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Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a
man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
The collect for the day, appropriated to the commemoration of our Redeemer's birth, suggests to us the recollection of our spiritual birth, which takes place when, by baptism, we are admitted into his Church, and is one great result of his being “ born of a pure virgin.” But the petition which succeeds the affirmation of our “ being regenerate," or born again, intimates the nature of our Christian life; that, though regenerate, we require to be “ daily renewed by the Holy Spirit, co-operating with our “ diligence, to make our calling and election sure P.” This collect speaks conformably to the sense of the Church, expressed in the ninth article. “And this infection doth remain, yea, in them that are regenerated.” It intimates the prevalence of temptation, the responsibility of trial, the necessity of our being continually renewed by the Holy Spirit; without which, neither our privileges nor our exertions, will enable us to attain eternal life. Regeneration, then, places us in a state of salvation, from which we may fall, but shall not fall, unless from our abuse or neglect of the advantages which it confers upon us. And, according to the majority of the Clergy of the Established Church, regeneration is set forth by her as the spiritual grace of baptism. But the maintainers of the
P2 Pet. i. 10. How this passage is to be reconciled with the tenet of indefectible grace, let any man consider. The Apostle addresses " them that have obtained like precious faith with us, through the righteousness of God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ." (ver. 1.) He mentions the effects which the “ divine power" has produced in them, and says, “ Beside
, this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue," &c. (ver. 5.) “But," he continues," he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged. from his old sins. Wherefore the rather brethren give diligence to make your calling and election sure ; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall," &c.
9 I allude more particularly to those Clergy of the Estab lished Church, who preach doctrines which appear loaded with all the consequences of Calvin's system, and who yet exclaim against the injustice of their being branded with the name of Calvinists. Till some less subtle distinctions than they have yet been able to exhibit, between their tenets and those of the Apostle, of irrespective election, shall have been established, they must expect, that men less versed in scholastic niceties, should denominate them according to the more obvious tendency of their doctrines, whether they may choose to term themselves evangelical, or quocunque nomine gaudeant. En applying to them the name of Calvinists, I do not use it as a term of reproach, but as really, to my apprehension, describing the character of their doctrines. I am ready to bear testimony that, though I cannot concur with them upon these points, they are characterísed as active and zealous ministers, and as men whose very practice could not be enforced by sound reasoning upon the principle, that their salvation is the certain result of their regeneration. Some, I am aware, admit this ; but others do not : and those by no means, (if we may take the evidence of the late Rector of Aston Sandford) an inconsiderable portion.
tenets of Calvin, have of late years, with peculiar zeal, endeavoured to controvert this opinion, and have advanced a very different doctrine respecting both the time and the effects of regeneration. All parties are agreed that regeneration is necessary to our entering into the kingdom of God that it is the gift of God, and the work of the Spirit. The chief points in which we are at issue with Calvinists, may be seen in the following brief statement of our respective opinions".
We affirm, that every person, who is admitted to Christ's Church, by baptism, rightly
See this more particularly stated in the Appendix.
administered, is “born again," or in other words, that on his admission to the Christian Covenant, through the rite ordained by Christ himself, he participates in the privileges of that Covenant, his spiritual life commences, his sins, original or actual, are remitted, he has the earnest of the Spirit, he has the means of growing in grace, he may attain to the highest rewards of Christ's kingdom, by a proper use of his advantages, and yet without this
fall short of his reward and perish.
The Calvinist maintains that regeneration is not annexed to baptism, nor conferred upon every Christian, but that the time of its being granted is indefinite, and that it is the special gift of God to certain individuals irrespectively elected; that without it every man, though outwardly a member of the Church, is an entire mass of corruption, and has no power either to do, or will any good thing; that though this man can neither do any thing to deserve regeneration; nor has any power to obtain it, (it being the immediate and irrespective gift of God) yet he is consigned to eternal punishment, for guilt which he cannot avoid, because he happens not to be one of the elect; that regeneration is granted only to the elect, and that the regenerate cannot lose the eternal inheritance'.
How these latter opinions accord with the prevailing language of Scripture, setting forth every where exhortations and cautions, promises and threats, rewards and punishments, or how they harmonize with the Scriptural descriptions of the Divine Attributes of justice and mercy,
let every one attentively consider. Let him before he receives to his creed a system which contradicts the general tenor of the Scripture, and makes the Deity at once the author and the punisher of sin, let him demand the clearest evidence, that such a doctrine is contained in Scripture. Let it not be collected by laboured and sophistical deductions, or by dragging distant texts toge ther, and interpreting them in a sense entirely different from the sense in which they appear in their proper place, in connexion with the context, and when considered with reference to the design of the writers, and to the circumstances of those to whom they were immediately addressed.
It will not consist with the limits of a discourse to point out the sophistries by which the
• On this point á difference of opinion prevails, as I have before hinted, among those, who are agreed upon the other tenets just enumerated.