In this section it is shewn, 1st, that my opponent attempts to prove, that because regeneration is the effect of the almighty power of God ; that therefore, baptism cannot be the means. This is examined. 2d, An investigation of his criticism on John 3, 5. 3d, An investigation of the analogy he speaks of between a natural and the spiritual birth.
1. Mr. M. says p. 5. 6, “From the above, [having just before quoted a few passages of scripture which speak of regeneration] it appears, that regeneration is an internal, radical change of the soul, whereby it receives a new birth from the death of sin, into the life of righteousness—a new creation from that corrupt and unholy state, in which we are by sin and transgression, into the holy and righteous image of our blessed Redeemer—a translation from the power of darkness, in which we are, previous to such a change, and are brought into the light and liberty of God’s dear children. We thereby obtain the forgiveness of all our sins, are transformed, by the renewing of our minds, into the image of God, and are enabled to know and do what God’s will is concerning us. Now is it not evident, that if regeneration implies such a deep and radical change of heart, that water baptism, nor any thing external can effect? Can any thing, short of the mighty power of God. or operative energies of that almighty spirit, which raised the body of Christ from the dead, and breathed into the nostrils of the first man, and he became a living soul, effect such a change ? such a death to sin, and new birth unto righteousness? I think it is evident that it cannot.”
Answer. It is admitted, that nothing short of omnipotence can effect regeneration. But is this a reason, that baptism cannot be the means? No. My opponent might with equal propriety say, it requires the almighty power of God to produce a man; for that reason he cannot be born of a mother. Or, it requires the almighty power of God, to produce a cornstalk ; therefore, the planting of the seed, the earth, rain, and sun-beams, cannot be the means of its production. What man of sound principles would argue in such a manner? In the same way he proves, that baptism cannot be the means of regeneration, viz: because it requires the omnipotence of God to effect it, I could also prove, that all means in nature are useless, to produce any thing ; because nothing can be produced without omnipotence.
Mr. M not only denies, that regeneration is effected by baptism ; but also says, that nothing external can effect it. If nothing external as means, which here is the point in question, can effect regeneration; then it is evident, that the holy scriptures, neither as they are written, nor as they are preached, as well as baptism, can be any means of grace ; for they are all external. My opponent by denying baptism, to be the means of regeneration, was led to deny all external means; hence, the holy scriptures ; for they are external; and herein he manifests himself, either as a fanatick, or as a deist. For if no external means can effect regeneration, it is evident, that the word of God cannot, as it is also external; hence according to this theory, if God regenerate any one, he does it without the gospel word, baptism, or any other means. This at once, sets aside the divine validity of the gospel. If no external means effect regeneration, then it is in vain, to look to the word of God, as well as to baptism, or to use any other means ; hence, no opportunity at all to be saved ; unless we by the carnal, and wicked works of our reason could merit salvation ; otherwise, we would have to lie dormant, like the Epicurians ; or, else wait, and gaze to the clouds, to experience regeneration, by an extraordinary miracle.
When the divine efficacy of the word of God, and baptism is vindicated, one may hear multitudes, who profess Christianity, as if they were pierced through, exclaim: God alone can save a sinner ! he must do the work! only the spirit! the spirit ! the preaching of the gospel, and water baptism are man’s works ; for men preach and baptise! Such denying, that the divine blessings are contained in the gospel word, and baptism, they palliate themselves, either by some carnal self-work ; such as they call praying, and corporeal mortifications, in order to render God an equivalent for salvation; or, by being dormant, until their disordered imaginations figure to themselves heavenly dreams, and their minds get environed by satanic illusions; they are sure the Holy Spirit, has begun his work in them, and in some fanatick paroxysm; either, in a garden, field, grove, or some lonely place, they imagine they hear a supernatural voice ; and without any gospel word, or baptism, sensibly experience regeneration : hence it is not so very surprising, why the word of God, as it is revealed in the scriptures, and baptism, when exhibited as means of grace, should be as offensive to them, as to Thomas Paine, Voltair, and their disciples! Deluded men ! can they not see, that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, Rom. 1. 16 ; and that baptism is God’s own institution, and includes his blessed name, which is himself. Notwithstanding, these fanaticks crowding their sermons with what they dreamt, and felt; and thus preaching themselves instead of Christ; yet, lest they be viewed as infidels, profess to believe the scriptures, alter spiritualizing sundry texts, which are opposed to their opinion, and administer baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, as a form of godliness. Such are pointed out by the apostle, that they “have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof.” 2 Tim. 8, 5. When the question is put: the power of what do they deny ? the answer will be, of the form of godliness; for the antecedent, is the form of godliness. Did such fanaticks not profess the scriptures, and pretend to the administration of the sacraments, there would be nothing, to distinguish them from the scoffers of the world; and they would appear in their infidel originality; but as they wish to pass for Christians, they pretend to pay some regard, as they say, to the outward gospel, water baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, as emblems of their outward profession; hence, as a form of their godliness : but that there is any saving power, or virtue in them, they utterly deny, and agree with my opponent, that nothing external can effect regeneration; and thus they deny the power of the form of godliness, which according to the apostle, is the true characteristick of deceivers, and false prophets.
Without shame, and without paying any attention to the good sense of his readers, my opponent says, p. 40, that in the use of the means, we are to receive the blessing; when before, he could have the effrontery to assert, that the blessing is not contained in the means, nor that any thing external could effect regeneration; by which he roundly contradicts himself.
2. In my treatise, I quoted the words of our Saviour: “verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God, John 3, 5; and then observed, that the water and the spirit are connected, when the new birth is effected. Whereupon Mr. M. observes:
“How this proves that water baptism is a heavenly flood of regeneration, I see not. Neither can I see how this proves that it is the ordinary means ; nor how it plainly shows that water and spirit must be connected when the new birth is effected. For 1st, were I to grant that baptism is a means, yet the means and the end are not the same ; and also, the means may be, and often are used, and the end not obtained; therefore, baptism is not regeneration. 2. If baptism is a means at all, it is not the ordinary means (as we have already shewn) because there are other means, such as preaching the gospel, &c. that commonly bring us to obtain the same end ; and sometimes all the means fail, and the new birth is never effected in the hearts of many. 3. Our Lord told Nicodemus, ‘Except a man be born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’ Nicodemus was a Pharisee, and had attended to the washings and purifications under the law ; and I have thought, was of the same opinion that Mr. H. is, viz :—That water externally applied, by which they were cleansed from the filthiness of the flesh, was sufficient. Christ to convince him of this error, said, ‘Except a man be born of water and the spirit, &c —of the water, by which he is externally made clean, as a figure, or sign; and of the spirit as the thing signified by water, whereby he is renewed in the spirit of his mind, and made internally clean by divine grace, he never can enter into the kingdom of God. Hence water, in this place, was referred to by our Lord, as an emblem or sign, to show Nicodemus the nature of that internal birth that must take place in the Soul, effected by the spirit of God.”
“That this is the meaning of Christ, I think will appear, 1st, from St. Paul’s words. See Heb. 10, 22: “Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.’ Here the apostle speaks of the internal and external washing ‘Having the heart sprinkled, &c. related to that internal work, wrought in us by the operations of the grace and spirit of God, whereby the conscience is cleansed from all evil, and the soul renewed in the image of God. Our bodies washed with pure water, related to the external washing practised among the Jews, which was emblematical of that internal purity that they must obtain, in order to be acceptable worshippers of God, Hence we must be born of the water and spirit; i. e. we must be made inwardly and outwardly holy. See also Heb ix. 9.14. Hence I think Christ had no reference to the Christian baptism, as practised under the present dispensation ; for the Christian baptism was not instituted at that time; therefore, Nicodemus was entirely unacquainted with it. Of course, Christ could not have referred him to an ordinance that was not in being at the time, as an ordinary means by which he was then to be regenerated and born again But 3. Nicodemus was a Jew, and of course well acquainted with the Jewish rituals, by which they were washed and purified from the filthiness of the flesh, and prepared to enter into the worshipping congregation of the Lord. Christ refers to this as a figure, sign, or emblem, of that internal purification performed by the spirit, by which the soul is cleansed from the filthiness of sin, renewed in the image of God, and prepared to enter into the congregation of the Lord above. Hence, ‘Except a man be born of water,’ by which he is externally purified from the filthiness of the flesh, as a figure or sign of an internal grace—’and of the spirit,’ whereby the conscience is cleansed from dead works, and the soul renewed in the image of God, as the thing signified, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” p. 28, 29, 30
Answer. That I am of the opinion, as my opponent asserts, that water externally applied to take away the filth of the flesh, is sufficient, is a most barefaced slander. Have I not frequently said, that the virtue of baptism consisted not in the water, but in the command, and name of God, with which it is connected? Neither, did my opponent prove by any text, or circumstance, that Nicodemus was of this opinion. For proof he offers: I thought Nicodemus was of this Opinion, and upon this he founds his interpretation : viz. that Christ intended to convince him of this error, by saying except a man be born of the water and the spirit, &c. He ought first to have proved, that this was the error of Nicodemus, before he asserts, that Christ intended to convince him of the same; but instead of this, he dispaches it by ‘I thought’! That Nicodemus was well acquainted with the washings, and purifications under the law, is admitted ; but that this should be a reason, why he believed, that the external application of water was sufficient, is very inconclusive ; for we might as well say, Moses, David, or any other saint, under the old testament dispensation believed, that the external application of water was sufficient; because they were acquainted with the washings and purifications under the law. According to my opponent, Nicodemus was acquainted with the legal purifications ; if so, why then should our Saviour have been so particular, to inform him of the necessity of being regenerated by such, and the spirit? Would it not have been sufficient, if he only had urged the necessity, of being regenerated by the spirit ?” And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptised with the baptism of John. But the pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against being not baptised of him” Luke 7. 29, 30. This text shews, that although, the people justified God, being baptised; yet, the pharisees and lawyers rejected this counsel of God, against themselves, and were not baptised. Nicodemus was a pharisee ; hence had not rejected the carnal washings under the law ; but appears to have been a stranger to the dispensation of the gospel. John’s baptism was the counsel of God, and the introduction to the kingdom of the Messiah hence how rational it was, that he instructed Nicodemus, with respect to its necessity and importance? There is an obvious difference between the opinion, as entertained by the pharisees, with respect to baptism, and the doctrines, which I inculcate. They rejected baptism ; hence, must have viewed it as useless ; whereas, even according to the testimony of my opponent, I venerate baptism too highly ; for I consider it as a means of salvation. Mr. Moore’s doctrine, is far more agreeable to the opinion of the pharisees ; for they despised baptism, which was the counsel of God; and what does he ?—He esteems baptism nothing but a little water, and has called it Henkel’s heavenly flood ; and although, he himself baptises ; yet, representing baptism so mean, and insignificant, he virtually rejects it as the counsel of God ; and thus ranks very highly with the pharisees. Yet, herein the pharisees acted more consistent ; for as much, as they despised baptism, they did not all practise it ; whereas my opponent counts it nothing but water ; yet, he administers such a despicable thing.
That the water of which Christ spake alludes to the Jewish washings is by no means proved by Heb. 10,22 : “having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” The writer of this epistle, was not speaking to Jews, as such that were under the ceremonial law, and thus subject to the carnal washings, but to such, as were Christians under the gospel dispensation. The phrase ”our bodies washed with pure water,” is in such a connexion, that it cannot relate to the legal purifications. To elucidate this the context is quoted : — “Having, therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us through the vail, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” v19-22. By whom should the Hebrews enter into the holiest? Ans. Not by the blood of calves and goats; but by the blood of Jesus. What is called the new and living way? Ans. That which was consecrated by his flesh. Who’s is the high priest over the house of God? Ans. Neither Aaron, nor his sons; but Jesus Christ. To whom, and in what manner should they draw near? Ans. To Christ, with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled form an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. What have the Jewish washing to do with the Christian dispensation? or with the high priest Jesus Christ? or with the full assurance of faith? Astonishing! that the writer of this epistle, should congratulate the Hebrew Christians, upon their being waged by the abrogated rites of the ceremonial law; or, give them encouragements to draw near the high priest, Christ; because they were washed with he same! Where is the Christian divine, who does not know, that at the time the Jewish ceremonies were abrogated? And even, when some o the converts were wont to hold some of the legal ceremonies, and to incorporate them with Christianity, the apostles, instead of encouraging them in, they rebuked them; as for instance: St. Paul, told the Galatians the impropriety of being circumcised; and exhorted the Colossians, not to suffer themselves to be judged, with respect to meat, drink, holidays, new moons, and sabbath days. Col 2, 16. If then already, the apostles discountenanced those abrogated rites, what manner of consistency can there be, in asserting, that the washing with pure water, as applied to the Hebrew Christians, relates to the Jewish washing under the law? He indeeed, must possess a Judaizing mind, who cannot discover, that the pure water, with which the Hebrews were washed, is a Christian institution; hence baptism. The reference which my opponent made to Heb. 9, 9, 14, does not establish his argument; for these texts do not prove, that the Christian Hebrews, were subject to observe these carnal ordinances: but they were only instructed, that such were prefiguragiions of the blood of Christ.
To say, that the Christian baptism was not instituted at the time, Christ conversed with Nicodemus, is no evidence, that the water, of which he here speaks alludes to the Jewish washing. Neither has my opponent proved this assertion. It is said : “Alter these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judea ; and there he tarried with them, and baptised.” John 3, 22. After these things: viz. after Christ’s conversation with Nicodemus, which is immediately recorded in the preceeding part of this chapter. v26 —”And they (John’s disciples) came unto John, and said unto him , Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptiseth, and all men come to him.” And ch. 4, v 62, “When therefore the Lord knew how the pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptised more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptised not, but his disciples, &c.” These texts undeniably prove, that Christ baptised the agency of his disciples before his crucifixion, and before John the baptist was imprisoned ; hence, cotemporary with Nicodemus. But suppose, that Christ did not baptise before his conversation with Nicodemus ; yet, it does not prove, that he could not refer to baptism, which it not then already should have been in vogue ; yet, immediately afterwards took place. So that it cannot with propriety, be said, that Christ did not baptise, cotemporary with Nicodemus ; for it is sufficiently obvious, that Christ baptised in the days of John the baptist. Again, John baptised, before he inaugurated Christ in Jordan, as a high priest ; hence, before Christ appeared as a publick teacher. See Luke 3. John 1. Is it possible, that Nicodemus should not have known any thing of this baptism ; when in his day, Jerusalem, and all Judea, went out to him to be baptised? Was not John’s baptism performed with water? Yes: most certainly. But was it a Jewish washing? No. For if it had, it would have been more ancient than John; neither would the lawyers, and pharisees have rejected it; because they were very attentive to the rituals of the law. John says, “I indeed baptise you with water unto repentance” Matth 3, 11. It is evident, that many of those, whom John baptised, were before, in an impenitent state ; for he calls them a generation of vipers v. 7; and exhorts them to repent. Now, since John said unto them, I baptise you with water unto repentance, it shews that baptism was a means of repentance. Again, “And he (John) came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance, for the remission of sins.” Luke 8, 8. “Then said Paul, John verily baptised with the baptism of repentance, &e.” Acts 19, 4. These texts, do not only shew, John’s baptism was unto repentance; but is also positive. – a “baptism of repentance” What can a baptism of repentance otherwise be, than a baptism, which effects repentance? which is the very same as a flood of regeneration. When I say, the mother of a child, I mean the child was born of the mother: baptism of repentance, is parsed in the same manner; hence a baptism, which is the cause of repentance. Here I must observe, that whereas, my opponent has ridiculed the title of my treatise: viz. ”heavenly flood of regeneration” as unfounded in the scriptures ; yet, as John’s baptism was positively a baptism of repentance ; and by baptism, we have the remission for sins, it is the very same thing, as a flood of regeneration. This one expression ”baptism of repentance,” as applied to John’s baptism, with water, is sufficient to refute all the sophisms, of those, who deny baptism to be a means of regeneration.
John’s baptism did not essentially differ from that, which is in vogue since the Saviour’s resurrection ; for the spirit also accompanied it, as it was a baptism of repentance ; for with out the spirit, there can be no genuine repentance. It belongs to the office of the Holy Ghost, to guide into all truth, to glorify, and receive of Christ, and to shew it unto his people; John 16, 13, 15. Now, John could only point to Christ, as “the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world;” but not as a Saviour already crucified ; and as having “by himself purged our sins, and sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high” ; hence, John’s baptism could not include those things, as already accomplished ; and herein, the baptism after our Saviour’s resurrection is superior ; because it includes the work of redemption, as fully accomplished. Now, if John’s baptism could not include the work of redemption, as already accomplished, and yet was a baptism of repentance, how much more, should not the baptism afterwards, be a means of repentance ; hence, of regeneration; for it embraces a Saviour, as having fully accomplished the work of redemption, and thus superior.
Suppose my opponent’s theory be received, that the water, of which Christ spake to Nicodemus, referred to the Jewish washings under the law ; then the text would have to read : “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, “Except a man be born of the Jewish washings under the law, & of the spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” Hence, not only Nicodemus ; but any man, must be born again of the Jewish washings, and of the spirit ; or else, not enter into of God. But, who can have the least idea, that our blessed Saviour encouraged the Jewish washings in the kingdom of God, which was then, about to take place under the gospel dispensation? Or, what Christian can believe, that whosoever is not born again, of the Jewish washings, and of the spirit cannot enter into the kingdom of God? All the Jewish rites, were abrogated under this dispensation ; notwithstanding, my opponent ; because he is determined, not to own baptism as the means of regeneration, makes our Saviour say, that except a man be born of the Jewish washings under the law, and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God, which is contrary to the whole gospel dispensation ; in short it is nonsense. That he says, the water is a sign, or figure of the spirit, does not make the case consistent; for if so, then still the water, as used in the Jewish washings, would be a sign, and thus none, but those, who had this Jewish sign, and the spirit, can enter into the kingdom of God. What an absurdity! Even, according to this theory, water, and the spirit, would be connected in the production of the new birth against which my opponent contends ; yet, he had the misfortune, to substitute the Jewish washings, instead of a Christian ordinance. Except a man be born of water, which according to Mr. M. refers to a Jewish washing, and of the spirit, &c. by which he renders the Jewish washings necessary, and as connected with the spirit. Notwithstanding, it is not his intention, to connect, but to keep them separate ; so that, the water is to effect an outward bodily, and the spirit an inward spiritual purity. If so, then there would be two new births : the one would be effected by the Jewish washings, which would shew, the body regenerated ; and the other would be the regeneration of the soul, separately by the spirit. If this be the case, how will it be with a man, whose body is thus washed, and regenerated ; but his soul has never been regenerated by the spirit? Will his regenerated body enter into heaven, and the unregenerated soul into hell?
I also know, that many of those, who do not with Mr. M, explain the water in this text, as relating to the Jewish washings ; but admit, that it relates to baptismal water ; yet, they separate the water, and the spirit, and say, as the water washes away the filth of the flesh, it represents the inward cleansing of the soul, by the spirit, and that, when a man is baptised, he is born of the water, into the outward church of Christ; but not of the spirit, into the true invisible church. Such also, have two new births, and two kingdoms of Christ. It is both contrary to fact, and scripture, that as the water takes away the filth of the flesh, so it is to represent the inward purification. For, if the soul gets washed no cleaner, than the body is in baptism, it must ever remain filthy ; for when a man is baptised; either, by effusion, or immersion, it has no effect upon the filth of the flesh. Those ministers of emblems, in order, to represent this internal purity by the outward washing, ought to take more pains, to cleanse the bodies of their candidates, for baptism than they do. In order to effect this, they mast apply water with soap, or some other purifying ingredients, and not cease operating upon them, until they are perfectly clean. It is nothing but a lying representation, for the baptismal water does not cleanse the body. It is also contrary to scripture—”The like figure whereunto, even baptism, doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” 1 Pet. 3, 21. The apostle, in this text denies, that baptism is the putting away of the filth of the flesh ; whereas the multitudes of emblem preachers say it is, by which they contradict the word of God. Where is there any proof for two churches? St. Paul says “There is one body and one spirit.” Eph. 4, 4. This body is his church— 1 Cor. 12 There are no two separate churches ; and though there be many branches, called separate churches; yet are they all but one. Suppose even the professors of faith, whom we may see, should be called a visible church, in order to distinguish them from those, that are not known ; or, such as are in glory above; yet this visible church is but a part of the one church and by no means a distinct body. By the professors of faith in this place, I do not mean hypocrites ; but genuine Christians. But suppose the outward church, to be distinct from the true invisible church, then the question may be asked, does this outward church, consist of Christians, or of hypocrites? If it consist of Christians, and as baptism makes a man a member of the outward church ; hence, it must also make him a Christian, which is nothing short of being regenerated. But, if it consists of hypocrites ; then baptism would make every man, that receives it a hypocrite! Here, again the ministers of emblems get into a dilemma. They must either own, that the outward church consists of Christians, and thus must grant, that every baptised man is a real Christian; because baptism makes him a member of that church, which is composed of Christians ; or else, must say, that it consists of hypocrites ; if so, then all persons let them be whom they may, that are baptised must be hypocrites ; because they would be made members of a church, that is composed of hypocrites. That baptism is to make any one a Christian, i.e. a regenerated person, is what those deny ; and for this purpose have invented a separate, outward church, into which one is to be born again by water, as a sign of an other birth, by which one is to enter into an other church. Poor men ! — emblems, after emblems, have blinded them, like the veil of Moses the Jews; so that they cannot see that this outward church must, either consist of Christians, or of hypocrites; and that if it consist of Christians, that baptism makes one a Christian, which is the very thing against which they contend ; but it it consist of hypocrites, that they enrol themselves among their number ; for they profess to belong to the outward church. Neither is it possible to be extricated, by saying the outward church consists of both, Christians and hypocrites ; for if so, baptism would either, make us Christians ; or, else hypocrites ; or else both!
Mr. M. says, p. 30, The same observations, will apply to the prophecy of Ezekiel, where the Lord says; ‘Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, & ye shall be clean ; from all your filthiness & from your idols will I cleanse you. A new heart, also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.’ Ezek. XXXVI 25, 26. Water in this place must be used figuratively, as a sign, or emblem of the grace of God, by which it is purged from an evil conscience, cleansed from all the filthiness of sin, and from all its idols : (or a renewed heart,) and a new spirit, (or, a new principle, of love to God, and good will to men) is given and put within us ; the stony heart also is taken away,—that bard, obdurate, disobedient heart, is taken away, and a heart of flesh, (or soft, humble, teachable, and obedient heart,) is given in its place.—This certainly must be the true meaning of that scripture.
Answer. That my opponent says, water in this place must be used figuratively, as a sign, or emblem of the grace of God; and that the sprinkling with clean water must be figurative, or significant, of the sprinkling the heart with the spirit of God, he has arbitrarily asserted ; but has not proved it; unless we take his ipse dixit for evidence. I do not deny, that there are many figurative expressions in the scriptures ; but when a man asserts, that a passage is figurative, he ought to prove it; either, by other texts, or the context, or by the rules of sacred criticism. Some expositors are very expert, when a passage of scripture is in their way, to turn it into a metaphor, without any authority ; although, it should be at the expense of all the rules of language. According to this rule of exposition, the most important truths may be explained away, and the scriptures turned into ridicule ; as for instance, when it reads ; “thou shalt not commit adultery;” “thou shalt not steal,” I might by the same art say, this only has a reference to metaphorical adultery, and thelf; and that therefore, no real adultery, and theft are prohibited. In this way our present fanaticks impose on the people, and lead them into error. The plainest evidence, they arbitrarily force into a figure ; and then persuade many of the laity, that because there are some metaphorical expressions in the scriptures, that they have the liberty, without any evidence to make every thing figurative, that thwarts their preconceived opinion: To construe, the water spoken of in this text, to mean an emblem of the spirit, is contrary to the rules of language. I shall quote it here again :—” Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean ; from all your filthiness and from your idols will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” Now, if the water in this passage is to signify, the sprinkling of the heart, with the spirit; why then is it added, “a new heart also will I give you and a new spirit?” If this gloss be true, then the text should read: “then will I sprinkle, that is I will sprinkle the spirit upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit.” Thus the water, would be made to mean the same as spirit, which would be the same, as saying, that they should be sprinkled with the spirit, and also a new spirit should to them be given. What an unreasonable tautology ! What need was there, to represent the spirit under the figure of water, and then immediately mention the spirit literally? Are there two spirits: the one to be represented under the figure of water, and the other the spirit literally? Or, did the prophet, like a silly man, in the same text repeat one thing twice, only by different expressions? If this text is to make any correct meaning, water, must mean water ; and spirit, spirit. As this text is a prediction of something under the new testament dispensation, the water and the spirit, must allude to some institution, that consists of the same, which is no other than baptism.
Mr. M. says, page 81, ” Mr. H’s ideas on this passage are so extravagant, that they are hardly worth troubling the reader with; but I will give them in a condensed form, Heavenly flood page 25 he says: “Now it is likely the prophet alludes to such as were under the stony law, or that had the spirit of bondage to fear, from which they should be liberated under the gospel, by the sprinkling of clean water and the new spirit. “The law,” he says, “was engraven on two tables of stone;” therefore, he calls it a stony law.— “Those that were under the law, were kept in bondage,— shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed,&c. But that law was taken away under the gospel; therefore, the heart of stone was taken away, and we delivered from the spirit of bondage to fear; a heart of flesh, and a new spirit given us.”
Thus you may see Mr. H’s ideas. And if you can believe, that because the law was engraven on two tables of stone, it was therefore a stony law,—and when the Mosaic dispensation was taken away, that therefore the heart of stone was taken away, and a heart of flesh given; and also, a new heart and a new spirit put within us, and we cleansed from all our idols and filthiness, and that by a heavenly flood of water baptism, then you can believe Logica Henkelensis, and embrace his doctrine!”
Answer. My opponent in this condensed form, has most shamefully misrepresented my ideas.
By transcribing the following from my treatise, the reader will be enabled to perceive Mr. M’s misrepresentation of my ideas, on this subject:— Heavenly flood p. 25 & 26, I say:
The prophet here certainly refers to the days of the new testament dispensation, for he speaks of a new spirit, which has a reference to the administration of the Holy Spirit under the gospel; further, he speaks of taking away the stony heart. Now the law was engraven on two tables of stone & those that were under the law were kept in bondage, as the Apostle saith; ‘but before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster, to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith; but after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster’ Gal. 8, 28-25. See also ch. 4. Now it is likely the prophet alludes to such hearts as were under the stony law, or that had the spirit of bondage to fear, from which they should be liberated under gospel, by the sprinkling of clean water and the new spirit. Thus the prophet also mentions water and the spirit, by which the people shall be cleansed from their filthiness and idols, and receive a new heart, which is nothing short of being born anew of water and of the spirit. The clean water mentioned by the prophet cannot mean spirit only, but an elementary water; for if he meant by the term ‘clean water’ only spirit, he would not afterwards speak of a new spirit; hence it is evident he means two distinct things by two distinct expressions, viz: clean water, and a new spirit.
Now there is a manifest difference, between saying, that the law was taken away under the gospel; that therefore, the heart of stone was taken away: and that such hearts, as were under the stony law, and had the spirit of bondage to fear, should be liberated from the same, under the gospel. To say, that the law was taken away under the gospel would imply, that there was no law in existence, since Christ’s incarnation. This would be a false doctrine, which I utterly disclaim. Although, Christ has suffered the penalty of the law; yet is it in existence; and though no man may ever be justified thereby; yet, it is necessary to reveal sin, and is otherwise useful. But to be liberated from the fear of bondage, and from the law, by the sprinkling of the clean water, and the new spirit, implies a soul who has fled to Christ for refuge, on whom the law has lost all its power of condemnation. It is very unfair for my opponent, to attempt to make his readers believe, that I deny the existence, and use of the law, under the gospel, when it is not true. One thing is, to be freed from the law, by faith and thus not be in bondage; and another thing is, the entire abolition of the Law. I asserted the former, and by no means the latter. With respect to his stricture, on the phrase “stony law,” I will just observe, that I can discover no more impropriety in calling it a stony law, because it was inscribed upon two tables of stone, than to call it a written law; because its contents have been committed to paper. But as this is a matter of little importance, I will take no further pains, to justify its propriety.
I shall now examine the analogy my opponent speaks of between a natural and the spiritual birth. He says, p. 6 & 7 “If we view the analogy between a natural and spiritual birth, there is—1st a conception; 2d. a travail; 3d. a deliverance. We are then born into this world, and begin to breath the vital air, which gives motion and expansion to the heart and lungs; and thus receives from the surrounding atmosphere, those vital particles of air which are constantly needed to support the flame of animal life. Our external senses are also open to behold the light of this world; and we begin to discover, and to have a knowledge of the various objects which surround us on every side. Likewise, by receiving nourishing food, first the milk f the mother, then stronger as our constitution will bear it we grow, and from babes, we come to be young men and fathers; and are enabled to perform the duties of life.”
“Thus it is in a spiritual birth. 1. The understanding is illuminated by the word and spirit of God, and the soul brought to see its lost and undone situation. This produces conviction in the mind. The soul yielding to this conviction, it may be said, that the seed of divine grace is conceived in the heart. 2. We then have to go through the painful travail of repentance towards God, before we obtain deliverance. This repentance humbles us as in the dust; tills us with deep penitential sorrow, and causes us to abhor ourselves as in dust and ashes before God. Thus we come, labouring under the weight of sin and guilt, acknowledging before God, our manifold crimes and transgressions, and earnestly praying for mercy. The Lord hearkens and hears the humble mourners’ prayer, and blesses them with a pardoning love. Thus 3d. They are delivered, and born of the spirit. Yes, the spirit of God applies the merit of Christ’s death to the wounded soul.—Guilt and condemnation are taken away from the conscience, and the soul brought into the light and liberty of God’s children. They now breathe the vital air of divine LOVE, which expands their souls with Love to God, and good will to men; and supplies them with grace, to feed the flame of that divine and spiritual life which is kindled in their hearts.”
Answer. I wish my opponent had suppressed those gross and carnal ideas. It is unbecoming the dignity of this important subject, to compare it with a carnal birth. Properly to delineate this supposed analogy, the previous study of midwifery would be necessary. Whether Mr. M. understands it, I do not know; but as it respects myself, I make no pretensions to it. Yet, so much any one may know, that in a natural birth, the mother conceives, labours, and is delivered. But the sinner, who is spiritually born, certainty cannot himself be the mother. He must be the spiritual child, for the scriptures call the regenerated, God’s children. But according to Mr. M’s statement, the sinner, who is to be the spiritual child, must conceive himself, and deliver himself, by the painful travail of repentance. Most unfortunate, and ridiculous analogy! it subverts the nature of things! for where in all creation, can it be found, that the child is substituted for the mother! Or does he mean, that the sinner is to be both, the child, and the mother? It appears so; for he says, that the seed of divine grace is conceived in the heart when the mind is illuminated, by the word, and spirit of God; and then we have to go through the painful travail of repentance, before we obtain deliverance. Who does not at the first view perceive, how vulgar it is, to invent such an analogy? Did not our blessed Saviour carefully guard against such carnal ideas, when speaking on this subject? When Nicodemus asked him, “how can a man be born when he is old?” he replied, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the spirit, is spirit;” by which he abstracts all carnal ideas, and vulgar comparison. Where, in the scriptures, is repentance called a painful travail? It seems, that my opponent considers repentance some kind of punishment, similar to that of a Papish purgatory. Many of his brethren, together with sundry others entertain the same views; hence, their sermons consist of many awful, and fearful expressions, to terrify the imagination, in order to produce this painful travail, which not infrequently affect the nervous system, the result of which in many instances, has been corporeal convulsions. There are many who think, that a before a man can be regenerated he must undergo some punishment, which they call conviction, causing the most desperate throes; such they suppose to be the travail of repentance. Such teachers, when they speak of repentance, they do not mean, what the scriptures imply with respect to this subject, but some kind of punishment, like as if it should be an atonement for sin. This doctrine, and that of the Roman purgatory are nearly related. All the difference is, that the one is a present, and the other a future purgatory.
The verb μετανοέω, which is translated I repent, is compounded of μετα, after, and νοέω, I consider ; and thus properly signifies, I consider after the deed; hence its substantive μετάνοια, which is translated repentance, properly signifies a change of mind. It may be seen Matth. 3.2. Arts 17, 30, Luke 15, 7. ch. 16, 30, Matth. 11, 20. Acts 2, 88. Mark 6, 12. A change of mind, does not unnecessarily involve the idea of a painful travail. St. Paul says ‘for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Rom. 8, 20 “I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet;” ch. 7, 7— and v. 18— “But sin, that it
might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good;
that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ,that we might be justified by faith.” Gal. 3, 14. These texts shew, that God’s holy law is the means, by which the spirit convinces the sinner of his guilt, the justice of his condemnation, which urges him to come to Christ. For without the law, we should never realize the enormity of our guilt; and hence, never perceive the indispensable necessity of a Saviour. So indeed, the law causes us to consider after the guilty deed ; but only to drive us to utter desperation, unless the gospel of Christ, be also heard, and believed, which swallows up all the terrors, which the law would otherwise display in the mind of the sinner. Hence, the mere operations of the law are not sufficient to replete repentance; for the gospel must be added, to cause faith, by which the righteousness of Christ is apprehended. The scriptures declare, that by repentance we get the remission for sin; and yet, also declare, that without faith we cannot be saved, which proves, that faith constitutes a part of repentance. Although, the law be calculated to reveal sin, and terrify ever so much; and though, all this be ever so necessary; yet it can not amount to a painful travail; because if it be repentance, by which is the remission for sin, faith is necessarily included, which apprehends the Saviour of the world, whose atonement is far superior to all guilt: this changes the terrors of the law, and sooths into mental tranquility. This is illustrated by the following passage:
“Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now, when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter, and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts 2, 86 88. When Peter told the Jews, that Jesus, whom they had crucified, arose from the dead; v. 32, and was made both Lord and Christ, they were pricked in their heart, which indicates their consternation. They were the Saviour’s murderers, and upon hearing, that he arose, and was supremely exalted, they anticipated his vengeance. They being pricked in their heart, were already in a state of travail, before they asked Peter, What they should do; and before, he returned the comfortable answer: to repent, and be baptised, in the very name of him, whom they crucified, for the remission of their sins. Now, suppose repentance to be a painful travail, what necessity was there for Peter to tell those Jews, to repent, i. e. according to my opponent’s theory, to be in a painful state of travail, when they were already in this state? It is evident, that this exhortation, which the apostle gave them, to repent was to emancipate them from this state of travail. It seems, that if my opponent, had had the management on the day of pentecost, he would have told those poor, terrified Jews, to enter afresh into another travail, and vehemently exhorted them, to feel the torments of purgatory; before he would have given any hope of deliverance; for he makes a painful travail, of repentance. Whereas St. Peter comforted them, by exhorting them to repent and to be baptised. It is said, “they that gladly received the word were baptised: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” v 41. This also shows, that three thousand souls being added to the Christian church the same day, that they could not have had sufficient time, to lie twenty four hours, half convulsed under sore conviction, and labouring in travail,m before they obtained deliverance.
I shall yet, add the jailor’s conversion. The jailor anticipated the escape of his prisoners, when by the earthquake, the foundations of the prison were shaken, and saw its doors open, and their bands loosed; whereupon he drew out his sword, and would killed himself. But being prevented by St. Paul, he came trembling, and fell down before him, and Silas, and brought them out; and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? Thus it is evident, that before the jailor asked this important question, he was in a state of consternation, and verged on destruction; for he had almost committed suicide. But what answer did Paul and Silas return? No doubt, had my opponent been there, he would have said. “you must first pass through the ordeal of a painful travail; and to effect this, he would have represented to his mind, the flaming sulphureous seas of Tophet; and had him convulsed for a while; before he would have administered consolation. But this was not the answer, the apostles gave. They said “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thous shalt be saved, and thy house.” He was also immediately baptised. Thus we learn, that the jailor had no travail in his repentance. But when he was yet on the his to destruction, he was in a state of travail. But as soon as he heard the gospel, and believed it, he was in a state of salvation, and rejoicing. He also showed the fruits of his repentance, by his kindness to the apostles; for he washed their stripes, and set not time to pass through this supposed purgatory of travail! See Act 16, 25-34.
It is admitted, that when nothing but the terrors of the law are preached to the people, that many enter into such a painful travail, and many have utterly despaired ; whilst others became hypocrites, by thinking the pains they experienced, were a sufficient atonement for their crimes. But Christ’s ministers are not commanded, to officiate in this manner. If they mention the law, they must also place by its side, the superior glory, and excellence of the gospel. God convicts us by the law, not with a view to punish us for our sins ; nor does he kill us, that we should finally die ; but that we should see the necessity of a Saviour, and live for ever. If a man should hear the sentence of death pronounced against him, it indeed, would be terrible ; but when at the same time, the pardon is presented, the terror ceases ; for the idea of a pardon destroys the terror of the sentence; hence no travail could take place. If the Sentence of death only, should be pronounced, without a pardon to accompany it, then indeed a travail, but to no salutary purpose, would be the result. But who has authorised any one to say, that the law must separately be preached, to produce this travail of repentance? Unless the law be preached separately, a travail can never be the result ; for wherever the gospel is added, the sinner is comforted, and the terrors vanish. Hence, I must conclude, that my opponent is a preacher of the law, and knows more of Moses than of Christ.
The Papists taught a purgatory after death, in which souls must get prepared for heaven: but some protestants improperly so called, teach something which is similar, i.e. a travail, before they can be saved, and a false representation of repentance is made their pander. Multitudes of people, when they resort to the meeting house, where such preachers officiate, instead of hearing the joyful news, that God is reconciled to the world through the death of his Son ; and that all, who believe, realize this free salvation, they enter into a house of gloomy death, and where no hope beams upon the souls of sinners. On the pulpit stands a being, who is called a minister of the gospel, arrayed in some peculiar coat, to denote his distinction from the world ; his natural tone is lost, and swallowed up in a voice moaning, to shew his super-angelic humility ; his cheeks are curved ; his lips protruded ; his eye-balls unnaturally rolling, like balls of fire; whilst occasionally he sheds tears like a crocodile, to signify his external holiness; from his lips issues a torrent of bombastic expressions, describing somewhat like Milton, the torments of hell, adamantine chains, and penal fires, and thus crowding the imagination with those fearful metaphors ; so that weak females, and unstable men get alarmed ; they fall into conviction, the penitential travail commences ; they wrestle in some corporeal manner ; and having thus by their hard labour, rendered God a recompence for their sins, they imagine, they have obtained deliverance ; and they rise, and give him glory, and thence date their conversion.
The Papists by their unscriptural representations of purgatory, acquired a great ascendency over the people, and an access to their purses ; for whenever people are kept in legal bondage, a tyrannical priesthood will domineer. Although the dark ages of tyrannical popery are past ; yet, now under the garb of the protestant religion, repentance is made a painful travail; so that the people may be kept in legal bondage.