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That manner of preaching the gospel, explaining or recommending divine truth, appears to me moft profitable, which brings ofteneft into view, or, rather, never lofes view of the great and effential difference between believers and unbelievers, faints and finners, heirs of glory and heirs of hell. Thefe are mixed together on earth. They have common privileges as men and citizens. They cannot be certainly diftinguifhed by human obfervation; for though the image of God fhines in a bright and fenfible manner in fome on the one hand, and fome bear very plain and deadly fymptoms on the other, whose state may be determined with little hazard of mistake; yet, in the intermediate degrees, there are multitudes whofe real character is known only to God. What then can be faid more awakening, and, at the fame time, more certainly true, than that every hearer of the gofpel, and every reader of fuch a treatife as this, is either reconciled to God and the object of his love, or at enmity with God, having "neither 66 part nor portion" in his favour; and as many as die in this laft condition, fhall be the everlafting monuments of divine wrath. How important a distinction! and can any man refrain from faying, "Lord! thou knoweft all things-to which of thefe claffes do I belong?"

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But there is fomething, if poffible, ftill more preffing in the paffage of feripture which I have placed at the head of this difcourfe. Not only are all men of two different and oppofite characters now, but all men are originally of one character, unfit for the kingdom of God; unless a change has paft upon them they continue fo; and, unless a change do pass upon them hereafter, they must be for ever excluded. This our Lord introduces with a strong affeveration, and fignal note of importance: "Verily, verily, I "fay unto you, Except a man be born again, "he cannot fee the kingdom of God." Thefe words were fpoken to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This "mafter in Ifrael" came to Jefus by night. Convinced he feems to have been of the power which attended his miniftry, but, under a ftill ftronger attachment to his worldly intereft, he durft not openly avow his conviction. Our Lord, at once to enlighten his mind with the most falutary of all truths, and level his pride of understanding by the manner of conveying it, faith to him," Except a man be born again, he 66 cannot fee the kingdom of God." This appears to have been extremely aftonishing, by his anfwer in the following verfe; "Nicodemus faith "unto him, How can a man be born when he "is old? Can he enter the second time into his "mother's womb and be born?

It is not my purpose to give a tedious explication of the paffage, or entertain the reader with a profufion of criticism upon the words. This expreffion, the kingdom of God, hath various fignifications in scripture, but chiefly two in the New Testament; (1.) The gofpel-difpenfation or government of the Meffiah, as diftinguished from the preceding periods; (2.) The kingdom of heaven, where the fincere difciples of Chrift fhall be put in full poffeffion of the bleffings of his purchase. I take it to be the laft of thefe, that is, either only, or chiefly intended in this place. Both of them, indeed, may be meant in their proper order, and for their different purposes. An open profeffion, and receiving the external badge, was neceffary to a concealed friend and cowardly disciple; but a right to the fpiritual privileges of the gospel, and the promise of eternal life, was the only thing that could make the profeffion valuable or defireable. Accordingly our Saviour seems to speak of both in his reply to Nicodemus's admiffion into the visible church by baptifm, and renovation by the Holy Ghoft. "Jefus answered, Verily I fay unto thee, Ex"cept a man be born of water and of the Spirit, "he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."

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I am fenfible that regeneration or the newbirth is a subject, at present, very unfashionable; or, at least, a stile of language which hath gone B 4

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very much into defuetude. It is, however, a fubject of unspeakable moment, or, rather, it is the one fubject in which all others meet as in a center. The grand enquiry, in comparison of which every thing elfe, how excellent foever, is but fpecious trifling. What doth it fignify, tho' you have food to eat in plenty, and variety of raiment to put on, if you are not born again; if after a few mornings and evenings fpent in unthinking mirth, fenfuality and riot, you die in your fins and lie down in forrow? What doth it fignify, though you are well accomplished in every other respect, to act your part in life, if you meet at laft with this repulse from the fupreme Judge," Depart from me, I know you "not, ye workers of iniquity."

If this fubject is, indeed, unfafhionable and neglected, we are miferably deceiving ourselves. If a new nature is neceffary, to attempt to repair and new model the old will be found to be loft labour. If the fpring is polluted and continues fo, what a vain and fruitless attempt is it to endeavour, by addition, or by foreign mixture, to purify the ftreams. Juft fo it is by no means fufficient, or, to fpeak more properly, it is altogether impoffible, to reform the irregularities and vicious lives of finners, and bring them to a real conformity to the law of God, till their hearts are renewed and changed. It is like rearing up an old

old fabric, adding to its towers, and painting its walls, while the foundation is gone. See what the prophet Ezekiel fays of fuch foolish builders," Wo to the foolish prophets-because, even because they have feduced my people, faying, Peace, and there was no peace; and one built up a wall, and lo, others daubed it "with untempered mortar: fay unto them. which daub it with untempered morter, that it fhall fall: there fhall be an overflowing fhow66 er, and ye, O great hailstones, fhall fall, and a stormy wind shall rent it *.”

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But, perhaps, the fubftance of the doctrine is retained while the language is held in derifion. We are told, it is but a figurative expreffion, and the fame in its meaning with repentance or reformation. Doubtless it is fo. And it were greatly to be wifhed, that many did thoroughly understand what is implied in repentance unto life. But the reader is intreated to obferve, that it is a metaphor frequently ufed in the holy fcrip ture. I think, alfo, it is a metaphor of peculiar propriety and force; well adapted to bring into view both the nature of the change which it defcribes, and the means by which it is accomplished. If there are any who in writing, or fpeaking on this fubject, have introduced or invented unfcriptural phrases, and gone into une

Ezek. xiii, 10, 11. ›

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