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do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.' In these passages the different natures of the fleshly and spiritual character are too strongly marked to need a comment. All that is sinful, odious to God, and the object of his wrath, plainly belongs to the former; and all that is holy, lovely in the sight of God, and the object of his favour, belongs to the latter. But that which is born of the flesh is flesh;' is of this odious, guilty nature; while that which is born of the Spirit is' alone spirit.' In other words, whatever is good and acceptable before God in the character of man is produced by the Holy Ghost.
In 2 Thess. ii. 13, St. Paul says, God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through the sanctification of the Holy Ghost.' The Thessalonian church then was chosen to salvation: How? Through the sanctification of the Holy Ghost. The sanctification of these persons then was a part of the original purpose of God, and a pre-requisite to their salvation. The Thessalonians, therefore, were renewed or regenerated by the Holy Ghost; and, by necessary conclusion, all others who become the subjects of regeneration.
1 Cor. vi. 11, ' But ye are sanctified by the Spirit of God.' In the two preceding verses, St. Paul mentions several classes of men, who, he declares, shall not inherit the kingdom of God.' Then he subjoins, Such were some of you. But,' he adds, ye are sanctified by the Spirit of God.' Formerly these Corinthians were of the number of those who, continuing in their proper character, could not inherit the kingdom of God,' That which now made them of a new and opposite character was, that they were sanctified by the Spirit of God,'
In Ezekiel xxxvi. 26, 27, God says, ' 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 flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes; and ye shall keep my judgments and do them.' Here, giving these Israelites a new heart,' and a new spirit,' is plainly and exactly equivalent to the import of this declaration, I will put my Spirit within you;' as the consequence of which, it is declared,
that they shall walk in the statutes of God, and keep his judgments.' The disposition therefore with which mankind keep the statutes, or obey the law of God, is produced in them by God himself, and is effectuated by his Spirit.
In the following chapter God says, verses 13, 14, to the house of Israel, represented as spiritually dead, Ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall put my Spirit in you, and ye shall live.' Here spiritual life is exhibited as the immediate effect of the agency of the Spirit of God.
To these passages of Scripture I shall subjoin a few more, out of a great multitude, to the same purpose. For the love of God is shed abroad in your hearts by the
Your body is the
Holy Ghost,' Rom. v. 5. temple of the Holy Ghost,' 1 Cor. vi. 19. 'No man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost,' 1 Cor. xii. 3. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God,' Rom. viii. 14. 'I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring,' Isa. xliv. 3. The direct consequence of this effusion of the Spirit is declared in verse 5: One shall say, I am the Lord's, and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob.'
2. The same doctrine is taught us by facts contained in the Scriptures.
Our Saviour preached to the Jewish nation at least three years and a half, if not more than four years. It will be admitted that he was the best of all preachers; and that his preaching was more perfectly calculated than any other to produce holiness in the hearts of those who heard him. Yet it will also be admitted that he was not a very successful preacher. We naturally ask, Why was he not successful? The apostles on the contrary, though certainly and greatly inferior to Christ in wisdom and persuasiveness, preached still with wonderful success. St. Peter, by the first sermon which he delivered to the Jews, probably converted more to the faith and obedience of the Gospel, than Christ during the whole of his ministry. We naturally ask also, Whence arose this wonderfully different efficacy in the preaching of St. Peter and that of his Master. The persons whom they both addressed were the same. They had been witnesses of the miracles of both. Why then were they perfectly dead to the preaching of Christ; and pricked to the heart,' and turned
to God, by that of St. Peter? The cause was not in the
St. Paul preached at Philippi' many days.' It seems clear, that the jailer must frequently have heard him. Yet his words made no impression upon the jailer's heart until that night in which he was converted. Yet then, in a moment, upon Paul's calling to him to do himself no harm; he hastened into the prison, and cried out to Paul and Silas,
Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' A cause adequate to this change in the jailer, must be admitted here and this can have been no other, than that the Lord opened heart,' as he had before done that of Lydia, in the same place.
Generally, to what other cause can be assigned the universal success of the apostles in preaching the Gospel? St. Peter has taught us to attribute this wonderful event to the peculiar and remarkable effusion of the Holy Ghost in the last days,' or days of the Gospel, predicted by the prophet Joel, and begun to be accomplished on the day of Pentecost. If this be not admitted as the true cause, it will, I apprehend, be very difficult to assign another, which will be found adequate to the effect, or which will in any measure satisfy a sober inquirer.
II. The nature of this Agency next demands our consideration.
Concerning this I observe,
1. That it is the result of the mere good pleasure of God. Whatever other reasons may exist for the communication of this essential blessing (and that the best reasons do exist can never be seriously questioned,) it is plainly impossible that it should be merited by any child of Adam. The very suppo
sition that we are regenerated, involves the necessity of our regeneration. But this necessity is the result of our sinfulness only; and this character plainly precludes, wherever it is found, the possibility of meriting to be regenerated. The agency of the Divine Spirit in this work is therefore, on the one hand sovereign, and on the other gracious; or, in other
words, flows from the sovereign and unmerited mercy of our Divine Benefactor.
2. It is unresisted.
It has often been called irresistible. This language has given rise to very extensive and, as I apprehend, to very unwarrantable controversies in the Christian church. Others, and among them men of great respectability, have more sanguine expectations concerning the issue of debates about metaphysical subjects, than I am able to form; and perhaps I should be unwarranted in saying that they are not more just. But, so far as my acquaintance with the views and reasonings of men extends, I entertain very faint hopes of seeing any solid good spring from speculations concerning the nature of causes, and the modes of their operation. The facts, that such and such causes exist; and that they operate to the production of such and such effects, we in many instances well understand. But the nature of the cause itself, and the nature and manner of its efficiency, are in most instances too subtle, or too entirely hidden from our view, either to be perceived at all, or to be so perceived as to become the materials of real and useful knowledge. Hence, probably, has been derived the fact, that speculations on such subjects, though often satisfactory to the philosopher himself, and to his own immediate friends and followers, have rarely satisfied others, or produced any lasting effects on mankind. The schoolmen were perhaps as able investigators of such subjects as the world has ever seen, and their speculations were at times proofs of sagacity and discrimination not inferior to what has been displayed in the most boasted efforts of succeeding ages. Yet how little are they studied or remembered at the present time! Scarcely are they mentioned, unless with pity or contempt; or as sources of astonishment, awakened by the sight of talents misapplied.
The success of these men should, one would think, furnish a lesson to such as follow after them. They too had their day of reputation and splendour; of splendour, far superior to any thing which modern writers can boast, or modern times will ever be disposed to give. But it was a vapour, which appeared for a little time, and then vanished away.' The morning clouds' of the present day will appear for a period still less; and the system which for the moment attracts many eyes, will
in another moment be forgotten. Neither the fame acquired by the author, nor the stability attributed to his system by his followers, should therefore induce us to rely on the desert of the one, or the permanency of the other.
When it is said, that the agency of the Divine Spirit in renewing the heart of man is irresistible, it is probably said, because this agency being an exertion of omnipotence, is concluded, of course, to be irresistible by human power. This seems not, however, to be said on solid grounds. That agency of the Holy Ghost, which St. Stephen informs us was re sisted by the Jews, and by their fathers, was an exertion of the same omnipotence, and was yet resisted by human power. I know of nothing in the regenerating agency of the same Spirit, except the fact, that it is never resisted, which proves it to be irresistible, any more than that which the Jews actually resisted. That the Spirit of God can do any thing with man, and constitute man any thing, which he pleases, cannot be questioned. But that he will exert a regenerating agency on the human mind which man has not a natural power to resist, or which man could not resist if he would, is far from being satisfactorily evident to me. Indeed, I am ready to question whether this very language does not lead the mind to views concerning this subject which are radically erroneous.
In the cxth Psalm, in which we have an account of Christ's being constituted a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedek,' we have in the third verse this remarkable promise made to Christ, ‘Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.' This promise respects the very subject now under consideration; and is, I suspect, a more accurate account of it than can be found in the language which I am opposing. In the day of Christ's power his people are willing. The influence which he exerts on them by his Spirit, is of such a nature that their wills, instead of attempting any resistance to it, coincide with it readily and cheerfully, without any force or constraint on his part, or any opposition on their own. That it is an unresisted agency, in all cases, is unquestionable: that it is irresistible in any, does not appear.
III. The necessity of this agency will, if I mistake not, be evident from the following considerations :—
1. It is declared in the Scriptures.