Jul 28, 2009

Fuller on Means

"The incorruptible 'seed,' by which we are born again, according to 1 Pet. i. 23, alludes not to the first principle in vegetables, but in animals; and what this is in generation, the word of God is allowed to be in regeneration. This I apprehend is giving all the scope to the passage, which can reasonably be desired.

That there is a divine influence in this change, which is immediate, or without any instrument whatever, is supposed in the preseding paper; but I do not consider this as expressive of the whole change denoted by the term regeneration. I admit regeneration to be by the word of God, and that this truth is taught us by the passage in question, and also in James i. 16; nor does this concession appear to clash with the above position. 'When God created man, he breathed into him the breath of life, and man became a living soul. And in procreation, unless we maintain that souls are generated by human instrumentality, there is an immediate divine agency, very similar to that in creation, and which is expressed by ' forming the spirit of man within him.' Now as this is consistent with man's being brought into existence by the instrumentality of man; why should not an immediate influence from Him who ' quickeneth all things,' be consistent with the instrumentality of the word in regeneration?

Regeneration has frequently been distinguished from conversion; and I have no doubt but the terms are of different signification, as are also the terms creation and resurrection, by which the same divine change is indicated. I am inclined to think that these terms are not designed to express the different stages of God's work upon the soul, but the same divine work under different ideas or representations. It has been said, that regeneration expresses that part of the change wherein we are passive, and conversion that wherein we are active; but the idea of passivity, as well as activity, is included in conversion. God turns us, ere we turn to him. Sinners are said to be converted, as well as to convert. On the other hand, the idea of activity as well as passivity, is included in regeneration. Whatever may be said of the generation of an animal, we can form no conception of the change in the temper of a rational soul, or as the scriptures express it, of' renewing the spirit of our minds,' without the mind being in exercise. It is passive with respect to the agency of the Holy Spirit in producing the change, so as to contribute nothing towards it; but the very nature of the change itself, being from a state of enmity to love, implies activity of mind. It does not therefore seem perfectly accurate to say, we are first endued with spiritual life, and then we become active; no otherwise however, than as by the order of nature, seeing that activity is of the very essence of spiritual life.

Now considering regeneration as expressive of that entire change, by which we enter as it were into a new moral world, and possess a new kind of being (and in this sense I think it is always to be understood in the new testament) it is as proper to say, we are regenerated by the word of God, as it is to say, that 'Abraham begat Isaac;' though in Isaac's coming into the world he was the subject of a divine agency, in which Abraham had no concern."
(pg. 117)

See here where the heading reads as follows:





It was the writings of Andrew Fuller on this topic that gave fodder to Alexander Campbell. Campbell was adept, along with Booth, MacLean, and others, at exposing the weakness of this pre-faith regeneration theory. From the above writing, one can discover the lack of conviction that Fuller had on this issue. He speaks of being only "inclined" to a certain viewpoint. Like Campbell observed, with regard to these views of Fuller, he seemed to say that there are two kinds of "regeneration" in the Bible, one that is first, and occurs without the use of means, or the word of God, and the second, one that necessitates means. This is so much like the old Regular and Hardshell Baptists who divided up the new birth into two, perhaps three, distinct stages. The first was the "begetting" while the second was the "conceiving" or "deliverance" from the womb of conviction.

Campbell himself made a distinction between being "begotten" and being "born." To Campbell, a sinner was "begotten" when he believed the gospel, or received by faith the gospel message, but he was not "born" or "delivered" till baptized in water. In this case, the "begetting" made God the Father while the "birth" (baptism) made the Church the mother.

More to come.

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