« AnteriorContinuar »
man,” saith he, “knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him ? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” * After which he proceeds thus : “ Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God: which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth ; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God : for they are foolishness unto him ; neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.” + .
In the epistle to the Romans, the apostle also shows the necessity of the assistance of the Spirit, saying expressly : 66 If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his—for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God : for ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father ! The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.---Likewise, the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities ; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought ; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered.” I
From these passages, and from many others which might be adduced, it appears clearly, that the Influence of the Holy Spirit is necessary for the performance of those duties, which make us truly acceptable unto God. It is by our humble attention to this Spirit, that we are instructed in these duties, and enabled to perform them ; and, by abiding uoder its purifying Influences, we are gradually created anew in Christ Jesus, unto good works. By this Spirit we are
* 1 Cor. ii. 11.
t 1 Cor, ii. 12-14,
Rom. viii. 9, 14, 15, 16, 26. also instructed in the great and solemu duty of prayer : 66 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance.”* It is likewise by this Spirit, that those who are called to the sacred office of Gospel ministry, are 6 made able ministers of the New Testament ; not of the letter, but of the Spirit ; for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life." +
In addition to these clear and forcible declarations, it may be proper to remark, that they are grounded on such arguments, as evince them not to be contined to the times of the apostles, or primitive Christians ; but, being adapted to the , weakness of man, they may reasonably be supposed to last as long as that weakness remains : and unless it can be proved that, since those times, mankind have received such an extraordinary accession of natural powers, as makes religion and virtue more easily attainable than formerly, we should thankfully submit to be instructed and assisted by the same supernatural means, which the Holy Scriptures so strongly recommend, as essential to the performance of those religious duties, which we owe to our great Creator, and to our merciful Redeemer.
We come now to the second position, viz. “ That such a portion of the Holy Spirit, as is necessary for working out the soul's salvation, is afforded to mankind universally.”
It has already been shown, that there are different names by which this Spirit is distinguished. We apprehend it to be a degree of the same, which the apostle alluded to, when, writing to the Romans respecting the state of the gentile world, he says : “ For when the gentiles, which have not the Law, do by nature the things contained in the Law ; these having not the Law, are a law unto themselves, which show
the work of the Law written in their hearts ; their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing, or else excusing one another.” a
We also find that the Spirit of God strove with the antediluvian world ; respecting which the Almighty gave this declaration : “ My Spirit shall not always strive with man,” o Concerning the Jews in the Mosaic Dispensation, Nehemiah expresses himself thus in his prayer : “ Thou gavest also thy good Spirit to instruct them.”° And by Isaiah it is said : 66 They rebelled and vexed his Holy Spirit ; therefore He was turned to be their enemy." !
Thus we see in every age and state of the world, there has been a secret Principle at work in the minds of men, which formed the basis of all true religion ; and by inattention and disobedience to which, they fell into those enormities that produced the just judgments of an offended God. We believe that this Divine Principle is, as has already been intimated, the same with that which the evangelist John calls, “ the True Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world' ;”e that it is the Gospel which Paul says, “ was preached to (or in'] every creature which, is under heaven;"& and that it is what he elsewhere styles, 6 the Grace of God, which bringeth salvation, and has appeared unto all men."h
But although this Divine Principle has always been, in degree, afforded to mankind ; yet it was by the Gospel Dispensation, not only that life and immortality were brought to light ; but that the Holy Spirit was more plentifully poured forth, and became as it were the leading feature of
& Col. i. 23.
b Tit. ii. 11.
that religion, which our blessed Redeemer has introduced into the world. With this view of the subject, I apprehend the evangelist expresses himself thus : “ The Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified."* And in another place : “ The Law was given by Moses ; but Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ.”+ Of this Grace the apostle Paul, in particular, frequently speaks in his epistles ; but most fully in that to Titus, in the passage just referred to. This passage it may be proper here to give at large : « The Grace of God that briogeth salvation, hath appeared to all men; teaching us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world ; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ ; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” I This is a text to which we often refer, as describing the essence of the Christian Religion ; and conveying, in the clearest manner, our belief in the quality, the universality, and the effects of that gift of Divine Grace, to which the apostle bears this ample testimony; and which, we here see, co-operates with that great object, for which the Son of God was manifested in the flesh. This object, according to the testimony of another apostle, was, “ To destroy the works of the devil ;''S the principal of which, it scarcely need be said, is sin.
But to return to the preceding passage in Titus. There are three inferences evidently resulting from it. 1.- That this Grace is of that quality which produceth salvation. 2.-That it is universal : not confined to a part of mankind; but extended “ to all men.” 3.—That its instructions are such as invariably lead to the practice of piety and virtue.
* John vii. 39.
+ John i. 17.
Titus ii. 11-14.
§ 1 John iji. 8.
The first and third of these inferences will, it is presumed, be generally if not universally acceded to ; but the second, though equally deducible from the apostle's words, some may endeavour to explain away; and to reconcile with those ideas of unconditional election and reprobation, which they have entertained : and on which it may be proper, in this place, to make a few remarks.
This doctrine asserts, that the Almighty has irrevocably decreed a certain number of human beings to everlasting happiness ; and that the rest are as certainly doomed to the commission of sin, and to its consequence, eternal misery. That this is no exaggerated description, will appear from the quotations given in the margin, * from the writings of the advocates of this doctrine ; and I should think, that to describe it was enough to refute it, had we not, in many other instances, as well as in this, occasion to observe, in how different a point of view different men see the same subject. That the Holy Scriptures, those faithful records both of the justice and mercy of God, should be pressed to the support of such a sentiment, is matter of surprise. I am aware that some parts of the Scriptures, taken without their context, may be supposed to incline to this sentiment.+
* " I say, that by the ordination and will of God, Adam fell, God would have man to fall. We refer the cause of hardening us to God.”— Calvin, “God hath predestinated not only unto damnation, but also unto the causes of it, whomsoever He saw meet.”—Beza, “ It is the opinion of our doctrines, that God did inevitably decree the temptation and fall of man.”—Paræus. “ God moveth the robber to kill. He killeth, God forcing him thereunto.”—Zuinglius. “Reprobate persons,” saith Piscator, “ are absolutely ordained to this twofold end ; to undergo everlasting punishment, and necessarily to sio ; and therefore to sin, that they may be justly punished.”-See Barclay's Apology, Prop. v. Sect. 2.
+ It is worthy of remark, that several passages in our English translation, which seem to favour this doctrine, are capable of a different