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Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.
I shall now return to what was the last time only intimated; to wit, That as this being born of God doth not only infer that he is a Father to them, and that, therefore, he must in this work beget such things in them as do resemble him; so herein also they become children to him; and therefore in this work there must be such impressions made in them, and upon their spirits, as are suitable to their relation as children; childlike dispositions towards him as their Father, must be understood to be inwrought; and they are such as these.
First. An high honour and reverence for him. This is suitable to their state as children born of God, that they have high and honourable thoughts of him. If parents, as such do claim this from their children, most of all the supreme Parent must. It is even, in reference to inferior relatives iii this kind and under this denomination, a law of nature. Honour thy father and thy mother. It cannot be supposed, that they that are born of God should be so unnatural children to their divine and heavenly Parent as not to have him in the highest honour. “If I be a Father, where is mine honour,” saith he, Mal. i. 6. It requires to be deeply and sadly considered under what notion are we here: Is it not under the notion of God’s children? To pretend ourselves to be such, and not to have the highest veneration and honour for our 596divine Parent, is a contradiction and a mockery; it is an interpretative disowning and disclaiming the relation. It is more than saying, it is a signifying practically, that we are none of his children, if we most highly honour him not in our hearts and souls. What must be said in this case by them who go from day to day, and not so much as a thought, least of all a great thought, an adoring and honouring thought of that God whose children they pretend to be!
Secondly. Another childlike disposition towards him that must be in them that are born of him, is a depending disposition; their hearts being formed to dependence. There is nothing more childlike than to depend upon a parent, the wisdom of a parent, the care and conduct of a parent, this is childlike. Do I say I am born of God? Do I then live a depending life? How is the habit of my soul? Is it formed to dependence if I in every thing contrive for myself without reference to him; never thinking I have a Father above that concerns himself in my affairs? doth this speak being born of God, or doth it not speak quite contrary? Trusting him with all our concerns, is that which such a relation claims, and doth involve and include in it, which therefore implies, that nothing can be so agreeable and (as it were) connatural unto the spirit of one born of God, as a praying disposition; for that is a depending disposition; if prayer be not a mere form, and nothing else, a piece of empty formality, it must carry dependence in it. It is no prayer wherein there is not. dependence and expectation still included. To them that are God’s children nothing can be more agreeable than to live a prayerful life, to be much in prayer; this is dependence, this speaks dependence, in every case presently to run to our Father. “I will go and spread all before him: for my love, they are my enemies, but I give myself to prayer, saith the Psalmist.” Ps. cix. 4. So we translate it, but there is no more in the Hebrew text, but “I prayer,” as if he were all composed of prayer, made up of prayer; let other men take their own courses, (as if he had said,) this is mine, I am for prayer.
It is under this notion that our Saviour directs prayer, (which also in the days of his flesh he so much practised himself,) “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and shut the door, and pray to thy Father that seest in secret, and he shall reward thee openly.” Matt, vi. 6. What, have I a Father, and shall I not pray to him? A Father in heaven, a heavenly Father, and not pray to him? What a self-contradicting pretence is that in them that say, God is their 597Father, that they are born of him, but know not what belongs to prayer, and to that dependence upon him which is exprest in prayer! And there are two things, or two heads of things, in reference whereunto this dependence is to have its exercise, to wit, in reference to our present and temporary concernments, and in reference to our future and eternal concernments.
i. In reference to our present and temporary concernments here in this world: The dependence of a child will not allow him to be excessively solicitous; so to torture himself with vexatious cares, to take thought with anxiety what he shall eat, and drink, and put on; for after all these thing do the Gentiles seek: to wit, with anxiety, as if the press and weight lay wholly upon themselves, “but your heavenly Father knoweth that you have need of all these things.” Matt. vi. compared with Luke xii. 36. Why, have you not a Father, and doth h not know what you need? You are to use a prudent care in the way of your duty; but you are not to use a tormenting care, a care that doth no good, but hurt only; a care that cannot add one cubit to your stature. Take heed of such a care, it doth not consist with the relation of children to an heavenly Father. And,
ii. In reference to our eternal concernments. “Fear not, little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Do not fear. Are you the children of such a father, and will not your father provide for you as his own children? Yes, he will provide for you after the rate of a kingdom; he will make you communicate in the kingdom, if you depend upon his pleasure. And it is a thing he doth with pleasure. He pleaseth himself in it, in that display and manifestation of his glory, and munificent bounty. I will now declare openly to the world that I own these for my children; then is “the manifestation of the sons of God,” (as the expression is Rom. viii. 19.) When all the sons of God are to have an open, compleat, formal, magnificent adoption declared before angels and men. This is that which the depending spirit of his children prompts them to expect. And they exercise dependence this way, and exert it upon this account in reference to their eternal concernments. I find there are no great things to be had here in this world, by which God distinguished! his children from other men; he doth not distinguish them by what they are to possess and enjoy of external good things here; and they are taught to lay no great stress upon any such things; but they are taught to depend upon a kingdom for ample provision hereafter, wherein he will deal 598with them like a God. And it is their Father’s pleasure to give them this kingdom, and upon this they are to depend. It will go well enough with me hereafter, and therefore I am little solicitous what occurs to, or befalls, me in my present transient state. Again,
Thirdly. Another child-like disposition that must he found in them that are born of God, is love. Love to him as their Father. He is an unnatural monster, and not a child, that doth not love his father and parent: and you see how express the words of this very verse are to this purpose, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God. And every one that loveth him that begat, loveth them also that are begotten of him.” You see how this is connected with what goes immediately before, taking it for granted, that he that “is born of God, loveth him that begat him.” It is not affirmed, but supposed; it is not directly affirmed, as if it needed an affirmation. This being obvious to every one’s view and thoughts, that for all them that are born of God, they must love him that begat them, a thing that follows of course. Are you born of God? Then you do love him that begat you.
And whereas we are told (as you have had sometimes occasion given to take notice, chap. iii. of this epistle,) “by this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil.” The children of God cannot be manifest in distinction from them that are of another parentage, in any thing more than this, their “loving him that begat.” Loving him of whom they are born, as it is a trying, so it is, and ought to be a satisfying character in them in whom it is found. If they are to judge of their estate, Am I one born of God, yea or no? They may comfort ably conclude well concerning this, I find a divine love springing in my soul towards him, my love working Godward, working upward shews me my descent, of whom I am, who it is that begat me. Oh, the wretched case of those souls that cannot evince their relation to God as their Father, as being born of him by such a character as this. Do I say God is my Father? Alas, I love him not, I have no love for him. If it be paid, as Christ tells the Jews, “I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you,” how must that sink the soul and spirit of that man, in him that pretends to that relation to God as a father, when his own heart testifies that he loves him not?
Love to the most obvious exertions of that love, wherein it discovers and manifests itself. Many might be spoken of, and have been heretofore. I shall only mention these 599two at present, delight in his converse, and concern for his interest: these are expressions of a child-like love to God as a father.
i. Delight in his converse. Have I any love for him as my father, when I cannot endure to be conversant with him? When I decline his presence, I keep up no intercourse with him, I live a wandering life. Is this like a child of God, one born of God? Oh, sadly consider it, and take it to heart! We hear this day of such trials as these; but we shall know and see a trying day at last, that must put the everlasting differences between those that were born of God, and those that were never born of him. And even now, if we do but state a judgment day in our own souls, and erect a tribunal there, what can carry more evidence and convictiveness in it than this, if we would but deal impartially with ourselves. Upon this question, do I love the divine presence, yea or no; is he my father, and do I flee his presence, and care not to be in it, when I have no pretence of necessity? I cannot pretend a necessity to be out of his presence, as a child may have to be out of his earthly father’s presence. He cannot always be there; but the matter admits of no excuse or pretence,—it can be resolved into nothing but disaffection. I may be in the presence of God more, but I will not. You may be with him as soon as you can think a thought. Here is nothing to be said in this case, but an aversion of heart keeps you off from him. And what? Is he your father, and will you say you are born of him? How can a man satisfy his mind, his judgment, and conscience, in such inconsistencies and contradictions as these. And,
ii. Concern for his interest. This is child-like love to be deeply concerned, whether he be feared or no, honoured or no, obeyed or no, in those that are indeed his children. How doth such affection as this, a filial affection, child like love, discover itself? How is it wont to do so? “Horror hath taken hold of me (saith the Psalmist,) because of the wicked that forsake thy law. I saw transgressors, and was grieved. Rivers of tears run down my eyes, because of the wicked that transgress thy law.” This is a filial sense, the sense of a child, of one born of God; but to feel no regret in a man’s spirit, when the contempt of our father discovers itself openly in the face of the sun, when we are so repeatedly told every day, which way soever we look or listen, our father hath little interest in the world, he is little regarded, men little concern themselves whether he is pleased or displeased; for men to have hearts as 600stones, unconcerned, never affected in such cases as these, is this child-like? Doth this carry the signification with it of my being a child of God, born of him? Again,
Fourthly. Another child-like disposition towards God as a father, which must be in them that are born of him, is a subject-spirit, an obediential frame of spirit towards him. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord.” Eph. vi. 1. A due obedience even to earthly parents, the fathers of our flesh, not of our souls (they were never capable of producing such a thing in us as an intelligent immortal spirit,) yet this is a right challenged unto them. And what? Is it not a right to our celestial Father, to obey him and to be subject to, him? To be willingly and of choice under his government, under his rule and law? He that is the parent of our life and being, he that hath given me a being, shall not he give me a law? He that hath given me a spirit, shall not he give me a command to be received from his mouth? Oh, when a man’s life is nothing else but rebellion, insolent rebellion, will not such an one be confounded within himself, if he be put to answer the question, Is God your Father? Are you one of his children, or are you not? “How much more (saith the apostle, Heb. xii. 9,) shall we not be subject to the Father of spirits and live?” You have had fathers of your flesh (saith he,) and they chastised us, and ye gave them reverence: shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? How came I to have a spirit in me, an intelligent immortal spirit, such a sort of being as can think, that is by so noble powers distinguished from a clod, a piece of clay? How came I to have such a being? And if there be a superadded divine principle, so as that God is my father, not only having fashioned my spirit in me, put an immortal understanding spirit in me, but by giving a principle of holiness also in superaddition thereunto; I am under a double obligation to him to own him as my Father; and then shall I not be in subjection to the Father of my spirit! And when life lies upon it, shall we not be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? What doth that imply, but that it is mortal to disobey, mortal not to be subject? If you will not be subject, ye die for it; every one must be subject or perish. Subjection and perdition, they are the disjunctive, and between them any one may make his choice. Oh, what shall they say, that have never yet had hearts taught to obey, formed to subjection? That despise to be governed, that live after their own will, that contest for the governing power with him that gave 601them breath, saying in practice, I will not obey, I will live as I list, I will chuse my own way and course. This cannot stand with this relation; it cannot stand with being born of God; it cannot stand with the foregoing character last mentioned, love to him, filial love to him; “For this is the love of God (as you see presently in the context,) that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous.” This is the sense of a child, one born of God (as the next words again do import,) “Whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world.” Therefore his commandments are not grievous to such an one; he is “born of God,” he hath a divine nature in him, that contempers him to the law and commands of God, so that he counts nothing grievous that God commandeth. When every thing that he commands, and the whole state of his government is looked upon as a grievance, it is a grievance to be under the restraint of his law, that I may not live as I list, that I may not indulge inclinations, covetous inclinations, wrathful inclinations, envious inclinations, vindictive inclinations; no, I cannot be governed, I must have my will. Then you are no child, then you are not born of God. He is not your father, if you will not be ruled; indeed he despiseth that obedience that proceeds not from love. “This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments;” to obey him placidly and of choice, so that this is the sense of the soul, I had rather obey than not obey. It is a privilege to be under his government. If this be not the sense of the soul, it is the absurdest contradiction imaginable to pretend to be born of God; it is a pretence that overthrows and destroys itself, to say I am born of God, but I will not be ruled by him.
Thus far you have an account what this being born of God imports; and now you have both parts of the text in some measure opened—what it is to believe Jesus to be the Christ, and what it is to be born of God. Now, that which in the next place was proposed to be also spoken to according to the order of discourse, is,
II. The connexion between these two. And I shall upon this head endeavour these two things,
1. To shew that there is a connexion, a most firm connexion between them. And then,
2. To shew you the grounds of it.
1. That there is such a connexion; which is but indeed to evince the truth of the assertion which the text contain?, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.” To evince to you the connexion between these two, 602is but to evince the truth of the thing asserted, and which is but the same thing in sense with this, that there is no such thing as an unregenerate believer: that with true believing, regeneration is co-extent. Nobody doth justly bear the name of a believer of this, that Jesus is the Christ, of a believer in Christ, but one that is born of God; or that any other believing that Jesus is the Christ, not accompanied with regeneration, goes for nothing, if I should never so peremptorily avow it, that I believe Jesus to be the Christ, and yet am not born of God, it avails me nothing, it signifies nothing to me. I had as good have said nothing, as to say I believe Jesus to be the Christ, if I be not born of God; nothing as to any valuable purpose that can serve. This is that, in the first place, I am to evince to you, that there is such a connexion between these two, and it is to be evinced by sundry considerations, which I shall endeavour to set before you. As,
(1.) Other scriptures do most expressly say the same thing. Look at John i. 12, 13. “But as many as 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.” Again,
(2.) The relation of sonship to God is connected with this faith, and therefore the participation of that nature in respect where of we are said to be born of God, must be connected with this faith also: for it is not to be supposed that adoption and regeneration can be separated: whom God adopteth he regenerateth; whosoever believeth, he adopteth. This is the strength of the argument of the consideration that I am now offering to you. Do but look back a little to the 23d and 24th verses of the 2d chapter of this epistle, and you find that it is upon this faith that God owns us as his children, or our having an interest in him as our father doth depend, to wit, “that Jesus is the Christ.” Upon our owning of this truth (if it be sincerely and truly owned) this is the consequence, that we now have God for our father: “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father; but he that acknowledged the Son (this is manifestly meant though not expressed in our copies, and therefore you have it subjoined in a different character) hath the Father also.” That acknowledged! the Son—How? That he is the Christ (as all the drift of the apostle sheweth) he hath the Father, he hath God for his father, he hath no father else; but with having an interest in God as his father, his being related to God as his child, is the participation of the divine nature, connected; as you see in the close of the 603same chapter, “If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.” Whereupon it immediately followeth, “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God:” See the series of discourse here: in the latter part of that second chapter, “he that acknowledgeth the Son, hath the Father also;” God is his father; he may say, I have a father, an heavenly Father, I have God for my Father: if he acknowledge the Son, believe him to be the Christ, if he sincerely do so. But observe, what the character of such an one must be, he must be able to evince that he is born of God, by doing righteousness as he is righteous; that he hath an holy rectitude inwrought into his spirit, which is become the fixed habit of his soul; otherwise it is an absurd pretence that he is born of God, or that he hath God for his father. And the same thing is as manifest in that mentioned John i. 12, 13; he that receiveth him hath the privilege presently to be called the son of God. But doth that privilege go alone? or, is son ship to God an empty relation? or, hath that relation no foundation? Yes, it hath a foundation—“which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” If they are believers in his name, they are sons, they are called sons, they are presently in that relation. But how in relation? is it a nominal relation only? no; but a real one; founded upon being born of God, “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” That is a second consideration to evince this connexion, to wit, that relation goes with this faith, and therefore the participation of a suitable nature must go with this faith also; for adoption and regeneration cannot be separated. And,
(3.) Exemption from condemnation—that hath a certain connexion with the sincere belief of this, that Jesus is the Christ; and therefore regeneration must be certainly connected therewith too. They that have this faith are exempt from condemnation, “shall not come into condemnation, but have passed from death unto life,” as our Saviour speaks, John iii. 24. And who are they that are exempt from condemnation? according to the determination we have so positively set down, Rom. viii. 1, “There is now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.” You know that there is no being in Christ Jesus, but by believing in him, believing him to be the Christ with such a faith as thereupon drawing the soul into union with him. But do 604you think that any are exempt from condemnation besides the regenerate, or those that are born of God?
(4.) Title to eternal life and glory is connected with this faith; and therefore regeneration must be connected with it too: “He that believeth in the Son of God, hath everlasting life.” He that believeth with this faith hath that life in possession which shall be everlasting life, as one end of the thread that runs into eternity; that life that admits of no intermission, but hath the beginnings of it already—“he that believeth in me shall never die,” as our Saviour saith, John ii. 26. He hath that life in him that shall never expire. But can any think they have an actual title to eternal life, to the glories hereafter to be revealed, who are not sons, who are not born of God? It is an inheritance, and who shall inherit but sons? it is called so many and many times. 1 Pet. i. 3, the apostle solemnly blesseth God for “having begotten them again unto a lively hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance in corruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.” The title to this everlasting blessedness and glory and life is connected with this faith; but it is plain it is also connected with sonship to God; and therefore it is equally connected with regeneration, wherein the sonship hath its foundation, for none can be sons that are not born of him.
(5.) Both this faith and regeneration do owe themselves to the same primary sovereign cause, the divine Spirit, which shews them most strictly to be connected. This faith is from the Holy Ghost, and this new birth is from the Holy Ghost also; there is but one cause of both, they are produced by the agency of one and the same Spirit, and therefore cannot but be connected. This faith, wherever it is, is a God-begotten thing; it is a thing that is of divine descent. When the apostle Peter owns Christ so expressly, Matt. xvi. 16, 17, “Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God,” (which is the faith the text speaks of)—“And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” And how plainly are we told, 1 Cor. xii. 3, “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, (which is the same thing as to say, he is the Christ; Lord being the known title of the Mediator’s office, and of the Messiah in the New Testament, and in many places of the Old) but by the Holy Ghost.” And is not the same Holy Ghost the immediate author of the work of regeneration? “Except a man be born again” 605of the Spirit, “he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” The same Spirit that begets faith, the same Spirit regenerates the soul into the divine image and likeness by which they are born of God. And,
(6.) The same gospel is the means of the one and the other, of begetting this faith, and of this same divine birth. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” of the gospel; and it is the same gospel, as the means, that souls are regenerate and born again. “Of his own will be gat he us with the word of truth,” James i. 18; and 1 Pet. i. 23, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God,” that word “that liveth and abideth for ever”—when all flesh, as the grass, withers; “and this is that word,” (saith he) “which by the gospel is preached unto you.” It is by it you are born again, so that there is a connexion too in the secondary, or instrumental cause, the gospel, as well as in the first and most noble cause, the Spirit of God.
(7.) There is a connexion in one and the same effect, as for instance, victory over the world. Every one that is, a sincere believer is a victor over this world too. You may see both a little below the text in this same chapter, ff Whosoever is born of God, overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? or, the Christ, which is all one. And then there is,
(8.) A connexion in respect of the end of the one and the other. What any are supposed to be brought to by this faith, it can never be brought about, or the end at which that agency can never be attained, but by intervening regeneration. Why is God so solicitous to have men brought to this faith in this world? Why were there commissions so early given forth for christianizing the world? “Go, and teach all nations”—and let this be the sum of what is taught—“Repent and believe the gospel.” Why is this faith to be spread through the world? It was certainly for the honour and glory both of the Father and the Son; but shall either be glorified by having in this world only an unregenerate race, professing faith in Christ, but being like other men? More may be said of this hereafter. But, oh! that in the mean time it might be seriously thought of, what we live under the gospel for, and what we are called unto the profession of the Christian name for? No valuable end can be so much as thought of, that will even be reached 606without being born of God. I know not what God is doing among us at this day; we hear little, in comparison, of his ways on souls, what is done upon the hearts and spirits of men; we know the Christian name is generally professed among us, we all go under one denomination of Christians; but, oh! think, think again and again, what an unregenerate Christian will come to at last! a Christian, and not horn of God! a Christian, and nothing of the divine nature in me, no likeness to God, no filial disposition towards him. If we have a gospel amongst us that hath made us nothing else but Christians in name, nominal Christians, shall our felicity hereafter he like our Christianity here? Will we be content with that? Will the shadow of heaven serve our turn? That will prove a real hell. And there will be a like reality in our heaven as there is in our Christianity.
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