Mar 31, 2009

Spurgeon & Ordo Salutis

An old book, "A handbook of revealed theology," published in 1861 by John Stock, had a chapter on the "new birth," and was a book recommended by Spurgeon. Before I cite from that chapter, let me first cite from the words of Spurgeon. He wrote:

"With these ideas in my mind I longed for the reproduction of the Puritan divines, and the extensive circulation of a cheap text-book of the old theology. My first desire I have at length seen fully realized by the wonderful enterprise of my excellent friend, Mr. Nichol. May his work of reprinting the old divines at the lowest price be carried on to a fair conclusion, and crowned with the divine blessing. The second I rejoice to see accomplished in the present Handbook by my respected brother, Mr. Stock. He undertook the labour at my earnest request; he has favoured me with a perusal of the sheets as they appeared, and I am only too happy to prefix my commendation. I have suggested no alteration, although my friend's kindness allowed me that liberty, because I had rather he should be the author and compiler of the entire work, bearing the sole responsibility of its statements. We might have differed about words and phrases, and have wasted time without effecting improvements; and even had I been right in any proposed emendations, my peculiar modes of speech would have betrayed the hand of Joab in the matter, and have led the reader to think of the author and corrector, rather than of the doctrine and the scriptural proof. I do not endorse every sentence in the book; nay, in the Part on "the Constitution and Discipline of Christian Churches " I might have desired several alterations; but as a whole the book has my cordial approval, which I have shown in the most practical manner by purchasing five hundred copies for the use of the young men in the Theological Institute at the Tabernacle.

Go forth, thou unpretending teacher of the gospel of the grace of God, and may the Spirit of the Lord go with thee!"

Chapter 8 - "The New Birth"

Stock writes:

"It is unprofitable to dispute as to which mental faculty is the first to feel the converting influence, whether the intellect or the affections. Into the metaphysics of regeneration we decline to enter. It is enough to know that the Divine Spirit operates upon the whole mental and moral man. Besides, though we speak of the faculties of the soul, we must not forget that the soul itself is one. It is a simple, indivisible spirit. It is not, like the body, compounded of various elements, and possessed of va1ious members. Hence the regeneration of the soul involves the regeneration of all its powers—of the whole soul."

"In these and in other parallel passages, regeneration is ascribed to the truth which the Holy Spirit leads us to receive. It is in connection with the hearing, reading, or remembering of the Word of God, or of the general truths which it makes known, that the Holy Ghost puts forth His power. It is to induce us to receive this truth that the Divine Spirit is imparted. Hence it is that "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." The word is the occasion of the new birth. The Holy Spirit works by the truth. The Word of God is His sword (Ephes. vi. 17). It is the fire with which He burns up our dross, and the hammer with which He breaks our rocky hearts in pieces (Jer. xxiii. 29)."

"The great difficulty in this doctrine, however, yet remains; we mean the question whether regeneration precedes faith in the Saviour, or faith in the Saviour precedes regeneration, or whether the two are simultaneous —Two things are clear.

First—That the reception of Christ by the sinner is ascribed to a divine influence. Hence faith is styled "the gift of God" (Ephes. ii. 8), and "a fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. v. 22); "the heart is opened" to receive Christ (Acts xvi. 14); "flesh and blood do not reveal Jesus to the soul, but our Father who is in heaven" (Matt. xvi. 17 ); "God reveals these things unto babes" (Matt. xi. 25); "They are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. ii. 14). But another truth is as clearly asserted in Holy Scripture, viz. :

Secondly—That until a man has received the Saviour he has no life in him. Thus our Lord testified, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man, ye have no life in you" (John vi. 53). Until a man by faith receives the sacrifice of Christ, he has no life, not even its first elements, in his soul. There are several other passages which are in the same strain. "To as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God" (John i. 12). "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal. iii. 26). "If a man eat of this bread he shall live for ever" (John vi. 51). "He that eateth Me shall live by Me" (John vi. 57). Thus Christ is emphatically our life, while without faith in Him we have no life.

Here, then, is the difficulty; if men receive a divine influence in order to believe in Christ, are they not made alive to God by this influence, and are they not consequently regenerated before receiving Christ into the soul? But if they are regenerated before believing in the Saviour, and if they were to die in this state, they would assuredly go to heaven (tor no regenerate soul can be lost), and would thus obtain eternal life without having believed in Christ, which is contrary to one of the first principles of revelation. Our Lord emphatically says that, except we eat His flesh and drink His blood, we have No life in us.

Besides, regeneration is the implantation of a holy life, and no man can become holy until he has believed in Jesus. "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb. xi.6). No action can be holy until it is performed under the influence of love to Jehovah; and no sinner can be brought to love the whole character of God, until he has learned to look upon that character as it is revealed in the death of Jesus. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them" (2 Cor. v. 19). Hence, as no man can love God without faith in Jesus, no man can be holy without faith in Jesus, for love to God is the essential principle of holiness. As, then, without faith in the Saviour, we cannot be holy and cannot please God, it is manifest that without faith we cannot be regenerated.

The explanation of this grave difficulty we apprehend to be simply this : The influence by which men are awakened and convinced, and made to see their need of Jesus, is only preliminary to regeneration.—We are not regenerated or made holy until we are reconciled to God by the death of His Son. Then we receive Christ, "who is our life." To those who receive Christ He gives the privilege of becoming instantly the sons of God (John i. 12). We are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus (Gal. iii. 26). Faith purifies the heart (Acts xv. 9), overcomes the world (1 John v. 4), and works by love (Gal. v. 6). "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God" (1 John v. 1). The preparatory influence, though not regeneration, is absolutely necessary to its production.

Many are awakened by natural conscience who are never converted, and the only decisive evidence that our convictions are of God, is their leading us to a hearty reception of the gospel plan of redemption. Out of Christ there is no salvation (Acts iv. 12); but if men are regenerated who have never been to Christ, they are in a state of salvation without faith in that precious name. The influence by which we are regenerated is the sovereign grace of the Holy Ghost; but the influence by which we are regenerated is one thing, regeneration itself is another. It is confounding the efficacious cause with the blessed result that has created the difficulty now under consideration. All the elect shall infallibly receive this life, and the influences necessary to its production. None of them shall die in a state of nature, or even in one of mere conviction, but all shall be brought to Christ by faith, shall live in Him (Gal . ii. 20), die in Him (Rev. xiv. 13), sleep in Him (1 Thess. iv. 14), rise in Him (1 Cor. xv. 49), and be for ever with Him (1 Thess. iv. 17). The sovereign influence may extend over a long period of awakening and conviction before it ends in regeneration; while in other cases it may lead the vessel of mercy gently to Christ, almost at the outset. The influences of the Spirit are not regeneration, but are simply the mighty power by which that stupendous work is wrought. In short, we are not regenerated until we believe; and we never believe until led to do so by the gracious and almighty influences of the Eternal Comforter, the glorifier of Christ in the hearts and consciences of men. Thus regeneration is, from beginning to end, the effect of the Spirit's power; though the change is wrought in us at the instant of closing in with the Messiah as the hope of Israel.

There is no evidence of the new birth in the mere dread of hell. The fear of punishment is an instinct of human nature. Many ungodly men are at times most terribly alarmed on account of the prospects lying before them. But, obviously, there is no moral excellence, and, consequently, no evidence of a renewed state of mind, in a mere conviction that the effects of our sins will be ruinous.

Many men who know this well enough persist in hugging the sins which are sinking them to hell. There is no proof of regeneration until we have learned to abhor and forsake sin at the foot of the cross. We must not confound a mere dread of the punishment of sin with the turning of the heart from sin itself. Conviction of sin, even when wrought by the power of the Spirit, is not to be confounded with the new birth, though all the people of God have to pass, more or less deeply, through this preparatory discipline. Some are much more powerfully agitated with these terrors than others, but all alike pass from death unto life, when through grace they believe in Jesus, "to the saving of the soul" (Heb. x- 39).

"We close this chapter with the confession that the regenerating grace of the Spirit is undoubtedly a great mystery. The fact of its existence we believe, but the mode of its operation we cannot explain. We receive it as a fact, upon the testimony of revelation and our own consciousness; but we confess our inability to unravel many questions arising out of its existence. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth : so is everyone that is born of the Spirit" (John iii. 8). The influence is real, positive, and direct, notwithstanding its mysteriousness. The unlettered rustic, who is in perfect ignorance of all the physiological phenomena of inspiration and expiration, knows, nevertheless, that he breathes, and that by breathing life is sustained."

See here

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