Mar 30, 2009

Owen - Regeneration is Salvation

The following citations from John Owen demonstrate that 1) He believed in regeneration by means of the gospel, and that 2) regeneration was not a separate experience from "salvation," and that 3) regeneration was not a separate experience from "conversion" and that 4) there was no "enabling" act or experience required prior to faith and that 5) to believe is the same as willing to believe, or choosing to believe.

Owens wrote:

"A deliverance, therefore, out of and from this condition is indispensably necessary to make us meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.

This deliverance must be and is by regeneration. The determination of our Saviour is positive, both in this and the necessity of it, before asserted: John iii.3, “Except a man be born again,” or from above, “he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Whatever sense the “kingdom of God” is taken in, either for that of grace here or of glory hereafter, it is all the same as unto our present purpose. There is no interest in it to be obtained, no participation of the benefits of it, unless a man be born again, unless he be regenerate. And this determination of our Saviour, as it is absolute and decretory, so it is applicable unto and equally compriseth every individual of mankind. And the work intended by their regeneration, or in being born again, which is the spiritual conversion and quickening of the souls of men, is everywhere ascribed unto them that shall be saved. And although men may have, through their ignorance and prejudices, false apprehensions about regeneration and the nature of it, or wherein it doth consist, yet, so far as I know, all Christians are agreed that it is the way and means of our deliverance from the state of sin or corrupted nature, or rather our deliverance itself; for this both express testimonies of Scripture and the nature of the thing itself put beyond contradiction, Tit. iii. 3-5."

"I shall, therefore, in general, refer the whole work of the Spirit of God with respect unto the regeneration of sinners unto two heads:— First, That which is preparatory for it; and, secondly, That which is effective of it. That which is preparatory for it is the conviction of sin; this is the work of the Holy Spirit, John xvi. 8. And this also may be distinctly referred unto three heads:— 1. A discovery of the true nature of sin by the ministry of the law, Rom. vii. 7. 2. An application of that discovery made in the mind or understanding unto the conscience of the sinner. 3. The excitation of affections suitable unto that discovery and application, Acts ii. 37. But these things, so far as they belong unto our present design, have been before insisted on. Our principal inquiry at present is after the work itself, or the nature and manner of the working of the Spirit of God in and on the souls of men in their regeneration; and this must be both negatively and positively declared:— FIRST, The work of the Spirit of God in the regeneration of sinners, or the quickening of them who are dead in trespasses and sins, or in their first saving conversion to God, doth not consist in a moral suasion only. By suasion we intend such a persuasion as may or may not be effectual; so absolutely we call that only persuasion whereby a man is actually persuaded.

As to the nature of this moral suasion, two things may be considered:— (1.) The means, instrument, and matter of it, and this is the word of God; the word of God, or the Scripture, in the doctrinal instructions, precepts, promises, and threatenings of it. This is that, and this is that alone, whereby we are commanded, pressed, persuaded, to turn ourselves and live to God. And herein we comprise the whole, both the law and the gospel, with all the divine truths contained in them, as severally respecting the especial ends where-unto they are designed; for although they are distinctly and peculiarly suited to produce distinct effects on the minds of men, yet they all jointly tend unto the general end of guiding men how to live unto God, and to obtain the enjoyment of him.

The principal way of the application of this means to produce its effect on the souls of men is the ministry of the church. God hath appointed the ministry for the application of the word unto the minds and consciences of men for their instruction and conversion. And concerning this we may observe two things:— [1.] That the word of God, thus dispensed by the ministry of the church, is the only ordinary outward means which the Holy Ghost maketh use of in the regeneration of the adult unto whom it is preached. [2.] That it is every way sufficient in its own kind,—that is, as an outward means; for the revelation which is made of God and his mind thereby is sufficient to teach men all that is needful for them to believe and do that they may be converted unto God, and yield him the obedience that he requires. Hence two things do ensue:— 1st. That the use of those means unto men in the state of sin, if they are not complied withal, is sufficient, on the grounds before laid down, to leave them by whom they are rejected inexcusable: so Isa. v. 3-5; Prov. xxix. 1; 2 Chron. xxxvi. 14-16.

2d. That the effect of regeneration or conversion unto God is assigned unto the preaching of the word, because of its efficacy there-unto in its own kind and way, as the outward means thereof, 1 Cor. iv. 15; James i. 18; 1 Pet. i. 23."

"We may consider what is the nature and wherein the efficacy of this moral work doth consist. To which purpose we may observe,— (1.) That in the use of this means for the conversion of men, there is, preparatory unto that wherein this moral persuasion doth consist, an instruction of the mind in the knowledge of the will of God and its duty towards him. The first regard unto men in the dispensation of the word unto them is their darkness and ignorance, whereby they are alienated from the life of God. This, therefore, is the first end of divine revelation,—namely, to make known the counsel and will of God unto us: see Matt. iv. 15, 16; Luke iv. 18, 19; Acts xxvi. 16-18, xx. 20, 21, 26, 27. By the preaching of the law and the gospel, men are instructed in the whole counsel of God and what he requires of them; and in their apprehension hereof doth the illumination of their minds consist, whereof we must treat distinctly afterward. Without a supposition of this illumination there is no use of the persuasive power of the word; for it consists in affecting the mind with its concernment in the things that it knows, or wherein it is instructed. Wherefore we suppose in this case that a man is taught by the word both the necessity of regeneration, and what is required of himself thereunto."

"But in these motives, reasons, and arguments, whereby men are, in and from the word and the ministry of it, urged and pressed unto conversion to God, doth this moral persuasion whereof we speak consist. And the efficacy of it unto the end proposed ariseth from the things ensuing, which are all resolved into God himself:— [1.] From an evidence of the truth of the things from whence these motives and arguments were taken. The foundation of all the efficacy of the dispensation of the gospel lies in an evidence that the things proposed in it are not “ cunningly-devised fables,” 2 Pet. i. 16. Where this is not admitted, where it is not firmly assented unto, there can be no persuasive efficacy in it; but where there is, namely, a prevalent persuasion of the truth of the things proposed, there the mind is under a disposition unto the things whereunto it is persuaded.

The institution of God. He hath appointed the preaching of the word to be the means, the only outward ordinary means, for the conversion of the souls of men, I Cor. i. 17-20; Mark xvi. 15, 16; Rom. i. 16. And the power or efficacy of any thing that is used unto an end in spiritual matters depends solely on its divine appointment unto that end.

That the Holy Spirit doth make use of it in the regeneration or conversion of all that are adult, and that either immediately in and by the preaching of it, or by some other application of light and truth unto the mind derived from the word; for by the reasons, motives, and persuasive arguments which the word affords are our minds affected, and our souls wrought upon in our conversion unto God, whence it becomes our reasonable obedience. And there are none ordinarily converted, but they are able to give some account by what considerations they were prevailed on thereunto."

"First, The work of conversion itself, and in especial the act of believing, or faith itself, is expressly said to be of God, to be wrought in us by him, to be given unto us from him. The Scripture says not that God gives us ability or power to believe only,—namely, such a power as we may make use of if we will, or do otherwise; but faith, repentance, and conversion themselves are said to be the work and effect of God. Indeed, there is nothing mentioned in the Scriptures concerning the communicating of power, remote or next unto the mind of man, to enable him to believe antecedently unto actual believing. A “remote power,” if it may be so called, in the capacities of the faculties of the soul, the reason of the mind, and liberty of the will, we have given an account concerning; but for that which some call a “next power,” or an ability to believe in order of nature antecedent unto believing itself, wrought in us by the grace of God, the Scripture is silent. The apostle Paul saith of himself, panta iscuw en tw endunamounti me christw Phil. iv. 13,—“I can do all things,” or prevail in all things, “through Christ who enableth me;” where a power or ability seems to be spoken of antecedent unto acting: but this is not a power for the, first act of faith, but a power in them that believe. Such a power I acknowledge, which is acted in the co-operation of the Spirit and grace of Christ with the grace which believers have received, unto the performance of all acts of holy obedience; whereof I must treat elsewhere. Believers have a stock of habitual grace; which may be called indwelling grace in the same sense wherein original corruption is called indwelling sin. And this grace, as it is necessary unto every act of spiritual obedience, so of itself, without the renewed co-working of the Spirit of Christ, it is not able or sufficient to produce any spiritual act. This working of Christ upon and with the grace we have received is called enabling of us; but with persons unregenerate, and as to the first act of faith, it is not so."

"But it will be objected, “That every thing which is actually accomplished was in potentia before; there must, therefore, be in us a power to believe before we do so actually.” Ans. The act of God working faith in us is a creating act: “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus,” Eph. ii. 10; and he that is in Christ Jesus “is a new creature,” 2 Cor. v. 17. Now, the effects of creating acts are not in potentia anywhere but in the active power of God; so was the world itself before its actual existence. This is termed potentia logica, which is no more but a negation of any contradiction to existence; not potentia physica, which includes a disposition unto actual existence. Notwithstanding, therefore, all these preparatory works of the Spirit of God which we allow in this matter, there is not by them wrought in the minds and wills of men such a next power, as they call it, as should enable them to believe without farther actual grace working faith itself. Wherefore, with respect to believing, the first act of God is to work in us “to will:” Phil. ii. 13, “He worketh in us to will.” Now, to will to believe is to believe. This God works in us by that grace which Austin and the schoolmen call gratia operans, because it worketh in us without us, the will being merely moved and passive therein. That there is a power or faculty of believing given unto all men unto whom the gospel is preached, or who are called by the outward dispensation of it, some do pretend; and that “because those unto whom the word is so preached, if they do not actually believe, shall perish eternally, as is positively declared in the gospel, Mark xvi. 16; but this they could not justly do if they had not received a power or faculty of believing.”

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