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No one is ignorant of the noise which the doctrine of grace excited in the ages which followed; of the schisin of Pelagius, and of the immense volumes which the ancient fathers heaped on this heretic.-The doctrines of grace have been agitated in the church of Rome: they formed in its bosom two powerful parties, which have given each other alternate blows, and alike accused each other of overI have no idea of this awful mystery, where- turning Christianity. No sooner had our reby a God, a God essentially One, associates formers raised the standard, than the disputes in his own essence a Father, a Son, and a Holy concerning the doctrines of grace were on the Ghost; that as the distinction with regard to point of destroying the work they had begun Paternity, Filiation, and Spiration, is as real with so much honour, and supported with sucas the union with regard to the Godhead. cess; and one saw in the communion they had These mysteries have no connexion with my just formed, the same spirit of division, as that knowledge; yet I believe them: and why? Be- which existed in the communion they had left. cause I have changed my ideas, because this The doctrines of grace have caused in this reJesus to whom I have yielded up my spirit, public as much confusion as in any other part this Jesus, after preaching the doctrine of the of the Christian world: and what is more deunity of God, has decided, that the Father is plorable is, that after so many questions discussGod, that the Son is God, that the Holy Ghosted, so many battles fought, so many volumes is God: and he has said to his apostles, "Go, written, so many anathemas launched, the and teach all nations, baptizing them in the dispositions of the public are not yet concilianame of the Father, of the Son, and of the ted, and the doctrines of grace often remain Holy Ghost."* enveloped in the cloud they endeavoured to dissipate; and so much so that the efforts they made to illustrate so interesting a subject, served merely to confuse and envelope it the
I believe that my soul shall perform all these operations when my body shall be cold, pale, immovable, and devoured of worms in the tomb: I believe it;-but why? Because this Jesus to whom I have commended my spirit, has said to the penitent thief, and in him to every true Christian, "Verily I say unto thee, to-day shalt thou be with me in paradise," Luke xxiii. 43.
JOHN iii. 8.
But how notty soever this subject may be, it is not my design to disturb the embers, and revive your disputes. I would endeavour, not to divide, but to conciliate and unite your minds: and during the whole of this discourse, in which the Holy Spirit is about to discover The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hear himself to you under the emblem of a wind, I est the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence shall keep in view the revelation with which a it cometh, and whither it goeth: so every one prophet was once honoured: God said to Elithat is born of the Spirit. jah," Go forth, and stand on the mountain My brethren, it is not in our power to dis- before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed cuss the subject on which we now enter, with- by, and a great and strong wind rent the mounout deploring the contests it has excited in the tains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the christian world. In our preceding discourses Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and you have seen the nature, and the necessity of after the wind, an earthquake; but the Lord regeneration: we now proceed to address you was not in the earthquake: and after the earthon its Author; and to call your attention to quake, a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: this part of Jesus Christ's conversation with and after the fire, a still small voice: (a sound Nicodemus; "The wind bloweth where it list-coy and subtle.) Then Elijah, awed with reeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but verence at the divine presence, wrapped his canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither face in his mantle," and recognised the token it goeth: so is every one that is born of the of Jehovah's presence. The first emblems of Spirit." How often has this subject armed this vision have been but too much realized in Christian against Christian, and communion the controversies of the Christian church: but against communion? How often has it ba- when shall the latter be realized? Long enough; nished from the church that peace which it yea too long, have we seen "the great and seems so much calculated to cherish? No strong wind which rent the mountains, and sooner had the apostles entered on their minis- brake in pieces the rocks." Long enough; try, than they magnified the doctrines of grace; yea too long, has the earthquake shook the pilbut in magnifying them, they seemed sent to lars of the church; but the Lord was not in set the world on fire. The Jews and the phi- the wind; the Lord was not in the earthquake. losophers, prepossessed in favour of human Yet at this very day the Vatican* kindles the sufficiency, revolted at a doctrine so opposed fire, and with thunderbolts in its hand, it preto their pride: they presumed on making a sumes to determine, or rather to take away, progress in virtue, that they owed the praise the laws of grace: "but the Lord was not in solely to their own efforts of personal virtue. the fire."
The rest of this posthumous sermon is not in the original; neither is there any apology for the loss by the presbyters and deacons who edited the volume. The arguments being resumed in the next sermon, and especially the sermon on "A Taste for Devotion," will, in some sort, develope the author's sentiments.
*The Vatican is a most magnificent palace at Rome; the residence of the Popes, and celebrated for its library. The learned Varro says it took its name from the answers or oracles called by the Latins vaticinia, which the Roman people received there from a god of the same name,
fants, which is va,
who was said to be the author of the first sounds of infrom vagire, to cry.-J. S.
May this still small voice, the precursor of the Divinity, and the symbol of his presence, be heard to-day in the midst of this assembly! Excite thy hallowing accents, in these tabernacles we have built for thy glory, and in which we assemble in thy name, Ō Holy Spirit, Spirit of peace: may thy peace rest on the lips and heart of the preacher; may it animate all those that compose this assembly, that discord may for ever be banished from our churches, and be confined to the abyss of hell from whence it came, and that charity may succeed. Amen. We must now illustrate the doctrine of the text, and state at large the ideas of the gospel respecting the aids of the Spirit of God, to which regeneration is here ascribed by Jesus Christ, and without which we might justly exclaim with Nicodemus at our Saviour's assertion, "How can these things be?" With that view I shall propose certain maxims, which shall be as so many precautions one should take when entering on this discussion, and which will serve to guide in a road that controversies have rendered so thorny and difficult. We shall afterward include in six propositions all which seems to us a Christian ought to know, and all he ought to do on this subject. This is all that remains for me to say.
Maxim 1. In the selection of passages on which you established the doctrine of the aids of the Holy Spirit, be more cautious to choose those that are pertinent, than to amass a multitude that are inconclusive. The rule prescribed in the beginning of this discourse, and which we shall inviolably follow to the end, not to revive the controversy, prevents my assigning all the reasons that induce me to begin with this precaution. It is a general fault, and indeed a very delicate propensity in defending a proposition, to adopt with avidity, not only what favours it in effect; but what seems to favour it. In the warmth of conversation, and especially in the heat of debate, we use arguments of which we are ashamed when reason returns, and when we calmly converse. Divines are not less liable to this fault than other men. By how many instances might we support this assertion? But not to involve myself in a discussion so delicate and difficult, I only remark, that if there be in our Scriptures an equivocal term, it is that of spirit. It is equivocal not only with regard to the diversity of subjects to which it is applied, but also because of the diversity of its bearings on the same subject. And what ought to be the more carefully noticed in the subject we discuss, is, that it has significations without number when applied to the aids of the Holy Spirit which heaven accords to men. Do not imagine that every time it is said the Spirit of God is given to man, the gifts of sanctifying grace are to be understood. In very many places it signifies the gift of miracles. Select, therefore, the passages on which you would establish the doctrine of sanctifying grace; and be less solicitous of amassing a multitude, than of urging those which are pertinent and conclusive.
logy, be careful not to injure his moral code; and under the plea of rendering man orthodox, do not make him wicked. As there is nothing so rare in the intercourse of life, as a certain equanimity of temper, which makes a man always appear like himself, and unfluctuating, how much soever he may fluctuate in circumstances; so there is nothing more rare in the sciences than that candour of argument, which in maintaining a proposition, we leave in full force some other proposition we had maintained, and which we had had some particular reason for so doing. There are some authors constantly at variance with themselves. What is requisite to refute what a certain author advances in a recent publication? We have but to adduce what he has presumed to establish in a former work. By what means may we refute what a preacher has just advanced in the last sentences of a discourse? By adducing what he presumed to confirm but a moment before in the same discourse. Now, my brethren, there is one point of the Christian doctrine, on which this caution is very necessary; it is that on which we spake to-day. Let us take care that we do not merit the censure which has been made on the most celebrated of the ancient advocates of grace* (whether correct or incorrect I do not undertake to determine;) the censure is, that when attacking the Manicheans, he favoured the cause of the Pelagians; and when attacking the Pelagians, he favoured the cause of the Manicheans. Let us detest the maxims of certain modern preachers concerning the doctrines of grace; that a preacher should be orthodox in the body of his sermon, but heretic in the application. No; let us not be heretics either in the body or in the application of our sermons. Let us neither favour the system of Pelagius, nor that of the Manicheans. Let us have a theology and a morality equally supported. Let us take heed not to establish the doctrine of the divine aids, in a way that attacks the other doctrines, as those men do; for God, who is supremely holy, is not the author of sin. Let us take heed in expounding the passages which establish the doctrine of grace, not to do it in a way which makes them impugn those passages of Scripture, where God "invites all men to repentance:" Rom. ii. 4. and where it is said, that "he is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance," 2 Pet. iii. 9; where he declares that "if we do perish," ," "it is of ourselves," and only of ourselves, Hos. xiii. 9; where he calls upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem to confess, that he had taken all the proper care that his "vineyard should bring forth grapes, though it brought forth wild grapes," Isa. v. 3, 4; where he introduces himself as addressing to mankind the most pathetic exhortations, and entreaties the most ardent, to promote their conversion, and as shedding the bitterest tears on their refusal; as saying in the excess of his grief, "O that thou hadst known, at least in this thy day, the things that belong to thy peace," Luke xix. 41, 42. "O that my people had hearkened unto me," Ps. lxxxi. 13;
Maxim 2. In establishing the doctrine of the operation of grace, be cautious of overturning another not less essential to religion. When you establish this part of our Saviour's theo
"O that they were wise; that they understood this; that they would consider their latter end," Deut. xxxii. 29.
Maxim 3. Do not abandon the doctrine of grace, because you are unable to explain all its abstruse refinements, or because you cannot reply to all the inquiries it may have suggest ed. There is scarcely a proposition which could claim our assent, were we to give it to those only whose several parts we can clearly explain, and to whose many questions we can fully reply. This maxim is essential to all the sciences. Theology has what is common to all human sciences: and in addition, as its object is much more noble and exalted, it has more points, concerning which it is not possible fully to satisfy the mind. This is especially the case with regard to the doctrine we now discuss. I might, were it required, give you many demonstrations, that the nature of the doctrine is such that we cannot perfectly comprehend it. We know so little of the manner in which certain ideas and certain sentiments are excited in the soul; we know so little how the understanding acquiesces, and how the will determines, that it is not surprising if we are ignorant of what is requisite for the understanding to acquiesce, and the will to determine, in religion: we especially know so little of the various means God can employ, when he is pleased to work on our soul, that it is really a chance to hit on the right one by which he draws us from the world: it may be by his sovereignty over our senses; it may be by an immediate operation on the substance of our souls. But without having recourse to this mode of reasoning, the doctrine of my text is quite sufficient to substantiate the maxim I advance. I presume that you ought to admit the doctrine of grace, though you can neither perfectly explain it, nor adequately answer all the questions it may have excited. This is the precise import of the comparison Jesus Christ makes between the agency of the Holy Spirit and the operations of the wind. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit."
nor to make a crime of remaining where I am." The second charge the first that in conferring too much honour on the powers of man, and in affording him too much reason to believe he is still the arbitrator of his own will, they throw the temptation in his way to crown himself with his own merits, and to become the worker of his own salvation. Now, supposing we were obliged to choose either to lean to the pride of man, or to his corruption, for which must we decide? I am fully convinced that the necessity of diligence, which is imposed upon us, should not give any colour to our pride: and you will see it instantly; you will see that however great the application which the best of saints may have made to the work of their salvation, humility was their invariable sentiment. You will see that after having read, and thought, and reflected; that having endeavoured to subdue their senses, and to sacrifice the passions God requires in sacrifice, they have believed it their duty to abase their eyes to the earth, and to sink into the dust from which they were made; yea, always to say with the profoundest sentiments of abasement, "O God, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us shame and confusion of face," Dan. ix. 7. Hence, if we were obliged to choose either a system which apparently favours the pride of man, or a system which apparently favours his corruption, we could not hesitate, we must sacrifice the last to the first. The reason is obvious, because in leaning to the pride of man, you do but favour one passion, whereas, by leaning to the corruption of man, you favour every passion; you favour hatred, revenge, and obduracy; and in favouring every passion, you favour this very pride you are wishful to destroy. Now, it must be incomparably better to favour but one passion, than to favour them all in one.
Maxim 5. In pressing the laws of grace, do not impose the law of making rules so general as to admit of no exceptions. I know indeed that God is always like himself, and that there is a certain uniformity which is the grand character of all his actions; but on this occasion, as on many others, he deviates from common rules. There are miracles in grace, as in nature: so you shall presently see, my brethren, in the use of this maxim, and in the necessity of this precaution.
II. Entering now on the doctrine of grace, and with the precautions just laid down, do not fear to follow us into this troubled sea, how dangerous soever it may appear, and how abundant soever it may be, in shipwrecks. I proceed to associate practice with speculation, and to comprise in six propositions all that a Christian ought to know, and all he ought to do, in regard to this subject.
1. Nature is so depraved, that man, without supernatural aids, cannot conform to the conditions of his salvation.
2. That how invincible soever this corruption may be, there is a wide difference between the man who enjoys, and the man who is deprived of revelation.
3. That the aids which man can neither derive from the wreck of nature, nor from ex terior revelation, are promised to him in the gospel.
Maxim 4. When two truths on the doctrines of grace are apparently in opposition, and cannot be reconciled, sacrifice the less important to that which is of greater moment. Two truths cannot in reality be in opposition. It is a fact demonstrated, that two contradictory propositions cannot both be true; but the limits of our understanding often present a contradiction where in reality none exists. I frequently hear learned men expound the gospel, but adopting different methods to attain the same end, they suggest difficulties alternately. Some press the duty of man; others enlarge on the inability of man, and on the need he has of divine assistance. The former tax the latter with giving sanction to the corruption of man: and the latter charge the former with flattering the pride of man. The first object to the second, that in totally destroying the faculties of man, and in straining the necessity of grace, they authorize him to say, "Seeing literally that I can do nothing, I ought not to blame myself for doing nothing;
6. To whatever degree one may have carried the abuse of past favours, one ought not to despair of obtaining fresh support, which should always be asked with fervent prayer.
These, brethren, are our six propositions, which apparently contain all that a Christian ought to know, and all he ought to do on this subject. God is my witness that I enter on the discussion in such a way as appears to me most proper to cherish among us that peace, which should ever be so dear, and to prevent all those unhappy controversies which have agitated the church in general, and this republic in particular. I shall proceed with these propositions in the same temper as I have enumerated them, and haste to make them the conclusion of this discourse.
1. Nature is so depraved, that man, without supernatural aids, cannot conform to the conditions of his salvation. Would to God that this proposition was less true! Would to God that we had more difficulty in proving it! But study your own heart. Listen to what it whispers in your ear concerning the precepts God has given in his word: listen to it on the sight of the man who has offended you. What animosity! what detestation! what revenge! Listen to it in prosperity. What ambition! what pride! what arrogance! Listen to it when we exhort you to humility, to patience, to charity. What evasions! what repugnance! what excuses! From the study of your own heart, proceed to that of others. Examine the infancy, the life, the death of man. In his infancy you will see the fatal germ of his corruption; sad, but sensible proof of the depravity of your nature, an alarming omen of the future. You will see him prone to evil from his very cradle, indicating from his early years the seeds of every vice, and giving from the arms of the nurses that suckle him, preludes of all the excesses into which he will fall as soon as his capacity is able to aid his corruption. Contemplate him in mature age; see what connexions he forms with his associates! Connexions of ambition; connexions of avarice; connexions of cupidity. Look at him in the hour of death, and you will see him torn from a world from which he cannot detach his heart, regretting even the objects which have constituted his crimes, and carrying to the tomb, if I may so speak, the very passions which, during life, have divided the empire of his soul.
After studying man, study the Scriptures: there you will see that God has pledged the infallibility of his testimony to convince us of a truth, to which our presumption scrupled to subscribe. It will say, that "you were conceived in sin, and shapen in iniquity." It will
say, that "in you; that is, in your flesh, dwelleth no good thing." It will say, that "this flesh is not subject to the law of God; neither indeed can be." It will say, that you carry within you, a law in your members, which wars against the law of your mind; a flesh which lusteth against the spirit." It will tell you, that man in regard to the conditions of his salvation is a stock, a stone, a nothing; that he is blind and dead. It would be easy to swell the list! It would be easy indeed, but in adducing to you those passages of Scripture on which we found the sad doctrine of natural depravity, I observe the caution already laid down, of preferring in the selection, a small number of conclusive passages, to the production of a multitude. Nature being so far corrupted, man cannot, without the aids of grace, conform to the conditions of his salvation.
Here is the first thing you ought to know, and the first thing you ought to do; it is, to feel your weakness and inability; to humble and abase yourselves in presence of the holy God; to cry from the abyss into which you are plunged, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death!" Rom. vii. 24. It is to groan under the depravity of sin. O glory of primitive innocence, whither art thou fled! O happy period, in which man was naturally prompted to believe what is true, and to love what is amiable, why art thou so quickly vanished away! Let us not deplore the curse on the ground; the infection of air; nor the animals destined for the service of man, that now turn their fury against him; let us rather deplore our disordered faculties; our beclouded reason, and our perverted will.
2. But however great, however invincible, the corruption of all men may be, there is a wide difference between him who has the advantage of revelation, and him to whom it is denied. This is the second thing you ought to know on the subject we discuss; and this second point of speculation is a second source of practice. Do not apply to Christians born in the Church, and acquainted with revelation, portraits which the holy Scriptures give solely to those who are born in pagan darkness. I am fully aware that revelation, unattended with the supernatural aids of grace, is inadequate for a man's conversion. The preceding article is sufficient to prove it. I know that all men are naturally dead in trespasses and sins." It is evident, however, that this death has its degrees: and that the impotency of a man, favoured with revelation, is not of the same kind as that of him who is still in pagan darkness. It is equally manifest, that a man, who, after having heard the doctrine of the gospel, grovels in the same sort of error and of vice into which he was impetuously drawn by his natural depravity, is incomparably more guilty than he who never heard the gospel. Hear what Jesus Christ says of those who, having heard the gospel, and who had not availed themselves of its aids to forsake their error and vice; "Had I not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; but now they have no cloak for their sin." Here is the second thing you ought to know; hence the second thing you ought to do, is, not to shelter yourselves, with a view to extenuate voluntary depravity
vation; he has no right to presume on the grace of the Holy Spirit, while he obstinately resists the aids which frail nature, and revelation afford. But here we seem to forget one of the maxims already laid down, and what we ourselves have advanced; that if it is requisite for me to fulfil the conditions with which the gospel has connected salvation, how can I do otherwise than obstinately resist the efforts which frail nature, and exterior revelation afford? This difficulty is but in appearance. To know, whether when abandoned to our natural depravity, and aided only by exterior revelation, we can conform to the conditions of the gospel; or whether, when abandoned to the depravity of nature, and aided only by exterior revelation, we are invincibly impelled to every species of crime, are two very different questions. That we cannot perform the conditions of salvation, I readily allow; but that we are invincibly impelled to every species of crime, is insupportable. Whence then came the difference between heathen and heathen, between Fabricius and Lucullus, between Augustus and Sylla, between Nero and Titus, between Commodus and Antony? Whatever you are able to do by your natural strength, and especially when aided by the light of revelation, do it, if you wish to have any well-founded hope of obtaining the supernatural aids, without which you cannot fulfil the conditions of your salvation. But the Scriptures declare, you say, that without the grace of the Holy Spirit you can do nothing, and that you can have no real virtue but what participates of your natural corruption: I allow it; but practice the virtues which participate of your natural corruption, if you would wish God to grant you his divine aids. Be corrupt as Fabricius, and not as Lucullus; be corrupt as Augustus, and not as Sylla; be corrupt as Titus, and not as Nero; as Antonius, and not as Commodus. One of the grand reasons why God withholds from some men the aids of grace, is, because they resist the aids they might derive from their frail naHere the theology of St. Paul, and the ture. decision of that great preceptor in grace, imposes silence on every difficulty of which this point may be susceptible. Speaking of the heathens in the first chapter of his epistle to the Romans, he says, "That which may be known of God is manifested in them;" or, as I would rather read, is manifest to them; "but because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful," Rom. i. 19-21. "That which may be known of God is manifested unto them;" here then is the aid pagans might draw from the ruins of nature; they might know that there was a God; they might have been thankful for his temporal gifts, for rain and fruitful seasons; and instead of the infamous idolatry to which they abandon themselves, they might have seen the invisible things of God, which are manifest by his work. And because they did not derive those aids from the ruins of nature, they became wholly unworthy of divine assistance; "God gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts.-They changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever."
under certain passages of Scripture, which ex- |
3. The aids which man is unable to draw either from the wreck of nature or from exterior revelation, are promised to him in the gospel: he may attain them by the operations of the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God this consolatory proposition is supported by express passages of Scripture; by passages the most conclusive, according to our first precaution. What else is the import of the thirty-first chap"Behold the ter of Jeremiah's prophecies? days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.-This shall be the covenant that I will make with them: I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts." What else is the import of the thirty-sixth chapter of Ezekiel's prophecies? "I will sprinkle clean water upon you; I will give you a new heart; I will put a new spirit within you." What else is the import of St. James' words in the first chapter of his general epistle? "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not. And of Jesus Christ in the words of my text, "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth." Hence the third thing that we should know, and the third thing that we should do, is, to bless God that he has not left us to the weakness of nature; it is, like St. Paul, "to give thanks to God through Jesus Christ," Rom. i. 8; it is to ask of him those continual supports, without which "we can do nothing." It is often to say to him, "O God, draw us, and we will run after thee. Create in us a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within us," Cant. i. 8; Ps. li. 12.
4. But is it sufficient to pray? Is it enough to ask? We have said in the fourth place, that though a man may be unable to draw from frail nature, and exterior revelation, the requisite aids to conform to the conditions of his sal