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reverted to paganism, and, to prove themselves real apostates, execrated the Lord who bought them.
But even could no examples be named, it would hardly be asserted, I think, that merely a profession of christianity, whether the person, making it, had been Jew or pagan, is the same thing, as the doing of righteousness, or obedience to the truth. Men of all descriptions, whether the friends, or the enemies of religion, are ready to acknowledge, that obedience does not always accompany a good profession.
Again, for the same reason, that obedience and regeneration are connected, the latter is connected with eternal life. No change, therefore, which does not ensure eternal life, is regeneration. But the abandonment of either the pagan, or the Jewish religion for a profession of christianity, gives no such security. Many shall say unto Christ in the great day, "Lord, Lord, have we not eaten and drunk in thy name, and in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works," to whom he shall answer, saying, “I know you not, whence ye are: Depart from me, ye, that work iniquity."
St. Peter speaks of some christian professors, whose lives were marked by fraud and voluptuousness. What profit to them that they had abandoned heathen ceremonies, heathen temples, and heathen gods? What profit to them, that they had been joined to a new society; that they had acknowledged a new faith, a new rule of life, and a new object of worship? So far were these circumstances from securing their salvation, they did not even leave their danger unaltered. In consequence of the change, which had taken place in their external condition, their character became more criminal, and their danger more imminent. This follows from a principle, repeatedly taught by our Saviour, namely, that the criminality of unbelief is pro. portionable to the light resisted. "If I had not come, and done among them the works, which no other man did, they had not had sin but now they have no cloak for their sin.”
The cities, which were made the theatre of his mighty works, are represented, as incurring a more intolerable doom, than the most abandoned of those, whose ignorance was greater.
Should it be objected here, that our Saviour, in the passages eited, is speaking of unbelief, or a rejection of christianity, and not of those, who had embraced it, I should answer, if it be so highly criminal to withhold belief, when evidence is exhibited, it cannot be less criminal to withhold obedience in opposition to those motives, which this evidence affords. The unreclaimed professor of christianity was therefore, more offensive to God, and less qualified for his kingdom of glory, than he was, while a pagan; before that change in his external circumstances had been produced, which some persons are so willing to denominate regeneration.
II. Is the term regeneration designed to express intellectual improvement, or enlargement of intellectual powers? To determine this, we must, as before, consider whether both these have the same relations. Were the intellects of a sinner enlarged, or more highly cultivated, would he certainly obey the truth, and work righteousness? or would he certainly partake in a joyful retribution? for both these, we have seen, are connected with that change, which is produced in the character of the regenerate. Of such it is likewise said, that they overcome the world. Now, it is extremely evident, that moral attainments are by no means proportionate either to the native powers of the mind, or to the cultivation bestowed on them. Many individuals of piercing intellects, of profound erudition, and much theorettical knowledge of christian theology, have been openly and flagrantly dissolute in their lives; and therefore eminently exposed to the indignation of Heaven. Instead of obeying the truth, they have either denied or disgraced it. Instead of overcoming the world, they have habitually and without a struggle, endured its bondage.
III. Does regeneration mean simply an external reforma
tion in morals? That many have need of such a change, will be generally, and readily acknowledged. The volatile should become sedate; the fraudulent, honest; the indolent, industrious; the discontented should become quiet; the profane must alter their language; and the intemperate abandon the inebriating draught.
All this is well: but is this all, which is implied in overcoming the world? Is nothing more, than this, comprehended in a holy life? Is this to be born of God and his Spirit? Is the saints' inheritance, the crown of life, made sure to all who possess the character, implied in such a reformation? The young nobleman, whose application to Christ is recorded in the Gospel, appears not, in the particulars mentioned, to have needed reforming; and, therefore, must have been, at least, as well qualified for a future state of reward, as any, in whom such a reformation merely has been produced. Yet this person was not fit for the kingdom of God; he had not that character, which was connected with eternal life; he was, therefore, not regenerate.
But you will ask, perhaps with some ardour, if to be born again, does not mean reformation, what import has the phrase; and what value can be attached to the thing itself?
I answer, that reformation, where the character has been previously immoral, is without question, comprehended in that change, which is called a new birth: all, which I assert, is, that external reformation does not necessarily imply that change.
Should a person, who has for a long time been your open enemy, become your friend, he would doubtless alter his language. But barely an alteration in his language, and even an alteration in his general treatment of you, would not amount to that, which is implied in his becoming your friend. External actions, in themselves considered, are nothing, but organical motions. There is neither friendship nor enmity, in the cast of the eyes; in the motion of the tongue, the hands or the feet. These motions are important only, as the indications of a friendly, or an un
friendly disposition. And the very same external acts are, under different circumstances, and with regard to different persons, an indication of opposite qualities. The kiss, by which Judas saluted Christ, was a proof of deadly hatred; though in a similar way, parents often express their tender affection.
Suppose now, that a person, heretofore immoral, becomes industrious, sober, and circumspect. This is, indeed, what would have taken place, had there been a change of dispo ́sition: but it is what may take place, where there has been no such change. At all events, the two things are as perfectly distinct, as are ideas in the mind from sound, or from characters, inscribed on marble, or parchment. Yet no person, who means to speak with accuracy, would indentify a book, or letter, with the moral character of its author. The book or the letter is one thing:-his moral character is another. Nor is the difference less between external amendment and moral feelings. Yet nothing is certainly connected with eternal life, but rectitude of moral feelings; and it has been shown, that regeneration is connected with eternal life. Therefore, external amendment and regeneration are not the same.
We have now proved, that neither external amendment, nor the increase or cultivation of the intellects, nor a transition from judaism or paganism to a profession of chris. tianity, is regeneration. What then must this term imply? Must it not imply a change of heart, or, if you please, a change of temper or disposition?
We will now attend more particularly to the conference, which our Saviour had with Nicodemus. The history is this. "There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. The same came to Jesus by night, and said, we know, that thou art a teacher, sent from God; for no man can do these miracles, which thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus, evidently
supposing, that our Lord meant a natural birth, saith, “How can a man be born, when he is old?" Jesus explains himself. "Except a man be born of water, and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That, which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit. The wind bloweth where it listeth; and thou hearest the sound thereof; but canst not tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth: so is every one, that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered, How can these things be? Jesus answered, Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things?"
On these words I repeat a remark, already made, viz. that this language must have some meaning; and further, that this meaning ought to have been known to the Jewish instructors. Christ considered it, as a reproach to Nicodemus, that the latter did not understand what these things meant.
From Selden, as quoted by Whitby, it appears, that proselytes to the Jewish religion were considered, as children new born. This might be said, either on account of the great change of circumstances and relations, implied in passing from paganism into the Jewish church; or on account of a correspondent moral change, which the proselyte was supposed to experience. That our Saviour could not have meant the former, will be evident from a little reflection. To what purpose would it have been for Nicodemus to be told, that the difference was great between the external circumstances of a pagan, and those of a Jew? The Jews were so far from needing to be informed of this, that they boasted of this difference, and of their consequent superiority.
Suppose now, that our Lord had not reference to that change in external circumstances, implied in passing from paganism into the Jewish church; but the change, implied in passing from the Jewish into the christian church. Against this opinion, in addition to the reasons already suggested, there are the following in particular.
1. It was by no means our Saviour's method to display in