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with desires, inquiries, and contrivances about deliverance out of this condition.
3. Reformation of life frequently ensues: as is represented in the account of the unclean spirit' forsaking his house for a time, and returning to it again, finding it swept and garnished.' So the apostle Peter speaks of some who escape for a time the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of Christ, but who were afterwards entangled and overcome.
All these things may be wrought in the minds of men, and yet the work of regeneration never be perfected in them. And though they are good in themselves, and effects of God's kindness, yet they may not only be lost, with respect to any final advantage, but also be abused to our great disadvantage, and to the contraction of more guilt. And it is occasioned one of these ways, some are not careful to improve this light and conviction for its proper end and design, which is to take them off from their self-confidence, and to direct them to Christ;-where this is not attended to, they insensibly wither, and come to nothing. In other persons, they are overborne by the power of their lusis, and the violence of temptation; they are sinned away, and leave the soul in a much worse condition than they found it. Again : others rest in these things, as though they comprised the whole work of God towards them, and especially where they occasion any considerable reformation of life, or attendance to religious worship. But all this is owing to the abuse of these things by carnal minds; in their own nature they are good, and prepare the mind for the reception of the grace.
Thirdly. All these things, wrought instrumentally by the word, are effects of the power of the Spirit of God. The word itself, barely proposed to the minds of men, will not so affect them. To confirm this, consider the preaching of the prophets; of Jesus Christ himself; and of the apostles and among ourselves, many sit all their days under the Gospel, and feel none of these effects; while others are really affected, convinced, and converted. It is therefore the ministration of the Spirit, in and by the word, which produces these effects.
There is indeed an objection of some moment, against
the ascription of this work to the Holy Spirit; for if all these things may be wrought in the minds of men, who yet come short of the grace of God, how can he be thought to be the Author of this work? Shall we ascribe to him a weak and imperfect work? or think that he deserts what he has undertaken?
I answer,-In many persons who are thus affected, real conversion ensues; and thus these preparatory operations make way for the introduction of a new spiritual life; and so they belong to a work that is perfect in its kind. Wherever they come short of it, it is not from any imperfection in themselves, but from the sins of men. For instance, common illumination and conviction of sin have a tendency to conversion; and where this end is not attained, it is from the wilfulness and stubbornness of the mind. This actual resistance God is pleased to take away in some it is therefore of sovereign grace where it is removed; but the sin of men, where it is continued. Besides, the Holy Spirit is a voluntary agent :—he works when and how he pleases. All his operations infallibly accomplish the end he designs; which, in these, is only that men may be enlightened, humbled, and reformed; wherein he fails not. Thus, he is pleased to take on him the management of the law, and so to bring the soul into bondage thereby, that it may be stirred up to seek after deliverance; and he is thence called the Spirit of bondage unto fear. This work constitutes the third ground in the parable of the sower. It receives the seed, and springs up hopefully; till by cares of the world and temptations, it is choked and lost. Now, because it often resembles. regeneration so much, that neither the world nor the church are able to distinguish between them, it is of great importance to the professors of the gospel, to inquire, Whether they have experienced any other work on their souls or not?-for, though this be a good work, yet if men attain no more, they will perish. I shall therefore give some instances of what this whole work, in its utmost improvement, cannot effect; whereby persons may form a judgment how it is with them.
1. It may be observed, that we have placed all the effects of this work in the mind, conscience, affections, and conversation. But the Will, which is the ruling faculty
of the soul, is not renewed by it; and therefore the power of sin will continue. It is true, that the will meets with many checks from the light of the mind and reflections of the conscience; so that it cannot fin with its former freedom and security. Its greediness in sinning may be restrained by the terrors of the Lord on the one hand, or the hope of eternal rest on the other: but still, the inclination of the will itself is to fin, and that continually.
2. The effects of this work on the mind, proceed not so far as to give delight and satisfaction in the spiritual nature and excellencies of the things revealed to it. True saving illumination gives the mind such a direct intuitive insight into spiritual things, that in their own nature they please, and satisfy it: so that it is caft into the mould of them, and rests in them. But the work we have spoken of reaches not so far; the light it communicates may cause a man to like the gospel for its beneficial effects; but it will not give him such a spiritual infight into the mystery of God's grace by Christ Jesus, that the soul, in its first direct view of it, should admire it, approve it,. and find spiritual solace and refreshment in it.
3. This work extends to the conscience also ; but yet it does not purge the conscience from dead works to serve the living God.' It renders it indeed more quick and ready in reproving sin than before; but yet, conscience. is not hereby wrought to such an abhorrence of sin for itself, as continually to direct the soul to the blood of Christ for cleansing.
4. This work operates greatly on the affections; but it does not fix them, nor fill them. It is required that our affections be fixed on heavenly things, and true grace will effect it. The joys, the fears, the hopes, the sorrows which the work before mentioned produces, are uncertain and unstable. Sometimes they are like a river ready to overflow its banks; at other times, as waters that fail,' not a drop comes from them. Sometimes they are hot, then cold; sometimes all heaven, sometimes all earth. But true grace fixes the affections; there may be great variety as to their exercise; yet their constant bent is to spiritual things. But this work does not fill the affections: it comes like a number of strangers to an inn to lodge, who occupy a great deal of room, and make an appear
ance as if none were in the house but themselves; but the family is not removed; they live there still. So light and : conviction come and lodge in the mind and affections, as if they would possess them entirely but after all, they leave the quiet places of the house for the world, and sin, and self. On the contrary, true grace fills up the affections with spiritual things. It denies not room to lawful things, as relations and enjoyments, merely as they are. natural and are content to be subordinate to God; but if they would be carnal, disorderly, or predominant, it turns them out..
5. This work is frequently carried on so far in reformation, that it will express the whole form of godliness; but here also it is deficient; for it will consist with reigning sins of ignorance. It leads not to the abhorrence of all sin, as sin; nor to a desire of universal conformity to Christ; but often leaves great sins unregarded. Besides, its reformation of the life is seldom universal, as to all known sins, unless it be for a season, while the soul is in a flagrant pursuit of self-righteousness. When, the efficacy of first impressions abate, lust will reserve some peculiar way of venting himself. Further: The conversation of such persons is assuredly fading and decaying-coldness, love of the world, carnal security, get ground upon them every day. Hence, though by abstinence from open sensualities, they may not be given ap to them, yet they become walking and talking skeletons in religion; dry, sapless, and useless worldlings. But where the soul is inlaid with real grace, it is in a state of thriving continually. Such an one will go on from strength to strength, from grace to grace, from glory to glory, and will be fat and flourishing in old age. By these things we may learn to distinguish between the preparatory work mentioned, and that of real saving conversion to God.
Corruption or Depravity of the Mind by Sin.
E have, I hope, made our way plain for the due
generation; whereby he forms the members of the mystical body of Christ, and prepares living stones for the building of a temple in which the living God will dwell.
There is a two-fold state of men with respect to God, which is comprehensive of all individuals in the world; for all men are either unregenerate or regenerate. Again: It is evident in the Scripture, that all men are born in an unregenerate condition. This is so positively declared by our Saviour (John iii. 3, &c.) that it cannot be denied. Now regeneration being the deliverance of men from that condition, we cannot discover wherein it consists, without a declaration of that state from which it delivers us. And this we shall insist upon at large; giving an account of the state of fallen nature, under a loss of the original grace of God.
In the declaration of man's corrupted nature, the scripture insists chiefly on these three things: (1.) The depravity of the mind; which it calls by the names of darkness and blindness. (2.) The depravity of the will and affections, expressed by weakness or impotency, and stubbornness or obstinacy. (3.) By the general name of death, extended to the condition of the whole soul.
All men, by nature, are in a state of darkness and blindness, with respect to God and spiritual things. Be men in other things wise, learned, and skilful; in spiritual things they are dark, blind, and ignorant. This, indeed, is a matter which the world cannot endure to hear of. They think it but an artifice which some weak men have got, to reflect on persons wiser than themselves. On the like occasion the Pharisees scornfully asked our Lord, Are we blind also? But he informed them, that their presumption of knowledge would only aggravate their guilt; and that notwithstanding all their boasting, they had not heard the voice of God at any time, or seen his shape.'