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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)


      In 1859, page 61, Mr. Campbell says:


      These are the four cardinal themes of the true Christology, and of a Biblical Theology. Very much, indeed, depends upon a Scriptural definition and appreciation of terms so cardinal. They give birth to four verbs of large comprehension,--to regenerate, to justify, to sanctity, and to adopt.

      These being, one and all, Scriptural terms, we must consider their precise Scriptural currency and value in the apostolic writings, if we would enjoy the gospel. Their popular currency, in modern creeds, is, indeed, one inquiry, and their evangelic currency, in the apostolic diction and style, is quite another inquiry. The latter, with us, is paramount. We have, on former occasions, remonstrated against an erroneous conception and appropriation of these terms. They are yet occasionally used inappropriately, the four cardinal terms in modern and in original Christian terminology. Regeneration is represented in the Greek Christian Scriptures, by Paliggenesia. It is not found, or has no representative in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is a new covenant or New Testament term. And, therefore, it belongs exclusively to the Christian Institution. In Matt. xix. 28, its first occurrence, it is defined by our highest authorities in these words: "Regeneratio per quam ibi intelligitur totius naturae nostrae perfecta renevatio et instauratio, plenaria peccati et mortis abolitio;" which we literally translate in the following words:

      By this word is here understood--"a perfect renovation and instauration of our whole nature;" or, in our every day currency,--a perfect renewal and restoration of our whole 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 Christendom, to be the legitimate and precise meaning of the word Paliggenesia, represented by the Roman and English word regeneration. No man, we presume to say, of literary reputation, will hazard that reputation by denying this exegesis or definition of the term.

      We, however, think that our composite Saxon word renewal is as 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 [501] 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 washing of the new birth, are not identical terms nor identical ideas. A man, a physical or an animal man, "must," under the Christian economy, "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 authority.

      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 contemporary 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 these 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, represent 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 character to these states or relations. No Christian man can, therefore, be 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." Politically, in our enlightened country, we are orthodox. An alien is transmuted or regenerated into a citizen. And, so soon as politically regenerated, 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. [502]

      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:--

"Before the throne and first in song,
      Man may his hallelujahs raise;
  While wondering angels round him throng,
      And swell the chorus of his praise."

      There are, then, no degrees in justification, sanctification, 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 represented regeneration, justification, sanctification, and adoption as several 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.      

      Alexander Campbell. "Regeneration, Justification, Sanctification, Adoption." The Millennial Harbinger 30
(February 1859): 61-64.


[MHA1 501-503]

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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)