LAWRENCEBURG, Ky., March 3, 1837.
MR. BEEBE - Dear Sir: - Permit me to ask the solution of the following questions, viz:
If all men, before regeneration, are natural men, as is the generally received opinion, and are unable to receive the things of the Spirit, when and how are they to receive them? Is there any medium between a natural and a spiritual state? and if so, do they receive them in the medium or spiritual state? And if in the spiritual state they receive them, how are they made spiritual? seeing that the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit.
I earnestly solicit an answer to the above, not through any ill-designed motive, but merely for the truth’s sake; and thinking, perhaps, your readers would be pleased to see it themselves, I have thought proper to propound the question to you, and more particulary for my own satisfaction. I wish a fair and scriptural solution upon logical principles.
I am, sir, yours in search of truth,
REPLY: WE take pleasure in assisting, to the utmost of our ability, all such as are searching for the truth; we will therefore most cheerfully give I Inquire our views on the questions submitted.
By the term natural man, as used by the apostle, (1 Cor. ii. 14,) we understand all such as have not been born of the Spirit of God; for our Lord said to Nicodemus, (John iii. 6,) “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” As Adam in his first estate was but a natural man. (1 Cor. xv. 46,) so all who by ordinary generation have descended from him, being born of the flesh, possess his nature, and are, of course, natural men; and although this fleshly nature has become by transgression contaminated and depraved, yet it is not thereby changed from a natural to a spiritual state. In his allegory, (Gal. iv. 22-31,) the apostle shows that Ishmael, who was born after the flesh, was a natural (not spiritual) man. Hence we understand that all mankind are natural men while in their unquickened state, and that all are included in the declaration of the apostle, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit,” &c. That all natural men are unable to receive the things of the Spirit is settled forever by the above declaration of the inspired apostle. What remains, therefore, is to show when and how any of them are made partakers of the things of the Spirit.
And first, we say negatively, there is no medium between a natural and a spiritual state, consequently they cannot receive them in such a state; and it follows, that in order to be able to receive spiritual things, a man must be born of the Spirit. “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
Here let it be observed that the new birth does not affect the natural body, or the flesh; these are left as full of enmity to God, and as incapable of receiving the things of the Spirit, or of serving the law of Christ, as they ever were; while that which is born of God cannot commit sin, because the seed remaineth. The new creation wrought in the children of God, by which they are made spiritual, is variously expressed by the figurative language, “being born again,” or “You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins,” and the idea to us is clear, that although an unrenewed man knows nothing of, nor is able to receive the things of the Spirit, yet the quickened child becomes, by the quickening operation of the Holy Ghost on his heart, a spiritual man, and is able in this spiritual state to receive spiritual things, hold communion with God, lay hold of the promises, understand the doctrine of the gospel, and be fed and comforted with that meat which the unrenewed know not of.
Our friend will do well to consider the analogy of the figures employed in this subject. For instance: before we were born, or existed naturally, we could perform no natural action; and so the man that is dead cannot receive things which the living can, or exercise the functions of the living; yet although in an unborn state he is unable to do these things, God is able to give a natural existence; or if dead, he who is the Resurrection and the Life is able to quicken and make him alive, and to bestow upon him all those abilities which otherwise he could neither possess nor exercise the functions of life.
But the question is submitted, “When and how are they made spiritual?” We reply, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live.” - John v. 25. The work has been progressing throughout all ages, is still going on, and be who holds the keys of death and hell, who openeth and no man shutteth, and with whom alone are the issues of death, in his own time calls his sheep with a holy calling, causes his glorious voice to be heard, (Isa. xxx. 30,) and gives unto them eternal life, with the assurance that they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of his hand.
ALEXANDRIA, D. C.,
April 21, 1837.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
pages 380 – 383