« AnteriorContinuar »
The great Privilege of those that
are born of God,
1 JOHN iii. 9.
Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin.
1. TT has been frequently supposed, that the being that the new birth and justification were only different expressions, denoting the same thing : it being certain on the one hand, that whoever is justified, is also born of God: and on the other, that whoever is born of God, is also justified: yea, i hat both these gifts of God are given to every believer in one and the same moment. În one point of time his sins are blotted out, and he is born again of God. ::...
2. But though it be allowed, that justification and the new birth are in point of time inseparable from each other, yet are they easily distinguished, as being not the same, but things of a widely different nature. Justification implies only a relative, the new birth a real change. God, in justifying us, doth something for us : in begetting us again, he does the work in us. The former changes our outward relation to God, so that of enemies we become children. By the latter, our inmost souls are changed, so that of sinners we become saints. The one restores us to the favour, the other to the image of God. The one is, the taking away the guilt, the other, the taking away the power of sin. So that although they are joined together in point of time, yet are they of wholly distinct natures.
*. 3. The not discerning this, the not observing the wide difference there is, between being justified and being born again, has occasioned exceeding great con
fusion of thought, in many who have treated on this suba ject : particularly when they have attempted to explain this great privilege of the children of God; to shew how whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin.
4. In order to apprehend this clearly, it may be necessary, first, To consider what is the proper meaning of that expression, Whosoever is born of God: and secondly, To en quire, in what sense he doth not coinmit sin.
2 ** I. 1. First, we are to consider, wliat is the proper. ineaning of that expression, * Whosoever is born of God." And in general, from all the passages of holy writ, where! in this expression the being born of God, occurs, we may learn that it implies not barely the being baptized, or any outward change whatever ; but a vast inward change, a change wrought in the soul, by the operation of the Holy Ghost : a change in the whole manner of our' existence ; for from the moment we are born of God, we live in quité another manner than we did before'; we are, as it were, in another world.
2. The ground and reason of the expression, is easy to be understood. When we undergo this great change, we may with much propriety be said to be born again, because there is so hear a resemblance between the circumstances of the natural and of the spiritual birth : so that to consider the circumstances of the natural birth, is the most easy way to understand the spiritual.' ***13. The child which is not yet born, subsists indeed by the air, as does every thing which has life ; but feels it not, nor anything else, unless in a very dull and imperfect manner;" It beurs little, if at all, the organs of hearing being as yet closed up. It sces nothing, having its pyes fast sliut, and being surrounded with utter darkness. There are, it may be, some faint beginnings of life, when the time of its birth draws nigh; and some motion consequent thereon, whereby it is distinguished from a mere mass of matter, But it has no senses ; all these avenues of the soul are hitherto quite shut up. Of consequence, it has scarce any intercourse with this visible world; nor any knowledge, conception, or idea, of the things that occur therein. 4. The reason why he that is not yet born, is wholly a
stranger to the visible world, is, not because it is afar off. It is very nigh. It surrounds him on every side. But partly, because he has not those senses, they are not yet opened in his soul, whereby alone it is possible to hold commerce with the material world ; and partly because so thick a veil is cast between, through which he can discera nothing.
5. But no sooner is the child born into the world, than he exists in a quite different manner. He now feels the air with which he is surrounded, and which pours into him from every side, as fast as he alternately breathes it back, to sustain the flame of life. And hence springs a coptiaual increase of strength, of motion, and of sensation: all the bodily sences being now awakened, and furnished with their proper objects.
His eyes are now opened to perceive the light, which silently flowing in upon them, discovers not only itself, but an infinite variety of things, with which before he was wholly unacquainted. His ears are unclosed, and sounds rush in, with endless diversity. Every sense is employed upon such objects as are peculiarly suitable to it. And by these inlets, the soul having an open intercourse, with the visible world, acquires more and more knowledge af sensible things, of all the things which are under the sun.
6. So it is with him that is born of God. Before that great change is wrought, although he subsists by him, in whom all that have life. live, and move, and have their bem ing, yet he is not sensible of God; be does not feel
, he has no inward .consciousness of his presence, He does not perceive that divine breath of life, without which he canpot subsist a moment. Nor is he sensible of any of the things of God, They make no impression upon his soul. God is continually calling to him from on high, but he heareth not: his ears are shuts so that the voice of the charmer is lost to him, charm he never so wisely. He seeth not the things of the Spirit of God, the eyes of his underr standing being closed, apd utler darkness covering his whole soul, surrounding him on every side. It is true, he may have some faint daweings of life, some sınall begindings of spiritual motion ; but as yet he has no spiritual senses, capable of discerning spiritual objects. Con
šequently he discerneth not the things of the Spirit of God. He cannot know them; because they are spiritually discerned.
7. Hence he has scarce any knowledge of the invia sible world, as he has scarce any intercourse with it. Not that it is afar off. No: he is in the midst of it: it incompasses him round about. The other world, as we usually term it, is not far from every one of us. It is above and beneath, and on every side. Only the natural man discerneth it not ; partly, because he has no spiritual senses, whereby alone we can discern the things of God; partly, because so thick a veil is interposed, as he knows not how to penetrate
8. But when he is born of God, born of the Spirit, how is the manner of his existence changed ? His whole soul is now sensible of God, and he can say by sure experience, Thou art about my bed, and about my path; I feel thee in all my ways. Thou besettest me behind and before, and layest thy Hand upon me. The Spirit or breath of God is immediately inspired, breathed into the new-born soul. And the same breath, which comes from, returns to God: as it is continually received by faith, so it is continually rendered back by love, by prayer, and praise, and thanksgiving : love, and praise, and prayer, being the breath of every Boul which is traly born of God. And by this new kind of spiritual respiration, spiritual life is not only sustained, but increased day by days together with spiritual strength, and motion, and sensation. All the senses of the soul being now awake, and capable of discerning spiritual good and evil.
The eyes of his understanding are now open, and he seeth bin that is invisible. He sees what is the exceeding greatness of his power, and of his love, toward them that believe. He sees that God is mercifal to him a sinner; that he is recondiled through the Son of his love. He clearly perceives both the pardoning love of God, and all his exceeding great tånd precious promises. God, who commanded the light to shine out of tarikness, bath shined and doth shine in his heart, to enlighten him with the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ. All the darkness is now passed away, and he abides in the light of God's countenance. * Io. His ears are now opened, and the voice of God no longer calls in vain. He hears and obeys the heavenly calling: he knows the voice of his Shepherd. 'All his spiritual 282 sensés being now awakened, he has a clear intercourse with the invisible world. And hence he knows more and more of the things which before it could not enter into his beart to conceive. He now knows what the peace of God is: what is joy in the Holy Ghost : what the love of God which is shed abroad in the hearts of them that believe in him through Jesus Christ. Thus the veil being removed, which before intercepted the light and voice, the knowledge and love of God, he who is born of the Spirit, dwelletb in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.
II. 1. Having considered the meaning of that expression Whosoever is born of God, it remains in the second place to enquire, in what sense he doth not commit sin.
Now, one who is so born of God, as bath been above des cribed, who continually receives into his soul the breath of life from God, the gracious influence of his Spirit, and continually renders it back: One who thus believes and loves; who by faith perceives the continual actings of God upon his spirit : and by a kind of spiritual re-action, returns the grace he receives in unceasing love, and praise, and prayer; not only doth not commit sin, while he thus keepeth himself; but so long as this seed remaineth in him, he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
2. By sin, I here understand outward sin, according to the plain common acceptation of the word : an actual, voluntary transgression of the law, of the revealed written law of God, acknowledged to be such, at the time that it is transgressed. But whosoever is torn of God, while he abid. eth in faith and love, and in the spirit of prayer and thanksgiving, not only doth not, but cannot thus commit sin. So long as he thus believeth in God through Christ, ånd loves him, and is pouring out his heart before him, he cannot. voluntarily transgress any command of God, either by speaking or acting what he knows Gud hath forbidden. So long that seed which remaineth in him, that loving, praying, thankful faith, compels him to refrain from whatsoever he knows to be an abomination in the sight of God.
3. But here a difficulty will immediately occur ; and one, that to many has appeared insuperable, and induced them to deny the plain assertion of the apostle, and give up the privilege of the children of God.