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strong, and full of evidence, that it is impossible for a rational being to withhold the approbation and consent of the will; and thus this divine temper is formed in the heart: in this point of light, I think, the apostle sets the matter, 2 Cor. iii. 18. But we all with open face, beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are ch:inged into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the spirit of the Lord. Though these words comprehend the gradual perfecting the image of God, in the progress of the work of grace, yet certainly the first step of the process is in the same way with all the subsequent, in the whole series. Nor does the use of the glass at all derogate from the efficiency of the spirit, in causing and conducting this whole matter; and, indeed, there is as really an immediate agency of the spirit upon the soul, in every progressive perfecting of the image of God, and every instance of the quickening of grace in believers (where yet the concurring instrumentality of the word, notwithstanding, is acknowledged) as there is in the first begetting of the divine life.
Here I would take notice, how very different this view of divine illumination is from the wild conceits of enthusiasts; their pretended extraordinary discoveries and inspirations consist in unaccountable impulses without the word, the warm flights of imagination, and agitation of the passions; in all this they either have no reference to the word of God, but rather set light by it in comparison of their own great light, or else in pretending to the word, put inconsistent ridiculous constructions upon it; but these intuitive views of God, I mentioned as primarily arising from his presence in the soul, are but the impressions of such truths as the word of God describes; they lead to the scriptures, and give a rational consistent view of them; this light is tried and judged by the word of God: to the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. Isa. viii. 20.
I cannot but think the instrumentality of the word in regeneration, in the view I have given of it, is once and again asserted in the sacred scriptures; thus, i Peter i. 23. Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth forever. The word, here rendered born again, is the same which is used, John iii. 3. of which new birth the word is declared to be an instrument or mean; in the same view, the same apostle tells the christians to whom he wrote, that by the great and precious promises, they were made partakers of the divine nature. 2 Pet. i. 4. and to be made partakers of the divine nature is to be regenerated; another passage, is Jam. i. 18. Vol. II.
Of his own will begat he us with (or by ) the word of truth. The word here used, cannot, with any propriety, I think, be understood of any thing else than the first infusion or begetting of spiritual life; when this is said to be done with, or by the word, it must intend that it is used as an instrument or mean; in this view, this blessed change is expressed, by putting God's law in the inward parts, and writing it in the heart. Jer. xxxi. 33.
Doubtless the holy spirit could as easily accomplish this great work without using any mean; yet as it appears very plain, he has chosen to do otherwise; we may not only suppose, but readily see great propriety in his making use of the word in this matter: this change is to be tried and judged of by the word; therefore must answer to the descriptions and characters there given, as the impression on the wax answers to the characters of the seal. The views of God in the mind must be such as exactly agree to the descriptions and representations of him in the word. It was, consequently very fit that these characters of the word should be impressed upon the soul, as a medium of determining the will in regeneration.
When the holy spirit takes the sinner in hand, in order to bring him home to God, the first step he ordinarily takes, is to convince him of sin, confute his false votions, and slay his legal hopes; in this he makes use of the law as a mean, as all acknowledge. Yet in order to this effectual access of the law to the conscience, there is as really an immediate exertion of power and influence upon the soul, as there is also in regeneration; and though this conviction does not make the sinner more worthy of the grace of God, yet the great design of it is to prepare the way for the opening of divine truths upon the mind with the brighter evidence, in its passing this saving change; which reflects the image of this glory upon the beholding soul, and determines the will. 2 Cor. iii. 18. Psal. cx. 3.
Observation 7. From this view of the mind, and determination of the will, or supreme regard to God, result the various exercises of heart, which are called the grace of the holy spirit, and distinguished by particular names, as their proper principle.
From this view of the divine character in the enlightened mind, naturally arises a discovery of the necessity of Christ's satisfaction to divine justice, and the fitness and glory of that way of reconciliation with God. Hence faith in Christ. This plan of mercy still more illustrates the glory of the divine character; for it shines in the face of Jesus Christ; by these views of faith, spiritual affections are excited, sorrow for, and hatred against sin
raised; hence an habitual watchfulness against sin and opposition to it, and delight in the service of God; and all this infers a great and permanent change in the whole course of life and action; but practical writers have abundantly explained and described these things; to whom I refer my readers, and shall insist no further upon them here.
I therefore, conclude with this general remark, viz. that it is of vastly more importance and concernment to us, to inquire into the reality of a gracious change, as discovered by the alteration, and holy exercises which the regenerate experience; than spend our time and zeal in disputing about the principle of spiritual life, wherein it consists, or what it is antecedent to all exercises thereof. While we are warmly interested in deciding the speculative dispute, we are apt to forget the practical consideration of the important subject, and the application of it to ourselves; and those who attend to us are led to treat the matter in the same manner; by this means the interests of vital piety languish. While we justly lament the low state of experimental religion, to devote ourselves to these speculative refinements will not be found the way to revive it. Experience will always show, that to keep up à practical view of divine truths, and the solemn application of them in serious pungent addresses to the conscience, is the best calculated for that purpose. Besides, if we lay down, by way of hypothesis, a certain something, of which we can have no idea (as of a principle of life, antecedent to a exercises of life, we cannot; nor can we infer any conclusions about its nature from any exercises of the heart, if it include neither idea nor volition, but is something absolutely antecedent to both) then we shall be in danger of a superstructure, as unintelligible as the basis upon which we build. Thus some have wildly dreamed, that the principle of spiritual life may exist in the soul without any act or exercise of life, as a taste, which lies dormant until a proper object be applied to it; and if it may exist thus one moment, why not two? and if two, why not a minute and so on, till they bring the supposition to hours, days, months, and years; and so a regenerate person may still continue an unbeliever, and of consequence, in an unjustified state: and I see not why it would not be as easy to continue the supposition till death, and to send him to hell, with his dormant principle along with him. Thus the cause of vital religion is greatly disserved.
But if we attend to the plain practical views the scriptures give us of this matter, consider the exercises of divine life, which discover the happy change produced in regeneration, and trace
these to their first principle, which, from the nature of these ex. ercises, we conclude to be something of the same nature with them; to be a first act of the series of acts or exercises that follow after, which the holy spirit causes the soul to exert; (i. e. causes it to live) we are in no danger of any fatal mistake. In this way, the heart will be more likely to feel itself interested; and thus people become more solemn and exercised in examining and judging the state of their own souls; and that this may be more extensively the case among professors, may God of his infinite mercy grant for Christ's sake, Amen.
The following sentiments of the Earl of Kingoull, on the
atonement of Christ, are extracted from his character, volume 4th, of the Scotch Preacher, written and published by desire of the directors of the society in Scotland for propagating christian knowledge.
The approaches of death, long foreseen and familiar to the mind of this nobleman, he beheld with serenity and fortitude, for his confidence rested upon that foundation which he knew death itself could not shake. No words can do so much justice to his sentiments upon this subject as his own. They were exprest to the author of the preceding sermon, in course of a long and serious conversation upon the subjec: of it, a short while before his death. As the general theme was of his recommendation, so he specified some of the particular topics which he wished to be introduced in it, particularly the doctrine of the atonement.
“ I have always considered the atonement of Christ,” said he, « to be characteristical of the gospel as a system of religion. Strip it of that doctrine, and you reduce it to a scheme of morality, excellent indeed, and such as the world never saw, but to man, in the present state of his faculties, absolutely impracticable. The atonement of Christ, and the truths immediately connected with that fundamental principle, provide a remedy for all the wants and weaknesses of our nature. They who strive to remove these precious doctrines from the word of God, do an irreparable injury to the grand and beautiful system of religion which it contains, as well as to the comfort and hopes of man. For my own pari, I am now an old man, and have experienced the infirmities of advanced years. Of late, in the course of severe and dangerous illness, I have been repeatedly brought to the gates of death. My time in this world cannot now be long. But with truth I can declare, that in the midst of all my past afflictions, my heart was
supported and comforted, by a firm reliance upon the merits and atonement of my Saviour; and now in the near prospect of entering upon an eternal world, this is the foundation, and the only foundation, of my confidence and hope."
In these sentiments he steadily persevered till the conclusion of the scene. His last illness continued but a few days, it was a wasting and decline of nature, unattended with pain. On the 27th December, 1787, without a struggle, or groan, or change of countenance, he expired.
" Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.
THE MEDITATIONS OF AN INTERESTING MOMENT.
Ertracted from the Evangelical Magazine.
December 31, 1805, shall I call it? or January 1, 1806? The clock strikes twelve; the bells, with sudden peal, ring out the old year and usher in the new. While the different periods of my life loudly resound, as they turn upon their hinges, I involuntarily exclaim, “ Thus passes Time!—thus Eternity advances!" I feel myself at this moment as on the isthmus, where, standing between both, I contrast Eternity, on which I am entering, with Time, when it is decreed to last no longer. Time then appears as a glass, which has poured forth its rapid stream, and now stops exhausted; F.ternity presents an ocean of infinite expanse, which knows no shore nor ebb.
In Time I see the abode of Ephemeræ, the passing creatures of a moment. There all things are born but to die; appear only to vanish. Brass corrodes, marble crumbles, and the whole scene passes as the figures of a magic lantern: but Eternity I confess the residence of durability, the dwelling-place of Him who is, and who was, and who is to come, the “I AM.” Around his throne, or crushed beneath his feet, are myriads of beings, who know no change; but feel their doom for ever sealed.
Through all the shifting scenes of Time, I contemplate crowds of probationers, some wishing, others dreading, and all expecting to change their fortunes. I see the colour of unknown ages, depending upon the moment which is now upon the wing. In one spot, I observe a few who feel the awful ground on which they stand, and anticipating the infinite consequences of this truth, bear on their countenances the serious impression: but on every other side, nothing is seen but a drunken oblivion, which swallows