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us from the error of our ways, and lead us into the paths of the just. Yet we find that mankind have not been left to discover their duty by the deductions of reason and the dictates of conscience, but a revelation of divine truths has been communicated, by which they are in. structed in all things that they should believe and do in order to salvation. And our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath declared the whole counsel of God respecting the method of redemption, promised to his disciples, that after his resurrection he would send the Holy Ghost, who should not only lead them into all truth, but likewise abide with his people for ever. His office would be, to convince men of sin, and convert them to newness of life, by inclining their minds to believe the gospel, and to practise its precepts, and enabling them to persevere in well-doing till they attained as the end of their faith the salvation of their souls. As he is a divine person, his influences have a powerful efficacy in constraining the will to choose religion as our first and great concern, and disposing us to devote ourselves to the service of God as our indispensable duty.
But it may be said, that this is mere assertion, and that there is no proof that the origin and progress of religion in the soul is to be ascribed to the agency of the Holy Ghost. But does not reason inform us, that God is the primary cause of all the effects which take place in the physical world ? why then will we deny his agency in the moral world, which is more deserving of his superintend. ing care? If he supports our natural life with food convenient for us, so that in him we live, and move, and have our being; is there not reason to suppose, that he will impart to our souls such spiritual influences as are necessary to strengthen us with inight in the inner man, that we may live to his glory and perform his good pleasure? If he bestows on us all things pertaining to life, will he not also communicate such blessings as are conducive to god. liness? If he sustains our bodies in health and vigour, will he not minister to our souls, which are our better part, the joys of his salvation ? We may not indeed understand the manner in which divine influences are conveyed to our minds, but surely he who created our facul, ties can operate upon them by exciting such desires as shall give them a right direction, and teach us the way that we should choose. We know that the human mind is influenced by motives to do or abstain from certain actions which are within our power; if so, may not he who made the human mind impress these so deeply on our hearts, as thereby to induce us to run in the path of his commandments? Indeed, when we consider our aversion towards godliness, and the difficulties attending the practice of virtue, we shall acknowledge that the mind requires to be inspired with stedfast resolution before it can be brought to engage in the service of God with a confirmed purpose of new obedience.
Therefore, it is reasonable to suppose, that if we would not be disposed of ourselves to begin the work of our salvation, the grace of God will be sufficient for us, and his strength perfected in our weakness. Even the light of nature taught the Heathen to ascribe all their dispositions after well-doing to the supernatural agency of the Deity operating on their hearts; much more should we, who are informed that Christians are saved by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, be persuaded of the truth of this sacred doctrine. For the scriptures uniformly declare, that our first conversion and progressive sanctification are effected by the working of that mighty power, whereby God subdues all things to himself, and creates men again in Christ Jesus unto good works.—Accordingly, we find various promises whereby the Almighty engages to produce such a change in the heart and temper of his faithful servants, as indicates a supernatural agency exerted in their behalf. Thus, we read, “after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people; and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for ever; and I will put my fear in their hearts, and they shall not depart from me. Yea, I will put a new spirit within them, and will take away the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of
flesh, and will cause them to walk in my statutes to do them.” Surely, such expressions as these imply a divine influence which has a powerful effect in transforming the human mind, and rendering it wise unto salvation.
Moreover, the scripture ascribes the production of faith and holiness in the soul to supernatural agency, by which it is effected. Thus, it is said that those who receive Christ are
“ born not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” “ For, of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” Our Lord declares that “ except a man be born of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."
The apostles assert, “ that God quickens us when we are dead in trespasses and sins,” that faith is his gift, and that “ we are renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created us." These and various other testimonies of sacred writ plainly teach us, that some power superior to our own is exerted in renewing us in the spirit of our minds, that we may prove what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.-Our gradual improvement in piety and virtue is also attributed in scripture to the continual emanation of those divine influences, by which we are at first excited to engage in the service of religion. Thus, David acknowledges his dependance on the gracious aid of his heavenly Father, when he says, “ I will
“ run in the way of thy commandments when thou shalt enlarge my heart.” Thus, St. Paul expresses his conviction, that “ he who had begun a good work in his people, would perform it until the day of Jesus Christ;” and of himself he says, that by the grace of God he was what he was, and that though he laboured more abundantly than they all, yet it was not he, but divine grace that was with him.
In confirmation of these sentiments, we find that good men in every age of the church have been accustomed to present their supplications to God, for strength to assist them in every time of need. They have uniformly prayed that God would create a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within them; that he would open their eyes to be, hold wondrous things out of his law; that they might be filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that they might walk worthy of him unto all well-pleasing, and strengthened with all might according to his glorious power, and be made fruitful in every good work. And they have experienced, that by frequent application to God for his gracious influences, they have been delivered from the prevalence of vicious inclinations, and enabled to relish the duties of religion, in such a manner as to regard it as their meat and their drink to do the will of their heavenly Father. When, however, they have fallen from their integrity, and be come careless of performing their religious services, they have felt a degree of languor in the divine life, which continued till their minds were again confirmed in the ways of well-doing. If this be the case, then the soul seems to be quickened by the influence of divine grace, or suffers a partial decay of spiritual vigour by its deprivation, as the body is strengthened by food, or weakened by the want of it. The testimony of scripture agrees with the experience of the godly, in affirming that spiritual influences are the cause of that superior holiness which some men exhibit above others, and by imputing the prevalence of sinful dispositions in the heart to the perversity of human nature, which provokes God to with, draw his grace from those who refuse to comply with its suggestions. Accordingly, our Lord says that “none can come unto him, except the Father who hath sent him draw them :" "and that God hid the knowledge of the gospel from the wise and prudent, while he revealed it unto babes, because it seemed good in his sight;" ” and that he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” He gives his grace to those that ask it, which proves effectual to convert the good and honest heart, and build up every sincere Christian through faith unto salvation; while he withholds it from such as have rendered themselves unworthy of it, by grieving his spirit, and resolving to reject the counsel of God against themselves, till by following their own devices, they fall into perdition which awaits ungodly men. This appears to be
the doctrine of scripture respecting the efficacy of divine grace; so that we have reason to ascribe our salvation to the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost; while we fall short of it by resisting the Holy Ghost, and refusing to return from the error of our ways, to the wisdom and obedience of the just.
Having thus endeavoured to prove from reason and scripture, that the influences of the Holy Ghost are necessary to renew us in the spirit of our minds, I proceed to shew,
II. The nature of these influences, and the means by which they are produced.
They may be described as a supernatural impulse imparted to the mind, by which it is inclined to believe in Christ, and live in obedience to his commands. They are denominated in scripture by the general term grace, or the favourable interposition of God in converting us from that state of original depravity in which we are born, to newness of life and conversation.
Grace has been designated by divines under three characters, common, preparatory, and special. The first is that general influence on the human mind, which the Holy Spirit excites in it by the suggestions of conscience, and application to religious ordinances. The second is that disposition after holiness, which the mind conceives when it becomes sensible of the importance of salvation, and the necessity of securing it. The third consists in the possession of that faith, repentance, and new obedience which every good man attains, and in which he increases more and more till he stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.-The agent by whom these influences are communicated to the mind is the Holy Spirit, or third divine person in the Godhead, who hath undertaken to regenerate and sanctify believers in Christ, and render them meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. He hath been employed in all ages of the church to stir up in the minds of men a concern for their salvation, and induce them to make their calling and election sure.
Accordingly we find, that he strore with the Antediluvians