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intelligently and correctly of his own change of heart, who does not inspect and examine them. But we do object, to that rash, and infidel pride, which prompts many, because of the perfect adaptation of the means which the Spirit employs to the end which is designed, to deny His immediate agency altogether, or to assimilate it to some general law by which God governs the human mind. If the sacred Scriptures, have described certain acts and excrcises of the mind and heart of man, as effects of the Spirit's agency, and we give credit to their authority, the voluntariness of those acts, of which we may be conscious, or the ease with which we may trace the operation of the general laws of thought throughout the whole, are, by no means a sufficient warrant to set aside the declarations of the word of God, in this matter as nugatory, and refuse to admit the direct agency of the blessed Spirit. For after all, let men trace the laws of thought as distinctly as they may thoughout the whole process of conversion, the effect in the entire change of a man's thoughts and feelings, desires, purposes, conduct and habit, is singular, proving some special cause in the individual cases, giving direction and efficiency to all the rest.
As to the supposition, that Baptism and Regeneration are identical, we have but little to remark. The error as sanctioned hy the phraseology in the book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church in these United States, and adopted by some of its members, who claim for its ordinances exclusive apostolical validity, is the chief thing that gives it any importance. It may indeed suit those who attach so much importance to Baptism, and help to invest the rite with a deeper and superstitious sacredness as performed by those who have been Episcopally ordained; but the common sense of mankind is not so easily to be imposed upon. But few who read their Bibles, and take the liberty of thinking for themselves, without deferring to that.
mystical being, “the church," who thinks, and says, and ordains thus and thus, will ever be in danger of mistaking Baptism for Regeneration, or of identifying them.
To tell us of what the church thought, and how the baptized persons were called renewed, and how in the primitive ages of christianity, Baptism and Regeneration
, were supposed to be identical, is nothing to the purpose. We hold, as of very little value, any and every decision or authority on this subject, but the sacred Scriptures. It evinces a servility that we do utterly disdain, to cite the opinion of this and the other bishop, and father, or council, or doctor, or divine. To the law and to the testimony. What say the Scriptures of truth? So far from their identifying these things, they are careful to let us know that they are perfectly distinct. For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision availeth any thing but a new creature. “ If any man be in Christ, he is a new creato ure."
“We are his workmanship created anew in Christ Jesus unto good works.” Believers are said to be "renewed in the spirit of their minds.” How any man with such, and many other passages of like import, staring him in the face, can undertake to say that Regeneration in the Scriptures, denotes merely a change of state and not a change of affections, is to us truly astonishing.
What if the baptized were called renewed, does it follow that Baptism and Regeneration are the same? Where a church is so careful and pure in the administration of the or. dinances of Christ's house, as to admit none to Baptism, but such as give satisfactory evidences of a change of heart or of being born again, then we see plainly how the terms might become correlate. But for any one grarely 10 argue on such grounds as to the identity of Baptism and Regeneration, is really evincive of something by no means creditable, either to his head or heart. If any
choose to apply the term Regeneration to Baptism, and renewed
to baptised persons, let them produce their authority for it from the sacred Scriptures, and shew that such an application of them is sanctioned by Christ, and the Apostles. But do not let them attempt to justify such perversion of scriptural language, by citing the opinions, and writings of any uninspired men, or intrenching themselves behind the customs and usages of uninspired speech in any age of the world.
There is nothing more deluding and dangerous, than to use the language of Scripture, as expressive of ideas, different from those of the inspired writers, who first employed it. Nothing can justify such a thing. It is, in this case, a wresting of words, and perverting of the truth, to the ruin of souls; and they that will be guilty of such an attempt, to get rid of a vital and essential doctrine of christianity, as to apply the terms of Scripture, which denote a change of heart, so indispensably necessary to salvation, to a mere formal rite or ordinance, can no longer be regarded in any other light, than as false and dangerous guides. We know what some have done, and how they have actually eviscerated the lively oracles of God, of all their distinctive and living truth, of every thing that can give consolation to a troubled conscience, while, nevertheless, the language is retained. The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth lifo;" and whether it be the essential fact, of an atoning sacrifice offered by the eternal Son of God, or of the vital influence of the Holy Spirit, in changing the sinner's heart, we can discern but little difference. It is but a frigid, killing system of religion, where either does not hold a conspicuous place. The wretched mind of man, is in most disordered action; drawn away, by earth, from God, the source and centre of its bliss, and held, in sad, corrupting subjection, by its selfishness. There is need for an influence from God, a beam from the fountain of light, to restore the miserable and degraded being, that has resigned himself to the dominion
of his lusts. Blessed be God, that the instances are not rare, in which He “who hath shined out of darkness into light, shines into the heart, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ.”. There is no hypothesis of infidelity, no resort of formality, no refuge of lies whatever, that can resist the evidence of facts occurring, so plainly and so satisfactorily solved in the sacred Scriptures, by referring us, for their cause, to the special agency of the Spirit of God.
THE REALITY OF THE SPIRIT'S SPECIAL
Tae doctrine of the special agency of the Spirit in the conversion of the
sinner not a mere hypothesis—The history of the church, furnishes proof of a special care indicating a special agency on the part of God— The same thing inferred from the numerous promises relating to its growth and prosperity-Objected that these things are true only of the church, as a collective body-Proofs to the contrary—The effects of the special agency of the Spirit, capable of being traced though human consciousness, and consciousness conjointly with the testimony of the Scriptures, furnishing evidence of the reality of the Spirit's special agency.
We have assumed as true, in the remarks already made, the special agency of the Spirit, in the work of conversion, and shewn, that it alone is a cause adequate to account for the effects contemplated. Before we attempt to trace that agency, in its immediate influence on the mind and heart of man, it may perhaps be proper to adduce some proof of its reality in addition to what has incidentally been exhibited. It is not a mere hypothesis.
Were there no other evidence of the special agency of the Spirit of God, in the regeneration of the sinner, than the plausible manner in which it accounts for the remarkable moral transformations among men, commonly called conversion, regeneration, change of heart, &c. it would after all, be nothing more than a mere philosophical theo. ry, invented and adduced, to explain the language of the Scriptures, and as such it could not, however plausible, claim the assent of our faith. But that such is not its character, a few considerations will suffice to convince the reader.