Apr 16, 2009

Webster on Regeneration I

The Following are some good citations from an old book - "THE NATURE AND INSTRUMENT of REGENERATION" and published in 1843. Here is the information on the Title page.

The kingdom of God is as if a man should cast seed into the ground, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.—Mark iv. 26, 27.

Pastor of the First Associate Presbyterian Congregation, Philadelphia.


Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1843, by C. Webster, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Certainly the debate over the nature and means of "regeneration" was a "hot topic" of debate, especially among Baptists and Presbyterians who professed to be Calvinists, in the year this book was published. I agree with what this author says about the nature and means of regeneration and am always glad to see Presbyterians distance themselves from the "metaphysical regeneration" that Berkhof, Shedd, and other Hyper Calvinists have advocated.

I wish to post some good citations from this work with few comments from myself.

In the "PREFACE," Webster writes:

"This little book is presented to the Christian public from no desire of authorship. It is the result of a call in the providence of God, which the writer had no liberty to disobey."

"The doctrines of Pelagians and semi-Pelagians on the one hand, and the denial of the instrumentality of the word in regeneration on the other, although apparently opposites, will be seen, by a perusal of these pages, to flow spontaneously from the same radical error, namely,—an undue exaltation of the natural man's ability of will."

This is an insightful comment. It is Pelagianism's idea that a "command implies ability" that is at the root of both Arminianism and Hyper Calvinism. Bob Ross has pointed this out in his comments on "Backdoor Pelagianism."

Wrote Ross:

"But the more "fundamental" agreement of Campbellism and Hardshellism is at the point of "ability." Both affirm that the one to whom a Gospel "command" is given, and whose "duty" it is to obey, is capable (able) to comply. In other words, if one is commanded to "repent and believe," that one must necessarily be capable of fulfilling his "duty." The person to whom such commands are addressed is said to be "alive," otherwise he could not justly be required to "repent and believe."

Consequently, the Campbellite theology views such a man as being in a natural condition of ability, and Hardshellism views such a man as having been supernaturally endowed with ability by a "direct operation" of the Spirit which they regard as "regeneration."

Their only difference lies in the fact that Campbellites believe a man is given such ability by God at birth, while Hardshells believe a man has it imparted to him by God subsequent to his birth.

So with both groups, the "duties" of repentance and faith do not result from the creative work of the Holy Spirit as He uses the Word (Gospel) upon the "dead" sinner, but repentance and faith are the "effects" of an "ability" or enablement already given to man. When such a man is addressed by the Gospel, he is already able to obey, as a result of the previously given ability.

Consequently, neither Campbellites nor Hardshells believe that the Gospel is addressed to men who are "dead in trespasses and in sins." Both believe they address their Gospel to those who are already "alive." As Hardshell Lassere Bradley once put it, "I don't fish for dead fish, but living fish."

Both the Campbellites and the Hardshells believe that repentance and faith are not the result of the Holy Spirit's use of the Gospel as the instrumental "means," but repentance and faith are "effects" of an ability already imparted by God.

A third party to this concept is the modern Reformed theorist who holds that there is prior regeneration which enables man to respond to the command to believe the Gospel. The argument is made that man is incapable of faith until he is first made alive -- or, in Pelagian terms -- has the ability to believe. This is what I call "Backdoor Pelagianism." They denounce Pelagianism on the front porch, but welcome it into the house thru the backdoor.

This theory, as delineated in writers such as Shedd (Dogmatic Theology) and Berkhof (Systematic Theology), denies the "creative" power of the Word of God as a creative, instrumental means in regeneration.

According to Shedd, with whom the Hardshells agree, the Holy Spirit's operation is "directly upon the human spirit, and is independent even of the word itself" (II:501) ; "regeneration is a DIRECT operation of the Holy Spirit upon the human spirit" (II:506), and "is not effected by the use of means" (page 507).

According to Berkhof, this theory holds that the instrumentality of the Gospel "has no effect on the dead" (page 474). Berkhof then dismisses a few of the passages of Scripture which "seem to prove the contrary" (pages 475-476) and goes on to allege that earlier Calvinistic sources failed "to discriminate carefully between the various elements which we distinguish in regeneration" (page 476).

According to Berkhof, the Word "does not operate creatively" and the Word therefore can "work only in the conscious life of man" (page 470) -- by which Berkhof means, in one who is able to receive the Word on account of a prior "regeneration" in which the sinner is endowed with a "spiritual ear." With this new ability (which parallels the Pelagian ability), "the gospel is NOW heard by the sinner" (page 471).

It appears to us that all three of these groups are advocating the principle of Pelagianism, that the Gospel is addressed to the "living" and not to those who are "dead in the trespasses and in sins." In fact, I have seen this very argument used against giving public invitations -- that is, against addressing the Gospel to "dead" sinners and urging them to accept it at that very moment of time.

This argument against exhorting and inviting the sinner to immediately believe the Gospel is tantamount to a denial of the creative power of the Word of God. It makes the "dead" sinner stronger than the Holy Spirit-empowered Word of God.

They obviously believe the sinner is "dead," but they apparently do not believe that the Word of God is stronger, being "quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. 4:12)."

See here

Webster continues:

"The reader will find no tincture, either of party spirit or denominational pride; but an humble inquiry into that great change which passes upon all those who are redeemed from among men, before their admission into the presence and enjoyment of God. More than a hundred of the best authors, to which the writer could obtain access, have been consulted, compared with the scriptures, and with each other. The result of this laborious research is here brought to view within a narrow compass, in the hope of promoting, through the blessing of God, the spiritual interest of such as have neither the means nor leisure for extended research."

"It will be perceived that an accurate knowledge of the nature of regeneration is essential to a correct understanding of the means by which it is effected."

This is true. Those who err by denying the instrumentality of the word of God in regeneration also err in describing, scripturally, the nature of regeneration and of the "life" given therein. Again, Bob Ross has pointed this out in his popular treatise called "The Killing Effects of HyperCalvinism."

He writes (emphasis mine - SG):

"We assert that the Hyper-Calvinist idea of spiritual life is not the spiritual life referred to in the Word of God, nor does the Spirit of God give any such life to men. We assert that this notion as to spiritual life is just another false doctrine of the devil, used to oppose the preaching of the Gospel to lost sinners. It is evident, then, why we are refuting this teaching."


"The answer to this question is actually a refutation of the heresy of the Hyper-Calvinists. Spiritual life, according to the teaching of the Word of God, is a faith-union with God through Christ. It is not simply a union with the Spirit, nor is it a union with the Son or the Father; rather, it is a union with God—all three persons of the Godhead. The truth is, one cannot be in union with one of the persons in the Godhead without being in union with all three. There is only one divine, spiritual life, not three. In many places in the Word of God, we have all three persons referred to as giving us life. This does not mean that each of them gives us a life, but it means that in the life which we have of God each person of the Trinity is involved.

So to have spiritual life is to be in union with God. The Word of God says: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”—John 17:3.

This verse teaches that to have life is to know God. And, of course, to know God is to know Him as He is revealed in Christ. No man can know the Father apart from the Son. So we can truthfully say that no man knows God except in Christ; therefore, no man has life unless he knows Christ. This is the kind of life that the Holy Spirit of God gives to the elect.

But Hyper-Calvinists make spiritual life a sort of spiritual deposit (I prefer to call it “biological” since it has none of the fruits of the Spirit such as love for Christ) which the Spirit makes in men who perhaps have never even heard of Christ, much less have a knowledge of Him. Hyper-Calvinists teach that a heathen person, if he is elect, does not have to learn of Christ or know Christ, for he will be made alive by the Spirit.

You can easily see how this separates Christ and the Spirit to the extent that in giving life the Spirit does not give a knowledge of Christ. But the very work which the Spirit came to do is to bear witness of Jesus Christ. He came to give men life by bringing them into union with God as revealed in Christ. The kind of life He gives is not a life apart from Christ, but a shedding abroad of the knowledge of Christ in the heart or understanding of man, the seat of his affections, and the work at the same instant creates or produces faith, hope, love and other such graces.

You see, there is no such thing as spiritual life apart from a union with Christ, and there is no union with Christ, apart from a knowledge of Christ. “He that hath the Son hath life” (1 John 5:12); eternal life is to know God revealed in Christ (John 17:3). To think that a man could have the life of the Spirit of Christ and not know Christ is nothing but heresy. Life is union with Christ. The Bible says that those who know not God do not have life. In fact, the Bible teaches: “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” —2 Thess. 1:7,8."

See here

Webster continues:

"Several new errors, which have been vented since Charnock wrote, are here met and refuted. Dr. Witherspoon's standard work on the subject, though of more recent date, is "A Practical Treatise," exhibiting more directly the evidences, than the nature of the change. It is, however, believed the reader might derive great benefit by a perusal of the authors just named in connexion with this treatise."

Next, in Part Two Chapter One, Webster wrote:

"Orthodox writers frequently use the term regeneration in this unlimited sense. So, Turretine uses the term conversion as it includes regeneration; which is believed to be its true scriptural meaning: "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul, " Ps. xix. 7. But Witsius, while he uses the term regeneration as inclusive of conversion, also very clearly distinguishes between them by calling the former the first and the latter the second regenerating act. "This spiritual life may be considered, either, by way of faculty, and in the first act, or by way of operation, and in the second act." In the first act, the soul is passive under Almighty power; in the second act, it becomes active, as instantaneously as mind is capable of acting from conviction produced by some external influence; and thus voluntarily returns to God in the strength of Almighty power working in it, "both to will and to do." "God gives not only the power to walk, but the walk itself." In modern language, the term regeneration is used to express that which Witsius calls the first act; in which sense it is used in the present discussion. (pg. 55. 56)"

Here is another writer who confesses that the idea that regeneration is distinct from conversion is a novel or hybrid invention of the scholastic theologians and not one that is found in Holy Scripture. The first Calvinist reformers did not make such a distinction. It is acknowledged that this division of regeneration into two separate and distinct acts is not scriptural and yet it is insisted upon as being scriptural!

Webster writes:

"The design and purpose of this change is to repair the loss which man sustained by the fall." The opinion of Dr. Gill, that the image of God, which is stamped upon the soul in regeneration, is not the image of the first Adam, is to be rejected. He seems to look upon regeneration as the creation of a new being, or at least as the creation of something in man essentially different from his nature in a state of innocence. He calls it the image of Christ, in opposition to the image which Adam possessed prior to the fall. Hence, he infers an impropriety, in the use of means by the Spirit, in its production. But the image of the first Adam was in all its moral lineaments the image of Christ. For "God made man in his own image;" and this is the same image which is restored." (pg. 70, 71)

"It is believed this peculiar view of the Dr. lies at the bottom of his doubts respecting the instrumentality of the word in regeneration; and also his denial of that glorious doctrine of the scriptures, that the gospel is addressed indiscriminately to lost sinners of mankind; and is both the call and command of God to all who hear it, requiring faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the only means of their deliverance from sin and wrath. "This is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of- his Son, Jesus Christ." 1 John iii. 23." (pg. 72)

"Regeneration includes saving faith as to its principle in the soul: its exercise, being the instantaneous effect of its implantation, in the regenerating act. This is evident from several scriptures: but let one passage answer the present purpose: "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." John i. 12, 13."

Concerning Dr. Gill and his leanings towards a denial of means in regeneration has been addressed by me in my book "The Hardshell Baptist Cult," in the series on "Hardshells and Gill." Webster says, as I have, that Dr. Gill, though offering speculations about regeneration occurring apart from the means of the gospel, nevertheless rejected such speculations and affirmed that the Bible, nevertheless, taught the instrumentality of the truth in regeneration.

See my posting on Gill here

Webster continues:

"Finally, the mystical union between Christ and believers is effected by, and included in the regenerating act. For although the legal union between Christ and his people is eternal, still they are born "children of wrath even as others," Eph. ii. 3: "Having no hope, and without God in the world," Eph. ii. 12, till regenerated in their effectual calling. This is the day of their espousal to Christ; the beginning of a new and holy life; the dawn of heavenly glory upon the soul. (pg. 102, 103)"

"In regeneration this union is formed: Christ unites himself to the soul by his life-giving Spirit in the regenerating act, and the soul unites itself to Christ by faith." (pg. 104)

"God is free to work in the regenerating act without positive institutions, and also above, though neither without, nor contrary to the word. Considering the word in its true character, as a moral institution, it would imply a contradiction, to suppose there can be any divine saving operations in any way that would militate against its appointment by God as the means of regeneration. Even infants, although regenerated without any external employment of the word, in which respect only they differ from adults, still we have reason to believe that the doctrine of the word is written upon their hearts, in the regenerating act, even as it is upon the hearts of adults. The word being, as we shall see in the next chapter, doctrinally, the seminal principle of regeneration. Thus, in the case of the thief upon the cross, positive institutions were necessarily dispensed with, on account of insurmountable obstacles in the existing circumstances; yet the word was employed. So in the case of infants and persons deprived of the exercise of their faculties. God works above the external employment of the word, on account of the present incapacity of the subjects upon which he operates, but not without nor contrary to it; for he employs it internally, imprinting its doctrine upon the soul, which will manifest itself by the soul's employment of the word, as soon as the opportunity is afforded, and the faculties are brought into intelligent exercise, either by their natural growth, or by the translation of the soul to heaven. "Before thou earnest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee." Jer. i. 5. "When Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb." Luke i. 41. It would do violence to these passages to restrict them wholly to a sanctification or setting apart to office: for it became manifest by the subsequent history, both of Jeremiah and John the Baptist, that regenerating grace was included in this sanctification. In regenerating infants, then, the Holy Ghost, without any external proposition of the word, of which they are incapable, imprints internally its doctrine upon the soul, which "they will come to the actual knowledge of, by reading and hearing the word preached," 'when they grow up." (pg. 141, 142)

"The exceptions to the use of means, found in the scriptures, are such as establish rather than weaken the doctrine of instrumentality. These exceptions may be reduced to several general heads..." (Pg. 141, 142)

I find these comments about the possibility of infant knowledge and communion with God quite interesting and confess that they are quite plausible. If this is so, then the regeneration of infants is no "exception," they not being regenerated apart from the means of truth and of faith.

Webster continues:

"But the question is,—Does The Holy Spirit Always EMPLOY EXTERNALLY "THE WORD OF TRUTH," IN THE VERY ACT OF REGENERATING ADULTS, WHO ARE IN THE EXERCISE OF THEIR Faculties? This question, the reader will find answered in the affirmative in the next chapter." (pg. 150)

"Nor did the extraordinary circumstances attending this effectual call of the apostle affect, in any way, its nature or manner. Accordingly, we find that Lydia first heard the word, the Lord then opened her heart, "that she attended to the things which were spoken." If then the word be not the instrumental cause of regeneration, why was it, in these instances, and in every other recorded in scripture, first spoken? It is then clearly manifest that a law work upon the intellectual faculties is, at least, in the order of nature, a necessary antecedent to regeneration." (pg. 164, 65)

"The other of these means is faith, that is wrought in us by the gospel. This is our instrument of reception whereby the union between Christ and us is accomplished on our part, by our actual receiving Christ himself, with all his fulness, into our heart; which is the principal subject of the present explanation." (pg. 174)

"XVI. Grace and peace are given to sinners through the knowledge of God. 2 Pet. i. 2. Men escape the pollutions of the world through the instrumentality of this knowledge. 2 Pet. ii. 20. The knowledge of God is eternal life. John xvii. 3. The word is a fire to melt, and a hammer to break in pieces the sinner's rocky heart. Jer. xxiii. 29. Yea, it is the "word of life." Phil. ii. 16. Because it is that word of truth which is able to make men wise unto salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus. 2 Tim. iii. 15! It is indeed only as an instrument in the hand of the Spirit that the word is efficacious.' But those who deny its instrumentality must either contradict those scriptures which ascribe causality to it, or they must take the New School side of the question, and admit this causality to be efficacious. For as causality is certainly ascribed to the word, it must be either instrumental or efficacious. We prefer that view, which gives to the word an instrumental causality. Because it harmonizes all those passages of scripture which speak of the application of redemption, and enables us to answer satisfactorily the arguments of those who ascribe a saving efficacy to the word independent of the work of the Spirit. The doctrine maintained by us is obviously the true scriptural medium, between Arminian free will on the one hand, and fatalism on the other; and between an enthusiastic rejection of means on the one hand, and an Atheistical dependence upon them on the other."

"After the mass of testimony already exhibited it would extend the work beyond due bounds to quote authorities which might be adduced to an almost indefinite extent. The mention of a few names who have maintained the principal doctrines of this Essay, will answer every practical purpose, such as, Calvin, Beza, Turretine, Marck, Witsius, Manton, Marshall, Owen, Howe, Flavel, Guise, Charnock, Boston, Brown, Gib, the Erskines, Fisher, Lawson, Dick, Witherspoon, Anderson and Shaw. The same doctrine is also introduced into all the Confessions of the Reformed Churches, in some more, in others less explicitly. And in "A Warning against Unitarian and Hopkinsian Errors," issued in 1826, by the Associate Synod of North America, we find the following language p. 25:—"Sinners, dead in trespasses and sins, are raised from their grave by Almighty power; but that power is put forth in "the voice of the Son of God." The dry bones in the valley of vision are made to live; but it is by the prophet's prophesying at the command of God. Wherefore, we conclude, that, while no means can avail by any virtue in them, or without the power of the Holy Spirit accompanying them; yet this power of his is put forth through the instrumentality of those means which infinite wisdom has prescribed; and these are such as address the understanding immediately, and the heart through the understanding."


"To banish all reasonable doubt from the minds of serious inquirers after the way of truth and salvation, it seems necessary that the most plausible objections brought against the doctrine of the instrumentality of the word in regeneration, should be met and refuted."

"It is objected, "if the Spirit employ the word, he cannot act immediately upon the soul." Immediate action of divine power is entirely consistent with the employment of instruments, or second causes; though the manner is difficult to be understood; because it is above, though not inconsistent with reason. Who ever supposed the employment of instrumentality in natural generation to be inconsistent with immediate divine action? Because instrumentality is employed, does the instrumentality therefore create us? Why then suppose the immediate action of divine power any more inconsistent with instrumentality, in regeneration, than it is in natural generation?

On the same evidence we believe the instrumentality of the word in regeneration: by it God calls things from non-existence, as though they already were, and they are: they come at his bidding. But the manner of this, who shall declare? Surely, not that earth-worm, called man. "Canst thou by searching find out God?" Certainly, no man in this life, and probably no creature, shall ever be able to explain this mystery. But this we know, that God's working in the application of redemption to his people is not such as to destroy the instrumental efficacy of means."

"It is admitted that the word is the organ of regeneration, while its instrumentality is denied. This is highly disingenuous. It is running away from the point by a paltry artifice; always perplexing to the unlearned and disgusting to men of sense. What is the difference between organ and instrument? The term organ denotes, "a natural instrument." The term instrument denotes, "the means of conveyance or communication." We shall not characterize the distinction which has been made between the words organ and instrument in order to mislead the public mind on a point of such vitality; but leave it to the judgment of the reader; simply observing, that it is utterly incomprehensible, how the word can be the organ and yet not be employed "in the very act of regeneration," as the objector has asserted. It is equally incomprehensible, how the word can be the organ of regeneration, if God first regenerates the soul and afterwards writes the law upon the heart, as the objector asserts. Is the word only the medium in which the Spirit conveys himself from one object to another? Such a thought be far from the minds of sober Christians. Sound writers never thought of this sage distinction. They use the terms instrument, organ, chariot, and vehicle without any apparent difference of meaning, simply to express the great scriptural doctrine that the Holy Spirit always employs the word in the regeneration of adults who are of sane mind. It cannot be known by us whether insane persons are regenerated, during insanity, or not. If so, their case resembles that of infants.

It is said,—"The word is instrumental in the production of the creature, viewed as in a state of perfect formation, which is not the case, until it has seen the light and put forth incipient acts." It is replied, according to this objection, the foetus is brought into a state of perfect formation, without any means whatever, but after it "has seen the light," which cannot be till after it has been born, then it is begotten, and means are used to bring it forth. A new theory, truly, both of generation and regeneration!

It is certain, the scriptures do teach the doctrine of an immediate action of divine power upon the soul in regeneration. It is, also, equally certain, they teach the doctrine that the Spirit of God employs the word in, and subsequently to the regenerating act. Yea, that he employs the word in the whole application of redemption. But the work is supernatural; and the only difficulty here is, the vanity of the human mind audaciously intruding into things which it hath not seen.

The will is so depraved that it not only effectually resists all outward means, but also the testimony of conscience. But does this depravity of the will deprive God either of the right or the power to employ means himself, and also to require the sinner to employ them in the application of redemption? The objection we are considering admits that the sinner's inability deprives God both of the right and power to employ means. But this admission at once gives the whole field to the Arminians. The scriptures, however, teach a different doctrine. From them we learn that neither God's right to appoint, nor his power to employ means can be affected in the least by man's inability: and that, in the application of redemption, God quickens the dead, and calls those things which are not as though they were. Rom. iv. 17. Hence, says Calvin,—"Faith has a perpetual relation to the word, and can no more be separated from it, than the rays from the sun, whence they proceed." And this is equally true, whether we contemplate faith as it is communicated by the Spirit of God, in the regenerating act, or as it is the exercise of the believer. Neither does the doctrine of the perfection of the gospel, as a means, give any support to the Arminian doctrine of its efficacy, as a cause. "As God is infinitely holy in his own nature, every discovery that he has made to any of his creatures, must carry this impression upon it, and have a tendency to promote holiness in them." Therefore we cannot surrender the doctrines of God's holy word because Arminians pervert them.

Farther: Regeneration is so secret, mysterious, and imperceptible, even to the subjects of it, that few, perhaps none, can tell the precise moment when it was effected upon them. They know it only by its effects. Who among the Lord's people can tell the very moment in which they passed from a state of legal, to a state of evangelical repentance? But that was the moment of their new birth. Who among them have any consciousness of the least salutary influence upon their minds, either before or after conversion, which was not produced either directly or indirectly by means of the word? If any suggestions, respecting divine things have been made to their minds by the Spirit, even those which were occasioned by some providential event, they have come through the medium of the word. Otherwise, these suggestions could not be from the Spirit of God; but from Satan, or a depraved heart: for "the Spirit acts not without the word." Consequently, a denial of the instrumentality of the word opens the door for the Mystics, who held "that reason comprehended the principles of divine truth." For truth must either be inherent in the mind, or communicated by inspiration, or it is not included in regeneration, if the word be not the instrument. But, in the application of redemption by means of the word, the Spirit manifests infinite condescension to our weakness. He puts into our hands the pattern of the work which he performs upon our souls. The word is not only the medium of conveyance, but its doctrine is one of the things conveyed in the regenerating act: so that the knowledge of God, which is in the souls of the regenerate is perfect in kind, however imperfect it may be in degree. Hence, the word is the infallible test of the Spirit's saving work, demonstrating its genuineness, and detecting every species of counterfeit.

It is objected, if the word be the seed of regeneration, "its very name supposes an operation prior to its own" operation. In reply, it may be inquired, does the operation of heat and moisture, which gives activity to the seed, take place prior to the sowing, or without the seed? If not, then why maintain that there is, in regeneration, an operation by the Spirit, directly upon the soul, prior to the implantation of the word? Or why maintain that activity is given to the word prior to its implantation in the soul? According to this reasoning, the word is made to operate before it is employed. That is, the seed grows and the ground is made productive before the seed is sown! and after the plant has sprung up, that is,"seen the light, and put forth incipient acts," then the seed is sown!"

"...the interpretation which 'the objector has given to the parable of the sower is not only unscriptural, but enthusiastic."

"It is farther objected in the following words: "We would like to know how the Spirit can act upon the truth, without acting in the first place, directly and immediately upon the mind, and thus qualifying it for the reception of the truth? but when this is done, a great and supernatural change is effected, prior to the operation of the word." The objector "would like to know" that which God has said cannot be known. But this objection contains the following proposition:—"The mind must be qualified for the active reception of the truth, before the Holy Spirit can act upon it by the truth;" or in other words, "God cannot act by the word, unless man possess the power to co-operate with him by the word." This is Arminian logic. Says the objector, the employment of the word by the Spirit supposes a qualification in the soul to receive it.—Says Finney, The commands of God suppose ability in the soul to obey. And the Arminians say,—"In all the promises and calls of the gospel men are supposed capable to believe and repent." The objector has then assumed the principal tenet, yea, the chief corner stone of the whole Arminian system, to be true. For the Arminians say—"An almighty and invincible influence of the Holy Ghost in men's conversion to Christ, excludes all instrumentality of his word in it, which can only work by moral suasion." This is precisely the sentiment of the objector. But he draws one inference from it, the Arminians another. They infer from it, that regeneration is effected, not by the omnipotent power of the Spirit, through the word, but by the word in the ordinary way of moral suasion. The objector infers from it,that regeneration is effected by the omnipotent power of the Spirit without the employment of the word. But the premise being false, these conclusions, though absolutely contradictory, are equally false. To all which, it may be replied,—It is, indeed, true that the Holy Spirit does regenerate the soul prior to its active reception of the truth; but does it, therefore, follow that the Spirit cannot act upon the truth, and upon the soul by the truth, prior to any ability in the soul to act by the truth? Certainly not. Man's inability can neither destroy nor limit the power of God. Neither can man's depravity resist means which God wills to make effectual. The objection, then, imbodies the very soul of Arminianism; for it restricts God's right and power of acting to fallen man's ability. It is a concession of the whole field to the advocates of free will; an acknowledgment that Calvinism is an unscriptural absurdity; while it draws an inference opposite to Arminianism; but leading to enthusiasm."

"The authority of Dr. Ridgley is arrayed against us, with an unusual degree of confidence. His words are—"I cannot but conclude that it [regeneration] is wrought in us without the instrumentality of the word, or any of the ordinary means of grace; because it is necessary, from the nature of the thing, to our receiving, improving, or reaping any saving advantage by the word, that the Spirit should produce the principle of faith; and to say that this is done by the word, is in effect to assert that the word produces the principle and the principle gives efficacy to the word; which seems to me little less than reasoning in a circle."

See here

To be continued

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