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sufficient God. Now is there a clause in this epitome, or an Article among the seven that have been already gone over, which is not con. firmed by the word of truth?
If we had now completed the whole doctrinal system, we should be left in a hopeless state, notwithstanding so much has been done to prepare the way for us to be saved. If I had no other doctrine to bring into view, these, which have been already considered, unfold enough of the grace of our offended Sovereign, to render us exceedingly guilty, not only as transgressors of a holy law, but more especially as despi. sers of blood-bought redemption. But criminal and inexcusable as it is, there is no reason to hope, while we are left to ourselves, that we shall do any thing better than persist in this rejection.
1. As to proof of the greatness and inexcusableness of man's depravity, we have now arrived at the top of the climax. An infinitely gracious provision has been made, through which we can receive a free pardon, on our being reconciled to God. No conditions are re. quired to be performed on our part that transcend our natural powers. Nothing is required of us like making satisfaction to divine justice, or repairing the injury done by our rebellion. All this has been effected by the death of Christ. This great and glorious salvation is now gratuitously proffered us, and is even urged upon us for our acceptance. If with all these gracious advantages for reconciliation we still remain unreconciled, how evident is it that we are opposed to God, and that our opposition is voluntary. Now we have as it were seen the Father and the Son, and hated them both. Let us never doubt any more of our depravity; of its entireness, its obstinacy, or its inexcusableness. When we hear Him, who came to die for our sins, saying to us, Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life, let this stand in the room of all other arguments to establish the point, that we are sinnersdown. right rebels against the government of the Most High.
2. If the professors and teachers of our holy religion can but be agreed in the doctrine which is the basis of this Article, they will probably have no disagreement in those doctrines that are disclosed in the subsequent Articles. But if we are not agreed in this, we shall probably differ in most of those which follow. There is a wide differ. ence between the sentiments of him who holds, that all men are natu. rally disposed to reject the gospel offer, and of him who holds, that some men are naturally disposed' to accept it. If we should agree in the sentiment, that aversion to the terms of salvation is natural to all men: and yet some of us were to believe, that many cases could be found, where nothing more was needed than an affecting presentation of the gracious terms, to remove the aversion, there would still be a wide difference in our sentiments concerning the extent of human de. pravity. If mere moral suasion, presented ever so forcibly, were suffi. cient to bring some sinners, in distinction from others, to accept the gospel offer, then between mere natural men the difference of character would be fundamental ; and the methods to be used in effecting their
salvation must be widely different. One scheme of grace would not be of universal application.
3. We see what would be the result of that scheme, which, in its zeal for the freedom of our moral actions, asserts that the will has a self-determining power that admits of no external influence to control it. Were such a scheme possible, what would be its aspect in relation to man's salvation ? If the will of man is totally opposed to the law of God, and to the overtures of his grace, what would be the consequence, if, to its freedom, were added an independence which should exclude from it all control, except that of mere motives ? I appeal to the experience of such as have seen and felt, that with infinite motives before them they had no heart to accept the gospel-no heart to come to Christ. Some of us have deeply felt, that though our will was free, it was nevertheless in bondage ; free in its exercises, and yet so held with the cords of iniquity as never in a single instance to break loose from the influence of selfish motives. We have been convinced that all our selfish resolutions to cease from sin did not release us from its bondage ; and that they had no power to effect our deliverance. We were shown, that a renunciation of the selfish principle would remove the separating wall between God and us ; but our hearts, being wholly under the dominion of self-love, did not, and would not, consent to this renunciation, We saw that eternal life was offered us on the lowest possible conditions; and yet we were in the utmost danger of perishing, because we had no heart to comply with them. We were brought to see that no better conditions, could be proposed, and that in our case no hope was to be derived from better means of grace, or from the increase of legal convictions.
We were brought to see, that some more effectual power must be applied to our entirely depraved hearts, else we should never become interested in the atonement which had been made for our sins. If there are any of our fellow sinners who say, they have discovered no such obstinacy in their wills, no such deadly opposition to the terms of the gospel; we would answer, The time was when we did not make the discovery; but now we have made it. Nor can we easily be argued out of that which we have learned by experience. brethren have explored their hearts, and have discovered no such obstinacy, then must we conclude, that their hearts and ours are essentially different.
REGENERATION IS A RADICAL CHANGE, BFFECTED IN THE HEART OF THE SINNER BY THE POWER OF GOD,
We are now arriving at an interesting place in our progress through a system of revealed truth. Very many among those that have the lamp of life to guide them, seem not to have discovered this doctrine ; or if they have included in their creed an article by this name, it has
been essentially different from the regeneration taught in the scriptures. Let it be our prayer to God to be guided into the truth relating to a doctrine, so vitally important, that the want of an experimental know. ledge of it is declared to be sufficient to exclude any man from the kingdom of heaven.
This Article consists of two principal parts. The first relates to the radical nature of the change it contemplates, and the other to its efficient cause.
1. The Article asserts, that regeneration is a radical change in the heart of a sinner. Notice,
1. That the subject of this change is a sinner. None but sinners need regeneration. Holy creatures can be preserved in their present state, but they can not undergo a transformation, without its placing them among
the enemies of God. Neither can a fallen creature be regenerated, except he be entirely sinful. Those 'creatures who have a mixed character (which is true concerning the children of God while they remain in the body) can “more and more die unto sin and live unto righteousness ;” but they can not, in any proper sense, be regenerated, any more than a man who is now alive can hereafter begin to live. Notice,
2. This change is in the sinner's heart. The seat of the change is not in his body so as directly to effect any alteration in his animal frame. Nor does it alter the natural powers of his mind. It neither imparts any new faculty, such as understanding, imagination, memory, or the power of willing ; nor does it take away any of those which already exist. The regenerated man has the same faculties which he had before, without increase or diminution as to number. The change consists in a new heart and a new spirit ; not in a new spiritual substance, but in a new frame of spirit; or a new character given to that soul which before was entirely depraved. He is renewed in the spirit of his mind; or transformed by the renewing of his mind. Eph. iv. 22. Rom. xii. 2. All that which is wrong in the unregenerate, is comprehended in the wickedness of their heart. Their heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. Their heart is fully set to do evil. The Lord sees every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart to be only evil continually. As the state of the heart is, so is the character in God's sight. “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” “ For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." Jer. xvii. 9. Eccl. viii. 11. Gen. vi. 5. 1 Sam. xvi. 7. Prov. xxii. 7. The state of the heart always determines the character in God's account; therefore no change whatever that does not effect a change here,deserves to be called regeneration. I proceed to remark,
3. The change wrought in the sinner's heart is radical. Radix is a Latin word which signifies a root; and from this is derived the word radical. That improvement which is made in a tree by cutting off its dry branches, and white-washing its bark, will not alter its nature; but if the root, through which the sap passes into all the ramifications of the tree, could be essentially changed, it would transform the same limbs and branches into a different tree, which would yield another kind of fruit. To such a transformation as this, our divine Teacher alludes, when he says, “ Make the tree good, and his fruit good.” Matt.
xii. 33. Regeneration changes a bad into a good tree; or, to drop the figure, a bad into a good man.
If regeneration is a renewal of the mind, no change in external forms can be the thing intended by it. That declaration of the apostle is in point : “ Neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” Gal. vi. 15. . This will apply with equal force to baptism. They are both external signs of regeneration ; but what will the signs profit those who are destitute of the thing signified ? It was after the sorcerer had received Christian baptism, that Peter told him, he was in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity. Acts viii. 13—23. Were a Jew, a Mahometan, or a pagan, to give up the reli. gion of his fathers, and be baptized as a believer in the religion of Christ, this would not be enough to prove him to be a new creature ; for he might undergo a change of this sort, and yet remain in a state of unregeneracy.
Any change which merely relates to the manner of sinning ; such as a change from prodigality to parsimony; or from niggardliness to generosity; or from immorality to morality; or irreligion to self-righteous religion, does not go to the root. Such alterations may take place, and yet leave the man the same at heart that he was before. The sinner's purposing to become a Christian at some future time, does not consti.
a tute him a new creature ; for though the purpose is new, it is made in all the spirit of the old heart; else he would not defer to a future time the performance of a present duty. Felix exhibited no evidence of any essential change of character, because, under an alarm of conscience, he intended at another time to hear Paul concerning the faith in Christ; even though it might then have been his purpose, on the arrival of that more convenient season, to become one of his disciples. Nor does it necessarily prove the purpose to be any holier, because it relates to the present time. If a sinner may be actuated by selfish motives, in resolving to become a saint at some future time, why not in making a resolution which he designs to carry into effect immedi. ately? If the resolution be considered as a part of the renovated character, then he is a saint even when he resolves to be one ; and this is the very thing which prompts to the resolution.
But in case it precedes his conversion, it is the resolution of an unsanctified heart, and must therefore be originated by selfish motives.
It is a case of frequent occurrence, that unrenewed men, who have supposed themselves to be on their dying bed, have resolved to give their hearts to God without any delay. And the recovery of such persons to health has often proved to demonstration, that a purpose to give the heart to God, even to do it without delay, is not always the same as actually doing it. When the Israelites at mount Sinai were awed by the terrific tokens of the Almighty's presence, they cried out, “ All that the Lord hath spoken will we do, and be obedient.” Ex. xxiv. 7. They said nothing about delay; but the sequel showed, when they promised obedience, they had not an obedient heart. When the father, in the parable, said to his son, “Go work to-day in my vineyard, he answered and said, I go, sir; and went not.” Matt. xxi. 30. He did not object to the work required, nor the time proposed for his engaging in it: and yet his failing to do the work served to show, that though
he made a resolution to work in his father's vineyard, he did not make himself a new heart. Men may resolve to engage in the business of religion without delay; and the resolution not be prompted by love to God. And who will pretend that such a resolution can elevate sinners into the rank of saints ? The stony ground hearers, described by the Savior in the parable of the sower, resolved not only to make an im. mediate entrance on the business of religion, but did enter and endure for a while ; and yet they were strangers to the new birth. Mark iv. 17.
I would not, however, be understood to say that nothing is gained, when the careless sinner is made to resolve to pay an immediate atten. tion to the one thing needful. Such a resolution will naturally bring him under the means of grace, and to more intense thought on the con. cerns of his soul; and these, in the hand of the Spirit, are things of no small importance.*
Nothing short of a transition from sin to holiness forms a radical change. Among all the intelligent beings in the universe there can exist but two kinds of character; all must be either holy or sinful. Holiness has one common nature, and so has sin. Each has many branches proceeding from the same root. Supreme regard to one's own selfish interest is the root of all sin. The reverse of this is uni. versal good will, or a regard to the glory of the infinite God, displayed in promoting the good of his great and eternal kingdom. As sin is selfish, holiness is disinterested. Now there is no way for a sinner to undergo a radical change, except by becoming holy: and he can not become holy without a new ultimate end or supreme object. It must therefore be very evident, that our turning from an irreligious course to a selfish religion, does nothing to constitute us new creatures. If we bring forth fruit unto ourselves, however abundant that fruit may be, we are in God's account empty vines. Hos, x. 1. And should we, actuated by interested motives, resolve to become disinterested, this would not transform us into new 'creatures. Let us suppose a man, who is so enlightened into the knowledge of Christian doctrines as to understand, that short of his giving up the selfish principle, in every shape, and becoming disinterested in his affections and pursuits, he can not be saved; he therefore concludes, for the sake of securing his salvation, to make the relinquishment required; and proceeds to do it on the spot. But has he really made any relinquishment of the selfish principle, because he has given up a selfish interest of minor importance, for the sake of securing one of greater importance? Is selfish. ness to be canonized because it reaches its desires into eternity? The exchange of selfish interests, even if it be those of time for those of
* Pledges obtained from the unregenerate in relation to their duty, are often of great use to them. The pledge obtained by the temperance societies, has done immense good to sinners as well as saints. It is proper not only to urge an unregenerate inau to read the Bible, and go to the sanctuary to hear it preached ; to engage in the duties of the closet, and pay the most serious attention to the concerns of his soul ; but to obtain a promise from him that he will immediately take up theso neglected duties. But if, on oblaining his pledge to refrain from intoxicating drinks, and his promise to read and hear the word of God, and attend to the concerns of his soul, we were to intimate, that this was the transition from nature to grace ; the ground we should take would be unscriptural and dangerous in the extreme; for nothing is more common than to resolve to do right from wrong motives.