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thing more than ignorance, if moral depravity is to be removed. No matter by what means the change is accomplished, if it is a transition from supreme selfishness to the supreme love of God, it must be instantaneous according to the reasonings already had.
It affords much support to these reasonings that the Scriptures divide the whole human race into two classes, saints and sinners, the good and the bad, believers and unbelievers, natural men and spiritual men, those who are in Christ and those who are out, they who are still under condemnation and they who are justified, the heirs of heaven and the heirs of hell. There is not a third class. "He that is not with me is against me."* It follows that every man, at every moment of his life, belongs to one or the other of these two classes. Then he belongs to one till the moment he enters the other. Were it otherwise there would be a time in which he is neither good nor bad, neither in Christ nor out, neither condemned nor justified, neither an heir of heaven nor an heir of hell. What is he then? To whom does he belong? Whither would he go should he die? Is there a purgatory?
I might add to these reasonings that regeneration is represented to be a great exhibition of power,as great as the resurrection of Christ: "The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know-what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places."+ This certainly favours the idea at least of a sudden change. Divine power is doubtless as much exerted in the gradual motion of the heavenly bodies, and in the slow process of vegetation, as it was in stopping the sun
* Mat. xii. 30.
† Eph. i. 18-20.
over Gibeon; but when men are summoned to witness a great exhibition of power, they naturally look for a sudden effect, as the burst of a volcano or the sweep of a whirlwind. But if instead of one grand effort regeneration is brought about by a lingering influence, especially if it is produced by the slow operation of reason and knowledge, it is no more an exhibition of power than the growth of a plant or the alteration of any of our tastes.
But after all the question chiefly turns on these two points.—the supreme selfishness or total depravity of the human heart, and the nature of holiness. No one who admits this view of the native character, and believes that holiness is a simple principle, not a compound formed out of pre-existing properties, can doubt that there is a moment when it is first introduced. What is the character of the natural heart? and what is holiness? are the two questions which on this subject must divide the world. For if holiness is a simple principle, and first introduced in regeneration, especially if it is a principle of supreme love to God, following supreme selfishness, nothing can be plainer than that the change is as sudden as the entrance of the first drop that falls into a vessel or the first ray that penetrates a dungeon.
This doctrine however does not militate against the idea of an antecedent preparation in the conscience, wrought by the means of grace and the enlightening influences of the Spirit. But on this subject I shall have occasion to treat in a future lecture. At present I shall content myself with two inferences from the doctrine already established.
(1.) It inevitably follows from the foregoing exposition that none of the feelings or actions or duties, (as they are called,) of the unregenerate, far as they partake of a moral nature, that is, so far as they are entitled to praise or blame from the moral Governour of the world, are otherwise than
sinful. They are sinful or holy or neither.
ACCORDING TO LAW enters into all our ideas of a
righteous governour. That some of the feelings and actions of the unregenerate are of a neutral character is not denied, but these are to be set aside as of no account. The rest are either sinful or holy. But they are not holy, for the beginning of holiness is regeneration: they must of course be sinful.
It is a credit not denied to the unregenerate that the form of their actions is often right; and if the form by itself can be supposed to be respected in the divine law, it is as far as it goes real obedience. But is the form so divided by the divine law from the disposition, that standing alone it constitutes any part of obedience? If so the form without the disposition must constitute some part of transgression; and then, in the eye of the divine law, a man in part commits murder who kills his neighbour by accident, or in a paroxysm of madness. The truth is that no action is rewarded or punished by God or man, (unless by God accommodating his visible dispensations to the apprehensions of mankind,) otherwise than as it is known or supposed to be the index of the heart. Separate from murder all ideas of malicious intent, and it is no longer murder in the eyes of God or man. Separate from prayer all ideas of pious feeling, and in the eyes of God and man it is no longer prayer. No law human or divine ever thought of forbidding a mad man to kill his neighbour; (no matter for what reason.) No law human or divine
ever thought of requiring a mad man to perform deeds of charity. It is then a fact that no law ever forbade or required an external action but as an expression of mind, of choice, of disposition. The external action, in its naked form, separate from the choice and disposition, is not required, and the action thus alone is no part of obedience, no part of holiness. But if any thing in the mind is necessary to impart a holy character to an action, it must be HOLINESS in the mind. For certainly nothing but the thing itself can instamp its own character. Where therefore there is no holiness in the heart, there can be, in the view of him who tries the reins, no holy action.
But while I neglect to ascribe holiness, I do not mean to impute sin, to the bare form of actions. In strictness of speech the form distinct from the mind no more partakes of a moral nature than the motions of a clock. All that I affirm of the sinfulness of the actions of the unregenerate is, that so far as those actions considered in both the outward and inward part, partake of a moral nature, they are sinful, and that whether the external form is right or wrong. In strictness of speech the sin lies not in the outward form, even when that form is wrong, certainly not when it is right. Yet in the popular language of Scripture, as in the common language of mankind, the form and disposition are both comprehended in the action. Now what I assert is, that the action, thus complexly considered, takes its moral character, not from the form, but from the disposition; and where the disposition is wrong the general action is pronounced sinful. "The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." He affectionately approves of the widow's mite, while he rejects the man who without evangelical love bestows all his goods to feed the poor, and then with a martyr's zeal gives his body to be
burned. He accepts "the willing mind" even where no action follows, while he pronounces the very "sacrifice of the wicked-an abomination." While "a cup of cold water," administered in love, is rewarded with eternal life, "he that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer [is] abomination;" and that not merely when he intends to mock: "The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination, how much more when he bringeth it with a wicked mind." Nor let it be supposed that his sacrifices are singled out to bear this reproach. "The plowing of the wicked is sin." His commonest actions are an offence to God, because they proceed from a heart "deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” You must cleanse the fountain before the streams can be sweet; you must heal the tree before the fruit can be pleasant. "Make the tree good and his fruit good." "Cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also." Hence those maxims inscribed on the tablet of everlasting truth, "They that are in the flesh, [in their natural state,] cannot please God;" and, "Without faith it is impossible to please him." Without that "faith" which "is the gift of God,"that belief that "Jesus is the Christ" which bespeaks one "born of God,"-no action, no prayer is accepted. "If any of you lack wisdom let him ask of God; but let him ask in faith, nothing wavering; for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea:-for let not that man think that he shall receive ANY THING of the Lord." "Ye ask and receive not because ye ask amiss," is the common reproof administered to all who are supremely attached to the present world. "We know that God heareth not sinners," was a profession of knowledge made even by the Jews.*
* 1 Sam. xvi. 7.
Prov. xv. 8. and xxi. 4, 27. and xxviii. 9.
Eph. ii. 8.
Jer. xvii, John ix. 31. Heb. xi. 6.