SECT. IIII. Wherein is handled the Nature of sanctifying Grace under the Title of Regeneration with the counterfeit thereof.
Shewing what the New-Birth or Regenerati∣on is.
JOHN 3. 3.
OUr work formerly hath been to shew the possibility of know∣ing our selves to be in the state of grace, as also the lawfull∣nesse of proceeding by signs: We have also discovered what are true signs, and what insufficient. The next thing therefore in order is to handle the nature of the state of grace, which because the Scripture expresseth in severall words, all which have a peculiar notion with them, we shall take them in order:
And first I shall begin with the expression of regeneration or new-birth, out of these words, which are part of a remarkable History, viz, a Dialogue between Christ and Nicodemus; wherein is in a most lively manner re∣presented the ignorance and stupidity even of the most learned and knowing men about the work of regeneration; and certainly it is of infinite consequence that the holy Ghost hath left a full testimony of the stupidity of those in this matter who were reputed the Masters of Israel.
In the Text you have a Proposition, unlesse a man be born again, &c, then the asseveration, verily, verily. It's observed that whereas other Evangelists use this asseveration seldom, or if so, singly only. The Evangelist John for the most part doubleth it: some assign one cause, some another, but it may be attributed to the peculiar disposition of John, for the Spirit of God useth their peculiar abilities to his work.
Page 202 In the next place there is the occasion of these words, implied in that, Jesus an∣swered, for it doth not appear to what words of Nicodemus Christ doth answer, and therefore the ground of this speech seemeth very difficult to finde out. In the New Testament to answer is sometimes no more then to begin to speak, not deno∣ting any relation to a discourse going before: but here it may well be connected to the words before: Either thus, as some, Thou thinkest, Nicodemus, I am a meer Prophet only, Thou lookest upon me only as a man sent from God, verily thou canst not perceive or discern any more, unlesse thou art regenerated. Others think more probably that Nicodemus after that honourable compellation given our Sa∣viour, did then enquire how he might be made partaker of the Kingdom of hea∣ven, only the Evangelist did not relate it, because our Saviours answer did suffici∣ently manifest it.
We come then to the Proposition, where is considerable, 1. the subject, then the attribute: The subject, unlesse a man be born again, wherein mark the universality, unlesse a man, he doth not say, Unlesse thou, including hereby every one: And be born again, he doth not say, be healed, or cured, or restored to health, but born again; The greek word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 some make from above, as it is used afterwards in the Chapter: but it's plain that it signifieth as much as 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, by the reply of Nicodemus, how can a man be born the second time: The attribute is, he cannot see the Kingdom of God, that is, possesse it, as the Latinists say, cernere haereditatem, by this is meant, not the present dispensation of grace, but future glory in heaven.
Without regeneration there is no salvation.*
It is not enough to be born once naturally, but we must be also a second time spiritually. The main thing to clear this doctrine, will be to shew what regenera∣tion is, and I shall do that first negatively, then positively:
What it is not. *
And first, It is not as Nicodemus grosly conceived, a second entring into the womb; It's a wonder that Nicodemus a learned man, not in Aristotle, or humane arts, but in the Law of God, in the Scriptures, where he had read of a new heart, and taking away the heart of stone, Ezek. 36. 26. yet should apprehend no better: but though a man could in a naturall way be born a thousand times over, yet such is that abomi∣nable defilement and pestilential contagion in every one, that this natural being can be no more made glorious in heaven then a black coal a glorious Starre. Thus our Saviour afterwards shewing the ground of regeneration, saith, That which is born of the flesh, is flesh. What a folly then is it to glory in a mans birth, a Prince, a No∣bleman, a Gentleman by birth! for though these have priviledges among men, yet they do not exempt from curses before God: Oh that those who glory in their bloud could discover well the works of Gods Spirit in them, and this is univer∣sally true, even of those who have excellent, ingenious, good natures, such as Bo∣naventure of whom by an hyperbole it was said, In hoc homine non peccavit Adam: This good nature, this kinde, this ingenious nature must be born from above; It must not only have external culture and dressing, but internall alteration, and with∣out that it burneth in hell as well as others.
Secondly, Its not, in another extremity, to have a new physicall being, As not to lose the essentials we had of a soul and the faculties thereof: some have confu∣sedly * talked of a transubstantiation into the being of God, and tels us of a strange deification, or being made God with God. These men have affected uncouth and obsolete expressions, as the Paracelsians do in Physick: No, though born of God, yet not made God, only we have the image of God in us, and that which is by way of substance in him is only by accident in us. It is true, the Scripture calleth it a divine nature, 1 Pet. 1. 4. a new creature, 2 Cor. 5. 17. the inward man, and this made Illyricus with his followers at least in words to erre, (for some excuse his sense) when he said, The substance of a man is corrupted, and so his substance must be changed. It's true the Scripture useth such expressions to shew how reall, intimate, and fixed the work of grace is; It's not a notion, it's not a fancy; No Page 203 more then to be a man, to live, to speak, to eat is. Thus grace where it is, makes a wonderfull alteration, though not in the essence, yet in the qualities and operations of a man, so that in a Theologicall sense he is wholly a new man, he is not the same he was: and this is discovered as really and powerfully in him, as when Adam out of nothing was made a man: Take heed then of being in the number of those who account all the change wrought by Gods Spirit in a man, to be only a melancholy fancy, and attribute all to such cloudy imaginations, or else speak of it, as a particular constitution and temperament of the body: No, The Scripture would never call grace by such reall powerfull names, if it had not also as reall and powerfull effects: so that regeneration is a reall, supernaturall change in a man, as when of dead a man is made alive, of foolish, wise; not a relative change, as when a man is made an Husband or Magistrate, wherein his principles and heart are not altered.
Thirdly, It's more then an outward acceptation and acknowledgement of the waies of Christ. For though this seem to be a great conversion, dead men begin * to live, yet our Saviour extendeth his sense further: so universall and generall as corruption hath been, so extensive must the restauration of the soul be. The Jews called their Proselytes recens natos, new-born; but to be a Proselyte externally, not inwardly changed in our natures, is not this regeneration in the Text: There∣fore this new birth is the greatest riddle in the world, even to those who may out∣wardly very readily submit to the waies of Christ: why then do men rest satisfied in this externall profession, as if nothing else were more required? May not Christ look upon thee as he did on the fig-tree, see leaves but no fruit, and so eternally curse thee? Thou, though turned from Paganism or Popery, yet art not new-born, till God hath changed that Tygers nature of thine into a Lamb; say then, O Lord, I do not only desire new eyes, new ears, new hands, but a new heart, and a new nature.
Fourthly, This is not that morall and civill deportment of a mans self, which may be attained by humane precepts and helps of Philosophy. Although Heathens * have called the new moulding of our lives, a new-birth: and Nobis ad arbitrium nostrum nascilicet, said Seneca, we may be born what we will; yet this is farre short of that heavenly and spirituall birth the Scripture discovers, so that as our Saviour of all subjects thought this most necessary to insist upon with Nicodemus: the like ought the Ministers of Gods Word to do: for seeing all people generally are so full of self-righteousnesse, please themselves in a morall, ingenious carri∣age, this ought again and again to sound in their ears, Unlesse a man be born again, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Now though this be so confessedly ne∣ceslary by Scripture grounds, yet who searcheth deeper into his heart, and who looketh further into his own soul, then a meer externall righteousnesse? if this were so, regeneration might be found in Aristotles and Plato's School, as well as Christs, but its the property of Gods word only to beget this new nature in us: Our Sa∣viour meaneth not, unlesse a prophane man only be born again, but also un∣lesse a meer civill man, and outward vertuous man be born again, he cannot be saved.
Fifthly, Neither are those common gifts and graces which sometimes are bestow∣ed upon reprobates, this regeneration: Judas was not born again though he had * power to work miracles, and was inabled to preach the Gospel of Christ. It is not with man as trees, every leaf and blossome argueth some life in the tree; but not in man, every ability to preach, to pray, though with great approbation, doth not manifest supernaturall life. These indeed come from Christ inabling us and assist∣ing us, but not dwelling in us: such as these are abortives or monsters, they are in a probable way of being born again, but prove unshapen, sometimes by defici∣ency, sometimes by redundancy, and sometimes these have pains and pangs of heart, their souls are in travell, as if Christ would be formed in them, but at last there is nothing but winde and emptinesse, the issue of them, so that if you consi∣der Page 204 what this regeneration is not, you will finde excluded from this number, most of those who yet externally account themselves in Christs flock, and children in his house: do not therefore judge spirituall parts and head-abilities any such great matter, for if these come not from a new heart within, if they are not streams flowing from this fountain, they will vanish like vapours, and be but as the gar∣lands of flowers that were upon the beasts that were near sacrificing: Oh but how is this work of regeneration and gracious mercy of God now neglected? Who attendeth to it? Who in the midst of these severall opinions that fly abroad in the world, mindeth this necessary thing?
In the next place, let us consider wherein this lyeth: and that in the generall we * may say is the restauration in some measure of that image of God, in which we were created: Adam was made after Gods image and likenesse, Gen. 1. 27. holy as he was, Eph. 4. 24. called therefore the Son of God, Luke 3. 38. This consisted in an universall rectitude of the whole man, in an holy frame of all the parts, faculties, and affections in a man: now when Adam fell, this curious workmanship was bro∣ken to pieces; no part, no affections could do their duty: grace therefore regene∣rating is to restore and repair these breaches again: The blinded understanding is inlightned, The contumacious will obedient, The stony heart softned, The unruly affections crucified, so that this grace of regeneration makes the most excellent alteration and wonderfull change that can be. It's far more then raising the bodies out of the grave, and making them incorruptible and glorious, and certainly if the people so wondred to see a lame cripple walk, a blinde man see, how ought we to admire the greatnesse of Gods power in this supernaturall change? Now this Image of God had these remarkable things in it; There was an universall har∣mony and proportion of all graces; for it is not the Image of a man if there be only the head or the hands, there must be the proportion of the whole body; so in this work of regeneration there must be an universall alteration: Every part must be born again, as well as every part is corrupted and every part shall be glo∣rified. Then again in this Image there is likenesse and resemblance, for so to be an image, is a relative thing, and therefore by this we are said to be born of God, to be children of God, because we have an heavenly disposition, love what he lo∣veth, delight in what he delighteth, hate what he hateth. Even as wicked men are said to be of their Father the devil, Joh. 8. 44. because they do his works, they lie, are malicious to the godly, resist and oppose the means of grace, as Satan: Thus the godly are of God their Father, because his works they do, are holy as he is, mercifull as he is, righteous as he is, though with a vast disproportion. Lastly, There was connaturallity and sutablenesse of this image with mans nature, inso∣much that Divines call that righteousnesse naturall, not in respect of the principles from whence it came, for so it was supernaturall, but the subject unto whom it was a due perfection, supposing Gods will to create man for the enjoying of him∣self, even as his soul also may be said to be due to him; Now although this rege∣neration be to us supernaturall, and wholly of meer grace, yet when it is in fused, it makes such a change that the waies of God are a delight to him, I delight in the Law of God in the inward man: There is a sweet proportion between the heart that is made an holy subject, and the Law of God which is an holy ob∣ject.
But more particularly let us consider the nature of it.
First, This new-birth makes grace to be in us by way of an infused life, and super∣naturall principle, fixed, and permanent; It giveth a man esse supernaturale, a su∣pernaturall * being: Therefore is it called the hidden man, the inward man, 1 Pet. 3. 4. The new creature, the divine nature. It's compared to a root, to a foun∣tain, to a foundation; and now for want of this, we see so much inconstancy and unsetlednesse in the matters of religion and piety. Men have not a new nature, they have only new notions, or new motions, not new natures. When grace be∣comes thus a rooted principle in us, then though the windes and storms blow, a Page 205 man will continue firm: Aristotle observed some men had a disposition to morall virtues, but not an habit, now this disposition he made easily separable from the subject, whereas the other made a man like a square stone, which waies soever it falleth, it will stand sure: You have some bruit creatures that act many things like men, but because they have not an humane nature they are still bruitish, and so ma∣ny things may be done in the way of holinesse, which yet come not from that in∣ward principle of renovation, and therefore is but copper and not gold: Oh let us not then consider so much the outward actions, the outward duties of religion, as that root from whence they grow, that principle from whence they come, are they fixed, setled ones by way of life in thee? then art thou born of God.
Secondly, By this means a man doth participate of God; and whereas we cannot be like God in his greatnesse, infinitenesse, omnipotency, we are like him in this, *Be ye holy, for I am holy: Lev. 11. 44. As therefore in God, the Angels, of all Gods attributes do especially celebrate that, Holy, Holy, Holy, Isa. 6. 3. so of all conside∣rations in man this is his greatest glory: it's not wealth but holinesse, it's not ho∣nours but holinesse, it's not prudence and wisedom, but holinesse. This new na∣ture is a participation of God (so far as creatures can partake) in that glorious attribute of his: Magistrates they are called Gods, because of that externall au∣thority God hath stamped on them, and because they resemble him herein, but the people of God resemble him in a more excellent and admirable way. The Apostle cals it bearing the image of the heavenly, 1 Cor. 15. 48. Hence come those expres∣sions of setting our affections on things above, and sitting with Christ in heavenly places. This is a wonderfull elevation and lifting up of the nature of man: As the humane nature of Christ was infinitely glorified to be hypostatically united unto the divine nature, so it is a great honour for man to be graciously united to Christ, whereby as the branch receiving juyce from the Vine, brings forth fruit suteable to the nature of the Vine, so the soul ingrafted into Christ produceth operations suteable thereunto.
Thirdly, Hereby the work of 〈◊〉 grace is manifested to be a reall, active, working thing in a man: for why is it compared to life, to a new birth, to a fountain, but * only to shew that these things are not imaginations or dreams, but carry along with them reall operations? As a man cannot have fire in his bosome, but he will quickly finde it scorching and heating there, so 〈◊〉 man cannot have this new na∣ture infused into him, but it will incline and move the soul, not suffering it to lie still: see what a fire this kindled in Davids, and Pauls hearts, therefore the spirit of regeneration, Isa 4. is compared to 〈◊〉 spirit of burning, which like fire consu∣meth the drosse, a godly man is said to 〈◊〉rivers of water running out of his bel∣ly. It's true the people of God are som•〈…〉es in desolations, in desertions, they feel no life, they apprehend no power of 〈…〉e upon their souls, and then they look upon themselves as dry bones, withered 〈…〉anches: but this is for a while on∣ly, this is a temptation, and afterwards the 〈◊〉 of grace will manifest it self more: The Tree though it hath life in it, yet in the winter buds not, blossomes not, so nei∣ther may that principle of grace discover it self in its good effects, and then it doth not hold, that a good tree may be known by its good fruit: Thus Austin in his confessions doth acknowledge these reall and powerfull motions of God upon his soul.
Fourthly, Because his nature is new, his actions 〈◊〉 are new: all Old things are passed away, 2 Cor. 5. 18. Paul that once persecuted 〈…〉ehold he prayeth, and such were some of you (saith Paul) but ye are washed, but y• are cleansed; As every man * is (saith Aristotle) so is he affected, so he speaks, and so he lives; When there∣fore thy life is supernaturall, so thy affections, thy word•, thy conversation is also: The life that I now live, is by faith in the son of God; saith Paul, Gal. 2. 20. Oh this is a sad symptom, that few are acquainted with regeneration, because all things else are not made new in them: They have the old conversation, the old affections, the old discourse, the old passions 〈◊〉 used to have: This ar∣gueth Page 206 thee to be in the state of bitternesse still. There cannot from a sweet fountain come only bitter streams, so neither can there come from a refined spirit only cor∣rupted actions. As the thorn cannot send forth grapes, so neither do grapes send forth thorns; why then if thou art born of God, dost thou discover so much of the old man in thee? why is the Aegyptian in Canaan? this is as the Father said, for coelum pluere gehennam, in another case: did grace and Christ dwell in thy soul, were it possible that thy heart should be a den of lusts, and a cage of unclean ima∣ginations? shake off therefore all negligence and lukewarmnesse, observe how thou art changed, whether it be otherwise with thee then what thou hast by na∣ture.
Fifthly, As the actions of this new-born man are new, so are his desires, comforts,*contentments: Whereas before he could with the Prodigall be content with busks, now nothing will satisfie him but his fathers mansion, and his fathers feasts. Take every naturall man, while unregenerated, as he knoweth no other good, so he desireth no other then that of the creature, as Moles love the earth, and the Swine draught. Thus while we are corrupted in our estates, we minde only earthly things, but when this great change is made, then these coc∣kelshels are grown away; then the favour of God, the light of his countenance, society with him, and enjoying of him, are the only desires of his soul; Thus Da∣vid his heart, his flesh, and all breathe after the living God, Psa. 84. 2. Thou wilt not judge it such an happy thing to be wealthy, great and honoured in the world, but to have the light of Gods favour shine round about thee. Examine therefore thy self. Dost thousee the glory of the world, and thou fallest down to worship it? Dost thou in the encrease of worldly comforts say, It is good for us to be bare. Then fear thy self, say, When I was a childe, it's no wonder, I thought, spake as a childe; but when a man, other apprehensions came in: When thou wast unregene∣rated thou spakest like a naturall man, thou thoughtest like him, but now God hath made thee a spirituall man.
Sixthly, Being thus new born, he is carried out with afiliall affection in his obedi∣ence to God: All his service is sweetned with a great deal of love, delight and joy. * What he doth for God, he doth it not slavishly, servilely, as heretofore, enforced thereunto, but from an Evangelicall and kindely principle within. Thus those that are new creatures are said not to be under the Law, but under Grace. The Law is a rule to them, so they are under it, but the Law is not only a whip and a scourge to them, so that they should pray; hear, do things out of constraint: yet this filiall confidence and love is also accompanyed with a reverentiall fear, and holy awe of God, so that from the one he is encouraged, from the other he walk∣eth humbly. Now from this spirit of Adoption all our duties should arise. Praier is but a bitter crab, or a wilde grape, unlesse the Spirit of Adoption sweeten it, and so of all other duties; if then we be born of God, his presence, his favour is dear to us, our approaches unto the Throne of grace are with holy assurance, we call God Abba, Father, by ingemination, to shew partly the efficacy and inten∣tion of this spirit upon us, and partly the opposition that is made by the guilt and blacknesse which is upon our own souls.
Seventhly, Where there is this new-birth, there a man is not only above sin, to es∣chew and hate that, but also above the world, and all immoderate affections thereunto,*Eph. 3. it's called the life of God, not only because he works it, but because it imi∣tates his life. Hence in the Scripture not only transgressions are made contrary to this life, but also the Love of father, mother, or any thing that is dear unto us, Mat. 10. 37. so that it is a poor thing for a man thus regenerated to say, he loveth God more then sin, more then the lusts of the flesh; he doth also embrace him more then outward comforts in the world; Thou therefore who hopest thou art a childe of God, why is thy soul thus bowed down to the creatures? why art thou so disparaging and debasing that heavenly nature of thine? thou art not made a worm to crawl on the earth, not a serpent to lick the dust of the ground, but Page 207 thou art made like unto God, to love what he loveth, to delight in what he delight∣eth in: Do not then labour after an impossibility, which is to serve God and Mam∣mon, to bring heaven and earth together. No if this new nature be infused into thee, it makes thee above trade, wealth, friends, honour, life; It filleth thy heart with such heavenly inclinations, that as the stone cannot hang in the empty air, but ha∣steneth to its center, so the regenerated heart cannot abide in any thing on this side God; Whom have I in heaven but thee, and whom on earth but thee?
Eighthly, This birth is inexpressible: He that is thus born again, cannot declare * how, so our Saviour afterwards, The spirit or winde bloweth where it listeth, and thou knowest not whence it cometh, or whither it goeth. As a man understandeth not how fearfully and wonderfully he is made in his mothers womb; so neither how admirably God doth put these inclinations and dispositions into his soul: How is it that he who was backward, yea, an enemy to what was good, yet now with all de∣light follows it? motum scimus, modum nescimus, we finde these great changes made upon us, but cannot declare how: From this also it cometh about that we cannot expresse it to another, only experimentally feel it in our selves: As a man cannot expresse to another what it is to live, only he feels the motions of his life in him∣self: Thus also he cannot tell to another what that new life, that new birth is, what that power of God is which he hath felt in his soul: but saith as the blinde man to the Pharisees concerning Christ, I know not how he made me whole, only this I know, I that was once blinde, do now see, Joh. 9. and so here, I know not how it com∣eth about that I am thus altered, I cannot tell how I am changed, only this I know, I that was not afraid to sinne, now I am; I that did not delight in God, now do.
Ninthly, In that the Scripture cals this regeneration, a birth again, It's a meta∣phor, * and so would give us to conceive some resemblance between the naturall and the spirituall birth, I shall touch upon some most evident.
First, Here is in this new birth God a Father, Therefore often said to be born of God, and children of God. This as it denoteth our impotency, for if we cannot make our naturall selves much lesse can we make our supernaturall selves; so it al∣so manifesteth the great power and efficacy of Gods grace, which saith to us as unto dead Lazarus, Come forth out of the grave of sin: Every godly man is an Isaac, a childe of the promise, for he is born only by the meer power and grace of God: Mans free-will is Sarahs dead womb; It is Philo's allegory upon that of Jacob to Rachel, Am I a God (saith he) that I can give children? so saith he, God only puts grace and vertue into the womb of the soul; We may say to Pelagians and Arminians, Are we Gods that we can raise the dead, give life where there is none? This is good to be observed, for there is scarce any doctrine more pernicious to the glory of God then this, whereby we shall be Creators of the new creatures. We cannot make a fly, and yet we think we can make our selves godly. Oh there∣fore look up to heaven, and say, O Lord new make me, new create me.
Secondly, The seed or means by which this new-birth is accomplished, is the Word*of God preached: Thus often, he hath begotten by his word, Jam. 1. 18. and it is that whereby we are quickned; Take all humane eloquence, all Philosophicall pre∣cepts, they do no more then the Prophets servant to the dead childe, though laid upon him, yet it would not bring life into him, his master must come ere there can be life. Alas, to instruct men with arguments from reason about a good life, such as the heathens are very busie to perswade men by; they turn not, or alter the heart. The Word of God is that two-edged sword, is that fire, that hammer, that seed, that Manna, which serveth to subdue sin, and to quicken up to grace. Oh therefore how carefull should people be both to get and to live under the preach∣ing of Gods Word! This is the winde that must make dry bones live: This is the voice of a trump, that must make the dead come out of the grave. How mean, im∣potent, contemptible, men may esteem it, yet God hath appointed no other means to convey supernaturall life, but after this manner. Therefore where no vision is, Page 208 the people perish, where no preaching is there cannot but be a worse judgement then that of Egypt, where there was one dead in every family; Alas there all must needs be dead in every family. This new life comes by preaching.
Thirdly, As the naturall birth is with many pangs and troubles; In sorrow they*shall bring forth, Thus also is this new man wrought in us with much agony and trouble, many a heart-ach, many a violent trouble of soul, ere Christ be formed in us. Hence as when Christ was born all Jerusalem was troubled, so when this new life is infused into a man, much commotion, much division of heart. The devil when he was cast out of the possessed person, did more tear, torment, and vex the possessed person, when he was going out: so grace expelling Satan from those holds and dominions he had over thee, puts thee to great fears, raiseth more ter∣rours in the heart. Besides that Christ and the way of grace may be the more wel∣come and precious, Gods spirit is for a while a spirit of bondage, to make every thing a burden, sin a burden, our lives a burden, our shops burdens, our fields bur∣dens, that so there may be the greater joy for this manchilde that is born. A wo∣man cannot bring forth in her sleep, or in a dream, without feeling pain, so neither can the heart of a man be thus new changed, and molded without severall pangs, yet we do not limit this to such degrees, nor to every person in such a sensible manner.
Fourthly, As this naturall life at first infused is the root of all vitall actions, and * if any thing proceed not from this, it is dead; so this supernatural life is the founda∣tion of all vital actions in grace, and whatsoever is not from this root, cannot be cal∣led a living action. If a man prayeth, if he heareth, and this not flow from the prin∣ciple of regeneration, it is not accounted in the number of spiritual actions. When therefore thou settest upon the exercise of religious duties, still consider from what life this proceedeth; for thy hearing, thy praying, thy family duties may come from education, custom, formal devotion, but not from this divine life. There∣fore this is the only necessary thing, if thou hast lived to threescore years, and this new principle not infused into thee, thou hast not yet done one acceptable duty. As the Apostle speaks of a dead faith, Jam. 2. 26. so there are dead duties, dead per∣formances, and our auditory may most consist of dead men. You see Clocks and other artificial instruments have their motions, but they are not motions of life, be∣cause not from a principle of life within, and on such motions may all the religious exercise of thy soul be; and hereby men perform holy duties, as Caiaphas prophe∣sied, not knowing what he said. So that regeneration in holy duties is like the soul in the body, which giveth life and acceptance, and all to it.
Now there are two obstructions which hinder men both from the knowledge of * the necessity of this, and an earnest desire to obtain it.
The first is, Ignorance of that wofull depravation and defilement which is upon us through sin. As long as men know not themselves to be beggers, they will never cry out, unclean, unclean. As long as Nicodemus knoweth not that he is altogether flesh and in his sins, the whole doctrine of regeneration is a mystery. Men there∣fore that would be edified into this high building, must begin with this deep and low foundation. He that doth not groan and sigh under all those soars and ulcers that are upon him by nature, will never seek after this glorious change. Therefore thou that buildest duty upon duty, exercise upon exercise, and hast not first begun here, though thy building be as glorious as that of the Temple at Jerusalem was, yet the time will come, when a stone will not be left upon a stone: And it is much to be feared that generally people are in a wrong way to heaven; they think the flesh and bloud they were born in will bring them to heaven, and therefore, when you may hear many talk of repentance, of serving of God, of amendment of our lives, yet not one among many speaks of regeneration, and the necessity there∣of, and the first rise of this calamity is because they are ignorant of Originall sinne.
The second obstruction is, A self-fulness, an heart puffed up with humane excel∣lencies,*Page 209 which indeed are but as the grasse and the flower of the field; for so Peter having spoken of this incorruptible nature we attain unto, he maketh it more ex∣cellent than any humane power, prudence or righteousnesse, 1 Pet. 1. 24. because all this fadeth, but the Word of God which begets this new nature abideth for ever; and therefore of all the things in the world, which John Baptist was espe∣cially to pr•claim aloud, as to make way for Christ, was that, All flesh is grasse, which the Prophet understandeth not so much of our mortality, and vain •ives, as of our righteousnesse, humane excellency, and whatsoever hath repute in▪ this world: upon this ground it was, that the Pharisees were so ignorant about this, that if we read among the School-men, men of great parts and strong abilities, we shall finde very little, or nothing at all of Regeneration; yea, if we read the Po∣pish Authors whether Doctrinal, or Devotional, we shall not finde any thing at all about this new Birth; and whence is this? Because some of them are busied with high and sublime Disputations, some in the externall Rites and Ceremonies of Re∣ligion, and these puffing up the heart in a fleshly manner, they are no fit Disciples to receive this great Truth about Regeneration.
Use 1. Is there such a necessity of Regeneration, then let young men and old * men, rich men and poor, prophane and civill, have their eares tingle, or rather their hearts wounded at this: It may be thou art an old man ready to fall in the Grave, and art not thou acquainted with this new Birth? It may be thou art a Do∣ctor and Master in Israel, and art thou not convinced of this? Oh blind souls, how near are you destruction, and you are not aware of it! Thou canst in time of sicknesse, in fears of death, to thy prayers, to thy tears, to the Sacrament it may be; thou callest for a good Book to be read to thee, a good Minister to come to thee, but ah Miserable soul, all the work is still to doe within; say once therefore this Text unto thy soul, Unlesse I be born again I cannot enter into heaven. Born a∣gain, O Lord what is that! Was ever such a thing done upon me! Oh I fear the contrary; if I were born of God, I could not grovell thus on the earth, I could not wallow thus in filth. You Parents, you labour to have your Children born to great Estates, to large Revenues; oh, but how shall these Children of yours curse the wombe that bare them, and the breasts that gave them suck, if they have not their new Birth?
Use 2. Is the Word preached thus the means of this new Birth; then let us * lament the miscarriage of the Ministery in these latter days. Who are born again by it? What hath God no more people to be saved in England? hath God no more in London to come to eternal life, that no more are by the Word begotten anew? Few Ministers can say with Isaiah, Behold I and the Children whom the Lord hath given me; few People can say, You are our Fathers who have begotten us in the Lord; you may say, We have many Instructors, but few Fathers, as the Apostle in another case.
This is the reproach and grief of the Ministry, but it's no Argument (as some would inforce) of the nulli•y, or unlawfullnesse of it; or if it be, it will prove their Ministry who use this Argument as unlawfull as any. This is the great end of the Ministry, and as the Sun shineth in vain to blind men, the Clouds drop in vain upon hard rocks, so is the Word preached in vain, and people hear in vain, where this great alteration followeth not: The prophaneness, ignorance and uni∣versall unsavouriness in mens spirits, do sufficiently proclaime to all the world, that the Lord hath given us dry breasts, and miscarrying wombs.
Shewing how ignorant men of great Learning and outward Righteousness in the world, may be of Rege∣neration.
JOHN 3. 10.
WE have already defined the nature of Regeneration, and before we come to the discovery of the counterfeits thereof, there are other obser∣vable things in this colloquie with Nicodemus, that should not be preter∣mitted: I shall therefore in the next place, discourse of the ignorance and stupi∣dity of Nicodemus about this great work of God, which our Saviour with much severity doth reprove him for in my Text. Nicodemus doth several times manifest his grosse blindnesse in this point, while he discourseth with our Sa∣viour.
First, He understands our Saviour of a natural birth again, by going the second time into the mothers womb; our Saviour therefore confirmeth his assertion the second time, and withall explicates the ground of this regeneration, because all are naturally corrupted, yet for all this, Nicodemus marvelleth at it.
Lastly, Our Saviour doth by a familiar example from the wind, shew the work of regeneration, and for all this, Nicodemus is not satisfied.
But a Third time, verse 9. he cryeth out, How can these things be? Whereupon our Saviour upbraideth him with his ignorance, not by way of contumelious insul∣tation, but to humble this Pharises, who being puft up with the opinion of his learning and righteousnesse, could not at all discern of this grace: now our Saviours reprehension is very emphatical, Art thou a Master? not a Disciple, not one of the vulgar sort, but a Master? And as some consider the Article, Art thou the Ma∣ster? Or that Master? As if this Nicodemus among all the Teachers in Israel had the greatest repute: Then, Art thou a Master of Israel? A people that were especi∣ally called by God, and taught by him; the most knowing people of the world in respect of Gods Law? Further, a Master of Israel; all Israel was his scholar: not a Master of some Disciple, but of Israel: And lastly, knowest not these things. He doth not say, Not practice it, not feel the power of it on thy own heart: but thou hast not so much as the bare historical knowledge of it: So that this speech of our Saviours is a sad rebuke, and reproach to all the carnal wisedom, and self-righteous∣ness of men, which is like the Bat or Owl to the Sun, when it cometh to these spi∣ritual things. I have observed that men in discourse, will meerly apply this to or∣dinary matters: Art thou a Master in Israel, and knowest not these things? They will say so of any news, or customs discoursed of: but the truth is, this Text should be matter of fear and trembling; for it doth discover the horrible oppositi∣on and enmity that is in men, to any heavenly work of God; As your bats and owls can see well enough in the night but not in the day, so natural men have parts, a∣bilities, Page 211 wisedom, quick apprehensions in the things of darkness, matters of sin, and the world; but in the things of God, they are stark blinde: therefore saith our Sa∣viour. If I tell you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly? The sense is, If when I speak of regeneration by earthly similitudes, and expressions obvious to the sense, you are not able to apprehend them, How then if I should speak to you of heavenly things, in an heavenly manner, without such sensible representations at all?
Observation, That men of great Learning, and outward Righteousnesse*in the World, may yet be grosly ignorant about this great work of Regenera∣tion.
Before we lay down the grounds of this ignorance in every natural man, we may take notice of some particulars, as Introductory to the point: as,
First, That it is a most requisite, yea, necessary thing for every Minister that is to*be a Teacher, and guid of others, to understand well, and be inwardly acquainted with this Doctrine of a new birth. When our Saviour saith, Art thou a Teacher, a Ma∣ster of the people, and knowest not these things? he supposeth it was a great shame and reproach to him: And indeed, seeing the one principal end of the Ministry is to beget men anew unto God, how can he be skilful in that office, which is wholly unacquainted with the end of it? It is true, that opinion of the Donatists: That an ungodly Minister is never used instrumentally to the regeneration of others, is reje∣cted as false. Judas, and those who preached Christ out of envy, might be service∣able to bring others to Christ, else Paul would not have rejoyced in it, Phil. 1. 19. although this it may be is very rare; and as God in the Old Testament would have no Minister with any bodily deformity, so in the New, without any soul-defor∣mity; he must be unblameable: we do not therefore dispute of the possibility, but it is very rare for dead men, to beget living men; for ministers unexperienced in the life of grace, to revive others: although this be so, yet it is the auditors duty, as our Savior informeth about the Scribes and Pharisees, To hear them as long as they sit in Moses chair; but not to do what they do: for a man to neglect good doctrin, because of the bad practice of the teacher, is as Austin wel saith, as if a traveller that seeth the post in the high way, that hath an hand to direct him on his journey, should not go forward be∣cause the post that directeth him doth not go forward. But though these things are so; yet it is a wonderful uncomfortable and deading thing to live under that preaching, which is not discovering of a work of regeneration within: when a Minister speaks of this great work, as some bragging men of the remorest part of the world, which he hath onely by hear-say, or by books, not by experience in his travels. The Mini∣ster must speak from the heart, else he cannot speak to the heart; as they could not give any account of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, which had not so much as heard whether there was an holy Ghost or no; so those Ministers are never able to give direction, consolation to the Godly in their temptations about this, that know not the power of it in their own hearts. The Scripture calls it, The tongue of the learned, to be able to speak a word in season, to the broken and contrite in heart, Isa. 50. 4. This is necessary learning, more then all humane knowledge, though that also be requisite.
Secondly, There is a twofold knowledge of regeneration, the one is meerly specu∣lative,*and Theoreticall, the other is Practical and Experimental. A Speculative knowledge, is when a man is convinced in judgement by several arguments and reasons, that there is a necessity of regeneration; but this knowledge is not like Aarons oyl, that descends from the head to other parts, but it onely lodgeth in the brain: Now Nicodemus had not so much as this speculative knowledge, he had not so much as an historical assent with his minde, of the necessity of such a spiritual change; whereas it was a great wonder, that he who had read those promises of the taking away the heart of stone, and giving an heart of flesh, of creating a new heart in, &c. could not easily be convinced in this. But Nicodemus doth not onely que∣stion Page 212 the necessity of it, but the possibility also of it: he doth not only think there is no such thing, but there can be no such thing: whereas, he that knew God breath∣ed a natural life into Adam, when a lump of earth, might easily believe God able to infuse a supernatural life: besides the Sacrament of Circumcision, and that legall custome of Purification of Women, did teach as Original pollution, so a necessity of cleansing and washing. But besides this speculative, there is also a practical knowledge, when a man findeth the sweet and lively power of this upon his own heart. You have many a learned man that is very orthodox in his judgement, who by considering the reasons and disputes on all sides, is convinced of a necessity of rege∣neration, and hereby he can preach for it, write for, and dispute for it: but yet this man doth no more, then as he that should say hony is sweet, when he never tasted of it: And so as Moses saw the land of Canaan, but never entered into it, so these discern afar off this work of grace, but are never possessors of it: when there∣fore both these kinds of knowledge concur together, speculative and experimental, when he can feel it in heart, as well as read it in books, this makes a man a fit teacher to others.
Thirdly, As this knowledge is requisite in the Doctor, so also in the Disciple, other∣wise*the choicest and chiefest matter in all religion, is preached in vain. The Apostle saith, He had rather speak five words with understanding, then five hundred in an un∣known tongue: and it is the Ministers desire to speak a little of those Mysteries of Grace to men that can go along with them, then much to those that understand no∣thing at all. Had not our Saviour been meek and humble, he would not have born the indociblenesse of Nicodemus: The Apostle complaineth he could not speak un∣to the Corinthians as spiritual, but as carnal, 1 Cor. 3. 1. To preach to dead men, to throw pearls to swine, how unsutable is it? There are many Auditors, that if you preach about controversal matter, or the times, or any moral matter, they are quick and intelligent; but if you explain, and insist upon this work of rege∣neration, there they lose you. As they themselves never felt the power of it, so they do not at all attend to the Doctrine of it: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear; no man hath an hearing ear, or a seeing eye, or an understanding heart, till this supernatural life be infused.
These things being laid down, we proceed to shew the grounds of this ignorance, * and grosse mistake in matters of Godlinesse: and
First, They do not understand it, because they are ignorant of that universal and deep pollution, which sin hath plunged them into. Hence was the ground of Nicode∣mus his mistake: therefore our Saviour discovers the foundation when he saith, That which is born of the flesh, is flesh. As Nicodemus was thus ignorant, so Paul also was as much out of the way: for he was a long time er'e he was perswaded of that inward latent venom that was in him, and thereupon must needs see no neces∣sity of a new birth. Wouldest thou therefore come to have thy eyes opened? Thy heart awakened so, as to prize an inward Renovation, or a new change of thy heart? study more, meditate more upon that Native uncleannesse; Say, How can this flesh and blood inherit heaven? How can this uncleannesse put on glory? Is there any sutablenesse between thy depraved heart, and eternal happinesse in Hea∣ven? Can that minde of thine think glorious things of God? Can that heart of thine rejoyce in the goodnesse of God? If not, then say, O Lord, make me all new.
And certainly, if the Apostle to those whom he supposeth regenerated, saith, Put off the old man, and put on the new, because of those reliques and remainders of corrup∣tions which are within us, Ephes. 4. how much rather is this to be pressed upon those wholly wallowing in their natural blood: Put off the old man, saith the Apostle: Austin makes it an allusion to the snake that puts off her old skin; but that is not e∣nough, the inward poysonous nature, as well as the skin must be put off. Marvel not therefore if ye see men no more sollicitous about this new birth, if their hearts, de∣sires, and earnest prayers are no more after it; for as long as men are blinde in this Page 113 point, viz. Original sin, they will also be blinde to the other, viz. Regeneration. Upon this account it is, that of all men, moral men, civil vertuous men, are very remote from, yea opposite unto this great change: For they of all men are least affected with their blots, and spotted nature: they having no actuall grosse sins to humble themselves, do not see that heart-filthinesse, and soul deformity which is upon them. Oh, therefore intreat God to give the spirit of illumination to see thy self, that the hidden corners of darknesse within thee, may be manifested unto thy self.
A Second ground of this gross blindeness, is self-righteousness and self-fulness. Ni∣codemus* was puffed up with that external legal righteousnesse, which he constantly performed, and therefore thought nothing more was requisite to him. Thus the Pharisees being full of their praiers, alms-deeds, and religious fasts, setled their hopes upon these; and therefore our Saviour preacheth very sutable, though strange Doctrine, when he bids them make all clean within, and the tree must be good, be∣fore the fruit be good: What is that but to say, their persons must be regenerated, before they can do any holy action? This self-fulnesse doth not onely crosse the grace of justification, as the Jews, who would establish their own righteousness, submitted not to the righteousness of Christ; but also the grace of regeneration; for that which is accounted already whole, already sound, what need it go to the Phy∣sitian to be healed? Thus Laodicea because she thought her self rich, full, and lack∣ing of nothing, therefore she was the more miserable and wretched, Rev. 3. 15. The heart affected with self-love, and self-righteousnesse, promiseth nothing but mercy, and happinesse to it self, will not endure to be found a sinner, or to have iniquity disco∣vered; now this self-righteousness is that, which beareth up the heart of every un∣regenerate man, otherwise it were impossible that under the spiritual discovery of all his filth and poverty, he should ever be able to sit still, to eat, or sleep because of the wrath of God compassing him round about. Take therefore away this rub∣bish, and then a good building may quickly be reared; otherwise here is Laesum principium, the very principles of a man are corrupted; and what good can we then expect? Christ cast out all the Timbrels, and Musitians, er'e he would raise the dead; and thus must all thy carnal hopes and carnal joyes in thy self-righteousness, or in a∣ny other Creature be thrown out, er'e he will raise thee from this spiritual death. Oh do not then be prejudiced against this truth, by thinking in thy heart, If I yeild my self to be thus a sinner, if I abhor, and throw away all my righteousness, I shall then despair, I shall be like one in the sea, without the least plank or board to pre∣serve my self: Do not fear this, for thou must feel thy self dead, er'e thou beest made alive; thou must look on thy self as undone, before thou canst be saved. Is not the vessel broken into pieces and melted, er'e it can be new moulded? Must not the old house be pulled down, er'e the new one be raised up? As the Apostle saith, In matter of resurrection, we are loth to put off this corruptible body; we would fain be clothed upon; we would have heaven without dying; so we would be new born without pangs or sorrow.
Thirdly, Another ground of ignorance in the work of regeneration, is not attend∣ing to the spiritual exactness and obligation of the law; for that doth not onely require*us to do those things that are good, but to do them from such an inward principle of re∣ctitude, and a divine original, that our hearts and affections may be holy therein, as well as our conversation. Therefore the heart if good, is called the good treasure, out of which all good things are to proceed: God is not holy only in his providence, and out∣ward administrations, but in his nature also: As when any sin is forbidden in the commandement, the root and cause of it is much more forbidden; so where an ho∣ly duty is required, the root and cause of it is much more commanded; God there∣fore commands thee to love him; but how? from a renewed heart; to be sorrow∣ful for sin; but how? from a changed heart; to pray, to hear, but still from a regenerated heart. Now men do not attend to this; the law is spiritual, it reach∣eth to the root, as well as the branch, it looks more then to good fruit, it will also Page 214 have a good tree. Oh if men did drive the matter to this head, happily they would cry out, Ous, hitherto in a wrong way? We must begin all again; we have prayed in vain, heard in vain, professed in vain: we wanted a true foundation; we did not dig deep enough, and therefore our house will fall. You have Paul excellently discoursing upon this matter, experimentally in himself; and what wonderfull al∣terations he then found, when once he began to understand the spiritual latitude of the Law, Rom. 7.
Fourthly, Therefore do not men believe this, because they do not understand the*true nature of the Sacrament of Baptism, which if rightly understood, would make e∣very man see the necessity of regeneration. If the Pharisees had known the end and use of the Sacrament of Circumcision, that would have led them into the knowledge of their natural defilement, and the necessity of cutting it off. Hence God promi∣seth to circumcise their hearts, Deut. 30. 6. and circumcision was properly that of the spirit in the inward man, Rom. 2. But the Jews they rested wholly upon the ex∣ternal sign, and never regarded the thing signified. Now Baptism in the New Te∣stament, doth also proclaim the necessity of this new birth, called therefore the la∣ver of regeneration, Tit. 3. 5. as some expound it. And although it be much dispu∣ted, whether that expression of our Saviour to Nicodemus, Unless a man be born of the water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven, be meant of Bap∣tism, and the outward element in that Ordinance: yet the very water which is commanded to be used by us in that administration, doth evidently signifie the pol∣lution of our natures, and so a necessity of washing: For children that have no a∣ctual sins are washed, because they have Original filthinesse, so that regeneration is necessary to a young infant. Who art thou, that because thou keepest free from gross sins, abstainest from the evils of the world, and therefore seest not such a necessity of regeneration? For if thou wert as clean as the infant new born, If thou hadst no more sins then that hath; Yet this spirit of regeneration must new mould thee, er'e thou canst be a pollished stone in that heavenly Jerusalem? But as it was with the Jews, so it is with us Christians: we rely on Baptism, rest on the Sacrament administred, never considering whether we are made partakers of that inward na∣ture-washing or not.
Fifthly, Therefore men are stupid about this doctrine, because they consider not*Gods gracious promise which is made for this great work. Doth not the Prophet Je∣remiah and Ezekiel speak often of giving a new heart, of writing his law in our in∣ward parts: Ezek. 18. Jer. 31? And do not other Scriptures speak of circumci∣sing their hearts, and turning their hearts? It was therefore much that Nicodemus, who no doubt had read those places over and over again, did yet no better under∣stand it. But do not men so still? Read those Chapters, yea, hear sermons that are made on purpose about it, and for all this go away, not knowing what it meaneth? Gods Evangelical promise is not to give new eyes, or new hands onely, but a new heart also: and truely herein is the omnipotency of Gods grace seen, that it reach∣eth to the spirits of men. It makes them know, will, love, and delight in those things which their hearts were opposite unto; and hence must we fetch our ground to wrestle with God in prayer for it. O Lord, is it not thy promise to give a new heart? hast thou not said, Thou wilt take away this heart of stone? Now, O Lord, my heart is too strong for me, I do but wash a Blackamore, that makes him black∣er; by all my endeavour and natural strength, the more I strive, the faster I stick in this pit of sin: O therefore this promise of thine I own, I look to have it fulfil∣led: O Lord, it reacheth to my life, to make that clean, my conversation, to make that unspotted; but Oh, let it reach to the inward parts, to make them pure.
Sixthly, Another ground of mens ignorance is corrupt errors in the judgement, in∣somuch that many mens professed Doctrines and tenets, which they held, do expresly*destroy the truth of regeneration. As those opinions which deny Original sin; for if there be no such inward depravation, then there needeth no such inward renova∣tion: Page 215 Thus also those that extol the power of free-will by nature, they must thus far at least deny any regeneration, or healing power of Grace upon the will: yea, all opinions of Popery, Socinianism, Arminianism, do either in whole, or part de∣stroy this new creature: for so far as a man hath power to prevent Gods grace, or determine it, so far it works by an innate power, and virtue of its own: Thus al∣so those that hold grace onely for the more easie doing of that which is good, or that compare a man in his regeneration to a captive prisoner, that cannot walk because of fetters and clogs upon him: but let them be losed, then he is able to walk by his own inward power; but such a man in that case is improperly said to be born again. Take heed therefore of those corrupt opinions about Original sin, and free-will, for these make regeneration not necessary; and men blinded in their judgements with such doctrines, can never pant and breath after that great work upon their own souls.
Seventhly, The busying of mens selves about superstitious invented worship by men, doth also make a man altogether ignorant, or not attentive to this. We may say * to Monks, Fryars, Superstitious persons, Are you, or would you be accounted Master in Israel, and know nothing of this? look on all the popish devotional books, their heaps of external ceremonies, and in all these things, not a word or manifestation of any regeneration. Thus it was also with the Jews, and with the Pharisees; they placed all religion in external addresses to God, but never acquain∣ted themselves with the knowledge of the inward efficacious work of grace. The heart of a man is finite; it is not a spring that can fill two channels; if therefore all the intention of it run out upon invented worship, it neglecteth what is more necessary. Hence it is that none are greater enemies and scorners of this work of God, then those that are most pertinacious in traditional worship. He that is busie where he should not, is alwaies negligent where he ought not to be: who hath re∣quired these things at your hands? saith Christ; but where things were required, there they did nothing at all.
Eighthly, Therefore are men ignorant of this doctrine, because they set themselves*to know unprofitable things, sooner then profitable. It is a great corruption in our understanding, that we seek to finde out those things that do not advantage us, or benefit us; but the things of use and edification, those are laid aside. The Apo∣stle blamed this in the Corinthians, therefore he sheweth, That knowledge puffeth up: and he that is proud about his knowledge, he knoweth nothing as he ought to know: Oh, what an unhappy instance are our daies of this wilde immature knowledge? How many disputes about this and the other controversie? Into what parties and sects are we divided by the pride of knowledge? Whereas now if we did desire to study, discourse, confer, and meditate one those things that tend to regeneration, to mortification, to make us new creatures, this would be to some purpose: You see the Apostle Paul mattered not Jew or Gentile, Circum∣cision or uncircumcision, but a new creature, Gal. 6. 1. Thus should we be affect∣ed: lead not me into labyrinths of disputes; elevate not my understanding with sublimated notions, but instruct me how to be a new creature: what will Philo∣sophical knowledge avail to understand the nature of hearbs, and plants, when thou knowest not this divine nature? What will skill in Physick advantage thee, to be able to make sound bodies, and recover out of mortal diseases, if thy soul be not healed of its diseases? What to understand the law of man, and to direct about Purchases, and Evidences, and Assurances of Estates, but knowest no assurance of a spiritual estate? Yea, in Divinity points, to dispute about predestination, univer∣sal Grace, Church Government, and all the controversies of the times, when thou knowest not this Doctrine of regeneration? Bernard said, He loved not to read Tully, or any humane Author, because he did not finde the name of Jesus there: So do not thou love those disputes, those controversies, those books, where there is not something to minde thee of regeneration: this is to be sought in the first place.
First, A 〈◊〉 so 〈◊〉, hath a good and sure 〈◊〉 laid to all his duties, and spiritual performances. Where this new life is, there is an excellent root for all the branches of spiritual duties to thrive and prosper: In nature the heart is the first liver; and therefore nature (as some say) begins with that part first, as the fountain of all life: But now the Painter that draweth onely a shadow, he begins with the lineaments and outward proportions first. Thus hypocrisie, that begineth to change in outward actions first; but true grace, that begineth at the heart and vitals first: give me a man regenerated, and he is a man of some substance, some foundation, you know where to have him; but a man of meer parts, abilities, and notional fancies, yea, or fervent duties without this foundation, he is but a bubble and a va∣por. He is tossed up and down like a straw with the wind, whereas if he had weight, and solidity in him, he would stand like a rock. Oh therefore know, it is a wise mans course to look to first principles, to be diligent about what foundations he layeth.
Secondly, Where there is this experimental knowledge of regeneration, there is an*endeavour to beget others like them. As God bid every creature encrease in its kinde, so do these new born children of God desire to multiply. When they were once regenerated then Oh that my Parents were, Oh that my children were, Oh that my kindred, Oh that all under my charge were! It is much to consider what great ex∣pressions Paul useth even about some women, calling them Follow-labourers, and great promoters of the Gospel: Why is all this? But that spiritual life in them makes them fervent to bring home others. Come and see, saith Andrew to Philip: And what an high expression hath Paul concerning the salvation of his kinsfolks after the flesh: and if in publick relation as Ministers, as Masters, as Fathers, Oh how are their bowels straitned within them, how grieved and broken where they see God doth not give such a supernatural life! Whereas now, a man meerly civil, he desireth his children may be civil men, no Prodigals; but to desire them to be godly and holy, that he is far from.
Thirdly, Where this experimental knowledge is of regeneration, there is a great*sympathy and agreement between others that are regenerated. As face answereth face, so doth the heart of one regenerated man to another. The same temptations, the same consolations, the same operations, they dwell in one anothers hearts: and where this new life is most active and efficacious, there they bend their greatest de∣sires and love. But now take a man that knoweth of regeneration by the book, by hear-say; though he may plead for it in the general, yet the particular practice he cannot abide: A minister may preach to a people to get this new birth, and yet scoff and oppose those that have it, and all this is for want of experimental power of it upon the soul: but we have already spoken in the general to these things heretofore. Let this suffice to quicken us up to the right understanding of this mystery, be not in the number of those to whom this work is a riddle. Thou mayst not say, this is for Scholars, and learned men to know: no, it is for every one to be acquainted with it.
Use of Instruction, To bewail the common ignorance of this main principle, * even the Doctrine of regeneration. Art thou a learned man, and doest not know it? Art thou a rich man, and ignorant of it? What is it to be accounted a man of parts and abilities in other things, but in this great matter a meer Bat and Owl? Some have not the knowledge of God, saith Paul, I speak it to your shame: We may say, some, yea most have not the knowledge of regeneration, we speak it to their shame, and it ought to be their grief. Art thou an old man, and knowest not this? Hast thou read so long in the Bible, heard so many Sermons, and canst not tell what the meaning of this is? What a miserable thing is thy natural birth with∣out this? how much better to have been born Toads, Serpents, and the most loathsome Creatures in the world, than not to be new born?
Page 217 Doe not think this was one mans case to be ignorant of it, and it might be easi∣ly in those times, but for us Christians we all are taught of God; for if he did not know it, how shouldst thou come to know it?
The ground of the necessity of Regeneration is the corruption of mens Nature.
JOHN 3. 6.
WE have already observed the nature of Regeneration out of this famous Dialogue, as also the ignorance and mistake that the wisest have about it▪ the third thing observable in this History, is the ground and reason of the necessity of this new Birth, and that is contained in my Text. Nicodemus he dreamed of a carnall Birth a second time, whereas if he had been born an hundred times this way, it would not have advantaged him, yea he would have been an hun∣dred times thereby the child of wrath: Our Saviour therefore would instruct Ni∣codemus by opening the fountain, and discovering the root of this necessity; as if he had said, The reason why thou art so grosly ignorant in this matter (O Nico∣demus) is, because thou knowest not what corruption doth cleave to every man, how contrary this is to the Kingdome of Heaven; if thou wert rectified in this, thou wouldst quickly see the necessity of the other. Know therefore, That what∣soever is born of the flesh, is flesh, and so not capable of everlasting glory.
The words then are a Proposition containing a Reason, why there must be a Re∣generation before there can be any entrance into the Kingdome of Heaven; where∣in you have the subject described, That which is born of the flesh. Flesh is some∣times used in Scripture for the bodily part of a man, as corruptible, in which sense it is said, All flesh is grasse; sometime it is used for man as he is sinfull and unregenerate, In my flesh dwelleth no good thing, saith Paul. The first sense denoteth our fragility and meaneness, the second our guilt and sinfulnesse; both aggravate our misery and basenesse; and this expression is universall, That which is born of the flesh, is flesh. This extendeth to wise men, to great men, noble men, Kings and Emperors; they are flesh of flesh. Secondly, there is the predicate, Is flesh. The expression is in the abstract, to shew, how totally, deeply and universally he is fleshly. Thus the Apostle, Rom. 8. calls being in the flesh, as surrounded and com∣passed about with it.
So that our Saviours reason lyeth in this, Every thing expresseth the nature of that kind in which it is, That which comes of a Wolf hath a Wolvish nature, that which comes of a Sheep hath a Sheepish nature, and that which comes of a corrupt unclean kind must also be unclean: So that our Saviours expression is like Page 218 that of Jobs, Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Lambs come not from Bears, nor Figs from Thorns.
The great Corruption of mans Nature is the ground of the necessity of Regene∣ration.*
Men never apply themselves to more than Morality and Civility, till they are perswaded that the greatest part of their vilenesse and loathsomnesse lyeth in their inward parts. We are most sinfull and deformed there where the naturall eye per∣ceiveth nothing at all: Men never provide a plaister any further than they think the wound reacheth; now if men perceive no wound in the inward frame of their heart, they never look at any change there.
In the opening of this point, let us consider the nature of this originall defile∣ment, * and so the work of Regeneration answerably thereunto: for whereas in sin there are two things, the guilt of it, and the filth of it; There is a two-fold grace answering this, The grace of justification, which blots out the guilt; and the grace of Sanctification, which removeth the filth: so that sin is like leprosie, and grace regenerating makes all to come fresh and beautifull upon the soul, which be∣fore was loathsome; whereupon it is, that a man is by Regeneration really chan∣ged in the qualities of his soul: As originall sin comes in the place of originall righ∣teousnesse, so this grace of Regeneration cometh by degrees in the place of ori∣ginall sinne; so that if we seek after this work, we are not so much to look for it in our actions and conversations, though it will be seen there, as in our inward frame and disposition of heart. The Kings daughter is all glorious within, as be∣fore her conversion she was all loathsome, and noisome within.
Hereby it comes to passe, that as mens thoughts are greater or lesser about origi∣nal Sin, so they are also about Regeneration.
First therefore, This native Corruption is deep and radicated in us, got into our*very bowels; That as Toads and Serpents have venome in their natures, and the one cannot be divided from the other, so it is with us, we may as well put off the nature of a man, as put sinne out of it. This made the Father compare it to the Ivy in the wall, or in the tree, that getteth into the very heart, and cannot be removed, unlesse the Wall it self be pulled down; and that is the reason why the Scripture calls it our flesh and members, not that it is our naturall substance, but inevitably cleaving to it, and the innatenesse of it is herein seen, that although we have this work of Regeneration, yet it is not quite expelled, all this drosle is not got off. Paul complained bitterly of the reliques and remainders of it in his soul: Now the grace of Regeneration, that goeth as deep into the heart, that enters as pow∣erfully into the soul; therefore it's called writing of the Law in the inward parts; not upon the eyes, or hands, or feet, but in the inward parts. There is many a man * hath Gods Law written upon his tongue onely, or upon his outward conversation, but not in his inward parts: So that as the Scripture hath notable expressions to describe how inward and rooted our filth is, we may apply such things to grace wrought in the godly, onely there is this difference, sinne makes us all over sinfull, so that there is no good at all abiding in a naturall man; but grace doth not so per∣fectly heal to expell all sin. As in naturall men, the imaginations of their thoughts are evill, not onely actions but thoughts, not onely thoughts but imagination of thoughts, or that very shop of the soul, whereby all apprehensions and affections are minted and framed, though not perfectly: the imaginations of the thoughts of a Regenerate man are good and spirituall: The heart of a natural man is a Den of Thieves, a Cage of unclean Birds: The heart of a Regenerate man is the temple of the Lord.
By this you see, that all externall Reformation, all outward freedome of sinne, doth not at all amount to this new Birth: the onely thing to be consi∣dered, is how far this oyle hath entred into thy wounds, whether it be as deep∣ly rooted as sinne in thee; Oh this will discover what a rare thing Regenera∣tion is.
Page 219 Secondly, This Original Defilement doth first and more immediately corrupt the*nature of a man, and then mediately his person, Prius corrumpit naturam deinde personam. Hence it is, that our Children have their defilement, whereas our perso∣nall sinnes are not communicated to them. Hence also it is, that an Infant new born, before there be any sinfull motions, or expressions of it, yet is corrupted in its Nature; though it speaks no evill, thinks no evill, loveth no evill, yet it is dead in sin, and a child of wrath. Now the grace of Regeneration doth more imme∣diately tend to heale this naturall corruption, and then secondarily personall cor∣ruptions. Not as if a Regenerated Father could beget a Regenerated Child al∣wayes, for so grace is personall, but because it doth first renew and sanctifie that principle and inward root of all affections and actions in us. It is disputed in the Schools, whether grace be first immediately subjected in the very Essence of the soul, or whether in the faculties and powers of it. But we need not be so Meta∣physicall and nice: This is enough to conclude, that grace doth first heale and re∣new the soul, as it is the principle of all our actions; and then when this Fountain is clean, the streams also are clean, when this root is sweet the fruit also is. This is the good tree, and the good treasure that our Saviour speaks of. We see in the works of Gods Creation and Providence, first he gives Creatures their Nature, their kind and being; then he commands them to encrease and multiply. So its here, first God gives a supernaturall life, renewed principles, and then our conver∣sation is answerable. Now this can never be enough pressed upon men; they think by spirituall and godly actions to get spirituall nature; they think in Divi∣nity as Aristotle teacheth in Morality, by doing vertuous actions, to acquire at last the habits of vertue; but the Scripture is otherwise; we must first be born again, wherein we are altogether passive, and thereby be inabled to walk holily. Oh therefore that men would consider these things, then would auditors be spirituall, when they once are lifted up to this inward supernaturall life: you are but Weeds and Brambles, what Blossoms soever you have, till you thus be re∣newed.
Thirdly, This Corruption is the seed-plot, and root of all the actual impieties that*are committed by man. Out of this evil Treasure came Cains murther, Judas his Trea∣chery, and whatsoever crimes are at any time committed by the Sons of men; Da∣vid bewailing his Adultery and Murther, presently thinketh of this, as the cause of all. Thus the work of Regeneration is the seed-plot of all holy actions. Though the Scripture say, By faith Abraham and Noah, &c. did such worthy Acts; yet a prin∣ciple of Regeneration was the root of all, therefore it's called Gods Law written in our hearts, his whole Law; so that whatsoever God commands outwardly by his Word, his Spirit doth graciously incline us to obey. It is here as it is in Origi∣nall sin, though there be the cause of all wickednesse in him, yet by reason of com∣plexion, or other temptations, he may incline to one sin more than another; and there are some sins which a man cannot at first commit, till he be hardened and made obdurate in his wickednesse; so there are many graces of a more Heroical and noble Nature, at least the actions of them, that a man newly regenerated cannot presently perform. But as your green Timber is not presently sit to be made Pillars to bear the weight of an house till it hath lain a while, and the moisture of it be excocted; so neither are new Converts fit for those graces of Patience and Victory over the world by suffering, which yet by degrees they obtain at last: And this might support the people of God, who in their temptations are ready to think, that though such sins, and such difficulties may be overcome; yet there are others again which they altogether despair of ever conflicting with; They are to know that as the Acorn is the seed of an Oak, and hath virtually in it all the strength & substance an Oak hath, thus the infused principle of grace hath virtually in it all the excellent expressions of grace, which are so apparently abovethem: and this also may comfort the people of God, who sometimes though perswaded such and such graces are in them, yet they are extreamly afraid there are other graces Page 220 again that they never had. For as a naturall man, though he abound in Cove∣tousnesse, yet hath the root of Prodigality in him; so a godly man abounding chief∣ly in such and such graces, yet hath those other also in his heart, though not visibly.
Again, this may also support the Godly heart, that laboureth and trembleth un∣der the weaknesse of his graces, a weak faith, weak patience, for he hath the root of all grace, he hath the Mine and the Treasury, though there be not that graduall expression of it.
Fourthly, Because Originall sin is the root of all sin, hence it is, that the strength of sin lyeth there; And the greatest part of our wickednesse is in those sinfull in∣clinations. * The noysomness of a Toadlyeth not in the venting of poison at this or that time, but that it hath a nature to doe thus alwayes; and this if duly consi∣dered, would deeply wound the heart of all Hypocrites, Moralists, and Forma∣lists: The greatest part of their vilenesse and loathsomnesse lyeth within doors, is hid as it were under ground: Thy ungodly actions are nothing to thy ungodly nature. Thus also in grace regenerating; the strength of godlinesse lyeth in the inward work of it, grace is more excellently grace, and strongly grace, as it is in the heart, then as it is in actions: God is a Father of the spirits, and doth delight most in spirit-holinesse, and the graces of the spirit; My sonne give me thy heart, and above all things keep thy heart, for out of it are the issues of life and death: As * any wicked man is far worse inwardly than outwardly, so any godly man is farre better inwardly than outwardly, so far as grace worketh at any time in him. The Waters are purer in the Fountain than in the Stream: Now how necessary is it for the people of God to think of this? they many times are carefull about duties see they omit none of them (and that is very necessary; for as Cloaths keep the body warm, and help the inward heat, so the vigorous exercise of holy du∣ties redouble the strength of grace within,) yet the main care of a Christian should be to get grace more and more rooted in his heart; any holy duty done from grace in the heart differs from what is done without this, as the living from the dead: As a man that doth any wicked thing, yet if this have not got into his heart, it is not so dangerous; so any good action done, if the love of this be not in the heart, it is not comfortable nor acceptable.
Fiftly, This Corrnption doth so plunge a man into sinne, that there is a connatu∣rality and agreement between his heart and sin. As the Swine delights in mire and * filth, because of its loathsome nature; as the Beetle-flye delights in Horse-dung, and is killed by sweet Herbs, so a man naturally is carried out to act those things which are sutable to his corrupt heart, though never so offensive to God. The con∣trary is in Regeneration, for grace infused makes us to delight in the Law of God, to love holinesse for holinesse sake. Thus Paul, Rom. 7. speaks of his de∣light in the Law of God in the inner man; and David preferreth it before all desirable things, gold and honey, and his necessary food. A naturall man is said to swallow down iniquity like water, Job. 15. 16. The Fevourish man findes a great deal of sweetnesse, and desire after water, and thinketh he never hath enough. Thus David, he swalloweth down Gods Word like honey, he thirsteth, he never hath enough of God, or godlinesse; when a man is Regenerated, he hath a Foun∣tain within him, not a Cistern that must be filled with earthly motives to do what is godly.
Sixthly, This Corruption is universall in the extention of it. This leprosie is of the whole man; this sore is over all the soul, the mind darkned, the will rebelli∣ous, * the affections unmortified, and the whole heart in great confusion and dis∣order; so that the Conscience of a man, which we would think might be best, like Jobs Messenger, at least to bring the sad newes of all that hath befaln us, that al∣so is unpure and unclean. Answerable to this generall infection, the Apostle pray∣eth for the Thessalonians, That they may be renewed thorowout, in soul, spirit and body. There is a body-filthinesse, and a soul-filthinesse; and there must be a body∣cleansing, and a soul-cleansing, and in this men wofully mistake: They take some Page 221 illumination in the mind, accompanied with gifts and abilities in holy duties, for the thorow and universall sanctification of the whole man; our present age is a Theatre upon which you may see many such sad spectacles: But this will not serve; as originall corruption is not sin onely in the minde, or sinne onely in the will, but sinne all over; so the grace of Regeneration is not onely faith, or love, or patience, but all graces.
Seventhly, The Apostle Rom. 8. doth describe this fleshly being in two things; con∣trary * to which is our spirituall being; First, that the fleshly mind of a man is not subject to God, nor indeed can be: Herein this Originall corruption doth mani∣festly discover it self, that it makes a man full of enmity, and hostility against God and his Image wheresoever it shineth; there is no agreement between this dark∣nesse and that light. This wretched frame is therefore called a stone, because of its contumacy, no impression is easily received, but it continueth obstinate against all remedies whatsoever: on the other side, this work of grace is cal'd an heart of flesh, Ezek. 36. in a far different sense then the word flesh is used in the Text; for there it signifieth plyablenesse, flexiblenesse, and a tender impression made upon the soul, whereby he doth willingly subject his minde to Scripture-Truths, and his will to Scripture-Commands. Hence those that are Regenerated are said to be taught of God, and the people of God in the day of his power are said to be willingnesses; * and herein the work of Regeneration is admirable, that it turneth the heart of a man to the love and practice of those duties which are against his pleasure, profit, and all outward advantages whatsoever; grace toucheth these mountains, and it makes them like wax to receive any form or fashion: Now the heart renewed would be subject to none but God, and his will; no longer subject to the lusts and desires of the flesh, to the temptations of the world, to disdain obedience to any thing but God, or for God. For the soul now to prefer the Creature before God in the love of it, is as grosse as for the body to be prostitute before an Image, and to worship that. The second thing which the Apostle makes the fruit of being in the flesh, is, that it cannot please God. To be carnally minded is death, so that whatsoever the unregenerate man doth is bitter fruit and sour grapes. It is an a∣bomination to the Lord, he is all the day long damning himself, and doing abomi∣nable things in the eyes of the Lord; If he eats, if he drinks, if he buyeth or sel∣leth, all these are cursed to him. Whithersoever he goeth, the mark of Gods displea∣sure is upon him. Now where the person is regenerated, there the curse and loath∣somnesse of a mans person is removed by the grace of justification, and his duties are well pleasing to God by sanctification: for although in the court of justificati∣on, it is no blasphemy to Gods spirit to say, that the gracious works done by us are a menstruous cloth, dung and drosse, yet if we look upon them in the sphere of sanctification, so they are graces and holy actions, and well pleasing to God, their imperfection being done away through Christ; and thus as God smelt a sweet savour in Noah's Sacrifice, so he doth also in all the gracious duties the people of God perform, though the Incense that sweetens all be the bloud of Christ. Therefore the Church of God is compared to a Garden, and every godly soul to a Lilly and Flower, and their graces to sweet Spices; yet, she is made altogether lovely; which although it hath its ground from justification, yet if the Church of God had had no inherent grace in her, we cannot say God would use such expressions to her; whereas therefore before thou didst pray, hear, God could not abide the, thou wast a beast that made every thing unclean thou didst touch; now God accepts of thy holy duties, thy prayer, fasting, almes-deeds; as he said to the Centurion. Thus you see how that in every particular, wherein Corruption hath made any de∣filement or breach, there grace doth make some glorious reparations; and as sinne hath abounded in the filth of it, so grace abounds in the purity and glory of it.
In the next place let us consider, why regeneration is thus necessary to salvation, because of this corruption in us. And first:
Page 222The happinesse of heaven is chiefly in enjoying of God; and having communion * with him: now how can man that is thus corrupt and wretched by nature, such an irreconcileable enemy to him, be brought to this fellowship with God, as the grea∣test blessednesse? If so be to Duties and Ordinances God requireth such sanctity and sanctification in those that draw near, how much rather to the enjoyment of him∣self? If the pure eye that seeth the Sun, the Bat and Owl is offended at the glori∣ous beams thereof; God therefore and his glorious presence would be a burden and a torment to a wicked man: They that bid God depart from them, because of his holy Lawes, and his holy Ordinances, how much rather would they bid God depart from them because of his holy presence.
Secondly, The imployment and work that God calls for in heaven is altogether in∣consistent*with a wicked and ungodly heart. To praise God, and rejoyce in him for ever; to love him, and to delight in him, forgetting all Creatures, and be swallowed up in him as the Ocean of all happinesse, how can the heart of a naturall man be thus affected? We see in this life how odious and troublesome holy duties are to the godly heart; and therefore much more would heaven be an hell to an ungodly man. It is true, wicked men as Balaam may desire happinesse, but then they look to it onely as it is a preservation from evill, and a preventing of torment; they doe not consider the positive part in happinesse, which is to glorifie God, and to delight in him. It was much that the blinde Philosophers could stumble on this, to conclude that blessednesse consisted in vertuous actions, that the grea∣test delight and happinesse that could be was to doe justly; so that an ungodly man could not have Aristotles happinesse, and doe we think he can have Pauls?
Thirdly, There is a necessity of the souls regeneration, ere it can be glorified, be∣cause it would not be for the honour and glory of God to bestow happinesse upon sinfull*men. As it's Gods glory to be holy, holy; so it's his Childrens glory to be like him in holinesse: It is true, God needeth not our holinesse, neither doth he want our righteousnesse, neither doth our goodnesse extend to him; yet the outward ma∣nifestation of his glory is seen in those that are holy: The place in the Temple that did represent Heaven was called the Holy of Holies; and if no prophane or unclean thing might enter the Temple, much lesse into that more sacred place. The Papists calumniate us, as if we were enemies to holinesse, because we make it not meritorious of heaven; but we plead the necessity of it, and God hath made an inseparable connexion between holinesse and happinesse. As therefore this bo∣dy of ours cannot be glorified in heaven as long as it is thus vile and corruptible, it must be raised out of the dust, and all the imperfections of it must be done away; so the soul must also have a resurrection from, its spirituall death and loathsom∣nesse, ere it can be made happy.
These things haply may be acknowledged as true by all, but who takes the right way to be happy? Regeneration is the writing of Gods Law; now is Drunkennesse, Prophanenesse, Pride, Worldlinesse, Gods Law? Men might quickly see they are out of the right way to glory, if they would meditate on these things.
Use. 1. How vain and empty a thing it is, to glory in our naturall birth! Are we born great, noble, rich in inheritances? yet remember, we are also born chil∣dren * of wrath; we are flesh of flesh, what debasement should here be for us! Look upon any Toad or Serpent, their naturall propagation, is more happy than thine; Oh we never lay our selves low in the sense of our poverty and shame, till we come to be affected with this naturall depravation. The Scripture ma∣ny times would humble us, because we are Dust and Ashes, but this is onely a naturall basenesse; we ought much rather to ly down in confusion, because we are born so full of sinne; how little doe we believe these things? Why art thou puf∣fed up in thy self, and boastest of externall riches or honours: To be a sinfull man is shame and terror enough. The Heathen would have a Boy to speak in Page 223 his eare, in the midst of all his pomp and glory, Memento te hominem esse, Re∣member thou art a man. But doe thou in the midst of all thy outward comforts say to thy soul, Memento te peccatorem esse; Yea, not so much a sinner as sinne it self.
Vse 2. Of Instruction. What is the reason, men that are of ingenuous, fair, * and just conversation, have so much quietnesse, peace and confidence, as if all were well? The first rise of their mistake, is their insensiblenesse and ignorance about originall defilement, did they know how all that they account good and excellent, is indeed abominable and filthy; how would they stand aloof off, crying out, they are unclean, unclean; and certainly if men regenerated speak of their good acti∣ons, which have indeed some true good, that they are menstruous cloaths, dung, and drosse; what ought not you to think of an externall righteousnesse? O consider, that Regeneration is not onely necessary, because a man liveth in such and such grosse impieties, but because he hath a defiled nature; and therefore un∣lesse you civill men, good natur'd men, be born again as well as Publicans and Har∣lots, ye cannot enter into the Kingdome of heaven. Do not then look upon some prophane and horrid wretches, saying, I wonder this Sermon doth not work upon them, I wonder they doe not become new men, it is strange how they can hear these things and be as they are; but rather wonder at thy own self, and smit• on thy own thigh, and be amazed to consider, why thou dost not think of becom∣ing new.
Use 3. Of Exhortation. Is Corruption the ground of the necessity of Rege∣neration, * then see this latter extend as far as the former; corruption is in thy mind, thy judgement, thy intentions, as well as in bodily actions, therefore let Regene∣ration be also extended thither; we must not onely have a new life, and a new con∣versation, but also a new heart and spirit. The very spirit must be sanctified as well as the soul; the choisest intellectuall part of a man, as well as his sensitive part. The Scripture calls flesh not onely the bodily sinnes of a man, but the actions of his soul, puffed up in his fleshly minde, speaking of false worship: so Idolatry, and Heresies are made the fruit of the flesh as well as externall impiety. This is to be considered by those who judge grosse and abominable opinions no great crime or fault; No, the Apostlé saith of all those enumerated vices, Gal. 5. 19. where in∣tellectuall sinnes are among others, They that doe such things shall not inherit the Kingdome of Heaven. Therefore we may say an Heretick needs conversion as well as a prophane person: And a man may discover he is a fleshly unregenerate man as well by some Opinions and Doctrines, as by some corrupt conversations.
Of the unexpressibleness of this new life.
JOHN 3. 8.
OUr Saviour in these words doth further clear the Mystery of Regeneration unto Nicodemus, that so at last the scales may fall from his eyes; because this spiritual nativity was not visible, as that of the body is, Nicodemus would not believe any such thing. Now our Saviour instanceth in a very fit similitude. The wind bloweth where it listeth, thou hearest the sound of it, but thou seest it not with thy eyes, neither art thou able to tell from whence it cometh: So that this speech of our Saviour doth denote the difficulty of understanding this spiritual birth, not onely to the corrupt understanding, but also to the renewed: for this in the Text ari∣seth not from the imbecillity of the power or faculty to perceive, but the subtile and pure nature of the object to be understood: It is therefore the intent of our Savi∣our to expresse this spiritual birth, by a plain similitude. Some there are that take the greek word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, for the spirit of God: upon this rule, wheresoever it is with the greek article, there the spirit of God is understood; but that is not uni∣versal, & then it would be most improper: for it could be no illustration to manifest a thing by it self, which our Saviour should do if we take it so. Maldonate takes spi∣rit, or breath, for the soul of a man, and makes the sense thus; As we do not know the nature of the soul, how it is infused, whence it cometh, or, whither it goeth, only we perceive the strong operations of it; so it is in the work of Grace. But there is no just reason to recede from our Translation in making it to signifie the wind, and so every thing will excellently agree.
First, The Air is necessary, so that there is no living, or breathing without it: This work of Gods Spirit, is wholly necessary for this new birth.
Secondly, Thou hearest the voice of this onely, but thou seest not the winde it self: so the godly hear the voice of Gods spirit speaking to them to live, and as to Lazarus, to come forth out of the grave; so do the Children of God.
Thirdly, As we cannot tell the begining of the winds, for although the Philo∣sophers dispute much, some making it the flux of the Air, others exhalations from the earth, yet there is no certainty; so it is in this work of grace. The world seeth men by the word of God new changed, new enlivened; they wonder and admire to see this alteration: men are divided in their thoughts about it: some say, they are of God, others of the divel, even as they differed in their thoughts about Christ.
And then here is the liberty of Gods Spirit in Regenerating, He bloweth where Page 225 he list: To whom he will he manifests himself, so that all is to be ascribed to the power of Gods spirit, not to mans ability.
Obs. The work and Grace of Regeneration, is rather felt and perceived by him that*hath it, then that which can be expressed, or made known to a mans self or others, it being a wonderful hidden, and secret life.
The wind we feel and perceive in the motions of it; but the Originals of it, we are not able exactly to describe: so it is in this great work: What the wiseman speaks about the framing of the child, We are not able to describe how the bones, and all other parts of the infant are composed, Eccles. 11. 5. which made David say, He was fearfully, and wonderfully made. The like doth God do about our new birth, We are fearfully and wonderfully made again; so that the difficulty to perceive aright of this work, may arise partly from that corruption which is inbred in every one, and partly the unsearchablenesse of the thing it self; and to this latter Christ relateth: so that he onely who hath the inward power of it upon his own soul, can best discern of it: and we may say of this grace, as well as that of the Gospel, Eye hath not seen, or ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, to conceive what the work of God is herein.
For the better discovery of this, consider these things. *
First, That the understanding of a man is not onely corrupted with sin, but natu∣rally weakned, so that it is not able to finde out natural truths, much less supernatural. The forms of things are hidden to us: Vitrum lambimus, pultem non attingimus; the fire, the water, a stone, none can have essential definitions of them: we cannot tell wherein the form or essence almost of any thing consists, onely we describe things by their effects, properties, and common accidents, and we have but the shell, not the kernel. If then the work of God in nature be so abstruse to us, and we know not what to say of it, How much rather the work of God in Grace? Basil saith, Divers questions may be made about a very fly, which no Philosopher is ever able to answer, How much rather then in the hidden operations of Gods spirit? So that although it was Nicodemus his sin, that he did not know, or believe the necessity of this new birth, yet it was a natural impotency, rather then a moral, that he could not tell how this wind did blow upon him.
Secondly, Men who have not the inward sense of this work upon their hearts, may yet be able to give the description of it. This they have either by learning, or read∣ing of books, or hear-say; so that if you ask many, What regeneration is? They can tell you it is a change of the whole man from that state of corruption we are born in, to the state of holiness: or it is the renewing of the image of God in us by degrees, which we have lost: This account they are able to give; yea, a man may be able by way of dispute and scholership to say more, and dispute more about it, then that man who is regenerated; so that many an Orthodox man is able to prove the necessity of regeneration, and to clear it in its nature, better then one not so perfect: but there is a Theological knowledge, and a practical experimen∣tal knowledge; no question but an unregenerate man, may in a Theological way maintain Divine truths better then a regenerate man, that hath not such abilities: a Godly man doth believe, when he is not able to answer all those doubts and obje∣ctions that are made about any definition of faith, that is usually given: and it is observed that many times those that have the greatest learning and parts, do most disdain the practical plain things of regeneration: Surgunt indocti, & rapiunt cae∣lum, It was the old speech of Austins, Ideots and unlearned men take the kingdom of heaven by violence, when learned men are shut out. Bradwardin, a great scholer called Doctor Profundus, the profound Doctor, speaks of himself how offended he was at the reading of Pauls Epistles, because he had not Metaphysicum ingenium, a Metaphysical head: and we see by miserable experience, what affectations men have to speak, and hear sublime Ministers, and aerial notions, accounting those things that make for our spiritual edification, and inward renovation, to be but plain sim∣plicities; Page 226 but this will prove to be gold and silver, when the other will be only hay and stubble.
Thirdly, Although this life be a secret hidden life, yet many things about it are to*be demonstrated. Even as about the windes, although there be several opinions a∣bout the Original of them, and we may in the general say, they arise out of the East, or West, &c. But the punctual particular Original of them we cannot: so it is in the work of regeneration; The cause from whence it is, is God, Unless a man be born of the spirit, &c. So the Orthodox declare the manner in the general, that its irresistably wrought in us by an insuperable efficacy of Gods spirit, and although it be hard to shew the particular manner how the grace of God determineth the wil, and changeth the heart, yet that this is done is very apparent, and the Scripture makes it very clear; and the consideration of this may bridle our understandings, and make us sober, that we do not curiously pry into things; for if upon the utmost enquiry we cannot tell our natural conception and making, much less may we ap∣prehend this spiritual making. We come therefore in the next place to shew where∣in * this life is so unexpressible; for we conceive this assertion of our Saviours, like that, Our life is hid with Christ in God, Col. 3. 3. The work of grace though it be admirable and wonderful, yet it doth not incur into the senses: and this is that which makes many so Atheistical, and scornful about the work of Gods spirit in us. They either deny there is such a thing, or they judge these things delusions and fan∣cies, or the complexion of mens bodies: but as we do believe we have a soul, though we cannot see it; that there is a wind, though our eyes perceive it not; that there is a God, though no man hath seen him at any time: so it may certainly be demon∣strated that there is such a work of regeneration, though we perceive it not with our bodily eyes: and this is necessarily to be pressed; for the more we are assured that there is such a thing, and that every one who would be saved, must have it, then we shall make the greater enquiry into this, whether we have it or no. The secretness therefore of this new life is seen,
First, In those travels, and agonies of soul which commonly it goeth through with*er'e grace be formed. The spirit of God doth convince of sin, and causeth bondage in the heart: we hear some crying out, What shall we do to be saved? For although a man be in this work of regeneration altogether passive, yea obstinate and rebelli∣ous, therefore compared unto a stone, and a dead man; yet in other respects God works in us sutably to reasonable men, by enlightning our understanding, by open∣ing our eyes to see our misery that we are under; as Dives when his eyes was open∣ed, saw he was in hell, which made him cry out for ease: so these perceive them∣selves even dropping irrecoverably therein, and thereupon they cry out, What shall we do to be saved? When there is this discovery in the heart, then there are commo∣tions, and Earth-quakes in the soul.
Now come to any natural man, speak of these pangs and troubles of the soul, he knoweth not what they mean, he understands not the meaning of them: as Job said to his miserable comforters, Would your souls were in my souls stead, then you would feel what that wormwood and bitterness is, which I do undergo: so had thy soul been ever in those depths of God, then thou wouldst have known what it is to be in a spiritual travel. The Apostle speaking of the groans which Gods spirit worketh in his children, he calls them groans unutterable, Rom. 8. so are these sighs unuttera∣ble, bitterness, and pangs unutterable. It is true, these commotions of the soul are not so remarkable in some, as in others, neither are these things felt alike in all. But there is in every one a sense and feeling of his undone estate, and hunger and thirst after righteousness: now in all these things he is a man in a mystery to the natural man: these things are transacted secretly in a mans heart: examine therefore thy self: Hast thou ever been a man thus affected, thus exercised? hath the spirit of God convinced thee of sin? hath thy heart been loaded with sin? hath the Law discovered sin? hath every thing been as if turned into blood? As Stephen saw hea∣ven opening to receive him, so hast thou as it were hell opened to devour thee, here Page 227 are the beginings of a new birth; not as if regeneration lay in these, no, How ma∣ny have felt sorrow, terror, yet have proved abortives? but in many of Gods chil∣dren, this is introductory, and when happily compleated, these fears and troubles are mingled with much faith and confidence: God hath said to thy soul, as well as of the womans travel, In sorrow shalt thou conceive and bring forth.
Secondly, As these groans after God and his favours are hidden, so the principles from whence they are enabled, are wholly invisible, and that not onely to the bodily eye, but to the mental eye of a natural man. A carnal man cannot think that any man doth any thing in reference to God, but upon carnal and worldly self-principles: Thus the Pharisees, they charged Christ with vain glory, and his own kindred would have him do his miracles more publickly, that he might be externally advanced: they judged of Christ like themselves: John 7. 3. 4. They did all things from world∣ly principles, and so they conceived Christ. The Apostle calls this work of Grace, The inner man. The glory of a Christian is within; he prayeth outwardly, but his glory is within; he heareth with the outward ear, but his glory is within: It is the inner man, which is the root and the fountain of all his external actions: now as the root of the tree is hidden, and the spring-head hard to be found out; so it is here, from what inward principle it is that thou art carried out to do the things God commandeth is wholly to be sought into. The Pharisees did against their own con∣sciences blasphemously make it a doubt, by what power he did those wonderful things: but we may upon good ground ask, By whom dost thou pray? dost thou hear? Is it from Gods holy spirit, acting and enabling of thee? Or is it from thy own corrupt principles and suggestions; and this is that which comforts a godly man against all those accusations of Hypocrisie, which the world casteth upon them.
Thirdly, As their principles, so the scope and intention of the whole man in their con∣versation, is very hidden and secret, they being carried out towards God, because of his excellency, and glorious fulness. David, how often doth he profess his joy in, and love of God? How doth Paul profess his delight in the Law of God in the inward man, and that because it is spiritual? The Pharisees lose the acceptance of all their performances, because what they did, they did to be seen of men. It is true, Hypocri∣sie is hidden also, and the corrupt intentions of wicked men are also secret: There is the hidden darkness of wickedness in a mans heart; but these sincere inten∣tions are secret and admirable in a further sense, because the heart of a natural man, cannot do any thing upon such pure grounds: his eye is dark, and therefore his whole body is dark also. As the earth cannot ascend upwards, because of its dense and heavy nature; so neither can the heart of a man ascend so high, as to do things for God, unless regenerated. Now until a man do things upon these pure motives, he can have no true demonstration of grace in his soul.
Fourthly, The joyes and consolations which aregenerated man obtaineth in his course of a spiritual life, are such as a natural man also understandeth not. Thou hast put more gladness into my heart, saith David, then they have had when their wine and oylencreaseth, Psalm. 4. It is called therefore unspeakable joy. Thus groans are unutterable, and joy is unspeakable; a stranger intermedleth not with their joy: What an hidden and secret thing is this, That they should take the spoyling of their goods joyfully, That they should in the midst of the most furious and violent deaths, tryumph with joy. How unconceiveable are these things to flesh and blood? As therefore Christ said, I have other meat to eat of, then ye know; so they have other comfort and delight to take, then a natural man perceiveth of: were it not thus, How could it venture through all those discouragements that are in the way to hea∣ven? How could it endure in the wilderness, if this Manna were not provided for him? As poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing all things. The supply and provision which God treasureth up in his soul, is that which makes him wonderful: Oh therefore what enemies are all natural men unto their own peace and happiness? It is not a life of Grace to have riches, honours, or great suc∣cess in this world, but to have the favour of God, and his love shed abroad in Page 228 their hearts: See what a glorious triumph Paul is lifted up into, challenging all opposition in the world or hell against him. And thus Austin did much bewail, Se∣rò te a••avi Domine, O Lord, it was very late e're I began to love thee. How long doth a man feed upon husks, and is miserable in the Creatures, till he come to eat of the fatted calfe in Gods house? Say unto thy self, This is not all the sweetness, joy, and comfort, that I might be made partaker of.
Fifthly, Their course and constant way of their life, is also hidden. The life that*I now live, is by faith in the Son of God, saith Paul, Gal. 2. 20. What is the matter, cryeth Chrysostom? Doth not Paul live as other men? Doth he not live on food? Doth he not breath in the Air, as others do? It is true, but this is not Pauls life pro∣perly; but as the child in the womb lives an hidden life by sucking nourishment from its mother, so doth Paul live an hidden life by deriving efficacy from Christ: we walk by faith, and not by sense. Thus Habakkuk lived a Mysterious life; though the Figg treé did not blossom, though the Olive tree failed, yet he rejoyced in the salvation of the Lord, Hab. 3. 17. To live by faith is not a visible known life to the world: The world hath no other oyl to supply their lamps with, but from the creatures, and when these decay, their hopes are at an end: but it is not thus with the Godly, Their life is hid in Christ, and therefore not to be taken away by any outward power: As the Parents lay up the treasures of their children, that they may not lose them; so that faith liveth, while all other things dye.
Sixthly, Their temptations and exercises are also secret. Look upon David in his *Temptations, How spiritual and hidden are they about the losse of Gods favour, and the light of his countenance? Why art thou cast down, O my soul? still trust in God: There are Temptations which wicked men are obnoxious unto; and there are again spiritual exercises, which the Godly are onely acquainted with; so that the nature of our Temptations will as much discover our supernatural life, as any thing else. Every state and condition hath its excercises sutable thereunto: The worldly man, worldly; the heavenly man, heavenly: and therefore it is necessary in a Master of Israel to know experimentally this kinde of life, otherwise as Eli charged mournful Hanna with drunkenness, when it was a spirituall distress upon her; so will they charge poor tempted Christians with madness and folly, if they know not the nature of these exercises: They will quickly break the bruised reed, and quench the smoaking flax, being no wayes able to pour oyl into the wounded soul, till they have been thus wounded themselves.
Seventhly, Their priviledges are admirable, but unknown. It doth not yet appear * what we are: as Christ in respect of his outward humiliation did not appear the Son of God. The priviledges of Gods Children are justification, adoption, free accesse unto the Throne of Grace, and fellowship with the Father; now all these things are hidden. Who would judge, looking upon the afflictions, troubles, and miseries of Gods Church, that they had such priviledges? Should we not say of them, as was of Christ? They are forsaken and hated of God. But though others do not know what they are heirs unto, yet they themselves do. This justification is cal∣led a white stone, which none knoweth but he that hath it, Rev. 2. 17. so that as the Tabernacle had a rough hairy covering without, but there was the pot of Manna within; Thus, though Gods people lie in an outward, rough, persecuted, or affli∣cted estate, yet they have Manna within: and in the sense and full perswsiion of this, they encounter with all difficulties, they triumph in streights; so that if a na∣tural mans eye were open, they would see how much is for them, though much a∣gainst them.
Eighthly, Their encrease and growth is also hidden, and that by wonderful means.* Our Saviour instanceth in the seed sown, that it groweth up, but the husband∣man knoweth not how, onely he knoweth and seeth it grown: Thus the Godly man cannot perceive the growth of his faith, and other graces, onely he seeth that whereas he was a babe once, now he is a man: His light is clearer, his faith firm, his zeal hotter; so that as in natural growth of the body, a man doth not per∣ceive Page 229 he is growing, onely he findes a difference in his stature at last. Thus it is here, onely here is this difference, that the spiritual motions and encrease of grace are more imperceptible then those of the body. Therefore a Christian should not be in∣ordinately dejected under Temptations about its proficiency: Oh he is affraid he never groweth, he still moveth on the same hinge: for if the rational workings of the heart be so hardly discernable, to feel that a man understands, and wills such an object, much more the motions of the spirit: and as the growth it self is hidden, so the manner of it; it encreaseth by opposition, it gaineth by losses, it lives by death, it riseth by falls, by sins, by stumblings it gets ground.
Use 1. Of instruction, Why wicked men are carried out to censure, and condemn Godliness. It is because they know not what it is: Hence also they think it strange, * that they run not into the same excess of riot with them. The wicked are ama∣zed to see why they are not as voluptuous, as excessive in all carnal delights, as well as they: and all is because they know not this spiritual life. All life hath its proper motions and actions, as also delights which keep it up. Therefore this supernatu∣ral life hath its proper motions and joy: Therefore we may say as the Psalmist, Come and tast how good it is: Come and tast what this regeneration is: feel the powerful life of it in your own souls, and then you will be otherwise affected then you are. The Pharisees spake evil of Christ, because they did not believe God was in him, and with him: Thus thou harshly judgest that for Melancholy, and hypo∣crisie, which is the work of God, because thou believest no such thing as a new birth. As it is a great sin to attribute that which cometh from the Divel, to the work of God, so it is a great sin to make that which is of God, to come from the flesh or Divel.
Use 2. How thankful they ought to be unto God, who have had this winde blow up∣on them. How many have lived and dyed in their natural condition? But God hath * redeemed thee out of this state of darkness. The Psalmist makes it a great mercy concerning the plague to a Godly man, That many thousands should fall on the right hand and on the left, yet it shall not touch him: but here is greater, many thou∣sands shall fall into hell on the right hand, and on the left, yet thou art preserved. Our Saviour speaks of two in a bed, one taken, and another left: Oh how great is Gods goodness? Two in a family, the one regenerated, the other not: two in a seat, the one born anew, the other not. How mercifull is the Lord to thee? How was Christ affected in this dispensation? Even so Father, for so it pleaseth thee, and the Son revealeth the Father to whom he will, Mat. 11. There are many great men, many rich men, many wise men, and it may be God passeth over them, and makes known this grace to thee. What? shall we so bless God for preservation from na∣tural death, that he recovereth from the grave, and not much rather from eternall death?
Laying open the Counterfeits of a new Birth.
JOHN 3. 3.
HAving in way of digression observed some remarkable particulars in this excellent Dialogue between Christ and Nicodemus: I do now re-assume this Text, wherein a new Birth is so vehemently and indispensably assert∣ed: And because we have already demonstrated the nature of it; the next thing to be insisted upon is the Counterfeit of it, that so no more any may deceive themselves, as if they had it, when they had it not. For who is there who hath heard the nature of it laid open, and the necessity of it pressed, doth not be∣lieve he hath it, although the work be so rare and supernatural? for a man would wonder, when Christ who is truth it self, presseth this upon every man, let him be never so self-righteous and self-holy, what men think of themselves; for cer∣tainly either they do not attend to, or believe these things, or else they make no reflexion upon themselves, saying, Am I such a man; or else they vainly delude themselves with hopes, concluding that to be the work of regeneration in them, which indeed is not.
Therefore to undeceive your souls herein, consider this great work may be * counterfeited in several respects. There may be much glistering, which yet is not this true gold; and because our Saviour expresseth this work metaphori∣cally, as a new Birth, we shall in allusion to that, discover the false wayes thereof.
And first, As in the new Birth the soul, as you heard, brings forth in sorrow, there are pangs and groans unutterable; so many men may be in great pain, fear and trouble about sinne, As if some excellent and beautiful childe of grace were to be born, and yet at last after all those pangs, there come forth some ugly Toad. Men after those troubles and torments about sinne, proving as loathsome, and as abominable as before; for men may be greatly afflicted in heart for sinne, and the Ministers of God may as Paul in another case, Rejoyce that they have made them sorrowfull; They cry out in the agonies of their soul, We have sinned grie∣vously,*what shall we do that we may be saved? And yet for all this travail the soul brings forth nothing but winde and emptiness.
For, 1. Men may be in great troubles of soul about sinne, while the apprehensions of danger and Gods judgements are upon them, but when these are removed, they pre∣sently settle on their lees again. The Israelites are a pregnant instance for this, while Gods hand was heavy on them, their sins also were an heavy burden, Is their affliction they sought God early, they humbled and mourned before him, Hose. 7. 14. but their hearts were not stedfast; when they had ease, and were delivered, Page 231 they soon forgat God, who helped them. Oh (Beloved) we have too many examples of such troubles for sinne in our dayes! Take some men in desperate sicknesses, when death the King of terrors is ready to seize on them, or while they are under some publick miseries which do so immediately burden them they know not what to do. In these extremities, what confessions, what resolutions have you? Do they not seem to be new creatures? You never heard them speak, purpose, pray to God so before; you never saw them so affected and wrought upon as they are for a season; but upon recovery and ease they presently forget all, and were they prophane, worldly, negligent, yea opposite to God and his way? the same they prove again? Do not thou therefore deceive thy own soul, saying, I remember the time since my sins have pained me at the very heart, since I roared on my bed because of mine iniquities, I had no comfort in my life, sinne made every thing so bitter: grant all this, but ask the Question, How comest thou to be quiet again? How are those windes and waves come to be appeased? Did Christ rebuke them and bid them be still, or hath time wore them out? or hath the removal of the judgement removed also thy trouble? Oh if this had been the true spiritual travail of thy soul, no outward comfort could have appeased thee! No freedom from external calamity could have pacified thee, till thou hadst in a godly manner obtained the light of Gods countenance, and be recon∣ciled with him. It was thus in David when wounded in heart for sinne, though Gods outward judgements were over, yea though Nathan told him, His sinne was forgiven, yet for all that his heart runs out like a fountain of water before God, Psalm. 51. And this, if rightly considered, doth break the pillar of many mens hopes.
2. Men may be in great trouble of heart, and so seem to others and to themselves, as*if they were in this new Birth, but all provefalse, because they labour to quiet and con∣tent themselves with earthly advantages, and in a carnal manner labour to extinguish and to put out the sorrow they feel. These differ from the former, because they are like the Hart wounded, that labours to eat out the arrow; so these being trou∣bled for their sinne are fretted and discontented at it, and so use all the wayes they can to stupifie their conscience, and they labour that their sinne may not alwayes be before them. How great and terrible soever these mens estates may be, yet it will vanish like smoke. For where God doth graciously soften the heart, there is a tender melting, and a willing mourning for sinne, as Zech. 12. like a mother for her only childe; but in these men their hearts rage, and fret at the wounds, which God makes upon them, and so they are like the devils and damned in hell, who are full of horrour and gnawings of heart for their sin, but yet blaspheme God, because of their hatred against him; Such an one was Cain, who cried stubbornly, My sins are greater then I can bear; and therefore to ease himself, buildeth Cities and useth all means to divert his fears. Consider there∣fore, How hast thou been under terrible apprehensions of Gods wrath for sin? Hast thou desired the sanctification of them, that God would make a thorow and perfect change in thee? Or else hast thou desired to put out this fire, to bolt out this light? Hast thou judged those happy that live jollily in their sins, and finde no pangs upon them? All such tears are but like the waters of standing pools that breed Toads and other Vermine. Take heed therefore that thy sorrow be not a Cains sorrow.
3. Men may be in travel and bring forth nothing but winde, because in these trou∣bles*they apply themselves to false Prophets and false Teachers, who apply peace when there is no peace. As it was with the Israelites outward condition. The false Pro∣phets sleightly cured her wound, and cried Peace, sowing pillows under their elbows, Ezek. 13. 18. Thus it is also with false teachers about the inward estate of their people, they sooth up men in their evil waies; They bid them die comfortably, believe strongly, they bid them, Go and prosper, as he did to Ahab. This is dau∣bing Page 232 with untempered morter, which when a frost comes fals all to the ground again, and so when Gods terrible anger shall arise, all that false peace will tum∣ble to the ground; both the false teacher, and he that receives the false peace and comfort will fall into the pit together. And hence it is an heavy judgement to live under ungodly and prophane Ministers, who usually pour oil into all wounds, tell every man that is sick or dying, his condition is good; but what saith Paul, If I should please men, I were not the servant of Christ, Gal. 1. 10. that is, please men in a sinful way, give content to them in their sins; so that as in any outward sicknesse or losse it is a grievous sin to go to the Devil and to Wise men, as ye call them; The Prophet severely rebuked the King of Israel, and told him, his childe should die, and said, Is it not because there is no God in Israel? Its to deny the true God, and to make the Devil your God; so in soul-troubles to go to those loose teachers, who will proclaim peace to you, is to make all your sorrow, and all your travail for sinne in vain. Choose therefore a godly and wise Physician for thy soul in such case, and say, Give me one, not that will flatter me, but inform me impartially about my sins.
4. Men may be in trouble for sinne, yet miscarry, Because of inordinate dejection*and black despair. This is not so ordinary, men being for the most part presum∣ptuous, and there are few such sinners as the incestuous person, whom the Mini∣sters and people of God must comfort, lest they be overwhelmed with despair; yet Judas was thus undone. As Rachel died in bringing forth of children; so these are damned in those very sorrows and fears they have about sinne. God therefore who commands a soul to grieve for sinne, and to come out of the pit of iniquity, doth also command the same soul to believe and seek for ease in Christ. We must indeed despair utterly in our selves, but not of Christ, and the ignorance of the acceptablenesse of faith unto God, and how wel-pleasing it is for the humbled soul to rely on Christ, keeps many of Gods children longer in the dark womb then they would. Insomuch that it is a mercy of mercies in those spiritual a∣gonies, to be directed into the way of believing. Thus you see that all pain and trouble wrought in the womb of the soul, doth not necessarily in∣ferre, that there ought to be joy, because a man-childe of Grace is born in the heart.
A second sort, which miscarry in this new Birth, may be stiled Embryoes,*Such who have some initial and preparative workings upon their heart, but they die in the wildernesse ere they come to Canaan. And they may be reduced to these heads.
First, Those who by fear are kept in their duty, and because they are afraid of Gods judgement, therefore they forbear sinne, and perform the duties required of them. This Rom. 8. is called, The spirit of bondage. The Spirit of God worketh such a disposition in them, though not the sinfulnesse of it, that they are kept from sin, as the Wolf or Lion are kept from their prey, who otherwise would greedily de∣vour it. This is called by Divines servile fear, and although a man while he go∣eth no further is but an hypocrite, yet Augustine compareth this fear to the Needle that draweth in the threed, it is introductory sometimes by the blessing of God, of a more excellent way; and in this respect there is a necessity of the Ma∣gistrate and the sword to represse evil men, If thou dost ill, be afraid, for he bear∣eth not the sword in vain, Rom. 13. for howsoever this external force doth not sweeten and alter the nature, yet by outward restraining of them, they may at last become sensible of sinne, and in stead of leaving it for fear, afterwards for∣sake it for love; As Paul rejoyced the Gospel was preached, whether for love or out of envy; So the Ministers of God are to blesse God, men are restrained from out∣ward wickednesse, whether it be from fear or love, although it will not be com∣fortable or soul-saving to those, who do it only from servile and slavish fear. Let not men therefore think they have a sure sign of this new Birth within them, if Page 233 they finde this external change wrought in them; they dare not runne in the same excesse of riot, as they have done; they will set a watch before their mouths, that they curse and swear no more; for if all this come not from a principle of love and delight within, in that which is good, here is no new Birth.
Secondly, Those may be said to have some preparatory work, who have some resoluti∣ons*and purposes to take up Christs yoke, who are not in flat opposition and contradiction to his wayes, but shew much general willingnesse to imbrace his way. Of this sort was that young man, whom Christ is said to love, because he was not farre from the Kingdom of Heaven. And there are many who declare good affections, shew a willing compliance with those things that are good, but they move alwaies up∣on this hinge. They never obtain any further degree in the waies of God; Oh what pity is it, that such persons, who come so near the haven should yet suffer shipwrack, that they should with Moses as it were see the Land of Promise, and yet not enter into it! We tell such they are not farre from true Repentance, they are not farre from this new Birth. Thy good affections and compliances with good men and good things, but going no further, make the Minister of God hope well of thee, and yet to be afraid of thee also. They hope well, trusting God will give thee more knowledge, work more inward power in thy heart, to break thorow all temptations, and to set upon the waies of godlinesse, whatsoe∣ver it cost thee, and yet they are afraid also, because where the fire of grace is, there it will burn sometimes or other; where this life of grace is, there it will be growing sometime or other. Thy good affections are more then leaves upon the tree, they are buds, only they continue buds, they never blossome; we cannot say thou art dead, and yet we cannot say, thou art alive, we do not perceive the breath of the life of grace breathing from thee. Oh therefore that this Sermon might be like a fiery nail (as Ecclesiastes speaks) fastned by Christ in the heart of such! If thy affections and dispositions be real for God, it's not enough to stay there, Come out of Aegypt, do not be as Ephraim is called A cake half baked, the upper part towards heaven all dough, but the lower part baked. If God and Heaven be to be sought for in the first place, if the Kingdom of Heaven must be got by violence, know thy good inclinations and sweet affections will not be enough.
Thirdly, They are Embryoes, who by instruction and good education of others, are trained in a way of godlinesse, and in the constant practice of duties, but in time dis∣cover*they never had the power of these things. Thus we read of King Joah, all the while Jehoiada the Priest was alive, 2 King. 12. 2. who had the tuition and educa∣tion of him, He walked in the wayes of God, but when he died, then he turned aside to do wickedly; and many such there are also now adaies, who having godly pa∣rents are so accustomed unto the wayes of Religion, that they can pronounce Shibboleth, I mean, speak and exercise the whole form of piety; but this is not a new nature wrought in them by God; it is their old nature painted and varnish∣ed over with good education. It is true such instructions are a mercy; and the Wiseman saith, The way a childe is trained up in, he will not leave. As on the con∣trary it is a woful curse to be born of wicked parents from whom the children learn only to curse, swear, lie, and to be prophane opposers of God and godli∣nesse; but yet this excellent education is but the external moulding of a man, not the internal renovation of his heart. It's like the midwifes bowing or ordering the limbs, it's not giving the limbs themselves. Be not therefore deceived in this great work, Hath God moulded thy heart as well as parents thy life? Thy Father and Mother they have taught thus, and thou sawest them live thus, but hath God also taught thee the power of these things in thy own soul.
Lastly, Those may be called Embryoes, who have many desires and wishes that they*might be in this happy state of life, but then they have so many temptations, so many Page 234 obstructions and pull-backs in the way, that they presently give over. Balaam (though we do not conceive of him, as in a preparatory way to grace, yet) he wisheth he might die the death of the righteous; and thus some cried to Christ, Lord evermore give us of this bread out of a confused appetite; these are like the slug∣gard that desireth, but yet pulleth not his hand out of his bosom, therefore his desire is said to kill him. In this rank also you may have many who have inward wishes and desires, Oh that they were such in whom God delighteth! Oh that they might not only die the death, but live the life of a righteous man. Thus they desire, but sometimes carnal friends, husbands, neighbours, they throw water on these little sparks, and presently put out all, or else their worldly imploi∣ments, and earthly businesses they freeze the heart, and make it senslesse, or else their own sluggishnesse and dulnesse choaketh that good seed in them. Therefore do not think all is sure, because thou sayest, though I be thus and thus, yet I desire to do otherwise. Oh here may be a dangerous delusion! Thy desires may be thy ruine; for if thou only desirest, and there is no further pro∣gresse, thou restest in thy desires, and these produce no reall operations, they will prove but cobwebs to thee in time of danger. There is indeed a position of Divines, That the desire of Grace is Grace; as hunger and thirst argue a man is alive, and the promise of being satisfied is made to the hungry and thirsty, but those desires are spiritual, strong, constant, efficacious, and produce migh∣ty operations; compared therefore to hunger, which will break stone wals to get some food. Do not therefore tumble in this pit of destruction, many have suffered shipwrack at this Rock, saying, They desire to goe to Heaven, They desire to please God; but if thy desire were earnest and powerfull, it would put thee upon the use of all the means, that lead thee to such a bles∣sed end. Notwithstanding the sluggards desire to eat, yet his field was growne over with thorns and thistles, and so though thou desirest Heaven, yet thy life is the broad way to Hell.
A third sort of those who miscarry in this new Birth, are Abortives, such*who come not to their maturity. Now although it be true, That in the true life of Grace there cannot be properly any Abortive, and where the life of Grace hath once been, though in the least degree, that is an immortal and incorru∣ptible life, yet we may call them Abortives, because seemingly in their own judgement, and to all others they had the life of Grace, but yet it comes to no true ripenesse in them; Their Profession, their Duties; are wilde Grapes. These are denoted in the third kinde of hearers, in whom the seed came up, and there was Fruit, but saith the Text they did not 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, They did not bring that fruit to perfection, to ripenesse. Thus Christ tels the Church, He did not finde her works perfect, Revel. 2. There was much outward appear∣ing goodnesse, but they were not solid, perfect works. Thy Duties are ripe, when all that sour juyce and bitternesse is excocted, when they are not done out of Formality, Customarinesse, Hypocrisie, when they are done from right Principles, in an holy manner, and to holy ends. So that thy Profession, thy Family Duties, and all thy externall Demonstrations of Grace, do not prove any thing, unlesse they be ripe, and unlesse Grace be predominant in them, though they cannot be done without all drosse. But hath not God in his Providence shewed 〈◊〉 our Humiliations and Professions have been to him, in the very fruit of the Trees, and the Corne of the Ground, nothing kindely ripes, but waterish, and so not ma∣king wholesome or pleasant food for the sustenance of man. Truely even such hath our Righteousnesse, our Reformation been, and that under his Judge∣ments. Our Prayers, our Family Duties, our solemne Assemblies have been full of corrupt bitternesse within. As that Body cannot be sound, though it may appear never so well that hath inward vitall Diseases; so let thy outward Page 235 Conversation be never so unblameable and pious, yet if there be not a sound constitution within, it will not endure; Know then this consideration goeth deep∣er then the former, this happily may shake the foundation of all thy Hopes and Comforts thou hast had a long while.
The last way of Miscarriage in this new Birth, is, When it proves a Mon∣ster;* For so the Soul that sometimes hath been in great travail and trou∣ble, at last brings out a Monster in stead of a lovely Childe; and as S•ptalius the Physician on Aristotle observeth, That of all Creatures, Monsters in man-kinde are the most terrible and deformed, which he attributeth partly to Gods wrath and revenge upon men for their sinnes, or to presage some terrible Events in the world; so Monsters in Grace in this new Birth are the most terri∣ble of all.
Now as in Nature, so here in Grace, they come two wayes: *
First, Through Defect, when there is want of due matter; and thus in Grace men grow monstrous through defect,
First, When there is onely the outward Lineaments and Shape of Christiani∣ty,*but no inward supernatural life at all. When men have the outward Ex∣pression and Profession of Religion, but in their lives there is nothing but un∣godlinesse. Thus a man that prayeth, cometh to Church, takes upon him Christianity, and yet lives in prophane courses, this man is a spirituall Monster, and ought to breed horrour and terrour in all those that behold his wayes Or suppose his life be outwardly clean, and there be no inward change; this is a monster through defect, Thou hast a name that thou livest, but thou art dead, saith Christ to the Church, Revel. 3. 1. He is a Jew that is one inwardly, and circumcisi∣on is that of the Spirit.
Secondly, A Miscarriage through defect is, When there are some inward*Affections and Workings of God upon the heart, but they come to no Perfe∣ction. Such a monster was Agrippa, Thou hast almost perswaded me to be a Christian, Acts 26. 28. If therefore the Lord at any time cause trouble and fear to rise in thy soul about sinne, pray that thou maiest not miscarry: Oh Lord, say, I fear all this pain may give over again; we see nothing more ordinary then such miscarriages; What is become of those Troubles, Resolutions and strong Purposes that were once in thy heart? Are they not all vanished? But this was touched upon before.
Thirdly, A third Miscarriage is, Want of Perseverance, when men for a great while have gone on with much Fervency and Delight in Gods wayes; Who seemed more Zealous then they, more Religious then they? but afterwards prove wretched Apostates, and return to their old vomit again: Oh these are terrible and dreadfull monsters! The Apostle chargeth some, That began in the Spirit, but ended in the flesh. Is not this to make the Poets monster, Hu∣mano capiti, &c. To adde a Serpents body to a mans head, &c? A godly man •e groweth up further and further into a full stature. Paul thought himself not to have apprehended yet. As a man on the bottome of an high hill, thinks if he were on the top, he were then able to touch the Heavens, but when he comes up he seeth himself infinite short still. Thus it is in the way of Grace. A natural man thinketh, if he could doe thus and thus, he then should be compleat, but if once God change his heart, and he come to such a stature, he seeth so farre into the way of Grace, and so much more is still to be done, that he judgeth himself even at the highest, but to beginne to be a Chri∣stian.
Or secondly, A Monster may be by Excesse. Now although it be true, That a man cannot exceed in Godlinesse, and that of the Father be true, Mo∣dus diligendi Deum est sine modo, The measure of loving God is without mea∣sure; yet as we say, Superstition is an Excesse in Worship, because it run∣neth Page 236 out in the practice of many Externall things God never commanded. So it is here. Thus many have been troubled for sinne, found great burdens up∣on them, and what have they done? Betook themselves to some Monastery, afflicted themselves with many penitentiall Chastisements, lying on the Ground, feeding on Herbes, &c. This was to miscarry in the Excesse; God hath not required such things, and we are to manifest our Humiliation, our Re∣pentance only in such wayes, and after such a manner as God himself hath com∣manded.
Use. Of Exhortation unto all those who make any pretence to Religion, that*they would take heed of such Soul-Miscarriages. As they say of bodily Mis∣carriages, They may endanger ever having a perfect Childe afterwards: So the Soul that hath been often in pangs and trouble for sinne, yet hath come out again, without any Reformation, and this done severall times, it falleth out very rarely that ever such come to any maturity in Godlinesse; Consider whether thy Miscarriages are not in the Defect, for so the most are. Doth the Word, though it convince thy judgement, yet make thy Conversation holy? Thou hast the Name of a Christian, but the life of an Heathen, or a Pagan; What a monstrous Composition is this? If there should be a soul of a beast in the body of a man, to informe it, the outward linea∣ments of the body would not make him a man; for it's the soul that giveth the Specification, and Denomination. Thus it is here, Thou hast the body of a Christian, when thy outward life is conformable to his Law, but the soul as it were of a Beast, when thy heart is fastened to any sinne, and thy Affe∣ctions glewed to pleasures. Especially look to this, you who have at any time found great pangs and troubles of Conscience for sinne. Oh thy heart hath been in such fears, terrours, that thou needest Minister after Minister to pour Oyl in thy wounds! Oh where are all these? What is become of them? Why hast thou begunne in the Spirit, and ended in the flesh? As thou art a Monster indeed, so thou shouldst be in thy own apprehension, and to thy own self. O Lord, I am ashamed to look on my self, to think on my self, I am so mis-shapen, I am so foul a Beast!
Declaring what both by Duty and Priviledge a Son of God is, which he becometh by the New Birth.
JOHN 3. 3.
THe true nature of regeneration and the counterfeit thereof being already discovered, I shall onely insist upon one corollary, which may be deduced from this Doctrinal point, and so dismiss it. From what therefore hath been delivered, we may by use of Instruction gather, That such who are regenerated,*or new born, are thereby become the sons of God. Those who by natural propagation were children of wrath, by this regeneration are children of Grace. This there∣fore shall be the conclusion I shall insist upon by way of inference, viz. That those who are new born, are thereby made the Sons of God. They have God for their Fa∣ther, and are thereby put into a condition full of Priviledges, as well as of Duties. So that in the handling of this new state of Sonship the regenerated persons are put into, we shall speak first of the qualification of their Duties, and then of their Priviledges: But before we do so, some few particulars are to be premised. As
First, In being sons to God there are two things considerable.*
- 1. Their right to the glorious inheritance of heaven.
- 2. Their sanctified nature whereby they become like God, and imitate him in his holiness.
For as children of men do partake of their nature, and commonly imitate and represent their Fathers in their manners and conversation; So those that are born of God, are said to be Partakers of the Divine nature, and thereby resemble God, (according to our capacity) being holy, as he is holy. Now in the Sons of God we are to make a great difference between their right to heaven, and their holy nature and conversation.
1. For the former is not grounded upon their regeneration, for that is imper∣fect, * and their holiness being imperfect, doth Recipere magis and minus, doth re∣ceive more or lesse; but this is founded upon their justification, and is commonly called, Their adoption. Orthodox and learned Divines differ about the Order of Adoption; some make it a grace next to Predestination, and so before Justi∣fication; others make it not indeed the same with justification, but immediately de∣pendent on it, and grounded thereupon: and none but Papists make this Adop∣tion, as it doth invest us with a Title to eternal Glory, to be built on our regene∣ration.
Page 238 2. But then the other considerable property in our Sonship is, whereby we are * made inwardly holy, and upon these principles act holily: this floweth from our Regeneration; and so because of our new birth we are made sons of God, and are begotten anew by his word, because hereby we resemble God our Father: For as on the contrary, wicked men are said to be of their Father the Divel, because they do his works; So the Godly are of God their Father, because they resemble him: He purifieth himself, even as God is pure, 1 John 3. 3. So that these two carefully distinguished, will keep us from proud presumption on the one hand, and yet be a great incentive to Godlinesse on the other hand.
Secondly, Consider that Christ is the only and true begotten of God by an eternall*and naturall generation; we are the Sons of God by a temporall, and free gracious ge∣neration: So that it is a rule of Divines, Quod Christus naturâ, nos gratiâ, That which Christ hath by Nature, we have by Grace. Christ is the Son of God, not in that sense as the Socinians, and such blasphemous Hereticks say, Non factus filius Dei, but Natus, Not the made Son of God, but the born son of God, and there∣fore homo•usial of the same nature with God; and in this sense the Pharisees and Jews understood him when they charged him with blasphemy, Making himself, as they said, equall with God. It is true that place of the Psalmist, Thou art my son, this day I have begotten th•e, Acts. 13. 33. is applyed to his resurrecti∣on, and the manifestation, or declaration of his Sonship; but those places which speak of Christs subsistency, before he was incarnated, doe evidently argue him so to be God, as that he was the same with God from all eternity: and the first Chap. of Johns Gospel makes it irrefragably true, notwithstanding all the Hereticks endeavour to elude it. Well, as Christ is thus naturally, so those that are regene∣rated are thus graciously, and so are said to be co-heirs with Christ: though there∣fore we are begotten of God, yet Christ is the first-born, and hath the preheminen∣cy in all things.
Thirdly, Consider that we may be said to be the Sons of God in three re∣spects.*
1. As we are creatures, having our being from him: In which sense Paul san∣ctifieth that verse of the Poet, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, We are his off-spring, Act• 17. 28. What the Poet said of Jupiter, Paul applyeth to the true God. Thus God is a Father by Creation; and all men, even wicked men are his children in this sense; but this is no advantage, for though a man be born of God in this respect, yet if he be no more, he shall never see the Kingdom of heaven. He that made them, will not save them, saith the Prophet, Esai 27. 11. Though ye are his creatures, yet having fallen from him to take the Divels character, he will deal no more with you as with his own.
2, There are Sons to God by an externall Covenant, or administration of Grace.* Thus men receiving the outward seal of the Covenant of Grace, and submitting externally to those Laws God prescribes, are called Sons. Thus the people of Isra∣el are often called the sons of God, because of that external adoption, (Of whom is the Adoption, saith Paul:) Even as in the new Testament believers are called Saints, because of their external profession, though they were not inwardly holy: Out of Egypt have I called my Son, which though principally applyed to Christ, yet Typi∣cally, as learned men think, it was true of the Israelites called by God out of E∣gypt. Now this Sonship is also but Nominal and Titular: To have no more of sons then these outward badges, is but an aggravation of hell, and eternal torments, Thus Christ saith, The children of the Kingdom shall be cast forth, Mat. 8. 12. Oh the terror of this: Many that are now called, and reputed so, the sons of God, and the children of the Kingdom of grace, shall be thrown out from all those hopes and expectations they had. Even as among the Israelites, though there came so many thousand of them out of Egypt, and you would have thought that all those who enjoyed such miraculous mercies from heaven, should have been made happy: yet two onely of all that number entred into Canaan: So of those many that are Page 239 called, which have the name and external priviledges of the sons of God, even few of them will be saved,
3. Therefore there are sons by real Sanctification, as well as federal velation; and * these are those whom our Saviour meaneth in the Text, and to whom the inhe∣ritance of the Kingdom of Heaven is promised. Baptism therefore, and the Sa∣craments do not make you sons of God, it is this inward work of a new Na∣ture.
These things presupposed, let us consider as I promised, How the sons of God are qualified?
- 1. By Duty. And then
- 2. By priviledge.
By Duty: First, They have the Affections of a son in holy fear and reverence: If*I be a Father, where is my honour, saith God, Mal. 1. 6. If we are to honour our earthly Parents, who give us onely (and that but instrumentally neither) a bo∣dily being, how much rather ought we with an holy fear to deport our selves before him, who is such an Omnipotent Father, and hath other chastisements even upon the soul and heart, which earthly Fathers have not. Now this filial fear is an excel∣lent bridle & check to all that wantonness and insolency we many times run into, through our Fathers goodnesse and kindnesse to us: There is a servile mercinary fear, and there is a Filial ingenuous fear: the first is unworthy and unbeseeming the son of God, but the second is a requisite condition. Observe theu thy self: If thou art a Son of God, What holy trembling and fear will be upon thee in all thy approaches to him? His Word, his Ordinances will cause much inward reve∣rence and lowlinesse of heart in thee: Earthly parents are not Omnipresent, and so cannot be every where with their sons, which imboldens them to do many things which they would never do, if their parents did behold them, nay they would not for a world their father ever should come to know them. Jacobs children when they had committed that horrible act on their brother Joseph, all their care was to hide it from their Father: but now God is a Father every where present; he is all Eye, There is nothing done in seceret, but thy Father seeth it. There is no heart-pride, no heart∣earthlynesse, but thy Father seeth it. There is never a time thou prayest, hearest the word, but thy Father seeth with what frame of Spirit it is. Oh therefore if thou art a Son of God, thou wilt discover it in thy whole carriage: a Son feareth the frowns of his Father; I dare not do this; my father will be offended; and I, Whi∣ther shall I go? Thus the Apostle Peter, If ye call him Father, passe your sojourning here with fear, 1 Pet. 1. 17.
Secondly, The Affections of Sons are seen in a patient submission to all his cha∣stistisements,*for who may better afflict thee, then a Father? Whom I love, I chasten, saith God: And the Apostle argueth strongly from the lesse to the greater, If we suffer our earthly Parents after the flesh to chastise, how much rather the Father of spi∣rits, Heb. 12. 9. He is a Father of our spirits, and so he may chastise us in them: fill us with darknesse, sadnesse, trouble, and grief of soul. Now this consideration would greatly quiet the waves and winds which are ready to rise up in us. What is the ground of all our impatience, discontent, and trouble against Gods dispensa∣tions? Is it not because we look not upon him as so wise, and so potent a Father? Who can do it better? Can the Artificer know when his gold hath been enough in the furnace, and he will not let it stay a moment longer: and shall not God know when he hath chastised thee enough: If thou hadst a Child-like disposition, thou wouldst say, although all I feel be bitter, yet he is a Father still. I have been an ill Child, and this makes him a Good Father in chastising.
Thirdly, The affections of a Son are seen in being carried out in all our obedi∣ence to him from an inward sweet principle of love. In this sense they are said, Because*they are the sons of God, they are not under the Law. Not as if the Law were not a rule to them, but onely they are carryed out to obey it from a fountain of love: even as a dutiful child will obey his Fathers commands, although he had no estate, Page 240 or great inheritance to give him. And thus it is here, Though there were no Hea∣ven or glory to bestow upon a regenerated person, yet he hath that principle of love which would perswade him to obey God. Thus the Apostle, As many as are led by the spirit, are the sons of God, Rom. 8. 14. Such who have the spirit of God renewing their natures, and so guiding them by the word to their duties, these are the sons of God: Not that it is unlawful for a child of God to have an eye to the reward: for it is said of Moses, He had an eye to the recompence of reward, Heb. 11. 26. The greek word signifieth a fixed intent eye: and every amor mercedis, is not mer∣cenarius, every love of a reward is not mercenary, unlesse it be wholly and totally for this, being joyned with no love to God at the same present.
Fourthly, His affections are seen in his joy and delight in all those duties whereby*he may have communion with him. John 8. He that is of God, heareth his word. A Son delights to have letters from his Father, to have discourse about him, especially to enjoy his presence. Truely we have communion with the Father, saith the Apo∣stle John: O• then, What a discovery is this of thy sonship? How art thou affect∣ed in praying, in hearing, in all religious duties? They are a constant burthen and trouble to thee; this argueth thee to be no son of God. Let not therefore vain de∣lusions carry thee aside: It is not thy coming to Church, thy standing within Gods Courts, that demonstrates thee to be of God; but it is an heavenly and spiritual joy in these approaches. Doth faith work strongly in God as a Father? Doth that improove with much sweetness this relation, and hereupon thy soul be enlarged in much fervency of this spirit? This is to be the Son of God. Even as the Angels which in Job are called, The Sons of God, with much alacrity and joy delight in Gods presence.
Fifthly, The Son of God manifests himself in his hatred and opposition unto all sin; For * every creature acteth according to its kinde; the Lamb according to the nature of a Lamb: and thus because he is born of God, he acteth according to a Divine princi∣ple, That as God is a God of purer eyes then to behold iniquity, Hab. 1. so he is of a purer heart then to love and delight in sin. He that is born of God sineth not, neither indeed can he, because the seed abideth in him, 1 John 5. 18. All men are divided into these two rancks (saith Austin) they are either Filii Dei, or Filii Diaboli, The Sons of God, or the Sons of the Divel: Now their works will manifest them. Art thou a man afraid of sin, carefully studying to avoid it in thy whole life? Hast thou no more accord with it, then light hath with darknesse? And so for wicked men; Thou hast no love to their company or councel; thou hatest them with a perfect hatred; thou canst with no more love and delight be with them, then the Dove a∣mong Jays, or the Lamb among the Wolves, then thou hast a sure sign of a Son of God: But if on the contrary, thou art prophane in thy life; thou lovest those that live dissolutely; men that damn, swear, and prophane the Sabbath; thou art so fat from having thy righteous soul tormented with hearing and seeing such things, as Lots was, as that rather thou rejoycest in them, and makest much of such: What can be a greater demonstration that thou art of the Divel then this? If the Divel were to act visibly in the world, would he not live such a life as this is? Men therefore need not think it such an hard matter to know what they are: They need not say, Who will ascend into heaven to let us know how it is with us? For thy out ward life and way doth proclaim to all the world that thou art of the Divel: And although it would make thy heart swell with rage to be called a childe of the Divel, yet know assuredly by the Scripture rules, we can give thee no other name. Oh that a multi∣tude of those who call themselves Christians, should not be astonished at these things: What to be children of the Divel, to be limbs of Satan? Yet by their works they demonstrate themselves to be so.
Sixthly, The Sons of God they imitate God their Father in his love and goodness*to all. Our Saviour amplifieth this excellent property of God, That he causeth the Sun to shine upon the good and bad, and hence concludeth, Be ye perfect as your hea∣venly Father is perfect, Mat. 5. 48. If we consider the matter precedent, we should Page 241 have judged the natural consequence to be, Be ye patient as your heavenly Father is patient; but because goodness even to bad men, to enemies, is the highest degree of graces, and as it were the perfection of all, and without which, let a man speak with the tongue of Angels, and work all kind of Miracles, yea be eminent in all matter of Godliness, yet be without this, he is not a perfect Christian. Therefore under all the injuries, oppressions, and desperate persecutions, although revenge, as the heathen said, be sweeter thou hony it self: yet consider what God thy Father doth: How do wicked men provoke him every day, yet for all that he doth not make the earth presently gape to devour them! He hath not put out the glorious light of the Sun: He doth not dissolve the work of the creation, and blast every thing into dust. What an excellent pattern is this for thee to write after? Espe∣cially considering vengeance is Gods, and doth properly belong to him: and as you have God, so Christ also for an admirable pattern. Father forgive them, they know not what they do: Though he could have prayed for legions of Angels to deli∣ver him, and destroy his adversaries, yet he submitteth to Gods will. The Scripture giveth many signs of Grace, yet none is so remarkable and commended as this, Mat. 5. And howsoever some Papists think, to love our enemies is a meer coun∣sell for perfect men, not a duty to all Christians, yet it is plain our Saviour pres∣seth it upon all who would be the children of God: and howsoever this be not so much pressed and preached, we Christians do not among other symptomes of Grace look after this, yet it is plain the Scripture makes this one of the chief∣est, and is a sign Grace hath great dominion over thee when thou art enabled to do this. Some malicious heathens once met with a Christian, and beat him even unto death almost, asking him, What great matter ever Christ did? Even this great thing, replieth the Christian, That I can for give you, though you use me thus cruel∣ly. I confesse many who yet live in their sins, and discover no power of Grace, will yet proclaim their love to their enemies, and that they forgive them with all their hearts: but this is easilier said then done; and although we read of heathens who have been admirable in this way, yet they not doing of it by the spirit of Christ, but from an humane generosity, obtained thus much onely, That they shall he less punished then malicious revengefull persons.
Seventhly, The Sons of God, being born of him, have a more noble and heavenly*spirit then men of the world. There are men so plunged into earthly affairs; that you would think that were true of their souls, which the Scriptures saith of their bodies, Dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return. These are worms (I do not say and no men) but no sons of God. Thou who art born of God, shouldst do things like God. Fortes creantur fortibus, and thus that new birth of thine will not onely lift thee up above sin, and all such base defilements, but even above all earthly temptations. And thy body is not made more upright towards heaven, then thy soul is made that way by grace. Hence we are said, To sit with Christ in heavenly places: and as pearls and precious stones, though for the matter of them they be of inferiour substance, yet in their colour, lustre, and glory, they resemble the heavens, from whom comes the greatest influence to make them: Or as the Clouds, though generated from Vapours and exhalations arising from the earth, yet in their motions are wholly carried up and down according to the heavens; so these men though they have earthly bodies, live on the same food, breath in the same air as others do, yet are formed into the glorious likenesse of God; and be∣ing sons of God, disdain to ignoble and debase themselves by any filthy lusts: As Ja∣cobs son, because he was loved had a coat of divers colours bestowed on him, so God bestoweth several graces upon his people. The Queens daughter is in curious needle-work, and for her to go and tumble in the mire, is more beseeming a swine then a Queens daughter. Oh then that men who by birth or education being a∣bove others, judge it baseness to do servile work, would much more abhor sin as the greatest vileness of all. It is sin onely makes a man like a beast, or a Divel: when therefore thou art sollicited, or tempted to any sin, say, Remember this is not Page 242 becoming the son of God: though wicked men, and ungodly ones will do thus and thus, yet the children of God are better bred.
In the next place let us consider their qualification by way of Priviledges, and * they are wonderful, in so much that John by way of admiration, calls upon all to be astonished at it, Behold what manner of love he hath shewn, that we should be cal∣led the sons of God, 1 John 3. 1. Let his condition be never •o poor and miserable in the world, yet if a Son of God, we may say, Behold Gods love to such an one! Now their priviledges, Are
First, To be made conformable unto Christ in his sufferings. This is a strange pri∣viledge, * yet the Scripture commends it as one, viz. when for his sake we are op∣posed and troubled. To you it is given to suffer for his name, Phil 1. •9. And blessed are ye when all men speak all manner of evil against you for my names sake. And so, He hath predestinated us to be conformable unto the image of his son, Rom. 8. which as the context sheweth, is sufferings and tribulations, and we shall reign with him, if so be we suffer with him. Thus they thought it a priviledge, when they glorified God, that they were accounted worthy to suffer for his names sake.
A second priviledge is, The spirit of Adoption, whereby we are enabled to call*God Father, Rom 8. Gal. 4. Servants might not call their Mal•e•s Father; but these children may appropriate God unto themselves, saying, Our father: Oh what a comfortable condition is this, especially in sad times, when we cannot say any thing is •u•s, yet upon just grounds to say, God is ours. And having this spirit of Aco∣pion, we are thereby enabled to go with boldness into the presence of God. 〈◊〉 and slavishness, which is like a torment in the soul, is for a great degree quite cast out. Thou therefore mayst go with an holy and humble confidence unto God, 〈◊〉 say, O Lord, to call thee Father, to be assured of thy love in particular, this is chil∣drens bread, children are to feed on it: And what Father when his son asketh for bread, will give him a Scorpion? O, my Father, Why is it that I have asked for bread so long, and yet have a Scorpion? Do not thou then who expressisn the duties of: Son, question the priviledges of a Son: If thou livest like a child of God, believe al∣so, be •old also like a son of God.
A third priviledge is, The working of all things together for their good, Rom. 8. * Being the sons of God, they are made co-heirs with Christ, and by him have every good thing promised them, Whether things past, or things present, life or death, all is yours, 1 Cor. 3. Though men may admire outward honour and dignity in the world, yet certainly this is the state of glory to be sought for. When men are put into such a relation to God, that now what ever doth befall them shall turn to their advantage. They have the promise of God, which is better then the Philoso∣phers stone; for this turneth every thing not into gold but into grace and glory. No marvel though Moses adopted to be a son to Pharaohs Daughter, yet refuseth the plea∣sures of Egypt, and accepteth the reproaches of Christ before them; for to Phara•h all good things turned to his evil: his greatness, his power, his pomp, and all the miracles God did to him, but to Moses all his evil things proved for his great ad∣vantage. Oh then, with what spiritual content, and holy security of soul may the sons of God live in the most dangerous times.
The last priviledge is, Gods care and protection over them. Fathers treasure up for their children; and thus they being the sons of God. God layeth up for them: Our Saviour bringeth this argument to confirm his Disciples, and in them all belie∣vers, against sinful cares, and worldly thoughts, what to do. Your heavenly Father knoweth what you have need of. Oh then in any exigence, in any great strait, say, O my Father, though I know not what to do, yet thou dost: Though I am unwor∣thy to be a son, yet thou art gracious and good to be a Father. What encouraged the Prodigal but this, He would go to his Father: that was a sweet name, and would work sweet things: If ye who are evil know how to give good things to your children, how much rather shall your Father which is in heaven? Oh beloved, wee need no other fountain to draw out water of salvation from: we need no other Page 243 hony comb to suck the sweetnesse out then this, God is a Father to his Chil∣dren.
Use, Are we by regeneration the sons of God, and do the sons of God imitate and resemble God, holy as he is, pure as he is? Then Who can bewail enough the*cursed and hopeless estate of most men who live under the Gospell? How are they af∣fected with this glorious estate of sonship? How careful are men to get their Lea∣ses, their Evidences made sure about earthly advantages, and not in the least man∣ner carefull to make sure this heavenly inheritance? And as for their lives, their fruits may make you know what they are. Is it for the sons of God to wallow in their swinish lusts? is it for the sons of God to curse, swear, and blaspheme the name of their Father? Oh let the heavens be ashamed, and the sun blush to see the wickedness committed amongst us, who yet would be all thought the Children of God. Thou callest God Father in thy prayer; Oh blasphemy! Is God the Fa∣ther of prophane wicked men?