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man, but of God." The infidel formalist, for such we must call him who denies the Spirit's agency, refers them to an endless variety of causes, operating conjointly or separately, as the case may be. Nor does he distinguish between the true and the false; assuming, in his reasonings, those spurious transformations, which we reject as decidedly and as utterly as he does, and misrepresenting the argument on this subject, as though we plead, indiscriminately, for all that bears the name of conversion. The fallacy of some hypotheses has been exposed. The residue possess the same character.
There is but one other, deserving of attention, and that is, the attempt of certain divines, to identify baptism and regeneration. But before adverting, particularly, to this bold attack upon the very vitals of our holy religion, we have one or two general remarks to make, in reference to the whole tribe of infidel hypotheses, to account for human conversions, where the special and immediate agency of the divine Spirit, is not admitted.
1. They are all based on false assumptions,--such as the following, that the Spirit's influence is equably diffused — that it is universal and adequate without any increase or variation in special cases, to the production of faith and love, and other graces—and that it is impossible to distinguish between that love of God, of virtue, and of man, which proceeds from mere human principles and motives, and that which flows from the influence of the Divine Spirit. These will not be conceded, and the man who opposes the special and efficacious grace of the Spirit, in conversion, must establish them before we can at all agree to listen to the suppositions that grow out of them.
2. Another remark is, that they violate two of the fundamental principles of all sound philosophy, viz:—that no
1. John, i, 15.
more causes are to be admitted, than are real and sufficient to account for the phenomena, and that effects of the same kind are to be referred to the same cause. The special and efficacious grace of the Spirit is assigned by the testimony of God, as the cause of conversion, and it is sufficient. Admitting the authority of the Scriptures, as they do with whom our argument is concerned, it is unphilosophical to seek for another. And, what is worthy of the strictest attention, every truly converted person, whoever and wherever he may be, whether born and brought up in the church of God, or sprung from Hottentots or Hindoos, or savages, evinces the same effects. He is humbled and mourns deeply and bitterly, on account of his sins-submits to the sovereign authority of God, his creator, and feels that it would be just in Him to punish him eternally for his sins, he sues to Him for mercy,-he trusts in Him through the merits of a crucified Redeemer for pardon and acceptance,--he experiences an inward peace and joy, and he cherishes a firm unconquerable hatred of sin and love to God and holiness; and he perseveres in a life of holy obedience. These effects you find wherever true converts are found, whether among the learned, or unlearned, the noble, or ignoble, the civilized, or the savage. They are effects of the same kind, and which the word of God, as philosophically, as unequivocally, attributes to the Spirit's special influence. It is unphilosophical therefore, to attribute them to any other.
Nothing can be more utterly ridiculous and absurd, than the endless self-contradictory, and unintelligible suppositions, which captious formalists have framed to account for what are called extraordinary conversions. We object not to any careful and minute investigation of the mental acts, and whole process of thought and feeling, leading to, and issuing in conversion. These things are legitimate subjects of investigation, and no one can judge,
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 exercises 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 by 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 cpiscerated 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 life;"> 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