The one is an illusion, a fiction, a counterfeit; the other a grim, stern, coldreality. The very
Such is the spiritual state we are about todelineate in the present chapter—such the portrait for which thousands mightstand as the original. And can the sanctified imagination conceive a state moresad or appalling? To believe that we are born again, to assume the exterior,and claim the privileges of the truly converted, while yet dwelling in theregion and shadow of spiritual death, is of all spiritual conditions the mostdangerous and fatal.In a treatise devoted to an exposition of the nature and evidences of the NewBirth, it is proper that we take first the NEGATIVE bearings of the subject,showing what is
real conversion. We need scarcely bespeak the reader'ssolemn and prayerful consideration of this subject, for it bears upon itssurface the impress of infinite importance. Surely, if apart from the New Birththere is no state of grace here, and no state of glory hereafter, the questionmust come home to every thoughtful bosom with irresistible impressivenessand power. "Is mine a
conversion? Am I truly born again?"Instructed by the Divine Spirit, we propose to assist you in this momentousinquiry, by showing how far you may advance in a profession of Christianity,in the appearance of the New Birth, and
be born again—having a name tolive, and yet dead!1.And, first, let us remark that a
ora mere intellectual acquaintance with Divine truth, is not of itself the New Birth.Light is not life. We may admit through the window the morning's roseatebeams in all their brilliancy and power into the chamber of death, but thecorpse around which they play remains, pulseless and lifeless, a
still.The body is bathed with the light, the pallid countenance is illumined with itsradiance, and the shroud is fringed with its hues, but all still is death. The sunhas not quickened into life a solitary throb!And thus there may exist in the religion of an individual an enlightenedunderstanding, much intellectual acquaintance with Divine things, a sound judgment, and an intelligent mind, yet entirely dissevered from spiritual life.We may accept the Bible as wholly true—a great concession this!—maybelieve in it historically, understand it intellectually, and expound it ably, andnot be born again—substituting speculative knowledge, or a theoreticalacquaintance with Divine truth, for the kingdom of God in the heart— religious light in the understanding, for spiritual life in the soul.