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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. This revelation from above communicates no new truths, but imparts a holy susceptibility of spirit, a spirit which is of God, (and which stands opposed to the spirit of the world,) by which those truths that were already revealed in the scriptures, but which were hid from us by our pride and hardness of heart, become manifest. Thus faith is the gift of God. Believing itself, I should think, cannot, with any propriety, be termed a gift; but he gives us that from which it immediately follows; namely, an heart to know him, an heart 10 perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear.*
I see nothing inconsistent between this statement of things, and that of James and Peter. We are as properly said to be born again by the word by God, as we are said to be born into the world by means of our parents; yet as, in this case, the instrumentality of man was consistent with the inspiration of him who quickeneth all things, and who, by an immediate, though mysterious operation of his hand, gave us life; so I conceive it is in the other. The term regeneration, in the sacred writings, is not always used in that strict sense in which we use it in theological discussion. Like almost every other term, it is sometimes used in a more strict, and sometimes in a more general sense. Thus repentance is sometimes distinguished from faith : at other times, it comprehends the whole of that which is necessary to forgiveness, and must, therefore, comprehend believing. And thus regeneration is sometimes expressive of that operation in which the soul is passive; and, in this sense, stands distinguished from conversion, or actual turning to God by Jesus Christ. At other times, it includes not only the first impartation of spiritual life, but the whole of that change which denominates us Christians, or by which we are brought as into a new moral world. When the term is introduced as a cause of faith, or as that of which believing in Jesus is a proof, (as it is in John i. 12, 13. and 1 John v. 1.) we may be certain it stands distinguished from it: but when
* Jer. xxiv. 7. Deut. xxix. 4.
the same things are ascribed to it, which peculiarly pertain to faith, we may be equally certain that it includes it. Thus we read of the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; THAT BEING JUSTIFIED by his grace, wc ahould be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.* If regeneration did not here include faith in Jesus Christ, it would not, I conceive, stand connected, as it does, with justification, which is peculiarly ascribed to faith.
Regeneration, taken in this large sense of the term, is undoubtedly by the word of God. It is by means of this, that a sinner is first convinced of sin, and by this, as exhibiting mercy through Jesus Christ, is kept from despair. It is by this only that he can become acquainted with the character of the being he has offended, the nature and demerit of sin, and the way in which he must be saved from it. These important truths, viewed with the eye of an enlightened conscience, frequently produce great effects upon the soul, even previously to its yielding itself up to Christ. And the impartation of spiritual life, or a susceptibility of heart to receive the truth, may generally, if not always, accompany the representation of truth to the mind. It was while Paul was speaking, that the Lord opened the heart of Lydia. It is also allowed, that when the word is received into the soul, and finds place there, it worketh effectually, and becomes a principle of holy action, a well of water springing up to everlasting life. All I contend for is, That it is not by means of a spiritual perception, or belief of the gospel, that the heart is, for the first time, effectually influenced towards God; for spiritual perception and belief, are represented as the effects, and not the causes of such influence,
A spiritual perception of the glory of divine things, appears to be the first sensation of which the mind is conscious; but it is not the first operation of God upon it. Spiritual perception is that which the scriptures call ajobýcis, judgment, or sense, or the judgment arising from holy sensibility.t It is that in spiritual things, which a delicate sense of propriety is in natural things; in which the mind judges, as it were, in
stinctively, from a feeling of what is proper. It is by this unction from the Holy One, that we perceive the glory of the divine character, the evil of sin, and the lovely fitness of the Saviour; neither of which can be properly known by mere intellect, any more than the sweetness of honey, or the bitterness of wormwood, can be ascertained by the sight of the eye. Nor can one be perceived, but in connexion with the other. Without a sense of the glory of the object offended, it is impossible to have any just perception of the evil nature of the offence: and without a sense of the evil of the offence, it is equally impossible to discern either the necessity or the fitness of a Saviour: but, with such a sense of things, each naturally, and perhaps instantaneously, follows the other. Hence arise the exercises of repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ; and in the order in which the scriptures represent them,
Much has been said of this statement of things, as involving the absurdity of a godly unbeliever. Scripture-declarations and promises, expressive of the safety of the regenerate, have been urged, and a conclusion drawn, that, if regeneration precede believing, men may be in a safe state without coming to Christ.* It will be allowed, I suppose, that spiritual perception necessarily precedes believing; or that seeing the Son goes before believing in him; also, that a belief of the doctrine of Christ precedes our coming to him for life, as much so as believing that God is, and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him, precedes coming to him.
But it were as easy to produce a number of declarations and promises which express the safety of those who know Christ, and believe his doctrine, as of those who are regenerate : and it might, with equal propriety, be said, There is but little, if any, occasion for those who know Christ, to believe in him; or for those who believe his doctrine, to come to him for eternal life, seeing they are already in a state of salvation.
The truth appears to be, these things are inseparable; and when promises are made to one, it is as connected with the other. The priority contended for is rather in order of nature, than of time; or, if it be the latter, it may be owing to the disadvantages un
Mr. Booth’s Glad Tidings, &c, pp. 176. 180.
der which the party may be placed, as to the means of understanding the gospel. No sooner is the heart turned towards Christ, than Christ is embraced. It is necessary that the evil humours of a jaundiced eye should be removed, before we can see things as they are: but no sooner are they removed, than we see. And if there be a priority in order of time, owing to the want of opportunity of knowing the truth; yet, where a person embraces Christ, so far as he has the means of knowing him, he is, in effect, a believer. The Bereans received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so : therefore, it is said, many of them believed. And had they died, while engaged in this noble pursuit, they would not have been treated as unbelievers, This principle, therefore, does not involve the absurdity of a godly unbeliever. But, if its opposite be true, the absurdity of an ungodly believer must, undoubtedly, be admitted. Indeed, those who plead for it avow this consequence : for, though they allow that none but believers are justified; yet they contend, that, at the time of justification, the party is absolutely, and in every sense, ungodly; that is, he is, at the same instant, both a believer and an enemy of God!
I shall conclude, with a reflection or two on the consequences of the principle I oppose, with respect to addressing the unconverted :
First : If the necessity of repentance in order to forgiveness be given up, we shall not be in the practice of urging it on the unconverted. We shall imagine it will be leading souls astray, to press it before, and in order to believing; and afterwards, it will be thought unnecessary; as all that is wanted will come of itself. Thus it will, in effect, be left out of our ministry ; but whether, in this case, we can acquit ourselves of having deserted the examples, and, of course, the doctrine, of John the Baptist, Christ, and his apostles, deserves our serious consideration.
Secondly: For the same reason that we give up the necessity of repentance in order to forgiveness, we may give up all exhortations to things spiritually good, as means of salvation,
Instead of uniting with the sacred writers in calling upon the wicked to forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his
thoughts, and to return to the Lord, that he may have mercy upon him; we shall consider it as tending to make them Pharisees. Indeed, Mr. MÅL. seems prepared for this consequence. If I understand him, he does not approve of unconverted sinners being exhorted to any thing spiritually good, any otherwise than as holding up to them the language of the law, for convincing them of sin. It is thus he answers the question, “ Are unbelievers to be exhorted to obedience to God's commandments?” referring us to the answer of our Lord to the young ruler, which directed him to keep the commandments, if he would enter into life.*
It is easy to perceive that his scheme requires this construction of the exhortations of the Bible : for, if he allow that sinners are called to the exercise of any thing spiritually good, in order to their partaking of spiritual blessings, he must give up his favourite notion of God's justifying men while in a state of enmity against him. True it is, that all duty, in some sort, belongs to the law : considering it as the eternal standard of right and wrong, it requires the heart in every modification. Repentance, faith, and all holy exercises of the mind are, in this sense, required by it. But, as a covenant of life, it does not admit of repentance, and much less hold up the promise of forgiveness. When God says, Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions, so iniquity shall not be your ruin, this is not the language of the law as a covenant of life. Mr. MʻL. tells us, in the same page, that “ There is no promise of life to the doing of any good thing, except all the commandments be kept.” How then can the law, as a covenant of life, so much as admit of repentance, and much less hold up hope that, in case of it, iniquity shall not be our ruin ? The scriptures exhort on this wise : Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live: and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.-Seek ye the Lord while he may be found: call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, far he will abundantly pardon.-Labour not for the meat that