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ways be found of little use in experience. The word regenera, tion, is not used in the old Testament, and only twice in the new. Being renewed, begotten by the word of truth, born again, born of the Spirit, created anew, &c. are terms more commonly used to declare the first implantation of grace in the human heart.
I shall endeavor to confine inyself in this lecture, to the simple ideas contained in the word as found in the scriptures. Therefore shall endeavor
First, To explain the term itself.
Secondly, Show that the principle intended to be expressed, is implanted in the soul by the immediate power of God.
Thirdly, That without this principle there can be no admito tance to divine favor, no acceptance with God, nor obedience to him,
First, We are to attempt an explanation of the word regeneration. Though this is only used twice in the bible, yet terms of similar import are frequently employed, as has been already ob.. served. It would be rather an exhibition of reading, to show the common use of the word regeneration in the primitive church, especially from the second to the fifth century, and the unhappy improvement of it to the present day; and how it was also considered as much different from conversion, faith, and repentance, as a profession is from a reality of religion in the present day, How it came into use, would be improper for a pulpit investigation. But the fact was this, it expressed an acknowledgment of the christian religion, and an initiation into the church of chil. dren of believers, of pagan parents and families, and from hence, they wlio were baptised, were stiled regenerate. Regenerated persons were the same then, that we call baptised persons now. This was the origin of what is called baptismal regeneration. All it meant in early times, was, that persons made a profession of religion. It is still confined in soine churches to this idea ; bu in the protestant churches in general, it expresses a reality of religion and in ours, the vital principle of true godliness. With us it is not merely a relinquishment of evil courses, and becoming decent and orderly ; not departing fronı profanity, and becoming civil and sober ; not merely engaging in some of the external cereinonies of religion, or even entering upon some of its solemn duties. All these things may take place and many more, and yet have nothing of what we call regeneration. Some escape the pollutions of the world, yet in the scriptures are only dogs and swine ; St. Paul, before his regeneration, deciares he was. of the strictest sect of religion. Many may have great convictions and terrors, and obtain great joy like the stony ground; hearers ; and persevere long, and at last cry Lord, Lord, we have prophesied in thy name, preached thy gospel, and in thy name wrought miracles, and yet be found destitute of this principle, or of true holiness. Yea, St. Paul informs us of persons who may have made astonishing progress in apparent religion ; “ To have the gifts of prophecy, understand all mysteries ; have « all faith, to be enlightened, to taste of the heavenly gift, to « be partakers of the Holy Ghost, taste of the good word of God, " and the powers of the world to come ;” and yet wither and perish, because i hey have no root. Regeneration is a thing to which the natural soul cannot attain, to whatever high pitch its exercises may be wrought. It is a principle created in the heart, by the immediate power of God. I call it a principle, because there seems to be no term in our language so expressive of it. The scriptures call it a root : “ The stony ground hearers had o no root in themselves,” that is, the principle of regeneration was not in them. They also stile it a seed : “ Being born again, « says St. Peter, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible.” Whether this may be considered as the instrumental cause or the.
effect, it amounts to much the same thing. As a root or seed, . is the foundation of vegetation and fruitfulness, so regeneration
lies as the principle of every gracious exercise, and the root and seed of all righteousness.
Regeneration means a principle which had not existence before, 7s generation is the production of a creature that had not previous being. Hence this disposition given to the soul, is called a new creature, and a new creation. The terms used to express the formation of this principle of regeneration in the heart, are forcibly indicative of some supernatural or extraordinary efficacy.
Some divines, of distinguished note, have spoken of regeneration, as a spiritual sense implanted in the soul. And they have scriptural authority for this language. It is described an eye to see. This illustration is borrowed from the bodily eye. As the eye is necessary to the discerning worldly objects, so regeneration is a kind of intellectual eye for the discernment of spiritual objects, that the improvement of the discovery may be for spiritual and holy purposes.
It is also described by another sense, “ An ear to hear.”The ear is the principle of hearing sounds ; thus regeneration gives a spiritual sense of hearing to the soul, which becomes the foundation for hearing the saving voice of God in the gospel.'
Morever this principle, regeneration is stiled the inward inan, the hidden man of the heart, the new man, a new heart, a new spirit, &c. All which must most evidently express a foundation for some exercises or conduct of an holy nature.
Therefore, the conclusion is, that it is a radical habit formed in the soul by the creating power of God, whereby an inclination is founded to that which is good, and an aversion from that which is evil.
Previous to this renovation, all appears wrong in the human mind ; afterwards something very different and new seems to take place ; so that the change is great and marvelous. This
thing called regeneration, appears to be a living and active prina ciple. Therefore, it is represented in the scripture as a new life, and the recipient of it, as one brought to life from the dead.
Activity is ever held up to view by philosophers and divines, as something connatural to spiritual existence ; a dead or sleeping soul is beyond a soul's conception. But this we believe, the soul is an active being ; and regeneration is a foundation or principle of holy activity or righteousness in it. It is the foundation of all those views and exercises, which constitute conversion, repentance, love, newness of life, &c. and all that train of graces and virtues which forin the christian character, and prepare the soul for eternal felicity.
This holy thing, by whatever name it may be called, is the principle of all goodness in holy beings. This was the principle in Adam in his state of innocency ; in angels before they fell ; and will be the principle of recovered man, and of all the holy exercises and services of the saints forever.-Having thus illustrated regeneration as a principle of righteousness, I proceed,
Secondly, To show, that this is implanted in the soul of tlie sinner, by the immediate power of God.
This is apparent from reason, from experience, and the dis vine oracles.
If all mankind have corrupted their way, and are prone to evil as the sparks fly upward, reason declares the absence of a good principle, and that there is a defect in the heart. It also teaches that no being can act above its capacity; that a quart measure cannot contain a gallon. And so a soul destitute of an holy principle cannot perform holy actions. Hence reason testifies a holy principle must be implanted in the soul, before it can do any thing spiritually good.
The experience of the saints establish this doctrine, that the change effected in them is by the mighty power of divine ager.by; to enter into a retail of this kind would far exceed our limits. The whole current of experiences, in all ages, unite in one uniform testimony of its truth.
But the universal tenor of the sacred oracles, agree in this affirmation, that regeneration is some mighty power of God on the heart. “ That which is born of the flesh is flesh, but that ” which is born of the spirit is spirit.” Here a change from flesh to spirit, is attributed to the operation of the Spirit of God. The saints are said to be partakers of a divine nature, that is, à nature similar to God, or a nature produced by a divine power. • They are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of " the will of man, but of God.” This expresses the power of God in the new birth. Yea, the cross of Christ, when it becomes effectual to the regeneration of sinners, is stiled the power of God. St. Paul employs an uncommon emphasis of phraseology, when he says, “ It is the exceeding greatness of God's power, "and the working of his mighty power.” The creation of divine power is no where expressed in stronger and more nervous language, than in this new creation. It is represented, as “ that “ power which wrought in Christ, when God raised him from the 6 dead.” This principle is termed “the new.man, created after * God in righteousness and true holinesson And elsewhere it is said, “ We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto
The implantation of this principle is illustrated by the resur: rection of the dead, which is always attributed to Almighty power. “You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses " and in sins.” It is stiled, " a passing from death undo life.” But there would be no end of reciting authorities for the support of this doctrine, that regeneration, or the new birth, is a principle effected by divine power, or produced by the immediate efficacy of supernatural grace.—The
Third thing which falls under present consideration is, to show that without this principle of regeneration, no sinner can see the