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2. We see how groundless the objection of Godwin is to the Scriptures; viz. That they lay an improper and unwarrantable stress on Faith.
Faith, it is well known, is the great condition of acceptance with God, proposed in the Gospel : as Unbelief is of final rejection. To this scheme Godwin objects, as unreasonable and absurdu But if the account here given of this attribute be just, the absurdity will be found to lie, not in the Scriptural scheme, but in the objection. It has, if I mistake not, been shown in this discourse, that without Union to God, and cordial Obedience to his Will, we cannot enjoy rational and enduring good; and that without Evangelical Faith, no such Union, and no such Obedience, can exist. The Faith of the Gospel is, therefore, of all possible importance to man; of as much importance as his whole well-being; involving every thing which is desirable or useful. Had the Scriptures, therefore, laid less stress upon this subject; it would have been an unanswerable objection to the religious system, which they contain.
The contrary character of distrust, which is plainly the native character of man, is obviously a complete separation of any Intelligent being from his Maker. It is impossible, that such beings should exercise any of those affections, with which alone they can glorify their Creator, or cordially obey him, so long as they distrust his Moral Character. Equally impossible is it, that they should possess the enjoyment, which alone can fill the wishes, or is suited to the nature, of an immortal mind. The distrust of a friend makes us unhappy here. The distrust of God would make us miserable for ever.
The Faith of the Gospel deserves, then, all the importance, which is given to it by the Scriptures. The place, which it ought to hold in the estimation of all men, is pre-eminent. By every Preacher it ought to be insisted on, by every man it ought to be pursued, as of all possible consequence to Obedience and Salvation. The Preacher, who does not thus inculcate it, is unfaithful : the man, who does not acquire it, is undone.
THE MEANS OF GRACE.
ORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.PROOFS THAT THERE ARE SUCH
1 CORINTHIANS iv. 15.—For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, ye have not many fathers ; for in Christ Jesus have I begolten you through the Gospel.
THE preceding sermon finished the observations, which I originally proposed to make concerning the Law of God; the Inability of Man to obey it; and the Means of his Restoration to Obedience, and to the consequent Favour of God.
The next subject in the order of these Discourses, is The means, in the application of which, men usually obtain faith and repentance, and thus become entitled to eternal life.
Before I begin the discussion of this subject, I request my Audience to call to mind the import of the last discourse, together with others, which have been delivered concerning the same subjects. I wish it to be remembered, that, in my view, Evangelical Faith and Repentance are indispensable to the existence of any moral good in the soul of man, and are in all instances the beginning of that good. Particularly, they are the commencement of obedience to the Law of God; the foundation of real and enduring happiness to such as are, or have been, sinners ; and are, obviously, the immediate duty of all men. He therefore, who does not teach these doctrines, omits, in my apprehension, the soul and substance of the Gospel.
With these things premised, I observe, that in this passage of Scripture, St. Paul declares himself to have begotten the Corinthian Christians in Christ, and thus to have been a cause of their being regenerated, or born again. That the new birth is the birth here referred to, will not be disputed. Nor can it be questioned, that St. Paul was, in some manner and degree, or other, concerned in effectuating it, without a peremptory denial of his veracity, and inspiration. It is further declared by him, that he had begotten, them through the Gospel. It is therefore certain, that the Gospel, also, was, in some or other manner, or degree, concerned in effectuating the new birth of the Corinthian Christians.
If the Apostle, as a Minister of the Gospel, was concerned in effectuating the new birth of the Corinthian Christians; it will follow by unobjectionable analogy, that other Ministers are also, in the tike manner or degree, concerned in Effectuating the Regeneration of
such, as become Christians under their Ministry. Further; if the Gospel was thus concerned in the Regeneration of the Corinthian Christians, then it is, also, equally concerned in that of Christians in general.
But if Ministers of the Gospel be in any manner, or degree, concerned in producing this change in the moral character of men, they are just so far means of producing it. Of consequence, also, they are, according to that course of Divine Providence, in which they are thus instrumental, necessary to this change, just so far as they are means of producing it.
It is not here intended, that God could not, if he pleased, produce this change in the human character, without these, or any other means.
Nor is it intended, that in some cases he does not actually thus produce it. It is unquestionably in the power of God to effectuate this change, with infinite ease, in
any manner which he shall think proper. Nor have we any proof, that he has not, in many instances, renewed men, without connecting the renovation with any means whatever. But it is here intended, that this is not the usual course of his Spiritual providence; and that, in that course, means are really employed to bring men into the heavenly kingdom. It is further intended, that these means are so far necessary, as that without them, this important end would not, in the ordinary course of providence, be accomplished.
If God has thought proper to conduct his Spiritual providence in such a manner, as to constitute it a regular and orderly course of events; then our own views of it are to be formed, so as to accord with this constitution, and to admit it as a part of the Evangelical System. Our conduct, also, is to be referred, and conformed, to this constitution. With it we are to expect other things to accord. Particularly, we are to expect salvation for ourselves, and others, according to this plan ; and not according to a different one. Just views of this subject will, therefore, be easily seen to claim no small importance in the estimation of those, who wish to be saved.
In the particular investigation of this subject, I propose, 1. To show, that there are Means of Grace ; Jl. To show What they are ; III. To explain their Influence; and, IV. To answer the principal Objections to this schemo of doctrine.
1. I shall attempt to show, that there are Means of Grace.
This position I shall endeavour to establish in the following manner.
1. I allege as evidence of its truth the direct declarations of Scripture.
The Text is an explicit and forcible declaration of this nature. In this passage the Apostle asserts in the most unequivocal man- . ner, that he was a cause, and the Gospel another, of regeneration
to the Corinthian Christians: not a cause in the efficient sense, but the instrumental. In other words, he declares that himself, and the Gospel, were Means of their regeneration. It cannot be said here, that the Apostle and the Gospel were, to these Christians, means of edification; or of their advancement in holiness, after they were regenerated. This subject is not even hinted at in the passage. The birth is not any part of the growth, subsequent to itself. To beget, is not to nourish, or cause to grow. It is to contribute to the original existence of the thing begotten, and not to its subsequent improvement. The Apostle and the Gospel, then, contributed to the regeneration of these Christians, and were Means of bringing it to pass.
In Philemon 10, St. Paul declares the same truth in the same language. I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds.
In the Epistle of St. James, chapter i. 18, that Apostle says, Of his own Will begat he us with the Word of Truth, that we (the first converted Jews) should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
On this passage I shall make two remarks. The first is, that St. James uses the same language to denote the regeneralion of the Jewish Christians, which St. Paul uses to denote that of the Corinthian Christians. If, then, the terms in St. James denote regeneration ; which will not be denied; they denote the same thing in the Text. But the passage in St. James is unquestionable proof, that God regenerated the persons spoken of in this passage, Equally undeniable proof is furnished by the Text, that St. Paul was either the Agent, or the Means, of regeneration to the Christians in Corinth. But God is the only Agent, or Efficient Cause, of regeneration. If we deny the fact, that St. Paul was the Means of regeneration to these persons, as asserted in the Text, we must, according to the same principles, deny the fact, that God was the Efficient Cause of regeneration, as asserted by St. James. The same rules of construction will oblige us to admit both these propositions, or to reject them both. The language is the same ; and that it ought to be interpreted by the same rules of construction, cannot be doubted.
The second remark is this. St. James declares, that God had regenerated him, and his Fellow-christians, by the Word of Truth: that is, by the Gospel. The Gospel was, therefore, certainly, Means of accomplishing this event.
St. Peter, in his first Epistle, chapter i. 10; speaking of himself and those to whom he wrote, says, Being born again, or regenerated, not of corruptible seed, But by the Word of God, who liveth and abideth for ever.
In this passage St. Peter declares, that Christians are born, or regenerated, da ogs, by means of the Word of God. Of course he declares, that they were not regenerated without the instrumentality of the Word of God. What
is true, with respect to this subject, of the Christians, to whom St. Peter wrote, will not be denied to be true of Christians universally.
In 1 Tim. iv. 16, St. Paul says, Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrines ; continue in them : for in so doing thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. That Timothy would, in fact, both save himself, and those who heard him, cannot be denied, unless we charge St. Paul with falsehood. But if Timothy was not in this case an Instrument, or a Means, of salvation to them; the declaration cannot be true. For, God is the only Efficient Cause of salvation to any man.
In Romans iii. 1, 2, St. Paul says, What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision ? Much every way : chiefly because that unto them were committed the Oracles of God. In this passage St. Paul declares, that the Jews had much advantage over the Gentiles; and that this advantage lay chiefly in the fact, that unto them were committed the Oracles of God. If the possession of the Oracles of God was of great advantage to the Jews : we naturally ask, in what respect was it an advantage ? Plainly
. in this ; that the Oracles of God contributed, or were capable of contributing, to their salvation, and consequently to their regeneration. Of what possible advantage could the Oracles of God be to unconverted men; and of such only is the Apostle here speaking; unless they contributed in some manner and degree, or other, to their conversion ? This question, it is believed, admits of
In Romans x. 14, the same Apostle says, How then shall they call on Him, in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him, of whom they have not heard; and how shall they hear without a Preacher ? Every person, at all acquainted with language, knows, that these questions have exactly the same import with that of strong negative declarations; and that the Apostle has here in the most forcible manner asserted, that men cannot call on Him, in whom they have not believed ; nor believe in him, of whom they have not heard, nor hear without a Preacher. In other words, he declares the Preaching of the Gospel to be, in the ordinary course of Providence, indispensably necessary to the faith of mankind in Christ, just as that faith is indispensable to the invocation of his name in prayer. That the Apostle understood these questions in this manner is unanswerably evident from his own conclusion, subjoined in the 17th verse : So then, faith cometh by hearing ; and hearing by the Word of God.
These passages, it is believed, are sufficient, if any passages can be sufficient, to decide the question. It would be easy to multiply quotations of the same import, 10 a great extent: for this is the common language of the Scriptures. But as a long course of quot. ing, and commenting, necessarily becomes tedious, I shall conclude this part of the discussion by repeating, in a very summary man VOL. IV.