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This total depravity renders them unfit for the kingdom of God, and incapable of enjoying the blessings of it; and to remove this disqualification for heaven, they must be regenerated, or born again. Regeneration, therefore, must consist in the production of love, or true benevolence. There is no other conceivable way in which the Spirit of God can remove their selfishness but by producing benevolence, or shedding abroad the love of God in their hearts. This will slay their enmity, reconcile them to God, unite them to Christ, and fit them for heaven. And we now appeal to all who have been born again, whether they ever experienced any other change in regeneration, than a change from selfishness to benevolence, from hatred to love, and from opposition to reconciliation to God. Scripture, reason, and experience, all concur to prove that the Spirit of God, in regeneration, produces love, and nothing but love, in the hearts of those whom he raises from spiritual death to spiritual life. It now remains to show,
III. That love, which the holy Spirit produces in regeneration, is the essence and source of all holy or gracious affections. It is generally supposed that regeneration lays the foundation of all the exercises of grace. But many maintain that this cannot be true, unless the divine Spirit produces a principle of grace which is prior to love and every other gracious exercise. . But this opinion does not appear to be well founded. The love which the Spirit of God produces in regeneration, is the love of benevolence, and not the love of complacence. It is not possible, perhaps, in the nature of things, that the love of complacence should take place in the heart of any man before the love of benevolence; because he cannot see the divine beauty and excellence of benevolence, before he has felt it in his own breast. Hence benevolence will produce complacence, but complacence will not produce benevolence. But as soon as a man feels benevolence in himself, he will love benevolence and every holy affection in God, and in the friends of God. Do not many christians well remember, that when they were first regenerated, they instantaneously felt benevolently and friendly to all around them, whether friends or foes; and in consequence of that, immediately exercised peculiar love and complacency towards God, and towards all who appeared to bear his moral image ? Such are the natural and genuine effects of that love of benevolence which the Spirit of God produces, in regeneration. It is the foundation, essence, and source, of all holy or gracious affections. So the apostle plainly represents it, in the text and context. " But the fruit of the Spirit is love;" that is, the love of benevolence. And the fruits or effects of this love of benevolence are, “joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” As the love of benevolence comprises all the moral perfections of the Deity, so the love of benevolence comprises all the virtuous and holy exercises which compose the christian character. Accordingly, when the divine Spirit produces the love of benevolence in the human heart, he lays a foundation for joy, peace, and every other holy affection. Benevolent love is the root, from which all holy feelings and conduct naturally spring. It produces every thing which the law requires, and which is necessary to perfect obedience. This will more fully appear, if we trace the catalogue of graces which the apostle mentions, to the source from which they flow.
From holy love proceeds holy joy. This is a branch of true benevolence. When a sinner who has been hating and opposing God, and murmuring and complaining under a painful sense of his holy and irresistible sovereignty, has holy love shed abroad in his heart, his mind is naturally filled with joy. He rejoices in the being, perfections, and government of God. He sees the earth to be full of the goodness of the Lord, and wonders why he had never before rejoiced in the displays of his glory. He is ready to call upon all around him to praise the Lord for all his astonishing goodness and grace to the chil. dren of men. Holy joy is one of the first effects which flow from that holy love, which is produced by the Holy Spirit in regeneration.
From holy love proceeds not only holy joy, but holy peace. In the exercise of divine love, the renewed sinner enjoys that peace of God which passeth all understanding. He finds peace, as well as joy, in believing. He feels at peace with God, with the friends of God, and with all mankind. He enjoys that solid and permanent peace which the world cannot give, and which the world cannot take away. I might now go on, and show how love will produce not only joy and peace, but faith, and goodness, and gentleness, and meekness, and long-suffering, and every other virtuous and amiable affection; but I will only farther observe that divine love will dispose men to pay universal obedience to the divine commands. It will dispose them to call upon God in secret, in private, and in public. It will dispose them to remember the Sabbath day, and to keep it holy. It will dispose them to seek the glory of God in whatever they do. It will dispose them to avoid every appearance of evil, and steadily pursue the path of duty. It will, in a word, make them new creatures, and cause them to walk in newness of life. Hence says the apostle, “ If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, and all things are become new.”
Thus it appears that the Holy Spirit, in regeneration, produces that pure, holy, disinterested love, which is the source of all holiness and obedience. Though there is no natural or necessary connection between the first exercise of love and all future exercises of grace, yet there is a constituted connection, which renders future exercises of grace as certain, as if they flowed from a new nature, or holy principle, as many suppose. For those who maintain that a new nature or principle of grace is given, in regeneration, still suppose that the new nature or principle of grace is not always in exercise, and never produces any holy affections, without the special influence of the divine Spirit upon the heart. And if this were true, the certainty of a continuation of holy exercises would be no greater, on the supposition of a new principle implanted in the mind in regeneration, than on the supposition of the production of a new exercise of love. For love will no more flow from a principle of love without a divine influence, than joy, or peace, or any other gracious exercise, will flow from love without a divine influence. So that upon any supposition whatever, the continuance of grace, after regeneration, must absolutely depend upon a continued operation of the Spirit of God upon the mind of every one who has been regenerated. And this being the case, the production of love, in regeneration, must lay as solid and permanent a foundation for a holy life, as the implantation of a new principle, disposition, or moral taste, could possibly lay. When the Holy Spirit produces love in the soul in which there was nothing before but selfishness, he effects an essential change in the heart, and forms the subject of grace after the moral image of God, and prepares him for the kingdom of heaven. And this is as great and as good a change as can be produced in the human heart.
1. If the Spirit of God produces nothing but love in regeneration, then there is no ground for the distinction which is often made between regeneration, conversion, and sanctification. They are, in nature and kind, precisely the same fruits of the Spirit. In regeneration, he produces holy exercises; in conversion, he produces holy exercises; and in sanctification, he produces holy exercises. Accordingly, the inspired writers use the terms regeneration, conversion, and sanctification, to denote the same holy and gracious affections. But systematic divines generally use them to signify very different things. They use regeneration, to denote the Spirits operation in producing a new heart, or a new nature, or a new principle, which
is prior to, and the foundation of, all holy exercises. They use conversion, to signify the Spirit's operation in producing love, repentance and faith; which are implied in embracing the gospel. And they use sanctification, to signify the Spirit's operation in producing all future exercises of grace. But the scripture makes no such distinction between regeneration, conversion, and sanctification. The sacred writers use these terms indiscriminately, to denote not only the first, but the subsequent effects, of the Spirit's operation upon the hearts of christians. They represent conversion and sanctification as continued regeneration, and as produced in the same manner, by a special divine influence. Paul tells the Philippians that he was confident “ that he who had begun a good work in them would perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Upon this ground, he exhorts the same persons to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. “For," says he, “it is God which worketh in you both to wiil and to do of his good pleasure.” He expresses the same sentiment in his prayer for the Hebrews. "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ.” These passages perfectly accord with the language of the text and context. " But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." According to the whole tenor of scripture, the Spirit of God produces all holy exercises in the hearts of saints. He first produces love, then repentance, then faith, and every other holy affection through life, until he has carried sanctification to perfection in the king dom of glory. The terms regeneration, conversion, and sanctification, may
be used to denote the distinction of order in the operations of the Spirit, but not to denote a distinction of nature, or of manner, in his gracious operations. He produces the same exercises of holiness, and in the same manner, in renewing, converting and sanctifying the hearts of christians. So that there is not the least foundation in scripture, reason, or experience, for the common distinction between regeneration, conversion, and sanctification.
2. If the Spirit of God in regeneration produces nothing but love, then men are no more passive in regeneration, than in conversion or sanctification. Those who hold that the divine Spirit in regeneration produces something prior to love as the foundation of it, that is, a new nature, or new principle of holiness, maintain that men are passive in regeneration, but active in conversion and sanctification. And if the Spirit of God produces something besides love in regeneration, and implants a new principle of action in the soul, it must be allowed that men are really passive in regeneration, and active only in conversion and sanctification. But if what has been said in this discourse be true, there is no new nature, or principle of action, produced in regeneration, but only love, which is activity itself. The first fruit of the Spirit is love, and nothing besides, prior to or different from love; and it is universally allowed that men are active in exercising love to God or man. Accordingly, the scripture requires men to be active in regeneration, conversion, and sanctification ; for it requires them to be regenerated, to be converted, and to be sanctified, without suggesting the idea of passivity in respect to either of these duties. This will clearly appear from the express commands of God. Hear his command in the tenth chapter of Deuteronomy. “Circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff necked.” Hear his command in the fourth chapter of Jeremiah. “Thus saith the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your sallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your hearts, ye men of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it.” Hear his command in the eighteenth chapter of Ezekiel. “ Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed, and make you a new heart and a new spirit; for why will ye die, 0 house of Israel?” In these commands, God requires men to be regenerated, upon pain of eternal death.
God commands men to be converted, as well as regenerated, or to become cordially reconciled to him. By Isaiah he says, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." By Ezekiel he says, “ Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, o house of İsrael ?" By John the Baptist he says, “ Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” By Christ he says, “ The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel.” By Peter he says, “ Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out." And Paul says, “ Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.” These divine precepts expressly require men to be converted.
There are other commands of God, which as plainly and expressly require men to be sanctified, as to be regenerated and converted. Among many others, the following deserve partic
. ular attention. “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” “Grow in grace.” “Add to your