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MORAL INFLUENCE CANNOT BE AUGMENTED.
many, who speak as if they thought that, when the gospel is scripturally understood and firmly believed, it is incapable of raising the affections from sin to holiness; from the world to God;—that even in this case some additional influence must be imparted to it, or that it would remain totally inoperative. To entertain this notion is virtually to maintain that the sinner may not be blameable even while he remains unsanctified, having by supposition exhausted his duty by believing the gospel. He has done, on this admission, all that God requires of him. He has taken the right medicine-taken it in the prescribed manner, and yet his spiritual malady remains. How could we avoid feeling that, if this were indeed the case, the fault would be in the medicine, and that he would be an object of pity, and not of censure ? On these accounts, I cannot but strongly object to the phraseology of some who apply the words, "a dead letter,” to the word of God. If the terms were merely meant to intimate the fact that Divine revelation is never understood and received as the record of God without Divine influence, they would convey a most undeniable and important truth. But I fear that, in many cases at least, the words are designed to teach that the medicine itself is essentially inoperative; and, when this idea itself is conveyed to the mind of a sinner, it will veil the full extent of his guilt, by failing to fix his attention upon his own obstinate rejection of the medicine, as the direct and, indeed, exclusive cause of his remaining under the full power of spiritual dis
Secondly, It supposes an operation which is not only unintelligible, but, as far as I can judge, impossible. The influence of the gospel upon the mind is moral influence-moral influence exclusively. It is the influence of truth, to enlighten and convince the understanding; and of motives, to excite and govern the affections. It results partly from the nature of the gospel, and partly from the nature of the mind to which its persuasive influence is adapted. It is an influence inseparable from the gospel—the present constitution of the mind remaining, and it is impossible to conceive of its being either diminished or increased. From the whole of the preceding
MORAL AND PHYSICAL INFLUENCE CONTRASTED,
statements it follows, as a necessary consequence, that the actual influence of the gospel upon the minds of men, must vary according to the different states of those minds. This, indeed, is the case with all moral causes which, like the gospel, operate by presenting inducements to a certain mode of action. The external motive may, in one state of mind, be omnipotent; in another, entirely powerless : but there cannot possibly be a greater degree of power, i.e., tendency in the motive to secure the action, at one time, than at another. Take for illustration a case of instantaneous conversion. The gospel exerts no influence over the mind one hour—a mighty and uncontrollable influence the next. To ascribe this difference to some additional power, imparted to the gospel, is to lose sight of the difference which exists between physical and moral causes; and to confound the influence of the former with that of the latter. Additional power may be imparted to a physical cause which operates by contact, and impulse. A battering-ram, when brought into gentle contact only with the walls of a citadel, would effect no breach ; but give to it the momentum which the strength of fifty or a hundred men can impart, and it becomes irresistible. It is, I have no doubt, the influence of some such material analogy as this, which has led to the mistake against which I am now contending. Perhaps, indeed, not one of those who maintain a special influence of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, while they contend, at the same time, that it is by means of Divine truth, (thus confounding Divine influence with spiritual renovation,) would avow the monstrous opinion that the gospel operates upon the mind of man after the manner of physical causes; they would disown the opinion if it were imputed to them personally. But I feel persuaded that the material analogy has more influence with them than they are aware of
that it has really formed and governed their opinions upon the subject.
The cause, then, of the mighty influence of the gospel, when it becomes the means of conversion, must not be sought for in some supposed change effected in the gospel itself. “The gospel," as I have said in another publication, "remains
ADDITIONAL POWER NOT GIVEN TO THE TRUTH.
what it was. Its motives are unchanged. The mind may
be made to appreciate their excellence, and to feel their force, but this is surely by something being done to the mind, and not to the gospel;” a point, however, to which the attention of the reader will be more fully directed afterwards.
Thirdly, It would afford, at least, apparent ground, if it really exhibited the facts of the case, for impeaching the rectitude of the proceedings of the moral Governor. It has been seen, (vide Lectures on Sovereignty, page 99,) that, in reference to those who are involved in the same general sentence of condemnation, and who must stand at length at the judgment-seat, equity does require that the moral Governor should deal with all alike ;-that the door of mercy (if it be opened) should be set open to all,—that the gospel should be preached to all,--that the same objective motives to receive it, should be presented to all ;—and that at the great day, when one man is saved through believing, and another lost through rejecting the gospel, it must appear that the same substantial and radical inducements to receive it, had been presented to the latter individual, as to the former. Now, on the supposition that no more moral power is imparted to the gospel when it is rendered effectual to salvation than it habitually possesses, this is manifestly the case; but it is not so on the contrary assumption. To recur again to the case of instantaneous conversion, referred to a short time ago, the person, immediately adjoining the one who is brought to the knowledge of Divine truth, remains unaffected by the address of the preacher. Now, if it were possible to conceive of an influence being given at times to the truth to enlighten and sanctify, greater than that which is inherent in it, and essential to it; and, if it were the fact, that to this additional influence should be ascribed the success of the gospel in this case, would there not manifestly be a difference in the conduct of God towards these individuals, as the moral Governor of the world? And how could this be reconciled with the principles of righteous moral government? It is in vain to reply, as I have often heard it done, that, if an influence be exerted directly upon the heart of him who receives the gospel, the same objection will lie,
DIVINE INFLUENCE DIRECT,
because a direct influence upon the heart does not emanate from God as moral Governor; whereas the gospel does. It is, indeed, the instrument of moral government. It is the drawing of the Ruler, not of the Sovereign. Now, if there be a more powerful drawing on the part of the Ruler, in the case of some than of others, might not the latter complain that the ways of God are not equal ? On these accounts, as well as others, I reject the opinion that God renders the gospel effectual by imparting additional moral power to it. I pass on, now, to the next general remark in reference to the nature and manner of Divine agency. I observe, then,
Fourthly, That the influence for which we contend is exerted immediately or directly, i. e., not by means, upon
This is intimated, I apprehend, with sufficient distinctness in the sacred volume. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness," says the apostle, “hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God," or rather, to the light of the knowledge, &c., “in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. iv. 6.) Few things are more manifest to my mind than that God's shining into the heart is represented here as something previous, in the order of nature, to our attaining the knowledge of the glory of God. It shines into our heart to give the light—to insure to us the enjoyment of it: “Except," said our Lord, “a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” To the same effect are such passages as the following :-"I will give them a heart to know me." (Jer. xxiv. 7.) “And the Lord opened the heart of Lydia," &c. ; expressions which clearly imply, I imagine, that that Almighty energy from which spiritual knowledge resulted, was exerted immediately upon the heart, and not upon the truth, imparting to it additional power, and thus entering with it, or embodied in it, into the mind. I add, further,
That in the very nature of the case it must be so. the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned." I can form no conception of the meaning of these words, if
they are not intended to teach us that the mind, in its natural state, is morally incapable of taking just views of spiritual things; that their excellence and glory will not appear to it, because, in consequence of its perverted moral taste, the real excellence and glory of the gospel are not regarded as such. Here, indeed, is the great, I had almost said the exclusive difficulty, which accompanies the regeneration of a sinner. Give him spiritual and believing views of the things of the Spirit of God, and it is perfectly easy to account for the whole of the subsequent renovation which he undergoes; but to give him those views—this is the moral impossibility to be accomplished! Spiritual things appear to every mind, in an aspect which is governed by the state of that mind. Depravity of heart spreads a covering of deformity over the glorious character of God itself,--as the frost-glass scatters the hoar of winter over the verdure and loveliness of spring. Of what avail would it be, while the interposing glass remains, that some mighty miracle should array the landscape in charms yet more exuberant and delightful? It would only multiply the gloomy horrors of the scene. On the same principle, we ask, “how a fuller disclosure of the Divine character could succeed in conveying an attractive view of that character, to an ungodly man while he looks at it, as he must do, through the perverting medium of his own depravity?" How can it be doubted that an influence which is not exerted directly upon the mind would not go to the root of the evil? It is in consequence of a defect in the minds of sinners, and not in the gospel, that it is misunderstood and rejected. It is revealed with sufficient clearness; - it is accompanied with sufficient evidence of its truth. Were it possible for it to be stated ten thousand times more clearly than it is, and accompanied with ten thousand times inore evidence, that would not relieve the defect which leads sinners to reject it. They would not repent though one should rise from the dead. “To suppose," as I have stated in another work, “that God renders the gospel successful by communicating some additional and mysterious energy to it, is to suppose that the defect is in the truth, and not in the mind which rejects it. It is to suppose that there