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united in heart and effort for the salvation of souls, as well as the source of a vast deal of that obscurity which has enwrapped in almost impenetrable mist, the subject of a sinner's regeneration, and we doubt not, contributed to bewilder, perplex, ensnare, and ruin the souls of many. If any will represent regeneration as the creation of a new principle of spiritual life, we call upon them previously to prove that life is a principle at all. This must be done before any inference, with regard to the nature of regeneration, as being the communication of a principle of spiritual life can be analogically deducible. But this subject deserves more particular consideration, and is reserved to the next chapter.
REGENERATION NOT A PHYSICAL
Man not naturally possesed of spiritual life-Beginning appropriately to
act he begins to live-This beginning the new birth—Regeneration not the infusion of a new principle of spiritual life-Ignorance and erroneous views of some Theological writers with respect to the nature of life-Thence erroneous and vague language with regard to regeneration–Quotations from Skepp-Witsius—Charnock—Hopkins—A late attempt to screen old Calvinistic writers from Dr. Cox's charge that they held and taught the doctrine of a physical regeneration-Quotation from Turretine-Dr. Owen's explanation--Dr. Witherspoon's admission--An example of strange discrepancy between them—Quotations from Dr. Owen—The influence which his false physiology had on his philosophical views of Regeneration-Also of Greenhill-Boston—The Stahlian doctrine and Hunterian theory of life both lay false foundations for analogical illustration-A particular examination of the attempts to repel the accusation with regard to a pbysical regeneration-Quotations from Dr. Edwards—No new sense -Nor holy principle-Nor spiritual instinct sufficient explanations of the nature of regeneration-All liable to objection-Some objections against the doctrine.-1. It exceedingly obscures the grace of God—2. renders the apostle's declaration difficult to be understood, Heb. vi. 4, and 5– 3. robs the Spirit of the glory of being the immediate author of christian graces—4. has a deleterious influence on personal piety—5. destroys a sense of moral obligation-6. is based on a false assumption.
The life of the rational soul, it has been seen, consisted originally in the relative series of those actions appropriate to its necessitibilities, and capacities, in the perception, approbation, pursuit and enjoyment of the divine favour, as its true and supreme felicity. This life has been lost.
Men are naturally opposed to God, as shall be shewn more fully hereafter. Regeneration is the commencement of spiritual life. That life must have its commencement in some act or erercise which is the first in the new series. Faith, which is simply belief of the truth as made known by a credible witness, is that act or exercise of which, where God is the witness, life in the sacred scriptures is predicated. “ It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of
It will not be questioned on the one hand, that till a man believes he is destitute of spiritual life; nor, on the other that he no sooner believes than he lives. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; andhe that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him."2 It is certain that there is and must be, in the very nature of things, a point of time when the rational soul first believes the testimony of God, with that surt of faith which causes those acts appropriate to the design of God in its creation. This is not found to be cotemporaneous with the very first actings of our intelligent nature. They are directly contrary to the will and consequently to the design of God, so that man is not naturally or according to the mere developements of nature, possessed of spiritual life. Nor will he ever be without some inAuence and agency of the Spirit of God, other than that which He exerts as He is the God of nature. "You hath He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins, wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world."93
Whenever the Spirit of God excites and secures in the mind and heart of man, those acts and emotions which are appropriate to his rational soul, i. e. when they are directed to God, as his supreme good and chief end, he is re1 Mat. ix. 4.
2. John üi. 36. 3. Eph i 12
newed, regenerated, born again. And such he must be regarded simultaneously with the very first or commencement of them, at whatever period in the history of his being that may take place. He may have existed for years previously: but his acts, in the days of his unregeneracy were not appropriate to his moral relations, or to the design of God in his creation. Till he begins thus to act, i. e. to act right, he has no life: but as he thus begins, he begins to live.
This beginning to live, or first going forth of the soul in appropriate actings towards God, is with great propriety and beauty, denominated THE NEW BIRTH. For what is birth? Is it not the commencement of a new series of processes or developements in the being's existence? It is not the commencement of existence: nor of life absolutelyzi but of those actions and motions-that life which God designed should be developed in man in this world. Entirely new processes and actions take place simultaneously with the infant's entrance into the world. Its transit from its mother's womb, is the date of its life; but not of its absolute living existence. Cotemporaneously with this trausit, new characteristic actions and emotions, or processes commence; it is therefore said to live. As the air immediately on exposure rushes into the infant's lungs, which had been in a collapsed or shrivelled state, while it lay in its mother's womb, new characteristic actions commence. The cellular spaces of the lungs are dilated; the bosom heaves; the cavity of the chest is enlarged; the blood flows; the oxygen or vital part of the atmospheric air is absorbed by the blood as it passes through the lungs ; heat is disengaged by this process; the heart begins to propel the blood; circulation commences; and thence in regular series proceed the processes of digestion, absorption, nutrition, &c. whose aggregate, constitute the life of the animal being.
No one imagines that when the air inflates the infant's
lungs, and it begins to cry, as it struggles into birth, there is introduced or infused into it, a new principle of life. Yet have all its characteristic actions and processes been suddenly changed. Birth is the very first which originates and secures all the rest in the great aggregate of vital phenomena. If therefore, we cannot so understand birth in physiology, as originating a new principle, or as being a new creation, we cannot lawfully infer any thing of this sort as to spiritual life, when we run the analogy. All that we can infer from the expressions Regeneration, being born again, renewed, &c. which are terms employed to denote the change that takes place in the rational soul, is, that they denote its beginning to live, or commencing its appropriate life. If natural birth is not in reality a new creation, weither is spiritual birth. As our terms are necessarily taken from material and sensible things, we must beware that we do not attribute more meaning to them than they can in truth bear. As the infant passes from one state or mode of its being to another, when it is born, so does the new born soul pass from under condemnation, into favour with God. Birth in both cases is the mere transition.
It is going altogether beyond the analogy in the case, to assert that there is in Regeneration the injection, infusion, or implantation or creation of a new principle of spiritual life. If the expressions are used in a vague metaphorical sense, as we suppose they are by multitudes, we shall not object very strenuously against it.
But if it is employed, as it is unquestionably by some, to unfold to us the philosophy of Regeneration, or to explain the immediate effect of the Spirit's operations, we do unhesitatingly and unequivocally denounce it as unauthorized by the language of Scripture, the analogy of nature, and the deductions of science.
Perhaps the reader may be startled at the boldness of this declaration, and may at first sight, be disposed to think