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CONSEQUENCES OF REGENERATION.—SANCTIFICATION.
1 THESSALONIANS v. 23.-And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly.
HAVING considered, in the preceding discourse, the Nature, Reality, Importance, and Consequences of Adoption, I shall now proceed to the next subject of inquiry, in a theological system; viz. Sanctification. That this is a consequence of Regeneration is too obvious to every one, who reads his Bible, to be questioned.
The word Sanctify, used in the text, and elsewhere in the Scriptures abundantly, is employed to denote two things, which are commonly and properly, made distinct objects of consideration in Moral science: the Act of Regenerating man, or making him holy in the first instance; and the Combination of all successive Acts, of a similar nature, by which man is improved in holiness through life. It is scarcely necessary to be observed, that the latter of these subjects will now be the theme of investigation.
The text is a prayer of St. Paul, for the Sanctification of the Thessalonian Christians. As he prays, that they may be wholly sanctified; it is evident, that they were sanctified in part only, at their Regeneration; and at the time also, in which this prayer was uttered. It is further evident, that they were to be sanctified in a still greater degree; because this event is prayed for by the Apostle, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. The reality of this work is, thus, completely evident from the text; and is indeed so generally acknowledged by Christians, that it would be superfluous to attempt a proof of it, at the present time. I shall, therefore, proceed directly to the consideration of this subject under the following heads:
I. The Agent;
II. The Instruments; and,
III. The Process; of Sanctification.
I. The Agent in our sanctification is the Spirit of God.
This truth is amply declared in the Scriptures. God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through the sanctification of the Spirit. 2 Thess. ii. 13. Elect, says St. Peter, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience. 1 Pet. i. 2. But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Cor, vi. 14.
The most extensive and complete account, however, which is given us of this subject in the Scriptures, is contained in the eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. Here Christians are said not to walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit: to be under the law of the Spirit of life: to be after the Spirit: to mind the things of the Spirit: to be spiritually minded; and thus to possess life and peace: to have the Spirit dwelling in them: to be led by the Spirit; which to them becomes the Spirit of adoption; that is, the Spirit by which they are children of God, and cry unto him Abba, Father: to have the witness of the Spirit: to have the first fruits of the Spirit: to have the assistance of the Spirit in their prayers: and, universally, to be under his guidance, and influence, through the whole Christian life.
The same agency indeed, like that which was exerted in the creation of the world, and like the divine agency generally considered, is attributed to the Godhead universally; to the Father; and to the Son. The text is an example of the first of these forms of ascription. The very God of peace sanctify you wholly! Of the second we have an instance in the beginning of the Epistle of St. Jude. Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called. Of the last of these forms of ascription we have a specimen in 1 Cor. i. 30, Jesus Christ, who unto us, of God, is become wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: and another in Heb. ii. 11, For both he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one: wherefore he is not ashamed to call them brethren.
The reason, why this work is thus differently ascribed, is, that it is considered in these canonical discourses, in different manners, and with relation to different objects.
By the Father we are sanctified, as we are chosen by him unto sanctification, as by his good pleasure, and free grace, the atonement of Christ, and the sanctifying agency of the Spirit, exist. By the Son we are sanctified, as his death is the only means by which we ever become holy and by which the Spirit came into the world, for the benevolent purpose of making us holy. By the Spirit we are sanctified, as the immediate Agent in applying to us the blessings of Christ's Redemption; particularly in renewing, and purifying, our hearts and lives.
Thus, although this work is immediately performed by the Spirit, as the proper Agent; yet we are truly, though more remotely, said to be sanctified by the Father, by the Son, and by the Godhead universally considered.
The manner in which this work is performed in the mind of man, must, like other questions concerning the Agency of Intelligent beings, remain in a great measure concealed from such minds as ours. My observations concerning it will, therefore, be very few. In my own view, the work of sanctification, so far as the Agent is
concerned, is no other, than a repetition of the same agency, by which we are regenerated. Our regeneration, according to my own apprehensions, is accomplished, as I mentioned at large in a former discourse, by the communication to our minds of a new relish for divine things. Our Sanctification, as distinguished from it, consists, supremely, in enhancing this relish; in rendering it more intense, more uniform, more vigorous, and universally more operative. The communication of this relish, or disposition, makes us holy at first; or in our regeneration. Subsequent communications, of the same nature, render us more and more holy afterwards. As the effect, in both cases, is the same; it cannot be reasonably doubted, that the cause is the same; nor that it operates in the same manner. If this disposition is, in the mind, the source of holy volitions, and virtuous conduct; the stronger, the more prevalent, it is at any succeeding period, the more virtuous will be the life.
II. The Instruments of our Sanctification are generally the Word and Providence of God.
The Word of God is the means of our sanctification in all cases, in which it contributes to render us better; whether it be read, heard, or remembered; whether it be pondered with love, reverence, wonder, and delight, or whether, with similar affections, it be faithfully obeyed; whether its instructions and impressions be communicated to us directly, or through the medium of divine ordinances, or the conversation, or the communion, or the example, of our fellow-christians. In all these cases, the thing which is seen, which is illustrated, which is exemplified, which is in any manner brought home to the heart, and thus rendered the means of improving us in virtue, is no other than the Word of God; however numerous, or however diversified, the modes are, in which it is presented to the mind.
As the Word of God is loved by a regenerated mind; it is easily discernible, that its influence on such a mind will be very different from that, which existed in the preceding state, commonly termed the state of nature.
Particularly, the Scriptures will be more frequently and extensively read. A book, which we love, is often taken up; is often perused, and dwelt upon, with pleasure. Such a book, therefore, will be much more thoroughly studied, and extensively understood, than one which is disrelished. It is, also, now more highly reverenced; and for this reason, will be more read, and better known.
Its instructions and precepts, at the same time, coincide with the great scheme of moral conduct, formed by the mind; as its only general directory; harmonizing with its views, affections, aims, and determinations. They are, therefore, welcomed as means of light; as objects of complacency; as sanctions of favourite de
signs; and as guides, aids, and motives, to a life, chosen and loved.
The Scriptures are also regarded by such a mind, as being, in a proper sense, the Word of God; of Him, by whom itself was created; under whose law and government it is placed; to whom all its duty is originally owed; and to whom it is, of course, answerable for all its conduct. Thus considered, the Scriptures appear, to such a mind, invested with Infinite authority, conveying supreme obligation, and rightfully controlling the heart, and the life. With an efficacy, still more peculiar, are they regarded as the Word of the Father, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier, of man: as the Word of a forgiving God; of a Redeemer, dying for its own sins; of that infinitely Benevolent Spirit, who is its own Sanctifier. Under these titles, the most venerable, and the most endearing, which the universe has ever known, God speaks in his Word to every Christian with a power, which nothing can equal, with a tenderness and endearment, to which there is no parallel. Whatever he utters, is not the prescription of a perfect Creator and Lawgiver only; but the counsel and pleasure, also, of a Father, and an everlasting Friend: infinitely the most faithful and useful of all friends; infinitely the most venerable and affectionate of all parents. From such a Source what counsel, what command, what persuasion, will not completely influence, and control, the heart of filial piety?
Finally; the Scriptures are regarded by such a mind, as containing all things necessary to life, and to godliness. The precepts are an ample summary of all the directions necessary for our practice; the ordinances, for our worship; and the instructions, for our faith, and the prudent conduct of our religious life. The mind resorts to them, therefore, as to a complete compend of all the directions, which it needs, or ever can need, in the present world. Every thing, which it contains, is right; is sufficient; is decisive. To every thing it yields, therefore, with implicit confidence; and, whatever may be the rules which it finds here, is satisfied, and safe.
The Providence of God becomes the means of our sanctification in all the ways, in which it makes solemn and religious impressions on the mind. The great, majestic, and awful events, which take place in the creation around us, excite strongly admiration and reverence towards that glorious Being, who holds the universe in his hands, and controls all its beings and events with such amazing power and wisdom. The order and harmony, with which all things move to their proper ends; the succession of summer and winter, seed-time and harvest; and the terrible things, which God does in righteousness, when his judgments are abroad in the earth; awaken in the soul of the Christian most affecting views of the divine government; of its vastness, its comprehensiveness; its astonishing grandeur; and its unvarying opposition to iniquity.
The dispensations of God to his Church are a most impressive source of religious thoughts, and affections, to the Christian. These are all dispensations, involving the peculiar interests of his own brethren; his chosen friends; with whom he ever weeps, when they weep; and rejoices, when they rejoice. These display also, in a manner wholly peculiar, and, although often obscure, mysterious, and even perplexing, yet, if it be not his own fault, always interesting and profitable, the most venerable and endearing attributes of his heavenly Father. Every Christian will easily recollect, that, in the history of God's Providence towards the disciples of Christ, in their sufferings and deliverances, their exposure and protection, the communications made to them of grace, mercy, and peace, their consequent exemplary faith, their hope and joy, their victory and triumph, their edifying life and their peaceful death, he has found means of improvement, alway touching his heart, and contributing in an eminent degree to amend his life. Here he has found his doubts and fears, his stupidity and sloth, his murmurings and backslidings, most efficaciously improved; his faith and fortitude, his reverence and submission, his hope, and love, and joy, unusually strengthened. From accounts of these things he has risen to more fervent prayers, more ardent praises, more vigorous resolutions, and more faithful obedience. What is true of these things, existing in other times, and other countries, is equally true of the same things, as they respect the Christians around him. Here the events are brought before his eyes; and are presented to him with the force, possessed only by the immediate objects of sense. The truth, here, may be no more satisfactorily exhibited; but the impression, made by it, is necessarily enhanced, A deeper interest is, therefore, naturally felt; more lasting traces are impressed on the memory; and a more powerful influence is diffused over the life. All the happy effects, derived from the preceding source, flow, therefore, from this with a more intense and controlling efficacy.
But, above all, the dispensations of God to himself, and to his family, are the most strongly realized, and most regularly directed to his own spiritual improvement, by the renewed man. These are all more perfectly understood; come more immediately to the heart; and operate with a more commanding influence on the life. In these he is taught by the finger of God, as a child trained to his service, and fitted by degrees for eternal glory. Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord.
It will be remembered, that to both these sources of improvement in the divine life, the heart of the Christian is opened by the disposition, which he receives in Regeneration. It will be remembered, that he regards them all with a taste, a relish, congenial to them; that he beholds them with enlightened eyes; that he applies himself to them with unceasing diligence: that he considers VOL. II.