Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

explicitly declare, that the new birth takes place in the administration of that holy sacrament,

viate certain objections, "baptism is (as circumcision was) the outward sign of regeneration. But they who are satisfied with the outward sign, without the inward spiritual grace, should return to school or to the nursery, and learn over again a part of their catechism, which they have no doubt forgotten; for it expressly states the inward and spiritua grace of baptism to be "a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness."*

Now this concession is all we contend for. We are not satisfied with the outward sign, but as it indicates an inward grace; as a means whereby we receive that grace, and a pledge to assure us thereof. But if we receive it by these means, we are regenerate; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; members of that spiritual body, of which he is the head; in one word, Christians, and entitled to the glorious privileges of Christians, if we live according to that holy ordinance; for being by nature born in sin, we are hereby made the children of grace. We bear on our body the sign of the cross, the mark of our Lord Jesus, in token of our devotion to his service; and we rely entirely on that divine grace which is communicated to the soul by the blessed Spirit, into which we are baptized.

Mr. Scott tells us what regeneration does not signify, viz. "not merely reformation ;"-" nor conversion ;"-" nor does it consist in any kind of impressions, or new revelations ;”— દ nor are new faculties communicated in this change." So far, then, we are agreed. But when he defines it to be "a change, wrought by the power of the holy spirit in the understanding, will, and affections of a sinner, which is the commencement of a new kind of life, and which gives another direction to his judgment, desires, pursuits, and conduct;"† we cannot sub

* Scott's Essay on Regeneration, p. 200.

+ P. 303.

the expression, "seeing now this child is regenerate," has no signification; will the Metho

scribe to his opinion. If regeneration were such a complete and absolute transformation as is here described; if the understanding, will, and affections of the sinner were thus radically changed, his judgment, desires, pursuits, and conduct must needs be directed by their impulse. This necessary effect would unavoidably follow a prevailing cause; for what is there, under the divine appointment, which can influence the choice, or regulate the conduct of man, but one or all of these faculties? And if the holy spirit works such a change in them, as gives them a new and heavenly direction, then is the sinner safe and secure from a possibility of relapsing into wickedness. But were this the case, what occasion would there be for those exhortations which are addressed to the regenerate? "Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds;" for it will not be disputed, that the "beloved of God,* called to be saints"+" who had received the spirit of adoption, whereby they cried, "Abba, Father; the spirit itself bearing witness with their spirit, that they were the children of God." It will not be disputed, that such Christians were regenerate.

The source of confused ideas and false tenets, on this subject, is a departure from the true meaning of scriptural terms, and thence a misapprehension of scriptural doctrines, accompanied with a great deal of contradiction. Mr. Scott had formally declared that "regeneration does not merely signify a reformation of the outward conduct, or a ceasing from vice to practise virtue."-" Nor does it consist in any kind of impressions or new revelations."-Yet he tells us, the regenerated person " possesses, as it were, a whole system of sensations, of which he formerly had no conception," and speaks of him as a "person who has recently experienced this saving

Romans xii. 2.

† i. 7.

↑ viii. 15, 16.

dists say that one new birth is insufficient, and urge that it must be repeated? That is not

66

change." Thus reducing it to feeling and experience. He says again, we must be changed, or we cannot be either holy or happy." This is very true in a general sense, for we must repent, or perish." But as the phrase is intended here to express regeneration, it is misapplied.

The introduction to Christianity, under the influence of the Holy Ghost in the baptismal covenant, which is properly termed regeneration, does not necessarily produce this happy effect; which if it do ensue, is not regeneration, but repentance. The renewal of the mind is not inherent in the new birth, but consequent upon it; and results from those means of grace, when they are productive of their due effect. But. why should the word regeneration be interpreted, as inevitably involving them? All the arguments for divine grace may be urged without straining that word to imply what it does not imply, in the language of holy writ. And the occasion which is given to the fanataçism of the credulous and the blasphemy of unbelievers, by resolving the new birth into sensations and experience, should restrain its advocates from countenancing such chimerical fancies as bring discredit on their profession, and injure the holy cause which they so vehemently endeavour to promote.

It is but justice, however, to Mr. Scott, to observe that he has objected to those delusions which prevail almost universally among the more ignorant part of his peculiar disciples, and which are supported, it may be feared, although unintentionally by his own opinions. "Regeneration," he very truly says, in a passage already quoted, "does not consist in any kind of impressions or new revelations; any successions of terrors, or consolations; or any whisper, as it were, from God to the heart, concerning his secret love, choice, or purpose to save us. Many such experiences have been related by those who still evidently continued the slaves of sin; and "Satan

agreeable to scripture, or to common sense, unless they intend to argue, that by relapsing into sin we become dead unto righteousness and forfeit the privileges of the new birth, which can only be recovered by repentance, through the assistance of the holy spirit; and this we readily

transformed into an angel of light," has done immense mischief in this way: for the confidence of these persons seems in general, to be rather the effect of delusion and self-flattery, than an express design of imposing upon other men. Some of these things indeed (as terror, and consolation succeeding it,) commonly accompany a saving change; others, which are evidently enthusiastic, may, nevertheless, be found in the case of some who are really born of God: yet they are neither regeneration itself, nor any effect or evidence of it; but rather a disgraceful and injurious appendage to it, arising from human infirmity and the devices of Satan." *

How pleasant it is to see a ray of truth break through the clouds of error! But what a sad reverse to find "the fathers and our pious reformers" traduced, in order to weaken the argument drawn from their authority. "Indeed, the fathers, as they are called, (that is, the teachers of the christian church, during some ages after the death of the apostles) soon began to speak on this subject in unscriptural language: and our pious reformers, from an undue regard to them and to the circumstances of the times, have retained a few expressions in the liturgy, which not only are inconsistent with their other doctrines, but also tend to perplex men's minds and mislead their judgment on this important subject."+ To such censorious remarks on those wise and holy men, does a minister of the church of England descend, as a cover for his dereliction' of that doctrine which their superior knowledge of the truth has sanctioned and affirmed.

[blocks in formation]

admit, but we apprehend something more is implied in " that efficacious supernatural call, which they term regeneration."

The reasoning pursued by the author above mentioned, and the instances brought forward in confirmation of it, are exactly suited to the opinions he maintains. After having said, that very frequently the objects of mercy are some of the vilest and most notorious for their sinful and profligate lives and conversation, and having instanced Manasseh, and Mary Magdalen, and the thief upon the cross, he adds in a note, "The work of the Lord is the same now that it was then, and the spiritual operation of his grace must display itself now in the conversion of notorious sinners, as much as it did formerly." There are very many living witnesses to this truth, who may be addressed by their spiritual pastors and teachers in the same language which St. Paul used to his Corinthian converts: "And such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the spirit of our God."-1 Cor. vi. 11.

An example and text of scripture are thus cited in a manner which tends to encourage the most notorious sinners, and to sanction the absolution pronounced on them by these Protestant Popes. Now, first let us take the scriptural account, and then the inference which they draw from it. The history of Manasseh will be found,

« AnteriorContinuar »