« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
to us very mysterious. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth ; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” We know little of the wind, -where its motion begins, or where it ends. And we are not less ignorant of the Spirit,-how, when, or where, he enters the soul. We can judge of his presence and indwelling only by the effects he produces. It is thus we hear the sound thereof.
3. In the production of this change, the exercises which the Spirit causes the soul to undergo may be very various. Sometimes he alarms it by presenting the law in its demands and condemnation; while, at other times, he gently, but irresistibly, constrains it, by exhibiting the gospel in its full and gracious provisions. The Prophet addresses the Spirit, saying, “Awake, O north wind, and come thou south, blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out.” There are times when he visits the soul as the keen and penetrating north wind, convincing of sin, and humbling in self-condemnation; and again he comes as the cheering and refreshing south wind, comforting the wounded spirit, and cheering the desponding heart. He divideth to every one, when, how, and as he will. Our great concern is not so much how he may have operated upon us, as whether he may have operated at all. But these observations may be useful in helping us to judge whether or not we are the subjects of his grace and power. It remains now to consider,
III. The necessity of regeneration, by the Spirit, to the sin. ner. It is positively affirmed, by our Lord, that except a man be born again, he cannot see, neither can be enter into the kingdom of God. These two expressions are not used without design. He cannot see the kingdom of heaven,he can have no more apprehension of the nature of true religion than a blind man can have of colours. He cannot enter into it,- he is utterly disqualified for its exercises or joys. There are many reasons to justify these assertions, and we shall notice some of them.
1. The Scriptures teach that the new birth is essential to all men, inasmuch as all are sinners. How impressively is this taught in our Lord's interview with Nicodemus ? He came to Christ seeking instruction. He was a man of amiable and upright character, and of high reputation among the people. Yet what was the first and
exclusive doctrine which our Lord pressed upon his attention? It was the new birth. And when Nicodemus urged its incomprehensibility, and declared he could not apprehend it, how did our Lord treat bis difficulties ?
Marvel pot that I said unto you, ye must be born again, -art thou a master in Israel and knowest not these things ?" These were his words,-giving him to understand that the doctrine was a truth which could not be dispensed with. Even in the case of Nicodemus, excel . lent and upright as he was, it was essential; and if so, who can be an exception ? It is a universal truth, that the sinner, unless he is born again, cannot be an heir of heaven. Every sinner is incapacitated for its exercises and joys, and nothing but this radical change can restore him to a meetness for it.
2. While all need this change, it is only the Spirit who can effect it.
“ That which is born of the flesh, is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit, is Spirit.” The sinner can produce only sin ; the Spirit is the exclusive author of holiness. When our first parent fell, he had sons born to him in his own likeness, and this is the law of our nature and race till the present hour. which shall create the sinner anew is external to him. It is the office of the Holy Spirit to form him to holiness.
3. Without the change of the new birth, the sinner is unfit to be a member of the kingdom of heaven. By the kingdom of heaven, we are to understand the Church of Christ, including that portion of it that is still upon the earth, as well as that which has been received into glory. And the affirmation is, that the sinner cannot be a mem. ber of the Church in the one sense or the other, without undergoing this radical change. This may be made easily to appear.
He cannot otherwise be a member of the Church on earth. A professed member he may be. For this it is only necessary that he shall submit to its external ordinances of baptism, or the Lord's Supper. But he can be constituted a true and living member only by being born again. How, indeed, could it be otherwise ? For if he be a member of the Church, he must be competent to the exercises peculiar to such a relation. His membership supposes him to be united with Christ, and he must ex. press towards him all the affections of love and confidence, and submission. It implies, that having separated him
self from the world, he has cast in his lot among the people of Christ, accounting them the excellent of the earth; and, consequently, he will reciprocate with them all the offices of brotherly love, rejoicing with them that do rejoice, and weeping with them that weep. But how shall a sinner be qualified for such exercises as these ? He must first be born again; he must obtain a new taste and temper, which only the Spirit of God is able to impart.
Far more can he not be a member of the Church in heaven without this saviug change. Think of the employe ments of the redeemed there, and you may easily ap. prehend how great a change must pass upon him, before he can engage in them. Their grand employment is celebrating the praises of redeeming love. Into their society, therefore, nothing that defileth can ever enter. To be prepared for heaven, is to be ready to join the society of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, of martyrs and prophets and apostles, of angels, and Christ, and God. Who, then, is prepared to enter into that heavenly company? Is it the sinner, who yet retains all bis natural propensities to iniquity, whose nature it is to delight in sin ?' The com. pany of the godly upon earth is,a restraint which he can. not bear; it is irksome to him to such a degree, that he cannot bear to live in it. And were he carried to heaven, it would be no happiness to him,-its joys would be his torment, and its exercises his heaviest burden. He must be born again, before beaven can be his portion. And as soon as he is born again, he may be said to be ready for an entrance into it. For although sin attaches to bim, it is his grief and burden; the bias of his mind is to holi. ness, his heart is in heavenly things, and to make him perfect in purity, it is only necessary that the temptations with which he is now encompassed, should be withdrawn. That shall be done at death; he will then lay down the body of sin and death in the grave; the spirit rising to its own element, will ascend to heaven; and, indulging its new and holy nature, without resistance or temptation, it will be happy in God, rejoice always before him, and enter upon that fulness of joy, which is at God's right hand, for evermore. Thus the new birth, and that alone, caa qualify the sinner for the kingdom of heaven.
Surely, then, it is an important question for every sinner to address to himself,-Am I born again ? He may know by the fruits. Has a saving change passed on the understanding, the will, the affections, the conscience, the memory, and the life? On this question hangs the destiny of the soul for eternity. Is it not reasonable to expect, then, that every one shall prosecute this inquiry, until he shall attain to full satisfaction of mind, that, if not born again, he may wait upon God for his Spirit; and, if blessed with this change, he may study to live consistently?
SPEECH OF THE REV. MICHAEL CROTTY,
PARISH PRIEST OF BIRR, At the Public Meeting, held in Belfast, on the 5th Sept., 1836.
MR. CROTTY said, he was now prepared, agreeably to the pledge he had given, when he had presumed to invite the attention of the Protestants of Ulster to his case, to enter into a full detail of the extent to which he had succeeded in withdrawing his flock from the errors of the Church of Rome, and of the objects for which he appealed to them for pecuniary assistance. In the first place, he would take the liberty of reading, to the meeting, some letters, which would give a just idea of his claims on their attention. The Rev. gentleman then read a letter of the Trustees of the intended Chapel, and the following communications :
“ I have been acquainted with the Rev. Michael Crotty, of the parish of Birr, and believe him to be a clergyman of unblemished reputation ; and, as far as I have been able to discover, most anxious and assiduous in endeavouring to promote the cause of Christianity, and leading his hearers to the study of the Holy Scriptures.
“ MARCUS M'CAUSLAND, Rector of Birr. “Glebe, January 10th, 1835."
“As the Rev. Mr. Crotty proposes to apply in England for the means of assisting the erection of a Cbapel, at which he and bis cousin can officiate, I wish to state, what 1 fully believe to be the
funds he may collect will be faithfully applied, in the way that will satisfy the friends of Christianity, for the purpose of introducing the Gospel among the Roman Catholics of Ireland.
“B. V. MATHIAS. “ Dublin, 20, Lynnit-Place, 230 August, 1836.”
In order conveniently to cuntrast his Reformed Doctrines with those of the Church of Rome, he would cite the creed of Pope Pious IV., and consider its articles seriatim,
“13. 1 most firmly receive and embrace the apostolical and ecclesiastical traditions, and all the other observances and constitutions of the same Church.
“ 14. I do receive the Holy Scriptures in the same sense that Holy Mother Church doth, and always hath, to whom it belongs to judge of the true sense and interpretation of them : neither will I receive and in. terpret them otherwise than according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.
“ 15. I do also profess that there are seven sacramerts of the new law, truly and properly so called, instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ, and necessary to the salvation of mankind, though not all of them to every one, viz., baptism, confirmation, the eucharist, penance, extreme-upution, orders, and marriage, and that they do confer grace; and that of these, baptism, confirmation, and orders, may not be repeated without sacrilege. I do also receive and admit the received and approved rites of the Ca. tholic Church, in the solemn administration of the above sacraments.
“ 16. I do embrace and receive all and every thing that hath been defined and declared by the Holy Council of Trent, concerning original sin and justification.
“ 17. I.do profess that in the mass there is offered a true, proper, and propitiatory sacrifice for the quick and the dead ; and that, in the most holy. sacrament of the eucharist, there is truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ; and that there is a change made of the whole substance of bread into the body, and of the whole substance of wine into the blood ; which change the Catholic Church calls transubstantiation.
“ 18. I confess, also, that under one kind only, whole and entire Christ, and a true sacrament, is taken and received.
“ 19. I do firmly hold, that there is a purgatory, and that the souls there detained are relieved by the suffrages of the faithful.
“ 20. I do likewise believe, that the saints reigning together with Christ, are to be worshipped and prayed unto; and that they do offer prayers unto God for us, and that their relics are to be had in veneration.
“ 21. I do most firmly assert, that the images of Christ, and of the ever Virgin Mother of God, and of the other saints, ought to be had and retained ; and that due honour and veneration ought to be given to them.
“ 22. I do affirm, that the power of indulgences was left by Christ in the Church, and that the use of them is very beneficial to Christian people.
“ 23. I do acknowledge the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church to be the mother and mistress of all Churches; and I do promise and swear true obedience to the Bishop of Rome, successor of St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, and Vicar of Jesus Christ.
“ 24. I do also, without the least doubt, receive and profess all other things which have been delivered, defined, and declared, by the sacred canons and ecumenical Councils, and especially by the holy Synod of Trent; and all things contrary thereunto, and all heresies whatsoever, condemned, rejected, and anathematized by the Church, I do likewise condemn, reject, and anathematize. This true Catholic Faith, without which no man can be saved, which, at this time, I freely profess, and truly embrace, I will be careful (by the help of God) that the same be retained and firmly possessed, whole and inviolate, as loog as I live: and that, as much as in me lies, that it be held, taught, and preached by those under my power, and by such as I shall have charge over in my profession. I, the said N., promise, vow, and swear ; so help me God, and these His Holy Gospels.”
Such were the peculiar tenets and dogmas of the Church of Rome; but there was one practice or observance peculiar to the Komish Church in Ireland, which had afforded him the first object of attack, and presented the first point at which he was able to effect a breach in her walls.