« PreviousContinue »
all resistance. As to the dispensation of the word, men may resist him, and reject his counsel against themselves; but when he exerts his power in and by the word, to the creation of a new heart and the opening of blind eyes, he so removes the principle of resistance, that he cannot be resisted. (3.) Hence also it follows, that his works may be of various kinds, and in various degrees. Some of the works of the Spirit are perfect in their kind, and men may be made partakers of the whole intention of them, and yet no saving grace be wrought in them. Such are his works of illumination, conviction, &c. Persons may have a work of the Spirit on their minds, and yet not be sanctified and converted to God. And thus also, where he works the same effect in the souls of men, as in their regeneration, he does it by various means, and carries it on in various degrees, as to the strengthening its principle and the increase of its fruits of holiness. And hence is that great difference as to light, holiness, and fruitfulness, which we find among believers. The Holy Spirit works in all these according to his own will; by no other rule than his own infinite wisdom.
But it may be said, If all graces in us are ascribed to the Holy Spirit, then there is no need to use our own endeavours, or take any pains about the growth of holiness, or the duties of obedience. To what purpose then are all the commands, threatenings, and exhortations of the Scripture? I answer,
1. Let men imagine what consequences they please, yet that the Spirit of God is the Author of all that is spiritually good in us, is a truth that we must not forego, unless we intend to part with our Bibles also; for in them we are taught, that in us (that is, in our flesh) there dwelleth no good thing;' that we are not sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency who is able to make all grace to abound towards us.' To grant that there is any spiritual good in us which is not wrought in us by the Spirit of God, is to overthrow the grace of the Gospel. It is therefore certain, that nothing can be inferred from hence but what is good and useful to the souls of men; for from truth nothing else can follow.
is of God,'
2. It is brutish ignorance in any to argue, from the effec
tual operations of the Spirit, that we may be slothful in our own duty. He who knows not that God has promised to work in us, in a way of grace, what he requires from us in a way of duty, has either never read his Bible, or does not believe it; or never prayed, or never took notice of what he prayed for. He is a heathen, not a Christian, who does not pray that God would work in him what he requires of him. This we know, that what God prescribes, we ought with all diligence and earnestness to comply with. And we know too, that whatever God has promised, that he himself will perform in us. It is our duty to believe that he will do so; and to fancy an inconsistence between these things, is to charge God foolishly.
3. If there be an opposition between these things, it is either because the nature of man is not meet to be commanded, or because it need not be assisted; both which suppositions are vain and false. The Holy Spirit so worketh in us, as that he worketh by us; and what he does in us, is done by us our duty is to apply ourselves to his commands; and it is his work to enable us to perform them.
4. He who can indulge negligence on account of the promised assistance of the Spirit, may look upon it as a certain evidence that he has no interest in it; for where he affords his aids, he, in general, prepares the soul by diligence in duty and as he works only in and by the faculties of our own minds, it is ridiculous, and implies a contradiction, for a man to say he will do nothing because the Spirit does all; for where he does nothing, the Spirit does nothing, except by the infusion of the first habit or principle of grace; of which we shall treat hereafter.
5. As to degrees of grace, they are peculiar to believers; who are furnished with an ability to perform those duties on which the increase of holiness usually depends. For though there is no grace, nor degree of grace, in believers, but what is wrought in them by the Spirit, yet generally the increase and growth of grace depend on the use and improvement of grace received, in a diligent attention to all those duties of obedience which are required of us :and methinks it is the most unreasonable thing in the world for a man to be slothful in religious duties (on which his spiritual growth depends; which the eternal welfare of his soul is concerned in) on pretence of the efficacious
aids of the Spirit, without which he can do nothing, and which he neither has, nor can have, while he does nothing.
Here then is the ground of our exercising faith towards him in particular, and of our acting it in prayer and praise. His divine nature is the formal reason of our yielding religious worship to him; but his acting towards us according to the sovereignty of his own will, is the special reason of our particular addresses to him; for we are baptized in his name also.
All these things are necessarily premised, as giving some insight into the nature of his operations. And thus we have made our way plain to the consideration of his special works in the calling, building, and carrying on the Church to perfection.
WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE NEW CREATIONS ans
The New Creation completed. Regeneration the special
Stance the n
E have already declared the work of the Holy Spirit in forming the natural body of Christ. This was the beginning of the new creation; the foundation of the Gospel state. But this was not the whole of what he had to do he was to prepare his mystical body also, and thereby to complete the new creation. As it was in the old creation, so it is in the new. All things in their first production had darkness and death upon them; there was nothing that had either life in it, or principle. of life, or any disposition to it. In this condition he moved on the prepared matter, communicating to all things a principle of life whereby they were animated. Thus also in the new creation:-there was a spiritual. darkness and death on all mankind by sin; there was not the least principle of spiritual life in any man living, nor the least disposition towards it. In this state of things, the Holy Spirit undertakes to create a new world, new heavens, and a new earth, wherein righteousness should dwell; and this he begins by the communication of a principle of spiritual life to the souls of the elect, who are the matter designed of God for this work to be wrought upon. This he performs in their regeneration, as we shall now shew.
First. Regeneration is in Scripture always ascribed to the Holy Spirit. 'Jesus said to Nicodemus, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit.' John iii. 3, 4, 5, 6. It was an ancient intelligent teacher of the church of the Jews whom our blessed Saviour here instructs; for on the consideration of his miracles, he concluded that God was with him ;' and came to enquire of him about the kingdom of God. Our Saviour, knowing that all our faith, obedience, and acceptance depend on our regeneration, acquaints him with the necessity of it; at which he is at first surprised. Our Lord then instructs him in the nature of it. And this he describes both by its cause and its effect. As to its cause, he tells him, it is wrought by water and the Spirit; by the Spirit, as the principal efficient cause; and by water, as the token of it, in the initial seal of the covenant: the doctrine of which was then preached among them by John the Baptist; or rather, the same thing is intended in a redoubled expression; the Spirit being signified by the water also, under which notion he is often promised.
Of this work, then, the Holy Spirit is the efficient cause; hence he, in whom it is wrought, is said to be
orn of the Spirit' (ver. 8.); and to the same purpose is ap. i. 13. Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.' The natural and carnal means of blood, flesh, and the will of man, are wholly rejected in this matter; and the whole efficiency of the new birth is ascribed to God alone. For these things are here compared; and from its analogy to natural generation, it is called Regeneration. The same allusion and opposition is expressed, (ver. 6.) that which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit;' a new spiritual being, creature, or life. It is elsewhere called a