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fuppofe, it is, that the Ancients were wont to call fuch Inftances of Penance by the Name of Satiffactions: Not that they efteemed them of Value to fatisfy the Divine Justice, nothing but the Blood of Jefus can do that; but that they thought them the Conditions, which the Gospel requires of Penitents, as highly neceffary, both for their present Correction and future Caution: And accordingly we may obferve, that, whenever the Fathers used this Word, 'tis either with Respect to Men, or to God; if to Men, then the Meaning of it is, that, by these external Acts of Sorrow, we fatisfy the Church of our Repentance, and make Reparation for thofe Offences and Scandals, which we gave by our Sins; but if to God, then 'tis taken for the Acknowledgment of our Faults, and the earnest Defire we have of Pardon and Forgiveness.
Nor is the Duty of Self-denial neceffary to our prefent Condition only, whether we confider it in a fettled or penitential Capacity; but as it has a Tendency likewife to our future Glory and Felicity. It can hardly escape the Obfervation of any common Reader, that there is, in Scripture, a certain Fitness or Meetnefs required in thofe, that are to be Partakers of the Inheritance of the Saints in Light; but then the Question is, how we muft acquire this Fitness? And by what Means we are to induce this perfective Difpofition into our Souls ? The Apostle, indeed, tells us, concerning our Saviour himself, that he was made perfect through Sufferings; for it became him, fays he, of whom are all Things, and by whom are all Things, in bringing maSons unto Glory, to make the Captain of their Salvation perfect through Sufferings: But then these Words do not abfolutely imply, that these Sufferings of our Saviour were neceffary for his perfonal Perfection: He might have paffed to Glory an eafier Way, because he wanted no Virtue to accom
plish and qualify him for that State. They imply, however, that his Sufferings were neceffary for his exemplary Perfection, i. e. as he was to be an Example to us, and the Captain and Prefident of our Salvation; as he was to lead us the Way, by which many adopted Sons of God might likewife pafs into Glory, fo it was neceffary that he fhould be made perfect by Sufferings, because no adopted Son, no Chriftian, can ever be perfect without them And accordingly we find it mentioned in 'the Chriftian Covenant, as an express Condition of our future Glory, that, if we fuffer with Chrift, we fball alfo reign with him; for it is through much Tribulation, (through many Wrestlings or Contendings, as it is in the Original) that we must enter into the Kingdom of God.
Now, if the Spirit of God gives us Warning, that Sufferings are of fo neceffary Importance to our future Welfare, and yet, at the fame Time, does not lay upon us any outward Neceflity to fuf-. fer; this is a plain Indication, I think, that the Neceffity lies upon ourselves to take Care, that we fuffer from our own voluntary Discipline; that we faft often, pray much, impofe Talks of Labour, ftrict Rules of Abftinence, and have a continual Watch over ourselves, which, in the Time of the Church's Peace and Tranquillity, was called a daily Martyrdom.
The primitive Chriftians were very remarkable for this Kind of Difcipline: Their callous Knees, and guttered Cheeks, and meagre Looks, occafioned by their fafting, weeping, and praying, are often taken Notice of in Antiquity, though with us mistaken for fuperftitious Ufages, and Acts of Supererogation. That Chriftian, however, (as St Jerom calls one upon a like Occafion) that Chriftian, I fay, is by much too delicate, who would excufe himself from this Difcipline in the School of
of Chrift, when we may find, that, in every Heathen School, they required no lefs to make a Philofopher; that is, in the Senfe of their fober Stile, an honeft and good Man.
Epicurus, indeed, prefented the World with a very fpecious Scheme, when he pretended to fatisfy the Aims both of Senfe and Morality together, when he invited Men to Virtue and Pleafure at the fame Time; telling them, that a Life, which was both virtuous and pleasurable, was purely the Life of the Gods. But all the other Sects remonftrate against this new Doctor, as one, who, by hanging out the Flag of Pleasure, had covered all that was true, and laid afide all that was great in Philofophy. They had jufter Notions of the Corruption of human Nature; and therefore they teach, that whoever intends to be a virtuous Man, muft by no Means propofe his Life to be a Scene of Pleasure. They teach us, that Wisdom and Felicity have built their Palaces together upon a craggy Rock, whither it is not a little difficult to afcend: They reprefent their Hercules, as always engaging in Labours, always feeking Conflicts, always harsh and fevere to himself; and his Character they propose to their Scholars, as the common Guide to Proficiency in good Living. But we have our Inftruction from a better Fountain, and are fufficiently advertised what we are to do, when we are commanded, by our Bleffed Saviour, to enter in at the ftrait Gate; for wide is the Gate, and broad is the Way, that leadeth to Destruction; but strait is the Gate, and narrow is the Way, which leadeth to Life, and few there be that find it.
HE firft Place, wherein we find exprefs Mention made of our Regeneration, is (as I take it) in our Saviour's Conference with Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a Ruler of the Jews, and of the Sect of the Pharifees, great Enemies to our Bleffed Lord; but, being convinced, by his Doctrine and Miracles, of his Divine Miffion and Authority, he came, no doubt, tho' it was at Night that he came, with an Intent to be farther inftructed by him. The Evangelift has recorded the first Addrefs, which this Ruler makes to our Saviour; but, from the Nature of our Saviour's Answer, fome have been induced to think, that his whole Speech is not related; and that, after he had done his Preface, he might not improbably put fome fuch Questions to our Lord, as we find the young Man did in the Gospel, viz. What good Things he was to do, that he might obtain eternal Life? Because the Answer, which is returned him, is fo very much to this Purpose, and feems to have fo flender a Connexion with what went before; Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a Man be born again, be cannot fee the Kingdom of God.
To be born again is a Form of Speech, which not only occurs in the Writings of fome Gentile Moralifts, but was of common Ufe among the Jewish Doctors. They received Profelytes into the Church by Baptifm; and being perfuaded, that the Heathen Soul was, by this Means, washed away, and a new and pure one fubftituted in its room, they were, for this Reason, wont to call these Profelytes new born, new Men, new Creatures, and the like. This was the common Phrase and Stile of the Rabbins, and therefore our Saviour very juftly reproves Nicodemus for his Ignorance of it; Art X 2
thou a Master of Ifrael, and knoweft not thefe Things? The Defign of the Expreffion, however, is to inform us, that there is a two-fold Birth or Nativity, which every one is to undergo: The first is common and natural; when the tender Infant quits its closer Cell, wherein it has been fome Months imprisoned, and, coming into the World, enters into a new and different State from what it was in before But the fecond is fpiritual and fupernatural, when a Perfon, upon his firmly believing and embracing the Gospel of Chrift, is not only changed from his wicked Courfes, to a contrary Form of living, but is poffeffed likewife with Thoughts, and Defires, and Affections, quite different from what he had before; infomuch, that, both to himfelf and others, who behold him, he looks not like the fame Man, but in the Temper of his Mind, as well as the Tenor of his Actions, is indeed another Creature.
His Understanding, which was before darkened, being alienated from the Life of God, through the Ignorance that was in him, becomes then enlightened to difcern his true Intereft, and is informed with the Knowledge of those great Truths, which he is moft of all required to know, concerning God and himself, and a Life to come. This Knowledge has a powerful Effect and Influence over his Will and Affections. The Belief of the great Truths of the Gospel gives him a new Set of Principles, makes him have different Notions and Opinions of Things, form different Profpects and Projects, and fteer quite a contrary Courfe, to what he did before. For, whereas before he confulted only his prefent Eafe and Pleasure, ftudied the Gratifications of his fenfual Lufts and Appetites, and gave himself up to the Interefts of this Life, the Welfare of his Body, and the Concerns of the World; he now mortifies his Members, which are upon