Dunkirk, Ind., April 17, 1867.
Brother Beebe: - Having finished the business part of my letter, and feeling a deep interest in the welfare of the Lord's chosen ones, I feel disposed to present a few thoughts for their consideration on the subject of regeneration and the new birth, a subject on which many precious brethren have given their views, and on which there seems to be diversity of opinion, which, to me, seems to be more in the manner of expression with some, than in real sentiment.
Dear brethren and sisters in Christ, on a subject so sublime, and so fully taught in Christian experience, it seems to me, there should be no difference among Old School Baptists. I conclude that instruction has taught nothing in the New Testament relating to the subject but what it teaches every child of grace. Hence Christian experience and the New Testament must harmonize. Christ says, "That which is born of the flesh, is flesh (John 3:6)." Now a birth is the result of a precious cause (generate). Does Christian experience teach it? I answer, It does. Let us inquire? Go back, my dear brethren and sisters, to the time and place when and where you first got a sight and sense of your fleshly nature. Does not your experience teach you that, "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, so death hath passed upon all men, for that all have sinned;" (that sin is hereditary) and that all your sins, whether in thought or act, proceeds from that corrupt fountain within your own nature, generated by the father of lies. Thus being generated or begotten in sin, we see the birth or fruit of sin in that which is born or produced by it, which is the fruit of the flesh. For the fruit, or works, of the flesh are manifest, which are these: "adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditious, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like (Galatians 5:19-21)." Now, dear kindred in Christ, are not all these the effects of a previous cause, which is sin? The first moving cause is interwoven in our Adamic nature, over which the child of grace mourns; because when he would do good, evil is present. Now, brethren, are not all the internal enemies of the child of God, and all the powers of anti-christ, and every species of heresy, from first to last, all the works of the flesh, proceeding from that natural generation, the influence of sin, called the old man? Why did you loathe your own person? Not because your own flesh was different from, or more corrupt than, the flesh of others whom you esteemed highly; but it was because of the works or fruits of the flesh which were so God-dishonoring in your estimation. But, lest I should be tedious, I will pass.
Regeneration and the New Birth. "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:6)." Christ said to his disciples, "Ye that have followed me in the regeneration," etc. Now regeneration is the first flow in a child or subject of grace. The apostle says, "We love him because he first loved us." Dear brethren, was it not the love of God shed abroad in your poor hearts that made you love God, and hate yourself, and abhor the works of the flesh? Then the love of God the Father that was operating on your heart produced spiritual life and action in you. A hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and you became weary of sin, and heavy laden with guilt and condemnation.
Regenerating grace, or the love of God shed abroad in the heart of a poor sinner, not only produces spiritual vitality, but gives him eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to understand, alike with an appreciating conscience, and a feeling sense of his awful condition of condemnation which rests on him; guilt raniding in his bosom, and vengeance pursuing to the utmost. The apostle says, "According to his mercy he hath saved us by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost." O what a cleansing! Not the purifying of the flesh, but denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, living soberly, righteously and godly. For where sin abounded, there did grace much more abound. Those who are thus regenerated are created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath before ordained that they should walk therein. Being delivered from the power of darkness, they are translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son.
We see in all this the fruits of the Spirit, by which they were quickened, or regenerated, which are love, love to God, to his word, to his ordinances, to his cause, and to his salvation by grace, and by grace alone. Joy fills his soul, for pardoned sins, and for a finished redemption. Peace flows like a river, to satiate a thirsty soul. Jesus appears, not only as a hiding place from the wind, and covert from the storm, but also as rivers of water in a dry place, and the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. The love of God produces long-suffering, and humble submission to the will of high heaven. Gentleness also, no murmurings against the counsels of God, ever trusting alone in that grace which is sufficient for every emergency. These are fruits of the Spirit and evidences of the new birth.
Now, my dear kindred in Christ, I have penned a few thoughts on the subject of regeneration and the new birth. I do not understand them to be one and inseparable, regeneration proceeding and producing the new birth. As stated above, regeneration is the first flow or communication of divine life, which is effected alone by the quickening power of the second Adam, the Lord from heaven. And the new birth is the effect of regeneration in delivering the redeemed from the power of darkness, and translating them into the kingdom of God's dear Son, with all the powers and peculiarities of the children of God.
Brother Beebe, this imperfect scribble is submitted to your disposal. Do with it as you think fit.
Yours as ever.
Reply: We agree with Elder Buckles in the opinion expressed by him, that much of the seeming difference of views recently expressed on the subject of regeneration and the new birth arises from a failure with brethren to perfectly understand each other. Much labor is, in some cases, lost in argument to prove what no one intends to dispute, and to establish points which belong not to the general issue. We presume that all Old School Baptists fully agree, so far as they understand each other, in what constitutes a genuine and reliable Christian experience, at least so far as the sensible demonstration of God's quickening power is felt and witnessed by all the children of God. So that in examining those who desire our fellowship, and apply for admission to the communion of the church, we have no trouble in understanding the relation they give of the dealings of the Lord with them. Even the tongue of the stammerer can pronounce the Shibboleth clear and distinctly.
We also, with brother Buckles, hold that regeneration, in the order of things, and according to the word, must precede the new birth. How can that be born of God that is not first begotten of him? And as the seed which alone can generate and bring forth the children of God must come from God, it must be an incorruptible seed, by the word of God which liveth and abideth forever; and as the seed is incorruptible, and every seed, by the decree of God, must bring forth a chosen generation as incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading as the seed that produced them. That which is incorruptible is not only pure and uncorrupted, but absolutely insusceptible of corruption, therefore we are assured that, "Whatsoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God (I John 3:9)." Yet we are conscious that sin still remains in our flesh, which is born only of the flesh. The principal question at issue is in substance this: When the child of God is born of the Spirit, does his flesh, or any of his fleshly powers and faculties, then put on immortality and become incorruptible? Is his fleshly nature then delivered from the bonds of corruption, and is his mortality then swallowed up of life, or does his mortal powers and faculties still retain their mortality, and their corruptibles retain their corruption, until the resurrection of their bodies in the power of that endless life of which they are made partakers in the new birth? We all agree that the life which we receive in the new birth is born of God, and by it we are sealed to the resurrection, when this same life shall pervade and quicken, change and fashion all the bodies of the saints to the likeness of Christ's risen and glorious body. But can we say that our fleshly bodies are now spiritual? If others can, we know of some who cannot. We who have received the first fruits of the spirit (in our new birth), "even we ourselves do groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit: the redemption of our body (Romans 8:23)."
June 1, 1868.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 198 - 202