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Secondly. There is in this death an actual cessation of all vital acts. From this defect of power it is that natural men can perform no vital act of spiritual obedience. Hence all their works are dead works;' they proceed not from a principle of life; are unprofitable as dead things; and end in death eternal.
We may now consider how this spiritual life is communicated to. us. The original spring and fountain of it is with God. With thee is the fountain of life'. And hence our life is said to be hid with Christ in God;' and it differs from life of any other kind, in that the fulness of it is communicated to Christ as Mediator; and from his fulness we receive it.. Hence he is said to be our life;' and it is not so much we that live, as Christ that liveth in us.'
The fountain of this life being in God, and the fulness of it being laid up for us in Christ, he communicates the principle and power of it to us by the Holy Ghost, according to and for the ends of the new covenant;-for this is the promise of it, That God will first write his law in our hearts,' and then we shall walk in his statutes;" that is, the principle of life must precede all vital acts.
wrought on is capable of being affected by them. Now exhortations are suited as moral instruments to produce the effects of faith and obedience; and the faculties of the soul are meet to be wrought upon by them. (2.) Exhortations, &c. primarily respect our duty, not our abili ty;-not what we can, but what we ought to do. (3.) God is pleased to make these meaus of communicating life: and he has appointed them to this end, because they are suited to our moral and intellectual faculties.
It is further objected, That if men are utterly devoid of all power to live to God, is it righteous that they should perish eternally, merely for not doing what they are not able to do? I answer, (1.) Mens' disability is their sin. It came upon us by the sin of our nature in our first parents, all whose consequents are our sin and our misery. Rom. v. 12. Had it befallen us without a guilt truly our own, according to the law of creation, the case would have been otherwise, (2.) Men have a pow er in sundry things relating to obedience and salvation, to comply with his mind and will, which they voluntarily neglect: and this alone is sufficient to bear the charge of their eternal ruin. (3.) No man is so unable to do any thing for God, but he is able to do any thing against him. There is no command, but he can put forth a positive act of his will in rejecting it. This is the scriptural account of the matter, by some traduced as fanatical and foolish, which the Lord Christ must answer for, not we; and the day will determine where the blame must lie.
Where this is not, no act of obedience can be so performed as to be an act of the life of God. To say that we have a sufficiency in ourselves, so much as to think a good thought; that we have any power or ability of our own by nature to do any thing as we ought, is to overthrow the gospel, and the faith of the Catholic Church in all ages.
Thirdly. In this state of spiritual death, there is not any disposition inclining to, spiritual life: there is nothing of this kind in a dead carcase as to natural life. The dead body of Lazarus was re-animated by the introduction of his soul; but in itself it had not the least active disposition thereto. It is exactly thus with a soul dead in trespasses and sins. There is in it a remote power, in the nature of its faculties, fit to be wrought upon by the Spirit of God; but an immediate power, disposing it to spiritual acts, it has not: and the reason is, because natural corruption cleaves to it, as an invincible habit constantly inducing to evil; with which the least disposition to spiritual good is inconsistent. There is in the soul, in Scripture language, the body of the sins of the flesh;' which unless removed by spiritual circumcision, through the virtue of the death of Christ, will lie dead to eternity.. There is therefore in us that which may be quickened and. saved; and this is all we have to boast of by nature. Though man by sin is become like the beasts that perish,' being foolish and brutish in his mind and affections, yet he is not so absolutely; he retains that living soul, those intellectual faculties, which were the subject of original righteousness, and are capable of receiving again the image of God, by Jesus Christ.
The Nature, Causes, and Means of Regeneration.
GNORANCE of the true state of man as depraved by nature, is the principal cause of all the mistakes, ancient and modern, respecting regeneration : we have therefere
insisted on it so far as was necessary to our present purpose, and sufficient to guide us in our inquiry after the work of the Holy Spirit in our deliverance from it.
It is evident that persons living and dying in this state cannot be saved. Among those who lay any serious claim to Christianity, there is nothing more acknowledged, than that there is no deliverance from a state of misery, without a deliverance from a state of sin; for if we may be saved without the renovation of our nature, there was no need of the new creation of all things by Jesus Christ; and if we may be saved under all the evils occasioned by the fall, then Christ died in vain. Besides, it is inconsistent with the nature of God, his holiness, righteousness, and truth; it is inconsistent with the law and gospel; and impossible, in the nature of the thing itself, that such persons should become possessors of glory and rest with God. A deliverance therefore from this condition, is indispensably neces sary to make us meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.'
This deliverance must be by regeneration. The determi nation of our Saviour is positive, Except a man be born again (or from above) he cannot see the kingdom of God.' John iii. 3. Whatever sense 'the kingdom of God' is taken in, whether of grace here, or of glory hereafter, it is the same as to our present purpose. There can be no interest in it unless a man be born again. And as this determination is absolute, so it is universal, comprising every individual of mankind. And though men may have false apprehensions about regeneration, yet as far as I know, all Christians are agreed, that it is the means of our deliverance from the state of sin, or rather our deliverance itself.
The Holy Ghost is the immediate author of this work; and this is also generally admitted; nothing is more acknowledged (in words however) than that all the elect of God are sanctified by the Holy Ghost; and regeneration is certainly the beginning of our sanctification, The Scripture is express in testimonies to this purpose. What our Saviour calls being born again (John iii. 3.) he calls being born of the Spirit (ver. 5, 6.); for it is the Spirit that quickeneth ;' and God saveth us, according to his mercy, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.'
This being admitted, our inquiry must be after the manner and nature of this work; for the nature of it depends on the manner of the Spirit's work in it. This, I confess, was variously contended about of old; and the truth concerning it has scarcely escaped an open opposition in any age of the church; but it was never traduced and reviled with so much impotence and ignorance, as it now is, by some among ourselves. The ancient writers of the church, who looked into these things with most diligence and success, as Austin, Hilary, Prosper, and Fulgentius, taught the same doctrine; for the substance of it that has been preached among us since the Reformation; and which some have ignorantly charged with novelty and the whole of it was nobly and clegantly expressed by Austin in his Confessions; wherein he relates the experience of the truth he had taught in his own soul. I might follow their footsteps herein, but that there have been so many differences raised about the explications of their terms, that to carry the truth through so many intricacies would lead me too far from my principal design. Our principal inquiry, at present, is about the work itself, and this must be both. negatively and positively declared.
First. The work of the Spirit of God in regeneration does not consist in a moral suasion, that is, such a persuasion as may, or may not, be effectual; though properly speaking, that only is persuasion whereby a man is actually persuaded. Now the instrument of this moral suasion is the word of God, as contained in the scripture; for by this we are commanded and persuaded to turn to God; and the principal way whereby this mean is applied is the ministry of the church. This is the ordinary instrument which God employs in the regeneration of the adult; and it is every way sufficient, in its own kind, as an outward
As to the efficacy of this moral work, we must observe, (1.) That in the use of this mean for the conversion of men, there is first an instruction of the mind in the knowledge of God's will. Without this, there can be no room for the persuasive power of the word; for it consists in affecting the mind with its own concern in something already known. (2.) There is a powerful persuasive efficacy in the dispensation of the word to a compliance with it. For instance; suppose a man to be convinced by the word of
God of his own sinful condition, of his danger on that account, and of the way whereby he may and ought to turn to God; there are in the precepts, promises, and threatenings of the word, powerful motives and arguments to affect his mind, to seek after deliverance. Some indeed care not for them; they despise them, and live and die in rebellion against the light. But this is no proof that they are not powerful in themselves though it proves that they are not sufficient of themselves, but only as the Holy Spirit is pleased to use them; and their efficacy, as to the end proposed, arises from the following things :
1. From an evidence of the truth declared in the gospel, 'that it is not a cunningly-devised fable.' Where this is not admitted, there can be no persuasive efficacy in it; but where it is, there the mind is under a disposition to the things themselves, to which it is persuaded. And thus the whole efficacy of the word is resolved into the truth and veracity of God.
2. There is a proposal made to the wills and affections of men in the things so assented to: on the one hand as they are good, and therefore worthy to be pursued and attained; and on the other, as they are evil, and therefore to be avoided. For this is urged on men; that to comply with the will of God according to the gospel, is every way for their advantage, and will assuredly be attended with present peace and future glory. On the other hand they are told, that sin is the great disgrace of our nature, and the ruin of our souls; and that a continuance in it, with a rejection of the gospel, is foolish, irrational, and destruc tive. Every rational man must judge that spiritual things ought to be preferred before natural, and eternal things before temporal; and these things being so diposed of in infinite goodness and wisdom, they must certainly have a tendency to affect the wills and move the affections of men; and thus the efficacy of the word is resolved into the authority of God; for these precepts, promises, and threatenings are his, who has a right to give them, and a power to execute them.
3. Great efficacy is added hereto, from the management of these motives in the preaching of the word. Some preachers, by the powers of oratory, addressing themselves to the passions by persuasive arguments, elegantly expressed, make strong impressions on the minds of their hearers: and herein, some place the principal efficacy of