Apr 22, 2009

Pre-Faith Regeneration Refuted

The following are some insightful citations from "THE EVANGELICAL REPOSITORY" from JUNE, 1863, by a writer for the periodical, and is worth posting here in the Gadfly. For those who promote the view that regeneration precedes faith these citations are your invitation to come forward and challenge the scripturalness of what is stated in them.

The front page of the periodical reads as follows:

Principles of the Reformation,
as set forth in the


"Our Calvinistic opponents hold that the exertion of direct power is that which is distinctive in the Spirit's saving work; and that the influence through the truth is subsequent and secondary; while we hold that the exertion of power through means of the truth is that which is distinctive of his saving work; and that, so far as a direct influence, apart from the truth, is exerted, it is only secondary or auxiliary, and is therefore always kept subordinate to the legitimate influence of truth on man's moral nature. Since this is the distinctive point between us and them, it is fortunate that it is one in itself of considerable simplicity; and one, moreover, on which we may expect a definite decision from consciousness and scripture. If we ask consciousness, it ought to be able to tell us, whether a man ceases to be the enemy, and becomes the friend of God, or changes from being a hater to being an admirer of Divine things, suddenly without any truth presented, or any exercise of his mind; or whether such a change be traceable proximately to certain truths presented, which, through the mind's, attention and consideration, produced the new convictions, feelings, and disposition! If a man were to rise from his bed entirely changed from what he was the night before, and could give no account of it, as it had taken place without a moment's thought, or truth considered, or addition to his knowledge, that would be a circumstance sufficiently remarkable to ensure its remembrance. But if a man can give an account of the process of his change of views and feelings towards God and divine things by referring to certain truths brought before his mind, which wrought in him new convictions, new feelings, and new aims in life, it is evident that the entire change has truth as its proximate cause, and of this cause alone can consciousness testify, of the efficient cause operating through the proximate one, consciousness cannot take cognizance. If consciousness testify of the saving change without the truth, the verdict is for our opponents, but if it testify that truth is always found as the proximate cause of the change, then for us is the decision. So also Scripture, as the record of God's wondrous works and the infallible expositors of human experience as seen by God, will be able to give a clear answer to our question, are the saving influences of the Holy Spirit in their distinctive nature Direct or Mediate? "Mediate" is the answer which, in our opinion, both Scripture and consciousness furnish. To shew this will be the aim of the following remarks."

"II.—That truth is the means or instrument by which the Spirit regenerates and sanctifies the soul. Hitherto our attention has been directed to the simple fact that there is an operation of the Spirit in the soul. But whether this work is direct or through means, remains for consideration. It may give interest to the following observations to quote a few sentences from two modern authors, who certainly do not belong to the ultra-Calvinistic school. Dr. W. H. Stowell, in his volume on "The Work of the Spirit," says:—"The notion that through these means, as channels and instruments, the Holy Ghost works invisibly within men—against that notion, by whatever words conveyed, we must gravely and conscientiously protest. Who that ponders the meaning of words can believe that either prayer or preaching is the means through which the actual gift of salvation is conveyed? Neither can it be any disparagement of the preaching of the gospel to regard it as being, what it really is, the truth of God addressed to man, but not the vehicle of the Spirit, by which man is prepared to receive the message with the faith, whereby we are saved" (pp. 166 and 167, 2d ed.) In his preface to his work on Original Sin, Dr. Payne says:—"With the most poignant feelings of regret he finds that, in some quarters, the influence of the Holy Spirit in conversion is identified with that of the truth to enlighten and persuade men, thus leaving the all-important question, * * * how a depraved mind comes to understand and believe the gospel, utterly unexplained, and even untouched." Without criticising the contents of these quotations, or questioning the accuracy of the words employed, they convey the definite idea that the essential, the distinctive thing in the Spirit's work, is a direct influence, and that the idea of the influence which regenerates and sanctifies being through means, is one which causes "poignant regret," and against whch there is a "grave and conscientious protest." Since we affirm that the influences of the Spirit in their distinctive nature are mediate, and since those call both a "regret" and a "protest" from two such men against our affirmation, it becomes us to examine it with considerable minuteness."

"1. That the Spirit operates upon the soul through means, and not directly, is rendered probable by the analogies of the divine procedure in general. It may, we think, be received as a sound general principle, that God never introduces the miraculous or creative when the natural or instrumental is competent to accomplish his designs. It is only when there is nothing in the established system of things adapted to his purpose that the creative, immediate, or direct energy of God is put forth. An exception to this rule must be well attested before it can be accounted worthy of credence. It will not suffice to say that the radical change in the sinner's heart is by Scripture ascribed to God, and, therefore, God did it creatively without the intervention of means ; because the buds and blossoms of spring, the luxuriance of summer, and the mature fruits of autumn are no less his workmanship, though they be produced through certain means, and not, like the wine at Cana and the loaves on the mountain side, by direct omnipotence. Both in the natural and the miraculous there is divine power as the efficient cause; but in the former, divine omnipotence works under certain conditions, and in accordance with the established nature of things; while in the latter, its work is unconditioned, absolute, creative. We believe that divine power is as really put forth to sustain the body in life as it was to call Lazarus from the dead, yet we call the one natural and the other miraculous, because the former is conditioned by certain means, the latter is absolute; while concerning each we say, "This is the doing of the Lord." Now that the saving change is originated and brought to its consummation—that the spring-time of germs, bud, and blossom of the soul's regeneration, the growing summer of its sanctification, and the abundant harvest of its perfection in glory, are indisputably ascribed to the Holy Spirit, as little involves a direct, unconditioned, divine power, as the fruitfulness of nature. If such a power is put forth in producing the phenomena called conversion and sanctification, it is a departure from the ordinary rule of power exerted through means, it ceases to be natural, and must be miraculous, and consequently requires the most clear and positive proof in order to be credited. Apart from such unassailable evidence in support of the direct theory, we would, from the all-pervading use of means seen in everything with which we are familiar, conclude that the operations of the Spirit will be found to be a new though wonderful application of the principle: Ends attained through a system of means. It is of no use in this matter to point to certain passages, and say "There the saving change is ascribed to the Spirit, and therefore he has done it by direct power;" because it can at once be rejoined, "Certain passages ascribe the production of food to God's power, and therefore, on the same principle, he does it by direct power, as in the case of the manna." This style of reasoning proves too much, for it sets God aside from everything, and gives him praise for nothing but the creative and miraculous, than which nothing can be more absurd.

2. The presumption in favour of the Spirit's work being mediate, and not direct, is confirmed by the thing done in the soul. We have already shown that the change, in its origin and subsequent development, is moral in its nature. From all that is known of mind, we submit whether it be possible to conceive of a moral change without the presentation and apprehension of truth as the instrumental or proximate cause? Take any of the mental or moral changes which occur every day in common experience; each man is able to refer to the cause of his change of mind in some truth or fact. If we found a man yesterday full of hatred against some one, and today we find him overflowing with gratitude, love, and admiration, we would at once conclude that he had good reasons for the change. Our consternation would be considerable, did he tell us that he had no reason in the world for ceasing to hate, and beginning to love and admire; that the change came over him like magic; and that now he could not but love him, who, for anything he knew, was his malignant foe. Alas! for such a man, with such a doleful experience; reason reels on her throne—he is insane. Why think of such an experience as indicating an unsound mind? Because it is impossible to conceive a rational mind undergoing such a change without truth as the proximate cause. Again, if we found a man holding the most preposterous ideas on some branch of science, we would solicit his attention to some textbook, that the truths there expounded might extirpate this error from his mind. Why should we do this, and not tell him to change his mind on that subject there and then by a direct effort of will? Just because we cannot conceive of such a mental change without truth as the instrument. If this man should tell us that he had abandoned his ideas on the given subject, and yet could give no reason for the change—that he had neither found them false nor others true—but that he had just, by the pure power of his will, disbelived them, we should regard the man as making sport. His experience as stated is inconceivable, without mental aberration. Dr. Anderson, in his work on "Regeneration," has the following remark:—"There is no arrangement in our mental economy more obvious than that our affections are regulated and controlled by our judgments, and that, if we desire to change men's feelings, we must labour to change their opinions. Notwithstanding its plainness, however, so strong is its bearing on the doctrine of Regeneration, and so ready are some to contradict all their formerly professed philosophy when brought into contact with this subject, that I judge it proper to amplify the illustration, though at the risk of its being regarded superfluous." (P. 75.) The "illustration" is loo long to quote; but its design is to show that the changes of thought and feeling in the mind are produced through means of truth. Now, such a change as the new birth transpiring in the mind must be a matter of consciousness, and surely it will be able to tell whether it was done by a direct power, or through means of certain truths. We appeal to all who nave been the subjects of the new birth, if it was not preceded by truth, and if it was not that truth which revolutionised their moral state. With confidence we anticipate an answer in the affirmative. Moreover, who would regard that man as born again who could not give any reason for his change, except "It was the Spirit's work, and he did it as he listeth"? Why would suspicion rest upon such a man's conversion? Because truth known is the means by which every moral change is produced. Left to the evidence of consciousness alone, every regenerated person would say, "I felt the truth change me;" because the mind can be conscious only of that which comes next it, and can testify only of the proximate cause which, in conversion and sauctification, it finds to be "the word of truth." So then, even granting, for the sake of argument, that, by a direct operation on the soul, the Spirit produces a change, that change, as the product of mere power, must be in the essence and constitution, and not one in the moral condition of the soul; for, whatever the mind is in its powers naturally, or may be conceived to be by the direct power of the Spirit altering its substance and essential attributes, it is, in its present or possible existence and nature, under the physical department of the universe, in common with trees, rocks, and stars. In that case, there is in the soul's change as little of the moral as there was in converting water into wine at Cana. The supposed direct operation of the Spirit must, from the very nature of the case, stop short of a moral change. In order to this, just because mind is mind, there must be the presentation of truth to awaken into exercise -those primitive or supplemented powers, and then we can conceive of a moral condition of mind being evolved. It therefore follows that, if the Spirit exert a direct energy upon the soul, it must be subordinate, and only accessory to the influence which he exerts through the truth; and, consequently, that that which is distinctive of his work is its being mediate, through "the word of the Lord, which liveth and abideth for ever."

3. That the truth of God is the means by which the Spirit produces, and consummates the great moral change in the soul, is still further evidenced by the vast importance which is attached to the Scriptures and to the preaching of the Gospel. The statements of the Bible itself concerning its incomparable value are practically endorsed by the entire Church of Christ, so that it is a foregone conclusion, that divine truth is indispensable to the conviction, conversion, and sanctification of the soul. "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul," is the immutable basis on which the Church rests as an organisation, the design of which is to "hold forth the word of life, and to shine as a light in a dark place." If the truth were not necessary in effecting the moral change of regeneration, the Sabbath and its privileges would be delusive, leading man to expect that its services and ordinances were means through which the Spirit works. The gospel ministry seeking by arguments to convince, and by entreaties, grounded on all that is solemn and lovely, sublime and terrible, to persuade men to be converted, and to walk in the paths of holiness, would be ridiculous, seeing these arguments and persuasions had nothing to do with the change in question. Sabbath-school teachers would be engaged in a bootless work, receiving for their patience and labour the confounding reward..."

"The direct theory thus stultifies those labours of the Church which have been not only its solemn duty, but its greatest ornament, and makes them meaningless and absurd. We are no advocates of priestly functions, sacramental efficacy, or of rites and ordinances possessing inherent power to save souls. With the "opus operatum " of Rome we have no sympathy in any shape or dilution; but if the Sabbath and its privileges, the Church and its ordinances, and, above all, the preaching of the Word of Truth, be not the means by which the Spirit regenerates the soul —if these, as means or instruments by which the Spirit converts, justly cause "poignant regret," and against which there is justly made "a grave and conscientious protest," then the whole is a sand hill of practical error, and the sooner some whirlwind scatters it the better for man, and the more honouring to the Spirit. According to the direct theory, the preaching of the truth, &c., may serve certain important purposes, but is not in the slightest degree useful in the soul's regeneration; "that is the Spirit's own work, and he does it as he listeth." The fact, however, is that the Spirit, in establishing the great system which he in his infinite wisdom designs to carry out, has made the preaching of the truth and the living up to the truth the imperative duty of the Church, and the only way by which it can give glory to the Spirit, and impart imperishable benefits to the unsaved world. All this rests upon the idea that the truth as it is in Jesus is the means or instrument by which the Holy Spirit effects that moral change which buds and blossoms upon the earth, and bears the perfect fruits of holiness in heaven.

4. That truth is the instrument by which the Spirit works is confirmed by the fact, that the soul is regenerated and sanctified through faith. We find that the soul in its change, at the commencement and in all the subsequent stages, is a believing soul; it has faith in God, in Christ, and in all the promises. Hence the broad distinction between believers and unbelievers—"He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be condemned." This fundamental truth is asserted in various forms : —"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved;" "By grace are ye saved through faith ! " "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God;" "Purifying their hearts by faith;" "Them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." According to these passages, the great change from sin to holiness, from eternal death to eternal life, so far as man is concerned, turns on the question, "Dost thou believe on the Son of God ?" Where faith is, there we find a saved soul. "Certainly," says some one, "but the question to be solved is, How does a depraved man come to possess this faith ?" Granting to the Westminster Divines, as we cheerfully do, that "the Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us;" and granting, moreover, that Paul says "it (faith) is the gift of God," will any man inform us how faith can be wrought in the soul, or given to it without a truth on which that faith rests? If there is meaning in words, or certainty in facts of conciousness, faith is a state of mind co-relative to trutha state of mind utterly impossible in the absence of an object accounted true; and, consequently, we cannot conceive of faith wrought in the soul by a direct energy, but must regard it as "wrought" or "given" mediately through truth. Hence, we argue that that which is distinctive of the Spirit's work in giving faith, is its being through means of a credible testimony...faith as an actual state of mind must have for its origin and continuance a truthful testimony. Since, then, justification, sanctification, and salvation are through faith, and since faith is impossible without the truth on which it rests, it follows that the distinctive nature of the Spirit's operation, in giving us faith or working faith in us, must be that it is mediate; and it also follows that, in so far as a direct energy is exerted, it must be subordinate and auxiliary to that which is through means of the "Word of Truth."

5. Finally, that the truth is the instrument by which the Spirit effects and consummates the saving change in the soul, is rendered absolutely certain from the express testimony of Scripture. The Bible is a consistent whole of truth; it will, therefore, be sufficient to quote a few passages :—John viii. 32, xv. 3, xvii. 3, 17 : "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Now ye are clean, through the word which I have spoken unto you. This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom thou nast sent. Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth." Acts xv. 8, 9: " Giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us, and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith." Because the truth as it is in Jesus is the means of regenerating the soul, as a preacher of the Gospel, Paul uses these remarkable words:—1 Cor. iv. 15 : Though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel." Eph. v. 25, 26 : " Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word." James i. 18 : " Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth." 1 Peter i. 22, 23 : " Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit; * * * Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever." These passages expressly assert that both regeneration and sanctification are produced through means of the truth of God. That class of passages which we formerly quoted ascribe the saving change of the soul to God; this class, which we have just presented, informs us by what means God produces and perfects that change. Putting the two classes together, we find their doctrine is, that God regenerates and sanctifies the soul through means of the Word Of Truth. Hence, it inevitably follows that the divine efficient influence in the saving change must, in its distinctive nature, be mediate and not direct."

"We have endeavoured to prove, from the nature of the change and from the testimony of Scripture, that the saving influences of the Spirit are given through the truth, but it is not incumbent upon us to explain how, in all respects, those mediate influences produce the results. In all our inquiries we reach certain things which are ultimate, and do not admit of analysis.

In opposition to the views which we have presented, that the soul is regenerated through the belief of the truth, the advocates of the direct theory maintain that a man is regenerated before he either knows or believes the Gospel. According to this theory, a man is "renewed," is a "new creature," is "born of the Spirit," in order that he may believe. We shall allow them to speak for themselves. Dr. Stowell says:—"Here, we must repeat, is a clear line of distinction between that system of truths, motives, and appeals, by which the Spirit addresses men in the Gospel, and that inward work by which he actually renews the spirit of man. The external system is one fact—the inward operation is another fact. In the one case the Spirit addresses all to whom the Gospel comes—in the other he regenerates those by whom, in consequence of that regeneration, the Gospel is received" (.p 140.) According to this, regeneration is first; and receiving the Gospel is second. "In consequence of this regeneration the Gospel is received" In speaking of the reason why a man accepts the blessings of the Gospel, he says:—"His state of mind, when he does accept them, is owing to that somer thing which grace has done. That something is what we mean by the quickening, the renewing, the regenerating of a man by the Holy Ghost" (p. 139.) Here again the quickening, renewing, and regeneration of the man precedes his acceptance of the blessings or the Gospel. Dr. Payne, in his preface to his work on Original Sin, says:—"The great question is, not how the truth operates when it is understood and believed, but how the carnal mind comes to understand and believe it. 'The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.' He resists the entrance of the truth; he hates the truth; and the more clearly its holy nature is discerned, the more powerfully is his hatred elicited." Hence, a "special influence or the Spirit" must be put forth to destroy this hatred to truth. Dwight says: —"It has been extensively supposed that the Spirit of Grace regenerates mankind by communicating to them new, clearer, and juster views of spiritual objects. * * * Yet it appears to me clear that the account I have now given of this subject is not scriptural nor just. Without a relish for spiritual objects, I cannot see that any discoveries concerning them, however clear and bright, can render them pleasing to the soul. If they are impleasing in their very nature, they cannot be made agreeable by having that nature unfolded more clearly. He that dislikes the taste of wine will not relish it the more, the more distinctly and perfectly he perceives that taste. Nor will any account of its agreeableness to others, however clearly given, and with whatever evidence supported, render the taste agreeable to him. To enable him to relish it, it seems indispensable that his own taste should be changed, and in this manner fitted to realise the pleasantness of the wine." In like manner the sinner dislikes spiritual objects, and the more clearly they are presented the more does he hate them. "It seems, therefore," he adds, " indispensable, that, in order to the usefulness of such superior light to the mind, its relish with respect to spiritual objects should first be changed. * * * This, I apprehend, is the true progress of this work in the human soul. A relish for all spiritual objects never before existing in him, is communicated to every man who is the subject of regeneration by the Spirit of God. Before this event he disrelished all such objects; now he relishes them all. Before he was an enemy of God; now he becomes a friend of God." (Ser. Ixxiv.) This new relish, disposition, or regeneration has for its first great result or effect "the exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ." (Ser. Ixxvi.) Hence the vital change— the new birth precedes faith in Christ.

On this theory of regeneration by the power of the Spirit, without the truth and in order to faith, we would briefly remark, First: according to Dwight's representation of this theory, the unregenerated have an aversion to spiritual things, unconquerable and uncontrollable, like the man's disrelish for wine; or like the man of whom we have heard, whose loathing at fish caused him, at the sight or smell of it, to become instantly sick. If, therefore, the unrenewed man has such an insurmountable abhorrence of the Gospel, there is certainly no hope of his accepting it till he get a new spiritual relish or taste. But if his soul reject the Gospel, as his palate nauseates at wormwood and gall, how can he be criminal for that strong hatred of spiritual objects'? The sinner's loathing of such objects, like the man's disrelish of wine or his horror ot fish, is an infirmity which excites pity, but forbids anything approaching to censure. Where does Scripture adduce a constitutional disrelish of spiritual objects as an apology for man's rejection of God and the Saviour?

Secondly: The preaching of the Gospel to the unregenerate is not only preposterous in itself, seeing it has no adaptation to overcome this "disrelish," but it is also positively cruel to the unrenewed themselves; because, while incapable of benefiting them, the Gospel rouses their disgust and kindles their hatred ; "the more clearly its holy nature is discerned, the more powerfully is their hatred elicited." This disrelish and hatred of the truth makes it impossible for the truth to do anything to the unrenewed soul except enrage it, "till its relish with respect to spiritual objects shall first be changed." Just think of the friends of the man who has the supposed disrelish for wine always setting it before him, always praising it, always pressing it upon his attention, always beseeching him to love and receive it; or think of the friends of that man who becomes sick at the sight or smell of fish setting it before him at every meal, placing it in every room, talking of it at every interval, and commending it to his acceptance. What would you think of persecuting men with such unconquerable dislikes in such a cruel manner? Yet that is just the position in which this theory places the preacher of the Gospel to the unregenerated. The unrenewed man has no relish for spiritual objects; "they cannot be made agreeable by having their nature more clearly unfolded;" yea, "the more clearly their holy nature is discerned, the more powerfully is his hatred elicited." Let all preachers, therefore, know that the more clearly they exhibit Christ, the more the unrenewed man hates the "holy child Jesus;" the more eloquent they become in the praises of Christ, the more fiercely his hatred burns; and the more earnest, and unceasing, and persuasive their appeals, his abhorrence is the more elicited. Surely, if this theory be true, it would be more humane not to annoy and torment the unregenerate with the Gospel, till a relish for all spiritual objects never before existing in them is comnmnicated. However, the great commission is, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature," and, assuredly, Jesus did not send his ambassadors clearly to exhibit the truth, only the more powerfully to elicit the unconverted soul's hatred against God and himself.

Thirdly: The theory of regeneration before faith in the Gospel is an inversion of the natural and well-known order of mental operations, in which a change of moral sentiments and dispositions is always preceded by a change of views and beliefs. In all other cases, if we wish to change a man's feelings and dispositions, we aim at changing his opinion, knowing that if we do not successfully storm the ramparts of his intellect we cannot take the citadel of his heart. The theory before us overturns all this. Dr. Stowell says :—"Neither do we expect any man to believe the Gospel—as we are persuaded he could if he would, and as we are sure he ought—till he is born of the Spirit;" and then, "in consequence of that regeneration, the Gospel is received." (Pp. 140, 267.) Here is a radical moral change—a man "born of the Spirit," "a new creature," having "right dispositions towards God," relishing all spiritual objects instead of disrelishing them—loving everything of a spiritual nature instead of loving nothing—a friend ot God instead of an enemy;—all Before the Gospel is received. Now, if it is a "great puzzle "how the carnal man comes to understand and believe the Gospel before he is regenerated, it is, to us at least, infinitely more puzzling to tell how a radical moral change of heart and dispositions takes place prior to the belief of the truth; to tell how a man can have a "holy relish," "a right disposition towards God," and a hatred to sin, while he entertains the same unbelief towards God, and the same opinion of sin as when his feelings and dispositions were the reverse. It contradicts all the known laws of the human mind, that the sinner, as this theory affirms, hates sin and turns from it, while his views of it are the same as when he loved it; that his heart relishes those spiritual objects which he formerly loathed, and cleaves to God as his friend, whom he formerly hated as his foe, while the cross of Christ, its attractions and sublime significance, are perhaps unknown, or at best a mere fiction unworthy of his confidence. Indeed, it is to us inconceivable that there should be an entire moral change of the feelings and dispositions in respect to spiritual objects without an antecedent belief, or reception of that Gospel truth which exes the evil of sin, manifests the glorious excellency of God, and plays the heart-subduing loveliness of the Lord Jesus Christ, eourthly: This theory of regeneration, by a distinct, direct act of the Spirit before the Gospel is believed, is not only subversive of the known order of mental operations, but is also unsupported by Scripture. Against our previous remark, it is replied— "When the Spirit of God regenerates, the change produced goes deeper than consciousness; it is not vouchsafed according to moral laws which are known and appreciated; we cannot understand it, because it bears no analogy to anything with which we are familiar. The reason for believing it is God's own testimony." Well, we unhesitatingly assert that God's own testimony does not support the theory, even with a single passage. Where we ask, is evidence from Scripture to prove that being born of the Spirit precedes faith—that there is a moral change without a mental process? It avails nothing for the advocates of this theory to point to those passages which ascribe regeneration and sanctification to the Spirit, or which speak of God beginning a good work in the soul, quickening and working in the soul to will and do of his good pleasure, &c.; because the fact that the Spirit produces the change does not prove that he does it by a direct power, antecedently to the belief of the truth. From the passage, "He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man," we might as logically reason that the grass and herb are caused to grow without air or moisture, soil or sun, as reason that, since a man is regenerated by the Spirit, therefore the Spirit regenerates him without truth, faith, reflection, or consciousness of any mental process. It is a begging of the question to point to passages which ascribe regeneration to the Spirit, and then assert that he produces that change before faith by a direct power; for not one of them, either explicitly or implicitly, speaks of a direct energy renewing the heart before the Gospel is received. The moral phenomena of the soul are ascribed to the Spirit, on the same principle as physical results are referred to God; because, though he employs a system of means, the effects have their efficient causes in divine power.

Fifthly: This theory of regeneration before faith is not only unsupported, but expressly contradicted by Scripture. The theory says, "a man is brought into a new life without the truth;" but God says, "of his own will begat he us by the Word of truth." The theory affirms that the soul is born of the Spirit by a direct, distinct act; but the Bible says, "being born, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God." Can anything be more express? The sure testimony of the living God confirms the testimony of consciousness, that the Spirit introduces the soul into a new moral life, "by the Word of Truth— by the Word of God;" and that that life is nourished by the pure milk and the strong meat of the Word. This instrumentality of the Word, in both regeneration and sanctification, is recognised as a fundamental principle throughout Scripture; its denial assuredly makes the "living oracles" a "dead letter," and converts those divine words, which "are spirit and life," into verbal mummies. We heartily concur with the closing sentence of Dr. W. Anderson's remarks on this theory of regeneration before faith :—"Either, after all my reading and pondering, I mistake what the theory is; or it is worthy of being denounced as deeply mischievous, whether to the preacher or hearer of the Word whose mind is influenced by it."
(pg. 237-57)

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