WE intend an essay of "the seeds of things." The topic is
a common one, a familiar one, and yet an interesting one. Much has been said,
much has been written upon it; and yet it is no better understood than it
ought to be. Few give themselves the trouble of thinking much on the things
which they think they understand; and many would rather follow the thoughts
of others, than think for themselves. Suspense is painful, much study is
a weariness of the flesh; and, therefore, the majority are content with the
views and opinions handed to them from those who have gone before.
We wish to treat this subject as if it were a new one; and to examine it
now, as if we had never examined it before. It is worthy of it. Generation
is full of wonders, for it is full of God's physical grandeur; yet regeneration
is still more admirable, for in it the moral attributes of Jehovah are displayed.
But we aim not at a development of its wonders, but at a plain common sense
scriptural exposition of its import.
We have not learned our theology from Athanasius, nor our morality from Seneca;
and, therefore, we shall not call upon them for illustration, argument, or
proof. To the Sacred Records, in which alone Christianity yet remains in
all its freshness, we look for light; and thither would we direct the eyes
of the readers. It is not the regeneration of the schools in which Christianity
has been lowered, misapprehended, obscured, and adulterated, of which we
are to write; but that regeneration of which Jesus spoke, and the Apostles
A few things must be premised - a few general views expressed - before we,
or our readers, are prepared for the more minute details: and to approach
the subject with all unceremonious despatch, we observe, that :
Man unregenerate is ruined in body, soul, and spirit; a frail and mortal
creature. From Adam his father he inherits a shattered constitution. He is
the child of a fallen progenitor; a scion from a degenerate stock.
Superior to Adam, the exile from Eden, in physical, intellectual, and moral
nature, none of his descendants can rise. It is not in nature to improve
itself; for above its fountain the stream cannot rise. Cain, the first born
of Eve, was in nature the image and likeness of him that begat him. Education
failed to improve him, while Abel, his younger brother, obtained the excellency
which faith in God's promise alone bestows. The first born, it will be conceded,
was at least equal to his younger brother: and who can plead that in nature
he excels Eve's eldest son?
Man in his ruins is, however, a proper subject of a remedial system. He is
susceptible of renovation. Therefore God has placed him under a regenerating
economy. This economy contemplates the regeneration of the whole human
constitution, and proposes as its consummation the transformation of spirit,
soul, and body. The destiny of the regenerate is described by Paul in one
sentence: "As we now bear the image of the earthly Adam, we shall then bear
the image of the heavenly Adam."
God's own Son is proposed as a model. Conformity to him in glory, honour,
and immortality, as the perfection of the regenerate, is the predestination
of him who speaks of things that are not, as though they were.
Regeneration is, therefore, moral and physical: or, in other words, there
is now a renovation of the mind - of the understanding, will, and affections;
- and there will hereafter be a renovation of the body: "For this corruptible
body shall put on incorruption, and this mortal body shall put on immortality."
The renovation of the mind and character is, therefore, that moral regeneration
which is to be effected in this life; for which the remedial system, or kingdom
of heaven, was set up on earth; and this, therefore, first of all, demands
Before we attempt an answer in detail to the question, How is this moral
regeneration effected? we shall attend to the principle on which the
whole remedial system proceeds. The grand principle, or means which God has
adopted for the accomplishment of this moral regeneration, is the full
demonstration and proof of a single proposition addressed to the reason of
man. This sublime proposition is, THAT GOD IS
The reason and wisdom of this procedure will suggest itself to every one,
who can understand the views and feelings of all unregenerated man. Man in
a state of alienation and rebellion, naturally suspects, that if he be a
sinner, and if God hate sin, he must hate him. As love begets love; so hatred
begets hatred; and if a sinner suspects that God hates him, he cannot love
God. He must know that God loves him, before he can begin to love God. "We,"
says an Apostle, "love God because he first loved us." - While alienated
in heart, through the native darkness of his understanding, the sinner
misinterprets every restraint which God has placed in his way to prevent
his total ruin, as indications of the wrath of Heaven. His transgression
of these restraints, and his consciousness of having defied the veracity
and power of God, only increase his enmity, and urge him onward to his apostasy
and wanderings from his Creator. The goodness of God being misunderstood,
furnishes to him no incentive to repentance and reformation. Guilt, and fear,
and shame, the fruits of his apostasy, becloud his understanding, and veil
from his eyes all the demonstrations of benevolence and goodness, with which
the creation abounds. Adam under a tree, hiding from God, trembling with
fear, suspicious of the movements of every leaf, and covered with shame as
a garment, is both an illustration and proof of these views of the state
of mind, which obtains in the unregenerate.
Neither the volume of creation, nor that of God's providence, is sufficient
to remove from the natural man these misconceptions and the consequent alienation
of heart. The best proof that these two volumes cannot do this, is, that
they never have, in any one instance, yet done it. From the nature of things
it is indeed evident that they cannot do it. The elements are too often at
war with the happiness of man. The ever changing attitude of the natural
world in reference to health, and life, and comfort, render it at best doubtful,
whether the laws of nature, which ultimately bring man down to the grave,
are the effect of benevolence, or of malevolence towards mankind. A third
volume explanatory of both, and replete also with supernatural developments,
is wanting, to furnish the most diligent student of nature and providence,
with the means of learning the true and full character of him, against whom
we have rebelled.
That volume is the Bible. Holy Prophets and Apostles spake as they were moved
by the Spirit of Knowledge and Revelation. Its records, its history, it prophecy,
its precepts, its laws, its ordinances, and its examples, all develop and
reveal God to man, and man to himself.
But it is in the person and mission of the INCARNATE
WORD, that we learn that God is love. That God gave
his Son for us, and yet gives his Spirit to us - and this gives us himself
- are the mysterious and transcendent proofs of the most august proposition
in the universe. The gospel, Heaven's wisdom and power combined, God's own
expedient for the renovation of human nature, is neither more nor less, than
the illustration and proof of this regenerating proposition.
Thus we hasten to our subject. Having glanced at the great landmarks of the
plantations of nature and grace, now that we may, in the light of truth,
ascertain the true and heaven-taught doctrine of regeneration, we shall
cautiously survey the whole process, as developed by the commissioned teachers
of the deep counsels of the only true God.
The certain things, parts of this great progress, may be well understood,
certain terms, which are wont to use to represent them, must be well defined,
and accurately apprehended. These terms are Fact, Testimony, Faith,
Repentance, Reformation, Bath of Regeneration, New Birth, Renewing of the
Holy Spirit, Newness of Life.1
"All things are of God" in the regeneration of man, is our motto; because
our Apostle affirmed this as a cardinal truth. He is the author of the
facts and of the testimony which declares them; and being the
author of these, he is the author of all the effects produced by these facts.
The Christian is a new creation, of which God is the Creator.
The change of heart and of character, which constitute moral regeneration,
is the legitimate impression of the facts, or things which God has wrought.
The facts constitute the moral seal which stamps the image of God upon man.
In the natural order, we must place them first, and, therefore, we must first
define the term.
Back to the beginning
Repentance is usually defined "sorrow for any thing that is past;"
and in the religious vocabulary it is simply "sorrow for sin." This
is one, but it is only one of the natural effects of the belief of the testimony
of God. The gospel facts, testimony, and faith, contemplate more than this.
But yet it is necessary that this point of faith should be distinctly
apprehended, especially in this age, when it occupies so large a space in
the systems of theology.
Repentance, in our current acceptation, is sorrow for sin; and certainly
there is no man who believes the revealed facts found in the testimony of
God, who will not be sorry for his sins. But simple sorrow for the past,
is but a feeling of the heart; which, unless it excite to reformation or
the abandonment of sin, is of no more use than the regrets of Judas after
he had sold his Master for fifteen dollars. Repentance must, however, precede
reformation; for unless we are sorry for the past, and grieved with ourselves,
we will not think of a change of conduct. Repentance is to reformation, what
motive is to action, or resolution to any undertaking. It was well for David
to resolve to build the temple; and so it is well to form any good design;
but much better to execute it. To feel sorry for the poor and the afflicted,
and to resolve to assist and comfort them, is well; but to go and do it is
better: and, indeed unless our sorrow for the past, terminate in reformation
for the future, it is useless in the estimation of heaven and earth; as useless
as to say to the hungry, Be filled; or to the naked, Be clothed.
Genuine repentance does not always issue in reformation. Judas was sorrowful
even to death, but could not reform. Many have been so genuinely sorry for
their sins, as to become suicides. Speak we of "a godly sorrow?" No: this
is not to be expected from unconverted and ungodly persons. Christians, Paul
teaches, when they err, may repent with a godly sorrow; but this is not to
be expected from the unregenerate, or from those who have not reformed. It
is not, then, the genuineness of repentance that is to be appreciated, unless
by genuine repentance is meant more than simple sorrow for the past - unless
by genuine repentance is meant reformation. Yet without sincere or unfeigned
repentance, there cannot be real or genuine reformation.
This leads us to observe, that the only unequivocal evidence of sincere
repentance, is the actual redress of the injury done; not only a cessation
from the sin, but a restitution for the sin, as far as restitution can possibly
be made. No restitution, no repentance - provided restitution can be
made. And I may be permitted to add, that without repentance and
restitution, when possible, there can be no remission.
The preachers of repentance - of the necessity of repentance in order to
remission, ought to set this matter fairly and fully before sinners. Do they
represent repentance as sorrow for the past, and a determination to reform?
How then will the sinner know that he is sorry for his sins against men,
or how will the community know that he has repented of such sins, unless
full restitution was made? It is impossible that either the sinner himself,
or the community who know his sins against man, can have any certain evidence
that he is penitent, unless by making all possible restitution.
Peccator wounded the reputation of his neighbour Hermas, and on another occasion
defrauded him of ten pounds. - Some of the neighbourhood were apprised that
he had done both. Peccator was converted under the preaching of Paulinus,
and, on giving in a relation of his sorrow for his sins, spoke of the depth
of his convictions, and of his abhorrence of his transgression. He was received
into the congregation, and sat down with the faithful to commemorate the
great sin offering. Hermas and his neighbors were witnesses of all this.
They saw that Peccator was penitent, and much reformed in his behaviour;
but they could not believe him sincere, because he had made no restitution.
They regarded him either as a hypocrite or self-deceived; because, having
it in his power, he repaid not the ten pounds, nor once contradicted the
slanders he had propagated. Peccator, however, felt little enjoyment in his
profession, and soon fell back into his former habits. He became again penitent,
and on examining the grounds of his falling off, discovered that he had never
cordially turned away from his sins. Overwhelmed in sorrow for the past,
he resolved on giving himself up to the Lord; and, reflecting on his past
life, set about the work of reformation in earnest. He called on Hermas,
paid him his ten pounds, and the interest for every day he had kept it back,
went to all the persons to whom he had slandered him, told them what injustice
he had done him, and begged them, if they had told it to any other persons,
to contradict it. Several other persons whom he had wronged in his dealings
with them, he also visited; and fully redressed all these wrongs against
his neighbors. He also confessed them to the Lord, and asked him to forgive
him. Peccator was then restored to the church; and better still, he enjoyed
a peace of mind, and a confidence in God, which was a continual feast. His
example, moreover, did more to enlarge the congregation at the Cross-roads,
than did the preaching of Paulinus in a whole year. This was, unequivocally,
This is the repentance which Moses preached, and which Jesus approbated.
Under the law, confession to the priest, and the presenting of a trespass
offering, availed nothing to forgiveness without restitution. But the law
went into details still more minute than these; for provision is made for
the case in which the sinner could not find the person against whom he had
sinned. In such a case, the penitent sinner was to seek out the kindred of
the injured party, and if he could find any kinsman, he was to recompense
this kinsman; but if he could not find a kinsman, he must recompense it to
the Lord, besides offering his trespass offering. It was to go into the Lord's
treasury.2 The principle uniformly, in all cases
of sin against man, was, the sinner "shall make amends for the harm he has
done, and shall add the fifth part thereto."3
If any one suppose that repentance is to be less sincere or unequivocal under
the gospel, let him remember that Zaccheus proposed more than adding a fifth;
he would restore fourfold, and that Jesus approbated him for so doing. Indeed,
John the Immerser demanded fruits worthy of repentance or of reformation,
and Paul proclaimed that those who turned to God should do works meet for,
or worthy of, repentance.4
"Works, worthy of repentance," is a phrase which can be understood in no
other sense than those works which make amends for the harm done to men and
the dishonour done to God, as far as both are possible. Can any man think
that he is sorry for that sin or wrong which he has done, when he makes no
effort to make amends to him who was injured in person, character, or property,
by it? Works worthy of his professed repentance are wanting, so long as any
being whom he has injured in person, property, or reputation, is unredressed
to the utmost extent of his ability.
One of our most popular commentators says - and with much truth - "No man
should expect mercy at the hand of God, who having wronged his neighbour,
refuses, when he has it in his power, to make restitution. Were he
to weep tears of blood, both the justice and mercy of God would shut out
his prayer, if he make not his neighbour amends for the injury he has done
him. He is a dishonest man, who illegally holds the property of another in
Every preacher of repentance should insist upon these evidences of sincerity
both for the satisfaction of the penitent himself, and for the good of the
community. "Many that believed came and confessed, and showed their deeds;
many of them also, who used curious arts, bringing their books together,
burnt them before all; and they computed the value of them and found it fifty
thousand pieces of silver."6 This was making
restitution, in their case, as far as possible; and the principle here evinced
is applicable in every other case.
But in pursuing this subject so far, we have passed over the boundaries of
repentance, and sometimes confounded it with reformation. This is owing to
the licentious use of language, to which modern theology has so richly
contributed. We shall, however, redress this wrong, as far as practicable,
by a few remarks on
Back to the beginning
The word metanoia, used by the sacred writers and heaven-taught preachers
of the New Economy, as indicative of the first effect of faith, as has been
often showed, is different from that which our word repentance fitly
represents. It literally imports a change of mind; but, as Parkhurst,
Campbell, and many others say, "such a change of mind as influences one's
subsequent behaviour for the better." "It has been observed by some, and,
I think with reason, that the former (matanoeo) denotes properly a
change to the better: the latter (matamelomai) barely a change, whether
to the better or to the worse; that the former marks a change of mind that
is durable, and produces consequences; the latter expresses only a present
uneasy feeling of regret, without regard to duration or effects: in fine,
that the first may be translated into English, I reform; the second,
I repent, in the familiar acceptation of the words." Now as every
one who reforms repents; but as every one who repents does not
reform, this distinction is necessary and proper; and there is nothing
hazarded, nothing lost by translating the former I reform, and the
latter I repent. There is something gained, especially in all places
where we have the word in the imperative mood, because then it is of importance
to know precisely what is intended. If we are commanded only to change our
mind, or to be sorry for the past, we have obeyed when we feel regret; but
if more than mere change of mind or regret is intended, we have not obeyed
the commandment until we change for the better. Now it is, we think, very
evident from various passages of the sacred writings of the Apostles, and
from their speeches, that they commanded more than a simple change of mind
as respected past conduct, or mere sorrow for the
past. Peter commanded the thousands assembled on the
day of Pentecost, who had changed their minds, and who were sorry for the
past, to do something which they had not yet done; and that something is
in the common version rendered repent; and in the new version,
reform; and in the old English Bible, amend your lives. The
word here used is the imperative of metanoeo. Judas repented, and
many like him, who never reformed; and, therefore, it is of importance that
this distinction should be kept in view."7
Repentance is not reformation, but it is necessary to it; for whoever reforms
must first repent. Reformation is, indeed, the carrying out of the purpose
into our conduct. But as reformation belongs rather to another part of our
essay than the present, we shall, on the premises already before us, pause
and offer a few reflections.
In the preceding definition of words and ideas, it would appear that we have
a literal and unfigurative representation of the whole process of what is
figuratively called regeneration. For, as we shall soon see, the term
regeneration is a figure of speech which very appropriately, though
analogically, represents the reformation or renovation of life of which we
have now spoken.
That the preceding arrangement is not arbitrary, but natural and necessary,
the reader will perceive, when he reflects, that the thing done, or the fact,
must precede the report or testimony concerning it; that the testimony concerning
it must precede the belief of it; that belief of the testimony must precede
any feeling in correspondence with the fact testified; and that feeling must
precede action in conformity to it. Fact, testimony, faith, feeling, action,
are therefore bound together by a natural and gracious necessity, which no
ingenuity can separate. And will not every Christian say, that when a person
feels and acts according to the faith, or the testimony of
God, he is a new creature - regenerate - truly converted to God? He that
believes the facts testified in the record of God, understands them, feels
according to their nature and meaning, and acts in correspondence with them
- has undergone a change of heart and of life which makes him a new man.
This is that moral change of heart and life, which is figuratively called
regeneration. We are not to suppose that regeneration is something
which must be added to the faith, the feeling, and the action or behaviour,
which are the effects of the testimony of God understood and embraced; or
which are the impress of the divine facts attested by Prophets and Apostles.
It is only another name for the same process in all its parts.
It may also be observed that numerous figures and analogies are used by the
inspired writers to set forth this change, as well as other leading truths
and lessons in the Bible. In their collective capacity, Christians are called
a kingdom, a nation, a generation, a family, a house, a flock, a city, a
temple, a priesthood, etc. In their individual capacity they are called kings,
priests, soldiers, citizens, children, sheep, branches, stones, etc. They
are said to be begotten, born, regenerated, builded, engrafted, converted,
created, planted. Now, under whatever figure they are considered or introduced,
reason argues that everything said of them should be expressed in conformity
with the figure under which they are presented. Are they called sheep?
- then he that presides over them is called a Shepherd; their enemies
are wolves and dogs; their sustenance is the green
pasture; their place of safety and repose, the sheepfold; their
errors are wanderings and strayings; their conversion, a
return; and their good behaviour a hearing of the voice, or
a following, of the Shepherd. Are they called children? - then
collectively they are a family; they are begotten and born
again; God is their Father; their separation is an
adoption; Jesus is their elder brother; they are heirs
of God; they live and walk with God. Are they priests?
- Jesus is their High Priest; the church their temple; the
Saviour is their altar; their songs, their praises, are incense
ascending to heaven; and their oblations to the poor, their works of love,
are sacrifices most acceptable to God. Are they called
citizens? - the church is then the kingdom of heaven; Jerusalem
is the mother of them all; formerly they were aliens, and their
naturalization is regeneration. Are they called branches? -
then Jesus is the true vine; his Father the vine dresser; their
union with Christ, an engrafting; the discipline of the gospel, a
pruning; and their good works are fruits of righteousness.
Thus there is no confusion of metaphor in the Scriptures of truth - in the
dialect of heaven. It is the language of Ashdod; it belongs to the confusion
of Babel, to mingle and confound all figures and analogies. Hence are so
often hear of being born again, without any allusion to a family or
a kingdom! and of regeneration as antecedent to faith or repentance!
Had a modern assembly of Divines been employed to accommodate the scripture
style to their orthodox sentiments, we should not have had to read all the
Old Testament and all the historic books of the New, to find the subject
of regeneration but once proposed to an alien, as the fact is; but then we
should have found it in the history of Abel, of Enoch, of Noah, and of Abraham,
if not in every section of the law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the
Psalms. John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Holy Twelve, would have had it in
every sermon; and truth faith would have been always defined as the fruit
But Jesus had a kingdom in his eye and in his discourse before he
ever mentioned being "born again" to Nicodemus; for unless there was a family,
a state, or a kingdom to be born into, it is impossible for any one to be
born into it. And if the kingdom of heaven only began to be after Jesus entered
into heaven; or, if it is was only approaching from the ministry of John
to the day of Pentecost, then it would have been preposterous indeed - an
incongruity of which no inspired man was every guilty - to call any change
of heart or life, a regeneration, or a new birth. It is true
that good men in all ages were made such by facts, testimony, faith, and
feeling, by a change of heart, by the Spirit of God; but the analogy
or figure of being born, or of being regenerated, only
began to be preached, and when men began to press into it.
We are now, perhaps, better prepared to consider the proper import and meaning
of "regeneration" in general, and of "the bath of regeneration"
Back to the beginning
This word is found but twice in all the oracles of God - once in Matthew
xix. 28. and once in Titus . In the former it is almost universally understood
to mean a new state of things, not of persons - a peculiar
era, in which all things are made new: - such as the formation of a new church
on the day of Pentecost, or the commencement of the Millennium, or the general
resurrection. The biblical critics of eminence have assigned it to one or
other of these great changes in the state of things. So we use the word
revolution, and the phrase the Revolution, to express a change
in the political state of things. The most approved punctuation and version
of this passage renders it altogether evident that a new era is alluded to.
"Jesus answered, Indeed, I say to you, that at the renovation [regeneration]
when the Son of Man shall be seated on his glorious throne, you, my followers,
sitting also upon twelve thrones, shall judge the twelve tribes of Israel."
This being so evident, and so often alluded to in our former writings, we
shall proceed to the remaining occurrence, Titus iii. 5 .
All the new light which we propose to throw on this passage will be gathered
from an examination of the acceptation of the word generation in the
sacred writings. Our reason for this is, that we object to a peremptory decision
of the meaning of a word which occurs only in the passage under discussion,
from our reasonings upon the isolated passages in which it is found. In such
a case, if we cannot find the whole word in any parallel passages, the proper
substitute is the root or branches of that word, so far as they are employed
by the same writers. Moreover, we think it will be granted, that, whatever
may be the scriptural acceptation of the word generation, regeneration
is only the repetition of that act or process.
After a close examination of the passages in which generation occurs
in the writings of the Hebrew Prophets and Apostles, we find it used only
in two acceptations - as descriptive of the whole process of creation and
of the thing created. A race of man, or a particular class of men, is called
a generation; but this is its figurative, rather than its literal
meaning. Its literal meaning is the formation or creation of any thing. Thus
it is first used in the Holy Scriptures. Moses calls the creation, or whole
process of formation of the heavens and the earth, "The generations
of the heavens and the earth."8 The account of
the formation of Adam and Eve, and also the account of the creations of Adam
and Eve, are, by the same writer, called "The book or record of the
generations of Adam."9 This is the literal
import of the word; consequently, regeneration literally indicates
the whole process of renovating or new-creating man.
This process may consist of numerous distinct acts; but it is in accordance
with the general usage to give to the beginning, or consummating act, the
name of the whole process. For the most part, however, the name of the whole
process is given to the consummating act, because the process is always supposed
incomplete until that act is performed. For example: In the process of tanning,
fulling, forging, etc. the subject of these operations is not supposed to
be tanned, fulled, forged, until the last act is performed. So in all the
processes of nature - in the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms, the
last act consummates the process. To all acquainted with the process of
animalization, germination, crystallization, etc., no farther argument is
needed. But in the style of our American husbandman, no crop nor animal is
made, until it come to maturity. We often hear them say of a good
shower, or a few clear days, "This is the making of the wheat or corn."
In the same sense it is, that most Christians call regeneration
THE NEW BIRTH; though being born is only the last act
in natural generation, and the last act in regeneration.
In this way the new birth and regeneration are used
indiscriminately by commentators and writers on theology, and by a figure
of speech, it is justified on well established principles of rhetoric. This
leads us to speak particularly of
THE BATH OF REGENERATION.
Back to the beginning
By "the bath of regeneration" is not meant the first, second, or third
act; but the last act of regeneration, which completes the whole; and is,
therefore, used to denote the new birth. This is the reason why our Lord
and his Apostles unite this act with water. Being born of water, in
the Saviour's style, and the bath of regeneration, in the Apostles'
style, in the judgement of all writers and critics of eminence, refer to
one and the same act - viz: christian baptism. Hence it came to pass, that
all the ancients (as fully proved in our first Extra on Remission)
used the word regeneration as synonymous in signification with
immersion. In addition to the numerous quotations made in our
Essay on Remission, from the creeds and liturgies
of Protestant churches, we shall add another from the Common Prayer of the
Church of England, showing unequivocally that the learned Doctors of that
church used the words regeneration and baptism as synonymous.
In the address and prayer of the minister after the baptism of the child,
he is commanded to say:-
"Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that this child is regenerate, and
grafted into the body of Christ's church, let us give thanks unto Almighty
God for these benefits, and with one accord make our prayer unto him that
this child may lead the rest of his life according to this beginning."
"Then shall be said, all kneeling - "
"We yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased
thee to regenerate this infant with thy Holy Spirit, to receive him for thine
own child by adoption, and to incorporate him into thy holy church. And humbly
we beseech thee to grant that he, being dead unto sin, and living unto
righteousness, and being buried with Christ in his death, may crucify the
old man, and utterly abolish the whole body of sin; and that as he is made
partaker of the death of thy Son, he may also be partaker of his resurrection;
so that finally, with the residue of the holy church, he may be an inheritor
of thine everlasting kingdom, through Christ our Lord. Amen!"
Eusebius, in his life of Constantine, page 628, shows that St. Cyprian, St.
Athanasius, and, indeed, all the Greek Fathers, did regard baptism as the
consummating act; and therefore they call it teliosis, the consummation.
These authorities weigh nothing with us; but, as they weigh with our opponents,
we think it expedient to remind them on which side the Fathers depose in
the case before us. By these quotations we would prove no more than that
the ancients understood the washing of regeneration, and indeed used
the term regeneration, as synonymous with baptism.
But were we asked for the precise import of the phrase, " washing or bath
of regeneration," either on philological principles, or as explained by the
Apostles, we would give it as our judgment, that the phrase is a circumlocution
or periphrasis for water. It is loutron, a word which more properly
signifies the vessel that contains the water, than the water itself; and
is, therefore, by the most learned critics and translators, rendered
bath, as indicative either of the vessel containing the fluid or of
the use made of the fluid in the vessel. It is, therefore, by a metonymy,
the water of baptism, or the water in which we are regenerated. Paul was
Hebrew, and spoke in the Hebrew style. We must learn that style before we
fully understand the Apostle's style. In other words, we must studiously
read the Old Testament before we can accurately understand the New. What
more natural for a Jew accustomed to speak of "the water of purification,"
of "the water of separation,"10 to speak of
"the bath of regeneration?" If the phrase "water of purification" meant water
used for the purpose of purifying a person - if "the water of separation"
meant water used for separating a person, what more natural than that "the
bath of regeneration" should mean water used for regenerating a person?
But the New Testament itself confirms this exposition of the phrase. We find
the word loutron once more used by the same Apostle, in the same
connection of thought. In his letter to the Ephesians, he affirms that Jesus
has sanctified (separated, purified with the water of purification,) the
church by a loutron of water - "a bath of water, with the word" -
"having cleansed it by a bath of water, with the
word."11 This is still more decisive. The king's
translators, so fully aware that the sense of this passage agrees with Titus
iii. 5. have, in both places, used the word washing, and Macknight
the term bath as the import of loutron. What is called the
washing or bath of regeneration, in the one passage, is, in
the other, called "the washing" or "bath of water." What is called
"saved" in one, is called "cleansed" in the other; and what
is called "the renewal of the Holy Spirit" in the one, is called "the
word" in the other; because the Holy Spirit consecrates or cleanses through
the word. For thus prayed the Messiah, "Consecrate them through the truth:
thy word is the truth." And again, "You are clean through the word that I
have spoken unto you."
To the same effect, Paul, to the Hebrew Christians, says "Having your hearts
sprinkled from a guilty conscience, and your bodies washed with pure water"
- the water of purification, the water of regeneration: for the phrase "pure
water" must be understood not of the quality of the water, but metonymically
of the effect, the cleansing, the washing, or the purifying of the person
- "having your bodies, or persons washed with pure water," or water
that purifies or cleanses.
No one, acquainted with Peter's style, will think it strange that Paul represents
persons as saved, cleansed, or sanctified by water; seeing
Peter unequivocally asserts that "we are saved" through water, or
through baptism, as was Noah and his family through water and faith in God's
promise. "The antitype immersion does also now save us."
Finally, our great Prophet, the Messiah, gives to water the same place and
power in the work of regeneration. For when speaking of being born again
- when explaining to Nicodemus the new birth, he says, "Except a man
be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom
of God." May not we, then, supported by such high authorities, call that
water of which a person is born again, the water or bath of regeneration?
Back to the beginning
We have already seen that the consummation of the process of generation or
creation is in the birth of the creature formed. So it is in the moral
generation, or in the great process of regeneration. There is a state of
existence from which he that is born passes; and there is a state of existence
into which he enters after birth. This is true of the whole animal creation,
whether oviparous and viviparous. Now the manner of existence, or the mode
of life, is wholly changed; and he is, in reference to the former state,
dead and to the new state alive. So in moral regeneration. The subject of
this great change before his new birth, existed in one state; but after it,
he exists in another. He stands in a new relation to God, angels, and men.
He is now born of God, and has the privilege of being a son of God, and is
consequently pardoned, justified, sanctified, adopted, saved. The state which
he left was a state of condemnation, what some call "the state of nature."
The state into which he enters is a state of favour, in which he enjoys all
the heavenly blessings through Christ: therefore, it is called "the kingdom
of heaven." All this is signified in his death, burial, and resurrection
with Christ; or in his being born of water. Hence, the necessity of being
buried with Christ in water, that he may be born of water, that he may enjoy
the renewal of the Holy Spirit, and be placed under the reign of favour.
All the means of salvation are means of enjoyment, not of procurement.
Birth itself is not for procuring, but for enjoying the life possessed before
birth. So in the analogy - no one is to be baptized, or to be buried with
Christ; no one is to be put under the water of regeneration for the purpose
of procuring life, but for the purpose of enjoying the life
of which he is possessed. If the child is never born, all its sensitive powers
and faculties cannot be enjoyed; for it is after birth that these are fully
developed, and feasted upon all the aliments and objects of sense in nature.
Hence all that is now promised in the gospel, can only be
enjoyed by those who are born again and placed in the kingdom of heaven
under all its influences. Hence the philosophy of that necessity which Jesus
preached - "Unless a man be born again, he cannot discern the kingdom of
heaven" - unless a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into
But let no man think that in the act of being born, either naturally or
metaphorically, the child purchases, procures, or merits either life or its
enjoyments. He is only by his birth placed in circumstances favourable to
the enjoyment of life, and all that makes life a blessing. "To as many as
receive him, believing in his name, he grants the privilege of being children
of God, who derive their birth not from blood, nor from the desire of the
flesh, nor from the will of man, but from God."
RENEWING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Back to the beginning
"He has saved us," says the Apostle Paul, "by the bath of regeneration and
the renewing of the Holy Spirit, which he poured on us richly through
Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his favour, [in the bath
of regeneration,] we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal
life." Thus, and not by works of righteousness, he has saved us. Consequently,
being born of water and the renewing of the Holy Spirit are not works of
merit or of righteousness, but only the means of enjoyment. But this pouring
out of the influences, this renewing of the Holy Spirit, is as necessary
as the bath of regeneration to the salvation of the soul, and to the enjoyment
of the hope of heaven, of which the Apostle speaks. In the kingdom into which
we are born of water, the Holy Spirit is as the atmosphere in the kingdom
of nature - we mean that the influences of the Holy Spirit are as necessary
to the new life, as the atmosphere is to our animal life in the kingdom
of nature. All that is done in us before regeneration, God our Father effects
by the word, or the gospel as dictated and confirmed by his Holy Spirit.
But after we are thus begotten and born by the Spirit of God - after our
new birth - the Holy Spirit is shed on us richly through Jesus Christ our
Saviour; of which the peace of mind, the love, the joy, and the hope of the
regenerate is full proof; for these are amongst the fruits of that the Holy
Spirit of promise of which we speak. Thus commences
THE NEW LIFE.
Back to the beginning
"Newness of life" is a Hebraism for a new life. The new birth
brings us into a new state. "Old things have passed away; all things have
become new," says an Apostle: "for if any one be in Christ, he is a new
creature." A new spirit, a new heart, and an outward character, corresponding
to this change, are the effects of the regenerating process: "for the end
of the change," the grand results of the remedial system, is "love out of
a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith unfeigned." "Love is the fulfilling
of the whole law," and the fruit of the whole gospel. It is the cardinal
principle of all Christian behaviour, the soul of the new man, the breath
of the new life. Faith works by no other rule. It is a working principle,
and love is the rule by which it operates. The Spirit of God is the spirit
of love and the health of a sound mind. Every pulsation of the new heart
is the impulse of the spirit of love. Hence the brotherhood is beloved, and
all mankind embraced in unbounded good will. When the tongue speaks, the
hands and the feet move and operate under the unrestrained guidance of this
principle, we have the Christian character drawn to the life. For meekness,
humility, mercy, sympathy, and active benevolence, are only the names of
the various workings of this all-renovating, invigorating, sanctifying, and
happifying principle. "He that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him."
The Christian, or the new man, is then a philanthropist to the utmost extent
of the meaning of that word. Truth and love have made him free from all the
tyrannies of passion, from guilt, and fear and shame; have filled him with
courage, active and passive. Therefore, his enterprise, his capital enterprise,
to which all others minister, is to take part with our Saviour in the salvation
of the world. "If by any means I may save some," are not the words of Paul
only, but of every new man. Are they merchants, mechanics, husbandmen?
- are they magistrates, lawyers, judges, or unofficial citizens? - are they
masters, servants, fathers, sons, brothers, neighbours? - whatever, or wherever
they may be, they live for God and his city, for the King and his empire.
They associate not with the children of wrath - the miser, the selfish, the
prodigal, the gay, the proud, the slanderer, the tattler, the rake, the
libertine, the drunkard, the thief, the murderer. Every new man has left
these precincts; has broken his league with Satan and his slaves, and has
joined himself to the family of God. These he complacently loves - those
he pities - and does good to all.
The character of the new man is an elevated character. Feeling himself a
son and an heir of God, he cultivates the temper, spirit, and behaviour,
which corresponds with so exalted a relation. He despises every thing mean,
grovelling, earthly, sensual, devilish. As the only begotten and well beloved
Son of God is to be the model of his future personal glory, so the character
which Jesus sustained amongst men, is the model of his daily imitation. His
everyday aspiration is :-
|"Thy fair example will I trace,
To teach me what I ought to be;
Make me by thy transforming grace,
Lord Jesus, daily more like thee."
The law of God is hid in his heart. The living oracles dwell in his mind;
and he grows in favour with God as he grows in the knowledge of God and of
Jesus Christ his Lord. As a new born babe he desires the unadulterated milk
of the word of God, that he may grow by it; for as the thirsty hart pants
after the brooks of water, so pants his soul after God. Thus he lives to
God, and walks with him. This is the character of the regenerate - of him
that is born of God - of the new man in Christ Jesus. This is the change
of heart, of life, and of character, which is the tendency and the fruit
of the process of regeneration, as taught and exemplified by the Apostles,
and those commended by God, in their writings.
We now proceed to offer a few remarks on physical regeneration, the second
part of our subject.
Back to the beginning
Our mortal bodies are yet to feel the regenerating power of the son of God.
This is emphatically called "the glory of his power." "The redemption
of the body" from the bondage of corruption, is the consummation of the new
creating energy of him who has immortality. Life and incorruptibility were
displayed in and by his resurrection from the dead. It was great to create
man in the image of God - greater to redeem his soul from general corruption;
but greater of all, to give to his mortal frame incorruptible and immortal
vigour. The power displayed in the giving to the dead body of the Son of
God incorruptible glory and endless life, is set forth by the Apostle Paul,
as incomparably surpassing every other divine work within the reach of human
knowledge. He prays that the mind of Christians may be enlarged to apprehend
this mighty power - that the Father of glory would open their minds, "that
they might know the exceeding greatness of his power in relation to us who
believe - according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought
in Christ when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right
hand in the heavenly places." Faith in this wonderful operation of God -
hope for the riches of the glory of the inheritance of the saints in light,
are in the most powerful principles of action, which God has ever planted
in the human breast. This is the transcendent hope of the Christian calling,
which imparted such heroic courage to all the saints of eternal renown. This
better resurrection in prospect, has produced heroes which make cowards of
all the boasted chiefs of worldly glory. As the magnetic needle ever points
to the pole, so the mind, influenced by this hope, ever rises to the skies,
and terminates in the fulness of joy, and the pleasures for evermore, in
the presence and at the right hand of God.
To raise a dead body to life again, is not set forth as more glorious, than
by a touch to give new vigour to the palsied arm, to impart sight to the
blind, or hearing to the deaf; but to give that raised body the deathless
vigour of incorruptibility, to renovate and transform it in all its parts,
and to make every spirit feel that it re-animates its own body, that it is
as insusceptible of decay, as immortal as the Father of eternity, is a thought
overwhelming to every mind, a development which will glorify the power of
God, as the sacrifice of his Son now displays his righteousness, faithfulness,
and love to the heavens and to the earth.
This new birth from the dark prison of the grave, is fitly styled "the redemption
of the body" from bondage, "the glorious liberty of the sons of God."
As in our watery grave the old man is figuratively buried to rise no more,
so in the literal grave, the prison of the body, we leave all that is corrupt;
for he that makes all things new, will raise us up in his own likeness, and
present us before his Father's face in all the glory of immortality. Then
will regeneration be complete. Then will be the full revelation of the sons
Immortality, in the sacred writings, is never applied to the spirit of man.
It is not the doctrine of Plato which the resurrection of Jesus proposes.
It is the immortality of the body of which his resurrection is a proof
and pledge. This was never developed till he became the first born from the
dead, and in a human body entered the heavens. Jesus was not a spirit when
he returned to God. He is not made the Head of the New Creation as a Spirit,
but as the Son of Man. Our nature in his person is glorified; and when he
appears to our salvation, we shall be made like him: we shall see him as
he is. This is the Christian hope.
|"A hope so great and so divine
May trials well endure,
And purge the soul from sense and sin,
As Christ himself is pure."
Thus matters stand in the economy of redemption. Thus the divine scheme of
regeneration is consummated: the moral part, by the operation of moral means;
the physical part, by the mighty power of God operating through physical
means. By the word of his power he created the heavens and the earth; by
the word of his grace he re-animates the soul of man; and by the word of
his power he will again form our bodies anew, and reunite the spirit and
the body in the bonds of an incorruptible and everlasting union. Then shall
death "be swallowed up forever" "Where now thy victory, boasting grave?"
But for this we must wait. "We know not what we shall be." We only know,
that when he appears, we shall be like him; that we shall see him as he is.
THE USE OF THE THEORY OF REGENERATION.
Back to the beginning
One would imagine, from the voluminous arguments, debates, and sermons upon
the theory of regeneration, that a sound theory was essential to salvation:
that it must be preached in every sermon, in order to regenerate the hearers.
Nothing can be more preposterous. Who can think that any theory of the
resurrection or regeneration of the body can affect the body in the grave!
As little can any theory affect the unregenerate, or those dead in trespasses
and in sins. A sermon upon generation, or upon natural birth, would be as
efficacious upon those unborn, in bringing them into this life, as a sermon
upon moral or physical regeneration. This explains the fact, that in all
the accounts of apostolical preaching to Jew and Gentile - in all the extracts
of their sermons and speeches found in the New Testament, the subject of
regeneration is not once mentioned. It is, in all the historic books of the
New Testament, but once propounded, but once named; and that only in a private
conference with a Jewish Senator, on the affairs of Christ's kingdom. No
theory understood or believed by the unregenerate; no theory proposed to
them for their acceptance, can avail any thing to their regeneration. We
might as reasonably deliver a theory of digestion to a dyspeptic, to cure
his stomach - or a theory of vegetation to a scion, to hasten its growth,
as to preach any view of regeneration to a sinner, to make him a Christian.
Of what use, then, are the previous remarks on this subject? I will first
candidly inform the reader, that they were not written for his regeneration,
either of mind or body; but the benefit of those who are employed in the
work of regenerating others, and for the conviction of such Christians as
may have been induced to regard us as aiming at nothing, but the mere immersion
of persons, as alone necessary to the whole process of conversion or
regeneration, in their acceptation of the
words.12 The use of this theory, if it have
any, is, as a guide to those who are labouring publicly or privately for
the regeneration of sinners. If we have assigned a proper place to facts,
testimony, faith, feeling, action, the bath of regeneration, the renewing
of the Holy Spirit, and a new life, the course is fairly marked out. They
are to present the great facts, to declare the whole testimony of God to
sinners, in order to their conversion or regeneration. Like Paul, in his
account of his labours in Corinth, they must go out, not in the strength
of human philosophy, "but declaring the testimony of God," and laying
before their hearers "the wonderful works of God."
This is the use, and the only proper use of sound theory on any subject.
It is to guide the operator, not the thing operated on. I would hope, under
the Divine blessing, to be the means of regenerating more persons in one
year, never once naming regeneration, nor speculating upon the subject, by
stating and enforcing the testimony of God, than by preaching daily the most
approved theory of regeneration ever sanctioned by any sanhedrim on
earth.13 With these views, we have, then, offered
the preceding remarks; and shall now briefly turn our attention to -
THE REGENERATION OF THE CHURCH.
Back to the beginning
The word regeneration, we have found once used in the sense of a new
state of things, or of the introduction of a new state of
things.14 In this application of the word, we
would turn the attention of our readers to the necessity of the regeneration
of the church.
I speak not of the regeneration of any sectarian establishment. They are
built upon another foundation - upon the foundation of decrees of councils,
creeds, formularies, or acts of Parliament. But we speak of those societies
that professedly build upon the foundation of Apostles and Prophets, without
any human bond of union, or rule of life - our brethren of the reformation,
or regeneration, now in process.
Should any one imagine that the state of things to which we have attained,
is the sole, or ultimate object of our aspirations or our efforts, he would
do us the greatest injury. Societies, indeed, may be found amongst us, far
in advance of others, in their progress towards the ancient order of things;
but we know of none that has fully attained to that model. It is, however,
most acceptable to see so many societies formed and forming, under the banners
of reformation, with the determination to move onwards in conformity to the
sacred oracles, till they stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
Our opponents cannot, or will not, understand how any society can be in progress
to a better order of things, than that under which they may have commenced
their pilgrimage. Their sectarian policies were soon formed, and the limits
of their reformation were soon fixed; beyond which it soon became heretical
to move. The founders of all new schisms not only saw through a glass darkly,
but their horizon was so circumscribed with human traditions, that they only
aimed at moving a few paces from the hive in which they were generated. A
new creed was soon adopted, and then their stature was complete. They bounded
from infancy to manhood in a few days, and decided, if any presumed farther
to advance, they should be treated as those who had refused to move from
the old hive. Hence it became as censurable to grow beyond a certain standard,
as not to grow at all. This never was our proposition, and never can be our
object. We have no new creed to form, no rules of discipline to adopt. We
have taken the Living Oracles as our creed, our rules and measures of faith
and practice; and in this department, have no additions, alterations, nor
amendments to propose. But in coming up to this standard of knowledge, faith,
and behaviour, we have something yet before us, to which we have not attained.
That we may be distinctly understood on this subject, we shall speak particularly
on the things wanting in our individual characters, and of the things wanting
in our church order, to give to our meetings that interest and influence
which they ought to exert on the brotherhood and on society at large.
It will be understood, that our remarks on the things which are wanting in
the disciples, are applicable not to every individual, but to the general
mass. And first of all, there is wanting a more general and particular knowledge
of the Holy Scriptures, than is possessed by a great majority of the reformers.
There is, perhaps, wanting a taste or disposition for that private devotional
reading of the oracles of God, which is essential to a growth in that knowledge
of God and of Jesus Christ, which constitutes the most striking attributes
in Christian character. We thus reason from the proficiency which is discoverable
in the bounds of our acquaintance, which is large enough to afford data for
every general conclusion.
To read the Scriptures for the sake of carrying out into practice all that
we learn, and to read them for the sake of knowing what is written, are very
different objects, and will produce very different results. Their influence
on the temper and behaviour, in the former case, will very soon become manifest
to all with whom we associate; while, in the latter case, there is no visible
improvement. David said that he "hid the word of God in his heart," or laid
it up in his mind, "that he might not sin against God;" and that he had "more
understanding than all his teachers, because God's testimonies were his
meditation." It will be admitted that the sacred writings of the Apostles
and Evangelists of Jesus Christ ought to be as precious and as delightful
to the Christian, as were the ancient oracles to the most pious Jews. Now
as an example of what we mean by a private devotional reading and study of
the oracles of Christ, we shall permit a Jew to tell his experience: -
"The law of thy mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver.
With my whole heart have I sought thee; my soul breaketh for the longing
that it has to thy judgments at all times. Thy testimonies are my delight
and my counsellors. Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes, and I will
keep it to the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yes,
I will observe it with my whole heart. Make me to go in the path of thy
commandments, for in it do I delight. Thy statutes have been my songs in
the house of my pilgrimage. At midnight I will rise to give thanks to thee,
because of thy righteous judgments. Oh, how I love thy law; it is my meditation
all the day! How sweet are thy words to my taste; sweeter than honey to my
mouth! Thy testimonies have I taken as a heritage forever, for they are the
rejoicing of my heart. Great peace have they that love thy law - nothing
shall cause them to stumble."
These are only a few extracts from one piece, written by a king three thousand
years ago. One another occasion he pronounced the following encomium on the
testimony of God:
"The law [doctrine] of the Lord is perfect, converting [restoring] the soul:
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple: the statutes of
the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the
judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired
are they than gold - yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and
the honey-comb. By them is thy servant warned, and in keeping of them there
is great reward."
This fully reveals all that we mean by a devotional private study of the
Holy Scriptures. Every Christian who can read, may every day thus refresh,
strengthen, and comfort his heart, by reading or committing to memory, and
afterwards reflecting upon some portion of the book. He may carry in his
pocket the blessed volume, and many a time through the day take a peep into
it. This will preserve him from temptation, impart courage to his heart,
give fluency to his tongue, and the graces of Christianity to his life.
In this age, when ignorance of the Christian Scriptures is so characteristic,
and the rage for human opinions and traditions so rampant, it is a duty doubly
imperative on our brethren, to give themselves much more to the study of
the book; and then one of them will put a host of aliens to flight; and,
what is still more desirable, he will have communion with God all the day,
and ever rejoice in his salvation.
In the second place, there is wanting among disciples, who are heads of families,
more attention, much more effort, to bring up their children "in the correction
and instruction of the Lord." The children of all disciplines should be taught
the oracles of God from the first dawning of reason. The good seed should
be sown in their hearts, before the strong seeds of vice can take root. From
a child Timothy knew the Holy Scriptures, and they were able to make
him wise to salvation, through the Christian faith. How many more Timothies
might we have, if we had a few more of the daughters of Lois, and a few more
mothers like Eunice! Most saints, in this generation, appear more zealous
that their children should shine on earth, than in heaven - and that they
may be rich here, at the hazard of eternal bankruptcy. They labour to make
them rich and genteel, rather than pure and holy; and spend more time in
fashioning them to the foolish and wicked taste of polished society,
than in teaching them by precept and example, the word that is better than
gold and more precious than rubies. Well, they sow darnel, and cannot reap
wheat. They may have a mournful harvest, and years of bitterness and sorrow
may reward them for their negligence and error. If only a tithe of the time,
and the labour, and expense that it costs to fit a son or a daughter to shine
in the middle or front ranks of genteel society, were spent in teaching
them to fear God and to keep his commandments, how many more virtuous, solid,
and useful citizens - how many more valuable members of the family of God
- how many more faithful and able witnesses for the truth of God, would be
found in all corners of the land!
Every Christian family ought to be a nursery for God. Their offspring should
be trained for the skies. For such are the promises of God, such are the
facts on record, and such is the experience of Christians, that every parent
who does his duty to his children may expect to see them inherit the blessing.
Their didactic labours, aided by their example and their constant prayers,
will seldom or never fail of success in influencing their descendants to
walk in their ways. The very command to bring up their children in the Lord,
implies its practicability. And both Testaments furnish us with all assurance
that such labours will not be in vain. The men of high renown in sacred history,
were generally the sons of such parentage. The sons of God were found among
the sons of Seth, while the daughters of men were of the progeny of Cain.
Abraham was the descendant of Shem; Moses and Aaron were the sons of believing
parents; Samuel was the son of Hannah, and David was the son of Jesse. John
the harbinger was the son of Zachariah and Elizabeth; and it pleased the
heavenly father, that his Son should be the child of a pious virgin.
But it is under Christ that the faithful are furnished with all the necessary
means of bringing up their offspring for the Lord. The numerous failures
which we witness, are to be traced either to great neglect, or to some fatal
notion which paralyzes all effort; for some think that the salvation or damnation
of their offspring was a matter settled for all eternity, irrespective of
any agency on their part: that some are born "vessels of wrath," and other
"vessels of mercy;" and hence the instructions, examples, and prayers of
parents are of no avail. Among the descendants of such, it will no doubt
often happen that become vessels of wrath fitted for destruction,
while others become vessels of mercy, predestinated to glory.
When God gave a revelation to Jacob, and commanded a law to Israel, he gave
it in charge that they should "teach it to their children, that they might
put their trust in God, and might not be, like their fathers, a rebellious
race." The Apostles of Christ have also taught the Christians the same lesson.
This is our guide, and not our own reasonings. Now let the disciples make
this their business, morning, noon, and evening, and then we shall see its
We are sorry to see this great duty, to which nature, reason, revelation
alike direct, so much neglected by many of our brethren - to find amongst
their children those who are no better acquainted with the Scriptures than
the children of their neighbours, who believe in miraculous conversions,
or think it is a sin to attempt what they imagine to be the work of God alone
- never suspecting that God works by human means, and employs human agency
in his works of providence and redemption.
I never knew but a very few families that made it their daily business to
train up their children in the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, to cause
them every day to commit to memory a portion of the living oracles; but these
few instances authorize me to think, and to say, that such a course persisted
in, and sustained by the good example of parents, will very generally, if
not universally, issue in the salvation of their children. And before any
one says, I have found an exception to the proverbs of Solomon, which says,
"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not
depart from it," - let him show that this child was "trained up in the
way he should go."
In the third place, there is wanting among the disciples, a stricter regard
to relative duties - we mean, not only the duties which justice, truth, and
moderation claim; but all relative duties. So long as Christians live
after the manner of men in the flesh, according to the fashion of this world,
they must, like other men, contract debts which they cannot promptly pay,
make covenants and bargains, give promises which they cannot fulfil, and
stake pledges which they are unable to redeem. All this is wholly incompatible
with our profession. Such were not the primitive disciples. Sceptics of every
name, men of the world, who have ever read the New Testament, know that such
behaviour is utterly incompatible with the letter and spirit of Christianity.
A Christian's word or promise ought to be, and is, if Christ be honoured,
as solemn and obligatory as any bond. And as for breach of bargain or covenant,
even where it is greatly or wholly to the disadvantage of the Christians,
it is not even to be thought of - "he changes not, though to his hurt he
covenants." How much has the gospel lost of its influence, because of the
faithlessness of its professors! O! when shall it be again said of Christians
in general, that "they bind themselves, as with a solemn oath, not to commit
any kind of wickedness - to be guilty neither of theft, robbery, nor adultery
- never to break a promise, or to keep back a deposit when called
upon." Pliny writes to the Emperor Trajan that such was the character of
Christians A.D. 106-7, as far as he could learn it from those who were not
Christians. Were all the common (now-a-days rather uncommon) virtues
of justice, truth, fidelity, honesty, practised by all Christians, how many
mouths would be stopped, and how many new arguments in favour of Jesus Christ
could all parties find! But even were these common virtues as general as
the Christian profession, there are the other finer virtues of benevolence,
goodness, mercy, sympathy, which belong to the profession, expressed in taking
care of the sick, the orphan, the widow - in alleviating all the afflictions
of our fellow-creatures. Add these virtues, or graces, as we sometimes
call them, to the others, and then how irresistible the argument for the
divine authenticity of the gospel! Let industry, frugality, temperance, honesty,
justice, truth, fidelity, humility, mercy, sympathy, appear conspicuous in
the lives of the disciples, and the contrast between them and other professors
will plead their cause more successfully than a hundred preachers.
In the last place, there is wanting a more elevated piety to bring up the
Christian character to the standard of primitive times. We want not fine
speeches nor eloquent orations on the excellencies of Christian piety and
devotion. These are generally acknowledged. But we need to be roused from
our supineness, from our worldly-mindedness, from our sinful conformities
to an apostate generation, to the exhibition of that holiness in speech,
in behaviour, without which no one shall see the Lord. What mean the numerous
exhortations of the Apostles to watchfulness and prayer, if these are not
essential to our devotion to God and consecration to his service?
If our affections are not placed on things above, we are unfit for the kingdom
of glory. To see the folly of a profession of Christianity without the power
of godliness, we have only to put the question, How is that person fit for
the enjoyment of God and Christ, whose heart is filled with the cares, anxieties,
and concerns of this life - whose whole life is a life of labour and care
for the body - a life of devotion to the objects of time and sense? No man
can serve God and Mammon. Where the treasure is, the heart must also be.
Thither the affections turn their course. There is no room for the residence
of the Spirit of God in a mind devoted to the affairs of this life. The spirit
of the policies of this world, and the Spirit of God, cannot dwell in the
same heart. If Jesus or his Apostles taught any one doctrine clearly, fully,
and unequivocally, it is this doctrine, that "the cares of this world, the
lusts of other things, and the deceitfulness of riches, stifle the word,
and render it unfruitful."
If any one would enjoy the power of godliness, he must give up his whole
soul to it. The business of this life will be performed religiously, as a
duty subordinate to the will of God. While his hands are engaged in that
business which his own wants, or those of his household make necessary, his
affections are above. He delights in God, and communes with him all the day.
A Christian is not one who is pious by fits and starts, who is religious
or devout one day of the week, or for one hour of the day. It is the whole
bent of his soul - it is the beginning, middle, and end of every day. To
make his calling and election sure, is the business of his life. His mind
rests only in God. He places the Lord always before him. This is his joy
and delight. He would not for the world have it otherwise. He would not enjoy
eternal life, if he had it at his option, in any other way than that which
God himself has proposed. He accedes to God's arrangements, not of necessity,
but of choice. His religious services are perfect freedom. He is free indeed.
The Lord's commandments are not grievous, but joyful. The yoke of Christ
to him is easy, and his burden light. He will sing, with David -
|The love that to thy laws I bear,
No language can display;
They with fresh wonders entertain
My ravish'd thoughts all day.
The law that from thy mouth proceeds,
Of more esteem I hold,
Than untouch'd stores, than thousand mines
Of silver and of gold.
Whilst in the way of thy commands,
More solid joy I found,
Than had I been with vast increase
Of envied riches crown'd.
Thy testimonies I have kept,
And constantly obey'd;
Because the love I bore to them
Thy service easy made.
In the same ratio as Christians devoutly study the oracles of God, teach
them to their children, practise all relative duties to society at large,
and rise to a more elevated piety, they will increase their influence in
the great and heavenly work of regenerating the world.
A few remarks on the things wanting in the order of Christian assemblies,
to give to their public meetings that influence on themselves and on society
at large, will finish this section of our essay.
Our heavenly Father wills our happiness in all its institutions. His ordinances
are, therefore, the surest, the simplest, and the most direct means of promoting
our happiness. The Lord Jesus gave himself for the church that he might purify
and bless it; and, therefore, in the church are all the institutions which
can promote the individual and social good of the Christian community. In
attending upon these institutions on the Lord's day, much depends upon the
preparation of heart in all who unite to commemorate the death and resurrection
of the Son of God.
In adverting to the most scriptural and rational manner of celebrating or
observing the day of the Lord, both for their own comfort and the regeneration
of the world, we would first of all remark, that much depends upon the frame
of mind, or preparation of heart, in which we visit the assemblies of the
Suppose two persons, A and B, if you please, members of the same church,
take their seats together at the Lord's table. A, from the time he opened
his eyes in the morning, was filled with the recollections of the Saviour's
life, death, and resurrection. In his closet, in his family, and along the
way, he was meditating or conversing on the wonders of redemption, and renewing
his recollections of the sayings and doings of the Messiah. B, on the other
hand, arose as on other days, and finding himself free from all obligations
arising from the holiness of the time, talks about the common affairs of
every day, and allows his thoughts to roam over the business of the last
week, or, perhaps, to project the business of the next. If he meet with a
neighbour, friend, or brother, the news of the day is inquired after, expatiated
upon, discussed; the crops, the markets, the public health, or the weather
- the affairs of Europe, or the doings of Congress, or the prospects of some
candidate for political honour - become the theme of conversation. As he
rides or walks to the church, he chats upon all, or any of these topics,
till he enter the door of the meeting house. Now, as A and B enter the house
in very different states of mind, may it not be supposed that they will differ
as much in their enjoyments, as in their morning thoughts? Or can B, by a
single effort, unburden his mind, call in the wanderings of his thoughts,
and in a moment transport himself from the contemplation of things on earth
to things in heaven? If this can be imagined, then meditation and preparation
of heart are wholly unnecessary to the acceptable worship of God, and to
the comfortable enjoyment of his institutions.
But is it compatible with experience, or is it accordant to reason, that
B can delight in God, and rejoice in commemorating the wonders of redemption,
while his thoughts are dissipated upon the mountains of a thousand vanities?
- while, like a fool's eyes, his thoughts are roaming to the ends of the
earth? Can he say, with a pious Jew, "How amiable are thy tabernacles, O
Lord of hosts! My soul longs - yes, even faints, for the courts of the Lord!
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Happy they who dwell in
thy house; they will be still praising thee! A day in thy courts is better
than a thousand. I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than
to dwell in the tents of wickedness." - "One thing have I desired of the
Lord, and that I will seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire
in his temple. O send out thy light and thy truth! Let them lead me, let
them bring me to thy holy hill and to thy tabernacles. Then will I go to
the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; yes, I will praise thee, O God,
Or had the Jew a sublimer worship, more exalted views of God's salvation,
and more piety, than a Christian? Or were the ordinances of the Jewish sanctuary
more entertaining and refreshing than the ordinances of the Christian church?
This will not be alleged; consequently, B, and all of that school, are utterly
at fault when they approach the house of God, in such a state of mind as
they approach the market place, the forum, or the common resorts of this
Christians need not say, in excuse for themselves, that all days are alike,
that all places and times are alike holy, and that they ought to be in the
best frame of mind all the time. For even concede them all their own positions,
they will not contend that a man ought to speak to God, or to come into the
presence of God, as they approach men. They will not say that they ought
to have the same thoughts or feelings in approaching the Lord's table, as
in approaching a common table; or on entering a court of political justice,
as in coming into the house of God. There is, in the words of Solomon the
Wise, a season and time for every object and for every work: There is the
Lord's day, the Lord's table, the Lord's house, and the Lord's people; and
there are thoughts, and frames of mind, and behaviour compatible and incompatible
with all these.
In the public assembly the whole order of worship ought to do justice to
what is passing in the minds of all the worshippers. That joy in the Lord,
that peace and serenity of mind, that affection of the brethren, that reverence
for the institutions of God's house, which all feel, should be manifest in
all the business of the day. Nothing that would do injustice to all or any
of these ought ever to appear in the congregation of Jesus Christ our Lord.
No levity, irreverence, no gloom, no sadness, no pride, no unkindness, no
severity of behaviour towards any, no coldness, nothing but love, and peace,
and joy, humility, and reverence, should appear in the face, in the word,
or action of any disciple.
These are not little matters. They all exert a salutary influence on the
brethren and the strangers. These are visible and sensible displays of the
temper and spirit of Christians; and if Paul thought it expedient to write
of veils and long hair when admonishing a church "to do all
things decently and in order," we, in this day of degeneracy, may be allowed
to notice matters and things as minute as those before us.
We intend not now to go into details of church order or Christian discipline,
nor to expatiate on the necessity of devoting a part of the time to singing,
praying, reading, teaching, exhorting, commemorating, communicating; nor
on how much of this or that is expedient. Times and circumstances, must decide
how much time shall be taken up in these exercises, and when it shall be
most fitting to meet, to adjourn, etc. Nor is it necessary now to say, that
there must be scriptural order, and presidency, and proper discipline, and
due subordination to one another in the fear of God. We now speak rather
of the manner in which all things are to be done, and of the things
themselves, their necessity or value.
After noticing what in some instances appear to be wanting in the manner
of coming together on the Lord's day, we proceed to notice in order the things
wanting in many congregations, for the purposes already specified.
And first of all, be it observed, that in some churches there appears to
be wanting a proper method of handling the Scriptures, to the edification
of the brethren. It is admitted by all the holy brethren, that the Scriptures
of truth, called the living oracles, are the great instrument of God
for all his purposes in the saints on earth. Through them they are converted
to God, comforted, consecrated, made meet for an inheritance among the
sanctified, and qualified for every good word and work. Every thing, then,
depends upon the proper understanding of these volumes of inspiration. They
can only operate as far as they are understood.
The system of sermonizing on a text is now almost universally abandoned,
by all who intend that their hearers should understand the testimony of God.
Orators and exhorters may select a word, a phrase, or a verse; but all who
feed the flock of God with knowledge and understanding, know that this method
is wholly absurd. Philological lectures upon a chapter are only a little
better. The discussion of any particular topic, such as faith, repentance,
election, the Christian calling, may sometimes be expedient: but in a
congregation of Christians, the reading and examining the different books
in regular succession, every disciple having the volume in his hand, following
up the connection of things, examining parallel passages, interrogating and
being interrogated, fixing the meaning of particular words and phrases, by
comparison with the style of that writer or speaker, or with that of others;
intermingling these exercises with prayer and praises, and keeping the narrative,
the epistle, the speech, so long as before the minds of all, as is necessary
for the youngest disciple in the congregation to understand it, and to become
deeply interested in it, will do more in one year, than is done in many,
on the plan of the popular meetings of the day.
Great attention should be paid to all allusions, in any composition, to the
particularities of time, place, and circumstance, to the geographical,
historical, and chronological particulars of all questions of fact connected
with all persons of note in the narratives: for these are often the best
interpreters of style, and expositors of the meaning of what is written.
This searching, examining, comparing, and ruminating upon the Holy Scriptures
in private, in the family, in the congregation, cannot fail to make us learned
in the knowledge of God, and in the knowledge of man. The Bible contains
more real learning than all the volumes of men. It instructs us in all our
natural, moral, political, and religious relations. Though it teaches us
not astronomy, medicine, chemistry, mathematics, architecture, it gives us
all that knowledge which adorns and dignifies our moral nature, and fits
us for happiness. Happy the person who meditates upon it day and night! He
grows and flourishes in moral health and vigour, as the trees upon the water
courses. His leaf never fades - his fruit never fails.
The congregations of the saints want system in furthering the knowledge of
this book. The simple reading of large portions in a desultory manner, is
not without some good effect; for there is light, and majesty, and life,
in all the oracles of God; no man can listen to them without edification.
But the profit accruing from such readings, is not a tithe of that which
might be obtained in the proper systematic reading and examination of them.
The congregation is the school of Christ, and every pupil there should feel
that he has learned something every day he waits upon his Master. He must
take the Master's book with him, and, like every other good and orderly pupil,
he must open it and study it, with all the helps that the brotherhood, his
school-fellows, can furnish for his more comprehensive knowledge of all its
A Christian scribe, well instructed in its contents, or a plurality of such,
who can bring out of their intellectual treasury things new and old, will
greatly advance the students in this heavenly science; but, in the absence
of such, the students must be self-taught; and self-taught scholars are generally
the best taught: for they cannot progress, unless they study with diligence,
and carefully learn the rudiments of every science.
To give some idea of the diligence and attention to the minutest matters,
which are necessary to proficiency in the knowledge of all that is written
in the New Testament, we shall suppose that the disciples have for their
lesson, on some particular day, the Nativity of the Messiah. The second chapter
of Matthew is read. After reading this chapter, or the whole of the first
section of Matthew's Testimony, the elder or president for the day asks some
brother, a good reader, to read what the other evangelists have testified
on this subject. Mark and John being silent on the nativity, he reads Luke,
2nd section, 2nd chapter, from the 1st to the 41st verse. After the reading
of this chapter, the following points are the subject of inquiry, and most
of them are proposed to the brethren for solution:-
1. Who was Cedar Augustus, and over what people did he reign?
2. At what period of his reign was the edict of enrolment issued, or when
did the first register take effect?
3. What did Syria include, and what were its boundaries?
4. Who presided over Syria at the time of the first register?
5. Who was king in Judea at this time?
6. How far did Judea extend, or in what part of the Holy Land was it situated?
7. In what country was Jerusalem, where situated, and by what other names
was it known?
8. What was the native city of Joseph?
9. Where was Nazareth situated, and in what district?
10. What was the boundary of Galilee, and what were its principal towns?
11. In what canton or district was Bethlehem, and how far from Jerusalem?
12. Who were the magians?
13. Why was "Herod alarmed, and all Jerusalem with him," when the magians
reported the Star in the East?
14. What were the scribes and chief priests assembled by Herod, and why were
they called together?
15. By what means did they decide the questions referred to them? 16. On
what Prophet do they rely, and where shall the quotation be found?
17. Of what family and lineage were Joseph and Mary?
18. By what means did the magians find the house in which the Messiah was
19. Why did the magians not return to Herod?
20. Whether did the shepherds of Bethlehem, or the eastern magians, first
pay their respects to the Messiah?
21. In what quarter of the globe does Egypt lie?
22. How far from Bethlehem?
23. How long was the Messiah kept in Egypt?
24. Who predicted his return from Egypt, and where shall it be found?
25. Who foretold the slaughter of the male infants in Bethlehem, and what
instigated Herod to this cruel massacre?
26. Who succeeded Herod in the throne of Judea?
27. Why did Joseph retire to Nazareth?
28. What Prophet foretold this circumstance, and where shall it be found?
These matters being all ascertained, to which the maps, geographical and
chronological indexes, and the appendix to the Family Testament, will greatly
contribute, some moral reflections will naturally occur; for in all these
incidents are manifest the wisdom, care, and economy of our heavenly Father,
his faithfulness, condescension, and love; the great variety of his instruments,
and agents; the ease with which he frustrates the evil counsels and machinations
of his enemies; the infallible certainty of his foreknowledge; the perfect
free agency of men, good and evil; the deep humiliation of his only-begotten
Son in all the circumstances of his nativity. Irresistible arguments in favour
for his pretensions may be drawn from these ancient prophecies, from their
minuteness of time, place, and circumstance; many eloquent and powerful lessons
on human pride, vanity, and arrogance may be deduced from the birth-place,
cradle, and family connections of the Heir of the Universe; and many other
touching appeals to the heart, which the birth, circumcision, and dedication
of the Messiah, with all the incidents in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and the Temple,
connected with his first appearance on earth furnish, will present themselves,
with unfading freshness and beauty, to the brotherhood of Christ.
A hint to the wise is sufficient. Were this method pursued only two hours
every Lord's day, every disciple giving his heart to the work; and were the
results then compared with the products of the scrap Doctors or sermonizers
to sleeping and dreaming hearers, no man, having any regard for his reputation
for good sense, could give his vote for the popular system.
A reformation in the manner of handling the living oracles is much wanting;
and the sooner and more generally it is attempted, the greater will be the
regenerating influence of the brotherhood on the world. Intelligent in the
Holy Scriptures, clothed with the armour of light, every disciple going forth
will be a David against the Philistines - a host against the armies of the
aliens. And better still, the words of heavenly favour dwelling in his heart,
he will carry with him into every society a fragrance like the rose of Sharon
- a sweetness of perfume like a garden which the Lord has blessed.
There appears to be wanting in some congregations a proper attention to
discipline, and a due regard to decorum, in the management of such cases
as occur. In every family, and in every congregation, there is occasional
need of discipline. Offences, delinquencies, and apostasies, did occur in
the congregations over which the apostles either were, or had been, presidents;
and they will happen again in this state of discipline and trial, in which
we are all placed. They must be expected; and every congregation ought to
be prepared to act upon the emergency with intelligence and decorum. Much
injury has been done to the progress of churches, by a remission in attention
to such cases, and in the manner they have been disposed of when taken up.
Nothing can be more preposterous and revolting to every sentiment of good
order and decorum, than that every offender and offence should, at the very
offset, be dragged into the public assembly. Persons who have the care of
a congregation, the seniors whose age and experience have taught them prudence,
ought to be first informed of such cases; and they ought to present the matter
to the congregation. Every novice is not to feel himself at liberty to disturb
the congregation by presenting, on his own responsibility, and at his own
discretion, a complaint against a brother, whether it be of a public or private
But we are now speaking of the manner of procedure in such cases.
The most tender regard for the feelings of all, the utmost sympathy for the
offender, the most unyielding firmness in applying the correctives which
the Head of the church has commanded, and the necessity of acting promptly
in accordance with the law in the case, are matters of much importance.
No passion, no partiality, no bad feeling - nothing but love and piety, but
faithfulness and truth; nothing but courtesy and gentleness, should ever
appear in the house of God. And when any one is found guilty and excluded
from the society, it should be done with all solemnity, and with prayer that
the institution of Christ may be a blessing to the transgressor.
But evil-doers, or those that act not honourably according to the law of
Christ, ought not to be tolerated in the professed family of God. Such persons
are a dead weight on the whole society - spots in every feast of love, and
blemishes upon the whole profession. One sinner destroys much good; yet
separation or abscision, like amputation, is only to be used in the last
stage, when all other remedies, of remonstrance and admonition, expostulation
and entreaty, have failed. To prevent gangrene, or an injury to the whole
body, amputation is necessary, an indispensable remedy. More strictness,
more firmness, and more tenderness in such cases, would add greatly to the
moral influence of every society. A few persons walking together in the bonds
of Christian affection, and under the discipline of Christ, is better than
the largest assembly in which there are visibly and manifestly, many who
fear not God, and keep not his commandments.
In the house of God, all should be purity, reverence, meekness, brotherly
kindness, and love. Confidence in the honesty and sincerity of our brethren,
is the life of communion. To feel ourselves united with them who are determined
for eternal life, and resolved to seek first of all, chief of all, above
all, the kingdom of heaven: and the righteousness required in it, is most
animating, comforting, exhilarating. But to be doubtful whether we are uniting
with a mass of ignorance, corruption, and apathy, is a rottenness in the
bones; love waxes cold, and then we have the form, without the power of
That the church may have a regenerating influence upon society at large,
there is wanting a fuller display of Christian philanthropy in all her public
meetings; care for the poor, manifested in the liberality of her contributions;
the expression of the most unfeigned sympathy for the distresses of mankind,
not only among the brotherhood, but among all men; and an ardent zeal for
the conversion of sinners proportioned to her professed appreciation of the
value of her own salvation, and to her resources and means of enlightening
the world, on the things unseen and eternal. The full display of these
attributes, is the most efficient means of causing the gospel to sound abroad,
and to achieve new conquests among our fellow citizens. The Christian health
and vigour of every church, is to be estimated more by her exertions and
success in bringing sinners home to God, than by all her other attainments.
Too long has it been considered the duty, the almost exclusive duty of the
preacher, to convert the world. He must spend his time, and wear out his
constitution in journeyings and preachings, while the individual members
of the church are to mind their own business, seek their own wealth and domestic
comfort. He must endure the heat and the cold, forsake his wife and family,
and commit the management of his affairs to others, while they have only
to look on and pray for his success. Strange infatuation! Has he received
a commission from the skies - has he been drafted out of the ranks to go
to war, and they all left at home to take care of their wives and children!
Some may believe this - some may imagine that it is his duty alone to spend
his time and his talents in this work, and theirs daily to labour for their
own interest and behoof; but surely such are not the views and feelings of
The work of the Lord will never progress - or in other words, the regenerating
influence of the church will amount to little or nothing, so long as it is
thought to be not equally the duty of every member, or the special duty of
one or two, denominated preachers, to labour for the Lord.
There is either a special call, a general call, or no call at all, to labour
for the conversion of the world. If there be a few specially called, the
rest have nothing to do but to mind their own concerns; "to seek their own
things, and not the things of Jesus Christ." If none be called, then it is
the duty of none, and the Lord has nothing for his people to do - no world
to convert; or, at least, nothing for them to do in that work. None of us
are prepared for the consequences of either of these assumptions. It follows,
then, that it is the duty of all to labour according to their respective
abilities in this work. All are called to labour for the Lord. I hold that
every citizen in Christ's kingdom is bound to take up arms for the King,
as much as I am; and if he cannot go to the fight the battles of the Lord,
he must take care of the wives and children of those who can, and will fight
for their King and country. But the expense of the war must be borne by the
subjects of the crown; and as the Lord will not have any tax-gatherers in
his kingdom, but accepts only voluntary contributions, he makes a mark over
against the names of those who do nothing, and he will settle with them at
his return. He calls even the contributions for the gospel, made by those
at home, "a fragrant odour, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God."
But we are afraid of doing any thing of this sort, lest we should be like
some other people, who we think have acted imprudently. Strange, indeed,
that when any thing has been once abused, it is never again to be used! But
I have inadvertently strayed off from my purpose. The manner in which the
brethren labour for the salvation of the world, is all that comes within
our prescribed limits. On this enough has been said. Let the brethren solemnly
consider the things that are wanting to give to their meetings that influence
which they ought to exert upon themselves and upon society at large.
We are susceptible of receiving moral and religious advantages, from our
own good order and decorum in the congregation, as those who attend our meetings
as spectators. And in this instance, as well as sin all the variety of doing
good, he that waters others is again watered in return; for he that blesses
others, is always blessed in blessing them. None enjoy the blessings of the
gospel more fully, than they who are most active and influential in blessing
others. What happy seasons are those in which we see many turning to the
Lord! Now if we would have a perpetual feast, we must be perpetually devoted
to the promotion of the happiness of others. We must live for God, as well
as live to God.
In filling up these outlines, other matters still more minute, but, perhaps,
equally important, will present themselves to the attention of the brethren.
Now we cannot set about these matters too soon. The time has again come,
when judgment must begin at the house of God. The people who have long enjoyed
the word of the life and the Christian institutions must soon come to a
reckoning. They must give an account of their stewardship, for the Lord has
promised to call them to a judgment. An era is just at the door, which will
be known as the Regeneration for a thousand years to come. The Lord
Jesus will judge that adulterous brood, and give them over to the burning
flame, who have broken the covenant, and formed alliances with the governments
of the earth. Now the cry is heard in our land, "Come out of her, my people,
that you partake not of her sins, and that you may not receive of her plagues."
The Lord Jesus will soon rebuild Jerusalem, and raise up the tabernacle of
David which have so long been in ruins. Let the church prepare herself for
the return of her Lord, and see that she make herself ready for his appearance.
THE REGENERATION OF THE WORLD.
Back to the beginning
All the kingdoms of this world shall soon become the kingdoms of our Lord
the King. He will hurl all the present potentates from their thrones. He
will grind to powder the despotisms, civil and ecclesiastic; and with the
blast of his mouth, give them to the four winds of heaven. The anti-christian
power, whether it be called Papistical, Mohammedan, Pagan, or Atheistic,
will as certainly be destroyed, as Jesus reigns in heaven. No trace of them
shall remain. The best government on earth, call it English or American,
has within it the seeds of its own destruction - carries in its constitution
a millstone, which will sink it to the bottom of the sea. They acknowledge
not that God has set his Christ upon his throne. They will not kiss the Son.
Society under their economy is not blessed. The land mourns through the
wickedness of those that sit in high places. Ignorance, poverty, and crime
abound, because of the injustice and iniquities of those who guide the destinies
of nations. Men that fear not God, and love not his Son, and that regard
not the maxims of his government, yet wear the sword, and sway the sceptre
in all lands.
This is wholly adverse to the peace and happiness of the world. Therefore,
he will break them in pieces like a potter's vessel, and set up an order
of society in which justice, inflexible justice, shall have uncontrolled
dominion. Jesus will be universally acknowledged by all the race of living
men, and all nations shall do him homage. This state of society will be the
consummation of the Christian religion, in all its moral influences and
tendencies upon mankind.
How far this change is to be effected by moral, and how far by physical means,
is not the subject of our present inquiry. But the preparation of a people
for the coming of the Lord must be the result of the restoration of the ancient
gospel and order of things. And come when it may, the day of the regeneration
of the world will be a day as wonderful and terrible as was the day of the
deluge, of Sodom's judgment, or of Jerusalem's catastrophe. Who shall stand
when the Lord does this? But all the regenerations, physical and moral,
individual, congregational, or national, are but types and shadows, or means
of preparation for the
REGENERATION OF THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH.
Back to the beginning
The Bible begins with the generations of the heavens and the earth; but the
Christian revelation ends with the regenerations, or new creation of the
heavens and the earth. This the ancient promise of God, confirmed to us by
the Christian Apostles. The present elements are to be changed by fire. The
old or antediluvian earth, was purified by water; but the present earth is
reserved for fire, with all the works of man that are upon it. It shall be
converted into a lake of liquid fire. But the death in Christ will have been
regenerated in body, before the old earth is regenerated by fire. The bodies
of the saints will be as homogeneous with the new earth and heavens as their
present bodies are with the present heavens and earth. God recreates,
regenerates, but annihilates nothing; and, therefore, the present earth is
not to be annihilated. The best description we can give of this regeneration,
is in the words of one who had a vision of it on the island of Patmos. He
describes it as far as it is connected with the New Jerusalem, which is to
stand upon the new earth, under the canopy of the new heaven: -
"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the former heaven and the former
earth were passed away; and the sea was no more. And I, John, saw the holy
city, the New Jerusalem, descending from God out of heaven, prepared like
a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven,
saying, Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall pitch his
tent among them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be among
them - their God. And he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and
death shall be no more, nor grief, nor crying; nor shall there be any more
pain: for the former things are passed away."
A WORD TO THE MORAL REGENERATORS OF THE AGE.
Back to the beginning
God, our heavenly Father, works by means, as we all confess. His means are
wisely adapted to the ends he has in view. His agents are the best agents
for the work he has to accomplish. He employs not physical means nor agents,
for moral ends and purposes. Nor does he produce physical effects, by moral
means and agents. He has been pleased to employ not angels, but men in the
work of regenerating the world. Men have written, printed, and published
the gospel for nearly two thousand years. They have perpetuated it from
generation to generation. They have translated it from language to language,
and carried it from country to country. They have preached it in word and
in deed, and thus it has come down to our days.
During the present administration of the reign of Heaven, no change is to
be expected; no new mission is to be originated, no new order of preachers
is to be instituted. The King has gone to a far country; and before his
departure, he called together his servants, and committed to them the management
of his estate till he return. He has not yet come to reckon them. They were
commanded first to proclaim the doctrine of his reign; then to write it in
a book, and to commit it to faithful men, who should be able to teach it
correctly to others. By these faithful men the records have been kept; and
through their vigilance and industry they have been guarded from corruption,
interpolation, and change. One generation handed them over to the next; and
if ignorant and unfaithful copyists neglected their duty, others more faithful
have corrected them; and now we are able to hear the words which Jesus spoke,
and to read the very periods penned by the Apostles.
Thus, whatever the Prophets and the Apostles have achieved since their death,
has been accomplished by human agents like ourselves. Where men have not
carried this intelligence in speech or writing, not one of our race knows
God or his anointed Saviour. No angel nor Holy Spirit has been sent to the
Pagan nations: and God has exerted no power out of his word to enlighten
or reclaim savage nations. These indisputable facts and truths have much
moral meaning, and ought to give a strong impulse to our efforts to regenerate
The best means of doing this is the object now before us; and this is one,
the importance of which cannot be easily exaggerated. There are three ways
of proceeding in this case, which now seem to occupy a considerable share
of public attention. These are properly called theorizing, declaiming,
and preaching; on each of which we may offer a remark or two in passing.
The theorizers are those who are always speculating upon correct notions,
or the true theory of conversion. They are great masters of method, and with
some of them it is a ruinous error to place faith before regeneration, or
repentance after faith. Heresy, with these, is the derangement of the method,
which these have proposed for God to work by in converting the sinner. And
the true faith which is connected with salvation, is an apprehension of this
theory and acquiescence in it. These are all theorists, heady, or speculative
Christians; and with them the whole scheme of redemption is a splendid
Our maxim is, Theory for the Doctors, and medicine for the sick. Doctors
fatten on theories, but patients die who depend on theory for cure. A few
grains of practice is worth a pound of theory. The mason and the carpenter
build the house by rule; but he that inhabits it, lives
by eating and drinking. No man ever was cured physically,
politically, morally, or religiously, by learning a correct theory of his
physical, political, moral, or religious malady. As soon might we expect
to heal an ulcer on the liver by a discourse upon that organ, its functions,
its diseases, and their cure, as to restore a sinner by means of the theory
of faith, repentance, regeneration, or effectual calling. But on this enough
has already been said, and more than is necessary to convince those who can
think, and who dare to reason on such themes.
The declaimers are not those only who eulogize virtue and reprobate
vice; but that large and respectable class who address themselves to the
passions, to the hopes and fears of men. They are those who are so rhetorical
upon the joys of heaven, and the terrors of hell: who horrify, terrify, and
allure by the strength of their descriptions, the flexions of their voices,
the violence of their gestures, and their touching anecdotes. Their hearers
are either dissolved in tears, or frantic with terror. These talk much about
the heart; and, on their theory, if man's heart was extracted, all his religion
would be extracted with it. The religion of their converts flows in their
blood, and has its foundation in their passions.
The preachers, properly so called, first address themselves to the
understanding, by a declaration or narrative of the wonderful works of God.
They state, illustrate, and prove the great facts of the gospel; they lay
the whole record before their hearers; and when they have testified what
God has done, what he has promised and threatened, they exhort their hearers
on these premises, and persuade them to obey the gospel, to surrender themselves
to the guidance and direction of the Son of God. They address themselves
to the whole man, his understanding, will, and affections, and approach the
heart by taking the citadel of the understanding.
The accomplished and wise proclaimer of the word will find it always expedient
to address his audience in their proper character; to approach them through
their prejudices, and never to find fault with these prepossessions, which
are not directly opposed to the import and design of the ministry of
reconciliation. He will set before them the models found in the sacred history,
which show that the same discourse is not to be preached in every place and
to every assembly, even when it is necessary to proclaim the same gospel.
Paul's address to the Athenians, Lycaonians, Antiochians, to Felix, the Jailor,
and king Agrippa, are full of instruction on the topic.
Augustine has written a treatise on preaching, which Luther proposed to himself
as a model; but it is said that Augustine fell as far short of his own precepts,
as did any of his contemporaries. We all can with more facility give precepts
to others, than conform to them ourselves. In Augustine's treatise, which
in some respects influenced and formed the style and plan of Luther, and
through him all the Protestants, there is much said on the best rhetorical
mode "of exhibiting the truth to others;" but it savours more of the art
of the schoolmen, than of the wisdom of the Apostles. He labours more on
the best style and mode of expressing one's self, than on the things to be
Our best precepts in this matter are derived rather from the books of Deuteronomy
and Nehemiah, than from any other source out of the New Testament. The book
of Deuteronomy may be regarded as a series of sermons or discourses, delivered
to the Jews by their great teacher, Moses, rather than as a part of the Jewish
history. Two things in this book deserve great attention. The first is the
simplicity, fulness, and particularity of his narratives of the incidents
on the journey through the wilderness; - God's doings and theirs, for the
last forty years, are faithfully and intelligibly laid before them. The next
is the use made of these facts; the conclusions deduced, the arguments drawn,
and the exhortations tendered from these facts. For a fair and beautiful
specimen of this, let the curious reader take up and carefully read the first
four chapters of the book of Deuteronomy . The fact and the application,
the argument and the exhortation after the manner of Moses, cannot fail to
The writings of the scribes during the captivity, teach us how to address
a people that have lost the true meaning of the oracles of God. The readings,
expositions, exhortations, and prayers of Ezra and Nehemiah, are full of
instruction to Christians in these days of Babylonish captivity. To address
a people long accustomed to hearing the Scriptures, yet ignorant of them,
and consequently disobedient, is a matter that requires all the wisdom and
prudence which can be acquired from Jewish and Christian records.
The manner of address, next to the matter of it, is most important. The
weightiest arguments, the most solemn appeals, the most pathetic expostulations,
if not sustained by the gravity, sincerity, and piety of the speaker, will
be like water spilled upon the ground. A little levity, a few witticisms,
a sarcastic air, a conceited attitude, or a harsh expression, will often
neutralize all the excellencies of the most scriptural and edifying discourse.
The great work of regenerating men is too solemn, too awfully grave and divine,
to allow any thing of the sort. Humility, serenity, devotion, and all benevolence
in aspect, as well as in language, are essential to a successful proclamation
of the great facts of the Living Oracles. He that can smile in his discourse
at the follies, need not weep over the misfortunes, of the ignorant and
superstitious. He that can, while preaching the gospel, deride and ridicule
the errors of his fellow professors, is, for the time being, disqualified
to persuade them to accept of truth, or gladly to receive the message of
Those preachers have been sadly mistaken, who have sought popularity by the
eccentricities, and courted smiles rather than souls; - who, by their anecdotes
and foolish jests, told with the Bible before them, have thought to make
themselves useful by making themselves ridiculous - and to regenerate men
by teaching them how to violate the precepts of the gospel, and to disdain
the examples of the Great Teacher and his Apostles.
It will not do. These are the weapons of this world, and no part of the armour
of light. Jesus and his Apostles never sanctioned, by precept or example,
such a course; and it is condemned by all sensible men, whether Jews or Gentiles,
professors or profane.
In attempting to regenerate men, we must place before them the new man, not
the old man, in the preacher as well as in the discourse; and while we seek
out arguments to convince and allure them, we must show them in our speech
and behaviour, that we believe what we preach. So did the Apostles and
Evangelists. They commended themselves to every man's conscience in the sight
of Jesus Christ.
Error must be attacked. It must be opposed by the truth. But it may be asked,
whether the darkness may not be more easily dissipated by the introduction
of light, than by elaborate discourses upon its nature and attributes. So
with moral darkness, or error. To dissipate it most effectually, the easiest
and readiest way is to introduce the light of truth. No preacher is obliged
to learn all the errors of all ages, that he may be able to oppose them;
nor is the congregation enlightened in the knowledge of God by such expositions
of error. Present opposing errors may require attention; but, to attack these
most successfully, it is only necessary to enforce the opposing truths.
This is a very grave subject, and requires very grave attention. Much depends
upon a rational and scriptural decision of the question, Which is the
most effectual way to oppose and destroy error? To aid us in such an
inquiry, it is necessary to examine how the Prophets and Apostles opposed
the errors of their times. The world was as full of error in those days as
it has ever been since. The idolatries of the Pagan world, and the various
doctrines of the sects of philosophers, in and out of the land of Israel,
threw as much labour into their hands, as the various heresies of apostate
Christendom have thrown into ours. Their general rule was to turn the artillery
of light, and to gather into a focus the arrows of day, upon the dark shades
of any particular error. Their philosophy was;- The splendours of light most
clearly display the blackness of darkness, and scatter it from its presence.
Thus they opposed idolatry, superstition, and error of every name. Going
forth in the armour of light, as the sun in the morning, the shades of the
night retired from their presence, and the cheering beams of day so gladdened
the eyes of their converts, that they loved darkness no more. Let us go and
An intimate acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures is the best apparatus for
the work of regenerating men. The best piece I have found in the celebrated
treatise of Augustine on preaching is the following :-
"He, then, who handles and teaches the word of God, should be a defender
of the true faith, and a vanquisher of error; and in accomplishing this,
the object of preaching, he should conciliate the adverse, excite the remiss,
and point out to the ignorant their duty and future prospects. When, however,
he finds his audience favourably disposed, attentive, and docile, or succeeds
in rendering them so, then other things are to be done, as the case may require.
If they are to be instructed, then, to make them acquainted with the subject
in question, narration must be employed; and to establish what is doubtful,
resort must be had to reasoning and evidence. If they are to be moved rather
than instructed, then, to arouse them from stupor in putting their knowledge
into practice, and bring them to yield full assent to those things which
they confess to be true, there will be need of the higher powers of eloquence;
it will be necessary to entreat, reprove, excite, restrain, and do whatsoever
else may prove effectual in moving the heart.
"All this, indeed, is what most men constantly do, with respect to those
things which they undertake to accomplish by speaking. Some, however, in
their way of doing it, are blunt, frigid, inelegant; others, ingenious, ornate,
vehement. Now he who engages in the business of which I am treating, must
be able to speak and dispute with wisdom, even if he cannot do so with eloquence,
in order that he may profit his audience; although he will profit them less
in this case, than if he could combine wisdom and eloquence together. He
who abounds in eloquence without wisdom, is certainly so much the more to
be avoided, from the very fact that the hearer is delighted with what it
is useless to hear, and thinks what is said to be true, because it is spoken
with elegance. Nor did his sentiment escape the notice of those among the
ancients, who yet regarded it as important to teach the art of rhetoric;
they confessed that wisdom without eloquence profited states but very little,
but that eloquence without wisdom profited them not at all, and generally
proved highly injurious. If, therefore, those who taught the precepts of
eloquence, even though ignorant of the true, that is, the celestial wisdom
"which cometh down from the Father of lights," were compelled by the instigations
of truth to make such a confession, and that too in the very books in which
their principles were developed; are we not under far higher obligations
to acknowledge the same thing, who are the sons and daughters of this heavenly
wisdom? Now a man speaks with greater or less wisdom according to the proficiency
he has made in the sacred Scriptures. I do not mean in reading them and
committing them to memory, but in rightly understanding them, and diligently
searching into their meaning. There are those who read
them and yet neglect them - who read them, to remember the words, but neglect
to understand them. To these, without any doubt, those persons are to be
preferred, who retaining less the words of the Scriptures, search after their
genuine signification with the inmost feelings of the heart. But better than
both is he, who can repeat them when he pleases, and at the same time understands
them as they ought to be understood."15
Luther's favourite maxim was, "Bonus Textuarius, Bonus Theologus;"
or, One well acquainted with the Scriptures makes a good theologian.
There is one thing, above all others, which must never be lost sight of by
him, who devotes himself to the work of regeneration. This all-important
consideration is, that the end of the object of all his labours is to
impress the moral image of God upon the moral nature of man. To draw
this image upon the heart, to transform the mind of man into the likeness
of God in all moral feeling, is the end proposed in the remedial system.
The mould into which the mind of man is to be cast is the Apostles' doctrine;
or the seal by which this impression is to be made is the testimony of God.
The gospel facts are like so many types, which, when scientifically arranged
by an accomplished compositor, make a complete form, upon which, when the
mind of man is placed by the power which God has given to the preacher, every
type makes its full impression upon the heart. There is written upon the
understanding, and engraved upon the heart, the will, or law, of character
of our Father who is in heaven.
The Apostles were these accomplished compositors, who gave us a perfect
"form of sound words." Our instrumentality consists in bringing the minds
of men to this form, or impressing it upon their hearts. To do this most
effectually, the preacher or evangelist must have the word of Christ dwelling
in him richly, in all wisdom; and he must "study to show himself an approved
workman, irreproachable, rightly dividing the word of truth." He that is
most eloquent and wise in the Holy Scriptures, he who has them most at command,
will have the most power with men; because being furnished with the words
of the Holy Spirit, he has the very arguments, which the Spirit of God chooses
to employ in quickening the dead in converting sinners. For to the efficacy
of the living word not only Paul deposes, but James and Peter also bear ample
testimony. "Of his own will he has begotten us, by the word of truth,
that we might be a kind of first fruits of his
creatures."16 "Having been regenerated, not
by corruptible seed, but by incorruptible, through the word of the
living God, which remains."17 To the fruits
of his labours, such a preacher with Paul may say, "To Jesus Christ, through
the gospel, I have regenerated, or begotten you."
Thus, in the midst of numerous interruptions, we have attempted to lay before
the minds of our readers the whole doctrine of Regeneration, in all its length
and breadth, in the hope, that after a more particular attention to its meaning
and value, by the blessing of God, they may devote themselves more successfully
to this great work; and not only enjoy more of the Holy Spirit themselves,
but be more useful in forwarding the moral regeneration of the world.
To God our Father, through the great Author of the Christian faith, who has
preserved us in health in this day of affliction and great distress, be
everlasting thanks for the renewing of our minds by the Holy Spirit, and
for the hope of the regeneration of our bodies, of the heavens and of the
earth, at the appearance of the Almighty Regenerator, who comes to make all
things new! Amen.
Back to the beginning
1 Klick here
for: Fact ,
Faith in A.C.'s essay on "FOUNDATION
OF CHRISTIAN UNION"
2 Num. v. 7, 8.
3 Lev. v. 16.
4 Acts xxvi. 20.
5 Adam Clarke on
Gen. xi. 2
6 Acts xix. 18-20.
7 See Family Testament,
Note 30, p. 74.
8 Gen. ii. 4.
9 Genesis v. 1.
10 See Numbers
viii. 7; xix. 9, 13, 20, 21; xxxi. 23.
11 Ephesians, chap.
12 It may
again be necessary in this fastidious age, to remark, that in this essay,
in order to disabuse the public mind on our use and acceptation of the term
regeneration, we have taken the widest range, which a supreme regard
for the apostolic style could, in our judgment, allow. While we argue that
the phrase bath of regeneration, (Titus iii.5.) is equivalent to
immersion, as already explained, and as contradistinguished from the
renewing of the Holy Spirit, of which the immersed believer is a proper
subject; we have spoken of the whole process of renovation, not in the strict
application of the phrase, Titus iii. 5, but rather in the whole latitude
of the figure employed by the Apostle. It is not the first act of begetting,
nor the last act of being born, but the whole process of conversion alluded
to in the figure of generation, to which we have directed the attention
of our readers. For, as often before stated, our opponents deceive themselves
and their hearers, by representing us as ascribing to the word
immersion, and the act of immersion, all that they call
regeneration. While, therefore, we contend that being "born again,"
and being immersed, are, in the Apostle's style, two names for the same action,
we are far from supposing, or teaching, that in forming the new man, there
is nothing necessary but to be born.
If any ask, why this matter was not fully developed in our first
essays on this subject, our answer is, Because we could not anticipate, that
our opponents would have so represented or misrepresented our views. Were
a General asked, why he did not arrange all his troops in the beginning of
the action, as he had them arranged when he triumphed over his enemy, he
would reply, That the manoeuvres and assaults of the enemy, directed the
disposition of his forces.
Our opponents contend for a regeneration, begun and perfected, before
faith or baptism - a spiritual change of mind by the Holy Spirit, antecedent
to either knowledge, faith, or repentance, of which infants are as susceptible
as adults; and, therefore, as we contend, make the gospel of no effect. By
way of reprisals, they would have their converts to think, that we go for
nothing but water, and sarcastically call us the advocates of "water
regeneration." They think there is something more sublime and divine in "spirit
regeneration;" and therefore claim the title of orthodox. This calumny has
been one occasion of the present essay, and it has occasioned that part of
it, which gives the fullest latitude to the term regeneration, which
analogy gives to the figure used by the Apostle. But when we speak in the
exact style of the living oracles on this subject, we must represent being
born again, (John iii.5,) and regeneration, (Titus iii.5,) as
relating to the act of immersion alone. See Extra Defended, pp. 24-36.
August 1st. - I have just now opened the Cincinnati
Baptist Journal of 26 July, from which I read an approved definition
of regeneration. It is orthodox, spiritual, physical, mystical, and metaphysical
Regeneration. It is quoted from the "STANDARD." Regeneration,
in the Evangelical Standard, is thus defined:-
"Is the sinner active in regeneration? Certainly he is. His mind
is a thinking rational principle, which never ceases to act; and, therefore,
when the word passive is applied to it, by Old Divines, or by Calvinists,
they do not mean that it is literally dead, like inert matter, which
requires a physical impulse to put it in motion. They only mean to convey
the scriptural idea, that the Holy Spirit is the sole agent in
regeneration, and that the sinner has no more efficient agency in
accomplishing it, than Lazarus had in becoming alive from the dead. Still
they grant that his mind is most active, but unhappily its activity is all
against the Divine influence; as the Scriptures assure us, unregenerated
persons "do always resist" the strivings of the Spirit. "Every imagination
of the thoughts of man's heart is only evil continually." "There is
none that doeth good, no, not one." The sinner, therefore, instead
of voluntarily co-operating with the Holy Spirit, does all he can to
resist his divine influence, and prevent his own regeneration,
until he is made willing by almighty power."
What a comfortable thing is this theory of regeneration! The sinners
to be regenerated when actively striving against the Divine influence. At
the moment of regeneration, "he has," in one sense, "no more efficient agency
in accomplishing it, than Lazarus had in becoming alive from the dead;" and
in another sense, he is not passive, but "does all he can to resist
the Divine influence, and prevent his own regeneration, until he is
made willing by almighty power." This is standard divinity;
and he that preaches this divinity, is a pious, regenerated, Regular Orthodox
Baptist Christian Minister! Of how much value on this theory, is all the
preaching in Christendom? The Holy Spirit may be busily at work upon some
drunken sot, or some vile debauchee, who is as dead as Lazarus on one side,
and on the other resisting the Spirit, with all his moral and physical energy,
up to the moment that the Almighty arm pierces him to the heart with a sword,
and makes him alive by killing him!!
The absurdity and licentiousness of such a view of the great work
of renovation, we had thought so glaring, that no editor in the West would
have had boldness to have published it. This is a proof of the necessity
of our present essay, and will explain to the intelligent reader why we have
given to the whole process of renovation, the name of regeneration, which
properly belongs to the last act.
15 From the Biblical
Repository, p. 574. Translated from the Latin by A. O. Taylor, of Andover,
16 James i. 18.
17 1.Peter i.