Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.

Faith and life; 'conferences' in the Oratory of Princeton seminary online

. (page 27 of 27)
Online LibraryBenjamin Breckinridge WarfieldFaith and life; 'conferences' in the Oratory of Princeton seminary → online text (page 27 of 27)
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Begetting is the implanting of a seed of life, and
it is the very nature of life to live, that is, to man-
ifest its essential nature in outward activities.
But the seed implanted in this begetting is the
seed of holy living; how can it be said to be there
if it is not manifested in holy living? It is of the
very nature of the thing that only those who do
righteousness can have been begotten by the
Righteous God unto newness of life.

But is not John then blending regeneration
with sanctification.f^ If none is born of God —
regenerated — unless he doeth righteousness, is
not this to say that by the mystical act of being
begotten of God — regeneration — a man must be
made holy, and unless he has been made holy, he
is not born of God.^ Yes, and no. For John,
while insisting that no one is born of God who does
not do righteousness, does not represent him as
having already in his new birth attained his goal.
An infant is not a full-grown man. Nor is he who
is born of God already perfected in likeness to
God. John, too, represents this as a growth.
He asserts that only those who do righteousness
are the children of God; but he claims to be him-
self — ^he claims that his readers are — already chil-
dren of God. "And such we are." "Are"—
already. "Beloved, now we are children of God."


Does he claim perfected righteousness for himself
or them? "If we say that we have no sin, we
deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." Yet
throughout our passage, and beyond, he insists
with iterated emphasis that the mark of the child
of God is that he does righteousness, and that he
who does sin is of the devil. There is no contra-
diction here. John, too, knows the root and the
tree; the flower and the fruit. He, no more than
Paul, claims to be already perfect. Even the
infant is like his father; and whoever is born of
God does righteousness like the Righteous Father,
though he does it like an infant, with many a
false step, with many a fall. He must, like other
infants, grow up and learn to walk in the new path.
And so John in our passage does not look upon
the new birth as all; he expects a growth and
promises it. "Beloved, we are already children
of God" — his readers, after that formulated test
of doing righteousness, needed assurance of it;
"we are already children of God." "And it is
not yet made manifest what we shall be" — not
yet made manifest! The completed righteousness
is not yet present — "we know that if He shall be
manifested, we shall be like Him for we shall see
Him as He is." Ah, here is the goal on which
John sets his eyes! We have not yet the per-
fected likeness to our Righteous Father, merely
because we are born of God; we must grow up to
be altogether like Him. It is a process; a growth;


only when the infant becomes a man, is the like-
ness complete.

And, therefore, the Apostle has an exhortation
for us as well as an instruction. We have re-
ceived in our new birth the germ of our new life
of righteousness; but we have not received in it
that whole new life in perfection. God never
intended to carry us to the skies on flowery beds
of ease. The righteousness that we are to do does
not consist in that; it does not rest unless and
until it is done, done in spite of temptation, in
conquest of evil. And so John points our eyes to
the completed fruit of our endeavours — true, de-
veloped likeness to God — as the goal of effort,
and adds his exhortation. Are we born of God?
Is the germ within us.? What a glory! But what
a glory there is stretching yet beyond! Devel-
oped likeness to God! "And every one having
this hope within him, purifieth himself even as He
is pure." Here is John's prescription for the life
of the sons of God. Let us take it to heart and
live by it.

Perhaps, then, we may sum up by saying that
in this pregnant passage John gives us :

(1) The root of childship to God in God's in-
effable love.

(2) The creation of children of God through
God's sovereign power.

(3) The evidence of childship to God in the doing
of righteousness.


(4) The hope of the children of God, developed
likeness to God.

(5) The duty of the children of God, to purify
themselves as God is pure.

(6) The end of the children of God — ^the as yet
unmanifested glory of perfect assimilation to
their Father's character.

Date Due



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Online LibraryBenjamin Breckinridge WarfieldFaith and life; 'conferences' in the Oratory of Princeton seminary → online text (page 27 of 27)