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that is put upon self-murder) but it ever was, and ever will be, pride or cowardice, that makes life insupportable: for since accidents are not in our power, but will (in spite of all our care and vigilance) befal us; what remains, but that we accommodate ourselves so far, as to bear them with the greatest decency and handsomest patience we are able? and indeed resistance to what we cannot avoid, is not the effect of a valiant heart, byt a stubborn stomach: which contumacy, until we have quite rooted out our pride, will always make things too little, and our cowardice too large: for as fear gives a false idea of sufferings, and attempts, as above our strength, though they are not such, so vanity makes things despicable, and beneath us, which are rather for our honour and reputation; but if men would sincerely understand that they are but creatures, all the distinctions of great and little, high and low, would be easily swallowed up in the contemplation of the hopes we entertain in the place we shall have in his mercy who is the author of all things.
OBSERVATIONS ON REGENERATION, WHEREIN THE PRINCIPLE
OF SPIRITUAL LIFE, THEREBY IMPLANTED, IS PARTICULARLY CONSIDERED BY THE REV. JOHN BLAIR,
As no truth is more interesting and important, so none has been more frequently and fully treated in a practical view, by pious writers, than the doctrine of regeneration. Many have, in this way, very excellently and largely described the happy change, which, by virtue of the supernatural work of the holy spirit, takes place in the whole man. I have therefore no design at present to enter upon a full consideration of the subject; but shall only beg leave to make a few very brief observations, some of which have not been so particularly. considered in practical treatises, but yet, perhaps, may be of some use to assist in the right apprehension of, and tend to prevent mistakes about, a doctrine, which lies so much at the foundation of all true religion.
Observation ist. Regeneration is the communication of a principle of spiritual life to the soul of a sinner, naturally dead in trespasses and sins, by the agency of the holy spirit. ,
I call it a principle, not only because it is a beginning of spiri. tual life, but especially, because it denotes a settled determination of the mind to right activity towards spiritual objects, under a moral consideration of them, whence results every right exercise of heart about divine things. It is the determination of the soul l'ou. II.
to a holy activity about God and divine things, or to such a kind of action; not from the impulsion of an external force, but an internal active principle: and therefore is justly called life. Life of the most excellent kind. It is the life of life.*
But as our apostacy from God has fixed in us, by nature, a very contrary determination, to a course of sinful action; there. fore, while that continues (which will be till some power subdue it) there can be no tendency in the soul to a holy temper. The power of the soul to any activity lies formally in the will. Hence its whole power, by nature, is to sin, and to reject God: for the carnal mind is enmity against him. Rom. vii. 7. Consequently some other power must be exerted in order to break this evil determination, and reduce the rebellious creature to a right temper. And that must be a power that has dominion over the will. This new determination, therefore, is from the Almighty agency of the holy spirit, it is he that communicates this new principle of life. Accordingly it is every where ascribed to him in scripture. John iii. 3.-5. and vi. 63. Tit. iji. 5.
Observation 2. This principle of spiritual life and the manner of its communication are not immediately in themselves perceptible.
As Adam did not perceive when God breathed into his nostrils the breath of natural life, but perceived its existence and nature from its activity and effects; so the existence and nature of spiritual life are known only by the experience the christian has of its exercise and efficacy. In this view, our Lord observes, John iii. 8. 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. There are, indeed, who greatly abuse this passage, thence flattering themselves, that they may be the subjects of regeneration without per
* There is some distinction between a natural and a moral principle of action. The fi mer lies in the very essence of the being to which it belongs, or is a determination to some particular kind of action resulting from its frame or constitution. Thus self-activity, or natural life, which is essential to the soul, is a principle of action in general. A determination to particular kinds of natural action, such as we call instinct in brutes, or reason in men, arises immediately from the existence of natural faculties, or something in the frame or constitution of creatures respectively. But a moral principle is a determination to some particular kind of action, arising from some settled judgment or sentiment in which the will acquiesces. Thus a principle of holy action is the fixed impression of some spiritual truth or truths upon the heart.
ceiving any great change in their hearts and lives. But this is not only foreign to the sense of the place, but contradictory to it. For the wind is very sensibly perceived. The design of our Lord seems to be to remove Nicodemus's surprise at the mysteriousness of the doctrine, by showing him it is a supernatural work, performed by the holy spirit as a gracious sovereign; to which the sinner himself is so far from contributing any thing, that he is not so much as sensible of the article of communication, nor perceives the manner of the holy spirit's operation. Q. d. There are mysteries in nature which you cannot account for. You cannot immediately perceive the origin of the wind, nor account for its ceasing when once in motion, or perceive the reason why it continually, and often very suddenly changes its direction. You hear the sound, and feel the effects, but it is only by observations on these sensations, either made by yourself, or suggested by others, that you can infer any conclusions about its nature or causes. Why then should you be surprised to find mysteries in the manner of divine operations, when performing works of grace? in this new birth, a man can only perceive the exercises of divine life in his heart; and by scriptural observations on these, infer what sort of a life he lives, or form conclusions about its nature and principle. For any one therefore, to pretend to tell what the principle of divine life is, antecedent to all exercises of life in the heart, and undertake from thence to demonstrate and explain those exercises, is a vain attempt. When he distinguishes this life from all its exercises, and goes about to tell us what it is antecedent to them all, he must talk in the dark about a certain something, of which he has no idea. To give it a name, to call it, for instance, a new temper or taste, is not to tell us what it is. Let any man explain what he means by a new or holy temper, without including some exercise of life in the heart, if he can.
Observation 3. Regeneration and conversion, strictly taken, are not distinct things; but these different denominations, express the same thing under different views.
I say conversion strictly taken. For largely taken, it includes the first exercises of the several graces of the holy spirit, which are but the various modifications of the same principle of spiritual life, such as a justifying faith, hope, joy, zeal, sorrow for sin, &c. From which regeneration (though the term is often also used in the same latitude, yet) is so distinct in a strict sense, as to be altogether antecedent, not only in the order of nature, but of time too. But strictly taken, conversion is the actual submission or turning of the soul to God in the most simple notion of it. This may perhaps, lie in the soul's submitting itself into the hands of divine sovereignty, as most fitly having a right to do with him as he pleases: or in a supreme regard to God as a most glorious Being, and rightful Lord. Now this, when considered as the effect of the holy spirit's agency, enabling, or causing the soul to turn
to God, is called regeneration; but when considered as an activity · essential to spiritual life, and formally as the soul's act, it is cal
led conversion; but these are only different views, and aspects of the same thing. For regeneration undoubtedly denotes a moral effect produced by the spirit of God. But this effect, which he produces, is the soul's turning to God. Surely nothing short of this can be called the new birth. Regeneration is the implantation of holiness in the heart. Now certainly, there can be no real holiness without turning to God. The soul that has not turned to God, is still, without controversy unregenerate. Hence it follows,
Observation 4. That this principle wrought in the soul in regeneration, is not something antecedent to every act and exercise of holiness, but includes in it, or is a first act or exercise of holiness, of the same nature with all the exercises of holiness that follow after, through the course of life.
To cause life is to cause action; for activity is essential to the idea of life. When the holy spirit regenerates a sinner, he communicates an active principle, otherwise it were not life. But to talk of an active principle existing in the soul absolutely without action, would be a contradiction; now this action must be cleaving to God. Hence arises,
Observation 5. A fifth observation, viz. that this principle of. spiritual life consists in, or includes some new view of the mind, and determination or approbation of the will.
This must be the case, because it is a moral principle; otherwise, it could not be the principle of a course of moral action; when therefore, a principle of spiritual life is implanted, a moral effect is produced; but that effect which includes no acts of the understanding and will, but is absolutely antecedent to them, must be a mere physical, and not a moral effect, and then to regenerate, would be to create in a physical, not a moral sense.
I think, the sacred scriptures set the matter in the same light with the above observation. Sometimes this happy change is expressed by the term light, Eph. V. 8. Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord. Sometimes it is represented under the notion of being made willing. Psal. cx. 3. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power. Either of these
expressions includes the other. Thus when the regenerate are called light, the matter is not confined to the understanding only, but includes the approbation of the will, and to be willing, certainly, includes the view of the understanding; for there can be no act of the will without it; sometimes both are set in view together, as Acts xxvi. 18. To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. Certainly to open the eyes and turn from darkness to light, is to enlighten the understanding, and to turn to God is an act of the will. To the same purpose is 2 Cor. iv. 6. For God hath shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. To see the glory of God, must include both the view of the understanding, and the approbation of the will. It is no objection to this, to say, these scriptures speak of this change largely taken. For admitting that, yet it is not by way of contra-distinctiop from, or exclusive of the first instance; but the first existence of life comes under the same predicament. Thus they, who were sometimes darkness, are not said to be enlightened only but to be light. God in the new creation, shines into the heart, in a manner analogous to his shining in the natural world, when he created light in it. It is very easy to say, that in regeneration, a holy temper is produced whence this knowledge and volition arise; but perhaps, it would not be so easy to tell, in that connexion, what we are to understand by that temper. Surely we are not to conceive of a moral, in the same manner as of a natural temper. In the latter, we take into consideration such a certain, yet various construction of the human frame, as is apt to produce such and such passions and feelings of nature. Now, if we have an idea of the former any thing like this, we must then consider it only as a new faculty created in the soul, and has nothing moral in it, any more than the understanding or will considered as natural faculties. But if we conceive of it as a moral determination of the soul towards God, then we must consider it as including some apprehension of God in the understanding, and an act of the will embracing him, which brings the matter to what I have said. Thus we are, as it were insensibly led to some apprehension of what this divine principle is, or wherein it consists, though we cannot comprehend the manner of the holy spirit's operation in producing it, or explain how it exists. It is an experimental practical knowledge of God, or it is a new view of the infinite perfections of God, with the approbation of them in the will as most excellent; or, which is, indeed, the same thing under its proper denomination, it is a sul