« AnteriorContinuar »
which it contains ; and shall only observe, that the Papists have, indeed, prosecuted missions with great zeal ; but that any one who will read the histories of them, will readily discern the end of their efforts to have been the extension of power, and the accumulation of wealth ; not the diffusion of religion.
(6.) The Papists, have very generally holden the doctrine of justification by works ; while the Reformers, almost to a man, hold that of justification by faith. The comparative morality of these two classes of men cannot here need any illustration.
NOT BY WORKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH WE HAVE DONE, BUT
ACCORDING TO HIS MERCY HE SAVED US, BY THE WASHING OF
TITUS III. 5.
In the six preceding Sermons, I have considered the manner, in which we become interested in the redemption of Christ; through free grace on the part of God, and on our part by evangelical faith. The manner in which we become possessed of this faith, is the next great subject of investigation in a System of Theology.
The text, after denying that we are saved by works of righteousness, and declaring that our salvation is according to the mercy of God, or through his free grace, asserts, that this salvation is accomplished by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.
There has been no small dispute among divines about the meaning of the third phrase in this passage ; ‘ the washing of regeneration.' Some have supposed it to denote baptism; and some to denote the same thing with the following phrase, • the renewing of the Holy Ghost.' Others have interpreted it in other manners. The second interpretation which I have
mentioned is, in my apprehension, the true one. If baptism be intended, the passage is equivalent to the declaration of our Saviour to Nicodemus, · Except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God. He is • born of water,' or baptised, indispensably, in order to his admission into the visible kingdom of God; and of the Spirit,' indispensably also, in order to his admission into the invisible and eternal Kingdom of God. As his admission into the former is a symbol of his admission into the latter, so baptism, the means of his admission into the former, is a symbol of regeneration, the means of his admission into the latter. The difference between the two interpretations which I have specified; will therefore be found ultimately to be immaterial; the one referring the phrase to the type, and the other to the thing typified. On either scheme it must be admitted, that the apostle declares mankind to be saved by regeneration. Regeneration is therefore that event in the gracious providence of God, by which we become the subjects of faith, entitled to justification, and consequently heirs of salvation.
In the consideration of this subject, two things are in the text presented to our inquiry :
I. The agent in this work.
The agent in the work of renewing the human mind, is declared in this passage to be the Holy Ghost. Two things are naturally presented to us by the mention of a person sustaining so important a part in the economy of salvation ; a part, without which all that has preceded would be wholly defective, and exist to no valuable purpose.
I. His character.
II. His agency.
The former of these shall now engage our attention; and my own views concerning it will be sufficiently expressed in this position >
THE HOLY GHOST IS A DIVINE PERSON.
It is well known to those who hear me, that various classes of men, who profess to receive the Bible as the rule of their faith, have denied this proposition; viz. those who deny the deity of our Saviour. The scheme of denial, however, has in this case been materially different from that in the other. In that, deity was the object denied ; in this, personality. On all hands it is agreed, that the Holy Ghost is acknowledged by Trinitarians to be a divine person; but by Unitarians only a divine attribute, asserted sometimes to be the wisdom, but usually the power of God. The chief subject of debate, therefore, between us and the Unitarians, that is, those with whom we have the chief concern, viz. the Arians and Socinians, is whether the Holy Ghost be a person, or an attribute. In support of the Trinitarian doctrine concerning this subject, I observe,
1. The supposition that the Spirit of God is an attribute, renders the language of the Scriptures unintelligible and unmeaning.
I have had occasion to take some notice of this fact formerly; it will be proper, however, to bring it up to view at this time. For example, then, it is said in Acts x. 38, God anointed Jesus with the Holy Ghost, and with power. This passage, read according to its real meaning as interpreted by the Unitarians, would stand thus : ‘God anointed Jesus with the holy power of God, and with power.' Rom. xv. 13, Now the God of peace fill you with all joy and peace, in believing ; that ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost :' that is, that ye may abound in hope through the power of the holy power of God! Verse 19, Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God;' that is, mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the power of God! 1 Cor. ü. 4, • In demonstration of the Spirit and of power :' that is, in demonstration of power, and of power!
I will not intrude upon your patience by repeating similar passages any farther, as these are abundantly sufficient for . my purpose. It cannot be necessary to bring proofs that the
infinitely wise God can never have directed his own word to be written in this manner. No sober man ever wrote in this manner. Nay, it may be confidently asserted, that such a mode of writing was never adopted by any man of any character whatever,
2. This scheme renders our Saviour's account of the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost unmeaning and incredible.
This account is given us in various places ; particularly Matthew xi. 31, · All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men ; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. Concerning this I observe,
(1.) That blasphemy cannot be directed against an attribute. Evil speaking, or speaking in a manner derogatory to character, can be directed only against a percipient being ; because such a being only is capable of perceiving, or being in any way affected by the evil intended. When mankind speak evil against the word, sabbaths, ordinances, works, names, or titles of God, the evil is nothing, except as it is directed against God himself; because he alone, and not the things immediately blasphemed, can perceive or be affected with the evil which is spoken. In this manner all men have understood the subject.
It cannot be therefore that the Unitarians, when they read this passage, suppose the blasphemy in question to be directed against the power of God. They undoubtedly consider it as directed against God himself, through the medium of this attribute. I observe, therefore,
(2.) It is inconceivable that blasphemy against God, universally and in all other forms should be forgiven, while the blasphemy against his power can never be forgiven.
In the attribute of power there is plainly nothing which is peculiarly sacred. It is shared alike by good and evil beings; and does not contribute at all to distinguish their character, as moral beings, or to render them either good or evil. It is in no sense the foundation, nor an ingredient, of worth or moral excellence. It is not, and cannot be, the object of love, nor praise. It is therefore incredible, and certainly inexplicable, that all manner of blasphemy' against the whole character of God, particularly against his moral character, should be forgiven ; and yet that blasphemy against this single natural attribute should never be forgiven. So far as the human understanding can discern, blasphemy against the holiness, faithfulness, truth, goodness, and mercy of God would be more expressive of malignant opposition, and of guilt in the blasphemer, than blasphemy merely against his power. St. John has declared, that God is love. That is, love is the essence,