The Great Change!
James Smith, 1855
"Truly, truly, I say unto you: Unless a man is born again — he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:3
The Lord Jesus Christ who spoke as never man spoke, here speaks to us. He who revealed the mind of Jehovah, who came into the world to save sinners, informs us that we must be born again. And, unless a man is born again, or born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Again, "Unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven." My fellow-sinner, Jesus, speaks of you, he speaks to you. Have you ever seriously considered the important language? Have you ever been led to inquire, What is it to be born again? If not, I will suppose that you now put the question: What is it to be truly converted to God? By way of answering it, I will observe:
It is to be quickened by the Holy Spirit — to feel that you are a wretched, miserable, and ruined sinner.
It is to be illuminated to see that you are vile, polluted, and filthy before God.
It is to be alarmed at your state, surprised at your past unconcern, and to be now led to fly for refuge to Jesus the hope set before you.
It is to be brought to know that there is neither goodness, help, nor hope in yourself.
It is to be feelingly assured that unless you are saved by the Lord Jesus as an act of grace — that you must be lost forever.
It is to be led by the Holy Spirit to cry earnestly, frequently, and perseveringly to the Lord for mercy.
It is to be brought to see that the Lord Jesus Christ and his salvation are most exactly suited to you — to save, satisfy, and make you happy.
It is to feel an insatiable craving, hungering, and thirsting after a saving interest in Christ, his righteousness, and blood.
It is to feel sin to be a burden, a plague, and the misery of your life — and so to feel it, as to get no rest until you know it to be pardoned, and find the guilt and burden of it removed from your mind, by the precious blood of Christ.
It is to have the fear of the Lord implanted in your soul — operating as a preservative from sin, a preventative to falling into temptation, and a barrier to the inroads of Satan.
It is to hate, abhor, and detest sin — all kinds of sin, and sinful practices.
It is to mourn over inward depravity, outward inconsistency, and felt inability — with godly sorrow working repentance unto salvation.
It is to feel Christ precious, mercy sweet, and the Gospel to be glad tidings indeed.
It is to be panting for a spiritual, experimental, extensive knowledge of Jesus, in his person, work, sufferings, blood shedding, death, resurrection, and intercession.
It is to feel a love to, a desire to be like, and a wish to be numbered with the Lord's spiritual people.
It is to have a relish for, an ardent attachment to, and a realization of, the importance of the Word of God.
It is to have Christ formed in the heart, the work of the Holy Spirit in the soul, and the laws of God inscribed upon the mind.
It is to feel grace constraining to obedience, fear urging to flee to Jesus, and love impelling to choose that which is good, to pray for that which is promised, and to give the Lord no rest until you have made your calling and your election sure.
It is in a word, to be as the Holy Spirit states, "a New Creature." "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old has gone, the new has come!" Such are the true "circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh."
Perhaps you are now ready to ask: "Am I born again?" I answer, not if you can live in sin! Not if the card table, the theater, or the ball-room suits your taste and yields you gratification. Not if the alehouse, profane language, and loose company are congenial to your mind. Not if you can indulge in pride, lying, or covetousness; for these are not the fruits of the Spirit — but the fruits of inward depravity. Not if you remain the same blind, careless, secure creature as you have been from your youth!
In a word, if you find no love to the Lord's people, no relish for his Word, no delight in his ways, no spirit of prayer, no dislike to the world, no inward crying for pardon, peace and salvation — you are not born again. You are still in the flesh, you cannot please God, for your very prayers are an abomination to the Lord. You are dead in trespasses and sins, walking according to the course of this world — according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that always works in the children of disobedience.
And what will be the end if you live and die in this state? Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, a certain fearful looking for of judgment awaits you, which will devour you as God's adversary! Remember, Oh! remember, my fellow-sinner, there is no salvation without a new birth; and no new birth without crying to God, mourning for sin, and a change of life. Without this, all, all is vain — you will die in your sins; and where Jesus, saints, and happiness are — you can never come. No well-spent life, no death-bed repentance, no crying, 'God be merciful' at last — can be substituted for this, "You MUST be born again."
And that you may not be deceived by taking external reformation for internal regeneration, the Lord has condescended in his word to compare it to a Resurrection. Man is spiritually dead, and consequently inactive, blind, and indifferent respecting his eternal concerns; but when Jesus calls, "then the dead hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear, live." John 5:25. "His sheep hear his voice — and follow him." John 10:27.
It is further set forth as a Creation. "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh." Ezekiel 36:26.
The sinner receives a new nature, which is holy, powerful, and immortal; and this leads him "to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God." Micah 6:8.
It is represented as "putting the law in the mind, and writing it in his heart;" and then the man appears to be "the epistle of Christ, written not with ink — but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone — but in fleshy tables of the heart." 2 Corinthians 3:3.
It is called a washing, "according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit; which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Savior." Titus 3:5, 6.
It is a deliverance from the power of darkness, and a translation into the kingdom of God's dear Son! Colossians 1:13.
The person opens his eyes upon new objects, and is taken up with new subjects, he finds his bosom the seat of new feelings, his heart is exercised with new fears, new hopes, new desires, and new discoveries. He now seeks a new way, looks to the new covenant, and finds new prospects opening before him! He is a new man — self, duties, and a form of godliness will no longer satisfy him; he must know that he has redemption in Jesus, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of divine grace. Ephesians 1:7.
My dear reader, no man can pass through all this, without some knowledge of it. The scriptures speak of God's people as knowing "that they have passed from death to life." And I am certain that a sinner that is truly born again, never can be satisfied until he does know this.
Now have you been raised from a death in sin, to a life of righteousness? Have you been translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son? Have you a new heart? Are you washed, justified, and sanctified, according to 1 Corinthians 6:11? How infinitely important are such questions — may the Lord enable you honestly to answer them.
A title to Heaven is founded upon God's free grace, and is bestowed upon sinners through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; but a fitness for Heaven stands in the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart, creating us anew in Christ Jesus, and forming us a people to show forth Jehovah's praise; and without this new creation — there can be no spiritual religion here, nor happiness beyond the grave. May the Lord the Holy Spirit give you a new heart, and create in you a right spirit for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.