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REMARKS ON THE LETTER OF BROTHER E. RITTENHOUSE.

Our personal acquaintance for many years with this beloved brother affords us assurance that he writes from the purest motives and expresses the honest convictions of his mind; and his views are entitled to our careful consideration. If any thing has been said or written on the subject of regeneration and the new birth that would lead any to even suspect that we dispute, or lightly esteem, the commonly received views of the saints of all ages on the subject of an experimental work of the Quickening Spirit of God in what is called the new birth, or being born again of an incorruptible seed, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever; brother Rittenhouse has our sincere thanks for seasonable caution. To our mind there is no doctrine more clearly taught in the Bible, or exemplified in the experience of the children of God than that of the personal and experimental regeneration, and spiritual birth of all the children of God. With us, as with him, this doctrine is vital and fundamental, and second in importance to no other matter of revelation. As to the precise sense in which the word regeneration was used by our Savior, or by the apostle, in the only two passages where it occurs in the Bible, we will not contend for our own views in opposition to those entertained by others. But whatever may have been the sense in which they were used, we have and do believe that all the immortality which God has given to his church, to be personally and experimentally developed in the ages to come, both in their being born again and in the final resurrection of their bodies, was given to them in and through Christ as their spiritual Head, and was communicated to the church, as the body of Christ, through him when God raised him from the dead, and then and there a nation was born in a day. And when the members of his body are personally and experimentally quickened and born again and made to believe, it is by the power of the resurrection of Christ; or as Paul has said, “Which believe according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead (Ephesians 1:19).” Hence the Spirit of which we are born again, and which Spirit dwells in the saints is the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead, and by which our mortal bodies shall in like manner be quickened and raised from the dead at the last day. (See Romans 8:11.)

Although the discussion of the subject has failed to edify our brother, many dear brethren have assured us that they have been edified and refreshed, and, if not deceived, our own mind has been enlightened also. As to the cause, nature, necessity, and personal experimental development of regeneration, no essential change has taken place with us, that we are aware of; but we confess we have discovered new beauties in the contemplation of the views of our brethren who have had greater light than ourself, and have in the discussion presented their views in a clearer manner than we could.

With no design of disparagement of the views of brother Rittenhouse on I Peter 1:3, we cannot perceive any application of the idea of generation, begetting, or birth, to the relief experienced by the saints from depression, from a knowledge of the fact that their crucified Lord was risen from the dead, as it implanted, generated, or begat no new relationship either to God or to the inheritance of glory; whereas Peter affirms not only that they were begotten again by the resurrection of Christ from the dead, to a lively hope, but also to an inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for the heirs. And in the same chapter he says that those who are so begotten are also “born again,” to that very incorruptible inheritance to which they were begotten by the resurrection, by, or, “of incorruptible seed, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” Whenever the sensible presence of our Lord is hidden from our faith by any intervening cloud, we are in heaviness, and manifold temptations; and when the cloud is removed, our joys revive; but no new relationship is developed. When in our flesh Jesus bowed himself in death, he fully represented us in death as slain by the law. Had he failed to arise, no living or lively hope of immortality could ever have beamed on those for whom he died; but when he was begotten, and born from the dead, the vitality of that birth and resurrection life which quickened and brought up his crucified body from death, and from under the law, and curse which he sustained for us, was given to us in his resurrection. In what other way has he abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light? In what other way are we risen with him? In what other way has God quickened us together with Christ, and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus?

Middletown, N.Y.
June 15, 1868.

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 218 – 220