« VorigeDoorgaan »
him they are nothing, and can do nothing; and God is as near to the effect himself, when he useth an instrument, as when he useth none. So that, undoubtedly, it is God's work.
2. And God having no voice but created, revealeth his mind to man by his operations; and as he cannot lie, so his infinite wisdom and goodness will not give up the world to such unavoidable deceit, as such a multitude of miracles would lead them into, if they were used to attest a lie. If I cannot know him to be sent of God, who raiseth the dead, and showeth me such a seal of omnipotency to his commission, I have no possi bility of knowing who speaketh from God at all, or of escaping deceit in the greatest matters; of which God, by his omnipotent arm, would be the cause. But none of this can stand with the nature and righteous government of God. This, therefore, is an infallible proof of the veracity of Christ and his apostles: and the truth of the history of these miracles shall be further opened anon.
Sect. 10. IV. The fourth part of the Spirit's testimony to Christ is subsequent, in the work of regeneration or sanctification, in which he effectually illuminateth the mind, and reneweth the soul and life to a true resignation, obedience, and love of God, and to a heavenly mind and conversation; and so proveth Christ to be really and effectively the Saviour. P
This evidence is commonly much overlooked and made little account of by the ungodly, who have no such renovation on themselves; because, though it may be discerned in others by the fruits, yet they that have it not in themselves, are much hindered from discerning it; partly because it is at a distance from them, and because it is in itself seated in the heart, where it is neither felt nor seen by others, but in the effects; and partly because the effects are imperfect, and clouded with a mixture of remaining faults: but, especially, because that ungodly men have a secret enmity to holy things, and thence to holy persons, and therefore are falsely prejudiced against them; which is increased by cross interests and courses in their converse. But yet, indeed, the spirit of regeneration is a plenary evidence of the truth of Christ and Christianity.
P Ideo non omnibus sanctis miracula attribuuntur, ne perniciosissimo errore decipiantur infirmi, æstimantes in ́talibus factis esse majora bona, quam iu operibus justitiæ, quibus vita æterna comparatur.-Aug. de Civ. Dei, 33.
a Christianity is thus truly and orderly described by Augustin, de Agon. cap. 18. Fides est prima, quæ subjugat animam Deo ; deinde præcepta dat vivendi ; quibus custoditis spes nostra firmatur et nutritur, cum quod cognitio et actio beatum faciunt, in cognitione cavendus est error, in actione nequitia.
To manifest which, I shall, 1. Consider what it is, and doeth ; 2. How and by what means; 3. On whom; 4. Against what oppositions; 5. That it is Christ indeed that doth it.
I. The change which is made by the Spirit of Christ doth consist in these particulars, following: 1. It taketh down pride, and maketh men humble and low in their own eyes; to which end it acquainteth them with their sin, and their desert and misery. 2. It teacheth men self-denial, and causeth them to resign themselves to God, and use themselves as being wholly his own. 3. It absolutely subjecteth the soul to God, and setteth up his authority, as absolute, over our thoughts and words, and all our actions; and maketh the Christian's life a course of careful obedience to his laws, so far as they understand them. It taketh up a Christian's mind with the thankful sense of his redemption; so that the pardon of his sins, and his deliverance from hell, and his hopes of everlasting glory, do form his soul to a holy gratitude, and make the expressions of it to be his work. 5. It giveth men a sense of the love of God, as their gracious Redeemer; and so of the goodness and mercifulness of his nature. It causeth them to think of God as their greatest Benefactor, and as one that loveth them, and as love itself; and so it reconcileth their estranged, alienated minds to him, and maketh the love of God to be the very constitution and life of the soul. 6. It causeth men to believe that there is an everlasting glory to be enjoyed by holy souls, where we shall see the glory of God, and be filled with his love, and exercised in perfect love and praise, and be with Christ, his angels, and saints for evermore: it causeth them to take this felicity for their portion, and to set their hearts upon it, and to make it the chief care and business of all their lives to seek it. 7. It causeth them to live in the joyful hopes and foresight of this blessedness, and to do all that they do as means thereunto; and thus it sweeteneth all their lives, and maketh religion their chief delight. S. It accordingly employeth their thoughts and tongues, so that the praises of God, and the mention of their everlasting blessedness, and of the way thereto, is their most delightful conference, as it beseemeth travellers to the city of God; and so their political converse is in heaven. 9. And thus it abateth the fears of death, as being but their passage to everlasting life; and those that are confirmed
* Ille justus et sanctè vivit, qui rerum integer æstimator est: Ipse est qui ordinatam habet charitatem, ne aut diligat quod non est diligendum, aut non diligat quod est diligendum, aut amplius diligat quod minus est diligendum, aut minus diligat quod amplius est diligendum; aut minus aut amplius quod æque diligendum est.-August. de Doctr. Christian.
Christians indeed, do joyfully entertain it, and long to see their glorified Lord, and the blessed Majesty of their great Creator. 10. It causeth men to love all sanctified persons with a special love of complacency, and all mankind with a love of benevolence, even to love our neighbours as ourselves, and to abhor that selfishness which would engage us against our neighbour's good. 11. It causeth men to love their enemies, and to forgive and forbear, and to avoid all unjust and unmerciful revenge. It maketh men meek, long-suffering, and patient, though not impassionate, insensible, or void of that anger which is the necessary opposer of sin and folly." 12. It employeth men in doing all the good they can; it maketh them long for the holiness and happiness of one another's souls, and desirous to do good to those that are in need, according to our power. 13. This true regeneration by the Spirit of Christ doth make those superiors that have it, even princes, magistrates, parents, and masters, to rule those under them in holiness, love, and justice, with self-denial; seeking more the pleasing of God, and the happiness of their subjects, for soul and body, than any carnal, self-interest of their own; and therefore it must needs be the blessing of that happy kingdom, society, or family, which hath such a holy Governor. O that they were not so few! 14. It maketh subjects, and children, and servants submissive and conscionable in all the duties of their relations, and to honour their superiors as the officers of God, and to obey them in all just subordination to him. 15. It causeth men to love justice, and to do as they would be done by, and to desire the welfare of the souls, bodies, estates, and honours of their neighbours, as their own. 16. It causeth men to subdue their appetites, and lusts, and fleshly desires, and to set up the government of God and sanctified reason over them; and to take their flesh for that greatest enemy, in our corrupt state, which we must chiefly watch against and master, as being a rebel against God and reason. It alloweth a man so much sensitive pleasure as God forbiddeth not, and as tendeth to the holiness of the soul, and furthereth us in God's service; and all the rest it rebuketh, and resisteth. 17. It causeth men to estimate all the wealth, and honour, and dignities of the world, as they have respect to God and a better world, and as they either help or hinder us in the pleasing of God and seeking immor
• Apud Christianos, non qui patitur, sed qui facit injuriam miser est.Hieron.
*Sanctitatis causa servanda sunt, pudicitia corporis, castitas animæ, et veritas doctrinæ.—Aug. ibid.
tality; and as they are against God and our spiritual work and happiness, it causeth us to account them but as mere vanity, loss, and dung. 18. It keepeth men in a life of watchfulness against all those temptations which would draw them from this holy course, and in a continual warfare against Satan and his kingdom, under conduct of Jesus Christ." 19. It causeth men to prepare for sufferings in this world, and to look for no great matters here; to expect persecutions, crosses, losses, wants, defamations, injuries, and painful sickness and death; and to spend their time in preparing all that furniture of mind which is necessary to their support and comfort in such a day of trial, that they may be patient and joyful in tribulation and bodily distress, as having a comfortable relation to God and heaven, which will incomparably weigh down all. 20. It causeth men to acknowledge that all this grace and mercy is from the love of God alone, and to depend on him for it by faith in Christ; and to devote and refer all to himself again, and make it our ultimate end to please him; and thus to subserve him as the first Efficient, the chief Dirigent, and the ultimate, final Cause of all: of whom, and through whom, and to whom are all things; to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
This is the true description of that regenerate, sanctified state, which the Spirit of Christ doth work on all whom he will save, and that are Christians indeed; and not in name only.* And certainly this is the image of God's holiness, and the just constitution and use of a reasonable soul; and, therefore, he that bringeth men to this is a real Saviour of whom more anon.
II. And it is very considerable, by what means, and in what manner, all this is done: it is done by the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, and that in plainness and simplicity. The curiosity of artificial oratory doth usually but hinder the success, as painting doth the light of windows. It was a few plain men, that came with spiritual power, and not with the enticing words of human wisdom, or curiosities of vain philosophy, who did more in this work than any of their successors have done since. As in naturals, every thing is apt to communicate its own nature, 'and not another's. Heat causeth heat, and cold causetḥ cold;
u Fides attingit inaccessa, deprehendit iguota, comprehendit immensa, apprehendit novissima: Ipsam denique æternitatem suo illo vastissimo sinu quo- dammodo circumcludit.-Bern. in Cant.
* Quatuor mirabilia fecit Deus: de Piscatore primum Ecclesiæ pastorem: ⚫ de persecutore magistrum et doctorem gentium: de publicano primum Evangelistam; de latrone primum Calicolam.-Chrysost. in Matt.
so wit, by communication, causeth wit, and common learning causeth common learning; and so it is holiness and love which are fittest to communicate and cause holiness and love, which common qualifications are too low for, though they may be helpful in their several places and degrees. What contemned instruments hath God used in the world, to do that for the regenerating of souls, which the greatest emperors by their laws, or the most subtle philosophers by their precepts, did not? The Athenian philosophers despised Paul, and Gallio counted his doctrine but a superstitious talk about names and words; but Satan himself despised not those whom he tempted men to despise, but perceived they were like to be the ruin of his kingdom, and therefore every where stirred up the most vehement, furious resistance of them. It is evident, therefore, that there is an inward, effectual operation of the Holy Ghost, which giveth success to these means, which are naturally in themselves so weak.y
And it is to be observed, that this great change is very often wrought on a sudden, in a prevalent, though not a perfect degree. One sermon hath done that for many thousand sinners, which twenty years' teaching of the greatest philosophers never did. One sermon hath turned them from the sins which they had lived in all their days; and hath turned them to a life which they were strangers to before, or else abhorred. One sermon hath taken down the world, which had their hearts, and hath put it under their feet, and hath turned their hearts to another world: which showeth that there is an internal agent, more powerful than the speaker.
And it is remarkable that, in the main, the change is wrought in one and the same method. First humbling men for sin and misery, and then leading them to Jesus Christ as the remedy, and to God by him; and so kindling the love of God in them by
y Multo melius est, ex duobus imperfectis rusticitatem sanctam habere, quam eloquentiam peccatricem.-Hieron. ad Nepol. The better any philosopher was, the nearer he came to the christian pastors, as to the converting of souls; that is, they wrought the greatest reformation on their auditors. Laertius saith of Socrates, that Theætetum cum de disciplina dissereret, ut ait Plato, mirifice immutatum, divinumque ferme remisit. Eutyphrona, qui patri diem dixerat, quædam de justitia et pietate loquens, ab instituto revocavit. Lysidem hortando maxime moralem fecit. Lamproclem filium in matrem immitem et ferum, ut ait Xenophon, suadendo ad reverentiam reduxit. Glauconem Platonis fratrem ad republicam accedere volentem à proposito retraxit, quod is rudis esset, ignarusque rerum. These were the converts of Socrates; a change agreeable to the verities which he delivered. But it is another kind of success that the doctrine of Christianity hath had.