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How Bellamites Relate to the
Heresy of Decisional Regeneration

joseph bellamy Joseph Bellamy (1719-1790) was the second most influencial interpreter of the theology of Jonathan Edwards. His theology was less man-mechanical and more God-relational than that of Samuel Hopkins. His "disinterested benevolence" was more emotional, more tied to feelings for the person of God. It is my oppinion that had the third generation New Light Calvinists adopted Bellamy's theology instead of Hopkins, the evolution of disinterested benevolence away from feelings and toward agreeing with scripture in the Inquiry Room would have would not have happened as quickly as it did.

 

Leading figures of the Enlightenment like John Locke dismissed the idea that God interacts directly (or in theology, "immediately") with man. This caused many educated Old Light Calvinists to evolve a "rational" view of regeneration (leading many later into deism) that had more to do with moral persuasion than a supernatural change of character and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Jonathan Edwards defended the legitimacy of "religious affections" in evangelism, even though Old Light Calvinists said they were mostly animal excitements that dishonored Christ and diminished the time-tested methods of church participation and using the means of grace until God deigned to regenerate. So Edwards distinguished between religious affections (with exhaustive detail) that were Biblical evidence of regeneration and carnal affections that gave sinners a false assurance they were regenerate. Joseph Bellamy, who is considered a second generation New Light Calvinist because his followers were third generation new Light Calvinists, was nonetheless a contemporary of Edwards who saw the confusion caused by religious affections first hand in 1740 at the height of the First Great Awakening. Many imitators of George Whitefield were causing division between New and Old Light Calvinists by identifying religious affections with regeneration. Bellamy dealt with the error in this account.

'In the time of the "great awakening," two young ministers in Connecticut set out in company, to travel and preach to the people ; and their preaching, which was rousing and earnest, rather than instructive, was attended with much excitement. Coming to the neighborhood of Dr. Bellamy, he went to hear them preach. The people were much excited and alarmed, and the young men, greatly animated -with their success, soon pronounced a number of their hearers converted. The doctor saw how matters were going ; he saw the people were greatly moved ; but he perceived, also, that they did not know what reason they had for being moved, or why they thought themselves converted; and he proposed to preach to them himself. This he did, holding up to their view the character of God, the extent and spirituality of his law, and the nature of true submission in and through Christ, as the only Savior; and the result is said to have been, that almost all these new converts were led to see themselves unconverted before they left the place. They found that they were not prepared to love and submit to a holy God; that they had been relying on their own determinations, more than on Christ; and that they were still in the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity. So great was the power of discriminating and faithful doctrinal preaching.

Bellamy would later write in his True Religion Delineated (1750) that the best evidence of regeneration is what second and third generation New Light Calvinists called "disinterested benevolence", in which the born again saint 1) SEES GOD GLORIOUSLY, 2) LOVES GOD SUPREMELY, 3) LIVES TO GOD ULTIMATELY, AND 4) DELIGHTS IN GOD SUPERLATIVELY. But the evangelical hypocrite goes through carnal experiences that he thinks are evidence of salvation. "The way for a man to know that he has grace, is not to judge himself by the degree and measure of his religious frames and affections, or the height of his attainments, but by the special nature of them; for as there is not any one grace but a hypocrite may have its counterfeit, so hypocrites may rise as high in their religion as any true believer does in his.

HERE ARE BELLAMY'S EXPERIENCIAL STAGES OF THE EVANGELICAL HYPOCRITE - A MORE SUCCINT SUMMATION OF JONATHAN EDWARDS’ DESCRIPTION OF THE EVANGELICAL HYPOCRITE IN HIS BOOK RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS:

From what has been said, we may easily see the falseness of the evangelical hypocrite's faith, who, although he makes a much greater show, and is more confident, yet has not a jot better foundation (THAN SINNERS THAT NEVER HAD ANY RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS).

1) HE MAY EXPERIENCE LAW WORKS

He has been greatly awakened, perhaps, and terrified, and seemingly brought off from his own righteousness, and humbled, and then has received great light and comfort, and has had any an hour of joy and ravishment. For thus was the case:

2) HE MAY EXPERIENCE RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS

In the depth of his darkness and sorrow, light shined all around him ; and, to his thinking, he saw heaven opened and the Lord sitting upon his throne, and Christ at his right hand, and heard those words, - Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven. Fear not, little flock: it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. O thou afflicted, tossed with tempests, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors,"

3) HE MAY EXPERIENCE REVELATIONS

Or, it may be, he saw Christ on the cross, with his blood running from his side, and hands, and feet: or, perhaps he saw a light in his chamber.

4) HE MAY EXPERIENCE A FEELING THAT A PARTICULAR SCRIPTURE APPLIES TO HIM
(this was to be the undoing of the New Light Calvinist Decision for Christ after the Civil War - see The Evangelical Bait and Switch)

It may be, he had one scripture, and, it may be, ten or twenty going, until he was as full as he could hold, and even ready to cry, -'Lord, stay thy hand.'' As to all these things, there is an endless variety; but, in the following particulars, there is a greater agreement. First. They have a discovery of Christ's love to them in particular; that he died for them in particular; that their sins are pardoned, etc. Second. The essence of their first act of faith consists in a firm persuasion that their sins are forgiven; that Christ died for them in particular, or the like.

EVERY ONE OF THESE EXPERIENCES CAN COME FROM A CARNAL HEART MOTIVATED BY SELF LOVE

All their after discoveries and after acts of faith are of the same nature with the first to the fourth. This faith, from a principle of self-love, naturally fills them full of joy, and love, and zeal, and lays the foundation of all their good frames, and of all then religion.

5) AFTER THEY HAVE RETURNED TO THEIR OLD CARNAL SELF, THEY THINK DOUBTING THEIR SALVATION WOULD BE THE GREAT SIN OF UNBELIEF

Doubting the goodness of their state, WHEN they are dead and carnal, is, in their account, unbelief, and a great sin, and to be watched and prayed Against, as a thing of the most destructive tendency. Now, some, who have a few discoveries, do, in a few months, lose all their religion, and come to feel and live much like the rest of the world. Others hold out longer. Some, after they have lain dead one, two, three, five, or ten years, just as it happens, will have what they call a new discovery, and be as full as ever : while others continue in their irreligious courses. And here I may observe— That the greater discoveries, as they call them, they have, the more proud and conceited they are, and the more do they want to have all the town admire them.