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his Spirit is the sole Author of this new and holy life. If the apostate child of Adam becomes the child of
if his moral nature lives by new culture, and his faculties acquire a new development; if he sustains new relations, possesses new tastes, preferences, and pleasures; if he is devoted to new pursuits; if he has a new heart and a new spirit ; it is from the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.” “ He that hath wrought him for this self-same thing is God."
I need not tell you that a different theology from this has, to no inconsiderable extent, pervaded the Church of God in almost every age. Pelagius, as early as the fifth century of the Christian era, taught, that " for us to be men, is of God; but that for us to be righteous, is of ourselves.” Of the same class are those teachers in modern times, who affirm that while God cannot regenerate men, men regenerate themselves! We have no fellowship with views so directly opposed to the instructions of the Bible, and so utterly at variance with the experience of good men. I have often wondered at the rashness of those who have ventured thus to tamper with principles of such extreme delicacy and importance. There is nothing we should approach with greater fear and trembling than the work of that Almighty Spirit, to whom so much is entrusted, and whose office and honours are protected by such fearful sanctions. It is easy to give a wrong touch to the ark of God. The great principle of the Spirit's influence is to the Christian system what the main spring and shaft are to a delicate and exact machinery. It is an impulse of prodigious power, and may not be jostled out of its place by curious and unhallowed hands. I cannot but regard the immediate, effectual interposition of the Holy Spirit, superadded to all the means of grace and salvation, as one of those
fundamental truths that are settled in heaven, and ought never to be unsettled on earth. It was just observed that the error to which we refer is at variance with all sound experience. What is more common than for men under strong convictions to be thrown into deep distress and agony, from a view of the difficulties in the way of their conversion ? What pious man has not been deeply sensible of his insufficiency to change his own heart, and a thousand times gratefully acknowledged that the change is to be attributed to a cause without himself? Who has not evidence within his own bosom, which is instead of a thousand exterior arguments, that there are obstacles to be surmounted in this great work, to which nothing is adequate but divine power? Nay, is not this insufficiency one of the first lessons in the school of Christ?
I have seen men who went up to the house of God with the unbending spirit of rebellion against their Maker, who went away with the meekness and docility of little children. I have seen men of all ranks and ages, of all opinions and prejudices found in Christian lands, of every degree and variety of information from the shrewd jurist to the humble artisan, of all dispositions and characters, become alike and together the subjects of a moral transformation, the reality of which has been demonstrated by a subsequent life of practical godliness, and under the influence of light and motives which they had often previously resisted and which others around them still resist. How are these moral phenomena to be accounted for? If there be a divine influence in regeneration, there is nothing ambiguous, nothing doubtful, nothing wonderful in such results, except as they are expressive of wonderful power and mercy. When I see the forest bend and the sturdy oaks trem
when I hear the tempest howl and behold the ocean foam with fury; though I see neither the cloud nor the air, I know there is “a strong and mighty wind.” So when I see a whole assembly moved as the trees of the wood; when I behold the fountains of human depravity broken up, its deep abyss boil, its troubled waters cast up mire and dirt, and after the storm listen “to the still small voice;" I know that the arm of the King eternal, invisible and immortal is made bare. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit."
The change of which the Spirit of God is the Author is a moral, a spiritual change. It does not effect a transformation in the essential properties of the soul; but rather so enlightens and influences its existing properties, that, in a moral view, it becomes a new creature, and possesses altogether another spiritual character. It does not impart any new intellectual faculty, but rather enriches faculties that have become impoverished by sin ; directs faculties that have been ill-directed; imparts sensitiveness and integrity to the conscience, and holiness to the heart. Nor is the influence that causes it, an influence that is necessary in order to originate or sustain the obligations to holiness. There is enough of intellect and conscience in the most reprobate sinner to make it every way suitable and proper that he should be required to be holy, even though the influences of the Holy Spirit were forever withheld. The obligations to holiness are destroyed by nothing short of idiocy. • He that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
The reasons for the necessity of this divine influence may be stated in a very few words. All men by the fall lost communion with God. Not only have they no original righteousness, but deeply seated original sin. Mental blindness, unfaithfulness of conscience, and a total depravation of all the moral affections constitute the character of every natural man. That character is written in three memorable words," enmity against God.” Now it were marvellous if such a man were the cause of his own regeneration. Love produced by enmity-holiness caused by sinlight created by darkness! The reason then why a divine influence is necessary is, that men never will, and never can become holy without it. 66 Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life;" “no man can come to me, except the Father who hath sent me draw him." Both these representations are alike entitled to our confidence. Until God draws them, no matter what the variety and novelty of their mental developments, no matter what the rigour of their external reformation, no matter what the strength of their most solemn purposes of repentance, they depart farther from him.
It has been already intimated that the Divine Spirit acts on the mind itself. A misconception of the truth in this particular, has induced error. The disciples of the Arminian school do not, in expressed terms, deny the doctrine of divine influence. And yet they virtually deny it. Dr. Whitby himself concedes that “God vouchsafes some inward operations, or assistance to incline men to what is good, and work conversion in them; while at the same time he asserts, that this influence is confined “to a more clear representation of the truth, that we may have a fuller evidence and stronger conviction of it.” Such is the modern doctrine of the same school. Men are not wanting at the present day who affirm that all the influence which the Spirit of God exerts is a moral, or suasory influence; and that it is impossible the
mind should be subjected to any other. But this whole system is untrue. Who has told us that he who created the human mind cannot control and govern it; and that, when light and motives can no longer influence its course, by the same voice by which "he spake and it was done, and commanded and it stood fast," he cannot so express his omnipotent will that the sinner shall turn and live? What is there in the laws of mind to prevent omnipotence from arresting its attention, impressing its conscience, and changing its affections ? Away with all this philosophy, falsely so called! The single question is, does the Spirit of God, in changing the heart through the intervention of truth, act upon the truth, or upon the mind ? How does it act upon the truth? Does it change it? does it present it in such a way that the hostile mind falls in with it? The door is closed. The mind itself is inaccessible. The heart must be first opened, as was the heart of Lydia when she received the things that were spoken by Paul. The Saviour made use of clay to open the eyes of him that was born blind. But it was not the clay that opened them, but the Saviour himself. And though the analogy does not hold in all respects, it illustrates the thought we wish to convey. The change in regeneration is effected by the Holy Spirit through the truth, while the influence of the Spirit is exerted, not on the truth, but on the understanding and heart. Men may not always know how this moral transformation was effected, except that it was by an influence above all the
power of second causes. With the man who was born blind, they can say, “One thing I know, that whereas I was once blind, I now see.' And if any doubt the immediate power of God in their conversion, with him they might well reply, “ Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes!”