« ForrigeFortsæt »
regeneration. I apprehend, also, that the, sentiment, (that repentance is an effect of regeneration) has been adopted rather from human reasoning than from the word of God. The argument seems to be this :-No unregenerate man can do a good act. But repentance is a good act--therefore, no unregenerate man can repent. Now the first of the above propositions, it is believed will be found to be defective ; for although an unregenerate man, unassisted by the spirit of God, cannot do a good act, or think a good thought, yet by the assistance of that spirit, which “ teaches all men the denying of ungodliness and worldly lusts," we may repent and do works meet for repentance. Again, faith in Christ is an evangelical or good act, yet it is set forth as a condition of justification. It must then precede that justification of which it is a condition ; of course we may, by the assistance of divine graće, perform evangelical or good acts before regeneration. But it may be said that if this be so, we have whereof to glory. By no means, unless we could perform these acts by natural ability, without divine grace-then it would be true ; but as all is of grace, every mouth is stopped.
“My mouth as in the dust I hide,
SECTION tenth, of the Christian's Instructer, contains the remarks of Mr. H. upon this subject; and it would seem that the absurd notion, that sinners have a natural ability to do what God requires, and at the sane time a moral ina.
opposes the first, has been so often and so fully refuted, that our opponents feel unwilling to come out plainly and avow it. Hence, Mr. H. has not professedly discussed but one side of the question ; i. e. whether the sinner has power, by nature, to comply with the terms of life.The circumlocution, also, which marks the investigation of this subject by our author, shows but too plainly, that he was sensible he had undertaken a most difficult task.--A lask which few presume to undertake. Nevertheless the subject is of considerable importance, as the decision of it is in some measure to decide whether we are to be saved by the grace of God, or, by our own natural ability. If by the former, the merit of works is excluded, and with it all boasting ; but if by the latter, it will admit of a doubt whether we are to be saved wholly by grace. The first question under this head is as follows :-" Has the sinner, by nature, power to comply with the terms of life.” p. 148. Mr. H. assumes the affirmative of this question, that sinners have power, by nature, to comply with the terms of salvation ; and after spending more than three pages on the phraseology of terms, attempts to prove the position which he takes.
Before we proceed to the examination of this subject, it is necessary to understand the meaning of the terms natural ability. Mr. H. acknowledges (as well he may, for there is no such thing, that we have no ability or power independent of God. It seems then, that there are two kinds of power or ability, given to mankind. The one, is peculiarly and emphatically a natural ability ; for it is given in the order of nature, The other is peculiarly and emphatically a moral or gracious ability; for it is given in the order of grace, and is a supernatural or divine influence of the Spirit of God on the heart. Titus ii, 11, 12.. By natural ability I mean the understanding, will, conscience, memory, affec
tions, desires, &c. with all the muscular powers of the body, such as speech, hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, with the use we have of our hands and feet. These, we all agree, are natural abilities. Some of these we have in common with other animals ; some of them are peculiar to us as men. These we have, and exercise, in dependence on the goodness and mercy of God. The question, then, is not whether we have natural abilities, nor whether these abilities should be employed in the service of God, but whether, with these, and without the supernatural agency of the Holy Ghost, the sinner can comply with the terms of salvation.If he can, (which Mr. H. contends,) I see not but salvation is of works. But if it be admitted that he cannot, then two important points are gained. 1. That salvation is wholly of grace. 2. That man with all his natural ability, cannot do what is required of him without the special influence of the Holy Spirit.
It will not be contended, it is presumed, that the influence of the divine spirit, by which the sinner is enabled to com. ply with offered mercy, is a natural ability. This all must allow, is of a gracious or moral character. But if that influ. ence is not absolutely necessary, to enable the sinner to repent, the words of Christ cannot be understood. CAN come to me, except the Father, mhich hath sent me, draw him.” Again, if we have ability, by nature, to comply with the terms of life, without grace, why has not some one ever done it? It is presumed the man cannot be found who has obtained salvation, who will not acknowledge, that all the good he has obtained or done, was by the grace of God. But Mr. H. has brought forward a nuniber of texts, which he supposes his opponents would produce as evidence çf the real inability of the sinner; but there is but one (the above text, John vi, 44,) out of the whole, which I should
have thought of producing as evidence of the point. All his arguments, therefore, drawn from these texts, are wide from the point of controversy. He found it, however, far more difficult to do away the force of the above text, than that of the others. He could easily show, that the others only proved a "determined unwillingness ; " but a few assertions of his, will hardly prove, that the sinner can come to Christ without the drawings of the Father. He attempts however, to show, that the words “no man can come,” &c. in the passage under consideration, is nearly or quite the same with,“ ye will not come to me that ye might have life.” But to any unprejudiced person, a comparison of the two places is abundantly sufficient to show, that cannot, and will no!, are of widely different meanings, as used by our Saviour. If they cannot come without the drawings of the Father, they are certainly not to blame for not coming while they have not those drawings ; but if it can be proved that they have those drawings, then from the whole, it is proved, 1. that the sinner has not natural ability sufficient to comply with the terms of life, without the influences of the Holy Spirit. 2. That all are favored with these gracious influen
3. That if any refuse to come to Christ, is because they will not, and of course are guilty. Now here is the proof of this doctrine—“ And I if I be listed up from the earth, will draw all men unto nie.” “ The grace of God that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men.” The conclusion is unavoidable; the real inability of the sinner, without the drawings of the Father, is abundantly established, and his guilt, from rejecting the council of God agains himself, and resisting the drawings of the Holy Ghost.--Another text to the same point is the following - " He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons
of God.” Here, it seems, they had no power to become the sons of God, until it was given them. But it may be said, that it was by natural ability that they received him. I answer, that needs proof. By whatever power they received him, it is certain they had no power to become the children of God, until it was given to them : and it is farther certain, that they received this power after they had, in some sense, received him. If, therefore, it was natural ability by which they became the sons of God, they had it not previous to their reception of him.
Again—the same point is abundantly established from Rom. v, 6, “For when we were yet without strength Christ died for the ungodly." No words can be more explicit than these. They prove beyond the possibility of contradiction, that mankind have no power to comply with the terms of salvation, but what is afforded through the death of Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. When he undertook the glorious work of redemption, he found us without strength.' No doctrine, then, is more expressly taught in the word of God, than that man is utterly helpless, in himself. Hence, the words of our Saviour" Without me ye can do nothing." But let us examine the arguments by which Mr. H. would prove that the sinner has, by nature, all the ability which he needs, to comply with the terms of salvation. The first is as follows .--That kind of inability under which sinners are said to labor, in the scriptures, is represented as their crime.” p: 152. And then, to prove his assertion, quotes a number of passages, which have no reference, whatever, to the real inability of man. I fully justify his explanation of those passages, but, unfortunately for him, they do not touch the point in question--for that inability which is represented as the crime of the sinner, is both avoidable and