I. THE change which is consummated by immersion, is sometimes
called in sacred style, "being quickened," or "made alive,"
"passing from death to life," "being born again," "having
risen with Christ," "turning to the Lord," "being
enlightened," "conversion," "reconciliation," "repentance
unto life." These, like the words propitiation, atonement, reconciliation,
expiation, redemption, expressive of the various aspects which the death
of Christ sustains, are expressive of the different relations in which this
great change, sometimes called a "new creation," may be contemplated. The
entire change effected in man by the Christian system, consists in four things:
- a change of views; a change of affections; a change of state; and a change
of life. Now, in respect of each of these separately or in combination, it
is called by different names. As a change of views, it is called "being
enlightened;" "Once you were darkness, now you are light in the Lord; walk
as children of the light;" "After that you were enlightened," etc. As a change
of the affections, it is called "being reconciled;" thus, "for if
when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much
more being reconciled we shall be saved through his life." As a change of
state, it is called "being quickened;" "passing from death to life,"
"being born again," "having risen with Christ," "And you hath he
quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins," "By this we know we
have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren," "Being
born again, not of corruptible, but of incorruptible seed, the word
of God, which liveth and abideth forever." "If you be," or "since you are
risen with Christ, set your affections on things above, not on things
on the earth." As a change of life it is called "repentance unto life,"
"turning to the Lord," "conversion;" "Then God has granted to the Gentiles
repentance to life." "And all that dwelt in Lydda and Saron saw Eneas and
turned to the Lord." "Except you be converted, and become as children,
you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven." "When thou art converted, strengthen
thy brethren." "He that converts a sinner from the error of his way shall
save a soul from death and hide a multitude of sins."
II. Great confusion has been introduced into the Christian community by a
confounding of these terms, making only one of them to mean all the others.
Witness the controversy about regeneration; as if that word were used
in sacred Scripture in reference to the entire change effected by the Christian
system; whereas, in strict propriety, it is never used by itself in the Bible
to represent any part of this change, much less the whole of it. We have
the phrase "washing of regeneration" once, in contradistinction from
the "renewal of the Holy Spirit," Titus iii. 5, but never, by itself, as
indicative of this four-fold change. But suppose it should be conceded, that
the term regeneration might be just equivalent to "being born
again," it could even then only represent so much of this change as respects
mere state: for the figure of a new birth applies merely to admission
into a family or nation; and not to the process of quickening or making alive
of the person so admitted. It can, then, in strict propriety, only apply
to the fourth part of that change which the gospel of salvation proposes
and effects. Being born again is, or may be the effect of a
change of views, of a change of affections; or it may be the cause
of a change of life; but certain it is, it is not identical with any of them,
and never can represent them all.
III. But may it not include them all? It is impossible: for however we might
extend the figure and suppose it to include its causes, it cannot also include
its effects. If it should include a change of views, a change of affections,
and a change of state, it cannot include a change of life, or of character.
We ought then to use this word in its strict and scriptural acceptance, if
we would escape the great confusion now resting upon this subject. The sophistry
or delusion of this confusion is, that making regeneration equivalent
to the entire change instead of to be one-fourth part of it, the community
will always be imposed on and misled by seeking to find the attributes of
conversion in the new birth, or of the new birth in conversion; and so of
all the others. Being born again is not conversion, nor a change
of views, nor a change of affections, but a change of state.
True, indeed, that of the person who is born again we may suppose a change
of views, a change of heart, and we may infer a change of character, and
may therefore say he is enlightened, renewed in heart, converted as well
as born again; but this license respecting the person, the subject
of the change, is not allowed in talking of the change itself. A Christian
is, indeed, one whose views are enlightened, whose heart is renewed, whose
relations to God and the moral universe are changed, and whose manner of
life is according to righteousness and true holiness.