In the current raging debate among evangelicals on the nature of saving faith, justification, and imputation of the righteousness of Christ (His active and passive obedience), there is also some concern as to what constitutes the nature and means of regeneration. Isaac Ambrose gives tremendous clarity to this pressing issue. May the Lord use his words to stir your hearts in praise to Him.
Grace and peace,
First, the necessity of it:
"Except a man be new born, he can never be saved" -JOHN 3:3. It is our Savior's speech, and he avers it with a double asseveration, " Verily, verily, I say unto thee." Again, GOD the Father thus counsels not only Nicodemus, but all the Jews of the old church, saying, " Make you a new heart and a new spirit, for why will you die, O house of Israel?" Ezek. 18:31. Notwithstanding all their privileges, yet here is one thing necessary, that must crown all the rest; they must have a new heart, and a new spirit, that is, they must be new born, or there is no way but death.
Nor is this doctrine without reason or ground. For, man is first unholy, and therefore most unfit to enter into heaven; " without holiness no man shall see GOD," Heb. 12: 14. And what is man before he is new born? If we look upon his soul, we may see it deformed with sin, defiled with lust, outraged with passions; and thus is that image of GOD transformed to the ugly shape of the devil. Should we take a more particular view, every faculty of the soul is full of iniquity; the understanding understands nothing of the things of GOD, 1 Cor. 2: 14; the will wills nothing that is good, Rom. 6:2O; the affections affect nothing of the Spirit, Gal. 5: 17. In a word, the understanding is darkened, the will enthralled, the affections disordered, the memory defiled, the con-science benumbed, all the inner man is full of sin, and here is no part that is good, no, not one. How needful now is a new birth to a man in this case? Can he enter into heaven, that savours all of earth? Will those precious gates of gold and pearls open to a sinner? No, he must be new moulded and sanctified.
Secondly, without this, man is GOD's enemy:
no greater opposition than between GOD and a sinner; his name and nature is altogether opposite to sin and sinners. View we those attributes of GOD, his justice, truth, patience, holiness, anger, power; his justice in punish ing the impenitent according to his deserts, his truth effecting those plagues which he has spoken in his time, his patience forbearing sin's destruction, till they are grown full ripe, his holiness abhorring all impurities, his anger stirring up revenge against all offered injuries, his power mustering up his forces, yea, all his creatures against his enemies; and what can we say, but if all these attributes are at enmity with sinful man, woe to man because of offences? Better he had never been born, than not to be new born.
Thirdly, Except by a new birth, man is without CHRIST:
for " if any man be in CHRIST, he is a new creature:" and if he be not in CHRIST, what hopes of that man? It is only CHRIST that opens heaven, it is only CHRIST that is the way to heaven; besides him there is no way, no truth, no life.
Fourthly, Except a man be born again, he is a very limb of SATAN, a child of darkness, and one of the family of hell:
Consider this, ye that are out of the state of grace, in what miserable thraldom are your souls? Should any call you servants of SATAN, you would take it highly in disdain; but take it as you please, if you are not regenerate, you are in no better case. Paul appeals to your own knowledge, " Know you not, that to whom soever you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are whom you obey?" Rom. 6: 16, 23. If then ye obey the devil's suggestions, what are you but the devil's servants? And if he be your master, what is your wages? " The wages of sin is death;" death of the body, and death of the soul: death here, and death hereafter in hell-fire. Alas, that SATAN should have this power on man! that he who is the enemy, and means nothing to a sinner but death and damnation, should be his lord, and tyrannize it over him at his own will and pleasure! Would any man be hired to serve lions and tigers? And is not the devil " a roaring lion, walking about, and seeking whom he may devour?" To serve him that would devour his servant, is a most miserable bondage; and what pay can one expect from devils, but roaring, and devouring, and tearing souls? So that whether we consider man in regard of himself, or of GOD, or of CHRIST, or of SATAN, he is (except he be new born,) unholy, GOD's enemy, out of CHRIST, in SATAN.
Tender Your Souls:
And if the new birth be thus necessary, how should we labor to be born again? Now then, as you tender your souls, and desire heaven at your ends, endeavor to attain this one thing necessary. Lift up your hearts unto GOD, that you may be washed, justified, sanctified, in the name of the Lord JESUS; and that by the Spirit of GOD you may walk in new ways, talk with new tongues, as being new creatures, created unto good works. If you would thus wait on GOD in his way, I trust the Lord in mercy would remember you, and his Spirit would blow upon you, and then you would find and feel such a change within you, as that you would bless GOD for ever, that you were thus born again.
Such is the necessity of being born again:
And as to the generality of it, all men (or all mankind,) must be regenerated before they be saved; not one of all the sons of Adam shall ever go to heaven, except he be born again. Let your contemplations (guided by GOD's Word,) go into the paradise above. All the saints that now "walk in the light of it," were first purged by the Lamb, and sanctified by the Spirit; first they were rege nerated, and so they were saved.
Monday, February 16, 2009