Page images


THE word of God the instrument of Regeneration-That word not a credtive fiat, but the facts and truths of scripture-These well adapted to the result designed by them-The Spirit gives them efficacy-Inquiry whether this efficiency is in the suasive influence of truth, or by acts of physical power-The persuasive influence of truth felt in some degree by all hearers of the gospel-The Spirit's influence something more than the mere exhibition of truth to the mind-The influence of mind on mind-Its potency-Its availableness-The Spirit's peculiar to HimselfExerted through the truth-Not a physical energy-Quotations from Dr. Owen-Examination of the argument in favor of a physical efficiency which is adduced from that class of scriptural testimonies which speak of faith and repentance as gifts of God-An illustration-The commonsense view of the subject.

THAT the Spirit of God is the author of regeneration, is not denied by those who speak of it as the commencement of a change in the character of our voluntary exercises. Whether that change is the result of a creative act of God's physical power-terminating on our constitutional capacities and susceptibilities; or consists in the substitution or succession of new exercises of these capacities and susceptibilities, the exercises taking their character from the objects and motives inducing them, are questions which have been already answered. Even they who contend for a literal interpretation of the phrases, create anew, new creature, as denoting an act of physical power on the part of God, will nevertheless admit, that the power of God exerted in regenerating a sinner, is through the instrumentality of the truth or word of God-a fact essentially at war with the idea of a literal creation. Such a creation

is without means-there being nothing on which to operate, and creation being the production of something out of nothing. But in the moral creation, means are employed by God. "Of his own will begat He us with the word of truth."

It is assumed that this "word of truth" is not the creative fiat of the Almighty, but the facts and truths revealed in the sacred scriptures. Every one who will attentively consider the subject, cannot fail to perceive, that these facts and truths are admirably adapted to engage the rational mind and sensitive soul of man, in exercises evincive of a change of heart. In order, however, to induce these. exercises for which the word of God is actually employed, common sense at once teaches, that the truths and objects revealed in the scriptures, must be brought to bear upon our minds, i. e. must be so presented to us as to engage our attention, and rouse our mental and other capacities into action. This the Spirit does in various ways, and does effectively, in all that believe. In what His efficacy consists, is a question of deep interest, and in attempting to meet it, it becomes necessary to inquire whether the Spirit's agency is in the suasive influence of truth, or by some act of physical power irrespectively of the appropriate influence of the truth.

That the great facts revealed in the word of God, with its doctrinal instruction, its promises, its precepts, its threatenings, its examples, its precedents, its motives, are adapted to produce distinct impressions on the minds of men, and designed to teach them how to live to God and enjoy His communion, no one who is acquainted with the sacred volume can deny. It is through this that we are commanded and exhorted to turn ourselves to God and live. By whatever instrumental agencies that truth is exhibited, whether by the living teacher-the ministry of

1 James, i. 15.

reconciliation, or the living epistle-the conduct and example of the church, or the lively oracles themselves, as quoted, explained, or taught by men, it is still the great means which the Spirit of God employs to convince us of our sins, nd turn us from the error of our ways.

Every one whose mind has ever, in any degree, apprehended the truth of the scriptures, has felt somewhat of its p suasive influence, leading him to a compliance with it. "Almost thou persuadest me to be a christian," said Agrippa. And when Paul "reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled." The powerful exhibition of motive by the minister of Christ, as he appeals to the consciences of his hearers, and sympathetically moves by the manifestation of his own. feelings, seems to have a natural tendency or operation to induce the conversion of the sinner. All that have turned to God have felt it.

But is this all the influence of the Spirit? Does His influence extend no further than the mere exhibition in the word, of motives, arguments, objects and considerations. calculated to move the heart and change the will? The sacred scriptures intimate something more than this. He does, in this way, strive with men universally, who hear the gospel, and sometimes, with remarkable evidences of its influence; as in seasons of revival of religion, when almost every heart is made to quake, and every mind is impressed with the solemn conviction that God is in the midst of His people. But if there is no other agency of the Spirit than the mere exhibition of moral truth calculated to excite, then is there no special and immediate or supernatural influence, to secure the conversion of oue more than another; whereas the Saviour's thanksgiving toGod plainly teaches that there is. "I thank thee Oh Father, Lord of Heaven and of earth, because Thou hast hid 2 Acts, xxiv, 25.

1 Acts, xxvi, 28.


these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so Father for so it seemed good in thy sight.” And the numerous conversions in the primitive churches are all attributed to some special agency, which justified the apostles in using, as the designation of their members, the phrase "elect of God.” Beside, the Saviour says expressly,“no man can come to me except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, and they shall be all taught of God. Every man, therefore, that hath heard and learned of the Father, cometh unto me." There is something more than the mere objective strivings of the Spirit, as they are sometimes called.

In so saying, however, we are not to be understood as denying that the essicient agency of the Spirit, is in perfect unison with the moral influence of the truth: nor as maintaining that it consists in an effort of physical power. It is very obvious, that the same truth pronounced by one man will make a much deeper impression than as it comes from another, though both may be placed precisely in the samo ext. rnal circumstances. One man may better understand the character of him whom he addresses, than another, and from his knowledge of that character, and interests, relations, prejudices, dominant passions, and the like, be able to make his appeals, in such way, and to sustain them by such motives, as to produce the very excitement, and rouse into action the very feelings, requisite to sway the will into a compliance with his demands. Perhaps no other man couid have done this. We see examples of this nature, in the success with which one man of practical knowledge and tact, and particular acquaintance with dispositions, &c., makes his appeal to the heart of some wretched slave of avarice, and secures his liberal donation, although others had often tried and failed. .] Mat. xi. 25.

2 John, vi. 44, 45.


Were we then to say, that the Spirit of God, who knoweth perfectly what is in the breast of man, can so arrange providential circumstances, and, at the same time, so cause truth, specially adapted to the mood of mind which they have produced, to be presented, as to rouse into action the constitutional capacities and susceptibilities, and thus secure the compliance of the will with his solicitations, we should maintain a special and direct agency of His, superadded to that of His mere objective strivings or the mere presentation of truth to the mind. The grace such a procedure would be passing strange indeed!


But there is an influence which mind exerts on mind, the extent and power of which we cannot estimate. We sce it, in the impressions which a father has made upon his son, and trace its wondrous developments, as that son may roam i distant lands;-in the distracting effects of those terrible denunciations of vengeance, with which an angry foe has put to flight some timid offender;-in the checks and barriers, which some benevolent friend has, by his feeling counsels, thrown in the way of the young votary of sinful pleasure; in the winning influence of certain indications of affection, made by the very twinklings of the eye, which ivet the heart; in the solemn, premeditated appeal, which passes unheeded at the moment, and seems to die from the recollection, but revives, with almost tempestuuos power, when the individual to whom it has been made, suddenly finds himself involved in the circumstances contemplated;and in the surprise, delight, anxiety, or terror, which may be awakened in the mind of another, by one, who, studious of the heart, has learned from certain outward indications, to read the thoughts, and founds an appeal on what the individual addressed had supposed, would never be known or suspected by man.


We stand amazed, at times, at the potency of that influence, which those conversant with the human heart, and

« PreviousContinue »