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“Go, AND QUICKEN THE FLIGHT OF THE ANGEL, WHO HAS THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL TO PREACH UNTO THE NATIONS."-Ser. I. N. Pr.
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Upwards of fifty Clergymeil, of five Christian denominations, and belonging to sixteen different States, most of whom are well known to the public as Authors, have furnished, or encouraged the Editor to expect from them, Sermons for this Work; among whom are the following :
Rev. Dr. Richards, Professor in the Theological Seminary at Auburn; Rev. Dr. Proudfit, Salein, and Rev. Mr. Beman, Troy ; Rev. Drs. Mason, Milnor, Mathews, Spring, Woodbridge, and De Witt, New-York City; Re. Dr. M*Dowell, Elizabethtown, N. J.; Rev. Drs. Alexander and Miller, Professors in Princeton Theological Seminary; Rev. Professor M-Clelland, Rutgers College, New-Jersey; Rev. Drs. Green, Skinner, and Bedell, Philadelphia ; Rev. Dr. Taylor, Professor in New Haven Theological Seminary; Rev. Dr. Fiich, Prnlessor of Divinity, Yale College; Rev. Asahel Nettleton, Killingworth, Con., Rev. Dr. Wayland, President of Brown University; Ri. Rev. Bp. Grisicold, Salem, Ms.; Rev. Dr. Griffin, President of Williams College; Rev. Dr. Humphrey, President of Amherst College, Ms.; kev. Dr. Beecher, Boston; Rev. Irofessors Porter, Woods, and Stuart, of Andorer Theological Seminary; Rev. Dr. Fisk, President of the Wesleyan University, Middletown, Ct.; Rev. Daniel A. Clark, Bennington, Vt.; Reva Dr. Bates, President of Midulebury College; Rev. Dr. Matthews, Hanover Theological Seminary, Indiana ; Rev. Dr. Rice, Union Theo. Sem., Virg.; Rev. Dr. Tyler and Rev. Dr. Payson, Portland, Me.; Rev. Dr. Lord, President of Dartmouth College; Rev. Dr. Church, Pelham, N. H.; Rev. Dr. Leland, Charleston, 8. C.; Rev. Dr. Coffin, President of E. Tennessee College ; Rev. Prof. Halsey, Western Theo. Seminary. Rev. Dr. Hawes, Hartford, Conn.
Ezek. XXxvi. 26.— I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I
will give you a heart of flesh. “ If I were as eloquent,” said one,
as the Holy Ghost, I could regenerate sinners as well as he;" implying that the whole change is wrought by light, with no power beyond save that which conveys truth to the mind. A similar theory, with some varieties, is spreading itself abroad in our country, and I intend to devote this sermon to an examination of the new doctrine; in doing which I shall be careful to use terms in their accustomed sense and with all needful explanations.
Man sustains two relations to God. He is a moral agent, that is, susceptible of obligations, and he is dependant on God for sanctifying impressions. In the former relation he is active, in the latter he is passive. These two relations are almost entirely independant of each other. That is to say, we are none the less dependant for being under obligations; and on the other hand, we are none the less bound to believe because faith is " the gift of God," and none the less bound to love because love is “ " the fruit of the Spirit.” Our obligations rest on the faculties of a rational soul, unimpaired by our dependance or our temper. The only evil chargeable to our dependance is, that in some cases disinclination is not removed: but if disinclination destroys obligation, there can be no sin in the universe, and all punishment is oppression, and the slightest displeasure at the murderer of a father and mother is a prejudice. On the other hand, whether we have a disposition or only exercises, we must be dependant on God for holiness, and God himself cannot help it. He cannot make a creature independent of himself. He cannot create another God.
And were we independent all would be lost. If God has no power and right efficiently to ensure the holiness of creatures, he cannot ensure the prosperity of the universe; he cannot ensure the continuance of heaven, and if you reach that world you are not certain of remaining there a day. He may be
disappointed of the end of all his works, and be as miserable as he is benevolent. If God cannot effectually secure my holiness, and I may not hope in him and pray to him for that, I feel for one that I must despair. I know I shall never do it myself. But in every case in which we are dependant, we are so far passive. If we are acted upon we are passive. We are constantly passive in receiving life, though in many of the functions of life we are active. In receiving that influence which causes either a right temper or right feelings, we must be passive, though in the feelings themselves we are active. This therefore must be true whether we have a disposition or only exercises. It must be true unless we are independent, -unless we create our own affections,-unless we do more than God does, who never created any part of his own mind.
By regeneration the Scriptures sometimes mean the change both in the temper and in the exercises which follow ; namely, that in which the man is active, as well as that in which he is passive; and perhaps I may add, conviction also. Regeneration in this larger sense is certainly brought about by the instrumentality of the word. To this I refer all such passages as these: “ Born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God.” “ Is not my word like as a fire—and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces ?" But the old divines found it convenient to divide this change, (throwing out conviction,) into two parts. 'That change in the temper, antecedent to exercise, which is produced by the Spirit, they called regeneration ; that change which consists in the new exercises of the moral agent, or in his actual turning to God, they called conversion. I shall use both of these words in the sense they did. Conviction is the presentation of truth to the mind, by the Spirit, before regeneration. Sanctification is the continued work of the Spirit after regeneration.
It is admitted on all hands that light is necessary to conviction and conversion. In the first place, it is the instrument of carrying on that preparatory work in the understanding and conscience which shows the soul its ruin and need of a Saviour, and fits it to make a just estimate of things, and to exercise all the Christian graces, when new life comes to be infused: and in the second place, it presents all the objects towards which the mind acts in conversion. Without the word, we have no authority from the Bible to say, there would ever be a saving change on earth.
I admit also that truth is supernaturally conveyed to the mind in conviction. But after the most powerful convictions the enmity of the heart often rages. The question now, is, Is the subsequent change in the temper produced by the power of truth thus seen and felt, or by the immediate
power of God? I it is produced by the immediate power of God.
The advocates of the opposite theory generally speak of truth's being employed in the form of motives to regenerate the soul. Now motives are for moral agents, but regeneration, in this restricted sense, is no part of the treatment of moral agents. It is an impression made upon a passive
subject, not as a reward, nor in fulfilment of any promise to the subject himself, nor in answer to his prayers, nor by his help or co-operation, but notwithstanding his strenuous opposition to the last, and in spite of his infinite guilt. Sanctification on the other hand, though an operation on a passive subject, in one respect belongs to the treatment of moral agents. It is a gracious and promised reward for preceding faith and prayer.
1. My first argument shall take up this subject of motives ; and I lay down this broad proposition, that nothing can be a motive which does not meet a corresponding taste. An invitation to a feast is no motive to one that is full, or whose sickly taste nauseates the provisions. There must be a corresponding taste in the heart before truth can move it to love. But the question is about the production of this very taste.
The cause of this must act and exhaust itself before the effect is produced,—before the temper ceases to be carnal,-before it can be influenced by truth.
If you say there is nothing in the soul but exercises, and no taste, temper, or disposition but the stated manner in which God calls forth those exercises, then truth can in no sense cause love or hatred, but is only the object towards which the mind, by a predisposing power, is made thus to act. Seen and felt it may be, and may produce motions of conscience and calculations of interest; but why one mind should act towards it in love, and another, equally convicted, in hatred, is not accounted for by any thing in the truth itself, but must, upon this supposition, be referred to the immediate power of God. In both cases light is equally present, and if it were a cause, ought in both cases to produce the same effect. And how is it that truth makes itself beloved by a heart that just now hated it? How can a hated object transform the hatred into love, even as an instrument? If there is nothing in the mind but exercises, all its love and hatred must be produced by the immediate power of God. There is nothing to address, nothing to work upon but mind itself,-mind without a character, without a propensity to one thing rather than another. In such a mind there is no cause of love or hatred unless you resort to the self-determining power. Observe we are accounting for the action of the mind, and must find a cause previous to the action. If there is no self-determining power and no propensity, what is there in the mind to determine it to one thing rather than another ? There is no depravity,—what should make it hate the truth? there is no holy propensity,—what should make it love the truth? If God is not the immediate cause of its love and its hatred, what is ? A mind with no propensity, no nature, what should make it fall in or fall out with any object, but God's immediate power ? Exercise after exercise comes out without any cause in the mind for its being love rather than hatred, or hatred rather than love. If there is a cause it must be in God or in motives. But it cannot be in motives where they are neither adapted nor inadapted to the mind: but to a mind of no propensity how can they be adapted or inadapted? Consider again that we are seeking for a cause previous to the action of the mind, ---a mind without propensity,--a mind, of course, which neither loves the truth nor has any disposition or tendency.