« السابقةمتابعة »
heaven. And this is as great and as good a change as can be produced in the human heart.
1. If the Spirit of God produces nothing but love in regeneration; then there is no ground for the distinction, which is often made between regeneration, conversion, and sanctification. They are, in nature and kind, precisely the same fruits of the Spirit. In regeneration, he produces holy exercises; in conversion, he produces holy exercises; and in sanctification, he produces holy exercises. Accordingly, the inspired writers use the terms regeneration, conversion, and sanctification, to denote the same holy and gracious affections. But systematick divines generally use them, to signify very different things. They use regeneration, to denote the Spirit's operation, in producing a new heart, or a new nature, or a new principle, which is prior to and the foundation of, all holy exercises. They use conversion, to signify the Spirit's operation, in producing love, repentance, and faith; which are implied in embracing the gospel. And they use sanctification, to signify the Spirit's operation in producing all future exercises of grace. But the Scripture makes no such distinction, between regeneration, conversion, and sanctification. The sacred writers use these terms indiscriminately, to denote not only the first, but the following effects, of the Spirit's operation upon the hearts of christians. They represent conversion and sanctification, as continued regeneration, and produced in the same manner, by a special, divine influence. Paul tells the Philippians, that he was confident, "that he who had begun a good work in them would perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.". Upon this ground, he exhorts the same persons to work out their
salvation with fear and trembling. "For, says he, it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do his good pleasure." He expresses the same sentiment in his prayer for the Hebrews. "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ." These passages perfectly accord with the language of the text and context. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." According to the whole tenor of Scripture, the Spirit of God produces all holy exercises in the hearts of saints. He first produces love, then repentance, then faith, and every other holy affection through life, until he has carried sanctification to perfection in the kingdom of glory. The terms regeneration, conversion, and sanctification, may be used, to denote the distinction of Order in the operations of the Spirit, but not to denote a distinction of Nature, or of Manner, in his gracious operations. He produces the same exercises of holiness, and in the same manner, in renewing, converting, and sanctifying the hearts of christians. So that there is not the least foundation in Scripture, reason, or experience, for the common distinction between regeneration, conversion, and sanctification.
2. If the Spirit of God in regeneration produces nothing but love; then men are no more passive in regeneration, than in conversion, or sanctification. Those who hold, that the divine Spirit, in regeneration, produces something prior to love, and the foundation of it; that is, a new nature, or new principle of holiness, maintain that men are passive in regenera
tion, but active in conversion and sanctification. And if the Spirit of God produces something beside love, in regeneration, and implants a new principle of action in the soul, it must be allowed, that men are really passive in regeneration, and active only in conversion and sanctification. But if what has been said, in this discourse, be true, there is no new nature, or principle of action, produced in regeneration, but only love, which is actively itself. The first fruit of the Spirit is love, and nothing besides, before, or different from love; and it is universally allowed, that men are active in exercising love to God or man. Accordingly, the Scripture requires men to be active in regeneration, conversion, and sanctification; for it requires them to be regenerated, to be converted, and to be sanctified, without suggesting the idea of passivity in respect to either of these duties. This will clearly appear from the express commands of God. Hear his command in the tenth chapter of Deuteronomy. "Circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked." Hear his command in the fourth chapter of Jeremiah. "Thus saith the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your hearts, ye men of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it." Hear his command in the eighteenth chapter of Ezekiel. "Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed, and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" In these commands, God requires men to be regenerated, upon pain of eternal death.
God commands men to be converted, as well as regenerated, or to become cordially reconciled to him.
By Isaiah he says, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." By Ezekiel he says, "Turn ye, ye, turn ye from your evil ways: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" By John the Baptist he says, "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." By Christ he says, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel." By Peter he says, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out." And Paul says, "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, Be ye reconciled to God." These divine precepts expressly require men to be converted.
There are other commands of God, which as plainly and expressly require men to be sanctified, as to be regenerated and converted. Among many others, the following deserve particular attention. "Be ye holy; for I am holy." "Keep yourselves in the love of God." "Grace in grace." "Add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly-kindness, and to brotherly-kindness charity." "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."
Let these three classes of commands be critically examined and compared, and every one must see, that God as plainly and expressly requires men to be regenerated, as to be converted or sanctified. And if this be true, it necessarily follows, that men are no more passive in regeneration, than in conversion or
sanctification. The truth is, men are regenerated, converted, and sanctified, by the special operation of the divine Spirit, and are always equally active under his gracious influence. For it is impossible, that he should produce love, or repentance, or faith, or any other gracious desire, affection, or volition, without their being active. The supposition that men are passive, under the regenerating, converting, or sanctifying influence of the Spirit of God, is not only unreasonable and unscriptural, but inconsistent with every command in the Bible.
3. If the holy Spirit, in regeneration, produces nothing but love, or holy exercises; then the regenerate are as dependent upon him for their future, as for their first, exercises of grace. Regeneration gives them no new principle, nor new power. They are no more able to act of themselves, or independently of a divine influence, than they were before they were renewed. The same divine influence is as necessary to produce the second, as the first exercise of love, the third, as the second exercise of love, and all future exercises of love, as the preceding ones. The preparation of their heart and the answer of their tongue, is continually from the Lord. He works in them both to will and to do in every duty. They are not sufficient of themselves to think any thing as of themselves; but their sufficiency is of God. David freely acknowledged before God his need of divine influence, in every act of obedience. "I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart." Jeremiah humbly said, "O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." Solomon said to his son, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge