Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

those discourses, in which I impeached the doctrine, and the conduct, of the Unitarians, and to the letters of Dr. Fuller on the moral tendency of the Calvinistic and Socinian systems. Your attention, at the present time, is requested, particularly, to the following arguments ; which I shall only state, and leave to your consideration.

1st. Their antagonists have extensively acknowledged this position to be true. The confession of an adversary, in a practical case, may be usually assumed as decisive evidence.

2dly. Those, who have held this doctrine, have by the same adversaries been censured, despised, and ridiculed, as being unnecessarily exact, and rigidly scrupulous in their observance of the duties of a religious life: While their adversaries have styled themselves, by way of distinction, liberal and rational Christians. This could not have existed, had not these people, thus censured, been really exact, so far as the human eye could judge, in obeying the commands of God.

3dly. The sermons of Ministers, holding this doctrine, have, with scarcely any exception, urged a stricter morality on their hearers, than those of their adversaries. This any man may know, who will read both, even to a moderate extent. But this could not have taken place, had not the doctrine itself been peculiarly favourable to obedience.

4thly. Those, who have holden this doctrine, have much more generally and punctiliously frequented the house of God, and obserded the duties of the Sabbath, than their adversaries. This fact is acknowledged by both parties ; and therefore cannot be mistaken.

5thly. Those who have holden this doctrine have, among Protestants, been almost the only persons, who have originated, supported, and executed, missions, for the purpose of spreading the Gospel among mankind.

This fact cannot be questioned. I shall leave you to judge of the evidence, which it contains; and shall only observe, that the Papists have, indeed, prosecuted missions with great zeal; but that any one, who will read the histories of them, will readily discern the end of their efforts to have been the extension of power, and the accumulation of wealth ; not the diffusion of religion.

6thly. The Papists have very generally holden the doctrine of justification by works ; while the reformers, almost to a man, hold that of justification by faith. The comparative morality of these two classes of men cannot, here, need any illustration.

[blocks in formation]

SERMON LXX.

REGENERATION.-THE AGENT IN EFFECTING IT.-THE HOLY

GHOST.HIS CHARACTER.

Titus iii. 5.-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.

In the six preceding sermons, I have considered the Manner, in which we become interested in the redemption of Christ, through free grace on the part of God, and on our part by evangelical faith. The Manner, in which we become possessed of this faith, is the next great subject of investigation in a system of Theology:

The text, after denying that we are saved by works of righteousness, and declaring that our salvation is according to the Mercy of God, or through his free grace, asserts, that this salvation is accomplished by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. There has been no small dispute among

divines about the meaning of the third phrase in this passage: The washing of regeneration. Some have supposed it to denote baptism; and some to denote the same thing with the following phrase : The renewing of the Holy Ghost. Others have interpreted it in other manners. The second interpretation, which I have mentioned, is, in my apprebension, the true one. If baptism be intended, the passage is equivalent to the declaration of our Saviour to Nicodemus : Except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot see the Kingdom of God. He is born of water, or baptized, indispensably, in order to his admission into the visible Kingdom of God; and of the Spirit, indispensably also, in order to his admission into the invisible and eternal Kingdom of God. As his admission into the former is a symbol of his admission into the latter ; so baptism, the means of his admission into the former, is a symbol of regeneration, the means of his admission into the latter. The difference between the two interpretations, which I have specified, will, therefore, be found ultimately to be immaterial : the one referring the phrase to the type, and the other to the thing typified. On either scheme, it must be admitted, that the Apostle declares mankind to be saved by regeneration. Regeneration is, therefore, that event in the gracious providence of God, by which we become the subjects of faith, entitled to justification, and consequently heirs of salvation.

In the consideration of this subject, two things are, in the text, presented to our inquiry :

1. The Agent in this work; and, II. The Work itself.

The Agent in the work of renewing the human mind is declared in this passage, to be the Holy Ghost. Two things are naturally presented to us by the mention of a person, sustaining so important a part in the economy of salvation; a part, without which, all that has preceded would be wholly defective; and exist to no valuable purpose.

1. His Character; and, II. His Agency

The former of these shall now engage our attention ; and my own views concerning it will be sufficiently expressed in this position.

The Holy Ghost is a Divine Person.

It is well known to those who hear me, that various classes of men, who profess to receive the Bible as the rule of their faith, have denied this proposition: viz. those who deny the Deity of our Saviour. The scheme of denial, however, has, in this case, been materially different from that in the other. In that, Deity was the object denied ; in this, Personality. On all hands it is agreed, that the Holy Ghost is acknowledged by Trinitarians to be a Divine Person; but by Unitarians only a Divine Attribute ; asserted sometimes to be the Wisdom, but, usually, the Power, of God. The chief subject of debate, therefore, between us and the Unitarians; that is, those with whom we have the chief concern: viz. the Arians and Socinians; is whether the Holy Ghost be a Person, or an Attribute.

In support of the Trinitarian doctrine concerning this subject, I observe,

1st. The supposition that the Spirit of God is an Attribute renders the language of the Scriptures unintelligible and unmeaning.

I have had occasion to take some notice of this fact formerly: it will be proper, however, to bring it up to view at this time. For example, then, it is said in Acts x. 38, God anointed Jesus with the Holy Ghost and with power. This passage, read according to its

. real meaning, as interpreted by the Unitarians, would stand thus : God anointed Jesus with the Holy Power of God, and with Power. Romans xv. 13, Now the God of peace fill you with all joy, and peace, in believing; that ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost : that is, that ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Power of God. Verse 19, Through mighty signs, and wonders, by the power

of the Spirit of God : that is, mighty signs, and wonders, by the power of the Power of God. 1 Cor. ii. 4, In demonstration of the Spirit and of power : that is, in demonstration of power, and of power.

will not intrude upon your patience by repeating similar passages any farther; as these are abundantly sufficient for my pur. pose. It cannot be necessary to bring proofs, that the infinitely wise God can never have directed his own Word to be written in

men.

this manner. No sober man ever wrote in this manner. Nay, it may be confidently asserted, that such a mode of writing was never adopted by any man, of any character whatever.

2dly. This scheme renders our Saviour's account of the Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost unmeaning and incredible.

This account is given us in various places; particularly Matthezo xii. 31, All manner

of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto

Concerning this I observe,

First, that blasphemy cannot be directed against an Attribute. Evil speaking, or speaking in a manner derogatory to character, can be directed only against a percipient being; because such a being, only, is capable of perceiving, or being in any way affected by, the evil intended. When mankind speak evil against the word, sabbaths, ordinances, works, names, or titles, of God, the evil is nothing, except as it is directed against God himself; because he alone, and not the things immediately blasphemed, can perceive, or be affected with, the evil which is spoken. In this manner all men have understood the subject.

It cannot be, therefore, that the Unitarians, when they read this passage, suppose the blasphemy in question to be directed against the power of God. They undoubtedly consider it as directed against God himself, through the medium of this attribute. I observe, therefore,

Secondly. It is inconceivable, that blasphemy against God, universally, and in all other forms, should be forgiven; while the blasphemy against his Power can never be forgiven.

In the attribute of Power there is plainly nothing, which is pe. culiarly sacred. It is shared alike by good and evil beings; and does not contribute at all to distinguish their character, as moral beings, or to render them either good or evil. It is, in no sense, the foundation, nor an ingredient, of worth or moral excellence. It is not, and cannot be, the object of love, nor praise. It is, therefore, incredible, and certainly inexplicable, that all manner of blasphemy against the whole character of God, particularly against his moral character, should be forgiven ; and yet that blasphemy against this single natural attribute should never be forgiven. So far as the human understanding can discern, blasphemy against the holiness, faithfulness, truth, goodness, and mercy, of God, would be more expressive of malignant opposition, and of guilt, in the blasphemer, than blasphemy merely against his power. St. John has declared, -that God is Love. That is, Love is the essence, sum, and glory of his moral character, and of himself. Blasphemy against this perfection, we should, I think, irresistibly conclude to be more heinous, than against any other attribute. But, according to this scheme, blasphemy against the power of God, a natural attribute, is so much more heinous than that, which is directed against all

ܪ

a

the other divine attributes; nay, than that, which is directed against God, himself, and his whole character, including this very attribute of power, together with all others; as to be absolutely unpardonable; while all other blasphemy can, and will be forgiven. This, to say the least, is incredible.

If the Holy Ghost be a Divine Person, it would seem probable, that, if any sin is incapable of being forgiven, blasphemy against the Holy Ghost would be that sin. The Holy Ghost is God, em

. ployed in his most benevolent and wonderful work; that of restoring holiness to the soul of man; in his most glorious character, that of the Sanctifier; in a work, demanding the supreme gratitude of mankind; in a character, demanding their supreme reverence and love.

3dly. That the Holy Ghost is not an attribute is evident from Acts v. 3. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thy heart, to lie unto the Holy Ghost?

A lie is a wilful deception; and can be told only to intelligent beings; because such beings only can perceive the meaning of the declaration, with which the liar intends to deceive; or, in other words, because such beings only can receive the lie at his mouth. A child perfectly knows, that he cannot lie to a tree or an ox; because they must be unconscious of what he says. But an attribute is as unconscious as a tree, or an ox; and, although God perceives all things, yet his power perceives nothing. A lie, therefore, cannot, in the physical sense of possibility, be told to the power of God.

4thly. All the Attributes and Actions of a person are ascribed to the Holy Spirit.

These are so numerous, and the varieties in which they are mentioned are so numerous also, that I shall only specify them in the most summary manner.

The Spirit of God is said to strive. My Spirit shall not always strive with man. Gen. vi. 3.

To be sent forth.

Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, and they are created. Psalm civ. 30. God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son. Gal: iv. 6. The Comforter, whom I will send unto you from the Father. John xv. 26.

To move.
The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. Gen. i. 2.
To know.

The Spirit searcheth all things, even the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of a man which is within him? Even so the things of God knoweth no one but the Spirit of God. 1 Cor. ii. 10, 11.

Here set me ask, whether any man can conceive, that Knowledge, one essential attribute of God, can with any meaning be said to be an attribute of Power, which is another? Or whether power can, in any words that have meaning, be said to know any thing?

« PoprzedniaDalej »