Page images
PDF
EPUB

ening power of the grace of God, they are fallen, degenerated, and dead to the divine life in which Adam originally stood, and are subject to the power, nature and seed of the serpent; and not only their words and deeds, but their imaginations are evil perpetually in the sight of God, as proceeding from this depraved and wicked seed. Man therefore in this state can know nothing aright concerning God; his thoughts and conceptions of spiritual things, until he is disjoined from this evil seed, and united to the divine light, are unprofitable to himself and to others.

Although we are not punishable for Adam's sin, and do not partake of his guilt until we make it our own by transgression, yet we cannot suppose that, descended from Adam, man has any natural light, or moral faculty pertaining to his constitution, that can give him a sense of his fallen state, or bring him out of it into that spiritual fellowship and communion with God, which Adam fell from. Whatever real good any man doth, it proceeds from the seed of God in him as a new visitation of life, in order to bring him out of his fallen state; which though it be placed in him, is not of him.

Where the apostle asserts that the Gentiles do by nature the things contained in the law, he is not to be understood as speaking of man's own nature, which he hath as man, for this would make him contradict himself; since he declares that the natural man receiveth not the things of God, for they are foolishness to him, neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned. The nature by which the Gentiles did the things of the law, cannot therefore be the fallen corrupt nature, but the renewed spiritual nature, proceeding from the regenerating power of divine grace, , which is evident from what follows these having not the law, that is outwardly, are a law unto themselves, which show the work of the law written in their hearts.Now the law of God is among the things of God,—and the apostle says, the law is spiritual, holy, just and good; and the Scriptures declare, that the writing of the divine law in the heart, is an essential part of the New Covenant dispensation, and therefore it can be no part of man's nature.

However early children give evidence of the effects of the fall, and of a sinful nature, they cannot be sinners from their birth, because there can be no sin where there is no transgression; and where there is not a capacity to receive a law, it cannot be transgressed. The testimony of the apostle is very positive to this point; “Where no law is there is no transgression;" “but sin is not imputed when there is no law."

To account a child guilty or obnoxious to punishment, merely for an offence committed by its parents, before it could have any consciousness of being, is inconsistent both with justice and mercy; therefore no infant can be born with guilt upon its head. Those are by nature children of wrath, who walk according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that worketh in the hearts of the children of disobedience. Here the apostle gives their evil walking, and not anything which is not reduced to act, as a reason of their being children of wrath. Besides the natural alienation from the internal life of God, as they become capable of distinguishing the monitions of truth in their consciences, the bonds of corruption are often strengthened by habitual indulgence of the carnal propensities against the sense of duty, and thus all who have arrived at such a degree of maturity as to be convinced of right and wrong, have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

But whatever Adam's posterity lost through him, is fully made up to them in Christ, and undoubtedly his mercy and goodness, and the extent of his propitiation, are applicable to infants, who have not personally offended, as to adults who have; and little children who are taken away before they have sinned, may with perfect confidence be resigned as entirely safe in the arms of their Saviour, who declared “ of such is the kingdom of Heaven."*

ON THE UNIVERSALITY OF THE LIGHT OF CHRIST.

In reference to the universality of this divine light and grace, we believe in accordance with the testimony of Robert Barclay; "That God, who, out of his infinite love sent his Son the Lord Jesus Christ into the world, who tasted death for every man, hath given to every man, whether Jew or Gentile, Turk or Scythian, Indian or barbarian, of whatsoever nation, country or place, a certain day or time of visitation, during which it is possible for him to be saved and to partake of the benefits of Christ's death. That for this end he hath communicated to every man, a measure of the light of his own Son, a measure of grace or of the Spirit, which the Scripture expresses by several names, as sometimes of “the seed of the kingdom,' • the light that makes all things manifest,” the word of God, or “the manifestation of the Spirit given to profit withal," "a talent," "a little leaven,' • the gospel preached in every creature.'

* See Barclay's Apology and Phipps' Original and Present State of Man,

“ That God, in and by this light and seed, invites, calls, exhorts, and strives with every man, in order to save him; which, as it is received and not resisted, works the salvation of all, even of those who are ignorant of the death and sufferings of Christ and of Adam's fall; both by bringing them to a sense of their own misery, and to be sharers in the sufferings of Christ inwardly; and by making them partakers of his resurrection in becoming holy, pure and righteous, and recovered out of their sins. By which also are saved they that have the knowledge of Christ outwardly, in that it opens their understandings rightly to use and apply the things delivered in the Scriptures and to receive the saving use of them. But that this may be resisted and rejected by both; in which then, God is said to be resisted and pressed down, and Christ to be again crucified and put to open shame, in and among men: and to those who thus resist and refuse him, he becomes their condemnation.”

“ We do not understand this divine principle to be any part of man's nature, nor yet to be any relic of any good which Adam lost by his fall, in that we make it a distinct and separate thing from man's soul and all the faculties of it. There are some that lean to the doctrine of Socinus or Pelagius, who persuade themselves through mistake as if this divine light which we preach up, were some natural power or faculty of the soul, and that we only differ from them in the wording of it, and not in the thing itself. Whereas there can be no greater difference than is betwixt us in that matter; for we certainly know that this light of which we speak, is not only distinct, but of a different nature, from the soul of man and its faculties."

After treating at large upon the universal appearance of the Holy Spirit to all men, he adds:

By this we do not at all intend to equal ourselves to that holy Man, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was born of the virgin Mary, in whom all the fulness of the Godhead dwelt bodily,--so neither do we destroy the reality of his present existence. For though we affirm that Christ dwells in us, yet not immediately, but mediately as he is in that seed which is in us; where

as He, the eternal Word, which was with God and was • God, dwelt immediately in that holy Man. He then is as the head and we as the members—he is the vine and we the branches."

And again, “We do not hereby intend any ways to lessen or derogate from the atonement and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, but on the contrary do magnify and exalt it. For as we believe all those things to have been certainly transacted which are recorded in the Holy Scriptures, concerning the birth, life, miracles, sufferings, resurrection and ascension of Christ, so we do also believe that it is the duty of every one to believe it, to whom it pleases God to reveal the same, · and to bring them to the knowledge of it; yea, we believe it were damnable unbelief not to believe it when so declared ; but to resist that Holy seed, which, as minded would lead and incline every one to believe it, as it is offered unto them; though it revealeth not in every one the outward and explicit knowledge of it, yet it always assenteth to it, where it is declared.

“ Nevertheless, as we firmly believe it was necessary that Christ should come, that by his death and

« PreviousContinue »