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manuel should be convinced they have been led out of the way, or any should endeavor to convince them of it, let it be said at once that nothing of this kind must be acknowledged, lest it should give occasion to opposers 10 triumph and behave insolently. If such a notion can be made to prevail, it will help us to perpetuate what is wrong, and contribute greatly in the end to the success of our schemes. Let none be suffered now to follow the example of Whitefield and others, and make retractions. But if any have committed sin, let them stand fast in it, and justify it, and be persuaded that it is duty so to do. (-) So shall we cast down many wounded, and gain at least one more triumph, before our great enemy. the Prince appears to put an end to our reign.
When Beelzebub had thus said, he dismissed the assembly, and they retired. Upon this, “ I awoke, and behold, it was a dream;" but I am strongly inclined to believe, that “the thing is certain, and the
erpretation thereof sure."
FOR THE HOPKINSIAN MAGAZIXE.
REVIEW. ARTICLE VI.--.1 Dissertation on the Means of Regeneration : by
the Rev. Gardiner Spring, D. D. Pastor of the Brick Presbyterian Church in the City of New York. John P. Haven, 142, Nassau, New-York, 1827. pp. 50.
This last and most valuable pamphlet with whicá the Doctor has favored the public, merits more than a hasty perusal, and a passing notice in periodicals. It is one of those original, weighty, and finished productions, which deserve a place in every man's library, and a frequent perusal. It evinces the author's thorough acquaintance with his subject, with the different views that formerly existed, and still exist, respecting it, even among divines of the same denomination, and a commendable firmooss and zeal for the primary tru ths o the gospel. The subject of the dissertation is one of the fundamen-f tal points of the system of divine truth, without a correct view of which, no person can have a clear, consistent and defensible view of the gospel. And yet it seems to have been among the last, that was correctly apprehended by the acute divines of the last century.-There was perhaps not a single divine in America, who had clear and correct views of this subject, before Sandárnin compelled some to take defensible ground against bis subverting errors. The subject of means then received a thorough discussion, and since that time has been comparatively at rest among those who have professed, to be strict Calvinists. But in a different and more deceitful dress the errors of Sandamin and Pelagius seem of late to be gaining
Ground among the nominally orthodox. Though few if any of this class of persons advocate the old notion of a self-determining power of the will, yet an equally absurd, unscriptural and dangerous error, which may be styled “the efficiency of the means of regeneration to change the heart, without the direct and efficient agency of the Holy Spirit; or“ the omnipotence of moral power;" is held and inculcated by many who have not yet seen fit to put their seotiments in a tangi. ble forin. A few persons however of late, have had the vain courage to do it, and I trust they will be met in the field of discussion with the promptness and zeal which the subject demands. To refute this and other dangerous errors, to develope and defend the truth respecting the means of regeneration, and to set the subject in its true light and native importance, appear to be the leading objects of our author's dissertation.
He first establishes the point that there are means of regeneration, of God's own appointment, which are used by and with all who savingly believe. This was a necessary precaution, because some gross Antinomians deny that there are any means of Regeneration. In enumerating them, the Dr. mentions “the Holy Scriptures, the Christian Ministry, the Sabbath, the worship of God in the Sanctuary, the jeligious services in the family, social, private, and secret prayer, and the religious education of children.” To this simple and scriptural enumeration, many others of importance might be added, without including those extraordinary, unscriptural, and disastrous means, which at the present day, in many places, are supplanting in a great measure the faithful and discriminating“ preaching of the word.”Means which conceal the true character, decrees, and ultinate design of God; which do not aim a death-blow at the native pride, and supreme selfishness of the heart, but flatter, blind, and destroy the soul.
After hinting at the momentous importance of the use of the means of divine appointment, our author proceeds to inquire how ubregenerate men use these means. And in a scriptural and very conclusive manner, he shows, in opposition to the sentiments of Arminians, that all unregenerate persons, only grow worse and worse while using the means of regeneration.
In showing why an insincere and sinful use of the means of reged. eration is ever connected with regeneration, the Dr. observes, “ It is not because such a use of means is acceptable to God, nor because such a use of means is interested in any of the divine promises, nor - because 'unregenerate men in using them make any approximation towards holiness, nor because such a use of them always terminates in regeneration. Means have a widely different effect upon persons. Some they save, and others they destroy. The child that was born in Bethlehem, was set for the fall as well as the rising again of many. There is a sovereignty attending the operations of the di
vine Spirit, which is inscrutable to men. “ Nor is it because they change the heart.” Under this head, the Dr. with scriptural and unanswerable arguments, refutes the fundamental and gross error of the ancient Pelagians and Arminians, and of many modern professed Calvinists, who hold that means, or “moral suasion," is the efficient cause of regeneration. This demonstration is peculiarly important and timely.
After premising thus negatively, the Dr. proceeds to afirm directly, that " using the means of regeneration enlightens the understanding, impresses the conscience, illustrates the obduracy of the huinan heart, exhibits the powerlessness of means, and the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit.” But it is time I gave some portion of the illustrations.
“God first places men under the sound of the gospel, leads them to attend to the means of instruction, convinces them of sin, and then, if he means to save them, exerts his power to change their hearts. Now it is easy to see that by the interposition of these means, a forcible exhibition is made of their own powerlessness, and the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit. Without the adoption of means, it would never appear in fact, that means are incompetent to the work, or that the immediate power of God is at all necessary. Unless the experiment had been tried, there would have been no evidence, apart from the divine testimony, that the regeneration of men is an enterprise not to be accomplished without the arm of Omnipotence.. But when the most hopeful expedients have actually been tried, and tried in vain, there is a practical demonstration, I do not say of their fruitlessness, but of their inefficacy. When the strongest obligations and most winning persuasions to holiness have exhausted all their energy, without producing one holy emotion ; wren the sup, reme God has exhausted all the force of his commands and men have trampled on his authority ; when he has exhausted all the weight of bis denunciations, and they have despised his justice ; when he has exhausted all the overtures of his mercy, and they have contemned his favor ; when he has well nigh exhausted his patience and long suffering in opening their eyes to see their danger, and awakening their consciences to feel their guilt, and all this diversified discipline only proves that the obduracy of men holds on its way with all the means to subdue it, and the obstacles to their conversion rise higher by every effort to surmount them; then, and not till then, are the declarations of the Bible confirmed by sound experience, and it is known and confessed that the power of God himself must be" brougtt to bear upon a mass of resistance," the strength of which was little thought of, until every other method proved abortive. It is at the bour when every other refuge fails ; when every thing is hung round with darkness and despondency; when the sinner himself feels that he is sinking into perdition; and when men and angels might inquire, what resistless power can break this heart of adamant? what mighty grasp can lift this rebel from the deep abyss ? that the interposition of the Holy Spirit is visible almost to the eye of sense, and glorious beyond thought. Nor is this a consideration of trivial momentWhen I consider that God made all things for himself; when I leana from the scriptures that the manifestation of his own intrinsic excellence is the ultimate end of all that he does; when I hear him saying with peculiar emphasis, again and again repeated, that the dispensa tions of his providence and grace are so directed that “men may know that he is the Lord;" when I see for myself how much he has done to bring out his glorious nature from the retirements of eternity; to the view of principalities and powers in heavenly places, and men on the earth; when I witness the wonderful exhibitions of his power and his glory in the effusions of his Spirit, and recollect that these brightest exhibitions of mercy would be dim and indistinct but for the
developeinent they make of Deity; and when I think of the on· told importance to himself and the universe of the most distinct an
nunciation of his awful name, the most impressive exhibition of his stupendous, his amazing glory ; I am compelled to feel that the means of regeneration are not without utility, and answer a most desirable and inportant end, if they are only significant indices of the exceeding greatness of God's power in accomplishing a work, to which all other efforts have proved inadequate."
In the conclusion of his dissertation the Dr. has a number of ini. portant inferences and remarks which grow out of his subject, and which have a powerful bearing against the Antinomian and Arminjan errors which, it is deeply to be regretted, have found their way ipfo most of the nominally orthodox churches of this country. My limits will adnit of but a few morc extracts. On the subject of the divine appointment of means, the Dr. remarks with great truth and weight:
“If there are means of regeneration appointed by God, then it is inportant to make use of those which God has appointed, and no other. Error has no part with the means of regeneration. We may not expect to derive any advantage from the use of means which God has not ap. pointed. If nieans have a passive suitableness ; if they are adapted in their nature to enlighten the understanding and impress the conscience; then they must be the very means that God has appointed. Our solicitude, therefore, as ministers of the gospel, should be, that we do not mistake error for truth. There is awful responsibility in this matter; and I have only to say, that he is the happy minister who las a conscience void of offence toward God and toward man. “The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream ; but he that hath my word, let him preach my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat, saith the Lord p» Be it our concern, that the means of
God's appointment do not lose their urgency in the liands of weak, frail and sinful man. If instead of the truths of the gospel, we modify aod adulterate those truths; if instead of the holiness of the gospel, we urge the maxims of a heartless morality or selfish philosophy; if instead of the solemn and authoritative obligations of the gospel, we substitute considerations of inferior importanco; these are not the means of God's appointment, and therefore we máy not expect the divine blessing to attend them. If this mighty instrumentalily is committed to men, shall they not feel the cônstraints of obligation that are unutterably tender and inviolably strong, to be faithful in their work? And in their nearest views of eternity, what peculiar comfort and satisfaction will they have, that they have not handled the word of God deceitfully, but by a manifestation of the truth, comrended themselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. Then if they have planted the seed of the kingdom and watered it, they can leave the increase with him who does not call his ministers to plant and water in vain.' "For as the rain cometh down and the snow froin heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give secd to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall his word be that goeth forth out of his mouth ; it shall not return unto him void, but it shall accomplish thát which he please, and prosper in the the thing whereto ho sent it.”
After attending to the inquiry“ whether it is best for unregenerated men to use the means of regeneration or neglect them, or whether those who use the means are more likely to be saved than those who neglect them,” the Dr. devotes his last eight pages to the discussion of the subject of correct and incorrect directions to inquiring sinners. This portion of the dissertation is very clear and convincing, and contains an able refutation of the errors of Arminians and some professed Calvinists on this subject. I trust the pamphlet will soon be abridged er.d published in the form of a tract, that its circulation may be greatly extended. One more extract from it shall close this cursory review.
“ The question is, Shall they be told to do any thing which implies the neglect or postponement of immediate reconciliation to God, or shall they be cut off from every refuge, and urged without delay to repent and believe the gospel? To this we reply, The only proper direction to' be given them is, REPENT AND BELIEVE THE GOSPEL. Nothing should relax the force of this pressing obligation. No matter what they perform beside, until this is done not a step'is taken in the business of their salvation. Until this is done, they are only contending with God, justifying all their former sins, and grieving his Holy Spirit. Until this is done, they are only resisting the most powerful motives to holy obedience, trampling on the divine authority, abusing the divine goodness, and rejecting the great salvation No direction