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PHILOSOPHICAL THEORIES OF REGENERATION - C, PREVIOUS SECTION - NEXT SECTION - HELP - FACEBOOK
(6.) If this theory is true, the whole moral government of God is no government at all, distinct from, and superior to, physical government. It overlooks and virtually denies the fundamentally important distinction between moral and physical power, and moral and physical government. All power and all government, upon this theory, are physical.
3. The susceptibility scheme.
This theory represents, that the Holy Spirit's influences are both physical and moral; that He, by a direct and physical influence, excites the susceptibilities of the soul and prepares them to be affected by the truth; that He, thereupon, exerts a moral or persuasive influence by presenting the truth, which moral influence induces regeneration.
This philosophy maintains the necessity and the fact of a physical influence superadded to the moral or persuasive influence of the Holy Spirit as a sine qua non of regeneration. It admits and maintains, that regeneration is effected solely by a moral influence, but also that a work preparatory to the efficiency of the moral influence, and indispensable to its efficiency, in producing regeneration, is performed by a direct and physical agency of the Holy Spirit upon the constitutional susceptibilities of the soul, to quicken and wake it up, and predispose it to be deeply and duly affected by the truth.
It is maintained by the defenders of this scheme, that the representations of the Bible upon the subject of the Holy Spirit's agency in regeneration, are such as to forbid the supposition, that His influence is altogether moral or persuasive, and such as plainly to indicate that He also exerts a physical agency, in preparing the mind to be duly affected by the truth.
In reply to this argument, I observe: that I fear greatly to disparage the agency of the Holy Spirit in the work of man's redemption from sin, and would, by no means, resist or deny, or so much as call in question, any thing time is plainly taught or implied in the Bible upon this subject. I admit and maintain that regeneration is always induced and effected by the personal agency of the Holy Spirit. The question now before us relates wholly to the mode, and not at all to the fact, of divine agency in regeneration. Let this be distinctly understood, for it has been common for theologians of the old school, as soon as the dogma of a physical regeneration, and of a physical influence in regeneration, has been called in question, to cry out and insist that this is Pelagianism, and that it is a denial of divine influence altogether, and that it is teaching a self-regeneration, independent of any divine influence. I have been ashamed of such representations as these on the part of Christian divines, and have been distressed by their want of candor. It should, however, be distinctly stated that, so far as I know, the defenders of the theory now under consideration have never manifested this want of candor toward those who have called in question that part of their theory that relates to a physical influence.
Since the advocates of this theory admit that the Bible teaches that regeneration is induced by a divine moral suasion, the point of debate is simply, whether the Bible teaches that there is also a physical influence exerted by the Holy Spirit, in exciting the constitutional susceptibilities. We will now attend to their proof texts. "Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures" (Luke 24:45). It is affirmed, that this text seems to teach or imply a physical influence in opening their understandings. But what do we mean by such language as this in common life? Language is to be understood according to the subject matter of discourse. Here the subject of discourse is the understanding. But what can be intended by opening it? Can this be a physical prying, pulling, or forcing open any department of the constitution? Such language in common life would be understood only to mean, that such instruction was imparted as to secure a right understanding of the scriptures. Every one knows this, and why should we suppose and assume that anything more is intended here? The context plainly indicates that this was the thing, and the only thing done in this case. "Then He said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself. And said unto them, thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day" (Luke 24:25-27, 46). From these verses it appears that He expounded the scriptures to them, when in the light of what had passed, and in the light of that measure of divine illumination which was then imparted to them, they understood the things which He explained to them. It does not seem to me, that this passage warrants the inference that there was a physical influence exerted. It certainly affirms no such thing. "And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshiped God, heard us; whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul"(Acts 16:14). Here is an expression similar to that just examined. Here it is said, "that the Lord opened the heart of Lydia, so that she attended," etc. ; that is, the Lord inclined her to attend. But how? Why, say the advocates of this scheme, by a physical influence. But how does this appear? What is her heart that it should be pulled, or forced open? And what can be intended by the assertion, "that the Lord opened her heart?" All that can be meant is, that the Lord secured her attention, or disposed her to attend, and so enlightened her when she did attend, that she believed. Surely here is no assertion of a physical influence, nor, so far as I can see, any just ground for the inference, that such an influence was exerted. A moral influence can sufficiently explain all the phenomena; and any text that can equally well consist with either of two opposing theories, can prove neither.