Dear Brother Beebe; Having to write, and having closed the business part of my letter, I have concluded to offer a few thoughts on two subjects written upon by brethren Hume, Vanmeter and Durand, with your editorial appearing in the Signs of Feb.15th [1868,] not for controversy, but I hope for the comfort and mutual edification of all interested. I have examined with care and pleasure, with some uneasiness, the writings of all, truly pleased to see the kind and brotherly spirit manifested, and yet uneasy, fearing some unpleasant feelings might get up, which I hope will never be the case. When brother J.F. Johnson came out with his views on the subject of Regeneration, they were new to me, and took me rather on surprise, and I was rather slow to receive them, not having heard or read the subject treated in that way; and not having noticed particularly the difference between the words generate and regenerate, and I found custom, tradition, or something else, inclined me to pass the subject without investigation, and hold on to our former way of speaking on the subject. But still I was not satisfied, but kept thinking about it. While reflecting on the subject, a circumstance that once occurred in our Superior Court in this country, presented itself to my mind. Quite an expert lawyer had used every exertion he could, to establish some point by law, but failed; and when the judge was about to decide against him, he rose up hastily and exclaimed, “May it please your honor, sir, I hope you will indulge me while I shall present to your honor what has been the practice of the courts in such cases.” Just then the judge replied hastily and rather angrily, “Sir, tell me nothing about what has been the practice of the courts; come to the law, sir, or give up your case.” Just then I thought a good application could be made religiously, that any practice or custom of churches, or of ministers, and their expressions in preaching, that were unscriptural, should not be continued, or indulged in by God’s ministers or churches. In my reflections, this text occurred to my mind, Mt.13:52 – “Therefore every scribe which be instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasures things new and old.” I also reflected that the life and immortality of the church of God was all in Jesus Christ from eternity, and he is the only begotten Son of God, full of grace and truth. I also read Psa.22:30 – “A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.” Psa.73:15 – “If I say I will speak thus, behold I should offend against the generation of thy children,” and many other portions of God’s word showing that as the whole natural family had their life in the first Adam, of the earth, earthy; so the whole spiritual family of God had their life in Jesus Christ, the second Adam, the Lord from heaven, a quickening spirit. So I conclude that the generation of God’s children have their life and being spiritually in Jesus Christ, and nowhere else. “They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God.” Rom.9:8. But God had predestinated a chosen people of Adam’s race or generation, to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, and they were blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, according as the Father had chosen them in his Son, before the foundation of the world. And to redeem them, his sheep, or people, from their sins, he must live up to the requisitions of the law, and die upon the cross for them; but this is not enough without his resurrection. “Who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification.” Rom.4:25. Without his resurrection all he had done was not sufficient for the cleansing. “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins.” I Cor.15:17. Then well may Paul say to Titus, referring to the cleansing benefits of the resurrection, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Titus 3:5. “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant.” Heb.13:20. Again, “And the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” I John 1:7. When he laid down his life for the sheep, surely the life of the church was laid down; when he took it again, and rose from the dead, it was a re-production or regeneration. Read Isa.26:19 – “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise.” Again, Isa.66:7,8 – “Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came she was delivered of a man child. Who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.” This certainly referred to him in his resurrection, who is declared to be the Son of God, with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. The first begotten from the dead. “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead.” II Cor.5:14.
With all these scriptures, and many others to the same point, before me, I have concluded that the brethren are right on this subject; and I heartily concur with them. On the subject of being born of God, and its effects, I once thought if ever I became a christian, my carnal mind would be made spiritual and good, my evil heart would be renewed and made holy; but after I hope the Lord had forgiven my sins, I was awfully alarmed when I found my thoughts were evil, and my heart deceitful, and the conclusion was that I was no christian, because I was not as good as I thought christians were, or as good as I expected to be if ever I became a christian. Therefore I prayed earnestly to the Lord, if I was deceived, to undeceive me. So I am fully convinced, from nearly forty years experience, that no natural power or principle that belonged to me, a sinner, has been renewed or remodeled, and made spiritually good; but I do hope the spirit of Christ or of God, in its power has been sent into my mind or heart, and subdues and keeps under its evil propensities. The fruit of this spirit, from what is called by Peter “incorruptible seed,” is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, meekness, temperance, faith, &c. Then the change effected in the believer is great indeed; for before he received this spirit, he had no love to God, nor his people, but now he loves both; before he loved sin and took pleasure therein, but now he desires to live free from sin; he once could do as he pleased, but now when he would do good, evil is present with him, and how to perform that which is good he finds not; he once was pleased with himself and the course he was pursuing, but now finds more fault with himself than of everybody else, and is often made to say, with Paul, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord; so then with the mind [or new man] I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh [or old man] the law of sin.” One under the old dispensation, weighed down with his own sinful depravity and deformity, cried out, and said, “I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.” Psa.17:15. Others under this dispensation, under a deep felt sense of their corruption and depravity, often groan within themselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit; the redemption of their bodies. When this is accomplished, then their bodies will be raised spiritual, and be like Jesus. But as long as the believer remains in the flesh, that which is born of the flesh continues to be flesh, with all its carnal propensities, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, and cannot sin, because it is born of God. So then in every saint there is, as was seen in the Shulamite, as it were, a company of two armies. The flesh lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But this dreadful struggle will be closed up, when the old man falls in death, and the creature that was made subject to vanity will then leave the bondage of corruption, and go home or return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon his head, and sighing and sorrow shall flee away, while these bodies in which we dwell here for a time sleep in their graves till their resurrection in immortality. Then we shall enjoy the victory given through our Lord Jesus Christ to eternity.
Your unworthy brother in tribulation,
Oglethorpe County, Georgia, March 10, 1868.