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either there is no meaning in this and the last parts of the parable, or that is the meaning which I have now given. And however much, at first sight, it may seem to war with the popular theology at present reputed evangelical, it will be found, upon examination, greatly to support the true orthodox doctrine of the church; which, while it yields regeneration only to the supernatural work of the Holy Ghost, doth yet view every thing which befalleth us, whether immediately from Providence, or mediately through the church, to be a part of God's dealing and argument with us to the end of bringing us unto Christ. Whence the church appointeth infant baptism, under proper sponsorship, in order to signify that every act done by another towards these little ones, should be done in the Spirit of Christ; while at the same time, she teacheth, that all the acts of God's providence, towards those within the covenant, are acts as much under the dispensation of Christ as is the giving of his Spirit. But, in these times, when we have emptied the sacrament of baptism of all its holy burden, and constituted an ideal sacrament of conversion, it will be necessary to clear these things somewhat more distinctly.
The error and evil of making the saving fruits of the word to depend upon any predisposing causes in nature and education, or, to speak more correctly, in our creation and providence, consisteth in the views which the natural man hath of creation and providence, as dependent upon himself, and in some way or other caused and influenced by himself; so that divines fear lest, if they were to grant that grace is connected therewith in any way, the natural man should think that
the kingdom of grace also is dependent upon himself, as being dependent upon the other two. And therefore, in order to prevent such a fatal occupation of the realms of grace by the powers of nature, the divine breaks down the bridge, and totally debars all passage from the one to the other. In which behalf, no one hath more diligently laboured than myself, when discoursing to you concerning the work of the Spirit. And when you find men allured by the error, that in their own strength they can attain to any spiritual gift, you must deny it at once, and shew them that faith is the gift of God, and the new birth, which is consequent on faith, “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God;” and that the Spirit is under no law of causation, but as the wind which bloweth whither it listeth. This is the true method, I say, of dealing with such self-sufficient naturalists, or rational Christians, as they vainly call themselves; but if they will stand fast, and have patience to go into the matter profoundly, a better way is to go to work and shew them that they are fundamentally wrong with respect to their notions of creation and providence, which, we shewed in our Introductory Lecture, are as much taken under the care and controul of the Mediator as is grace. For the Redeemer did not purchase power only over that part of men's lives which is posterior to the new birth of the Holy Ghost, but all power he purchased in heaven and in earth. And, as he said of his Father, so say I now of Him, that a sparrow falleth not to the ground without his permission, and that the very hairs of our head are numbered. And I make no doubt he is exercising the law of sovereign mercy,
and justice, and goodness, and love, to those who know him not, as well, though not in the same kind, as to those who know him,-to the nations in darkness, as to the nations in light;-making all things to work together the glory of God, peace on earth, and good will to men ;-that he is preparing the soil of nations, and the minds of men, before he comes, making high-ways in the desart. For how otherwise could he be the judge of men and of nations, were he not extending over all one plummet of righteousness, and plumline of mercy? It is for us to make leaps, and deviations, and backslidings in the execution of our purposes ; but not for Him who is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Wherefore I
say unto every one here present, that there is the grace and mercy of a Divine purpose in his creation, and every gift of his creation; and in every event of his life hath there been a wise decree of providence, for which, for every one of which, he is answerable as a defaulter before God, if he have not discovered, and acknowledged, and profited by the grace which there certainly was therein. And to signify this is one of the ends of the baptism of infants; which declareth that from the womb they are subjects of this Divine grace. The Trinity—that is, God, as revealed by Christ Jesus
-doth claim the birth and life of the little one as their own, and do write him down in the sight of all as the offspring of their handywork, the creature of their providence, and the object of their care. And this is not the less true of all, that it is only by sacrament declared in the church upon her children, because the church only is regarded by Christ as believing his declarations.
But though only declared of the children of the church, there can be no doubt it is true of all, and would be of all declared, if they would but confess a faith whereto the declaration might be made. For it is manifestly preposterous, and a profanation, to declare any of the fruits of Christ's redemption to those who believe not at all in him.
Which things believing to be true, and holding as I do that the kingdom of creation and providence are as much redeemed by Christ, and entrusted to him, as the kingdom of grace; and that these three together, not one of them, constitute the kingdom of the Holy Ghost; I have a clear and distinct understanding of what our Lord teacheth in the parable, and can unfold it not only with preservation of the indefeasible right in regeneration to the Holy Spirit, but adding thereto his indefeasible right in creation and providence. For surely it is in error and ignorance that we conceive any work in the universe to be wrought independent of the Holy Spirit, even as it is an error to think that there is any reason which is independent of Christ. And the error comes of the will, which hath been dislocated from the universal will of God, and hath carried from their centre all knowledge and all order. This being acknowledged, as all orthodox divines will readily acknowledge it, then say I with respect to the parable,- Behold this is what our Lord declareth, That the man who hath neglected to use his mind, as the gift of God, to its proper end of meditation of himself, and contemplation of outward things, and discovery of truth, and practice of righteousness, and other such worthy occupations, which have an inward subject, as well as an outward object, the man who hath not constrained himself thus to sink into the depths of his own being, but allowed himself to be acted upon by outward things, and passively to receive their impressions, or occupied himself with the observation and arrangements of their variety, and loved men's discourse for its showiness and outward display, rather than the light which it cast inward into his own soul; who, in short, hath dislocated the outward providence from his own inward spirit, and his own inward spirit from the Father of spirits, by the habit of practically denying and disregarding these the ultimate spiritual ends of all appearances,—which is the true character of an outward vain man; that such a one may receive the word gladly at the first hearing, and keep hold of it for a while, like any other novelty, but that it will soon pass away before the first scorching sun of temptation and trial.
The question is, whether men shall be indulged in their notion, that the works of creation and providence are under nature and fortune; or be rebuked of their notion, and taught that they are under the Spirit of grace, and that we are answerable for every dispensation thereof, as a dispensation of the Spirit, and will be held guilty for the rejection of the Holy Spirit, and condemned upon that account, if we be not brought thereby to a right sense of God's authority and goodness, and a ready hearing of the word of his Gospel when it is preached unto them. Now, I am bold to assert, that it is only half a Gospel which doth not preach the redemption of creation and providence, as well as of the soul; and it is a robbery of Christ not to combine in him the Creator, the Provider, and the Redeemer. Therefore, wherever this Gospel of the kingdom is preached, it should be