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mously with material. But this will not do. Dr. Owen shall once more speak on this subject. He is very explicit, when treating on the subject, which claims our attention in this chapter, and takes care, in the most pointed and formal manner, to assert an agency of the Spirit, of a totally disferent character, from that which is exerted through the truth. Of the latter he says, “His operation is herein moral, and so metaphorical, not real, proper and PHYSICAL." And while he admits, “1. That the Holy Spirit doth make use of it in the regeneration or conversion of all that are adult,” he adds, “But, 2. We say, that the whole work, or the whole of the work of the Holy Ghost, in our conversion, doth not consist herein; but there is a real PHYSICAL work, whereby he infuseth a gracious principle of spiritual life, into all that are effctually converted and really regenerated.”1 This he undertakes, at considerable length, to prove, as an important point, and necessary to be maintained, in opposition both to the Pelagian and SemiPelagian heresies. We can discern, however, an influence of the Holy Spirit, which is effectual, and operates, certainly, to secure the choice of the will, through the influence of truth, over and above that mere providential presentation of the truth, which leaves to the will the liberty of indifference, without finding it necessary to combat the Pelagian heresy, by maintaining such a monstrous absurdity, as that of physical Regeneration.
The ideas of physical depravity, and power, or ability, in the faculties themselves, were so interwoven with this writer's system, that he seems to assume it throughout that there is, and can be, no other way of effectually influencing and bringing the sinner to holy exercises, but by an actual effort of creative power on the part of God terminating on the abstract physical constitution of the
1. Owen on the Spirit, vol. 1, p. 176.
moral being-renovating or reinvigorating the very fuculties, so that He may be said to have literally created the very willing of the sinner to come to Christ. "God worketh in us to will and to do. The acl therefore itself of willing in our conversion,” he says, “is of God's operation: and although we will ourselves, yet it is he who causeth us to will by working in us both to will and to do.” “Yet is not the will able to apply itself unto one spiritual act thereof, without an ability wrought immediutely in it by the power of the Spirit of God; or rather unless the Spirit of God by his grace effect the act of willing in it."
We refer the reader to the quotation in the note below, and pass to the consideration of some passages of Scripture, which seem to favor the idea of a physical efficiency of the Spirit in the work of conversion, and which are commonly cited in proof of it. And the FIRST we notice, is that numerous class, which speak of faith, repentance, and other christian graces, as the gifts of God. “To you it is GIVEN on the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake. "3 On this verse Dr. Owen remarks: "To believe on Christ, expresseth saving faith itself. This is given to us. And how is it given to us? even by the power of God working in us "to will
1. Owen on the Spirit, vol. 1. p. 478, 488.
2. This first act of willing, may be considered two ways. (1.) As it is wrought in the will subjectively, and so it is formally only in that faculty. And in this sense, the will is merely passive, and only the subject moved or actiiated. And, in this respect, the act of God's grace in the will, is an act of the will. But (2.) It may be considered, as it is efficiently also in the will, as being actuated, it acts itself. So it is from the will as its principle, and is a vital act thereof, which gives it the nature of obedience. Thus the will
, in its own nature, is mobilis fit and meet to be wrought upon by the grace of the Spirit, to faith and obedience; with respect unto the creating act of grace, working faith in us; it is nota moved and actuated thereby. And, in respect of its own illicit act, as it is so actuated and moved, it is morens, the next efficient cause thereof.–Owen on the Spirit, vol. 1, p. 498.
3. Thil. i 20.
and to do of his own good pleasure." It is certain that every giving of a benefit does not imply a physical efficiency producing it. God is said to have so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him might not perish but have everlasting life." Tiere it does not mean an eficiency producing any exercise, but the authoritative grant of God, which He has been pleased to make of His Son as a Saviour for a lost and guilty world. The word indeed sometimes means to convey or invest with some right or benefit, but even here it does not always denote the idea of eficient power.
But it will be said;—the very character of the Being contemplated, is such as necessarily implies, in the present case, an efficient exercise of power on the part of God; for faith is something which had no previous existence, and must, therefore, be produced before it can be said to be given. It is true that faith and repentance have no existence in the unrenewed sinner. But what are they? They are not substances. The Aristotelian philosophy, and the dreams of the realists are of no authority in the church of God. Faith and repentance are acts of the thinking, feeling, conscious being, and they must bc voluntary too, or they want an essential feature. To say, then, that God, by an act of physical efficiency, gives faith and repentance to a man, is, in other words, to say, that He produces or creates the very acts themselves. And accordingly Dr. Owen does not hesitate to assert as much, “The act of God working faith in us, he says, is a creating act."
We confess ourselves at a loss to know what is meant by the word create in this application, as literally understood. The acts of an existing being are not properly and literally creations: nor can they, in any literal sense, be called such, else God may be said to create his own. The 1 Phil. i. 13.
2 John, üi. 16. 3 Owen on the Spirit, v. í. p. 496..
views of the author just quoted, which in our youthful days we thought were too profound for our comprehension, are too mystical for us still. “The will, therefore,” says he, “is not forced by any power put forth in grace, in that way wherein it is capable of making opposition unto it, but the prevalency of grace is of it, as it is internal, working really and physically, which is not the object of the will'sopposition; for it is not proposed unto it, as that which it may accept or refuse, but worketh effectually in it.” “This internal efficiency of the Holy Spirit on the minds of men, as to the event is infallible, victorious, irresistible, or always efficacious. "2
The meaning of these, and such like declarations, which we meet with in the writings of this and of other divines of the same school, must be, if we can at all apprehend their design, that God, by an effort of physical power, creates a faculty to will spiritually in regenerate man, and by simple physical power puts that faculty in motion. Thus God's effective governmeot of mind, is made that of physical force, and in no wise different from that of the material creation. The accountability of the creature is destroyed and by a parity of reasoning, the acts of the mind 1 Owen on the Spirit, v. i. p. 494.
2 Idem, v. i. p. 491. 3 The will in the first act of conversion (as even sundry of the schoolmen acknowledge) acts not but as it is acted, moves not but as it is wored, and therefore is passive therein in the sense immediately to be explained: and if this be not so, it cannot be avoided, but that the act of our turning unto God is a mere natural act, and not spiritual or gracious. For it is an · act of the will, not enabled thereunto antecedently by grace. Whercfore it must be granted, and it shall be proved, that, in order of nature, the acting of grace in the will, in our conversion, is antecedent unto its orn acting; though in the same instant of time wherein the will is moved, it moves, and when it is actuated it acts itself, and preserves its ow'n liberty in its exercise. There is, therefore, herein, an inward almighty secret act of the power of the Holy Ghost, producing in us the will of conversion unto God, so actuating our wills, as that they also act themselves, and that freely. Owen on the Spirit, v. i. 494.
being literal creations, God Himself becomes the Great Creator of unholy as well as holy volitions, and consequently, according to this doctrine of efficiency, is the greatest and the only real sinner in the universe!!!
We can and do, in the ordinary language of common sense, understand very well such expressions, as that of giving faith, and giving repentance, without any physical efficiency in creuling the acts or exercises of faith and repentance. Were sve to maintain that God grants to this and the other man, that the mind and heart shall be disentangled from prejudice, and brought to perceive and believe what Ile says, and that to this very end, He is eas. ed to exert a very special agency. by His Spirit, adapted to the ordinary laws of human thought and feeling, throwing around them such objects, exciting such feelings, presenting such truth, and making such appeals, and that with so much point, pathos, and power of influence, as to induce them to believe and repent, who does not see, that we might, just as legitimately, yea, and with far greater semblance of grace, say;—to such it is given to believe-to them hath God granted repentance? In all this there is no physical efficiency: and yet the specialty and moral power of God's gracious interposition and influence are very apparcot.
We see a benevolent individual, whose property has heen injured by a company of thoughtless and wicked youth, and some of it fraudulently carried away. They are all known to him. His safety and reputation require, that such conduct should not pass unnoticed. He has it in his power to adduce proof against every one, and may put the law in force, and let it take its course. But He is not disposed at once to do so. The natural benevolence of his heart, is sustained by the interference of another, so that, in so far as his honour and reputation are concerned, tiey may all be forgiven. Accordingly he apprises them