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fied. So indispensably necessary is regeneration to a real belief of the uncorrupted gospel of Christ.
“I was,” says the apostle, “ alive without the “ law once: but, when the commandment came, “ sin revived and I died.” I through the law am “ dead to the law, that I might live unto God!” “ For by the law is the knowledge of sin.” In general, the preaching of the holy law of God, in its spirituality, extent, excellency, and awful sanction, is the method which is most blessed, to bring sinners to renounce every kind of self-confidence, and to feel their need of Christ and his salvation : but that moral preaching, which is commonly called legal, is widely different both in its nature and tendency. It by no means exhibits the awful, perfect, and glorious law of God, “ the ministration of con
demnation,” to honour which the eternal Son of the Father became incarnate, and was obedient even unto the death upon the cross : but, on the contrary, it calls men to practise duties according to a scanty, imperfect, and indeterminate rule; which consequently leads to self-complacency and contempt of the gospel. Let any man thoroughly preach the holy law of God, with close application to the conscience, and a fair declaration of the sinner's condition according to it; and, if he do not discover and preach the gospel too, he will soon despair himself, and drive all who continue to regard him to despair likewise.
Sometimes, however, the Holy Spirit leads the sinner at once to the cross of Christ, and in that single object shews him both his guilt and his redemption. Here he learns the glory of the law itself, with the evil and desert of transgression : but
he cannot thus learn all the particular requirements of the law, or clearly discover in what respect he needs repentance, forgiveness, and divine grace to enable him to “ walk in newness of life.” The whole word of God should therefore be preached, and his whole counsel declared, in proportion as the minister is enabled to get acquainted with it, and as the people are able to receive it; and then the Lord will bless what part of truth he sees good. But neither law nor gospel, precepts nor doctrines, threatenings nor promises, will change men's hearts or produce true faith, without the life-giving power of the Spirit. The same view of the divine perfections and government is set before us in every part of scripture: and facts prove, that sometimes one part, and sometimes another, is first made effectual to impress the minds of sinners with salutary convictions.
It is argued, that faith in Christ must precede regeneration, because spiritual life springs from union with Christ, and faith is the principle of our union with him. But I apprehend that this argument rests on no solid ground. The Holy Spirit is the life, or animating soul of that body of which Christ is the head. “The Spirit of life in Christ “Jesus ” quickens the dead in sin : thus they are made “ alive to God,” and by this uniting cause and agent they become spiritually one with Christ, as living by his life, frequently even before they have explicit knowledge of him. “ He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.” By one
Spirit we are all baptised into one body.” We become alive to God, not by our apprehending Christ, but by his apprehending us: and in consequence
we are brought to believe in his name. So that living faith in Christ is the effect and not the cause of our union with him; if we would speak of the subject in an exact argumentative manner.—Faith constitutes our relation to Christ, as “ made the
righteousness of God in him:” and till we are conscious of explicitly believing in him, we cannot know, or warrantably take any comfort from an union with him: and, as this is the case, wegenerally speak of faith as uniting us to Christ, when discoursing in a popular style. But surely this is a feeble foundation, on which to rest a conclusion that is evidently repugnant to the constant tenor of scripture! Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who “ of God is made unto us, wisdom, and righteous
ness, and sanctification, and redemption.” According to these words of the apostle, even the
wisdom,” by which we count all but loss for Christ, was derived from Christ by the grace of that Spirit, by whom we are “ baptized into him,” and are one with him. Who then can think, with these words before his mind, that the faith of an unregenerate sinner is the uniting principle between Christ and his soul?
“ Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, “Father.” This, and similar texts evidently refer, not to regeneration, but to that holy joy and confidence in God as a Father, by which “the Holy
Spirit witnesseth with our spirits that we are the “ children of God :" and which are connected with the lively exercise of all other filial affections. It will hardly be maintained that we are actually the children of God while unregenerate, whatever may
have been the secret purposes or predestination of God respecting our future adoption : but we must be the children of God in very deed, when the Spirit of adoption witnesses that we are so; for he bears witness to nothing but the truth. Indeed the expression, “ Because ye are sons," clearly marks this distinction : and our Lord confirms this when he says to his disciples, “ if ye love me keep
my commandments; and I will pray the Father “ and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever."*
."* The apostles were certainly regenerate when these words were addressed to them, as the supposition of their loving Christ and keeping his commandments most clearly proves : yet the promise evidently referred to the holy consolations of the Spirit, and not to his miraculous powers. This may suffice to shew that the scriptures, which mention “ the Spirit of “ adoption," as given subsequently to faith, being the witness, seal, earnest, and first-fruits, of our blessedness as the children of God, not at all relating to regeneration, prove nothing against the doctrine maintained in this part of our discussion.
The scriptures indeed speak of those who believe not in Christ, as being under wrath and dead in sin: but these declarations are general truths, which must be explained by the constant tenor of holy writ. If any person persist in rejecting Christ and his salvation, after a fair opportunity of hearing the gospel, he is no doubt dead in sin, and the wrath of God abideth on him. But, supposing the Bible put into any person's hand, along with the
* John xiv. 15-18.
Should the gos
evidence of its being a divine revelation, no warranted conclusion can be drawn as to the state of his mind, while he is employed in diligently examining the subject; or till it appear whether he is disposed to welcome, or reject the salvation of Christ. Even when a man is convinced that the scriptures are divinely inspired, and is disposed to believe the record of God which they contain ; some time will be requisite for him to discover “ the truth as it is in Jesus," in order that he may explicitly believe in him : unless he be taught by immediate inspiration, and not by the ordinary influences of the Holy Spirit accompanying the diligent use of instituted means. pel be heard with the docility of a little child, the hearer must have time to compare the instructions of the preacher with the infallible standard of divine truth, that he may “know of the doctrine, “ whether it be of God, or whether men speak “ of themselves.” This was the conduct of the Bereans: “ These were more noble than those in “ Thessalonica, in that they received the word with “ all readiness of mind, and searched the scrip“ tures daily, whether those things were so. There“ fore many of them believed."* Their attention, teachableness, impartiality, diligence, and willingness to be determined by the oracles of God, constituted the “ honest and good heart,” which suits the good word of the kingdom ; and this essentially distinguished them from prejudiced and obstinate despisers and persecutors of the apostles, who persisted in a contradicting and blaspheming.”
Acts xvii, 11, 12