« AnteriorContinuar »
dence, be it ever so clear, will make but little impression upon a mind infected with prejudice. The Scriptures speak of sanctification of the Spirit, and the belief of the truth, as distinct things; and as if the one was antecedent to the other, 2 Thes. ii. 13. They tell us also that the Lord opened the heart of Lydia, and she attended to the things which were spoken by Paul. We are said to believe according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, Ephes. i. 19, 20. It would not require more power to cause a man to believe the Gospel than any other set of truths, if his heart were but in harmony with it: but as it is not, it becomes necessary that a new bias of heart should be given as a preparative to knowing or embracing it. The Scriptures not only speak of knowledge as a mean of promoting a holy temper of heart, but of an holy temper of heart as the foundation of true knowledge: I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord, &c. Jer. xxiv. 17.
If it be objected that faith is said to come by hearing, and hearing by the word of God; I answer, faith, it is allowed, must have an object, or it cannot exist. The word of God is the objective cause of faith; but does it not follow from hence that it is its sole, or compulsive cause. Eating cometh by food, and food by the bles. sing of God upon the earth. Food may be said to be the objective cause of a man's eating, seeing that he could not have eaten without food; but it does not fol. low from hence that food was the impulsive or sole cause of his eating: For had he not been blessed with an appetite, he would not have eaten, though surrounded by food in the greatest plenty.
If it be further objected that we can form-no rational idea of the influence of the Holy Spirit any otherwise than as through the medium of the word; I answer, we can form no idea of the influence of the Holy Spirit at all, either with or without the word, but merely of its effects. We may, indeed, form an idea of the influ. ence of truth upon our minds; but we cannot conceive how a Divine influence accompanies it. Nor is it necessary that we should, any more than that we should comprehend the way of the Spirit in the quickening and formation of our animal nature, in order to be satisfied that we are the creatures of God. It is sufficient for us that we are conscious of certain effects, and are taught in the Scriptures to ascribe them to a Divine
“HOLMSDALE, jun. would be obliged to Gaius for an
illustration of 1 Pet. i. 23. and James i. 18. in a consistency with his answer to the latter part of Holmsdale's question.”
The seed mentioned in the first of these passages alludes not to the first principle in'vegetables, but animals; and what this is in generation, the word of God is allowed to be in regeneration. This, I apprehend, is giving all the scope to the passage in question which can rea. sonably be desired.
That there is a Divine influence in this change, which is immediate, or without any instrument whatever, is, I allow, supposed in my answer to Holmsdale; but I do VOL. III.
not consider this as expressive of the whole change denoted by the term regeneration. I admit regeneration to be by the word of God, and that this truth is taught us by the passages in question; nor does this concession appear to me to clash with the above position. When God created man, he breathed into him the breath of life, and man became a living soul: And in procreation, unless we will maintain that souls are generated by human instrumentality, there is an immediate Divine agency, very similar to that in creation, and which is expres. sed by forming the spirit of man within him. Now as this is consistent with man being brought into existence by the instrumentality of man, why should not an immediate influence from him who quickeneth all things, be consistent with the instrumentality of the word in regeneration?
Regeneration has frequently been distinguished from conversion; and I have no doubt but the terms are of different signification, as are also the terms creation and resurrection, by which the same Divine change is expressed. I am inclined to think that each of these terms are not designed to express the different stages of God's work upon the soul, but the same Divine work under different ideas or representations. It has been said, that regeneration expresseth that part of the Divine change wherein we are passive, and conversion that wherein we are active; but the idea of passivity, as well as activity, is included in conversion.
God turns us ere we turn to him. Sinners are said to be converted, as well as to convert. On the other hand, the idea of activity as well as passivity, is included in regeneration. Whatever may be said of the generation of an animal, we can form no conception of the change in the temper of a rational soul; or, as the Scripture expresseth it of renewing the spirit of our minds, without the mind being in exercise. It is passive with respect to the agency of the Holy Spirit in producing the change, so as to contribute nothing towards it; but the very nature of the change itself, being from a state of enmity to love, implies activity of mind. It does not, therefore, seem perfectlý accurate to say, we are first endued with spiritual life, and then we become active; no otherwise however, than as by the order of nature, seeing activity is of the very essence of spiritual life.
Now considering regeneration as expressive of that entire change, by which we enter as it
into moral world, and possess a new kind of being (and in this sense I think it is always to be understood in the New Testament,) it is as proper to say, we are regenerated by the word of God, as it is to say, that Abraham begat Isaac; though in Isaac's coming into the world he was the subject of a Divine agency, in which Abraham had no concern.
What do those mean by enthusiasm, who believe that there
is a Divine influence on the minds of good men, in regeneration and sanctification; and a Satanic influence on the minds of wicked men, &C..?
In answer to the above query, let it be observed, that the word enthusiasm, like some others, is used both in a good and bad sense. Some persons misapply it, through ignorance; others do it with design. There are not a few who substitute it in place of solid argument, and seem to think it sufficiently forcible to overthrow any system of religion which they do not approve. They fancy they have answered every thing urged in support of any gospel-truth, by saying, it is all enthusiasm. Others, it is suspected, use it artfully, and with a bad design. Not to mention names and parties, are there not some ministers who seem to envy the popu. larity and success of others? and when told that certain places of worship are extended, and that such a minister is greatly followed, they immediately exclaim, “Ah, it is all enthusiasm! He is an ignorant, warm visionary, and the people who run after him are wild enthusiasts.!” But why do these cool-headed and rational gentlemen, as they affect to be thought, reprobate that so much in one description of men, which they so highly applaud in another? Have not the lofty strains of Pindar, the soaring imagination of Homer, the disinterested zeal, the astonishing sublimity, and irresistible energy of Demosthenes, been admired and extolled, in every age, by men of letters and taste? What was there in the subjects on which they wrote or sung to engage their attention, engross their thoughts, and fire their passions, that will bear the most distant comparison with the doctrines of Divine revelation, the objects exhibited in the gospel,the transporting prospects of future glory, and the ravishing foretastes of eternal happiness, with which the servants of God are sometimes favored? Did the sage wisdom, the military prowess, the dangers encountered and love displayed for a friend, relation, or country, by a heathen, ravish his biographer, whether poet or his