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with God, his state is changed, he is a child of grace; his condemnation is rescinded, he is become an heir of heaven. This is his relative change. This, however, is not regeneration, which is a holy change, but is a change of relation connected with regeneration. Bishop Bethell, we are aware, strenuously maintains, that this relative change, or something allied to it, is our regeneration itself, exclusive of internal holiness; with what success we shall hereafter examine.
The reader, we trust, will, therefore, constantly bear in mind what is the real design of our inquiry. It is the meanING or NATURE of regeneration, that we are now seeking for, and not the time of its occurrence.
be supposed to take place in baptism, or at some other time, is not what we now inquire. Nor is it simply the meaning of words or terms that we are discussing; but it is the allimportant doctrine usually conveyed under those terms.
Regeneration, as taught in the Scriptures. That regeneration includes a holy nature, a new heart, or a renewed and sanctified disposition of mind, will, we conceive, be readily proved from the Word of God. A brief reference to a few particulars therein stated, may suffice. The consideration of the nature of man's disposition when he was first created, of his helplessness and guilt by the loss of his original purity,—and of the description given of his restoration to the original state of mind which he possessed, may help us to obtain some clear views on this subject.
1. What may afford us preliminary views of regeneration, is the disposition of mind in which man was at first created.
“ God made man upright." This uprightness, as an essential part of the character of man, when first created holy and pure, must have consisted, not of any external quality, but of moral uprightness and spiritual integrity,-his soul was right. That our interpretation is correct, is evident from the moral obliquities subsequently induced, and which are alluded to in the next sentence,-" but they have sought out many inventions," Eccl. vii. 29. It is further asserted, that God“ created man in his own image.” This image could
not consist in an external or visible likeness to God, since He is “ invisible;” nor in a delegated authority over the brute creation. For, first, God possessed this “ image" before the creation, and could not therefore derive it from his relation to the creatures. Secondly, man was created in this image; but authority over the creatures was a subsequent gift. And, thirdly, this image was evidently lost by sin, while his authority over the creatures still remained. Nor could this image consist in having a reasonable intelligent soul, independent of a pure and spiritual habit of mind. Though the idea of an intelligent nature, inasmuch as it approaches to a distinguishing characteristic of the Great God, needs not to be wholly excluded, it is yet an interpretation far too low for so peculiar a phrase as “ the image of God:” and that it is so, is evident from this fact, man has lost this image, but not his rational powers. When Adam begat a son, it was in his own likeness, and not in the likeness or
image of God.” II. The consideration of the helplessness of man under sin and guilt, on the loss of this holy disposition, will clearly shew what it is that is necessary to be restored. Hence may naturally be deduced what that is to which man is restored by regeneration.
We find man, after the fall, in a situation totally altered, both with respect to the holiness, or moral qualities of his mind, and with regard to his relative state as to God and happiness. The immediate operation of sin is seen in aversion to God and dread of His displeasure. The image of God was destroyed in man, and then “every imagination of the thought of his heart was only evil continually.” Henceforth, he is "conceived in sin, and shapen in iniquity.” Instead of being born with a holy, he is born with a
co carnal mind, which is enmity against God.” Both Jew and Gentile
“ alienated from the life of God,” and “ enemies to him in their minds,” Eph. iv. 17–22; Col. i. 21. Even St. Paul acknowledges, • We ourselves were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another, Tit. iii. 3.
The total depravity of man, his blindness of mind, ignorance, carnality, and utter incapacity for good, discover the loss of his spiritual disposition, and shew what it is that he needs to have renewed again in his soul.
66 walk in the vanity of their minds, having the understanding
darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their hearts.” Man is now so dark and averse from God, that his moral or spiritual life is extinct and gone; yea, he is “ dead in trespasses and sins," Eph. ii. 2. He has no will, no disposition towards spiritual things.“ Light is come into the world, but men love darkness rather than light.” Such, since the fall, is the natural man. He is born thus; and this makes it necessary that he“ must be born again.” Until he is born again, he is but a natural man, or “ Aesh," as our Lord declares. But “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him : neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” I Cor. ii. 14. This most clearly proves that he has no spiritual life until he is “ born again."
In consequence of man's departure from God, guilt and the curse ensue. “ The day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” He did die. He died to God. He has now become guilty, and the wrath of God overtakes him. The curse was denounced against sin, and this curse followed on the commission of sin. And now judgment is come upon all men to condemnation.” Every sin entails a curse. “ Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.” Every one is, therefore, involved in guilt and ruin, in consequence of sin; so that we are " by nature children of wrath,” Eph. ii. 3.
This subject needs no longer be dwelt upon : but it may be necessary to make a few remarks on the preceding quotations :
1. We at once perceive what it was that Adam primarily and originally lost. It was his holiness. He lost this first. He did not lose his relative blessings first.—The favour and probation of God continued so long as obedience and holiness continued. His relative mercies depended on his holy character. This then clearly shews us that holiness, and not relative blessings, constituted his original nature. It was holiness, properly speaking, which he lost. He was not directly and immediately concerned in the loss of relative mercies. This loss followed, of course. God removed them on account of man's sin. We learn hence the nature of that which must be again restored. If holiness was man's first nature, holiness must be his second nature. Relative mer. cies were no part of his nature, no part of Adan, but were connected with holiness and dependent on it. Therefore relative changes, however necessary, and however valuable, form no part of the nature which must be restored. A relative change instantly followed sin ; and a relative change will also instantly follow a renewal in holiness. That only which was primarily lost by sin, is what must be looked for as restored again in regeneration."
2. Man's total incapacity by nature for spiritual things, proves what must be renewed in him in order to his salvation, By nature he cannot, as we have seen, do anything spiritually good as of himself. He must first be brought to a right mind. He can neither obey God nor enjoy bis friendship, por possess any spiritual privileges. "If taken to heaven in such a state of mind, he could find no enjoyment in that holy place. Holiness, therefore, and happiness are one. A relative change without this holy change would be no blessing, unless it either led to, or were connected with, it. But with holiness every relative privilege instantly re
* That holiness or regeneration precedes pardon of sin, is, we are aware, contrary to the order in which many divines place these doctrines. Cruden, for instance, under the word " sanctification," writes thus : “ Justification is in nature before sanctification, but not in order of time, for God only sanctifies those who are justified."
This view is manifestly erroneous, contrary to what we have been shewing from the word of God. We have seen that a charge of guilt was made by God against man only after his sin, and on its account. There was no cause of displeasure, no ground of condemnation before. So when, in the economy of divine mercy, man is again renewed in the spirit of his mind, and turned back to his God and Father in Christ Jesus, God returns, and returns with all his blessings, to the penitent and believing sinner. He now pardons his offences, and receives him graciously. He is now freely justified and not before. So that the truth stands thus: “ Sanctification is in nature before justification, but not in order of time : for God only justifies those that are sanctified ;" 1. e. in its commencement and real spirituality.
“ Sanotification” here we use in the sense in which the same author defines it, viz., "making persons holy who were impure and defiled before." Likewise "justifying faith” he defines to be a "saving grace,” which "purifies the heart and works by love ” to God and man. And he informs us that by this faith we receive Christ for our justification and salvation.” Here, then, we have “Faith not only as holy in itself, but which lies at the root of all future obedience :" and faith which “ receives Christ for justification.” Then our conclusion is inevitable : “ Faith,” yea, our “ most holy faith,” goes before justification and in order to it ; while “sanctification mences with holiness, and begins where faith begins, which goes before justification, then "sanctification goes before justification ;" at least in "the order of nature, though not in the order of time.”
Let not, however, what we here say be misapprehended, as if any holiness of man could induce God to bestow relative and spiritual privileges. No; both sanctification and justification are obtained through Christ, and the whole of our salvation is the gift of God through him. But yet, until we are born again, the curse of God, and not his blessing, rests upon us.
III. Let us consider the NATURE of regeneration or the new birth, and its effects, as described in scripture. That the change which the scripture makes necessary to salvation, is a moral, and not relative or merely relative change, is quite evident.
1. “Born again :" this very term implies that there is something in the second birth analogous to the first birth, -analogous at least so far as to prove that something is really produced ; and not merely new relations formed. At our first birth a living being is brought forth. The living being then has respect to the birth ; and relations have respect to the living BEING. Thus, in the second birth, a new creature is produced, (spiritual and figurative in expression, it is true, but real,) subject to its own laws, and having new relations, just as there are laws peculiar to, and relatives depending on, the natural creation.
2. “Born of the Spirit,-born of God, begotten of God;” these expressions imply, that the "new creature” is of a holy, moral, and spiritual character. John iii. 5. ; i. 13. James i. 18. In everything with which we are acquainted, the offspring partakes of the character and nature of the parent. When, therefore, persons are said to be born of the Spirit, or born of God, in a sense which does not apply to all mankind, or in opposition to “ the world that lieth in wickedness,” it manifestly means, not a natural, but a spiritual sonship. With this idea in view, the apostle says, that those who are born of God are made “ partakers of the divine nature.” 2 Pet. i, 4.*
* One cannot but feel surprise and regret, therefore, that a system should be embraced which leads its abettors into such extraordinary unscriptural and unphilosophical reasoning as the following :-"For as the natural birth is a change of state and circumstances and relation to outward things, so is the spiritual birth or entrance into a spiritual life a change of state and circumstances and relations to God and another world.” Bishop Bethell, p. 24. Surely to represent the natural birth of a human being as “a change of state and circumstances and relation," instead of speaking of it as the scrip