Page images
PDF
EPUB

mind, he uses no other instrument but the written word, so in all his future instructions, quickenings, &c. he proceeds by the same rule; which rule is the only touchstone that we have to try the operation of spirits by.

To conclude : as the whole process of divine grace is sovereign, free, and efficacious; so the work of the Spirit unitormly wears the same aspect. All his operations are sovereign :-in every act the arm of the Lord is manifested, John iii. 8 ; no one can aflign a reason why the wind should come, at any particular time, from one point in preference to another; or why it goes in that direction, not in this, but that so it pleaseth its fovereign director. Neither can any account for one out of a particular company of hearers, and he perhaps the most illiterate, unthinking, and rebellious, coming to the knowledge of the truth and rejoicing therein, while the rest continue in enmity to it; but that the Spirit quickeneth whom he will. All his operations are also perfectly and unconditionally free. It was the crime of Simon Magus that he thought the Holy Ghost might be purchased with money : and it would have been a happy circumstance, had the spirit and essence of his crime died with him, or with that age ; but alas! it is but too evident, while we find persons faying, that when we exert our natural efforts, &c. the Spirit will help us, and turn our natural acts into supernatural ones, that though the letter of Simon's crime is not common among us, the effence of it still prevails. But if the exertions of our natural abilities are the inducements, or circumstances, that encourage the Spirit to work, grace is no more grace.

And as all his operations are sovereign and free, so are they effectual. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give feed to the fower, and bread to the eater ; SO SHALL MY WORD BE THAT

GOETH

GOETH FORTH OUT OF MY MOUTH: IT SHALL NOT RETURN UNTO ME VOID, BUT IT SHALL ACCOMPLISH THAT WHICH I PLEASE, AND IT SHALL PROSPER WHEREUNTO I SEND IT.--Ifaiah lv. 10, Il.

[ocr errors]

I

SECTION VI. On the Principle of GRACE in the Heart. T is thought a matter of very little importance

by somne, whether we conceive of the principle of grace in the heart previous to, and so distinct from the word of grace, or infist that the word of life, implanted in the soul, is that principle. With all becoming deference to the learned persons, who have attempted to accommodate matters in this respect, the writer of thefe Essays takes the liberty of saying, that in his view of the matter, one of the most imporn taiit diftin&tions is to be made, that concerns the whole fystem of experimental Christianity; and that the schemes established upon these two hypothesises, are as much opposed to each other, in their nature, and necessary tendency, as light and darkness, or Chrift and Beliel.

The reader will observe, that the important difference attempted to be stated in this section, is not whether there is any such thing as a supernatural principle, or habit of grace, in the soul ; nor whether that principle be abiding when implanted; nor yet whether it is the work of the Holy Spirit to implant it: all these things are admitted, as important and undeniable facts. But our principal inquiries are --wherein does the nature of the principle of grace confift? and, are there any preparatives of any kind thereunto? - It will not be amiss here to lay down some general, and scriptural truths, which

may

[ocr errors][merged small]

may tend to fhorten this Section : such as that, man is by nature dead in fins, nothing but fpiritual death is to be found in the onregenei ate soul, - alt works proceeding from man in that staie are dead works ; for an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit : there can no spiritual life be intuled into man but what proceeds from Chrift; so that “ He that hath the Son, hath life, and he that hath not - the Son of God, hath not life;"—the figures, metaphors, representations, &c. which set forth the darkness of the mind, or man's fintul state by nature, do not lead us to any gross conceptions of the disease, as though it is something material, and so needs some physical or mechanical power to be exerted to rectify it *: but rather, the scripture doctrine of the fall is, that the moral rectitude of the foul is disordered, the und rstanding darkened through error, ignorance, and unbelief, whereby the will is influenced to rebellion, the affections are become unholy, fenfual, and brutal, all of which is made manifest by false worship, false hope, falfe comforts and evil works; by the deep-rooted enmity of the heart against God, and the aversion there is to depend fimply upon his word. These things premised, I shall now proceed to take some notice, of the prevailing notion of 2 principle of grace in the soul, I mean previous to the word of life being implanted there, by the Holy Spirit.

What is generally asserted upon the subject is this, that there is in regeneration, an inherent, fpiritual principle implanted in the soul, previous to, and fo separate from the hearing, understanding, and receiving the gospel of Christ. The nature of this principle, the manner of its coming into the soul, and the use that should be made of it when discovered there, are matters about which the profefling world is by no means agreed ; some plead for certain principles in the soul, previous to this principle; but here again they are divided, wherein these principles conlist; while others maintain, so far juftly, that there is no medium betwixt being dead in fins, and being new creatures ; and these generally hold, that this principle is infused into the foul, it does not know when, how, or where, or in fact whether it is there or no, till by the help of some kind, cafuistical friend, he is enabled to persuade himself that it is so. Though it frequently happens, that to a person's dying day he remains in pa nful suspense, and dreadful anxiety about it. But let us hear each of these divided parties speak for themselves.

receiving * No subject has been more betroped and befigured than the asticle of inberens grace. Scriptural writers speak figuratively of the religion of the heart--they call t circumcifion-dying-living feed-creation, and so on; and many divines, instead of reducing metaphor to meaning, affix grofs notions to these terms, and cover them with groffer ftill, till one would think converfion confifted in the actual addition of some new bodily organs, or mental powers, when nothing perhaps is intenderl but the belief of a truid or the practice of a virtue.- -Claude's Elay on ibo composition of Sermon, vol. I, p. 398.

“ Man comes to the grace, whereby we are re. generated in Chrift, by a natural faculty ; as in afking, seeking, knocking; and before they are born again, there is repentance, a sorrow for fin, a change of life for the better, and a beginning of faith, and an initial love of God, and a desire of grace : these are an occasion(how modestly expressed)" by which God is inoved to bestow his grace. For such is the mercy of God, that he recompenses these very finall beginnings of good, with this illustrious reward.” We have the same sentiment given us in the following words.

" Some work of man therefore goes before his vivification ; viz, to acknowledge and be-. wail his death ; .to will and defire deliverance from it; to hunger, thirst, and seek after life. all which and a GREAT DEAL BESIDES is required by Chrift in those whom he will make alive.” To these things it has been replied, that since we are dead in trespasses and fins we can do nothing before, by way of preparation for grace, unless we think finful thoughts and rebellious actions will do it. But, moreover,

we

we have seen persons, the best disposed for this kind of grace, the person mentioned Matt. xix, for in. ftance: he was full of good intentions, inflained with a desire after heaven, and of a blameless life before men, notwithstanding which, he was dilapproved of; and there was another, whom we are, told was not far from the kingdom of heaven, wanted, as it were, but one step, and yet publicans and harlots, who were void of the least good qualification, went in before those who were civilly righteous, and externally religious. Nor does it happen favorable to this scheme, that the scriptures point out several examples or actual proofs of the assertion, that in the first manifeftation of grace to the soul, God is found of them that fought him not: and made manifest to them that asked not after him. But we have been ingeniously informed upon this head, for the encouragement of the well-disposed, that “ He is sometimes found of them that feek him not ;-much more will he be found of them that feek him, in his appointed way." If we call to mind the true fignification, of the grace of God that bringeth falvation unto men, it will readily appear that, upon this plan, grace is no more grace.

There are others who agree in the main with the class above referred to, about the nature of this principle, and with them infift upon the necessity, of some kind of pre-requisites thereunto, who yet would seem to differ from them, about the author of these previous principles, and the design of their being wrought in the mind, “ In persons to be regenerated is required a breaking of the natural ob. stinacy, and a flexibility of the will--a sound lawwork upon the soul -- a legal fear of punishment and a dread of hell, &c. and some anxiety about deliverance." But then we are informed that, “ Thefs things are not produced by nature alone, but are rather to be conceived of as the effects of the spirit of bondage preparing a way to himsef for their cF

tul

« PreviousContinue »