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sons,” saith the apostle, “ God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”* The prayers which His own Spirit dictates must surely be heard ; feeble and mixed with sin and unbelief they may be, yet still he hears them ; He will answer them ; not one shall be forgotten. In passages innumerable of His holy word, He has promised never to turn a deaf ear to His people that pray to Him. “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things that thou knowest not.”+ “Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name, it shall be given you,” saith the Son of God. God hath given us his dear Son, “how shall he not with him also freely give us all things ?" We see then, what manifold encouragements there are to continue instant in prayer, notwithstanding the difficulties that impede our progress. Here is. God the Father reconciled to us in Christ Jesus, we need not fear to approach him; here is the Holy Spirit helping our infirmities; and here are the assurances of Him who cannot lie, that He waits to be gracious, “and is able to give much more abundantly above all that we can ask or think.”
“ Let us then draw near with a pure heart, and in full assurance of faith.”
May we all be enabled to examine ourselves upon the points connected with this subject. Do we worship God ? how do we worship Him? do * Gal. iv. 6.
+ Jer. xxxiii. 3.
we render Him the homage only of the knee and the lip, or do we draw near to Him “in spirit and in truth?” Are we acquainted with the difficulties of spiritual devotion ? have we experienced its consolations and encouragements ? If strangers to these, we are strangers to prayer; and if we have lived without prayer, we have lived without God in the world. May the Lord the Spirit descend upon every heart, so that it may be declared respecting each one of us, “Behold he prayeth !” And if indeed we know what prayer is, may we increase and abound in it more and more! May we breathe a spiritual atmosphere, converse much with God in secret, and " walk before Him in all his commandments and ordinances blameless,” to His glory, and our unspeakable consolation !
NECESSITY OF CONVERSION.
JOHN iii. 6, 7.
« THAT WHICH IS BORN OF THE FLESH IS FLESH; AND THAT
WHICH IS BORN OF THE SPIRIT IS SPIRIT. MARVEL NOT THAT I SAID UNTO THEE, YE MUST BE BORN AGAIN.”
“How can these things be?” said the Jewish rabbi to his unknown instructor. “ How can these things be?” is still the language of many who read the inspired account of this midnight interview between the Saviour and Nicodemus! What is this mysterious change, without which we cannot be saved ? “ How can a man be born when he is old ? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born ?”* But perplexing as this fundamental truth may be to “the carnal mind, which receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God,” still it has proceeded out of the lips of the divine teacher, “ Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” That this has been decreed by God himself, and declared to us by his Son, is of itself a sufficient reply to the inquiry, why is this? But further, its necessity is evident from the fact, that every man is naturally incapable of understanding spiritual things, of exercising spiritual affections, or of “becoming meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light,” except he be first converted, or born again, not of water only, but of water and of the Spirit. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” corrupt, sinful, carnal human nature; and all that proceeds from it must partake of the same nature: whilst that “which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” pure, holy, heavenly: therefore “ Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again.” The absolute necessity of that change of heart which is here denoted by the expression “ born again,” will appear if we consider the nature of the two principles of which our Lord here speaks.
* Ver. 4.
I. “ THE FLESH, AND THAT WHICH IS BORN OF THE FLESH.” The word “FLESH” is here used in its widest signification, to denote FALLEN HUMAN NATURE; not the unconverted state merely, but that corrupt principle which pervades the body, mind, and heart of man, whether converted or unconverted. There is no term which is more frequently misinterpreted, because none perhaps is used in Scripture in a greater variety of senses : its import must be determined by the context. Here it cannot be understood too comprehensively. It denotes primarily, the body; that flesh in which the elements of decay are thickly strewed, which is doomed to see corruption; that flesh on which the curse was pronounced, “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return;" the prey of disease, the victim of pain and suffering, and ultimately the food of worms! Here the soul of man is imprisoned as in a fleshly tabernacle, which in itself is a mere passive instrument, irresponsible, and incapable of sin as the beasts that perish. The mind alone is the actuating principle by which the members of the body become “ INSTRUMENTS of unrighteousness to sin, or of obedience unto holiness ;" and for their actions, the intellectual powers are alone responsible. It is not therefore, the body exclusively, or even principally, which is to be understood by the term “ flesh,” but the mind also. It
indeed appear strange to some, that in the term “flesh” the mind of man should be included; but many passages of Scripture justify this interpretation. The two words are comprehended in one phrase by the apostle Paul, “THE CARNAL MIND,” which he says, “is enmity against God;" * and “the FLESHLY MIND.” † And when he enumerates the works of the FLESH, I he mentions several mental sins, clearly proving that the term flesh is to be extended to the mind of fallen man. “ The works
* Rom. viii. 7. + Colos. ii. 18. Gal. v. 19, 20.