Page images
PDF
EPUB

of another, and not of the child, who was passive, and the effect only in the child, :-so it is in this spiritual circumcision : it is the act of God. And as it is the blindness and stubbornness in sin that is in us by nature, which hinders us from conversion to God, by this circumcision they are taken away ; and how should the heart resist the work of grace, when that whereby it should resist is effectually removed ?

Let us also consider the following concurrent testimonies: Ezek. xxxvi. 26, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you ; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh ; and I will give you an heart of Aesh. To which may be added, Jer. xxiv. 7, ' And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.' As also, Isa. xliv. 3, 4, 5, I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon

the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring ; So Jer. xxxi. 31, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts.'

The subject spoken of in these promises, is the HEART, or whole rational soul ; and it is described as stony. Our hearts, by nature, as to living to God, or his fear, are stony; and who has not some experience hereof, from the remains of it still abiding in him? and two things are included in this expression; (1.) An unfitness for any spi. ritual actions. Whatever else the heart can do, in natural or civil affairs, it can do no more as to the great concern of living to God than a stone. (2.) An obstinate stubborn opposition to the grace of God; and therefore it stands opposed to the pliableness of an heart of flesh. This heart,—this impotency and enmity, God says, he will

He does not say that he will endeavour to take it away, nor that he will use such and such means to take it away, nor that he will persuade and assist men to remove it ; but, that absolutely and positively he himself will do it. What therefore God promises herein, is, as to the event, infallible, and, as to the operation, irresistible.

As what God takes from us, so what he bestows on us is here expressed; and this is a new heart and a new spirit; the benefit hereby received is also declared; for those who have this new heart do actually, by virtue of it,' fear

take away.'

the Lord, and walk in his ways.' There must, therefore, be in this new heart a principle of holy obedience, the creation of which in us is our conversion to him ; for he converts us, and we are converted.' And how is this new heart communicated ? I will,' saith God, give them a new heart :' I will put a new spirit within them;' and yet more plainly, “I will write my law in their hearts; alluding to the tables of stone on which the letter of the law was actually engraved ; and so God writes the law, the matter and substance of it, in our hearts ; and this he does by a principle of obedience and love to it, actually wrought within us.

Another argument is taken from the condition of men by nature; and if it be indeed such as we before described, surely none can be so brutish as to imagine it may be cured, merely by aid of rational considerations. We shall, therefore, inquire what that grace is by which we are delivered from it.

1. It is called a Vivification, or quickening. We are by nature · dead in trespasses and sins;' in our deliverance from this state we are said to be quickened; though

dead, to hear the voice of the Son of God and live.' Now no such work can be wrought on us but by an effectual communication of a principle of spiritual life ; some think to evade this, by saying, “ All these expressions are metaphorical; and, indeed, it is well if the whole Gospel be not a metaphor to them. But if there be not in us by nature an impotence to all acts of spiritual life, like that which is in a dead man to all the acts of natural life ;-if there be not an equal power of God necessary for our deliverance from that state, as is necessary for the resurrection of a dead body, they may as well say that tlie Scripture speaks not truly, as that it speaks metaphorically ; and that it is almighty power that is exerted herein, we have already proved. And what do these men intend by raising from the dead?-a persuasion of our minds by rational motives ?--Who ever heard of such a monstrous expression, if there be nothing else in it? What could the holy writers mean, by calling this work' a quickening of men who were dead in sin, through the mighty power of God, unless it were by a noise of insignificant words, to draw us off from a right understanding of what is intended? And it is well if some are not of that mindo2. The work itself wrought, is, our REGENERATION. I have proved before, that this consists in a new, spiritual, vital principle of grace, infused into the soul by the Holy Spirit, enabling persons in whom it is, to spiritual, vital acts of faith and obedience. Some, indeed, deny all habits of grace ; and on such a supposition, a man is no longer a believer than he is in the actual exercise of faith ; but this would plainly overthrow the covenant of grace, and all the grace of it. Others expressly deny all gracious, supernatural infused habits, but admit of such as are acquired by frequent acts of grace.

But the Scripture gives us another description of this work of regeneration ; for it consists in the renovation of the image of God in us. Be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.' That Adam in innocency had a supernatural ability of living to God, habi. tually residing in him, enabling him to fulfil all his commands; and that this was the image of God in him, is generally acknowledged. This was lost by the fall. In regeneration there is a renovation of this image of God, and it is renewed by a creating act of almighty power, which, • after God,' or according to his likeness, is created in righteousness and true holiness.' There is, therefore, in it an implantation of a new principle of spiritual life, which is called Spirit : « That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.' It is the Spirit of God of whom we are born, and that which is so boin is spirit--not the natural faculties of our souls ; they are once created, once born, and no more but a new principle of spiritual obedience, whereby we live to God. And this is the production of the immediate efficiency of the Spirit.

This will more plainly appear, if we consider the faculties of the soul distinctly, and what is the special work of the Spirit upon each of them. 1. The leading faculty of the soul is the MIND, or understanding. Now this is corrupted by the fall; but in regeneration this depravity is removed ; so that we come to see spiritual things in a spiritual manner, that we may savingly know God and his will, as revealed in and by Jesus Christ. And therefore, he is said to give us an understanding, 1 John v. 20 : "The son of God hath given us an understanding, that we

may

know him that is true ;' which he does by his Spirit. Man by sin is become like the beasts that perish, which have no understanding.' Mes have not lost their natural reason absolutely ; it is continued, with the free (though impaired) use of it in natural affairs: but it is lost as to the special use of it in the knowledge of God; for to do good they have no knowledge. It is corrupted, not so much in the principle of its actings, as with respect to their proper object. Wherefore, though this giving an understanding be not the creating that faculty anew, yet it is that gracious work without which it will no more enable us to know God aright than if we had none at all.

The giving us an understanding, therefore, is causing our understandings to understand savingly; and it is thus expressed by the apostle : « That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of him ; the eyes of your understanding being opened, that you may know what is the hope of his calling. The revelation here intended is subjective, enabling us to apprehend what is revealed; and not objective, in new revelations. And this is further evident by the ensuing description of it; the eyes of your understanding being opened. There is an eye in the understanding the natural ability it has to discern spiritual things : but this eye is sometimes said to be blind, sometimes to be darkness, sometimes to be closed. Now it is the work of the Spirit of grace to open this eye. And this is the effectual removal of that depravity of our mind which we before described. And how are we made partakers hereof? It is of the gift of God; for he gives us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation to that end; he gives us. an heart to know him.'

This is also called the Renovation of our minds ; newed in the Spirit of our minds,' which is the same with being renewed in knowledge. And this renovation has a transforming power, to change the whole soul into an obedient frame towards God. Now this work of renovation is peculiariy ascribed to the Holy Spirit, Titus iii. 5, 'the renewing of the Holy Ghost. Herein God is said to communicate a light to our minds, by which we see the objects proposed to us in the Gospel usefully and savingly:

[ocr errors]

re

God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ.' Did God no otherwise work on the minds of men but by an external proposal of truth to them, to what purpose does the apostle mention that almighty act of creating power which first produced the natural light? It is intolerable confidence in men to deny that the act of God, in the spiritual illumination of our minds, is of the same nature with that whereby he created light at first. And because the effect produced is called light, the act itself is described by shining; and the light so communi, cated is the actual « knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ; that is, as God is revealed in Christ by the gospel.

2. It is principally with respect to the will and its de pravity by nature, that we are said to be dead in sin. Herein is seated that peculiar obstinacy, from whence it is that no unregenerate person does, or can walk up to his light in obedience. Now, in our conversion to God, this faculty is renewed, by an effectual implantation of a principle of spiritual life ; and it is determined to its acts by his powerful operations. Were it not thus, then the whole glory of our conversion might be ascribed to ourselves ; and we should make ourselves to differ from others.' Neither can any purpose of God, concerning the conversion of any one be certain, seeing that after all, the will remaining undetermined, may not be con: verted. Neither can there be an original infallibility in the promises of God concerning the multitudes that should believe ; seeing it is possible not one may do so, if it depend on the undetermined liberty of their wills. And then also nust salvation necessarily be of him that willeth, and of him that runneth, and not of God, who sheweth mercy on whom he will have mercy.' And the whole efficacy of the grace of God is thereby made to depend on the wills of men. There must, therefore, be such a work of the Spirit on our wills, as may cure the depravity of them before described, freeing us from the state of spiritual death, and causing us to live to God.

3. In like manner, a prevailing love is implanted in the AFFECTIONS, causing the soul, with delight, to cleave to

« PreviousContinue »