John iii. 3.-"Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he can not see the kingdom of God."
THIS very peculiar expression, born again, is a phrase that was generated historically in the political state, then taken up by Christ, and appropriated figuratively to the spiritual use in which we find it. Thus foreigners, or Gentiles, were regarded by the Jewish people as unclean. Therefore, if any Gentile man wanted to become a Jewish citizen, he was baptized with water, in connection with other appropriate ceremonies, and so, being cleansed, was admitted to be a true son of Abraham. It was as if he had been born, a second time, of the stock of Abraham; and becoming, in this manner, a native Jew, as related to the Jewish state, he was said, in form of law, to be born again. Our term naturalization signifies essentially the same thing; viz., that the subject is made to be a natural born American, or, in the eye of the law, a native citizen. Finding this Jewish ceremony on foot, and familiarly known, Christ takes advantage of it, (and the more naturally that a person so regenerated was, by the supposition, entered, religiously, into the covenant of Abraham,) as affording a good analogy, and a good form of expression, to represent the naturalization of a soul in the kingdom of heaven. Regarding us, in our common state under sin, as aliens, or foreigners, and not citizens in the kingdom; unclean in a deeper than ceremonial and political sense; he says, in a manner most emphatic,-Verily, verily I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he can not see the kingdom of God. And again,-Marvel not that I said unto you, ye must be born again. In this language, so employed he gives us to understand that no man can ever be accepted before God, or entered into the kingdom of the glorified, who is not cleansed by a spiritual transformation, in that manner born of God, and so made native in the kingdom. He does not leave us to suppose that he is speaking merely of a ceremonial cleansing. He only takes the water by the way, as a symbol, and adds the Spirit as the real cleansing power;-Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he can not enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
I propose, now, a deliberate examination of this great subject, hoping to present such a view of it as will command the respect of any thoughtful person, whatever may have been his previous difficulties and objections. My object will be to unfold the scripture doctrine, in a way to make it clear, not doubting that, when it is intelligibly shown, it will also prove itself to be soundly intelligent, and will so command our assent, as a proper truth of sal vation. I believe, also, that many minds are confused, to such a degree, m their notions of this subject, as must fatally hinder them, in their efforts to enter the gate which it opens.
I call your attention specially to three points:-
1. That Christ requires of all mankind, without distinction some great and important change, as the necessary condition of their salvation.
II. The nature and definition of this change.
III. The manner in which it is, and is to be, effected.
I. That Christ requires of all some great and important change.
He does not, of course, require it of such as are already subjects of the change, and many are so even from their earliest years; having grown up into Christ by the preventing or anticipating grace of their nurture in the Lord; so that they can recollect no time, when Christ was not their love, and the currents of their inclination did not run toward his word and his cause. The case, however, of such is no real exception; and, besides this, there is even no semblance of exception. Intelligence, in fact, is not more necessary to our proper humanity, than the second birth of this humanity, as Christ speaks, to its salvation. Many can not believe, or admit any such doctrine. It savors of hardness, they imagine, or undue severity, and does not correspond with what they think they see, in the examples of natural character among men. There is too much amiability and integrity, too much of exactness and even of scrupulousness in duty, to allow any such sweeping requirement, or the supposition of any such universal necessity. How can it be said or imagined that so many moral, honorable, lovely, beneficent and habitually reverent persons need to. be radically and fundamentally changed in character, before they can be saved?
That, according to Christ, depends on the question whether "the one thing" is really lacking in them or not. If it be, not even the fact that he can look upon them with love will, at all, modify his requirement. This is the word of Christ, this his new testament still,-regeneration universal regeneration, thus salvation.
We can see too, for ourselves, that Christianity is based on the fact of this necessity. It is not any doctrine of development, or self-culture; no scheme of ethical practice, or social re-organization; but it is a salvation; a power moving on fallen humanity from above its level, to regenerate and so to save. The whole fabric is absurd therefore, unless there was something to be done in man and for him that required a supernatural intervention. We can see too, at a glance, that the style of the transaction is supernatural, from the incarnate appearing onward. Were it otherwise, were Christianity a merely natural and earthly product, then it were only a fungus growing out of the world, and, with all its high pretensions, could have nothing more to do for the world, than any other fungus for the heap on which it grows. The very name, Jesus, is a false pretense, unless he has something to do for the race, which the race can not do for itself; something regenerative and new-creative; something fitly called a salvation.
But how can we imagine, some of you will ask, that God is going to stand upon any such definite and rigid terms with us? Is he not a more liberal being and capable of doing better things? Since he is very good and very great, and we are very weak and very much under the law of circumstances, is it not more rational to suppose that he will find some way to save us, and that, if we do not come into any such particular terms of life, it will be about as well? May we not safely risk the consequences? It ought to be a sufficient answer to all such suggestions, that Christ evidently understood what is necessary for us, better than we do, and that we discover no disposition to uncharitableness or harshness in him. He comes directly out from God and knows the mind of God. He takes our case upon him, and is so pressed by the necessities of our state, that he is even willing to die for us.
It ought also to be observed that all such kinds of argument are a plea for looseness, which is not the manner of God. Contrary to this, we discover, in all we know of him, that he is the exactest of beings; doing nothing without fixed principles, and allowing nothing out of its true place and order. He weighs every world of the sky, even to its last atom, and rolls it into an orbit exactly suited to its uses and quantities. Nothing is smuggled out of place, or into place, because it is well enough anywhere. If a retreating army wants to cross a frozen river, the ice will not put off dissolving, but will run into the liquid state, at i certain exact point of temperature. If a man wants to live, there is yet some diseased speck of matter, it may be, in his brain, or heart, which no microscope even could detect, and by that speck, or because of it, he will die at a certain exact time; which time will not be delayed, for a day, simply because it is only a speck. Is then character a matter that God will treat more loosely? will he decide the great questions of order and place, dependent on it, by no exact terms or conditions? If he undertakes to save, will he save as by accommodation, or by some fixed law? If he undertakes to construct a beatific state, will he gather in a jumble of good and bad, and call it heaven? How certainly will any expectation of heaven, based on the looseness of God, and the confidence that he will stand for no very exact terms, issue in dreadful disappointment. And the more certainly, in this case, that the exactness supposed refers, not to any mere atoms of quantity, but to eternal distinctions of kind. His law of gravity will as soon put the sea on the backs of the mountains, as his terms of salvation will gather into life them that are not quickened in his Son.
Do we not also see as clearly, as possible, for ourselves, what signifies much; that some men, a very large class of men, are certainly not in a condition to enter the kingdom of God, or any happy and good state. They have no purity or sympathy with it. They are slaves of passion. They are cruel, tyrannical, brutal, and even disgusting to, decency; fearful, unbelieving, abominable. Who can think that these are ready to melt into a perfectly blessed and celestial society? But, if not these, then there must be a division, and where shall it fall? If a line must be drawn, it must be drawn somewhere, and what is on one side of that line will not be on the other; which is the same as to say that there must be exact terms of salvation if there are any.
Again, we know, we feel in our own consciousness, while living in the mere life of nature, that we are not in a state to enjoy the felicities of a purely religious and spotlessly sinless world. We turn from it with inward pain. Our heart is not there. We want the joys of that state.; we feel a certain hunger, at times, after God himself; and that hunger is to us an assured evidence that we have him not. I do not undertake to press this argument further than it will bear. I only say that we feel conscious of something uncongenial, in our state, toward God and heaven. We seem to ourselves not to be in the kingdom of God, but without, and can hardly imagine how we shall ever find any so great felicity in the employments of holy minds.
It is also a very significant proof that some great change is needed in us that, when we give ourselves to some new purpose of amendment, or undertake to act up more exactly to the ideals of our mind, we are consciously legal in it, and do all by a kind of constraint. Something tells us that we are not spontaneous in what we do; that our currents do not run this way, but the contrary. A sad kind of heaven will be made by this sort of virtue! How dry it is, and if we call it service, how hard a service! What we want is liberty, to be in a kind of inspiration, to have our inclinations run the way of our duty, to be so deep in the spirit of it as to love it for its own sake. And this exactly is what is meant by the being born of God. It is having God revealed in the soul, moving in it as the grand impulse of life, so that duty is easy and, as it were, natural. Then we are in the kingdom, as being naturalized in it, or native born. Our regeneration makes us free in good. How manifest is it that, without this freedom, this newly generated inclination to good, all our supposed service is mockery, our seeming excellence destitute of sound reality.
There is then a change, a great spiritual change, required by Christianity as necessary to salvation, and we find abundant reason, in all that we know of ourselves and the world, to admit the necessity of some transformation quite as radical. In presence of a truth so momentous and serious, we now raise the question-
II. What is the nature of this change, how shall it be conceived?
To make the answer as clear as possible, let some things which only confuse the mind, and which often enter largely into the discussion, be excluded.
Thus a great deal of debate is had over the supposed instantaneousness of the change. But that is a matter of theory and not of necessary experience. If we call the change a change from bad in kind to good in kind, from a wrong principle of life to a right, the change will imply a beginning of what is good and right, and a gradual be. ginning of any thing would seem to be speculatively impossible. Still the change is, in that view, only an instantaneous beginning. But, however this may be in speculation, there is often, or even commonly, no consciousness of any such sudden transition. The subject often can not tell the hour, or the day; he only knows, it may be, looking back over hours or days, or even months, that he is a different man.
Some persons hold impressions of the change which suppose, or even require it to be gradual. This is an error quite as likely to confuse the mind; for then they set out, almost of course, to make it a change only of degrees, in the old plane of the natural character. The true practical method is to drop out all considerations and questions of time, and look at nothing but the simple fact of the change itself, whenever and however accomplished.
Much, again, is said in this matter of previous states and exercises-conviction, distress, tumult; then of light, peace, hope, bursting suddenly into the soul. Let no one attempt to realize any such description. Something of the kind may be common among the inductive causes, or the consequences of the change, but has nothing to do with its radical idea.
Excluding now all these points, which are practically immaterial and irrelevant, as regards a definite conception of the change, let us carefully observe, first of all, he w the scriptures speak of it, or what figure it makes in their representations; and more especially the fact that they never speak of it as being a change of degrees, an amendment of the life, an improvement or growing better in the plane of the old character. Contrary to this, they use bold, sweeping contrasts, and deal, as it were, in totalities. It is the being born again, or born over; as if it were a spiritual reproduction of the man. They describe him as one new created in Christ Jesus unto good works. Old things they declare to be passed away, behold all things are become new. It is passing from death to its opposite, life. It is dying with Christ, to walk with him in newness of life. That which is born of the flesh is declared to be flesh; and, in the same sense, that which is born of the Spirit to be spirit; as if a second nature, free to good, were inbreathed by the Divine Spirit, partaking his own quality.
It is called putting off the old man and putting on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness; as if there was even a substitution of one man for another in the change, a new divine man in the place of the old.
Again, it is called being transformed, and that by a renewing even of the mind, or intelligent principle.
Again, as if forever to exclude the idea of a mere growing better by care, and duty, and self improvement, an apostle says-Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.
Now you understand that a change of this kind can be spoken of, or described, only in figures. Therefore none of these expressions are to be taken as literal truths. But the great question under them is this-is the change spoken of a change merely of degree, or is it a change of kind? is it simply the improving of principles already planted in the soul, or is it the passing into a new state under new principles, to be started into a life radically different from the former? I have not one doubt which of the two alter. natives to accept as the true answer. Had it been the matter in hand, in redeeming the world, simply to make us better in degree, it would have been the easiest thing in the world to say it. The gospel does not say it. On the contrary, it labors after terms in which to set forth a change of kind, of principle,-a grand anakainosis, renovation, new creation, spiritually speaking, of the man.
Nor is there any thing contrary to this, in those expressions which require a process of growth and gradual advancement. For it is only potentially that the new life is regarded as a complete or total renovation. As the child is potentially a man, as the seed planted is potentially the full grown plant, so it is with the regenerated life in Christ. It is a beginning, the implanting of a new seed, and then we are to see, first the blade, then the ear, and after that the full corn in the ear. All such conceptions of growth fall into place under the fact that the new character begun is only begun, and that, while it is the root and spring of a complete renovation, it must needs unfold itself and fill itself out into completeness, by a process of holy living. On the other hand, there could be no growth if there were not something planted, and it is everywhere assumed and taught that, until the new man is born, or begotten, there is not so much as a seed of true holiness, no principle that can be unfolded; that, without faith, the soul abideth even in death, and therefore can not grow.
Advancing now from this point, let us see if we can accurately conceive the interior nature of the change.
Every man is conscious of this; that when he acts in any particular manner of wrong doing, or sin, or neglect of God, there is something in the matter besides the mere act, or acts. There is a something back of the action which is the reason why it is done. In the mere act itself, there is, in fact, no character at all. In striking another, for example, the mere thrust of the arm, by the will, is the act; and, taken in that narrow mechanical sense, there is no wrong in it, more than there is in the motion that dispenses a charity. The wrong is back of the act, in some habit of soul, some disposition, some status of character, whence the action comes. Now this something, whatever it be, is the wrong of all wrong, the sin of all sin, and this must be changed-which change is the condition of salvation.
Sometimes this change is conceived to be a really organic change in the subject. The strong expressions just referred to, in the scripture, are taken literally, as if there was and must needs be, a literal re-creation of tie man. The difficulty back of the wrong action is conceived to be the man himself, as a mal-constructed and constitutionally evil being, who can never be less evil, till something is taken out of him and replaced by a new insertion, which is, in fact, a new creation, by the fiat of omnipotence. But this, it is plain, would be no proper regeneration of the man, but the generation rather of another man in his place. Personal identity would be overthrown. The man would not, or should not, be consciously the same that he was. Besides, we are required to put off the old man ourselves and put on the new, and even to make ourselves a new heart and a new spirit, which shows, as clearly as possible, that we are to act concurrently in the change ourselves, whatever it be. But how can we act concurrently in a literal re-creation of our nature?
Sometimes, again, the change is conceived to be only a change of purpose, a change of what is called the governing purpose. You determined this morning, for example, to attend worship in this place. This determination, or purpose, being made, it in one view passed out of mind; you did not continue to say and repeat, "I will do it," till you reached the place and took your seat; and yet it was virtually in you, governing all your thousand subordinate volitions, in rising, preparing, walking, choosing your way, and the like, down to that moment. Just so there is, it is said, a bad governing purpose of sin, or self-devotion, back of the whole life, making it what it is; and what christianity does or requires, is the change of that purpose; which being changed, a change is wrought in the whole life and character. And this, it is conceived, is to be born again. The change of the governing purpose is the regeneration of the man.
The illustration, somewhat popularly taken, has truth in it, and it may be used in many cases with advantage. Still it is not exactly a bad governing purpose that we find, when we look for the seat of our disorder, but a something rather which we call a bad mind, state, or disposition. Having a certain quality of freedom, this bad mind, state, or disposition, may be represented analogically by a bad governing purpose, though it can not be identified with that. It is to the character what the will is dynamically to the actions, a bad affinity that distempers and carnalizes the whole man. I know not how to describe it better than to call it a false love, a wrong love, a downward, selfish love. How this love gets dominion, or becomes established in us, is not now the question. Enough to know that this wrong love is in us, and, being in us, is the source of a wrong life, much as the bad governing purpose is said to be. Only it is amore real and fatal condition of bondage and a less superficial evil. When we speak of a purpose that needs to be changed, we have only to will it and the change is wrought. But when we speak of changing one's reigning love, so that his life shall be under another love, a right love, a heavenly, a divine love, that is quite another and deeper and more difficult matter.
Every man's life, practically speaking, is shaped by his love. If it is a downward, earthly love, then his actions will be tinged by it, all his life will be as his reigning love This love, you perceive, is not a mere sentiment, or casual emotion, but is the man's settled affinity; it is thal which is, to his character, what the magnetic force is to the needle, the power that adjusts all his aims and works, and practically determines the man. It only must b: either a downward love, or an upward love; for, being the last love and deepest of the man, there can not be two last and deepest, it must be one or the other. And then, as this love changes, it works a general revolution of the man.
Hence it is that so much is said of the heart in the gospel, and of a change of the heart; for it is what proceeds out of the heart that defileth the man. The meaning is, not that christianity proposes to give us a new organ of soul, or to extract one member of the soul and insert an other, but that it will change the love of the heart. A man's love is the same thing as a man's heart.
Thus it is declared that God will write his laws in the hearts of men, which is saying that he will bring his laws info their love. In accordance also with this, it is declared that love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God; that is, that every one that has the right love, the heavenly or divine love established in him, has the change on which salvation hangs.
I have brought you on thus far, in a simple and direct line of thought, to what may be called a scriptural and correct view of the change. And yet there is another and higher which is also scriptural, and which needs to be held in view, in order to a right understanding of our next point, the manner in which the change is effected.
Thus far, you will observe, I have looked directly at the subject of the change, regarding only what transpires in him as a man. He is not re-created, he is not simply changed in his governing purpose, he is changed in his ruling love. Still he could not be so changed as a man in his own spirit, without and apart from another change, of which this is only an incident. After all, the principal stress of the change is not in himself, as viewed by himself, but in his personal relation to God, a being external to himself. In his prior, unregenerate state as a sinner, he was separated from God and centered in himself, living in himself and to himself. And he was not made to live in this manner. He was made to live in God, to be conscious of God, to know him by an immediate knowledge, to act by his divine impulse, in a word, to be inspired by him. By this I mean not that he is to be inspired in the same sense and manner as a prophet is, or a writer of scripture, which is the sense commonly attached to the word; I only mean that he is made to be occupied, filled, governed, moved, exalted, by His all-containing Spirit; so that all his tempers, actions, ends, enjoyments, will be from God. A tree can as well live out of the light, or out of the air, as a finite soul out of God and separate from God. Here then is the grand overtowering summit of the change. that the man is born of God. He is born into God, restored to the living connection with God that was lost by his sin, made to be a partaker of the divine nature, and live a life hid with Christ in God. He acts no more by his mere human will, as before; he says, yet not I, but Christ, liveth in me. God is now revealed in him; he is not a sole, simple, human nature; but he is a human nature occupied by the divine, living and acting in an inspired movement;-all which is signified by the declaration, that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. He is more than a human person, he is spirit; a human person, that is, pervaded, illuminated, swayed, exalted, empowered, and finally to be glorified by the life and Spirit of God developed freely in him. This emphatically is regeneration. It can not be fully defined by looking simply at the man himself. He must be regarded as in relation to another being. He is really parted from sin and quickened in a spirit of life, only as he is restored to God and received into the glorious occupancy of the divine nature.
But whether we regard the change as a change in the soul's ruling love, or in the higher form of it here recognized, makes little difference; for, in fact, neither of these two will be found separated from the other. If a man's ruling love is changed, he will, of course, be altered in his relation to God, and restored to oneness with him. And if he is restored to that oneness, his ruling love will be changed. There will be no precedence of time in one to the other. They will be rigidly coincident. They will even be mutual conditions one of the other. No man will ever be united to God, except in and by a love that embraces or entemples God. No man ever will be changed in his ruling love, except in the embrace of God, and His revelation in the soul. The consequences therefore of the change will be such as belong to both. The soul is now entered into rest; rest in love, rest in God. It is flooded also with a wondrously luminous joy; its whole horizon is filled with light; the light of a new love, the light of God revealed within. It has the beginning of true blessedness; because God himself and the principle of God's own blessedness are in it. It settles into peace; for now it is at one with God and all the creatures of God. It is filled with the confidence of hope; because God, who is wholly given himself to a right love, will never forsake it, in life or death. It is free to good, inclined to good; for the good love reigns in it, and it would even have to deny itself not to do the works of love. It consciously knows God, within; for God is there now in a new relation, love present to love, love answering to love. There is no alienation, or separation, but oneness. If a man love me, says the Saviour, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him. That abode in the soul is a new condition of divine movement; for it is in the movement of God. All things, of course, are new. Life proceeds from a new center, of which God is the rest and prop. The bible is a new book, because there is a light in the soul by which to read it. Duties are new, because the divine love the soul is in has changed all the relations of time and the aims of life. The saints of God on earth are no longer shunned, but greeted in new terms of celestial brotherhood. The very world itself is revealed in new beauty and joy to the mind, because it is looked upon with another and different love, and beheld as the symbol of God.
But let this one caution be observed. You are likely to be more attracted by the consequences of the change than by the change itself. But with the consequences you have nothing to do. God will take care of these. It may be that your mind will be so artificial, or so confused, as to miss the consequences for a time, after the reality is passed. But God will bring them out in his own good time, perhaps gradually, certainly in the way that is best for you. Let him do his own work, and be it yours to look after nothing but the new love. This brings me to speak, as I shall do in the briefest manner possible,-
III. Of the manner in which the change, already described, is to be effected.
To maintain that such a change can be manipulated, or officially passed, by a priest, in the rite of baptism, is no better than a solemn trifling with the subject. Indeed, so plain is this, that a sober argument, instituted to prove the contrary, is itself a half surrender of the truth. "Born of water and of the Spirit," says our Lord, and the language is a Hebraism, which presents the water as the symbol and the Spirit as the power of the change.
Equally plain is it that the change is not to be effected, by waiting for some new creating act of God, to be literally passed on the soul. Whoever thinks to compliment the sovereignty of God in that manner, mocks both himself and God. The change, as we have seen, passes only by consent and a free concurrence with God. God will never demolish a sinner's personality.
As little is it to be accomplished by any mere willing, or change of purpose, apart from God. There must be a change. of purpose, a final, total, sweeping change of all purpose, but that of itself will not change the soul's love, least of all will it be a birth of God into the soul. A man can as little drag himself up into a new reigning love, as he can drag a Judas into paradise. Or, if we say nothing of this, how can he execute a change, that consists in the revelation of God, by acting on himself? "Born of God," remember, is the christian idea, not born of self-exercise; "created anew in Christ Jesus," not self-created. You must get beyond your own mere will, else you will find, even though you strain your will to the utmost for a hundred years, that, while to will is present, you perform not. You can not lift this bondage, or break this chain, or burst open a way into freedom through this barrier, till you can say;-I thank God through Jesus Christ my Lord; for the law of the spirit of life hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
The question then recurs, how shall this change be effected? The whole endeavor, I answer, on your part must be God-ward. In the first place, you must give up every purpose. end, employment, hope, that conflicts with God and takes you away from him. Hence what is said in so many forms of self-renunciation. Hence the requirement to forsake all. It is on the ground that, in your life of sin, you are altogether in self-love, centered in yourself, living for yourself, making a god of your own objects and works. These occupy the soul, fill it, bear rule in it, and God can not enter. You must make room for God, create a void for him to fill, die to yourself that Christ may live within.
But this negative work of self-clearing is not enough. There must be a positive reaching after God, an offering up of the soul to him, that he may come and dwell in it and consecrate it as his temple. For, as certainly as the light will pour into an open window, just so certainly will God reveal himself in a mind that is opened to his approach. Now this opening of the mind, this reaching after God, is faith; and hence it is that so much is made of faith. For God is revealed outwardly, in the incarnate life and death of Jesus, in order that he may present himself in a manner level to our feeling, and quickening to our love, and so encourage that faith by which he may come in, to re-establish his presence in us. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ. O, it is there that the true God shines-let him shine into our hearts! Jesus, if we understand him, is the true manifestation of God, and he is manifested to be the regenerating power of a new divine life. By his beautiful childhood, by his loving acts and words, by his sorrowful death, God undertakes to impregnate our dead hearts with his love, and so to establish himself eternally in us. What is said of the Spirit is said of him, as being also the Spirit of Jesus. For, in highest virtuality, they are one, even as Christ himself declares, when dis. coursing of the promised Spirit,-"I will come to you," "but ye see me." Receive him, therefore, as receiving Christ, and him as the accepted image of God, and this will be your faith, this the regeneration of your love, and this the token of your new connection with God.
Allow no artificial questions of before and after to detain you here, as debating whether Christ, or the Spirit, or the faith, or the new born love, must be first. Enough to know that, if your faith is conditioned by the Spirit, so is the victory of the Spirit conditioned by your faith; that here you have all these mercies streaming upon you, and that nothing effectual can be done, till your faith meets them and they are revealed in your faith. Enough to know that, if the faith is to be God's work, it is also to be your act, and it can not be worked before it is acted. Let Christ also be your help in this acting of faith and this receiving of God, even as he set himself to give it in his conversation with Nicodemus; going directly on to speak of himself and the grace brought down to sinners in his person, declaring that, as Moses lifted up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. He brings the divine love down to this most wondrous attitude, the cross, that we may there drop out our sin, and receive into our faith the love, the God of love expressed. And therefore it is represented that Christ ever stands before the door and knocks for ad mission, with a promise that, if any. man open the door (which is faith,) he will come in and sup with him. Christianity is God descending to the door to get admission; this is the grand philosophy of the incarnation. God is just what you see him here, and he comes to be revealed in you as he is presented before you. Thus received, you are born again, born of God. A new love enters, God enters, and eternal life begins.
Shall he enter th us with you? How many of you are there that ought to hear this call. And no one of you is excluded. You may have come hither to-day with no such high intention. Still the call is to you. If you ask who? how many? when? all, I answer, all, and that to-day. Do you not see a glorious simplicity in this truth of regeneration! How beautiful is God in the light of it, how deep in love Christ Jesus and his cross, how close, in all this, comes the tenderness and winning grace of your God! No matter if you did not think of receiving him, are you going to reject him? Is it nothing to be so exalted, so divinely ennobled? Have you fallen so low that no such greatness can attract you?
Then be it so. Have it as confessed that, when you saw the true gate open, you would not enter. Go back to your sins. Plunge into your little cares, fall down to your base idols, creep along through the low affinities of your sin, make a covenant with hunger and thirst, and hide it from you, if you can, that you was made for God, made to live in the consciousness of Him, as a mind irradiated by His spirit, quickened by his life, cleared by His purity. But if you can not be attracted by this, let it be no wonder, call it no severity, that Christ has not opened heaven to you. No wonder is it to him, even if it be to you, and therefore he says, whispers it to you kindly, but faithfully, as you turn yourself away,-"Marvel not that I said unto you ye must be born again.