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CHAPTER IV.

NATURE AND OPERATION OF THE NEW BIRTH.

“Nothing is better attested than the fact that men of our race, whether under Christianity, or without any knowledge of its truths, do undergo changes of character and life, that can no way be accounted for without some reference to a supernatural power such as Christianity affirms in the doctrine of the Spirit.” Horace Bushnell.

The Divine Providence is nowhere seen more beautifully and systematically, than in reference to those processes which are instituted, and those means which are pursued, for man's recovery from spiritual degradation. How little of the human, how much of the sovereign Divine Agency, in the great work of our reconstruction into spiritual and celestial men! Truly is it compared to the “ wind that bloweth.” It bloweth “ where it listeth," or where it inclineth," 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.” The Holy Spirit is of course the great agency of the second birth; but we would observe here, that there are, and have been, two distinct dispensations of the Holy Spirit,-a general and a special

In one sense, every operation of the Divinity in the mind of man, whether before or since the Christian dispensation, may be characterized as the action of the Holy Spirit; for it was the motion of the Divine Spirit in the human heart. But that a special dispensation of the Spirit was given by Jesus Christ, is familiar truth to every Christian. It is expressly said by Jesus “ And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.(John, 14: 16.) And “the Comforter, which is the

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Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things.” (26.) But this Comforter, or Holy Spirit, is said in another place to be dependent upon the departure of Jesus from this world. “I tell you the truth, it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go away,

the Comforter will not come unto you, but if I depart, I will send him unto you." (16: 7.) Again it is said --" The Holy Spirit was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified :" but after his resurrection it is said — "He breathed on them, and said, Receive ye the Holy Spirit.” (20: 22.) This outward breathing was a symbolical act, representative of the inward reception of the living spirit. And we all know, how, about ten days after his ascension, on the day of Pentecost, while the disciples were assembled with one accord in one place, suddenly the breathing influence came, “as of a rushing, mighty wind, and filled all the house where they were sitting.”

(Acts, 2: 1–18.) It elevated all their powers of utterance, filled them with new thoughts, “ and they began to speak with tongues as the spirit gave them utterance.” This was among the first effects of the new Spirit. Hence it is clear that the Holy Spirit thus referred to, is an express and particular impartation of the Christian dispensation.

But now how is it, and wherefore? And we reply, it was a consequence of the Lord's Glorification. This is an item of the true Christianity which is little understood, and little dwelt on, by the mass of confused Christendom. And yet nothing is plainer in the evangelists' records, than that our Lord underwent a continuous process of laying down his life for the world, that is, his derived, inherited life of corrupt humanity, from the very commencement of his labors. He took on the whole of humanity, in its worst estate, and by purifying it all in Himself, was thereby enabled to do the same or similar for mankind. Let any one follow the history of the Saviour from his first efforts, through all his temptations and humiliations, to his great triumph; let him observe with what greater clearness

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He continually speaks of his unity with the Father, till He finally declares it “finished,” and that “all power is given unto him, in heaven and in earth ;” and let him divest himself of the thought that by the glorification of the Son of Man is meant any external honors or splendors which He is to receive in heaven for the work He has done on earth; and he will then gain some definite idea of a subject so unutterably grand. It was only at the Ascension that this work seems fully to have been accomplished, although the last temptation was experienced upon the cross. The truth is, when humanity had run to its very lowest ebb, and had reached a point of sensuality and corruption which it could not have remained in and survived

upon the earth, then the Divine Essence itself, by a law and process which the understanding of angels is only adequate to fully comprehend, descended into the ultimates of human nature, and by investing itself in a body of flesh, and a corrupt human soul, was enabled to experience every possible temptation, to be assaulted with all the hosts of hell, and with every evil which could possibly enter into the experience of man. And by meeting and overcoming these evils by the divine ability which dwelt within him, He thereby removed them all from his natural humanity. He made that humanity Divine. He took upon his own nature, in amount and quality, the sins of the whole world, and resisted them all. And this was the accumulation of a long train of hereditary evils — the effect of the thousands of years' fall and corruption of humanity. And as they were resisted and triumphed over, the human organism which was assumed for this purpose, was successively cleansed and glorified. Every particle of the corrupt nature derived from the Virgin was thoroughly expelled from him, and replaced by a divine substance, so that he became a DIVINE HUMANITY. This is referred to in the following language

of John. “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” (John, 17: 5.) Also in the 12th chapter:

men.

“ Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again." That is, the process of glorification had been continual, all through the Lord's experience,-a continual putting off the human, with its corruptions and lusts, and a putting on of the Divine. And when this process was accomplished, then it was, and not till then, that the Holy Spirit could be imparted to

“It was not yet, because that Jesus was not yet glorified;” (John, 7: 39,) but after He had ascended triumphant over the grave, a fully transformed and Divine Man, in

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vesicle and tissue of his immortal organism, then He could give forth from out that wonderful experience, the sanctifying influences of the new and renovating Spirit. (20: 22.) It was the same eternal and Divine Spirit, but given now through a new and adaptive medium. And it went forth freely, both by mediate and immediate influx, to all the sons of Adam.

Here was a new and living way open for salvation,-"a fountain opened to the house of David, for sin and for uncleanness.” We may talk of being saved by precept and example, and the force of merely natural virtues, till we die the death ; so did not Christ talk, but in part, and this is not the story of the old evangel. Precepts and virtue are good things, but they only have life through the Lord of glory, who has first glorified his own nature, and is now thoroughly able to regenerate ours.

It should be observed, too, that all who experience the New Birth are said to follow the Lord in a similar process. Speaking to his disciples on the subject of self-denial, he says — “Ye which have followed me in the regeneration.(Matt. 19 : 28.) From which it is evident that Jesus himself experienced something analogous to the new birth in man. And what was that? Precisely, this glorification of the assumed humanity. The only difference is, the Lord, by virtue of the Divinity that dwelt within Him from the first, made his humanity absolutely

Divine, which is expressed by the word “ glorification;" whereas He only regenerates ours, for man still remains human. And further, He cast out the evils of his human nature by his own proper and divine ability ; whereas we put away ours by power derived from Him. And still further, if Swedenborg is to be credited, He utterly expelled his evils - ejected them entirely from his whole body of Humanity; man is only enabled to remove his from the centre to the circumference to throw them out there, to the extremest verge of his external spiritual organism, where they remain forever, but become quiescent and inoperative. But upon this latter point there may be yet more light.

We can now understand what it is to “ follow the Lord in the regeneration.” He has truly “ set us an example,” more sublimely significant than any thing which is usually conceived by these words. If it be said that it is not a fair example, because we have not that divine power to expel evils which He is thus represented to have had, we reply, it is a good example and something more. The example remains in all its force and dignity, and with it, a truly divine power of salvation from it. But it is a mistake to think thus humanly of the gospel's influence,— to think that it consists so much of the mere power of a once acted example: it is only a truly Divine Saviour who can deliver us from the great bondage we are in, and this by a constant flowing of the divine life from Him. “ A just God and a Saviour, there is none beside Me.” (Isa. 45 : 21.)

The work for us to do, then, is simply the imitation of the great Exemplar -- the removing of evils in the external man. It is the regeneration of the natural mind, — the seat of all evils and falsities. We are to become regenerated, as our Lord was glorified. The one is a perfect image of the other. It was necessary for Christ to pass through all this — to come from the heavens and to be incarnated and glorified, that he might reach man both inwardly and outwardly. Outwardly, he needed to see the image and glory of the Divine Person

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