Elder S.A. Paine
We now come to the subject of regeneration, the purifying process which brings us into the actual benefits as the recipients of the perfect atonement. The atonement, as shown, was made on the cross by the death or perfect offering of Jesus. In salvation from sin, we receive the atonement, i.e. the blood applied to our heart or conscience, which purges the same from dead works to serve the living God. - Heb 9:14.
The atonement of Jesus redeemed or reconciled sinners to God; but before they are prepared for the spiritual world they must be made spiritual. Jesus calls this a new birth, "born again."
Sinners are not only in debt to the law, and condemned under its curse, but are "by nature the children of wrath." They are by nature corrupt, and while the atonement covers all sins of the elect people of God, yet they must be made spiritual; their nature must be changed from sinful to the divine. This is done in the name, and for the sake, of Jesus, and by the spirit of our God. See 1 Cor 6:11 -
"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived; Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified; but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."
You will notice this "washing" and "justifying" was "in the name of Jesus," but "by the Spirit." Jesus redeemed them by His blood, hence paid the debt, and made them free, by meeting all demands of justice, and thereby secured salvation for them; but, the Holy Spirit makes the application in the name of Jesus.
Regeneration consists in a renewing of our nature. It elements us into a higher state than ever by man. It does not stop by simply placing us where Adam was before he fell, for Adam was only a natural man, but in regeneration we become spiritual. 1 Cor 15:46 - "Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual." While Adam in his primitive state was without sin, yet he was only a natural man; but in regeneration the Spirit's work does not stop at cleansing us from sin, but makes us spiritual; gives us the life and mind of Christ; makes us partaker of the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4), wherein we receive double at the Lord's hand for all of our sins.
We have heard the argument that there could be no regeneration without first a degeneration; and that regeneration carries us no higher than degeneration brought us down. This is either weakness or simply begging the question. Generate means to produce, to cause to be, to cause to exist, etc. God first created or generated man, caused man to be or to exist. He was a natural production of a spotless character. When he sinned he degenerated, i.e. fell from morals, or character, or quality. Degenerate never means the loss of existence, or ceasing to be, but always means a decline in quality, i.e. to grow worse, to fall from a higher to a lower degree in quality or conduct. See Webster.
When a man fell into sin he was still a natural man, but his nature is poisoned with sin, hence [he becomes] a worse man - he is degenerated; but when God saves him he does not only take away his sins but regenerates him, i.e. there is a new generation, a new production, a new creature. He is now born of the Spirit, hence spiritual. So you see, dear reader, that regeneration gives more than was lost in degeneration. To simply restore what was lost in degeneration would only place us back where Adam was before the fall. Simply a replacement would not prepare one for heaven, but would only prepare us for the element where man was created and placed - the Garden of Eden.
Jesus says: "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." He calls it "born of the Spirit." In regeneration all that was lost in Adam is restored, and the sinner is carried even higher than Adam was; he is made spiritual; he is a new creature. "If any man be in Christ Jesus he is a new creature" - 2 Cor 5:17.
Notice he is a new creature, something he never was before. There has been another creation. The first creation gave man a natural existence; the second a spiritual existence. The first is the old man; the second the new man.
Then, if the salvation of a sinner is a regeneration, or a creation, how could it be conditional on the part of the one thus saved? In order to creatureship, two things are indispensable: First, a creator; second, a creation. As the creature is the product of the creation, pray tell me how the creature is to perform conditions in order to his creatureship? That would be conditions performed after he was saved in order to his salvation. If he performs the conditions before he is a creature, that would be the performance of conditions by that which does not exist in order to existence, which is preposterous. If you come a new creature, you then have the cause quite inferior to the effect. Remember that an effect cannot be of an higher order than the cause producing it. The old creature is natural, mortal, human, earthly, and sinful; the new creature is spiritual, immortal, divine, heavenly, and holy. Just the opposite to the old man and of an entirely higher order. So we see that condition proceeding from the lower could not be the cause of producing its opposite, which is of a much higher type.
You see, friendly reader, that new creatureship in the Lord must be by the exclusive divine power of the one and only Creator. If so, the Primitive Baptists, and they only, are correct on the plan of salvation, for they are the only people that base the salvation of sinners exclusively on the direct power of God.
We also find this lesson taught by the Savior under the figure of a birth. He says to Nicodemus, "You must be born again."
Question arises, why did Jesus speak of salvation under the appellation of birth? As He was never strained for words to express his ideas and lessons intended, we conclude that it exactly taught the lesson He desired. Jesus well knew that we were all sufficiently acquainted with the figure (natural birth) to know that it was not conditional.
If our adversaries will show what conditions Adam had to perform in order to his existence (creation), or what condition the child performs in its natural birth or existence, we will then concede that an argument is made in proof of the new creatureship in Christ or the new birth being conditional. As Adam was passive in his spiritual creation, so also is the sinner passive in his spiritual creation; and as the child is passive in its natural begetting and birth, so also is the sinner passive in his spiritual begetting and birth.
In our natural birth we received capacity to know and act in the element into which we were born, so also in the spiritual birth we receive capacity to know and act in the element into which we were born. The apostle explains this when he says: "Now we have received, not the spirit which is of the world (we received that in our natural birth), but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given us of God" - 1 Cor 2:12. But before we received the Spirit of God we could not know the things of God, for "The natural man (unsaved man) receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them for they are spiritually discerned" - 1 Cor 2:14.
The gospel is a thing of the Spirit which is given to us of God, but the natural man cannot discern it for the lack of spiritual life and a spiritual mind; he must therefore have the Spirit which is of God (be born of the Spirit) before he can know it. Regeneration can not therefore be suspended upon obedience to the gospel. But much of the time, happiness of those who are regenerated depends upon their obedience to the gospel. I hereby boldly affirm that every text in the Bible that has salvation associated with the preached gospel is applied to God's people and not to alien sinners. It is always a salvation of a believer, and a believer is said to be "born of God," "not condemned," "justified," "passed from death unto life," etc.
The child in nature is taught the things in nature, and its mind gradually increases in knowledge in the things of nature; but its knowledge and its observing the laws of nature do not constitute it a child, for it is a child by birth, and that birth is that which enabled it to know. The way a child, in nature, is taught has a great deal to do in molding its belief. If it is taught wrong it will believe wrong, if taught right it will believe right. Then how careful we should be to teach our children right.
So it is with a child of God, if you teach them wrong they are apt to believe that way. This is the way I account for so many of God's children being swallowed up in error. I never have much trouble in teaching God's people to believe salvation by grace when I can get at them, but reaching them is the trouble. They have been taught to believe that the doctrine the Old Baptists preach is dangerous, and hence, pass judgment before they know what it is, and often refuse to avail themselves of an opportunity to hear it. I will here say to any seeker after truth, don't be afraid to hear any man preach; they might have just what your soul is longing for. I have baptized many who had spent a great deal of their life persecuting the Old Baptists, all because they "knew not what they did;" but when they heard it, it was just what their spiritual appetite was craving.
Salvation of sinners is by grace and not of works. See Eph 2:8; 2 Tim 1:9; Tit 3:5; Rom 11:6. If it is by grace and not of works, it is therefore unconditional, for certainly performing conditions would be works.
Salvation of sinners is according to and by the mercy of God. Tit 3:5; Rom 9:16; Eph 2:4. "Eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord" - Rom 6:23. "Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" - Rom 5:21.
"As the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them even so the Son quickeneth whom He will" - Jn 5:21. "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live" - Jn 5:25. "I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish" - Jn 10:28. "As thou (God) hast given Him (the Son) power over all flesh, that He (the Son) should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given Him" - Jn 17:2. "All the Father giveth me shall come to me" - Jn 10:37. "No man can come to me except the Father which sent me draw him" - Jn 6:44. What can such as the above mean, if they are not to teach that salvation is unconditional?
God begins the work of salvation and performs it. Philip 1:6 - "Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath, begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." If God begins it and performs it, it is therefore unconditional. Notice, He begins it within you. Job says: "There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding" - Job 32:8. Paul says: "If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness" - Rom 8:10. This shows what is done for the sinner in the first fruits of the Spirit. They are made alive in spirit, but the body is yet dead because of sin. God has begun the good work in preparing the soul for glory, and the promise is that He will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. The completion of this work will be in the resurrection when our vile bodies will also be made spiritual and conformed to the image of the Savior. Paul, in expressing his confidence in the promise, says: "But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies, by His Spirit that dwelleth in you" - Rom 8:11.
The little word "also" in the text proves first that something has already been quickened, which Paul said in Rom. 8:10 was the "spirit;" and second, that the body has the promise that it shall be quickened. This is the Christian's hope. We are hoping that this vile body "shall be changed." Job says: "My flesh shall rest in hope." Again, "Though after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." Again, "If a man die shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee" - Job 14:14,15. Oh, that glorious day, when the call shall be made and all the Lord's people shall answer Him.
Daniel says: "Many that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some to everlasting life, and some to everlasting shame and contempt." God's people can now rejoice in spirit, and by the anchor of hope, patiently wait for the fullness of joy, in body and spirit, in the glory world. We have eternal life in spirit now, but the frailty of the flesh renders our joy and pleasures very imperfect, but "In the Lord's presence is fullness of joy, and at His right hand are pleasures forever more." There, we will possess eternal life in soul and body. God, in His mercy and love, will preserve His people amidst the conflicts and troubles of this life, feed them like a good shepherd, carry the lambs in His arms, and bear them in His bosom. Nothing can separate them from the love of God. When they pass through the fire they shall not be consumed; when they pass through the waters, the waves shall not overthrow them; He will "exalt the valleys," and "bring the mountains low;" "make the crooked places straight, and rough places plain." Realizing the greatness of God's love and benefits to us, "what manner of persons ought we to be?"
Dear saints of God, if God has shed abroad His love in your hearts, given you this sweet hope, and a desire to serve Him; suffer me to admonish you to make that first in all your duties of life. If any should chance to read this, who are lingering around the fold, my sympathy is with you, for I know you feel to be alone and forsaken, too unworthy for a home with God's people. Oh, that I could speak a word that would encourage you to come. The church is your home. Jesus has prepared it and preserves it for you, and beckons unto you to come and take His yoke upon you, with the promises that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. If you want the burden lightened, do your duty; live with God's people, and share with them the joys of obedience. Since I have been (though unworthy I be) with the saints of God, they have been a great help to me. When I meet with trouble they speak words of comfort; when I err they correct me; when I fall they help me up; but above all, I feel that dear Jesus has led, strengthened, and administered in ways past numbering. Oh Lord, give me thy hand to guide me, and thy grace to enable me to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith I have been called. Oh, that I may prove faithful to my Lord, and serve His poor and afflicted people in ways that would redound to His glory, and to the peculiar needs of His people.
Dear reader, I close by commending you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to keep you, and give you an inheritance with them which are sanctified. If I have said anything that has been helpful, or comforting to you, give God the praise; if anything herein contained has offended any, rest assured it was not the author's purpose. May the Holy Spirit guide us in the way of all truth is our prayer for Jesus' sake.