"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom." John 31 3.
I suppose there ia not a man in Philadelphia but has had a great many persons wish him "A Happy New Year!" I suppose you have had hundreds or thousands wish you that, during the past fortyeight hours. It is one thing to wish a man "A Happy New Year," and another thing to tell him how to make it happy. I want to tell you to-night, if I can, how to make it a happy New Year. I have no doubt there are hundreds, if not thousands, in this audience who are making new plans for the future. Many are making new resolutions, ;imi many have pledged themselves, perhaps to their mothers or wives, that they will not _, drink any more strong drink. You hare entered into new covenants. You know it is a time when we look back over the past, and take a look into the future. A person must be very thoughtless who does not stop at these mile-stones, and consider where he is going, and how things are going on with him. Business men are now taking account of stock, to see what their profits and losses have been. It is well for everyone to stop at the commencement of a new year, and look over his past life; and see where he is, and what he is, and where he is going.
Some men say: "I am going to break off this habit of swearing; I am going to swear no more; I am going to reform." I have heard men talk in that way. I was for a number of years connected with the Young Men's Christian Association of Chicago, and that brought me into contact with a great many young men. I wrote out a great many pledges for them. I wrote out resolutions for men to sign, to bind them by putting their names to a piece of paper. I have known men to open their veins and write out resolutions in their own blood, and break them as quick as they made them. I found I was wasting my time, ink and paper in writing out those resolutions. All the pledges I got men to make away from Christ, did not amount to anything. There are hundreds now making that same mistake. You have tried it before; you have tried it hundreds of times. You have given your word that you would do this and do that, and you have thought that you would reform; but you have failed every time. You are trying to do what God could not do himself; that is, to mend this old erring nature.
Now, to-night I will tell you how to make this year a happy new year. And my text you will find in one word—"new."
It is a New Year, and I want to give you seven new things. The fint is a nets birth—a new heart, and until you get that all jour resolutions are good for nothing. We are no match for Satan. Man wants not to be reconstructed, but to be regenerated and born of the Spirit We must have a new birth. I have no hope of any reformation, or any change, until a man is born again. "Except a man be born again," says Christ, "he cannot see the kingdom of God." That is what we want to preach this first Sunday of the year,—anew birth.
Some people say it is "culture" men want. Well, that does not reform them. Some of the greatest rascals we have in this country are men of culture. Some say it is education, but some of the worst men we have are educated men. That is not regeneration. Education, culture, and science, may be good in their place; but they cannot take the place of a new birth. You cannot make flesh any better; but when the new nature comes, then you can keep the flesh down. Have you been born again? If you have not, let me make this statement again. When the kingdom of God is planted within you, you can serve God and not before. I was told before I was converted, that I was to keep the law, and that law that came from Sinai was a heavenly law. But what man wants is to be born of God. God is a Spirit, and they that worship God must worship him m spirit and in truth. No earthly change can take the place of this new birth. I would a great deal rather preach to thieves and vagabonds than to good moralists, because it is hard to convince them that they need a Savior. But these men that have already learned that lesson see the importance of getting out of themselves, and getting into Christ. Not but it is better to be a moral than an immoral man, and to be a temperate man than to be a drunkard; but if a man makes his morals his God, he has a false hope of heaven. God never mends anything; he creates anew. One of our citizens was telling me of some one in Philadelphia who built a house for himself, and he wanted to make it imitation stone. So he just built of brick and put on a coating of plaster. Every winter the frost scaled the plaster off, and every spring he had to get it replastered. At list he got tired, and he took the front of the house out and put in brown stone, and he has not had to touch it since. It is a new house. He does not need to be patching up the old one. But that is what many men and women do in Philadelphia every year. They say they are going to begin a new life; and they begin to patch up the old nature, and they get worse than they were before. Now, my friends, all these resolutions will not do anything for you. They do Dot change you. It is a new creation you want. It is a new man. If you are born again, your yoke will be easy and your burden light. Suppose our legislators should make a law that no one in this country could keep. Suppose they should make a law that every person in this country should speak French within twenty-four hours; and the penalty for not speaking it was death. I could not apeak French to save my life. If you condemned me to death if I did not speak French, I should have to die. It would be an impossibility, just as it is an impossibility for heavenly minded people to live with this earthly nature. There is no one can keep the law of God unless he is born of God. The law was given to show man his lost condition, and to show him the impossibility of keeping it. The law is given that every mouth might be stopped, and every man become guilty before God.
I heard a friend use this illustration, and it is to the point. A man has bought a farm, and he finds on that farm an old pump. He goea to the pump and begins to pump. A person comes to him and says: "Look here, my friend, I want to warn you, you must not drink that water in that well, it is poison. The man who lived here before used that water, and it poisoned him, and his wife, and children." "la that so," says the man. "Well, I will soon make that right. I will find a remedy." And he goes and gets some paint, and he paint* up the pump, putties up all the holes, and fills up the -cracks in it, and he has got a fine-looking pump. And he says, "Now I am sure it is all right." You would say: "What a fool; to go and paint the pump when the water is bad." But that is just like what a man is doing who is trying to save himself. It is not a new pump that is wanted; it ia new water. Make the fountain good and the stream will be good. It is new hearts that men want. You cannot keep these heavenly gifts with this earthly nature. Oh, that God may
five every man a new heart! When we seek for God with all our earts, we will find him.
"Ye must be born again." Here is a man who is a leper. He says, "I want to cover up my leprosy." And he covers it up •with his dress. But he is a leper all the same, as he was before. That is just what sinners are trying to do. They are trying to serve God and to serve the world, too. We are all born lepers, and it is God alone can cleanse us and reclaim us. If you are going to commence the new year right, make your heart right. If you put a uniform on a man it does not make him a tooldier. He must enlist first, and then he is a soldier. If you attempt to put on the livery of heaven without being in God's kingdom, you are only a hypocrite. You may join some church and go through all the forms; you may become a member of the Sabbath-school and have charge of a class; but if you are not converted you will be worse and worse, and not better and better. You must have a new birth. We start life at the Cross. When the children of Israel were brought out of Egypt, God said to them: "This month shall be unto you the beginning of months." The four hundred years they had been in Egypt, God roued away. Those years were not counted. When you are converted, that la the time you are born. There are some people in this assembly rery young. I see some boys fifteen years old, and see men here two or three weeks old. They have started for heaven; but they did not start until they were born of God.
This being born of God is a mystery. Christ said to Nicodemus: "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth. So is every one that is born of the Spirit." I cannot tell you about the wind. It may be blowing due north here, and fifty miles away it may be blowing due south. I do not understand about the currents of this wind. Men that have gone up in balloons tell us they meet different currents of air, and you have sometimes seen the clouds, some sweeping as fast as they can north, and others going in a different direction. We cannot understand about the currents of wind, but we know that there is 'wind. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou heareth the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth. So is every one that is born of the Spirit." In other words, it is Christ revealing himself to the soul Christ coming into this heart is anew birth; and if I have Christ's life, I can challenge death. He may take this clay; but we have a building not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
A few years ago, as I was coming out of a prayer-meeting, I met * man who asked me if I would introduce him to the leader of the meeting. I introduced him, and he sat down and talked to the minister. The minister having to leave, he asked me to talk to him. I asked the man what the trouble was. He said, "I was going by a church, yesterday, and I heard music. I went in and heard some singing. After the choir had got through, the minister gave out his text I belong to the seed of Abraham, but I thought I would stay for a few minutes. The minister took for his text, 'It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.' I said, 'Perhaps that is true: my father and mv grandfather have died. But "after death cometh the judgment. I do not believe that.' I got my hat and started out, but the text kept coming home to me, ' It is appointed unto men once to die.' I tried to forget it. I went to bed m hopes to get asleep and forget about it. I lay upon my bed thinking about it. The thought kept coming to me all night: 'It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.' In the morning the newspaper was put under the door, and I thought I would read it, and forget the text, but the first thing I noticed in the paper was an account of the meeting." He was very much troubled m his mind, and he said he did not know what the matter was. I «aid. " You want Christ." He said, " Don't talk to me about Christ, Talk to me about the God of Abraham; I believe in him." I said, "That is the trouble. You would have no trouble or fear of death «nd judgment if you believed in Christ." I preached Christ to him. He resented it. I turned to Isaiah and read to him: "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed." I went on reading that chapter to him, but it did not seem to do him any good. Finally, after I had read a good deal, I •aid, "I will read to you the conversation Christ had when on earth, with a Jewish Rabbi," and I read: "There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews." I read on, and when I came to the 14th verse—" And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness even so must the Son of Man be lifted up," the Jew said, "Is that there in the New Testament?" I said, "Yes." "Well," said he, "I don't understand that. My father had a picture of Moses lifting up the serpent. Are you sure that is there?" I showed it to him and he looked over the words. I said, " Let us get down on our knees and pray." After I had prayed, I said to him, "You pray." He put his head on the floor, and cried out to the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and he said, "If there is anything true in this, reveal it to me." I asked him if there was any light. He said, "No." I prayed that the clear light of Calvary might break into his soul. He jumped up and said, "I see it! I see it!" I said, "Be calm. What did you see when you were praying?" He said: "I was on the floor and I thought I saw Moses lifting up a serpent on a pole, and all at once the serpent vanished, and in the place of the serpent was the cross, and on it Jesus of Nazareth. He was the Messiah." He had found the Savior. Oh, may God show you Christ to-night—Christ corning in the likeness of sinful flesh, and dying to bring us to himself. Oh, may God help you to see the Son of God as your only hope and Savior.
The next thing is a new creation. We read in II. Corinthians, 5: 17: "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away: behold, all things are become new." Infidels say: "We do not believe in sudden conversions, and in old things passing away, and all things becoming new." If five thousand men should tell me there was no reality in sudden conversions, I would not believe them. Twenty years ago last March, I was born anew—I was in a new world. The next morning I thought the sun shone brighter, and the birds sang sweeter than they ever did before. I thought all nature was praising God. Old things had passed away, and all things had become new. I was in a new world. I once asked a Scotch girl who had been converted if her heart was changed. She said she did not know her heart was changed, but either she was changed or the world was, for things were altogether different from what they once were. That is what we want to Know: that old things have passed away, and all things have become new. A drunkard, when he becomes converted, will hate the wine cup; and a man who has been a blasphemer will begin to praise God. We must put off the x>ld man, with his deeds, and put on the new
If conversion does not mean that, it does not mean anything. We cannot live as we have been living. We must be different. We want this new creation. Old things have passed away: all things have become new. Can you say that? If you cannot, your resolutions are good for nothing; they are worthless. If you have been born into the heavenly kingdom, all the things you once loved you will now care nothing for; and the things you once hated you will love. If I hated any place before I was converted, it was the church. If there was one sound I hated more than another, it was that of the church bell; but the next day after I was converted, it wag the sweetest sound to me 1 ever heard. It was the new creation—old things had passed away.
The next point I would call your attention to is, we must have a new nature. I was a Christian ten years before I understood it. At that time I read a book written by an Englishman, which did me a world of good; and it would have been invaluable to me if I had read it when I was first converted. It taught me that when * man is converted, his conversion does not change his old nature: that which is born of the flesh is flesh, down to the end of time, and instead of God mending that and making it better, he brings in a new creation. He does not put a new piece in an old garment; it is a new coat. It is a new creation. So, when a man is converted, there comes a conflict between the two natures. A judge had a slave who knew the Lord. The judge said to him: -"Sambo, how is it you are all the time talking about your conflicts? I never had any to fight." The colored man didn't know how to answer. One day the judge, who was a sportsman, went out upon the lake and fired at a flock of ducks, killing one and wounding another. They nude a good deal of effort, and at last succeeded in getting the wounded duck, and then they picked up the dead one. Sambo had now his illustration. He said to the judge, "You are dead, and Satan has got you anyway; but I am trying to get away from him. and he is after me."
I have been fighting against the old nature for twenty years, and I have to watch continually. If I lean upon myself I am lifted up, wid then down I go; but as long as I look to Jesus, he gives me the victory. I do not care what a slave you are to some terrible sin, the Son of God will give you the victory, if you will only come to him. You might as well tell a man to leap to the moon, as to tell him to •erve God with the old nature. If we are made partakers of the heavenly nature, it will last as long as God lasts, for it comes from God. In other words, it is the love of God planted in us. It is the incorruptible seed that cannot perish. Have you got it? Have you got the new nature? Are you a partaker of God's nature? If you ire, then .t '.s not hard to pray. I have heard men say, "It is so hard to pray." They have not the new nature. When they have £he new nature, they cannot help communing with God. This new nature comes down from heaven. It is the life of Christ in the man. Paul says, "I can do all things through Christ." If I have Christ formed in me, then I can overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. But there is no hope unless I become partaker of that new nature. Suppose you had stood by the side of Paul when he got to Damascus. You might have said, "Why, Paul, what has got over you? You are not the man you were when you left Jerusalem. Why, Paul, what do you mean? Do you now preach Christ? It i» only a few days ago you were persecuting the Christians. Paul, what has come over you? You were the man who helped to stone Stephen. What does it mean?" It means that Paul has now that heavenly nature. He has been born again. He lives for Christ now. I hope the Lord will give this new nature to some here to-night, and make them trophies of his grace. Then the things that you now love you will hate. You will be a new man in Christ Jesus. You will be a citizen of another world. Some one asked a Scotchman if he was on his way to heaven. "Why, man," he said, "I live there." He was only'a pilgrim here. He had the new life. God is the author of life; and if you have the new life, it must be the work of God in the soul.
The next point I would call your attention to is a new heart. Make up your mind not to leave this building until you have it. Some think they have not been converted, because they have the old nature. God will give you grace to crucify the old man.
Then we must have a new name. We are no longer the children of earth, but we are children of God. In the C2d chapter of Isaiah, it is said: "Thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name." We read that they were first called Christians at Antioch. We are now the Sons of God. Think of that. "Beloved, now are we the Sons of God." The world does not know it. We are born of God, and our life is where Satan cannot get at it. By and by Christ shall put us on the throne, and the world shall see it. Then we shall be like him; then shall we see the King in his beauty. As God looks down from his throne into this building, he says, "That little boy is my son."
There was a boy down in Boston a few years ago, who was only four years old, but he was worth millions. He was heir to a great estate; but it did not appear so to him. He did not know what he was worth. So it may not appear that we are heirs to a throne. If we are heirs to a throne, should we not be training for it? You would think it would be a great honor if one of your children should be taken into the castle of Queen Victoria, and trained for the throne of England. That would be a wonderful thing. I bring you wonderful news; God wants to take us into his family, and train us for a kingdom that shall endure forever. When God adopts us into hi* family, we will take his name. We are Christians, followers of Christ, «ons of a new Father. Do you want a new name to begin the year with? Why not take it to-night? You can be a Christian to-night, and be adopted into God's family if you will.
The next thing is a new way. We read in the 10th chapter of Hebrews and 20th verse, that there is "a new and living way." If you have not accepted of that way, if you are not now children of God, yon are on the road to death. The Lord Jesus has got to bring us into the new way, where we will find peace and joy—the way that leadeth to the Throne, where he reigns forever. Do you want to be brought into the new way? I never knew a man that regretted having taken the narrow way that leadeth unto life. The new way is better than the old way. Satan is the leader of every man that is in the old way. I was told some time ago of a king who, wanting to have some way of putting criminals to death as fast as possible, had four steps made in a dark passage leading to the edge of a pit. As the criminals stepped from the fourth step, down they went. So it is with those who walk in the broad way; by and by they will take the fourth step, and then they are lost for ever. Oh, may God wake you up to see your danger! I will ask every one here that has been on both ways if he cannot bear testimony that the new way is the best. [Cries of "Yes! Yes!"] No one but the devil will tell you the broad way is the best.
Then a man having got a new way wants a new tongue. The Lord wys in Mark xvi. 17, "They shall speak with new tongues." When a person is converted he has a new heart, and he must have a new tongue to go with it. Peter was denying his Lord; a few days after he was preaching with the eloquence of heaven. The Lord gave him a new tongue, and three thousand persons were converted under one sermon. Oh, may God give us new tongues, to-night, that we may praise him. I heard a young man cursing his mother because •he would not give him money to gamble with, and in twenty-four hours God used that to convict him, and he asked his mother s forgiveness. Within twenty-four hours he got a new tongue. That was sudden conversion. How easy it is for us to praise God when we have new tongues. Then there is no cursing; lying, blaspheming and cursing are gone.
Then God gives us a new song. The first song that is recorded in' Scripture, and the first time the word is used in Scripture, was after the children of Israel has been redeemed from the king of Egypt. It was the song of redemption. No one can sing the song of Zion from the heart except he is born of God. I have no patience with the opera singers in the churches. I believe such singing is an abomination to God. I believe that God detests it. If we have the heart to sing, we will have no trouble about singing. If you do not praise God from the heart, you may deceive the congregation; but you cannot deceive God. David says: "He brought me out of the horrible pit, he put a new song into my mouth." When I was converted 1 could sing in my heart as well as Mr. Sankey; but I couldn't get it out of my lips. He put a new song in my heart. A converted man will never want to sing those low comic songs. You will not want to sing of earth; you will want to sing of heaven. Did you ever hear of a skeptic when dying wanting to have an earthly song suog to him? But Christians when dying have often asked to have friendS come in and sing—
"Jesna, lover of my tool.
Let me to thy bosom fly."
In one of our hospitals, a lady who was dying asked me to sing to her. I quoted the words, and I tried to sing them, but I broke down. At last the dying woman tried to sing the hymn herself, but before she got through the words died away on her lips, and she went up to heaven. God will give you a new song to-night; he will give you a new tongue; he will give you a new name; he will give you a new nature; a new heart, a new creation and a new birth. You can have all these new things, if you will commence the newyear by giving your heart to God. I hope there are many here who will be drawn into his kingdom. Will you not have him to-night? I would like to talk about the "new food Christians are to feed upon, and the "new friends" they are to have, but I have not time to dwell upon the subject to-night.
I see a good many boys here, and I hope I have been plain in speaking, so that I have been understood. I want to say to the boys, You can take this new nature, and God can use you to bring your friends to Christ. A little boy came into the inquiry-room this afternoon, and he came up to me and said: "Cannot you give me something to do; I want to lead some one to Christ." It was grand to see that spirit. The Scripture says: "The calf and the young lion and the fading together, and a little child shall lead them." I remember some time ago of a little boy that became a Christian. His father, like a great many men in this city, was a profane, drinking man, and he would not allow a minister to come into his house. Some one got hold of the little boy and led him around to the Sabbath-school, and he there found the Savior. He had got a new heart. His father found him praying on his knees, and he got very angry. He took him off his knees, and asked him what he was doing. The boy said he was praying that Jesus would make him a good boy. His father said: "You have heard me say I would not have anyone living under my roof that prayed. I do not want you to pray any more, If I catch you praying I will flog you." When Christ gets into the heart, no flogging will keep us from him. The boy prayed in secret. He was obedient, kind and affectionate, and he tried to honor Christ. His father did all he could to keep the boy at home,. tnd to keep him from praying; but one day he again found him on his knees, praying. His father was very angry. He flogged the boy, and said to him in a great rage and with an oath, that if he caught him praying again he would make him leare the house. The lad kept on praying in secret that God would convert his father; and it was not long before his father again found him praying. He ordered him to leave the house, and take his things with him. He did not have many things to take away. Drunkards' children do not have many things. He took his little bundle and started. He went down to the kitchen where his mother waa, and walked up to her and said, "Good-bye, mother." The mother said, "My boy, where are you going?' He said, "I don't know." The mother said, "What do you mean then by bidding me good-bye?" "Father say» I cannot stay at home any longer, because I have been praying." His mother knew it would do no good to remonstrate, so she took her boy to her bosom and kissed him. She did not know when she would ever see him again. He went to his little brother and kissed him, and bid him good-bye, and then he went to his little sister and kissed her; and then he left the house. He bid his father good-bye, and told him that as long as he lived he would pray for him, and »way he went, not knowing where he was going. The boy had not gone a great way before the father's heart was touched. The Holy Spirit had touched the father's heart. He ran down the street and oyertook the boy and said, "If religion will do this for you, I want ri" That little boy had the privilege of leading his father to Christ. May you know what it is in the beginning of this new year to have Christ in your heart. Then you wUl commence the new year singing the new song.