Alexander Campbell.

The Millennial Harbinger abridged (Volume 1) online

. (page 60 of 70)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

ratio)} of our ichole nature;" or, in our every day currency, — a perfect
renewal and restoration of our ivhoJe nature to that image of God in
which our father Adam stood in the day of his generation or creation.
We confidently affirm this, on the highest literary authority in Christen-
dom, to be the legitimate and precise meaning of the word Paligge-
nesia, represented by the Roman and English word regeneration. No
man, we presume to say, of literary reputation, will hazard that repu-
tation by denying this exegesis or definition of the term.

We, however, think that our composite Saxon word renewal is a3
apposite and as intelligible to the masses of our community as any
other word in our living currency.

This term paliggenesia, regeneration, is found but twice in the
Christian Scriptures; and, in neither of these cases, does it correspond
with its modern currency in Protestantdom or Romandom.

In its first occurrence (Matt. xix. 28) it indicates a new era. Every
Biblical scholar in Christendom must concede this.

The era alluded to, in this passage, is by Alexander Clark and other
commentators of authority, referred to the time "when Jesus shall sit


on the throne in his glory; and not to the time of our following him
here" (Matt. xix. 28). So Boothroyd and many others read it. "At
the renovation, when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his
glory, you, also, shall sit on the twelve thrones, judging the twelve
tribes of Israel."

Again, Tit. iii. 5, "He saved us" — "according to his own mercy,
through the bath of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Spirit."
These are not identical — "the bath of regeneration" is one, and "the
renewing of the Holy Spirit" is another. The new birth, and the wash-
ing of the new birth, are not identical terms nor identical ideas. A
man, a physical or an animal man, "must," under the Christian econ-
omy, "be begotten again" — "born of water and Spirit," before he can
enter into "the kingdom of God." We only reiterate the express oracles
of the Holy Spirit. We desire no other, we seek no higher, no lower

Justification, sanctification and adoption are instantaneous acts of
Divine grace, and are simultaneous, not successive acts, as more than
half of our pulpits and presses in Christendom preach and teach They
are, on the contrary, both instantaneous and concomitant, or contem-
porary acts of Divine grace — the sickly dreams of some of our modern
Rabbis to the contrary, notwithstanding.

One fact or truism, almost universally conceded, will place thes^
misconceptions in midnight altitude. It is this: — There are degrees
in character, but not in state. For example, we all concede, that the
terms husband, wife, son, daughter, master, servant, citizen, subject, rep-
resent states — each and every one of them represents neither more
nor less than a relation or state. But in character, there are, or may
be, many degrees. A, B and C are masters. D, E and F are servants.
These are two states obviously distinct. But A, B and C, in character,
may be good, better, and best; or bad, worse, and worst. This is so
obvious that all sound thinkers readily admit it. Hence, seeing that
justification, sanctification, adoption, regeneration, represent states, and
neither persons nor characters; those in these states are equally perfect
in state, while there may be a greater or a less conformity of char-
acter to these states or relations. No Christian man can, therefore,
bo more regenerated, justified, sanctified, adopted, or saved than any
other Christian man.

The Westminster Divines, as they are called, were, in this matter,
correct, when they called these states — "acts of Divine grace." Polit-
ically, in our enlightened country, we are orthodox. An alien is trans-
muted or regenerated into a citizen. And, so soon as politically regen-
erated, he is equal in all the constitutional rights of citizenship with
every other native-born citizen of mature age and reason, until he
abjure these rights and becomes a rebel.


When, then, an alien is naturalized, or born again, he is adopted

and enfranchised with all the inherent rights, honors and Immunities

of a native-born citizen, under the same constitution. He is, in one

particular only, limited. He can not, constitutionally, be President of

the confederacy. So it is in the Christian Institution. A justified,

sanctified, adopted and saved sinner can never be king of the universe.

Neither can an- angel. But of a regenerated man we may say and

sing: —

" Boforo tl>o throno and first in song,
Man iiiny his hnlloliijahs raise;
Wliilo womliTint? nnf^t-ls round him tlirong,
And swi'll tliL" ehoriLs of his praise."

There are, then, no degrees in justification, sanctiflcation, adoption,
or regeneration. But in Christian character, and enjoyment, there may
be degrees, beyond the power of all our powers of utterance. We give
the Westminster divines all credit and honor, because they repre-
sented regeneration, justification, sanctification, and adoption as sev-
eral and distinct acts of Divine grace and philanthropy. Hence they
called them, one and all, "Acts of Divine grace." Sometimes, indeed,
improperly calling it "sovereign grace," as if there could be any grace
at all, human or Divine, that is not both sovereign and free. a. c.


"If any man be in Christ," says Paul, "ho is a new creation: oil
things have passed away; all things have become new." By the special
favor of God, Jesus Christ "is made unto us wisdom, justification. Banc-
tification, and redemption." Hence, as saith the Prophet, "In him
shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and in him shall they glory."
"He that boasteth," therefore, "let him boast in the Lord."

What, then, is justification, the first fruit of the heavenly cluster
of Divine graces? It is, indeed, a trite but a true saying, that the
term justification is a forensic word; and, therefore, indicates that
its subject has been accused of crime, or of the transgression of law.
Ir also implies that the subject of it has not only been accused a.ul
tried, but also acquitted. Such, then, is the legal or forensic ju£tific:i-
tion. It is, indeed, a sentence of acquittal announced by a iribu: al.
importing that the accused is found not guilty. If convicted, ho can
not be justified; if justified, ha has not been convicted.

But such is not justification by grace. Evangelical justification is
the justification of one that has been convicted as guilty before God.
the Supreme and Ultimate Judge of the Universe. But the whole world
has been tried and found guilty before God. So that, in fact, "there
\y none righteous; no, not one." Therefore, by deeds of law no man
can be justified before Cod. "Tor should a man keep the whole law.
and yet offend in one point, be is guilty of all." He has despised the


whole authority of the law and the Lawgiver. It is, then, utterly
impossible that any sinner can be foTeosically or legally justified before
God, by a law which he has in any one instance violated.

If, then, a sinner be justified, it must be on some other principlo
than law. He must be justified by favor, and not by right. Still it
must be rightfully done by him that justifies a transgression, else he
will be liable to the charge of injustice to the law and the government.
This is the emergency which must be met by evangelical justification.
The mission and mediation of the Messiah was primarily to meet this
emergency; though, indeed, he has done much more than to meet It.
Evangelical justification is, therefore, a justification by favor as
respects man; and it has been made just also on the part of God, by
the sacrifice or obedience unto death of his Son. Still it must be
regarded as not a real or legal justification. It is, as respects man.
only pardon, or forgiveness of the past; but the pardoned sinner being
ever after treated and regarded as though he were righteous, he is
constituted and treated as righteous before God. He is as cordially
received into the favor and friendship of God, as though he had never
at any time offended against his law. This, then, is what is peculiarly
and appropriately called "evangelical justification." Still, legally con-
templated, God, in fact, "justifies the ungodly.'' And so teaches the
apostle Paul.

Still every one of reflection will enquire, how can the justification
of the ungodly be regarded as compatible with the justice, the purity,
the truthfulness of God? How can he stand justified before the pur,^,
and holy, and righteous peers of his celestial realm — the hierarchs and
princes of heaven? This is, indeed, to very many, a profound mys-
tery. And "great," truly "is the mystery of godliness." Standing at
this point, and viewing it in all its bearings, heaven is always in
rapture, while contemplating this new and grand and glorious revela-
tion of the manifold wisdom of God. It is, however, a revealed mys
tery. One there is, and was, and evermore will be, who, by his obedi-
ence to that violated law, even unto death, has so magnified and made
honorable that law and government, as to open a channel through
which truth, righteousness, and mercy can harmoniously flow together
and justify God, while justifying the sinner, by pardoning him and
then treating him as though he never had sinned against his throne
and government.

His death was, therefore, contemplated as the one only true, real,
and adequate sin-offering ever presented in this universe, in the pres-
ence of God, angels, men, and demons, that does for ever justify God
in justifying man. It will forever silence all demur, and fill the uni-
verse — heaven and eternity, with the praise of the Lord. Hence, in
perfect harmony with all the types of the law, the oracles of the


prophets and the promises and covenants of God, he is truly, right-
fully, and with the emphatic seal of God, surnamed — "Jkhovah oim
RiGiiTKorsNEss." Therefore, as saith Isaiah — "By the knowledge of
him shall my righteous servant justify many whose Iniquities he shall
have borne."

How then is it dispensed? or rather, how is it received and enjoyed?
"It is through faith," says Paul, "that it might be by grace." to the
end, that the promise of eternal life "might be sure to all the seed;"
whether by nature, Jews or Gentiles. It is through faith, and not
on account of faith, as though there was in faith some intrinsic merit.

It is worthy of remark, that if faith were a work of the head or of
the heart, or of both, possessing inherent and essential merit, it would
be as much a work to be rewarded as any other exercise of the under-
standing or of the heart. Love is said "to be the fulfilling of the
whole law," and covetousness is called idolatry. Were then justifica-
tion to be founded on faith, hope, or love, as tvorks of the understand-
ing or affections; it could be no more of grace than any other blessing
received on account of anything done by us or w^rought in us.

Hence, in the evangelical dispensation of justification, it is in some
sense connected with seven causes. Paul affirms, that a man is justified
by faith. (Rom. v. 1; Gal. ii. 16; iii. 24.) In the second place, ho
states that "we are justified freely by his grace" (Rom. iii. ?A; Tit.
iii. 7). In the third place, on another occasion he teaches that "we ara
justified by Christ's Hood" (Rom. v. 9). Again, in the fourth place,
he says that "we are justified by the name of the Lord Jesus, and by
the spirit of our God" (I. Cor. vi. 11). To the Galatians, in the fifth
place, he declares that "we are justified by Christ" (Gal. ii. 16). In
the sixth place, Isaiah says "we are justified by knowledge" (Isa. liii.
11). And James, in the seventh place, says "we are justified by
works" (chap. ii. 21). Thus, by Divine authority, faith is connected
as an effect, in some sense, of seven causes, viz.: Faith, Grace, the Blooi
of Christ, the Name of the Lord, Knowledge, Christ, and Works. May
it not, then, be asked why do so many select one of these only, as
essential to justification? This is one of the evidences of the violence
of sectarianism.

Call these causes or means of justification and they may severally
indicate an influence or an instrumentality in the consummation of
this great act of Divine favor. He that assumes any one or two of
them, as the exclusive or one only essential cause of a sinner's justi-
fication, acts arbitrarily and hazardously rather than discreetly or
according to the oracles of God. We choose rather to give to them
severally a Divine significance, and consequently a proper place in
the conpummation of evangelical justification. We feel obliged to use
the same reason and discretion In ascertaining the developments of


this work of Divine grace, that we may employ in searching into the
works of God, in nature and in moral government. How many agents
and laws of nature co-operate in providing our daily bread? Suns rise
and set, moons wax and wane, tides ebb and flow, the planets observe
their cycles, morning, noon, and night perform their functions, the
clouds pour their treasures into the bosom of the thirsty earth, the
dews distil their freshness on the tender blade, and the electric fluid
unobserved, in perpetual motion, as the anima mundi, ministers to life
in every form of vegetable, animal and human existence.

Why, then, to reason's ear should it sound discordant, or to reason's
eye appear uncouth, that, in the scheme of redemption and regener-
ation, God's instrumentalities should be as numerous and as various,
yet as co-operative as those in outward and sensible nature?

Again, let us survey the works of man to man, his modes and forms
of action in the consummation of some grand scheme of human bene-
faction. Take, for example, that philanthropist, who, standing on the
sea-shore, descries a ship-wrecked crew clinging to a portion of the
wreck tossed to and fro among the foaming billows of an angry sea.
He calls to his son, and commands him to seize a boat and hasten to
their rescue. He obeys. Cheerfully he plies the oars, and fearlessly
struggles through many a conflicting wave, till he reaches the almost
famished and fainting crew. He commands them to seize his arm and
let go the wreck, and he will help them into his boat. They obey,
and all aboard, he commands them to grasp each his oar and co-operate
with him in seeking the port of safety. They cheerfully co-operate
and are saved.

The spectators and the narrators of this scene, form and express
very different views of it. One says, the perishing crew were saved
by a man on the shore; another, by his son; another, by a boat;
another, by getting into a boat; another, by rowing themselves to
shore} another, by a favorable breeze.

They all told the truth. There is no contradiction in their repri>-
sentations. But a philosopher says, they were saved by all these means
together. Such is the case before us.

These means may be regarded as causes co-operating in the result,
all necessary, not one of them superfluous. But some one of them to
one person, another to a second person, another to a third person, and
another to a fourth, appears more prominent than the others; conse-
quently, in narrating the deliverance, he ascribes it mainly to that
cause which, at the time, made the most enduring impression on his
own mind.

But the calm, contemplative thinker thus arranges these concurrent
causes. The original or moving cause was the humanity and kindness
of the father, that stood on the shore and saw them about to perish.


His son, who txK>k the boat and imperiled his life, was the efficient or
meritorious cause. The boat itself was the instrumental cause. The
knowledge of their own coadition and the kind invitation tendered
to the sufferers was the disposing cause. Their consenting to the c-on-
dition was Oie formal cause. Their seizing the lx)at with their hands
and springing into it was the immediate cause. And their co-operative
rowing to the shore was the concurrent aad effectual cause of their

Had any one of the apostles been accosted by captious, inquisitive
and speculative partizans for a reconciliation of all he had said, or
that his fellow laborers had said in their narratives, or allusions to.
particular persons, scenes, or events happening in his presence, or
under his administration of affairs; had he been requested to explain
or reconcile them with what he, or others of equal authority, had, on
other occasions said, or written, concerning them, doubtless In some
such way he could, and would have explained them. Indeed, in the
common experience of all courts of enquiry and tribunals of justice,
where numerous statements are made on questions of facts, by a single
witness, and still more when a plurality are examined, such diversified
representations are made rather to the confirmation than to the detri-
ment or disparagement of the import, or the credibility of these state-
ments. How often, and by how many cavillers have the Four Gospels
been subjected to such ordeals, on such pretenses? But who has yet
found good reasons to disparage or discredit these narratives on
account of such assaults or misunderstandings?

No question agitated since the era of Protestantism has occupied
so much attention, or concentrated a greater amount of learning and
research, than the question of justification by faith; not, Indeed,
because of the inherent difficulties of the subject, but because of the
defection and apostacy of the papal hierarchy — and the thick pall of
darkness and error with which it had enveloped the whole Bible. One
extreme generates another. Hence the terminology of the most ortho-
dox schools on this subject is neither so Scriptural nor so intelligible
as the great importance of the subject demands.

To harmonize the seven statements found in the Bible, on this
subject, we know no method more rational or more Scriptural than
that indicated in the illustration given. We are pardoned and treated
as righteous, or in other words, we are justified by the grace of God
the Father, as the original and moving cause; by Christ his Son, and
by his blood, or sacrifice, as the meritorious cause; by faith and knowl-
edge as instrumental causes, by our convictions of sin and penitence
as the disposing cause; and by works as the concurrent or concomitant
cau.sp. This, however, as justifying God in Justifying us. ''You see,"
said the apostle James, "how faith wrought by works," in the case


of Abraham, when he offered up his son upon the altar; "and by works
his faith was made perfect." Indeed, true faith necessarily works;
therefore, a working faith is the only true, real, and proper faith in
Divine or human esteem.

Faith without works is no more faith than a corpse is a man. It
is, therefore, aptly by high authority regarded as "dead." Faith alone,
or faith without works, profits nothing. But as Romanists taught
works without faith, Protestants have sometimes taught faith without
works. The latter quote Paul, and the former quote James, as plenary
authority. But the two apostles have fallen into bad hands. Paul
never preached faith without works, nor James works without faith.
Between these parties the apostles have been much abused.

Controversies generate new terms or aifix new ideas to words. The
question between Calvin and Arminius — or between their followers, is
not the identical question between Paul and the Jews, or James and
nominal Christians.

The works of the law and the works of faith are as different as
law and gospel. Works, indeed, are to be considered as the embodiments
of views, thoughts, emotions, volitions, and feelings. They are appre-
ciable indications of the states of the mind, sensible exponents of the
condition of the inner man. For example, he that seeks justification
by the works of the law is not in a state of mind to be justi
fied by the blood of Christ, or by the grace of God; he is igno-
rant of himself, ignorant of God; consequently, too proud of his
powers to condescend to be pardoned or justified by the mere mercy
and merits of another. Rich and independent in his views of himself,
he can not think of being a debtor to the worth and compassion of
one, who contemplates him as ruined and undone for ever. He is too
proud to be vain, or too vain to be proud of himself. In either view
he can not submit to the righteousness of faith. For this purpose,
Paul saya of the Pharisaic Jews, "They being ignorant of God's right-
eousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have
not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God," or to that right-
eousness which God has provided for the ungodly.

On the other hand, the works of him that is justified by faith are
exponents of an essentially different state of mind. He is humble,
dependent, grateful. Feeling himself undone, ruined, a debtor without
hope to pay, he sues for mercy and mercy is obtained; he is grateful,
thankful, and humble before God. In this view of the matter, to justify
a man for any work of which he is capable, would be to confirm him
in carnality, selfishness and pride. But convinced, humbled, emptied
of himself, and learning, through faith in the gospel, that God has
provided a ransom for the ruined, the wretched, and the undone, ha
gladly accepts pardon through sovereign mercy, and humbles himself


to a state of absolute dependence on the merits and mercy of another.
Justification by faith in Christ is, then, the embodiment of views in
perfect harmony with truth — with our condition, with the "whole
revealed character of God, and necessarily tends to humility, gratitude,
piety, and humanity, while justification sought by works as naturally
tends to pride, ingratitude, impiety, and inhumanity.

Such being the true philosophy of justification by faith, and of
justification sought and supposed to be obtained by works of law, we
need not marvel that the God of all grace after having sent his Son
Into our world to become a sacrifice for us — to die for our sins, and to
rise again for. our justification, should have instituted faith in him —
ir. his death, burial, and resurrection; as the means of a perfect recon-
ciliation to himself, commanding us not only to cherish this faith in
our hearts, but exhibit it by a visible death to sin; a burial with Christ
to sin, and a rising again to walk in a new life, expressed and sym-
bolized by an immersion in water into the name of the Father, of tho
Son, and of the Holy Spirit, not as a work of righteousness, but as a
mere confession of our faith in what he did for us, and of our fixed
purpose to walk in him. Hence it is the only suitable institution to
such an indication, as being not a moral work of righteousness, but a
mere passive surrendering of ourselves to die, to be buried, and to be
raised again by the merit and aid of another.

Baptism is, therefore, no work of law, no moral duty, no moral
righteousness, but a simple putting on of Christ and placing ourselves
wholly in. his hand and under his guidance. It is an open, sensible,
voluntary expression of our faith in Christ, a visible embodiment of
faith, to which, as being thus perfected, the promise of remission of
sins is Divinely annexed. In one word, it is faith perfected. Hence,
when Paul exegetically develops its blessings, he says — "But you are
washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of tho
Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our Lord." * Thus justification, sanc-
tifiration. and adoption — the throe most precious gifts of the gospel,
are evangelically connected with faith in the Lord Jesus, and baptism
into his death.

The immediate baptism of the first converts, after faith is satis-
factorily explained in this view of it; three thousand, in one day,
believed and were baptized. The jailor and his family were enlight-
ened, believed, and were baptized the same hour of the night. Paul
himself, so soon as he had recovered from the influence of the super-
natural brightness which deprived him of sight, and before he had
eaten or drank any thing, was commanded, without delay, to bo fortn-
with baptized. "And he arose and was baptized." Baptism, with them,
was the perfecting or confession of their faith. The Ethiopian Eunuch,