"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « Nearest to the Sun | Main | Law and Gospel On The Dividing Line Today... »

    Regeneration by Archibald Alexander

    Archibald Alexander was the first professor and principal of Princeton Seminary. He was well respected and labeled "The Physician of the Soul". In fact, Charles Hodge was so influenced by this great man that he named one of his son's after him-"A.A Hodge". His tremendous amount of years as a pastor and professor make him an excellent resource for understanding the soul.

    1. Regeneration is the commencement of spiritual life in a soul before dead in sin, by the omnipotent agency of God; and the exercises of this life are specifically different from all the exercises of an unregenerate heart.

    2. The strength of the principle of life in the new birth, as in the natural birth, is exceedingly various; for while some are brought into the world of grace in the clear light of day, and are from the first active and vigorous, and enjoy much comfort in their pious exercises; others give very obscure evidence of being in possession of life, and remain long in a state of feebleness. Indeed, some are like children who seem at birth to be dead, but afterwards revive, and by degrees acquire vigor and maturity. But it by no means is a uniform fact that the children who are most healthy and vigorous at birth, continue to be so throughout life. Disease or other disasters may check their growth, and debilitate their constitution; while those who commence life in extreme weakness may acquire strength, and grow prosperously from year to year; so that, in mature age, they may have greatly surpassed many who were much more healthy and vigorous in the earliest stage of existence. Analogous to this are the facts observable in the spiritual life.

    3. While some may experience this change so remarkably that they never can doubt of its reality, and can refer to the very day when they emerged from darkness to life, others, who nevertheless are truly regenerated, remain long in doubt about their spiritual state; and even when the evidence of their conversion becomes satisfactory, they are utterly unable to fix the precise time when they began to live. And it is probable that many who speak with confidence of the time and place of their new birth, mistake entirely respecting this point: the time to which they refer the commencement of their spiritual life, is more probably the season of some clear manifestation of the divine favor, when darkness and sorrow were succeeded by joy and peace; and yet the principle of life may have existed long before. There is good reason to think that the exercises of a soul under conviction are often those of the sincere penitent.

    4. Spiritual life is progressive in its nature. Habitual growth in grace is the best evidence of its reality. Those affections and joys which are temporary, however high they may arise, are not the exercises of a new creature. Under the influence of a strong love of happiness and dread of misery, and the convictions of an awakened conscience, many are greatly concerned about their salvation, and are induced to attend diligently and earnestly on the means of grace, and often are deeply impressed and shed many tears; and from some latent principle in the human constitution an oppressive burden of misery may suddenly be succeeded by a feeling of pleasure and lightness, accompanied by the persuasion that sin is pardoned and God appeased. This change of feeling may have its origin merely in the animal frame or nervous system, and may be illustrated by the effects produced by physical causes, such as opiates, carminatives, nitrous-oxide, etc. Or these sudden joys may originate in some suggestion to the mind, as that our sins are pardoned, or that God loves us, and the delusion is more complete if this sudden suggestion comes clothed in the language of Scripture, as son or daughter "thy sins are forgiven thee." These false conversions soon die away, and like the seed on stony ground, bring no fruit to maturity. But genuine piety is a growing principle, and proves that it has deep root by its regular advancement towards perfection. This gradual process in piety is beautifully represented by our Lord under the figure of seed vegetating and going on to maturity. "So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself, first the blade, then the ear; after that the full corn in the ear." Growth in piety resembles the growth of the human body from childhood to manhood. No progress is visible from one day to another, but in months and years the increase is manifest. And as the body, while rising to maturity, may for a season be retarded or thrown back by disease, so also the health of the soul is sometimes deeply impaired, and the exercises of piety in such a state of declension, become extremely feeble. But from these diseases the Great Physician knows how to recover the souls which he has redeemed.

    5. Genuine piety is a permanent and undying principle, and thus it may be distinguished from transient impressions, however powerful; yet we should not suppose that the exercises of the real Christian are uniform, or that all experience equal fluctuations of feeling. We cannot ascertain, much less describe, all the causes which may singly, or in combination, give complexion to the frames and exercises of a child of God; nor can we determine, in many cases, why one believer enjoys so much more tranquillity and cheerful hope than another, who may be equally sincere, and equally fervent in spirit.

    A melancholy temperament, or a disposition to anticipate the worse in all matters, and to contemplate the dark side of the picture, has doubtless a great effect in modifying the exercises of many pious people. They are naturally gloomy and desponding, and they bring this temper with them into religion. They are always full of doubts and fears, and though they do really possess the characteristics of piety, they will not be encouraged to hope with confidence. They hang their heads daily like the bulrush, and are of a sorrowful spirit, and refuse to be comforted. On the other hand, persons of a sanguine temperament, as in other things, so in religion, are disposed to view every thing in the most favorable light; and although their evidences may really be no clearer than his who is forever in doubt and distress; yet they cherish a favorable opinion of their spiritual state. That, however, which we wish to inculcate is, that true piety is an abiding principle, which, however the feelings may fluctuate, never becomes extinct.

    6. One of the certain effects of divine illumination is an increasing knowledge of the sinfulness of our own hearts. These views of inbred corruption are indeed most appalling and discouraging; they are also unexpected; but they are among the most salutary with which we are favored; and they furnish the best evidence of the genuineness of a work of grace. Hypocrites may talk much of the wickedness of their hearts, and even exceed all bounds in the accusations which they bring against themselves; but their words are like the parrot's, without meaning; they would be offended if any one believed only a small part of their self-accusations. Their object is not to be thought corrupt and sinful, but humble and holy. True humility, however, arises out of this knowledge of our own hearts, and is proportioned to the degree of self-knowledge which we possess. These spiritual views also cut up by the root self-righteousness and self-dependence. The man who knows the corruption of his own heart, and the secret defects of his holiest emotions and best affections, will never be disposed to place the least dependence on his own works. This knowledge also stirs him up to prayer, by showing him his urgent necessities.

    Posted by Marco on February 11, 2014 12:23 PM

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