Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

STATEMENTS OF HOPKINS.

377

senting regeneration as consisting chiefly, if not wholly, in renewing the understanding, as distinguished from the will; and letting light into that, antecedent to any change of the heart, and in order to it; and by which light in the understanding, the will is inclined and turned from sin to holiness. This is turning this matter upside down, and has a dangerous and bad tendency. It supposes that human depravity lies in the understanding, and not in the will; or, at least, that it has its foundation and beginning in the former; and that when that comes right, the will or heart acts right, of course. The consequence is, that there is little or no moral depravity in the heart, that being ready to do its office well, when the understanding is set right: therefore, man is not blameable for his depravity, and not being holy ; since his blindness, which alone is in the way of his acting right, is not dependent on his will, or owing to any disorders in that. It is, indeed, impossible to give true moral light and understanding to the depraved mind of man, by any operation whatsoever on the intellect, antecedent to the renovation of the will; for the darkness is in the latter, and consists in the wrong inclination of that; and therefore cannot be removed, but by renewing the heart."

“ Others have supposed, that there is in regeneration an operation on the understanding or intellect first, in order to enlighten the mind; and then by Divine energy the will is renewed, and brought to comply with the light let into the understanding. But this is unscriptural, and contrary to the nature and order of things; and tends to lead to hurtful mistakes, as has been observed.

bserved. Nothing is necessary but the renovation of the will, in order to set every thing right in the human soul; and if the will be not renewed, or a new heart be not given, by an immediate operation, no operation on any other faculty of the soul, and no supposeable or possible change can set the heart right, or renew it in the least degree. The Scripture makes no such distinction between the faculties of the soul in treating of this great matter ; but represents the renovation of the will, or giving a new heart, as setting the whole soul right in all the powers and faculties of it.”

378 DIFFERENCE BETWEEN INFLUENCE AND RENOVATION.

“ The Divine operation in regeneration, of which the new heart is the effect, is immediate, or it is not wrought by the energy

of any means as the cause of it; but by the immediate power and energy of the Holy Spirit. It is called a creation, and the Divine agency in it is as much without any medium, as in creating something from nothing. Men are not regenerated in the sense in which we are now considering regeneration, by light or the word of God. This is evident from what has been observed under the last particular. If the evil eye, which is total darkness, and shuts all the light out, be the evil, corrupt heart of man, then this corrupt heart must be renewed, in order to there being any true light in the mind, and previous to it. There must be a discerning heart, which is the same with a new heart, in order to see the light; and, therefore, this cannot be produced by light. The evil eye which shuts out all the light, cannot be cured, and made a single eye, by seeing the light: and the light cannot have any effect, or answer any end, till they are so far made single to admit the light; therefore, that operation which changes the evil eye to a single eye, cannot be by means of light; but must take place antecedent to any light, or any influence or effect that can be produced by it. It is said, the Lord opened the heart of Lydia, that she attended unto the things that were spoken by Paul. It would be a contradiction, and very absurd to say, that the word spoken by Paul, was that by which her heart was opened ; for she knew not what he did speak, until her heart was opened to attend to his words, and understand them. Her heart was first opened, in order to his words having any effect, or giving any light to her. And this must be done by an immediate operation of the Spirit of God on her heart. This was the regeneration now under consideration, by which the heart was renewed, and formed to true discerning, like the single eye." (Vol. i., pp. 456, 457.)

I will venture again to state, that the difference of opinion which has existed with reference to the question, "Is that influence which, according to the confession of all orthodox divines, is exerted in the regeneration of the soul, direct, or indirect?” is mainly to be traced to the overlooking of the dis

EMANATES FROM GOD AS A SOVEREIGN.

379

tinction which I have made between spiritual influence, and spiritual renovation. That the latter must be by means, no one, I think, can doubt, who understands the nature of the mind, and the meaning of terms; and that the former must be without means, is equally apparent to me. I might avail myself of the argument, that whether Divine influence in regeneration be exerted upon the mind, as affirmed in the third general observation, or upon the truth, in the manner stated in the second, it is still without means.

No one can conceive that it is by any instrumentality that this supposed additional power is given to the truth ; it must be by the immediate influence of the Spirit. The argument may be said to be subtle, but I believe it to be correct. Without dwelling upon it, however, I merely observe, that it is as manifest to my mind, that that influence which leads to the conversion of the sinner is exerted immediately upon the mind, as that the actual turning of the affections from sin to God, is effected by the moral influence of Divine truth.

Fourthly, The influence for which we contend emanates from God not in the character of a Ruler, but a Sovereign.

This statement, it will be observed, is in harmony with those which occur in the Lectures on Sovereignty. It is of great importance to recollect here, the nature of moral government, and in what respects it differs from what we may denominate physical government. The latter is exercised over beings incapable of acting themselves ; or, if they have the capacity of action, it employs instinct, instead of reason, to secure the required actions. Moral government is the government of intelligent beings, possessing the power of action, by motives exhibited to their view, and adapted to awaken volition—the constituted cause of all those actions for which such beings are accountable to their Maker-by the good which these motives present to them. I need not say that man is the subject of this latter species of government, though not to the exclusion of the former. The laws of this government are to be found in the sacred Scriptures. The instruments or means of this government, are the threatenings and promises by which the laws are enforced. The gospel pro

380

DIVINE INFLUENCE EMANATES FROM

mises the glories of the world above, to those who repent, and believe; it threatens with eternal misery, all who persist in impenitence and rebellion. Now the tendency of these promises and threatenings to lead to right volition—to produce repentance and faith-is the influence which God employs as a moral Governor to secure obedient subjects. It is the only influence which, in that character, he can employ. He has formed the mind to will, or desire, that which appears to it good. He presents good, objectively, to the mind to induce volition, and consequent obedience. He can act in no other way in his rectoral character, because moral government is carried on by the presentation and influence of motives, or inducements. If the good which He presents to secure the purposes of his government, should not happen to appear good to the subjects of that government, it will not of course influence their volitions, and their conduct. But, in that unhappy case, the moral Governor, in that character, can do no more to effect his merciful intentions. I do not now mean that, in point of equity, he should do no more ; but that moral government has literally exhausted its powers. The head of the government must not hold out a polluted good to influence the mind; so that, if that good which the gospel exhibits should not appear good to the subjects of moral government, he can bring no more influence to bear upon their minds without giving them another gospel; i. e., without promising a greater good if they repent and believe,-and threatening a greater evil if they continue rebellious ;-both of which are impossible—the good at present promised, being the eternal enjoyment of himself; the evil at present threatened, everlasting banishment from himself!

It follows, then, that the influence which secures the conversion of the soul to God, emanates from him as a Sovereignthat it is not moral influence,-or moral suasion, as it is sometimes called; and cannot, in the nature of the case, be so,-that it effects some change upon the state of the mind, in consequence of which the good, which the gospel exhibits objectively, is made to appear good; and consequently, to excite volition, and lead to obedience ;—but that it is not necessary

GOD, AS A SOVEREIGN.

381

It would prove

to accountability. To affirm its necessity would lead us into interminable difficulties. It would constrain us to maintain that Jehovah is bound to convert all men. that the fall of man could not have taken place; for while spiritual objects appear good to the mind, it is morally certain that they will awaken holy volitions and affections. Were it the case that Jehovah, on the ground of equity, is bound not only to bestow upon his subjects a mind capable of distinguishing between right and wrong—of willing, or desiring, and loving what appears to it excellent; were he bound not only to proffer to them blessings of infinite value and to unfold

heir excellence in terms the most explicit and intelligible,but, in addition to all this, were under an obligation to make these blessings appear excellent to them—then Adam in eating the forbidden fruit did not commit sin, for unquestionably abstinence had ceased to appear desirable before he partook of it; then men in general, in rejecting the great salvation, do not commit sin ; for unquestionably spiritual blessings do not appear to them desirable, and hence they do not love and them. That there are difficulties connected with the statements now made there can be no doubt; but if we are not disposed to admit that God bestows all that is necessary to accountability, when he presents objects infinitely worthy of our choice, so adapted to our spiritual and moral nature as to be capable of affording, whatever we may think of them, the most perfect blessedness which it is possible to enjoy; and presents them to a mind capable, from its physical constitution, of choosing the objects to which we now refer,-capable of making a right choice, and of course capable of making a wrong one ;-if we are not satisfied to regard this as constituting a basis of accountability,—if we require any thing more, we shall find ourselves obliged to admit that the entrance of moral evil directly impeaches the rectitude of the moral Governor.

pursue

« VorigeDoorgaan »