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cept a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."John 3:5, 6. "Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."-Jno. 1: 15.
2. We have seen that the subject is active in regeneration, that regeneration consists in the sinner changing his ultimate choice, intention, preference; or in changing from selfishness to love or benevolence; or in other words in turning from the supreme choice of self-gratification to the supreme love of God and the equal love of his neighbor. Of course the subject of regeneration must be an agent in the work.
3. There are generally other agents, one or more human beings concerned in persuading the sinner to turn. The bible recognizes both the subject and the preacher as agents in the work. Thus Paul says: "I have begotten you through the gospel." Here the same word is used which is used in another case where regeneration is ascribed to God.
Again: An Apostle says, "Ye have purified your souls by obeying the truth." Here the work is ascribed to the subject. There are then always two and generally more than two agents employed in effecting the work. Several theologians have held that regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit alone. In proof of this they cite those passages that ascribe it to God. But I might just as lawfully insist that it is the work of man alone and quote those passages that ascribe it to man, to substantiate my position. Or I might assert that it is alone the work of the subject and in proof of this position quote those passages that ascribe it to the subject. Or again, I might assert that it is effected by the truth alone and quote such passages as the following to substantiate my position: "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures." James 1: 18. "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."-1. Peter 1: 23. The fact is, when Dr. Woods and others insist that Regeneration is the work or a work of God, they tell the truth but not the whole truth. For it is also the work of man and of the subject. Their course is precisely like that of the Unitarian, who when he would prove that Christ is not God, merely proves that he was a Now we admit that he was a man, but we hold that he is more, that he is also God. Just so we hold that God is ac
tive in promoting regeneration, and we hold also that the subject always and necessarily is active in the work and that generally some other human agency is employed in the work in presenting and urging the claims of God.
It has been common to regard the third person as a mere instrument in the work. But the fact is he is a willing, designing, responsible agent, as really so as God or the subject is.
If it be inquired how the bible can consistently ascribe regeneration at one time to God, at another to the subject, at another to the truth, at another to a third person; the answer is to be sought in the nature of the work. The work accomplished is a change of choice in respect to an end or the end of life. The sinner whose choice is changed must of course act. The end to be chosen must be clearly and forcibly presented: this is the work of the third person, and of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit takes the things of Christ and shows them to the soul. The truth is employed, or it is truth which must necessarily be employed, as an instrument to induce a change of choice. See this illustrated in sermons on Important Subjects, Sermon I. on Regeneration.
VIII. Instrumentalities employed in the work.
1. Truth. This must from the nature of regeneration be employed in effecting it, for regeneration is nothing else than the will being duly influenced by truth
2. There may be and often are many providences concerned in enlightening the mind and in inducing regeneration. These are instrumentalities. They are means or instruments of presenting the truth. Mercies, judgments, men, measures and in short all those things that conduce to enlightening the mind, are instrumentalities employed in affecting it.
Those who hold to physical or constitutional moral depravity must hold of course to constitutional regeneration, and of course consistency compels them to maintain that there is but one agent employed in regeneration, and that is the Holy Spirit, and that no instrument whatever is employed, because the work is according to them an act of creative power; that the very nature is changed and of course no instrument can be employed, any more than in the creation of the world. These theologians have affirmed over and over again that regeneration is a miracle; that there is no tendency whatever in the gospel however presented, and whether presented by God or man, to regenerate the heart. Dr. Griffin in his Park Street Lectures maintains that the gospel in its natural and necessa
ry tendency creates and perpetuates only opposition to and hatred of God until the heart is changed by the Holy Spirit. He understands the carnal mind to be not a voluntary state, not a minding of the flesh, but the very nature and constitution of the mind, and that enmity against God is a part, attribute, or appetite of the nature itself. Consequently he must deny the adaptability of the gospel to regenerate the soul. It has been proclaimed by this class of theologians times without number that there is no philosophical connexion between the preaching of the gospel and the regeneration of sinners, no adaptedness in the gospel to produce that result; but on the contrary that it is adapted to produce an opposite result. The favorite illustrations of their views have been Ezekiel's prophesying over the dry bones and Christ's restoring sight to the blind man by putting clay on his eyes. Ezekiel's prophesying over the dry bones had no tendency to quicken them, they say. And the clay used by the Savior was calculated rather to destroy than to restore sight. This shows how easy it is for men to adopt a pernicious and absurd philosophy and then find or think they find it supported by the bible. What must be the effect of inculcating the dogma that the gospel has nothing to do with regenerating the sinner? Instead of telling him that regeneration is nothing else than his embracing the gospel, to tell him that he must wait and first have his constitution recreated before he can possibly do any thing but oppose God? This is to tell him the greatest and most abominable and ruinous of falsehoods. It is to mock his intelligence. What! call on him on pain of eternal death to believe; to embrace the gospel; to love God with all his heart and at the same time, represent him as entirely helpless and constitutionally the enemy of God and of the gospel and as being under the necessity of waiting for God to regenerate his nature before it is possible for him to do otherwise than to hate God with all his heart? O Orthodoxy, falsely so called, how absurd and false thou art! What an enemy of God; what a stumbling block to man; what a leaven of unrighteousness and of hell is such a dogma as this! But a few years have elapsed since almost the entire church were settled down in the delusion of a passive regeneration.
IX. In regeneration the subject is both passive and active. 1. That he is active is plain from what has been said and from the nature of the change.
2. That he is at the same time passive is plain from the fact that he acts only when and as he is acted upon. That is,
he is passive in the perception of the truth presented by the Holy Spirit. I know that this preception is no part of regeneration. But it is simultaneous with regeneration. It induces regeneration. It is the condition and the occasion of regeneration. Therefore the subject of regeneration must be a passive recipient or percipient of the truth presented by the Holy Spirit at the moment and during the act of regeneration. The Spirit acts upon him through or by the truth. Thus far he is passive. He closes with the truth. Thus far he is active. What a mistake those theologians have fallen into who represent the subject as altogether passive in regeneration! This rids the sinner at once of the conviction of any duty or responsibility about it. It is wonderful that such an absurdity should have been so long maintained in the church. But while it is maintained, it is no wonder that sinners are not converted to God. Why, while the sinner believes this, it is impossible if he has it in mind that he should be regenerated. He stands and waits for God to do what God requires him to do, and which no one can do for him. Neither God nor any other being can regenerate him if he will not turn. If he will not change his choice, it is impossible that it should be changed. Sinners who have been taught thus and have believed what they have been taught, would never have been regenerated had not the Holy Spirit drawn off their attention from this error, and ere they were aware, induced them to close in with the offer of life.
X. What is implied in regeneration.
1. The nature of the change shows that it must be instantaneous. It is a change of choice or of intention. This must be instantaneous. The preparatory work of conviction and enlightening the mind may have been gradual and progressive. But when regeneration occurs, it must be instanta
2. It implies an entire present change of moral character, that is, a change from entire sinfulness to entire holiness. We have seen that it consists in a change from selfishness to benevolence. We have also seen that selfishness and benevolence cannot co-exist in the same mind; that selfishness is a state of supreme and entire consecration to self; that benevolence is a state of entire and supreme consecration to God and the good of the universe. Regeneration then surely implies an entire change of moral character.
Again: The bible represents regeneration as a dying to sin and becoming alive to God. Death in sin is total depravity.
This is generally admitted. Death to sin and becoming alive to God, must imply entire present holiness.
3. The scriptures represent regeneration as the condition of salvation in such a sense that if the subject should die immediately after regeneration and without any further change, he would go immediately to heaven.
Again: The scripture requires only perseverance in the first love as the condition of salvation, in case the regenerate soul should live long in the world subseqent to regeneration.
4. When the scriptures require us to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, this does not imply that there is yet sin remaining in the regenerate heart which we are required to put away only by degrees. But the spirit of the requirement must be that we should acquire as much knowledge as we can of our moral relations, and continue to conform to all truth as fast we know it. This and nothing else is implied in abiding in our first love, or abiding in Christ, living and walking in the Spirit &c.