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and penalties. To these he conformed both the plan and conditions of salvation in the gospel. By these he regulates his sovereign government over all creatures and all events. Though he reigns the most absolute sovereign, yet is he also the most rational moral governor. He sees the end from the beginning. He knows all the tendencies in the combination, and all the influences in the action, of all possible causes. He clearly apprehends all the duties growing out of all possible moral relations. This perfection of attributes secures his choice of the best results possible to himself. His purposes, therefore, though sovereign, fasten upon the very end which the nature, tendency and relations of things, all well known to him, require. High above all the moving causes which are at work beneath, God looks down, and with clear vision traces all the results of their single or combined operation. He, therefore, and he only, can decide the line of direction which they must and ought to follow. Can he descend to take counsel from creatures, the mere insects of a day, who are here amid the intricate evolution of these unnumbered causes, themselves acting and acted upon in all the mysteries of every movement? No, indeed! the great First Cause only can see what is best for him to do; and he must form his purpose, and guide it onward to the issue, without a counselor. And as he only can, the perfection of his attributes is the firm guarantee that he will, direct every providential movement by the unchangeable rule of perfect rectitude. Both of right and necessity, therefore, he must reign the sole sovereign of the universe. The best possible system has been called into existence, and set in motion, and now rolls on to its ultimate consummation. This is not left to the sport of chance, for a specific purpose determines it; nor is the onward movement capricious or fluctuating, for that purpose wbich guides is unchangeable and eternal; nor is this arbitrary or tyrannical, though it be sovereign, for it is taken from the distinct perception of every possible result, and among them all, the wisest and the best is chosen.
Conspicuous amid the operating influences in this moral system, is the one we are now considering,—The agency of the Holy Spirit in the salvation of man. It is as true of this, as of all the others, that the superintending direction, though neither fortuitous, capricious nor arbitrary, is sovereign in its operation. “ The wind bloweth where it listeth," "dividing to every man severally as he will.” The Spirit of God is not the servant of man. He does not come and go at the bidding of creatures. He sheds abroad his influence when and where he pleases. But, sovereign as it is, this influence is ever guided by unerring wisdom; and never was or will be given but at the very point, and in the very manner, and to the exact amount, which truth, and right, and the best possible good, demand. It is an influence in the hand of God, to be exert
ed upon moral agents, who are under obligation without it; and among the many things that must come into the account before the divine mind, in deciding upon the consistency of imparting it, is the accountable agency of the sioner himself. In any and every case, where the effectual measure of its power is withholden, the sinner has no right to conclude otherwise, than that it has been bis own voluntary act which has rendered the gift inconsistent with the best possible result to the universe, and that, therefore, it has not been bestowed ; so that he only is responsible for his own ruin. Who then shall control this mighty influence, on the gracious bestowment of which, the existence of the church on earth, the hosannas of heaven, and the grand consummation of the highest possible blessedness to the universe, depend? When the “resisting,” “quenching,” and “grieving" the Holy Spirit among men, renders it, in many cases, a subversion of the highest universal good, to put forth the effectual operation of his power; who, but that mind which comprehends the whole, can tell when and where this agency shall or ought to be exerted? The Spirit of God is working in a world where all may come home to his favor; but if they will not, and rebel and harden under the very means designed and adapted to reclaim them, so that the farther influence upon many minds, subverts the very end of God in his government; then must that eye of wisdom, which can see all things, direct both when to give and when to withhold this gracious agency, and in the fullness of divine sovereignty designate where its influence shall reclaim, and where the things that belong to the peace of the sinner shall be hid from his eyes. God knows where the visit of his Spirit will effectually reclaim in consistency with universal good, and there in his mercy, but as a sovereign, will be send it; and God knows when “Ephrain is joined to his idols,” and then in judgment, but as a sovereign still, will he “ let him alone.”
4. It is a necessary influence. “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." “No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw bim." Here, as in many other texts of scripture, the necessity of a divine influence in the salvation of men, is distinctly asserted. But a mere knowledge of the fact, that a divine influence is necessary, does by no means furnish all that is requisite to a proper apprehension of the subject. It is important to know why it is necessary; or rather, what is the ground or reason why man is necessarily dependent upon the Holy Spirit for a new heart.
Necessity is of various kinds, according to the subjects of which it is predicated. When any thing cannot, in any sense whatever, exist without another, we say, that there is a necessity of the latter to the existence of the former. Thus creative energy is necessary to give existence to matter; and a continued application of power is necessary to uphold, and move, and govern it when created. In the same sense, light is necessary to vision, and freedom of choice is necessary to moral accountability. In each of these instances, there is no possibility, in any sense, of one thing without the other.
But there is still another kind of necessity, perfectly distinct from this, and which should never be confounded with it, viz., when one thing can take place, in some true and proper sense of the word, without another, and yet will not in fact take place without it. Thus, if the law of the land be violated,-a fact growing directly out of voluntary agency,--it becomes necessary, actually to secure future obedience to the government, to take due cognizance of the crime. If a child is obstinately disobedient, it is then necessary to put forth some influence, actually to secure obedience; and if there is but one thing which will effect this, then if obedience be secured, that one thing must be employed : it is necessary. But this necessity, it is at once seen, is altogether diverse from the former. It depends entirely upon a previous voluntary occurrence. It is the result of a responsible choice, and not of a want of power. It is a necessity not to impart power, properly so called, but simply to secure the actual certainty of an event. This distinction is not only palpable, but is the essential distinction between physical and moral phenomena.
Such is the nature of the necessity for a divine influence. It grows directly out of a previous voluntary fact. This influence is necessary, but it is so only in consequence of that which man himself creates, and for which he only is responsible. He will not love and serve his Maker; he will not repent and return to duty; he will persist in his sin and rebellion. In consequence of this universal but voluntary fact, a subsequent necessity is induced, that if any become prepared for the inheritance of the saints in light, an external and special agency must be brought to exert its influence upon them. But here, all exterior influence from man fails. No human effort, or power of moral suasion, whether of intreaty or rebuke, invitation or authority, is effectual. “The heart” of the sinner is so “fully set within him to do evil,” that all the power of man is lost upon it. Nothing but “the power of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven,” reaches the soul and bows the stubborn will. If any are renewed and sanctified, and finally glorified, the agency of the Holy Spirit must therefore be exerted: this is necessary.
But it is clear, that this necessity leaves all the weight of obligation and responsibility upon the sinner still; for it originates entirely in a fact which he by his own choice cre
ates. It is because he, a free agent, with salvation offered within his reach, and a bleeding Savior urging home his grace upon him, will still refuse, and sin on and die.
If, then, any of the fallen children of men enjoy the glory of God in heaven, he must take the work into his own hand, and send forth that effectual influence, which enlightens, and subdues, and sanctifies. When he does this, it is all of grace. God has reasons for doing it, but none of them are found in any merit in the condition or conduct of the sinner. He rejects God and his truth willfully; and then, if he becomes a convert to righteousness, the influence of the Holy Spirit is necessary, and it must be left for a sovereign God, who sees all things, to determine when and where it shall fall in its effectual power upon the heart.
We proceed to the second topic,--the application of divine influence.
Physical power may be applied through an endless diversity of instruments, and in countless varieties of degree; but it is always of the same nature, affecting only its proper subjects, and attaining only its appropriate end. We know of no reason why the influence under consideration may not be as various, both in the manner and degree of its application. Yet, through all these diversities, it is still a power which can reach and affect only the faculties of a free mo
Whatever be the amount of its energy, it must leave the subject still free and responsible. Whenever purposed by God to be effectual, it always is so; yet effectual only by producing a free choice or right moral action in the subject. Though, from the power of this influence in a given case, the success may be certain ; yet, from the very nature of free moral agency, under any degree of influence appropriate to it, there must have been combined, at the very moment of the effectual operation, ability in the creature to the opposite result. Under this effectual influence, the subject becomes obedient, not because he could not do otherwise, but because he freely chooses to obey. Thus President Edwards
says: “ And here I would lay down this as an axiom of undoubted truth, that every free act is done in a state of freedom, and not after such a state. If an act of the will be an act wherein the soul is free, it must be exerted in a state of freedom and a time of freedom.” Dr. Edwards says: “We have a power to choose not only one of several things equally eligible, (if any such there be,) but one of things ever so unequally eligible, and to take the least eligible.” Whatever else, therefore, may be true, as respects the manner in which the divine influence is applied so as to become effectual, it finds and leaves the mind free; so that, at the very moment of its effectual operation, there exists power to the contrary choice. This is as true of the effectual working of the Holy Spirit, as of every other influence on a free agent. It makes Vol. VII.
the map "willing in the day of its power;" but the very idea included in the term “willing," is that of freedom; and thus, at the moment of its exercise, it comes under the axiom of Edwards, above quoted. Whether the influence of the Holy Spirit, in its application to the mind, be merely like the motives and moral influences which one man uses in persuading another, in their application, we do not now purpose to inquire. Some have held this opinion, but their reasoning does not appear satisfactory to us. More, we believe, is intended,-a more direct agency on the heart, yet without in the least impairing activity and choice,-by the descriptions and representations of the scripture. But what it is precisely, we are incompetent to decide. This, we doubt not, lies entirely under that part of the Spirit's operation which we have called mysterious. All attempts at investigation, on this point, must prove to be only fanciful speculation. The “modus operandi,” is inexplicable. The influence exerted is in one respect the same; it is equally consistent with the nature of moral action; but there must also be something peculiar in its character or manner of operation, for it is effectual where all human effort fails.
With these remarks in view, we come more directly to the inquiry, On what is it, that this divine influence is exerted ? Not upon a non-entity,--not the creation literally of something where there was before nothing; and this new created substance or essence, put by an external agency into the man, as the germ of a new moral character. This is physical regeneration in its grossest sense, and one of the most absurd theories which can be applied to this subject, in connection with the belief of human obligation and accountability. It does not change the natural temperament in kind. Whether sanguine or phlegmatic, this is not changed or eradicated by the operation of the Spirit. The humble intrepidity of the shepherd, rescuing the lamb from the lion and the bear, is seen through all the subsequent life of David. The warm zeal and glowing ardor of “Saul of Tarsus," though differently directed, is still eminently conspicuous in “ Paul the apostle," and lives on yet unquenched in “ Paul the aged.” Nor is it an agency changing the bodily organs or animal appetites, which belong to man, as man, and which identify him with his species. Not one native sense is changed by the effectual operation of the Spirit. Not one natural propensity which belongs to his constitution, but is still inherent and active. He desires happiness and dreads pain as much as before. Neither before nor since this great change, has he been a proper subject of accountability, in regard to the possession of these natural appetites, except as under obligation to control their gratification by a holy principle. These in no other respect need changing. The holy and the unholy alike possess them, and neither the one nor the other can change or eradicate