Clay Village, Ky., July 1, 1880.
DEAR BRETHREN BEEBE: - In looking over No. 12, present volume of the SIGNS, I see a request from brother T.D. Clarkson, of California, which reads as follows:
“Will Elder J.F. Johnson please give his views through the SIGNS OF THE TIMES on Titus 3:5, especially what was saved by the washing of regeneration, and what was renewed by the renewing of the Holy Ghost? Please bring this matter within a strong and clear light.”
I cannot assure my brother that I will bring the matter within a “strong and clear light,” for that depends altogether whether the Lord will afford me such a light; but I will do the best I can in compliance with his request.
The text reads, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” “Not by works of righteousness.” This short sentence settles at once a damper and a deadly veto on the whole theory of the worldly or work-mongrel religion of the day. Not a society in the country, outside of the Old School Baptists, but must have salvation by works, or by endeavoring to mix works and grace together to accomplish that salvation. But it is “not by works,” “not of works,” “not according to works” “of righteousness which we have done,” and surely none will contend that it is by works of unrighteousness which we have done; therefore it is not by works of any kind that we have done or can do.
Let us next consider the significance of this word mercy. I think the word has not precisely a synonym in our language. Grace, perhaps, comes nearest to it. Mercy signifies, first, relief to sufferers, pity, compassion, pardon, &c., but to objects entirely unworthy of these blessings. It is peculiarly adapted to the condition of the Lord’s people when suffering under a sense of their sinfulness and deserved punishment for their sins; and the relief appears truly great when Christ makes known to them the riches of his mercy in their salvation; and though they feel very unworthy, the joy is unspeakable and full of glory. It is according to such mercy he saved us. Mark you, it is in the past tense that the apostle speaks of this wonderful and all-glorious work having been done; not what is doing now, nor will be done hereafter. Isaiah said [45:17,] “Israel shall be saved in the Lord;” and the angel said [Matt. 1:21,] “He shall save his people from their sins.” But when the immaculate Lamb of God “was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification,” the momentous work was finished; hence Paul says, “saved us by the washing of regeneration,” “who hath saved us, and called us,” &c.
“By the washing of regeneration.” To wash is to cleanse by ablution from stain, pollution, filth, &c.; to remove putrescence or corruption of all kinds. Salvation from all this was fully consummated when “Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, was buried, and rose again the third day, according to the scriptures.” That great and marvelous work constituted “the regeneration” of all that ever were or ever will be regenerated. This idea may be scoffed, ridiculed and contradicted, but it is irrefutable. The Lord’s people have been receiving manifestations of this regeneration all along since it was completed, but the manifestation of a thing is not the thing itself. It is incontrovertible, therefore, that it was the polluted sinner that was saved by the washing of regeneration. Brother C. wants this matter put in a “strong and clear light.” Well, “He [Christ] died for our sins.” “His blood cleanseth us from all sin.” “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and has made us kings and priests to God and his Father; unto him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” I know not how to put the matter in a stronger or clearer light than these holy men of God have done. It was the defiled sinner that was saved by the washing of regeneration, for none other needed ablution.
Brother C. desires me to say also what was renewed by the renewing of the Holy Ghost. To renew is not to give life, but to sustain, perpetuate and uphold life where that life exists. That life ever existed in the new man; but as he is constantly exposed to a cruel warfare, he as constantly needs this renewal. The outward man decayeth, but the inward man is renewed day by day. The scriptures do not tell me anything about the renewing of the outward man. The din of war is continually raging between the flesh and the spirit, or between the old and new man, and while the battle is raging so vehemently, it is a consoling reflection that the victory of the new man is inevitable; for while one is daily decaying, the other is daily renewed, and there is no doubt as to which will triumph.
Let us heed the admonition of the apostle [Eph. 4:22,] and put off the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, “and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” When that signal and glorious victory which was won on Calvary shall have been consummated in all the saints, and realized by all, with what emotions of joy will we hail the happy event, with what ecstatic joy, what songs of deliverance, what heart-thrilling melody will we chant the high praises of the great Deliverer, “and crown him Lord of all.”
I will close this brief and incoherent communication, submit it to the will of the editors of the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, and if published, to the scriptural scrutiny of brother Clarkson and others, and remain, as ever,
J. F. JOHNSON.