THEOLOGY;

EXPLAINED AND DEFENDED

IN A

 

 

SERIES OF SERMONS;

BY

 

 

TIMOTHY DWIGHT, S. T. D. LL. D.

LATE PRESIDENT OF YALE COLLEGE.

WITH A

MEMOIR

OF

 

THE LIFE OF THE AUTHOR.

IN FOUR VOLUMES

 

NINTH EDITION.

VOL. II.

 

 

NEW HAVEN:

PUBLISHED BY T. DWIGHT & SON,

AND SOLD BY LEAVITT, LORD & CO.

180 BROADWAY, NEW YORK.

1836.

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DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT, ss.

BE it remembered, that on the fifth day of January, in the forty second year of the Independence of the United States of America, Timothy Dwight, and William T. Dwight, both of said District; Administrators of the Rev. Timothy Dwight, now deceased, and late of the said District, have deposited in this office the title of a book, the right whereof they claim as Administrators as aforesaid, and Proprietors, in the words following, to wit:

Theology; explained and defended, in a Series of Sermons; by Timothy Dwight, T. D., LL. D. late President of Yale college. With a Memoir of the Life the Author,. in five Volumes. Vol 2.íí

In conformity to the Act of the Congress of the United States, entitled, " An Act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the authors arid proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned."

R.I. INGERSOLL,

Clerk of the District of Connecticut.

 

A true copy of Record, examined and sealed by me.

R.I. INGERSOLL,

Clerk of the District of Connecticut.

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SERMON LXXII.

REGENERATION.óTHE AGENT.óHIS AGENCY.

 

 

 

TITUS iii. 5.ó.Not by works of righteousness, which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.

 

IN a preceding discourse, I proposed to enter upon an inquiry into the great subject of Regeneration under two principal heads:

I. The .agent in this work; and,

II. The Work itself.

The former of these subjects I proposed to discuss under these heads:

I. The Character of the Agent; and,

II. His agency.

The Character of the Agent I have already examined.

In investigating his Agency I propose to consider,

I. The Fact;

II. Its Nature;

III. Its Necessity; and,

IV. The Objections to it.

It will be observed, that I here take it for granted, that mankind are, in some instances, really regenerated; reserving the proof of this doctrine to a future occasion, when I shall come to the discussion of the second thing originally proposed; viz. The Work of Regeneration. In discoursing on collateral subjects of Theology, or of any other science, it is, not very unfrequently, necessary to suppose one or more of them, for the time, allowed; to preclude useless embarrassment in the discussion of the others. This, however, is to be done only for the time; and only for the purpose, which has been specified. It is no part of my design, in this system, to take any point in Theology for granted; nor to expect the belief of any doctrine, alleged by me, unless the arguments, adduced to support it, shall be found solid and convincing. Nor do I ever intend to consider any thing as granted by those, who differ from me, unless I suppose it to be really granted by them. If there be found in this system of discourses any thing, contrary to these principles, I hope it will be considered as the result of inattention, and error, on my own part; for no departure from them will receive any justification from me.

With these things premised, I shall now proceed to a consideration of

The Fact, that the Holy Ghost is the Agent in the Regeneration of Man.

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It will be easily seen, that the proof of this position must be derived from the Scriptures and that all the evidence concerning it, furnished by reason and experience, must be merely auxiliary; and cannot, in the nature of the case, be decisive. From the Scriptures, then; I shall proceed to allege such proofs of this doctrine, as to me appear satisfactory.

1st. I argue this doctrine from Declarations of the Scriptures.

The, text is one of these declarations.

In this passage we are said to be saved by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. The word renewing is an exact translation of the original word in this place. To renew signifies, as you well know, to make new, or to make over again. This operation is here ascribed to the Holy Ghost in as simple and unambiguous terms, as are possible.

John i. 12, 13, is another example of the same nature. But to as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God; even to them that believe on his name. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of Man, but of God.

In this passage of Scripture it is asserted, that the birth, by which mankind become the sons of God, is derived not from blood, or natural descent; nor, from the will of the flesh; nor, from the will of man; that is, not from human contrivance and determination in any form; but from God. It is difficult to conceive how this doctrine could be more clearly asserted. But if those who sustain this character are born of God, they are born of the Spirit of God. For our Saviour, discoursing on this subject in the third chapter, says, Except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God. That, which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that, which is born of the Spirit, is spirit. Here the Persons, said in the former passage to be born of God, are declared by our Saviour to be born of the Spirit; and that which is born of the Spirit is declared alone to be spiritual. So far as I can see, these passages in the most decisive manner assert Regeneration to be, exclusively, the work of the Spirit of God.

In this passage, also, that which is born of the flesh is declared to be flesh; that is, whatever proceeds from a fleshly source partakes of it is fleshly nature. The word flesh is customarily used in the Scriptures to denote the native character of man. In this sense the carnal, or fleshly, mind is declared by St. Paul. to be enmity against God, not subject to his law, neither indeed capable of being subject to it. In the same sense, the same Apostle says, In me, that is, in my flesh, or natural character, dwelleth no good thing.

A contrast is studiously run between that, which proceeds from the Spirit, and that which proceeds from the flesh; or, to use the words of our Saviour in the passage above quoted, between that which is flesh, and that which is spirit; in several passages of Scripture. To be carnally minded, says St. Paul, is death; but to

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be spiritually minded is life and peace. Rom. viii. 6. In the original, the minding of the flesh is death; but the minding of the Spirit is life and peace. And again; Gal. V. 19ó23. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness1 idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strjfe, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like : of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they, which do such things, shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. In these passages, the different natures of the fleshly and spiritual character are too strongly marked to need a comment. All that is sinful, odious to God, and the object of his wrath, plainly belongs to the former; and all that is holy, lovely in the sight of God, and the object of his favour, belongs to the latter. But that, which is born of the flesh is flesh; is of this odious guilty nature; while that which is born of the Spirit is alone Spirit. In other words, whatever is good and acceptable before God in the character of man is produced by the Holy Ghost.

In 2 Thess. ii. 13, St. Paul says, God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through the sanctification of the Holy Ghost. The Thessalonian Church, then, was chosen to salvation: How? Through the sanctification of the Holy Ghost. The sanctification of these persons, then, was a part of the original purpose of God, and a pre-requisite to their salvation. The Thessalonians, therefore; were renewed, or regenerated, by the Holy Ghost; and, by necessary conclusion, all others, who become the subjects of regeneration.

I Cor. vi. 11. But ye are sanctjfied by the Spirit of God.

In the two preceding verses, St. Paul mentions several classes of men, who, he declares, shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Then he subjoins, Such were some of you. But, he adds, Ye are sanctified by the Spirit of God. Formerly these Corinthians were of the number of those, who, continuing in their proper character, could not inherit the kingdom of God. That, which now made them of a new and opposite character, was, that they were sanctified by the Spirit of God.

In Ezekiel xxxvi. 26, 27, God says, A new heart also will I give ,you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes; and ye shall keep my judgments and do them. Here giving these Israelites a new heart, and a new spirit, is plainly, and exactly, equivalent to the import of this declaration, I will put my spirit within you; as the consequence of which, it is declared, that they shall walk in the statutes of God, and keep his judgments. The disposition therefore, with which mankind keep the statutes, or

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obey the law of God, is produced in them by God himself, and is effectuated by his Spirit.

In the following chapter God says, verses 13, 14, to the house of Israel, represented as spiritually

dead, Ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall put my Spirit in you, and ye shall live. Here

Spiritual life is exhibited as the immediate effect the agency of the Spirit of God.

To these, passages of Scripture I shall subjoin a few more, out of a great multitude to the same purpose. For the love of God is shed abroad in our Hearts by the Holy Ghost. Rom. v. 5.

Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost. I Cdr. vi. 19.

No man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. 1 Cor. xii. 3.

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the Sons of God. Rom. viii. 14. -

I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring. Isai. xliv. 3.

The direct consequence of this effusion of the Spirit is declared in verse 5th. One shall say, I am the LORDíS, and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob.

2dly. The same doctrine is taught us by facts, contained in the Scriptures.

Our Saviour preached to the Jewish nation at least three years and a half; if not more than four years. It will be admitted, that he was the best of all preachers; and that his preaching was more perfectly calculated, than any other, to produce holiness in the hearts of those who heard him. Yet it will also be admitted, that he was not a very successful preacher. We naturally ask, Why was he not successful? The Apostles, on the contrary, though certainly and greatly inferior to Christ in wisdom and persuasiveness, preached, still, with wonderful success. St. Peter by the first sermon, which he delivered to the Jews, probably converted more to the faith and obedience of the Gospel, than Christ, during the whole of his ministry. We naturally ask, also, Whence arose this wonderfully different efficacy in the preaching of St. Peter and that of his Master: The persons, whom they both addressed, were the same. They had been witnesses of the miracles of both. Why then were they perfectly dead to the preaching of Christ; and pricked to the heart, and turned to God, by that of St. Peter? The cause was not in the preaching. It was not in the hearers:

For they were the very same persons. It was, then, an extraneous cause. The event was not derived from the will of the flesh, nor from the will of man, but from God.

St. Paul preached at Philippi many days. It seems clear, that the Jailer must frequently have heard him. Yet his words made no impression upon the Jailerís heart, until that night in which he was converted. Yet then in a moment, upon Paulís calling to him to do himself no harm; he hastened into the prison, and cried out to Paul and Silas, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? A cause,

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adequate to this change in the Jailer, must be admitted here: and this can have been no other, than that the Lord opened his heart, as he had before done that of Lydia, in the same place.

Generally, to what other cause can be assigned the universal success of the Apostles in preaching the Gospel? St., Peter has taught us to attribute this wonderful event to the peculiar and remarkable effusion of the Holy Ghost in the last days, or days of the Gospel, predicted by the Prophet Joel, and begun to be accomplished on the day of Pentecost. If this be not admitted as the true cause, it will, I apprehend, be very difficult to assign another, which will be found adequate to the effect, or which will in any measure satisfy a sober inquirer.

II. The Nature of this agency next demands our consideration.

Concerning this I observe,

1st. That it is the result of the mere good pleasure of God. Whatever other reasons may exist for the communication of this essential blessing, (and that the best reasons do exist can never be seriously questioned) it is plainly impossible, that it should be merited by any child of Adam. The very-supposition, that we are regenerated, involves the necessity of our regeneration. But this necessity is the result of our sinfulness only; and this character plainly precludes, wherever it is found, the possibility of meriting to be regenerated.. The agency of the Divine Spirit in this work is therefore, on the one hand, sovereign, and on the other, gracious; or, in other words, flows from the sovereign and unmerited mercy Of our Divine Benefactor.

2dly. It is unresisted.

It has often been called irresistible. This language has given rise to very extensive, and, as I apprehend, to very unwarrantable, controversies in the Christian Church. Others, and among them men of great respectability, have more sanguine expectations concerning the issue of debates about metaphysical subjects, than I am able to form; and, perhaps, I should be unwarranted in saying that they are not more just. But, so far as my acquaintance with the views, and reasonings, of men extends, I entertain very faint hopes of seeing any solid good spring from speculations concerning the nature of causes, and the modes of their operation. The facts, that such and such causes exist ; and that they operate to the production of such and such effects, we, in many instances, well understand. But the nature of the cause itself, and the nature and manner of its efficiency, are, in most instances, too subtile, or too entirely hidden from our view, either to be perceived at all, or to be so perceived, as to become the materials of real and useful knowledge. Hence, probably, has been derived the fact, that speculations on such subjects, though often satisfactory to the Philosopher himself, and to his own immediate friends and followers, have rarely satisfied others, or produced any lasting effects on mankind. The schoolmen were, perhaps, as able investigators of such

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subjects, as the world has ever-seen; and their speculations were, at times, proofs of sagacity; and discrimination, not inferior to what has been displayed in the most boasted efforts of succeeding ages. Yet how little are they studied, or remembered, at the present time! Scarcely are they mentioned unless with pity or contempt; or as -sources of astonishment awakened by the sight of talents misapplied.

The success of these men, should, one would think, furnish a lesson to such as follow after them. They too, had their day of reputation and splendour: of splendour, far superior to any thing, which modern writers can boast or modern times will ever be disposed to give. But it was a vapour, which appeared for a little time an_ then vanished away. The morning clouds of the present day will appear for a period still less; and the system, which for the moment attracts many eyes, will in another moment be forgotten. Neither the fame, acquired by the author, nor the stability, attributed to hrs system by his followers, should, therefore induce us to rely on the desert of the one, or the permanency of the other.

When it is said that the Agency ofí the Divine Spirit in renewing the heart of man is irresistible, it is probably said, because this agency being an exertion of Omnipotence, is concluded, of course; to be irresistible by human power. This seems not, however, to be said on solid grounds. That agency of the Holy Ghost, which, St. Stephen informs us, was resisted-, by the Jews, and by their fathers, was an exertion of the same Omnipotence; and was yet resisted by human power. I know of-nothing in the regenerating agency of the same Spirnt, except the, fact, that it is never resisted which proves it to be irresistible, any more than that, which the Jews actually resisted. That the Spirit of God can do any thing with man, and constitute man any thing, which He pleases, cannot be questioned. But that he will exert a regenerating agency on the human mind, which man has not a natural power to resist, or which man can not resist, if he would, is far from being satisfactorily evident to me. Indeed, I am ready to question whether this very language does not lead the mind to views concerning the very subject, which are radically erroneous.

In the 110th Psalm, in which we have an account of Christís being constituted a Priest for ever after the order of MELCHISEDEK, we have, in the 3d verse, this remarkable promise made to Christ: Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.-This promise respects the very subject, now under consideration; and is, I suspect, a more accurate account of it, than can be found in the language, which I am opposing. In the day of Christís power his people are willing. The influence, which he exerts on them by his Spirit, is of such a nature, that their wills, instead of attempting any resistance to it, coincide with it readily and cheerfully; without any force or constraint on his part, or any opposition on their own.

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That it is an unresisted Agency, in all cases, is unquestionable; that it is irresistible, in any, does not appear.

III. The Necessity of this Agency, will, if I mistake not, be evident from the following considerations:

1st. It is declared in the Scriptures.

No man, saith our Saviour, can come unto me, except the Father who hath sent me draw him. This declaration will, I suppose, be allowed by the warmest opposers of this doctrine to have a meaning. There are but two meanings, which it can possibly have. One is, that it is physically impossible for any man to come to Christ, unless drawn by the Father: the other is, that it is morally impossible. The former of these will be denied by both parties ; the latter must, therefore, be conceded. In other words, it must be acknowledged, that mankind are so opposed to Christ in their inclinations, that they will never come to him, that is, believe on him, unless drawn by the Father; or, which is the same thing, renewed by his Spirit. It will be remembered, that God is no where in the Scriptures exhibited as drawing mankind to Christ in any other manner, than by the influence of the Holy Ghost.

Except a man be born of the Spirit, says our Saviour, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Here it is obvious, that to be born of the Spirit is declared to be an event, without which it is impossible for men to see the kingdom of God. The necessity of the agency of the Spirit cannot be more strongly exhibited, than in the declaration, that without it7 it is impossible to see the kingdom of God.

The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him-; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. If the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God; if he cannot know them; if they are foolishness to him; so long as he continues in his natural state: if they are spiritually discerned, and therefore incapable of being discerned without a spiritual taste, and character; if,l at the same time, the discernment and knowledge of spiritual things is indispensably necessary to our attainment of salvation; then the agency of the Spirit of God in our Regeneration is absolutely necessary to us, in the same sense, and degree, in which our salvation is necessary. Our Saviour declares to Nicodemus, that that only which is born of the S-irit is spirit, or spiritual; while that which is born of the flesh; viz, all that is in man, and all that belongs to his natural character; is flesh; that is, of this very natural character, which receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.

2dIy. Reason teaches the same doctrine.

The question has been often asked, " Why, since a holy mind can become sinful, a sinful mind may not also become holy? No preternatural agency," it is observed, "is necessary to accomplish the former change: why is any such agency necessary to accomplish the latter? The extent of the change in both instances is exactly the same; the one being merely the converse of the other. It

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would seem, then, that the same physical powers, which are sufficient for the accomplishment of the former, must he sufficient, also, for the accomplishment of the latter. But by most men it is acknowledged, that the physical powers of the same being, when holy, are exactly the same, as when sinful; both the understanding and the will remaining, in the physical sense, unaltered. Where, then, lies the impossibility, or even the difficulty, of the supposition, that man can regenerate himself; or, which is the same thing, turn, of his own accord, from sin to holiness?"

All these questions are in my view fairly asked; and all the principles, suggested, true. Still the conclusion is unsound, and will not follow. This, however, I am bound to prove in a manner equally fair; and the more especially as a great multitude of serious, and, I hope, good men have found, and still find, no little difficulty in their contemplations on this subject.

That a holy being should be capable of sinning seems not, in the nature of the case, to be a supposition, attended with any great difficulty. All beings, holy and sinful alike, relish and desire natural good, or happiness. This can be found in an endless multitude of objects. Of these some may be enjoyed lawfully, or consistently with the will of God: while others cannot. These however, so far as they are supposed capable of communicating happiness, are, still, naturally the objects of desire to holy beings, as truly as to sinful ones. All natural good, when perceived, is, by itself considered, desired of course by every percipient being. Now it is plain, that this good may, in a given case, appear so great to a holy being; may so engross his whole attention; may so far exclude from his mind other considerations, and among them those of his duty; as to induce him to seek the good in view at the expense of his duty. In this manner, I apprehend, the Angels, who fell, violated their duty; and our first parents, theirs. Nor do I see how holy beings, so long as they love natural good, and are placed in a world, where it is variously and amply provided, can fail of being exposed to temptations from this source; nor, if these temptations be supposed to possess a given degree of power, or, which is the same thing, to contain a given degree of natural good, and to be set fully and exclusively before the mind, how such beings can fail, without peculiar divine assistance, of being exposed to fall.

In all this, however, there is nothing to countenance the supposition, that a sinner will in the same manner turn from sin to holiness. A sinner has no relish for spiritual good; that is, for the enjoyment furnished by virtuous affections and virtuous conduct. To apply the words of Isaiah concerning Christ, as regarded by the Jews, to this good, as regarded by sinners, When they see it, there is no beauty in it, that they should desire it. Is. liii. 2. Whenever this good, therefore, becomes an object of the contemplation, as his mind is wholly destitute of any relish for it, he will never desire it for its own sake; and will never make any such


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efforts to gain it, as are absolutely necessary to accomplish the renovation of his heart. The relish for spiritual good is that state of mind, out of which all virtuous volitions spring. No volition is ever excited but by good; and by good, actually perceived, and relished. As spiritual good is never thus perceived by a sinner; it will not excite a single volition in his mind towards the attainment of it; but will operate upon him as little, as harmony upon the deaf; or beautiful colours upon the blind.

But, the relish for spiritual good is the characteristical distinction of holy beings; their essential characteristic; without which they would cease to be holy. The want of it, on the contrary, is a primary characteristic of sinful beings. In this lies the real difficulty of regenerating ourselves, and not in the want of sufficient natural powers: and, so long as this continues, an extraneous agency must be absolutely necessary for our regeneration.

1Y. The Objections to the agency of the Divine Spirit in this work shall now be briefly considered.

1st. It is objected, that this doctrine infers partiality in the conduct of God.

That in the conduct of God, in this case, there are mysterious and difficult things, which I cannot explain, I readily acknowledge. What the particular reasons are, by which God is influenced in this dispensation, he has not been pleased to reveal; and we, therefore, are wholly unable to determine. It is sufficient for us, that we know all his conduct, in this and every other case, to be directed by the best reasons.

But this case presents no more difficulty, than a thousand others, in which we do not even think of starting this objection. We might as well complain of the common dispensations of Godís providence, as of this. We might ask, "was one child born of Popish parents, and educated in all the ignorance and superstition of the Romish religion; and another born of Protestant parents, and educated under the light and blessings of the Reformed religion? Why is one man destined by his birth to be a savage; and another to he a member of civilized, enlightened, and religious society? Why is one man a native of Sennaar; and another of New England: One a beggar; another a prince: One deaf and dumb; another endowed with hearing, and speech? Why are there any beggars; any savages? Nay, why are there any men; and why are we not all Angels?

To apply the question to the very case in hand: Why, on the supposition that we regenerate ourselves, is one man furnished with those endowments both of understanding and will, and with those advantages, all of which, united, terminate in his regeneration; and another, not?

It will be easily seen from these questions, that the objection of partiality lies with the same force against all inequalities of distribution in the Divine Government, as against this dispensation.

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Indeed, the only way to remove this objection must be to make all beings exactly alike, and to confer on them exactly the same distributions. In other words, God, in order to remove this objection, must make all his conduct a mere repetition of exactly the same actions towards every creature.

2dIy. It is objected, also, that this doctrine supposes man not to be a free agent in his regeneration.

To this objection I answer, that, if it be true, and be seen by us to be true, our knowledge of its truth must be derived either from some declaration of the Scriptures, or from the nature of the subject, philosophically investigated. From the former of these sources we cannot derive this knowledge because no declaration of Scripture asserts any thing of this nature. All our knowledge with regard to it, therefore, must of course be derived from the latter. I ask, then, what knowledge does the nature of this subject furnish us of the truth of the objection? Is it derived from the fact, that this agency has been called irresistible? With the arguments derived from the us of this term, on either side, I have no concern. It is not used in the Scriptures, nor do I either discern, or admit, the propriety of using it. The task of defending the use of it, therefore, I shall leave to those who do.

Is it derived from the fact, that this Agency is ertraneous? It will not be pretended, that all extraneous influence on the mind destroys its freedom. We act upon the minds of each other, and often with complete efficacy; yet it will not be said, that we destroy each otherís freedom of acting. God, for aught that appears, may act, also, on our minds, and with an influence, which shall be decisive; and yet not destroy, or even lessen, our freedom.

Does the truth of the objection appear in the particular kind of Agency here used. Let me ask the Objector, what is this particular kind of Agency? The only account of the subject in the Scriptures is, that it is renovating, regenerating, or sanctifying. So far as my knowledge extends, neither the friends, nor the adversaries, of the doctrine have added any thing to this account which explained the subject any farther. But it can be said, even with plausibility, that God cannot sanctify an intelligent creature without infringing on his freedom. If it be said, it should also be proved; and this, so far as my knowledge extends, has not hitherto been done. Until it shall be done, the mere assertion of our opponents may be fairly answered by a contrary assertion.

When God created Man, he created him in his own image. This St. Paul informs us, consists in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness. But if God, without destroying, or rather preventing, his freedom of agency, could create him in this image; it will be difficult to prove, or to conceive, that he cannot restore to his descendants the same image, after it has been lost, without destroying their freedom. The thing given is the same; and the agency by which it is given is the same. Its influence on the freedom of the

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creature must therefore be exactly the same. Its whole influence in both cases alike, is successive to the agency itself; and must, of course, affect the freedom of the creature in precisely the same manner.

Does our experience furnish any knowledge of this nature? Ask any Christian; and he will tell you, if competent to answer the question, that he is conscious of no loss, nor change, in his own freedom of acting; but on the contrary, he chose, and acted, in the same manner, as before, and with the same full possession of all his powers; and that the only difference between his former and present state is, that he now loves God, and obeys him voluntarily; whereas he formerly hated him and voluntarily disobeyed him.

The truth is, this objection is not derived from Revelation, nor from fact. It owes its existence only to the philosophical scheme of agency, which makes the freedom of moral beings consist in self-determination, indifference, and contingency; a scheme, in its own nature impossible, and self-contradictory; as any person may see completely evinced in an Inquiry concerning this subject by the first President Edwards.

Upon the whole, the plain declarations of the Scriptures are not to be set aside by the philosophy of men. Especially is this not to be done, where the subject of investigation lies, as in the present case, beyond our reach. What the precise nature of the Agency of the Holy Ghost, in regenerating mankind, is, in the metaphysical sense, man cannot know. It becomes all men, therefore, to be satisfied with the declarations of God, who does know; who cannot deceive us; and who has, of course, declared to us the truth.