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But regenerated man is really virtuous, and yet really sinful: his true and entire character being a mixture of moral good and evil. This mixed character is presented to us by St. Paul in the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, by the phrases, the law in the members,' and the law of the mind.' These, he informs us, are totally contrary characters, warring in the same soul against each other, and carrying on a continual controversy while life remains. We are, however, abundantly taught that the holy or virtuous disposition, like the house of David, waxes' stronger snd stronger;' and the sinful disposition, like the house of Saul, weaker and weaker.' This increase of strength on the one hand, and this diminution of it on the other, is not indeed regular, constant, and always discernible; but it is yet irregularly progressive to the end of life. There are seasons in which the law in the members brings the law of the mind into captivity. David committed adultery with Bathsheba. Peter denied his Master; and dissembled with the Jews that went to Antioch. John and James proposed to call for fire from heaven upon the inhabitants of a Samaritan village. The disciples, as a body, contended' who of them should be the greatest,' and all 'forsook' their Master in the garden of Gethsemane, and fled.' Still all of them were better men near the close of life than at any preceding period. What was true of them is true of every good man. He will upon the whole improve through life; and will ordinarily, year by year, though not without various interruptions and backslidings, become a better Christian. Yet perfection in holiness is never found in the present world. 'If we say we have no sin,' says St. John, speaking of himself and all other Christians, 1 John i. 8, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.'
4. Notwithstanding the partial nature of this change, it is still the foundation of perpetual holiness.
Verily, verily, I say unto you,' saith our Saviour, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life; and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life:' or, as it is in the Original, hath passed, that is, already,' from death unto life.' It naturally seems mysterious that imperfect holiness should in this case be perpetual; when the perfect holiness of Adam, and the perfect holiness of angels, was terminated by apostasy. The
explanation of this mystery lies it is presumed in this peculiar fact, that those who are the subjects of this imperfect holiness are the seed promised to Christ in the covenant of redemption, as the reward of his labours and sufferings. It certainly is not in the nature of the holiness: for this in all the cases specified is the same. It is not in the degree: for that was greater in those who fell, than in those who endure. In those who fell it was perfect so long as it continued. In those who endure it is always imperfect, and often interrupted by backsliding. It is not in the nature of the subjects. The angels, who fell were superior in their nature to all men; and the perfect nature of Adam was superior to that of his sanctified children. Yet the perseverance of every saint, remote as his character is from perfection, is secured by the promise of God, and carried into complete and final accomplishment by the power of the Spirit. Of this enduring holiness regeneration is the basis; and the subject of it never ceases to be holy while he lives.
5. This change is the source of new views of spiritual and divine subjects.
These views united constitute what is often termed spiritual knowledge, divine knowledge, spiritual light, and divine light. As the opinions of divines, and other Christians, have been different concerning this subject, it will be proper to consider it with particular attention.
It has been extensively supposed that the Spirit of Grace regenerates mankind by communicating to them new, clearer, and juster views of spiritual objects. The understanding being thus enlightened and convinced, the heart, it is supposed, yields itself to this conviction; and the man spontaneously becomes under its influence a child of God. I shall not attempt here to describe the metaphysical nature of the work of regeneration; nor to define precisely the manner in which it is accomplished; nor the exact bounds of the divine and human agency in this great concern. Of these subjects I have not sufficiently distinct and comprehensive views to undertake this employment with any satisfactory hope of success. Yet it appears to me clear, that the account which I have now given of this subject is not scriptural, nor just. Without a relish for spiritual objects, I cannot see that any discoveries concerning them, however clear and bright, can
render them pleasing to the soul. If they are unpleasing in their very nature, they cannot be made agreeable by having that nature unfolded more clearly. He who disrelishes the taste of wine, will not relish it the more, the more distinctly and perfectly he perceives that taste. Nor will any account of its agreeableness to others, however clearly given, and with whatever evidence supported, render the taste agreeable to him. To enable him to relish it, it seems indispensable that his own taste should be changed, and in this manner fitted to realize the pleasantness of the wine. Light is either evidence, or the perception of it; evidence of the true nature of the object which is contemplated, or the perception of that evidence. But the great difficulty in the present case is this; the nature of the object perceived is disrelished. The more then it is perceived, the more it must be disrelished of course, so long as the present taste continues. It seems therefore indispensable, that, in order to the usefulness of such superior light to the mind, its relish with respect to spiritual objects should first be changed. In this case, the clearer and brighter the views of such objects are, the more pleasing they may be expected to become to the mind.
This, I apprehend, is the true progress of this work in the human soul. A relish for all spiritual objects never before existing in him, is communicated to every man who is the subject of regeneration by the Spirit of God. Before this event he disrelished all such objects; now, he relishes them all. Before, he was an enemy of God; now, he becomes a friend to God. Before, he loved nothing, now he loves every thing, of a spiritual nature. He who has hitherto been an enemy to a good man, disrelishes every thing which pertains to him, his character, conduct, conversation, and opinions, his family, his friends, his very looks, nay, even the spot where he lives, and in a word, every thing which is his. If you undertake to convince him while this disrelish continues, that the object of his dislike is undeserving of all this; you may indeed present to him arguments which he cannot answer, and silence his objections by the irresistible force of proof. You may explain to him in the clearest manner the excellencies of this oject, and set them in such a light that he may have nothing hat to say against it. Should all this have been done, his asdi, in the case supposed, would still continue; his views,
though enlarged, would be of exactly the same general nature; and his opposition to the hated object, instead of being diminished, would rather increase. We will now suppose this man to cease from his enmity, and to become a decided and sincere friend. A moment's thought will satisfy any mind that with the change of his relish, an universal change of his views also will take place. The very same things which formerly disgusted him, will now please him. What was formerly odious will now become amiable. The evidences of worth and excellence, which before silenced, will now satisfy him. His eye, no longer jaundiced, will see every thing in its proper, native light, in its true character, importance, and desert; and will discern in what was before unpleasing, deformed, or disgusting, a beauty, loveliness, and lustre wholly new.
This allusion will distinctly explain my own views of both the source and the nature of spiritual light. When the relish for spirituul objects is communicated to the mind, the enmity of the man towards these objects is converted into good-will. He now becomes a friend to God and to his law, to truth and to duty. Over these, and all other objects of the same general nature, he sees a new character diffused, of which before he did not form a single conception. Where they were before disgusting, they are now pleasing. Where they were before tasteless, they are now relished. Where they were before deformed, they are now beautiful. Where they were before odious, they are now lovely. The reason is, he now beholds them with new eyes. Before, he saw them with the eyes of an enemy; now, he sees them with those of a friend. The optics which he formerly possessed spread over them an adventitious and false colouring, altogether foreign to their nature, and exhibiting that nature under an universal disguise. These optics are now purified, and he sees all these objects as they really are; in their true colours, their native beauty, and their inherent splendour. This is what I understand by the spiritual light derived from regeneration.
6. This change is instantaneous.
This position has been as much controverted as any of those advanced in this Discourse; but, as it seems to me, with no solid support either from reason or Revelation.
The scheme of those who oppose this doctrine appears
generally to have been this: The subject of regeneration is supposed to begin, at some time or other, to turn his attention to spiritual concerns. He begins seriously to think on them, to read concerning them; to dwell upon them in the house of God, in his meditations, in his closet, and in his conversation. By degrees he gains a more thorough acquaintance with the guilt and danger of sin, and the importance of holiness, pardon, acceptance, and salvation. By degrees also he renounces one sinful practice and propensity after another; and thus finally arrives at a neutral character, in which he is neither a sinner, in the absolute sense, nor yet a Christian. Advancing from this stage, he begins at length to entertain, in a small degree, virtuous affections, and to adopt virtuous conduct; and thus proceeds from one virtuous attainment to another while he lives. Some of the facts here supposed, taken separately, are real; for some of them undoubtedly take place in the minds and lives of those who become religious men. But the whole, considered together, and as a scheme concerning this subject, is in my view entirely erroneous.
Were we to allow the scheme to be correct and scriptural, still the consequence usually drawn from it, that regeneration is gradually accomplished, is untrue. Regeneration, according to every scheme, is the commencement of holiness in the mind. Without calling in question the doctrine, that man in the moral sense is ever neutral, it is intuitively certain, that a Iman is at every given period of his life, either holy or not holy. There is a period in which every man who becomes holy at all first becomes holy. At a period immediately antecedent to this, whenever it takes place, he was not holy. The commencement of holiness in his mind was, therefore, instantaneous; or began to exist at some given moment of time. Nor is it in the nature of things possible that the fact should be otherwise. All that can be truly said to be gradual with respect to this subject is, either that process of thought and affection which precedes regeneration, or that course of improvement in holiness by which it is followed. But neither of these things is intended in the Scriptures, nor ought to be intended in the conversation and writings of Christians, by the word regeneration.
It is often objected to the instantaneousness of regenera→ tion, that the change is too great to be accomplished in a