How John Witherspoon Relates to
Heresy of Decisional Regeneration
If you read John Witherspoon’s view of regeneration, you’ll find the version of Scottish Common Sense Realism he brought to Princeton put regeneration into a subservient position to moral persuasion: “This conviction of the obligation of the divine law, so essentially connected with, or rather so necessarily previous to, an acceptance of the imputed righteousness of Christ, is evidently founded upon the relation of man to God, as a creature to his Creator. This relation then continues, and must continue, unchangeable; therefore the obligation founded upon it must be unalienable; and all those who have once been sensible of it, must continue to be so, unless we suppose them blinded to the knowledge of God as Creator, by the discovery of his mercy in Christ the Redeemer. But this is absurd; for the subsequent relation of a sinner to God, as forgiven and reconciled through Christ, never can take away, nay, never can alter his natural relation as a creature, nor the obligation founded upon it.”
No puritan would link illumination of Law Works with regeneration so completely. Sensibility of the obligation of divine law is not evidence of regeneration, and to think so is to make acceptance of the truth of scripture as tantamount to saving faith. This is what Finney rebelled against when he was taught for two years by George Washington Gale, and this is the error that caused the BEST system to be changed to the BIST system after the Civil War.
Witherspoon's influence over the evolution of the American New Light Calvinist decision for Christ can not be understated. If the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche could be said to be the basis for Nazi ideas of the "power of the will", the theology of Witherspoon was the philosophical influence that resulted in the New Light Calvinist "metaphysical moral influence" decision for Christ. This was the rational for the Inquiry Room changing from BEST system to BIST system after the Civil War, which incidentally, was NOT IN ANY WAY CONNECTED TO CHARLES FINNEY. Charles Finney continued to use the BEST system till the day he died in 1875.
Finney was indirectly influenced by Witherspoon though. Witherspoon taught William Graham (1746-1799), and Graham taught Archibald Alexander (1772-1851) Scottish common Sense Realism, and Alexander taught George Washington Gale (1789-1861), and George Washington Gale taught Charles Finney (1792-1875) to prepare him for the ministry. Finney rejected the idea that regeneration was not immediately discernable and questioned the lack of supernatural activity (apart from the energizing of Scripture) of the Holy Spirit inherent in Scottish Common Sense Realism. This rejection caused him to form his own theology more in line with that of Samuel Hopkins that stressed the immediate experience of regeneration. Unfortunately, almost all modem Calvinists do not know that Finney based his expectation on immediate experience of regeneration on a pre determinist premise with consecutional saving faith.
If you are serious about understanding how Christian salvation change so quickly, that it, before the Civil War supernatural regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to after the Civil War, saving faith as evidenced by believing Scripture, please read the complete text of Witherspoon's Practical Treatise On Regeneration with commentary.
We also have the complete Blackmith Letter, which shows how much he hated "enthusiasm" and the "strange appearances" of the Presbyterian Sacramental Meetings that gripped his native Scotland in the First Great Awakening and were soon to grip the American frontier in the Second Great Awakening.
Here is a short biography of John Witherspoon:
John Witherspoon’s father was a Presbyterian minister. He was a child prodigy, entering Edinburgh University at age 13 and graduated at 16. He was licensed to preach in 1743 and married Elizabeth Montgomery (a minister’s daughter) in 1745. By 1750, the evangelical movements of George Whitfield, John Wesley, and others threatened the stability of church life.
The Scottish Calvinists were divided into four camps:
1) The “Scholastic Calvinists” were known for their rigid allegiance to the Westminster Confession of Faith and emphasis on predestination.
2) The “Evangelical Calvinists”, who did not deviate from the Confession, were known as “New Light” Calvinists because they asked sinners to immediately repent and submit to God. Witherspoon considered himself to be in this group, publicly identifying himself as sympathetic with the controversial James Hervey, who was a “Holy Club” alumnus with George Whitefield.
3) “Liberal Calvinists” who valued societal respectability and the social benefits of Christianity, eschewing confessional and doctrinal commitment, but who were in some ways, devout.
4) “Arians” who reduced Christianity to external morality and treated subscription to the Westminster Confession as simply a formality.
Witherspoon was head of the Calvinist “Popular Party”(as apposed to the Calvinist “Moderate Party”), which consisted mostly of New Light Calvinists until he left for America in 1768.
When he came to Princeton as it’s sixth president, it was thought he would bring healing between the Old Light and New Light Calvinists, who had split into competing churches in many places since the First Great Awakening. The way he did this was to replace the “religious affections” emphasis and supernatural idealism ideas of Jonathan Edwards (Edwards had served as President briefly 10 years before) with Scottish Common Sense Realism. The transformation quickly caused all four of the faculty to resign in the first year. Witherspoon’s theology replaced the supernatural explanation of regeneration with a metaphysical moral persuasion perspective. He thought the American New Light Calvinist approach of Jonathan Edwards, Joseph Bellamy and Samuel Hopkins would inevitably lead to skepticism or materialism. He thought Scottish Common Sense realism provided a more defensible position against infidelity because it was consistent both with reality and Christian orthodoxy.
Witherspoon was the only college president in America to take an active role in the American Revolution, and was the only minister among the 56 signers of the Declaration Of Independence. British troops burned him in effigy along with General Washington. Princeton closed during 1776-77 and suffered because of Witherspoon’s preoccupation with congressional matters. The campus was occupied on and off for five and a half years by both American and British troops.
Witherspoon was an active member of congress, serving on more than a hundred committees through his tenure, debating frequently on the floor. He also served twice in the New Jersey state legislature
Witherspoon personally graduated 114 pastors and 13 college presidents, laying a foundation for the replacement of the American New Light Calvinism of Samuel Hopkins and Joseph Bellamy with Scottish Common Sense Realism. In 1812, most American New Light Calvinist ministers still identified with Hopkins and Bellamy. But in 1813, Princeton added a theological seminary – that was the beginning of the end for Bellamy and Hopkins theology. By the Civil War, the BEST system was being replaced with the BIST system in the Inquiry Room.
Witherspoon taught, “The moral sense is precisely the same thing with what, in scripture and common language, we call conscience. It is the law which our Maker has written upon our hearts, and [so] both intimates and enforces duty, previous to all reasoning.” Witherspoon’s goal was to bridge the gap between the rationalism of John Locke and the supernaturalism of Jonathan Edwards. John Locke did not believe in supernatural regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He taught that saving faith was merely "bare faith" in the facts of the gospel. Jonathan Edwards recognized scripture as a means of grace, but that regeneration was a supernatural, immediate activity of the Holy Spirit not necessarily connected to the moral persuasion of scripture. Witherspoon’s point was that reason and revelation are compatible—that the moral philosophy derived through reason is consistent with that derived from revelation.
The following are excerpts from John Witherspoon's writings, An Essay on justification and A Treatise On Regeneration with a short biography of Witherspoon, including the changes he made to The College of New Jersey ( later called Princeton).
“He made the philosophical course embrace the general principles of policy and public law; he incorporated with it sound and rational metaphysics, equally remote from the doctrines of fatality and contingency;”
FATALITY AND CONTINGENCY ARE THE TWO EXTREMES OF PREDETERMINATION. FATALITY IS A MISUNDERSTANDING OF CALVINIST THEOLOGY AND CONTINGENCY IS (FROM THE CALVINIST POINT OF VIEW) THE ERROR INHERENT IN ARMINIANISM. IF YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND PREDETERMINATION, YOU CAN NOT UNDERSTAND THE NEW LIGHT CALVINIST DECISION FOR CHRIST. PLEASE EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT PREDETERMINATION AND CONSECUTIONAL BASIS OF THE NEW LIGHT CALVINIST DECISION FOR CHRIST.
“from the barrenness of the (PHILISOPHICAL) schools, and from the excessive refinements of those contradictory, but equally absurd and impious classes of skeptics, who either wholly deny the existence of matter, or maintain that nothing but matter exists in the universe… Under his auspices have been formed a great proportion of the Clergy of the American Church…”
ESSAY ON THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION BY THE IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST
WITHERSPOON WAS GREATLY INFLUENCED BY SCOTTISH COMMON SENSE REALISM. THIS WAS A PHILOSOPHY THAT EXPLAINED CALVINIST THEOLOGY BY WAY OF IDENTIFYING THE CAUSE AND EFFECT OF GRACE ON MAN, BEFORE AND AFTER REGENERATION. AT THE TIME THIS WORK WAS PUBLISHED, JAMES HERVEY WAS ENGAGED IN A PUBLIC DEBATE WITH ROBERT SANDEMAN OVER THE MERIT OF THE NEW LIGHT CALVINIST PRACTICE OF TELLING SEEKERS TO IMMEDIATELY REPENT AND SUBMIT TO GOD AS A MEANS OF GRACE – SANDEMAN CONSIDERED THE PRACTICE TO BE TANDEMOUNT TO CATHOLICISM, DENYING SAVING GRACE AND ELECTION AS THE SOVEREIGN WORK OF GOD, AND ELEVATING THE WORKS OF MAN. WITHERSPOON GIVES HERVEY IN THIS WORK A THEOLOGICAL AND PHILISOPHICAL COMMON SENSE RATIONAL FOR TELLING SEEKERS TO IMMEDIATELY REPENT AND SUBMIT TO GOD.
WITHERSPOON PREFACES HIS WORK WITH AN OPEN LETTER TO JAMES HERVEY, TO PUBLICLY ENDORSE HIS EFFORTS:
A LETTER to the Rev. Mr James Hervey, Rector of Weston-Favell, Northamptonshire, Author of Theron and Aspasio…. I
have addressed it to you, as a testimony of my esteem of your excellent and useful writings, as a public declaration of my espousing the same sentiments as to the terms of our acceptance with God, and my ambition of contributing some small assistance to the support of the same glorious cause.
THEOLOGICAL NOTE: TO READERS THAT UNDERSTAND THE SHIFT IN PROTESTANT THEOLOGY THAT TOOK PLACE THROUGH COMMON SENSE REALISM AS A SHIFT FROM SUPERNATURAL REGENERATION CAUSING A CHANGE OF CHARACTER TO “MORAL PERSUASION” BEING THE METAPHYSICAL MEANS OF REGENERATION, I USE THE TERM “PSYCHOLOGICAL” TO ENCOMPASS THE ENLIGHTENMENT PARADIGM OF “MAN IS THE MEASURE OF ALL THINGS”. THE SIGNIFICANT DIFFERANCE BETWEEN AMERICAN FIRST GENERATION NEW LIGHT CALVINISM AND SCOTTISH COMMON SENSE REALISM IS A MATTER OF EMPHASIS. FIRST GENERATION AMERICAN NEW LIGHT CALVINISTS EMPHASIZED THE OPERATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS BEING EVIDENCE OF REGENERATION. FIRST GENERATION COMMON SENSE REALISTS HAD A MORE METAPHYSICAL “MORAL PERSUASION” OF THE HOLY SPIRIT PERSPECTIVE. THAT IS WHY PRINCETON NEW LIGHT CALVINISTS WERE CALLED “OLD SCHOOL”. THE “OLD SCHOOL” THEOLOGY SHARED WITH THE “OLD LIGHTS” OF THE FIRST GREAT AWAKENING THE SAME DISTAIN AND SUSPICION OF “RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS” AND INSTANT, DISCERNABLE REGENERATION. THE PSYCHOLOGICAL VIEW OF SAVING FAITH IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY WAS A SMALL CHANGE FROM THE METAPHYSICAL VIEW OF THE “MORAL PERSUASION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
THE DUTY OF ALL PERSONS TO KEEP THE LAW PERFECTLY
Every intelligent creature is under an unchangeable and unalienable obligation, perfectly to obey the whole law of God: that all men proceeding from Adam by ordinary generation, are the children of polluted parents, alienated in heart from God transgressors of his holy law, inexcusable in this transgression, and therefore exposed to the dreadful consequences of his displeasure;
GOD PROVIDES A SACRIFICE FOR SIN (SIN IS ANYTHING LESS THAN PERFECTLY KEEPING THE LAW)
that it was not agreeable to the dictates of his wisdom, holiness and justice,
to forgive their sins without an atonement or satisfaction; and therefore he raised up for them a
Saviour, Jesus Christ, who, as the second Adam; perfectly fulfilled the whole law, and offered himself up a sacrifice upon the cross in their stead : that this his righteousness is imputed to them, as the sole foundation of their justification in the light of a holy God, and their reception into his favor:
THE MEANS OF COMING TO THE ACCEPTANCE OF THE SACRIFICE IS REPENTANCE AND SUBMISSION TO GOD
That the means of their being interested in this salvation, is a deep humiliation of mind, confession of guilt
and wretchedness, denial of themselves, and acceptance of pardon and peace through Christ Jesus, which they neither have contributed to the procuring, nor can contribute to the continuance of, by their own merit,
WITH THE KNOWLEDGE THAT GOD WILL CHANGE THEIR NATURES TO ENABLE THEM TO KEEP THE LAW
but expect the renovation of their natures, to be inclined and enabled to keep the commandments of God as the work of the Spirit, and a part of the purchase of their Redeemer.
THE LAW AS SCHOOLMASTER – LAW WORKS
He who expects justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ, hath the clearest and strongest conviction of the obligation of the holy law of God upon every reasonable creature and of its extent and purity. This will appear very evidently, if we consider what it is that brings any person to a belief or relish of this doctrine. It must be a sense of sin, and fear of deserved wrath. Let us search out the cause by tracing the effects. Whence arises the fear of wrath, or apprehension of God's displeasure? Only from a conviction of guilt. And what can produce a conviction of guilt, but a sense of obligation? This is manifestly the doctrine the Scripture, which teaches us, that “by the law is the knowledge of fin", and that "the law is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.” Those who have none at all, or a very imperfect sense of the obligation of the divine law, will never have the least esteem of the righteousness of Christ, which atones for their transgression of it; it must appear to them to be foolishness; whereas those who have a strong conviction of the justice of the demand of the law, both esteem and use the plea of their Savior's merit. Such also have a strong sense of the extent and purity of the law of God, as well as its obligation in general.
CONTRARY TO WHAT THE SKEPTICS SAY ABOUT THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION BY THE IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSENESS OF CHRIST BEING A LICENSE TO SIN, WITHERSPOON SAYS RELIANCE ON THE GRACE OF GOD TO KEEP THE LAW CONTINUES AFTER REGENERATION
This conviction of the obligation of the divine law, so essentially connected with, or rather so necessarily previous to, an acceptance of the imputed righteousness of Christ, is evidently founded upon the relation of man to God, as a creature to his Creator. This relation then continues, and must continue, unchangeable; therefore the obligation founded upon it must be unalienable; and all those who have once been sensible of it, must continue to be so, unless we suppose them blinded to the knowledge of God as Creator, by the discovery of his mercy in Christ the Redeemer. But this is absurd; for the subsequent relation of a sinner to God, as forgiven and reconciled through Christ, never can take away, nay, never can alter his natural relation as a creature, nor the obligation founded upon it. Neither can it be conceived as consistent with the perfections of God to abate the demands of his law; that is to say, a perfect conformity to his holy will.
EDITORS NOTE: THE EQUATING OF A STATE OF MIND WITH REGENERATION IS THE GREATEST DEFECT OF SCOTTISH COMMON SENSE REALISM. UP TO THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY, PROTESTANTS ACKNOWLEDGED A CONNECTION BETWEEN THE STATE OF MIND AND REGENERATION, BUT NEVER EQUATED THE TWO. THIS IS WHY THE BIBLICAL CONCEPT OF HEART IS SO IMPORTANT. THE HEART IS WHAT IT IS, REGENERATE OR NOT REGENERATE. MAN CAN NOT CHANGE HIS HEART (EXCEPT IN A PREDETERMANISTIC, CONSECUTIONAL SENSE). THAT IS WHY MAN MUST BE BORN AGAIN BY GOD. THE MIND IS DIFFERENT. IT IS CHANGEABLE, MOMENT BY MOMENT, BY MAN. THE MODERN IDEA OF FAITH AS A METAPHYSICAL FORCE STARTED HERE. BEFORE THIS TIME, CALVINISTS AND ARMINIANS SAW FAITH AS RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. AFTER THIS POINT, CALVINISTS WHO WANTED A LESS SUPERNATURAL BASIS OF SALVATION BEGAN TO SEE FAITH AS A METAPHYSICAL FORCE OF AN IMPERSONAL GOD. IT FIT WELL WITH ENLIGHTENMENT IDEAS OF MAN BEING THE MEASURE OF ALL THINGS.
THE TWO MAIN PROBLEMS OF REDEFINING SAVING FAITH AS A METAPHYSICAL FORCE ARE ONE, YOU CUT OFF GOD’S ARM AND LIMIT HIM TO A MERE ENFORCER OF METAPHYSICAL LAWS, AND TWO, SINCE “THE HEART OF MAN IS DESPERATELY WICKED”, YOU ALLOW MAN TO DETERMINE HIS OWN EVIDENCE OF REGENERATION BASED ON HIS OWN “SINCERITY”. THE SHIFT FROM HEART TO HEAD, WAS WHAT CAUSED THE SHIFT IN THE INQUIRY ROOM FROM THE BIBLICAL EVIDENCE OF SALVATION TEST (BEST)TO THE BELIEF OF SCRIPTURE TEST(BIST)AFTER THE CIVIL WAR.
“all those who have once been sensible of it, must continue to be so, unless we suppose them blinded to the knowledge of God as Creator, by the discovery of his mercy in Christ the Redeemer. But this is absurd; for the subsequent relation of a sinner to God, as forgiven and reconciled through Christ, never can take away, nay, never can alter his natural relation as a creature, nor the obligation founded upon it.”
WHY NOT? UNLESS REGENERATION CHANGES THE CHARACTER OF THE SINNER TO SAINT, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT ENABLES THE PERSERVERANCE OF THE SAINT, MAN WILL DEFINITELY DEPART FROM GOD. A PSYCHOLOGICAL EXPLANATION OF SAVING FAITH IS NOT ADEQUATE TO EXPLAIN BIBLICAL SALVATION. WHILE I AM SYMPATHETIC WITH WITHERSPOON PROVIDING A RATIONAL FOR THE NEW LIGHT CALVINIST PRACTICE OF CALLING SINNERS TO IMMEDIATE REPENTANCE AND SUBMISSION TO GOD, HIS RELUCTANCE TO IDENTIFY THE NECESSITY OF SUPERNATURAL REGENERATION AND THE INDWELLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IT A SYMPTOM OF A MUCH BIGGER PROBLEM.
DUTY FAITH FROM NATURAL WILL AND MORAL WILL AVAILABLE ONLY IN REGENERATION – IDENTICAL TO JONATHAN EDWARDS THEOLOGY
Since mention has been made of perfect conformity to the will of God, or perfect obedience to his law, as the duty of man, which is indeed the foundation of this whole doctrine, I think it necessary to observe, that some deny this to be properly required of man as his duty in the present fallen state, because he is not able to perform it. But such do not seem to attend either to the meaning of perfect obedience, or to the nature or cause of this inability. Perfect obedience is obedience by any creature, to the utmost extent of his natural powers. Even in a state of innocence, the holy dispositions of Adam would not have been equal in strength and activity to those of creatures of an higher rank: but surely to love. God, who is infinitely amiable, with all the heart, and, above all, to consecrate ail his powers and faculties, without exception, and without intermission, to God’s service, must be undeniably the duty of every intelligent creature. And what sort of inability are we under to pay this? Our natural faculties are surely as fit for the service of God as for any other purpose; the inability is only moral, and lies wholly in the aversion of our hearts from such employment.
HERE WE HAVE A DEFINATE DIFFERENCE WITH HOPKINSIAN THEOLOGY. HOPKINS CONSIDERED USING THE MEANS OF GRACE TO BE AN EXCUSE FOR PUTTING OFF REPENTANCE AND SUBMISSION TO GOD. WITHERSPOON SEES ALL PRE-REGENERATION USING THE MEANS OF GRACE AS ILLUMINATION OF THE UNDERSTANDING, AS DID THE PURITANS AND BELLAMY AND EDWARDS. UNFORTUNATELY, WITHERSPOON DEPARTS FROM ORTHODOXY BY STATING PRE-REGENERATION ILLUMINATION AS A METAPHYSICAL FACT, AVOIDING THE EMBARASSING IDEA OF THE DIRECT ACTIVITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. THE DEPERSONALIZATION OF GOD’S ACTIVITY WITH MAN, OR ANOTHER WAY OF SAYING IT, THE METAPHISICALIZATION OF GRACE AND FAITH, IS THE GREAT FLAW IN SCOTTISH COMMON SENSE THEOLOGY. PSYCHOLOGY PROVIDES AN EXPLANATION FOR HOW MAN ACTS WHEN SUBJECTED TO THE GRACE OF GOD. BUT IF YOU NEVER TALK ABOUT GRACE BEING THE SPECIFIC ACTIVITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, YOU, IN EFFECT, MAKE PSYCHOLOGY THE CAUSE OF GRACE. GRACE IS NOT A LAW OF THE SPIRITUAL REALM LIKE CAUSE AND EFFECT IS A LAW OF THE PHYSICAL REALM. WE RIGHTLY CAN SAY, “WHEN YOU HIT THE NAIL WITH THE HAMMER, IT WILL DRIVE THE NAIL”. BUT WE SHOULD NEVER SAY “WHEN YOU MAKE A DECISION FOR CHRIST, GOD SAVES YOU”.
AFTER LISTING THE MANY WAYS SCRIPTURE PORTRAYS CHRIST AS THE PERFECT REDEEMER, WITHERSPOON SAYS THE UNSAVED MAN DOES NOT UNDERSTAND AND SYMPATHIZE WITH CHRIST, BUT THE SAVED MAN UNDERSTANDS AND SYMPATHIZES WITH CHRIST.
Hath a believer then a firm persuasion of all these truths? Are they the frequent theme of his meditations? And must they not necessarily fill him with an abhorrence of fin, inflame him with a hatred of it, and excite in him a self-loathing on its account? Thus it is said in the prophetic writings, "They shall look on me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born”.
I am sensible that these things will have no such effect upon the enemies of the gospel who disbelieve them, or upon those Christians, if they deserve the name, who disguise, explain away, or give up the satisfaction of Christ; or even those who have a strong tincture of a legal spirit, and are for contributing somewhat toward their acceptance with God, by their own merit and defective obedience… But let it be remembered, that however little many believe such things, they may yet perceive, if they will attend to it, their natural operation upon those who do believe them. And let any modern adept in the science of morals shew, in his account of the foundation of morality and the nature of obligation, any thing that hath a force or influence equal to this; or, will the nominal self-righteous Christian, who thinks Christ only made up some little wants which he finds in himself, or that his death had only some general expediency in it, ever be equally tender in his practice with him, who sees so much of the purity of the law of God, and his detestation of sin, as to esteem all his own righteousnesses but as filthy rags, and bottoms his hope of acceptance wholly upon the perfect righteousness
of his Redeemer?
THERE IS NOTHING WRONG IN PRESENTING THE PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECT OF UNDERSTANDING AND SYMPATHY WITH CHRIST. THE PROBLEM IS THE ABSENCE OF THE CAVEAT THAT ONLY SUPERNATURAL REGENERATION CAN RESULT IN A SAVING UNDERSTANDING AND SYMPATHY WITH CHRIST. STATED IN BIBLICAL TERMS, COMMON SENSE REALISM SUBSTITUTED UNDERSTANDING AND SYMPATHY WITH CHRIST FOR BELIEVING ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. SINCE THE REFORMATION, PROTESTANT THEOLOGY HAD ALWAYS EXPLAINED BELIEVING ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AS MORE THAN JUST UNDERSTANDING AND SYMPATHIZING WITH CHRIST. COMMON SENSE REALISM CAUSED SALVATION TO SHIFT FROM KNOWING THE PERSON OF CHRIST TO KNOWING ABOUT AND SYMPATHIZING WITH THE DOCTRINES OF CHRIST. UNFORTUNATELY, WITHIN 50 YEARS, THE MINISTERS SCHOOLED IN WITHERSPOON’S COMMON SENSE REALISM WOULD SHIFT THE INQUIRY ROOM FROM THE BEST SYSTEM TO THE BIST SYSTEM.
THE BEST SYSTEM USED IN THE INQUIRY ROOM BEFORE THE CIVIL WAR LOOKED FOR BIBLICAL EVIDENCE OF SALVATION IN DISINTERESTED BENEVOLENCE (HOPKINS AND BELLAMY) AS POSSIBLE FIRST EVIDENCE OF REGENERATION. GRADUALLY, THROUGH THE INFLUENCE OF COMMON SENSE REALISM, MINISTERS GRADUALLY BEGAN TO SEE DISINTERESTED BENEVOLENCE AS INTELLECTUAL ACCEPTANCE OF THE DECREES OF GOD. AFTER THE CIVIL WAR, MINISTERS WENT FURTHER AND STOPPED LOOKING FOR EVIDENCE OF REGENERATION AND BEGAN LOOKING FOR UNDERSTANDING AND SYMPATHY WITH CHRIST IN THE ACCEPTANCE OF SALVATION SCRIPTURES AS EVIDENCE OF SAVING FAITH, THUS MAKING REGENERATION A DE FACTO RESULT OF SAVING FAITH. ALL THIS WAS NOT DANGEROUS AS LONG AS MINISTERS NEVRE TOLD SEEKERS THEY WERE SAVED.
WITHERSPOON MAKES MANY ARGUMENTS TO PROVE A CORRECT UNDERSTANDING OF JUSTIFICATION WILL MAKE CALVINISTS MORE LIKELY TO DOUBT THEIR SALVATION THAN SEE THEIR SALVATION AS A LICENSE TO SIN.
It is a certain fact that the number of persons under distress of mind, by perplexing doubts or anxious fears concerning their future state, is incomparably greater among the friends than the enemies of this doctrine (the doctrine of Christ’s imputed righteousness). By this I do not at all mean, that either their doubts are dutiful or their fears desirable. Such a state is to be looked upon as the fruit of their own weakness and imperfection, and as a chastisement from a wise and jealous God, either more immediately for correcting their sins, or for the trial, illustration, and perfecting of their grace and virtue; but its being more common among those who believe in Christ's imputed righteousness than others, is a plain proof that this doctrine doth not naturally tend to inspire any with an unholy boldness, or a secure and slothful presumption.
HOW SHOCKED WITHERSPOON WOULD BE AT THE EPIDEMIC OF FALSE PROFESSORS TODAY WHO USE THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST’S IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS AS A LICENSE TO SIN BECAUSE SAVING FAITH IS SEEN AS ACCEPTANCE OF SALVATION SCRIPTURES WITH NO BIBLICAL EVIDENCE OF SALVATION NEEDED OR WANTED.
WITHERSPOON CONTINUES HIS PSYCHOLOGICAL VIEW OF REGENERATION:
But let us now complete this argument, by showing that a believer in Christ; is under the strongest obligations, from gratitude, to do the will of God, And how many considerations concur in showing this? The unspeakable greatness of the blessings he receives, no less than deliverance from everlasting misery and anguish, and a right to everlasting glory and happiness. The infinite and affecting condescension of the great and glorious Giver, who, in mercy to those who could not profit him at all, but on the contrary, had highly provoked him, laid help for them upon one who is mighty to save. The astonishing means employed in this design, viz. God's not sparing even his own Son, but delivering him up for us all." Well might the apostle John say “for God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life." But, above all, the sense which he himself hath of his misery and wretchedness. Nothing can be more dreadful than the apprehensions which a convinced sinner hath of his own state: what, and how strong then must his sense of gratitude be, to him who hath given his Son, and to him who has given himself for the purchase of his pardon? With what earnestness will he seek after, and with what cheerfulness will he embrace every opportunity of testifying his thankfulness? Will not the name of his Redeemer be precious, even "as ointment poured forth?" his laws delightful to him, and his honor dear?
WITHERSPOON LISTS SIX WAYS OF IDENTIFYING SOMEONE WHO IS REGENERATED. JONATHAN EDWARDS HAD SEVEN WAYS OF IDENTIFYING SOMEONE WHO IS REGENERATED: 1)DISINTERESTED (UNSELFISH)LOVE TOWARD GOD AND SAINTS 2)DISINTERESTED (UNSELFISH)JOY DESPITE SUFFERING 3)PRODUCTION OF GOOD FRUIT 4)HATRED AND POWER OVER SIN 5)WITNESS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT 6)TASTE OR RELISH FOR MORAL BEAUTY 7)BELIEVING AND OBEYING SCRIPTURE
THE CRITICAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EDWARDS AND WITHERSPOON’S LISTS ARE EDWARDS SAW SALVATION AS REGENERATION CAUSING MORAL CHANGE WHILE WITHERSPOON SAW MORAL PERSUASION AS REGENERATION. EDWARDS NEVER METAPHYSICALIZED REGENERATION. HE ALWAYS PRESENTED REGENERATION AS THE SOVEREIGN, SUPERNATURAL ACT OF GOD.
THE WORD “MUST” IN WITHERSPOON’S SIX WAYS OF IDENTIFYING SOMEONE WHO IS REGENERATED SEEM TO IMPLY THAT MORAL PERSUASION IS THE MEANS AND SANCTIFYING POWER OF REGENERATION. SANDEMAN WAS WRONG TO DISMISS REPENTANCE AND SUBMISSION TO GOD AS APPROPRIATE ACTS OF PRE-REGENERATION DUTY FAITH. BUT WITHERSPOON IS ALSO WRONG TO EQUATE REPENTANCE AND SUBMISSION TO GOD WITH REGENERATION, THE WAY SOME EQUATE THE STATE OF MIND THAT CAUSES ONE TO BE BAPTIZED WITH REGENERATION. OF COURSE, IF THESE STATEMENTS ARE TAKEN IN THE A PRIORI CONTEXT OF ORTHODOX PREDETERMINATION AND CONSECUTIONAL FAITH, THERE IS NO HARM DONE. BUT AFTER THE CIVIL WAR, THESE TYPES OF STATEMENTS WERE UNDERSTOOD APART FROM THAT CONTEXT. AFTER THE CIVIL WAR, WHEN MINISTERS “FORGOT” THE CONSECUTIONAL BASIS OF SAVING FAITH, MORAL PERSUASION WAS SEEN AS THE MEANS OF REGENERATION.
1)He who expects justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ, hath the clearest and strongest conviction of the obligation of the holy law of God upon every reasonable creature and of its extent and purity. This will appear very evidently, if we consider what it is that brings any person to a belief or relish of this doctrine.
2)He who believes in Christ, and expects justification through his imputed righteousness, must have the deepest and strongest sense of the evil of sin in itself. This is in a good measure included in, or an immediate consequence of, what has been already mentioned. For the obligation of the law, as hinted above, is but very imperfect, if we consider it only as founded on the power Of God, and the dependence of the creature, and not also on the holiness, justice, and goodness of the law itself.
Besides that sense of the obligation and purity of the law of God which may pave the way to a sinner's acceptance of the righteousness of Christ, there is a discovery of the evil of sin, and its abominable nature, in every part of this " mystery of godliness, God manifested in the flesh," and the truths founded upon it; so that the more these are believed, and the more they are attended to and recollected, the more must (???) the believer be determined to hate and abhor every wicked and false way; every new view which he takes of the gospel of his salvation, every act of trust and confidence exerted upon it, must (???) increase his horror of sin, and excite him to fly from it.
3)He who expects justification only through the imputed righteousness of Christ, has the most awful views of the danger of sin. He not only sees that obligation and purity of the law, but the severity of its sanction.
4)Those who expect justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ, have the highest sense of the purity and holiness of the divine nature; and therefore must be under an habitual conviction of the necessity of purity, in order to fit them for his presence and enjoyment.
5)Those who expect justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ, must be induced to obedience, in the strongest manner, by the liberal and ingenuous motive of gratitude and thankfulness to God.
6) Those who expect justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ, must be possessed of a supreme or superlative love to God, which is not only the source and principle, but the very sum and substance, nay, the perfection of holiness.
EXCERPTS THAT PROMOTE A MORAL PERSUASION VIEW OF REGENERATION:
There must have been a discovery of the glory of God, as shining in this plan of salvation, to all who cordially embrace it. Nothing else could induce them to do so.
SINCE “CORDIALLY EMBRACE” HAPPENS ONLY IN SUPERNATURAL REGENERATION (ONLY GOD CAN CHANGE THE HEART), WHY MUST THERE HAVE BEEN A DISCOVERY OF THE GLORY OF GOD, AND “NOTHING ELSE COULD INDUCE THEM TO DO SO” SUGGESTS MORAL PERSUASION.
Whoever loves God above all, and places his chief happiness and delight in him, is truly holy; not only will be so as the effect, but really is so, by the possession of this disposition. In proportion as this love is increased and strengthened, his sanctification is carried on; and when it is complete and triumphant, entirely
HERE WITHERSPOON DOWNPLAYS THE SUPERNATURAL ACTIVITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT BUT SAYS BELIEF IN THE ACTIVITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WORKS TO “ANIMATE THEIR OWN ENDEAVORS”.
Thus says the apostle Peter, "And ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; for the promise is to you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call". And it is to this plentiful effusion of the Spirit, that the prophets ascribe the purity and prosperity of the church in the latter days. "For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring, and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water-courses". I am sensible that the nature and form of the argument doth not permit me at once to suppose the truth of this, and to make use of the direct agency and effectual operation of the Spirit of God to prove the holiness of saints. But it may be easily made appear, that the belief and persuasion of this must have the strongest influence in animating their own endeavors. What more proper for such a purpose than the belief of an almighty aid, certainly to be exerted in their behalf? Must not this invigorate their powers, and preserve them from sinking through fear of the number and strength of their adversaries?
WITHERSPOON REFERS TO MORAL PERSUASION THAT WILL CHANGE THE HEART (SOMETHING THAT CAN HAPPEN ONLY WITH SUPERNATURAL REGENERATION)
“After all the advantages of this doctrine(THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION BY THE IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSENESS OF CHRIST), pointed out in the preceding discourse, some will be ready to ask me, if it cannot possibly be applied to the encouragement of impiety, or serve to foster a supine sloth and negligence? To this I am ready to answer. By some who profess it, it may; but by those who really believe it, it never can. There is no part of the word or providence of God that may not be, or that hath not frequently in fact been abused to bad purposes, by wicked men under the dominion of their lusts. But, in order to remove ambiguity, it is proper to observe, that wherever there is a national profession of any religious principles, there must be many who are not believers, in any other sense than that they have been accustomed to hear such and such things asserted, have never inquired into nor doubted, seldom even thought of them, and so do not disbelieve them. But there is a great difference between such a traditionary belief as may produce a customary profession, and such a real and inward persuasion as will change the heart and influence the practice.
WITHERSPOON DOES NOT QUALIFY THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT WITH ANY REFERENCE TO PREDETERMINATION – BUT WHEN HE REFERS TO “FROM THE HEART”, HE MUST MEAN THE PERSON WHO EMBRACES THE DOCTRINE IS REGENERATE, AND WHEN HE SAYS A PERSON CAN NOT EMBRACE THE DOCTRINE “WITHOUT BEING SANCTIFIED BY IT”, HE MUST MEAN A REGENERATE PERSON WHO IS BEING SANCTIFIED. FOR MINISTERS AFTER THE CIVIL WAR WHO KNEW NOTHING ABOUT PREDETERMINATION, WITHERSPOON’S STATEMENT LOOKS LIKE BARE FAITH CAUSING REGENERATION
It is impossible that any man can really, and from the heart, embrace the doctrine of Christ imputed righteousness, without being sanctified by it.
A PRACTICAL TREATISE ON REGENERATION
I am sensible that regeneration, or the new birth, is a subject at present very unfashionable, or at least a style of language which hath gone very much into desuetude (state of disuse)
WITHERSPOON’S FOUNDATIONAL STATEMENT COULD BE APPLIED TO PREDETERMINATION. WITHERSPOON’S REASONINGS ON THE DOCTRINE OF THE IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST ARE UNINTELLIGEBLE UNLESS THE READER HAS AN UNDERSTANDING OF PREDETERMINATION AND THE CONSECUTIONAL BASIS OF SAVING FAITH. THE SAME WILL BE TRUE WHEN HE TRIES TO EXPLAIN REGENERATION. PLEASE LEARN ABOUT PREDETERMINATION AND CONSECUTION BEFORE PROCEEDING. ANOTHER UNFASHIONABLE SUBJECT IN WILBERFORCE’S CIRCLE WAS THE IMMEDIATE ACTIVITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. WATCH HOW WILBERFORCE WILL USE THE EUPHAMISM “PROVIDENCE OF GOD” TO AVOID AN UNFASHIONABLE AND EMBARASSING REFERENCE TO THE SUPERNATURAL.
… this subject is indeed unfashionable and neglected, We are miserably deceiving ourselves. If a new nature is necessary, to attempt to repair and new model the old will be found to be lost labor… it is by no means sufficient, or, to speak more properly, it is altogether impossible to reform the irregularities and vicious lives of sinners, and bring them to a real conformity to the law of God, till their hearts are renewed and changed… those who are no way sensible of any change in the course of their affections, and the objects at which they are pointed, can scarcely think that they are born again, or be able to affix a proper meaning to so strong an expression… whoever cannot remember the time when he served the former lusts in his ignorance, has reason to conclude that no change deserving the name of regeneration has ever yet taken place…Remember, that though your conduct may be wiser and more prudent, and your character more respectable in the world than before, this is no proof of regeneration and "except a man be born again, he cannot fee the kingdom of God."
It is very certain that natural conscience, when awakened by the word of God, will both restrain from sin, and excite to duty, even while sin hath the dominion upon the whole.
THERE ARE MANY EXAMPLES IN THE BIBLE OF PEOPLE WHO TEMPORARELY OR PARTIALLY REFORMED THEMSELVES, BUT WERE NOT BORN AGAIN.
Sometimes a partial change is produced by strong occasional convictions, either from the word or providence of God. There are many instances in which convictions of sin are raised in the minds of the hearers of the gospel, which continue in great force for some time, and have a partial effect which still remains. Even a Felix is sometimes made to tremble at the thoughts of a judgment to come. It is very certain that natural conscience, when awakened by the word of God, will both restrain from sin, and excite to duty, even while sin hath dominion upon the whole…It appears indeed from innumerable instances in Scripture, as well as from daily experience, that there are temporary convictions raised in the minds of many, both by the word and providence of God. It is also certain, that there are imperfect effects of these convictions, which often continue a considerable time, or rather are perpetual, though they are still only partial.
JONATHAN EDWARDS SAID THE SAME THING A DIFFERENT WAY. EDWARDS DID NOT HESITATE TO DISCUSS THE IMMEDIATE ACTIVITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN CONVICTING SINNERS. WILBERFORCE STAYS AWAY IN ALL HIS WRITINGS FROM SUPERNATURAL EXPLANATIONS, USING INSTEAD THE EUPHAMISM, “PROVIDENCE OF GOD”, WHICH COULD MEAN SUPERNATURAL EFFECTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT OR NATURAL CIRCUMSTANCES ORCHESTRATED BY GOD. IN THE CONTEXT OF CONVICTION, WILBERFORCE IS MOST LIKELY SAYING “BY THE WORD AND BY AFFECTIONS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”. THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN THE BIBLICAL WAY OF SAYING IT, BUT UNFASHIONABLE, TO USE WILBERFORCE’S WORD. THE METAPHYSICALIZATION OF REGENERATION WILL BE A NECESSARY PART OF THE EVOLUTION FROM THE BEST SYSTEM TO THE BIST SYSTEM IN THE INQUIRY ROOM AFTER THE CIVIL WAR.
It is not an outward and apparent only, but an internal and real change; secondly, that it is not an imperfect change, or difference in degree only, but a complete and essential change of the whole character.
THE BIBLICAL VIEW OF REGENERATION IS IT IS DEFINATE, COMPLETE AND IDENTIFIABLE. OH, IF ONLY MODERN MINISTERS BELIEVED THIS. THE HORRIBLE TRUTH IS IF REGENERATION IS NOT A CHANGE OF THE WHOLE CHARACTER, IT A DOCTRINE THAT ENCOURAGES SIN, LIKE PERGATORY FOR CATHOLICS. JUST AS CATHOLICS RELY ON PERGATORY WHEN THEY SIN, EVANGELICALS RELY ON THEIR DECISION FOR CHRIST THAT CAUSED THEM TO BE “BORN AGAIN”. CATHOLICS AT LEAST HAVE THE BELIEF THAT THEY WILL HAVE TO PAY FOR THEIR SIN IN PURGATORY – EVANGELICALS THINK AS LONG AS THEY TRUST THEIR DECISION FOR CHRIST MADE THEM “BORN AGAIN”, THAT IS “SAVING FAITH” EXEMPTS THEM FROM PUNISHMENT.
WITHERSPOON LAYS A FOUNDATION FOR THE NECESSITY OF REGENERTION BY DEFINING THE BIBLICAL IDEA OF “HEART”. THE READER IS WARNED IF HE DOES NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT THE HEART, HE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO UNDERSTAND THE NECESSITY OF REGENERATION.
Thou Solomon, my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts," 1 Chron. 28:9. The stress that is laid on this in Scripture, and the frequent repetition of the word "heart," can hardly have escaped the notice even of the most cursory reader, or the most superficial observer. We find the consent of the heart required, as indispensably and chiefly necessary, and that as distinguished from outward and apparent obedience, which, without it, will be of no value…
We find an inward change of heart and disposition promised by God as the work of his Spirit and grace: "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, and I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them," Ezek. 36:26-27.When I say it is a supernatural change, I mean that it is what man cannot by his own power effect without superior or divine aid. As we are by nature in a state of enmity and opposition to God, so this is what we cannot "of ourselves" remove or overcome. The exercise of our own rational powers, that persuasion of others, the application of all moral motives of every kind, will be ineffectual without the special operation of the Spirit and grace of God.
THE REASON WITHERSPOON PUTS “OF OURSELVES” IN QUOTES IS THE NEW LIGHT CALVINIST IDEA OF EVERYTHING GOD DOES, MAN MUST DO. THE AMERICAN NEW LIGHT CALVINISTS EXPRESSED THIS IDEA WHEN THEY SAID TO SEEKERS “MAKE YOURSELF A NEW HEART”. THIS WAS THE ULTIMATE EXPERINCIAL ASSUMPTION OF PREDETERMININATION
Thus the apostle John describes those who believe in the name of Christ; “Which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God,” John 1:13. And thus the apostle Paul expresses himself: “Not 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," Tit 3:5. There is no part of the Scripture doctrine which the natural man hears with greater aversion, or opposes with greater violence. It gives so humbling a view of our own character and slate, and stands so directly opposed to pride and self-sufficiency, that it cannot be truly acceptable to any, till they are brought to a saving acquaintance with its power and efficacy. However, it hath been this “foolishness of preaching,” or rather, this commonly esteemed foolish part of preaching, that God hath most remarkably blessed for the salvation of souls.
Hence then it appears, that the new birth is a “supernatural change;" it is the effect of the power of God; it is the work of the Holy Ghost. I have been at the more pains to establish this truth, because I am persuaded, that until it be truly received there may be a form, but there can be nothing of the power of godliness.
AGAIN, THE REASON WITHERSPOON PUTS “SUPERNATURAL CHANGE” IN QUOTES IS THE NEW LIGHT CALVINIST IDEA OF EVERYTHING GOD DOES, MAN MUST DO.
COUNTERFEITS OF REGENERATION
And as truth seldom receives greater light from any thing than from a discovery of the opposite errors, I shall point out by what means sometimes an apparent or imperfect change is produced, which is not inward and essential. This I apprehend will be effected by a view of the following characters, everywhere to be met with. 1. A character formed upon a well-conducted selfish principle. 2. One that is supremely governed by reputation, and a desire of honor and respect from men.
THIS IS THE MOTIVATION OF WILBERFORCE – TO FASHION A THEOLOGY THAT WILL BE RESPECTED BY MEN. WILBERFORCE HAS METAPHYSICALIZED THE SUPERNATURAL AT THE COST OF BIBLICAL TRUTH.
3. One that is influenced by a religious principle, in which a spirit of bondage and slavish fear chiefly predominates. In the first place, there is a character in the world which may be said to be formed upon a well conduced selfish principle. It may be said indeed, in general, of every unrenewed person, that in such a heart God is dethroned, and self, in one shape or other, is exalted, is set in his place, and reigns in his stead; but what I have chiefly in view at present is, to point out the character of those who, in all those parts of their conduct which assume the name of religion or of virtue, are chiefly actuated not by a sense of duty, but by an intention to promote their own present satisfaction and comfort.
UNREGENERATE PEOPLE HAVE MORALS THAT SUITE THEIR SELFISH HEARTS. IT IS THE JOB OF MINISTERS TO DISTINGUISH FALSE PROFESSORS FROM SAINTS
We may learn from this very important lesson, to distinguish between human virtue and religion, between a decent and blameless carriage upon motives of present conveniency, and a new nature, or a gracious state. I know some are highly dissatisfied at making any distinction of this nature, but is it not plainly possible that such a character as is described above may exist? Is it not also plain, for reasons too obvious to be insisted on, that it cannot deserve the name of a new or spiritual birth? And is it not, therefore, the duty of ministers of the gospel to put men in mind of this, as well as every other source of self-deceit? Nay, the necessity in one view is greatest, in such a cafe as this, that we may warn those of their danger who have a name to live while they are dead, that we may shake the strong hold of the presumptuous self- applauding formalist, who is often more deaf and insensible to the things that belong to his peace, than the most abandoned profligate.
JONATHAN EDWARDS, JOSEPH BELLAMY AND SAMUEL HOPKINS SAID THE MOST DANGEROUS SINNER IN THE CHURCH WAS THE “EVANGELICAL HYPOCRATE”. THE “FORMALIST” IS NOT AS UNREACHABLE AS THE “EVANGELICAL HYPOCRATE”. THE FORMALIST CAN BE SHOWN HE DOES NOT HAVE BIBLICAL EVIDENCE OF REGENERATION. BUT THE “EVANGELICAL HYPOCRATE” HAS FAITH THAT HE IS SAVED BECAUSE OF SOME SPECIAL EVENT THAT HAPPENED TO HIM, SO HE DOES NOT REQUIRE BIBLICAL EVIDENCE OF REGENERATION. ONE OF THE MOST COMMON EVENTS THAT HAPPEN TO “EVANGELICAL HYPOCRATES” IS RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS WHEN READING OR HEARING SALVATION SCRIPTURES. UNFORTUNATELY, THIS WOULD BECOME THE BASIS OF THE BIST SYSTEM IN THE INQUIRY ROOM AFTER THE CIVIL WAR, GIVING A REASON FOR ULTIMATELY ELIMINATING THE INQUIRY ROOM AND CALLING EVERYONE WHO CAME FORWARD IN AN ATAR CALL ON THE BASIS OF BELIEVING A SALVATION SCRIPTURE A “CONVERT”.
BUT IN WITHERSPOON’S DAY, MOST CHURCH MEMBERS THOUGHT THEY WERE SAVED BECAUSE THEY TRIED TO BE GOOD, BUT IF THEY COULD SEE THEIR EFFORTS WERE MOTIVATED BY SELFISH REASONS, THEY COULD SEE THEY WERE NOT BORN AGAIN.
The character I have now in view is formed upon religious principles, but in which a spirit of bondage and slavish fear greatly predominates. It is often difficult, according, to the Scripture expression, rightly to divide the word of truth: it is difficult to point out the errors by which men deceive themselves, and mistake the shadow for the substance, and at the fame time to caution them so distinctly, as that serious persons may not be alarmed, their peace and comfort interrupted by unnecessary or ill-grounded fears. Perhaps there are few subjects in which this difficulty is greater, than the one I have now mentioned. I pray that God, for Christ's sake, may enable me to open the truth in such a manner, as may convince and awaken those who have hitherto built with untempered mortar, and may give additional peace and consolation to those who have "fled for refuge, to lay hold of the hope set before them."
Fear not only awakens, but continues to govern them; they lay down a legal system of obedience and self-righteousness, but all the while they drag the yoke with great impatience. They do not hate sin from their hearts, on its own account, but are afraid that they shall burn for ever for committing it. They do not love God, but they fear, because they know that they cannot resist him. They do not engage in his service with cheerfulness, or delight in it as their choice, but groan under it as a burden. Their hearts and affections are set upon present and temporal enjoyments; but they apply themselves in some measure to the duties of religion, because they know they cannot keep the world always, and submit to it as rather better and more tolerable than everlasting misery.
REGENERATION IS SUPERNATURAL – SEE HOW WITHERSPOON METAPHYSICALIZES THE SUPERNATURAL RIGHT OUT OF REGENERATION
When I say it is a supernatural change, I mean that it is what man cannot by his own power effect without superior or divine aid. As we are by nature in a state of enmity and opposition to God, so this is what we cannot "of ourselves" remove or overcome. The exercise of our own rational powers, the persuasion of others, the application of all moral motives of every kind, will be ineffectual without the special operation of the Spirit and grace of God.
WATCH HOW WITHERSPOON ELEVATES THE MEANS OF GRACE BY LOWERING SAVING GRACE TO MERELY A METAPHYSICAL FORCE PUTTING “SUPERNATURAL CHANGE” IN QUOTES
Hence then it appears, that the new birth is a “supernatural change;" it is the effect of the power of God; it is the work of the Holy Ghost. I have been at the more pains to establish this truth, because I am persuaded, that until it be truly received there may be a form, but there can be nothing of the power of godliness. But we must now vindicate it from the objections and abuse to which it may be thought liable. There are many who still harbour in their minds, and sometimes produce in conversation, the objection mentioned by the apostle Paul: “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault, for who hath resisted his will?" Romans 9:19. This indeed is the sum of all the objections that ever were, or ever can be offered against it;
WITHERSPOON SAYS THE OBJECTION TO REGENERATION IS BECAUSE (ACCORDING TO WITHERSPOON) IT HAS INCORRECTLY BEEN TIED TO ELECTION WITH NO CAUSE AND EFFECT CONNECTION TO REPENTANCE AND FAITH. READERS MUST UNDERSTAND PREDETERMINATION AND THE CONSECUTIONAL BASIS OF SAVING FAITH TO UNDERSTAND WHAT WITHERSPOON IS SAYING.
But we must now vindicate There are many who still harbor in their minds, and sometimes produce in conversation, the objection mentioned by the Apostle Paul: “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault, for who hath resisted his will?" Rom. 9:19.
WILBERFORCE IS SAYING THE SINNER IS EXCUSING HIMSELF FOR NOT REPENTING, THAT THE SINNER SAYS THAT GOD IS THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN CAUSE PEOPLE TO REPENT, AND A SINNER IS POWERLESS IN HIS OWN STRENGTH TO REPENT.
This indeed is the sum of all the objections that ever were, or ever can be offered against it; and I make the short answer of the same apostle, "Nay, but O man! who art thou that repliest against God?"
WILBERFORCE IS SAYING THAT PAUL IS SAYING, “YOU SHOULD NOT COMPLAIN THAT YOU DO NOT HAVE THE POWER TO REPENT – JUST REPENT, OR ELSE YOU ARE REFUSING HIS MERCY”.
This is but making or imagining an inconsistency between two things, both of which God hath clearly established, and inseparably joined in his word. These are, his own power necessary to the change, and our duty, in the use of the means; or rather, our sin while continuing at enmity with him, and refusing his mercy.
FOR THOSE UNUSED TO THINKING IN TERMS OF PREDETERMINATION, THE STATEMENT UNITING THE TWO THINGS, “his own power necessary to the change, and our duty, in the use of the means; or rather, our sin while continuing at enmity with him, and refusing his mercy” DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. BUT HERE IS HOW THE NEW LIGHT CALVINIST SEES IT: 1)ELECTION, OR WHO GOD WILL GIVE THE GRACE TO SAVINGLY REPENT IS NOT THE ISSUE. THE ISSUE IS, GOD SAYS REPENT. THE SINNER HAS A DUTY TO REPENT. WHETHER OR NOT THE REPENTANCE IS COMMON REPENTANCE OR SAVING REPENTANCE IS IN GOD’S HANDS. 2)EVIDENCE OF REGENERATION (EVIDENCE OF ELECTION) IS A SEPARATE ISSUE. 3) THE ONLY THING STOPPING PEOPLE FROM REPENTING IS THEIR MORAL UNWILLINGNESS, NOT THEIR NATURAL ABILITY.
IT IS USEFUL FOR MODERN READERS TO KNOW THAT NEW LIGHT CALVINISTS, FROM WITHERSPOON TO SPURGEON, SPOKE FROM THE FOUNDATION OF PREDETERMINATION AND CONSECUTIONAL SAVING FAITH. IF YOU DIDN’T KNOW SPURGEON SPOKE FROM A FOUNDATION OF PREDETERMINATION, YOU WOULD ASSUME HE WAS ADVOCATING A “BARE FAITH” NON-ELECTION SALVATION. HERE IS SPURGEON SPEAKING ON PREDETERMINATION AND CONSECUTIONAL SAVING FAITH IN SALVATION.
Our belief in God's wisdom supposes and necessitates that He has a settled purpose and plan in the work of salvation. What would creation have been without His design? Is there a fish in the sea, or a fowl in the air, which was left to chance for its formation? Nay, in every bone, joint, and muscle, sinew, gland, and blood-vessel, you mark the presence of a God working everything according to the design of infinite wisdom. And shall God be present in creation, ruling over all, and not in grace? Shall the new creation have the fickle genius of free will to preside over it when divine counsel rules the old creation? Look at Providence! Who knoweth not that not a sparrow falleth to the ground without your Father? Even the hairs of your head are all numbered. God weighs the mountains of our grief in scales, and the hills of our tribulation in balances. And shall there be a God in providence and not in grace? Shall the shell be ordained by wisdom and the kernel be left to blind chance. No; He knows the end from the beginning. He sees in its appointed place, not merely the corner-stone which He has laid in fair colours, in the blood of His dear Son, but He beholds in their ordained position each of the chosen stones taken out of the quarry of nature, and polished by His grace; He sees the whole from corner to cornice, from base to roof, from foundation to pinnacle. He hath in His mind a clear knowledge of every stone which shall be laid in its prepared space, and how vast the edifice shall be, and when the top-stone shall be brought forth with shoutings of "Grace! Grace! unto it." At the last it shall be clearly seen that in every chosen vessel of mercy, Jehovah did as He willed with His own; and that in every part of the work of grace He accomplished His purpose, and glorified His own name.
SPURGEON AND WITHERSPOON ACKNOWLEDGE THAT MAN’S FREE WILL VERSUS GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY IS ANTIMONY. BOTH ARE IN THE BIBLE, BUT PHILOSOPHICALLY, ULTIMATELY, THEY ARE IRRECONCILABLE. WE RETURN TO WITHERSPOON:
I make no scruple to acknowledge, that it is impossible for me, nay,! find no difficulty in supposing that it is impossible for any finite mind to point out the bounds between the “dependence” and “activity” of the creature. But though we must ever remember, that it is he alone who can “bring a clean thing out of an unclean," yet we know also, that "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”. We know that “God will be just when he speaketh, and clear when he judgeth:" that he rejects with disdain the imputation of being the author of sin, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted of evil, neither tempteth he any man," James 1:13, For our greater assurance of this, he hath condescended to confirm it by his oath. - "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways, for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" Ezek. 33:11. The connection between this and the former truth appears plainly in the following passage: "Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life," John 5:40.
BUT MAN IS REPONSIBLE TO OBEY GOD EVEN IF HE DOES NOT FULLY UNDERSTAND THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD.
Suppose the sinner at the judgment-seat to offer this defense for himself: "I was altogether under the power of corruption; it was impossible for me to do any thing of myself.” Is it not natural to reply, "Where learned you this?" From the holy Scriptures. "And did not the same Scriptures also tell you, Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. Wherefore he is able to save to the uttermost all that come to God through him, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved?” But I could not reconcile one Scripture to another.… can it possibly justify your rebellion against the plainest commands, that you were not able fully to comprehend what is said of the absolute dominion and sovereignty of God?
CHARACTERISTICS OF A PERSON WHO IS REGENERATE
As, therefore, the change is properly of a moral or spiritual nature, it seems to me properly and directly to consist in these two things: 1. That our supreme and chief end be to serve and glorify God, and that every other aim be subordinate to this. 2. That the soul rest in God as its chief happiness, and habitually prefer his favor to every other enjoyment.
BELLAMY AND HOPKINS COMBINED THESE TWO INTO ONE TERM – DISINTERESTED BENEVOLENCE
He that is renewed and born again, hath seen his own entire dependence upon God, hath seen his Maker's right of dominion, and the obligation upon all his creatures to be, in every respect, subservient to his glory, and, without reserve, submissive to his will. He hath seen this to be most fit and reasonable, because of the absolute perfection and infinite excellence of the divine nature. He is convinced, that all preferring of our will to that of God, is a criminal usurpation by the creature, of the unalienable rights of the great Creator and sovereign Proprietor of all. Regeneration, then, is communicating this new principle, and giving it such force as that it may obtain and preserve the ascendancy, and habitually govern the will.
He who is born again discovers his new nature and life by new apprehensions of God—of himself—of the world—of eternity—of Jesus Christ the Savior of sinners — and of all the ordinances of his appointment. The regenerate person has new views of God. Both in respect of greatness and goodness. He really - and inwardly believes the being, presence, power and
providence of God, which he in a great measure disbelieved before. Whereas formerly, even what he did believe of God was seldom in his thoughts; now it is almost impossible for him to look, upon any thing, or person, or event, without considering its relation to God… the regenerate person has new apprehensions of eternity. Formerly the shadows and vanities
of time so engrossed his thoughts, so filled and occupied his sight, that eternity was seldom at all, and never fully in view; but now it is frequently and strongly upon his mind. Now it, as it were, joins itself with, and points out its own relation to every subject, and its concern in every pursuit. Now it is present as the object of faith, to correct
the false representations of sense, and to oppose the unjust claim of earthly and momentary gratifications. Formerly things unseen were counted in a manner precarious and fabulous, of small moment in any determination; but now there is such a discovery of the great realities of another world, as weighs down all created things, and makes them feel as a feather
in the balance.
FINALLY, WITHERSPOON GETS TO THE MOST OBVIOUS BIBLICAL EVIDENCE OF REGENERATION – RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST. THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE FIRST EVIDENCE – BUT SINCE NEW LIGHT CALVINISM WAS MORE INTERESTED IN MAKING CALVINISM PALATABLE TO ENLIGHTENMENT MAN, IT TOOK SECOND PLACE.
The regenerate person has also new views of Jesus Christ, the great and only Savior of sinners. Before, he was "without form or comeliness, or any beauty, that we should desire him." Before, (as is, alas, the case with very many) all the truths relating to the person, character, and office of a Mediator, were hated as absurdities or despised as enthusiasm. They were nick- named nonsense, cant, and unintelligible stuff. Or if decency forbad this, they were altogether cold and without relish. But now the name of a Savior is "precious—even as ointment poured forth” The strongest language is two weak to express his gratitude, or breathe out his love…. I cannot help also observing here, that every true convert is naturally led to consider himself as the chief of sinners, and every real Christian to reckon that others are preferable to him in holiness and, spiritual attainments... Another excellent and useful evidence of regeneration, is the sanctification of natural and lawful affections. There are, perhaps few either more sure or more plain evidences of real religion than this. Regeneration does not consist in giving us new souls, new faculties, or new affections, but in giving a new tendency and effect to those we had before.
Another excellent evidence of regeneration is, the moderation of our attachment to worldly enjoyments
in general, and habitual sublimation to the will of God. So soon as this change takes place, it will immediately and certainly abate the measure of our attachment to all earthly things. Formerly they were the all of the soul, its portion and its rest; but now a clear discovery being made of greater and better blessings, they must fall back into the second place.
WITHERSPOON DISCUSSES SINCERITY OF THE PERSON AND MEASURING THE EXTENT OF THE OF THE CHANGE EXPECTED IN REGENERATION
Thus I have given a succinct view of the most remarkable effects and visible evidences of regeneration. I cannot, however, satisfy myself with this, because I am persuaded the great question is, how far they ought to go, and to what measure of strength and uniformity they ought to arrive…That perfect holiness consists in having the heart wholly possessed by the love of God, without the mixture of any inferior or baser passion; and that regeneration consists in a supreme desire to glorify God, and a preference of his savor to every other enjoyment. Now what chiefly occasions difficulty in discerning the reality of this change is, that there is much unsubdued sin remaining in the children of God, and that there are many counterfeit graces, or appearances of religion, in those who are, notwithstanding, in the "gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.”
There are also counterfeit graces, common or imperfect operations of the Spirit which do not issue in a real conversion and saving change. This it will be proper to keep in mind, and perhaps, also, to attend a little to the proofs of it both from Scripture and experience. That the word of God has some effect even upon those who continue unrenewed,- is plain from many examples recorded in the sacred volume…
There are many things which have a religious appearance, and are taken by the deluded possessor for religion, when at bottom there is no real religion at all…Would you
therefore know whether you are born again? Are you in doubt, when you find the spirit lusting against the flesh, and the flesh against the spirit? Try, by diligent and universal examination, which of them is, upon the whole, the strongest; which of them habitually yields to the other when they come in competition. Into this all other marks and signs of religion resolve themselves at last; and from the evidence they give of the prevalence of the love of God in the heart, they derive all their worth and value. Every holy disposition must be examined, not by its absolute, but its comparative strength; and the true knowledge of our state arises from the conclusion and result of the whole.
In the preceding part of this treatise I have affirmed, with sufficient clearness, that there must be an essential change in order to salvation; and that till this be wrought, the person is in sin, and can do nothing but sin. The reason of this is very plain that the supreme and governing motive of all his actions is wrong, and therefore every one of them must be so upon the whole. I suppose, if they were to explain themselves fully, this is chiefly meant by those who insist that there is an essential difference between special and common grace. And in this view, no doubt, it is not only certainly true, but a truth of very great importance. It appears however, on the other hand, equally certain and undeniable, that when we observe good dispositions and good actions in one character, and see the same appearances in another, we have no way by which we can discover the difference, but by their perseverance and their comparative effects. Neither, indeed, has the person himself any other rule by which they can be judged. For which reason I would be very willing to affirm both sides of the above question to say that an unregenerate person has no true love to God or his neighbor, and, at the same time that this is only because no love but that which is supreme and prevalent is true, or will be accepted as sincere.
WITHERSPOON REDUCES CONFIRMATION OF REGENERATION TO DISINTERSTED BENEVOLENCE
Unless we take up the matter in this light, we are in danger of doing great at hurt on both hands. On the one hand, it is ready to alarm the pious humble and timorous soul, if we say that special grace differs essentially from common grace, and
that there must be something quite different in its kind, as to every gracious disposition, than what ever resided in hypocrites. Alas ! will the fearful person say, I have seen some who have gone great lengths, who have been well esteemed and well received among all serious people, and yet have made shipwreck of the faith, dishonored their profession, and opened the mouths of adversaries to blaspheme. They had all the appearance of as much love to God, as much delight in his service, as much zeal for his glory, as much strictness, and as much usefulness of conversation, nay, more than I can pretend to. What then am I to think of this? Must all my gracious dispositions be essentially different from theirs? and how is this difference to be made appear? To all such I would say, those unhappy persons by their conduct, and that alone, plainly discover that they have either been wholly impostors and deceivers of the world, or that they have loved some
object of carnal affections; some lull, of one kind or another, more than they loved God. The strength of their affections in one way, has been over-balanced by the dominion of corruption in another. And that corruption which has been long disguised or restrained, at lad breaks out with so much the greater violence, and the greater noise.
WITHERSPOON REDUCES CONFIRMATION OF REGENERATION TO LOVE AND SERVICE TO GOD BEING A GREATER INCLINATION THAT LOVE AND SERVICE TO SELF – THIS REDUCES DISINTERSTED BENEVOLENCE TO AN INCLINATION, NOT A DISPENSATION – AN INCLINATION IS MUCH EASIER TO RATIONALIZE THAN AN INCLINATION – HE GOES ON TO SAY STRESSING A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE DISPENSATION OF A MAN WHO IS REGENERATE (SOMEONE WHO HAS EXPERIENCED SAVING GRACE) AND THE DISPENSATION OF AN UNREGENERATE MAN (SOMEONE WHO EXPERIENCES MERELY COMMON GRACE)SHOULD NOT BE MADE TOO MUCH OF OR IT MAY CAUSE SINNERS TO THINK THEY ARE SAVED! USING THIS RATIONAL, THE BIBLE IS A MOST CONFUSING BOOK. IF WE TAKE LOVE OF GOD AND SAINTS TO MEAN MERELY NATURAL AFFECTION, WHY NOT TAKE “CALLING OF THE NAME OF THE LORD” TO MEAN SAYING “JESUS SAVE ME”, IN WHICH CASE ALL CHURCH PEOPLE ARE SAVED WHEN THEY PRAY THAT PRAYER.
Again, on the other hand, by affirming that there is a difference in kind between special and common race, and that a hypocrite or unrenewed person cannot have the lead measure of the same sort of love to God or man with a child of God, we are apt to make some slaves to sin, upon examining themselves, judge amiss in their own favor. They cannot help thinking that they have a real unfeigned affection for that which is good in many respects; as indeed they have, when it doth not stand in competition with their reigning or darling lust. To give an example of this: it is frequently made a mark of true religion to love the people of God and indeed it is one of the best, and when taken in the sense I have mentioned above, as a supreme and prevalent love, it is an infallible sign. It hath no less warrant than the word of God; "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren; he that loveth not his brother, abideth in death," 1 John 3:14. But I dare say, there are many who live in sin, and are strangers to the power of godliness, who, upon the most impartial examination of themselves, would conclude that they did love the people of God.
I am sensible there will be many ready to challenge this, or at least to be inwardly dissatisfied with it, as too general and undetermined. They will be ready to think that this leaves the matter still at a great uncertainty; and that it must be very difficult to decide, in many cases, whether the love of God or of the world hath the greatest habitual influence in the heart. The truth is, I am far from denying or dissembling that it is a matter of great difficulty in many instances; nay, as I have hinted in some of the former pages of this discourse, there are cases in which it is altogether impossible to come to any certain determination. To some, grace and corruption are so equally matched as it were, have such violent struggles, and take their turns so often in restraining and governing one another, that it will be hard to tell, till the last day, which of them was strongest upon the whole.
WE DON’T KNOW IF THIS WAS WHAT GEORGE WASHINGTON GALE TAUGHT CHARLES FINNEY FOR TWO YEARS (GALE WAS TRAINED IN SCOTTISH COMMON SENSE REALISM AT PRINCETON THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY), BUT IF IT WAS, YOU CAN IMAGINE HOW FINNEY REBELLED AGAINST THE IDEA THAT THERE MIGHT BE NO DISCERNABLE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SINNER AND SAINT. IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THIS LUKEWARMNESS WAS WHAT FINNEY INCORRECTLY LABELLED AS “HYPER-ORTHODOX” IN GALE. THIS TYPE OF LOW EXPECTATION WAS EXACTLY WHAT THE NEW LIGHT CALVINISTS OF THE FIRST GREAT AWAKENING FOUGHT IN THE OLD LIGHT CALVINISTS. BY THE WAY, IF YOU READ JONATHAN EDWARDS’ RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS, HE ADDRESSES THESE ISSUES WITH FAR MORE SPIRITUAL INSIGHT.
WITHESPOON IS NOT ADVOCATING ASSURANCE OF SALVATION FROM FEELINGS, EVEN IF THEY ARE ASSOCIATED WITH TRUSTING SCRIPTURE
But for any person, from the sudden suggestion of a passage of Scripture, (" I am thy God" for example; or, ”I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine"} without any examination of his temper and disposition, to conclude the safety of his state, is surely a piece of presumption without ground. Neither is it less foolish than presumptuous, for all such must be liable to be cast down by other and contrary suggestions. We know very well, and have an instance of it in our Savior's temptation, that Satan can suggest passages of Scripture, nay, and speak piously and plausibly upon them; but their conclusions must be tried by other Scriptures…. I must also observe, that many serious persons seem to desire, and even to expect assurance in such a measure and degree as is not suited to our present slate. They would have faith and hope to be the same with sense.
THIS IS WHERE WITHERSPOON SHOWS HIS HAND – HE SAYS DON’T EXPECT IN REGENERATION TO EXPERIENCE A CHARACTER OR ANY SENSE OF THE INDWELLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT OR ANY MANIFESTATION THAT INDICATES SUPERNATURAL ACTIVITY OF GOD – THAT WOULD NOT BE “COMMON SENSE”.
WITHERSPOON MOVES ONTO A SUBJECT THAT IS RELEVANT TO MODERN EVANGELICAL MINISTERS THAT TELL PEOPLE THEY HAVE SAVING FAITH IF THEY TRUST A SALVATION SCRIPTURE. WHILE WITHERSPOON DOES NOT GO THAT FAR, HE LAYS A FOUNDATION FOR HAVING SEEKERS TRUST SCRIPTURE AS BEING MORE RELIABLE AS FIRST EVIDENCE OF REGENERATION THAN RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS OR DISINTERSTED BENEVOLENCE. THIS WAS RADICALLY DIFFERENT THAN THE THEOLOGY OF BELLAMY AND HOPKINS.
It is of the greatest consequence in religion to distinguish carefully between that hope and comfort which arises directly from the promises of God in Scripture, and that which arises from a reflex observation of the change that has taken place in our own temper and practice. To entertain and encourage doubts in the former case, is directly contrary both to our duty and interest;
THIS IS THE BEGINNING OF FAITH AS A METAPHYSICAL FORCE SEPARATE FROM REGENERATION – WITHERSPOON CONSIDERS THE PROMISES OF SCRIPTURE TO BE ABSOLUTE WHILE EVIDENCE OF CHANGE IN SOMEONE SEEKING SALVATION IS TO BE DOUBTED. THIS BECAME, AFTER THE CIVIL WAR, “DON’T TRUST YOUR FEELINGS – TRUST SCRIPTURE”
but in the other, perhaps suspicion and diffidence is most becoming the Christian temper, and most conducive to the advancement of the Christian life… Take heed that you be not doubting as much of the certainty of God's word, as you are jealous of your own state. Is it not more than sufficient that you have so many gracious invitations, so many full, free and unlimited offers of mercy, through a Redeemer, to the chief of sinners? Does it not give repose to the mind and rest to the conscience, when, by direct acts of faith, you receive and rely on Christ alone for salvation?
WITHERSPOON IS SAYING LOOK TO CHRIST INSTEAD OF TO FEELINGS. DON’T BE OBSESSED WITH LOOKING FOR BIBLICAL EVIDENCE OF SALVATION. THEN HE EQUATES BELIEVING SCRIPTURE WITH SALVATION. IF YOU DIDN’T KNOW HE WAS SPEAKING OF CONSECUTIONAL SAVING FAITH AND PREDETERMINATION, YOU WOULD ASSUME HE WAS SAYING REGENERATION IS THE DE FACTO RESULT OF BELIEVING SCRIPTURE (WHICH IS WHAT SOME 5TH GENERATION NEW LIGHT CALVINISTS SAID IN THEIR BARE FAITH NON-ELECTION APPROACH)
If you do really believe the sincerity of the offer; if you do really believe the fullness and ability of the Savior, “the God of hope will fill you with all joy and peace in believing, through the power of the Holy Ghost."
ESSENTIAL EVIDENCE OF REGENERATION #1: DISCOVERY OF THE GLORY OF GOD
there will be in the truly regenerate, a growing discovery of the glory of God, as well as a growing delight in him, as its consequence; yet there must be some view of his nature, as the beginning of the change, and the ground-work of every holy disposition. This discovery of God implies two things, which as they are both necessary, so they deserve our particular attention; and it is not improper to distinguish carefully the one from the other, 1. It must be a discovery of his real nature. 2. A discovery of the worth and excellence of his nature, which is, properly speaking, the glory of God.
WITHERSPOON SAYS THE REGENERATE PERSON MUST KNOW GOD, AND NOT JUST FACT ABOUT HIM IN ORDER FOR TRUE WORSHIP TO TAKE PLACE – LET’S SEE HOW THIS IS POSSIBLE WITHOUT SUPERNATURAL REVELATION
If a wrong or false character of God is formed, no worship we can offer to him, no love or respect: we can bear to him is genuine; or rather, to speak more properly, our service and attachment is, in that case, wholly misplaced, and not directed to him at all, but something else is loved, honored, and served in his room… Regeneration consists in having the image of God again drawn upon the heart; that is, its being carried out to the supreme love of God, and delight in him, or, in other words, brought to the supreme love of, and delight in perfect goodness and immaculate holiness. When this is the cafe, the sinner is renewed,- he again bears the image of God which he had lost, he is again fitted for the presence of God, from which he had been expelled. But if he has wrong notions of God, if he takes him to be essentially different from what he really is, he serves not the true God at all, he bears not his image, he delights not in his fellowship, he is unfit for his presence.
O how great is the effect of a real discovery of the divine glory, whether in the word or by the providence of God(notice how much he uses “providence of God” instead of “activity of the Holy Spirit”), to a saint or to a sinner.
ESSENTIAL EVIDENCE OF REGENERATION #2: DISCOVERY OF THE REAL NATURE OF GOD
There must be a discovery of the real nature, so also of the infinite glory of God. He must not only be seen to be just such a Being as he really is, but there must be a sense of the infinite worth, beauty, and perfection of his character. These two things, though intimately connected, are yet so distinct from one another, as to deserve to be separately considered. The first is necessary, but it is, not sufficient alone, or by itself. There can be no true religion, unless there be a discovery of the real nature of God. But though there be a knowledge of what God is, unless there be also a discovery of the excellence and glory of this nature, he can never be the object of esteem and love. It is one thing to know, and another to approve; and, whilst this last is not the case, whatever we may know or affirm, or be persuaded of with relation to the Supreme Being, we do not know him to be God, nor can possibly glorify him as God.
WITHERSPOON SAYS KNOWLEDGE ABOUT GOD IS NOT EVIDENCE OF REGENERATION – FIFTH GENERATION NEW LIGHT CALVINIST R. A. TORRY TAUGHT, “SALVATION IS NOT KNOWING ABOUT GOD, BUT KNOWING GOD”.
The necessity of regeneration itself appears with peculiar force, from what hath been said on this part of the subject. There must be a real inward change of heart, before there can be any true religion. If the moral excellence of the divine nature must be discovered if God must be seen as glorious in his holiness, the heart and temper must be changed as well as the life.
THIS SOUNDS LIKE THE BASIS FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CHARLES FINNEY, WHO SPENT TWO YEARS LEARNING COMMON SENSE THEOLOGY FROM PRINCETON THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY GRADUATE GEORGE GALE
Nothing is more plain from the holy Scriptures, than that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God" and it is equally plain from experience and the nature of the thing. While men continue in the love of sin, it is impossible that they should see the beauty of infinite holiness. So long as they love sin, they must hate holiness, which is its opposite, and not less contrary to it than light is to darkness. Therefore, all restraint upon our outward conversation; all zeal and diligence in expensive rites and ceremonies; all duties, of whatever kind, that arise from fear or other external motives, are of no consequence till the temper and inclination of the heart is entirely renewed. From what hath been said we may plainly perceive, that regeneration from first to last must be ascribed to the agency of the Holy Ghost, It must be effect of divine grace, and the work of sovereign power. Let not any creature be unwilling to stand indebted for his new-creation to the Author of his first being "for of him, and through him and to him, are all things,” Rom 11:36. While man is in his natural state, he is an enemy to God; in his mind by wicked works. The discoveries that are made to him of the real nature of God in his works and in his word, while he continues in this disposition, are not amiable but hateful. Nay, he is so far from loving him as his father, that he fears him as his enemy. This fear will discover itself one of these two ways. Sometimes it will make the former fly from God, cast instruction behind his back, and increase unto more ungodliness till natural conscience is feared and insensible.
Love cannot be forced, or rather, to speak more properly, forced love is not love at all. In a word, it is our indispensable duty to attend to every dictate of conscience, and to follow it so far as it goes, but I cannot help thinking, that for a sinner truly and sincerely to desire a change of nature, would be an evidence of a change begun.
A SINNER SINCERELY DESIRING A CHANGE OF NATURE IS CONFUSING. THIS CONCEPT SHOWS UP WITH FIFTH GENERATION NEW LIGHT CALVINIST R. A. TORREY SAYING TO SINNERS THAT AT LEAST THEY CAN BE “WILLING TO BE WILLING”. IT CONFUSES THE COMMON GRACE TEMPORARY INCLINATION OF THE FALLEN NATURE (NATURAL WILL) WITH THE SAVING GRACE PERMANENT DISPOSITION OF THE REGENERATE NATURE (MORAL WILL). CHARLES FINNEY REFUTED THIS CONFUSING CONCEPT WITH HIS ARTICLE “WILLING AND WANTING ARE TWO DIFFERENT THINGS”. BY THE WAY, THIS WAS THE THEOLOGICAL BEGINNINGS OF THE NEW LIGHT CALVINIST PSYCHOLOGICAL VIEW OF FAITH AS A METAPHYSICAL FORCE SEPARATE FROM (AND LATER SEEN AS THE CAUSE OF DE FACTO) REGENERATION.
Therefore, till a sinner get a supernatural illumination, he can never see the glory and beauty of the divine character. Before this, he may seek to propitiate God's favor; he may wish to avoid his wrath; he may desire a change in God for his own safety, but he cannot be satisfied with him as he really is.
EVANGELICAL HYPOCRITES DO NOT KNOW GOD OR THE TRUE NATURE OF SIN
So subtle are the deceits of Satan, that there are many hollow forms of religion, not only upon a legal, but an evangelical bottom...there are evangelical hypocrites… They are awakened to a sense of danger, and sometimes made to tremble through fear of divine judgments, but without any discovery of the glory and amiableness of the divine nature. If such persons happen to live in a family or congregation where they hear much of the doctrine of redemption, it may have its place in their scheme. They may be so convinced of their own manifold transgressions, as to be satisfied to throw their guilt upon the surety, and rely on the sufferings and death of Christ for deliverance from the wrath of an offended God. Nay, I have not the least doubt that some may, by a confident presumption, imitate the faith of God's elect, and believe that Christ died for themselves in particular. So long as this persuasion can maintain its ground, it may, and must give them great joy and satisfaction. Who would not find consolation in thinking themselves in safety from divine wrath? Yet all this while they never see the evil of Sin in itself, as an opposition to the nature, and a breach of the law of God. They are never brought to love an infinitely holy God in sincerity of heart. They may love him, because they suppose themselves the peculiar objects of his love, with some obscure, confused, sensual idea of the delights of heaven, but they know not, or consider not the nature of that salvation he hath provided for his chosen.
REGENERATION MEANS A COMPLETE CHANGE OF FOCUS AND SERVICE – BUT WITHERSPOON IS GIVING A MORAL PERSUASION VIEW OF REGENERATION EVEN AS HE ADMITS IT MUST BE OF, BY AND THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT. THAT IS THE LEEWAY ALOWED IN PREDETERMINATION THEOLOGY – ONCE IT IS ESTABLISHED THAT GOD IS THE CAUSE OF ALL EVENTS, HIS ACTIVITY CAN BE EXPRESSED AS “the nature of the change itself, the means of its production, or the motives to all future duty”. THIS IS THE ESSENSE OF COMMON SENSE THEOLOGY – NOT DANGEROUS UNLESS THE PREDETERMINATION BASIS IS FORGOTTEN AND BIBLICAL EVIDENCE OF REGENERATION IS REPLACED WITH TRUSTING SALVATION SCRIPTURES.
The next great step in a saving change, is a deep humiliation of mind, and conviction of sin and danger… It is equally evident whether we confider the nature of the change itself, the means of its production, or the motives to all future duty. If an entire change is necessary, there must be an entire and thorough dissatisfaction with, and disapprobation of our past character and slate. Whoever is pleased with his present character, will neither desire, endeavor, nor even accept of a change. If we confider the means of our recovery, by Jesus Christ suffering in the room of sinners, the same thing will appear with increasing evidence. Those who are not humbled under a sense of guilt and corruption, will treat with great contempt a purchased pardon and a crucified Savior.
It is only when a sinner sees the unspeakable majesty, the transcendent glory, and infinite amiableness of the divine nature, that he is truly, effectually, and unfeignedly humbled. O that I could deliver this with proper force! That I could write and speak under an experimental sense of its truth! The sinner then perceives how infinitely worthy his Maker is of the highest esteem, the most ardent love, and the most unremitted obedience. He then sees that every intelligent creature, from the most shining seraph in the heavenly host to the meanest and most despised mortal worm, is under an infinite, eternal, unchangeable obligation to love God with all his heart, and strength, and mind. On this account he is convinced, that alienated affection and misplaced allegiance is infinitely sinful.
BECAUSE REGENERATION IS KNOWING GOD AS HE IS AND SEEING SIN FOR WHAT IT IS, A REGENERATE PERSON WILL NOT TAKE THE LORD’S NAME IN VAIN
The other observation I am to make is, that a true penitent always acquires the deepest abhorrence of that atrocious, though prevailing sin, of profaning the name of God in common discourse. There are many persons, not otherwise the most abandoned who have no just sense of the heinousness of this sin; and as it is not directly leveled against the temporal interest of our neighbors, it is far from being generally so scandalous and dishonorable as it ought to be. Such religion or virtue as is founded on worldly principles and views, may easily consist with its continuance; but he who is convinced of the evil of all sin, as rebellion against, and disobedience to God, will see the horrible guilt and impiety that attends this abominable practice. That religion which is the work of God's Holy Spirit, and consists in the recovery of his loft image, will never be able to bear so direct a violation of his sacred authority, so unprovoked an insult upon his honor and glory.
IF SIN IS NOT SEEN FOR WHAT IT IS, THE JUSTICE OF HELL IS SUSPECT AND WILL NOT BE AGREED WITH – HOPKINS WENT MUCH FURTHER WITH THIS IDEA, SAYING THAT THE REGENERATE PERSON WOULD SEE THE JUSTICE OF GOD THROWING HIM INTO HELL
A fear of punishment then we have seen, without a sense of the evil of sin in itself, is not sufficient. Let me now add, that this discovery of the evil of sin in itself, must increase our fear of punishment by shewing it to be just. A fear of punishment while alone, always tempts the sinner to search about on all hands for arguments against that suffering, the justice of which he cannot perceive.
THE LAST SENTENCE IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF WHAT MODERN CALVINISTS CALL “MORAL PERSUASION”, WHICH UNDERMINES THE SUPERNATURAL NATURE OF REGENERATION (IT DOESN’T HELP THAT WIITHERSPOON SOMETIMES PUTS “SUPERNATURAL REGENERATION” IN QUOTES)UNLESS YOU FORGET ABOUT PREDETERMINATION. “A fear of punishment while alone, always tempts the sinner to search about on all hands for arguments against that suffering, the justice of which he cannot perceive” IS A NEW LIGHT CALVINIST EXPLAINATION OF “THE HOW” OF REGENERATION. SALVATION BASED ON PREDETERMINATION HAS THE LIBERTY TO EQUATE MORAL PERSUASION WITH REGENERATION, AS SHOWN IN, “the nature of the change itself, the means of its production, or the motives to all future duty”. THIS WAS NOT DANGEROUS UNTIL PREDETERMINATION WAS FORGOTTEN AFTER THE CIVIL WAR.
Sometimes the bitterest professed infidels among those who have been brought up in the knowledge of the truths of the gospel, while they have never seen their beauty, or felt their power. But so soon as there is a discovery of the glory of God, and the universal and perfect obedience due from all to him, this throws a new light on the tokens of a divine displeasure against sin, in the works of creation and providence.
IT IS NOT HARD TO SEE THIS IS WHERE CHARLES FINNEY BEGAN HIS THEOLOGY. HERE WE HAVE THE CAUSE AND EFFECT OF MORAL PERSUASION AND REGENERATION, OR PUT ANOTHER WAY REGENERATION IS MORAL PERSUASION OF THE HOLY GHOST.
This carries home, with irresistible force,
HERE WE HAVE A REFERENCE TO THE NEW LIGHT CALVINIST IDEA OF MORAL PERSUASION IN IRRESISTABLE GRACE, ONE OF THE FIVE DISTINGUISHING TENENTS OF CALVINISM
all the threatenings of the wrath of God against sinners in his word. Their justice is then deeply and inwardly felt, and the sinner begins to wonder at the patience of a long-suffering God, that has not long ere now made him a monument of vengeance. The same view it is that not only begins, but carries on and completes genuine convictions of sin, that silences all objections, and refutes the reasonings of the carnal mind. Every sincere convert will have, in a greater or lesser degree, the evidence in himself, that his change is of sovereign grace. He will probably be able to recollect in how many instances his mind set itself to oppose, and was at pains, as it were, to collect; and muster up every objection against the obligation and sanction of the law of God. The objections are raised, first against the necessity or benefit of obedience, and then against suffering for obedience, till all are borne down by the same almighty power which spake and it was done, and which can 'Lead captivity captive." I cannot propose to enumerate all the objections, or rather all the forms in which objections may arise in the sinner's mind, when struggling against conviction; but I shall mention a few of them, and shew what it is that must put them to silence.
WHEN MODERN CHRISTIANS OBJECT TO THE WORD “MUST” BEING USED WHEN DISCUSSING THE FORCE OF MORAL PERSUASION, IT IS BECAUSE THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND PREDETERMINATION. MORAL PERSUASION IS THE MEANS OF GRACE OR THE MEANS OF REGENERATION BY THE HOLY SPIRIT. THE MORAL PERSUASION OF THE NEW LIGHT CALVNIST WAS NOT CONTRARY TO ORTHODOXY UNTIL PREDETERMINATION WAS ABANDONED, AND AS A RESULT, REGENERATION CEASED TO BE THE CAUSE AND BECAME THE RESULT OF MORAL PERSUASION - THAT IS THE HERESY OF DECISIONAL REGENERATION.
WITHERSPOON SAYS THE QUESTIONS OF HOW THE FALL OF MAN RESULTED IN A MORAL WILL VERSUS A NATURAL WILL, COMMON SENSE SAYS THESE DISTINCTIONS ARE OBVIOUS.
While men continue slaves to sin, it is absurd to suppose they should acquiesce in their Maker's authority; but so soon as any person discovers the infinite amiableness of God, and his obligation to love and serve him, his mouth will be immediately stopped, himself and every other sinner brought in inexcusably guilty. He will see that there is nothing
to hinder his compliance with every part of his duty, but that inward aversion to God which is the very sentence of sin. It is of no consequence what your natural powers are, whether those of an angel or a man, a philosopher or a clown, if soul and body, and such powers as you have, are but wholly devoted to God. Do you say this is impossible? Where then lies the impossibility of it, but in your depraved inclinations?
We may also easily allow, that there is something in it beyond the reach of our limited capacity; but whatever be the nature and effects, or manner of communicating original sin; whatever be the use made of it in accounting for events as a general case; if any voluntary agent hath, nothing to offer in opposition to the strongest obligation, but that he finds himself utterly unwilling to obey, it seems to be an excuse of a very extraordinary kind. We are sure that no such excuse would be accepted by an earthly lawgiver; nor have we the least reason to think any more regard will be paid to it by him "who judgeth righteously."
CALVINISTS BEFORE JONATHAN EDWARDS DESCRIBED REGENERATION AS THE GIVING TO MAN A NEW NATURE THAT REMOVED BLINDNESS AND DEAFNESS AND GAVE THE SAINT THE ABILITY TO SEE GOD AS HE IS AND SIN AS IT IS. EDWARDS DESCRIBED REGENERATION AS “A FOUNDATION LAID IN THE NATURE OF THE SOUL, FOR A NEW KIND OF EXERCISE OF THE SAME FACULTY OF THE WILL”. WITHERSPOON DESCRIBES REGENERATION FROM THE EXPERIENCIAL PERSPECTIVE OF THE SINNER AND SAINT. THE PROBLEM WITH DESCRIBING EXPERIENCES OF REGENERATION IS WHEN SUBSEQUENT GENERATIONS FORGET THAT THE EXPERIENCE MUST BE THE RESULT OF SUPERNATURAL REGENERATION OR THEY ARE MEANINGLESS. WITHERSPOON REPLACED EDWARDS MORE ORTHODOX, SUPERNATUTAL –BASED SALVATION THEOLOGY WITH COMMON SENSE THEOLOGY AT PRINCETON PRINCETON IN 1768. IT IS USEFULL TO KNOW THE BASIS OF MORAL VERSUS NATURAL WILL IN THE THEOLOGY OF EDWARDS.
LOOK AT THE WAY JONATHAN EDWARDS DESCRIBED REGENERATION:
The Work of the Spirit of God in Regeneration is often in Scripture compared to the giving a new sense, giving eyes
to see, and ears to hear, unstopping the ears of the deaf, and opening the eyes of them that were born blind, and turning from darkness unto Light. And because this spiritual sense is immensely the most noble and excellent, and that without which all other principles of perception, and all our faculties are useless and vain; therefore the giving this new sense, with the blessed fruits and effects of it in the soul, is compared to a raising the dead, and to a new creation. This new spiritual sense, and the new dispositions that attend it, are no new faculties, but are new principles of nature. I use the word principles, for want of a word of a more determinate signification. By a principle of nature in this Place, I mean that foundation which is laid in nature, either old or new, for any particular manner or kind of exercise of the faculties of the soul; or a natural habit or foundation for action, giving a person ability & disposition to exert the faculties in exercises of such a certain kind; so that to exert the faculties in that kind of exercises, maybe said to be his nature. So this new spiritual sense is not a new faculty of understanding, but it is a new foundation laid in the nature of the soul, for a new kind of exercises of the same faculty of understanding. So that new holy dispositions of heart that attends this new sense, is not a new faculty of will, but a foundation laid in the nature of the soul, for a new kind of exercises of the same faculty of will.
JONATHAN EDWARDS TALKS ABOUT MORAL PERSUASION THIS WAY:
I have already shown what that new spiritual sense is, which the Saints have given them in regeneration, and what is the object of it. I have shown that the immediate object of it is the supreme beauty and excellency of nature of divine things, as they are in themselves. And this is agreeable to the Scripture: The Apostle very plainly teaches that the great thing discovered by spiritual light, and understood by spiritual knowledge, is the glory of divine things.
JONATHAN EDWARDS TALKS ABOUT MORAL WILL VERSUS NATURAL WILL THIS WAY:
1) In every act of Will whatsoever, the mind chooses one thing rather than another; it chooses something rather than the contrary or rather than the want or non-existence of that thing ... whatever names we call the act of the Will, choosing, refusing, approving, disapproving, liking, disliking, embracing, rejecting, determining, directing, commanding, forbidding, inclining, or being averse, being pleased or displeased with; all may be reduced to this of choosing.
2) A man never, in any instance, wills any thing contrary to his desires, or desires any thing contrary to his Will. [A man may desire to not pay taxes, but his desire to keep the law is greater, so the man wills to pays taxes].
3) In every act of Will there is an act of choice; that in every volition there is a preference, or a prevailing inclination of the soul, whereby at that instant, it is out of a state of perfect indifference, with respect to the direct object of the volition ... where there is absolutely no preferring or choosing, but a perfect, continuing equilibrium, there is no volition. [“Volition” means “the act of willing or choosing”].
4) The Determination of the Will, supposes an effect, which must have a cause. If the Will be determined, there is a Determiner. This must be supposed to be intended even by them that say, The Will determines itself. If it be so, the Will is both Determiner and determined; it is a cause that acts and produces effects upon itself, and is the object of its own influence and action.
5) “Nothing can induce or invite the mind to will or act any thing, any further than it is perceived, or is some way or other in the mind's view; for what is wholly unperceived and perfectly out of the mind's view, cannot affect the mind at all. It is most evident, that nothing is in the mind, or reaches it, or takes any hold of it, any otherwise than as it is perceived or thought of.
6) The Will is always determined by the strongest motive ... the voluntary action, which is the immediate consequence of the mind's choice, is determined by that which appears most agreeable.
7) The Will always follows the last dictate of the understanding.
8) [Definition of necessity] To say that a thing is necessary, is the same thing as to say, that it is impossible that it should not be ... when we speak of anything as necessary to us, it is with relation to some supposable opposition of our Wills, or some voluntary exertion or effort of ours to the contrary ... A thing is said to be necessary, when we cannot help it, let us do what we will. So any thing is said to be impossible to us, when we would do it, or would have it brought to pass, and endeavor it; or at least may be supposed to desire and seek it; but all our desires and endeavors are, or would be, vain. And that is said to be irresistible, which overcomes all our opposition, resistance, and endeavor to the contrary. And we are said to be unable to do a thing when our supposable desires and endeavors are insufficient.
9) Philosophical Necessity is really nothing else than the full and fixed connexion between the things signified by the subject and predicate of a proposition, which affirms something to be true ... When the subject and predicate of the proposition, which affirms the existence of any thing, either substance, quality, act, or circumstance, have a full and certain connexion, then the existence or being of that thing is said to be necessary in a metaphysical sense. And in this sense I use the word necessity, in the following discourse, when I endeavor to prove that necessity is not inconsistent with liberty.
10) That Necessity which has been explained, consisting in an infallible connexion of the things signified by the subject and predicate of a proposition, as intelligent beings are the subjects of it, is distinguished into moral and natural Necessity.
11) The phrase, moral Necessity, is used variously: sometimes it is used for a Necessity of moral obligation. So we say, a man is under Necessity, when he is under bonds of duty and conscience, from which he cannot be discharged.
12) By natural Necessity, as applied to men, I mean such Necessity as men are under through the force of natural causes; as distinguished from what are called moral causes, such as habits and dispositions of the heart, and moral motives and inducements. Thus men, placed in certain circumstances, are the subjects of particular sensations by Necessity: they feel pain when their bodies are wounded; they see the objects presented before them in a clear light, when their eyes are opened: so they assent to the truth of certain propositions, as soon as the terms are understood.
13) Men make a distinction between nature and choice; as if they were completely and universally distinct. Whereas, I suppose none will deny but that choice, in many cases, arises from nature, as truly as other events. But the connexion between acts of choice, and their causes, according to established laws, is not so obvious. And we observe that choice is, as it were, a new principle of motion and action, different from that established order of things which is most obvious, and seen especially in corporeal things. The choice also often interposes, interrupts, and alters the chain of events in these external objects, and causes them to proceed otherwise than they would do, if let alone.
14) We are said to be naturally unable to do a thing, when we cannot do it if we will, because what is most commonly called nature does not allow of it, or because of some impeding defect or obstacle that is extrinsic to the Will; either in the faculty of understanding, constitution of body, or external objects.
15) Moral Inability consists in the opposition or want of inclination. For when a person is unable to will or choose such a thing, through a defect of motives, or prevalence of contrary motives, it is the same thing as his being unable through the want of an inclination, or the prevalence of a contrary inclination, in such circumstances, and under the influence of such views.
16) Some instances of this moral Inability ... A child of great love and duty to his parents, may be thus unable to kill his father. A very malicious man may be unable to exert benevolent acts to an enemy, or to desire his prosperity; yea, some may be so under the power of a vile disposition, that they may be unable to love those who are most worthy of their esteem and affection.
17) It cannot be truly said, according to the ordinary use of language, that a malicious man, let him be never so malicious, cannot hold his hand from striking, or that he is not able to show his neighbor kindness; or that a drunkard, let his appetite be never so strong, cannot keep the cup from his mouth. In the strictest propriety of speech, a man has a thing in his power, if he has it in his choice, or at his election: and a man cannot be truly said to be unable to do a thing, when he can do it if he will. It is improperly said, that a person cannot perform those external actions, which are dependent on the act of the Will, and which would be easily performed, if the act of the Will were present. And if it be improperly said, that he cannot perform those external voluntary actions, which depend on the Will, it is in some respect more improperly said, that he is unable to exert the acts of the Will themselves; because it is more evidently false, with respect to these, that he cannot if he will: for to say so, is a downright contradiction; it is to say, he cannot will, if he does will. And in this case, not only is it true, that it is easy for a man to do the thing if he will, but the very willing is the doing; when once he has willed, the thing is performed; and nothing else remains to be done. Therefore, in these things, to ascribe a non-performance to the want of power or ability, is not just; because the thing wanting is not a being able, but a being willing. There are faculties of mind, and a capacity of nature, and every thing else, sufficient, but a disposition: nothing is wanting but a will.
THIS IS THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING NEW LIGHT CALVINISM. EDWARDS HAS CATEGORICALLY SAID THAT WILLING A PARTICULAR THING IS THE SAME AS HAVING THE PARTICULAR THING. HE SAYS THE ONLY THING STOPPING A PERSON FROM WANTING SALVATION IS THE PERSON’S DISPOSITION. DISPOSITION IS A WORD MEANING “THE WAY A PERSON IS”, AND EDWARDS USES THE WORD TO SAY IF A PERSON IS REGENERATED, HIS DISPOSITION IS TO CHOOSE CHRIST AND IF A PERSON IS NOT REGENERATED, HIS DISPOSITION IS TO NOT CHOOSE CHRIST. THE PURITANS RECOGNIZED THAT MOST PEOPLE WANTED THE BENEFITS OF CHRIST BUT UNTIL THEY WERE REGENERATED, THEIR WANTING WAS SELFISH, THAT IS, DESIRING ONLY GOD’S GIFTS AND NOT DESIRING GOD. ONLY AFTER REGENERATION CAN A PERSON SEE WITH SPIRITUAL EYES AND “CHOOSE CHRIST” OUT OF HOLINESS INSTEAD OF SELFISHNESS.
BUT WANTING SOMETHING IS NOT THE SAME AS WILLING SOMETHING. THAT IS WHY EDWARDS’ USING THE WORD “DISPOSITION” IS MORE ORTHODOX THAN WITHERSPOON’S USE OF THE WORD “INCLINATION” WHEN DISCUSSING REGENERATION. DISPOSITION IS A STATE OF BEING. INCLINATION IS A STATE OF MIND. THE REGENERATE PERSON HAS THE DISPOSITION TO DO GOOD, REGARDLESS OF A MOMENTARY INCLINATION TO DO EVIL. THE UNREGENERATE PERSON HAS A DISPOSITION TO DO EVIL, REGARDLESS OF A MOMENTARY INCLINATION TO DO GOOD.
LET US RETURN TO WITHERSPOON
There is a wide difference between the sentiments of a hardened and a convinced sinner. The first, who hath no just view of the guilt of his actual transgressions, is always prone to extenuate them, by introducing original sin as an excuse for his conduct; but a sinner, truly convinced of the evil of his felt and experienced enmity against God, makes use of his early and original depravity for his further humiliation… Without perplexing ourselves with debates about the propriety or meaning of the imputation of Adam's first sin, this we may be senfible of, that the guilt of all inherent corruption must be personal, because it is voluntary and consented to.
THIS VIEW OF THE EFFECT OF ORIGINAL SIN IS IDENTICAL TO THAT OF NATHANIEL TAYLOR – AND NATHANIEL TAYLOR WAS CONDEMNED BY CHARLES HODGE AND OTHER COMMON SENSE THEOLOGIANS AT PRINCETON FOR SAYING IT.
Of both these things, a discovery of the glory of God will
powerfully convince the sinner. When he seeth the infinite beauty of holiness, and the amiableness of the divine nature, he cannot, forbear crying out of himself, "Woe is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts," Isaiah 6:5. As the impurity of his heart, so the irregularities of his life will stare him in the face; they never appear so
hateful, as when brought into comparison with the divine holiness; and if he "essay to justify himself, his own mouth will condemn him" as guilty from choice….
Thus, one after another, be is stript of every plea, however eagerly he may cleave to them, and support or bolster up one by the addition of another. He fees not only his danger but his guilt; not only the fearfulness of his state, but the holiness and righteousness of his Judge. He lies down prostrate at the footstool of the Almighty, and makes unmerited mercy and sovereign grace the only foundation of his hope.
WITHERSPOON EXPLAINS THAT THE DIFFERNCE BETWEEN COMMON REPENTANCE AND SAVING REPENTANCE IS NOT A MATTER OF DEGREE, BUT A MATTER OF THEIR SOURCE – THAT IS, A CHANGED DISPOSITION BY REGENERATION
The degree of sorrow for sin in true penitents. Having thus considered the proper source of genuine conviction and sorrow for sin, it was proposed next to inquire, to what degree it must be in order to a saving change.
THIS IS VERY CONFUSING – “WHAT DEGREE IT MUST BE IN ORDER TO A SAVING CHANGE” WOULD HAVE BETTER BEEN STATED IN ORTHODOX TERMS, “WHAT DEGREE IT MUST BE IN ORDER TO INDICATE A SAVING CHANGE”. BUT THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF WHY IT WAS SO EASY FOR NEW LIGHT CALVINISTS AFTER THE CIVIL WAR TO FORGET THE PREDETERMINATION, CONSECUTIONAL BASIS OF REGENERATION.
The truth is, were not this a question often proposed, and the resolution of it defined by serious persons, the weakest of whom deserve all attention and regard from every minister of Christ, I should have left it altogether untouched. The reason of this observation is, that I am persuaded, and take the present opportunity of affirming it, that the chief distinction between convictions genuine or salutary (helpful), and such as are only transitory and fruitless, does not lie in their strength and violence, so much as their principle and source, which has been formerly explained.
WITHERSPOON RETURNS TO THE COMMON SENSE THEME – EXPERIENCE IS NOT RELIABLE IN EVALUATING WHETHER OR OT SOMEONE IS REGENERATE – THUS CALLING INTO QUESTION THE BEST SYSTEM, LEAVING A VACUUM THAT WOULD BE FILLED WITH THE BIST SYSTEM IN THE INQUIRY ROOM AFTER THE CIVIL WAR.
One thing in general must be carefully remembered, that we ought not to lay down one rule for all persons. We are not to measure the sorrow of any true penitent, and make a standard from it for the effects or expressions of sorrow in any other. The strength of all the passions, and their readiness to express themselves, is greater naturally in some than in others. There is nothing of which men may be more sensible from daily experience. Love and hatred, joy and grief, desire and aversion, shew themselves by much more violent emotions in some than in others. It would be wrong, therefore, to reduce all to one rule, and none ought to look upon it as a just cause of disquiet, that they have not had the same degree or depth of distress and anguish which others have had of whom they have read or heard. Another circumstance may also be the occasion of diversity. In some, convictions may have been more early and gradual, and therefore less violent and sensible.
The great and principal evidence of a proper degree of conviction and sorrow for sin, is its permanency and practical influence. Genuine conviction is not a flash of fervor (passion), however strong, but a deep, abiding and governing principle, which will shew its strength by its habitual power over its opposite.
WITHERSPOON ENDS UP WITH AN ALL - OR -NOTHING CONVICTION OF NEW LIGHT CALVINISTS
Would any know, therefore, whether their sorrow for sin hath been to the requisite degree, let me entreat them to suffer conscience to answer honestly to the following interrogatories. Has your conviction of sin been such as to make you abhor and hate it in every form? Hath it been such as to make you resolve upon a thorough and perpetual separation from your once - beloved pleasures? Does it make you ready to examine the lawfulness of every pursuit, and to abstain even from every doubtful or suspected practice? Is there no known sin that you are desirous to excuse or palliate, studious to conceal, or willing to spare?
Every true penitent does certainly see sin to be the - greatest of all evils, and will discover this by comparison with all the other evils of which he hath at present any knowledge or experience. In every true penitent, a sense of sin not only continues but daily increases. His gnawing discovery of the glory of God, points out more clearly to him his own corruption and depravity, both in its quantity and its malignity, so to speak. The very mercies of God, whatever delight or sweetness they afford, take nothing away from his sense of the evil of his doings, but rather melt him down in penitential sorrow. They serve to cover him with confusion at his own unworthiness, and to fill him with wonder at the divine patience and condescension.
The first work of a convinced sinner, is to mourn over the gross enormities of a profligate life, or a life devoted to worldly pursuits. And his continued employment after conversion,
NOTICE WITHERSPOON STAYS WITHIN THE BOUNDS OF ORTHODOXY WHEN HE ACKNOWLEDGES A CLEAR MOMENT OF CONVERSION
is to resist and wrestle with that inherent corruption which was hidden from his view before, but becomes daily more and more sensible.
WITHERSPOON MAKES A DETOUR IN HIS DISCUSSION OF STAGES OF REPENTANCE TO ADDRESS THE ULTIMATE EVIDENCE OF “DISINTERESTED BENEVOLENCE” – THE WILLINGNES TO GO TO HELL IF GOD ORDAINS IT. FINNEY DID NOT HAVE THIS BELIEF PROBABLY BECAUSE HE LEARNED HIS THEOLOGY FROM GEORGE GALE FROM PRINCETON, AND COMMON SENSE THEOLOGY INSTEAD OF FROM BEECHER OR NETTLETON FROM YALE, AND HOKINISIANS
I shall, before quitting this part of the subject, speak a few words of a pretty extraordinary opinion to be found in some of the practical writers of the last age. It is, that genuine conviction, and the soul's subjection to God ought to be carried so far in every true penitent, as to make him willing, satisfied, and, some say, even pleased that God should glorify his justice in his everlasting perdition.
This is so repugnant to nature, and to that very solicitude about our eternal happiness by which the conscience is first laid hold of, that it appears to be utterly impossible. There have been many to whom this requisition has given inexpressible concern, has been a daily snare to their conscience, and an obstruction to their peace. There
is such an inseparable connexion between our duty and happiness, that the question should never have been moved; but, for the satisfaction of those who may have met, or may still meet with it in authors, otherwise deservedly esteemed, I shall make some remarks which, I hope, will either explain it in a sound sense, or shew it to be at bottom false. Men do often differ more in words than in substance. Perhaps what these authors chiefly mean, is no more than what has been explained above at considerable length, viz. That the sinner finds himself without excuse, his mouth is slopped, he seeth the holiness of the law, he confesseth the justice of the sentence, he quits every claim but mercy. Thus he may be said to absolve or justify God, though he should leave him to perish for ever. So far, I apprehend, it is undeniably just; otherwise the very foundation of the gospel is overthrown, and salvation is not "of grace," but "of debt." If we impartially examine the word mercy and the many strong declarations in Scripture of our obligations to God for the gift of eternal life, we shall find that they cannot consistently imply less, than that the sinner deserved, and was liable to eternal death.
But to carry the thing farther, and to say that the penitent must be pleased and satisfied with damnation itself, as he is pleased with suffering in another view, as it is his heavenly Father's fanctified rod, appears to me to be at once unnatural, unreasonable, unlawful, and impossible.
WHILE I AGREE WITH WITHERSPOON’S BASIC CONTENTION, IT IS NOT BECAUSE I AGREE IT IS IMPOSSIBLE AS HE SAYS. I DO NOT BELIEVE THE APOSTLE PAUL AND MOSES WERE MAKING ABSTRACT CLAIMS WHEN THEY SAID THEY WERE WILLING TO PERISH FOR THE JEWS IF IT WOULD HELP SAVE THEM, OR THAT GOD WAS UNJUST TO COMMAND ABRAHAM TO SACRIFICE HIS SON OR JOSHUA TO KILL EVERY LIVING THING (MANY POST-ENLIGHTENMENT “CHRISTIANS” ABANDONED THE OLD TESTAMENT OVER THAT ONE). THIS QUESTION GOES TO THE HEART OF WHETHER GOD IS UNJUST IF HE ASKS MAN TO DO SOMETHING THAT MAN THINKS IS UNJUST. THIS IS THE DIVIDING LINE BETWEEN THEOLOGY BEFORE AND AFTER THE ENLIGHTENMENT. BEFORE THE ENLIGHTENMENT, GOD DETERMINED WHAT WAS JUST. AFTER THE ENLIGHTENMENT, MAN DETERMINED WHAT WAS JUST. BEFORE THE ENLIGHTENEMENT, GOD DEFINED MAN. AFTER THE ENLIGHTENMENT, MAN DEFINED GOD.
INCIDENTLY, GALE CALLED THIS HOPKINISIAN IDEA “PECULIAR”, AND WHEN FINNEY CAME UPON IT IN CHURCHES IN PHILADELPHIA, HE ATTRIBUTED EVIL CONSEQUENCES TO IT.
WITHERSPOON NOW CONSIDERS WHAT THE SAINT WOULD DO IF HE WERE SENT TO HELL – AND HE ASSUMES THAT THE SAINT WOULD DO WHAT THE SINNER WOULD DO – THIS IS IN ITSELF REVEALS THE FOUNDATIONAL BASIS OF MORAL PERSUASION THEOLOGY IN THAT THE PERSON IS THE PRODUCT OF HIS CIRCUMSTANCES (ALBEIT BROUGHT BY THE HOLY SPIRIT) AS APPOSED TO THE PRODUCT OF SUPERNATURAL CHANGE OF CHARACTER.
Further, the proposition seems to me necessarily to imply an impossibility in itself. For, what is damnation? It is to be for ever separated from, and deprived of the fruition of God…It is to hate God and blaspheme his name, as well as to be banished from his presence. Can this be tolerable to any true penitent? Or is it reconcilable to, or consistent with subjection to his righteous will? Can any creature be supposed to please God, by giving up all hope of his favor? Or is it less absurd than disobeying him from a sense of duty, and hating him from a principle of love?
It is plainly contrary to that desire of our own happiness which is so deeply implanted in our natures, and which seems to be inseparable from a rational creature.
HERE IS THE REAL REASON COMMON SENSE THEOLOGY OBJECTS TO IT. IF THE WILLINGNESS TO SUFFER ETERNALLY IN HELL IS EVIDENCE OF DISINTERETED BENEVOLENCE, THEN DISINTERESTED BENEVOLENCE MUST BE BASED ON SUPERNATURAL CHANGE OF CHARACTER APART FROM SUPERNATURAL CHANGE BY MORAL PERSUASION. THERE IS NO WAY TO MORALLY PERSUADE SOMEONE TO VOLUNTARILY GO TO HELL. THAT IS PRECISELY WHY AMERICAN NEW LIGHT CALVINISTS THOUGHT IT THE BEST EVIDENCE OF REGENERATION. ONLY SOMEONE THAT HAD BEEN SUPERNATURALLY CHANGED BY REGENERATION APART FORM MORAL PERSUASION WOULD BE WILLING TO GO TO HELL. BUT THE WILLINGNESS TO GO TO HELL WAS NEVER THE FOOLPROOF EVIDENCE THE HOPKINISIANS SUPPOSED. IT QUICKLY LOST ITS EXPERIENCIAL MEANING IN THE SAME WAY WATER BAPTISM LOST ITS MEANING.
No such thing is, either directly or consequentially, asserted in the holy Scriptures, which so often urge us to a due care of our own best interests. Can any creature be supposed to please God, by giving up all hope of his favor?
WITHERSPOON USE A STRAW MAN ARGUMENT BY SAYING GOD WOULD NOT BE SO UNJUST – A TYPICAL POST-ENLIGHTENMENT “REASONABLENESS OF CHRISTIANITY” ARGUMENT IN WHICH MAN DEFINES GOD BY WHAT MAN CONSIDERS JUST AND LOVING
Or is it less absurd than disobeying him from a
sense of duty, and hating him from a principle of love? We must, therefore, carefully separate the acknowledgment
of divine justice, and most unconditional subjection to the divine sovereignty, from an absolute despair, or giving up all hope in the divine mercy.
WITHERSPOON RETURNS TO THE STAGES OF REPENTANCE
The next great step in a sinner's change, is a discovery and acceptance of salvation from sin and misery through Jesus Christ. This is the last and finishing step of the glorious work. When this is attained, the change is completed, the new nature is fully formed in all its parts… It is easy to see that conviction of sin, which hath been before illustrated, prepares and paves the way for a discovery and acceptance of salvation by Christ. Before conviction of sin, or when conviction is but imperfect, the gospel of Christ, and particularly the doctrine of the cross, almost constantly appears to be foolishness… The helpless and hopeless state of the sinner makes him earnestly and anxiously inquire, whether there is any way to escape, whether there is any door of mercy or of hope.
WITHERSPOON ANSWERS THE CALVINIST QUESTION – IF ELECTION IS NOT BASED ON BELIEF ALONE, HOW CAN I BE CONFIDENT IN SEEKING SALVATION? THE NEW LIGHT CALVINIST ANSWER IS CLEAR – YOUR BEHAVIOR IS THE MANIFESTATION OF PREDETERMINATION. HE SAYS, BELIEVE ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AND YOU WILL BE SAVED – SO OBEY HIM, DO NOT SAY AS SATAN DID “HATH GOD SAID?” OR DISOBEY AS ADAM AND EVE DID, QUESTIONING THE LOVE OF GOD.
Here perhaps a difficulty may occur. “It may be So,” says the soul, “but are all the children of Adam the objects of divine love? Shall every sinner be partaker of divine mercy? Surely not. How then are they distinguished? Perhaps he intends only to save a few of the least unworthy, and to glorify his justice and severity in the condemnation of the
most eminently guilty. What then have I reason to expect? None, none, none of any rank so criminal as I. I have sinned early, and I have sinned long. I have sinned against the clearest light and knowledge. I have sinned against innumerable mercies. I have sinned against the threatenings of God's word, the rebukes of his providence, the check of
my own conscience, and the unwearied pains and diligence of ministers and parents. I have burst every bond, and torn in pieces every retraining tie. How many gracious promises present themselves immediately to extinguish this fear! "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool; if ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land," Isaiah 1:18-19. "Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out," John 6:37. To these promises may be added many Scripture examples of first-rate sinners saved by the power of God, that none may despair.
“It is through this man, and through his blood, that repentance and remission of fins is preached to all nations.'' Is not this a sufficient and stable ground of hope? In the substitution of our surety, we see a way opened for the reception and restoration of sinners, in a perfect consistency with all the divine perfections. The spotless purity and holiness, the strict and impartial justice of God, seem to raise an insuperable obstacle to our admission into his favor; but in the sufferings and atonement of our Redeemer, wee see how he may testify his abhorrence of sin, and punish it, and at the same time
shew mercy to the sinner. There is a perfect harmony
of all the divine attributes in this design, and
particularly a joint illustration of mercy and justice.
This is the gospel of Christ, the blessed and reviving
message brought unto the world by the Prince of
peace. This is “the record which God hath given of his Son.” How welcome, how reviving this, to the discouraged convinced sinner! His very concern and fear, when proceeding upon proper grounds, arises from a view of the infinite evil of sin, so provoking to a holy God. But in this plan laid by divine wisdom, he sees the guilt of sin sufficiently expiated by a sacrifice of infinite value. He compares and contrasts, if I may so speak, the greatness of his guilt with the price of his pardon. Then appears, with new and uncommon force, the greatness of this mystery of godliness, GOD manifested in the flesh.
WE READ IN WITHERSPOON’S DISCOURSE ON JUSTIFICATION MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS FOR THE PERSON THAT EXPECTED JUSTIFICATION BY THE IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST:
1) MUST HAVE A CONVICTION OF THE OBLIGATION OF THE HOLY LAW OF GOD.
2) MUST HAVE A SENSE OF THE EVIL OF SIN IN ITSELF, MUST BE DETERMINED TO HATE AND ABHOR EVERY WICKED AND FALSE WAY.
3) MUST HAVE THE MOST AWFUL VIEWS OF THE DANGER OF SIN.
4) MUST HAVE THE HIGHEST SENSE OF THE PURITY AND HOLINESS OF THE DIVINE NATURE; AND THEREFORE MUST BE UNDER AN HABITUAL CONVICTION OF THE NECESSITY OF PURITY.
5 MUST HAVE OBEDIENCE, GRATITUDE AND THANKFULNESS TO GOD.
6) MUST HAVE A SUPREME OR SUPERLATIVE LOVE TO GOD.
THEN WE READ NEARLY 200 PAGES DESCRIBING REGENERATION AS A DEFINATE COMPLETE AND IDENTIFYABLE (BUT NOT WITH ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY)CHANGE OF CHARACTER
“not an outward and apparent only, but an internal and real change; secondly, that it is not an imperfect change, or difference in degree only, but a complete and essential change of the whole character.”
NOW WITHERSPOON WILL SAY BELIEVING SCRIPTURE IS THE WAY TO KNOW YOU ARE SAVED. THESE LAST 30 PAGES WILL PROVIDE A WAY FOR FIFTH GENERATION NEW LIGHT CALVINISTS TO PROMOTE BARE FAITH, NON-ELECTION REGENERATION
“I can read my name in the general and gracious invitation. I will accept of the offer, I will receive and embrace this blessed Saviour as my Lord and my God, as my life and my all.' Once more, perhaps the believer is still staggered, and his faith begins to fail. Astonished at the greatness of the mercy, “he believeth not for joy, and wondereth.” He is ready to say, “Might I but hold fast this beginning of my confidence, I would not envy the greatest monarch on earth his throne, his purple, or his scepter, but would sing the new song put into my mouth. Unto him that loved us,' and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests to God and his Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. But alas! are not all the promises of salvation only in favor of them that believe? Here then the conclusion may fail. I am sensible of a lamentable weakness and backwardness of mind; and while I think I have no doubt of any of the truths of God, I greatly distrust the reality of my own consent and compliance with his will.” Do you then really give credit to all the truths of God respecting your own lost condition, and the only way of deliverance from it? May the Lord himself increase your faith; for if it be so indeed, you are happy and safe. These truths, these alone, are the sure foundation of hope. I am afraid we have all too strong a tendency to look for some encouraging qualification in ourselves, on which we might more securely rest.
What is faith? Is it any more than receiving the record which God hath given of his Son, believing the testimony of the Amen, the true and faithful Witness? Is not your peace and reconciliation with God, and the sanctification of your natures,
WITHERSPOON IS OBVIOUSLY NOT TALKING ABOUT COMMON FAITH BECAUSE HE INCLUDES, IN FACT, MAKES REGENERATION A DE FACTO RESULT OF SAVING FAITH. THIS STATEMENT DIRECTLY CONTRADICTS THE PREVIOUS 200 PAGE. AND YET, THIS IS WHAT MOST MODERN EVANGELICALS BELIEVE WITHOUT THE CONTEXT OF THE PREVIOUS 200 PAGES.
expressly provided for in the all-sufficiency of Christ, and to him you are assured that you must be indebted for both? What standeth in the way of your comfort then, but either that you do not give credit to the promise he hath made, or that you are not willing that he should do it for you? and this I acknowledge is both unbelief and impenitence.
WITHERSPOON IS SPEAKING ABOUT A REGENERATE CHRISTIAN. BUT HE HAS JUST EQUATED BELIEVING SCRIPTURE WITH SAVING FAITH. THIS IS A CLEAR CONTRADICTION TO WHAT HE SAID ABOUT EVANGELICAL HYPOCRITES A FEW PAGES AGO:
I have not the least doubt that some may, by a confident presumption, imitate the faith of God's elect, and believe that Christ died for themselves in particular… They are never brought to love an infinitely holy God in sincerity of heart…they know not, or consider not the nature of that salvation he hath provided for his chosen… Therefore, till a sinner get a supernatural illumination, he can never see the glory and beauty of the divine character. Before this, he may seek to propitiate God's favor; he may wish to avoid his wrath; he may desire a change in God for his own safety, but he cannot be satisfied with him as he really is.
WE RESUME WITH WITHERSPOON CONNECTING JUSTIFICATION AND REGENERATION
If we look with care and attention into the New Testament, we shall perceive that there is a close and mutual connection between our justification and sanctification,
WITHERSPOON IS USING THE WORD SANCTIFICATION INSTEAD OF THE WORD REGENERATION. THE WORD SANCTIFICATION SIMPLY MEANS “HOLINESS”. REGENERATION IS THE SUPERNATURAL WAY GOD CHANGES A SINNER INTO A SAINT. THE WORD TRANSLATED “SAINT” 32 TIMES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT IS SAME GREEK WORD TRANSLATED “HOLY” IN OTHER PLACES. SO WHEN SOMEONE SAYS “SAINT” IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, THEY REALY SAID “HOLY” IN THEIR LANGUAGE. THIS IS WHY SANCTIFICATION IS ALWAYS IDENTIFIED WITH REGENERATION. SANCTIFICATION IS NOT THE DE FACTO RESULT OF SAVING FAITH. SAVING FAITH IS THE DE FACTO RESULT OF REGENERATION.
and that both are represented as the fruit of our Redeemer's purchase… All the blessings of salvation are represented as following one another in a continued chain or series, not one link of which can possibly be broken: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be
the first-born among many brethren…
IT IS ABSOLUTEY CRITICAL TO KNOW THAT WITHERSPOON’S “CHAIN THAT CAN NOT BE BROKEN” IS REFERING TO PREDESTINATION, THE WORD THEOLOGIANS USE FOR THE PREDETERMINED STATE OF SALVATION OF EVERY PERSON. WHEN A PERSON IS BORN AGAIN, HIS CHARACTER AND BEHAVIOR IS IMMEDIATELY CHANGED AND HE DISCOVERS HIS NEW NATURE AND THE LOVE OF GOD.
A change in his whole character and conduct immediately and necessarily takes place. The love of God is "shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost," and is the commanding principle of all his future actions… By the discovery which he hath obtained of the real nature and infinite amiableness of God, his will is renewed; he approves the things that are excellent, and gets such an impression of the obligation of the law of God, as cannot be afterwards
for any sinner to love him is impossible: but through the glorious gospel the new nature is effectually produced,
WITHERSPOON IS NOT SAYING HEARING THE GOSPEL SAVES, BUT RATHER THE GOSPEL ITSELF SAVES – THE GOSPEL IS NOT HEARING ONLY, BUT GOD SAVING BY REGENERATION. SAVING GRACE (REGENERSTION) CAUSES SAVING FAITH, LEST ANY MAN SHOULD BOAST
and cannot be produced in any other way. It is Christ Jesus who reveals to us the true God, the knowledge of whom we had lost.
WITHERSPOON IS NOT SAYING READING THE WORDS OF CHRIST SAVES, BUT RATHER CHRIST, THE PERSON SAVES
“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him," John 1:18.
THE LOVE OF GOD IS EXPERIENCE ONLY IN RELATIONSHIP WITH THE PERSON CHRIST.
I might easily shew, that the love of God is the source, the sum, and the perfection of holiness. All other duties naturally flow from it; nay, all other duties are nothing else but the necessary expressions of it. But instead of entering into a particular detail suffer me (allow me)only to observe these two things: First, that a believer is under the constant influence of gratitude to God, and, secondly, that this includes in it, and will certainly produce the most sincere and fervent love to all his fellow-creatures…I cannot immediately drop this subject, but entreat the reader to observe how deeply a sense of redeeming love must be engraven on the heart of every believer…The Christian is laid under the most express command to love his personal enemies, “to bless them that curse him, to pray for them who despitefully use him and persecute him.” This is the glory of the gospel, which gives the doctrine of Christ a lustre far superior to the most admired systems of human virtue. And however hard a saying it may appear at first view, when we consider the character and hopes of a penitent sinner, and the example of his expiring Saviour, it hath nothing strange or incredible in it at all, that he who expects, from the free grace of God, pardon for his innumerable and aggravated offences, should be ready to forgive the far slighter trespasses of his brethren against himself.
MODERN EVANGELICALS SAY “IT’ HARD TO FORGIVE”. ORTHODOX EVANGELICALS SAY “IT’S NOT ONLY HARD, IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO FORGIVE IN YOUR OWN STRENGTH”. THE FORGIVENESS GOD WANTS IS NOT JUST AN ACT OF THE NATURAL WILL. BORN AGAIN FORGIVENESS IS TURNING THE OFFENDER OVER TO GOD AND HAVING NO CLAIM OR DESIRE FOR PUNISHMENT IN HELL.
There is enough in an all-sufficient God to satisfy the desires of all his saints; and they being intimately united to the one only living and true God, must of consequence be
united to one another. This is the tenor of their Saviour's intercessory prayer: “That they all maybe one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gaveft me, I have given them: that they may be one, even as we are one.”
WITHERSPOON CLOSES WITH A WARNING TO READERS TO NOT SEPARATE REGENERATION FROM JUSTIFICATION, OR, PUT IN MODERN TERMS, DO NOT SEPARATE REGENERATION FROM SAVING FAITH. THE MINISTERS GRADUATED FROM PRINCETON WOULD DO JUST THAT WHEN THEY CHANGED THE BEST SYSTEM INTO THE BIST SYSTEM IN THE INQUIRY ROOM AFTER THE CIVIL WAR.
From the various truths above established, and the order in which they have been opened, we may see the indissoluble connection between salvation by the grace of God, and holiness in heart and conversation. We may fee their equal importance and their influence upon one another. There are many who attempt to divide those things which God hath inseparably joined. Many insist only on the duties of the law of God, and our natural obligations' to obedience; and are hardly brought to any mention of the righteousness of Christ, as the ground of a sinner's acceptance before God. Nay, some scruple not to affirm, that the doctrine of justification by free grace, or a sinner's being found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, weakens the obligation to holiness, and tends to introduce licentiousness of practice. But from what hath been said in the above discourse we may learn, not only in general the absolute necessity of a change, but how this stands connected with the purchase and gift of salvation, the character and work of a Redeemer. It will plainly appear, that a change in some respects is necessary to bring us to, and in others is the necessary effect and consequence of the acceptance of salvation.
THIS IS A THOUROUGHLY ORTHODOX WAY OF SAYING THAT THE CHANGE CAUSED BY COMMON GRACE DRAWS SINNERS TO SEEK SALVATION AND THE CHANGE OF SAVING GRACE IS SALVATION. REMEMBER WITHERSPOON’S OPEN LETTER TO JAMES HERVEY WAS TO VALIDATE THE CALLING OF SINNERS TO IMMEDIATE REPENTANCE AND SUBMISSION TO GOD. THERE IS NO REASON CALVINISTS NEED TO FEAR COMMON GRACE ILLUMINATING THE SEEKER. IT DOES NOT UNDERMINE THE SUPERNATURAL NATURE OF REGENERATION AS LONG AS COMMON GRACE IS NOT CONFUSED WITH SAVING GRACE AND BIBLICAL EVIDENCE OF SALVATION IS REQUIRED. WITHERSPOON FINISHES WITH A DIRECT REBUTTAL OF JOHN LOCKE’S “BARE FAITH AS SAVING FAITH” PRESENTATION IN THE REASONABLENESS OF CHRISTIANITY.
I have endeavored in the preceding pages to shew, that a discovery of the nature and glory of God, and of the infinite evil of sin, is absolutely necessary in order to our either understanding or relishing the doctrine of the cross. What is this then but a change begun? Must not the dominion of sin in every such person have received a mortal blow? Doth any thing more directly tend to holiness, than to see the power and glory of a holy God, and how “evil and bitter a thing” it is to depart from him? On the other hand, is it not necessary, to complete the change, that there be a sense of reconciliation and peace? “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” Can any person live in the love and service of God, while he conceives him to be his enemy, and supposes himself still the object of his wrath and displeasure? But supposing this reconciliation obtained, let me boldly ask. What motive to holiness in all manner of conversation, equal to the force of redeeming love? Judge, O Christian, will any cold reasoning on the nature and beauty of virtue have such an effect in mortifying corruptions, as a believing view of a pierced Saviour? Where shall we find so faithful, so alive, so cheerful a servant of God; as one who joins with the apostle Paul in saying, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me," Gal. 2:20.
Faith in Christ Jesus never can take place in any heart, unless there has been an internal work of the Spirit of God testifying of him; and there is no effectual principle of new obedience, but faith which worketh by love.
EFFECTUAL PRINCIPLE = REGENERATION CAUSED BY THE SUPERNATURAL OPERATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
What has been said above will serve to explain some controversies with which the truths of the gospel have been often darkened and perplexed; particularly those relating to the priority or right of precedency, so to speak, between faith and repentance.
Some make repentance, that is, as they explain it,
sorrow for sin, serious resolutions of forsaking it,
and begun reformation, the joint grounds of our acceptance
with, the merit of a Saviour. These, with
great plausibility, state the matter thus: That our
sincerity is accepted through the satisfaction of
Christ, instead of that perfect obedience to which we
cannot now attain; and, when taken in a certain light, this assertion is undoubtedly true.
WITHERSPOON HAS JUST STATED ONE SIDE OF THE ARGUMENT OF WHETHER OR NOT WE SHOULD ASK SINNERS TO IMMEDIATELY REPENT AND SUBMIT TO GOD. HE HAS GIVEN A TRUNCATED (AND MISLEADING) SUMMATION OF THE VIEW OF JAMES HERVEY. ORTHODOX CALVINISTS SHOULD HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THIS AS STATED. THIS IS WHERE MOST MODERN EVANGELICALS HAVE GONE WRONG. “our sincerity is accepted through the satisfaction of Christ” PLACES THE SINCERITY OF THE SINNER IN THE POSITION OF A GOOD WORK, OR ALTERNATIVELY, A METAPHYSICAL REPONSE TO SAVING GRACE. WITHERSPOON HAS MIXED COMMON AND SAVING GRACE, AND MADE REGENERATION THE DE FACTO RESULT OF QUESTIONABLE FAITH. MODERN MINISTERS HAVE GROUPS OF SINNERS REPEAT A SINNER’S PRAYER AND THEN ASSURE THEM “BY THE AUTHORITY OF THE WORD OF GOD I TELL YOU, IF YOU SINCERELY PRAYED THAT PRAYER, YOU ARE SAVED”. ORTHODOX MINISTERS DO NOT BELIEVE THE SINCERITY OF THE SINNER CAUSES GOD TO REGENERATE, OR ALTERNATIVELY, THAT THE SINCERITY OF THE SINNER IS A METAPHYSICAL RESPONSE TO SAVING GRACE. TO ASSUME EITHER IS AN ABOMINATION OF THE FIRST ORDER. IT IS TO TRAITOROUSLY REVERSE THE SCRIPTURE “BY GRACE YOU ARE SAVED THROUGH FAITH”, MAKING IT SAY, “BY FAITH YOU ARE SAVED THROUGH GRACE”. ORTHODOX MINISTERS SEE THE SIGNIFICANCE OF “LEST ANY MAN SHOULD BOAST”. WITHERSPOON NOW PRESENTS THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ARGUMENT OF WHETHER OR NOT WE SHOULD ASK SINNERS TO IMMEDIATELY REPENT AND SUBMIT TO GOD. WITHERSPOON IS CONTRADICTING THE VIEWS OF ROBERT SANDEMAN.
Others, discerning the falsehood that may lurk under this representation, and fearing the consequences of every self righteous plan, are tempted to go to the opposite extreme. That they might shew salvation to be wholly of grace, some have even presumed to use this harsh and unscriptural expression, that it is not necessary to forsake sin in order to come to Christ. I could shew a sense in which this also is true, even as it is not necessary to forsake your disease in order to apply to the physician, but if it is not necessary to forsake it, I am sure it is necessary, in both cases to hate it, and desire deliverance from it.
This diffculty will be easily resolved from what has
been said the preceding parts of this treaties, and
we may learn to preserve the truth, without exposing it to the scorn or resentment of its enemies. The reader may observe then, that none can see the form or comeliness of a Saviour standing in the room of sinners, and purchasing forgiveness from a holy God, till the glory of this God is discovered, till the guilt of sin lays hold of the conscience, and its power is both felt and lamented. This may perhaps be called repentance
“THE GLORY OF GOD IS DISCOVERED” ONLY IN REGENERATION, SO WITHERSPOON IS SAYING THAT SAVING REPENTANCE IS ONLY POSSIBLE WHEN A PERSON IS BORN AGAIN
, and I believe it is called so sometimes in the holy Scriptures, particularly in the following passage: " Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord," Acts 3:19. But the sinner does not so properly forsake sin in order to come to Christ, as he flies to him for deliverance from its condemning guilt and enslaving power. He is so far from coming to God with a gift in his hand, even of his own prayers and penitential tears, that his convictions continue to fellow him, if I may speak so, through every lurking place, till he is entirely subjected, till he is stripped naked and bare, and deprived of every shadow of excuse. Then it is that salvation through a despised crucified Saviour becomes unspeakably amiable in all its parts, sin becomes more perfectly hateful, and an assured prospect is obtained of its immediate mortification, and in due time, of its entire and complete destruction.
Thus faith and repentance are involved in one another; they produce, and are produced by one another They may be treated of distinctly, but they cannot exist separately. So that whenever any of them Is found alone, or stands independent of the other, that very thing is a sufficient evidence that it is false and spurious.
A DIRECT CONTRADICTION OF SANDEMAN: SAVING FAITH AND SAVING REPENTANCE CANNOT EXIST SEPARATELY, EVEN IF THE PERSON IS ELECTED UNTO SALVATION – SANDEMAN WAS WHAT SOME WOULD CALL A HYPER-CALVINST IN THAT HE BELIEVED ELECTION DID NOT HAVE TO MANIFEST ITSELF BY REPENTANCE AND THE CHANGE OF CHARACTER NORMALLY CALLED CONVERSION
From what has been said on this subject, we
may be enabled to judge what are the fundamental
and essential doctrines of the gospel, to which all
others are but subordinate and subservient. Regeneration,
or the new birth, we are warranted to say
after the example of our Saviour, is absolutely necessary
to salvation, “Except a man be born again,
he cannot see the kingdom of God." If any man, therefore, depart from this truth, he makes shipwreck of the faith, and will at last be found to fight against God. It is also plain, that the reconciliation of a sinner to God must be through the blood of the atonement: "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ," 1 Cor 3:2. If any man hold by, and build upon this great foundation, he shall be finally accepted, though many things may be found in him justly blameworthy. Nor is it easy, indeed, to say what degree of error and misapprehension concerning these truths themselves, may be consistent with abiding by the substance. But certainly all who directly and openly
oppose them, may be said "to bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and to bring upon themselves swift destruction," 2 Pet. 2:1.
MODERN EVANGELICALS THAT HAVE SEPARATED SAVING FAITH FROM SAVING REPENTANCE (EXPERIENCIAL REGENERATION) ARE PROMOTING THE SAME HERESY AS SANDEMAN, EXCEPT WITHOUT THE ELECTION BASIS (MOST “SAVIOR ALONE” EVANGELICALS ARE ARMINIAN. THEY PROUDLY SAY SALVATION IS BY FAITH ALONE AND SAY ALL OTHER IDEAS ARE “LORDSHIP” HERESY. ACTUALLY THEY HAVE ACCEPTED THE “BARE FAITH” PSYCHOLOGICAL VIEW OF SAVING FAITH AS A STATE OF MIND INSTEAD OF THE ORTHODOX TRUTH THAT SAVING FAITH IS A REGENERATE STATE OF BEING.
If you have ground to conclude that you are at peace with God, what an unspeakable source of joy and consolation! If otherwise, there is no time to lose in hastening from the brink of the pit. May I not with some confidence make this demand of every reader, that he would set apart some time, and apply with vigor and earnestness to the duty of self- examination? Is not this demand reasonable? What injury can you suffer by complying with it?
EVANGELICALS CAUGHT IN THE “BARE FAITH” PSYCHOLOGICAL VIEW OF SAVING FAITH THINK IF THEY QUESTION THEIR SALVATION, THEY ARE UNDOING THEIR SAVING FAITH, SINCE THEIR “FAITH” IS NOT IN JESUS CHRIST, BUT RATHER IN THEIR FAITH THAT THEY HAVE FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST. JONATHAN EDWARDS DEALT AT LENGTH WITH THIS PROBLEM OF THE MOST DANGEREROUS OF COUNTERFEIT PROFESSORS, THE “EVANGELICAL HYPOCRITE”.
Will conscience permit any to continue unreproved in the neglect of it? Have you read so much on the subject of regeneration, and are you unwilling to reap the benefit of it? Let every one, without exception, take up or renew this grand inquiry, “Am I in Christ? that is, Am I a new creature or not? Am I a child of God? Or do I still continue an heir of hell?” I know that this change is a work of the Holy Spirit of grace; that he only can bring a clean thing out of an unclean; that without his effectual blessing, the clearest and most conclusive reasoning directed to the understanding, the most warm and pathetic application to the affections, will be altogether fruitless.
WITHERSPOON IN THIS STATEMENT IS CATEGORICALLY DENYING THE MODERN VIEW OF MORAL PERSUASION AS THE MEANS OF REGENERATION. BUT BEAR IN MIND, THAT WITH THE PREDETERMINATION CONSECUTIONAL BASIS OF FIRST GENERATION NEW LIGHT CALVINSTS, MORAL PESUASION IS NOT THE CAUSE OF REGENERATION, BUT THE EVIDENCE OF REGENERATION. MODERN CRITICS WHO DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS DISTINCTION MAKE FALSE ASSUMPTIONS THAT CAUSE THEM TO COMPLETELY MISUNDERSTAND CHARLES FINNEY, FOR EXAMPLE.
I know that great natural abilities are often perverted and abused; that the soundest reason in worldly things, and the most brutish folly in matters of eternity, are often joined together; that men may be learned scholars, eminent politicians, active merchants, skilful tradesmen, and yet blinded sinners, whom no instruction can enlighten, whom no warning can alarm But I know and believe, at the same time, that God “whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son”, is able to make “his word quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of
the heart," Heb. 4:12.
God is no respecter of persons, and, therefore, whether you are high or low, rich or poor; whether you are of one denomination of Christians or another, if you have not been the subject of a renewing and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, you are children of wrath, and if you die in that condition, must “go away into everlasting punishment.
When the world is pleading and inviting, it is ready
to engross our attention, to possess our esteem, and
to attract our homage. Worldly grandeur is very
ready to inspire the mind with pride and self-sufficiency,
which is, of all other things, the most destructive of real religion, and which is particularly opposite to the humbling and self-abasing doctrine of salvation by grace. The great and fashionable world is still in danger of the offence of the cross. Denying themselves, bearing profane scorn, mortifying the flesh, loving and following a crucified Master, are hard lessons indeed to men of wealth
Do but open the book of God, and what page will not condemn you? This sentence stands uncancelled againft you, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them. Out of your own mouths will you be judged, ye wicked servants. Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law, dishonorest thou God?” Bring forth your boasted morality, and let it be put to the trial. Will you, or dare you say, “I have loved the Lord with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind, and with all my strength ?' Will you say, ”I have loved his worship, and served him in public, in my family, and in secret, and I hope he will accept of it?”
Think not to do injury to the grace of God, by weaving a self-righteous cobweb, and refusing to believe till you have laid down some rules of a new life, and effected some partial reformation, as if you would first save yourselves, that you may be fit for salvation by Christ. These hopes will soon be dashed in pieces. Faith in the imputed righteousness of Christ is the sinner’s only plea.
THIS IS NOT TRUE. THIS IS A COMMON MISTAKE OF MODERN MINISTERS. SAVING FAITH IS BELIEVING ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. IT IS NOT FAITH IN THE IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNES OF CHRIST. ORTHODOX SALVATION IS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST, NOT FAITH IN WHAT HE PURCHASED. ONE IS SAVING FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST, THE OTHER COULD BE COMMON FAITH IN A DOCTRINE
The more vile you are in your own apprehension, the more need you have ”to put on Christ.” The subsequent change of heart and practice must be the effect of his power, is a part of his purchase, and ought to be received as his gracious gift. And I will venture to foretell, that you will make the greater progress in true holiness, the less you are disposed to boast of or to trust in it. This, I apprehend, is the gospel itself, styled in Scripture, with the highest propriety, the “gospel of the grace of God.” “Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” If you will rely on him for salvation, he will shed abroad the love of God in your hearts by the Holy Ghost; which will be a powerful and operative principle of new obedience.
IT IS EASY TO SEE WHERE FINNEY GOT HIS THEOLOGY.
There is not any slave of Satan so loaded with chains, but he is able to set him free. If you perish, it is of yourselves. I have given you warning, from a sincere and ardent concern for your everlasting interest; and may God himself, for Christ's sake, by his Holy Spirit, effectually persuade you to comply with it.