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world? For do not they themselves believe in innumerable things of the nature and manner of whose existence they know nothing, merely because evidence requires them to admit the fact of their existence, and in resolving whose phenomena they have to steer amid the most conflicting and contradictory appearances ? And do not these men receive all in which they do believe whether it regards science, art, history, politics, or commerce, all that lies beyond the measure of their own limited and partial experience, on the authority of others by whom their truth and certainty is attested? And yet while thus admitting the testimony of men which is so fallible and weak do they not reject the testimony of God which is infallible and unmistakeable ?
Does not philosophy also teach us that there are two ways by which we may ascertain the nature and existence of any object or phenomenon ? First, we may do this by the consideration of its cause. A man may be fully assured of the existence of any thing without knowing how it came to be what it is. For the cause of a thing is a very satisfactory way of coming to the distinct knowedge of its existence and nature. This indeed would of itself, when it is traced to the will of an intelligent being, lead us to anticipate beforehand the qualities of any effect from the known properties or intentions of the author. And when, therefore, the Holy Spirit is held forth as the author of a given change in the heart of man, and it is asserted that without it we cannot enjoy spiritual life, here or eternally, are we to deny the possibility of such a change because it does not come within the range of our observation and experiment when the Holy Spirit, who is the cause of it, is Himself inaccessible and infinitely beyond our finite comprehension? Are there not many things also in heaven, earth and hell not dreamt of in our philosophy? Are there no changes or effects but such as are visible, material, and to be reached by the scalpel or the chemic art? Is there, then, no God who is a Spirit unseen, invisible, incomprehensible, and unfelt? And can He not work spiritual changes when, where, and how He will? Who knoweth the spirit of a man what it is, whence it cometh, where it dwelleth, and how it worketh? What is life if thou canst tell, or death if thou canst fathom its mysteries?
Surely if there is an Almighty Spirit who worketh in the hearts of men, the change thus wrought must be, like Himself, spiritual and invisible. It cannot be outward. It cannot be ritual. It cannot therefore be either moral conduct, nor pharisaic formalism, but a new creature, a spiritual mind, which imparts life and peace. To know consequently the alleged cause of this great change of regeneration is to know its certainty as a fact; its nature as a result; its necessity as a qualification; and its importance as a prerequisite to salvation.
But we may also ascertain the nature and reality of a phenomenon from the effects, properties and other characteristics by which it is distinguished from all others as well as from its
We are very certain that what hath no being at all can have no properties at all since this would be to argue that there may be effects where there is no cause, and properties when there is no essence in which these properties inhere. Whenever, therefore, we can trace the working, power, or manifestations of any thing, there we have demonstrative certainty that it exists and that too, however it may be in its own nature inscrutable, or in its present condition obscured and concealed. If then there are certain signs, evidences, and manifestations by which this spiritual change is revealed to its possessor or to others, or to both conjointly; then wherever these marks are found there we have clear, philosophical, inductive and most irrefragable evidence that the change has been effected and now exists. This conviction would be forced upon us although the change itself were invisible, and although in its first beginning and essential working it were utterly beyond the cognizance of ourselves or others. But that there are such marks of this spiritual and saving change Scripture assures us and in many places largely and distinctly enumerates them. And though in their material form or mere outward act these manifestations are in many cases similar to other actions, yet even then they are essentially different from them in their motive, spirit and end. But in many other respects the regenerate principle, that is the faith of the gospel, worketh in a manner entirely different from the principles and spirit of the world, both in the motive and the manner of its action. The works of the flesh and the works of the spirit are manifest and most clearly distinct, and however counterfeited and feigned, may be seen and read of all men who will test them by the sure word of God. And hence as the wind exists and is known to exist though it bloweth where it listeth and we know not what it is, whence it cometh or where it goeth, so is every one born of the spirit who brings forth fruits worthy of that change, however we may be ignorant when and how the change was wrought within him or what is its real nature.
On both these grounds, therefore, we may be assured of the certainty and truth of regeneration as an actual change even while as a phenomenon it lies beyond the cognizance of our senses and the comprehension of our reason.
But some again would reject this doctrine of regeneration, because the change it indicates is not within the range of human agency, but implies and requires the operation of a divine power.
Such men act and reason upon the supposition that man is perfect and complete in himself and that he is left to be the entire arbitor and fashioner of his own character and habits. That is, they exclude the immediate and direct interference of the Almighty from His moral government over His rational and spiritual creatures. They walk altogether by sight, and while credulous to overflowing on every subject beside, imagine they exhibit a lofty and philosophic exaltation in believing nothing in the wide domain of spiritual matters which they cannot perceive by the rush light of their own puny reason. But here again do we not learn a lesson from nature in the mystery of her processes, in the unveiled secrecy of her hidden springs, and in the constant and evident working out of effects while the cause in invisible and undiscoverable, as for instance where the principle of life holds in subjection the omnipotent laws of chemical affinities and preserves the atoms of our organized system in operation and health while an incessant effort is made to reduce them under the dominion of those destructive chemical laws by which they must be at least dissipated into their primitive elements. Here then we are forced to conclude that a cause called life exists, but of whose nature we know absolutely nothing, merely because such a principle is necessary to account for the phenomena which we constantly behold. And so are we every where brought to a pause in our investigations of nature, and forced to seek for a solution of its phenomena by referring them to the wise and powerful providence of that great being who is wonderful in counsel and mighty in his operations.
The winds blow,—but who can tell whence they came or whither they go, or why they arise? Why does the North wind come forth with its icy breath to cover the land with frost and snow, and why again does the South wind breathe its balmy influence? Who can tell? or who give a better answer than that it is even so because so it has pleased Him of whom the winds are ministers and whom the winds and the waves obey ? And if, therefore, all efforts are to be traced up to God as their only ultimate and efficient cause, must it not be so also in reference to all who are born of the Spirit? That which is born of the flesh is and can be only flesh and that only is and can be spirit which is born of the Spirit. They who are christians indeed are born, that is, become such not by the will of man, nor by the will of the Hesh, nor by any force of man's reasoning, eloquence or wisdom, but by the mighty power and working of God through the incorruptible word of His grace. Let us not then trust in the preaching or the agency of man, or in the power of our own self-determination for this regeneration. Let us not thus limit, set aside or deny the Holy One. The most expert seaman is only able from continual observation to read the signs of the heavens, and from them to gather the immediate course and force of the winds; and yet how often is even he baffled and overtaken by the sudden gale, or led to look wistfully to every quarter of the heavens, not knowing which shall send out the favouring breeze. And even so must we wait upon God, in the diligent use of all appointed means not knowing which shall prosper, this or that; or when it shall please Him to grant His blessing, in the morning or the evening. And he therefore only is the wise and successful voyager to eternal life who waits upon God, supplicating the promised influence of His almighty Spirit to work in Him to will and to do of His good pleasure, and having begun a good work in him to carry it on even unto perfection.
Regeneration, therefore, is no more unreasonable than any other effect whose cause is invisible because the ultimate author, will and intelligence by which it is produced is invisible.
SECOND DISCOURSE. Another objection to the doctrine of spiritual regeneration is that it represents God as partial to some and unjust to others. ALL, it is said, have an equal claim to this change if it is necessary, and to this gift if it is a blessing. Thus would man be more just than his maker and more merciful than Him whose tender mercies are over all his works. Thus would man challenge God's right to act as sovereign; to have mercy on whom He will have mercy and to leave whom He will to the hardening influence of their obstinate and self-willed impenitence. And thus confronting the high and holy one as He sits upon His throne judging righteously, impious man would say unto him, "what doest thou?" But how is this spirit also rebuked by the analogy of the wind? “The wind bloweth where it listeth,” not subject to the will, the laws, or the guidance of man. It is apparently self-moved and beyond any power to calculate or to direct. No man, therefore, thinks of setting himself as the guide and arbiter of the winds, or undertakes like Canute to say, where and how they shall blow. Thus do men in the kingdom of nature recognize the wisdom and necessity of her potent and irresistible laws. And yet the wind is of essential service to all the interests of man. It is either a great blessing or a great evil, causing fertility or blight, prosperity or disaster, a speedy voyage or shipwreck and destruction. As well then might mortals arraign the wisdom and Sovereignty of God in the guidance and control of the winds, as in the direction of that wind of the Spirit to which in the kingdom of grace it is so analogous, and accuse God as the author and administrator of the laws of nature, of partiality and injustice. And what a world of it would we have, if men were at liberty to make everything subserve their own private interests and selfish ends, to adapt the winds and the weather to individual wishes. Not less confounded would be all the order and harmony of the world than when Aeolus let loose all the winds of heaven at once and from every opposite direction to waste and devastate the earth. And, if it be said that the objection lies in the case of spiritual changes, but not in regard to spiritual changes, because in the one case and not in the other there is a fixed and determinate course-laws constant and immutable—by which God acts, we reply that there is such a determinate course and such constant and immutable laws in both cases alike. In both the material and the spiritual world this course of the divine procedure is inscrutable and far above out of our sight. But in the case of spiritual influences just as much as in the case of material influences, as of the wind, God acts according to the views, or, if you please, the laws, which seemed consonant to His own infinite wisdom and goodness and best promotive of His own glory and the happiness of the universe. When, therefore, 0, man, thou undertakest to quarrel with heaven's plans in the kingdom of His grace; to set up your individual interests against the general welfare; to claim for yourselves the regulation and control of heaven's purposes, and the distribution of His spiritual favors; and sullenly to deny the existence of these blessings or refuse to seek them in the way of God's appointment;—you only shew that your heart is at enmity with God; that you are