Images de page

and therefore, I cannot but conclude, that it is wrought in us without the instrumentality of the word, or any of the ordinary means of grace: my reason for it is this; because it is necessary, from the nature of the thing, to our receiving, improving, or reaping any saving advantage by the word, that the Spirit should produce the principle of faith ; and to say, that this is done by the word, is in effect, to assert that the word produces the principle, and the principle gives efficacy to the word; which seems to me little less than arguing in a circle. The word cannot profit, unless it be mixed with faith ; and faith cannot be put forth, unless it proceeds from a principle of grace implanted; therefore this principle of grace is not produced by it: we may as well suppose, that the presenting a beautiful picture before a man that is blind, can enable him to see; or the violent motion of a withered hand, produce strength for action, as we can suppose that the presenting the word in an objective way, is the instrument whereby God produces that internal principle, by which we are enabled to embrace it. Neither would this so well agree with the idea of its being a new creature, or our being created unto good works; for then it ought rather to be said, we are created by faith, which is a good work : this is, in effect, to say, that the principle of grace is produced by the instrumentality of that which supposes its being implanted, and is the result and consequence thereof.

I am sorry that I am obliged, in this assertion, to appear, at least, to oppose what has been maintained by many divines of great worth ; who have, in all other respects, explained the doctrine of regeneration, agreeably to the mind and will of God, and the analogy of faith.* It may be, the principal difference between this explication and theirs is, that they speak of regeneration in a large sense, as including in it, not barely the implanting the principle, but the exciting it, and do not sufficiently distinguish between the principle, as implanted and deduced into act; for, I readily own, that the latter is by the instrumentality of the word, though I cannot think the former so; or, it may be, they consider the principle as exerted ; whereas I consider it as created, or wrought in us; and therefore can no more conclude, that the new creation is wrought by an instrument, than I can, that the first creation of all things was.

And I am ready to conjecture, that that which leads many divines into this way of thinking, is the sense in which they understand the words of the apostle; Being born again, not of corruptible secd, but of incorruptible, by the

word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever, 1 Pet. i. 23. and elsewhere, Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be

See Charnock, Vol II. page 220, 221, &c. and Cole on Regeneration.

a kind of first-fruits of his creatures, James i. 16. Whereas this does not so much respect the implanting the principle of grace, as it does our being enabled to act from that principle; and it is as though he should say, he hath made us believers, or induced us to love and obey him by the word of truth, which supposes a principle of grace to have been implanted : otherwise the word of truth would never have produced these effects. Regeneration may be taken, not only for our being made alive to God, or created unto good works, but for our putting forth living actions, proceeding from that principle which is implanted in the soul. I am far from denying, that faith, and all other graces, are wrought in us by the instrumentality of the word; and it is in this sense that some, who treat on this subject, explain their sentiments, when they s;eak of being born again by the word: therefore I persuade myself, that I differ from them only in the acceptation of words, and not in the main substance of the doctrine they maintain.*

(2.) The principle of grace being implanted, the acts of grace in those who are adult, immediately ensue; which implies a change of our behaviour, a renovation of our lives and actions ; which may properly be called conversion.

Having explained what we mean by regeneration, under our last head, it is necessary, in this, to consider how it differs from conversion; in which I shall take leave to transcribe a few.pase sages from that excellent divine, but now mentioned. “ Re“ generation is a spiritual change; conversion is a spiritual “ motion; in regeneration there is a power conferred; con- version is the exercise of this power; in regeneration there " is given us a principle to turn; conversion is our actual “ turning: in the covenant, the new heart, and God's put“ ting the Spirit into them, is distinguished from their walk“ing in his statutes, from the first step we take, in the way “ of God, and is set down as the cause of our motion : in “ renewing us, God gives us a power; in converting us, he “excites that power. Men are naturally dead, and have a " stone upon them; regeneration is a rolling away the stone “ from the heart, and a raising to newness of life ; and then 6 conversion is as natural to a regenerate man, as motion u is to a lively body: a principle of activity will produce ac“ tion. The first reviving us is wholly the act of God, without

any concurrence of the creature; but, after we are revived, “ we do actively and voluntarily live in his sight. Regenera

See Charnock, Vol. II. page 232, who speaking concerning its being an instru. thent, appointed by God, for this purpose, says, That God hath made a combination between hearing and believing ; so that believing comes not without hearing, and whereas he infers from hence, that the principle of grace is implanted, by hearing and believing the word, he must be supposed to understand it, contrrning the principle deduced into act, and not hie implanting the principle itself

- tion is the motion of God in the creature ; conversion is the “ motion of the creature to God, by virtue of that first princi“ ple; from this principle all the acts of believing, repenting, “ mortifying, quickening, do spring. In all these a man is ac“ tive; in the other, he is merely passive."* This is what we may call the second step, which God takes in effectual calling; and it is brought about by the instrumentality of the word. The word before this, was preached to little or no purpose ; or, it may be, was despised, rejected, and disregarded ; but now a man is enabled to see a beauty, and a glory in it, all the powers and faculties of the soul, being under the influence of that spiritual life implanted in regeneration, and inclined to yield a ready and cheerful obedience to it; and this work is gradual and progressive; and as such, it is called the work of sanctification; of which more under a following answer, and is attended with repentance unto life, and all other graces that accompany salvation; and in this respect we are drawn to Christ by his word and Spirit, or by his Spirit making use of his word, our minds savingly enlightened, our wills renewed, and determined to what is good, so that hereby we are made willing and able freely to answer the call of God, and to accept of, and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein; as it is expressed in the answer we are explaining.

The first thing in which that change, which is wrought in effectual calling, manifests itself is, in our understandings' being, enlightened to receive the truths revealed to us in the word of God; and accordingly we see things with a new and different light; behold a greater beauty, excellency and glory in divine things, than ever we did before: we are also led into ourselves, and convinced of sin and misery, concluding ourselves, by nature, to be in a lost and undone condition; and then the soul sees the glory of Christ, the greatness of his love, who came to seek and save those that were lost, who is now precious to him, as he is said to be to them that believe; and pursuant hereunto the will, being determined, or enabled so to do, by the Spirit of God exciting the principle of grace, which he had implanted, accepts of him on his own terms; the affections all centre in, and desire to derive all spiritual blessings from him; Thus the work of grace is begun in effectual calling, which is afterwards carried on in sanctification.

And inasmuch as we are considering the beginning of the work of grace in effectual calling, I cannot but take notice of a question, which frequently occurs under this head, namely, Whether man, in the first moment thereof, viz. in regeneration, be merely passive, though active in every thing that follows after it? This we cannot but affirm, not only against the

See Charnock on Regeneration, l'o!. II. page 70, 71. t See Quest. lxxx

Pelagians, but others, whose method of treating the doctrine of divine grace, seems to agree with theirs. And here, that we may obviate a popular objection, usually brought against our assertion, as though hereby we argued, that God dealt with men as though they were machines, and not endowed with understanding or will let it be observed ; that we consider the subjects of this grace no otherwise than as intelligent creatures, capable of being externally excited and disposed to what is good; or else God would never work this principle in them. Nor do we suppose, however men are said to be passive in the first moment in which this principle is implanted, that they are so afterwards, but are enabled to act under the divine influence; even as when the soul of Adam was created at first, it could not be said to be active in its own creation, and in the implanting those powers which were concreate with it; yet it was active, or those powers exerted themselves immediately after it was created. This is the state of the question we are now debating; and therefore we cannot but maintain, that men do not concur to the implanting the principle of grace; for then they would be active in being created unto good works ; which are the result, and not the cause of that power which is infused into them, in order thereunto.

This is sufficiently evident, not only from the impotency of 'corrupt nature, as to what is good, but its utter averseness thereunto, and from the work's being truly and properly divine; or (as has been before observed) the effect of almighty power. This is not a controversy of late date; but has been either defended or opposed, ever since Augustine's and Pelagius's time. Many volumes have been written concerning the aids and assistances of divine grace in the work of conversions The School-men were divided in their sentiments about it, as they adhered to, or receded from Augustine's doctrine: both sides seem to allow that the grace of God affords some assistance hereunto; but the main thing in debate, is, Whether the grace of God only bears one part in this work, and the will of man the other; like two persons lifting at the same burden, and carrying it between them. Some have allowed the divine concourse as necessary hereunto, who yet have not been willing to own that man bears no part in this work ; or, that it is God that works in us, both to will and to do of his own good pleasure, Phil. ii. 13. which, the apostle asserts in so plain terms, that the most known sense thereof, cannot well be evaded; and, indeed, were it otherwise, it could hardly be said, that we are not sufficient of ourselves, to think any thing as of ourselves ; which, though it be immediately applied to ministers, is certainly, by a parity of reason, applicable to all Christians, 2 Cor. iii. 5. nor would it be, in all respects, true, that we are born of VOL. II.


God; or, that we, who before were deadl in sin, are raised to a spiritual life, or made, with respect to the principle of spiritual actions, new creatures; all which is done in regeneration. (a)

We might also take occasion, under this head, to observe, what we often meet with in practical discourses and sermons, concerning preparatory works, or previous dispositions, which faciliate and lead to the work of conversion. Some assert, that we must do what we can, and by using our reasoning powers and faculties, endeavour to convert, or turn ourselves, and then God will do the rest, or finish the work which we have begun : and here many things are often considered as the steps which men may take in the reformation of their lives, the abstaining from gross enormities, which they may have been guilty of,

(a) When it is said " no man can come unto me, ercept the Father who hath sent me, draw him," the negation must be understood as expressive of moral impotency, and as if it had been said "ye will not come unto me that ye might have life ;" but nevertheless as direct proof of the absolute necessity of divine grace to the salvation of every person who is saved. That the aid is irot merely necessary to the understanding is evident from the guilt of unregeneracy, and from the supposition of the Saviour whose reproof implies that it was the carnality of the heart which created the impotency to come unto or believe on him.

The propriety of exhortations to turn, repent, believe, and work out our own salvation, is obvious; because such impotency is chiefly an aversion of heart. When such motives are ineffectual, they prove the inveteracy of the opposition to God, and argue the greater guilt. They are no evidence that grace is unnecessary, be. cause they have an important effect in the change of the man's views, and pursuits, when the Spirit of God has “ opened the heart

to receive the necessary impressions; and because these motives are rendered effectual by the Divine Spirit. lle grants us repentance, turns us, helps our unbelief, strengthens our faith, and works in us both to will and to do of his own good pleasure.

Because it is charged upon the evil that they " resist” the grace of God, and therefore his Spirit will not always " strive ” with men, it by no means follows, that the success of grace depends merely upon our yielding; as often as men yield to the strivings of the Spirit, a victory is obtained; for the carnal beart inclines to evil until subdued by him: we are " made willing in a day of his pow. er.” Were it otherwise the glory of man's salvation would belong to himself, at least in part; but the language of the believer is “ not unto us, O Lord, not unto as, but into thy name, be the glory siven.” Nor is there any need to suppose man's salvation thus imputable to himself in order that the evil may be charged with the blamne of his destruction; for nothing excludes bim but his own evil heart, and this is his sin.

It does not result that the man, who is thus " made willing,” is in such manner constrained as that his holiess, being the effect of compulsion, possesses no moral beauty; because he acts as freely as the evil man does; and even more so, for the latter is a slave to his preponderating evil inclinations. The believer chooses holiness, and though he has nothing to boast of before God, his guod works may well justify him before men.

If it be yet objected, that this is a discouraging representation of the way of obtaining happiness; it may be answered, that it can discourage only those, who wish for happiness, at the same time that they more strongly incline to sensuality; and such ought to be discouraged in their vain expectations : but it is highly consolatory to such as prefer holiness and heaven; for it not only discovers to them, that God has wrought in them to will and to do, but that he is engaged for them, and will accomplish their salvation.

« PrécédentContinuer »