« PreviousContinue »
him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Every true saint can sincerely adopt the language of David, in his addresses to God from day to day. “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” The more christians grow in grace, and become acquainted with their own hearts, the less confidence they have in themselves, and the more they realize their continual need of the sanctifying and quickening influences of the divine Spirit.
4. If the Spirit of God produces nothing but love in regeneration; then it is no more a supernatural work, on the part of God, than any other divine operation upon the minds of men. The Spirit of God has always produced holy love in the hearts of the angels of light; but who can suppose, that this is a supernatural or miraculous operation? The Spirit of God produced holy love in the hearts of our first parents brfore they apostatized; but who can suppose, that he operated supernaturally or miraculously upon their minds? There is nothing more supernatural or miracuTous, in the divine Spirit's producing holy love in those, who have been once destitute of it, than in producing the same holy affection in those, who have never been sinful. In regenerating a sinner, the Spirit does not counteract any law of nature, nor produce any miraculous effect. He did operate supernaturally, when he gave to one the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge; to another the gifts of healing; to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues. All these were supernatural effects, produced in a supernatural manner. But the working in men both to will and to do what is right, is no supernatural effect,
and no other than what he has done for nearly six thousand years together. It is true, indeed, that regeneration, conversion, and sanctification are all produced by the special operations of the Spirit. They may be called special, because he renews, converts, and sanctifies some and not others; and because, in regeneration, conversion, and sanctification, he produces those gracious affections, which are not common to mankind. There is reason to believe, that the speaking of regeneration, conversion, or sanctification, as a supernatural work, has led many to draw a very false and dangerous consequence from it. How many have hence inferred, that sinners are under a natural inability to love God, repent of sin, believe the gospel, and obey, from the heart, any of the divine commands? It is difficult to see, why this inference is not just, if regeneration, conversion, or sanctification, is owing to a supernatural operation of the Spirit. For, who has a natural ability to work miracles? and who can be properly required to make him a new heart, repent of sin, believe thegospel, and obey every divine command, before he is the subject of the supernatural and miraculous influences of the divine Spirit, if these are necessary to enable him to put forth such holy exercises? Those who preach, that regeneration, conversion, and sanctification, are produced by the supernatural power of the Holy Ghost, put an excuse into the mouths of sinners, which it is extremely difficult and even impossible to take away. This ought to teach teachers to use a more proper and scriptural language, in treating upon this solemn subject.
5. If the Spirit of God produces nothing but love, in regeneration; then sinners have no more excuse for not beginning to love God, than saints have for not continuing to love God. They can no more centin
ue to love God, without a divine influence, than sinners can begin to love God, without a divine influence. They are both equally and constantly dependent upon a divine influence, to do their duty. But who will say, that saints have any excuse, for not keeping them. selves in the love of God, and being steadfast and unmoveable, in the performance of every duty, because God must work in them both to will and to do of his good pleasure? But if saints have no excuse, for the neglect of duty, then sinners have none. They cannot plead, that they are any more dependent upon divine influence, in order to love God, repent, believe the gospel, and obey the divine commands, than saints are. They need no other principle, power, or ability, to do all that God requires, than what they naturally possess. It is true, they need a divine influence, and so do saints. Nothing but their hating God prevents their loving him; and they are just as able to love him, as they are to hate him. They must be, therefore, as totally inexcusable and self-condemned, for not loving and serving God, as the best saints on earth are, for neglecting any duty. The divine commands lie upon them in their full force, to make them a new heart, to repent of sin, and to believe the gospel, without delay.
Finally, this subject teaches us, that the true, scriptural doctrine of regeneration, conversion, and sanctification, which all mean the same thing, is perfectly consistent with all the commands, which God has given to saints and to sinners. If regeneration does not consist in any new principle of action, but only in the production of holy and benevolent exercises; then God may consistently require saints to love him constantly and perfectly; and he may co:asistently require sinners to love him as constantly and per
fectly as saints. He may, with propriety, give the same commands to both. Though love be of God, and the fruit of the Spirit; yet both saints and sinners are bound to love God with all the heart, with all the soul, with all the mind, and with all the strength; and this obligation will lie upon them in its full weight to all eternity. It is an obligation which is founded in the nature of things, and which cannot be dissolved, as long as God remains supremely amiable, and they remain capable of loving him with supreme affection.
IT IS THE DUTY OF SINNERS TO MAKE THEM A
EZEKIEL xviii, 31.
THE Jews were now under the correcting hand of God in Babylon; but instead of accepting the punishment of their iniquities and ascribing righteousness to their Maker, they bitterly complained of the severity and injustice of his conduct. They said, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.” God knew they meant to insinuate, that he was punishing them, not for their own sins, but for the sins of their fathers, which he solemnly declares to be a false and absurd insinuation. “As I live, saith the Lord, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son, is mine; the soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son.” But still they objected, “the way of the Lord is not equal.” God now appealed from their reason to their conscience, and demanded, “O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? Are not your ways unequal? Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God: Repent and turn yourselves from all your transgressions, so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions whereby ye have transgressed, and make you a nema heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” Here sinners are expressly required