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spirit, they may die in it, and perish for ever ; BUT THEIR BLOOD WILL SURELY BE REQUIRED AT 'HIS. HAND!
I am, my dear friend,
END OF PART THE FIRST.
NATURE OF REGENERATION
CONSIDERED. An ANSWER to the QUESTION of TARDUS,
in the Evangelical Magazine for May, 1794.
6 Does the Spirit of God, in regeneration, produce a new principle in the heart, or only impart a new light in the understanding ?”
1. HE question, as stated by your correspondent, I. consider as important, and as admitting of a satisfactory answer. Whether I shall be able to afford him satisfaction, I cannot tell ; but will do the best I can towards it. If we were called to determine how, or in what manner, the holy Spirit operates upon the human mind, great difficulties might attend our inquiries; but the purport of this question seems to relate, not to the modus of his operations, but to the nature of what is produced. To this I should answer: The Spirit of God in regeneration does pro
duce a new principle in the heart, and not merely impart a new light to the understanding. The reasons for this position are as follow :
First : That which the holy Spirit imparts in re. generation corresponds with bis own NATURE: It is holine88, or spirituality-That which is born of the Spirit, is spirit. But mere light in the understand. ing, as distinguished from the bias or temper of the heart, has nothing in it spiritual or holy; it is a mere exercise of intellect, in which there is neither good nor evil.—The scriptures, it is true, make frequent mention of spiritual light, and of such light being im- ' parted by the Spirit of God; but the terms light and, knowledge, as frequently used in scripture, are not to be understood in a literal, but in a figurative sense. As spiritual darkness or blindness is not a mere defect of the understanding, so spiritual light is not the mere supplying of such a defect. Each of these terms conveys a compound idea ; the one of ignorance , and aversion, the other of knowledge and love. Hence the former is described as blindness of the heart, and the latter as understanding with the heart *. If I un- ? derstand any thing of the theory of the human mind, there is a kind of action and re-action of the understanding and the affections upon each other. We .. are not only affected with things by our judgment : concerning them, but we judge of many things as we are affected towards them. Every one feels how easy it is to believe that as true which corresponds with : our inclinations. Now so far as the decisions of the judgment are the consequence of the temper of the heart, so far they are either virtuous or vicious. Of this kind is spiritual blindness. Men do not like to retain God in their knowledge. They desire not..
the knowledge of his ways. Hence ignorance, in this figurative or compound sense of the term, is threatened with the most awful judgments-Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that KNOW thee not-Christ will come in flaming fire to take vengeance on them that. KNOW NOT, God. Of this kind also is spiritual light. Hence the following language :- I will give them a HEART TO KNOW ME--God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in OUR HEARTS, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. This is that holy or spiritual knowledge, which it is life eternal to possess ; of which the natural man is destitute ; which would lead us to ask for living water; and which, had the jewish rulers possessed, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. Ye neither know me nor my Father, said our Lord to the jews : if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also. The want of this knowledge was the sin of the jews; and, as we have seen already, stands threatened with divine judge ments : but the mere want of knowledge, according to the strict and literal meaning of the term, and where it arises no: from any evil bias of heart, which has induced us to slight or neglect the means, is not crimi. nal : on the contrary, it excuses that which would otherwise be criminal. Ahimelech pleaded his igno. rance of David's supposed rebellion before Saul; and it ought, no doubt, to have acquitted him. If the jews had not enjoyed such means of knowledge as they did, comparatively speaking, they had not had sin.-Fur. ther: Spiritual knowledge, or knowledge according to the figurative or compound sense of the term, has the promise of eternal life: but knowledge, literally
taken, as distinguished from the temper of the heart, ..may exist in the most wicked characters, such as Ra.
laam and Judas; and though in itself it be neither good nor evil, yet it may be, and generally is, an occasion of greater aversion to God and religion. Thus our Lord told the jews: Ye have both seen and hated both me and my Father. Thus also many amongst us, who have long sat under the preaching of the gospel, and long been the subjects of keen conviction, feel their enmity keep pace with their knowledge : and thus at the last judgment, sinners will see and know the equity of their punishment; so that every mouth will be stopped, and all become guilty before God; yet the enmity of their hearts, there is reason to think, will be thereby heightened rather than diminished. In short, mere knowledge is in itself neither good nor evil, though it is essential to both good and evil; that is, it is essential to moral agency. If knowledge were obliterated from the mind, man would cease to be an accountable being. In every condition of existence, therefore, whether pure or depraved, he retains this, in different degrees; and will retain it for ever, whatever be his final state.
From hence I conclude, That what is produced by the Holy Spirit in regeneration, is something very different from mere knowledge..
Secondly: That which the holy Spirit produces in regeneration corresponds with the nature of DIVINE TRUTH: But tlie nature of divine truth is such, that mere light in the understanding is not sufficient to receive it. In proof of the former of these positions, I refer to the words of the apostle, in Rom. vi. 17. Ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you, or rather, according to the marginal reading, into which ye were delivered*. The gospet, or