« 前へ次へ »
le they are not sensible of any such religious al.
OF THE DOCTRINE
repentance:-Matt. ix. 13.
It has been usual to divide all mankind into two classes, the converted and the unconverted; and, by so dividing them, to infer the necessity of con version to every person whatever. In proposing the subject under this form, we state the distinction, in my opinion, too absolutely, and draw from it a conclusion too universal : because there is a class and description of Christians, who, having been piously educated, and having persevered in those pious courses, into which they were first brought, are not conscious to themselves of ever. having been without the influence of religion, of ever having lost sight of its sanctions, of ever hav. ing renounced them; of ever, in the general course of their conduct, having gone against them. These cannot properly be reckoned either converted or unconverted. They are not converted,
unnecessarily distarbed, by being so called uponi.
There is in the nature of things, a great varietrof religious condition. It arises from hence, that exhortations, and calls, and admonitionis, which are of great use and importance in ther"htes, and very necessary to be insisted upon, are, devertheless, not wanted by all, are not equally pplicable to all, and to some are altogether inap pliable. This holds true of most of the topics of persuasion or warning, which a Christian teacher can talopt. When we preach against presumption, for instance, it is not because we suppose that all sve presumptuous; that it is necessary for all, or every one, to become more humble, or diffident, or sprehensive, than he now is: on the contra15, there may amongst our hearers be low, and tumorons, and dejected spirits, who, if they take to themselves what we say, may increase a disposition, which is already too much ; or be at a loss to know what it is herein that we would enjoin upon them. Yet the discourse and the doctrine may, nevertheless, be very good; and for a great portion of our congregation very necessary. The like, I think, is the case with the doctrine of conversion. If we were to omit the doctrine of conversion, we should omit a doctrine, whichi, to mawy, must be the salvation of their souls. Tothem ill calls without this call, all preachings without this doctrine, would be in vain and it may be
We, that a great part of our hearers are of this
upon conversion, as indispensable to all to
I being saved, we should misle
for they are not sensible of any such religious al. teration having taken place with them, at any par. ticular time, as can properly be called a conversion. They are not unconverted, because that implies a state of reprobation, and because, if we call upon them to be converted (which, if they be unconverted, we ought to do,) they will not well understand what it is we mean them to do ; and, instead of being edified, they may be both much and unnecessarily disturbed, by being so called upon.
There is, in the nature of things, a great variety of religious condition. It arises from hence, that exhortations, and calls, and admonitions, which are of great use and importance in themselves, and very necessary to be insisted upon, are, nevertheless, not wanted by all, are not equally applicable to all, and to some are altogether inapplicable. This holds true of most of the topics of persuasion or warning, which a Christian teacher can adopt. When we preach against presumption, for instance, it is not because we suppose that all are presumptuous; that it is necessary for all, or cvery one, to become more humble, or diffident, or apprehensive, than he now is : on the contrary, there may amongst our hearers be low, and timorous, and dejected spirits, who, if they take to themselves what we say, may increase a disposition, which is already too much ; or be at a loss to know what it is herein that we would enjoin upon them. Yet the discourse and the doctrine may, nevertheless, be very good; and for a great portion of our congregation very necessary. The like, I think, is the case with the doctrine of conversion. If we were to omit the doctrine of conversion, we should omit a doctrine, which, to maniv, must be the salvation of their souls. To them
calls without this call, all preachings without doctrine, would be in vain : and it may be is that a great part of our hearers are of this ciption. On the other hand, if we press and I upon conversion, as indispensable to all for vurpose of being saved, we should mislea
OF THE DOCTRINE some, who would not apprehend how they could be required to turn, or be converted to religion, who were never, that they knew, either indiffe. rent to it, or alienated from it.
In opposition, however, to what is here said, there are who contend, that it is necessary for every man living to be converted, before he can be saved. This opinion undoubtedly deserves serious consideration, because it founds itself upon Scripture, whether rightly or erroneously interpreted is the question. The portion of scripture upon which they, who maintain the opinion, chiefly rely, is our Saviour's conversation with Nicode. mus, recorded in the third chapter of St. John's Gospel. Our Saviour is there stated to have said to Nicodemus, “ Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God ;” and afterward, as a confirmation, and in some sort an exposition of his assertion, to have added, “except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." It is inferred from this passage, that all persons whatever must undergo a conversion, before they be capable of salvation ; and it cannot be said that this is a forced or strained inference; but the question before us at present is, is it a necessary inference? I am not unwilling to admit, that this short, but very remarkable conversation, is fairly interpreted of the gift of the Spirit, and that, when this Spirit is given, there is a new birth, a regeneration; but I say, that it is no where determined, at what time of life, or under what circumstances, this gift 15 imparted; nay, the contrary is intimated by com paring it to the blowing of the wind, which, in its mode of action, is out of the reach of our rules and
1: “ 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.” The effect of this uncertainty is, that we are left at liberty to pray for spiritual assistance, and we do pray for it, in all stages, and under all circumstances,
as young persona just entering into the tempta.
imparted at any time, from the earliest to the lac
which our Saviour's words refer. And, consider
panot ordinarily distinguish the operations of the
person, who is not conscious of such a change,
This, I repeat, is all I contend for, for I by no
I do not, in the smallest degree, mean to under.
of our existence. We pray for it in baptism for those who are baptized; we teach those, who are catechised, to pray for it in their catechism ; parents pray for its aid and efficacy to give effect to their parental instructions ; to preserve the objects of their love and care from sin and wickedness, and from every spiritual enemy. We pray for it, particularly in the office of confirmation, for young persons just entering into the temptations of life. Therefore spiritual assistance may be imparted at any time, from the earliest to the latest period of our existence; and, whenever it is imparted, there is that being born of the Spirit to which our Saviour's words refer. And, considering the subject as a matter of experience, if we cannot ordinarily distinguish the operations of the Spirit from those of our own minds, it seems to follow, that neither can we distinguish when they commence : so that spiritual assistance may be imparted, and the thing, designated by our Lord's discourse, satisfied, without such a sensible conversion, that a person can fix his memory upon some great and general change, wrought in him at an assignable time. This consciousness of a great and general change may be the fact with many. It may be essentially necessary to many. I only allege, that it is not so to all; so that every person, who is not conscious of such a change, must set himself down as devoted to perdition.
This, I repeat, is all I contend for, for I by no means intend to say, than any one is without sin, and in that sense not to stand in need of conversion; still less, that any sin is to be allowed, and. not, on the contrary, strenuously and sincerely resisted and forsaken. I only maintain, that there may be Christians, who are, and have been, in such a religious state, that no such thorough and radical change, as is usually meant by conversion, is or was necessary for them; and that they need not be made miserable by the want of conscio ness of such a change.
I do not, in the smallest degree, mean to un
bijeet, which he sent forth his seventy diseiples to
every place, which they came to, in the course
frules and maxims for the leading of a holy
Non the reason of the difference is, that the
and some of which the same apostles wrote after-
Christians, and to some, who, like Timothy, had
3 of the persons, whom they addressed, and