Imágenes de páginas

the water was miraculously turned into wine at the marriage in Cana of Galilee : the same soul with its essential powers, the same body with its natural senses, the work of the Creator, remains; but in the cleansing of his stained nature, in the sanctifying his faculties that are the springs of his actions, the whole man is quickened into a divine life, and enabled to act in conformity to it. And of this the new birth is a convenient illustration. An active principle of holiness is planted in him, that springs up into visible actions. The apostle particularly expresses it in his earnest prayer for the Thessalonians, “ The very God of peace sanctify you wholly, and preserve your whole spirit, soul and body blameless, till the coming of Jesus Christ.” Every faculty is renewed, and every grace infused that constitutes the divine image. The mind is renewed by spiritual light, to believe the truth and goodness of unseen things promised, the reality and dreadfulness of things threatened in the word of God. It sees the truest beauty in Loliness, the highest honour in obedience to God, the greatest equity and excellence in his service, The will is renewed by holy love, a purifying flame, and feels the attractive virtue of our blessed end before all desirable things on earth, and determines to pursue it in the vigorous use of proper means. The body is made a holy instrument fit for the renewed soul. In short, the natural man becomes spiritual in his perceptions, resolutions and actions. “ All things are become new.” There is a firm assent, an inviolable adherence to those most precious objects revealed in the scripture, and a sincere chosen constant obedience flows from the renewed faculties. And from hence we may distinguish between regenerating grace, and formal hypocrisy in some, and the proficiency of nature and power of common grace in others. A hypocrite in religion is actuated from without, by mercenary base respects; and his conscience being cauterized, handles sacred things without feeling: a regenerate person is moved by an internal living principle, and performs his duties with lively affections. Natural conscience under the compulsion of fear, may lay a restraint upon the outward acts of sin, without an inward consent to the sanctity of the law. Renewing grace cleanses the fountain, and the current is pure. It reconciles the affections to the most holy commands. “ I love thy law because it is pure,” saith the psalmist.

A moral principle may induce one to abstain from many sins, and to perform many praiseworthy things in conformiiy to rea

But this is neither sanctifying nor saving; for it only prunes sin as if it were a good plant, and does not root it up; it compounds with it, and does not destroy it. There may be still an impare indulgence to the secret lustings of the heart, notwithstanding the restraint upon their exercise. And many duties may be done on lower motives, without a divine respect to the commands and glory of God.

But renewing grace subjects the soul to the whole royalty of the law, unifornily inclines it to express obedience to all its precepts, because they are pure, and derived from the eternal spring of purity. It mortifies concupiscence, and quickens to every good work, from a principle of love to God, and in this is distinguished from the most refined unregenerate morality. In short, there may be a superficial tincture of religion from common grace, a transient esteem, vanishing affections, and earnest endeavours for a time after spiritual things, and yet a person remain in a state of unregeneracy. But renewing grace is a permanent solid prineiple, that makes a man partaker of the divine itature, and elevates him above himself.

This holy change is wrought by divine power. Our Saviour tells Nicodemus, “except a man be born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” The analogy of a new birth signifies, that it is entirely the work of the sanctifying spirit, that conveys a principle of life in order to the functions of it. It is the living impression of God, the sole efficient and exemplar of it, the fruit and image of the divine virtues. is expressed by the new creature. The production of it is attributed to God's power displaying itself in a peculiar excellent way, even in that precise manner, as in making the world. For as in the first creation all things were made originally of nothing, so in the second, the habit of grace is infused into the soul that was utterly void of it, and in which there was as little preparation for true holiness, as of nothing to produce this great and regular world. And although there is not only an absolute privation of grace, but'a fierce resistance against it, yet creating invincible power does as infallibly and certainly produce its effect in forming the new creature, as in making the world. From hence it appears that preventing renewing grace is so entirely the VOL. III.


work of God, as his forming the human body from the dust of earth at first; but with this difference, the first creation was done without any sense in the subject, of the efficiency of the divine power in producing it: but in the new creation, man feels the vital influence of the Spirit, applying itself to all his faculties, reforming and enabling them to act according to the quality of their nature.

And by the way, we may observe the admirable grace showed to man in the renovation of his corrupted nature. In the composition of his being are united a spirit like the angels, and a body like terrestrial animals, by which he partakes of the spiritual and natural life: but he has peculiar favours conferred upon him. For, whereas his soul sinned with the angels, and his body dies with the beasts, yet God is pleased to restore them by his glorious power. An angel after sin never repents, and is therefore incapable of pardon, and irrecoverably disinherited of heaven: a beast after death never revives; but though man sins and dies, yet his soul may be renewed by divine grace, and his body shall be raised in an incorruptible glory.

2. Now the indispensable necessity of this holy change is evident from the words of our Saviour, for he speaks universally, “ except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” He does not simply declare that an unregenerate man shall not, but with the greatest emphasis, cannot, to signify an absolute impossibility of it. The Jews highly presumed of the privilege of their carnal birth, they sprang from the pure and noble blood of Abraham, God's friend; they had the seal of the holy covenant marked in their flesh: and hence it was proverbial amongst them, that every Israelite should have a part in the world to come. But our Saviour overthrows this vain conceit, and tells them, that the supernatural birth entitles to the supernatural inheritance. Circumcision then, and baptism now, without real grace, is an ineffectual sign, of no avail to salvation. In the quality of sons, we are heirs of God's kingdom, Rom. 8. 17. And that honourable relation we have upon a double account, by adoption and regeneration, Gal. 4. 7. Divine adoption is not a mere change of our state, a naked declaration that one shall be dignified with the title of God's Son; but a holy nature is always infused into the person, whereby he is made like to God in his excellencies. In this it differs from human adoption, that gives the name and arms, the honour and estate of the adopter to a person, without conveying any of his intellectual or moral endowments. Whom God adopts, he begets to a divine life. Besides, our Saviour purchased this high privilege for us : “ God sent his Son made of a woman, under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons:" by union with him we receive the investiture of this dignity. “Now whoever is in Christ, is a new creature.” For the quickening spirit, that is to the soul what the soul is to the body, the principle of life and strength, of beauty and motion, and an active purifying faith that is influential upon all other graces, are the band of that vital union : so that as all in Adam are universally corrupt by the first birth, all that are in Christ are made holy by a new birth. But of this I shall speak in the next chapter more fully, under a distinct head. Briefly, the spirit of gracethat sanctifies, is the spirit of adoption that seals our right to that kingdom.

Now the reasons why this change must be in order to our obtaining of heaven, are these :

1. There is an exquisite wisdom shines in all God's works, in disposing them for the ends to which they are appointed : and is it not monstrously absurd to imagine, he will admit into his presence and kingdom those that are absolutely unqualified for its blessedness, and opposite to its purity ?

2. His invariable justice excludes for ever all unholy persons from heaven. For in the last judgment God will be glorified as a governor, in the distribution of rewards with respect to the obedience and disobedience of men. It is worthy of observation, that the actions of God on the reasonable creatures are of two sorts. Some proceed from his sovereign good pleasure, of which there is no motive or reason in the subjects on which they are terminated. Thus by a free and insuperable decree (when all mankind, lapsed and miserable, was in his view) he chose some to be vessels of mercy,” and by privilege separated them from the rest that finally perish. Now what induced him to place a singular love on the elect? There was nothing in them to incline his compassion, being equally guilty and depraved with the rest of the progeny of Adam. This difference therefore is to be resolved into his unaccountable and adorable will, as the sole cause of it. Thus God declares it to be his glorious prerogative, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have eompassion on whom I will have compassion.” And this is no unjust acceptance of persons : for as a benefactor, he may dispense his own favours as he pleases. A gift from mere and arbitrary bounty may be bestowed on some, and not on others, without injustice. But there are other actions of God for which there is an evident reason in men on whom they are terminated. Thus, as the supreme Judge, “ without respect of persons," I Pet. I, 17. he will judge and reward “every man according to his works,” Rom. 2. 16. Acts 26. 18. The evangelical law (as was touched on before) is the rule of eternal judgment, and gives a right from the gracious promise of God to all penitent believers in the kingdom of heaven, and excludes all impenitent infidels. Divine justice will illustriously appear then, in distinguishing believers from unbelievers by their works, the proper fruits either of faith or infidelity: all the thick clouds of disgraces, calumnies, persecutions, that often oppress the most sincere christians here, shall not then darken their holiness; and all the specious appearances of piety, which the most artificial hypocrites make use of to deceive others, shall not conceal their wickedness. And accordingly the one shall be absolved and glorified, the others condemned and punished for ever. In short, without violation of his own righteous establishment in the gospel, God cannot receive the unholy into his glory, Heb. 12. 14.

3. Besides the legal bar that excludes unsanctified persons from the beatific vision of God, there is a moral incapacity. Suppose that justice should allow omnipotence to translate such a sinner to heaven, would the place make him happy? Can two incongrubus natures delight in one another? The happiness of sense is by an impression of pleasure from a suitable object : the happiness of intellectual beings arises from an entire conformity of dispositions. So that unless God recede from his holiness, which is absolutely impossible, or man be purified, and changed into his likeness, there can be no sweet communion between them. Our Saviour assigns this reason of the necessity of regeneration in order to our admission into heaven: “ that which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the spirit, is spirit. According to the quality of the principle, such is what proceeds from it. The flesh is a corrupt principle, and accordingly the natural man is wholly carnal in his propensions, operations and

« AnteriorContinuar »