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the abject slave, and to those, by whom nations are brought to slavery. Without it," the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bond man,” will desire to “ hide themselves in the dens, and rocks, and mountains; and will say to the mountains and the rocks, fall on us, and cover us from the face of Him, that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.
Regeneration. Two things have been already shown; 1. That regeneration is a moral change, and, 2. That the necessity of it is universal.
I am now to inquire, whether there be any thing irra. tional in attributing this change to divine agency; then consider what is the testimony of scripture on this subject; and lastly inquire, whether there be not, even now, many incontestable facts, of which, without the supposition of divine influence no good account can be given.
1. Is there any thing irrational in attributing to divine agency, that alteration of moral character, which in scripture language, is termed a new birth ?
That God should create a world, in the minutest parts of which we distinctly perceive the marks of intelligence and design, and then permit this same world to exist without any further attention from him, implies an absurdity, little, is in any degree, less glaring, than that of atheism.
If the world were worth making, it is worth preserving and superintending. If it were created for some purpose, it must, for the same, be continued: and if there be some purpose, for the accomplishment of which the world is continy
ed, it is impossible to conceive, that Deity should not exer. cise that influence, whatever it be, which is necessary to secure this purpose from proving abortive.
But the intellectual part of creation is far most important. In examining the history of past ages, we notice, with considerable interest, no doubt, an earthquake, the appearance of a comet, the eruption of a volcano, the formation of a new gulf, or a new island: but it is the changes, which are effected among intelligent beings;—it is national wars and revolutions, which justly engross our highest attention. These have a far more intimate connexion, than the other, with human happiness and human virtue. Now, these events are not mechanical; but all result from human choice. If therefore, God had not, either directly or indirectly, any influence on the tempers and volitions of men, he could not regulate these great events : and the Universe, so far, as its most important interests are involved, would be, in a very slight degree, if at all, under the divine control. How in consistent such an opinion would be, not only with the most enlightened philosophy, but with the common ideas of man. kind whether christian, Jewish, or pagan, it is unnecessary to show.
But most men are convinced, not only that the world in general is under a divine superintendence; but that this superintendence embraces their own circumstances, and, in some instances at least, their characters. If they are in danger, they doubt not, but Deity may by invisible agency, secure their escape. If they are in perplexity, as to the course, which will issue most advantageously, they question not the possibility of being divinely directed. Whether habituated themselves to devotion or not, they suspect no impropriety in the prayers of others, who ask of God to illuminate their understandings, to secure them from error, and to advance within them all virtuous dispositions. Few persons, I apprehend, ever imagined that the following lines of Thompson contained any thing, inconsistent with the
most rational views of the character of God, or the condi
" Father of light and life; thou good supreme ;
Sacred, substantial, never fading bliss."
From quotations, which arc often made on this subject from heathen philosophers, you are probably convinced, that such men, as Cyrus, Socrates, and Plato; and, among those of a later period, Cicero, Seneca and Simplicius, occasionally expressed sentiments, surprisingly coincident with those, generally acknowledged among believers in christianity. They acknowledged that virtue had a celestial origin
. Nemo igitur vir magnus sine aliquo aflatu divino unquam fuit. (Sic. de nat. Deor. 128.)
It is well known, that men have a degree of influence on the moral character of each other. A man, fully determined on the commission of a crime, is sometimes diverted by the seasonable remonstance of a friend. In a similar way, have habits of profaneness or sensuality, in some few instances, been interrupted, or effectually broken. Now, if one human agent may have some influence on the moral character of another, is it not perfectly reasonable to believe that He, who is the creator of human souls, and who has therefore a perfect knowledge of their powers and their propensities, may have on the moral character of his creatures, a far greater influence? If you can, in any degree, restrain the vices of another, is it incredible, that God, who is the Father of spirits, should eradicate those vices, or implant real virtue?
11. I am now to consider what testimony the scriptures bear, as to the subject before us.
Much is said in the Old Testament, under the form, both of promises and predictions, concerning the prevalence of
religion in future ages, especially under the reign of Messiah; and the effect is, with great clearness of language attributed to a divine influence on the heart. In the one hundred and tenth psalm, there is a promise of the Father to Christ, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.” When persons are willing to acknowledge Christ, as their sovereign and to submit to his laws, they are regenerated. This voluntary subjection is, therefore, here attributed to the power of Christ.
In the prophecy of Ezekiel, is foretold a time, when the dispersed Jews shall be restored to their country and to the ehurch of God: after which they shall cordially adhere to their covenant engagements. This is foretold, not as a matter of casualty, but the effect of divine influence. “ Thus saith the Lord, though I have cast them off among the heathen, and though I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them a little sanctuary in the countries, where they shall come. I will even gather you from the people, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered: and I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within you: and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh.”
A great number of similar passages, it is well known, are found in the prophetic writing. It will avail nothing to say, by way of objection, that as these expressions relate to the Jews; nothing can be argued from them, in regard 10 mankind in general: since a Jew has no aversion from piety, which is not commmon to our whole race. It will hardly be said after a little deliberation, that the Jew becomes virtuous in one manner, and the Gentile in another; that while the former is dependant on his Maker for an obedient heart, the latter produces one merely by his own industry.
If, however, any doubts of this nature can be entertained, 'on reading the Old Testament, they cannot fail to be removed, when we consult the testimony of Christ and his apostles. In the third chapter of John, lo which we have repeatedly had recourse, our Saviour asserts not only the uni