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feelings of hope; may he awaken in us the desire after holiness and peace; and raise us up from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, that after living here in the faith of the Son of God, we may, at length, be welcomed as the blessed of his Father, and receive the kingdom prepared for the faithful from the foundation of the world.
CHRISTIANS BORN OF GOD.
John i. 12, 13.
many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name : which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
It is impossible to contemplate the condition of man by nature, without being convinced of the utter impossibility that by his own merits, or by his own unassisted endeavours, he can attain the favour of God. If the rewards of eternal life were offered to the perfect obedience of God's holy law; if the conditions of salvation were the fulfilment of righteousness; and if freedom from the guilt of sin were the title of admission into heaven, where is the man that could be so presumptuous as to offer himself to the scrutiny of a God of holiness, with the hope of acceptance
at his hands. Again, let it be supposed that pardon is granted to sin, up to a certain period ; that the sinner has received the remission of sins that are past; and that these transgressions will be no more remembered against him ; yet this will not be sufficient for his final acceptance. The remission of past transgressions involves no pardon for those which may be subsequently committed ; and each day would require fresh indulgence at the hand of a merciful Father, and renewed exhibitions of divine compassion. Furthermore, grant that even through the whole life of a human being, the pardon of each day's transgression should be successively accorded; grant that a free acquittal should be pronounced by the Judge of all; yet even then, it is possible that the pardoned sinner might not be capable of that happiness, which is reserved for the children of God. With reverence and diffidence be it spoken, yet it would seem that pardon is but a small part of the great and inestimable blessings, which the gospel gives. To leave a pardoned sinner in that situation, in which the grace of forgiveness alone would place him, great as would be the privilege of an escape from condemnation, would, nevertheless, fall immeasurably short of that consummation of happiness, which could satisfy an immortal soul. Hence it is that the plan of redemption, of which the Scriptures speak, involves far more than mere pardon of sin : it provides for the renovation of the soul ; it accomplishes the full restoration of man to that state of acceptance with God, from which he has fallen by sin. It not only delivers from eternal punishment, but it conducts to eternal bliss. And this it does by communicating purity, as well as pardon; this it does by remoulding the soul into the image of the divine perfections ; by imparting a new and spiritual life, a power of perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord : “ As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to those that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
The language of the text is not unusual in the sacred Scriptures: it contains rather the general terms in which the mighty change from sin to holiness is described ; and though highly figurative, it may serve to impress us with something of a correct view of our dependence on the grace of God, by which this change is at first effected, and by which alone it can be completed in the soul. To be born of God, to be made the children of his adoption, to become the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, as these are privileges involving the highest spiritual benefits, and demanding from us the performance of duties of the highest obligation ; so are these privileges derived to us from the mediation of Christ alone, so are these duties incumbent upon us, from the
very nature of the privileges out of which their obligation arises. As at our introduction to natural life, we enter upon various relations to the different members of the society around us ; as our natural birth brings with it the interests of kindred and of country, the duty of submission to the laws of civil society, and the privileges which that society affords ; so by our new birth we are brought into new and spiritual relations, involving duties equally indispensable, connecting us to God and to each other by still closer bonds of union, and enforcing obligations and affording privileges correspondent with our new relations. As, moreover, by our natural birth, we are introduced into a state of existence, which must be sustained by means placed within our reach ; so also in the new birth unto holiness, we have around us the means of continuing in that grace
wherein we stand ; and we are enabled (if we duly use those means) to advance from strength to strength, till at last we arrive at “ the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."
The language of our church, in various parts of her Liturgy, plainly expresses her view of the privileges to which the text alludes. In her baptismal service, she forms her supplications with a direct reference to the means of grace, of which that sacrament is the vehicle and the pledge ; and also in one of her collects, we