Page images

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, saperadded to that of His mere objective strivings or the inere presentation of truth to the mind. The grace of 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 i, in the impressions which a father has made upon his son, and trace its wondrous developments, as that son may roam in distant lands;—in the distracting effects of those terrible uenunciations of vengeance, with which an angry foe has put to fight some timid offender;- in the checks and barviers, 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 vivct the heart;—in the solemn, prenieditated 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;ad 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 in Aluence, which those conversant with the human heart, and

with knowledge of the ways of wicked men, can exert, in detecting culprits, in swaying the angry passions of the multitude, and in subduing, almost hy a word, and altogether unarmed, the subjects of violent and infuriate excitement. There is a sort of sympathy between human spirits, which may be touched to produce designed emotion, with as much certainty as we can strike the chords of music, to secure the very sounds desired. What, in these things, we concede to man, must be attributel, in infinitely greater degree, to that Spirit, who searcheth the heart, and trieth the reins of the children of men.

Nor are we disposed to rest even here. We freely admit, that the Almighty Spirit, which formed us at first, is able to rouse our different capacities into action, in some way peculiar to Ilimsell, so as to produce exactly the result Ile designs; yet so as neither to do violence to any principle of our nature, nor be the efficient Author of our volitions, or of any positive creation within us, having causal power over such volitions. But what that agency precisely is, we will not presume to say, any further, than that it is noi irrespective of the appropriate influence of truth, upon the rational mind and feeling heart of man, nor in any indepen:lent exercise of physical power, nor inconsistent with the voluntary agency of man.

When the influence of the Spirit, in Regeneration and sanctification, is promised, or spoken of, it is as in connection with and through the truth. When Paul prayed, that the cyes of the understanding of the Ephesian converts might be enligincned, he asked God specially to give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of Christ.' When the Saviour promised the Comforter to his disciples, he said, "He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said

1. Eph. i, 17, 18.


unto you.” When He prayed for their sanctification, it was "Through the truth-the word.Paul says of the Corinthian converts, “In Christ Jesus, I have begotten you through the gospel." Peter says of christians, that they are "born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God;"4 and Paul prays, that God might sanctify and cleanse (them) with the washing of water, by the word.'

These, and such like testimonies, are sufficient to teach us, that whatever influence of the Spirit in regeneration or

sanctification is promised, prayed for, or to be expected, | it is in and through the truths of the sacred Scriptures. In

them, are revealed the great objects which the Spirit presents, and causes to make their appropriate impressions on us, so that our minds and hearts are led forth in holy esercises. This fact will not be denied; but an agency of the Spirit, quite different from any that we have noticed, is asserted and contended for by some, as constituting the positive work of the Spirit in regeneration. It is something altogether independent of the moral influence of truth, and which may as readily be exerted without, and irrespectively of the truth, as with or through it. We refer to the physical energy of God, which we have denied is exerted in the regeneration of the sinner.

The reader will remember, what has been already brought into view on this subject, in a preceding chapter, where it is shown, that such an energy is actually contended for by some old Calvinistic divines, and is altogether unsupported by reason or Scripture. We are aware, that some are disposed to accuse us of a misrepresentation of the views of old Calvinists, and seek a subterfuge in the equivocal import of the word physical, as it is sometimes used synonymously with material. But this will not do. Dr. Owen shall once more speak on this subject. He is very explicit, when treating on the subject, which claims our attention in this chapter, and takes care, in the most pointed and formal manner, to assert an agency of the Spirit, of a totally disferent character, from that which is exerted through the truth. Of the latter he says, “His operation is herein moral, and so metaphorical, not real, proper and PHYSICAL." And while he admits, “1. That the Holy Spirit doth make use of it in the regeneration or conversion of all that are adult,” he adds, “But, 2. We say, that the whole work, or the whole of the work of the Holy Ghost, in our conversion, doth not consist herein; but there is a real PHYSICAL work, whereby he infuseth a gracious principle of spiritual life, into all that are effctually converted and really regenerated.”1 This he undertakes, at considerable length, to prove, as an important point, and necessary to be maintained, in opposition both to the Pelagian and SemiPelagian heresies. We can discern, however, an influence of the Holy Spirit, which is effectual, and operates, certainly, to secure the choice of the will, through the influence of truth, over and above that mere providential presentation of the truth, which leaves to the will the liberty of indifference, without finding it necessary to combat the Pelagian heresy, by maintaining such a monstrous absurdity, as that of physical Regeneration.

2. John xvii, 17.

1, John sir. 26. 4. 1 P.1,2

3. 1. Cor. iv, 15. 5. Eph. v. 20.

The ideas of physical depravity, and power, or ability, in the faculties themselves, were so interwoven with this writer's system, that he seems to assume it throughout that there is, and can be, no other way of effectually influencing and bringing the sinner to holy exercises, but by an actual effort of creative power on the part of God terminating on the abstract physical constitution of the

1. Owen on the Spirit, vol. 1, p. 176.

moral being-renovating or reinvigorating the very fuculties, so that He may be said to have literally created the rery willing of the sinner to come to Christ. “God worketh in us to will and to do. The act therefore itself of willing in our conversion,” he says, “is of God's operation: and although we will ourselves, yet it is he who causeth us to will by working in us both to will and to do." "Yet is not the will able to apply itself unto one spiritual act thereof, without an ability wrought immediulely in it by the power of the Spirit of God; or rather unless the Spirit of God by his grace effect the act of willing in it."

We refer the reader to the quotation in the note below, and pass to the consideration of some passages of Scripture, which seem to favor the idea of a physical efficiency of the Spirit in the work of conversion, and which are commonly cited in proof of it. And the First we notice, is that numerous class, which speak of faith, repentance, and other christian graces, as the gifts of God. “To you it is GIVEN on the behalf of Christ, not only to beliere on him, but also to suffer for his sake." On this verse Dr. Owen remarks: "To believe on Christ, expresseth saving faith itself. This is given to us. And how is it given to us? even by the power of God working in us to will

1. Owen on the Spirit, vol. 1. p. 478, 488.

2. This first act of willing, may be considered two ways. (1.) As it is wrought in the will subjectively, and so it is formally only in that faculty. And in this sense, the willis merely passive, and only the subject moved or actui. ated. And, in this respect, the act of God's grace in the will, is an act of the will. But (2.) It may be considered, as it is efficiently also in the will, as being actuated, it acts itself. So it is from the will as its principle, and is a vital act thereof, which gives it the nature of obedience. Thus the will, in its own nature, is mobilis fit and meet to be wrought upon by the grace of the Spirit, to faith and obedience; with respect unto the creating act of grace, working faith in us; it is mota moved and actuated thereby. And, in respect of its own illicit act, as it is so actuated and moved, it is morens, the next cf. fcient cause thereof.-Owen on the Spirit, vol. 1, p. 498.

S. Phil. i 27.

« PreviousContinue »