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find that our natural powers are ascribed to mercy, grace, free grace, at all ; and it seems more congruous to ascribe them to other perfections of the Deity, as creative wisdom, power and goodness. To this I may add, that spiritual life is always represented as communicated “ through Christ as Mediator, and for his sake ;” but our natural endowments are not said to be given through him. The Holy Ghost is shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Tit. iii. 5, 6. We are sanctified through the offering up of the body of Christ once for all. Heb. x. 10. It is in Jesus Christ that we are blessed with all spiritual blessings. Eph. i. 3. He is made sanctification to us, 1 Cor. i. 30. and of his fulness we all receive. John i. 16. But we are never said to be created for Christ's sake, or to be made rational creatures on the account of his righteousness. And when we are said to be created by him, it signifies by him as an efficient, not as a meritorious cause.
From all which it appears, that spiritual life in a fallen creature is wholly supernatural : it is of a divine extract, and heaven-born in a peculiar sense. The sons of God are born of God, and not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man. If therefore any of us continue in our natural estate, we are dead in sin, however strict formalists or refined-moralists we may be. Let us inquire,
III, “ Whether spiritual life be instantaneously communicated ? Or, whether (as some allege) it be gradually acquired by repeated acts ?”
Here let it be observed, that we are not inquiring, how spiritual life is nourished and confirmed ? for that is undoubtedly done gradually, by repeated acts, correspondent to the nature of spirit. val life, and perfective of it in the progress of sanctification, as the power of reason is improved by a series of suitable exercises ; but our inquiry is, how it is first obtained ? Whether it be communicated in the instant of regeneration, as the power of understanding is in creation? And to this I answer affirmatively, for the following reasons.
1. “ It is a contradiction that it should be originally acquired by acting, or a series of acts ; for that supposes that it exists, and does not exist, at the same time : as it acts, it exists ; and as it is acquired by acting, it does not exist. It will perhaps be objected, “ That it may be acquired by the repeated acts of another kind of life, namely, rational ; or the exercises of our rational powers about spiritual objects." But this may be answered from
what was observed under the first head, namely, that a principle of spiritual life, is something distinct from and superadded to our natural powers. Now the acts of one kind of life, however oftes repeated, will never acquire a life of a quite different kind : e.ş. The longest course, and the most frequent repetition of animal acts, will never acquire a principle of reason. Let a blind man hear ever so well, and ever so frequently, that will not acquire a visive faculty. So let our natural principles be exercised about
spiritual objects with ever so much frequency and permanenct, I that will never acquire spiritual life. They are so depraved. that
there remains nothing in them out of wbich it can be educed, without the communication of something supernatural. they ever so strong and active, they can contribute no more to our vivification, than the quick sensation of the auditory nerve can contribute to the acquisition of sight. Principles of action may be confirmed, and rendered more prompt to act, by frequent exercise ; but can never be originally obtained that way.
2. The terms whereby the communication of spiritual life is signified, as begetting, creating, quickening, or raising the dead, &c. denote an instantaneous communication.
3. Spiritual life is represented as prior to and the source and principle of all acts of evangelical holiness : and consequently it cannot be gradually acquired by such acts, but must be implanted previously to the putting forth of any such acts ; as reason is not acquired by reasoning, but is a pre-requisite and principle of all the acts of reason. We are created in Christ Jesus, to make us capable of good works. Eph. ii. 10. We must have a new heart and a new spirit, and the Spirit of God be put within us, that we may walk in God's statutes, and keep his judgments, and do them. Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27. We must be drawn of the Father, must hear and learn of him, before we can come 10 Christ. John iv. 44, 45. God gives his people one heari, and one way, that they may fear Him forever. He puts his fear in their hearts, before they cease to depart from Him. Jer. xxxii. 39, 40. Now if all acts of holiness be the effects of a vital principle of holiness previously infused, then this principle is not acquired by a course of actions, and consequently it is not gradually acquired, but instantaneously infused ; for that which is not acquired by acting, is obtained bg immediate communication from another, and therefore it does not take up time to obtain it, as a series of acts does. Again, There must be a first act of holiness ; for if there be not a first, there cannot be a second, &c. Now since a principle of spiritu
al life is the spring, and the beginning of all acts of holiness, it must be, in order of nature, prior to the first act of holiness : and consequently it is not gradually acquired by such acts, but precedes them all, and therefore must be instantaneously infused.
Hence we may see the vanity of that religion which is gained in the same manner that a man learns a trade, or an uncultivated mind becomes knowing and learned, namely, by the repeated exercises of our natural powers in use of proper means, and under the aids of common providence. We have seen that a principle of spiritual life is not a good act, nor a series of good acts, nor any thing acquirable by them, but the spring and origin of all good
Let us then, my brethren, try whether our religion will stand this test.
Hence also we may learn a considerable difference between what is commonly called Morality and Gospel-Holiness. The one is obtained, as other acquired habits are, by frequent and continued exercises ; the other proceeds from a principle divinely implanted.
IV. Our inquiry is, “ Who are the subjects of spiritual life? or, In what extent is it communicated ?
The answer to this is easy, from what has been already offered : for since it is communicated only in regeneration, then the regenerate only are the subjects of it ; and since all men are not regenerate, then all men are not the subjects of it. Again, Since it is something distinct from and superadded to our rational powers, then it cannot be proved that all that are endowed with rationality are the subjects of it. Again, since it is communicated by an act distinct from and posterior to creation, there is no reason to conclude that it is co-extended with creation, or with the bounds of humanity. And since all these things are so, we may safely conclude, negatively, that it is not communicated to mankind universally and positively ; that it is communicated to all the regenerate, and to them only. Hence result two corollaries.
1. That there is no such thing as universal grace sufficient to qualify all men to serve God acceptably, without the supernatural communication of distinguishing grace ; for God is a Spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth. John iv. 24. Those acts which do not proceed from a principle of spiritual life, will no more be accounted by Him vital, spiritual acts, than the chattering of a parrot, or the seemingly rational pranks of an ape, will pass with a man of sense for human ac. tions : and without a principle of spiritual life there can be no spiritual acts, as there can be no rational acts without a principle of reason. And since, as has been shewn, spiritual life is not universally communicated, then there is no sufficient grace universally communicated; for the latter necessarily implies the former, and cannot be without it.
2. We may observe further, That the “ best actions of the unregenerate are not properly and formally good, and acceptable to God." It is true their performing the duties of religion and virtue in the best manner they are capable of, is less displeasing to God than the wilful neglect of them, or the commission of the contrary sins, and therefore they should endeavour to perform them ; but yet it cannot be said to be positively pleasing to him. It is not the act materially, or in itself, that is sinful, but formala ly, and as done by them, e. s. They do not sin as far as they pray, but as far as they pray in a sinful manner, without a gracious principle, without faith, and other requisites to acceptable prayer. They ask and receive not, because they ask amiss. James iv. 3. So then they that are in the flesh, cannot please God. Rom. viii. 8. A tremendous thought to the unregenerate! Their whole life is an entire series of provocation ; one continued act of rebellion against the great King of Heaven.
y. Our next inquiry is, “ In what sense is spiritual life communicated and supported through Christ.
To explain and illustrate this point, let these three things be considered.
1. That “ by the sin of our first parents and representatives, our principle of spiritual life was forfeited, and the forfeiture is continued, and spiritual death brought on us by our personal sin."
That Adam was constituted the representative of his posterity, and consequently that his sin is imputed to them, I shall take for granted, not having time to prove it. And if this be granted, then we are destitute of spiritual life ; for, that disobedience may be punished, consistently with reason and justice, by the judicial privation of our power to obey, cannot be denied, if these reason. able postulata be concealed : That it is consistent with the justice and goodness of the Deity to suspend the continuance of the powers of upright moral agency conferred upon his creatures, on the condition of their right improvement of them : That when such powers are abused and misim proved, they may justly be
withdrawn : And that, when withdrawn in consequence of their being forfeited by a criminal misimprovement, God is not obligcd in justice to restore them. Now these postulata imply no contradiction, and, therefore, may have been matters of fact ; and they are implied in the scripture representation of the circumstance of Adam and his posterity, as related to him ; and there. fore were matters of fact, and consequently Adam and his posterity, on the account of his sin, actually are, at least justly might be, deprived of spiritual life.
As to our personal sin, it contributes two ways to deprive us of spiritual life, morally and physically ; morally, in the same sense that Adam's sin does, as it involves us in guilt, and so infers the judicial privation of the imperfect relics of our Maker's moral image ; and physically, as every act, and especially a series of acts, naturally tends to strengthen and encourage the principle from whence they fow; to acquire that facility in acting which is called a habit ; and to weaken and extirpate all contrary principles, and so indispose for the exertion of contrary acts.
Hence it follows that in order to the restoration of spiritual life, the moral influence of sin must be removed by making a competent satisfaction to divine justice, to redeem the blessing forfeito ed ; and its physical influence obstructed by purchasing and communicating divine influences, to weaken and extirpate the princi. ples of sin, and that fatal promptitude and facility of acting which is contracted by the frequent exercise of them ; and to infuse an opposite principle of holiness, and mature it into an habit. And this introduces the other two things intended ; and therefore,
2. The Lord Jesus, by his sufferings, made a “ complete satis. faction to divine justice ;" and thereby redeemed the blessing forfeited ; and by the merit of his obedience, purchased divine influence for the extirpation of the principles of spiritual death which lurk in our natures, and the impiantation of holiness. Hence the regeneration and sanctification, as well as the salva. tion of his people, are ascribed to his merits and death.
We are sanctified through the offering up of the body of Christ. Heb. x 10, And the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered up himself, without spot, to God, purges the conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Heb. ix. 14. He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself of peculiar people, zealous of good works. Titus ii. 14. Hence our old man is said to be crucified with him, Rom. vii. 6. and we to be VOL. II.