Mar 10, 2012

Keach on Regeneration

Benjamin Keach, one of the great leaders of the English Particular Baptist, signer of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, author and pastor, and predecessor of John Gill and Charles Spurgeon, in his “Exposition of the Parables” (page 546) wrote he following about God's use of means in effectual calling (regeneration and conversion): (emphasis mine)

“Therefore this compulsion only denotes the powerful argument they should use, together with those efficacious influences and operations of the Spirit, which Christ put forth with the preaching of the gospel; it being by the ministration of the word, that he makes the souls of obstinate sinners willing; they are said to compel them, whereas indeed it is Christ by them; they are but instruments in Christ’s hand in the doing of it: ‘We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us,’ 2 Cor. IV. 7. The gospel hath to do with men as rational creatures, and as such Christ is presented unto them, and arguments are used to persuade them to accept him, but because all men are naturally blind, and their wills are stubborn and obstinate, ‘ye will not come to me, that you may have life,’ John V. 40. Christ, by the preaching of the gospel, and operations of his Spirit, enlighteneth their understandings, and bows and inclines their wills. And this is that which is only meant by compelling them to come to the wedding. Neither can this seem strange to any that observe divers places of scripture, where the same word is used, it is said Christ ‘Compelled his disciples to go into a ship.’"

"It is true, all that believe and receive Jesus Christ are compelled; grace hath such power in it, that it doth in some sense constrain the soul, ‘the love of Christ constraineth us,’ 2 Cor. V. 15. And as the spouse says, Cant. I. 4, it draws, but how is it? Is it against the consent of the will? Is there any force put upon that noble faculty? No sure, the will acts freely, and is not denied its own proper choice, but it is overruled and persuaded by the working of the Holy Ghost, cheerfully and freely to choose accept of Jesus Christ. ‘My people shall be willing in the day of my power.’ Psa, XC, 3. Jesus Christ, as I have formerly told you, will accept of no pressed soldiers, no, no, they must be all volunteers, but naturally the will is corrupt, depraved, and wills only that which is evil, and it is averse to all things that are truly and Spiritually good and so remains, until grace, or the Holy Spirit takes away that enmity and averseness which is in it, and so makes it willing; and this is done generally by the powerful preaching of the gospel, God being pleased to accompany it with the operations of his own Spirit and divine power; and this is all, no doubt, which is meant by compelling them to come in."

These words of Keach uproot both the Campbellite notion of "word alone" regeneration and the Hardshell notion of "Spirit alone" regeneration.  They also show that he believed that salvation has its active and passive aspects.  God compels and yet the sinner chooses freely.  The five point Calvinism of Keach did not keep him from preaching to the lost and trying to persuade them to accept Christ and be saved.  It also did not keep Spurgeon from doing as his predecessor.

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