« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
standard of Christian character. Any thing which contributes to elevate it, must be useful.
In presenting this little volume, the Author has no apologies to offer. Not that he supposes it free from defects, or impervious to the shafts of criticism; but because, if it is calculated to be useful, apologies are unnecessary; if it is not, none, however laboured or eloquent can atone for so grand and radical a defect.
ON THE NATURE OF VITAL PIETY ;-ITS SAMENESS IN ALL AGES AND COUNTRIES AND ITS VARIOUS ASPECTS IN DIFFERENT CIRCUMSTANCES.
True religion not only enlightens the understanding, but rectifies the affections of the heart. All genuine feelings of piety are the effects of divine truth. The variety and intensity of these feelings depend on the different kinds of truth, and the various aspects in which the same truth is viewed; and also, on the distinctness and clearness with which it is presented to the mind. In a state of moral perfection, truth would viniformly produce all those emotions and affections which correspond with its nature, without the aid of any superadded influ
That these effects are not experienced, by all who have the opportunity of knowing the truth, is a strong evidence of human depravity. In a state of moral depravity, the mind is incapable alike, of perceiving and feeling the beauty and excellence of divine truth. The dead neither see nor feel, and man is by nature “ dead in trespasses and sins.” Hence
the necessity of the agency of the Holy Spirit to illuminate and regenerate the mind. The nature of divine agency, in every case, is inscrutable by mortals. “ The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth : so is every one that is born of the Spirit." We know, however, that the work of the Spirit, in the regeneration of the heart, is adapted to the rational nature of
The thing to be accomplished is not the creation of some new faculty; it is a moral renovation; and all moral changes must be effected by understanding and choice. To put the soul, therefore, in that state in which it will rightly understand the truth, and cordially choose the highest good, is the end of regeneration. Truth, therefore, must be the means by which actual conversion to God takes place. “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” 66 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.” “Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth.” Although piety in the heart is the effect of a divine operation, yet all its exercises take place agreeably to the common laws of
our rational nature. The understanding is enlightened, the judgment is convinced, motives operate on the will, and conscience approves or disapproves. That the soul, in the exercises of piety, is under the renovating influences of the Holy Spirit, is not known by any consciousness which it has of these divine operations, but by the effects produced in a change of views and feelings; and this change is ascribed to God, because no other is able to produce it; and his word assures us that he is its author.
Now, as all men are endowed with the same natural susceptibilities, and as all Christians contemplate the same fundamental truths, the work of
grace in the hearts of all, must be substan. tially the sarne. All have, by the knowledge of the law, been convinced of sin; have been made to feel scrrow, shame, and compunction, upon the recollection of their transgressions ; and to submit to the justice of the sentence of condemnation, which the law denounces against them. All have been made sensible of their own inability to save themselves, and under the influence of these humbling and penitent feelings, have been led to seek refuge in Jesus Christ, as the only hope of their souls. This plan of salvation appears glorious and suitable
to all believers ; so that they not only acqui esce in it, as the only method of salvation, but they are so well pleased with it, that they would not have another if they could. And, in the acceptance of Christ as a complete Saviour, there is, in every case, some experience of joy and peace. Connected with the views which the true believer has of Christ as a Saviour, there is also a discovery, more or less clear, of the glory of the divine attributes, especially of those which are most conspicuously manifested in the cross of Christ. Holiness, justice, mercy, and truth, shine, in the view of the sincere convert, with a lustre surpassing all other excellence; and God is venerated and loved for his own intrinsic excellence, as well as for the rich benefits bestowed upon us.
But, although these views may be distinguished, yet in experience, they are not separated. The brightest discovery of divine excellence ever made, is God's love to our miserable race. The law of God is also viewed to be holy, just, and good, by every regenerated soul. The unrenewed heart never is, nor ever can be, reconciled to the law ; “it is not subject to it, nor indeed can be,” but the “new man" delights in the law of God, and would not have one pre