Regeneration: What Is It? Part 3

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We come, now, to consider, in the third and last place, the results of regeneration-a point of the deepest interest. Who can estimate aright the glorious results of being a child of God? Who can unfold those affections which belong to that high and hallowed relationship in which the soul is placed by being born again? Who can fully explain that precious fellowship which the child of God is privileged to enjoy with his heavenly Father? " Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." (1 John 3:1-31Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (1 John 3:1‑3).) "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, 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. 8:14-1714For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17And 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. (Romans 8:14‑17).)
It is most important to understand the distinction between life and peace. The former is the result of being linked with Christ's Person; the latter is the result of His work. " He that hath the Son, hath life." (1 John 5:1212He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. (1 John 5:12).) But, " being justified by faith we have peace? (Rom. 5:11Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: (Romans 5:1).) " Having made peace through the blood of his cross." (Col. 1:2020And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:20).) The very moment a man receives into his heart the simple truth of the gospel, he becomes a child of God. The truth which he receives is the " incorruptible seed " of " the divine nature." (1 Pet. 1:2323Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. (1 Peter 1:23). 2 Pet. 1:44Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Peter 1:4).) Many are not aware of all that is involved in thus simply receiving the truth of the gospel. As in nature, the child of a nobleman may not know the varied results of the relationship, so is it, likewise, in grace. I may be ignorant both as to the relationship and its results; but I am in it, notwithstanding: and being in it, I have the affections which belong to it, and I ought to cultivate them, and allow them to entwine themselves artlessly around their proper object, even Him who has begotten me by the word of truth. (Jas. 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).) It is my privilege to enjoy the full flow of parental affection emanating from the bosom of God, and to reciprocate that affection, through the power of the in-dwelling Spirit. "Now are we the sons of God." He has made us such. He has attached this rare and marvelous privilege to the simple belief of the truth. (John 1:1212But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: (John 1:12).) We do not reach this position " by works of righteousness which we have done " or could do; but simply " according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Savior. That, being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:5-75Not 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; 6Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:5‑7).) We are " called sons," and "made heirs;" and all this, simply by the belief of the truth of the gospel, which is God's " incorruptible seed."
Take the case of the very vilest sinner who, up to this moment, has been living a life of gross wickedness. Let that person receive into his heart the pure gospel of God, let him heartily believe " that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures;" and he there, then, and thus, becomes a child of God, a thoroughly saved, perfectly justified, and divinely accepted person. In receiving into his heart the simple record concerning Christ, he has received new life. Christ is the truth and the life, and when we receive the truth we receive Christ; and, when we receive Christ, we receive life. " He that believeth on the Son hath 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).) When does he get this life? The very moment he believes. " Believing ye might have life through his name." (John 20:3131But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. (John 20:31).) The truth concerning Christ is the seed of eternal life, and when that truth is believed, life is communicated.
Observe, this is what the word of God declares. It is a matter of divine testimony, not merely of human feeling. We do not get life by feeling something in ourselves, but by believing something about Christ; and that something we have on the authority of God's eternal Word-"the holy scriptures." It is well to understand this. Many are looking in, for evidences of the new life, instead of looking out at the object which imparts the life. It is quite true that, " he that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself;" (1 John 5:1010He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. (1 John 5:10),) but, be it remembered, it is " the witness " of a life which is received by " believing on the Son of God," not by looking in upon oneself; and the more undividedly I am occupied with Christ, the more distinct and satisfactory will be " the witness" in myself. If I make the witness my object, I shall be plunged in doubt and uncertainty; but if I make Christ my object, I have the witness in all its divine integrity and power. There is special need of clearness as to this, because of the strong tendency of our hearts to make something within the ground of our peace and contentment, instead of building, absolutely and exclusively, upon Christ. The more simply we cling to Christ, apart from all beside, the more peaceful and happy we shall be; but directly we take the eye off Him, we become unhinged and unhappy.
In a word, then, my reader should seek to understand, with scriptural accuracy, the distinction between life and peace. The former is the result of the connection with Christ's Person; the latter is the result of believing in his finished work. We very frequently meet with quickened souls who are in sad trouble and disquietude as to their acceptance with God. They really do believe on the name of the Son of God, and, believing, they have life; but from not seeing the fullness of the work of Christ, as to their sins, they are troubled in conscience, they have no mental repose. Take an illustration. If you place a hundred weight upon the bosom of a dead man, he does not, feel it. Place another, and another, and another, he is wholly unconscious. Why? Because there is no life. Let us suppose, for a moment, the entrance in of life, and what will be the result? A most distressing sensation occasioned by the terrible weight upon the bosom. What then will be needful in order to the full enjoyment of the life which has been imparted? Clearly, the removal of the burden. It is somewhat thus with the sinner who receives life by believing on the Person of the Son of God. So long as he was in a state of spiritual death, he had no spiritual sensations, he was unconscious of any weight pressing upon him. But the entrance in of spiritual life, has imparted spiritual sensibilities, and he now feels a burden pressing upon his heart and conscience which he knows not exactly how to get rid of. He sees not as yet all that is involved in believing on the name of the only begotten Son of God. He does not see that Christ is, at once, his righteousness and his life. He needs a simple view of the finished atonement of Christ, whereby all his sins were plunged in the waters of eternal oblivion, and he himself introduced into the full favor of God. It is this, and this alone, that can remove the heavy burden off the heart, and impart that profound mental repose which nothing can ever disturb.
If I think of God as a Judge, and myself as a sinner, I need the blood of the cross to bring me into His presence, in the way of righteousness. I must fully understand that every claim which God, the righteous Judge, had upon me, a guilty sinner, has been divinely answered, and eternally settled by " the precious blood of Christ." This gives my soul peace. I see that, through that blood, God can be "just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." (Rom. 3:2929Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: (Romans 3:29).) I learn that, in the cross, God has been glorified about my sins; yea, that the whole question of sin was fully gone into and perfectly settled between God and Christ, amid the deep and awful solitudes of Calvary. Thus my load is taken off; my weight removed; my guilt canceled; I can breathe freely; I have perfect peace; there is literally nothing against me; I am as free as the blood of Christ can make me. The Judge has declared Himself satisfied as to sin, by raising the sinner's Surety from the dead, and placing Him at the right hand of the majesty in the heavens.
But, then, there comes another thing, of immense value. I not only see myself as a guilty sinner provided with a way of access to God, as a righteous Judge; but I see God, in pursuance of His eternal counsels of electing love, begetting me through the word of truth, making me His child, adopting me into His family, and setting me before Him in such a way as that I can enjoy communion with Him as my Father, in the midst of all the tender endearments of the divine family circle. This is, obviously, another phase of the believer's position and character. It is no longer a question of his coming to God, in the full and settled consciousness that every just claim has been met. This, in itself, is ineffably precious to every sin-burdened heart. But there is far more than this. God is my Father, and I am His child. He has a Father's heart, and I can count on the tender affections of that heart, in the midst of all my feebleness and need. He loves me, not because of what I am enabled to do, but because I am His child.
Look at yonder tottering babe, the object of ceaseless care and solicitude, wholly unable to promote his father's interests in any one way, yet so loved by the father that he would not exchange him for ten thousand worlds; and if it be thus with an earthly father, what must it be with our heavenly Father? He loves us, not for aught that we are able to do, but because we are His children. He has begotten us, of His own will, by the word of truth. (Jas. 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).) We could no more earn a place in the heart of the Father, than we could satisfy the claims of the righteous Judge. All is of free grace. The Father has begotten us; and the Judge has found a ransom. (Job 33:2424Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom. (Job 33:24).) We are debtors to grace for both the one and the other.
But, be it remembered, while we are wholly unable to earn, by our works, a place in the Father's heart, or to satisfy the claims of the righteous Judge, we are, nevertheless, responsible to "believe the record which God has given of his Son." (1 John 5:9-119If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. 10He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. 11And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (1 John 5:9‑11).) I say this lest, by any means, my reader should be one of those who entrench themselves behind the dogmas of a one-sided theology, while refusing to believe the plain testimony of God. Many there are-intelligent people, too-who, when the gospel of the grace of God is pressed upon their acceptance, are ready to reply, " I cannot believe unless God gives me power to do so; nor shall I ever be endowed with that power, unless I am one of the elect. If I belong to the favored number, I must be saved-if not, I can't.
This is a thoroughly one-sided theology; and not only so, but its one side is turned the wrong way; yea, it is so turned as to wear the form of an absurd but most dangerous fatalism, which completely destroys man's responsibility, and casts dishonor upon God's moral administration. It sends man forth upon a wild career of reckless folly, and makes God the author of the sinner's unbelief. This is, in good truth, to add insult to injury. It is, first, to make God a liar, and then charge Him with being the cause of it. It is to reject His proffered love, and blame Him for the rejection. This is, in reality, the most daring wickedness, though based, as I have said, upon a one-sided theology.
Now, does any one imagine that an argument so flimsy will hold good, for a single moment, in the presence of the king of terrors, or before the judgment seat of Christ? Is there a soul throughout the gloomy regions of the lost that would ever think of charging God with being the author of its eternal perdition? Ah! no; it is only on earth that people argue thus. Such arguments are never breathed in hell. When men get to hell they blame themselves. In heaven, they praise the Lamb. All who are lost will have to thank self; all who are saved will have to thank God. It is when the impenitent soul has passed through the narrow archway of time into the boundless ocean of eternity, that it will enter into the full depth and power of those solemn words, " / would, but ye would not."
In truth, human responsibility is as distinctly taught in the word of God as is divine sovereignty. Man finds it impossible to frame a system of divinity which will give each truth its proper place; but he is not called upon to frame systems, but to believe a plain record, and be saved thereby. God " commandeth all men everywhere to repent." (Acts 17:3030And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: (Acts 17:30).) The command to repent is based upon a revelation of divine love, so bright, so clear, so full, so free, so powerful, that none can escape its action save those who refuse to hear and obey the word—the deluded victims of a fatalism which will not admit that God can give expression to His affections, or the human heart be melted down under the influence of a perfect love.
Having said thus much by way of caution, to any who may be in danger of falling under the power of the above line of argument, I shall proceed to unfold, a little further, the results of regeneration, as seen in the matter of the discipline of the Father's house.
As the children of God, we are admitted to all the privileges of His house, and, in point of fact, the discipline of the house is as much a privilege as anything else. It is on the ground of the relationship in which God has set us, that He acts in discipline toward us. A father disciplines his children because they are his. If I see a strange child doing wrong, I am not called upon to chasten him. I am not in the relationship of a father to him, and, as a consequence, I neither know the affections nor the responsibilities of that relationship. I must be in a relationship in order to know the affections which belong to it. Now, as our Father, God, in His great grace and faithfulness, looks after us, in all our ways, He will not suffer aught upon us, or about us, which would be unworthy of Him, and subversive of our real peace and blessedness. " Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh, which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness." (Heb. 12:9, 109Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. (Hebrews 12:9‑10).) Thus, the discipline is a positive privilege, inasmuch as it is a proof of our Father's care, and has for its object, our participation in the divine holiness.
But, then, we must ever bear in mind that the discipline of our Father's hand is to be interpreted in the light of our Father's countenance, and the deep mysteries of His moral government to be contemplated through the medium of His tender love. If we lose sight of this, we shall be sure to get into a spirit of bondage, as respects ourselves, and a spirit of judgment as respects others, both of which are in direct opposition to the spirit of Christ. All our Father's dealings with us are in perfect love. When He furnishes us with bread, it is in love; and when He takes down the rod, it is in love also. " God is love.'" It may frequently happen that we are at a loss to know the why and the wherefore of some special dispensation of our Father's hand. It seems dark and inexplicable. The mist, which enwraps our spirits is so thick and heavy, as to prevent our catching the bright and cheering beams from our Father's countenance. This is a trying moment—a solemn crisis, in the soul's history. We are in great danger of losing the sense of divine love, through inability to understand the profound secrets of divine government. Satan, too, is sure to be busy at such a time. He will ply his fiery darts, and throw in his dark and diabolical suggestions. Thus, between the filthy reasonings which spring up within, and the horrible suggestions which come from without, the soul is in danger of losing its balance, and of getting away from the precious attitude of artless repose in divine love, let the divine government be what it may.
Thus much, with reference to our own souls, while under any special visitation of the hand of God. The effect as to others is equally bad. How often may we have detected ourselves in the habit of cherishing a spirit of judgment, in reference to a child of God whom we found in circumstances of trial, either of " mind, body, or estate?" This should be carefully guarded against. We ought not to imagine that every visitation of the hand of God must necessarily be on account of some special sin in the person. This would be an entirely false principle. The dealings of God are preventive as well as corrective.
Take a case in point. My child may be in the room with me, enjoying all the sweet intimacies which belong to our relationship. A person enters who, I know, will utter things which I do not wish my child to hear. J, therefore, without assigning any reason, tell my child to go to his room. Now, if he has not the fullest confidence in my love, he may entertain all manner of false notions about my act. He may reason about the why and wherefore, to such a degree as almost to question my affection. However, directly the visitor takes his leave, I call the child into my presence and explain the whole matter to him; and, in the renewed experience of father's love, he gets rid of the unhappy suspicions of a few dark moments.
Thus it is often with our poor hearts, in the matter of the divine dealings both with ourselves and others. We reason when we ought to repose; we doubt when we ought to depend. Confidence in our Father's love is the true corrective in all things.
We should ever hold fast the assurance of that changeless, infinite, and everlasting love, which has taken us up in our low and lost estate, made us " sons of God," and will never fail us, never let us go, until we enter upon the unbroken and eternal communion of our Father's house above. May that love dwell more abundantly in our hearts that so we may enter more fully into the meaning and power of regeneration—what it is—how it is produced—and what are its results. God grant it, for Christ's sake! Amen.