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AND CONVERSION NOT ADOPTED.
seem to indicate the opinion that love to God is actually kindled in the mind by the direct influence of the Holy Spirit; and that spiritual or just views of the Divine character are subsequent to the existence of love, and flow from it as their cause. And what are we to understand by the statements of other writers, that a holy principle, or a bias to that which is good, is implanted by the direct influence of the Spirit in regeneration? I am persuaded that, in the only definite sense which can be attached to these expressions, they convey more than the case warrants ;—they describe, in short, the effect of the combined influence of the truth and the Spirit; instead of exhibiting exclusively, as they should have done, the result of the latter influence. In fact, in the controversy which has been carried on between those who maintain that in regeneration there is a direct influence of the Spirit of God upon the mind, and those who deny this—affirming that the influence is mediate, or instrumental, i.e., exerted by the means of Divine truth,the great difficulty, in the case of those who hold the first of these opinions, is to describe accurately and intelligibly, not the nature and manner of Divine influence, but the proximate result of that influence,--the precise nature of that effect upon the mind which predisposes it to entertain just apprehensions of Divine things, and to cherish suitable affections towards them. The conscious impossibility of doing this, held me to the latter opinion for many years. Of the nature of that effect upon the mind, or of that change in its moral state (the direct and proximate result of the regenerating energy) which is in the order of nature previous to spiritual perceptions and feelings, and, partially at least, the cause of them, I could form no distinct conceptions then, and I am constrained to avow that I have made no further progress now.
I am, however, satisfied at length to let this point remain in that state of comparative darkness from which I have never witnessed a successful attempt to rescue it, and am myself unable to make one. I believe that some change is produced in the moral state of the mind, by the direct influence of the Spirit of God, leading to spiritual perceptions and affections, and being, of course, in
USUAL DISTINCTION, &c.
the order of nature previous to them; but I pretend not to be able to describe its formal nature. But,
Secondly, The change to which I have just referred is rather something previous to regeneration, than regeneration itself. Whatever be the nature of the change denoted by that word, it results, beyond all question, from the influence of Divine truth. “Of his own will begat he us," says James, “with the word of truth."
“Being born again," adds Peter, "not of corruptible seed, &c., but by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."
I confess I have always been dissatisfied with the way in which Mr. Fuller, Dr. Williams, and others, have attempted to reconcile these passages with the sentiments they hold on this subject. James and Peter refer, say they, to regeneration, improperly so called. The proper sense of the term is exhibited in those passages which describe the effect of the direct agency of the Spirit upon the mind. Now, in the first place, I apprehend many of the passages to which they refer, do not exhibit exclusively the effect of this direct agency of the Spirit, but the results of the combined influence of the Spirit and the truth; such as,
• Create in me a clean heart, O God; renew a right spirit within me.” And, in the second place, I think I may venture to affirm, that not one of those passages to which they appeal as exhibiting the effect of the direct influence of the Spirit, although none of them should be excepted against, declares that effect to be regeneration. Mr. Fuller is, therefore, involved in the curious predicament of affirming a certain effect or change to be regeneration, in the proper sense of the term, which is never said to be such; and of denying that a certain other change is, strictly speaking, regeneration, though it only is designated by that name in the word of God. We cannot well be wrong in following the apostles James and Peter-in calling that regeneration, which is so denominated by them. I believe in the direct influence of the Spirit of God upon the mind, and that it produces a radical change in the moral state of the mind. I further believe that this change is necessary to rege
THE GOSPEL ENLIGHTENS THE MIND.
neration. But it is a precursor; it is not the thing itself. Regeneration is the whole of that change which is effected upon men by the instrumentality of the gospel. This definition ascribes the change to the gospel proximately, but it only ascribes it to the gospel instrumentally. It presents the Holy Spirit before us as the great Agent, inasmuch as he operates directly in opening the eyes of the understanding to perceive and believe Divine truth; and, indirectly, in rectifying the views, and sanctifying the affections of men by the truth,—the instrument employed by him to accomplish his
In describing more particularly that change which we denominate regeneration, we must look at it in detail, and present it in parts, so to speak; I observe accordingly,
1st, That the gospel illuminates the understanding, so that a just and believing apprehension of the things of the Spirit of God, constitutes one branch of regeneration, or one feature of the new creature. “ The natural man,” we are told, “receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them;" i. e., he has not a just apprehension of their nature; they do not appear to him supremely excellent, important, and glorious. Hence men, in a state of nature, are denominated "children of darkness.” Such is the state in which the gospel finds all men ; but it does not leave them in it. It brings them out of darkness into marvellous light. It renders them children of light and of the day, by imparting correct conceptions of Divine things in general,--of the state of man by nature,--the extent and spirituality of the Divine law,--the evil of sin, the character, perfections, and government of God,—the way of salvation through Jesus Christ, and of the infinite value of those blessings which flow to the world through his mediation. The conceptions of the regenerate man, in reference to these subjects, are, we say, correct; they must be so, because they are derived from the gospel. They are, so to speak, the faithful delineations of the inspired writers, or rather of the Spirit of God, who assumed the guidance of their pens, transferred to their minds. And since the excellence and glory of the things of God are ex
THE GOSPEL ENLIGHTENS THE MIND.
hibited in the gospel, there must be an apprehension of that excellence and glory in their minds. The great facts of the gospel, in their implication, and bearing, and importance, must be understood; and the infinitely important subjects concerning which revelation treats, must appear to them in an aspect similar to that which they assume to the holy intellect of God himself. How otherwise could their conceptions of Divine truth be correct? This perception of the excellence and glory of the things of the Spirit of God, constitutes mainly, if not exclusively, that illumination of the understanding in which regeneration partly consists. It is possible for an unconverted man to attain to a correct knowledge of the theory of the gospel, to be able to give an accurate account of the doctrine of Scripture in reference to the Divine character,the condition of man as a sinner against God, and the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. He may assent to the great facts of the gospel. He may even believe them, as we have formerly stated, in the sense which he attaches to them; but he does not see them in their moral importance and glory. He understands that God is holy and just, as well as good; but he perceives nothing attractive in this view of the Divine character. He understands that mankind can only be saved by faith in Christ, but there is, in his apprehension, nothing glorious in this plan of salvation. He is like a man destitute of taste for the beauties of nature. The same objects meet his view by which others are enraptured and entranced; but they present not the same appearance to him, as to them, and hence produce no effect upon him. On the contrary, an individual into whose heart God hath shined, has had a full discovery of the depravity of his nature; he has an impressive view of the awful evil of sin ; he perceives a glory surrounding the character of Jehovah, of which he had formerly no conception; and he is free and loud in his acknowledgments, that so vast and unbounded was the expenditure of wisdom, and of love, in the plan of salvation through the Redeemer, that eternity itself will not be more than adequate to express our gratitude to him, from whose gracious heart it emanated; and by whose omnipotent arm it was accomplished.
THE GOSPEL PURIFIES THE AFFECTIONS.
In describing, in detail, the nature of that moral change which is effected upon man by the gospel of Christ, we proceed to observe,
2nd, That the gospel purifies the affections, as well as enlightens the understanding, so that love to whatever is morally excellent, constitutes another branch of regeneration.
Such is the nature of our mental constitution that we cannot love what does not appear excellent, nor fail to love that which does so appear. It is necessary to express ourselves guardedly here; because, though an object should possess unrivalled attractions, if we do not see them, or if they do not appear attractions to us, we do not love it. And, on the contrary, though an object should possess no intrinsic value whatever,—though it should even be utterly unworthy of the esteem of a rational and an immortal creature, yet if our imaginations array it in charms which do not belong to it, we invariably regard it with love. In consequence of the entire perversion of his moral taste, degraded pleasures appear excellent to the sinner; holiness, on the contrary, unattractive and repulsive. He accordingly loves the former, and hates the latter. But when God, by the power of his Spirit, removes the veil from his heart,--when he gives him a discovery of the excellence, importance, and glory of the things of the Spirit of God; when he leads him, by an influence which we cannot explain, to take that view of their nature and superlative value, which is presented in his blessed word,--then will the affections of this individual flow to them as naturally, and necessarily, as they receded from them before. The purification of the affections, then, not only cannot take place without the illumination of the understanding, which is perfectly self-evident to those who know any thing of the constitution of the human mind, but it must necessarily result from that illumination. No sooner is an individual brought to see the extent and spirituality of the Divine law, and to feel that he stands before it in the character of a transgressor, than he prostrates himself in the dust of abasement before Jehovah. No sooner is he made to discover the infinite evil of sin, than he begins to hate it with a perfect hatred; to behold the glory