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To enter, therefore, aright into the whole question, we must recur to the greatness and
my chief anxiety is fixed on the nature and importance of an entire renewal of the whole soul, by whatever scriptural name it may be called. Those who are fully agreed in the magnitude of this fundamental truth, will know how to bear, in the spirit of Christian charity, with the employment of terms somewhat different from those which they themselves prefer.
I have not adverted in the prosecution of my discourse to the use of the word Regeneration in the sense of external privilege merely, as Bishop Hopkins and other eminent divines conceive it to be used in the Liturgical offices; because this sentiment does not appear to militate against the important conclusions which I am endeavouring to establish. Such divines allow the necessity of an universal and radical change of nature subsequent to baptism, and allow that it is to be denominated Regeneration or New birth in the spiritual and highest sense of the expression.
With respect to those divines who confine these terms to a measure of grace universally conveyed in baptism, but not necessarily appearing, as the infant grows up to years, in one single appropriate evidence of a real and entire change in all the faculties of the soul, and who deny the propriety of calling any subsequent change by the scriptural terms Regeneration or New birth; the short answer appears to be, that it is to use the words in a sense not authorized by the Holy Scriptures, and obviously calculated to lower all spiritual religion. It furnishes exactly that plea to a worldly person which he is most anxious to discover, a plea for reconciling a state of indifference and formality and mere external decency of conduct, with hopes of acceptance with God, and a participation of the grace of regeneration by his Holy Spirit.
importance of the conversion of the heart to God, by the work of his Holy Spirit. We must seize this truth in its prominent features, and we must allow it to sway us in our consideration of subordinate disputations connected with it. We must begin, not with its attendant difficulties and distinctions, and then attempt to form a correct judgment of the mighty and general doctrine; but with the powerful and universal principle first, and then make our way through the perplexities of minor details. The heart must be affected, ere the understanding can determine aright. We shall then assuredly incline, not to the side which would lower the duty of man and the operations of divine grace, but to that which would exalt them both.
And, indeed, may I not, in drawing to a conclusion, venture to leave the decision of the subject, when placed on this practical and for the most part uncontroverted footing, to the heart and conscience of every serious Christian? Do we not find in our own cases the extreme backwardness of the human heart to practical religion? Do we not find the difficulty, the pressing difficulty, of overcoming the world, of loving God, of believing from the heart in the alone merits and righteousness of Christ, of delighting in prayer and contemplating Heaven? Is it not a difficult thing to crucify the flesh, to mortify our passions, and obey the calls of
conscience? Is not spiritual religion, that is, a vital, holy, constant service and love of God, a hard, I had almost said, an impracticable attempt? Do we not find-I put the question as in the presence of God-that external duties and our familiar intercourse with sacred topics, so far from elevating the mind to devotion and the love of Christ, soon allow it to decline into a lifeless acquiescence? Is it not a fact, that the researches of science and the fascinations of human learning, however important in their proper sphere, have a tendency to nourish pride and vain reasonings against inward and spiritual religion? Have not our resolutions failed? Do not our good intentions remain frustrated? And are we not at this moment, perhaps, far from acting up to the convictions of our minds and the dictates of duty?
Is it not then possible, waving all the minuter points of controversy, that, without being aware of our danger, we have not taken a right view of the real magnitude of a change of nature? Is it not at least possible, that if we felt more deeply our own depravity, and estimated more highly the work of the Holy Ghost in changing the heart, we might be more successful in our religious course? Would not a new disposition and frame of soul go to the bottom of the case? Would it not supply the very thing which is wanting? Do not great and con
trolling principles govern the human mind? And is it not most likely that a master-spring within a new principle of life and holiness, would lead to the very success we now want? And may it not then be our wisest course to omit smaller matters of dispute, at least till the governing truths of the Gospel have more entirely filled our souls, and till in humble supplition we have implored with greater earnestness the illumination of the blessed Spirit of God? And are we not most likely to arrive at the grand and substantial principle, really involved in the great question under review, by this plain and practical method, in a matter which confessedly depends more on the state of the heart, than on the cold deductions of abstract reasoning?
This conclusion may be strengthened by a reference to the state of the several flocks intrusted to our care. For does not the whole success of our ministry bear some proportion to our strong apprehension of the spiritual change of all the faculties of man? If we plainly call on those who are living in sin and neglect of serious piety, to repent and turn to God; if we tell them faithfully of the depravity of their nature, and of the necessity of an entire transformation into the image of Christ, and direct them to judge by the fruits of faith, love, and -other graces, whether they have been really regenerated and born of God, may we not hope
that a divine efficacy will attend our ministry? Does not God bless these and other doctrines of his word, to the conversion of sinners? Are not men reformed by the means of them, from habits of vice and sensuality, of malice and pride, of vanity and worldliness, and brought to the love and service of Christ? May not the effect produced be justly represented as an awakening from sleep, a resurrection from the dead, a birth to spiritual life? Is not, in fact, what was in too many cases wanting, obviously wanting, in the effects of the baptismal ordinance, then, and then only, made up and supplied?
On the contrary, does not a train of instruction, which, arising from inadequate views of this regeneration, addresses men indiscriminately as already true Christians, and exhorts them only to further degrees of amendment, leave them in a great measure careless and unimpressed? Do not the worldly and luxurious, the proud and covetous, the profane and prejudiced, those who are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, being flattered with high statements of their baptismal privileges, and hearing little of a broad division of men into righteous and wicked, those who serve God and those who serve him not," and being never plainly told what a stupendous thing a real change of nature is, nor directed to implore the regenerating influences of the Holy Ghost, but being treated as