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Nor do I see how holy beings, so long as they love natural good, and are placed in a world where it is variously and amply provided, can fail of being exposed to temptations from this source ; nor, if these temptations be supposed to possess a given degree of power, or, which is the same thing, to contain a given degree of natural good, and to be set fully and exclusively before the mind, how such beings can fail, without peculiar divine assistance, of being exposed to fall.

In all this, however, there is nothing to countenance the supposition that a sinner will in the same manner turn from sin to holiness. A sinner has no relish for spiritual good ; that is, for the enjoyment furnished by virtuous affections and virtuous conduct. To apply the words of Isaiah concerning Christ as regarded by the Jews, to this good as regarded by sinners, · When they see it, there is no beauty in it, that they should desire it,' Isa. liii. 2. Whenever this good therefore becomes an object of the sinner's contemplation, as his mind is wholly destitute of any relish for it, he will never desire it for its own sake ; and will never make any such efforts to gain it, as are absolutely necessary to accomplish the renovation of his heart. The relish for spiritual good is that state of mind out of which all virtuous volitions spring. No volition is ever excited but by good, and by good actually perceived and relished. As spiritual good is never thus perceived by a sinner, it will not excite a single volition in his mind towards the attainment of it; but will operate upon him as little as harmony upon the deaf, or beautiful colours upon the blind.

But the relish for spiritual good is the characteristical distinction of holy beings; their essential characteristic, without which they would cease to be holy. The want of it, on the contrary, is a primary characteristic of sinful beings. In this lies the real difficulty of regenerating ourselves, and not in the want of sufficient natural powers : and so long as this continues, an extraneous agency must be absolutely necessary for our regeneration.

IV. The objections to the agency of the Divine Spirit in this work shall now be briefly considered.

1. It is objected, that this doctrine infers partiality in the conduct of God.

That in the conduct of God in this case there are mysterious

and difficult things, which I cannot explain, I readily acknowledge. What the particular reasons are, by which God is influenced in this dispensation, he has not been pleased to reveal; and we, therefore, are wholly unable to determine. It is sufficient for us, that we know all his conduct, in this and every other case, to be directed by the best reasons.

But this case presents no more difficulty than a thousand others, in which we do not even think of starting this objection. We might as well complain of the common dispensations of God's providence, as of this. " Why," we might ask, “was one child born of Popish parents, and educated in all the ignorance and superstition of the Romish religion; and another born of Protestant parents, and educated under the light and blessings of the Reformed religion? Why is one man destined by his birth to be a savage ; and another to be a member of civilized, enlightened, and religious society? Why is one man a native of Sennaar; and another of New England : One a beggar; another a prince: One deaf and dumb; another endowed with hearing, and speech? Why are there any beggars ; any savages ? Nay, why are there any men; and why are we not all angels ?”

To apply the question to the very case in hand. Why, on the supposition that we regenerate ourselves, is one man furnished with those endowments both of understanding and will, and with those advantages, all of which united, terminate in his regeneration; and another, not?

It will be easily seen from these questions, that the objection of partiality lies with the same force against all inequalities of distribution in the divine government, as against this dispensation. Indeed, the only way to remove this objection must be to make all beings exactly alike, and to confer on them exactly the same distributions. In other words, God, in order to remove this objection, must make all his conduct a mere repetition of exactly the same actions towards every creature.

2. It is objected also, that this doctrine supposes man not to be a free agent in his regeneration.

To this objection I answer, that, if it be true, and be seen by us to be true, our knowledge of its truth must be derived either from some declaration of the Scriptures, or from the nature of the subject, philosophically investigated. From the former of these sources we cannot derive this knowledge ; because no declaration of Scripture asserts any thing of this na

All our knowledge with regard to it, therefore, must of course be derived from the latter. I ask, then, what knowledge does the nature of this subject furnish us of the truth of the objection? Is it derived from the fact, that this agency has been called irresistible? With the arguments derived from the use of this term, on either side, I have no concern. It is not used in the Scriptures, nor do I either discern or admit the propriety of using it. The task of defending the use of it, therefore, I shall leave to those who do.

Is it derived from the fact, that this agency is extraneous ? It will not be pretended that all extraneous influence on the mind destroys its freedom. We act upon the minds of each other, and often with complete efficacy; yet it will not be said, that we destroy each other's freedom of acting. God, for aught that appears, may act also on our minds, and with an influence which shall be decisive; and yet not destroy, nor even lessen, our freedom.

Does the truth of the objection appear in the particular kind of agency here used. Let me ask the objector, what is this particular kind of agency? The only account of the subject in the Scriptures is, that it is renovating, regenerating, or sanctifying. So far as my knowledge extends, neither the friends nor the adversaries of the doctrine have added any thing to this account which explains the subject any farther. But can it be said even with plausibility, that God cannot sanctify an intelligent creature without infringing on his freedom? If it be said, it should also be proved; and this, so far as my knowledge extends, has not hitherto been done. Until it shall be done, the mere assertion of our opponents may be fairly answered by a contrary assertion.

When God created man, he created him in his own image. This, St. Paul informs us, consists 'in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness. But if God, without destroying or rather preventing his freedom of agency, could create him in this image, it will be difficult to prove, or to conceive, that he cannot restore to his descendants the same image, after it has been lost, without destroying their freedom.

The thing given is the same ; and the agency by which it is given is the same. Its influence on the freedom of the creature must

VOL. III.

therefore be exactly the same. Its whole influence, in both cases alike, is successive to the agency itself; and must of course affect the freedom of the creature in precisely the same manner.

Does our experience furnish any knowledge of this nature? Ask any Christian, and he will tell you, if competent to answer the question, that he is conscious of no loss nor change in his own freedom of acting; that, on the contrary, he chose and acted in the same manner as before, and with the same full possession of all his powers; and that the only difference between his former and present state is, that he now loves God, and obeys him voluntarily; whereas he formerly hated him and voluntarily disobeyed him.

The truth is, this objection is not derived from Revelation, nor from fact. It owes its existence only to the philosophical scheme of agency, which makes the freedom of moral beings consist in self-determination, indifference, and contingency ; a scheme, in its own nature impossible and selfcontradictory; as any person may see completely evinced in an inquiry concerning this subject by the first President Edwards.

Upon the whole, the plain declarations of the Scriptures are not to be set aside by the philosophy of men. Especially is this not to be done where the subject of investigation lies, as in the present case, beyond our reach. What the precise nature of the agency of the Holy Ghost in regenerating mankind is, in the metaphysical sense, man cannot know. It becomes all men, therefore, to be satisfied with the declarations of God, who does know; who cannot deceive us; and who has, of course, declared to us the truth.

SERMON LXXIII.

REGENERATION.

ITS NECESSITY AND REALITY.

JESUS ANSWERED AND SAID UNTO HIM, VERILY, VERILY, I SAT

UNTO Thee, ExcePT A MAN BE BORN AGAIN HE CANNOT see THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

JOHN III. 3.

HAVING considered the character of the Holy Ghost, and his agency in the work of regeneration, I shall now proceed, according to the plan originally proposed, to examine the work itself, under the three following heads :

I. The necessity,
II. The reality,
III. The nature of regeneration.

I. I shall consider the necessity of the work of regeneration.

In the preceding Discourse I took the fact, that some men are regenerated, for granted ; and on this ground attempted to prove that the agency of the Spirit of God was necessary for the accomplishment of our regeneration. The question concerning the necessity of regeneration itself, and the question concerning the necessity of that agency

in

producing it, are entirely distinct. Yet it will be readily perceived, that the arguments adduced under the latter question in the preceding Discourse, may with unabated force be, in several instances, applied to the former; that, which is now under consideration. Particularly is this true concerning se

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