« PreviousContinue »
of a good conscience;-a conscience purged from sin, and quickened by virtue of the resurrection of Christ to holy obedience. The apostle Paul also plainly distinguishes between the outward ordinances and regeneration: In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.' Gal. vi. 15. By circumcision, he intends the whole system of Mosaical ordinances; and by uncircumcision, the participation of all gospel ordinances among the professing Gentiles. But from them all, he distinguishes the new creation; as that which they may be without; and being so, are not available to salvation. Again: If baptism were regeneration, then all baptized persons must of necessity be regenerate: but this we know to be otherwise. For instance, Simon the magician was baptized by Philip the evangelist, yet he was not regenerate; for it is said of him, he had no part or lot in the matter, his heart not being right in the sight of God; but was in the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity;' which surely is not the description of a person newly regenerate.
Secondly. Regeneration does not consist in a moral reformation of life. Let us suppose such a reformation to be extensive to all known instances. Suppose a man to be changed from sensuality to temperance, from rapine to righteousness, from pride and passion to humility and moderation. Suppose this change to be accurate according to the rules of the strictest moralists; suppose it also to be brought about by the preaching of the Gospel; yet all this, and all this added to baptism, and accompanied. with a profession of faith and repentance, is not regeneration, nor do they comprise it in them.
But we must stop a while. This assertion of ours is not only denied, but derided by some; and whoever maintains it, is called an enemy of morality and virtue. Whether we oppose and exclude morality by this doctrine, or by any other, Christ will hereafter judge and declare; and, were the confession of truth consistent with their interest, the decision of this doubt might be referred to their own consciences; but, not being free to commit any thing to that tribunal, unless we had better security of its freedom from corrupt principles and prejudices. than we have, we shall at present leave the world to judge of our doctrine by the fruits of it, compared with
theirs, by whom it is denied. In the mean time, we affirm that we design nothing in virtue and morality, but to improve them by fixing them on a proper foundation, or ingrafting them into that stock whereon alone they can thrive, and grow to the glory of God and the good of men; nor shall we be moved in this design by the clamours or calumnies of ignorant or profligate persons; and as to the assertion laid down, let those who despise and reproach it, attempt an answer to the ensuing arguments, before they are too confident of success.
If there be in regeneration the infusion of a new real spiritual principle into the soul, then it does not consist in a mere reformation of life, however exact. Before we prove and confirm this assertion, let it be observed, 1st, That this reformation of life, which we say is not regeneration, is the indispensable duty of all men ;-2, That the principle before described infallibly produces this reformation; therefore, 3dly, The difference comes to this,we say, regeneration consists in a spiritual renovation of our nature;our modern Socinians say, it consists in a moral reformation of life. Now, as we'grant that this spiritual renovation of nature will infallibly produce a moral reformation of life, so, if they will grant that this moral reformation of life proceeds from a spiritual renovation of our nature, this difference will be at an end.
Now the Scripture abundantly testifies, that in regeneration there is a new spiritual principle, which is the production of the Holy Spirit: If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.' 2 Cor. v. 17. This is produced in the soul by a creating act of the power of God, or it is not a creature; and it is superinduced into the faculties of the soul, or it is not a new creature. It must be something that has a subsistence of its own in the soul, or it can be neither new nor a creature; and that the production of it is by a creating act of almighty power, the Scripture declares, Eph. ii. 10. Ps. li. 10. It is a new spiritual principle wrought in us by the Spirit of God. No,' say some; a new creature is only a changed man.' It is true, but then this change is internal also: yes, in the inclinations of the mind;'-but it is by a real infusion of a new principle of spiritual life. No; it denotes only a new course of conversation;-the expression is metahorical; a new creature is a moral man that has
changed his way; for if he were alway a moral man, then he was always a new creature.' This is good gospel, at once overthrowing original sin, and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This doctrine, I am sure, was not learned from the fathers, of whom some used to boast; and this way of turning all Scripture expressions of spiritual things into metaphors, is the way to turn the whole into a fable; or, at least, to render the gospel the most obscure method of teaching the truth of things that ever was used in the world.
The new creature, therefore, does not consist in a new course of actions, but in renewed faculties, with new dispositions, power, and ability to perform them. Hence it is called the divine nature.' 2 Pet. i. 4. This ( QUIS) divine nature is not the nature of God, of which, in our own persons we are not subjectively partakers; yet, a nature it is,-a principle of operation, and that divine or spiritual; an habitual holy principle, wrought in us by God, and bearing his image.
The whole of what we intend is declared in Eph. iv. 22, 23, 24, Put off concerning the former conversation the eld man, which is corrupt, according to deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,-and put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness.' The work of regeneration is here described. The foundation of the whole is laid in our being renewed in the spirit of our mind, or being transformed in the renovation of our mind (Rom. xii. 2.) The principle itself infused into us, is called the new man, because it consists in the universal change of the soul, as it is the principle of all spiritual and moral actions; and it is opposed to the old man, or the corruption of our nature, as it is the principle of all actions. Rom. vi. 6. It is not a corrupt conversation, but the principle and root of it; for it is distinguished from the conversation of men; and it is called a new man, because it is the effect of God's power in the new creation. Now the object of a creating act is an instantaneous production. Whatever preparation there may be for it, the production of a new being by creation is in an instant. This, therefore, cannot consist in a mere reformation of life. We are the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus to good works.’ There is a work of God in us, preceding all our good
works towards him; for before we can perform them, we must be created unto them, or spiritually enabled to perform them. Again: This new man is said to be 'created in righteousness and true holiness.' This has a respect to a man created in innocence: he was made in the image of God. Now, this image of God did not consist in reformation of life, for he had the image of God before he performed any good action at all. It consisted in the recțitude of his whole soul, and ability for the obedience required of him. Such, therefore, must be our regene ration, antecedent to evangelical reformation of life, and fitting us for it according to the will of God.
And thus also our Saviour speaks: A good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit, neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.' Luke vi. 43. The fruit follows the nature of the tree; and there is no way to change the nature of the fruit but by changing the nature of the tree. Now all amendment of life is but fruit; but the changing of our nature is antecedent to it. The Scripture constantly distinguishes between the grace of regene ration, and that obedience or holiness which is the effect of it. God's method is first to cleanse our natures, to 'take away the heart of stone, and give an heart of flesh;' to write his law in our hearts, and put his Spirit in us; and then the effect and consequence is, that we shall 'walk in his statutes, keep his judgments, and do them;' that is, reform our lives, and yield obedience to God. These things, therefore, are distinguished as causes and effects. Rom. vi. 3-6. Col. iii. 1, 5.
Further. This work is described to consist in the 'sanctification of the whole spirit, soul, and body' (1 Thes. v. 23); and if this is what some men intend by reformation of life and moral virtue, they must certainly gain much esteem for their perspicuity in teaching spiritual things; for who would not admire them for such a definition of morality? namely, that it is the sanctification of the whole spirit, soul, and body of a believer by the Holy Ghost? but, in short, there is no description of regeneration in the Scripture in its nature, causes, or effects; no name given to it, no promise made of it, nothing said of the means or power by which it is wrought, but what is inconsistent with this bold Pelagian figment, which is destructive of the grace of Jesus Christ
This vain imagination evidently arises from a denial of original sin; for if man be not originally depraved, it is certain that he needs no spiritual renovation. It is enough that by change of life he renounce a custom of sinning, and reform his conversation ;-but, as it has beer already shewn, and will be more fully evinced, that in our regeneration the native darkness of our minds is dispelled, spiritual light introduced, the stubbornness of our wills removed, a new principle of life bestowed, and the disorder of our affections cured, so the contrary opinion, directly opposite to the Scriptures, the faith of the ancient church, and the experience of all believers, has nothing but ignorance and confidence to support it.
Thirdly. The work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, does not consist in enthusiastical raptures, ecstasies, voices, or any thing of the like kind. Such things may have been pretended to by some weak and deluded persons; but the countenancing of such imaginations, or teaching men to expect them while holiness was neglected, is a false accusation, as our writings and preachings fully testify. Therefore, as to this negative principle, we observe, That the Holy Spirit usually exerts his power in the use of means; and that he works on men agreeably to their natures. He does not come upon them with involuntary raptures; using their mental powers as the evil spirit wrests the bodies of possessed persons; his whole work is rationally to be accounted for by those who believe the Scriptures, and have received the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive. Indeed, the efficiency of the Spirit in quickening our souls, is no otherwise to be comprehended than any other act of creating power; for as we hear the wind, but know not whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth, so is every one that is born of the Spirit; but this is certain, that he works nothing but what is determined and declared in the written word; and that he puts no force on the faculties of our souls, but works in them and by them suitably to their nature. Yet so it is come to pass, that many regenerate persons have been looked upon by the world as mad, enthusiastic, and fanatical. So the captains of the host esteemed the prophet who came to anoint Jehu; and the kindred of our Saviour, when he began to preach the gospel, said he was beside himself; so Festus judged of Paul, and the