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SERMON XLIV.4646   Preached May 13, 1694.

1 John v. 1.

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

AND now, besides the peculiarity that appears in the productive influence, we are to shew you what peculiarities there are in the thing produced. It is the divine image itself, the permanent divine image. The influence is transient by which the effect is wrought, not only as it doth transire from God, but as it doth pass into the effect which it doth leave behind it. It doth relinquere post se opus, it leaves behind it a work wrought and done; and the work wrought and done hath a fixed permanent divine signature or impress upon it, by which it may be seen this is a divine production. Here are such resemblances of God in this work now done, that it may be plainly seen here is one born of God, or there is somewhat born of God in this soul, or in this person, as the matter is most emphatically expressed, to wit, in the neuter gender, afterwards in this very chapter, “Whatsoever is born of God,” the thing born of God; to signify to us, that it is not the person as such (for then Nicodemus’s question could not have been answered, “How shall a man enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” But there is something done in the person which is a divine product in this work. “Whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world.” The same thing that is signified before in this same epistle “by the divine seed,” permanent and remaining in such an one, chap. iii. 8. Whence it is that he cannot commit sin, that is, as such he cannot, as such he never can commit it; be a doer of it in a continual 545course, as such it is impossible he should. The seed remaining, inhibits, withholds him from it. Here now our thoughts are to stay and take up in contemplating this fixed, permanent, divine image, that comes into the soul by this productive influence in regeneration, or when a person is said to be born of God.

And for this now you must know, that two things do concur and meet in this work, when it comes to be entered into its fixed state, passing from the fieri to be facto esse; that is, from its being adoing, and its being actually and fully done. Two thing?, I say, must be considered as concurring; to wit, first, the working out of a former image, and, secondly, the introducing and working in of this. The working out a former: it is in the sphere of grace, as it is in the sphere of nature, that generatio unius is corruptio alterius. The introducing of a new form is the expulsion of an old; the putting on of a new man is necessarily accompanied with, and led on by “the putting off the old man, which is corrupt by deceivable lusts.” But when we consider what the former image was, that is to be abolished and razed out, that will very much make way for the more full and distinct understanding what sort of image it is that must intervene and be introduced. And for that reason it will be requisite to say somewhat to that too.

And we may easily apprehend, if we do but reflect in our own thoughts, the two terms between which the soul of man doth move from the one to the other. The soul in its state of apostasy from God, there were somewhat or other when it left him, which it made defection to. Ana so in its return to God, there is somewhat it goes off from, when it comes into a state of union with him. And according as the terms are of recess and approach, so the exemplaria are, the exemplars, according to which the soul is formed and moulded; for it will bear the image of that which it doth converse with, and most converse with. The two terms between which it was always divided were, this world and God; the inferior creature and created good on the one hand, and the supreme and uncreated good on the other hand. Here is an impress or image of the former to be abolished, when the image of the latter is to be introduced. The soul did adhere to this world as its only best good, before regeneration; there was hereupon a worldly image on it; that is to be abolished, it is to return to God; and by regeneration therefore, must be suited to God, and so have a divine image impressed upon it in order thereupon.


These are the two terms between which the motions of the soul are, this world and God; when it left God, it betook itself to this world; when it returns to God, it leads and comes off from the world, and accordingly are the images which successively obtain and take place in it. Therefore you have that strict interdict upon all them that would make a tender of themselves to God in order to which that great work of being renewed in the spirit of their minds must pass upon them. “Be not conformed to this world,” Rom. xii. 2. Here is a tender to be made of ourselves to God, not as a dead thing, but as living; we are made alive in the work of regeneration, of which he there speaks, “be ye renewed in the spirit of your minds,” or “transformed in the renewing of your minds.” But here is a foregoing form that they must be divested of, “be not conformed to this world” if you pretend to God, if you will be for him; if you offer yourselves to him as “a living sacrifice, be not conformed to this world;” that is an inconsistency to offer to God a mundane thing, a worldly thing, that which carries the impress of this world upon it; you offer to him an abomination, that which he must abhor—you offer him a sacrifice that smells of impure earth, that hath (as it were) the reake of a dunghill:—what, will you offer that to him? No; “be riot conformed to this world, but be ye transformed in the renewing of your minds, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable will of God,” as there it followed This is a great thing; and we do nothing in considering either the work of believing in Christ as the Messiah, or in considering, much less in experiencing, the work of regeneration which is conjunct therewith, if we understand not what it is to come off from this world, and to have the worldly image and impress abolished and defaced in us, so as that it shall not be a prevailing thing, a regnant thing any longer. And to this purpose you must know that the image which we are to bear, or which we have borne, it is not superficial only, it is not an outside thing; but if we have the image of this earth upon us, we have it in our very souls, the world is set in our hearts, it is in us another nature, a worldly and terrene nature; that is it wherein the image lies; not in an outside, but we are in spirit, and in our very natures, contempered 1o this world. We read therefore of a spirit, and a spirit opposite to one another in this matter. As there are those two terms between which the motion of the soul lies, so there are two motive-principles, and each of them called spirit, the spirit which is of this 547world, and the Spirit which is of God: it is this spirit that operates either to work the one image or the other. The spirit of this world, that forms us to the world; the Spirit of God forms us to God, and suits us to his communion and converse. You find, 1 Cor. ii. 12, that so the state of the case is represented, that a contest is continually kept up, and will be kept up by the Spirit of God against the spirit of this world; and is kept up till there be an overcoming by the spirit of this world against the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of this world, but the Spirit that is from God. It is not a mundane spirit; that spirit that now comes upon us is another spirit, and is to work out the former impress, and introduce a new one. And so is the case again stated in the fourth chapter of this epistle, at verse 4, that the spirit that is in this world and the Spirit which is from God are engaged, as it were, in a war one against the other; “Little children, ye are of God, and have overcome the world: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world:” and he that is the greater, he that is in you is to work out the former worldly impress and to introduce the new one; and he will do so in all that are regenerate. And therefore, these two things in reference to this worldly spirit and image must be understood to be done; and pray consider it, for it concerns the souls of us all.

First, There must be an opposition by the divine Spirit unto the spirit of this world, the worldly genius, so as thereby gradually more to work and wear off the worldly impress from such a soul. You see there is a war, an opposition; “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” The spirit that works in this world doth lift up itself; but there is a greater power that is exerted and put forth; he speaks of a contest that is between spirit and spirit. “Hereby ye know the Spirit of God;” and by a contrary character it is implied we are to discern and distinguish the spirit of this world; but these as militating and warring one against an other. In short, this is the matter of contest, God would have our hearts and souls, this world it would retain them which before had them; and this is the case with every one of us, every one that hears in this assembly; either this world hath your hearts, or God hath them. Where the Spirit of God comes to work (and it worketh by the gospel of his Son) the great design of its striving and working is to draw off the hearts and souls of men from this world, that they may be united to himself; and in order thereunto, to work out the worldly image, their likeness to this world and 548their conformity to it. They that are of this world bear its impress; and nothing is gustful and savoury to them but what is worldly and terrene. As God makes his own way, he introduceth a new savour of things; as they are made less like to this world, and more like to God, accordingly they do less savour the things of this world, and do more savour the things of God. They are emphatical expressions you find to this purpose in some passages of scripture, which you do well to compare with one another. In ch. iv. v. 6, of this epistle you will see how men are distinguished; there is one sort of whom it is said, “We are of God,” born of God, regenerated ones (as you have heard that passage is sometimes contracted.) We are of God: well, but how doth that appear? “He that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us.” And hereby it is that spirits are distinguished, which spirit is regular; they that are regenerate are of God, and then they hear the things of God, the word of God, with gust, with savour and relish; it is according to the image, the impress, they have upon them; if they be like this world they can savour nothing else but the things of the world. “They that are of the world, speak of the world, and the world heareth them,” as at verse 5, of this chapter. Worldly minded men can discourse with one another of the things of the world all the day long with gust and relish, and never be weary: but the things of God they have no relish, no savour of. There fore there is a diverse impression upon the mind and spirit of the one and of the other. To the same purpose is that John viii. 43, “Why do ye not understand my speech?” saith our Saviour, “even because ye cannot hear my words.” You cannot hear them; there is another gust and relish of things with you; they cannot enter into you, as he saith a little before in the same chapter: “My word hath no place in you.” There is no likeness, no similitude or agreement between the impression, influence and tenour of my words and your minds; your minds disagree, are otherwise impressed and otherwise tinctured. So in verse 47 of the same chapter, “He that is of God heareth God’s words; ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.” You have nothing divine in you, nothing of the distinguishing work, therefore you cannot hear the words of God. This is one thing concerning this image to be abolished, to wit, there must be an opposition to it wherever the contrary image is to be introduced. And,

Secondly, There must be a victory over it, to which that 549opposition tends; and it is to no purpose if it have not that glorious end, if it do not end in this. Indeed there may be strivings that have a worse end, as in that 2 Pet. ii. 20; some that do escape the pollutions of the world through the knowledge [oh, sad word] of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, (in a degree) who are again entangled therein, and overcome, and their end is worse than their beginning. But this regenerating work doth effect and bring about actual victory over this world and its spirit, so as to disentangle a man’s heart from it. And pray observe to this purpose what you have in the context where the text lies, that, as in this verse, you hear what is said, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God;” so it is also told us at verse 4, that “whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” And that he might give to understand that he speaks consistently with himself, pursuantly to his design in verse 5, he adds, “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” He that hath this faith in him is a conqueror over this world; if it be this faith indeed, not the name, not the show, not the mock show of it only. And let this now be gladly thought of, “He that believeth Jesus to be the Christ, is born of God; he that is born of God overcometh the world;” first taking this sound and sense of it, that is, that whoever is born of God, is by the new birth become so noble, so raised, and so altered a creature, that he can be no longer a slave to this world only. What, are the sons of God, his children, to be slaves? If they are born of him, he is their father, and they are his sons. What more monstrous absurdity can be conceived, than that a son of God, and born of God by a divine birth, should be held afterwards to so base a thing as this world is? What, do you think that the sons of God are to be in a state of slavery? No; so soon as they are born they conquer, they overcome. That is, the divine principle in them is a victorious principle. And so the other image (though there be fragments of it) is not intire, it is broken, and there can be but fragments. It is not the spirit of this world that is reigning and governing, but another spirit: and hereupon this is observable in the very complexion of their spirits, they can use the things of this world as other men do, but they do not entirely enjoy them, so as to rest in them, or to get their rest from them; but their tendency is higher; they in the most true sense possible possess them, but are not possessed by them; they are proprietors in the 550truest sense of the things of this world, to wit, by a restored right from God; he hath renewed their right, hath given them a right that was forfeited and lost; and so are they in a true sense owners of what portion he allows them in this world; under him they are owners and possessors; they 4o possess, but are not possessed: other men, unregenerate men, do not; they do not so truly and properly possess this world as they are possessed by it; those that are ignorant, are lords and masters of it; but for great men, that is master of them, they are slaves to it; worldly desires, worldly inclinations, worldly interests, worldly designs engross them, and swallow them up; they are in gulfed of this world, and possessed by it; they have not a power over it, but it hath a power over them. See what a spirit of liberty as to this the apostle describes, 1 Cor. vi. 12; “All things are lawful unto me,” (speaking of such things as he refers to, the lawful use of the creatures) any thing to which I have an inclination; this or that sort of creature that I have need of, I may lawfully enjoy them: but nothing hath that power over me that I cannot distinguish between expedient and inexpedient; but I may covet too much of that which is in itself simply a lawful thing, and so turn it into unlawful. And how doth he expound it? why, thus—that he kept himself from being under the power of any thing—“all things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient.” And even among these things it is that he resolved he would be under the power of nothing. Here is the difference in reference to the slate of the two, between the regenerate and unregenerate, and that with relation to this world. Whatsoever the unregenerate man’s heart is set upon in this world, it hath him under its power; it hath power over him, so that he shapes and grounds his course accordingly; doth not consider whether he shall walk by rule or not by rule, whether he shall please God or displease him, but only considers, shall I please myself? or is this a thing which I find suitable to my purpose? will it serve my end? I find it will be grateful, will it be otherwise serviceable to me? And so are the questions deter mined; all disputes end and are decided in this manner: and so this world hath him continually under its power. They are lords and masters of nothing of it; though every thing that is grateful and most suitable to them is master of them, and hath the power over them. But whatsoever “is born of God overcometh the world,” brings it under, prevails, and tramples over worldly inclinations; that is, the divine and heavenly principle, so far as it does obtain, 551is a victor. It is a hero, a divine birth that is produced. It was said of that great hero among the pagans (Hercules) that in his cradle, he strangled two serpents. They are the things of this world that the old serpent tempts by, and preys upon the souls of men to their destruction. But one that is born of God overcomes. When the regenerating principle takes place, it makes the skive a victor; he that was a slave to this world before, is now a conqueror. There is then a worldly image wrought out, that was in-wrought by the spirit of the world, and maintained till the work of regeneration be found to take place; and then is the divine image introduced: which is the next thing here to speak of, and to shew the resemblance of God in that which will appear in many particulars hereafter to be mentioned.

Only methinks upon what hath been said, this should be considered: A believer as to this truth, Jesus is the Christ, is one born of God. Methinks it should make every one lay his hand upon his heart, and say, Will I now adventure to call myself a believer, to avow and profess myself I am one that believeth Jesus to be the Christ? Take heed of compounding together inconsistencies. We shall compound together perfect inconsistencies if we do but admit the notion into our minds of an unregenerate believer? An unregenerate believer? To say so is to speak falsely, to say that which overthrows itself. There can be no such thing as an unregenerate believer, otherwise than in sound. You compound together impossibilities, incompossibilities, things that cannot consist. Every one that believeth Jesus to be the Christ, is born of God. Upon the whole then, it is a great assuming to say, I am a believer: yes, it is a great assuming. It is a great thing for any one to say so. God forbid but that there should be many, that many may hourly say so. But they that say so, say a great thing; and they had need weigh and consider what they say when they say this, I am a believer; for in this same breath you say (or imply it, whether you say it or no) I am born of God, I am a heaven-born creature, I am of a divine original, I am of God, because stampt with his image, and governed by the Holy Ghost. Either blot this text out of the Bible, or own the truth of this, that it is a great assuming to say, I believe Jesus to be the Christ. Do you say, I believe so. I pray thou thinkest with the next thought, am I born of God? Do I find the springings of divine life in me? Do I find the worldly spirit abolished, vain self brought under in 552me? I say again, either blot this text out of the Bible, or own it a mighty thing to say thou believest Jesus to be the Christ; for to say that, is to say, I am a divine and heaven-born creature. And if it be not to say that, Christianity is the greatest fable in the world. It is to no purpose to believe Jesus to be the Christ, if this be not the effect of it, that God have thereby a regenerate seed raised out of this world, and fitted for him, to serve him in this world, and enjoy him in the next world.

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