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without a rival. Regeneration makes such an essential alteration in the sinner's character, that it unfits him for the company of devils, and prepares him for the society of angels; and every soul that experiences this change is thereby rescued from the lowest hell and raised to the highest heaven.
What favor can a sinner receive from God worthy to be compared with this! They who have not been regenerated, are spoken of in the scriptures as not having obtained mercy, however multiplied may have been the favors bestowed upon them. 1 Pet. ii. 10. To have a new heart is, in the most emphatic sense, to obtain mercy. Such as have it are, in the language of Paul, “ partakers of the benefit." 1 Tim. vi. 2.
The renewal of the mind being the greatest possible good, and a favor conferred on the ill-deserving, it must be grace in the highest sense of the word. Had we not been ill-deserving, a favor of this kind could never have been conferred on us. No creature whose heart is not de. praved can receive the mercy of regeneration; since the transformation of a depraved heart is the very thing which it means. The favor of a literal resurrection can be experienced by none but the dead;
а and of a spiritual resurrection, by none except such as are dead in sins; and they who are dead in sins deserve no good at the hand of their Maker. Well, then, might the apostle tell those who had been quickened and raised up from this death, that it was by grace they were saved. Eph. ii. 5. 2. The grace displayed in regeneration is special. It is a favor
. which differs entirely from all other favors previously granted to its recipients, and is peculiar to them who are saved. Other men may have the word of God, the offers of salvation, and the convincing influ. ences of the Spirit; but they never receive the grace of regeneration. Whatever God does for other men, this is certain, he does not renew their hearts; for if he did this, it could not fail to place them among the regenerated. Can anything be more absurd than to assert, that it is God who renews the sinner's heart; and yet say, he does nothing more for the sinner who is renewed than for those who remain un. renewed? The question which is put by the apostle to a Corinthian believer, “ Who maketh thee to differ from another?” manifestly im. plies, that in every instance where we enjoy a favorable distinction from others, we are bound to give the glory of it to God.
And can we for a moment indulge the thought, that God is not to be acknowl. edged as the cause of this most merciful of all distinctions ? I believe there is no favor received from the hand of God, which the scriptures consider as more special and discriminating than this.
If we are desirous of knowing what God has commnnicated on this subject, let us prayerfully consider these passages from his holy word which will now be introduced. Regeneration is represented as a spe. .
a cial favor, in Rom. ix. 16 : “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” Willing and running comprehend the religion of the heart and of the life; in both of which the convert is active. When, therefore, it is said, it is not of him, it must mean (if it mean anything,) that God has effected the change; and that the influence which he has exerted in causing him to will and run, is a peculiar mercy.
I would next refer to the second chapter of Paul's epistle to the Ephesians. He reminds the saints at Ephesus that they were once dead in trespasses and sins; that they walked according to the course of this world, and were by nature the children of wrath even as others; and that for the very desirable change of character, whereby they were made to differ from their fellow sinners, they were indebted to the grace of God, which had been displayed in quickening them, even when they were dead in sins.
Between natural and spiritual death there is a perfect difference, as far as criminality is concerned; (for spiritual death is nothing better than voluntary rebellion;) but what the apostle here says on the subject of their resurrection from a death of sin to a life of holiness, is adapted to impress our minds with this sentiment; That if the inhabitants of Ephesus had all been literally dead, and those to whom he wrote had been the only ones raised to life, the favor would have been no more distinguishing than in the present case.
In the third chapter of Titus the apostle seeks to impress his own mind, and the minds of his brethren in Christ, with the greatness and speciality of the favor they had received, in being made the subjects of regeneration : "For we ourselves also," said he, “ were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful aud hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior towards man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” In this passage we are taught, (1.) That the regene. rated and their fellow men are originally alike in depravity and hate. fulness. (2.) That the change which the regenerated have experienced is not to be attributed to any good works they did before it was wrought. (3.) The change is ascribed to the renovating power of the Holy Ghost; and this is said to be the fruit of divine mercy, through Jesus Christ.
That regenerating grace is special, seems to be clearly taught in that well known passage, John vi. 44, “No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” Here we are taught two things, 1st, That no man comes to the Son, except he is drawn to him by the Father. 2dly, That no man who is thus drawn by the Father ever fails of coming to the Son. Hence we conclude, that those who come to the Son expe. rience a special mercy, one that is peculiar to themselves. I know it is said by some, that all men are drawn by the Father, though but a smaller part of them ever come to the Son. To me it appears entirely clear, that the passage now before us teaches a different sentiment. Let the following things be considered, and I think the same will be clear to every one.
First. Sinners lie under no inability to come to the Son, previous to the drawing of the Father, except that which consists in rebellion and unwillingness to submit to the terms of a holy salvation. If the drawing of the Father meant anything short of an influence to remove the obstinacy of the will, the Savior would never have said, “ No man can come to me except the Father draw him,” for, in every other sense, except as we are prevented by the obstinacy of our
, we are able at all times to come to the Son. And if the drawing of the Father consists in effectually counteracting the sinner's rebellious will, then it must invariably result in his coming to Christ. Secondly. It is here clearly taught, that every sinner whom the Father draws to the Son is saved. But if he were not so drawn by the Father as act. ually to come to the Son, it would not entitle him to the blessings of salvation. The certainty of his salvation, whom the Father draws, is taught in the concluding clause ; "and I will raise him up at the last day." Whom did Christ declare he would raise up at the last day? The answer is manifest, Every man whom the Father should draw to him. I do not see what else could be his meaning. The promise, “ I will raise him up at the last day," was a declaration, in few words, of his purpose to save, even unto the uttermost, every sinner whom the Father should draw to him; since a blessed resurrection at the last day, is to the gospel salvation its finishing stroke. See verses 39,
40, and 1 Cor. xv. 26. Thirdly. That no sinners are drawn to the Son, except those who come to him and partake of his salvation, is rendered very evident by the quotation the Savior made from the prophets, to corroborate what he had said : “ It is written in the prophets, And they shall all be taught of God. Every man, therefore, that hath heard and learned of the Father cometh unto me.' To make this quotation at all pertinent, it is necessary to understand the phrases “ drawn of the Fa. ther,” and “taught of God,” to import the same thing. In the quoted passage we perceive, that the divine teaching spoken of, is in every instance effectual: Every man that hath heard and learned of the Fa. ther, says Christ, cometh unto me. This, in its connexion, is the same as to say, Every man that is drawn of the Father, cometh unto
I do not see how this passage can fairly be explained, without its · establishing the doctrine of special grace. Does it not manifestly de.
clare, that they who have come to Christ, have had a divine drawing and teaching peculiar to themselves; and that this is the very reason why they, in distinction from others, have come to him?
It may be thought by some, that there is another declaration of the Savior, which authorizes them to reject the interpretation now given to this passage. On a certain occasion he said, “ And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." John xii. 32. In this text he undoubtedly foretels what would be the happy result of his cru. cifixion, viz. the conversion of the world to the Christian faith. “All men” means all nations, or mankind in general, and the drawing promised is that which is effectual; but the time when the promise shall be fully verified is not yet arrived. In the Millenium, he will show us what he meant by his drawing all men unto him.
The scriptures speak of a call which is special, being entirely res. tricted to them that are saved. To such a call the apostle has reference when he says, “We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Cor. i. 23, 24.
1 Cor. i. 23, 24. According to the phraseology of this text, to be preached to, and to be called, are not the same thing. To the uncalled among the Jews and Greeks, the crucified Savior,
whom the apostles preached, was either a stumbling-block, or foolish. ness; but to all them who were called, of both nations, he was the chiefest among ten thousand, and altogether lovely.
In the eighth chapter of Romans, the number of called is made to equal the number of the justified: "And whom he called, them he also justified.” It is true that the scriptures speak of a call that has no restrictions. « Unto you, O men, I call, and my voice is unto the sons of men.” This call does not always prove successful : “Because I have called and ye have refused." Prov. viii. 4, and i. 24. But that call which makes Christ precious to the soul, even the power and wisdom of God, and which brings the subject of it into a state of justification, is never re. jected; for it consists in turning the heart to God, and disposing it to accept proffered mercy. This has very properly been distinguished from those invitations and strivings which are common to men in general, by being termed an effectual call. If the difference between the two consisted merely in this, that the successful call was somewhat more pressing than the other, it would have been entirely unnatural to represent it to be as much the exclusive privilege of those who love God, to be called, as to be justified. It is a privilege to have the God of grace call to us; but how distinguished is the mercy which they have received, who have been made to hear his voice, and have been called out of darkness into marvellous light. Surely it becometh them to show forth the praises of Him, who has thus distinguished them by
1 Pet. ii. 9.* As illustrating the nature of special grace, I would refer to this passage: "It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” Matt. xiii. 11. Here Christ informs his disciples of a favor that was granted to them, which was not given to men in general. What was it? Not the object or means of knowledge ; but an understanding heart. To them it was given to know; but to others it was not given. This peculiar knowledge was not science; no, not even that which relates to theology. It was spir. itual illumination, a knowledge peculiar to the renovated. This most precious and desirable knowledge may be great, where other knowledge is small.
Is not the speciality of divine grace clearly taught by Christ, when he says, “ Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” Matt. xi. 27. Who will pretend, according to the sense of this passage, that the Son reveals the Father to all men; or even to a single individual who still remains destitute of a saving knowledge of him?
3. Regenerating grace is not only special, but it is also an act of sovereignty.
By this we mean, that God, as the holy SOVEREIGN of the universe, dispenses it according to his own pleasure. In the ex- . ercise of government, there are some things which are managed by no prescribed rule, but are left to the discretion of the executive.
his richest grace.
* The word call is most commonly used in the scriptures in the effectual sense. See Acts ü. 39. Rom. i. 1, 6, 7. 1 Cor. i. 1, 2, 9, 24, 26; vii. 18—24. Gal. i. 15. Eph. iv. 4. Col. iii. 15. I Tim. vi. 12. 2 Tim. i. 9. Heb. ix, 16. 1 Pet. v. 10. 2 Pet. 1. 3. Jude, verse ). Rev. xvii. 14; xix. 9.
monarchy they are of course entrusted with the sovereign. Of this class, one of the most important is that which relates to the dispensing of pardons. In the execution of the laws there is no place for this kind of sovereignty, even in a monarchical government; for the laws must be the rule to regulate the conduct of the sovereign, as much as that of his subjects. The Divine Ruler exercises none of his special sove. reignty, in rewarding the obedient and punishing the guilty: but when he bestows favor on the transgressors of his law, it is not only the grace of a sovereign, but is sovereign grace. Let it, however, be re. membered, that the sovereignty of God, even in the dispensation of his grace, has nothing in it that is unwise or capricious. In determining whether any pardons should be dispensed among his rebellious subjects; and, if any, how great a number, and to what individuals, he never loses sight of the display of his glory, and the promotion of the interests of his moral kingdom. Of this he has given us the most striking proof, in the atonement which he provided to secure the honor of the law, before he would consent to remit the execution of the penalty in a single instance. Another
way in which he gives us evidence of this is, by his never extending pardons to any but such as are prepared for them by unfeigned repentance and submission to the terms of grace.
To dispense pardons to the penitent, in distinction from the dispensing of rewards to the innocent and punishment to the guilty, comes under the head of divine sovereignty; and yet the bestowment of the grace of regeneration is an act of sovereignty in a higher sense still. God has made promise to all the sinners in this apostate world, that he will forgive them if they repent; and that if they believe in his Son Jesus Christ they shall be saved. It is not, therefore, concerning sin. ners of this class, that he claims a right to display his sovereignty, in being gracious to whom he will be gracious. He promises to be gra. cious to all such sinners, without a single exception. Though the favor conferred is unmerited; still, since it is promised, neither his faithfulness nor justice will suffer him to withhold it. See 1 John, i. 9. But the unregenerate are not only without merit; they are also desti. tute of that penitent and believing heart to which the promises of the gospel are made. There is not one among them all that possesses a single trait of character, to bring him within the compass of the prom. ises. They may have kept themselves (or rather have been kept,) from that sin which is unpardonable—also from drunkenness, debauch. ery, habitual lying, and other vices, which would have given a pecu. liarly hopeless aspect to their case; still there is not one of them that has complied with a single requisition, on which the divine favor is suspended. Nor is there, in the sight of God, the least approximation towards a spirit of reconciliation. He puts forth his power to subdue the sinner's rebellious will, at the time when his rebellion is at the highest pitch.
Before the exertion of the new creating power, which God displays in transforming the heart of the sinner, he alarms his fears and awakes him from his slumbers. Now the law is made to enter, that the of. fense might abound; the commandment comes, and sin revives. During this very solemn and interesting portion of the sinner's unre