, indeed, that for those that hitherto continue in their natural and unregenerate state, they are not all sinners alike, they are not all sinners in the same kind. Every such sinner is not a persecutor, is not a blasphemer. But every such sinner is a carnal wretch, a stranger to God, alienated from him, unacquainted with him; one that hath no love to him, no fear of him, no delight in him, no desire to please him, no design to serve him. “No, as to what change is made in me (saith the Apostle), I am not here to speak of myself as a single person, but I am to speak of myself as a pattern, what the Almighty Spirit of divine 526grace can effect upon the soul of a man, to make him quite another sort of thing from what he was.” There is some what common to all unregenerate persons, and to all regenerate persons, wherein such a pattern may very well reach and suit every one’s case. Every one that is unregenerate, is a stranger to God, unacquainted with him; one that lives as without him in the world; that hath no design to know him, or love him, or please him? or serve or glorify him. Every one that is regenerate, his dispositions are changed in all these respects. Now what is common herein, must the apostle be understood to mean himself to be, a pattern to subsequent believers; those that should come hereafter to believe. Wherever that believing is, there is this change; there is that imitation in the subject, as will speak this person to be new born. There is a new production in him, by which he is quite another sort of man from what he was. “Every one that is in Christ (as every one comes to be in him by believing,) is a new creature.” 2 Cor. v. 17. It is the great design of our Lord Jesus Christ (as he is the restorer and repairer of the ruins of a lapsed world, and of a corrupt nature in man,) to make all things new, so far as his design takes place and succeeds. “Behold I make all things new.” Rev. xxi. 5. That is my business upon which I am intent: so that there is a real new production every where, where there is faith in Christ wrought, in every such person, which makes him truly differ (and not in imagination only) from what he was, and from what others are. And again,

[2.] As this is a real production to be thus born, new born; so it is a spiritual production, in contradistinction to such productions as lie within the sphere of nature. It is an extra-natural production. For, as I told you before, this makes men differ from what they were, not in mere naturals, but morals; and so it is an extra-natural production. It doth not lie in the sphere of nature, but it lies in the sphere of grace. You may collect it to be an extra-natural production by two things: 1st, The principal seat of it; and, 2dly, The great agent that is employed herein. The prime subject of it is the mind and spirit. The great agent employed herein is our Lord Jesus Christ, as it appears to be the immediate result of believing this Jesus to be the Christ: then he is born of God. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.”

First. Consider the former of these; it is a work, the primary subject whereof is the mind. “Be not conformed 527to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Here is a transformation to be wrought, by which men cease to be conformed to the world, to be like the world as they were. But where is the scat of this transformation? “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans xii. 2; and so Ephesians iv. 22, 23. “We have not so learned Christ: if ye have heard of him, as the truth is in Jesus,” that is, “to put on the old man which is corrupt by deceivable lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” If you have heard and learned Christ, or the truth as it is in Jesus, this is the effect of it, that you “be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” It is an expression that hath somewhat more of emphasis in it, than that last-mentioned expression. Transformed by the renewing of the mind, doth represent the subject not merely, not only as a knowing thing, but as an active thing; as the very action of spirit speaks activity or active vigour. And so it is not a mere contemplative knowing which belongs to the mind alone, abstractly considered; but there being spirit in that mind, that turns all that knowledge into vital principles, suitable for present actions and operations. And this is the very centre of that subject, or seat of this renovation, or transforming change. You must be renewed in this faculty, not only as it is cognitive, but as it is active; as there is a spirit suiting it for vigorous acting centering in it. Here is the seat of this renovation. This plainly speaks this to be an extra-natural production, as well as it speaks it to be a real one, as before was said.

Secondly. If we consider Christ as the ministering agent here, and as he was the prime minister of the gospel by which this work is effected and done upon souls. It did not belong to him in this capacity, as he was Christ, merely to bring forth a new natural production into the old world. It is true that belongs to him too, but under another notion, as he was the Creator of all things, things visible and invisible, things in heaven and things on earth: all were created by him and for him, to wit, if you consider him in his abstract Deity. But the name Christ is the appropriated name of his office, as he is the Mediator. Every one that believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God. Believing him to be Christ, that is, to be the restorer of a lapsed, perishing world, not the creator of it, as he was at the first, which belongs to him in that distinct natural capacity; but look upon him as a constituted Mediator, a restorer and repairer of fallen, ruined, perishing creatures; 528look upon him so as the name Christ signifies him to be, and so he is the agent in this great work. “He that believeth him to be the Christ, is born of God.” “And he that is in Christ, is a new creature.” 2 Cor. v. 17; and again, Ephes. ii. 10. “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” Whatsoever lay within the confines and limits of nature, would do us no good, that is all but self. We are not saved by ourselves, but we are saved by grace, and not by nature, or any thing natural, as you have it in that context. How is that? Why, we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. Now the agency of Christ Jesus, as he is the Christ, it lies within the sphere of grace (by which it is said we are saved,) not within the sphere of nature. And therefore it is not nature that doth the business. We must look upon this as an extra-natural, supernatural production, both as it is our mind, and the very spirit which is to be the seat and subject of it; and as our Lord Jesus, even as he is the Christ, that is to be the great agent therein. But again,

[3.] As this is a birth, so we must consider it to be a total production, such an one as carries an intireness with it: for so it is too with all such productions that are properly called births. A birth is not the production of a leg, or an arm, or an eye, but it is the production of an entire human creature. And so is this work represented: it is called the putting on of a new man. I pray consider this; the words of God are weighty words, and claim to be pondered with serious and deeply considering thoughts. I beseech you, why is that change wrought in regeneration, signified by putting on of a new man? What can it signify less than this, that it must be a total change? The production carries an intireness in it. As you do not call a finger or a toe a man, but the whole fabric and frame animated by a human spirit; this is the man. Nowhere is an old man “put off, that was corrupt by deceivable lusts,” and then a new man put on, “which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Some way or other, indeed, this renewing work lies bespread through the whole man. Therefore the apostle prayed for the Thessalonians, (1 Epistle v. 23,) that they might be sanctified throughout in their whole spirit, soul, and body; meaning by the first, the higher and nobler faculties, or, as we may call it, the upper soul. By the second, the lower soul, as it is that seat of internal sense, imagination, 529appetition, passion, fancy. And then the body, according as that may in a secondary sense be said to be the seat of a sanctifying impression, the several parts of that being now more governable by a rectified mind and spirit, more useable for God, the several parts thereof being so made instruments of righteousness for the serving of God, as the expression is, Rom. vi. 19. It being evident, that where the Spirit of holiness doth obtain and take place, or where the regenerating work is really effected, men do thereupon more make it their business to govern the outward man subserviently to the inner, and the lower soul subservient to the upper; and the very parts of the body, too, subserviceable to both, that they may be Instruments for the serving of God. Wherever there is more of the regenerating power and spirit of grace residing and ruling in the inner man, so much the more there will be of a severe restraint, from a divine principle. So much the more there will be of a severe restraint upon licentious, unbridled appetite: so much the more careful such will be to preserve their bodies in an useable posture for the service of God, remembering that even their bodies themselves are the outward temples of a Deity. “Know ye not that ye are the temples of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” 1 Cor. iii. 16. And every man is therefore taught and required to possess his body in sanctification and honour, remembering that even his very flesh itself hath undergone a dedication, being washed with pure water, to signify its being prest into a subserviency to the great God and the Redeemer, under the conduct and government of his Spirit. “Let us draw nigh (we that have lived at a distance, and strangers) with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water, to signify, that in body and spirit we have been devoted. Heb. x. 22; agreeing with that 1 Cor. vi. latter end, “You are not your own, you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your spirit, and in your bodies, which are both his.” And so by participation, and secondarily the sanctifying impression comes to obtain in that which is lowest in the nature of men. They are to be sanctified throughout, therefore this is a total production: that holy rectitude which is effected by regeneration, or this new birth, takes place in every thing belonging to the nature of man. Therefore be not so vague as to imagine, that if there be somewhat done in some one faculty, this is regeneration, 530or that this speaks a man new born. If now and then there be a right thought injected and cast in, if there be an inclination, some motion or desire; if something of convictive light be struck into a man’s conscience; is this regeneration? Is this being new born? No, that makes sill things new: “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are clone away, all things are become new.” There is a new mind, a new judgment, a new conscience, a new will, new desires, new delights, new love, new fear, every thing new. And,

[4,] This birth, as it is a birth, signifies a permanent production, an effect that is permanent, lasting, and continued. This is obvious to every one that considers the common notion of a birth: for whatsoever it is (as to essentials) that any one is (as he is born,) the same he is to be as long as he lives. Whatsoever he is by birth, as to the essentials of that being which by birth now comes to take place in this world, he is the same thing all his days. Therefore, this must be some permanent, lasting, abiding work and impression upon the soul. It is not some light subetaneous passion that is raised in a moment, and gone in a moment. There may be many such subetaneous passions raised in the souls that live under the Gospel, which vanish and come to nothing; soon raised and soon gone. A sudden thought injected, a beam of convictive light that strikes into the conscience, a pang of terror that seizeth, some sudden rapid workings of desire: O! that my sins were pardoned, O! that there were a peace between God and me! Is this being born? That signifies a work done, which lasts and continues. They that give us an account of qualities, do distinguish between these two things, patibilis qualitas et passio. Implying, that the latter of these, though it may be a real thing, yet it may be so sudden a thing, so soon up, so soon down, that one is capable of denomination from it no more than a man is to be known by a sudden blush in his face, or that he should grow unknown because he wants it. This is a continuing thing. He that is by this birth to be denominated to be a believer as to the great faith of the Gospel, that Jesus is the Christ. Is such an one born of God? Yes, as long as he is a believer he is born of God. Doth he believe to the saving of his soul? This impression, by which it is said he is born of God, it is co-extensive, it is commensurate; so that it signifies some other kind of impression than what a man can have to-day and lose to-morrow; or what may vary and alter with him (it may be) twenty times in the same day, For, do 531but consider the reason of the thing: what a man is when he is born, that he is when he dies; as to essentials he is the same creature all his time.

These are things that plainly and evidently belong to this great production in the soul, even as it is signified by the name of a “birth.” That is only taking in that it is a secondary birth, and such an one as whereof our Lord Jesus Christ is the author and immediate agent, and in a pre-existing subject that is changed, and influenced, and wrought upon thereby. But then,

2. There is yet a further and fuller account to be given of this effect and work upon the soul, as it is here signified to be a divine birth; or as he that is said to be a believer with this faith, that Jesus is the Christ, is not only said to be born, but said to be born of God. According to what we so expressly have by the same Apostle in his gospel, John i. 12, 13. “To as many as have received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” And observe this, for it is most observable. “He that believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God,” so saith the text. And that other text first saith, “they that believe on his name,” receiving him with such a faith as I have opened to you at large, doth signify such faith by which we truly believe Jesus is the Christ; they are the sons of God, born of God. But do you think any are the sons of God that are not born of God? Therefore, the next words immediately subjoin, “who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Here is a divine birth immediately depending upon God. Wheresoever the spirit and power of this faith doth obtain and take place in the soul, so that if any do believe on his name and receive him as Christ, they are the sons of God; because they are born of him. Why should they not be called sons, that have the divine nature in them, resembling God’s own? Theirs is not like a human geniture or birth. It is not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of the man, but of God. They are heaven born, an immediate divine production.

O what deep thoughts of heart doth all this claim for us! and pray let us bethink ourselves. We here meet as a Christian assembly. You see by this what a Christian is. And all will agree (no doubt,) in the common notion a Christian is one that believeth that Jesus is the Christ. But 532you see who are reckoned to believe to this purpose, such as are born thereupon another sort of creatures from what they were, and so continue as long as they live: and such as are heaven born, born of God by immediate divine operation and influence, a mighty power from God coming upon their souls, conforming them to God, addicting them to God, uniting them with God, making them to centre in God, taking them off from all this world; so as that it may appear it is not the spirit of this world that hath done this work upon them. We have not received the spirit of this world, such a spirit as unites us with the world, but the spirit that is from God, that suits us to God and to divine things, and makes us savour the things of God, take delight in them, and that attempers us more and more to that state wherein God is to be all in all with us. So as that we are dead in this world. In this sense, to be born is to die. Every one that is thus born, dies at the same time: that is, when he is born to God, and made alive to God through Jesus Christ, he is dead and crucified to the world: It becomes a despicable thing. Hereupon he can be content to stay a little while to serve God, but he cannot endure to be without God in this world. And he hopes not to be in it long neither, but to be with him immediately who is to us our all in all.

It is a great thing to be a Christian! O that it were more understood what the Christian name signifies. If Christianity be not a shadow; if it were not a design unworthy of the descent of the Son of God into this world to bestow upon men a new name, but let them be the same men under that new name, earthly, terrene, impure creatures, and strangers to God as much as ever, only called Christians, as full of carnality, as full of enmity to God and godliness, as full of distempered affections towards one another; in wrath, animosity, envy, self-design in opposition to every thing that stands in their way, ready (if it were in their power) to ruin every body that opposes their secular interest; then Christianity is a great thing. For is this god like, is it like one born of God, “who is love!” Addictedness to a party, is that to be born of God? Do you think to be of this or that party is to be born of God? It is to be made a good man, an holy man, a lover of good men and of goodness, be his denomination or name what it will. To be born of God signifies an universalized mind and spirit, that bears some image of the Divine Infinity; not in essence, not in being, not in presence, not in power; that is impossible; 533but in aim and design, that is, that as He cannot possibly be confined any way, so I will not confine myself. To have an universalized mind and spirit, co-existent (as it were) with the creation, labouring to do all the good that is possible every where, so far as any power of mine can extend: and where no power of mine can extend, thither my desire and prayer shall extend. Such an one as is born of God is like God, ready to scatter every where divine blessings through the world. This is one born of God; that as He fills the whole earth with his goodness, so I would by all acts of benefaction, as much as lies in my compass; never limiting myself in aim or design, though my capacity do never so much limit me.

But these are things that must be enlarged on hereafter. Only let us consider now, how high a pretence it is for any man to pretend himself to be a believer, or a Christian: one that believes Jesus to be the Christ. If I should ask any one this question, Do you believe Jesus to be the Christ? And he answer me suddenly, and without consideration, Yes, I believe Jesus to be the Christ: I would not be so uncharitable as to censure any body that so answers; I would hope that he answers considerately, and as the truth of the matter is. But I would give him all the occasion I could of considering himself, and of judging himself, though I will not judge him. Pray think with yourselves what you say, when you say you believe Jesus to be the Christ; for every one that so believes is born of God, and hath that mighty universal change wrought in the very habit of his soul, that makes him imitate God, that conforms him to God, and inclines to God, and makes him value communion with God above all things in this world.


« Prev Sermon XLII. Preached April 22, 1694. Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |