er, will say that he learnt from
them to despise the doctrines of
justification and regeneration.

merit of another, and in the
way of believing only; that
man, in order to become holy,
and fit for the society of his
God, must be made a new crea-
ture, and be wrought upon by
the Divine Spirit, not only with-
out, but even against all his nat-
ural propensities; and that the
dispositions which constitute the
character of an holy person,
should be faith, hope, and love,
and these too not of human, but
of supernatural origin; and that
the whole happiness of his life
must be sustained by a mys-
terious union with an invisible
Mediator; these are certainly
such principles of religion as are
perfectly unlike any thing that
ever was invented by mere man.
And they are things which lie so
totally out of our reach, tend so
purely to the honour of God,
and are so calculated to stain the
pride of human merit and glory,
that we may safely pronounce
them purely divine;
ever would or could have invent-
ed and propagated such ideas;
and we all know, or may know,
that mankind are naturally too
much at enmity against them
ever, of themselves, to receive
them. Now these are the prin.
ciples of the New Testament,
though it is very common for
persons professing to believe the
New Testament to despise and
abhor them. But surely they
have received their religious
principles from a source very
different from the sacred oracles;
and all the use they make of
these is, by some subtle perver-
sion to adapt some few detached
texts to support a preconceived
system. No man, who ever
studied the Scriptures them-
selves with reverence and pray-

"Now a certain divine power is
spoken of in the word, as con-
nected with the true preaching
of it. It is said to be " quick
and powerful, and sharper than
any two-edged sword," Heb. iv:
12. Mr. Howard found it so;
in the day of God's power, a sin-
gle text overcame his stubborn
heart, and awed him into sub-
mission to the Most High. And
when the effect is observed all
along to have been perfectly cor
respondent to the descriptions
given in the Scriptures, and he
became abidingly holy, com-
fortable, and heavenly minded,
emancipated from the dominion
of every sin, and truly and fer-
vently filled with the love of
God, and of his neighbour, what
shall we say? Have we not here
a demonstration of the truth of
Scripture? Does not the coinci-
dence of what is written, with
what is wrought, prove that both
are equally from God? It may
be said, "it seems far more
rational, that other kind of doc-
trine should be preached to
men." But if matter of fact
shews indeed, that no other sort
of doctrine does burst the bonds
of sin, and make men truly holy,
should we not say with St. Paul,
"The foolishness of God is
wiser than men, and the weak-
ness of God is stronger than
men?" What you think im-
probable, absurd, and foolish, is
the real wisdom of God; it is
your own taste that needs to be
rectified, and you ought to think
more modestly of your own un-
derstanding. I see not how the
conclusion can be avoided, that
the work of Mr. Howard's con-

no man


version was from God, and that the scripture doctrines of regeneration and justification are di


But still in all such cases the radical character remains the same. To gratify self, in some form or other, was the very heaven of Socrates, of Polemo, and of Wharton. To humble themselves before the Most High, to give glory to their Maker, to love him sincerely and supremely, and to be renewed in the spir it of their minds, of this they knew nothing; but this is the change which my friend experienced. Self lost in him all its props and supports; he was a new creature throughout; he who had always lived for self, now lived for God. These men I have mentioned, and all who walked in their steps, whether Pagan, Philosopher, or Christian by name, are essentially distinct from this in their whole character. They may exchange one vice for another; what they part with in sensuality, is sure to be amply compensated in pride. It belongs to God's revealed religion alone, and to the power by which he applies it to the heart, to destroy the dominion of vice universally, and to make a man truly humble, wise, and happy.


"II. The truth of this real influence of the Holy Spirit in producing the conversion of sinners, and the simple nature of Christianity, abstracted from those circumstances of controversy and of policy, that so often cloud and embarrass it, would appear in a very strong light to any one who should trace the historic progress of the gospel from age to age. It would take up a volume of some length to illustrate this, and the employment would well recompense the pains of any who should have leisure and ability sufficient for

"And here one sees at first sight, how easy it is to answer the question, which with some confidence has been asked, "Granting that men may be influenced by the Divine Spirit, how can men ever distinguish his influences from the emotions of their own minds?" Every instance of conversion sufficiently answers this question. The subject of it knows experimentally, that such holy views and tempers could never be the product of his sinful nature; and their own native power and glory shew they are from God. He who has once seen the sun in his majesty, needs no other argument to convince him, that it is not a light of his creating.

"Till, then, some other adequate cause can be assigned for these religious phænomena, of which no age has ever been wholly destitute, it is reasonable to 'conclude, that "the hand of the Lord hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it."

"I am aware, that a partial reformation of conduct is attainable by other methods. Socrates might justly boast, that by his philosophy he had corrected some vices of his nature. And the libidinous Polemo, by hearing Xenocrates' lectures on temperance, might from a dissolute rake, be metamorphosed into a proud philosopher. Just as the Duke of Wharton, "whose ruling passion was the lust of praise," might undergo various alterations of external character, now a punk, and now a friar."

[ocr errors]

the task. Infidel malice has been gratified, even to satiety, with tedious and circumstantial details of ecclesiastical history, constructed on a very different, plan. The intrigues and politics of Churchmen, the ambition of Popes, the superstition of Monks, the subtility of Jesuits, the external history too of the Reformation, and the factions of various sectaries, have been largely exposed. And though few think it worth their while to wade through the voluminous. narratives of Fleury and Du Pin, yet in Mosheim's history their materials have been compressed into a narrower compass, and you see in him all that can tend to disgrace Christianity, reduced as it were to a point; and this is the effect with those who know not, and who care not what the gospel is, to render them indifferent with respect to Christianity itself, and to extol above all things the sceptical fastidiouspess which, under the decent names of moderation and charity, now pervade the polite world. The excellence, indeed, of Mosheim's history is in most things very great, and perhaps unequalled. But as he seems himself not to have understood the nature of Christianity, all, or nearly all, his narrative is spent on external things.

"But there was in every century, from the apostles' days to ours, a real church, that which deserved the name in the best sense, men who feared God, and wrought righteousness, living by faith in the Son of God, and practically applying to their own hearts the peculiarities of Christianity, which, I must still say, on Scripture evidence, consist in

justification and regeneration. The gates of hell never prevailed against this church, though always opposed. Here alone the true nature and beauty of Christianity are seen. With these dwell the virtues and graces of the gospel, faith, hope, charity, patience, meekness, self-denial, and the love of heavenly things. The history of these, as they appeared in different places and circumstances, is, properly speaking, the history of the church.

"But in Mosheim they are scarce at all to be found. Public and noisy transactions engage his attention throughout." Is this Christianity? (says the infidel)-Are these its fruits? What good has it done in the world?” How much more useful had it been to have been more sparing in these scenes, and to have laid open, in an impartial and ingenuous manner, the real church of Christ! This would have been properly the history of the church; the scenes which chiefly fill his book having no more to do with real Christianity, than robberies and assassinations have to do with good government. Yet his pains in laying open the evils and abuses is by no means to be condemned; it has its solid uses, which would appear also to great advantage, had the history of real Christianity been given also at the same time.

"For there have ever been some, who, though not many of them converted, perhaps, with the same remarkable circumstances that attended Mr. Howard's change of mind, have yet been converted by the same Spirit of God, and brought to the same principles and sensations; men who felt and owned themselves

is all the doctrine in the world abstracted from its use?

rational creatures, than to raise disputes among themselves on mere terms, when their ideas are the same!

"Granting, however, that there are many things in which good men may safely differ, and ought to shew a spirit of mutual forbearance and moderation, certainly the doctrine of justification is not one of those subjects. If any question can be conceived to be even of infinite importance, it is this How shall man be accepted with his Maker? We trifle only with God and our souls, while we content ourselves with a loose and general idea of Christ's atonement, and bring it to no one determinate point of utility whatever. For the question is this:-Ought I to trust entirely in Jesus Christ, and to renounce my own righteousness entirely, in order for salvation, or is it unsafe and dangerous so to do; and ought my hope of heaven to be founded partly on the merit of Christ, and partly on my own?—This is the clear state of the question as it lies between the two parties before us on the subject of justification. And is this a nominal distinction? Is it of no consequence whether man be thoroughly humbled, or allowed to glory in something of his own? whether God and the Lamb are to have all the honour of his salvation, or not? There is an essential difference of opinion here, and the difference produces a most material distinction in the whole of practical religion. The very ends and motives of duty which each party propose to themselves are widely opposite. The love of God is the grand motive of the one system, selfrighteousness of the other. But surely to every real Christian,

“But this is far from being the case in the present instance; and every candid observer, who has thought with any clearness or precision on these subjects, must see that the difference is in ideas, not in words, and is extremely momentous, even more so than language can describe.

"That the religion briefly described in the last article, and peculiarly distinguished by holding out the doctrines of Justification and Regeneration, is essentially distinct from that of those who deny the Godhead and atonement of Jesus Christ, and the personality and influence of the Holy Ghost, will be at once lowed.

"Many, however, do yet hold the doctrines of the Trinity and the atonement of Jesus Christ in a general manner, though they seem to make little use of them in practice, and do evidently lay the great stress for their hope of heaven on the performance of moral duties, and yet at the same time treat with perfect contempt all ideas of conversion or regeneration; not perhaps denying the thing itself, yet ridiculing all pretensions of any person to the experience of them in our days. If this be a true account of the state of many of the Clergy and Laity in this kingdom, one sees at first sight why they object to the manner of setting forth these things. They have no idea of any personal use and application of them to the heart and conscience. And how then do they differ essentially from those who deny them altogether? For what

whatever doubts he may have, (and he has many on religious subjects) it is no matter of doubt at all whether he be a fallen creature, dead altogether in sin by nature. It is no matter of hesitation whether he is to seek acceptance with God by the blood of Jesus Christ, or by the works of the law. It is not a problematical subject with him, Whether he must be born again, if ever he enter into the king dom of God; whether this new birth, with all its fruits and consequences, be wrought by the will of man, or by the Spirit of God alone; whether his good works ought of necessity to be principled by the love of God or not.

"But enough has been said to shew that there is a real differrence of opinion here; and those who content themselves with the forms of orthodoxy above described, may be convinced of it by the opposition which they feel in their own breasts to that view of things which I have been espousing, Let them search, however, the Scriptures with honest minds, and at least cease from saying that they mean the same things as those which they oppose. For if indeed this be the case, why do they shew such aversion to these principles? why dislike to have them set forth in the plainest manner? why are they more cordial, and feel their own spirits to be more in unison with Socinians, sceptics, and with any sort of persons, than those whom they deem enthusiasts? why such ridicule and contempt of the new birth? why is the preaching of their system, if it be a system at all, of no weight, no influence? Is it not incredible that, if in

deed their doctrine was the same, no instances of any conversion should ever happen among them? Is it not still more incredible, that they should deride the very idea of conversion itself? Why are they so fearful of the cross of Christ? why so conformable to the taste and spirit of the world? How happens it, that the people in general who attend their ministry, are so ignorant of the first principles of Christianity? I remember Mr. Howard told me, that he never, in all his life, heard of the new birth from any pulpit, till he heard it at Ferriby; and I apprehend that many might justly make a similar remark. It were much to be wished, that the truth was clearly seen in this point; because while men fancy the common, beaten, broad, fashionable road, which exposes them to no inconveniences, will lead to the same end as the narrow and difficult road, they will never leave the one for the sake of the other.

"IV. If the doctrines of justification and regeneration be then real scripture doctrines, and enter into the principles of a work of divine grace on the heart ;if they prove their divine origin by their own light and native energy; if they have never failed, in every age of the church, to be attended with undeniable seals of their divinity, in the conversion and holy lives of some; if these alone constitute the church, and if every other sort of prinçiples be diametrically opposite, what remains but nat we betake ourselves to the study of the sacred oracles, and see what is the religion there enforced? On a fair examination we shall find, that the principles which in this

« VorigeDoorgaan »