"Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." - John iii. 3.
"It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing." - John vi. 63.
HAVING in our preceding numbers briefly touched upon those subjects which are calculated to show the necessity of a radical change being wrought in those totally depraved beings who are, and were, "ordained to eternal life," in order to prepare them for the knowledge, love and enjoyment of spiritual things, we have now to treat upon the sovereign, irresistible, and, in all cases, effectual work of the Holy Ghost in quickening the elect of God.
The absolute necessity of the new-birth is established by the declaration of our Lord Jesus Christ which we have placed at the head of this article. "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." "Marvel not (said the Master,) that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." The very laws of our existence, as well as the analogy of the figure of a birth, employed to shew the nature of this radical change, forbids the idea of its being wrought by the subject on whom it is wrought. There is nothing in nature that possesses power of itself to produce any radical change in itself; hence, although man is a changable being in many respects, yet he remains man still. The thoughts of his heart are evil, and that continually; therefore he is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be; but even if this were not the case universally in nature, yet it must be admitted that if the elect were their own agents in this spiritual birth, then this work could not possibly bear the least analogy to the natural birth, from which the figure is taken, and in which the child which is born has not the least agency, but is altogether passive. But could the analogy of our Lord's figure (birth,) be preserved, and yet the sinner be an active agent in his own regeneration and quickening, this would be no radical change, nor would it give to him a place among the sons of God; it would constitute him his own son, and of course an heir to the inheritance of his own corrupt, degenerate nature, and to all his estate of sin and misery. It would constitute him his own father, and give him a place in the generation next succeeding; but being begotten by himself he must of necessity be begotten in his own image and likeness, &c. But we find all these arminians absurdities concerning the agency of the creature in regeneration put to silence by the word and testimony of God. "It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing." On this divine authority we ground our evidence that the regeneration and quickening of the elect of God is the work of the Holy Ghost. We will now consider that in the work of quickening the elect of God,
The sovereignty of the Holy Ghost in the regeneration and spiritual birth of the elect is abundantly shown by our Lord in these words: "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." By the figure here employed, the subject is reduced to the capacity of the weakest child of God. Where does the wind blow? where it listeth; and it is even so with the Spirit. If the Holy Ghost has (as many pretend to believe and say.) listed or engaged in the quickening conversion, or regeneration of all mankind, it follows by the immutable truth of God that there it will blow; i. e., be effectual; then it follows that all mankind will assuredly be saved; the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ would then be nullified, inasmuch as sinners uninterested in that atonement can and will be quickened by the Holy Ghost, and the word falsified, which declares that the wicked shall be cast into hell with all the nations that forget God. How shocking would be the consequence; yea, what a terrible tornado would be the result, should the mighty rushing wind list anti blow at the same time from every point of the compass; yet not so shocking as the chaotic situation into which the scriptures of truth would be thrown, if it could be proved that the Holy Ghost was otherwise than sovereign in its operation on the heart, in the new birth, or by proving that he had undertaken the regeneration of all mankind. When the fierce north wind, blowing all before it, bends its course onward to the south, what human means can be employed to change the direction of its course, and cause it to blow from south to north? Surely no rational intelligence can be so stupid as to undertake the task. "The wind bloweth where it listeth," in spite of all the exertions of a means-using generation; it is sovereign in its course; none can change it, nor effectually resist it. Who will dare to say that the natural wind is more powerful or more sovereign than the Holy Ghost? The Holy Ghost has listed in the work of quickening all the elect of God. "It is the Spirit that quickeneth," &c. Not all the powers that can be, can alter the course of the divine Spirit from the elect of God to the reprobate part of mankind. As it has listed, so it does, and so it will continue to quicken every one that is born of the Spirit, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
Again, the Spirit in this work is sovereign, as it relates to the individual on whom it operates. He speaks the word, and it stands fast; he commands, and it is done. Not as some would blasphemously represent the Spirit, in the attitude of a beggar, or a supplicant before the sinner's heart, wooing, beseeching, and striving to get the sinner's consent, and in many, or any cases, getting discouraged and abandoning the undertaking. Would this be blowing where it listed? Surely not. They can possess no adequate idea of the Spirit, or of its work, who suppose that the number of the quickened shall be in proportion to the amount of means employed by mankind, or that protracted meetings, anxious benches, submission chairs, benevolent religious societies, (so called,) or any other human inventions, can change the sovereign course of the Eternal Spirit from any of those on whom it has listed, or engaged to apply the atoning blood of Jesus experimentally, or add one to the number of those originally "ordained to eternal life." "Predestinated to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will." If, then, we admit the sovereignty of the work of the Holy Ghost in the new birth, why talk about the use of means to produce it? If it depends on the performance of conditions, or the use of means on our part, then the Holy Ghost ceases to be a sovereign in the work, and all must turn at last upon the pivot of works, and our bible must be forced to read, It is of him that willeth, and of him that runneth, and not of God that sheweth mercy. Could any thing be more absurd? Away with these yea and nay systems of the present day, which, like the Baptist Repository, will on one page tell us that regeneration is the sovereign work of the Omnipotent God, and anon, insert upon the other that souls may be rescued from a burning hell by the efforts of men and the use of money, but –
Can any thing be more preposterous than to say that the Holy Ghost is God, Omnipotent, &c., and yet that he may be so resisted or opposed in his work, as to fail in the accomplishment of his designs? If so, the term omnipotent has lost its meaning.
By the Spirit's irresistible work, we would not be understood to mean that it works in unison with the feelings and disposition of the human heart; no, "the natural mind is enmity against God," says the apostle; hence all the powers of human nature are arrayed in opposition to the Spirit's work, in vain attempts to resist the Holy Ghost. The strong man armed, keeps the palace until a stronger comes; he then becomes subdued, and his goods are spoiled. Saul's last breath was slaughter against the saints, and persecution against Christ. Paul's first breath was prayer, and submission to the irresistible power by which at mid-day he was brought to the ground. But by the term, we mean that it shall accomplish all that it has undertaken, and that there is no power in heaven, earth or hell, that can effectually resist the Holy Ghost. For example, while Arminians, Deists and devils, by all their united efforts stand in opposition to the method of God's saving grace, and the work of the adorable Spirit, he that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh, God will have them in derision. He will still move on his undisturbed purpose and grace; none shall let, none shall hinder; "the wrath of man shall praise him, and the remainder of wrath he will restrain." That the Spirit is irresistible in this work, we call to witness the experience of (not those mushroom converts, of human means,) but all such as have passed from death unto life, and know the Lord Jesus, and the power of his resurrection. The child of God will tell us, I was an enemy to God by wick-ed works; I was in love with sin, an enemy to holiness; there was no fear of God before my eyes. In short, I was dead in trespasses and sins; but about midday, O king, a light shone around me, and I heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? Yes, says the poor soul,, I was suddenly arrested, an awful trembling shook my frame, I felt myself undone, my sins in all their magnitude rushed in order before my afrighted eyes; loud peals of thunder from Mount Sinai caused me to tremble exceedingly, and quake, while vivid flashes of divine wrath taught me the dreadful reality, I am a sinner. There is a hell, a burning lake; I feel it this moment in my very soul. Whither, O whither shall I flee from the wrath of God? If up to heaven I direct my course, God is there. I dread to meet him. O ye rocks and mountains, shew pity and fall upon me; hide, O hide me from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. In this condition, the poor wreteh will not require knives or lancets, anxious benches nor arminian task-masters, to persuade him to "agonize." We risk nothing when we say that such a soul will testify that the Spirit's work upon the heart is irresistible. The Spirit having thus quickened the man,, the vital principle implanted is manifested by a struggle for deliverance, for light, for freedom; but all in vain he prays; the heavens are as brass, the earth is as the dust; his prayers are shut out. He flies to the law, but
"Justice cries with frowning face,
This mountain is no hiding place;
He reads; the promise meets his eye,
But cannot reach his case."
Thus burdened with guilt, and pressed down with wo, he sinks, despairs and dies. Here let us leave him one moment, (for we cannot help him; his case is desperate; no eye can pity, no arm can relieve him,) while we enquire, Dear reader, if the quickened sinner be thus helpless, thus destitute of power, if he that is made alive by the quickening power of the Holy Ghost, and slain by the law, can do nothing, what canst thou do? What can that poor soul do who has never been quickened, nor made to feel one spark of any thing more than totally depraved human nature? Now let us look back, and enquire what has become of that poor soul we left in the valley of death. Behold he is raised from the dead! The same irresistible Spirit which brought Jesus again from the dead, has raised him up. He is a new creature; old things are done away. He is no longer an arminian, no longer a work-monger; he is stripped of his filthy rags; he is clothed, and in his right mind. Lo, he sits at Jesus' feet: his feet are placed upon a rock, his goings are established, and a new song is in his month. He no longer sings, Do, do, do, but he sings, It is done, it is finished. "The Lord has taken me out of an horrible pit," &c. But whence this glorious change? He that brought to the birth, gave strength to bring forth. Hence the soul was, and is delivered; the Spirit applied the cleansing blood of the Lamb; and he is washed and made clean; the Spirit gave him eyes, and he saw Jesus; the Spirit gave him faith, and he embraced him as his Savior, his Lord and his God.
If this position be not correct, there must be some case or cases where the work of the Spirit has proved ineffectual. We call for such a case to be produced. Where has the Spirit ever wrought ineffectually in any case? Such an example, we bless God, cannot be found; and if there could, it would make all heaven shudder; for the very instant that the Holy Ghost fails to accomplish any thing which it has undertaken to do, that moment he ceases to be God, ceases to be omnipotent, immutable and perfect. If there is any thing which the Holy Ghost cannot effectually perform, we speak with reverence, he cannot be omnipotent. But he was omnipotent once, when he spake the world into existence; hence there must have been a change, and he is no longer immutable. That change must be for the better or for the worse; if for the better, he was once imperfect; for nothing can be perfect if it can admit of improvement; and if by an improvement he is proved once to have been imperfect, then his truth falls prostrate at once; for he has declared that he is the Lord that changeth not. But if the change be for the worse, (since for the better it cannot be,) then it amounts to the same thing. Hence we say that if one single instance can be produced in which it can be established that the Holy Ghost has worked ineffectually in attempting the quickening of a soul, i. e., failed to effect its design, this would make all heaven shudder.
Again, let us admit what has been proved, and what we cannot deny, viz., that it is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing; and then if we prove that the Spirit's work has been ineffectual in any one case, the same arguments will also prove the Spirit's work ineffectual in every case; for human nature is in all cases precisely the same; all are on a level as to moral holiness, or unholiness; all are alike depraved and sold under sin; all are alike without strength in themselves. The unavoidable consequence then is, if the Spirit's exertion fails in one case, it fails in all; for the same cause under the same circumstances must invariably produce the same effects. How dreadful then would be the reflection that one poor soul for whom Christ died, and in whose heart the Eternal Spirit had wrought a work of grace, had failed to realize those blessings which was by the Spirit intended, seeing by this awful catastrophe the whole plan of salvation must inevitably fall through, and not a soul be saved. But once more; if it can be established that the work of the Spirit has been effectual in the case of Paul, Peter, James or John, or any other individual, the point is forever established, and we fearlessly bid defiance to all earth and hell to controvert or gainsay our position.
But laying aside all our arguments, and reasoning on the subject, we will be able to establish this point by the positive declaration of the word of God. "For as the Father raised up the dead and quickened them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will." - John v. 24. But we enquire, Whom will the Son quicken by his Spirit? He has left his will on record in these words, viz: "Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given, me be with me where I am," &c. - John xvii. 24. And in regard to the efficacy of this quickening power, the apostle was confident, and so are we, of this very thing, that he who began the good work will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ, And the blessed Master has said, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
New Vernon, N. Y.,
September 11, 1833.
Elder Gilbert Beebe,
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 96 - 104