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there hangs our eternity, we have then is it, that in the courts of justice, need of believing prayer-of thorough when compared with the calendars renunciation of all dependence on our of our sister kingdom, there should own strength-of a thorough reliance be so vastly less to do with their evil on the strength and proffered aid of works? It is certainly a most imthe upper sanctuary — of a deep portant experience, that in that counsense of our infirmities—and a con- try where there is the most of Calstant application for that Spirit which vinism, there should be the least of is promised to help us; in the lan- crime—that what may be called the guage of the Apostle,
most doctrinal nation of Europe, strive mightily according to his grace should at the same time be the least which worketh in us mightily.” depraved—and that the land wherein
Let me now conclude with intimat- the people are most deeply imbued ing that in selecting the topic of our with the principles of salvation by present imperfect lucubrations, we grace, should be the least depraved have been actuated by a desire,-(as either by their week-day profligawe are proposing to throw ourselves on cies, or their sabbath profanations. your liberality for the upholding of a When Knox came over from the church in connexion with the church of school of Geneva, he brought its strict, Scotland, I considerit not at all unsea- and, at the same time, uncorrupted sonable that I should have made the orthodoxy along with him; and with topic of these lacubrations, the topic of this he pervaded all the formularies my present discourse to you), we have of that church which was founded by been actuated by a desire to vindicate him, and not only did it flame abroad the much misunderstood theology of from all our pulpits, but through our our church from the charge of being schools and our catechisms it was hostile to the cause of practical righ- brought down to the boyhood of our teousness. Now to those who have land ; and from one generation to this suspicion, and who would repre- another have our Scottish youth been sent the doctrine of justification hy familarized to the sound of it from faith, “ that article of a standing or their very infancy. And unpromisfilling church,” as adverse to the in- ing as such a system of tuition may terests of virtue, I would put one be in the eye of the academic moquestion, and ask them to resolve it. ralist, having the object of buildHow comes it that Scotland, which ing up a virtuous and a well doing of all the countries in Europe is the peasantry, certain it is, that as the most signalized by the rigid Calvi- wholesale result, there has palpably nism of her pulpits, should also be come forth of it the most moral peamost signalized by the moral glory santry in Europe. Notwithstanding which sits on the aspect of her general we know of great and grievous depopulation? How, in the name of a clensions, partly owing to the exmystery, should it happen, that such tension of our crowded cities being a theology as ours, is conjoined with most inadequately followed up by perhaps the most invitiated peasantry such a multiplication of parishes and in the nations of Christendom? The churches as might give fair scope allegation against our church, is that to the energies of our ecclesiasin the argumentation of our abstract tical system; and principally we fear and speculative controversies, the from a declension of that very theopeople are too little skilled to the logy which has been denounced as performance good works—and how the enemy of all practical righteous
ness. But on this last topic we for- | lities of the human character, what bear to detain you ; for rather than is the explanation that can be offered, expatiate on the degeneracy of what if notwithstanding an influence so may be termed the middle age of the baneful, it be found that Scotland church of Scotland, we are inclined throughout all her parishes can lift to rejoice in the symtoms of its so erect a front among the nations of bright and blessed revival ; and would, Christendom, not for intelligence therefore, only aver, that should in alone, but for the worth and practical mockery of these anticipations, the virtues of her population. There are people of our land fall wholly away many who can tastefully admire the from the integrity of their forefathers loveliness of the cultivated scene, but -should there come a great and a who have neither skill nor taste for general deterioration in the worth of the coarse operations of husbandry; her common people, it would only and there are many who can gaze be of course preceded by a great and with delight on the beauties of the general deterioration in the zeal, and moral landscape when they utterly the doctrines, and the services of her nauseate the principle that sustains clergymen. And if ever the families them. Let not the deep and didactic of our beloved land shall have apos- theology of our land be exchanged tatized from the virtues of the olden for one more slender than itself, if time, it will lie at the door of their on its basis the charities, and inpastors who have been unfaithful to tegrities, and sobrieties of its people their trust; and of pastors who have are said to be upholden? Oh let us apostatized from the good old divinity not think lightly of that culture which
yields an efflorescence so gracious as On this, my brethren, as on every that of a virtuous and well trained peaother topic of examination, the best santry! May God grant that pure and proof which can be found is surely undefiled religion shall long continue an experimental one. And ere I can to be preached in our pulpits, and admit the charge of our national doc- practised in our families; and in the trine being hostile to the great in- presentation of a people for eternity terests of virtue, I must first inquire may it be seen, that in their virtuous into the state of our national cha- habits and thorough moral education, racter. We know not a broader or we have not only fitted them for stronger basis on which to try this heaven, but rendered to heaven its question than a whole nation of Cal- best and highest offering, I add vinists; and if it be true that the no more — may God command his theology of our pulpits is fitted to stand blessing. the withering blast on all the mora
of other days.
DELIVERED BY THE REV. F. J. STAINFORTII,
AT LONG STOWE, CAMBRIDGESHIRE, SUNDAY, JUNE 23, 1833.
John, iii. 7.-" Murrel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again." If we take a flattering view of human tained; and yet we cannot bear to nature, as the world is too apt to do; part with them. or if we take a harsh and malignant of this strange medley of conflictview of it, we do equal disservice to ing passions, reason can give no acthe cause of truth. It is that mixture count. It never was accounted for of weakness and grandeur; that love by the wisest of mankind. But the of sin, joined with a dissatisfaction very opening of the Bible solves all in all human enjoyments; our appro- the difficulty ; and one proof of the bation of virtue in the abstract, with divine origin of that book is found in our feeble endeavour to realize it in the simple, but wonderful fidelity, with practice; that shews us to be, what which it explains all the variety of Scripture tells us we are, a fallen our feelings. “ In the image of God race; created originally in the image created he man;" and there is someof God, and still bearing marks of thing yet within us that bears tesour heavenly descent; but sullied | timony to the relationship. But this and contaminated by sin. We re- image was tarnished by the fall of semble a broken mirror, that no Adam; and surely we have more than longer reflects the pure image of its enough to convince us of that meMaker, though it still gives, occa- lancholy truth. sionally a distorted view of his mag- I do not therefore wish to tamper nificent perfections.
with that awful doctrine, that the Nothing indeed is more surprising heart of man is deceitful above all to those, who look narrowly into their things, and desperately wicked : that own hearts, than to observe the in
we cannot even count, nor understand, consistencies that abound there. our errors. As it is written, there is There is such an union of littleness none righteous, no not one. There and dignity about us that we are a is none that understandeth, there is mystery even to ourselves. We have none that seeketh after God. They capacities for high and endless en- are all gone out of the way; they joyment, yet we seek to slake our
are altogether become unprofitable. thirst from broken cisterns, that can There is none that doeth good, no hold no water. At times the mind not one. We cannot look into any will beat high with nobler thoughts, hearts except our own, and even those and more elevated wishes; and then we are very imperfectly acquainted we sink back into our former low and with. Yet, if I am to speak from sordid desires. We despise the very my own experience, I admit that no objects we are pursuing, but we pur- languge seems too strong to express sue them still. We find them vanity my sense of degradation. There are and vexation of spirit, even when ob- times,-alas! that I must say many
times,—when all that I could plead proclaiming to men, what would geis, that I am not hardened, not con- nerally be better reserved for the ear tented in my iniquity. And even of God; I would raise my voice with this I acknowledge as the work of double earnestness against any atGod's Holy Spirit, as a proof of his tempt to dilute the essential doctrine love, as a pledge of his assistance. of our natural depravity. Holy Scrip
Yet I have often noticed a sus- ture imperatively asserts the necespicious delight in dwelling upon, if sity of a death unto sin, and a new not overstating, the evil propensities birth unto righteousness: and, knowof our nature ; of choosing always the ing how distasteful such an assertion coarsest terms and metaphors to ex- would be to human nature, it warns pose those infirmities, which no Chris
us against being offended by it. Martian can attempt to deny, or to excuse. vel not that I said unto you, ye must I believe that pride is at the bottom be born again. of this practice ; for it lurks about
Nicodemus, to whom these words us in every shape, twining itself were addressed, was a ruler of the round every fibre of the leart, and Jews, and apparently a man of high polluting even our religious services. character, and moral worth. He also Remember then, there may be as felt a conviction that Jesus was the much vanity in confession, as in true Messiah. He might pass thereboasting. There may be a feeling, fore as no unfavorable specimen of that, bad as poor human nature is, I those, who are called Christians in the will at least have the virtue to de- present day. Being unwilling bownounce it. Man shall wonder at my ever, to leave all for Christ's sake, apparent humility, and that wonder he comes to him by night, and says, will not gratify my pride. God, I “ Rabbi, we know that thou art a thank thee I am not as other men teacher come from God; for no man are, for if I am not less wicked, I
can do these miracles, that thou doest, have yet the merit of being more except God be with him.” This was a sensible of my wickedness.
large admission from a Pharisee, Or, if this be too severe an inter- whose prejudices were all enlisted on pretation of such feelings, still I say, the other side, and he probably exall error is mischievous, and espe-pected a flattering acknowledgment cially in those who are marked as of his candour. But Jesus, who saw professors of religion. These violent the imperfect nature of his views, and unmeasured statements often meets him with this unexpected deshock the feelings, and contradict the claration. “Verily, verily, I say unto experience of youthful converts; and thee, except a man be born again, he lead them to think the whole subject cannot see the kingdom of God.” He so gloomy and forbidding, that they thus intimates, that a cold and timid shrink from its consideration, or so show of respect was not all that was peevishly exaggerated, that they as required of his disciples; that a great cribe it altogether to delusion and ill change must take place within us, humour.
before we can receive the truth in the On the other hand, we must be love of it. Nicodemus, though a careful not to sacrifice truth to the Master in Israel, like many even fastidious delicacy of the world. among masters in our purer faith, While I venture to caution you against was scandalized at this hard saying. rash and extravagant language, or “How can a man be born when he is rather against self-complacency in old? Can be enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born? | will, as it is called. It is idle to deny Jesus answered, verily, verily, I say this, for we feel that we are free. unto thee, except a man be born of We have power, that is, to follow the water and the Spirit,” unless he be, bent of our natural inclinations. But not only admitted into my church by this seems no great privilege, when the outward ordinance of Baptism, but we consider that those very inclinainwardly converted by the operation tions are perverted into a wrong of the Holy Ghost, “ he cannot enter channel. A man who is excited by into the kingdom of God.” “ That any strong passion,by anger for inwhich is born of the flesh, is flesh.” stance, is as free as in his more We inherit the sinful nature of our sober moods; but we know, from that guilty parent. And, since the body very circumstance, that he will rush cannot undergo the necessary change into some frantic excess. And thus in this life, its fate is to moulder in it is with us all. We have no power the dust, to be sown in dishonour of ourselves to turn to God, for we before it is raised in glory. “But that have lost even the disposition to do which is born of the Spirit, is spirit.” so, and cannot regain it, unless it be Our minds are yet capable of such a given us from above. Our affections spiritual regeneration, as may bring having been disordered by sin, we upthem back to purity and happiness, avoidably break out, at times, into the and fit them to be transplanted into actions that correspond with them; and the presence of their God. “Marvel
we are prevented from oftener doing not, that I said unto you, ye must be so, only by motives, which have no born again." Marvel not indeed! connexion with religion. Yet we often And who can marvel that such a feel great compunction for particular transformation is required, who takes offences, while we forget that our a single glance at the corruption that minds are naturally sinful, that every is festering in his heart.
thought therefore is hateful to God, What is it then to be born again? that we are guilty at least of every In one word, it is to have a new heart. vice, we have even harboured a wish It is to love what we once hated; and to perpetrate. We mistake the sympto hate what we once loved. It is to toms for the disease ; and this is a have all our dispositions, both to- dangerous error; both because we wards God and man, miraculously begin our reformation at the wrong altered; and this is an alteration so end by struggling against the outward entire, so permanent, so far beyond act, instead of seeking the amendour unassisted powers, as justly to be ment of our dispositions; and because described as a new existence. “ Ifany we often hug ourselves in the proud man be in Christ,” says the Apostle, consciousness of innocence, when " he is a new creature. Old things nothing but opportunity was wanting are passed away; behold all things to the completion of our guilt. are become new." Nothing less than The child of God then must have this will suffice. Our minds are like a clean heart, and a right spirit, rea rank and neglected soil, that is newed within him. His views of overrun with noxious weeds. It is things are changed. Great must in vain that we attempt to pull them have been the wonders, that burst out one by one; the soil remains the upon the sight of him who was born same, and they will soon spring up blind, and whose eyes were opened afresh, or be replaced by others of a at our Saviour's bidding. Such are souler nature. We have freedom of the feelings of one, to whom spiritual