sive of its genuine nature and origin. The properties, I have in view are those which are designated by the epithets, spiritual and supernatural. To the consideration of these I have been led by some observations in your last number on regeneration. The observations, in my opinion, are just and scriptural. I believe, as my bible has taught me, that there is no religion acceptable to the Deity, which is devoid of these peculiarities: that is, I believe, that the religion of the gospel of Jesus Christ is a spiritual and supernatural religion.

By these epithets I do not intend what is meant by them, when applied to the gift of miracles; nor, particularly by spiritual, do I intend only what is meant by it, when it is used to distinguish, as it sometimes is, immaterial from material substances. What I have principally in view is the sense in which they are in the holy scriptures applied, either to the truths and precepts of the word of God, or to the special influences and impressions of that word, by his Spirit, on the minds and hearts of men. I have said, special influences and impressions, because, as stated in the aforementioned discussion, there are operations of the Spirit on the minds of most men who are favored with the common informations of the gospel, which are merely subsidiary to such considerations and exercises on the subjects of religion as they may be prompted to, while in their natural unrenewed state. These influences and impressions, how highly soever augmented, cannot through their exclusive efficiency, issue in that renovation which is necessarily supposed where true religion, with its specific pow ers and tendencies, has taken place. Dispensed, as they usually are, only in aid of and in co-operation with our natural principles and faculties, they are considered as common and natural; and that, with the like propriety as the invisible interpositions of divine agency in bringing forward the vegetable productions of the field are so called. But these, which I have in view, imply a mode or species of operation, both as to its nature and effects, distinct from and superior to all which are thus common and natural; and they are always, of course, productive of a special and supernatural effect; that is, of a real change of heart, and of a life corresponding with the spirit and truths of the gospel.

Hence it is, that the subjects also of these operations are called spiritual: as in 1 Cor. ii. 15, "He that is spiritual judgeth "all things:" that is, is apt to discern the difference between doctrines which are really divine, and those which, by their semblance, are illusory and seductive. And in Gal. vi. and 1st. the apostle, speaking of some who may be "overtaken in a fault,”

directs them" which are spiritual to restore such an one." I may also add, that the powers of the mind, as exercised under this influence, are called spiritual. So the apostle prays, that the Collosians, chap. i 19, may be "filled with all spiritual understand"ing," and in 8th Rom. which is tantamount, says, that "to be spiritually minded is life and peace." All these applications of the epithet refer to some peculiar property of religion; to that property in the nature of divine things, by which they are essentially distinguished; by which, they are known to be of God; and which, so perceived, produce a corresponding effect on the heart; forming it into the image of God; or, in other words, transforming the man into 66 a new creature."

What those properties of divine objects are, as they are in the objects themselves, separate from the perceptions we may have of them, and from their several effects on our minds, we freely own, it is not in our power to ascertain, or to define. We know not, nor can we know the intimate nature and constitution of material substances, distinct from our perception of their extension, solidity and other sensible qualities: Nor can we know what that is in fire, which occasions in us the sensation of heat, or in honey, which excites in us the taste of sweetness. Much rather may we suppose that the intimate nature of the attributes of God is inscrutable, and inconceivable by mortal sense. Nevertheless, from what is discernible of him, we may certainly know that there are in him, or in his attributes, certain peculiar constituent excellencies which are answerable to, and which are the ground and primary essential cause of, the perceptions referred to: excellencies, which infinitely distinguish him from, and render him infinitely more worthy and amiable than, any other possible object. It is likewise impossible for us to describe those pro

"The intendment of all gospel revelation," says Doctor Owen, an eminent Divine of the 16th century, " is not to unveil God's essential glory, so that we might see Him as He is, but merely to bring into our view so much of Him, as He knows sufficient to be a ground of our faith, love, obedience, and coming to him; that is, of the faith which He here expects of us; such love and services as beseem poor creatures in the midst of temptations: But when he shall call us to eternal admiration and contemplation, unobstructed as at present, He will make a new manner of discovery of himself; and the whole shape of things, as it now lies before us, will depart as a shadow.”

Possibly, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, it may please the Almighty either to endow the glorified soul with other faculties, than those which it now possesses, or to bring forth into competent activity some VOL. IL 3 R

perties of divine objects, as spiritually perceived, otherwise than by their sensible effects. Nor, when thus described, can they be properly apprehended by any other than those, whose rinds, by the grace of Heaven, have been accommodated to the reception of their peculiar impress.

The writer of the afore-mentioned observations has, according. ly, I conceive, justly represented that kind of knowledge, where it has obtained, as a new simple perception. A perception, in the order of nature, unattainable by the simple energies of any powers (though originally competent) of those whose minds have been vitiated and diseased, in the common corruption of lapsed humanity. By means of this corruption, we have become incapable of discerning spiritual things, which, as the apostle informs us, 1 Cor. ii. 14, are not to be otherwise than "spiritually dis cerned."

It is not, however, to be supposed, that such description can be of no use to men, who are yet in their unregenerate state. Were there no other advantage to be derived from it, it must surely be of no small importance to persons in that predicament to be informed, and to be convinced, that there is something, in the true knowledge of God and divine things, necessary to the renovation of their hearts and the thorough reformation of their lives, which they have not attained to; which they cannot attain to by any efforts exclusively their own, but to the attainment of which, a superior supernatural illumination and influence is absolutely requisite.

Of this illumination and influence, the Holy Spirit, whose of fice it is, in the divine economy of redemption, "to take of the things of Christ and show them unto us," is the sole efficient author. On this account, no doubt it is, that true Religion, in reference to its principle and exercise in the heart, and likewise in reference to the gospel itself, is so often denominated Spirit. In regard to the latter, our Saviour, in 6th of John, asserts, that the "words which he spoke, were spirit and life." And the word of the gospel in 2 Cor. 3. is denominated spirit, in contra-distinction from the letter: "the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” The letter, meaning the law, moral or ceremonial, simply considered, or the gospel understood in that legal sense in which the natural mind is presumptuously led to construe it, is that which killeth;

latent principles of its constitution, of which it may now be unknowing ly possessed: such as may enable it to penetrate deeper into the essen tial properties of God than, in the present state, would be any way advantageous or convenient.

because, thus construed, it disposes them, contrary to the design, Spirit and true sense of the gospel, to act upon it in a way suited to their self-sufficient and self-righteous inclinations; which, if persisted in, must terminate in their atter ruin: Whereas the Spirit, or the perception and impression of the spiritual things of the word by his special agency communicated, hath the contrary effect, and terminateth in life eternal. Accordingly the ministers of the christian religion are said, 2 Cor. iii. 8. to be "ministers not of the letter, but of the Spirit;" because it is their official duty to explain the gospel, and to inculcate it according to the true meaning and intention of the Spirit, who disposeth us to relinquish our legal and carnal conceptions and to rest all our dependence on the free mercy and grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. And, in gard to the former, our Saviour tells us in his discourse with Nicodemus that, "that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit," referring to the principle of divine life imparted in regeneration. The same likewise, which is intended by the "good things" promised in Matt. vii. in answer of prayer, is in the 11th of Luke, called " the Holy Spirit;" doubtless implying, that all the good things of grace which he gives to his people, are dispensed to them by the agency of the promised Spirit. The Spirit in short, is the sum and comprehension of all true christian religion in the hearts of men. Every emotion, tendency and act of it, is a fruit and effect of his special influence, and an expression of divine and spiritual life, by Him most graciously communicated.

Thus, in the holy scriptures, we have a plain and distinguishing line marked out between real religion, and every form and appearance which is devoid of its essential nature. Whatever partakes of this nature is the special work of the Holy Spirit, and it is spiritual, implying an operation of grace on the mind and heart, superior to and distinct from any which may take place in the way of cooperation with our natural powers in their unregenerate state; and implying such apprehensions of God and Christ and divine things as are productive of supreme love to and confidence in Him, and a commanding habitual desire of conformity to Him, and of the enjoyment of his favour and friendship, as our highest and only portion.

I have said that true religion is supernatural, as well as spiritual. But with respect to this, I need add but very little more. Though the epithets be not strictly synonymous, yet, as the case is, and in the sense in which the word spiritual is here used, they are always to be considered as inseparable. Whatever in the conceptions, emotions, or exercises of the human mind or heart is, in

this sense, properly spiritual, is likewise supernatural. For it we are indebted to the special illumination and influence of the Holy Spirit imparted, not in mere co-operation, as has been observed, or accordance, with the proper efficiency of our natural unrenewed powers, but, independently of all their possible exertions; and productive of effects superior to, and more truly divine, heavenly and salutary than any, to which they are compe


Such being the case, it ought to be attentively considered, that it is not in regeneration only, that this special interposition of the spirit of grace, that these spiritual and supernatural perceptions of divine objects, and these spiritual tendencies towards them, are necessary. In regeneration, the divine and spiritual life commences. The same life which, in that first instance, actuates the soul, is carried out and evolves its powers, throughout all the stages and progressions of sanctification. Throughout all, it indispensably requires the same spiritual illumination and influence, the same spiritual perceptions, communicated by the same divine Spirit, and that, through the same divine word, which is "spirit and life." The deprivation, or temporary deficiency, of these, or any of them, would, for the time at least, be proportionably the death of that life. In this case the mind, as carnal, would be left to its own proper habitude and natural inclinations; the result of which, according to the word, and if continued, is death." Surely we cannot doubt the effect, so expressly asserted by Him, whose knowledge of the human heart, and of the tendency of its principles, is complete and unerring.

With the like attention it should also be considered, that every particular act of the soul which had been the subject of regenera. ting grace, and every duty to which it may be called, does alike require the same spiritual communication, to render it genuine and acceptable as an act of religion. If it be not spiritually per formed, it is not truly religious; nor can it be attended with, or productive of that life and peace, which is connected with spiritual mindedness. Hence arises the necessity of maintaining a frame and temper of mind continually and uniformly spiritual; and the necessity, in order hereto, of a life "while we live in the flesh," of continual " faith in the Son of God," by whose mediation have been procured, and through whose intercession are vouchsafed, all those spiritual informations and aids of grace, which are needful for our direction, encouragement, support and animation while here, and to qualify us for the final enjoyment of "an inheritance with the saints in light."

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