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SE R M O N

CVIII.

Of the nature of regeneration, and its ne

cessity, in order to justification and salvation.

GAL. vi. 15 For in Christ Jesus; neither circumcifion availeth any

thing, nor uncircumcifion, but a new creature.

The third sermon on this text.

ΤΗ

*HE point which I am upon from these words isgi

That according to the terms of the gospel, nothing will avail to our justification, but the real renovation of our hearts and lives.

For the full explication of this, I propounded to Thew,

1. What is implied in this expression of the new creature.

2. That this is the great condition of our justifica., tion and acceptance with God.

3. That it is highly reasonable that this should be the condition of our justification.

In speaking to the first of these, I have shewed, 1: What this metaphor doth certainly import; and, 2. That it dóth not import what some would extend iť to, whereon to found such doctrines as these:

(1) That as the creation was an irresistible act of the divine power, fo is this new creation, or the conversion of a finner.

(2) As creatures were merely passive in their being made, and contributed nothing at all to it, no more do we in our conversion and regeneration. (3) That as the creation of the several kinds and

ranks:

ranks of creatures was effected in an instant, by the powerful word of God, saying, Let such and fuch things be, and immediately they were ; so this new creation is in an instant, and admits of no degrees.

The first of these I have confidered, and entered upon the second ; namely, that as the creatures were merely pallive in their being made, and contributed nothing at all thereto, no more do we in our convere fion and regeneration.

This I told you does plainly make void all the precepts and exhortations, and all the promises and threatenings of fcripture, to argue and persuade men to repentance.

That which remains to be done upon this argument is,

First, To answer an objection or two, which are commonly urged by the affertors of this doctrine, that we are merely passive in the work of conversion.

Secondly, To give a clear state of this matter, so as is molt agreeable to scripture, and the attributes and perfections of God. For the First, The objections are these three.

Obj. 1. That if we be not merely passive in the work of regeneration and conversion, we ascribe the whole glory of this work to ourselves, and not to God.

Or, 2. We do however extenuate or lessen the grace of God, if there be

any

active concurrence and endeavours of our own towards this change.

3. They alk St Paul's question, Who maketh thee to differ? and think it impoffible to be answered, if the efficacy of God's grace do depend upon our concurrence and compliance with it. These are all the material objections I know; to every one of which I hope to give a yery clear and sufficient answer.

Obj. 1. If we be not merely paflive in the work of regeneration and conversion, we ascribe the whole glory of this work to ourselves, and not to God. But that I certainly know this objection is commonly made, and have seen it in very considerable authors, I could not believe that men of so good sense could make it. For this is to say, that if we do any thing

in

in this work, though we acknowledge that what we do in it, we do by the assistance of God's grace, we afcribe it wholly to ourselves, and rob God altogether of the glory of his grace ; or, in plainer terms, it is to say, that though we say God does never so much, and we but very little in this work, yet if we do not say that God does all, and we nothing at all, we take the whole work to ourselves, and say God does nothing at all; which let any one that considers what we say, judge whether we say so or no.

The scripture, which never robs God of the glory of his grace, does I am sure ascribe our conversion and repentance, our regeneration and fanctification, to several causes ; to the Holy Spirit of God, to his ministers, to his word, and to ourselves. To the Holy Spirit of God, as the principal author,, and efficient : Hence we are said to be born of the Spirit, to be fan&tified by the renewing of the Holy Ghof To the ministers of God, as the instruments of our conversion : Hence they are said to turn men to righteousness; to convert a fonner from the evil of his ways; to save fouls from death; to save themselves, and them ibat hear them; to be our fpiritual fathers, and to beget aus in Chrift. To the word of God, as the subordinate means and instruments of our conversion : Hence we are said to be begotten by the word of truth, to be fanétified by tbe truth. And, lastly, to ourselves, as concurring some way or other to this work : Hence we are said to believe and repent, to turn from our evil ways, and to turn to the Lord, to cleanse and purify ourselves. Hence likewise are those frequent commands in fcripture, to amend our ways and doings, to wash our hearts from wickedness, to repent and turn ourselves, and to make ourselves new hearts and new spirits. So that all these causes, the Spirit of God, his ministers, his word, and we ourípires, do all some way or other concur and contribuita to this effect. God indeed is the principal, and hath fo great an hand in this work, from beginning to end, that all the rest are nothing in comparison, and we do well to ascribe to him the whole glory of it, thit

720 file12 may glory in his right : But nevertheless in strictness of speech, sufficiently warranted by scripture, the ministers of God, and the word of God, and we ourselves, do all co-operate some w.ly or o. ther to our conversion and regeneration ; anil by afcribing to any of these such parts as they truly have in this work, God is not robbed of any part of ihe glory of his grace, much less of the whole; much leis is it the afcribing it all to ourselves, whom we affirm to have the leait part in it, not worthy to be mentioned in comparison of the riches of God's grace towards us. And yet unless we do something, what can be the meaning of making ourselves new hearts and netu spirits? Is it only that we should be paflive to the irresistible operations of God's grace ? that is, that we should not hinder, what we can neither line der nor promote ; that we should so demsan ourselves, as of necessity we must whe:her we will or no. So then to make ourselves new hearts and nerv si irits, is to do nothing at all towards the hinderance or further. ance of this work; and if this be the meaning of it, it is a precept and exhortation just as fit for stones, as for men; that is, very improper for either,

Obj. 2. But, however, we do extenuate and lessen the grace of God, if there be any active concurrence and endeavours on our part towards this change. For answer to this, three things deserve to be confi. dered,

[1] It is very well worthy our confideration, that they who make this objection, have the confidence to pretend, that they do not diminish the grace of God, by confining it to a very small part of mankind in comparison ; nay, they will needs face us down, that by this very thing they do very much exalt and magnify it, and that the grace of God is so much the greater, by how much the fewer they are that are partakers of it. But I hope they only mean that the grace is greater to themselves, (in which conceit there is commonly as much of envy as gratitude); but surely they cannot mean, that the grace which is limited to a few, is greater in itsel and upon the VOL. V. D'd

whole

whole matter, than that which is extended to a great many; it being a downright contradiction to say, that the grace of God is magnified by being confined. For at this rate of reasoning, the lesser it is, the great. er it must be, and by undeniable consequence would be greatest of all, if it were none at all. So that it feems the

grace of God may be extenuated in favour of ourselves, but when we do so, we must say we magnify it.

[2] But to come close to the objection : Though it be true, that if God's grace in our conversion do not do all, it does not do so much as if it did all; yet this is really no injury or dishonour to the grace of God; and though in some sense it doth extenuate it, it doth not in truth and reality take off from the glo. ry of it. In my opinion, the grace and favour of a prince is not the less in offering à pardon to a traitor, who puts forth his hand and gladly receives it, than if he forced it upon him whether he would or no. I am sure, it is in the first case much fitter to give it, and he on whom it is conferrred much better qualified to receive it. It is no difparagement to a prince's {avour, that it is bestowed on one who is in some measure qualified to receive it. But be it more or Jess in one case than the other, this is certain, that in both cases the man owes his life to the great grace and goodness of his prince; and I cannot fee how it leffens the grace, that the miserable object of it, the guilty and condemned person, was either by his humble submislion, or thankful acceptance of it, in some degree better qualified to receive such a favoar, than an obftinate refuser of it.

[3] Which is the principal eonfideration of all, we must take great heed, that while we endeavour to make God to do all in the conversion of sinners, we do not by this means charge upon him the ruin and deitruction of impenitent sinners, which I doubt we should do, if we make the reason of their impenitency and ruin, their utter impotency and disability to repent; and we certainly make this the reason of their impenitency and ruin, if there be no other difference but this between penitent and impenitent fin.

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