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THE MEANS OF GRACE.
ORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.
PROOFS THAT THERE ARE SUCH MEANS.
1 Corinthians iv. 15.
For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, ye have not
many fathers : for in Christ Jesus have I begotten you through the Gospel.
THE preceding sermon finished the observations, which I originally proposed to make concerning the Law of God; the Inability of Man to obey it; and the Means of his Restoration to Obedience, and to the consequent Favour of God. The next subject in the order of these Discourses, is The means, in the application of which, men usually obtain faith and repentance, and thus become entitled to eternal life. Before I begin the discussion of this subject, I request my Audience to call to mind the import of the last discourse, together with others, which have been delivered concerning the same subjects. I wish it to be remembered, that, in my view, Evangelical Faith and Repentance are indispensable to the existence of any moral good in the soul of man, and are in all instances the beginning of that good. Particularly, they are the commencement of obedience to the Law of God; the foundation of real and enduring happiness to such as are, or have been, sinners; and are. obviously, the immediate duty of all men. He therefore, who does not teach these doctrines, omits, in my apprehension, the soul and substance of the Gospel. With these things premised, I observe, that in this passage of Scripture, St. Paul declares himself to have begotten the Corinthian Christians in Christ, and thus to have been a cause of their being regenerated, or born again. That the new birth is the birth, here referred to, will not be disputed. Nor can it be questioned, that St. Paul was, in some manner and degree, or other, concerned in effectuating it, without a peremptory denial of his veracity, and inspiration. It is further declared by him, that he had begotten them through the Gospel. It is therefore certain, that the Gospel, also, was, in some or other manner, or degree, concerned in effectuating the new birth of the Corinthian Christians. If the Apostle, as a Minister of the Gospel, was concerned in effectuating the new birth of the Corinthian Christians; it will follow by unobjectionable analogy, that other Ministers are also, in the like manner, or degree, concerned in effectuating the Regeneration of such, as become Christians under their Ministry. Further, if the Gospel was thus concerned in the Regeneration of the Corinthian Christians, then it is, also, equally concerned in that of Christians in general. But if Ministers of the Gospel be in any manner, or degree, concerned in producing this change in the moral character of men, they are just so far means of producing it. Of consequence, also, they are, according to that course of Divine providence, in which they are thus instrumental, necessary to this change, just so far, as they are means of producing it. It is not here intended, that God could not, if he pleased, produce this change in the human character, without these, or any other means. Nor is it intended, that in some cases he does not actually thus produce it. It is unquestionably in the power of God to effectuate this change, with infinite ease, in any manner, which he shall think proper. Nor have we any proof, that he has not, in many instances, renewed men, without connecting the renovation with any means whatever. But it is here intend
ed, that this is not the usual course of his Spiritual providence; and that, in that course, means are really employed to bring men into the heavenly kingdom. It is further intended, that these means are so far necessary, as that without them, this important end would not, in the ordinary course of providence, be accomplished. If God has thought proper to conduct his Spiritual providence in such a manner, as to constitute it a regular and orderly course of events; then our own views of it are to be formed so, as to accord with this constitution, and to admit it as a part of the Evangelical System. Our conduct, also, is to be referred, and conformed, to this constitution. With it we are to expect other things to accord. Particularly, we are to expect salvation for ourselves, and others, according to this plan; and not according to a different one. Just views of this subject will, therefore, be easily seen to claim no small importance in the estimation of those, who wish to be saved. In the particular investigation of this subject, I propose, I. To show, that there are Means of Grace; II. To show What they are ; III. To explain their Influence; and, IV. To answer the principal Objections to this scheme of doctrine. I. I shall attempt to show, that there are Means of Grace. This position I shall endeavour to establish in the following Inanner. 1. I allege as evidence of its truth the direct declarations of Scripture. The Text is an explicit and forcible declaration of this nature. In this passage the Apostle asserts in the most unequivocal manner, that he was a cause, and the Gospel another, of regeneration to the Corinthian Christians: not a cause in the efficient sense, but the instrumental. In other words, he declares that himself, and the Gospel, were Means of their regeneration. It cannot be said here, that the Apostle and the Gospel were, to these Christians, means of edification; or of their advancement in holiness, after they were regenerated. This subject is not even hinted at in the passage. The birth is not any part of the
growth, subsequent to itself. To beget, is not to nourish, or cause to grow. It is to contribute to the original existence of the thing begotten, and not to its subsequent improvement. The Apostle and the Gospel, then, contributed to the regeneration of these Christians, and were Means of bringing it to pass. r In Philemon 10, St. Paul declares the same truth in the same language. I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds. In the Epistle of St. James chapter i. 18, that Apostle says, Of his own will begat he us with the Word of Truth, that we (the first converted Jews,) should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures. On this passage, I shall make two remarks. The first is, that St. James uses the same language to denote the regeneration of the Jewish Christians, which St. Paul uses to denote that of the Corinthian Christians. If, then, the terms in St. James denote regeneration; which will not be denied; they denote the same thing in the Text. But the passage in St. James is unquestionable proof, that God regenerated the persons, spoken of in this passage. Equally undeniable proof is furnished by the Text, that St. Paul was either the Agent, or the Means, of regeneration to the Christians in Corinth. But God is the only Agent, or Efficient Cause, of regeneration. If we deny the fact, that St. Paul was the Means of regeneration to these persons, as asserted in the Text, we must, according to the same principles, deny the fact, that God was the Efficient Cause of regeneration, as asserted by St. James. The same rules of construction will oblige us to admit both these propositions, or to reject them both. The lan. guage is the same; and that it ought to be interpreted by the same rules of construction, cannot be doubted. The second remark is this. St. James declares, that God had regenerated him, and his Fellow-christians, by the Word of Truth: that is, by the Gospel. The Gospel was, therefore, certainly, Means of accomplishing this event. St. Peter, in his first Epistle, chapter i. 10; speaking of himself and those to whom he wrote, says, Being born again, or regenerated, not of corruptible seed, but by the Word of God, who
diveth and abideth for ever. In this passage St. Peter declares, that Christians are born, or regenerated, Öla Xoys, by means of the Word of God. Of course he declares, that they were not regenerated without the instrumentality of the Word of God. What is true, with respect to this subject, of the Christians, to whom St. Peter wrote, will not be denied to be true of Christians universally. In 1 Tim, iv. 16, St. Paul says, Take heed unto thyself, and wnto the doctrine; continue in them : for in so doing thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. That Timothy would, in fact, both save himself, and those who heard him, cannot be denied, unless we charge St. Paul with falsehood. But if Timothy was not in this case an Instrument, or a Means, of salvation to them; the declaration cannot be true. For, God is the only Efficient Cause of salvatien to any man. In Romans ili. 1, 2, St. Paul says, What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly because that writo them were committed the Oracles of God. In this passage St. Paul declares, that the Jews had much advantage over the Gentiles; and that this advantage lay chief. ly in the fact, that unto them were committed the Oracles of God. If the possession of the Oracles of God was of great advantage to the Jews; we naturally ask, In what respect was it an advantage 2 Plainly in this; that the Oracles of God contributed, or were capable of contributing, to their salvation, and consequently to their regeneration. Of what possible advantage could the Oracles of God be to unconverted men; and of such only is the Apostle here speaking; unless they contributed in some manner and degree, or other, to their conversion ? This question, it is believed, admits of no answer. In Romans x. 14, the same Apostle says, How then shall they call on Him, in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him, of whom they have not heard; and how shall they hear without a Preacher? Every person, at all acquainted with language, knows, that these questions have exactly the same import with that of strong negative declarations; and that the Apostle has here in the most forcible manner asserted, that men eannot call on him in whom they have not believed; nor believe in Wol. IV. 62