Chapter 53 - Regeneration Evidence?
No wonder it has become something "on the sub-conscious level," something that does not have any repentance or faith a part of it, something that does not change the individual, but something that only makes change possible.
This "whittling down" of the definition of what it means to be "regenerated" and "born again" has also caused the Hardshells to have, historically, all kinds of problems with "Universalism" and the "No-Hell Doctrine." At least it has caused today's Hardshells believe that the "elect few" are not those who go to Heaven but those who go to Hell!
If infants and heathen people are "born again" and "regenerated," then what evidence can be seen in these people that gives proof of this "drastic change"? It can't be anything connected with the written word or preached gospel, or with "conversion," so it becomes really a bunch of nothing. But, today's Hardshells have come to find all kinds of "evidences" of a supposed regeneration in heathen people! Today's Hardshells think that if anyone struggles with doing good, has any sense of guilt and shame over sin, who believe in any named "god" or "supreme being," and who seem to be good people, loving their neighbors, etc., even if they do not know the true God or Jesus Christ, show, by these "evidences," that they too have been "born again." I have addressed this topic lightly in earlier chapters but will now elaborate more fully upon it.
I wrote the following in chapter 12 in preparation for the fuller treatment of the topic in this chapter (I actually addressed it also some in chapter 13 and in a few other chapters).
"Wrote Sarrels:"...in perhaps the vast majority of cases the elements of conversion–repentance, faith, and justification–may be present only embryonically..." (Systematic Theology, page 369) "The more advanced intellectual Christian concepts about all of these progressive steps which unfold in the believer's experience do not prove that these do not exist embryonically in the obscure, yet spiritual, exercise of the quickened soul in heathen lands. The child of God, be he heathen or cultured, may not understand all that is woven around his life in God, yet in germ all is there. (See Rom:2:14)"
And then I wrote in response:
"What a wild concoction is this Hardshell definition of faith! Here is a man who has "faith," is a "believer," and yet only because he has "embryonic faith"! It is there, this "faith," secretly hidden somewhere in the man's soul, they say, but what is it, according to Hardshellism? It is simply some "metaphysical" "substance," like a "dormant seed," some "germ", or like some kind of "spiritual deposit," something they call an "inner ability," yet without much more further elaboration or definition.
"Just what God does to the soul substance to fit it for eternal life, we do not know." (Page 344)
I then wrote this rebuttal:
"This is an interesting confession by this Hardshell apologist. It seems hypocritical, in a sense, seeing that he and other Hardshells seem to know so much about the "metaphysics" of the new birth, their "logic" opening up to them the "mysteries" of the new birth.
But, then, in another sense, it does seem fitting to say that he and the Hardshells do not have the foggiest idea about what it means, Biblically, to be born again and regenerated. They have so divorced regeneration from conversion that it becomes, in essence, a bunch of nothing. Regeneration does very little for a man. It does not change anything about him, does not produce any activity of the soul, it being all something unconscious with him. So it is understandable that Sarrels and the Hardshells would acknowledge that they do not know what God does to the soul in regeneration.
Where is the Biblical evidence for all this baloney that they put forth about "faith?" Where do the Biblical writers distinguish between "embryonic faith," and "gospel faith?" Brother, the only kind of faith there is, in the Bible, is that "faith that comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Rom. 10:17) I have an open challenge for any Hardshell.
Show me one passage of scripture that identifies a man that has "faith," and yet who never heard the word of God! Can you do it? Name the Biblical person. Show us the Bible passage. You can no more find a passage that points to a man with "faith," who is a "believer," and yet who has not heard the gospel and word of God, than you can find a Hardshell church prior to the 1800's."
Evidence of Regeneration?
What evidence of regeneration or the new birth could possibly be found in heathens who know not the word of God? Let me summarize the "evidences" of "regeneration" that today's Hardshells generally acknowledge.
1. Ethical goodness or general morality.
2. Theism and belief in a Creator.
3. Desire to please the gods (or God).
4. Sense of guilt before God or the gods.
5. Devoutness in religion (religious seeking and praying).
6. Hope in the after-life, hope for salvation.
7. Desire for salvation and forgiveness.
Hardshells obviously have come to confuse the "work of the law" with the "work of grace." They also confuse natural virtues with the Christian. They also do not understand the distinction between the natural conscience and the conscience of one who has had the blood of Christ applied to it.
First, let me cite the references from Hardshell sources on what they consider to be the "evidences" or "sure signs (immediate effects)" of the "new birth." Then, I will state my rebuttal and conclude with questions that will lead into the next two chapters.
Wrote Elder Charles Taylor:
"Who is it that is endowed with the ability to have a desire? Certainly the dead have no desires! This is a simple deduction. Then it must be one who is alive that has the ability to desire anything. Therefore, if any person desires salvation, it is an evidence of life!"
"The person who desires to have salvation—already has it..."
"Only that one who is born of God has the desire of Salvation."
(Excerpts from the book - "Questions and Answers: What Do Primitive Baptists Believe?" by Elder Charles Taylor)
Elder C. H. Cayce' Testimony
"...if we are sorry for sin and grieve on account thereof, it is because we are alive spiritually. That is what cause the three thousand who heard Peter's preaching to cry out, 'what shall we do?' They had feeling, or his preaching would not have pricked them in their hearts; that is, his preaching taking effect on them, shows that they were alive, for we might prick a dead man a hundred times, and that in his heart, but it would be of no avail. But Peter's words, as the word of the Lord, fell into three thousand hearts that were circumcised by the Spirit of God..." (Cayce's Editorials, Vol. 3, page 169)
"A brother asks us this question: 'When does the new birth take place? Is it at the time one is quickened, or is it when one is delivered from the burden of sin and guilt?"
"The very fact that a child cries is unmistakable proof that a living child has been born. So when one begins to mourn on account of sin and to cry unto the Lord, begging for mercy, it is positive proof that he has been born of God. Then one may ask, 'Why does he mourn if he has been born of God?' We answer, Because he does not know he has been born of God. When the fact is made known to him that Jesus is his Saviour and that he has been born of God, then he rejoices. The fact is one thing, and the knowledge of the fact is another thing." (Vol. III, pages 187,188)
"There can be no such desire for natural things without natural life first. There can be no such thing as holy and righteous desires without the righteous life. The life is first." (Vol. IV, page 14)
"The divine life which God gives by the direct operation of His Spirit on the spirit of the sinner, has a nature peculiar to itself. It is called the divine nature. From that life, which is a holy life, and which nature is divine, springs all our hatred of sin, and all our desire to live a holy and righteous life. From that life springs the desire to 'do good.' 'When I would do good, evil is present with me,' says the eminent apostle to the Gentiles. This shows clearly that he had both natures--the divine nature, by reason of which he 'would do good.'" (ibid)
"A saving knowledge and faith in Christ does not come through the gospel; but one must have that before he can be reached through or by the gospel." (Vol. VI, page 176)
Elder Bernard Gowens
"In fact, Romans 2:14 indicates that ethical holiness is an evidence of new birth." (http://www.sovgrace.net/OnlyMediator.pdf)
Note: I have already addressed this citation and mentioned some of the argumentation that Hardshells have put forth upon it, and will deal with it even more fully in our series on "Hardshell Proof Texts."
Elder John R. Daily
"It is not commanded that we should comfort any except such as are troubled. As it is commanded that God's people could be comforted, it follows that they are troubled. Those who are in real trouble of soul, are, therefore, children of God...If you were not alive to the unfeeling state of your heart you would not be sensible of it. No one ever complains of the darkness who never saw the light. You need to be comforted and are therefore a child of God. Only those who are born of God know about the distress produced by a dark and barren mind."
"How shall we comfort those who are thus distressed?" "Oh! Poor, distressed ones, and not comforted, let us search you out. We fain would soothe your troubled hearts, and wipe the tears from your lamenting eyes. We do not wish to deceive you. Your case is extremely bad, beyond the reach of any earthly physician, and we dare not preach ourselves, for we are, like you, but poor, sinful worms." ("Comfort Ye My People" - Zion's Advocate, Vol. 38, No. 11, November 1899)
Elder Lemuel Potter
"Referring to Romans i. 20, where it speaks of the heathen being without excuse, why were they? It says they had knowledge of God: “The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.” That should teach there is a God. Ought not the same thing teach to the heathen now that there is a God? Do they not have the sun, and moon and stars, to look at, and do they not have all nature to look at, just the same as the people anciently? And if it answered the purpose then, should it not answer the same purpose today with the people that are without the Bible or gospel? If it teaches them there is a God, it ought to teach them at the same time to have respect for that God. My idea is that where people think there is a God, and have an idea of his divine character, they ought to have some respect for him; and it is my idea that this is so; that nature unfolds a volume to the people wherever they live, that reads in more intelligent characters perhaps than the tongue of mortal could ever tell, that there is a God. David walked out, and he would look up and say: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork.” And Paul said the people that had that were without excuse; they had some way to know. Then the Bible and the ministry are not absolutely essential for the heathen to know there is a God." (Debate on Foreign Missions-Chapter 4 - MR. POTTER’S SECOND SPEECH)
He said further:
"And by his Spirit he can, and I will say he will, and does, quicken the benighted soul of the heathen and prepare him for heaven and glory. If that is not true, what mean all the Scriptures I have quoted here to you?" (Fifth Speech)
"Here is question two: “If the heathen are in an unfortunate condition, as you claim in your speech, how can this be consistent with that part of them who are God’s elect from eternity?” Now, as far as my speech yesterday was concerned, I quoted from missionary authors to show their plea for missions. I quoted from the Minutes of the Philadelphia Association and Circular Letter, in which they tell us the very grounds for the Christian Missions. In that letter they go on tell us of the deplorable condition of the heathen, and preach their universal damnation." (Chapter 12)
And then further, he says:
"Let me say right now, that so far as charging my people with denying the responsibility of man, Brother Yates knows we preach the responsibility of man—the obligation of man. He has heard us enough to know that. We do not deny the responsibility of man at all. We say that man, by the law of God, is required to do every thing that is right, and forbidden to do any thing that is wrong, no matter what. The law of God requires that; and while the law of God requires that, it requires nothing unreasonable. " (Ibid)
Elder Michael Ivey
"In yesteryear, a doctrine existed that sometimes plagued the Old Baptist in certain areas of the country. This belief was referred to as the Hollow Log Doctrine. The scenario is that a rabbit runs into a hollow log and out the other end. This rabbit that runs in and out of the hollow log provides no change to the log whatsoever. This is called the Hollow Log Doctrine."
"In my new birth, God wrought a tremendous change IN ME. In Psalms 40:2, He makes me realize that "He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings." He changed me. He gave me a new nature and set the direction of my compass points on a new course of life." (Refuting the Hollow Log Doctrine by Bernard Gowens)
"We are taught those who are born again have joy, peace and comfort and these as a result of obedience toward God which is possible for all who are born again. However, Paul described his experience after new birth to include feelings of wretchedness."
"Assuredly, regeneration is an occasion for joy. Yet it also causes one to become acutely and painfully aware of the evil of his sins thru guilt as a consequence of committing sins."
"For him, after new birth, the Law worked to demonstrate the nature of sin as exceeding sinful (Rom 7:13)."
(Paradox of Regeneration by Michael Ivey)
The above citations substantiate what I said at the outset of this chapter about what constitutes the "evidences" and "immediate effects" of "regeneration" and the "new birth" in the understanding of today's Hardshells. Nothing in the above descriptions includes a knowledge of and faith in Christ and the gospel. There is no evangelic conversion a part of the new birth. In fact, it has nothing to do with Christ or Christianity.It was an interesting question that was posed by a Hardshell brother to the great Hardshell apologist and debater, C. H. Cayce, where he asks - "When does the new birth take place? Is it at the time one is quickened, or is it when one is delivered from the burden of sin and guilt?"
Why would this brother even ask this question? Was there any dispute or disagreement about it at the time? Were the Hardshells not all united then as to how they defined the experience of regeneration and the new birth?
It seems to me that by the time of C. H. Cayce, the "Beebe-Trott" model (or paradigm) of the salvation experience of the elect was being eliminated in favor of another model, representing a clear "paradigm shift" in the accepted first model/paradigm.
The great debater did not accept that first paradigm. In his reply to this brother's question, he might well have said (were he honest enough to give a complete answer to the question):
"Our founding fathers believed - that in being quickened or regenerated, a man immediately becomes burdened with grief over his sins and has no joy, but when he has been in the womb of conviction a while, he will finally be born and delivered from that womb of conviction and thereby receive the joy of salvation. But, I do not accept that view, believing that the quickening is the same as the being spiritually born, so that no part of the new birth ever makes a man happy. That experience comes only when the already born again person is converted by the gospel and believes that Jesus is his Savior."
Now, that would have been a more honest answer. Instead, he puts forth his view and paradigm as being the right one and implies that the Old Baptists have always agreed with him on it. But, the brother asking the question is also an Old Baptist, and he seems not to know that this is a settled question.
As I have said previously, it seems that the model that Cayce is putting forth was of recent origin, probably one that did not begin to gain the ascendency till the 1860's period. That is not to say that the "Beebe-Trott Model" was the only one up till that period, but that it was the one that predominated and the model that was able to keep the new heterogenous group relatively cohesive.
Elder Cayce then wrote:
"Then one may ask, 'Why does he mourn if he has been born of God?' We answer, Because he does not know he has been born of God."
This is absolutely a novel idea among Calvinistic Baptists! How in the name of all that is scripturally reasonable and historical can the Hardshells say such things and yet claim to be the "Old" and "Original" and "Primitive" Baptists? It is purely assinine! It is, as brother J. M. Peck declared long ago, an "arrogant" assumption! The Old Baptists who wrote the London Confession, the brethren who adopted it and incorporated it into the Philadelphia Confession, the oldest in America, would turn over in their graves were they alive today and could read such things from those who claim to be their descendents!
Jerry Falwell, God rest his soul, said years ago, in a sermon I heard him on "The Old Time Gospel Hour," - "If you can have salvation and not know it, you can lose it and not miss it." The very idea that one could be born again and not know it is a view of the new birth that no leading Baptist affirmed prior to the "rise of the Hardshells," especially those of the second generation and those following. Cayce was a second and third generation Hardshell.
I will be dealing with the subject of conviction and its relationship to the new birth and regeneration in the next couple chapters and so will forestall dealing with it further now.
Cayce wrote further:
"A saving knowledge and faith in Christ does not come through the gospel; but one must have that before he can be reached through or by the gospel."
I don't know a more ridiculous and unscriptural statement that anyone can make who professes to believe the Bible! It is so absurd that no neo Hardshell, that I know of, advocates such an idea. I did cite a statement from Elder Pittman (who supposedly says Elder S. Hassell agreed) where he said that Christ is the great Preacher who can and does preach the gospel personally to many heathen!
Did any apostle or missionary to heathen lands ever find anyone who had already come to faith in Christ without the gospel being preached to them? Has Cayce forgotten Paul's teaching in Romans 10? Modern Hardshells will affirm that a faith in Christ only comes by the gospel, although a "faith" in "God" does not, nor the metaphysical faith that some affirm is "implanted in regeneration," even in infants.
Cayce says a man must believe in Christ before the gospel can be preached to him! Paul says the opposite! He says men cannot believe in Christ till they have first come to hear of him by those who preach the gospel! How absurd for Cayce to have argued, in his debates and apologetic writings, that he and the "Old Baptists" only went by the Bible!
Michael Ivey said - "Assuredly, regeneration is an occasion for joy." But, I really don't think he believes what he said. I think, if "pinned down" on the matter, that he would interpret his words as meaning - "regeneration, in itself, is a reason for joy, but, not knowing that regeneration has occurred, there is, in all practicality, no occsasion for joy."
You have to watch these Hardshells, for they are very good at "speaking out of both sides of their mouths," and of speaking parables and proverbs where "the legs of the lame are not equal," and where they "wrongly divide" the word of truth, and such like.
The State of the Heathen
"Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee, and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name." (Psalm 79: 6)
"To execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people..." (Psalm 149: 7)
"Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know thee not, and upon the families that call not on thy name..." (Jeremiah 10: 25)
"Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about." (Joel 3: 12)
"For the day of the LORD is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head. For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been." (Obadiah 1: 15,16)
"And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen, such as they have not heard." (Micah 5: 15)
"To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen." (Galatians 1: 16)
"...that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision." (2: 9)
"And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed." (Galatians 3: 8)
"For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ." (Romans 15: 18,19)
"But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils." (I Corinthians 10: 20)
"Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led." (12: 2)
"Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved..." (I Thessalonians 2: 16)
"Not...as the Gentiles which know not God..." (4: 5)
How a man can read all these verses (and there are more) and yet claim that those who die in heathendom, without a knowledge of Christ and the gospel, are yet to be saved, and are "born again," is truly amazing! They will affirm the salvation of large scores of heathen people! Where do they get that idea? How can they claim that their beliefs, though perhaps not in accord with the oldest Baptist confessions, are nevertheless in accord with Scripture?
In the next few chapters I will go into more detail, both scripturally and historically, on the topic of "evidences" of the Christian "new birth" or "regeneration" experience. I will talk about "prevenient grace," "conviction of sin," of "elenctics," and the such questions as - "Is there no conviction that precedes regeneration?" Do any resist or quench the Holy Spirit in conviction? In other words, are all those who are convicted, either by the law or by the gospel, the elect? And, are all such who are convicted, already born again?
I will show that there are no scriptural passages that define conviction of sin as a "work of grace," but always views it as a "work of the law" or a "work of the gospel."
I will discuss the difference between the natural (or moral) conscience and the spiritually renewed conscience? I will also look at passages that seem to be pertinent to this topic, like the case of those who were "pricked in their hearts," in Acts 2, as a result of the evangelistic preaching of Peter, and the case of Lydia, where the sacred record says "who's heart the Lord opened so that she attended to the things spoken of Paul." Is the "pricking" of the heart an "evidence" of a prior regeneration? Is the "opening" of Lydia's heart her regeneration or new birth experience? What is the "work of the law" versus the "work of grace"?
Here is what the London and Philadelphia Confessions say about the state of the heathen.
Chapter 20: Of the Gospel, and of the Extent of the Grace Thereof 1._The covenant of works being broken by sin, and made unprofitable unto life, God was pleased to give forth the promise of Christ, the seed of the woman, as the means of calling the elect, and begetting in them faith and repentance; in this promise the gospel, as to the substance of it, was revealed, and [is] therein effectual for the conversion and salvation of sinners. ( Genesis 3:15; Revelation 13:8 )
2. _This promise of Christ, and salvation by him, is revealed only by the Word of God; neither do the works of creation or providence, with the light of nature, make discovery of Christ, or of grace by him, so much as in a general or obscure way; much less that men destitute of the revelation of Him by the promise or gospel, should be enabled thereby to attain saving faith or repentance. ( Romans 1:17; Romans 10:14,15,17; Proverbs 29:18; Isaiah 25:7; Isaiah 60:2, 3 )
3. _The revelation of the gospel unto sinners, made in divers times and by sundry parts, with the addition of promises and precepts for the obedience required therein, as to the nations and persons to whom it is granted, is merely of the sovereign will and good pleasure of God; not being annexed by virtue of any promise to the due improvement of men's natural abilities, by virtue of common light received without it, which none ever did make, or can do so; and therefore in all ages, the preaching of the gospel has been granted unto persons and nations, as to the extent or straitening of it, in great variety, according to the counsel of the will of God. ( Psalms 147:20; Acts 16:7; Romans 1:18-32 )
4. _Although the gospel be the only outward means of revealing Christ and saving grace, and is, as such, abundantly sufficient thereunto; yet that men who are dead in trespasses may be born again, quickened or regenerated, there is moreover necessary an effectual insuperable work of the Holy Spirit upon the whole soul, for the producing in them a new spiritual life; without which no other means will effect their conversion unto God. ( Psalms 110:3; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 1:19, 20; John 6:44; 2 Corinthians 4:4, 6 )
Here the clearly affirmed that the absence of the gospel and word of God sealed the doom of the heathen. Now, who is Old Baptist on this point?