The New Zealand Evangelist
Catholic Principles — “A New Creature,” or Regeneration.
(Continued from page 34.)
“A New Creature,” or Regeneration.
The sinfulness in which all the sons of men are involved is in two great parts, viz; guilt and depravity. Guilt, which affects their relation to God, exposes them to His Justice, and renders them legally unfit for the Kingdom of Heaven:—and Depravity, which affects their own state of heart and life, makes them equally offensive to Divine Holiness, and renders them morally unfit for that pure and holy place, into which “anything that defileth, or whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie” “shall in no wise enter.” a
The mediation of Christ has regarded both these parts of our distressing malady, and has provided amply for their removal. In the book of Zechariah is a prophecy concerning the death of Messiah, which says, “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.” b In this “fountain opened” of the prophecy, there is a clear indication of both atonement and purgation. To this, it would appear, the Evangelist, St. John, refers, “But one of the soldiers with a spear piereed his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water,” &c.; c this not only proving the certain death of the sacrifice, but also showing the pardon and purity, which the believer derives from thence, This is evident from the statement of the same inspired writer in his first epistle, “This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood.” d “By water,” the emblem of purity, “and blood” the emblem of atonement: meaning, as plainly as language can make it, that page 58 Christ came to purify, as well as pardon. These two great parts of our salvation, viz. pardon and purity, exactly corresponding with the two parts of our sin, guilt and depravity, are always connected: the one exists not without the other. No one is pardoned who is not also made pure, in other words regenerate, or “created anew.” There is not “faith which worketh by love,” and by which alone we are justified, unless there is in the same individual a new creation. Every one who has “the forgiveness of sins,” has also “inheritance among them which are sanctified.” e
We see at once then the importance of that principle which is now under consideration. Is justification by faith a cardinal doctrine of Christianity, an essential, a Catholic principle of religion? So is Regeneration, or the new birth; for the two must go together;—they are inseparable. Can there be no Christianity without “faith which worketh by love?” Neither can there be without “a new creature.” The same Apostle who declares the absolute incompetence of anything else to serve as a substitute for the one, says the same thing in the same positive terms as to the necessity and importance of the other. f “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but “a new creature,” or creation, as the Greek word evidently means. To this great Catholic principle of religion, this essential doctrine of Christianity, let us turn our earnest and prayerful attention. The fullest and clearest Scripture statement of the subject is to be found in the conversation of the Great Teacher with “the ruler of the Jews.” g Keeping this passage in view as the basis of our remarks, we may observe that the new creation is a total change of the inward and spiritual parts of our nature. h It is “the circumcision of the heart;” it is to “be renewed in the spirit of our minds,” it is the transformation of all our inward faculties and feelings. Whatever constitutes the spirit of man, as distinct from his bodily nature, is newly created. “Beholding, with open face, as in a glass the glory page 59 of the Lord” the subject of this Divine operation is “changed into the same image” i Then a mere change of opinion on Scripture doctrine, or mode of worship, or Church discipline is not regeneration; nor is a man born again who is merely reformed from a vicious to a moral course of life. The Jew may be fully convinced that Jesus is the Christ; the Turk may be persuaded that God spake not by Mahomet; the Infidel may receive the evidences in favour of Divine revelation; and yet in any or all of these cases the “sinner” may not have been “converted from the error of his ways.” A man may from conviction receive the Calvinian, or Arminian, system of doctrine; he may prefer a liturgical form of worship, or think that extemporary prayer is more simple and spiritual; he may admire the Episcopal, or the Presbyterian mode of Church government, and probably be able to defend his position by sound, well chosen arguments; and yet be unregenerate, his heart being still under the influence of evil passions and prejudices. So also the drunkard may become a total abstainer from that poisonous liquid, which he finds destroying his constitution, beggaring his family, ruining his reputation; the dishonest, or unchaste, may find it to their interest to return to a more correct life; and yet none of these may have had a “clean heart” created; or “a right spirit” renewed within them. k The spirit, which is newly created, includes all that we mean by the intellect, the will, the affections; so that there is a total change in our spiritual perceptions, as to our own state and condition before God, our misery through sin, our salvation by Jesus Christ. We “know the things belonging to our peace” as we never did: they are revealed to our understanding by Divine illumination: we see them in a new light; and our astonishment is great that we were previously so ignorant and blind.
The heart also is, in Regeneration, ‘created anew;’ a new set of emotions, tendencies, enjoyments, are awakened. The “new man” lives altogether in a new spiritual world, a holy atmosphere is breathed, a page 60 new pulse beats in his heart; he is “blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.“—“old things have passed away; behold, all things are become new.” l At this point of our enquiry, we may be allowed to suggest the reason for the widely different estimates of religion entertained by the world and the church. While the worldling regards the earnest Christian as a very unhappy man, destitute of all enjoyment and comfort; the Christian, on the contrary, goes “on his way rejoicing,” in strains like these, “The Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.” m The reason for this wide difference of sentiment is, the one is natural and carnal, the other is regenerate and spiritual, and while “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned; “he that is spiritual” with “the eyes of his understanding enlightened,” “judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. n No merely natural man can possibly enter into his ideas and feelings.
The new creation is the work of the Holy Spirit of God, as all Scripture testifies. o Various means, or channels, may be spoken of, through which Regeneration is conveyed; but every individual instance of new birth is by the direct operation of the Holy Ghost upon the heart. Well is this Divine Agent described in the Nicene Creed, The Lord and Giver of Life. As in Creation “The Spirit of God moved upon,” or brooded over, “the face of the waters,” and by His powerful Agency reduced the chaos to order; and as in Providence the same Omnipotent energy is “sent forth” to “renew the face of the earth;” so in Redemption, the New Creation is effected by the vital and vivifying influences of the same Divine spirit. p
“Expand thy wings, celestial Dove,
“Brood o'er our nature's night:
“On our disordered spirits move,
“And let there now be light!—
As has just been stated, however, Scripture recognizes several instruments, or channels used in conveying this great blessing. The word of God is so recognized; also a reception of Jesus Christ, and belief in his name. On these points we need not do more than refresh the reader's memory with a few of the principal passages concerning them in Holy Writ. “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth”—“As many as received him —that believe on his name—were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” q
Baptism is the symbol of Regeneration. This “outward and visible sign” may be the channel used in conveying the “inward and spiritual grace.” In every case where there is a proper state of heart it shall be—the ordinance will not be administered in vain. But the sign is not the thing signified, nor is it the agent in producing it, for the new birth may exist without Baptism, as in the case of the thief upon the cross, who certainly went to heaven without having been baptized, but unless he had been born again, he would not have been admitted. r And that Baptism may not convey Spiritual Regeneration, is quite evident from the case of Simon the sorcerer, whose “heart,” after baptism, was “not right in the sight of God,” and who was “in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity,” notwithstanding the outward rite. s
The New Creation is confusedly a mysterious change in its process, but it is plain enough in its effects. We must again refer the reader to the words of Christ. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it Goth: so is every one that is born of the spirit.” The peculiar force of this illustration is scarcely obvious to the English reader;— the same word, pneuma, in Greek, means both wind and spirit: and the same term is thus applied both page 62 ways, and renders the illustration especially vivid. You cannot see the wind, nor understand its origin and operation, but you fully believe in its existence and action, for you feel it on your own person, and see its stupendous power on the ocean and on land. Well, “so is every one that is born of the “Spirit.” You have the very same reason for receiving the testimony as to the existence and agency of the Spirit, as you have in the case of the wind. You see it not, you understand not its mode of operation, but you may sensibly feel its power on your own heart, and you daily see its glorious effects upon “every one that is born of the Spirit.” Look at that sobered drunkard—at that once passionate man, now a humble follower of the meek and lowly Jesus —at that once wretched, ragged family, who used to waste their days in ignorance and sin, now wending their way, decently clad, and happy to the house of God. What they were, you know; probably you suffered from their violence. What they are you see. Behold them! There is nothing they need be ashamed of. They will bear examination; they are bringing forth “the fruit of the Spirit,” which “is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law,” t they are not likely to give trouble to the magistrates and police.
The great importance of this principle in the Christian system has been already alluded to. Without it there can be no Christianity. “Neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision,” if this be wanting. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ,” in his quickening, saving, influences, “he is none of his:” Christ disowns him. He is neither “a member of Christ, a child of God,” nor “an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.” Our Lord has put the matter beyond all possible doubt or controversy, in the passage so frequently referred to; twice averring in the most solemn terms that “except a man be born again” he can neither “see” nor “enter into the kingdom of God.” He can neither page 63 discover its privileges, nor enjoy them; he is an “alien from the Commonweath of Israel,” a “stranger from the covenant of promise,” he has “no hope.” and is “without God in the world:” and, destitute of this “wedding garment,” instead of sitting down at the marriage feast, “the King” Jehovah, will say “to his servants,” the messengers of his vengeance “Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” u Let us listen to the voice of Jesus, speaking in each of our consciences as we read, “Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that death the will of my Father which is in keaven.”
“Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” v
a Rev., 21, 27.
b Zech., 13, 1.
c John, 19, 34, 35.
d 1 John, 5, 6.
e Acts, 26, 18, 2 Cor., 5, 17.
f Gal., 5, 6, 6, 15.
g John, 3, 3—9.
h Rom., 2, 28, 29. Eph., 4, 23. Phil., 3, 3, Rom., 12, 2, &c.
i 2 Cor., 3, 18.
k Psalm, 51, 10.
l Eph., 1, 3, 2 Cor., 5, 17.
m Isaiah, 12, 2.
n 1 Cor., 2, 14, 15, Eph., 1, 18.
o John, 1, 13. James, 1, 17, 18. 1 John, 3, 9, &c.
p Gen., 1, 2. Psalm, 104, 30.
q Psalm, 119, 50, 93. James, 1, 18. 1 Peter, 1, 23. John, 1, 12, 13.
r Luke, 23, 39—43.
s Acts, 8, 13—23.
t Rom., 6, 21, 22, Gal., 5, 22, 23.
u Rom., 8, 9. Eph., 2, 12. Matt., 22, 11—13.
v Matt., 7, 21
c John, 19, 34, 35.
d 1 John, 5, 6.
i 2 Cor., 3, 18.
l Eph., 1, 3, 2 Cor., 5, 17.
m Isaiah, 12, 2.
v Matt., 7, 21