James Bowling Mozley.

A review of the baptismal controversy online

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baptism; this connexion being implied in a whole class
of phrases even where it is not explicitly stated. The
regenerate state then, it is argued, is distinguished ih
Scripture from actual goodness, and therefore does not in
Scripture imply actual goodness.

But there is an evident mistake in such reasoning as
this, for let it be assumed that regeneration has in Scrip-
ture a special and appropriate use in connexion vdth
baptism, does it, therefore, lose in this connexion the
meaning which it bore antecedently as a word ? The
laws of language, and the very consistency of language,
are against such an inference ; for why should one word
rather than another be selected for a special use, but
because that word has a particular signification which is

» Rom. vi. 6, 2, 22.

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72 Scriptural Sense of Regeneration. [Paet L

wanted for that use f It is plainly not any word whioh
will do for such appropriation^ bat some one word is
taken in preference to others^ On account of its meaning
as a word. But if that meaning is the reason why it is
selected, why is that meaning dropped as a consequence
of its selection? The word *^ regenerate '' then, or
''bom of Grod/' evidently implying in its meaning as
a word actoal goodness in Scripture, this meaning still
goes on when the word is appropriated, and regeneration
in baptism is still regeneration in its antecedent and
natoral sense.

This is, indeed, a fallacy which pervades the remarks
of some very respectable divines on this subject. It is
assumed that if regeneration is distinguished from actual
goodness, it therefore does not mean actual goodness ;
but words may, and constantly do, include in their mean-
ing that from which they are distinguished, retaining a
general and antecedent meaning, though at the same
time distinguished firom it by a special application. Thus
law, truth, light, spirit, covenant, faith. Church, kingdom,
power, glory, good tidings, become in Scripture the law,
the truth, tiie light, the Spirit, the covenant, the faith,
the Church, the kingdom, the power, the glory, the good
tidings or Evangel ; but these terms retain their ante-
cedent meaning as terms, and do not lose it on account
of the appropriation. The law of Moses was a law in the
true and antecedent sense of the word ; the truth is truth,
the light is light, the covenant a covenant, the Spirit
spirit. Life, death, salvation, damnation, judgment, and
other words have a like appropriation in Scripture, but
they retain notwithstanding their original and antecedent
meanings. And, according to the same law of language,
baptismal regeneration is still regeneration: the word
does not cease to mean a particular thing, because that
thing is conveyed by a particular channel. How that

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Chap. V.] Scriptural Sense of Regeneration. 73

thing is conveyed by that channel is a question with
which we are not at present concerned. As a law of
language, the old meaning which existed before this
connexion goes on with it, and whatever the word meant
as a word, that it continues to mean as an appropriated
word. It may. gain additional meaning, as involving in
its special connexion remission of sin and admission to a
new covenant, but it does not forfeit its old meaning.
Begeneration even in the Calvinistic definition is Ais-
tingvished from actual goodness, as being an actual
goodness which is infused into the soul at a particular
time, viz. at the moment of the effectual call, or in elect
infants at baptism or before baptism; and also as in-
volving in addition the pardon of sin past; but it does
not the less mecm actual goodness in the Calvinistic

The baptismal controversy has thus exhibited a mis-
take on both sides. On the one side it has certainly
been a mistake to deny, in the face of such strong
evidence, that the term '' regenerate '' has an appropriate
use in connexion with baptism : but on the other side it
has also been a good deal forgotten that this term has
a meaning of its own apart from its connexion with
baptism, which meaning it does not lose, but retains in
this connexion. If asked where this antecedent meaning
is to be found, I go back to the proof which I have already
adduced on this subject, to those statements of Scripture
which have been already referred to, in which the phrase
'' son of Gk)d," or " bom of God,'' is evidently used as
implying certain qualities and characteristics. It is
therefore not enough, in describing regeneration, to say
that it is baptismal regeneration, unless we also state
what it — regeneration itself — ^is; i.e. go back to its
natural and antecedent meaning as a word. For it is
reversing the proper order of things to deduce our idea

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74 Scriptural Sense of Regeneration. [Part L

of regeneration from baptism^ instead of oar idea of tlie
baptismal gift from regeneration.

Bat it is not necessary to appeal to the laws of Ian-
gnage for deciding this qaestion^ for the passages in
Scripture which are cited on this qaestion, as containing
an express or implicit reference to baptism as the act by
which Christians had become regenerate^ decide it of
themselves ; obvioasly referring to the state into which
Christians had by that act entered^ as a state of actaal
holiness and goodness. It is remarked by divines that
in varioas passages in the Epistles the new spiritual con-
dition of Christians is put in the past tense^ and they
thence infer an implied reference in these passages to
baptism, as the act by which this new spiritual condition
had been obtained. How then is this new spiritual con-
dition described in these passages^ and what are the
characteristics given of it in this connexion ? Is it de-
scribed as a mere capacity or power ? By no means, but
plainly as a state of actual goodness and holiness. " Now
if we died with Christ ' " — " Now if we died to sin," ' says
St. Paul; **how shall we live any longer therein? . . .
for he that hath died is free from sin.''* "We were
buried with Him by baptism unto death''* — '' We were
planted together in the likeness of His death " * — " Our
old man was crucified with Him " ' — " Having been made
free from sin, ye becamie the servants of righteousness " '
— '^ Having been made free from sin, and haA)ing become
the servants of God, ye have your fruit unto holiness " *
— " The law of the Spirit of Christ hath made me free
from the law of sin and death"* — ''Ye received the
Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." • The

« Rom. vi. 8. ' Rom. vi 2. • Rom. vi. 7.

• Rom. vi. 4. * Rom. vi 5. * Rom. vi. 6.

» Rom. vi. 18. * Rom. vi. 22. » Rom. viii. 2.

• Rom. viii 16.

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Chap. V.] Scriptural Sense of Regeneration. 75

plirases ^' having died to sin,*' '' the old man having been
crucified/' "having been made free from sin," '^having
become the servants of righteousness/' ** having become
the servants of God/' imply in their natural signification
an actual mortification of carnal, and the sway of spiritual^
affections in the soul^ or an actual state of holiness and
goodness. And therefore the actual language of those
very passages in which regeneration is contemplated in
connexion with baptism shows that regeneration con-
tinues to imply holiness and goodness^ and by no means
loses that meaning in this connexion.

2. Another argument against the term "child of
God " implying in Scripture actual goodness arises from
the application of the term in the Old Testament to the
Jewish people. The Jewish nation is called in the Old
Testament God's son, — " Israel is My son, even My
firstborn." *' Te are the children of the Lord your God,"
says Moses to the people, and the name is applied to
them on several occasions, especially in the prophetical
writings. It is argued, then, that the only reason there
could be for the application of the term to them, was
that the Jewish people were admitted into covenant with
God, and to particular privileges in connexion with it ;
and therefore, that the term is evidently not used in
Scripture to imply actual goodness, but only admission
to covenant relations and privileges.

But, in the first place, the language of the Old Testa-
ment as a whole throws extreme doubt upon this as a
true and adequate account of the application of the term
to the Jewish nation. The Jewish nation was admitted
indeed to a covenant with God, and to various privileges
in connexion with that covenant, especially to the know-
ledge of the true God, of His nature. His will, and of
the true worship of Him. But we must also consider
what was the immediate consequence of this admission

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76 Scriptural Sense of Regeneration. [Part I.

of the Jewish natiou to this remarkable spiritual light
from which the rest of mankind were exclnded. The
conseqaence of the Jewish nation being admitted to this
knowledge of God and of the worship of Him^ was that
it did actnally possess a true faith in God, and practised
a true worship of Him, which no other nation of the
world possessed or practised. Its faith and its worship
were not opportunities only, or capacities only, but per-
formances; and the nation is represented in Scripture
as not only admitted to a covenant, but as having re-
ceived an actual religious mould firom the fashioning
hand of God. And accordingly we find the Jewish nation,
as it is called in the Old Testament the '^ son of Qod/*
so also called in the same Old Testament '^ the righteous
nation'^ — ^not, of course, that all the individuals of it
possessed a true faith, or gave God a true worship, but
that some did ; and that, according to a common figure
of speech, the nation was represented after the type of
the better portion of it. However great a mixture the
Jewish people, regarded only as an aggregate of indi-
viduals, may have been ; regarded as a unity, the nation
is represented in Scripture as — though guilty indeed of
backslidings and great sins, as righteous persons often
are-— still righteous;' and as righteous entering in the
page of futurity into its eternal reward, and admitted
into that paradise which brightens the distant horizon,
and forms the closing scene of prophecy. '^ Ah, sinful
nation,'' says the Almighty, through the Prophet, "a
people laden with iniquity;" but it follows, "I will
purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin ;

' " Dens electos snos a se aversos per peccatom revocat sane ad
se, ut revocavit Davidem, Petrum, et alios mnltos . . . Nee de alia
Dei gratia ad aversos ab ipso electos ejus testantnr dicta prophe-
tamm . . . nbi de totius popuU Dei, non de singnloram hominum
restitatione vates loqoitar/' Bucer, Script. Angl., p. 811.

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Chap, v.] Scriptural Sense of Regeneration. yj

af fcerward thou shalt be called^ The city of righteoasness^
the faithful city/'* The tongue of prophecy never wearies
with describing the spiritual greatness and glory of the
chosen nation. ^'I will make thy officers peace^ and
thine exactors righteousness . . • thou shalt call thy
walls Salvation^ and thy gates Praise." • '^ Open ye the
gates^ that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth
may enter in."' ''Thy people shall be all righteous,
they shall inherit the land for ever."' ''I will place
salvation in Zion for Israel My glory.'' * *' They shall go
to confusion together that are makers of idols. But
Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting
salvation : ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world
without end."* It makes no difference if the Jewish
people is, as the subject of these prophecies, a typical
people — a type of the true Israel, and of the Elect. For
if *'the righteous nation "is typical, the nation whom
God calls His " son " is typical also : it is enough that
it is the same collective personage which is called the
*' son," which is also called " righteous ;" that it is the
same people and the same name of '' Israel " that unites
both epithets. Indeed, that the Jewish nation is, as it con-
fessedly is, the type of the Elect, is a circumstance which
throws peculiar light upon the other fact, viz. that God
addresses it as His son.

The term ''son of God" then does not, when we
examine the language of older inspiration as a whole,
appear to be used in the Old Testament except in con-
nexion with actual goodness, — ^whether belonging to an
abstract or a typical personage, or a real person, is irrele-
vant ; but, in the next place, we must consider that in the
present argument we have to do not with the Old Testa-
ment, but with the New Testament use of the term. We

• Isa. L 4, 25, 26. » Isa. li. 17, 18. > Isa. ixvi. 2.

« Isa. Ix. 21. » Isa. xlvi. 13. * Isa. xlv. 16, 17.

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have to do with this term in a particular connexion, viz.
as expressing a particakr change which takes place in the
soul under the later and spiritual dispensation ; and the
meaning of the term, as expressing this change, is what
it has been stated to be.

8. Again, in answer to the proof of the sense of the term
'' son of God " in the New Testament, the application of
this or synonymous terms to whole bodies of Christians is
appealed to as evidence that when Scripture apparently
speaks of the regenerate state as involving actual good-
ness, this is not its real meaning; for that, if it was,
Scripture would not address, in this way, all Christians as
regenerate. But to rest upon this ground for the disproof
of the natural meaning of express statements of Scripture,
is to rest not only upon unsafe ground, but upon ground
which the admissions of all schools of divines have made
altogether untenable. It may be granted, indeed, that
this state is attributed in the Epistles to whole Christian
bodies, if not expressly, by allusion and implication ; the
members of those bodies being constantly addressed in
them as regenerate persons; phrases equivalent to this
being used if the exact word is not. But it is universally
admitted by divines that Scripture makes use of pre-
sumptive or hypothetical language. This a known and
recognized principle, which is constantly taken into
account in, the interpretation of Scripture: indeed it
would not be easy to mention any principle of construc-
tion, of a special sort, which was of more familiar occurrence
than this, or had obtained more general and undoubted
acceptance, with all schools of expositors. It is a principle
which is constantly appealed to in our standard commen-
taries, and which is had recourse to without any hesitation
for the explanation of various statements of Scripture.
No doubt, indeed, has ever been entertained of the fact
that this is a form of speech which is in use in Scripture,

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Chap. V.] Scriptural Sense of Regeneration. 79

Le. as to the principle itself of sapposition being adopted
by Scripture : it is therefore appealed to^ circumstances
appearing to require it^ by divines^ as naturally and as
confidently as certain conventional constructions and
figures of speech in language are appealed to by gram-
marians. It is generally allowed that when all Christians
are addressed in the New Testament as ''saints/^ '^ dead
to sin,^' "alive to God/' *^ risen with Christ/' "having
their conversation in heaven/' and in other like modes^
they are addressed so hypothetically^ and not to express
the literal fact that all the individuals so addressed were
of this character ; which would not have been true.

When then we have this plain and strong evidence of
the Scriptural sense of the term " child of God " before
us, viz. that wherever Scripture describes him, explains
what he is, and tells us what his characteristics are, it
invariably describes him as a good and holy person, and
makes these the characteristics of sonship; we cannot
give up this as the Scriptural sense of the term, in con-
sideration of such an argument as this — an argument, be
it observed, not resting upon any plain statements of
Scripture, but only upon an inference from a certain
application of the word, and that inference open to the
answer here given. Could any positive statements of
Scripture indeed be appealed to which actually described
the regenerate man in a different way from that in which
he is described in the statements which were above cited,
such language would form a proper ground for another
meaning of the term : in which case we could only say that
Scripture contained two different meanings of this term.
But this application of the term in Scripture is no ground
whatever for another sense of the term ; showing as it
does, not that the term as applied to the whole Christian
body does not mean actual goodness, but only that meaning
this, it is applied hypothetically. The diflSculty which is

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8o Scriptural Sense of Regeneration. [Part I.

raised is solved by another explanation than that which is
brought forward^ and that an explanation iq perfect har-
mony with the style and rules of Scripture.

Some divines have indeed preferred as a theological ar-
rangement a secondary sense of the term '^ regenerate '' to
the hypothetical application of it in its true sense. But what
is this secondary sense when we examine it ? It is iiself
no more than the true sense hypothetically applied. They
therefore gain nothing by the exchange^ and only avoid
one form of doing a thing in order to do the same thing
under another. They say that the regenerate state, when
attributed to whole bodies, means that they are regene-
rate, new creatures, members of Christ, children of God
fcy external profession. But what is an external profession
but a supposition which men make or desire to have made
about themselves ? Divines have in the same way main-
tained a Scriptural secondary sense of the term *^ saint/*
as " saint by outward vocation and charitable presump-
tion ;" ' but this is in very terms only the real sense of
the term applied hypothetically.

We have thus from an examination of the language of
Scripture, ascertained what is the true and Scriptural
sense of the term " regenerate,'* or '* born of God/' which
we should distinguish from certain incorrect and inade-
quate senses. 1. Regeneration is not simply ^roca, though
these words have been commonly used as synonymous in
recent controversy. Grace is the generic term including
even altogether fruitless grace, or mere a.ssisting grace
even if it produces nothing in the person to whom it is
given; but regeneration is a grace which implies fruit, or
an actual state of goodness in a man. 2. Regeneration is
not simply remission of sin actual or original, but involves
a positive quality of goodness. 3. Regeneration is not a^


* Pearson on the Creed, Art. ix.

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Chap. V. J Scriptural Sense of Regeneration. 8 1

mere change of federal relations to God, or admission to
a covenant containing the promise of eternal life, if we
are qualified, but involves the qualification. 4. Eegene-
ration implies not a mere capacity for goodness, but
goodness itself.

Two false distinctions may be noticed in conclusion : —

1. Eegeneration is pronounced by some to be totally
different from renovation; Waterland drawing the dis-
tinction thus: '^Eegeneration,^' he says, ''is a kind of
renewal, but then it is of the spiritual state considered at
large, whereas renovation seems to mean a more parti-
cular kind of renewal, namely, of the inward frame or
disposition of the man." * This distinction is untrue, for
regeneration is certainly presented to us in the New
Testament as "the renewal of the inward frame and
disposition,^' and therefore so far it is exactly the same
as renovation. Begeneration, indeed, only differs from
renovation, in being renovation and something besides,
viz. remission of sin : the term as appropriated to express
the grace of baptism, involving this addition.

2. Another false distinction is the contrast between
regeneration as a birth, and a certain spiritual character
and disposition which has to be formed and grow into
existence after this birth by the contingent exertion of
the will. The act of regeneration is a birth, but it is a
birth into a state of actual possession, not of means of
acquisition only ; and from the moment that it takes place
goodness exists, and has not to grow into existence,
though it admits of growth. The regenerate man may
rise indefinitely in the scale of perfection, but he is still,
from the moment that he is regenerate, a formed spiritual
man, having actual goodness ; of which his birth is the
beginning and first enjoyment indeed* but not the mere
rudimental capacity.

* On B^eneration, voL iv. p. 433.


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Without going to the Fathers to ascertain the true mean-
ing of the term regenerate, which has been already ascer-
tained from Scripture, — inasmuch as whatever be the sense
in which Scripture uses the word, that is the true one, —
it is not unimportant to observe that the Scriptural mean-
ing of this term as stated in the last chapter is accepted
and carried on by the Fathers.

1. And first, as has been already observed, this word
has a meaning of its own as a word employed in language
to signify something. What is the meaning then which
attaches to it in the Fathers, in this independent use, and
apart from a sacramental connexion ?

We rarely meet then with the very term regenerate in
the Fathers in this independent use, though it occurs
sufficiently often to have its meaning clearly stamped upon
it, and that meaning the Scriptural one. Clement of
Rome says that " Noah preached regeneration,'^ evidently
using the term as a synonym for '^ righteousness," of
which St. Peter calls Noah a '' preacher," * and for
^' repentance," of which Clement himself has just before
called the same Noah a preacher.' Clement of Alexandria

» 2 Pet ii. 6.

' Nfi^f iriar6s (vp€d€ts dm rrjs Xeirovpyias avrov n<iKtyytV€a'lap Kdafm
€Kripv^€v, 1 Ep. ad Cor. 's. 9. N«€ fKrjpv^ furdyomv, 8. 7. The
explanation of St. Clement's meaning, as being that Noah an-
nounced baptismal regeneration, by foretelling the Flood, which
vioa a type of the latter, is far-fetched.

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Patristic Sense of Regeneration, 83

calls the yoang man^s return to piety after a post-bap-
tismal lapse into a robber's life, regeneration^ and applies
the same term to the repentance of the adolteress.^
^^ How shall a man," says Hippolytus, " be regenerated ?
By not committing adultery, murder, or idolatry, by over-
coming pleasure and pride, by throwing oflf the defilement
and burden of sin and corruption." *

But for the proof of the Patristic meaning of ^' rege-
nerate," in its independent use as a word, we are not
restricted to the occurrence of that very word itself,
because, as has been observed, there is another term
which is perfectly synonymous with it, and is to all intents
and purposes the same word, viz. the term "bom of
God," or " child of God." Whatever this latter phrase
then means, in its independent use as a phrase, that the
former means as well. But this opening admits us to a
field of evidence as large and ample as could be desired;

' Aidovff/irya irapadcty/ia \ura»o[aiakr\6%.in\i «eal yAya yvoipia'fia iroXiy-
ycvro-ior. Ap. Enseb. Hist. 1. 3, c. 23.

*H yap rot nopP(v<ra(ra Q fxiv rfj dfiapritf a-niBavtv di rais cvrdkais' ^
dc fjttTcuforitraa'a, olov dvaycwrjBiiaa Karh rffv orcoTpo^^y rov fiiov, iraXiy-
y€¥€tTiav tx«i Ms, Strom. L 2, c. 23. Much is made by some of
the ctov here, as if it were a confession of incorrectness in the use
of avay€vvr)B€ta'a in the sense here given to it. Bnt if olop does
stand here for " as it were/' all that we can gather from it is, that
"bom again " is & metaphor for change of life, not that change of
Hf e is not the correct meaning of the metaphor : it is, however,
rendered in the translation of Sylbnrgins which Potter adopts
simply — " ut qum nV The nse of the term in these two passages
is explained by some as having reference to regeneration in baptism
reviving npon repentance and amendment after a course of sin ;
and regeneration is understood in them to mean not simply re-
generation, bnt ** a sort of second regeneration." This is an assump-
tion, however, for which there is no ground. Not indeed that much
difference would be made were this gloss even admitted. For how

Online LibraryJames Bowling MozleyA review of the baptismal controversy → online text (page 7 of 38)