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Thus have I finished this numerous collection of testimonies to the great Scriptural doctrine of the Trinity. The labour, employ. ed in making it, has, I hope, not been useless. In a serious mind it cannot, I think, fail to produce, not conviction only, but astonishment, and delight, to see the wonderful manner, in which God has diffused, and perpetuated, the evidence of this doctrine throughout the successive periods of time. The testimonies of the Jewish and Christian Churches are complete and irresistible. We are not to expect, that, amid all the ignorance of Heathenism, correct and unobjectionable ideas of God should be found in any nation.
But when we consider, that the doctrine of a Triad has been so evidently received, without a question, in all the four quarters of the Globe, and by so many different nations; that it was received among almost all those who were ancient; that it was received independently of the Scriptures; that it was expressed in so many forms, and those completely decisive as to the real meaning ; that the scheme in all these forms was, unanswerably, the union of Three Divine Beings, or Persons, in One; and that this scheme was so often, and so definitely, explained in multiplied and very various modes of expression ; modes of expression too, which are incapable of being misconstrued; we cannot, I think, fail to determine, that the doctrine of the Trinity was originally revealed to the human race; and has almost every where been conveyed down, both in their worship, and their sacred traditions.
REGENERATION. THE AGENT.HIS AGENCY.
Titus iii. 5.-Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his
mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.
IN a preceding discourse, I proposed to enter upon an inquiry into the great subject of Regeneration under two principal heads :
1. The Agent in this work ; and, II. The Work itself.
The former of these subjects I proposed to discuss' under these heads :
1. The Character of the Agent ; and,
It will be observed, that I here take it for granted, that mankind are, in some instances, really regenerated; reserving the proof of this doctrine to a future occasion, when I shall come to the discussion of the second thing originally proposed; viz. The Work of Regeneration. In discoursing on collateral subjects of Theology, or of any other science, it is, not very unfrequently, necessary to suppose one or more of them, for the time, allowed; to preclude useless embarrassment in the discussion of the others.
This, however, is to be done only for the time; and only for the purpose, which has been specified. It is no part of my design, in this system, to take any point in Theology for granted; nor to expect the belief of any doctrine, alleged by me, unless the arguments, adduced to support it, shall be found solid and convincing. Nor do I ever intend to consider any thing as granted by those, who differ from me, unless I suppose it to be really granted by them. If there be found in this system of discourses any thing, contrary to these principles, I hope it will be considered as the result of inattention, and error, on my own part; for no departure from them will receive any justification from me.
With these things premised, I shall now proceed to a consideration of
The Fact, that the Holy Ghost is the Agent in the Regeneration of Man.
It will be easily seen, that the proof of this position must be derived from the Scriptures; and that all the evidence concerning it, furnished by reason and experience, must be merely auxiliary; and cannot, in the nature of the case, be decisive. From the Scriptures, then, I shall proceed to allege such proofs of this doctrine, as to me appear satisfactory.
1st. I argue this doctrine from Declarations of the Scriptures. The text is one of these declarations.
In this passage we are said to be saved by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. The word renewing is an exact translation of the original word in this place.
To renew signifies, as you well know, to make new, or to make over again. This opération is here ascribed to the Holy Ghost in as simple and unambiguous terms, as are possible.
John i. 12, 13, is another example of the same nature. But to as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God; even to them that believe on his name. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of Man, but
In this passage of Scripture it is asserted, that the birth, by which mankind become the sons of God, is derived not from blood, or natural descent; nor, from the will of the flesh; nor, from the will of man; that is, not from human contrivance and determination in any form; but from God. It is difficult to conceive how this doctrine could be more clearly asserted. But if those who sustain this character are born of God, they are born of the Spirit of God. For our Saviour, discoursing on this subject in the third chapter, says, Except a Man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God. That, which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that, which is born of the Spirit
, is spirit. Here the Persons, said in the former passage to be born of God, are declared by our Saviour to be born of the Spirit; and that which is born of the Spirit is declared alone to be spiritual. So far as I can see, these passages in the most decisive manner assert Regeneration to be, exclusively, the work of the Spirit of God.
In this passage, also, that which is born of the flesh is declared to be flesh; that is, whatever proceeds from a fleshly source partakes of its fleshly nature. The word flesh is customarily used in the Scriptures to denote the native character of man. In this sense the carnal, or fleshly, mind is declared by St. Paul to be enmity against God, not subject to his law, neither indeed capable of being subject to it. In the same sense, the same Apostle says, In me, that is, in my flesh, or natural character, dwelleth no good thing.
A contrast is studiously run between that, which proceeds from the Spirit, and that which proceeds from the flesh; or, to use the words of our Saviour in the passage above quoted, between that which is flesh, and that which is spirit; in several passages of Scripture. To be carnally minded, says St. Paul, is death ; but la
be spiritually minded is life and peace. Rom. viii. 6. In the original, the minding of the flesh is death; but the minding of the Spirit is life and peace. And again ; Gal. v. 19—23. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these : Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like : of the which I tell
before, as I have also told you in time past, that they, which do such things, shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. In these passages, the different natures of the fleshly and spiritual character are too strongly marked to need a comment. All that is sinful, odious to God, and the object of his wrath, plainly belongs to the former; and all that is holy, lovely in the sight of God, and the object of his favour, belongs to the latter. But that, which is born of the flesh is fesh; is of this odious guilty nature; while that which is born of the Spirit is alone Spirit. In other words, whatever is good and acceptable before God in the character of man is produced by the Holy Ghost.
In 2 Thess, ii. 13, St. Paul says, God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through the sanctification of the Holy Ghost. The Thessalonian Church, then, was chosen to salvation : How? Through the sanctification of the Holy Ghost. The sanctification of these persons, then, was a part of the original purpose of God, and a pre-requisite to their salvation. The Thessalonians, therefore, were renewed, or regenerated, by the Holy Ghost ; and, by necessary conclusion, all others, who become the subjects of regeneration.
1 Cor. vi. 11. But ye are sanctified by the Spirit of God. In the two preceding verses, St. Paul mentions several classes of men, who, he declares, shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Then he subjoins, Such were some of you. But, he adds, Ye are sanctified by the Spirit of God. Formerly these Corinthians were of the number of those, who, continuing in their proper character, could not inherit the kingdom of God. That, which now made them of a new and opposite character, was, that they were sanctified by the Spirit of God.
In Ězekiel xxxvi. 26, 27, God says, A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you : and I will take away
the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes ; and ye shall keep my judgments and do them. Here giv. ing these Israelites a new heart, and a new spirit, is plainly, and exactly, equivalent to the import of this declaration, I will put my spirit within you; as the consequence of which, it is declareil, that they shall walk in the statutes of God, and keep his judgments. The disposition therefore, with which mankind keep the statutes, or
obey the law of God, is produced in them by God himself, and is effectuated by his Spirit.
In the following chapter God says, verses 13, 14, to the house of Israel, represented as spiritually dead, Ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall put my Spirit in you, and ye shall live. Here Spiritual life is exhibited as the immediate effect of the agency of the Spirit of God.
To these passages of Scripture I shall subjoin a few more, out of a great multitude to the same purpose. For the love of God is shed abroad in your hearts by the Holy Ghost. Rom. v. 5.
Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost. 1 Cor. vi. 19. No man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. 1 Cor. xii. 3.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the Sons of God. Rom. viii. 14.
I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring. Isai. xliv. 3. The direct consequence of this effusion of the Spirit is declared in verse 5th. One shall say, I am the LORD's, and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob.
2dly. The same doctrine is taught us by facts, contained in the Scriptures.
Our Saviour preached to the Jewish nation at least three years and a half; if not more than four years. It will be admitted, that he was the best of all preachers; and that his preaching was more perfectly calculated, than any other, to produce holiness in the hearts of those who heard luim. Yet it will also be admitted, that he was not a very successful preacher. We naturally ask, Why was he not successful? The Apostles, on the contrary, though certainly and greatly inferior to Christ in wisdom and persuasiveness, preached, still
, with wonderful success. St. Peter by the first sermon, which he delivered to the Jews, probably converted more to the faith and obedience of the Gospel, than Christ, during the whole of his ministry. We naturally ask, also, Whence arose this wonderfully different efficacy in the preaching of St. Peter and that of his Master. The persons, whom they both addressed, were the same.
They had been witnesses of the miracles of both. Why then were they perfectly dead to the preaching of Christ ; and pricked to the heart, and turned to God, by that of St. Peter? The cause was not in the preaching. It was not in the hearers : for they were the very same persons. It was, then, an extraneous
The event was not derived from the will of the flesh, nor from the will of man, but from God.
St. Paul preached at Philippi many days. It seems clear, that the Jailer must frequently have heard him. Yet his words made no impression upon the Jailer's heart, until that night in which he was converted. 'Yet then in a moment, upon Paul's calling to him to do himself no harm; he hastened into the prison, and cried out to Paul and Silas, Sirs, what must I do to be saved. A cause, ad