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Bat we shall principally take our proofs from scripture, in which we have an account of the beginning of this work, which is styled the new birth ; wherein we are said to be made partakers of the divine nature, 2 Pet. i. 4. that is, a nature that is produced by divine power: and we are said to be born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God, John i. 13. And the gospel, which is the instrument that he makes use of in calling effectually, is styled, The rod of his strength, Psal. cx. 2. the effect thereof, ascribed to the revelation of his arm, Isa. liii. 1. the season in which this is done, is called, Tke day of his power, Psal. cx. 3, and it is, by à metonymy, called, His power, 1 Cor. i. 18. Rom. i. 16. The cross of Christ is also, when preached, and made effectual for the answering this valuable end, styled, The power of God, 1 Cor. i. 24. Moreover, the progress of this work is ascribed to the power of God, 1 Thess. i. 5. it is this that keeps those who are effectually called through fuith unto salvation, 1 Pet. i. 5, And that this power may appear to be extraordinary, the apostle uses an uncommon emphasis of expression, when he calls it, The exceeding greatness of kis power, and, the tworking of his mighty power, Eph. i. 19, 20. which words * can hardly be translated without losing something of their force and beauty; and, indeed, there is not an expression used in scripture, to signify the eficacy of divine power, that exceeds, or, I may say, that equals them. And that it may appear more strong, the apostle, in the following words, represents it as being no less than that power which wrought in Christ, when God raised him from tke dead,
And to all this let me add, that something to the same pur. pose may be inferred from those metaphorical expressions, by which it is set forth, as it is called a creation : thus, when we are made partakers of this privilege, we are said to be created in righteousness and true holiness, Eph, iv, 24. And the apostle seems to compare this with the creation of man at first, afa ter the image of God, which consisted principaliy in righteous
• Υπερβαλλο μεγεθος της δυναμεως αυθε πιάτα την ενεργειαν τα κραίους της ισχυος αυτου.
of the earth, he has no other way to do it than by a physical operation! Tig boily of Christ was raised to life, I should suppose, not by any mechanical power, but supernaturally. In this manner God always works, when he quickeneth the dead, and calletla things that are not, as though they were. And what absurdity can there be in supposing Him able to give a pew principle of action, as well as to give existence to any thing else, in this immediate manner?
Some suund and sensible divines, it must be granted, in order to guard against the notion of regeneration's being effected by moral suasion, have called it a physical work, and a physical change; but very needlessly, I apprehend, and with very evident impropriety. The change is moral: the work producing it, is mitlar moral nor physical, but supernatural."
DR. SMILTY. VOL. III.
ness and true holiness, and accordingly considers this image as restored, when a principle of grace is implanted, whereby we are again disposed to the exercise of righteousness and holiness : and elsewhere he says, We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, that we should walk in them, chap. ii. 16. where he supposes, that this creating power must be exerted before we can put forth good works; and therefore it can be nothing less than the power of God; and it would not have been styled a creation, if it had not been a supernatural work, and therefore it is, in that respect, more glorious than many other effects of the divine power.
It is also styled, a resurrection from the dead: thus the apostle says, You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins, chap. ii. 1, 5. in this respect it certainly exceeds the power of men. A physician, by his skill, may mend a crazy constitution, or recover it from the confines of death ; but, to raise the dead, exceeds the limits of finite power. This mode of speaking our Saviour makes use of to signify the conversion or effectual call of sinners, when he says, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live, John v. 25. He had, in the foregoing verse been speaking of their having eternal life, and not coming into condemnation, and being passed from death to life, who hear his words and believe; and then it follows, that the hour is coming, that is, the time is near at hand, to wit, when the Spirit shall be poured forth, and the gospel-dispensation be begun, and it now is, in some degree, namely, in those who were converted by his ministry, when the dead shall hear his voice and live, or pass from a state of spiritual death to life, as a means for their attaining eternal life. This is much more agreeable to the context, than to conclude, as some do, to evade the force of this argument; that our Saviour speaks concerning some who were then, or should hereafter be raised from the dead, in a miraculous manner; which, they suppose, contains the sense of the words, now is, and that the hour is coming, refers to the general resurrection; but this seems not to be the sense of the text; because our Saviour supposes them, in a following verse, to be astonished at this doctrine ; as though it was too great an instance of power for him to implant a principle of spiritual life in dead sinners, and therefore he proves his assertion from his raising the dead at the last day : Marvel not, for the hour is coming, that is, at the end of the world, when all that are in their graves shall hear his voice, John v. 28. This cannot well agree with the sense before given, of Christ's raising the dead, as referring to the general resurrection ; for that would be to answer their objection, or put a stop to their wonder at what he had said concerning it, by
asserting the same thing in other words; whereas, if you suppose the dead's hearing his voice, to imply a spiritual resurrection; and the dead raised out of their graves, to be an argument to convince them that his power was sufficient to bring about this great effect; there is much more beauty in the expression, and strength in the reasoning, than to take it otherwise.
This is so plain a proof of the argument, we are endeavouring to defend, that nothing farther need be added : however, I cannot but mention another scripture, in which our Saviour says, that no one can come to him, except the Father draw him, chap. vi. 44. where Christ, by coming to him, does not mean attending on his ministry, which did not require any power to induce them to it; but believing on him, so as to have everlasting life, in which sense, coming to him, is often taken in the gospels, ver. 47. and this is the immediate consequence of effectual calling. Now when our Saviour says, that none can thus come to him, without being drawn by the Father, we may understand what he means here, by what is said in a following verse, namely, their being taught of God, and having heard and learned of the Father, ver. 45. such, says he, come unto me. Now this teaching certainly implies more than giving a rule of faith contained in divine revelation, for Christ is not here proving the necessity of divine revelation, as elsewhere ; but is speaking concerning the saving efficacy thereof; and none can deny that many have been objectively taught, and instructed by the word, who have not come to Christ, or believed in him to everlasting life: the words are a quotation from the prophets, to which he refers; who intimate, that they should be all taught of God; which certainly implies more than an objective teaching and instructing; for in this sense, they, having divine revelation, were always taught of God: and it is a special privilege, which the prophet Isaiah mentions, when he foretels this matter, as appears by his connecting it with that great peace which they should have, or the confluence of saving blessings, which should attend it, Isa. liv. 13. And the prophet Jeremiah, who speaks to the same purpose, says, They shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, know the Lord; for they shall all know me from the least of them, even to the greatest, Jer. xxxi. 33, 34. that is, they shall not only have an objective revelation, or that which some call moral suasion ; but this shall be made effectual to their salvavation; and in order thereunto, God promises that he would put his law in the inward part, and write it in the heart; and elsewhere, to give them a new heart, and to put a new spirit within them, and hereby to cause them to walk in his statutes, Ezek. xxxvi. 26. So that it is not barely a rectifying some
mistakes which they were liable to; but producing in them something, which they had not before ; not building upon the old foundation, but laying a new one, and so working a change in the powers and faculties of the soul ; and as they were before, obdurate and hardened in sin, he promises to take away the heart of stone, and give them an heart of flesh; and by his word, which is compared to an hammer, to break the rock in pieces, Jer. xxiii. 29. This is certainly a work of power ; but that it is so, will farther appear from what follows, in considering the work itself; which ieads us to shew,
2. What effects are produced by the power of God, when we are thus called.
(1.) The first step that he is pleased to take in this work, is in his implanting a principle of spiritual life and grace, which is absolutely necessary for our attaining to, or receiving advantage by the external call of the gospel; this is generally styled regeneration, or the new birth; or, as in the scripture but now referred to, a new heart.
If it be enquired, What we are to understand by this principle? We answer, that since principles are only known by the effects which they produce ; springs of acting, by the actions themselves, we inust be content with this description; that it is something wrought in the heart of man, whereby he is habitually and prevailingly biassed and inclined to what is good : so that by virtue hereof, he freely, readily, and willingly chooses those things which tend to the glory of God; and refuses, abhors, and fees from what is contrary thereunto; and, as this more immediately affects the understanding, whereby it is enabled to discern the things which God reveals in the gospel in a spiritual way, it is styled, his shining in the heart, 2 Cor. iv. 6. io give us the light of the knowledge of his glory, or, his giving an cije to see, and an ear to hear, Deut. xxix. 4. As it respects tlic will, it contains in it a power, whereby it is disposed and enabled to yield the obedience of faith, to whatever God is pleased to reveal to us as a rule of duty, so that we are inade willing in the day of his power; and, as it respects the affections, they are all inclined to run in a right channel, to desire, delight and rejoice in every thing that is pleasing to God, and fice from every thing that is provoking to him. This is that whereby 2 dead sinner is made alive, and so enabled to put forth living actions.
Concerning this principle of grace let it be observed, that it is infused and not acquired. The first principle or spring of good actions, may, with equal reason, be supposed to be infused into us, as Christians, as it is undoubtedly true, that the principle of reasoning is infused into us as men: none ever supposcd that the natural power of reasoning may be acquired, though a greater facility or degree thereof is gradually attained; so that power, whereby we are enabled to put forth supernatural acts of grace, must be supposed to be implanted in us ; which, were it acquired, we could not, properly speaking, be said to be born of God.
From hence I am obliged to infer, that the regenerating act, or implanting this principle (a) of grace, which is, at least, in order of nature, antecedent to any act of grace, put forth by us, is the immediate effect of the power of God, which none who speak of regeneration as a divine work, pretend to deny:
(a) The change in regeneration has been often called the communication of & principle of spiritual life. It is described as life, in the scriptures. Sensible ob. jects make no impressions on dead bodies, because insensible; and those, who receive no impressions from divine truths, but remain unaffected by the charms of holiness, are figuratively denominated dead. Life being the opposite of death, such as are sensible of the Divine excellencies, and receive the impressions which religious truths are calculated to make, may, in the same manner, be termed living. Such also are called spiritual, because this holy activity is communicated by the Spirit of God. “You hath he quickened ;" and, because it has for its object the things which have been revealed by the Holy Spirit.
These terms are derived from the scriptures, but the word principle is destí tute of such support. It is found in the Epistle to the Hebrews: there it is used for those fundamental doctrines, which are the beginnings of the doctrine of the gospel; but this is not the meaning of the term in the above description. This change is the immediate work of God, and not the communication of some operative axiom of truth. There are natural principles of action; as habit, affection, and passion; and there are moral; as sense of duty, fear of God, and love of holiness. These are all termed principles, because they excite to action, and so are the beginnings, or causes of it. But it is scarcely in this sense, that the term principle is used in the description of regeneration; for it is said to be commu. nicated, and so must mean something distinct from, and the effect of the work of the Spirit. Accordingly it has been called “a fixed impression of some spi. ritual truth upon the heart.” But there is no truth, or other motive, sufficient to prevail against the obduracy of the unrenewed heart; or to become a principle of action to a soul dead in sin. Whatever that is in fallen man, which repels such motives, and prevents their influence until some more worthy motive is thrown into the scale, it is the work of the Spirit to remove it, and to give the soul an activity towards holy things. No intervention of mediate causes seems necessa ry: the Spirit of God is the agent; the soul of the man is the subject of infiuence; and fle is said to open the heart, to give a new heart, to create anew, to entighten the mind in the knowledge of the truth, to work in us to will and to do, or to give sight to the blind, and hearing to the deaf. From such scriptural expressions it may be gatliered that sight, knowledge, new dispositions, and a change of inclinations, are the effects of regeneration, and not the thing itself.
This change is more important than all the gifts of providence, if man there. fore be the author of it, he is his own greatest benefactor, and must have the highest glory. If the Holy Spirit acts no otherwise on the human soul, than by addressing motives, angelic natures do also this; and no more power is ascribed to the searcher of hearts, than to them. Then also it will follow, that all professing christians are of the same kind; and that it was improperly said, that they 4 were not of us," who afterwards have " departed from us." Then also the ad. vice to those who are in the visible church “ to examine,” and “prove them. selves," whether Christ be in them,” is without meaning, or utility, because the thing to be inquired for is notorious, that is, their visible profession. And to “ be born again," is but " to see the" risible"
kingdom" of Christ : and so the proposition spoken to Nicodemus was merely identical.