Can Change the World Again.
NINTH OF ROMANS;
INFLUENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
BY REV ASA MAHAN, A. M.,
THE SPIRIT'S INFLUENCES.
ZECH. iv. 6.
"Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the God of Hosts."
EVERY system of religion, truly evangelical, ascribes the conversion of sinners to the Spirit of God, and maintains, throughout, the doctrine of salvation by grace. A diffenence of opinion obtains, only in respect to the mode of the Spirit's operations, and the relations of creatures of such operations. In the present discourse I propose to examine the various theories held by evangelical Christians on this subject,theories, all of which, as far as my knowledge extends, may be included in the following enumeration:
I. The first that I notice maintains the following propositions in respect to mankind as sinners:
1. All mankind commence their moral agency, in consequence of the fall of our first parents, in a state of total inability to do anything good, or to avoid the acts of sin which they do, in fact perpetrate.
2. In the redemption of Christ provisions are made for a part of the race only, those whom God, from eternity, unconditionally elected to eternal life.
3. The influences of the Holy Spirit are exclusively confined to the elect, and his influence in respect to them are, in all cases, absolutely irresistible.
II. The second theory affirms the doctrine of total inability, and of the exclusive influence of the Spirit granted to the elect only; but asserts a general atonement for the sins of the race.
III. The third denies whole the doctrine of inability, affirms the universality of the atonement, but confines the influence of the Spirit exclusively to the elect.
IV. The fourth agrees, in all respects, with the last named, with this exception: it affirms that what are called the common influences of the Spiritthose from which conversion never does and never will resultare given to all; while his converting influencesthose which, if imparted to all, would infallibly secure their conversionare confined exclusively to the elect.
V. The fifth agrees with the two last named, in respect to the doctrines of ability and universal atonement, but denies that the Spirit now operates at all upon the human mind, either directly or through the truth. It confines the Spirit to the work of giving man revelation, and then leaves him, in the exercise of his own free agency, to determine his own destiny, by a voluntary acceptance or rejection of the truth thus revealed.
VI. The sixth and last theory that we are to consider, affirms the doctrines of man's freedom to good as well as evil, and of a universal atonement, denies the distinction between the common and converting influences of the Spirit, affirms that the Spirit is as universal in his influence as the atonement is in its provisions, and maintains that mankind are saved or lost only as they yield to or reject the truths presented to their minds through the word and Spirit of God. I shall consider these different theories in the order in which they are here presented.
I. In discussing the theory first named, I shall say nothing about the question whether the influences of the Spirit are confined exclusively to the elect, but shall reserve what I have to say upon this point till we advance to a consideration of the one next in order. As preparatory to a consideration of the elements of this theory, the following preliminary observations are deemed worthy of very special attention:
1. This inability of the sinner to all that is good, attaches to him by no fault of his; inasmuch as it exists wholly independent of his personal agency. He had no more agency in its production than he had in the creation of the world. Grant, if you please, that it exists as the result of the Fall. With that event, we, whose existence commenced some six thousand years subsequent to its occurrence, had no more to do with than with the murder of Abel. Any results following to us from either of these events, and following wholly independent of our knowledge, choice, or agency, we certainly, whoever else may be, are not responsible for. If, then, we are by nature wholly disabled to all good on the one hand, and to the avoidance of sin on the other, we are thus disabled by no fault of ours.
2. This inability exists, if it exists at all, as the result of the all-necessitating decree and agency of God. What is it that established the law of descent, so that, of necessity, the nature of the child is as that of the parent? The decree and agency of God. Whatever results from the necessary action of that law, results as the necessitated effect of the decree and agency of God. In 1 Cor. Xv. 37, 38, we are informed that his is true of all the results of the law of generation in the vegetable creation. As God established and upholds this law, so he claims to be the author of all the results of the action of this law. "And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat or of some other grain. But God giveth it a body as it hath please him, and to every seed his own body." If this be true of the law of vegetable production, it must be true of the law of generation among God's rational offspring. If the connection between the parent and the child is such, that the nature of the latter must be as that of the former, God established and upholds, by his own omnipotence, this connection, and is the author of the nature of the child, whatever it may be, whether it be sinful or holy, in the same sense, and for the same identical reason, that "He give to every seed its own body," in the vegetable world. No reasoning or sophistry can avoid this conclusion. If, then, we commence our being with a sinful nature, which absolutely disables us to all good, and renders it impossible for us to avoid sinning, God is the author of this nature, for the same reason, and in the same sense, that he is of the nature of plants. If Adam had a sinful nature, as the pure result of his own act, it is God that so connects us with him that a sinful nature in us cannot but result from it. God, who established and now upholds this connection, is the sole author of all the results of that connection. Adam sinned, to be sure; but he had nothing to do with establishing and upholding the connection between him and his offspring. This, with all its results, God established, and he alone. Of the connection itself, then, and its results, he alone is the author. If a sinful nature in us is one of these results, God, and God alone, is the author of that nature.
3. It follows, as a necessary result of the proposition above established, that no one of the sons of Adam can perish, without being condemned to the endurance of eternal suffering for doing what, and for nothing else but what, God, by his own decree and agency, rendered it impossible for him not to do. The whole procedure of the divine administration rests upon this one principle, that of making creatures responsible for the unavoidable results of God's own decree and agency. Saints are taken to heaven, and sinners doomed to eternal death, for no other reason than this, being and doing what, and only what, God himself rendered it impossible for them not to be and do. We may safely challenge the world to show that these conclusions do not, from the laws of irreversible necessity, result from the fundamental elements of the theory now under consideration. I might safely leave the subject right here; for who can believe that God's eternal government rests upon such principles as these? I now advance, however, to a consideration of some additional objections which lie against two essential elements of this theorythe doctrine of inability, and of a limited atonement.
1. According to this theory, God has made a formal proposition to all the non-elect, that if they will perform an impossibility, he will perpetuate an act of injustice. That God has, in the most formal and positive manner, pledged himself to all sinners, the non-elect among the rest, that if they will repent he will forgive them their sins, no one will deny. "Let the wicked" (that is, any wicked man on earth) "forsake his way, and the unrighteous man" (any unrighteous man, whether he be elect or non-elect) "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." . . . "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." This was said to individuals who, in fact, never did repent; that is, to some of the non-elect. Now, while God thus promises to all sinners that he will forgive them if they will repent, we are positively taught, Rom. iii. 26, that it would be unjust in God to forgive sin without an atonement. As, therefore, the sins of the non-elect, according to this theory, have never been atoned for, it would be unjust in God to forgive them, even if they did repent. What, then, is the proposition which God, in the most solemn and formal manner, has made to sinners, as far as the non-elect are concerned? It is this: If you will repent, that is, perform what is to you an absolute impossibility, I, on my part, though no atonement is made for you, will forgive you most graciously, and abundantly pardon you; that is, perpetrate an act of injustice. Such is the attitude in which this theory places God before the universe. Can such a theory be true? What higher evidence can we have that God has made provisions for the pardon of all men, than the fact that he has positively promised to forgive all men, if they will repent!
2. The entire procedure of the divine administration, according to this theory, rests upon a principle which, from the fixed and changeless laws of our mental constitutionlaws which God has himself establishedwe cannot but affirm to be wrong. Suppose a thing has become to me, and that from no fault of mine, an impossibility. Is it possible for us to conceive, with the minds that God has given us, that I can be under obligation to perform, and justly condemned to the endurance of eternal vengeance for not performing, that impossible thing? According to the theory under consideration, all the non-elect, by no fault of theirs, upon whomsoever the responsibility may rest, are possessed of a nature, and are placed in circumstances, which render it to them an absolute impossibility to do right, on the one hand, or not to do wrong, on the other. How can we conceive that they, on this supposition, can be under obligation to avoid the one and perform the other, and that they can be justly doomed to eternal agony for the non-performance of these impossibilities? God must reverse all the laws of our mental being, before he can bring his intelligent offspring to acquiesce in such principles of administration.
3. According to this theory, the entire moral government of God rests upon principles which all the world unite in denouncing as not only in themselves wrong, but the perfection of tyranny and injustice, when adopted by any other being but God. Nero, for example, issued edicts, but posted them where his subjects could not possibly read them, and then inflicted the severest penalties upon them for not obeying them. What has been the verdict of the universe upon him for the adoption of such principles of administration? And upon what grounds has that verdict rested? Upon this one exclusively,that it is and must be wrong to require creatures to perform what is, and has to them, without any fault of theirs, become an impossibility. When men pronounce such judgments, they all unite in condemning the principle under consideration as in itself wrong. Does the entire moral government of God rest upon such a principle, and no other? It does, according to this theory. What must we think of the theory itself?
4. According to this theory, the non-elect are to be subject to sufferings infinitely aggravated, for rejecting offered mercy, when it was absolutely impossible for them, and God himself, as we have seen, had rendered it so,when it was absolutely impossible for them, I say, to accept the offer, and when they could not have been saved had they done so. That the doom of sinners is to be infinitely aggravated, on account of their having rejected the offer of mercy through Christ, lies upon the very surface of the Bible, and is a fact universally admitted. But this offer the non-elect have, according to this theory, no power to comply with; and, as no provisions for pardon exist, so far as they are concerned, they could not be forgiven if they should accept the offer. And yet their doom is to be eternally aggravated for "rejecting this great salvation." What do you think, hearer, of such a theory as that? Does it accord with what we cannot but know must be true of "the glorious gospel of the blessed God?"
5. The principles of this theory are opposed to the plainest and most obvious teaching of inspiration in respect to the extent of the atonement of Christ. What is the meaning of such declarations as these, pertaining to the design of the death and atonement of Christ? "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved." Nothing is said here about the elect in distinction from others. It is the world for whom Christ is here represented as making an atonement, and as coming to save. The object of his atonement is not that certain individuals of the race might be saved; but that "WHOSOEVER believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life." Such, again, 1 John ii. 2: "And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." The term "our" here undeniably refers to believers. What, then, is meant by the words "the whole world?" Let us now read the first six verses of 1 Tim. ii.:
"I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men: for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." In this whole passage the apostle makes no reference to the elect whatever. He is speaking of mankind indiscriminately. What, then, is his meaning, when he says that "Christ gave himself a ransom for all?" No unprejudiced mind can mistake the meaning of the term "all" in this connection. It must refer to every individual of the race. I forbear further citations, only adding, that if the Bible does not teach the doctrine of an unlimited atonement, it is one of the most unmeaning books that ever was written; and no doctrine whatever can be safely rested upon its teachings.
6. Equally opposed is the doctrine of the sinner's inability to do what is good, to the positive teachings of the Bible. The opposite doctrine is involved in the very words of the divine law itself. I will cite but a single passage in proof of this proposition, Luke x. 2528: "And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law! how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live." All that God requires of creatures, as we are told elsewhere, is "comprehended in one wordlove." "Love is the fulfilling of the law." In the passage above cited, we are most positively taught that the extent of the demands of this law is limited by the power or ability of the creature. "With all thy strength;" that is, with all the ability you actually possess, and with no more, and no lees. A theory, that thus stands opposed to all the affirmations of reason and revelation alike, pertaining to the subject, we certainly run no risk in departing from the truth when we reject.
II. We will now consider the second theory named above,the theory which agrees with the one which we have just considered, excepting in one particular, the extent of the atonement. It affirms a universal atonement for the race, but denies its universal availableness to all men, and that for two reasons,the sinner's absolute inability, in himself, to accept of the provisions of grace, in the first instance, and because the Spirit is totally withheld from the non-elect, in the next. On this theory I remark,
I. It is in itself most palpably self-contradictory. Provisions of which we cannot possibly avail ourselves are, in fact, no provisions at all; and it is a contradiction in terms to call them so. They are nothing but a solemn mockery of our misery. Suppose, to take a borrowed illustration, that government requires a man to run a train of cars from London to Liverpool; it lays down a most perfect track, provides the train and the engine, and furnishes the requisite fuel and water, but withholds the fire requisite to light the fuel and heat the water, that the train may be put in motion, and that while it is absolutely impossible for the subject to get the fire elsewhere, or to run the train without it. Has government made provisions for running the train from London to Liverpool? So, if God has provided the means of pardon, but withheld his Spirit, without whose aid it is impossible for us to avail ourselves of such provisions, they are in fact no provisions for us, and it is a contradiction in terms to call them such.
2. The provisions of grace and offers of mercy are, according to this theory, no acts of kindness to the non-elect, but an infinite calamity to them, and that from no fault of theirs. Is it kind to offer a remedy to an individual, when it is impossible for him not to reject it, and when his misery must be eternally aggravated by the offer itself? According to this theory, God, in the first instance, by establishing and upholding the laws of natural generation, imparts to the non-elect a nature which renders it impossible for them not to sin. In the next place, he makes an atonement for their sins. He then presents the offer of life to them, under circumstances which render it absolutely impossible for them not to reject the offer. He then, to all eternity, renders their doom infinitely aggravated, because they have done that which by no possibility they could avoid, to wit, rejected offered mercy. Where is the love or kindness in presenting such an offer to creatures placed, without their own election, in such circumstances? What an infinite calamity, instead of kindness, is the death of Christ to all such! Is this "the glorious gospel of the blessed God?"
3. This theory contradicts the positive teachings of the Scriptures in respect to the extent of the Spirit's influences. If the Holy Spirit is never, as this theory asserts, given to any but the elect, then none of our race ever did, or ever can, "resist the Holy Ghost." The non-elect cannot do it, because he never strives with them; the elect cannot do it, because he operates upon them irresistibly. Such are the teachings of this theory on this subject. Now, Christians are required and exhorted not to grieve and quench the Holy Spirit. This implies that his influence, even in their case, may be resisted. Sinners, also, who never repented, were charged with "resisting the Holy Ghost." "Ye do ALWAYS resist the Holy Ghost. As your fathers did so do ye." How strange that, in the presence of such declarations, a theory of divine influence should be farmed which confines the Spirit's influence to those who are truly converted! When will Christians let the Bible teach them theology, instead of first framing a system of theology, and then warping and perverting the word of God, to make it accord with such a system? What pupil of the Holy Spirit would ever gather, from what he meets with on the sacred page, that God's Spirit is partial in his influence? But does not "the wind blow where it listeth," and is it not said that "so is every one that is born of the Spirit?" Truly the wind thus bloweth. But is it partial in its influence? Does it not, when it blows, strike all alike? "So is every one that is born of the Spirit." The last idea that such a representation is adapted to convey is this, that the believer is converted by an influence given to him and withheld from others. Precisely the opposite truth is conveyed by these words. The object of the Saviour was to teach Nicodemus that the sinner is converted by an invisible internal influence operating upon the heart, in opposition to the Jewish notion of a birth to life eternal by natural generation, or some outward arrangement depending upon the will of man. But nothing is further from his design than to teach that this influence is partial, or limited in its operations. The illustration used is adapted only to the expression of the opposite idea.
III. The theory which next claims our attention differs from the one last named only in respect to the doctrine of inability. It asserts the ability or free agency of man, maintains the doctrine of universal atonement, but limits the influences of the Spirit to the elect. The following are all the considerations deemed requisite to urge against such a theory as this,considerations bearing exclusively upon the one single point, the principle that the Spirit's influences are limited to the elect.
1. This theory has no authority whatever in a single passage of the Bible. Where, within the lids of the word of God, is there a single passage that asserts, or intimates, or says anything that implies, that the influences of the Spirit are given to a part of the race, and withheld from the rest? No one, I am confident, will presume to attempt to prove such a dogma from any of the positive teachings of inspiration on the subject. How little fundamental reference is there to the Bible in the formation of systems of theology!
2. It is as unreasonable in itself, and as contrary to our ideas of the infinite, universal, and impartial love of God, to suppose that the atonement is limited, as it is to suppose that God's Spirit is partial in his influences. From what element of the divine character, from what principle of his eternal government, or from what aspect of the great atonement, can such an idea be discovered?
3. The idea of a universal atonement, through the second person of the Trinity, is wholly repugnant in itself to that of a limited divine influence, to accomplish the ends of that atonement, through the third person. Why should the love of God to the world be less universal and impartial, as manifested through the mission of the third, than through that of the second person of the Trinity? Nothing but the exigency of a false theory can place the mission of the Spirit in such unnatural and repulsive relations to that of the Son of God.
4. The same mode of reasoning by which we could derive from the Scriptures the doctrine of partialism, as far as the Spirit is concerned, would be equally conclusive against a general atonement. This statement is self-evident, and needs no further elucidation.
5. This theory, as we have already seen, is contradicted by the positive teachings of the Holy Scriptures. If the Bible teaches anything, it teaches the great truth that sinners perish, not because they never had the Spirit, but because "they do always resist the Holy Ghost."
6. But I have yet another objection, if possible of still greater weight, against this theory. That God sincerely desires that all men should accept the offer of mercy through Christ, the Bible most abundantly teaches, and all the advocates of this theory admit; if he withholds his Spirit from all who are not finally saved, then his sincere desire is that they, without the Spirit, should accept of mercy and be saved. God, then, sincerely desires that a part of mankind should enter heaven, through the united agency of all the persons in the Trinity, and a part share this same blessedness through the agency of but two of them. Where is the reason for such a desire as that, and what must we think of a theory that places the infinite God in such a relation as that to his creatures?
IV. The fourth theory that we are to consider, agrees in all respects with the one last named, with this exception: it affirms that what are called the common influences of the Spirit,those from which conversion never does and never will result, are given to all; while his converting influences,those which, if imparted to all, would infallibly secure their conversion, are confined exclusively to the elect. Now, against this theory I urge the following, to me, unanswerable objections:
1. The distinction under consideration has no authority from the Bible. Where does the Bible speak of the common non-converting, and of the special converting, influences of The Spirit? Where does it intimate that those influences which the incorrigible sinner resists to his own destruction, are not the same as those to which the believer yields when he is converted? We shall search in vain, among all the teachings of God's Spirit in his word, for the distinction under consideration.
2. This distinction is made in opposition to the most plain and positive teachings of the Bible. I will adduce a single passage in proof of this proposition. I refer to Isaiah v. 15: "Now will I sing to my well-beloved a song of my beloved," &c.
Three important facts pertaining to this affecting parable demand our special attention. (1.) The representation is, that all that is ever done for vineyards which actually bring forth good fruit, had been done for this yard. (2.) Under the very circumstances and influences under which one vineyard bears good fruit, this brought forth wild grapes. (3.) Under these identical circumstances and influences, the prospect of its bearing good fruit became hopeless.
This parable is used for the avowed purpose of illustrating and exemplifying God's dealings with sinners who continue incorrigible under all his efforts for their salvation, and finally perish in their sins. In the presence of the perishing sinner, God put the question, What could I have done, to prevent his death, that I have not done? Where would there be any propriety to such a question, if a divine and all-converting influence, granted to others, had been withheld from him, and he had been subject to those influences only from which conversion never does and never will result?
3. All the representations of the Bible, pertaining to the reasons for the salvation of believers on the one hand, and for the destruction of the finally incorrigible on the other, are wholly incompatible with the distinction under consideration. The sinner is represented as perishing for rejecting the identical Saviour which the Christian is saved for believing in, and for resisting the same Spirit to whose divine influence the believer yields in conversion. The Saviour and the Spirit both have their mission in the world. The destiny of men turns upon their voluntary reception or rejection of each alike in the fulfilment of his mission.
4. The common influences of the Spirit given to men, while the special converting ones are withheld, are nothing but an infinite calamity to the sinner, and can have been given but to aggravate his doom. They answer no other purpose, and cannot be given for the purpose of securing the salvation of him who is subject to them. For what purpose, then, can they be given, but to answer the end they do answer, to aggravate the doom of the sinner?
5. All that the Bible says of the divine forbearance is in opposition to this theory. This forbearance is affirmed to be exercised for one special purpose, the actual conversion and salvation of men. Does God continue men subject to influences under which no man ever did or ever will repent, and that for the sincere purpose of securing their repentance under those influences? I cannot believe that such is the character of God's dispensations towards his rational offspring. God never acts for the avowed purpose of realizing a given end, and acts in the exclusive use of means which, in no solitary instance, result in securing that end.
V. We now come to a consideration of the theory next in order, that which agrees with the one last mentioned in respect to the doctrines of ability and universal atonement, but denies that the Spirit now operates at all upon the human mind, either directly or through the truth; the theory which confines the office of the Spirit to the work of giving a revelation to man, and affirms that he is then left, in the exercise of his own free agency, to determine his own destiny, by a voluntary reception or rejection of the truth thus revealed. In regard to this theory I remark
1. It confines the Spirit's influences to inspired teachers; whereas the Scriptures represent him as given to the entire Church. All alike are commanded to be filled with the Spirit. Eph. v. 18.
2. This theory contradicts the express language of our Saviour, when he gave the promise of the Spirit. The Spirit was not to come into the world and perform a certain work, and then leave the world, as Christ himself was to do, but was to abide with his people forever. John xiv. 16.
3. The Spirit is represented as given to believers after they have understood and received the "word of truth," and given as the seal or divine token of their adoption, and as an earnest or foretaste of their future inheritance. Eph. i. 13, 14: "In whom ye also trusted," &c.
4. God is represented as dwelling in, and as communing with, his people through the Spirit,a truth wholly inconsistent with the theory under consideration. Eph. ii. 13, 22: "But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were afar off," &c.
5. The Spirit is represented as aiding Christians in prayer; a present work, and one very different from that of merely giving a revelation, and then leaving the people of God, and the world too, to find out the truth, and address a throne of grace as they may. Rom. viii. 26. I need add no further considerations on this point. A theory which stands in such direct and palpable opposition to the express teachings of inspiration on the subject, cannot surely accord with the mind of the Spirit.
VI. The sixth and last theory to be considered, next claims our attention. According to this theory, the mission of the Spirit is wholly subsidiary to that of Christ, and is coëxtensive with it in design and actual influence. As "Christ tasted death for EVERY man," so the mission of the Spirit is to bring every man under an influence best adapted to secure to him an acceptance of the provisions of mercy. As no sinner perishes without an atonement, so none perish only as they have resisted the Spirit of God pressing the provisions of grace upon their acceptance. As no provisions are made for a part and withheld from the rest, so there are no common unconverting influences of the Spirit given to a part, and serving in their case, consequent on their intrinsic inefficiency, no other purpose but to fit men for perdition; and special converting influences, which, if given to all, would infallibly secure their conversion, but which God, in his sovereignty, withholds from the many and bestows upon the few. It is not affirmed that the Spirit does not operate at one time more than another, or equally upon all. But it is maintained that all his influences, as far as sinners are concerned, are, in fact, converting influences,influeuces under which conversion not only may, but, in many instances, actually does take place. Sinners are not to be exhorted to pray for the Spirit to convert them, but to yield to his influences at once, in the exercise of "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." The office of the Spirit is to present the truth to the mind of the sinner. The work, and the only work, of the sinner is, not to pray for the Spirit, but to yield at once to the truth presented by the Spirit to his mind. The office of the religious teacher is, not first to tell the sinner of his dependence upon the Spirit, and then to exhort him to pray for the converting influences of the Spirit, but to urge him at once to yield to the Spirit by embracing the truth. In fulfilling his mission, the Spirit, according to this theory, sustains two relations entirely distinct to mankind,one to sinners, and the other to believers. In his relations to the former, his office is to "convince THE WORLD of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment." In his relations to the latter, he opens upon the mental vision the things of Christ, that "we all, (with open face,) beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, may be changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." To the sinner he comes unasked. To the believer he is given in answer to prayer. The "sealing and earnest of the Spirit" are to be sought by faith, just as pardon through Christ is thus sought. "How much more shall our Father who is in heaven give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him!" A few considerations only are requisite to show that this is the true view of this great subject.
1. In showing that all the other theories are and must be false, the highest evidence has been presented of the truth of that now under consideration.
2. The mission of the Spirit, in each of the forms above named, is a clearly revealed fact. The distinction between his common unconverting, and his special converting, influences, as a fact, is nowhere revealed, or even directly or indirectly hinted at, in the Bible. When we make such a distinction, "we are wise above what is written."
3. The absolute universality and impartiality of the provisions of grace, through Christ, demand the supposition that the Spirit, in his mission, based wholly as it is upon such provisions, will be equally universal and impartial. As there are no provisions of grace for a part of the race fully adequate for their necessities, and other provisions for the rest inadequate for theirs so it is infinitely unreasonable to suppose that there are common unconverting influences of the Spirit given to a part, and special converting influences given to the rest, and in God's sovereignty withheld from all the world besides. What can be more unreasonable, without an express revelation to the contrary, than the supposition that the love of God to the race, manifested through the mission of the Spirit, is less universal and impartial than that manifested through the mission of Christ! Such an idea supposes a total want of harmony, among the persons of the Trinity, in the work of redemption. The Father is represented as "willing that all men should be saved," and, from "love to the WORLD," as giving the Son to "taste death for every man." In the name of every person of the Trinity, he takes an oath that "he is not willing that any should perish." Christ, in conformity to the plans and principles of such a form of love,love absolutely universal and impartial,makes provisions coextensive with the wants of universal humanity. The Spirit now appears as the final expression and manifestation of this love; and what, according to this idea, does he do? He gives converting influences to a part of the race,influences which, if given to all, would infallibly secure their conversion,and by an act of sovereignty withholds such influences from the rest. Where is the divine harmony in the relations of the different persons of the Trinity to the work of redemption, on such a supposition?
4. Nothing but the exigencies of a pre-formed theory pertaining to conversion, and not a simple study of what the Spirit has himself revealed in regard to his own mission, ever led (am I not justified in affirming?) to the distinction between the unconverting and converting influences of the Spirit. Now, whenever our theories lead us to discriminate where the Bible does not make a difference, it is quite safe and becoming in us to question the truth of our speculations.
5. The theory under consideration accords with the positive teachings of the Bible. I need only refer, is confirmation of this proposition, to what was said under a former head, on the parable of the vineyard, found in Isaiah v. 15. Suppose that God, by an Act of sovereignty, withholds from all who are finally lost a divine influence, which, if given, would infallibly secure their conversion, and then, in the presence of such a fact, asks the question, What could I do, to prevent the doom of these men, that I am not doing? The answer is ready. Such a question can never properly be put, on any other supposition than the truth of the theory of divine influence before us. Wherever, also, we read that some are saved, in consequence of "obeying the truth through the Spirit," and others lost, consequent on "resisting the Holy Ghost," we are bound to suppose, without an express revelation to the contrary, that the influence yielded to on the one hand, and resisted on the other, is one and the same.
6. This theory, and this alone, perfectly meets our ideas of what ought to be under the divine government. If creatures are saved and lost in the presence of the same provisions, and under influences precisely similar, and are saved or lost, only as they voluntarily accept and yield to, or resist and reject, such provisions and influences, then every department of our moral nature is satisfied with the divine dispensations. Every department of our better nature, on the other hand, naturally and necessarily revolts from every other view.
7. Finally, this theory, and this alone, accords fully with the manner in which men, under the influence of the Spirit, present the truth to sinners. Such men never, in any solitary instance, tell the sinner of his dependence upon the sovereign agency of the Spirit for conversion, and then exhort him to pray for the converting influences of the Spirit. How individuals dare to adopt such a mode of teaching, and that in direct opposition to inspired example, is a perfect mystery to me. On the other hand, inspired men always address sinners directly on the duty of immediate "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ;" and they are then exhorted to yield at once to the Spirit by obeying the truth, and charged with "resisting the Holy Ghost" while they refuse to do it. No other form of teaching has the least shadow of sanction from inspired example. Instead of exhorting the sinner, remaining impenitent, to pray for the Spirit to convert him, he is expressly informed that unless he "prays in nothing wavering," he is not to "expect to receive anything from God." Now, the theory under consideration perfectly accords with such a mode of teaching, and it is the only theory that does accord with it. What higher evidence can be demanded of its truth?
1. It is no objection to the theory of divine influence, established in this lecture, that the Bible ascribes the difference between believers and unbelievers to the Spirit and grace of Christ. The Christian is what he is "by the grace of God," and "has nothing but what he has received." If the question be asked, however, why has he, and why has the sinner not, this grace? the Bible answer to the question is this: The one has this grace because he voluntarily received it by faith, or "obeyed the truth through the Spirit," and the other has it not, because he "put" the same grace "from him."
2. We have, in the manner in which the doctrine of the Spirit's influences are very commonly presented, a striking exemplification of the fact that, under the influence of a certain theory relative to any given subject, men, professing a supreme reverence for the Scriptures, will frequently run directly over their most manifest teachings on that subject. I hold it to be a truth self-evident, and the opposite as a most dangerous error, that we are bound, not only to teach what is revealed in the "law and the testimony," but to conform our manner of teaching to clearly revealed inspired example. In traversing this kingdom, I find a quite common impression to exist, that a sermon is hardly evangelical in which the sinner is not reminded of his dependence upon the Spirit for conversion, and exhorted to pray for the Spirit to impart to him a converting influence. What is the intrinsic tendency of such a mode of teaching? To turn the attention of sinner away from the very duty which it is the exclusive object of inspiration to fix it upon, to wit, the duty of immediate repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, and to prevent his yielding to the Spirit, by obeying his call to "repentance and faith." It tends, also, to impress the sinner with an error most unscriptural, and of most dangerous tendency, to wit, that prayer put up in impenitence and unbelief will be acceptable to God. Such a mode of presenting the doctrine of divine influence, also, is in express and open opposition to inspired example. Nothing like this, but everything in opposition to it, appears every where in the example of inspired teachers. Instead of telling the sinner of his dependence upon the Spirit, they tell him that he is "always resisting the Holy Ghost" while he remains unconverted. Instead of telling him to pray for the Spirit, they urge him not to resist the Spirit by refusing to "obey the truth." If we would follow inspired example, both in respect to manner and matter, we shall not, by our teaching, lead sinners to inquire "who shall ascend into heaven," or "go over the sea," or "descend into the deep," to bring Christ or the Spirit to us. On the other hand, teaching them that "the word is very nigh them, even in their mouth and in their heart," we shall urge them at once to yield to the word and Spirit, by "laying," directly and immediately, "hold upon the hope set before them."
EXPLANATION OF ROMANS IX. 113,
EXPLANATION OF ROMANS IX. 1418,
EXPLANATION OF ROMANS IX. 1924,
EXPLANATION OF ROMANS IX. 2533,
Eposition of Romans IX., Etc. By Asa Mahan - Romans 9 Commentary