« PoprzedniaDalej »
continuation of it; for having ordained the preparation of the body by generation, he immediately infuses into it the living soul, the breath of life. There is (2.) The quickening act of this principle on the subject quickened, in and by virtue of union. Hereby the whole man becomes a living soul, a person quickened by a vital principle, and enabled for all natural vital actions. There are (3.) The acts of this life; such are the actings of the senses, motion, reception of food, and the like. These are acts of life, as life; inseparable from it, and intended to preserve it. There are also such acts of life as proceed from the special nature of this quickening principle; as the voluntary rational acts of our understandings and wills.
Hence it appears in what natural death consists; and it includes (1.) The separation of the soul from the body. (2.) A cessation of all vital actings; for that union from whence they should proceed is dissolved; and (3.) As a consequent of these, there is in the body an impotence and inaptitude to all vital operations; for the body is no longer able to effect them.
"First. There is no principle in spiritual life in unregenerate persons; no power of living to God, or of performing any acceptable duty. It is with them as to all the acts of life spiritual, as it is with the body as to the acts of life natural, when the soul is departed from it. Whatever men do, unless endowed with a quickening principle of grace, they can perform no act spiritually vital. "The carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be." Rom. viii. 7. So then, "they that are in the flesh cannot please God," ver. 8. Our Lord says, that " to him unless the Father draw him." And so it is figuratively expressed, where natural men are compared to evil trees; it is affirmed, That they cannot bring forth good fruit unless their nature be changed. There is no power in men by nature, on the mere proposal of their duty, and exhortations to the performance of it, accompanied with the most suitable motives, to perceive, know, will, or do any thing in a
no man can come
manner acceptable to God, without a new gracious habit enabling them thereto.*
Secondly. There is in this death an actual cessation of all vital acts. From this defect of power it is that natural men can perform no vital act of spiritual obedience. Hence all their words are "dead works ;" they proceed not from a principle of life; are unprofitable as dead things; and end in death eternal.
We may now consider how this spiritual life is communicated to us. The original spring and fountain of it is with God. "With thee is the fountain of life.” And hence our life is said to be "hid with Christ in God;" and it differs from life of any other kind, in that the fulness of it is communicated to Christ as Mediator; and from his fulness we receive it. Hence he is said to be "our life;" and it is not so much we that live, as "Christ that liveth in us."
The fountain of this life being in God, and the fulness of it being laid up for us in Christ, he communicates the principle and power of it to us by the Holy Ghost, according to and for the ends of the new cove
* It is objected, That this renders all exhortations useless. I answer (1.) Nothing is requisite in the application of means to an end, but that they are suited to it, and that the subject to be wrought on is capable of being affected by them. Now exhortations are suited as moral instruments, to produce the effects of faith and obedience; and the faculties of the soul are meet to be wrought upon by them. (2.) Exhortations, &c. primarily respect our duty, not our ability;-not what we can, but what we ought to do.-(3.) God is pleased to make these means of communicating life; and he has appointed them to this end, because they are suited to our moral and intellectual faculties.
It is further objected, That if men are utterly devoid of all power to live to God, is it righteous that they should perish eternally, merely for not doing what they are not able to do? I answer (1.) Men's disability is their sin. It came upon us by the sin of our first parents, all whose consequents are our sin and our misery. Rom. v. 12. Had it befallen us without a guilt truly our own, according to the law of creation, the case would have been otherwise. (2.) Men have a power in sundry things relating to obedience and salvation, to comply with his mind and will, which they voluntarily neglect; and this alone is sufficient to bear the charge of their eternal ruin. (3.) No man is so unable to do any thing for God, but he is able to do any thing against him. There is no command, but he can put forth a positive act of his will in rejecting it. This is the Scriptural account of the matter, by some traduced as fanatical and foolish, which the Lord Christ must answer for, not we; and the day will determine where the blame must lie.
nant; for this is the promise of it, That God will first "write his law in our hearts," and then we shall "walk in his statutes;" that is, the principle of life must precede all vital acts. Where this is not, no act of obedience can be so performed as to be an act of the life of God. To say that we have a sufficiency in ourselves, so much as to think a good thought;-that we have any power or ability of our own by nature to do any thing as we ought, is to overthrow the Gospel, and the faith of the Catholic Church in all ages,
Thirdly. In this state of spiritual death, there is not any disposition inclining to spiritual life: there is nothing of this kind in a dead carcase as to natural life. The dead body of Lazarus was re-animated by the introduction of his soul; but in itself it had not the least active disposition thereto. It is exactly thus with a soul dead in trespasses and sins. There is in it a remote power, in the nature of its faculties, fit to be wrought upon by the Spirit of God; but an immediate power, disposing it to spiritual acts, it has not; and the reason is, because natural corruption cleaves to it, as an invincible habit constantly inducing to evil; with which the least disposition to spiritual good is inconsistent. There is in the soul, in Scripture language, "the body of the sins of the flesh;" which unless removed by spiritual circumcision, through the virtue of the death of Christ, will lie dead to eternity. There is therefore in us that which may be quickened and saved; and this is all we have to boast of by nature, Though man by sin is become "like the beasts that perish," being foolish and brutish in his mind and affections, yet he is not so absolutely; he retains that living soul, those intellectual faculties, which were the subject of original righteousness, and are capable of receiving again "the image of God," by Jesus Christ.
The Nature, Causes, and Means of Regeneration.
IGNORANCE of the true state of man as depraved by nature, is the principal cause of all the mistakes, ancient and modern, respecting regeneration : we have therefore insisted on it so far as was necessary to our present purpose, and sufficient to guide us in our enquiry after the work of the Holy Spirit in our deliverance from it.
It is evident that persons living and dying in this state cannot be saved. Among those who lay any serious claim to Christianity, there is nothing more acknowledged than that there is no deliverance from a state of misery without a deliverance from a state of sin; for if we may be saved without the renovation of our nature, there was no need of the new creation of all things by Jesus Christ; and if we may be saved under all the evils occasioned by the Fall, then Christ died in vain. Besides, it is inconsistent with the nature of God, his holiness, righteousness, and truth; it is inconsistent with the law and gospel; and impossible, in the nature of the thing itself, that such persons should become possessors of glory and rest with God. A deliverance therefore from this condition, is indispensably necessary to make us "meet for the inheritance of the saints in light."
This deliverance must be by regeneration. The determination of our Saviour is positive: "Except a man be born again (or from above) he cannot see the kingdom of God." John iii. 3. Whatever sense "the kingdom of God" is taken in, whether of grace here, or of glory hereafter, it is the same as to our present purpose. There can be no interest in it unless a man be born again; and as this determination is absolute, so it is universal, comprising every individual of mankind; and though men may have false apprehensions about regeneration, yet, as far as I know, all Christians are agreed, that it is the means of our deliverance from the state of sin, or rather our deliverance itself.
The Holy Ghost is the immediate author of this
work; and this is also generally admitted; nothing is more acknowledged (in words however) than that all the elect of God are sanctified by the Holy Ghost; and regeneration is certainly the beginning of our sanctification. The Scripture is express in testimonies to this purpose. What our Saviour calls being born again (John iii. 3.) he calls being born of the Spirit (ver. 5, 6); for it is the "Spirit that quickeneth ;" and God saveth us, " according to his mercy, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost."
This being admitted, our inquiry must be after the manner and nature of this work; for the nature of it depends on the manner of the Spirit's work in it. This, I confess, was variously contended about of old; and the truth concerning it has scarcely escaped an open opposition in any age of the church; but it was never traduced and reviled with so much impotence and ignorance as it now is, by some among ourselves. The ancient writers of the church, who looked into these things with most diligence and success, as Austin, Hilary, Prosper, and Fulgentius, taught the same doctrine; for the substance of it that has been preached among us since the Reformation; and which some have ignorantly charged with novelty and the whole of it was nobly and elegantly expressed by Austin in his Confessions; wherein he relates the experience of the truth he had taught in his own soul. I might follow their footsteps herein, but that there have been so many differences raised about the explications of their terms, that to carry the truth through so many intricacies would lead me too far from my original design. Our principal inquiry, at present, is about the work itself, and this must be both negatively and positively declared.
First. The work of the Spirit of God in regeneration does not consist in a moral suasion, that is, such a persuasion as may, or may not, be effectual; though, properly speaking, that only is persuasion whereby a man is actually persuaded. Now the instrument of this moral suasion is the word of God, as contained in the