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That remarkable passage in John, iii. 3, is of itself demonstrative of this point. Verily, I say unto you, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This shews that the change is necessary to salvation. And the following passage proves the holy nature of the change,
Except a man be born of water and the Spirit”-to be born of the Spirit is to be spiritually or holily born. And our Saviour's reply to Nicodemus is capable of no other meaning,—“That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” that is, carnal or sinful; “ and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” that is, like the Spirit, holy and pure.
3. The “new creation”—the “ image of God"—the " and the old man”- and being “ created in Christ Jesus,”. all these terms have an evident reference to the new nature obtained by the new birth; and manifestly declare that the nature of that new birth is moral and spiritual. We shall quote a few texts : “ If any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Cor. v. 17. It is remarkable, in this connexion, that the new creature, Gal. vi. 15, is made by the apostle to be exactly analagous to “ faith which worketh by love.” Gal. v. 6. It is impossible for words to describe more strictly the spiritual and holy nature of this change than faith working by love. “ Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have
put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him.” Col. iii. 9, 10.—“That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of
your mind : and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Eph. iv. 22-24.
These figurative expressions—the old man—the new manthe image of God-renewed after this image-renewed in the spirit of your mind-created in righteousness and true holiness,—all these evidently show and prove that holiness is the very nature of this new creation.
4. The effect produced in all who are born of God, shews infallibly the holy nature which the expression, “ born of God," implies. “He doeth righteousness"_“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; he cannot sin, because he is born of God”—“Every one that loveth is born of God”. He believeth in Christ and loveth God-He" overcometh the world” and the devil. 1 John ii. 29.-iii. 9.-v. 1, 5, 18.
ture and mankind under the gospel do, as “an entrance into life," sounds more like the transmigrations of ihe heathen, than the sage doctrine of divine truth.
5. The same truth appears from the design and signification of circumcision. Circumcision was the sign and seal of the new heart, new birth, or new.nature under the Old Testament, as baptism is under the New. The nature which circumcision symbolized, was doubtless a holy and spiritual nature, that is, moral and not relative. Thus we read,-“ Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked” -"The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” Deut. x. 16.--xxx. 6. The unbelieving, rebellious, and disobedient, are frequently styled “uncircumcised in heart and ears' “ Circumcision is that of the heart"_“Circumcision" is the "putting off the body of the sins of the flesh”-and uncircumcision is “ being dead in sins." And St. Paul
“ We are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit.” Rom. ii. 29.-Col. ii. 11–13.Phil, ïïi. 6.
6. We come to the same conclusion, if we consider the design of baptism. It implies the same holy and moral change with circumcision. “ Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him, through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead; and you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with him." Col. ii. 12, 13.
It is not necessary to spend time to shew that these texts prove demonstrably what we have adduced them to prove, namely, that regeneration is a holy or moral change.
The reader may probably think that we have already taken sufficient pains to prove a point so clear. So indeed it might well be considered, had not the moral nature of regeneration been absolutely denied by some, and the legitimate application of the term to a mere relative change been contended for by others. It has, for example, been asserted, that “there are men who imagine" that such scriptural representations as the following, namely, that the regenerate person has passed from darkness into light,”-that he « awakes and rises from the dead, Christ himself giving him light,”-that he is “ created after God in righteousness and true holiness,”
--that“ being in Christ, he is a new creature,”- that having become “spiritual, the things of the Spirit of God are” no longer “ foolishness unto him," -and that he “knows them, because they are spiritually discerned,”--that “these figures apply much more properly to a great and mysterious change of spiritual condition and relationship to God, through the object of faith only, than to that turning point from evil to good, which is described by a radical change of heart and faculties, and an entire change of mind.” It is further added respecting such notions as we are defending, that they “ are not very conformable to Scripture or to the doctrines of the Church of England." Bp. Bethell.
What then, according to such opinions, it may be asked, is regeneration? A relative change, as it appears, and that relative change, not inclusive of sanctification or holiness, even in its commencement! But let it be observed here, that if such expressions, as passing from death unto life-rising and receiving light from Christ-being created in righteousness and true holiness-being made new creatures in Christ—and having a spiritual discernment of the things of God,-if such expressions as these mean nothing internal and holy, do not imply a real change of heart, it will be utterly impossible to prove anything from the word of God. If true holiness does not mean true holiness, yea, means no holiness at all,-if being new created and made new creatures in Christ, means nothing new, nothing that was not before this new creation, and that no change whatever has taken place or is implied, except a change of condition or relationship to God ; --if this be true, we may be quite sure that the Bible, the holy scripture, instead of being proper for all ranks and conditions of life, and “ able to make men wise unto salvation,” is the most unsuitable and dangerous book that can be put into the hands of men, that nothing whatever can be understood with certainty from what it says, and that Papists do right in withholding it from various classes of mankind. The reader must not fail further to notice, that the present discussion is not about the meaning of a word or a phrase, but about VITAL GODLINESS. If such expressions as a new creaturedeath unto sin-righteousness and true holiness, when interpreted to mean a radical change of heart, are to be esteemed
" the chimeras of enthusiasts,” we shall not wonder to find any liberties taken with the doctrines of Scripture and those of our church.
As, however, other writers have given occasion to consider the term, regeneration, as legitimately, though not exclusively, applicable to what does not include any thing of a moral and spiritual nature, it becomes necessary to enquire— Whether the Scripture admits of its application to a meaning which excludes vital godliness.
It is contended that “the word, regeneration, may be legitimately applied, either to a change of state and relation to God, or to a change of heart and character-either to that change of circumstance which by the agency of the Holy Spirit necessarily takes place in baptism, or to that change of nature by the agency of the Holy Spirit, which may or may not take place in baptism."* Reference is made to the three following texts of scripture, as proving this use of the term " Ye which have followed me in the regeneration.” Math. xix. 28. “ But according to His mercy saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Tit. iii. 5. Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” John iii. 5.
Notwithstanding what has been advanced by this writer and others, we conceive that what is held respecting relative regeneration cannot be borne out by evidence. We are still inclined to think, that neither the term regeneration, nor any of its kindred terms, are ever used in Scripture in a sense merely relative or physical, or in any sense which does not embrace, a moral change. The term Regeneration itself, which occurs but twice in Scripture, that is, in Math. xix. 28, and Tit. iii. 5, were it the only evidence, would, it is true, leave us in some uncertainty, as being apparently ambiguous. But it would indeed be somewhat distressing, if the most appropriate word, which language affords to express that precise change of heart which alone is necessary to salvation, should be clearly made out, as used in Scripture, to imply and include nothing of a moral and spiritual nature, We are not however apprehensive of this danger. A relative change of state, except what may be considered inseparable
mere profession and the external privileges of Christianity, is never, we believe, separable from a change of heart, either in the Scripture or in our church. And there is not the least particle of evidence, as we believe, that shows
The Rev. Mr. Cuningham, pp. 14, 15.
that the Scripture ever uses the term regeneration, or any of similar import, to describe any change of state, which is not inclusive of or relative to a moral disposition of heart.
It is said that the term regeneration, in the two texts in which it alone occurs, has nothing to do with a moral or spiritual change of heart. It is applied to express some physical change only in one place and some baptismal change only in the other. Now, as on these two texts, and on another where the term itself does not occur, the doctrine of relative regeneration is built, we would observe, that in order to derive fairly that meaning from them, the texts themselves must be clear and explicit ; that is, they must speak a language precise and intelligible. They must also be definite and specific; that is, they must not only express this change of state and relation to God, but they must include
It will not be enough that these texts should be supposed to include a change of state, but it must be proved that they include no other idea; for when we maintain that regeneration in any place means properly a relative change only, it must only express that relative change. If in these texts it has “ nothing to do" with a change of heart, then it must not include that idea. Let it however be borne in mind, that if it should be found that in these texts regeneration is really applied to a change of heart and character, or to this in connexion with a change of state and relation to Godthis will utterly overthrow the evidence and annihilate the system that relates to this peculiar application of the word Regeneration.
We would remark first, that in two of these texts; that is, in John and Titus, the meaning of regeneration cannot possibly be identified with what is relative. That they embrace, if not exclusively, a moral state of heart, is, we conceive, absolutely demonstrable; and we would prove it as follows :-The position of a change of state, simply considered, is entirely separate from every idea of true holiness : it is stated to have “ nothing to do” with it; nor has it any certain union with spiritual adoption and justification; nor with any thing that is necessarily connected with everlasting life. Now if these texts, on which this system is built, include any one of these ideas, the position held is at once overturned; because the term regeneration will be found in that case to embrace something essential, which regeneration, as above defined, does not embrace, but expressly excludes.