"Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light."
Dear Brother Beebe: - Having had my mind somewhat impressed for some time past with the text, Col. 1:12, and having some more distinct views than formerly of its import, I have thought of offering a few remarks on the passage. Although the subject and my remarks may be considered controversial, as differing from the opinions of some others, yet my object is to present for the consideration of the brethren my view of the subject. Whether they be correct, or whether they be of any importance, they may judge. Brother Dudley has anticipated me on some points of my subject, but there are other points not in contradiction to what is contained in his excellent communication in the fourth number of the present volume, which I wish to notice.
The text reads thus: "Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." The expression, "Giving thanks unto the Father, which, &c.," clearly shows that the making meet, &c., is the work of God and not of the creature. But that on which I wish particularly to remark is the making meet to be partakers of the inheritance, &c. By the expression, "the inheritance of the saints in light;" whether we understand by the saints in light, the saints in glory, or believers in general, I think none will dispute that we are to understand the inheritance to be that inheritance which is incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for them; and therefore that it must be entirely distinct from that inheritance which was given to the natural seed of Abraham through the lineage of Isaac and Jacob. That was a natural inheritance and the nature derived by their natural birth as the posterity of Abraham, and certified by their circumcision, made them meet to be partakers of it, their nature being suitable to the enjoyment of it, and they being known as the legitimate posterity of Abraham, see Gen. 17:1-14. But the inheritance of which our text speaks is not earthly, but heavenly; not corruptible, but incorruptible, not natural, but spiritual; it is not given of God merely as the sovereign disposer of events upon covenant obligations and conditions, but it is bequested of God as a Father, for an inheritance for His children. Hence it appears to me that to those who have ears to hear what the Spirit saith it is an easy task to describe what is requisite to make any meet for this inheritance. We must possess a nature that is heavenly, incorrupting, and spiritual; for without a nature corresponding to the inheritance we cannot enjoy it. And further we must have the witness that we are the children of God, "and if children then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together" Rom.8:16,17. The question may be asked whether adoption, with its necessary accompaniments: redemption, and emancipation from the law, would constitute this meetness for the inheritance? It might make us partakers of the inheritance, but not meet to be partakers of it; and our text speaks of being meet to be partakers, &c. Adoption and redemption have an important place in our being made heirs, because as the children of Adam we are bond servants under the law until redeemed, emancipated and made partakers of the spirit of adoption. But redemption and adoption give no new nature. They only make us, as we were the children of Adam, legally partakers of the inheritance, without giving that heavenly, that spiritual nature, adapted to the nature of the inheritance. Hence the declaration; ye must be born again, sounds as emphatically from the word as does the doctrine of adoption or redemption. It bears as prominent a place in the gospel revelation, is as important a point in the plan of salvation. I see not why the declaration, "Except a man be born again," &c., is not as definite in its import as are the declarations concerning adoption and redemption; or how a person can speak loosely of the nature of the new birth any more than he can of the nature of redemption, consistently with a correct view of gospel doctrine.
The question may be asked, whether we understand by the terms regeneration, and born again, born of God, &c., a washing? Do we not form an adequate idea of what is intended to be conveyed by those terms in the Scriptures? I answer, No.
1. Because the idea conveyed by the terms being born, in their uniform use, is very different from that conveyed by the terms being washed.
2. Because no washing can give to an earthly person a new and heavenly nature. No washing will change the Ethiopian's skin, or the Leopard's spots. No washing will change the sow into a sheep, but after being washed she still retains her old nature, and will therefore return to her wallowing in the mire. But do not the terms washing of regeneration found in Titus 3:5, convey the idea that washing and regeneration are one and the same? Will any say the terms renewing of the Holy Ghost, found in immediate connection, convey the idea that the renewing and the Holy Ghost are one and the same? Yet both expressions are similar in construction. The plain manifest import of the one expression is that the renewing is the result of the operation or communication of the Holy Ghost; so that of the other is that the washing is the result of regeneration. The one is the Holy Ghost's renewing, or a renewing which is experienced only where the Holy Ghost is given (John 7:39), the other is regeneration's washing or a washing which is experienced where regeneration takes place. There is an experience of washing, both of the water and of the blood, resulting from regeneration. But I think I have said enough to show any true inquirer after truth that this text does not convey properly the idea that a washing is regeneration; and I know of no text of Scripture that does.
But the question returns. What do the terms regeneration and born again mean? I cannot conceive that anyone has a right to say that they do not mean just what they say; that regeneration is not a regeneration, that being born again is not a being born again. If then no one has authority to say that the meaning of these terms do not correspond with the word used; I think I may safely say they do mean what the words import. And this is just what is needed to make us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. For as showed, the inheritance is not earthly or fleshly, but spiritual. In our first birth we were born of the flesh, and that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and will remain till death does its office to return it to dust. That only is spirit which is born of the spirit. In our first generation we were generated as the seed of Adam the living soul, but earthy man. Those who are regenerated are generated a second time; generated as the seed of the second Adam, who is the Lord from heaven and a quickening spirit. In the first birth, persons are brought into manifest existence in a nature that is of the earth, earthy. In being born again, they are born of a nature that is spiritual and heavenly; capable of receiving the things of the Spirit, and enjoying that which is heavenly. So that those who are born again exist in an old man and in a new man, in the same person; exist as the seed of Adam and as the seed of Christ; as the children of Adam and the children of God. Hence, notwithstanding their old man clinging to its mother earth and corrupt, yet they are made meet to be partakers of the incorruptible inheritance; for who so meet to partake of the inheritance laid up by a father as his own children? Hence the declaration of Paul before quoted: "If children, then heirs of God." &c. I have above represented this second birth to be of the seed of Christ, and I think I have truly so represented it according to the Scripture. But our text reads, "Giving thanks unto the Father who hath made us meet," &c. How is this? It is even so: The believer is born of life and Christ is their life (Col. 3:4); he is born of the Spirit and the Lord is the spirit of the New Testament, II Cor.3: 17. The second Adam was made, not a living soul, but a quickening spirit. What is it that quickens a dead body but life imparted? So what will quicken a dead soul but spiritual life imparted? Christ is that spirit and is that life. Hence that which is in the believer, the hope of glory according to the Scriptures, is not the old soul new formed, but it is Christ in him Col. 1:27. That Christ is the seed, the life of which the children of God are born, I have contended (if brother Beebe, you will allow me to glance a little at old things), heretofore as now; but though charged with it, I never have said that Christ, as the quickening spirit, was the regenerator. I have said that I knew not from the Scriptures, or to what effect that the Holy Ghost, as such, was the regenerator. And I have said that the Scriptures ascribed the work to God, but whether as Father, or Word, or as Holy Ghost, they did not say. Here, according to my present construction of this text, I was mistaken. For what does the text say? "Giving thanks unto the Father," &c., not unto the Word or the Holy Ghost. But how has the Father made us meet? 1. The new man, which I understand to be the production of the new birth, is said to be after God created in righteousness, and true holiness. Again it is said, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works" &c. If then we were created in Christ Jesus, we are, in our second birth, the seed of Christ, as our being created in Adam constituted us the seed of Adam; but in both cases it was God that created us; in the one case as servants, in the other as sons. In the second place, it is God, even the Father, that regenerates. For it is written, "God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God" &c. God's shining in the heart to give the, light of the knowledge, &c., is His regenerating, by imparting that life which is the light of men. Hence Christ said, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." If Christ is that eternal life which was with the Father (see John 1:2), and that life is the light of men, then God shines in the heart to give the light of the knowledge, &c., by regenerating with that life.
I have thus given my view of what it is to be made meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light, and who it is that makes meet. It is not for me to say that God could not in any other way meeten heirs for His inheritance, but I think I may say, this is the standard which God has revealed, "If children then heirs;" and that these children are born children by a second birth; born not of the flesh, but of the spirit; born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God; born not as the seed of Adam, but as the seed of Christ. I think also from the view I have taken of the Scripture testimony on the subject that, although there is a washing of water by the word and a washing from our sin in the blood of Christ connected with salvation, yet that no washing can constitute the regeneration and new birth spoken of in the Scriptures, or can change one from a natural person to a spiritual born child of God. You may wash an African slave until you rub the skin off and yet you cannot make him a free born son of his white master.
I do desire that our brethren would examine this, and other subjects of like importance, carefully in the light of the Scriptures; and be careful that they look at it in the Scripture light, and not in that of the theories of men. If the Scriptures do not sustain the views I have given, I hope any discovering the error will point it out in the spirit of christian love.
I remain yours; the same poor sinful wretch as when younger.
Centreville, Fairfax County, Virginia.
March 8, 1855.
From: SIGNS of the TIMES: Vol.23 (1858)
Select Works of Elder Samuel Trott