Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

a

Christian can boast, if I may rely upon the testimony of such Christians, as I have conversed with, is a prevailing hope, or a comfortable persuasion, that he is a disciple of Christ. In this situation, the hope, which he enjoys, allures, and encourages, him to obedience; while it also prevents him from despondency. Numerous fears at the same time intervene, alarm him concerning the uncertainty of his condition, and compel him to new and more vigorous exertions for the performance of his duty. Thus he is preserved alike from the dangers of both despondency and security; and is kept, so far as such a being can be supposed to be kept, in a progressive and improving course of obedience. His path is like the shining light, which, however dim and dusky, still shines more and more unto the perfect day.

Whenever a Christian becomes possessed of the faith, or hope, of assurance; he is also so far advanced in virtue, that he is prepared to feel the influence of virtuous motives; to realize the glory and excellency of his Creator and Redeemer; the loveliness of virtuous affections and conduct, and the hatefulness of sin; sufficiently to need little assistance from the inquence of fear. Perfect love casteth out fear; and, in this state, a moral being is perfectly safe, without the aid of fear; perfecıly inclined to do his duty; and perfectly guarded against the danger of backsliding. The assured Christian approximates towards this state ; and is proportionally safe from the moral dangers of the present life.

In the like manner, the inhabitants of heaven are unalterably assured of their eternal perseverance in obedience; and in the same general manner are enabled to persevere. They love God too intensely, they delight too absolutely in virtuous conduct, they hate sin too cordially, and are too ethicaciously influenced by the Spirit of grace, ever to forsake holiness, and relapse into sin. The assured Christian is chietly kept alive in his obedience, in the same manner; and differs from them, principally, in the degree of his sanctification.

3dly. The scheme of justification by faith in Christ furnishes new, peculiar, and very powerful motives to obedience.

This position will not be questioned. The whole purpose, for which man is redeemed, is, so far as himself is concerned, that he should walk in newness of life; or that he should obey, anew, the law of God. To this great end he is now urged by motives, of which the law knew nothing. God, unasked and undesired, has sent his Son into the world, to redeem him. That glorious person became incarnate, lived, died, rose again, and ascended to heaven, where he reigns, and intercedes, to accomplish his Salvation. The Spirit of grace has sanctified him; the Father of all mercies has forgiven his sins. He has become a child of mercy; an heir of the Divine favour; a member of the family, which is named after Christ; has his name written in the Lamb's book of life; and is entitled to a glorious immortality. When he remembers what he

was, and to what he was doomed; considers what he now is, and to what he is destined; and realizes these wonderful efforts, by which the infinitely happy change, made both in his character, and in his destiny, is accomplished; he cannot, as a Christian; the subject of an ingenuous, virtuous, and a grateful disposition; fail to feel, that motives wholly new, entirely peculiar, and wonderfully great, demand of him the most constant and exact obedience to the law of God. In this great particular the law, instead of being made void, is, according to the language of the Apostle, established by the scheme of justification by faith.

4thly. The Fuilh of the Christian is the real source of Evangelical Obedience.

The truth of this assertion has been already sufficiently proved; and can never be rationally questioned, while the 11th chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews remains a part of the Word of God. There it is shown, that faith is the direct source of obedience in all its forms, and all its degrees; of great attainments in Christian excellence, and of all attainments of this nature ; of working righteousness, and inheriting promises; of pleasing God, and securing a title to the heavenly country. It is exhibited as the energy, by which we vigorously act in the service of God, patiently submit, and firmly endure. It is exbibited as the victory, by which we overcome the world ; and the shield, with which we become able to quench all the fiery darts of the adversary.

Faith, then, is the spirit, the disposition, with which the Christian feels, and without which he cannot feel, the various motives to obedience, furnished by the law of God; motives presented by the excellence of the law itsell, and of the government founded on it, the greatness of its sanction, and the glory of its Author. In an eminent degree, also, is it the spirit, which feels the peculiar motives, presented by the evangelical scheme of justification, and mentioned under the last head. These, it hardly needs to be observed, can be realized by no other disposition. The mind, under the expectation of meriting justification, either wholly or partially, by its own righteousness, proportionally recedes from just and affecting views of the excellency of Christ's righteousness, and its infinite importance to itself. Its sense of indebtedness, and its motives to gratitude, are proportionally lessened; and in the same proportion are diminished its inducements to obey, and its actual obedience. In this all-important sense, also, faith is the only real establishment of the law.

5thly. Those who have holden this doctrine have been the most exact, and exemplary, observers of the law.

If this be admitted, it must be allowed to put the question out of debate: for it cannot be denied, that the scheme of those, who obey the law most faithfully in their lives, is the scheme which most influences, and ensures, obedience. It is my business, then, to prove this position. For this purpose I refer you, generally, to

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 obsertance 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 erception, 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 heen peculiarly favourable to obedience.

4thly. Those, who have holden this doctrine, have much more generally and punctiliously frequented the house of God, and observed 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

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.

,

among mankind.

[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 regeneralion, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.

[ocr errors]

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 apprehension, 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 luis admission into the visible Kingdom of God; and of the Spirit, indispensably also, in order to his admission into the invisible and elernal 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.

I. His Character; and,
II. His Agency

The former of these shall now engage our attention ; and my own views concerningit 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 Arió ans 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.

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

« PoprzedniaDalej »