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THE NECESSITY OF A GREAT SPIRITUAL CHANGE.
We have a very solemn statement on this subject from the lips of One whose personal character, as well as his official authority, may well impress our minds with a conviction of its certain and infallible truth. It comes to us from the lips of Jesus—that same Jesus who is the Saviour—the only Saviour of sinners; who pitied us in our lost estate, and entered into a covenant with God on our behalf, and engaged in his own person to render the price of our redemption; and left the throne of heaven, and appeared as a man on earth—a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,—that same Jesus who afterwards ascended up into heaven, and sat down with his Father on his throne—to whom all power is given in heaven and on earth, who, as mediatorial king, is now carrying on the administration of the scheme of
and will ere long come in the clouds of heaven to judge the quick and the dead,—that same Jesus declares, and that, too, with the solemnity of a most emphatic asseveration, “ Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man
be born again," or born from above, * “ he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” And can we contemplate the character of him who speaks, and his official authority, whether as the Saviour or as the Judge of men; can we consider his love for souls, and his earnest desire for their salvation,—his perfect knowledge of the plan of grace and of every provision which it contains, and his divine commission to declare the will of God, and to decide the case of every soul at the last day; without feeling that the very benevolence of his character, and his almighty power as a Saviour, impart a tremendous force to his words, —when “he that is true—he that hath the key of David, he that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth”–declares that the door of heaven is barred against every unregenerate man ; and that, notwithstanding all that he suffered on the cross, he will himself decide when he takes his seat on the throne, that “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
In regard to the nature of that change which must be wrought on a sinner before he can see the kingdom of God, I shall only observe at present that it is a spiritual one,-spiritual in respect alike to its subject, its author, and the means by which it is accomplished: it is wrought on the soul of man by the Word and Spirit of God. The soul is the subject of this change; it is not an external reform merely, but an internal and spiritual renovation,-a change of mind and heart, taking effect on the understanding when it is enlightened-on the conscience, when it is convinced on the will, when it is subdued—on the affections, when they are refined and purified-on the whole man, when “he is transformed by the renewing of his mind,” and “created anew in Christ Jesus unto good works;" so that he is said to be “a new creature, in whom old things have passed away, all things have become new.”—The Spirit of God is the author of this change; the soul is born again only when it is “born of the Spirit”—for “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” It belongs to Him to enlighten the darkened understanding, by shining into it and giving it the light of the knowledge of the glory of God; to awaken the slumbering conscience, by convincing it of sin; to subdue our rebellious wills, by “ making us a willing people in the day of his power ; “ to take away the hard and stony hearts out of our flesh, and give us hearts of flesh;” to refine and sanctify our affections; and to “work in us all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power.”
* John iii. 3, avsbes-from above, superné.
- And this spiritual change is wrought by spiritual means, ,—for the Word of God, or the truth contained in the Word, is the instrument by which the Spirit acts. “We are born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, even by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever ;' and we are saved “ through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth."
This change is often preceded by a process of instruction and conviction, and is always followed by