« AnteriorContinuar »
will. The idea of making men good by irresistible power, almighty influence of any kind, is impossible. It destroys the very nature of goodness, which is that it must be the free choice of right.
Christ must save us then, if he save us at all, according to the laws of our own nature, by persuasion, instruction, motive, inducement. And is not this the very nature of his Gospel? Is it not all persuasion, instruction, motive, inducement? Christ saves us then by his Gospel. Its wisdom is superhuman, and carries with it intuitive conviction to the mind of man. And God gave the Gospel to Christ. "I have given unto them,” says he, in his prayer, “the words which thou gavest me.” “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.” “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth.” “The grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.”
Christ saves men by his perfect character, for it instructs, and persuades by the most powerful of all means, example. It likewise confirms the Gospel, and gives it power over the minds and hearts of men.
It leaves us an example that this should
follow his steps, and then to us there is no condemnation.
He saves us by his crucifixion and his resurrection, for by devoting himself to death, to sustain the declaration “I am the Christ,” he sealed the truth of his Gospel with his blood. By his resurrection he made immortality sure, and brought the whole weight of eternal consequences to bear upon the alternatives, the promises and the threatenings, which his Gospel presents, holding out to those who by a patient continuance in the ways of well doing, seek for glory, honour, and immortality, eternal life; but to those that are contentious and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil.
We have now reached the great object and end of our inquiry, and conclude that Christ saves men, not by expiating their sins, but by saving them from their sins, not by miraculously changing their natures, but by changing their moral action through instruction, persuasion, motive, inducement; not by overpowering the will, but by exciting it to right exercise. Does not salvation by Christ then appear to be a very simple intelligible matter, after all the mystery that has been poured over it? Does it not appear in admirable consistency with all the laws of the human mind? Does it not enable you to settle a question of infinite moment to each one of you, viz. whether you are saved or not; whether you are in a state of salva
tion or perdition? Have you been persuaded, moved, induced by the Gospel to forsake sin, and practise goodness, or to avoid that sin you were in danger of committing; then you have experienced, and are experiencing Christian salvation. If not, no matter what you believe, or whether you believe nothing, you are in a state of perdition. For the sinner must suffer as long as he continues to sin. “Christ” in the words of the apostle, “became the author of eternal salvation” to them, and them only, "that obey him.”
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word, which by the Gospel is preached unto you."--1 Peter, i. 23—25.
It will be the object of this discourse to examine and explain the doctrine of regeneration, as it stands in the Scriptures, in the Creeds and systems of men, and as displayed in the phenomena of Christian experience. The main point to be kept in view throughout the whole, and which it is our chief purpose to settle is, whether in this process the mind of man is active or passive, whether it be effected by a power without or beyond the mind in which the mind is acted upon; or whether it be an achievement, in which the mind is active, uses its own powers and that assistance, which God grants to all our actions, in the use of the means which he has appointed. We wish to know if the reason why one is regenerated and another is not, be a neglect on his part to exercise a power which he possessed but failed to use, or the neglect or failure on the part of God to communicate to him
those special influences of his Spirit or power, which are necessary to control the will and change the character.
It follows as a necessary part of that system of Divinity which we have been so long examining, and which contains the doctrine of the fall of man, the entire corruption of his nature, the consequent sinfulness of every act, and his entire inability to will or to do any thing good and acceptable to God, that the mind with its ordinary powers and assistance, cannot originate any act or train of action, which is either good in itself, or leads to any good. It follows then as a necessary consequence, that as in punishment of the sin of Adam God made the natures of his posterity in such a way that they can do nothing good, so nothing but an act of the same Almighty power can change that nature so as to give it even the capacity to do any thing good and acceptable to God.
The state of man by nature is thus expressed in the tenth of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England. “The condition of man, after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and good works, to faith and calling upon God: wherefore we have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will."
In the Westminster Confession it is said, "All