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is our regeneration, is an effect of our election ; that which God works in our souls, in the pursuit of his eternal purpose of love and good will towards us. So again, saith the apostle, 2 Thess. ii. 13.‘God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through the sanctification of the Spirit.' God having designed us unto salvation as the end, hạth also appointed the sanctification of the Spirit to be the means to bring us orderly unto the attainment of that end. But the best of common grace or gifts that may be in men unregerate, are but products of the providence of God, ordering all things in general unto his own glory, and the good of them that shall he heirs of salvation. They are not fruits of electing eternal love, nor designed means for the infallible attaining of eternal salvation.
2. The graces of those that are regenerate have a manifold respect or relation to the Lord Christ that the common graces of others have not. I shall name one or two of these respects. 1. They have an especial moral relation to the mediatory acts of Christ in his oblation and intercession. Especial grace is an especial part of the purchase of Christ by his death and blood-shedding. He made a double purchase of his elect; of their persons to be his ; of especial grace to be theirs. He gave himself for his church, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it unto himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish;' Eph. v. 26, 27. The design of Christ in giving himself for his church, was to procure for it that especial grace whereby, through the use of means, it might be regenerate, sanctified, and purified. So Titus ii. 14. He gave himself that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.' Real purification in grace and holiness hath this especial relation unto the death of Christ, that he designed therein to procure it for them for whom he died. And in the pursuit of his purchase or acquisition of it, his purpose was really to bestow it upon them, or effectually to work it in them. Moreover, it hath an especial relation unto his intercession; and that in a distinguishing manner from any other gifts or common graces that other men may receive. Giving us the rule and pattern of his intercession,
John xvii. he tells us, that he so prays not for the world, but for his elect; those which the Father had given him, because they were his, ver. 9. And what is it that he prays for them, in distinction from all other men whatever ? Amongst others this is one principal thing that he insists on, ver. 17. 'Sanctify them through thy truth. Their sanctification and holiness is granted upon that prayer and intercession of Christ, which is peculiar unto them, with an exclusion of all others; • I pray for them, I pray not for the world. Now the common grace of unregenerate persons, whereby they are distinguished from other men, whatever it be, it hath not this especial relation to the oblation and intercession of Christ. Common grace is not the procurement of especial intercession.
2. They have a real relation unto Christ as he is the living quickening head of the church; for he is so, even the living spiritual fountain of the spiritual life of it, and of all vital acts whatever. • Christ is our life, and our life is hid with him in God;' Col. iii. 2, 3. That eternal life which consists in the knowledge of the Father and the Son, John xvii. 3. is in him as the cause, head, spring, and fountain of it. In him it is in its fulness, and from thence it is derived unto all that believe, who receive from his fulness' grace for grace ;' John i. 16. All true saving sanctifying grace, all spiritual life, and every thing that belongs thereunto, is derived directly from Christ as the living head of his church, and fountain of all spiritual life unto them. This the apostle expresseth, Eph. iv. 15, 16. 'Speaking the truth in love, grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ; from whom the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. To the same purpose he again expresseth the same matter, Col. ii. 19. All grace in the whole body comes from the head Christ Jesus; and there is no growth or furtherance of it, but by his effectual working in every part to bring it unto the measure designed unto it. Nothing then, no not the least of this grace, can be obtained but by virtue of our union uns to Christ as our head, because it consists in a vital effectual
influence from him and his fulness. And this kind of relation unto Christ, all grace that is or may be in unregenerate men, is incapable of.
3. The grace of regeneration, and the fruits of it, are administered in and by the covenant. This is the promise of the covenant, that God will write his law in our hearts, and put his fear in our inward parts, that we shall not depart from him; Jer. xxxii. This is that grace whereof we speak,whatever it be, or of what kind soever. It is bestowed on none but those who are taken into covenant with God; for unto them alone it is promised, and by virtue thereof is it wrought in and upon their souls. Now all unregenerate men are strangers from the covenant, and are not made partakers of that grace which is peculiarly and only promised thereby, and exhibited therein.
4. The least spark of saving regenerating grace is wrought in the soul by the Holy Ghost, as given unto men to dwell in them, and to abide with them. He is the water given by Jesus Christ unto believers, which is in them a well of water springing up to everlasting life;' John iv. 14. First they receive the water, the spring itself, that is, the Holy Spirit; and from thence living waters do arise up in them; they are wrought, effected, produced by the Spirit, which is given unto them. Now although the common gifts and graces of men unregenerate are effects of the power of the Holy Ghost wrought in them, and bestowed on them, as are all other works of God's providence; yet it doth not work in them, as received by them, to dwell in them, and abide with them, as a never-failing spring of spiritual life. For our Saviour says expressly, that the world, or unbelievers, do not know the Spirit, nor can receive him, or have him abiding in them. All which, in a contradistinction unto all unregenerate persons, are affirmed of all them that do believe.
5. The least of saving grace, such as is peculiar unto them that are regenerate, is spirit, John iii. 6. "That which is born of the Spirit, is spirit.' Whatever it is that is so born, it is spirit, it hath a spiritual being, and it is not educible by any means out of the principles of nature. So it is said to be a
new creature,'2 Cor. v. 17. Be it never so little or so great, however it may differ in degrees in one and in another, yet the
nature of it is the same in all; it is a new creature. As the least worm of the earth in the order of the old creation, is no less a creature than the sun, yea, or the most glorious angel in heaven; so, in the order of the new creation, the least spark or dram of true grace that is from the sanctifying Spirit, is a new creature, no less than the highest faith or love that ever were in the chiefest of the apostles. Now that which is spirit, and that which is not spirit; that which hath a new spiritual being, and that which hath none, whatever appearance of agreement there may be among them, do yet differ specifically from one another. And thus it is with the saving grace that is in a regenerate, and those common graces
that are in others which are not so. So that as these are divers states, so they are eminently different and distinct the one from the other; and this answers the second thing laid down in the objections, taken from the uncertainty of these states, and of regeneration itself, and the real difference of it from the contrary state, which is exclusive of an interest in forgiveness,
Thirdly, This is laid down in the inquiry, whether this state may be known unto him who is really partaker of it, or translated into it, or unto others that may be concerned therein; to which I say, the difference that is between these two states, and the constitutive causes of them, as it is real, so it is discernable; it may be known by themselves who are in those states, and others. It may be known who are born of God, and who are yet children of the devil; who are quickened by Christ, and who are yet dead in trespasses and sin.' But here also observe,
1. That, I do not say, this is always known to the persons themselves concerned in this distribution. Many cry Peace, peace, when sudden destruction is at hand. These either think themselves regenerate when they are not, or else wilfully despise the consideration of what is required in them, that they may have peace, and so delude their own souls unto their ruin. And many that are truly born of God, yet know it not. They may for a season walk in darkness and have no light. Nor,
2. That this is always known to others. It is not known unto unregenerate men in respect of them that are so. For they know not really and substantially what it is to be so.
Natural men perceive not the things of God; that is, spiritually, in their own light and nature, Cor. ii. And as they cannot aright discern the things which put men into that condition (for they are foolishness unto them), so they cannot judge aright of their persons in whom they are. And if they do at any time judge aright notionally concerning any things or persons, yet they do not judge so upon right grounds, nor with any evidence in or unto themselves of what they do judge. Wherefore generally they judge amiss of such persons; and because they make profession of somewhat which they find not in themselves, they judge them hypocrites, and false pretenders unto what is not. For those things which evince their union with Christ, and which evidence their being born of God, they savour them not, nor can receive them. Nor is this always known unto, or discerned by, them that are regenerate. They may sometime with Peter think Simon Magus to be a true believer; or with Eli an Hannah to be a daughter of Belial. Many hypocrites are set forth with gifts, common graces, light, and profession, that they pass amongst all believers for such as are born of God. And many poor saints may be so disguised under darkness, temptation, sin, as to be looked on as strangers from that family whereunto indeed they do belong. The judgment of man may fail, but the judgment of God is according unto righteousness; wherefore, 3. This is that we say; it may be known in the sedulous use of means appointed for that end, to a man’s self and others, which of the conditions mentioned he doth belong unto; that is, whether he be regenerate or no, so far as his or their concernment lies therein. This I say may be known, and that infallibly and assuredly, with reference unto any duty wherein from hence we are concerned. The discharge of some duties in our selves and towards others, depends on this knowledge, and therefore we may attain it, so far as it is necessary for the discharge of such duties unto the glory of God. Now because it is not directly in our way, yet having been mentioned I shall briefly in our passage touch upon the latter, or what duties do depend upon our judging of others to be regenerate, and the way or principles whereby such a judgment may be made. 1. There are many duties incumbent on us to be performed