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of moral character in the subject, how can regeneration be made the condition of salvation? The fact is, the term regeneration, or the being born of God, is designed to express primarily and principally the thing done, that is, the making of a sinner holy, and expresses also the fact that God's agency induces the change. Throw out the idea of what is done, that is, the change of moral character in the subject, and he would not be born again, he would not be regenerated, and it could not be truly said in such a case that God had regene
It has been objected that the term really means and expresses only the Divine agency, and only by way of implication embraces the idea of a change of moral character, and of course of activity in the subject. To this I reply,
(1.) That if it really expresses only the Divine agency, it leaves out of view the thing effected by Divine agency.
(2.) That it really and fully expresses not only the Divine agency, but also that which this agency accomplishes.
(3.) This thing which the agency of God brings about is a new or spiritual birth, a resurrection from spiritual death, the inducing of a new and holy life. The thing done is the prominent idea expressed or intended by the term.
(4.) The thing done implies the turning or activity of the subject. It is nonsense to affirm that his moral character is changed without any activity or agency of his own. Passive holiness is impossible. Holiness is obedience to the law of God, the law of love, and of course consists in the activity of the creature.
(5.) We have said that regeneration is synonymous in the bible with a new heart. But sinners are required to make to themselves a new heart, which they could not do if they were not active in this change. If the work is a work of God in such a sense that He must first regenerate the heart or soul before the agency of the sinner begins, it were absurd and unjust to require him to make to himself a new heart until he is first regenerated.
Regeneration is ascribed to man in the gospel, which it could not be if the term were designed to express only the agency of the Holy Spirit. "For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.”1 Cor. 4: 15.
6. Conversion is spoken of in the Bible as the work of another than the subject of it, and can not therefore have
been designed to express only the activity of the subject of it. (1.) It is ascribed to the word of God.-"The law of the LORD is perfect, coverting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple."-Ps. 19: 7. (2.) To man. "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."-James 5: 19, 20.
7. Both conversion and regeneration are sometimes in the Bible ascribed to God, sometimes to man, and sometimes to the subject; which shows clearly that the distinction under examination is arbitrary and theological rather than biblical.
8. The fact is that both terms imply the simultaneous exercise of both human and divine agency. The fact that a new heart is the thing done, demonstrates the activity of the subject, and the word regeneration, or the expression "born of the Holy Spirit" asserts the divine agency. The same is true of conversion, or the turning of the sinner to God. God is said to turn him and he is said to turn himself. God draws him, and he follows. In both alike God and man are both active, and their activity is simultaneous. God works or draws, and the sinner yields or turns, or which is the same thing, changes his heart, or, in other words, is born again. The sinner is dead in trespasses and sins. God calls on him, "Awake thou that sleepest, arise from the dead that Christ may give thee light." God calls; the sinner hears and answers, Here am I. God says, Arise from the dead. The sinner puts forth his activity, and God draws him into life; or rather God draws, and the sinner comes forth to life.
9. The distinction is not only not recognized in the Bible, but is plainly of most injurious tendency for two reasons:
(1.) It assumes and inculcates a false philosophy of depravity and regeneration.
(2.) It leads the sinner to wait to be regenerated before he repents or turns to God. It is of most fatal tendency to represent the sinner as under a necessity of waiting to be passively regenerated before he gives himself to God.
As the distinction is not only arbitrary but anti-scriptural and injurious, and inasmuch as it is founded in, and is designed to teach a philosophy false and pernicious on the subject of depravity and regeneration, I shall drop and discard the distinction, and in our investigations henceforth, let it be
understood that I use regeneration and conversion as synonymous terms.
IV. I am to show what regeneration is not.
It is not a change in the substance of soul or body. If it were, sinners could not be required to effect it. Such a change would not constitute a change of moral character. No such change is needed, as the sinner has all the faculties and natural attributes requisite to render perfect obedience to God. All he needs is to be induced to use these powers and attributes as he ought. The words conversion and regeneration do not imply any change of substance but only a change of moral state or of moral character. The terms are not used to express a physical, but a moral change. Regeneration does not express or imply the creation of any new faculties or attributes of nature, nor any change whatever in the constitution of body or mind. I shall remark further upon this point when we come to the examination of the philosophical theories of regeneration before alluded to.
V. What regeneration is.
It has been said that regeneration and a change of heart are identical. It is important to inquire into the scriptural use of the term heart. The term like most others is used in the bible in various senses. The heart is often spoken of in the bible, not only as possessing moral character, but as being the source of moral action or as the fountain from which good and evil actions flow, and of course as constituting the fountain of holiness or of sin, or in other words still, as comprehending strictly speaking the whole of moral character. "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulterics, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies."-Mat. 15: 18, 19. "O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things."-Mat. 12: 34, 35. When the heart is thus represented as possessing moral character and as the fountain of good and evil, it can not mean,
(1.) The bodily organ that propels the blood.
(2.) It can not mean the substance of the soul or mind itself: substance can not in itself possess moral character.
(3.) It is not any faculty or natural attribute.
(4.) It can not consist in any constitutional taste, relish or appetite, for these can not in themselves have moral character. (5.) It is not the sensibility or feeling faculty of the mind, for we have seen that moral character can not be predicated of it. It is true, and let it be understood, that the term heart is used in the bible in these senses, but not when the heart is spoken of as the fountain of moral action. When the heart is represented as possessing moral character, the word can not be meant to designate any involuntary state of mind. For neither the substance of soul or body, nor any involuntary state of mind can by any possibility possess moral character in itself. And if the bible assumed or asserted that they could it could not be received as true by the human intelligence. The very idea of moral character implies and is an idea of a free action or intention. To deny this, were to deny a first truth.
(6.) The term heart when applied to mind is figurative, and means something in the mind that has some point of resemblance to the bodily organ of that name, and a consideration of the function of the bodily organ will suggest the true idea of the heart of the mind. The heart of the body propels the vital current and sustains organic life. It is the fountain from which the vital fluid flows, from which either life or death may flow according to the state of the blood. The mind as well as the body has a heart which, as we have seen, is represented as a fountain or as an efficient propelling influence out of which flow good or evil according as the heart is good or evil. This heart is represented not only as the source or fountain of good and evil, but as being either good or evil in itself, as constituting the character of man and not merely as being capable of moral character.
It is also represented as something over which we have control, for which we are responsible, and which, in case it is wicked, we are bound to change on pain of death. Again: the heart in the sense in which we are considering it, is that, the radical change of which constitutes a radical change of moral character. This is plain from Matthew 12: 34, 35, and 15: 18, 19, already considered.
(7.) Our own consciousness then must inform us that the heart of the mind that possesses these characteristics can be nothing else than the supreme ultimate intention of the soul. Regeneration is represented in the bible as constituting a radical change of character, as the resurrection from a death in sin, as the beginning of a new and spiritual life, as constitu
ting a new creature, as a new creation, not a physical, but a moral or spiritual creation, as conversion or turning to God, as giving God the heart, as loving God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves. Now we have seen abundantly that moral character belongs to or is an attribute of the ultimate choice or intention of the soul.
Regeneration then is a radical change of the ultimate intention, end or object of life. We have seen that the choice of an end is efficient in producing executive volitions or the use of means to obtain its end. A selfish ultimate choice is therefore a wicked heart out of which flows every evil, and a benevolent ultimate choice is a good heart out of which flows every good and commendable deed.
Regeneration, to have the characteristics ascribed to it in the bible, must consist in a change in the attitude of the will, or a change in its ultimate choice, intention, or preference; a change from selfishness to benevolence; from choosing selfgratification as the supreme and ultimate end of life to the supreme and ultimate choice of the highest well-being of God and of the universe; from a state of entire consecration to self-interest, self-indulgence self-gratification for its own sake or as an end, and as the supreme end of life to a state of entire consecration to God and to the interests of his kingdom as the supreme and ultimate end of life.
VI. The universal necessity of regeneration.
1. The necessity of regeneration as a condition of salvation must be coextensive with moral depravity. This has been shown to be universal among the unregenerate moral agents of our race. It surely is impossible that a world or a universe of unholy or selfish beings should be happy. It is impossible that heaven should be made up of selfish beings. It is intuitively certain that without benevolence or holiness no moral being can be ultimately happy. Without regeneration a selfish soul can by no possibility be fitted either for the employments or for the enjoyments of heaven.
2. The scriptures expressly teach the universal necessity of regeneration. "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."-Jno. 3: 3. "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature."-Gal. 6: 15.
VII. Agencies employed in regeneration.
1. The scriptures often ascribe regeneration to the Spirit of God. "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Ex