« السابقةمتابعة »
plate the glory of God constantly and delightfully, they would constantly be changed into the same image, from glory to glory. The great and glorious character of God would constantly proR duce holy and heavenly affections in their hearts. They would be holy as God is holy, and because he is holy. His holiness is a proper object of holy love, holy fear, holy joy, holy confidence, and every other holy affection. This happy effect of contemplating upon God, good men in all ages have experienced. While Moses was in the Mount with God forty days, and his whole attention was fixed upon the divine glory, it had a transforming effect upon both his inner and outward man. The holiness of his heart spread a glory over his countenance. His face shone, so that the people could not behold it, and he was constrained to spread a veil over it. David tells us, that 'while he was musing, the fire burned.' His meditations upon God, excited devout and holy affections. At another time, after contemplating the amiable and awful sovereignty of God, he could not refrain from crying out, 'Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.' Job, while devoutly meditating upon the holiness of God, addresses him thus: "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.' When Isaiah saw the Lord sitting on a 'throne high and lifted up, surrounded by the seraphim, who cried Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts,' he was filled with love, admiration, and selfabasement. And the primitive christians, who had their conversation in heaven, who set their affections on things above, and not on things below, who delightfully contemplated upon the displays of the divine glory in the gospel, made great and rapid advances in holiness, and became crucified to the world and the world to them, by the cross of Christ. In a word, all true believers find, by experience, that the more frequently and delightfully they contemplate the perfections of God, displayed in the gospel, the more their hearts are filled with holy, devout, and heavenly affections. But yet,
4. They are fully sensible that this effect is produced by the special agency of the divine Spirit. They know that it is not in the power of any motives, or external objects, to produce volitions or affections in their minds, without a divine influence. It is, indeed, only in the view of motives or objects presented to their understandings, that they exercise love or hatred, hope or fear, joy or sorrow, or any moral affection. Their affections are not caused by their objects, for they find by constant experience, that they do not always have the same affections, in the view of the same objects. When they meditate upon God, they do not always meditate with pleasure. David says, 'he beheld God, and was troubled.' So all good men feel very differently at different times, in the view of God and divine things. This is a clear evidence, that whenever they delightfully contemplate the divine character, it is owing to a divine influence upon their
hearts. And to this cause the apostle expressly ascribes it in the text: 'But we all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the spirit of the Lord.' All holy affections are the effects of a divine operation. "The preparations of the heart in men, and the answer of the tongue, are from the Lord.' 'We are not sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God.' It is God 'who begins a good work in believers, that carries it on, and works in them both to will and to do of his good pleasure.' Not only the first, but every other exercise of faith, is of the operation of God.' It is God who carries on the work of sanctification in the hearts of believers, by his mighty powers. Hence the apostle prays for the Saints in Ephesus, in this form: "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the Saints, and what the exceeding greatness of his power, to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power; which he wrought when he raised the Here God is represented as exerting the same exceeding great and mighty power in sanctifying those who believe, that he exerted in raising Christ from death to life. And the apostle prays, that God would display the same mighty power in sanctifying the believing 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.' While true believers contemplate the glory of God displayed in the gospel, the Spirit of God produces holy and heavenly affections in their hearts, or makes them feel as they ought to feel in the view of the objects which they are contemplating; which is actually transforming them into the divine image. Accordingly we read, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, faith, and every other gracious affection.' Were it not for a divine and powerful influence upon the hearts of believers, they could take no satisfaction in contemplating upon the glory of God. The manifestations of his glory would give them pain rather than pleasure, if the Spirit of God did not operate to produce right affections in their hearts. They have no holiness but what they immediately receive from the Sprit of promise, who is the sanctifyer. It is he who makes them to differ from sinners, and from themselves at different times, and on different occasions. After the love of God is first shed abroad in their hearts, they would never, to the end of life, have another exercise of love, were it not for the continued operation of the divine Spirit. As they do not take the first step toward God without the influence of his spirit, so they would never take another, without his influence. Hence they are said to be led by
the Spirit.' No displays of the divine glory would ever transform them into the divine image, without the gracious operations of the Holy Ghost. It is he who gives them love, and joy, and peace, in beholding the glory of God displayed in the gospel, and transforms them into the divine likeness.
HEADS OF IMPROVEMENT.
1. If it be owing to a divine influence upon the hearts of believers, that the manifestations of the divine glory transform them into the divine image, then sanctification is in reality a continued regeneration. Many make wide difference between a regeneration and sanctification. The first, they suppose, is wrought immediately by the mighty power of God, without the instrumentality of light or truth. But the latter they suppose is wrought mediately, by the instrumentality of light. In regeneration, they suppose a new nature is given, but not new affections: but in sanctification, new affections are given, but not a new nature. It appears, however, that neither is regeneration produced without light, nor sanctification without divine influence. Both essentially and equally consist in the exercise of holy affections, produced by the Holy Spirit, in view of divine truth.
2. If it be owing to a divine influence that believers are transformed into the divine image, then they may have as sensible evidence of their sanctification as of their regeneration. Many are apt to place all their hopes of heaven upon their regeneration, rather than their sanctification; but their sanctification may afford them their best evidence. If they experience the transforming influence of the spirit, and find they have more and more of the divine image, this is the best evidence they can have.
3. If, in the very view of the divine glory displayed in the gospel, believers are dependent upon a divine influence to conform them to God, then they are as dependent for grace as unbelievers. All means will fail of making them holy, without a divine influence, as it is in the case of sinners.
4. If it be in the contemplation of the glory of God that true believers are transformed into the divine image, then all true believers feel their need of divine ordinances, which bring God into view. Such as secret, private, public worship,-and divine institutions.
5. If it be in the contemplation of God and divine objects, that true believers become conformed to God, then every thing which tends to divert their minds from God and divine things, serves to make them believe in religion. The world and the things of the world are detrimental to them.
6. If the displays of the divine glory have a transforming influence upon true believers, then they will forever grow into a greater and greater conformity to God, not only in time, but to all eternity.
7. If the delightful contemplation of God serves to make Saints
grow in grace, then the painful contemplation of God serves to make sinners grow in sin and alienation from God.
Let all inquire whether they are ripening for life, or death. SENEX.
For the Hopkinsian Magazine.
CONNEXION BETWEEN WAVERING BELIEF AND UNSTABLE PRACTICE.
Remarks upon JAMES 1. 8—A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. [Concluded from page 231.]
From what has been advanced in the preceding essay, the following inferences may be drawn:
1. A person, who is unsteady in his belief, frequently changing his sentiments, and wavering between opposite schemes of doctrine and morals, is not to be regarded as a real christian. It is true, that uniformity of belief, in a great degree, may sometimes be found in those who are destitute of religion. There may be some under such a strong delusion as to have become confirmed in a system of error, which they hold fast, without wavering, as long as they live, and never find their fatal mistake until they open their eyes in the eternal world. And there may be others, who have received a religious education, have been taught the truths of the Bible, and have gained such a knowledge of those truths, and become so fully convinced by the evidence which supports them, that nothing can shake their belief in them; while, at the same time, they hold the truth in unrighteousness,' and have never obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which has been delivered them.' So that steadiness of belief, whether the doctrines believed are false or true, is no certain evidence that one is a christian.
But, on the other hand, unsteadiness of belief ever exhibits evidence of a want of true religion. Such unsteadiness, as has been shown, arises from that ignorance of the doctrines and precepts of the gospel, and inattention to the evidence on which they rest, which flow from hatred to the truth. Those under the light of the gospel, who love divine truth, will learn it, embrace it, and abide in it. But those who hate the truth, are not to be regarded as christians; for all real christians have 'received the love of the truth, that they may be saved.' A person, therefore, who is unwavering in his belief, ought not to be viewed as a christian.And this appears to have been the conclusion of the apostle
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering: for he that wavereth, is like a wave of the sea, driven of the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.'
2. It will follow, from what has been advanced, that christians are not chargable with bigotry or self-sufficiency, on account of their firm and unwavering belief of their religious sentiments.—— Such a charge is often brought against them, by the opposers of the sentiments which they embrace. But it has been made to appear, that steadiness of belief is essential to christian character: and must a person, then, be bigotted and self-sufficient, in order to be a christian? To say this, would be to speak reproachfully of christianity. But why should christians be bound to change their sentiments? They have formed them by a diligent and unbiassed perusal of the sacred scriptures, the plain and infallible standard of both faith and practice. They know that the scheme of doctrine which they have embraced, is in accordance with the word of God, and must, therefore, be true. And besides, they find this scheme daily confirmed by their own experience and observation. They have in themselves the witness of the truth of the leading doctrines which they embrace. It is impossible, therefore, that they should waver in their belief of the essential doctrines of their holy religion. They both know the truth, and know that they do know it. Those who embrace fundamental error, may think, yea be very confident, that they know the truth. Errorists may be very sincere, and very sure. "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death.' But christians are sincerely right, and have confidence in God. They lean not to their own understandings, but have 'set to their seal that God is true.' Why, then, should they fluctuate in their belief? It is not laying any claim to infallibility, for them to remain fixed and settled in the belief of those doctrines which they have received from the intelligible and infallible oracles of God, and which commend themselves to every candid mind and enlightened conscience, as well as to every good and honest heart. They ought indeed to keep their minds open to conviction, as to any minor mistakes which they may have made, and to endeavor to grow in knowledge as well as in grace; but it is absurd to require them to change their belief in the essential principles of that system of truth and duty, which they have received from that fountain of divine knowledge which 'liveth and abideth forever." Bigotry does not consist in abiding in the truth, or in 'holding fast the form of sound words;' but in obstinately adhering to error, when clearly exposed and fairly refuted.
3. It is not improper or unreasonable for christians to subscribe a creed, or confession of their faith. One of the principal objections against forming and subscribing a creed, is, that it implies a promise not to change one's sentiments, whatever new light he