May 29, 2008

Campbell & Hyperism II

In my first posting in this developing series, I showed from the early writings of Alexander Campbell how he did not oppose the idea of "spiritual influences," nor did he deny that it took something more than the naked word to produce a spiritual rebirth.

I also showed that Campbell felt a need to correct the Hyper Calvinism rampant in certain areas, the view that taught that regeneration was unconnected with faith, that is was by the "Spirit Alone" apart from the word, a view he recognized as a growing "extreme," and thus he thought he could better combat this error by emphasing the instrumentality of the word, to the neglect of those essential "spiritual influences." As I said, he went to an extreme himself in fighting an extreme. But, to Campbell's credit, he did not go as far in that extreme as his later followers.

From the citations to follow, one will see how three great Baptist leaders conversed with Campbell on this subject. All three of these Baptists rejected the "regeneration before faith" view, and so they were in agreement with Campbell in his efforts against the Hardshells. Andrew Broadus, R. B. Semple, and J. M. Peck were strong opposers of Hardshellism, and they became equally opposed to those in the "Restoration Movement," but in the beginning, none saw Campbell as that far off base, regarding regeneration and "spiritual influences."

I will stop at points in these citations to make some observations. I have included some citations just for their historical benefit to us as Baptists but do not necessarily directly address the issue in dispute between the Baptists, represented by the three men mentioned, and the new "Restorationist Baptists," over the issue of whether regeneration were by the "word alone" or by the "Spirit AND the Word." Both rejected the Hardshell view of "Spirit Alone," so the discussion was over just how far was Campbell going to go in his denial of "spiritual influences" as integral to the "word."

"I am not to be understood," said he, speaking of converting influences (C. B. for April, 1825), "as asserting that there is no divine influence exercised over the minds and bodies of men. This would be to assert in contradiction to a thousand facts and declarations in the volume of revelation; this would be to destroy the idea of any divine revelation; this would be to destroy the idea of any divine government exercised over the human race; this would be to make prayer a useless and irrational exercise; this would be to deprive Christians of all the consolations derived from a sense of the superintending care, guidance and protection of the Most High. But to resolve everything into a 'divine influence' is the other extreme. This divests man of every attribute that renders him accountable to his Maker, and assimilates all his actions to the bending of the trees or the tumults of the ocean occasioned by the tempest."

"There are many things which are evident, yet altogether inexplicable...Until we know more of God than can be revealed or known in this mortal state, we must be content to say of a thousand things, a thousand times, we cannot understand how, or why, or wherefore they are so. But he would be a foolish husbandman who, going forth with precious seed to cast upon his field, would cease to scatter it because a philosopher had asked him some questions about its germination and the influences requisite to its vegetation which he [124] could not explain. As foolish would a hungry man be who would refuse to eat bread because he could not explain the process of digestion, nor tell how it conduces to the preservation of life. And just as foolish he who refuses to meditate upon the revelation of God, and to practice its injunctions, because there are some whys or wherefores for which he cannot give a reason."

"He thus sought to confine the attention to that which was immediately necessary to faith, and to avoid unprofitable discussions respecting remote or accessory causes."

"In the summer, he made a short visit to Eastern Virginia, where he was kindly received, and where he formed an acquaintance with Robert B. Semple, Andrew Broaddus and other eminent Baptist ministers. The few [130] discourses he delivered during his visit made quite a strong impression. The leaders of the Baptists in Eastern Virginia, however, though struck with Mr. Campbell's great abilities, were by no means prepared to receive his reformatory views. They earnestly desired, on the other hand, to win him over to their own sentiments and usages, in order that his influence might enure to the benefit of the Baptist cause.

After his return home, he received a kind letter from Bishop Semple, objecting to the spirit in which the "Christian Baptist" seemed to be conducted, and to some of the sentiments attributed to Mr. Campbell, intimating that he seemed to be a Sandemanian or a Haldanean both in his views and spirit."

"Among the Haldaneans," said he "(judging from writings), a gentle spirit is rarely to be found. Harsh and bitter sarcasms are the weapons with which they fight their opponents. This, too, I am the more disposed to think applies to them as a sect, because I have known some of their party, who have appeared in private conversation to be mild and gentle indeed and every way pleasant, but when brought out in writing or public speaking, seemed to have another kind of temper. If you will bear with me, it seems to me that this is the case with the editor of the 'Christian Baptist.' As a man, in private circles, mild, pleasant and affectionate--as a writer, rigid and satirical beyond all the bounds of Scripture allowance."

"Among those Baptist ministers who approved the new version, and who especially commended the "Hints to Readers," was Andrew Broaddus, one of the most talented and eloquent preachers of Eastern Virginia. He was a man of highly-cultivated intellect and of liberal spirit, though of a somewhat fastidious and timid temperament. Some months after the appearance of the letter from Bishop Semple, who, notwithstanding the courtesy of Mr. Campbell's reply, seemed disposed to decline further correspondence, Mr. Broaddus had sent a communication for the "Christian Baptist," in which he expressed his approval of Mr. Campbell's views of the Christian religion as a dispensation, and his general agreement with the sentiments in the "Sermon on the Law" as to the Mosaic institution. In regard to the "Christian Baptist," he said:

"I find in it much to approve, something to doubt, and something, too, from which I must dissent. Possibly, however, my dissension may be owing (in part at least) to the want of a full and correct understanding of your sentiments. I said, much to approve; I might use a stronger term and say, [150] much to admire. With several of your essays I have been not only pleased but delighted. Many of your remarks, too, in opposition to the errors and follies too prevalent in the religious world, meet my own views and receive my warm and hearty commendation. In a word, I am greatly pleased with what appears to be your drift and aim--viz., to clear the religion of Jesus of all the adventitious lumber with which it has been encumbered, and bring back the Christian Church to its primitive simplicity and beauty."

"Concurring with Mr. Campbell as to Christianity considered as a dispensation, he goes on to say:

"I do hope that, upon a more explicit declaration of your sentiments, I may find no cause to disagree with you as to what more nearly concerns the nature of that religion--the agency, I will say, which produces it in us. I do not wish you to consider me, at this time, as really differing from you on this point: I only desire to be better satisfied. Let me explain myself.

"There are some among us possessed of strong apprehensions that you are disposed to deny the existence of the regenerating and sanctifying operations of the Holy Spirit on the spirit or the heart of man, and that you would ascribe all the religious effects produced in us solely to the influence of the written Word or the external revelation of God. And these apprehensions, permit me to add, are not, in all cases, the effect of any prejudice against you. For myself, I have said to others, as I now say to you, that I cannot think this of you. I have seen, indeed, many things in your writings which appear inconsistent with such a sentiment--a sentiment which obviously goes to the annihilation of all hope for gracious aid in the Christian warfare, and, of course, to the annihilation of prayer for any such aid. A sentiment which would thus cut off communion with God, and let out, as I may say, the very life's blood of religion, I cannot think you would maintain. Still, however, I would rather see you more explicit upon this point: it appears to be due to [151]
yourself as well as to others: and to a compliance with this wish I should suppose you can have no objection."

"That the word of God is the instrument of our regeneration and sanctification, I have no doubt; nor would I think of saying it is his usual method (whatever he may in some cases choose to do) to operate on the soul independent of the Word. But that there is a living, divine agent, giving life and energy to the Word, and actually operating on the soul, is, in my view, a truth which forms one of the glorious peculiarities of the religion of Jesus: and thus I would say, in the language of the apostle, we are 'born again not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.'"

"This communication, elegantly written and marked by the utmost Christian courtesy and candor, was received by Mr. Campbell with great pleasure, and he remarked that there had not appeared in the "Christian Baptist" a letter from any correspondent "more evangelical in its scope; more clear and luminous in its object; more unexceptionable in its style; more perfect in its soul, body and spirit."

"I am not conscious," said he, in reply, "that there is one point of controversy between us in all the items of practical truth embraced in your letter. Whatever diversity of opinion might possibly exist between us in carrying out some principles to their legitimate issue, I am conscious of none in the premises." . . . Speaking of the "agency" which produces the Christian religion in men, he remarks: "Were it not for the pernicious influence of the theories afloat on this subject, I would assert my concurrence in opinion with you. This may appear a strange saying, but it is in accordance with the spirit of this work. I have taken a stand which I am determined, by the grace of God, not to abandon. I will lay down no new theories in religion, contend for no old theories, nor aid any theory now in existence. For why? Because no theory is the gospel of Jesus the Messias. Nor can the [152] preaching or teaching of any theory be the preaching or teaching of the gospel. And--please mark it well--NO MAN CAN BE SAVED BY THE BELIEF OF ANY THEORY, TRUE OR FALSE: NO MAN WILL BE DAMNED FOR THE DISBELIEF OF ANY THEORY. This position I hold worthy to be printed in majestic capitals...Whatever the Scriptures say, I say. The only question with me is to understand each sentence in the light of its own context...To make new theories is the way to make new divisions. To contend for the old is to keep up the old divisions, either of which would be in direct opposition to all my efforts, and, what is still worse, in direct opposition to the decisions of the Holy Spirit."

This is clear testimony that basically has Campbell willing to admit that the new birth was accomplished by the Spirit and the Word, but that he preferred to keep silent about the "Spirit" part and solely emphasize the "Word" part, believing that Hardshellism was a greater evil and could only be succesfully rebutted by an emphasis upon the "Word alone."

"We have here a clear statement of the principle which governed Mr. Campbell throughout his entire life as to his utterances on the subject of spiritual influence. Knowing how the minds of the people were engrossed with theories of regeneration to the neglect of Scripture teaching, and how much such speculations contributed to maintain religious dissensions, he had resolved to discountenance every thing of this nature, and to confine attention to the plain declarations of the word of God. He could not be induced, therefore, to go beyond its simple statements into any inquiries respecting the unrevealed links in the chain of causation. By no means denying that influences were exerted in answer to prayer in regard to the conversion and sanctification of men, he presumed not to define their nature, and would neither propose a new theory on the subject, nor give his assent to any of those already in vogue. Mr. Broaddus had made a very near approach to Mr. Campbell's position when he said, as above quoted, "that the word of God is the instrument of our regeneration and sanctification," and that he would not say it was God's "usual method to operate on the soul independent [153] of the Word." But when he added, "there is a living divine agent giving life and energy to the Word, and actually operating on the soul," he passed quite out of Mr. Campbell's field of view, the Bible alone, and entered the domain of theological speculation."

This is not a fair commentary by Dr. Richardson on Campbell, I don't think. From previous citations (above) Campbell admitted that the scriptures had a thousand instances to prove such a spiritual influence apart from the word of God. I think Campbell had moved more towards Broadus, not vice versa, as Richardson intimates.

"Mr. Campbell could see no practical utility in this theory, as the reception of it did not in any wise tend to induce the supposed agency, and therefore availed nothing. On the other hand, its adoption at once changed the relations of those who embraced it to the word of God. Men could no longer esteem this "worthy of all acceptation," "greater" than the "testimony of men," "able to make 'them' wise unto salvation," or "quick and powerful;" for the theory declared it to be deficient in energy and to be actually "dead," requiring some undefined agency to give it "life." This Mr. Campbell could never for a moment admit, and it was in opposition to this very theological dogma that, adopting the language of the proto-martyr, and in harmony with the saying of Christ, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life," he entitled his later editions of the New Testament, "THE LIVING ORACLES." His love for that sacred volume rendered him jealous of every philosophy which would in the slightest degree derogate from its power and its sufficiency when brought into contact with the human mind. Such were his conceptions of the "glorious gospel of the blessed God," that he regarded it as embodying in itself "the power of God for salvation to every one who believed it," and as presenting, in the demonstrations of the Spirit and of power which attended its introduction, all the evidences necessary to the production of faith. He by no means doubted or denied the impartation and aids of the Holy Spirit, but as the promise of the Spirit was to believers [154] only, he could not admit that it was given to unbelievers in order to produce faith, as the theory in question required. He, therefore, thus expressed himself in his reply to Mr. Broaddus:

"If any man accustomed to speculate on religion as a mere science should infer from anything I have said on these theories that I contend for a religion in which the Holy Spirit has nothing to do; in which there is no need of prayer for the Holy Spirit; in which there is no communion of the Holy Spirit; in which there is no peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,--he does me the greatest injustice...All whom I baptize, I baptize into the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. I pray for the love of the Father, the grace of the Son and the communion of the Holy Spirit to remain with all the saints. A religion of which the Holy Spirit is not the author, the subject-matter and the perfecter is sheer Deism. To a man who teaches otherwise I would say: 'Art thou a teacher in Israel, and knowest not these things?' ...The uncontrovertible fact is, men must he born from above, and for this purpose the glad tidings are announced. Let us simply promulgate them in all their simplicity and force, unmixed with theory, uncorrupted with philosophy, uncomplicated with speculation and unfettered by system, and mark the issue."

"However clear the view Mr. Campbell thus gave of his position, and however proper, and, in a practical point of view, sufficient the course he so earnestly advocated in the interests of Christian peace and union, it must be confessed that the point of real difficulty remained still untouched, and that, for want of a full explanation of this, his views continued to be misapprehended and misrepresented. For it was undeniable that "influences" independent of the gospel were exerted in regard to unbelievers in order to the production of faith. Admitting that the "power" was in the gospel [155]
or word of God, the question which demanded elucidation still recurred--Why do not all who hear the gospel believe and obey it? Why, out of a large audience who hear the gospel announced, will perhaps only one or two individuals receive it and act upon their convictions? Where all have alike the opportunity of hearing, why is the gospel brought into contact with the heart and mind of some and not of others or of all? Most assuredly there is a special influence here to be accounted for--an influence admitted by Mr. Campbell himself equally with his opponents, since with them he felt it his duty to offer up prayers for the conversion of sinners, which necessarily supposed a special divine intervention in their behalf, It was the conviction that such aid was to be expected, coupled with the natural and just longing of the human heart for some tangible, personal and sensible evidence of acceptance with God, that first gave rise to the mystical theory of regeneration, which, engrafted by Jacob Bœhler upon the more simple faith of Wesley, had at length pervaded almost the entire religious community. As this difficulty, therefore, still remained to be elucidated in the further progress of the Reformation, Mr. Campbell's reply at this period failed to prove entirely satisfactory to Mr. Broaddus.

Hence, in his next letter, he said:

"While many things in your answer, and many incidental remarks in reference to this very point, met my admiring approbation, I felt some degree of disappointment at the manner in which you considered it proper to shape your reply in this particular case. Your reasons are no doubt satisfactory to yourself; perhaps they ought to be so to me and to all. I have heard much said about your answer to Paulinus, for it has excited among us a high degree of attention. Some of [156]
your readers are satisfied; some are not. And though, upon a candid, careful reperusal of your letter, I think it justly due to you to say that you are an avowed friend to the Spirit's operations in the production of genuine religion, I must own that I could still wish you had found in your heart to dispense with what I consider an over-degree of scrupulosity, and to answer in a more direct manner...I must think you carry your scruples on the subject of theories and systems to some excess."

"After expressing his own disapprobation of mere theorizing, he adds the following just remarks:

"It is to be lamented, indeed, that systems seem to please some professors of religion more than the good news of salvation by Christ, and that they manifest more solicitude for the preservation of their beloved plans than for the maintenance of vital and practical godliness. Touch every chord in the lyre of salvation, they still remain listless, unmoved, till the darling notes be sounded to which their spirits are in unison. Oh for the time when divine truth--the whole of divine truth--shall be relished as coming from God!--when the souls of professed Christians, tuned by grace, shall respond to every declaration of the will of God; now with holy fear, now with lively hope, now with 'joy unspeakable and full of glory,' and always with obedient 'faith that works by love.' This will not be till the Bible is taken in good earnest as the standard of faith and practice. Oh, sir, may God speed your efforts to call the people to this only standard! May he assist us to plant this standard, this milk-white banner, on the heights of Zion, no more to he insulted by the parti-colored flags of creeds and confessions of faith waving over it!"

"While Mr. Broaddus was quite agreed with Mr. Campbell in his opposition to creeds as standards of faith, and in regard to the need of reformation among the Baptists, and, in some measure, even to the restoration of the "ancient order of things," he still clung tenaciously to his theory of spiritual operations in conversion, to which he seemed earnestly desirous of [157]
winning over his highly-esteemed friend, the editor of the "Christian Baptist." In reference to the wish he had expressed that Mr. Campbell had given a more direct reply to his assertion that there was a spiritual agency, "giving life and energy to the Word and actually operating on the soul," the latter replied:

"There may be questions proposed on subjects of which the Bible speaks which the Bible will not answer. For example, How does the Spirit influence the minds of men? is a question I cannot answer from the Bible. But if I be asked, Does the Spirit regenerate the human heart? Does it influence the minds of men? I answer, the Bible teaches it does. But I have a great scrupulosity of mind in going beyond what is written on this subject in particular. The reason is, some speculative theory of spiritual operation is the very essence, the very soul, of every system of religion in Christendom...If any man ask me how the influence and aid of the Spirit is obtained, I answer, By prayer and the word of God. Thus I will give direct answers so far as I think the Oracles authorize."

"But I am governed more in speaking upon this subject by the following than by all other considerations: THE APOSTLES PREACHED CHRIST, AND NOT THE HOLY SPIRIT; or, rather, they preached the Holy Spirit when they preached Christ. So the Saviour instructed and commanded them. They preach the Spirit with most success who say nothing about his work in conversion. So did the apostles. In all the sermons pronounced by the apostles to unregenerated persons, of which we have so many samples in the Acts of the Apostles,
they never once spoke of the work of the Spirit in conversion. Not one example in all the volume--not one model of the discourses we every day hear about the work of the Spirit. The apostles remembered that the Spirit was not to speak of himself, his own office and work, but of Christ. Their good news, therefore, was about Christ crucified." [158]

"His earnest pleading, however, for the simple teachings of the word of God availed but little with the leading Baptist preachers in Virginia, so long as he refused to commit himself to their favorite theory of spiritual operations. Some speculative view of this subject had indeed become, as Mr. Campbell well remarked, "the very essence, the very soul," of modem systems of religion; and because he would not go beyond the actual statements of the Bible in reference to the work of human salvation, it was natural that those opposed to him should avail themselves of the popularity of the theory of "spiritual operations" in order to create prejudice against him, and that even good and pious men, accustomed to rely on what they called their "Christian experience," should stand in doubt of his religious position. As he continued, in perfect consistency with the principles with which he set out, to maintain the ground he had taken, this subject became a very prominent theme of discussion throughout his entire ministry, recurring again and again in various forms. In order to avoid a too frequent reference to it, it may be here stated that in the following year (1827) Bishop Semple wrote a letter to Silas M. Noel, D. D., of Kentucky, which was published in the "Baptist Recorder," in which he remarked in relation to the letters of Mr. Broaddus, above quoted: "He [Paulinus] wrote something last year in which he certainly went too far. He is now convinced (I am persuaded), and is guarded against our friend Campbell's chimeras."

This is interesting. Broadus was criticized for trying to, perhaps, meet Campbell "half way," and so he was pressured to back step a little in his attempts to find "common ground" with Campbell. But, as we will see, the great Baptist leader, and Hardshell slayer, J. M. Peck, would later take the lead in discussions with Campbell on behalf of the Baptists.

"A writer, signing himself "Querens," in the "Christian Baptist," then publicly called upon Bishop Semple to point out the "chimeras" which he attributed to Mr. Campbell. This Bishop Semple declined, saying that Sandeman, Glas and the Haldanes had been master [159] spirits upon the same system many years ago, and had been effectually answered by Fuller and others. He added:

"If I am called upon, then, to establish my assertions as to Mr. Campbell's views, I refer 'Querens' and all such to Fuller's work against Sandeman," etc. He says he is indisposed to controversy, but adds: "If, however, I should be disposed to become a controversialist, I believe I should as soon enter the lists with my friend Campbell as any other, for three reasons. One is, on the points on which we differ I am persuaded he is palpably on the wrong side, and it would not be a hard task to make it manifest. A second is, he is so much of a champion that to be beaten by him would not be so discreditable as it might be with some other antagonists. A third is, I think him a generous combatant with one who wishes nothing but fair play."

"To this letter, which Mr. Campbell transferred from the "Recorder" to the "Christian Baptist," he made a very kind and respectful reply, showing that the bishop's plan of disposing of the matter was wholly unsatisfactory to the public.

"The reflecting part of the community," he observed, "will say, Why not show that Campbell is wrong by the use of reason and Scripture, rather than by defaming him?" He concludes his answer thus: "As you have more than once commended many excellent things in the 'Christian Baptist,' and as you are now bought out or dragged out to oppose me, it behooves you to discriminate the things which you disapprove from those you approve in the 'Christian Baptist.' And now, Brother Semple, I call upon you as a man, as a scholar, as a Christian and as a Christian bishop, to come forward and make good your assertions against your 'friend Campbell.' My pages are open for you. You shall have line for line, period for period, page for page with me. I pledge myself to address you and treat you as a gentleman and a Christian ought to do. You will not find an [160] insinuation nor a personality in all I may say of you. I wish to give you a fair specimen of that sort of discussion which I approve, and to show what reason, demonstration and Scripture declaration can achieve with an able and an honorable opponent. There is no man in America I would rather have for an opponent, if I must have an opponent, than thee. Come forward then, Brother Semple--choose the topics, one at a time; numerically arrange your arguments and proofs; make everything plain and firm, and in good temper, spirit and affection show me where I have erred; and if I cannot present reason, Scripture and good sense to support me, I will yield to your superior discernment, age and experience, one by one, the points in which we differ. And as this work is generally bound in volumes, your essays, the antidote or the remedy, will descend with the poison to its future readers."

"As Bishop Semple paid no attention to this earnest appeal, Mr. Campbell, after waiting some months, thought it due to the cause he advocated to analyze the bishop's two letters to Dr. Noel, in which he had spoken disparagingly of his views, and advocated creeds, etc. This analysis, though kind in manner, was searching in its range, and the result of the whole affair was decidedly unfavorable to Bishop Semple's reputation for ability and wisdom, while his character as a pious and devoted Christian remained unquestioned. During this period Mr. Broaddus thought it due to himself to state that Bishop Semple was mistaken in supposing that he had at all changed his views in reference to the questions he had treated in his essays in the "Christian Baptist." He also took occasion to renew his effort in behalf of the theory of "spiritual operations," and forwarded for the "Christian Baptist" two very elegantly and carefully written articles on the work of the Holy Spirit in the salvation of men, in which he considered the
reality of a divine influence, its principal effects [161] and its practical importance. He did not advocate "irresistible operations," or any of the particular systems of the day, nor did he contend for a divine influence of a mere physical nature detached from revealed truth, but admitted that there dwelt in the word of truth "a living principle which, when that word is received, has a never-failing tendency to bring forth the fruits of holiness in heart and life." The leading sentiment of the essays, however, was, in substance, "that we are dependent on the influence of the Holy Spirit to render the word of truth effectual to our conversion and final salvation."

This is what sound Baptists have always believed. The Spirit and the Word, as the confessions state, are the causes of the new birth, one the efficient cause, and the other the instrumental cause.

"Thus the matter ended as before. Both equally believed that salvation was due to the work of the Holy Spirit. Mr. Campbell thought that in conversion the power was in the word of God. Mr. Broaddus supposed that the direct aid of the Holy Spirit was necessary to render that Word effectual. Both equally admitted the presence and influence of the Holy Spirit in believers, and as Mr. Campbell thought it right to pray for the conversion of men, he necessarily admitted that some influence additional to that of the gospel was exerted also in the case of unbelievers. The only point, then, of real difference was simply the nature of this influence, Mr. Broaddus regarding it as a direct work of the Spirit upon the heart, and Mr. Campbell pleading the Scripture declarations that the Holy Spirit could be received only by believers. As to the nature of the influences or aids which the latter virtually admitted in conversion, he at this period offered no opinion, and Mr. Broaddus had brought no Scripture evidence to show that the Holy Spirit could be received by an unbeliever, or that any such theory of spiritual operations had ever been propounded in primitive times."

"About this time Mr. Campbell held a brief correspondence with Elder J. M. Peck on the subject of spiritual influence. At the close of the discussion of this subject with S. W. Lynd, he had expressed his willingness to discuss the question with any Baptist doctor, and publish the controversy in a volume of one hundred and fifty or two hundred pages for general circulation, as an end of the matter. This proposition was accepted by J. M. Peck of the "Baptist Banner," but after a few communications the disputants seemed to come unexpectedly to so close an agreement that the discussion was closed. Mr. Campbell had said:

"The truth is the instrument, the means, and the Spirit of God is the cause or agent of regeneration. Such are my views on this great subject. And, my dear sir, if you always make the word the instrument of regeneration, you may always expect me to concur with you in saying that it is but the instrument, and not the first cause of a great spiritual change."

"Mr. Peck expressed his high gratification with these distinct statements, regretting that Mr. Campbell had been so long misunderstood on this topic for want of such a declaration. Mr. Campbell then called his [487]
attention to the fact that the proposition which he had from the very beginning labored to sustain was precisely what he had now expressed--viz.: that "in conversion the Holy Spirit operated through the truth, and not without it," as the Baptists had taught. As Elder Peck declined to affirm this dogma of the Baptists, and endeavored to show that Mr. Campbell had misunderstood them on this subject, there appeared to be no longer any question in dispute, and Mr. Campbell thus closed his last letter:

"With regard to the operation of the Spirit through the Word on sinners and on saints, while we strongly affirm the fact of his sanctifying, reviving, cheering and saving efficacy through the word of prophets and apostles, we ought to teach no new terms, phrases or dogmata--preach good news to sinners and teach holiness to the converted--teach the Christians to pray for the Spirit in all its holy influences, and to lift up their voices to the Lord for all his promised aids. Thus the love of God will be poured out into their souls by [488] his Holy Spirit that dwelleth in them, and they will learn to love his children and to rejoice in hope of the coming glory. To learn that such are your views, designs and practices will greatly add to the esteem I entertain for you, and will greatly encourage me in pleading for the sincere and perfect union of our Father's dear children in order to the conversion of the world."

"In regard to this vexed subject of "spiritual influence" there had really never been any just cause of controversy. The dogmatic popular affirmation that the Holy Spirit was "poured out" upon unbelievers to work in them regeneration and faith, which in Mr. Campbell's view rendered the word of God of no effect, had led him to assert the claims of the latter as God's power to salvation. He did not deny that "influences" of various kinds might accompany that word, but on these he declined to enlarge, and was careful to distinguish them from converting power, which he conceived to reside exclusively in the word or gospel itself, just as the vegetative power or life resides in the seed sown in the earth, and not in any of the circumstances, such as the sowing, the heat or the moisture, which attend its development. As the healing power of the physician is in his medicine, so Mr. Campbell regarded God's healing power as contained in the gospel, and forbore to confound with it those influences by which sinners are induced to receive it, just as he distinguished the healing power of the physician from any of the influences which might induce the patient to take the medicine he prescribed."

"It was shown by Dr. Richardson about this time, in a series of essays upon "Converting Influence," signed by some one of the letters of the word Luke, that while the agencies which induced men to receive the gospel added no power to it absolutely, they certainly did so in a relative point of view, so that practically the same effect was produced. He argued that there were many different obstacles which prevented the gospel from reaching the heart of the sinner, such as ignorance, love of the world, etc., and that the instrumentality in each case must be adapted to the nature of the obstacle to be removed...
It was also evident that he acted wisely and in harmony with the reformatory principles in declining to discuss the nature of the influences which might accompany the word, as this evidently belonged to the class of untaught questions."

"But the misfortune is, that Mr. Fuller sometimes contradicts himself. After, in page 7, agreeing with Mr. Sandeman in those positions which I have quoted from him, in page 28, he contradicts himself--

"If," says he, "it be meant to deny that any deed or thought on the part of man is necessary in the established order of things, or that sinners are presented spotless before God without a deed or a thought on the subject, it is very false, and goes to deny the necessity of faith to salvation; for surely no man can be said to believe in Christ without thinking of him."

But to return to metaphysical regeneration. With Mr. Fuller there is a twofold regeneration--a "strict" and a "general". "Like every other term," says he, in the appendix, page 210, "it [482]
(regeneration) is sometimes used in a more strict and sometimes in a more general sense." We have before shown the term is used but twice in all the Jewish and Christian scriptures.

In his Strictures on Sandemanianism, written some years afterwards, he says, page 135:--"Though in a general sense it be true that we are regenerated by believing the gospel, yet in a more particular sense it is equally true that we are regenerated in order to it." Mr. Fuller has a general regeneration to offer to his opponents when he is pressed by their arguments, and a particular regeneration for himself."

This latter statement in regards to Fuller's views on the relationship of regeneration to faith is very important, especially in view of the fact that so many in the "Reformed" camp claim that the historic Baptist position is to say that "regeneration precedes faith." Did Fuller believe that regeneration preceded faith? No. But, like many theologians, he spoke in theological jargon, about regeneration in its "technical sense," but we can cite numerous writings of Fuller where he, like Boyce and others, did not believe that this theological or technical definition was in line with scripture.

But, more on this in the future.

Alexander Campbell & Hyperists

Did the Hyper Calvinism present in the Baptist denomination in the early 19th century help to create both the Hardshell and Campbellite sects? I think so. From the following words of Campbell, and comments made about him, it is obvious that Campbell fought hard against Hyperism and Hardshellism. Sadly, as we all know, Campbell went to an extreme himself in fighting an extreme. But, it is obvious from the following (and other writings also of him in the "Christian Baptist" and in the "Millenial Harbinger") that he was mostly correct in what he says here against the view that men are "regenerated before faith."

Mr. Campbell, at one time, believed that men were saved at the point of faith, as all good sound Baptists believed at the time, except for a few Hyper Calvinists.

Alexander Campbell writes:

"To proceed then: the outline of Mr. Bellamy's gospel which he opposes to Messrs. Hervey, Sandeman and Cudworth, is obviously such as the following, when reduced to its simplest parts:

"1. A man must be regenerated previous to the first act of faith. 2. He must, before he believes the gospel to be true, approve of the law as holy, just and good, and love it on this account. 3. Then through the law as a glass he must discover the glory of God, and love him on account of his own glorious excellences. 4. Afterward, he must discover the wisdom of God in the gospel way of salvation, and, with all these qualifications, he then believes the gospel to be true; all this previous to the first act of faith, which he says is a 'holy act,' for his faith implies holiness, repentance, conversion and reconciliation; and yet he maintains that repentance is before forgiveness. That you may read his sentiments with your own eyes, please consult pages 14, 16, 17, 19, 58, 79, 81-103: Essays, 122, 125, 147."

"Respecting his first prerequisite, Regeneration, page 17: 'Regeneration must be before faith,' John (i. 12, 13). I would inquire what is the meaning of regeneration? Is it not the communication of spiritual life to the soul, which principle of spiritual life is the beginning of eternal life? 'If any be in Christ, he is a new creature;' all 'old things are passed away.' 'All things are become new' when a man is [423] regenerated, he is then possessed of a new life, he is now alive and shall never die. I think this proposition would sound somewhat strange in the ears of a Christian, 'That a man may be possessed of eternal life and yet disbelieve the gospel.' Mr. Bellamy virtually maintains this; for if regeneration be the communication of spiritual and eternal life, and if this be previous to faith, then a man may live and die and enjoy eternal life without faith. But, according to Mr. Bellamy's idea, regeneration is one of the most unaccountable things in the world. It is an effect produced without any cause. But we are assured, from the New Testament, that the Word of God is the means of regeneration--not a means which man uses in order to salvation, but a means which God uses. 'Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.' James i. 18. 'Being born again not of corruptible seed,' but by 'incorruptible' seed, by 'the Word of God.' 1 Peter i. 23. 'Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him.' 1 John iii. 9. 2 John 2: 'For the truth's sake which abideth in us.' From these Scriptures we learn, in this figurative style, that God begets us of his own will--with incorruptible seed, the word of truth, and the effect is a new creature. One question determines this point. Is it the Word of God, believed or disbelieved, that regenerates us? If disbelieved, all unbelievers are regenerate; if believed, then Mr. Bellamy's scheme falls to the ground. Mr. Bellamy lays a great stress on John i. 12, 13: 'Them that believe on his name which were born,' etc. He supposes that John is describing religion as he does, in order, which is first, second and third; but I apprehend that this passage is descriptive of character--not of the order of salvation."

"There were, indeed, some difficult questions connected with the subjects of conversion and faith, which he does not, at this period, seem to have considered, except in a very general way. One of these was: Why, if faith comes by the word of God, is it not produced in all who hear that word? Why is it that, when the gospel is preached, a few particular individuals only believe and obey it? And again, Why is it that it is proper to pray for the conversion of individuals or of the world at large, unless it be agreed that some special influence or interposition is to be expected in answer to prayer?

No one admitted the propriety of such petitions or offered them more sincerely than Mr. Campbell, and to deny that there was an influence of any kind to be expected and exerted in any case in aid of the gospel, would have involved a practical inconsistency. He did not, therefore, deny the importance or existence of such aid, but its nature he appears to have left undetermined in his mind, preferring to leave all such matters with God. He did not conceive [427] it to be the duty of an evangelist to preach a theory of conversion, but to "preach the Word," and to leave the event entirely with God. Of this he remained absolutely certain, that it was right and safe always to adhere closely to the Scriptures, and to teach and observe such things only as matters of faith and duty for which there could be produced a Divine warrant. It was therefore perfectly in harmony with his principles that, at his baptism, he refused to sanction, by relating an experience, any of the popular theories of faith, and that he determined to adhere closely to Scripture precedent and the admitted practice of the primitive Church, by making only the simple, but all-comprehending confession of the Messiahship of Jesus." [428]

May 28, 2008

Fuller on Conviction

Andrew Fuller on Preparation or Prevenient Grace
with thoughts on "conviction of sin."

"The apostles exhorted sinners to repent and believe the gospel, and to nothing short of it; making no account of their inability. If we follow their example, God may honour his own ordinances by accompanying them with his Holy Spirit; but as to any thing being done in concurrence with the endeavours of the unregenerate, we have no such idea held out to in the oracles of God.

It is God's ordinary method indeed prior to his bestowing that supernatural grace which enables a sinner to repent and believe the gospel, by various means to awaken him to reflection, and to serious consideration of his condition as a transgressor of divine law. Such convictions may last for a considerable time, and may issue in true conversion; but they may not: and so long as the gospel way of salvation is rejected, or neglected, in favour of some self-righteous scheme, there is nothing truly good in them. They are as the noise, and the shaking of the dry bones, but not the breath of life. They are the means by which God prepares the mind for a welcome reception of the gospel; but they contain no advance towards Christ on the part of the sinner. He is not nearer the kingdom of heaven, nor less in danger of the wrath to come, than when he was at ease in his sins. Nay, notwithstanding the outward reformation which such convictions ordianrily produce, he is not upon the whole a less sinner in the sight of God than he was before. On the contrary, "He who continues under all this light, and contrary to the plain dictates, and pressing painful convictions of his own conscience, obstinately to oppose and reject Jesus Christ; is, on the account of this his impenitence and obstinacy under this clear light and conviction of conscience, (whatever alteration or reformation has taken place in him in other respects) more guilty, vile, and odious in God's sight than he was before."

For a minister to withold the invitations of the gospel till he perceives the sinner sufficiently, as he thinks, convinced of sin, and then to bring them forward as something to which he is entitled, holding up his convictions and distress of mind as signs of grace, and persuading him on this ground to think himself one of God's elect, and warranted to believe in Christ, is doing worse than nothing. The comfort which the apostles presented to awakened sinners consisted purely in the exhibition of Christ, and the invitations to believe in him. Neither the company addressed by Peter, nor the Philippian jailor were encouraged from any thing in the state of their own minds, though each were deeply impressed; but from the gospel only. The preachers might and would take encouragement on perceiving them to be pricked in their hearts, and might hope for a good issue; but is had been at their peril to encourage them to hope for mercy any otherwise than as believing in the Son of God.

The hyper-calvinists, who set aside the invitations of the gospel to the unregenerate, abound in these things. They are aware that the scriptures do invite sinners of some sort to believe in Christ; but then they conceive them to be sensible sinners only. It is thus that the terms hunger, thirst, labour, heavy-laden, etc., as used in the scripture invitations are considered as denoting spiritual desire, and as marking out the persons who are entitled to come to Christ. That gospel invitations should be addressed to sinners as the subjects of those wants and desires which it is adapted to satisfy, such as the thirst for happiness, peace, rest, ect., is no more than might be expected. It had been strange if living waters had been presented to them who in no sense were thirsty, or rest to them who were in no sense weary and heavy-laden: but it does not follow that this thirst and this weariness is spiritual. On the contrary, they who are invited to buy and eat without money and without price, are supposed to be "spending their money for that which is not bread;" are admonished as "wicked" men to forsake their way; and invited to return to the Lord under a promise of abundant pardon, on their so returning. The "heavy-laden" also are supposed as yet not have come to Christ, nor taken his yoke, nor learned his spirit; and surely it could not be the design of Christ to persuade them to think well of their state, seeing he constantly teaches that till a sinner come to him, or believe in him, he is under the curse. It is also observable that the promise of rest is not made to them as heavy-laden, but as coming to Christ with their burdens. There is no proof that all who were "pricked in their hearts" under Peter's sermon, and who enquired "what shall we do?" believed and were saved. On the contrary, it seems to be intimated that only a part of them "gladly received the word, and were baptized." Had they all done so, it would probably have been said, then they gladly received his word, and are baptized. Instead of this it is said, "then they that gladly received his word were baptized, etc., implying that there were some who though pricked in their hearts, yet received not the word of the gospel; and were not baptized, and who might leave the place under the impression that the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus Christ was a hard saying. There are many it is to be feared who at this day feel guilt to be a heavy burden, and yet never bring it to Christ; but lay it down on some self-righteous resting place, and so perish for ever.

It does not follow, however, that all convictions of sin are to be resolved into the operations of an awakened conscience. There is such a thing as a conviction of the evil nature of sin, and that by a view of the spirituality and equity of the divine law. It was by the commandment that Paul perceived sin to be exceeding sinful. Such a conviction of sin cannot consist with a rejection of the gospel way of salvation, but, as soon as it is understood, instantly leads the sinner to embrace it. It is thus that through the law, we become dead to the law, that we may live unto God.

I may add, the attention of christians appears to have been too much drawn towards what may be called subjective religion to the neglect of that thwich is objective. Many speak and write as though the truth of the gospel was a subject out of doubt, and as though the only question of importance was whether they be interested in its blessings; and there are not a few who have no doubt of their believing the former, but many doubts respecting the latter. Hence, it is probably the essence of faith came to be placed, not in a belief of the gospel, but in a persuasiong of our being interested in its benefits. If however we really believe the one, there is no scriptural ground to doubt of the other, since it is constantly declared that he who believeth the gospel shall be saved.

If the attention of the awakened sinner, instead of being directed to Christ, be turned inward, and his mind be employed in searching for evidences of his conversion, the effect must, to say the least, be uncomfortable, and may be fatal, as it may lead him to make a righteousness of his religious feelings, instead of looking out of himself to the Saviour.

Nor is this all: --If the attention of christians be turned to their feelings instead of the things which should make them feel, it will reduce their religion to something vastly different from that of the primitive christians. Such truths as the following were the life of their spirits. "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners--Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and was buried and rose again the third day according to the scriptures.--Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel--we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the son of God," etc. But by a turn of thought, and strain of conversation in many religious connexions of the present day, it would seem as if these things had lost their influence. They are become "dry doctrines," and the parties must have something else. The elevation and depression of their hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, is with them the favourite theme. The consequence is, as might be expected, a living to themselves rather than to him that died and rose again; and a mind either elated by unscriptural enjoyment, or depressed by miserable despondency. It is not by thinking and talking of the sensations of hunger, but by feeding on the living aliment, that we are filled and strengthened."

(From the introduction of "Strictures of Sandemanianism.")

(highlighting in red are Dr. Fuller's emphasis),M1

Piper on Arrogant Calvinists

"I love the doctrines of grace with all my heart, and I think they are pride-shattering, humbling, and love-producing doctrines. But I think there is an attractiveness about them to some people, in large matter, because of their intellectual rigor. They are powerfully coherent doctrines, and certain kinds of minds are drawn to that. And those kinds of minds tend to be argumentative. So the intellectual appeal of the system of Calvinism draws a certain kind of intellectual person, and that type of person doesn't tend to be the most warm, fuzzy, and tender. Therefore this type of person has a greater danger of being hostile, gruff, abrupt, insensitive or intellectualistic. I'll just confess that. It's a sad and terrible thing that that's the case. Some of this type aren't even Christians, I think. You can embrace a system of theology and not even be born again." (John Piper, Desiring God Ministries)

"The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong." (Psalm 5: 5 NIV)

God help us all to have grace in our speech!

"Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man." (Colossians 4: 6 KJV)

May 27, 2008

Carroll as Succinct as Boyce

B. H. Carroll

"...regeneration cannot be complete without faith."

[An Interpretation of the English Bible, Volume 10, pages 293, 294].

J. P. Boyce, in writing upon "Regeneration" and "Conversion," says:

"From the Scriptural teaching we see that the whole work of Regeneration and Conversion is included under the one term regeneration."

Let not the "regenerated before faith" people continue to claim Carroll and Boyce as believing what they believe about "regeneration."

New Birth = Ability to Believe?

"Without faith it is impossible to please God." (Hebrews 11: 6)

"Whatever is not of faith is sin." (Romans 14: 23)


Those who teach that "regeneration" is nothing more than the giving of spiritual "ability" say that God MUST first give this "ability," must first "regenerate," BEFORE one can have faith or repent, have a serious "paradigm problem."

By this definition of things a person is "enabled" to do spiritual things before he has faith. Thus, faith is no part of this "enabling" or this "ability." Thus, a "regenerated" man has the potential for faith, though not faith itself. By this definition of things a man CAN "please God" by "regeneration" alone and need not have faith. Yet, the scriptures are clear that "whatever is not of faith is sin."

Is regeneneration that which is "of faith"?

When men talk of God "giving the ability to believe," be they Wesleyans who promote what is called "prevenient grace," or "Hyper Reformed Calvinists" who promote a hybrid view on "regeneration," they are failing to see faith as that very ability. To say "God gives ability in order to have faith" is like saying "God gives ability in order to have ability" or "God gives faith in order to have faith."

Friends, the bible teaches that God gives power and ability WHEN he gives faith.

Faith = spiritual ability.

Now, is that not really simple? Why do men come up with their "ordo polutis" as brother Bob Ross calls this nonsense?

Spurgeon's Conversion

Spurgeon’s Autobiography

“He had not much to say, thank God, for that compelled him to keep on repeating his text, and there was nothing needed—by me, at any rate except his text. Then, stopping, he pointed to where I was sitting under the gallery, and he said, ‘That young man there looks very miserable’ … and he shouted, as I think only a Primitive Methodist can, ‘Look! Look, young man! Look now!’ … Then I had this vision—not a vision to my eyes, but to my heart. I saw what a Savior Christ was.… Now I can never tell you how it was, but I no sooner saw whom I was to believe than I also understood what it was to believe, and I did believe in one moment.

"I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair now, had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm one Sunday morning, when I was going to a place of worship. When I could go no further, I turned down a court and came to a little Primitive Methodist Chapel. In that chapel there might be a dozen or fifteen people. The minister did not come that morning: snowed up, I suppose. A poor man, a shoemaker, a tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had nothing else to say. The text was, 'Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.' He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter.

"There was, I thought, a glimpse of hope for me in the text. He began thus: 'My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says, "Look." Now that does not take a deal of effort. It ain't lifting your foot or your finger; it is just "look." Well, a man need not go to college to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man need not be worth a thousand a year to look. Anyone can look; a child can look. But this is what the text says. Then it says, "Look unto Me." 'Ay,' said he, in broad Essex, 'many of ye are looking to yourselves. No use looking there. You'll never find comfort in yourselves.' Then the good man followed up his text in this way: 'Look unto Me: I am sweating great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hanging on the Cross. Look: I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend; I am sitting at the Father's right hand. O, look to Me! Look to Me!' When he had got about that length, and managed to spin out ten minutes, he was at the length of his tether.

"Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I daresay, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger. He then said, 'Young man, you look very miserable.' Well, I did; but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made on my personal appearance from the pulpit before. However, it was a good blow struck. He continued: 'And you will always be miserable — miserable in life and miserable in death — if you do not obey my text. But if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.'

"Then he shouted, as only a Primitive Methodist can, 'Young man, look to Jesus Christ.' There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that moment and sung with the most enthusiastic of them of the Precious Blood of Christ."

"I WILL tell you how I myself was brought to the knowledge of the truth. It may happen the telling of that will bring some one else to Christ. It pleased God in my childhood to convince me of sin. I lived a miserable creature, finding no hope, no comfort, thinking that surely God would never save me. At last the worst came to the worst-- I was miserable; I could do scarcely anything. My heart was broken in pieces. Six months did I pray-- prayed agonizingly with all my heart, and never had an answer. I resolved that, in the town where I lived, I would visit every place of worship in order to find out the way of salvation. I felt I was willing to do anything and be anything if God would only forgive me.

I set off, determined to go round to all the chapels, and I went to all the places of worship; and though I dearly venerate the men that occupy those pulpits now, and did so then, I am bound to say that I never heard them once fully preach the gospel. I mean by that, they preached truth, great truths, many good truths that were fitting to many of their congregation-- spiritually-minded people; but what I wanted to know was, How can I get my sins forgiven? And they never once told me that. I wanted to hear how a poor sinner, under a sense of sin, might find peace with God; and when I went I heard a sermon on 'Be not deceived: God is not mocked,' which cut me up worse, but did not say how I might escape.

I went again another day, and the text was something about the glories of the righteous: nothing for poor me. I was something like a dog under the table, not allowed to eat of the children's food. I went time after time, and I can honestly say, I don't know that I ever went without prayer to God, and I am sure there was not a more attentive hearer in all the place than myself, for I panted and longed to understand how I might be saved.

At last, one snowy day-- it snowed so much, I could not go to the place I had determined to go to, and I was obliged to stop on the road, and it was a blessed stop to me-- I found rather an obscure street, and turned down a court, and there was a little chapel. I wanted to go someplace. It was the Primitive Methodists' chapel. I had heard of these people from many, and how they sang so loudly that they made people's heads ache; but that did not matter. I wanted to know how I might be saved, and if they made my head ache ever so much I did not care. So, sitting down, the service went on, but no minister came. At last a very thin-looking man came into the pulpit and opened his Bible and read these words: 'Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.' Just setting his eyes upon me, as if he knew me all by heart, he said:

'Young man, you are in trouble.'

Well, I was, sure enough.

Says he,

'You will never get out of it unless you look to Christ.'
'It is Only Look.'

And then, lifting up his hands, he cried out, as only, I think, a Primitive Methodist could do, 'Look, look, look! It is only look !' said he. I saw at once the way of salvation. Oh, how I did leap for joy at that moment! I know not what else he said: I did not take much notice of it-- I was so possessed with that one thought. Like as when the brazen serpent was lifted up, they only looked and were healed. I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard this word 'Look!' what a charming word it seemed to me. Oh, I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away! and in heaven I will look on still in my joy unutterable.I now think I am bound never to preach a sermon without preaching to sinners. I do think that a minister who can preach a sermon without addressing sinners does not know how to preach."

On Oct. 11, 1864, the pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle preached a sermon to five hundred hearers in the chapel at Colchester (in which he was converted), on the occasion of the anniversary in that place of worship. He took for his text the memorable words, Isaiah xlv. 22, "Look unto Me, and be ye saved," etc., and the preacher said, "That I heard preached from in this chapel when the Lord converted me." And pointing to a seat on the left hand, under the gallery, he said: "I was sitting in that pew when I was converted." This honest confession produced a thrilling effect upon the congregation, and very much endeared the successful pastor to many hearts.

Early in the month of January, 1856, Mr. Spurgeon preached a sermon to his own congregation on Sunday morning, which is entitled "Sovereignty and Salvation." In that sermon he says:

"Six years ago to-day, as near as possible at this very hour of the day, I was 'in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity,' but had yet, by divine grace, been led to feel the bitterness of that bondage, and to cry out by reason of the soreness of its slavery. Seeking rest and finding none, I stepped within the house of God, and sat there, afraid to look upward, lest I should be utterly cut off, and lest his fierce wrath should consume me. The minister rose in his pulpit, and, as I have done this morning, read this text: 'Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else.'" I looked that moment; the grace of faith was vouchsafed to me in that instant; and

"'Ere since by faith I saw the stream

His flowing wounds supply

Redeeming love has been my theme,

And shall be till I die.'

I shall never forget that day while memory holds its place; nor can I help repeating this text whenever I remember that hour when first I knew the Lord. How strangely gracious! How wonderfully and marvellously kind, that he who heard these words so little time ago, for his own soul's profit, should now address you this morning as his hearers from the same text, in the full and confident hope that some poor sinner within these walls may hear the glad tidings of salvation for himself also, and may to-day be 'turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God!'"

May 26, 2008

Regeneration or Prevenient Grace?

I do not see much difference in the way men like John Wesley and Adrian Rogers defined "prevenient grace" and the way men like James White and Tom Ascol (and other "regeneration before faith" advocates) define "regeneration."

Both systems believe that the purpose of each, either "prevenient grace" or "regeneration," is to give the sinner an "ability" to comply with the commands and invitations of the gospel. This "giving of ability" is in actuality the same thing, except that Wesley, Rogers, and even Spurgeon, would not view this giving of "enabling grace" as equal to "regeneration," as do the Hyperists, but viewed such as "preparatory" to it, at least in adult cases.

In both cases the sinner is not converted, nor a believer, when given "prevenient grace" or when "regenerated." In both cases faith, repentance, and conversion are only made possible.

At least in the "prevenient grace" paradigm there is a proper scriptural definition of what it means to be "regenerated" or "born again" or "converted." In the "prevenient grace" system conversion is not divorced from regeneration.

Consider also this additional "paradigm problem" for the Hybrid "reformed" view on regeneration and conversion.

"In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise." (Ephesians 1: 13 KJV)

Consider the problem for the "reformed" and Hardshell view. If this "sealing" is not regeneration, then what is it? Can a man be regenerated without being sealed at the same time? If it is a synonym for regeneration or the new birth, then does it not come after hearing the gospel and believing it?

Paradigm Problems

I have challenged all who believe that conviction of sin follows regeneration, both Hardshell and Reformed Hyperists, to answer the difficulty that such a view puts them in. If the Holy Spirit convicts and convinces a man that he is lost and guilty, when he is really already "regenerated" and "justified," then the Holy Spirit convinces the man of an untruth, of a lie. I have not had one Hyperist to come forward and deal with this. I cited Hardshell Elder Sarrels where he tried to deal with the problem.

Secondly, take the problem that Hyperists, like Frank at Teampyro, have from saying things like - "the dead can't hear." Again, does he mean that the dead cannot hear the voice of the Son of God? Again, as I have said in my rebuttals against Hardshellism, such statements make it impossible for even God to speak to the dead, or they make God into a fool for attempting to speak to the dead! Frank says the "dead can't hear"! If that is true, how did he ever come to life? In fact, he takes the concept of "hearing" out of the equation. If the "dead can't hear," then the dead will never be raised! Or, is Frank saying that the dead can't hear preaching until it first hears Jesus voice in a sub-conscious "regeneration," as the Hardshells say?

What will Frank do with verses that teach "repentance unto life"? What will he do with verses that say "repent and live"? Did Mike not try to explain the "life" in the Ezekiel passage as meaning anything other than "regeneration"? The Hardshells are reluctant to do the same. Also, I predict, that if our discussion with Teampyro were to continue, that they would do with all these verses as the Hardshells do. If any verse puts life or salvation after faith and repentance, then it cannot mean regeneration!

That is not exogesus but eisogesus!

What about "forgiveness of sins"? Do the scriptures put it before or after faith and repentance? Can a man be "regenerated" and not "forgiven"? If regeneration and forgiveness occur simultaneously, then Frank and the Hybrids must deal with that "paradigm problem" also.

More From Teampyro

Frank Turk at Pyromaniacs left this comment.


Stephen --

"So you wandered over here with the thought that nobody was going to object to your, um, interpretation of what Spurgeon was saying here? In spite of your previous interactions with Dan here at TeamPyro? Yeah, that is very convincing. If I can point you to resources in which Spurgeon talks about the ordo salutis, and he says something different than you have said here, will you admit you are wrong? And will you in some way demonstrate how asking you if you will admit you are wrong is, as you say, "left the impression that we would just soon you did not return"?"

First of all, for Frank to begin his comments with a "yawn" reflects just the kind of attitude I have been talking about. That really makes one feel welcome, hey?

Secondly, Frank just shows his ignorance of Spurgeon when he says that Spurgeon did not believe that he was regenerated in that Methodist Chapel when he looked by faith to Calvary. Frank has not shown any proof that Spurgeon ever believed otherwise. Besides, Spurgeon often referred to this experience in many sermons and if Frank is ignorant of that, then, as Paul said "let him be ignorant." (I Corinthians 14: 38)

No, Frank, the reason why I did not feel welcome is because of the impugning of motives, the accusing me of having an "axe to grind," and just wanting to fuss. But, I submit my simple comment to all unbiased minds. If anyone can see, from that simple observation I made of what Spurgeon said about his "change" that day in the Chapel, that I was trying to pick a fight, then he sees illusions. Again, I will submit it to the candid judgment of the Christian world, Arminian or Calvinist.

Frank asks me to make some kind of "concession" if he gives me an ordo salutis from Spurgeon that contradicts what I have said. Well, the previous posting showed that Spurgeon was not reluctant to put life after faith and repentance AS WELL AS BEFORE IT. As I have said, Spurgeon believed they were simultaneous, and he did not separate regeneration from conversion. So, you would only be showing how Spurgeon, like myself, was willing to express it both ways, not one way only.

Frank wants to say that I made the comment I did knowing that it would provoke the response it did. Wrong! I had no idea that Frank would deny that Spurgeon believed that his looking was his being regenerated. But, he did!

Only a Hyper Calvinist would have reacted to that comment the way Frank and teampyro have.

Frank, do you deny that Spurgeon put life after faith and repentance? Do you deny that the verses he cited (and others also in the bible) teach that life comes after faith and repentance? Come on, "shell down the corn" and tell us that Spurgeon did not ever put life after faith and repentance!

Not Welcomed at Pyromaniacs?

It is ironic that after posting what I did about comments and readers, and Calvinist blog cliques and antics, etc., that I visited Pyromaniacs blog and made a comment in regard to their "weekly dose of Spurgeon," which comment "disturbed" one at that web site and got a "leave us alone" type of response from others. I was given the impression that I was not welcome at Pyromaniacs. For the record, I think I have not posted over a half dozen comments at that blog since I began reading it a couple years ago. But, a hint to the wise is sufficient and so I do not intend to leave comments on their site. They show that all they want is readers who will "amen" everything they say and not question anything.

So, let me first cite the first part of the writing of Spurgeon and my initial comment upon it.

Wrote Spurgeon:

"I had not long been in the house, that morning when I found the Savior, before one who had been anxious about me, said, "There is a change come over my son;" and a delicate question was put, which soon drew out of me the confession that I had looked to Christ, and that I was lightened.

Why, they could all see in my face the evidence of the change that had been wrought; there was all the difference between bondage and liberty, or between despair and delight; and it was because I had been with Christ that I had, in a moment, leaped out of nature's darkness into his marvellous light."

Now, here is the simple comment I made, one that "disturbed" the Mike, Dan, Frank, and "team pyro."

"Spurgeon knew when he was regenerated and born again. He knew it took place simultaneous with his coming to faith. He was saved by a simple look of faith, what some call "easy believism.""

God bless


Mike Riccardi said:


"There's nothing in that blurb about Spurgeon saying he knew when he was regenerated. He says he knew when he "looked to faith," but regeneration only comes in because you put it there. Also, you're hung up on temporal order when you should be worrying about logical order. I don't think there are periods of time where one is regenerated before coming to faith. But logically, one is given eyes to see, and then one sees. He does not see, and by virtue of his seeing gain his sight. One is made alive, and then responds. He does not respond, and then by virtue of his response gain his ability to respond. One is born, and then believes. He does not believe, and gain his ability to be born.And frankly, I'm a little disturbed that that's what you pick out of this post.

Just a clarification, as I re-read something that I wrote and realized it could be easily misunderstood. I don't think there are periods of time where one is regenerated before coming to faith. What I mean is, I don't think one is regenerated, and then becomes Saddleback Sam, just waiting for someone to push him over the edge to faith. I don't think there are regenerated, unsaved people walking around. So I think regeneration and faith are temporally simultaneous, but regeneration logically precedes faith."

Dear Mike:

"I am sorry that it disturbs you for me to say what Spurgeon himself often said about this experience in the Methodist chapel. He saw this as his look of faith and the time when he was regenerated. That is all I said. So, why are you so disturbed? Do you deny that Spurgeon believed that it was scriptural to reverse the order and say to sinners "repent and live"? You seem to think that faith and repentance are never put before life in the scriptures, when obviously it does in many places. Do you believe the unsaved man has no eyes or that they are blind eyes that simply need to be healed and opened? Did not Lazarus hear the voice of Christ before he came forth? Whose coming forth was it? Was this coming forth not a response to the voice of Christ? We cannot exclude his actual coming forth, i.e. his response, from what it means to be regenerated or born again. Do you equate the terms regenerated and born again? When sinners are told to "repent and be converted," is conversion here regeneration or not?

"Do you believe infants are "regenerated" in infancy? If so, is it without faith, repentance, and conversion?"

"You seem to think I unjustly inserted the concept of regeneration into what Spurgoen said in the citation. When he spoke of the “change” that had been “wrought” in him, was he not referring to his regeneration? When he said - “I had looked to Christ, and that I was lightened,” was he not referring to his regeneration? When he spoke of the “difference between bondage and liberty” and “between despair and delight,” was he not talking about his regeneration? When he speaks of having “been with Christ” and “in a moment, leaped out of nature's darkness into his marvellous light,” was he not referring to his regeneration? How then did I err?


Mike wrote:

"what Spurgeon himself often said"

"Care to document this?

"Do you deny that Spurgeon believed that it was scriptural to reverse the order and say to sinners "repent and live"?"

"This is almost a technicality. I'm much more comfortable with "Repent and be saved." The only time "Repent and live" is used in the Bible it's in Ezekiel 18, in which "live" is used parallel to "be saved," as it's contrasted with the eternal death of the wicked. It's like saying, repent and don't die eternally. So, if Spurgeon means what you mean by "repent and live" (which, btw, it'd be nice for you to document as well), then I disagree. But he doesn't mean that. (You still have to show that he says that!) So he and I are cool."

"You seem to think that faith and repentance are never put before life in the scriptures, when obviously it does in many places."

"So many statements without evidence. Care to bring one up?"

"Do you believe the unsaved man has no eyes or that they are blind eyes that simply need to be healed and opened?"

"Depends on how you're using words. Does a man lying in a coffin at his funeral have eyes? I'd say so. They're still physically there. But it's foolish to say that all that's needed for him to see is that his eyes be healed and opened. He needs to be resurrected, or born again (regenerated) for his eyes to work."

"Do you equate the terms regenerated and born again?"

Yes. Generate: come into being, to be born. Re-: again.

"Did not Lazarus hear the voice of Christ before he came forth? Was this coming forth not a response to the voice of Christ?"

"Dead men don't hear. If he heard Christ's voice, it was after he was able to hear; i.e., after he had life. His coming forth was indeed a response, something that is the consequence of being able to hear."

"Whose coming forth was it?"

"It was Lazarus's. He was the one who actually got up and came out of the tomb. But he couldn't do that unless Jesus resurrected him."

"We cannot exclude his actual coming forth, i.e. his response, from what it means to be regenerated or born again."

"You're right, in the sense that one is the consequence of the other. You're wrong if you mean they're the same thing. He was resurrected, and then came forth. He was given life, and then started moving. Coming forth and moving is the evidence of resurrection and life, but is not life itself."

"Do you believe infants are "regenerated" in infancy? If so, is it without faith, repentance, and conversion?"

"I'm not sure where I stand on the issue of whether infants who die go to heaven or not. With where I'm at in my study, I tend to lean towards the notion that they don't, as a result of judgment of our total depravity. But, given David's announcement, I'm open to the idea that they do. If they do go to heaven, then I would say it's not apart from regeneration and faith. People say that babies have no capacity to repent and believe. But to think that adults are any different is also silly."

"As to your third consecutive post, you err simply by blurring the lines, and understanding things as temporal rather than logical. Anyway, you've effectively made this post about you and your issues with regeneration in faith, as you have done in other posts, by making statements and not supporting them. Without a change there, I won't be commenting further."

Frank Turk wrote:

Stephen Garrett:

"If I can point you to resources in which Spurgeon talks about the ordo salutis, and he says something different than you have said here, will you admit you are wrong?"

All other readers:

"Dan and I are in agreement that Stephen Garrett is simply trying to grind an axe here, and I'd appreciate it that, until I'm done 'splainin' to him his mistake, if you would withdraw or simply take a breather that would help immensely."

Thank you.

Now, before I cite Spurgeon, let me say that the reason why I did not cite him in the comments section was because 1) it is a comments section and should not be used for giving lengthy citations, and 2) I thought Mike would be familiar enough with Spurgeon for me not to have to give the citations. But, since he challenged me, I will give a sampling here in my blog, rather than leaving unwanted comments at the "gentlemen" at teampyro.

I would like to take time to respond more particularly to what these brethren have written, but forbear to do so at this time. For one reason, I have already addressed most of this in previous articles. Also, I was once a Hardshell Baptist. My father still is one. I know what is Hardshellism. These folks who are calling themselves "reformed Baptists" and who hold to the regeneration before faith idea are nothing in the world but Hardshells, or at least a twin.

Certainly my short comment did not deserve the kind of response I got from these brethren. Anyone who knows anything about Spurgeon knows that he believed that he went into that Methodist Chapel dead in sins and came out born again and that he was born again when he looked to Christ.

Anyway, Mike, Dan, Frank and teampyro, if you are reading, here is what Spurgeon said about life following faith and repentance.


"An equally remarkable thing is that the gospel calls upon men to do what they cannot do, for Jesus Christ said to this paralyzed man, “I say unto thee, Arise, take up thy bed and walk.” He could not rise, could not take up his bed, and could not walk, and yet he was bidden to do it. And it is one of the strange things of the way of salvation that --“The gospel bids the dead revive; Sinners obey the voice and live. Dry bones are raised and clothed afresh, And hearts of stone are turned to flesh.”

Listen to him as he makes solemn proclamation. “Thus saith the Lord, Ye dry bones live!” “Ridiculous, Ezekiel! they cannot live, why speak to them?” He knows they cannot live of themselves, but he also knows that his Master bids him tell them to live, and he does what his Master bids him. So, in the gospel, the minister is to bid men believe, and he is to say, “Repent ye, and believe the gospel.” For this reason alone do we say, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” The gospel bids you believe, albeit that you are dead in trespasses and sins. “I cannot understand it,” says somebody. No, and you never will till God reveals it to you; but, when the Lord comes and dwells with you, you will perfectly understand, and see how the exercise of faith on the part of the preacher of the gospel is a part of the divine operation by which dead souls are raised...The man, though he cannot take up his bed and walk, yet believes that he who told him to do it will give him power to do it, and he does take up his bed and walk: there is the whole of it in a nutshell. He believes, and acts on that belief; and he is restored. And that is the whole plan of salvation. You believe the gospel, and act upon the truth of it, and you are saved—saved the moment you accept the witness of God concerning his Son Jesus Christ.

[Excerpts from Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume 21, Year 1875, Sermon #1269, pages 703-706]

"If I am to preach faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate."

(Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Warrant of Faith, #531, page 532)

"You are to look to Jesus Christ upon the cross just as the poor serpent-bitten Israelites looked to the brazen serpent and lived. Your prayings will not do you a farthing’s worth of good if you refuse to trust Jesus Christ...It is depending upon the Lord Jesus Christ alone which is the true vital act by which the soul is quickened into spiritual life."

(MTP, Volume 12, Year 1866, page 163).

"But while I remark upon these things, let me also say that to obey the precept “Believe and live” is certainly a great deal more effectual to the soul’s salvation than all the sacrifice and all the fat of rams which you can offer...I would not give a penny for a wagon-load of them. The whole of them are just what Paul calls them --”refuse.” He says, “I count them but dung that I may win Christ, and be found in him.” All your best works are but so much rubbish to be carted out of the way, and if you trust in them they will be your ruin, and all we say to you is, “BELIEVE AND LIVE.”

“Believe and live,” oh! that is too simple! What! just trust Christ and be saved on the spot? Why, it cannot be, you think. If we bade you do some great thing you would do it, but you refuse to do so simple a thing as to believe.

(MTP, Volume 12, Year 1866, pages 224, 225, 226).

By "Repentance unto life," I think we are to understand that repentance which is accompanied by spiritual life in the soul, and ensures eternal life to every one who possesses it. "Repentance unto life," I say, brings with it spiritual life, or rather, is the first consequent thereof. There are repentances which are not signs of life, except of natural life, because they are only effected by the power of the conscience and the voice of nature speaking in men; but the repentance here spoken of is produced by the Author of life, and when it comes, it begets such life in the soul, that he who was "dead in trespasses and sins," is quickened together with Christ; he who had no spiritual susceptibilities, now "receives with meekness the engrafted word;" he who slumbered in the very center of corruption, receives power to become one of the sons of God, and to be near his throne. This I think is "repentance unto life,"—that which gives life unto a dead spirit."

"Repentance unto life "is the act of salvation of the soul, the germ which contains all the essentials of salvation, which secures them to us, and prepares us for them."

"Then beloved, if you would have "repentance," this is my best advice to you—look to Jesus. And may the blessed Giver of all "repentance unto salvation" guard you from the false repentances which I have described, and give you that "repentance," which existeth unto life."

Repentance Unto Life - A Sermon (No. 44)