Brother Beebe: - In looking over the “Signs” for July 15th, I see you have noticed the subject of brother J. F. Johnson’s thoughts on regeneration, which were new to me when he presented them; but I think your reasoning sound. As you are old and well versed in the points of doctrine, I will ask your opinion on the new birth. I was at an association in 1860, and there heard the idea advanced that as soon as a person is made to see that he is a sinner, he is born of the Spirit. I have always thought differently. It seems to me there must be a begetting before a birth and life, for Paul says we were dead in sins. Lazarus was dead and in his grave when Christ called him; and we believe that when he called he gave the power of life, and he came forth, bound hand and feet; and Jesus said, “Loose him and let him go.” We believe that in this birth we are passive; but we hear some say they might have been born again years before they were, as well as when they were. I have always believed that God calls, begets or quickens before there is any effort put forth by the dead sinner. And when he is quickened, which answers to conviction, he then begins with all his soul to pray for mercy; and when delivered from distress and guilt, he feels that he is in a wide place of broad rivers and streams, free from trouble and misery; and all this without his aid or ability. Almost every one has some way laid out in their mind; but when their deliverance comes, it is in a way they are not looking for; but it comes in God’s own way and time; and God’s way is always right. If we are born of the Spirit, then we are spiritual, and can discern the things of the Spirit. But I will quit, lest I weary you. Please give your views on the new birth, and oblige a brother in tribulation.
Oak Point, Mo.
July 28, 1867.
Views on the New Birth: - Reply to Brother Charles Hunsacker: - When Christians confine their remarks to what they have experienced of the work of the Spirit in their deliverance from the power of darkness, and translation into the light and liberty of the sons of God, there is but very little occasion for any difference of opinion, or ground for controversy on the subject. All have to tell the same story and to attribute their change to the same boundless mercy and grace of God. Whatever may be the variation in circumstances, substantially their experience is the same. The thief in the agony of a painful and disgraceful death, and the proud Pharisee who was breathing threatenings and slaughter against the saints, differed widely in circumstances; but both could record their wonderful experience in the inspired words of the psalmist, “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul (Psalm 66:16).” “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God (Psalm 40:2,3).”
But in our discussions in regard to the metaphors and figures which are used in the Scriptures, there is more room for misapprehension, not only of the true nature or design of the metaphor, or of the views which our brethren may have advanced in regard to them. Thus when contemplating our passage from death unto life as a birth, some have, as in the instance referred to by our brother, made no distinction between the first manifestation of quickening power, by which conviction of guilt and ruin is fastened on the mind of an awakened sinner, and his sensible deliverance from wrath and condemnation, when the Savior is revealed and his blood and righteousness are applied for the remission of sin, and justification before God. In nature, a birth is the bringing forth into light and liberty that which was before begotten, conceived and quickened; and always preceded by travail and labor for deliverance.
In the spiritual application of the term, the children of God are born again, of an incorruptible seed, by the word of God which liveth and abideth forever. The words which Jesus speaks in the calling of his children are spirit and they are life. The dead hear his voice, or his words, and they that hear are quickened. The first evidence we can have that we are quickened is to feel our guilty and justly condemned condition, which cannot be felt until quickened, and therefore is an evidence of life. This life produces a struggle for deliverance; and the deliverance when it comes is a birth. The quickened, living child, in conviction, is shut up in darkness until ushered into the light and liberty of the gospel. Deliverance from great trouble is figuratively called a birth in several instances in the Bible, as II Kings 19:3; Isaiah 37:9; also Galatians 4:19. Neither of these passages are speaking of what is called the new birth, or the first experience of the children of God in passing from death unto life, but they serve to show that a birth is always used figuratively to signify deliverance; but that which is born must first have an existence. Had the brother referred to at the association said that the quickening of the Spirit always precedes the first convictions of guilt, etc., we think he would have spoken more correctly, and indeed, that is probably what he meant.
We have not in this article attempted to treat at large on the whole subject of the new and spiritual birth of the children of God, but we have confined our remarks more particularly to what we have understood to be implied in the inquiries of brother Hunsacker. If what we have written shall be of any service to him or to any of the saints, we shall not have labored in vain.
October 15, 1867.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 92 – 94