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faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity." “ Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
Let these three classes of commands be critically examined and compared, and every one must see that God as plainly and expressly requires men to be regenerated, as to be converted or sanctified. And if this be true, it necessarily follows, that men are no more passive in regeneration, than in conversion or sanctification. The truth is, men are regenerated, converted and sanctified, by the special operation of the divine Spirit, and are always equally active under his gracious influence. For it is impossible that he should produce love, or repentance, or faith, or any other gracious desire, affection, or volition, without their being active. The supposition that men are passive under the regenerating, converting, or sanctifying influence of the Spirit of God, is not only unreasonable and unscriptural, but inconsistent with every command in the Bible. 3. If the Holy Spirit
, in regeneration, produces nothing but love, or holy exercises, then the regenerate are as dependent upon him for their future, as for their first, exercises of grace. Regeneration gives them no new principle, nor new power. They are no more able to act of themselves, or independently of a divine influence, than they were before they were renewed. The same divine influence is as necessary to produce the second, as the first exercise of love, the third, as the second exercise of love, and all future exercises of love, as the preceding
The preparations of their heart and the answer of their tongue, is continually from the Lord. He works in them both to will and to do in every duty. They are not sufficient of themselves to think any thing as of themselves; but their sufficiency is of God. David freely acknowledged before God his need of divine influence, in every act of obedience. “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.” Jeremiah humbly said, “ O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” Solomon exhorts his son, “ Trust in the Lord
, with all thine heart; and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Every true saint can sincerely adopt the language of David, in his addresses to God from day to day. “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my Redeemer.” The more christians grow in grace and become acquainted with their own hearts, the less confidence they have in themselves, and the more they realize their continual need of the sanctifying and quickening influences of the divine Spirit.
4. If the Spirit of God produces nothing but love in regeneration, then it is no more a supernatural work, on the part of God, than any other divine operation upon the minds of men. The Spirit of God has always produced holy love in the hearts of the angels of light; but who can suppose that this is a supernatural or miraculous operation ? The Spirit of God produced holy love in the hearts of our first parents before they apostatized; but who can suppose that he operated supernaturally or miraculously upon their minds? There is nothing more supernatural or miraculous, in the divine Spirit's producing holy love in those who have been once destitute of it
, than in producing the same holy affection in those who have never been sinful. In regenerating a sinner, the Spirit does not counteract any law of nature, nor produce any miraculous effect. He did operate supernaturally, when he gave to one the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge, to another the gifts of healing, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another divers kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these were supernatural effects, produced in a supernatural manner. But the working in men both to will and to do what is right, is no supernatural effect, and no other than what he has done for nearly six thousand years together. It is true, indeed, that regeneration, conversion and sanctification are all produced by the special operations of the Spirit. They may be called special, because he renews, converts and sanctifies some, and not others; and because, in regeneration, conversion and sanctification, he produces those gracious affections which are not common to mankind. There is reason to believe that the speaking of regeneration, conversion, or sanctification, as a supernatural work, has led many to draw a very false and dangerous consequence from it. How many have hence inferred that sinners are under a natural inability to love God, repent of sin, believe the gospel, and obey, from the heart, any of the divine commands. It is difficult to see why this inference is not just, if regeneration, conversion, or sanctification, is owing to a supernatural operation of the Spirit. For who has a natural ability to work miracles? And who can be properly required to make him a new heart, repent of sin, believe the gospel, and obey every divine command, before he is the subject of the supernatural and miraculous influences of the divine Spirit, if these are necessary to enable him to put forth such holy exercises? Those who preach that regeneration, conversion and sanctification, are produced by the supernatural power of the Holy Ghost, put an excuse into
the mouths of sinners which it is extremely difficult, and even impossible to take away. This ought to teach teachers to use a more proper and scriptural language, in treating upon this solemn subject.
5. If the Spirit of God produces nothing but love, in regeneration, then sinners have no more excuse for not beginning to love God, than saints have for not continuing to love him. Saints can no more continue to love God without a divine influence, than sinners can begin to love God without a divine influence. They are both equally and constantly dependent upon a divine influence, to do their duty. But who will say that saints have any excuse for not keeping themselves in the love of God, and being steadfast and unmovable in the performance of every duty, because God must work in them both to will and to do of his good pleasure ? But if saints have no
for the neglect of duty, then sinners have none. They cannot plead that they are any more dependent upon divine influence, in order to love God, repent, believe the gospel, and obey the divine commands, than saints are. They need no other principle, power, or ability to do all that God requires, than what they naturally possess. It is true they need a divine influence, and so do saints. Nothing but their hating God prevents their loving him, and they are just as able to love him as they are to hate him. They must be, therefore, as totally inexcusable and self condemned for not loving and serving God, as the best saints on earth are for neglecting any duty. The divine commands lie upon them in their full force, to make them a new heart, to repent of sin and to believe the gospel, without delay.
Finally, this subject teaches us that the true, scriptural doctrine of regeneration, conversion and sanctification, which all mean the same thing, is perfectly consistent with all the commands which God has given to saints and to sinners. If regeneration does not consist in any new principle of action, but only in the production of holy and benevolent exercises, then God may consistently require saints to love him constantly and perfectly, and he may consistently require sinners to love him as constantly and perfectly as saints. He may, with propriety, give the same commands to both. Though love is of God, and is the fruit of the Spirit, yet both saints and sinners are bound to love God with all the heart, with all the soul, with all the mind, and with all the strength; and this obligation will lie upon them in its full weight through eternity. It is an obligation which is founded in the nature of things, and which cannot be dissolved, so long as God remains supremely amiable, and they remain capable of loving him with supreme affection. VOL. v.
THE DUTY OF SINNERS TO MAKE THEMSELVES A
AND make you a new heart and a new spirit. — EZEKIEL, xviii, 31.
The Jews were now under the correcting hand of God in Babylon; but instead of accepting the punishment of their iniquities and ascribing righteousness to their Maker, they bitterly complained of the severity and injustice of his conduct. They said, “ The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.” God knew they meant to insinuate that he was punishing them, not for their own sins, but for the sins of their fathers, which he solemnly declares to be a false and absurd insinuation. “ As I live saith the Lord, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine; the soul that sinneth, it shall die." “ The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son.” But still they objected, “ the way of the Lord is not equal.” God now appealed from their reason to their conscience, and demanded, “O house of Israel, are not my ways equal ? Are not your ways unequal ? Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God; repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions whereby ye have transgressed, and make you a new heart and a new spirit; for
a why will ye die, O house of Israel?” Here sinners are expressly required to make them a new heart, as well as to repent and turn
from all iniquity. The plain and important truth, therefore, which properly falls under our present consideration, is this :
It is the duty of sinners to make them a new heart.
The nature of this subject requires a careful and candid attention, especially the first two branches of it, upon which a clear understanding of the whole depends. For if we can ascertain what a new heart is, and what it is to make a new heart, the proof of the doctrine will be easy, and the whole discourse plain and intelligible to every capacity.
1. Let us consider what a new heart is.
Though a new heart be a scripture phrase, and in common use, yet different men attach very different ideas to it; and for this reason I shall proceed gradually in explaining it, and mention some things which it cannot mean.
There is no ground to suppose that it means any new natural power or faculty of the soul, which is necessary to render sinners capable of understanding and doing their duty. They are as completely moral agents as saints, and as completely capable, in point of natural ability, of understanding and obeying the will of God. He knew that those whom he addressed in the text, and required to make them a new heart, were possessed of reason, conscience, and every other natural faculty of the mind; and upon this ground alone, he made that solemn appeal to them in a preceding verse, “ Are not my ways equal ? are not your ways unequal ?"
Since God appeals to sinners as moral agents, we cannot suppose that the new heart which he requires them to make is any natural power or faculty of mind, which they do not need, and which, if they did need, they could be under no obligation to obtain.
Nor can a new heart mean any new natural appetite, instinct, or passion. Whatever belongs to our mere animal nature, belongs to sinners as well as to saints. And when sinners become saints, they experience no change in their natural appetites, or animal propensities; but a new heart commonly serves to weaken and restrain, instead of increasing or strengthening such sensibilities as are destitute of every moral quality.
Nor can a new heart mean any dormant, inactive principle in the mind, which is often supposed to be the foundation of all virtuous or holy exercises. Such a principle appears to be a mere creature of the imagination; but supposing it really exists, what valuable purpose can it serve? Can a dormant principle, which is destitute of all perception and sensibility, produce love,