« ZurückWeiter »
less," (Pbil. 3. 6.); that is, in the ceremonial law. Jews strongly attached to their religion, could not become Christians, till reliance on descents and on carnal ordinances should be entirely given up; till Christ should be considered as “ the end of the law for righteousness;" (Rom. x. 4.); till every ceremony should be seen as " a shadow of good things to come';" till the moral duties should be preferred to the positive. Those who could devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer; who could make clean the outside of the cup and the platter, and yet within be full of extortion and excess; those who could abandon their aged and infirm parents, because they had mentally devoted what might have relieved them, to the sacred treasury; all such were quite out of the way of becoming true Christians. No mild and gentle measure, no compromise, or temperament, could make them such; they must destroy the old inan, and begin their religious life quite anew. ! If when the Heathen became a few he was said to be recens natus, or new-born, with much more propriety . might the Jew be called so when he became a Christian, Dr. Doddridge indeed opposes the notion (as I remember, for I have not the book at hand), that the Proselyte was said to be recens natus so soon as our Saviour's time. He does not, I think, mention why he opposes it: probably, because the Hebrew writings in which the notion is now found, were written since the death of our Lord; but if this was his reason, it seems weakly founded ; it is very probable that the Talmud, and the writers upon it, recorded many things known traditionally at, least, long before the time of Christ : these things had continued to be communicated orally so long as they were in no danger of being lost, or corrupted; and were written, when the Jews came to be dispersed, and to mix with various nations. And from the nature of the thing we may conclude, that the farther back we take any instance of a Heathen's becoming a Jew, the more suitable would any strong expression be, to describe the change which be must undergo by giving up his old connections. When Lord George Gordon turned Jew, he could keep all his old connections, and live much as he had lived before ; whereas, by all accounts, if a Heathen became a Jew in ancient times, before the Christian æra, he must have made very important changes. By the way, it might
to shew how easily people fall into expressions similar to being new-born, if we were to observe conversations in common life, or in writings which imitate it, when a great change in any character is to be described ; and when the speakers, or writers, have no thought of Scripture, or of any religious doctrine, in their ininds. Thus in the celebrated novel of Clarissa, the radical change wanted in the principles of Lovelace is expressed by saying, that he should be baptized afresh, and have new sponsors. (Vol. 4. octavo, 4th. edit. 1751. p. 42.) “We will endeavour,” says Charlotte Montague to Lovelace, "to inspire her with it, (Clarissa with courage, confidence) and be sponsors for you ;-for, cousin, I believe you have need to be christened over again before you are entitled to so great a blessing.".
3. It would illustrate and greatly confirm our conception, that when Jesus told Nicodemus he must be born again, he alluded to the Rabbi's self-sufficiency on account of his descent from the Patriarchs, and his having been born of some one of the twelve tribes, if it should appear, on examination, that when the conversion of a Heathen to Christianity is spoken of, no allusion is made to birth, but some other comparison is adopted. No one will say here, that the change which a Heathen must undergo, on becoming Christian, was trifling, or inconsiderable, at the time when the Scriptures of the New Testament were composed. Even the virtuous heathen was no longer to rely upon his virtue as in strictness of justice, and of itself entitling him to Christian salvation. The pride of Stoicism must be humbled, the licentiousness of Epicure-, ism reformed; Deities venerated from childhood must be despised and abhorred; religious rites, captivating and alluring, must be considered as abominations. And if
must be so great in the virtuous and religious, how great must it be in the vicious! whether we suppose them to run into vicious actions wholly forbidden, or into such as were in some measure allowed.
a good purpose to read here some seriptural expressions describing the change which a Heathen must undergo in order to become a true Christian. Rom. i. 18, &c. is a striking passage. Bishop Porteus, in his Summary, p. 8. quotes it thus : “ They were filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, uncleanness, maliciousness; full of
envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things ; disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affections, implacable, unmerciful.” We may read, next, parts of the Epistle to the Ephesians :
“ And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked, according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind : and were by nature the children of wrath even as others.” (Eph. ii. 1-3.)
The Gentiles are repeatedly said by St. Paul to have been before conversion, dead, in sin and wickedness. Which Mr. Locke observes, is not a mode of expression respecting the Jews. In the fourth chapter, verses 2224. St. Paul addresses the Ephesians, as Gentiles; thus: “ That ye put off concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind ; and that ye put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness.” St. Peter says (1 Pet. iv. 3.) “ For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries." If the
seeins strange to any one, I would refer him to Mr. Locke's note on that pronoun. Ephes. i. 3.
The virtues opposed by Christianity to the customary vices of the Gentiles, cannot but be well known to every reader of the New Testament, or of sermons upon it; but if any thoughtful man wishes to have more information on the vices which must be forsaken, and the virtues which must be practised when a Heathen, or Gentile, in the time of the Apostles, embraced Christianity, let him read Dr. Paley's Comparison of the Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, in his Horæ Pauline, Chap. vi. No. 1.-At the name of Paley I feel a strong impulse to indulge myself in some commendation of that excellent man, now departed this life; but it would earry me too far from my subject; and to praise superior minds, re
quires a superior understanding and taste, as well as an intimate personal knowledge; I will only say, if men are to be happy to all eternity, in proportion to the good they have done to mankind, what satisfaction must bis friends have in contemplating his situation in the life after death! Blessed prospect! But I return to the business which I have undertaken: I had only to boast of acquaintance with that admirable man, not of friendship.
As I have endeavoured to shew, that the word flesh is sometimes used to denote the Jewish religion, in opposition to the spiritual nature of Christianity, it may be proper to observe, that when Heathanism is compared with Christianity, the word flesh cannot possibly be used in the saine sense : it takes therefore, in that case, what may be called its moral meaning: it denotes a mind habitually sensual; prizing the lower indulgences of human nature, such as we have in common with brutes, above the higher, which are peculiar to man, and are consistent with purity of heart and conduct.-And spirit is also opposed to fesh, in this moral sense. It is curious to see how St. Paul, in the fifth chapter of his Epistle to the Galatians, slides from one of these senses to the other; from the Jewish meaning of flesh and spirit, to the moral or Christian meaning. Nor is the transition to be called harsh, especially when compared to some of St. Paul's: for spirit, when opposed to the carnal ordinances of the Jews, signifies something moral, internal, virtuous; and when opposed to the sensual and carnal minds of the Heathens, it signifies purity, mildness, forgiveness, &c. But we will take a few expressions from the chapter now mentioned, (Galatians v.) St. Paul, after having, as already shewn, compared the two covenants, the Jewish and Christian, to the two sons of Abraham, and called one covenant the Flesh and the other the Spirit, speaks of the Mosaic religion as a bondage, (Galatians v. 1.) and sets forth its unprofitableness ; but afterwards reverts to the old idea, and concludes the doctrinal part of his Epistle with these words: “ If ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the Law !" He then proceeds to the moral and concluding part of his Epistle; but continues the use of the words Flesh and Spirit, and tells us what are the works of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit, in a moral sense; in that sense in which the words were ever after to be used. Indeed the moral use of the word Spirit
Vol. X. Churchm. Mag. for Feb. 1806. Q
seems only a kind of explanation why it was used in opposition to the carnal religion of the Jews. Though I have here referred to Mr. Locke, yet I
may remark, that, according to my first proposal, I pursued, in forming a judgment, my own reflections on the Scriptures themselves, and on them alone. When I had formed my opinion and had examined what seemed to be illustrations of it, I had recourse, for confirination, to Mr. Locke and Dr. Lightfoot; and I remember that I thought Dr. Haumond on Romans viii. well worth reading: this research afforded me much comfort; but I think it best for every writer to say when an opinion is his own, and when it is adopted from others.
I have been describing, from holy writ, the great change which a Heathen must undergo, in order to become a Christian, on the first preaching of Christianity; but the question remains, was that change, in the case of at Heathen, ever called being born again? if not, our idea that Jesus used that expression to Nicodemus on account of the Jewish notions of birth, receives considerable support from the variation of phrase, comparison, metaphor : especially when we find other comparisons used to express the reformation of the Heathen converted to Christianity.
'The Ileathen was sometimes said to be created anew when he became a Christian : so great was the change he was to undergo. 2 Corinthians, v. 17. “ Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." See also Galatians vi. 15, in what, being the conclusion, may be called the moral part of the Epistle. Sometimes this change was compared to a revival; as Romans vi. S, &c. and 13; and Ephesians ii. 5, “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together, with Christ.”-In Romans vi. 16, 22, the same chapter, in which a different metaphor is used, the conversion is coinpared to a delivery froin slavery --Sometimes the change of moral habits is compared to men's putting on cleanly and decorous apparel, after bathing, or working amongst dirt.-In allusion 10 our Lord's crucifixion, converts are told they must crucify the old man with the affections and Justs, Galatians v. 24, which appears to me a beautiful, as well as an appropriate metaphor.-Romans xii. 2, (the moral part of the pistle), St. Paul says, “ be not con. formed to this world; but be ye TRANSFORMED by the