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not in the preaching. It was not in the hearers; for they were the same persons. It was, then, an extraneous cause. It was because the Spirit was not plentifully poured out upon the world till our Lord's personal ministry was closed. The success of Peter's preaching he himself distinctly ascribes to the outpouring of the Spirit.”
And to what, we may again ask, are we to ascribe the wonderfully different effects produced by the preaching of the gospel in the present day? Under the same sermon, and, therefore, by an exhibition of the same truth, while the manner of exhibiting it is also the same, one perhaps is savingly converted to God, and another remains totally unaffected. The cause being the same, how comes it to pass that there is so great a difference in the effect? How does it happen that one man is savingly benefited by the truth, and the other not? It can only be accounted for in one of two ways. Either Divine influence is exerted upon the mind of the former,—or that mind is less prejudiced naturally against the gospel than the mind of the latter, and on that account receives the gospel, while the latter repels it. The latter cannot be the case for several
Were it true, it would constitute a foundation for boasting, in opposition to one of the main designs of the gospel. A sentiment which necessarily supposes that, in a moral point of view, one man is naturally better than another, less inveterately prejudiced against the truth,-more accessible to conviction,--more favourably disposed to admit the gospel testimony, cannot be a part of that truth, the grand intention of which is to stain the pride of man, and to exalt the glory of God. Unless we suppose that the success of the gospel is to be ascribed invariably to the influence of the Holy Spirit, it will be impossible for us to preserve entire the doctrine of salvation by grace. Should it be said, with a view to neutralize the argument here, that the candour which leads some to receive the gospel is not supposed to be the mere offspring of nature,-that it is the gift of grace ; I would answer, that this amounts to the same thing with ascribing the actual reception of the gospel to Divine influence only that it is a more roundabout and bungling way of expressing the important fact.
DIVINE INFLUENCE NOT THE INFLUENCE OF TRUTH. 363
2nd. I am to offer a few remarks in reference to the nature of this agency, and the manner in which it is put forth. It will be possible to comprehend all that it is requisite to say on this subject under the following particulars.
First, We must be most careful not to confound the agency of the Holy Spirit, in regeneration, with the influence of the truth, as a moral means of illumination and sanctification. It is not likely that any who concur with me in the previous statements, will fall into this mistake. They will at once see how great and flagrant is the error to which I am now referring. Yet it has been committed by many. It is the error of Socinianism. Divine truth exerts a powerful influence upon the tempers and conduct of men ; and, since that truth came from God, its influence upon the mind may be said to be the influence of God, or the Holy Spirit, upon the mind; just as the influence of physical causes in the material world may be said to be the influence of God. Thus will men resort to unmeaning generalities, or to doubtful analogies, borrowed from processes as mysterious as the cases they are brought forward to elucidate, rather than prostrate their understandings before the word of God. And, it is not a little curious that many of those who resort to this analogy to illustrate, or rather to explain away, Divine influence, have adopted the philosophy of Mr. Stewart—that physical causes possess no power or efficiency;—that there are, in fact, no causes, in the proper sense of the term, in the physical world at all ;—that every change is effected by the direct or exclusive energy of the great First Cause. Thus they first attempt to exclude from their system, the doctrine of Divine influence, so frequently affirmed in Scripture, by pretending that it means the influence of Divine truth as the moral means of illumination and sanctification. This influence, they further tell us, may be compared to the influence of physical causes in the material world; and then, with unparalleled inconsistency, they add, that physical causes have no influence whatever! Who can deny that their logic is as false as their theology?
The error is also committed by the Sandemanians. “ All the Divine power," says Mr. Sandeman, “which operates
ERROR OF SOCINIANS AND SANDEMANIANS
upon the minds of men, either to give the first relief to their consciences, or to influence them in every part of their obedience to the gospel, is persuasive power; or the forcible conviction of truth.” “The Spirit of God,” he adds,
" "acts as the soul, sense, or meaning of the words wherein the gospel is delivered." Now, it is manifest that the latter statement, as far as it has any meaning, identifies the word and the Spirit; and directly opposes the important doctrine, that our first spiritual perceptions of the truth are the result of Divine influence. For, since the sense or meaning of the gospel testimony cannot, of course, produce any effect upon the mind, until it is perceived; and since the Holy Spirit acts as the meaning of the testimony, the perception of its meaning must be previous to his influence, and so cannot be produced by it. The apostle tells us that “the things of the Spirit of God are spiritually discerned;" but, if the Holy Spirit acts as the sense or meaning of the testimony which exhibits them, he cannot act in giving us this discernment. Thus Mr. Sandeman's system provides no answer to the question, “How do men come to understand and believe the gospel ?" Indeed, unless I misunderstand Mr. Sandeman, he is fully aware of this; for in answer to the question, “How do men come to understand the gospel?” he represents the discovery of its meaning as being accidental, like the discovery of the “polarity of the needle, and the virtues of the jesuit's bark.”
To identify the influence of the Spirit, and the influence of the truth, is, in fact, to hold the doctrine of Divine influence in name, and to deny the thing itself; while to resort to any of the material analogies to which I formerly referred with the intention, at least, of explaining the matter, is, in my apprehension, little less than absurd. That energy which the Holy Spirit exerts when a sinner is converted to God, is unlike any influence put forth in the physical world. It is of a nature entirely sui generis ; or, if it be supposed to have any parallel at all, the parallel will be found in the primary act of creation; and not in those subsequent acts by which the motions, and changes, and all the phenomena of the material universe, are secured. But of this more will be said hereafter.
DOES NOT GIVE ADDITIONAL POWER TO THE TRUTH. 365
Secondly, It is a mistake, I imagine, to conceive of Divine agency, in the work of regeneration, as giving increased influence or power to the truth, and by that means securing its triumph. Many there are who admit that in regeneration, an influence is brought to bear upon the mind distinct from, and additional to, the inherent and necessary tendency of the truth to enlighten and sanctify; yet, maintaining that this influence is not exerted directly upon the mind, but indirectly, through the medium of truth, or rather upon the truth imparting to it additional moral power, they have fallen into the error, as I cannot but consider it at least, against which I am now cautioning the reader. Their mistake results, I feel strongly persuaded, from the circumstance of their having overlooked an important distinction which exists between spiritual influence, and spiritual renovation, in the full sense of the term. No one can doubt that spiritual renovation or the actual illumination of the understanding, and the purification of the affections, is effected, and can only be effected, by means of Divine truth. They settle down, accordingly, in this conviction, which, of course, I have no wish to shake. But they very unguardedly, as it seems to me, draw the conclusion, that spiritual influence, or that Divine energy which is partially the cause of just conceptions and holy feelings, is also by means of Divine truth: and, consequently, if they retain the doctrine of Divine influence at all, they are constrained to believe that an influence or power is imparted to the gospel, when it becomes the means of conversion, which it does not ordinarily possess, and which secures its triumph over the prejudice, and pride, and carnality of the heart. Against this opinion there are innumerable objections, which shall be considered in the subsequent Lecture.
THE CAUSE OF REGENERATION CONTINUED.
In reference to the nature and manner of Divine agency, it has been stated that it must not be identified with the moral influence of Divine truth,-and that it does not secure its merciful purpose by imparting additional power to Divine truth. We proceed now to consider the objections which may be urged against this latter opinion.
First, It throws discredit upon Divine revelation. In all those cases in which the gospel is not successful, it virtually ascribes this want of success to the gospel itself; and, by further maintaining that it cannot enlighten and sanctify the mind unless additional energy be infused into it, it charges Jehovah with folly in having provided incompetent means for the accomplishment of his merciful purposes. The gospel is the spiritual medicine of the soul. In numberless cases, certainly, it does not restore the health of the soul: but let the blame be cast where it ought to rest. Let it never be forgotten that the fault is not in the medicine, but in the disposition of sinners to take it. In a case where the gospel does not produce holy perceptions and affections, are we warranted to suppose that it is essentially incompetent to their production, even when by the power of faith it is brought to bear upon the mind? Ought we not rather to suppose that it has not been brought to bear upon the mind of this individual, in consequence of his rejection of its testimony? The latter, surely, is the true state of the case. I can scarcely imagine a greater mistake than one which I fear is committed by