Imágenes de páginas

Men are naturally opposed to God, as shall be shewn more fully hereafter. Regeneration is the commencement of spiritual life. That life must have its commencement in some act or erercise which is the first in the new series. Faith, which is simply belief of the truth as made known by a credible witness, is that act or exercise of which, where God is the witness, life in the sacred scriptures is predicated. “ It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of


It will not be questioned on the one hand, that till a man believes he is destitute of spiritual life; nor, on the other that he no sooner believes than he lives. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; andhe that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him."2 It is certain that there is and must be, in the very nature of things, a point of time when the rational soul first believes the testimony of God, with that surt of faith which causes those acts appropriate to the design of God in its creation. This is not found to be cotemporaneous with the very first actings of our intelligent nature. They are directly contrary to the will and consequently to the design of God, so that man is not naturally or according to the mere developements of nature, possessed of spiritual life. Nor will he ever be without some inAuence and agency of the Spirit of God, other than that which He exerts as He is the God of nature. "You hath He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins, wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world."93

Whenever the Spirit of God excites and secures in the mind and heart of man, those acts and emotions which are appropriate to his rational soul, i. e. when they are directed to God, as his supreme good and chief end, he is re1 Mat. ix. 4.

2. John üi. 36. 3. Eph i 12

newed, regenerated, born again. And such he must be regarded simultaneously with the very first or commencement of them, at whatever period in the history of his being that may take place. He may have existed for years previously: but his acts, in the days of his unregeneracy were not appropriate to his moral relations, or to the design of God in his creation. Till he begins thus to act, i. e. to act right, he has no life: but as he thus begins, he begins to live.

This beginning to live, or first going forth of the soul in appropriate actings towards God, is with great propriety and beauty, denominated THE NEW BIRTH. For what is birth? Is it not the commencement of a new series of processes or developements in the being's existence? It is not the commencement of existence: nor of life absolutelyzi but of those actions and motions-that life which God designed should be developed in man in this world. Entirely new processes and actions take place simultaneously with the infant's entrance into the world. Its transit from its mother's womb, is the date of its life; but not of its absolute living existence. Cotemporaneously with this trausit, new characteristic actions and emotions, or processes commence; it is therefore said to live. As the air immediately on exposure rushes into the infant's lungs, which had been in a collapsed or shrivelled state, while it lay in its mother's womb, new characteristic actions commence. The cellular spaces of the lungs are dilated; the bosom heaves; the cavity of the chest is enlarged; the blood flows; the oxygen or vital part of the atmospheric air is absorbed by the blood as it passes through the lungs ; heat is disengaged by this process; the heart begins to propel the blood; circulation commences; and thence in regular series proceed the processes of digestion, absorption, nutrition, &c. whose aggregate, constitute the life of the animal being.

No one imagines that when the air inflates the infant's


lungs, and it begins to cry, as it struggles into birth, there is introduced or infused into it, a new principle of life. Yet have all its characteristic actions and processes been suddenly changed. Birth is the very first which originates and secures all the rest in the great aggregate of vital phe

If therefore, we cannot so understand birth in physiology, as originating a new principle, or as being a new creation, we cannot lawfully infer any thing of this sort as to spiritual life, when we run the analogy. All that we can infer from the expressions Regeneration, being born again, renewed, &c. which are terms employed to denote the change that takes place in the rational soul, is, that they denote its beginning to live, or commencing its appropriate life. If natural birth is not in reality a new creation, weither is spiritual birth. As our terms are necessarily taken from material and sensible things, we must beware that we do not attribute more meaning to them than they can in truth bear. As the infant passes from one state or mode of its being to another, when it is born, so does the new born soul pass from under condemnation, into favour with God. Birth in both cases is the mere transition.

It is going altogether beyond the analogy in the case, to assert that there is in Regeneration the injection, infusion, or implantation or creation of a new principle of spiritual life. If the expressions are used in a vague metaphorical sense, as we suppose they are by multitudes, we shall not object very strenuously against it.

But if it is employed, as it is unquestionably by some, to unfold to us the philosophy of Regeneration, or to explain the immediate effect of the Spirit's operations, we do unhesitatingly and unequivocally denounce it as unauthorized by the language of Scripture, the analogy of nature, and the deductions of science.

Perhaps the reader may be startled at the boldness of this declaration, and may at first sight, be disposed to think


that the above account of regeneration involves essential But wherein lies the essential error ?

Is it essential error, to affirm that the expressions, new creature, created anew, His workmanship, are metaphorical? They most undeniably cannot be literally interpreted : for to create, is to produce something out of nothing, to give that a being which had none before, and which in the nature of things, none can do but God. If they must be literally interpreted, then do we err, as will be seen, along with one of the great father's of the Presbyterian church, and whose fame will long be dear to the hearts of the American people, and then it will certainly follow, that Regeneration is the result of an effort of physical power, on the part of God. But more of this presently.

The writings of many Theologians contain expressions which betray at one time, utter ignorance, and at another erroneous views with regard to the nature of Life. It seems to be taken for granted by not a few, that physiologically, Life is a created essence, and itself a cause of those actions and processes in our animal frame, which we call vital ; and speaking analogically, therefore as our terms are borrowed from material things, the impression is almost indelibly made, that they considered regeneration literally to be the infusion, implantation or creation of some inherent principle, essence or substance which is specifically the cause of those actions we account spiritual or holy. Regeneration, accordingly, in their estimation, consists in a simple effort of God's physical or creative power, producing this essence, substance or principle of spiritual life, which itself becomes and is designed to be the immediate cause of those actions and exercises denominated holy or spiritual.

The falsity of the idea that life physiologically considered, is an essence or principle, has been already exposed. The reality of its existence has never been proved. The most specious of all the arguments in support of its being a real essence, "a first principle in nature,” is but an apparent influence which in fact is a mere hypothesis or a begging of the question." The whole philosophy, therefore, which would explain Regeneration as the injection, or creation of a new principle or essence of spiritual life, being based on a false theory as to natural life, must be erroneous, and must lead to consequences both dangerous and heretical. Well therefore did the apostle charge us to beware of a false philosophy.

It is true that when the subject is presented in this way, and the advocates of what we must pronounce a false philosophy, are charged with maintaining the docrine of a physical Regeneration, or Regeneration by the physical

1. “It is no evidence,” says Dr. Copland, “of the non-existence of this principle, that it does not become visible to our senses, in an uncombined form : it is, however, sufficiently demonstrable by its effects, in alliance with matter, in which state it presents proofs of its being equal to those from which we infer the existence of matter itself.” Bichcrand's Elements of PhysiologyAppendix, p. 2. Who does not see that he takes for granted the existence of the cause, which is the very thing to be proved, for he calls the phenomena of life, effects of a vital principle? If they are called effects, we have shown that their cause is something different from a criated essence «a vital principle which allici to matter controls its changes and forms.” The phenomena of life are the results of the divine Spirit's agency, according to established laws or modes and not of e created essence which possesses in itself a controling influence over all the properties of matter, with which we are acquainted. The following while it furnishes a specimen of the same mode of false reasoning just noticed, will serve to illustrate in its fullest extent, the false physiology which lies at the basis of false theology

“As however we can form no just conceptions of such a principle, but by its effects, and as we have no experience of these effects unconnected with matter, so we are warranted in the conclusion, that the vital influence is associated with the molecules of matter, forming the impregnating secretions, and the sensible bulk ofthe ovum. This is its lowest state of activity or energy and its influence is chiefly manifested, under such circumstances, in preserving the elements of matter with which it is associated from entering into the combinations to wbich the chemical affinitics of these elements dispose them."--Idem.

« AnteriorContinuar »