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For the Christian Journal.
of a new state of existence. The Conversations of a Minister with a
“born of God," as the places shew, Parishioner, on Baptismal Regene are they, who without any reference to ration.
the time of birth, are in the state dem CONVERSATION III.
signed to be recognized. St. John ade
dressed persons, who must be supposed Parishioner. You gave your con- to have been baptized: but it was not sent, Sir, to another conversation, on to his purpose, to take notice of the efthe important subject which has been fect of baptism at the time of its being under discussion with us; it being un- performed, derstood, in this stage of the progress, Parishioner. Does not the same to be confined to the sense of Scrip- Apostle express his meaning under the ture. Will the present time be con- varied expression “begotten of God?"} venient to you?
Minister. He does in one placeMinister. It will; and I begin with John v. 18; to which there applies the expressing my astonishment, that so remark made concerning “born of extensive a sense as your's should be God.” St. Peter also (1 Pet.i.3,) uses a given to the word “regeneration,” phrase similar to that now named by when it is to be found but in two places you in a way which should caution us of in the Bible; one of which, is con- the danger of founding doctrine on meta. fessedly irrelative either to your doc- phor. It is where the Apostle says trine or to mine; while the other is as- To who hath begotten us again to a livesociated with water baptism. I allude ly hope, by the resurrection of Jesus to Matthew xix. 28, which looks for- Christ from the dead." How curious ward to the renewing of material na- a theory might ingenuity ground on this ture; and to Titus iii. 5, which, I be- passage, by excluding the agency of lieve, all commentators connect with the Divine Spirit from the work of rebaptism, in one shape or in another. generation; and by ascribing it wholly For what else can be “the washing,” to the operation of the truth of the rem or, as it should be translated, “ the la- surrection of the Redeemer! But the ver of regeneration, there spoken of? meaning of the Apostle is evidently no I will however notice, that the deriva- more, than that it is a necessary mean tion is the same with the expression of the recovery from the loss of immor“ born again,” which appears in two tality in Adam. St. Paul tells the Cor passages - John iii. 3, and 1 Pet. i. 23. rinthians, that he had “ begotten them In regard to both of these places, I through the Gospel," and he speaks of caution you against supposing, that I his having “begotten Onesimus in his put out of view the spiritual principle bonds." Metaphor is a strong way of recognized. The former of the places expressing an interesting truth, which will come under more especial notice. must look to some other source of evi.
Parishioner. If I remember rightly, dence for elucidation. Regeneration the expression “ born of God,” is used was never introduced into any confes. frequently in the Epistles of St. John. sion of faith, as a distinct head of doc
Minister. It occurs no less than six trine, until less than two centuries ago. times, but there is material difference I do not mention the terms being selbetween this language and the other. dom found in Scripture, to give a low “Regeneration” and “born again," idea of its importance; but to show, are so used as to intimate the beginning that it must be an expressing in metaVOL. VL
phor of what is much oftener met with, of the transaction. I wish to know, and less liable to be misconceived of in whether they have engaged your ats other words.
tention. For instance, why does our Parishioner. What are thie truths Lord censuré Nicodemus for not apprew, to which you refer?
hending the metaphor of the new birth, Minister. They are the duties of intimating, that being a master in repentance and faith. I cannot believe, Israel, he ought not to have been a that when our Saviour began to preach stranger to this point. It does not his own Gospel, he held back from his occur in
book of the Old Testa. hearers any truth essential to salvation : ment. and yet it sufficed him to say~" the Parishioner. The precise metakingdom of God is at hand, repent ye phor does not occur, but this is no disand believe the Gospel." In like man- proof of the occurrence of the spiritual ner, it is said of his disciples_“they meaning. went out, and preached that men should Minister. Were that all, Nicoderepent. ." So St. Peter, after the Cruci- mus was under no obligation to unfixion, addressing the Jewish multitude derstand the sentiment in this novel concerning their participation in that dress. Again, why does the great enormity, made the call repent and Teacher acknowledge, that they were be baptized, every one of you, for the earthly things of which he spake? remission of sins.” And St. Paul de- Surely, this does not apply to the spilivers the substance of his own preach- ritual property of the new birth. ing, when he defines it to be testi- Parishioner. I
the matter fying both to the Jews and also to the meant is the earthly similitude of naGreeks, repentance toward God, and tural birth. faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Minister. That was well enough Much more might be produced to the understood by Nicodemus, when he same effect; and I cannot conceive of said, “ How can a man be born when any truth of the Christian religion, not he is old ?" Further, why is there falling under one of these heads : it be- mention of being born of water, as well ing understood, that repentance, accord- as of the Spirit ing to the original, extends to a change Parishioner. Doubtless, because of mind, or inward cast of character. the blessed influences of the one may As this applies differently to adults and be typified by the cleansing virtue of the to infants, was considered in a former other. It means by the Holy Ghost, interview.
as it were by water; in like manner as Parishioner. This is a position, in John had announced a Saviour, who which I cannot but concur. And yet should baptize with the Holy Ghost the same duties may be put in varied and with fire. points of view; and metaphor may be Minister. It would have been a introduced with that intent: for in- strange way of expressing the sentistance, in John iii. 1, and following. ment; being an inversion of the naThe cireumstances of the case there tural order of the two subjects to be occurring, called forth the clothing, compared. The meaning of the Bapvery much helping to a right interpre- tist may be explained by the descent of tation of the duties of which you have the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, in the spoken.
appearance of “ cloven tongues, like Minister. I concur in your position, as of fire?" Or, the other place will as readily as you did in mine. You bear the translation as of fire:" refer to the interview of our Saviour that being agreeable to the sense which with Nicodemus. It is a passage, which the conjunctive particle bears in the has an especial claim to discussion, in original; and this I believe to be the the present department of the subject. true interpretation, although differing There are some circumstances in it, from our translation. The criticism which are entirely passed over, or will not apply to the passage before us; slightly touched, on the other side, al- water being the first named, as the most though helping much to an explanation prominent to sense, although to be accompanied by a spiritual operation of Minister. I cannot say, that the aeinfinitely more importance. Before knowledgment of it has been univerthe application of my remarks, I will sal; nor can it be, without the surrenremind you of a prior incident. It is dry of some opinions, at the roots of the message of the sanhedrim to the which it directly strikes. But I can Baptist—why baptizest thou, if thou say, with great sincerity, that the evibe not that Christ, neither Elías, nei- dence of it
dence of it is as distinct as what we ther that Prophet?” This seems to usually rely on, in bringing history to imply, that had he professed to be the interpretation of Scripture. There the giver of the new dispensation then are Jewish and heathen testimonies diexpected, there would have been no in- rectly to the point. If it be disallowed, consistency in his initiating of his con- it will follow that the Jews, within two verts by the rite of baptism. And yet, or three centuries after the beginning we hear of nothing to this effect under of the Christian era, copied the Chris the Mosaic economy.
tians in the administration of this rite: Parishioner. I perceive that you which is utterly incredibļe. That at design to apply all this to the narrative the period now alluded to, and in the in the beginning of the tbird chapter of succeeding ages, it was practised by the Gospel of St. John.
the Jews, is conceded; and, if I 'misMinister.' That is my object; but take not, it is continued to the present I must state a fact, which will account dav. for the questions unexpectedly proposed
Parishioner. I beg you to proceed to you. There has been already a plea in your application of it to the passage. of a right of explanation from historic Minister. It is evident, that Nicofact. It has been transmitted to us, demus came to Jesus under conviction that the Jewish Church, of its own au- of his divine mission, formed on the rathority, for there is nothing to the ef- tional ground of his miraculous works. fect in the law of Moses, had intro- He came “ by night,” to avoid the reduced baptism to accompany circum- proach of an open confession : and cision, in the admission of heathen fa- that this was intended to be intimated, milies or individuals to the privileges appears from what is afterwards reof Judaism. The persons so initiated corded of the same Nicodemus, when were said to be new-born, on account ke boldly advocated the cause of Christ, of the new relations into which they in the measures ļeading to his crucientered, and the new obligations which fixion. Here was a great change of they assumed." A reference to these character ; but it is not introduced things, is what Nicodemus might rea without the remark, that he was the sonably have been expected to have same who formerly came by night. understood, as a
a master in Israel. This representation brings into view They are called " earthly things;" be the outward and visible sign, and the cause, however edifying, their autho- inward and spiritual grace in baptism. rity was of man. The adjunct of the In the 22d verse of the same chapter, element of water in the former custom, as was noticed in one of our interviews, shews the same to have been included Jesus and his disciples are found in the in the newly instituted rite. And the act of baptizing, and it is not noticed general propriety of the metaphor rests as an act then begun.
Now I appreon the same ground in the Christian as hend, that Nicodemus iş admonished of in the Jewish Church; although, in the the duty of an acknowledgment of latter, there was the superaddition of the Messiah before the world, in the divine institution, and the pledge of the rite instituted by him for that end; but Holy Spirit to accompany it. With not without the accompaniment of an these recollections, we shall find it easy entire change of inward character, to understand the narrative.
from the faulty disposition manifested Parishioner. Is what
have by the nocturnal visit. Agreeably with stated concerning the Jewish provision, this, I do not find any place in which and the language to which it gave occa- regeneration, or the being born again, sion, a universally acknowledged fact? is introduced without its signifying of the beginning, and not the progress of bining with that more important part the Christian state. What can be more of the subject, the standing to which he express, than the passage of Titus al- was to be admitted in the eye of the ready noticed, concerning the washing Church. of regeneration ? So, in 1 Cor. vi. 11, This is confirmed by the light in when we read—ye are washed, ye which the subject was held in the priare sanctified, ye are justified in the mitive Church. The sign in baptisma name of the Lord Jesus, and by the was considered as dispensed with by Spirit of our God," we find all these necessity; which is often applied by particulars reckoned as co-incident: the early writers to the case of martyrespecially, as a better translation would dom taking place immediately on conhave made its ye have been washed, version; and this they called the sufye have been sanctified, ye have been ferers being baptized in his blood. But justified,” &c. In like manner in they never speak of his having underEphes. v. 25, 26, we have—“ Christ gone regeneration, however possessed loved the Church, and gave himself for of the spiritual privilege of such a proit, that he might sanctify and cleanse cess. it with the washing of water, by the Parishioner. There is a passage word.” I am aware of the use made which I think you will find it difficult of this last expression : but although to 'reconcile with your theory. It is 1 I have no desire to lessen the import- Peter iii. 2, where baptism is defined to ance of the word, that is, of the Gospel be, not the putting away tủe filth of in this holy rite; yet I am persuaded, the flesh, but the answer of a good conthat a more definite idea is produced, science towards God.”' by connecting the last term with the Minister. We do not hold that bapsanctification. This would be agree- tism consists in the putting away of able to a more strict rendering of the the filth of the flesh :” which can be middle clause; which, instead of " and no more than the outward sign. As to cleanse,” would then be “having the affirmative part of the definition of cleansed.” The same idea is sustained St. Peter; if you infer from it any by St. Paul, where he speaks of being thing against infantine regeneration, ci buried” (with Christ)" by baptism because infants cannot give answers or into death-that is, to sin: which stipulations, the place will make at makes the invisible' grace co-incident least as much in favour of the deniers vith the outward sign.
of infant baptism. But against both The case of St. Paul is worthy of their opinion and your's, the position especial notice. Notwithstanding the should be limited to the objects on miraculous evidence vouchsafed to him which it has a bearing : as, when St. of divine favour, he was required by Paul defines the true circumcision” to Ananias to "arise and wash away his be that of the heart, in the spirit,” it sins, calling on the name of the Lord:” would be irrelevant to 'object that this which could have had no other object, is not applicable to infants, except than the consistency of the divine eco- prospectively. It was said figuratively; nomy; so as not to put asunder what and was intended of those only who divine institution had joined together. were fit subjects of that spiritual cirТо
suppose that the formerly persecut- cumcision. ing Saul was not in a state of accept- Parishioner. You seem to have ance in the eye of God, would be in- forgotten, that under the word “conconsistent with the circumstances men- version," there is conveyed the same tioned --especially his ready accept- sense as that of regeneration. ance of his commission, in the words--- Minister. I have not forgotten, that “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do ?” some consider these words aš synonyand the consequent command - Go nous, but conceive it to be an error. into the city, and it shall be told thee Párishioner. You are' probably what thou must do." So that the ab- aware, that our clergy are thought to sence of the remission of sins, or of re- lay too little stress on conversion, in generation, must be understood as com- their discourses.
Minister. Is it alleged, that we do " when thou art converted, strengthen pot often insist on the necessity of the thy brethren." is not sin in act the change of the heart of the sinner from ground of the command ? sin to God?
Parishioner. That only is the Parishioner. The charge does not ground; because it follows on the prego to that extent.
diction of the apostacy of Peter. Minister. When we speak of the Minister. There is a passage in the duty of repentance, and if it be cor- 6th chapter of the Prophecy of Isaiah, rectly stated by us, is it not in effect to (verse 10) announcing a judicial blindpreach conversion?
ness of the Jews; which should prove Parishioner. Certainly it is. a bar to their being converted. The
Minister. Our fault consists, then, prophecy is repeated and applied three not in neglect of the doctrine, but in times in the New Testament. I call not using the word sufficiently often. those places combined one instance of Have you attended to the frequency of the use of the word. You will allow the use of it in the New Testament? this to be foreign to our purpose.
Parishioner. My curiosity has not Parishioner. The places may realed me to this.
sonably be so considered. Minister. It occurs but once, and Minister. When our Saviour, in the that is in Acts xv. 3 ; which records, 3d verse of the 18th chapter of the that Paul and Barnabas, on their jour Gospel of St. Matthew, in reproof of ney from Antioch to Jerusalem, an- the ambițion, the worldly mindedness, nounced "the conversion of the Gen- and the bickerings of his disciples, tiles.” Do you think that this amounts şaidmexcept ye' be converted, and to your idea of regeneration, or that it become as little children, ye shall'in no is discountenance of mine?
case enter into the kingdom of heaParishioner. It would be folly to ven;" whatever ingenuity you may affirm either of these; the place mean- display in preventing the application ing no more than the renouncing of of this place in favour of my doctrine, idolatry, and the making of a profes- you will not pretend that it makes sion of Christianity. But although the against me. substantive should be found in that Parishioner. Never. place only, there rest on my mind Minister. If these questions should other places in which the adjective and seem captious, I entreat your patiencegah the verb " converted," convert” and and, if necessary, your pardon.' But - converteth," appear.
the places now named, are all in which Minister. There are such places; the word, with its varieties, are found. but when you read in the Epistle of Why then should so much stress be St. James“ if any err from the truth, laid on the continual use of this partiand one convert him, let him know, culár word ? There is a reason, lying that he who converteth a sinner from the deeper than as phraseology is concernerror' of his ways, 'hath saved a soul ed. It is imagined, that every indifrom death ;? do you conceive that it vidual must undergo and be conscious has any relation to the beginning of of conversion from a state of sin to a spiritual life in regeneration, whether state of grace. This is what we deny; it be with or without baptisin?
and is the point on which it would be Parishioner. Evidently, no. It ex- more consistent to assail us, than to
make us offenders for not continually
harping on a word, so rarely met in Minister. When St. Peter, in Acts Scripture. We conceive, that under iii. 19, calls to the murderers of his Di- the term “repentance, we preach vine Máster repent and be convert- every thing comprehended in “s ed,” has it any more relation to the sion.". And yet, we are not backward présent subject than what was quoted to apply this word to the proper subironi St. James ?
presses a fall from
jects of it, and to caution them that it Parishioner. I think it has not. should be of the heart as well as of the Minister. Qur Lord said to Peter- life