« ZurückWeiter »
form of doctrine which it contains, is a mould, inte which the heart, softened like melted wax, is, as it were, delivered or cast; and from whence it receives its impression. Every mark or line of the gospel mould leaves a correspondent line in the renewed heart. Hence christians are represented as having the truth dwelling in them; their hearts being a kind of counterpart to the gospel.-That mere light in the understanding is not sufficient to receive the gospel, will appear by considering the nature of those truths which it contains. If they were merely objects of speculation, mere light in the understanding would be sufficient to receive them ; but they are of a holy nature, and therefore require a correspondent temper of heart to enter into them. The sweetness of honey might as well be known by the sight of tħe eye, as the real glory of the gospel by the mere exercise of the intellectual facully. Why is it that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them; but because they are spiritually dis. cerned? A spiritual or holy temper of heart is that in the reception of gospel truth, which a relish for poetry is in entering into the spirit of a Milton, or a Young. Mere intellect is not sufficient to understand those writers; and why should it be thought unreasona. ble, or even mysterious, that we must possess a por. tion of the same spirit which governed the sacred writers, in order properly to enter into their sentiments ?
Thirdly: That which the holy spirit communicates in regeneration, corresponds with the nature of DIVINE REQUIREMENTS. In other words, the same thing which is required by God as the governor of the world, is bestowed by the holy spirit in the application of redemption; both the one and the other is not mere light
in the understanding, but a heart to love him.-The language of divine requirements is as follows: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and soul, and mind, and strength-Circumcise the foreskin of your hearts, and be no more stiffnecked—Make you a new heart, and a new spirit; for why will ye die, O house of Israel ?-Only fear the Lord, and serve him, in truth, and with all your hearts*. The language of the promises is perfectly correspondent with all this, with res. pect to the nature of what is bestowed : And the Lord thy God will circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul-A new heart 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 a heart of flesh-And I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from mef.
Fourthly : That which the holy spirit communi. cates in regeneration, being the great remedy of human nature, must correspond with the nature of the MALADY : But the malady of human nature does not consist in simple ignorance, but in the bias of the heart; therefore such must be the remedy.--That re... generation is the remedy of human nature, and not the implantation of principles which were never possessed by man in his purest state, will appear from its being expressed by the terms washing and renewing—the washing of regeneration, the renewing of the Holy Ghost, which convey the ideas of restoring us to puri. ty, and recovering us to a right mind. Regeneration implies degeneracy. The nature of that which is produced therefore by the one, must correspond with that which we had lost, and be the opposite of that which
* Mark xii. 30. Deut. x. 16. Ezek. xvii. 31. 1 Sam. xii. 24.
+ Deut. xxx. 6. Ezek. Xxxyi. 26. Jer. xxxii. 40.
we possessed in the other. Now that which we had lost was the love of God and our neighbour. Love is the fulfilling of the law : love, therefore, comprehends the whole of duty; consequently the want, or the opposite of love, comprehends the whole of depravity. No, if it be said, the understanding is darkened—True, but this is owing to the evil temper of the heart. (Eph.iv. 18.) There is no sin in being ignorant, as observed before, any further than that ignorance is voluntary, or owing to some evił bias. This we are sure is the case with wicked men, with respect to their not understanding the gospel. Why do ye not understand my speech? said our Lord to the jews: The answer is, Because ye cannot hear my word. His word did not suit the temper of their hearts; therefore they could not understand it. Prejudice blinded their eyes. Here then lies the malady; and if the remedy correspond with it, it must consist in being renewed in the spirit, or temper of our minds; and not merely in having the intellectual faculty enlightened.
- It may be said, we cannot love that of which we have no idea ; and therefore light in the understanding is necessary to the exercise of love in the heart. Be it SO;
it is no otherwise necessary than as it is necessary that I should be a man in order to be a good man. There is no virtue or holiness in knowledge, further than as it arises from some virtuous propensity of the heart, any more than there is in our being possessed of human nature. This, therefore, cannot be the grand object communicated by the holy Spirit in regeneration.
Should it be further objected, That those who plead for a new light in the understanding, mean by it more than mere speculative knowledge; that they mean spiritual or holy light, such as conforms the heart, and
life-To this I should answer: If so, the light or knowledge of which they speak is something more than knowledge, literally and properly understood: it must include the temper of the heart, and therefore is very improperly distinguished from it.
To represent men as only wanting light, is indeed acknowledging their weakness, but not their depravity. To say of a man who hates his fellow-man, "He does not know him: If he knew him, he would love him'is to acknowledge that the enmity towards the injured person is owing to mere mistake, and not to any contrariety of temper or conduct. The best of characters might thus be at variance, though it is a great pity they should, especially for any long continuance. If this be the case between God and man, the latter is not so depraved a creature as we have hitherto conceived of him. The carnal mind is not enmity against God, but merely against an evil Being, which in his ignorance he takes God to be. To this may be added : If sin originate in simple ignorance, (which is suppos. ed, in that the removal of this ignorance is sufficient to render us holy,) then it is no more sin ; nor is there any such thing as moral evil in the universe. So far as we can trace our actions to simple ignorance, or ignorance in which we are altogether involuntary ; So far, as we have already seen, we may reckon ourselves innocent, even in those cases wherein, had we not been ignorant, we should have been guilty. These are se, rious consequences; but such as at present appear to me to be just.
The above is submitted to the consideration of Tar. dus, and the reader, as the result of the maturest reflec. tions of the writer.
DEGREES IN GLORY,
PROPORTIONED TO WORKS OF PIETY,
Consistent with Salvation by Grace alone.
A CONSTANT reader of the Evangelical Maga
zine for September last, p. 376, approves of several observations which were made on the parable of the Unjust Steward, but wishes me to show more particularly the consistency of spiritual and eternal blessings being bestowed as a reward of works of piety and charity, and consequently of different degrees of glory being hereafter conferred on different persons, according to their conduct in the present life, with the doctrine of salvation by grace alone.--I consider the above as an interesting inquiry, and submit the following as an answer.
In the first place: It seems proper a little more fully to establish the sentiments themselves. Whether we can perceive their consistency, or not, they mani. festly appear to be taught in the holy scriptures. The same divine writers who teach the doctrine of salvation by grace alone, teach also that eternal life will be conferred, as a reward, on those who have served the Lord with fidelity, and suffered for his sake in the present world. Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness sake; great is their reward in heaven. In the addresses to the seven Asiatic churches, eternal life, under various forms of expression, is promis. ed as the reward of those who shall overcome the temptations and persecutions of the present state,