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SERMON LXXII.

REGENERATION.

THE AGENT: HIS AGENCY.

NOT BY WORKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH WE HAVE DONE, BUT

ACCORDING TO HIS MERCY HE SAVED US, BY THE WASHING OF REGENERATION, AND THE RENEWING OF THE HOLY GHOST.

TITUS III. 5.

IN a preceding Discourse, I proposed to enter upon an inquiry into the great subject of Regeneration under two principal heads :

I. The agent in this work.
II. The work itself.

The former of these subjects I proposed to discuss under these heads :

I. The character of the Agent.

II. His agency.

The character of the agent I have already examined.

In investigating his agency I propose to consider,
I. The fact.
II. Its nature.
III. Its necessity.
IV. The objections to it.

It will be observed that I here take it for granted, that mankind are, in some instances, really regenerated ; reserving the proof of this doctrine to a future occasion, when I shall come to the discussion of the second thing originally proposed ;

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viz. The work of regeneration. In discoursing on collateral subjects of theology, or of any other science, it is, not very unfrequently, necessary to suppose one or more of them for the time allowed, to preclude useless embarrassment in the discussion of the others. This, however, is to be done only for the time, and only for the purpose which has been specified. It is no part of my design in this system to take any point in theology for granted; nor to expect the belief of any doctrine alleged by me, unless the arguments adduced to support it shall be found solid and convincing. Nor do I ever intend to consider any thing as granted by those who differ from me, unless I suppose it to be really granted by them. If there be found in this System of Discourses any thing contrary to these principles, I hope it will be considered as the result of inattention and error on my own part; for no departure from them will receive any justification from me.

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With these things premised, I shall now proceed to a consideration of,

The fact, that the Holy Ghost is the agent in the regeneration of man.

It will be easily seen that the proof of this position must be derived from the Scriptures; and that all the evidence concerning it furnished by reason and experience must be merely auxiliary, and cannot, in the nature of the case, be decisive. From the Scriptures then I shall proceed to allege such proofs of this doctrine, as to me appear satisfactory.

1. I argue this doctrine from declarations of the Scriptures. The text is one of these declarations.

In this passage we are said to be saved by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.' The word renewing' is an exact translation of the original word in this place. To renew signifies, as you well know, to make new, or to make over again. This operation is here ascribed to the Holy Ghost in as simple and unambiguous terms as are possible.

John i. 12, 13, is another example of the same nature. But to as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God; even to them that believe on his name. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of

man,

but of God.'

In this passage of Scripture it is asserted, that the birth by which mankind become the sons of God, is derived not from blood,' or natural descent; nor from the will of the flesh; nor from the will of man; that is, not from human contrivance and determination in any form : ' but from God.' It is difficult to conceive how this doctrine could be more clearly asserted. But if those who sustain this character are born of God, they are born of the Spirit of God. For our Saviour, discoursing on this subject in chap. iii. ver. 5, 6, says, 'Except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit.' Here the persons said in the former passage to be born of God, are declared by our Saviour to be born of the Spirit; and that which is born of the Spirit is declared alone to be spiritual. So far as I can see, these passages in the most decisive manner assert regeneration to be exclusively the work of the Spirit of God.

In this passage, also, “ that which is born of the flesh is' declared to be · flesh;' that is, whatever proceeds from a fleshly source partakes of its fleshly nature. The word · flesh' is customarily used in the Scriptures to denote the native character of man. In this sense · the carnal, or fleshly mind' is declared by St. Paul to be enmity against God, not subject to his law, neither indeed capable of being subject to it.? In the same sense, the same apostle says, ' In me, that is, in my flesh,' or natural character, ' dwelleth no good thing.'

A contrast is studiously run between that which proceeds from the Spirit, and that which proceeds from the flesh; or, to use the words of our Saviour, in the passage above quoted, between that which is flesh, and that which is spirit, in several passages of Scripture. “To be carnally minded,' says St. Paul, ‘ is death ; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace,' Rom. vii. 6. In the Original, . The minding of the flesh is death ; but the minding of the Spirit is life and peace.' And again, Gal. v. 19—23, · Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these ; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, varianco, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like ; of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which

do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.' In these passages the different natures of the fleshly and spiritual character are too strongly marked to need a comment. All that is sinful, odious to God, and the object of his wrath, plainly belongs to the former; and all that is holy, lovely in the sight of God, and the object of his favour, belongs to the latter. But that which is born of the flesh is flesh;' is of this odious, guilty nature ; while that which is born of the Spirit is' alone spirit.' In other words, whatever is good and acceptable before God in the character of man is produced by the Holy Ghost.

In 2 Thess. ii. 13, St. Paul says, 'God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through the sanctification of the Holy Ghost. The Thessalonian church then was chosen to salvation : How? Through the sanctification of the Holy Ghost. The sanctification of these persons then was a part of the original purpose of God, and a pre-requisite to their salvation. The Thessalonians, therefore, were renewed or regenerated by the Holy Ghost; and, by necessary conclusion, all others who become the subjects of regeneration.

1 Cor. vi. 11, · But ye are sanctified by the Spirit of God.' In the two preceding verses, St. Paul mentions several classes of men, who, he declares, “ shall not inherit the kingdom of God.' Then he subjoins, . Such were some of you. But,' be adds, ?ye are sanctified by the Spirit of God.' Formerly these Corinthians were of the number of those who, continuing in their proper character, could • not inherit the kingdom of God, That which now made them of a new and opposite character was, that they were 'sanctified by the Spirit of God,'

In Ezekiel xxxvi. 26, 27, God says, ' A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statntes ; and

ye

shall keep my judgments and do them. Here, giving these Israelites 'a, new heart,' and ' a new spirit,' is plainly and exactly equivalent to the import of this declaration, 'I will put my Spirit within you ;' as the consequence of which, it is declared,

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that they shall walk in the statutes of God, and keep his judgments. The disposition therefore with which mankind keep the statutes, or obey the law of God, is produced in them by God himself, and is effectuated by his Spirit.

In the following chapter God says, verses 13, 14, to the house of Israel, represented as spiritually dead, “Ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall put my Spirit in you, and ye shall live. Here spiritual life is exhibited as the immediate effect of the agency of the Spirit of God.

To these passages of Scripture I shall subjoin a few more, out of a great multitude, to the same purpose.

For the love of God is shed abroad in your hearts by the Holy Ghost,' Rom. v. 5. Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost,' 1 Cor. vi. 19. • No man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost,' 1 Cor. xii. 3. •For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God,' Rom. viii. 14.

I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring,' Isa. xliv. 3. The direct consequence of this effusion of the Spirit is declared in verse 5: One shall say, I am the Lord's, and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob.'

2. The same doctrine is taught us by facts contained in the Scriptures.

Our Saviour preached to the Jewish nation at least three years and a half, if not more than four years. It will be admitted that he was the best of all preachers; and that his preaching was more perfectly calculated than any other to produce holiness in the hearts of those who heard him. Yet it will also be admitted that he was not a very successful preacher. We naturally ask, Why was he not successful ? The apostles on the contrary, though certainly and greatly inferior to Christ in wisdom and persuasiveness, preached still with wonderful success. St. Peter, by the first sermon which he delivered to the Jews, probably converted more to the faith and obedience of the Gospel, than Christ during the whole of his ministry. We naturally ask also, Whence arose this wonderfully different efficacy in the preaching of St. Peter and that of his Master. The persons whom they both addressed were the same. They had been witnesses of the miracles of both. Why then were they perfectly dead to the preaching of Christ; and pricked to the heart,' and turned

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