« ForrigeFortsæt »
more than that they hope they have a hope? That there is danger of being deceived as to our spiritual state, there can be no doubt in the mind of any who understand any thing of the subtlety of satan, or the deceitfulness of the human heart; yet, it is a doubt on which side the greatest danger lieswhether in thinking we are born again, from an inward impression, when we are not; or, in thinking we are, merely because our outward conduct in some degree corresponds with the word of God, when we are not. Without doubt there are many who from the corruptest motives perform in a heartless manner the externals of religion; and no doubt but thousands are now deceiving themselves with the idea that outward morality is the sum total of all true religion. But the question is, whether we have any assurance from the word of God, that we may know the time when we are brought into the liberty of the gospel That many who cannot tell the precise moment, give good evidence that they are not deceived, is doubtless true ; and it is also true, that thousands of those who can testify of the exact time, give equal evidence of a sound conversion to God. The work of regeneration is represented in Scripture, by opening the of one who was born blind. Now would it be possible for a man's eyes to be suddenly opened on the light of day, and he know nothing more than a “probable conjecture” as to the time when it was done? Would it be possible to persuade such a man to hope his eyes were opened, while he had de. monstrative evidence of the fact from every object around him? No, his language would be, “ One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, I now see.” Regeneration is represenled by being brought out of darkness into light, Can this be done without knowing something of the time? It is set forth by the healing of the most inveterate and painful diseases : does not this imply a knowledge of the time when the pain ceased, and the cure was effected? And who will say, that the more sensible part of man, is incapable of discovering the time of its transition from nature to grace-from sin to holiness-from satan to God?
eyes abled to cry
Again, an Apostle tells us that “ We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." Pray can love to God and his people take the place of hatred, and the subject know nothing of the time when he began to love the brethren?-Is that great change so slight a thing? Surely it is not. These however are but a few out of the many instances from which the same point is undeniably established; and to these Seripture proofs, may be added the testimonies of thousands of living witnesses, both in Europe and America, whose lives furnish the most incontestible evidence of the soundness of their experience. But Mr. H. attempts to prove that we can know nothing beyond a “probable conjecture,” in regard to the time of the change of our hearts. He observes, “The Scriptures have given us other criterions, by which we are to determine, whether we have been the subjects of this change." p. 123. True: but does this prove, that God has not "given unto us his Holy Spirit,” by which we may know the time when we were first en
6 Abba Father ?” This only proves, that we have more testimonies still of the fact for which we contend. But says he, “We are to be known by the fruits we yield.” Very well; was there not a time when we began to yield fruit?-And may not that time be known?-Surely it may. He goes on—" And to determine whether we bear the fruits of righteousness, we are directed to examine and prove our selves.” Here it seems Mr. H. refers to 2 Cor. xiii. 5; but what are the objects of examination there stated? Whether we “ yield fruit,” or whether we be in the faith; and whether Je sus Christ is in us? Put suppose we are directed to examine
whether we bear fruit, does this prove that we may not know the time when we were converted to God ?-Certainly not.
Once more he says" All such directions would be use less, if we could invariably fix upon the time when our hearts were regenerated.” I answer;
This part of the argument would have some weight, provided all who are regenerated are unalterably sure of everlasting life. Then to be sure, if they but once ascertain, either by an inward impression by the Spirit of God on the heart, or by the fruit they bear, that they are the subjects of this change, all is well. But belie ving as we do, that there is a dangerous possibility of losing our first love, and of becoming lukewarm, and of casting away our confidence, and of making shipwreck of our faith, &c. we think it highly important for those who can tell the very day when they began to stand, to "examine and prove themselves," whether they are now what they once were, lest they fall after the same example of unbelief, and so be rejected from entering into his rest.
I see no argument here then against the direct witness of the Spirit in our con version.
The substance of the other argument by which Mr. H. would prove that the time of our regeneration cannot be known beyond a “probable conjecture,” is this :-“Many who have professed to have a certain knowledge of the time of their conversion, have apostatized, and have given the most undeniable evidence, that they were deceived." p. 123. I answer: And so have many who have professed to have been converted without knowing the exact time; so that this proves nothing against the one sentiment more than against the other. Neither have we any doubt but many who have apostatized, were not deceived as to the first work; but they have since “ given the most undeniable evidence,” that even after we have escaped the pollutions of the world througi
the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we may be again entangled therein and overcome ; and so, the last state be worse with us than the first.
They who have the witness of God's spirit with theirs that they are the children of God, have decidedly the advantage of those who are always doubting of their acceptance. But it may be asked whether there is not a danger of being deceived ? I answer, if we remain in the region of doubt there is—but if we have the testimony of God's spirit with ours that we have passed from death unto life, and have a corresponding life and conversation, there is not ; for God never bears a false testimony to the heart of any man.
The "evidences of regeneration," adduced by Mr. H. I consider to be very good ; and have the same opinion of his views of all its effects," except one, viz :-repentance.This, instead of being an effect or fruit of regeneration, is a preparatory work for that great change. This is the order in which the scriptures place it—"repent and be converted.” Repentance also precedes saving faith; hence it was said to some of the wicked Jews, “and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterwards that ye might believe.” Againto suppose that repentance follows regeneration, would prove more than Mr. H. himself, would be willing to allow; for he does not believe that a regenerate person can ever perish; and yet the scriptures assert, that “except we repent we shall all likewise perish.” Now if when a person is regen erated, he has yet to repent of his past sins, which have been forgiven, how is it possible for Mr. H. to avoid the conclusion, that except regenerated persons repent of sins already forgiven, they shall perish! If it be said that it is true, but they will repent because they are regenerated ; I answer then, danger is represented where there is none; and to say to persons who will unavoidably repent, “Except ye repent
ye shall perish," would be to talk without sense. But Mr. H. has brought two texts to prove that repentance is an effect of regeneration. If God, peradventure, will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.' 2d Tim. ii, 25.-Then hath God also to the Gentiles, granted repentance unto life.'--Acts, xi, 18. Now, in order for these passages to prove that repentance is an effect or fruit of regeneration, they should speak of persons who were regenerated previous to repentance being given to them. Neither of the passages, however, speak any such language. In the first, the particle them, refers to those who oppose themselves, and are taken captive by the devil at his will.” The second by no means proves, that God had to regenerated persons granted repentance unto life, but the Gentile world who lay in wickedness, and were without God and without hope in the world. - No proof from these texts then, that repentance is an effect of regeneration. It is presumed that Mr. H. will not contend, that our sins are not forgiven the moment we are regenerated ; yet, we read that Christ was « exalted to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” Here, as throughout the scriptures, repentance is set before the forgiveness of sins.
The other fruits of regeneration which Mr. H. has men. tioned, he has readily proved; but the want of all proof on the above point, is a strong evidence against it.
In addition to the evidence already adduced to show that repentance goes before, and is a condition of regeneration, we may refer the reader to thousands of living witnesses who can testify, that through the influence of the Holy Spirit, they were brought to repentance before they were regenerated or born a-new. From the general character of his remarks, on this subject, I am led to think that Mr. H has mistaken the work of conviction for that of conversion or