Adam and Christ; New Birth; Connection Between New Birth and Faith; Responsibility and Purpose; Election; the Will of God

John 2:23; John 3:6; John 6:44; Galatians 1:16; Galatians 3:26; Ephesians 2:8; 1 Peter 1:23
Dear brethren,—The question treated of in your letter is not a new one; it is too of great importance. But there is a fundamental error in your reasoning, as if faith in a human testimony, with respect to temporal things, was the same thing as faith that receives the word of God in the heart. There is no enmity in the heart against temporal things, but "the mind of the flesh is enmity against God." You say that man if he wished could believe; but he never wishes, because the object of faith is hateful to him; and, further, if he believed with this natural faith only, it would be worth nothing. Many believed in Jesus (John 2:23, 2423Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. 24But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, (John 2:23‑24)), but Jesus had no confidence in this faith. You forget that the one who believes with a true faith has everlasting life. (John 3:3636He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36).) See 1 John 5:1515And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. (1 John 5:15). Likewise, they are not born of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but they are born of God. And therefore it is said (Gal. 3:2626For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26)), "Ye are children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." Now this true faith, the fruit of the operation of the Holy Ghost, has not been found in any man. It is said (Isa. 1:22Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. (Isaiah 1:2)), " Wherefore when I came was there no man?" John the Baptist says (John 3:3232And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony. (John 3:32)), "And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth: and no man receiveth his testimony;" also the Lord Himself says (chap. 3:11), "We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen, and ye receive not our witness." That it is the work of God is clear according to the word (James 1:1818Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (James 1:18)), "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth." In Galatians we read (1:15), "When it pleased God... to reveal his Son in me." God gives us eternal life. "He that hath the Son hath life," says the apostle John. "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit"—an entirely new thing in man. Christ Himself is our life, and we have not this life before receiving Christ. The testimony, then, is clear and certain that we are children of God through faith, and born, not of the will of man, but of God.
You say that he has faith—`may it not be that he opens his hand to receive?' But hearts are not so disposed; they will not open the hand. Everything is done, as far as the heart is concerned, when it is disposed to receive Christ. He complains that when He came there was no man. You acknowledge that he has salvation, but, if a man is disposed to open his hand, conversion comes from the will of man. You say that as soon as a man believes we find that God renews his mind. But, if he believes, it is already renewed, since Christ is precious to him, while before he saw no beauty in Him that he should desire Him; already he knows that he is a sinner, and needs a Savior, and he has found Him if he believes. Observe that Jesus says, "You will not come." I believe fully that they are responsible for it; but where do you find, You will? The word of God expressly says, No. "There is none that seeketh after God." He came to seek them, thank God, but when He came He was rejected; He was not received save by those who are born of God. This is said by the Spirit in Isa. 1, by John the Baptist, by the Lord, and by the apostle John. Now certainly God does not hinder any one from coming, but such is the disposition of the heart of man that he will not. This is why the work of God is necessary, and why it is said, "No man can come unto me except the Father which hath sent me draw him." Perhaps you will say, Everyone is drawn. No, because the one who is drawn comes, and Jesus will raise him up at the last day: he is saved, see John 6:3939And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. (John 6:39). Therefore it is said (ver. 37), "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." The Lord then expressly says what you say He does not say, "No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him," and He repeats (ver. 65), "Therefore said I unto you that no man can come unto me except it were given unto him of my Father." Also it is written, "But ye do not believe, because ye are not of my sheep. My sheep hear my voice... and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish."
Now as to the passage in Eph. 2, it is very simple. What is said of the neuter is this: the adversaries of this truth say that τοῦτο ("that") cannot agree with "faith," because the latter is feminine; but in the same way it cannot agree with "grace" (χάρις) because it is feminine Then they say, It is true, but it agrees with the whole thing, salvation; but this has no sense. "By grace ye are saved through faith, and that (this salvation) not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." Certainly salvation by grace is not of ourselves, otherwise it would not be grace—impossible to suppose that grace is of myself, so that in this case "and that" has no meaning. But it may well be supposed that faith is of ourselves, as you say; therefore when he has said that it is by faith he adds, "and that, not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." In short, by true faith we have life; we are children of God; but this is so because we are born of the Spirit, who works in us, and produces faith when we are begotten of God by His own will. To be begotten of God is by His operation, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit', but seeing that it is by the word, and by means of faith (the Spirit gives to the word the divine power which produces life, as the incorruptible seed of the living God enduring forever), the word of God becomes the revelation of His Son in us, and Christ thus received is our life.
I do not believe, dear brethren, what you say of Adam in innocence, but I do not seek controversy. I have sought to lay bare the truth, as I find it in the scriptures. I would desire to draw your attention to one single thing: you say that Adam was able to discern good and evil, but the word says expressly that this came in by his fall. May God our Father in Christ instruct us in all the truth.
Your affectionate brother in Christ.
February, 1879.