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NOT PROVIDENTIAL DISPENSATIONS.
in which I use the term; that this will be followed by their welcoming those manifestations of the Divine character which are to be seen in his works, and exercising love to that character in the degree in which the circumstances in which they are placed are adapted to develop it;—and that it would be further followed by the reception of that testimony concerning the Saviour which we enjoy, were it presented to their minds. And, if there are cases of converted heathen who have never heard the gospel-I speak thus hypothetically, for I do not feel that I have sufficient data for forming an opinion—the state of mind which I have attempted to describe is the one which is, perhaps, most likely to exist. But nothing of this gainsays the statement that, in the case of the regeneration of those who enjoy the gospel, no other instrumentality is employed.
Further, the truth is the instrument of regeneration, to the exclusion of those means which Divine Providence frequently employs to rouse men to serious reflection. It sometimes happens that the footsteps of a sinner, going on in his sins, are arrested by unlooked for and dreadful calamities. The hand of death suddenly snatches from him the companions of his guilt, or the power of God stretches him on the bed of affliction, and brings him within view of the eternal world. Conscience shakes off her slumbers, and will be heard.
A spirit of penitence is awakened; and the delightful issue of the visitation is, that he "becomes a servant of God, having his fruit unto holiness, and the end thereof everlasting life." Still it is not the affliction that turns his heart from sin to God; affliction is utterly incapable of doing this. It is by “the incorruptible seed of the word,” and not by any of the mercies or judgments of God, that sinners are born again. Divine pro. vidence is the minister of Divine grace, but it is only the minister. It is often employed to awaken serious reflection; to recall the neglected truths of God's word' to the recollection of the sinner; to impress them powerfully upon his conscience; and to fix his attention upon that truth which saves the soul from death and condemnation. But still it is the gospel of
THE GOSPEL IS ADAPTED
God, and not the providence of God, that enlightens the eyes, and sanctifies the heart.
Secondly, we proceed to show that the truth is perfectly adequate to the production of the important effects which are attributed to it. A very few remarks will be sufficient, it is apprehended, to illustrate the truth of this assertion. Regeneration, we have seen, consists, partly at least, in the illumination of the understanding. A man who has undergone the change designated by that word, entertains just views of himself-of God-his perfections and government-of Christ—and of the way of salvation through him ;-just views, in short, of Divine things in general. And is not the gospel, or the word, or the truth, for the three terms mean the same thing, adapted to communicate just apprehensions of Divine things? Is there not in the Bible a correct representation of the state of man by nature—of the law of God and of the way of salvation through Jesus Christ? Do we need any thing more, in order to the illumination of the understanding, than to receive with implicit faith the testimony of the inspired writers in reference to these things? Surely not. If the mind of any man is not enlightened by the gospel, it is not because the gospel is not able to impart light, but because his mind is shut against it. “The light shineth in darkness, but the darkness comprehendeth it not.” Regeneration is, in short, as we have seen, a transference of the light of the word to the mind; so that every new creature is made “light in the Lord.”
Regeneration, we have further seen, partly consists in the purification of the affections. A man who has been born again, has been brought to loathe himself,—to repent in dust and ashes,--to hate sin, and to love holiness,-to meditate with delight on the law of God, -to rejoice in the Divine character, and to lean upon the Divine arm for support under the pressure of the heaviest trials. He has been brought to contemplate, with unbounded delight, the person and the work of Christ,--to rest his confidence upon his atonement,to desire the blessings of his salvation more than his necessary food,—and to look forwards to the moment when he shall
TO ENLIGHTEN AND SANCTIFY.
see him as he is, as the consummation of all that he can hope, or enjoy. Now, is not the gospel, when understood and believed, adapted to effect this extraordinary moral change in the affections of all who receive it? What more is
necessary to humble us before God, than to entertain that view of our character, and state, which is exhibited in his word? What more is
necessary to kindle in our bosoms the most animated love to God, than to receive that representation of his character which is given us in the Scriptures of truth? What more is necessary to inspire love to the Saviour, and to lead us to build upon his atonement as the ground of hope towards God, than to possess those views of his person and work, which are presented to us in the inspired volume? Surely nothing. I do not refer, at present, let it be observed, to the agency by which we become possessed of spiritual knowledge, because that would tend, in this stage of the inquiry, to embarrass us; but I ask, whether it is possible for an individual, who understands the nature of the mind, and the laws which regulate the exercise of its power, to doubt, when we are brought to .entertain those views of the things of the Spirit of God, which are presented by every page of the inspired volume, i. e., when we are brought to regard them as supremely excellent, that we shall give our supreme affections to them? Surely not. Various causes, indeed, may conspire to prevent an object appearing to us lovely which is really so; but it is impossible to prevent the going out of the affections to that which does so appear. No instrument, then, in addition to the gospel, is necessary to the purification of the heart
Regeneration, it was further stated, subdues the natural stubbornness of the will.--communicates an enlightened and a tender conscience,-gives birth to new joys and sorrows, new hopes and fears, new pleasures and pursuits, all of which are characterized by holiness. Now, it is manifest that, when the gospel is understood and believed, when its testimony stands in the mind as true testimony, and the blessings which it exhibits appear supremely important and excellent-it must prove a powerful and an effectual instrument, in the hand
THE HOLY SPIRIT THE ULTIMATE CAUSE,
of the Spirit of God, of effecting this change,-of originating all the holy feelings to which we have just alluded. It is impossible to illustrate all these particulars separately ;-to show how the gospel, when understood and believed, produces resignation to the will of God-how it renders the conscience sensible of the slightest deviations from the known path of duty--how it causes us to joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ—to mourn over the depravity which still cleaves to us -to fear sin, and to hope for heaven ;-how it leads us to reckon ourselves to be “ dead unto sin, and alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The preceding illustrations will, I trust, have rendered it unnecessary to say more, than that, when the understanding of an individual is enlightened by the Holy Spirit-in other words, when he is brought to discern the truth, and excellence, and glory, of the things of the Spirit of God, all the powers and susceptibilities of his mind must correspond, in their habitual state and exercise, with the nature of the objects which he contemplates. The holy seed, when sown in his mind, will certainly germinate, and produce corresponding fruit. Hence it is said of the gospel, that "it worketh effectually in all them that believe;" that "it is the power of God to their salvation."
II. It is the special agency of the Holy Spirit which ensures the success of the gospel ; and, therefore, the Holy Spirit may be regarded as the ultimate cause of regeneration. On this part of the subject, I propose,
1st. To establish the assertion that, in the regeneration of men, the agency of the Holy Spirit is employed; so that this Divine agent may be regarded as the ultimate cause of regeneration : and,
2nd. To offer a few general remarks, with reference to the nature of his agency, and the manner in which it is put forth.
1st. Then, we are to establish the fact that, in the regeneration of men, the agency of the Holy Spirit is employed; so that this Divine agent may be regarded as the ultimate cause of regeneration.
This assertion is supported by the express testimony of
PROVED BY REVELATION.
Scripture. “To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God: even to them that believe on his name. Who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John i. 12, 13.) To be born of God, is to be born of the Spirit of God; for we find our Lord assuring Nicodemus, That “ except a man be born of the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God;" “ that,” he adds, “ which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John iii. 5, 6,) “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Titus iï. 5.) “Of his own will begat he us,” says James, “with the word of truth.” And these declarations are in agreement with ancient prophecy. “A new heart,” says God, to his people of old, “ 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 a heart of flesh.” (Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27.)
The assertion is again supported by the testimony of fact. “Our Lord,” says Dwight, in illustration of this point, “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
St. Peter, by the first sermon he preached 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, 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 Peter? The cause was