« PreviousContinue »
in the same minds at different periods, from the action of merely ordinary causes, none can doubt or be ignorant. They are facts of universal consciousness. There is as wide and endless a diversity, for example, among the various trains of thought that pass through the minds of a congregation of worshippers, in consequence solely of what they hear, as there is in the events and actions of their lives ; and a corresponding diversity accordingly characterizes their emotions. The thoughts that are addressed to them by the speaker, even if regarded with universal attention, form but a limited portion of those that rush through their minds, especially of such of them as are of vigorous recollection and keen sensibility; and the more eloquent he is, the greater is the multitude, variety, and force of the collateral views that flash on their eye. It is, indeed, the distinguishing and loftiest influence of genuine oratory, that it arouses the sensibilities and energies of those on whom it is exerted to such intense action, as to make them to become themselves partakers of the powers which excite them, and teach their own reason to send forth the far glances, and their fancy to vault on the wing of genius. The uneloquent speaker produces, on the other hand, precisely the opposite effects ;-diffuses lethargy over the understanding, and suffocates the imagination.
Nothing can be more wide therefore of the fact, than the assumption, if we look at theinfluences of the ordinary means of grace merely, that the same trains of thought pass through the minds of all those who listen to the same teachers, and enjoy the same general means of instruction. The views, emotions, and purposes of each are modified by numerous causes beside those that are common to all, and causes varying greatly in their relative powers in different individuals. The views that an orator presents to an assembly,
form the ground work only, or woof of their general trains of thought, into which the understanding, the memory, the judgment, and the fancy, interweave their own materials as they chance in each individual to furnish the requisite means; and the results differ as widely as the countenances and characters of those in whom they take place. He who should address an audience with the expectation of transfusing into every listener the same identical succession of perceptions and emotions, without the intermixture of any additional and differing conceptions from the imagination, or suggestions from the memory, would exhibit but a very imperfect knowledge of the nature and accustomed action of the mind, and form but a very inadequate estimate of the narrow limits within which his power over it is circumscribed.
The objection being thus founded on an entire misapprehension of facts, forms no just obstacle to assent to the doctrine against which it is alleged.
It is offered, however, as an objection of much higher importance to the doctrine, that it is thought to involve a fatal limitation of the power of God over the mind, by virtually representing that the Alınighty Spirit cannot directly convey truth to it independently of second causes. No intimation, however, of that kind, has ever been uttered, nor apprehension entertained by me. The doctrine which I have questioned, is, that which teaches, on the one hand, that the Spirit renews the mind through a direct agency, wholly exclusive of means ; that in accomplishing that great work, he is neither employed in debarring from it temptation, nor in presenting to it inducements to obedience ; and affirms, on the other, that from the very nature of the effect to be produced, moral means cannot possibly have any instrumentality in calling it into existence. How the
rejection of this doctrine can involve a denial of the Spirit's power to convey truth directly to the soul, without the aid of second causes, such as men are under the necessity of using in order to gain access to the minds and influence the thoughts of one another, it is not easy to discern. When, however, it shall be demonstrated, it will form a sufficient ground for abandoning the views which I have advanced, as no fact is more clearly conveyed to us in the scriptures, or more consonant to reason and the events of universal experience, than that God can directly approach the soul, and transfuse into it without any external instrumentality, whatever perceptions he pleases. We have innumerable examples of the exertion of this power in the communication to prophets of the knowledge of futurity in dreams and visions, and in the direct suggestion to apostles and teachers of the wisdom which they were to utter when called to stand in the presence of princes, for the sake of Christ. And it is doubtless in essentially the same manner that his influence is exerted at all periods. No limitation therefore whatever can be assigned or imagined of the Spirit's power over the mind through this medium.
To suppose it, is not only utterly unauthorized, but wholly contradictory to the representations of the sacred word, and derogatory to his attributes and agency. It is indeed his peculiar office work, we are taught in the scriptures, to accomplish these effects--to convince of sin, to enlighten in the knowledge of Christ, to renew the mind in its views and affectionsaf ter the divine image, and to shed abroad in it the love of God: as much, and peculiarly his official work, as the agency of Christ as Mediator is peculiar to him. It is not to be believed, therefore, that the mind, which is thus the appointed scene of his agency, is wholly inaccessible to him, or that the production of these effects, which it is his
chosen work to accomplish, lies beyond the limits of his power that the guilty spirit which it is his office to illuminate, purify, and convert into a temple for his own inhabitation, is closed against him by insurmountable barrierg; and that he must wait its own spontaneous permission before he can enter its portals. Hopeless indeed were the condition of men were their regeneration obstructed in that manner, by impediments, which even omnipotence itself is inadequate to overcome. How wretchedly do they, who exhibit such views of human independence and divine inability, deem of the attributes and work of the Spirit of Grace !
Such are not the representations which the Spirit of God has conveyed to us of the nature and extent of his agency; nor are such the views which consciousness suggests, and philosophy sanctions. None of the creatures of his will have it in their power in that manner to bar their intellects as they please against the beams of his truth ; to spread an impenetrable shield over their consciences ; to shut up the fountains of their affections from his approaches : and thus to banish him forever from the most essential portion of his empire. In place of that, every element of the soul, all the hidden springs of its agency, and all the causes that influence it, are open to his immediate access, and wholly subject to his control ; and whatever changes in its apprehensions or emotions he chooses, lie within the reach of his instant accomplishment. He can flash the lightnings of his truth through all its dark recesses, and disclose to it the depths of its guilt and ruin ; or-fill it with a vision of God; can leave it to fix its eye on those of its relations, which awaken pride and selfishness, or turn it to successions of thought that will dissolve it in penitence; can excite it to remorse by the memory of the past, and apprehension by
anticipations of the future ; or can translate it instantaneously, whenever he pleases, from those tempestuous scenes, to the cloudless calm of submission, adoring wonder and love. To question it, were to assail the foundation of his whole moral, as well as providential administration, and exhibit his creatures in every essential respect, as wholly superior to his control.
It is a still further obstacle with some to the reception of these views, that they are regarded as involving a denial of special grace in the work of regeneration :-an objection, however, of which I am equally unable to discern any just foundation.
All divine influences are properly regarded as special grace, that are productive of the effects which the scriptures exhibit as the fruits of the Spirit -whether those influences are regenerating or sanctifying, and whether therefore their fruits are the first obedient acts of the renewed, or an obedience at some subsequent period. Those influences of course give birth to that obedience, or are efficacious, because they are special, or superior to ordinary influences which terminate in a mere excitement of interest or conviction ; and are accordingly denominated special, because their nature and degree are such, as to render them efficacious : and also because they are bestowed in accomplishment of that electing grace which chose their subjects before the foundation of the world to be heirs of salvation.
But such being the ground of that designation, the doctrine I am endeavoring to vindicate, obviously no more involves a denial that regeneration is a work of special grace, than the opposite, or any other doctrine. The Holy Spirit is as clearly exhibited by it, as by the prevalent theory, as the efficient cause of the existence of that in the mind,