Page images


first planting and the increase of it, are both equally from God by His Spirit.” Speaking of the graces of the Spirit he says that "He brings them forth from the stock which he has planted in the heart." Thus the whole agency of the blessed Spirit, in the work of eliciting and preserving in exercise the christian graces, is made to possess no other character than that, which as the great agent in creation and providence he exerts. We cannot but think that this militates alike against the special and gracious character of the Holy Spirit's work in regeneration and sanctification. For it differs not in character from His creating and preserving power, which He exercises throughout his boundless uni

We candidly confess that we cannot discern either the grace or specialty of that work of the Spirit in subduing a rebel, which resolves His influence into the same agency that He exerts as the Creator and Preserver of all things. If the sinner is born again, and preserved in holiness by the mere exercise of physical power, producing and sustaining a new creature in the soul, the interference of the Spirit in this wondrous work is of no higher character than that of giving being to, and supporting his creatures. It may be a display of his wisdom and power, but the grace of it is exceedingly obscured.

That we have not misrepresented the character of that agency attributed to the Spirit, by the advocates of a physical Regeneration, will be apparent from the following similitude, which Dr. Owen has traced between the growth of a tree, and the sanctification of a believer, and which, instead of understanding as an analogical illustration, he has literally interpreted, when noticing the Scriptural predica tion, “I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring, and they shall spring up as among the

grass, as the willows by the water courses. “These


1. Onex on the Spirit. v. ii. p. 76, 79. 2. Isai. xliv. 3, 4.

trees and plants," says he, "have the principle of their growth in themselves. They do not grow immediately from external adventitious aid and furtherance ; they grow from their own seminal virtue and radical moisture. It is no otherwise in the progress of sanctification and holiness. It hath a root, a seed, a principle of growth and increase in the soul of him that is sanctified. All grace is immortal seed, and contains in it a living growing principle. That which hath not in itself a life and power of growth is not grace.” Here then the renovated man has in himself a life and power of growth, or else according to Dr. Owen, he has no grace.

And to this seminal virtue, communicated in regeneration, must we refer the power of growth. The agency of the Spirit is only concerned in so far as by some general law, it contributes to its developement! Who then can consider the Spirit, if this be the case, as the immediate author of holy exercises ? The believer by the seminal virtue in him grows and thrives, having power in himself, the Spirit's agency merely supporting and preserving the new creature in him ! But this is in direct contradiction of Paul's experience, who, though a converted man, said "in me, that is in my flesh dwelleth no good thing,"2 but who “through the Spirit did mortify the deeds of the body."

4. We cannot neglect, also, to notice the deleterious influence which the doctrine of physical regeneration must necessarily have on personal piety. The christian's consolations and activity are alike impaired by it. For he is put upon a search after some mystical effect of the Spirit's work on his soul, which as the appropriate and immediate cause of his voluntary exercises and actions is to determine his character, in the sight of God, rather than to the exercises and actions themselves. These he may indeed observe as reported by his consciousness, but still his mind is 1. Onven on the Spirit, vol. ii. p. 87. 2. Rom. vii. 18. 3. Rom. viii. 13.


kept distracted and divided, for he is labouring to ascertain the existence of a new creature in himself, which is the cause of holiness. Of the existence of this new creation in him, he never can have direct evidence, through consciousness or in any other way; and labouring under the impression that regeneration consists in the production of this new creature in him, by the direct exercise of physical power on the part of God, he may be kept for a long season overshadowed with gloomy doubts and suspicions with regard to his character in the sight of God, and his right to enjoy christian consolations, or mistake the excitements and hallucinations, which are, often the result of nervous irritability, and most extraordinary, for the operation of God's Spirit.

The instances of both sort are not rare. We have traced the practical effects of this view of Regeneration in both respects. Persons possessed of natural talents, and whose gifts might be employed with great advantage to others, hesitate and refuse to take a full and decided stand on the side of Christ, and resolutely to act in the business of religion, through a fear that possibly they are not regenerated, and consequently, that their acts are and must be sinful, and will be by no means continuous. The cause of continuous holy exercises they suppose to be lodged in the regenerate man himself, not in the immediate gracious influence of the Spirit pledged to faith, and having no satisfactory proof that there ever has been any thing of this sort in them, they feel that it would be better for them to wait for further evidence and not commit themselves, or jeopard the cause of piety, by undertaking to discharge the distinctive duties of religion. And this state of things has been often induced and confirmed by the conduct of professors, and parents, and church officers, who have refused to accredita person as a follower of Christ, on the first announcement of his evidences of christian character, and recommended him


to wait some months till time would show whether he had not been deceived. Thus is he, as it were, intimidated at the very commencement, and taught to look with a suspicious eye on all evidences of piety given by himself and others in the voluntary exercises and actions. The current of gracious feeling in the soul is thus checked. The vigour and zeal of the young convert are paralyzed, and in many instances, he sinks down into a dull and monotonous formality, from which perhaps he is seldom or ever afterwards delivered. The church is robbed of the full bene- . fit of his zealous efforts. The world is deprived of the full benefit of his example. And his own soul is held in doubts and despondency, afraid to say that he is a christian, and unwilling to say that he is not.

It does not comport with the design of this work, to trace all the different deleterious results on practical piety, which the idea of a physical regeneration secures. We wonder at the marvellous grace of the Spirit of God, who keeps the heart alive where it is held under the influence of such dig. tracting and perplexing error. And we hope that ere long the christian community will be furnished with some practical treatise designed to expose and guard against the injurious influence of such false philosophy, upon religious experience. Its crippling and benumbing effects have long been felt in the churches, where there has been intelligence associated with piety. And where ignorance has obtained, the wildest and most fanatical delusions have flowed from it. Weak-minded and superstitious persons, considering regeneration to be an act of physical power, and altogether unobservant of their own conscious exercises, have mistaken excitements of feeling and reveries of imagination for the impulses and visions of the Spirit. We once were called to see a lecherous female, who supposed herself near death, and was exulting in the conviction that she had been born again produced by the ease of body and revery

of imagination, induced by the use of laudanum, and whose belief of the Spirit's direct and powerful agency on the soul was not to be shaken, but who lived long enough to return to her wicked ways and prove it all to have been a delusion.

5. The injurious consequences that practically result from this error, are almost endless: but no where are they more mischievous than in destroying the sense of moral obligation, which would urge the unconverted sinner to immediate repentance. It is in vain to talk to sinners about God's right to command them to do this or that, or their obligations, if they see that they are actually required to csercise the prerogative of Jehovah Himself. Every man feels at once, that here obligation ceases, and his heart is fortified against every call that would urge him virtually to do so. Now the exercise of creative power God claims as exclusively His own. “Thou art worthy 0, Lord, to receive glory, and honor, and prower: for THOU AAST CREATED ALL THINGS, » Yet, He does most undeni. ably require the sinner to make to himself a new heart, and to perform those exercises of faith and repentance, which, according to the error we combat, are the results of a new creation in the soul. “Repent,” says he, "and turn yourelves from all your transgressions, so iniquity shall not be your ruin Cast away from you all your transgressions whereby ye have transgressed: and MAKE YOU A NEW HEART, and a new spirit: for why will ye die, 0 house of Israel?" If therefore, regeneration, or the making of a new heart, be a creative act of God, an act of His physical power, then does He command the sinner to exercise His high and divine prerogative.

It is all to' no purpose to tell the șinner about his sin, and loss of power, and derived corruption and God's right in the case;-he FEELS that he is required to do an absolute im. 1. Rcxiv. 11.

2. Ezek. srüi. 30, 31.

« PreviousContinue »