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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)



D O C T R I N E S   O F   R E D E M P T I O N.

      In 1833 Mr. Campbell issued an extra number of the Harbinger devoted to the subject of Regeneration, as follows:


      ["I create new heavens and a new earth."--Isa. lxv. 18. "Behold, I make all things new."--Rev. xxi.5.]

      We intend an essay full of "the seeds of things." The topic is a common one, a familiar one, and yet it is an interesting one. Much has been said, much has been written upon it; and yet it is no better understood than it ought to be. Few give themselves the trouble of thinking much on the things which they think they understand; and many would rather follow the thoughts of others, than think for themselves. Suspense is painful, much study is a weariness of the flesh; and therefore, the majority are content with the views and opinions handed to them from those who have gone before.

      We wish to treat this subject as if it were a new one; and to examine it now, as if we had never examined it before. It is worthy of it. Generation is full of wonders, for it is full of God's physical grandeur; yet regeneration is still more admirable, for in it the moral attributes of Jehovah are displayed. But we aim not at a development of its wonders, but at a plain, common-sense, Scriptural exposition of its import.

      We have not learned our theology from Athanasius, nor our morality from Seneca; and therefore we shall not call upon them for illustration, argument, or proof. To the Sacred Records, in which alone Christianity yet remains in all its freshness, we look for light; and thither would we direct the eyes of our readers. It is not the regeneration of the schools, in which Christianity has been lowered, misapprehended, obscured, and adulterated, of which we are to write; but that regeneration of which Jesus spoke, and the Apostles wrote.

      A few things must be premised--a few general views expressed, before we, or our readers, are prepared for the more minute details; and to approach the subject with all unceremonious despatch, we observe, that--

      Man unregenerate is ruined in body, soul, and spirit; a frail and mortal creature. From Adam his father he inherits a shattered constitution. He is the child of a fallen progenitor; a scion from a degenerate stock. [439]

      Superior to Adam, the exile from Eden, in physical, intellectual, and moral nature, none of his descendants can rise. It is not in nature to improve itself; for above its fountain the stream can not rise. Cain, the firstborn of Eve, was in nature the image and likeness of him that begat him. Education failed to improve him, while Abel, his younger brother, obtained the excellency which faith in God's promise alone bestows. The first born, it will be conceded, was at least equal to his younger brother: and who can plead that in nature he excels Eve's eldest son!

      Man in his ruins is, however, a proper subject of a remedial system. He is susceptible of renovation. Therefore God has placed him under a regenerating economy. This economy contemplates the regeneration of the whole human constitution, and proposes as its consummation the transformation of spirit, soul, and body. The destiny of the regenerate is described by Paul in one sentence: "As we now bear the image of the earthy Adam, we shall then bear the image of the heavenly Adam."

      God's own Son is proposed as the model. Conformity to him in glory, honor and immortality, as the perfection of the regenerate, is the predestination of him who speaks of things that be not, as though they were.

      Regeneration is, therefore, moral and physical: or, in other words, there is now a renovation of the mind--of the understanding, will, and affections;--and there will hereafter be a renovation of the body: "Far this corruptible body shall put on incorruption, and this mortal body shall put on immortality."

      The renovation of the mind and character is, therefore, that moral regeneration which is to be effected in this life; for which the remedial system, or kingdom of heaven, was set up on earth: and this, therefore, first of all, demands our attention.

      Before we attempt an answer in detail to the question, How is this moral regeneration effected? we shall attend to the principle on which the whole remedial system proceeds. The grand principle, or means which God has adopted for the accomplishment of this moral regeneration, is the full demonstration and proof of a single proposition addressed to the reason of man. This sublime proposition is, THAT GOD IS LOVE.

      The reason and wisdom of this procedure will suggest itself to every one who can understand the views and feelings of all unregenerated man. Man, in a state of alienation and rebellion, naturally suspects, that if he be a sinner, and if God hate sin, he must hate him. As love begets love, so hatred begets hatred; and if a sinner suspects that God hates him, he can not love God. He must know that God loves him, before he can begin to love God. "We [says an [440] Apostle] love God because he first loved us." While alienated in heart, through the native darkness of his understanding, the sinner misinterprets every restraint which God has placed in his way to prevent his total ruin, as indications of the wrath of heaven. His transgression of these restraints, and his consciousness of having defied the veracity and power of God, only increase his enmity, and urge him onward in his apostacy and wanderings from his creator. The goodness of God, being misunderstood, furnishes to him no incentive to repentance and reformation. Guilt and fear, and shame, the fruits of his apostacy, becloud his understanding, and veil from his eye all the demonstrations of benevolence and goodness with which the creation abounds. Adam under a tree, hiding from God, trembling with fear, suspicious of the movements of every leaf, and covered with shame as with a garment, is both an illustration and proof of these views of the state of mind which obtains in the unregenerate.

      Neither the volume of creation, nor that of God's providence, is sufficient to remove from the natural man these misconceptions, and the consequent alienation of heart. The best proof that these two volumes can not do this, is, that they never have, in any one instance, yet done it. From the nature of things it is indeed evident that they can not do it. The elements are too often at war with the happiness of man. The ever-changing attitude of the natural world in reference to health, and life, and comfort, render it at best doubtful, whether the laws of nature, which ultimately bring man down to the grave, are the effect of benevolence, or of malevolence towards mankind. A third volume, explanatory of both, and replete also with supernatural developments, is wanting, to furnish the most diligent student of nature and providence, with the means of learning the true and full character of him against whom we have rebelled.

      That volume is the Bible. Holy Prophets and Apostles spake as they were moved by the Spirit of Knowledge and Revelation. Its records, its history, its prophecy, its precepts, its laws, its ordinances, and its examples, all develop and reveal God to man, and man to himself.

      But it is in the person and mission of the INCARNATE WORD that we learn that God is love. That God gave his Son for us, and yet gives his Spirit to us--and thus gives us himself--are the mysteries and transcendent proofs of the most august proposition in the universe. The gospel, Heaven's wisdom and power combined, God's own expedient for the renovation of human, nature, is no more nor less than the illustration and proof of this regenerating proposition.

      Thus we hasten to our subject. Having glanced at the great landmarks of the plantations of nature and grace, now that we may, in the light of truth, ascertain the true and heaven-taught doctrine of [441] regeneration, we shall cautiously survey the whole process as developed by the commissioned teachers of the deep counsels of the only true God.

      That certain things, parts of this great process, may be well understood, certain terms which we are wont to use to represent them, must be well defined, and accurately apprehended. These terms are Fact, Testimony, Faith, Repentance, Reformation, Bath of Regeneration, New Birth, Renewing of the Holy Spirit, Newness of Life.

      "All things are of God" in the regeneration of man, is our motto; because our Apostle affirmed this as a cardinal truth. He is the author of the facts, and of the testimony which declares them; and being the author of these, he is the author of all the effects produced by these facts. The Christian is a new creation, of which God is the Creator. The change of heart and of character, which constitute moral regeneration, is the legitimate impression of the facts, or things which God has wrought. The facts constitute the moral seal which stamps the image of God upon man. In the natural order we must place them first, and therefore we must first define the term.

[A. C.]      

      Alexander Campbell. "Regeneration." The Millennial Harbinger Extra 4 (August 1833): 337-340.


[MHA1 439-442]

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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)