A Compendium of Christian Theology

By William Burt Pope, D.D.,

Volume Three

Chapter 1

Christian Sonship




            Nature and Definitions;



            The Term;

            The Act of God; Privilege Conferred on Man


            Access to God;


            Special Guidance of the Spirit;





            Early Fathers;

            Sacramental Theories;

            Theories of Co-operation or Divine and Human Elements;

            Baptismal Regeneration and Adoption;

            Its Order in Economy of Grace;

            Relation of Christian Regeneration to the Elements of Human Nature;

            Various Estimates of Regeneration

THE Christian privilege of Sonship is that of filial life restored to man in and through Christ. This blessing, connecting the Mediatorial Trinity, as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in a special manner with the new relations of the believer, may be distinguished as the internal Regeneration and the external Adoption. But, however distinct, these two are to be united when we consider the peculiar Prerogatives of the children of God viewed as His children: they are the rights of adoption conferred on such as are made capable of them by their renewal, or, in another view, the rights of regeneration which in adoption are acknowledged and bestowed

1. No terms are more strictly correlative than Regeneration and Adoption. They describe the same blessing under two aspects: the former referring to the filial character, the latter to the filial privilege. But they are not thus closely connected as cause and effect: they are co-ordinate, and the link between them is the common Sonship. The assurance of filial adoption does not produce the regenerate life; nor does the infusion of the perfect life of regeneration of itself invest the children of God with all the prerogatives of heirship

Moreover, they are as distinct from the other leading blessings in the economy of grace as they are themselves united. The justified state does not involve of necessity the special privileges of adoption; nor does regeneration as such imply the specific relation to God which sanctification signifies

The two terms we now consider embrace in their unity an entirely distinct department of the Spirit's administration of the New Covenant: they lead us into the household of faith and the family of God. Touching at many points those other departments, they are nevertheless perfect and complete in themselves

2. The privilege of Christian sonship connects the Holy Trinity in a peculiar manner with the administration of grace. If such a distinction may be allowed, it has a more direct connection than the other privileges of the covenant with the Son Incarnate. This specific blessing is in relation to righteousness and sanctification what the Son is in relation to the Father and the Holy Ghost. Among the last sayings of the Savior were these: I ascend unto My Father and your Father,1 to that Father of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named.2 He who is the Logos to the creation generally is the Son towards the filial creation. But this special relation to the Son extends to both aspects of sonship as adoption and regeneration. We are adopted into the relation which the Son occupies eternally: hence the term which expresses this prerogative is uiothesia, where the uios is preserved as the solitary word that is ever used to signify the Son's relation to the Father

We are regenerated by the life of Christ imparted through the Spirit: hence it is paliggenesia, and we are tekna, both terms as it were reproducing in time the eternal generation. Our regeneration answers to the eternally Begotten, our adoption to the eternally Beloved

1 John 20:17; 2 Eph. 3:15

3. There are some passages in the New Testament which unite the two; and these may be introduced as the general preface to what follows. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God:1 exousían tékna Theoú genésthai, authority or privilege to be made into children, because they believe on the name of the Son. This is precisely the same as what is afterwards called adoption. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God: here we have a most complete definition of regeneration. The two ideas run through the eighth chapter of the Romans; though both there, and in the Galatian epistle, it is the adoption that is more conspicuous. In St. Peter we have both. Which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again:2 this is regeneration; to an inheritance incorruptible denotes the adoption to which inheritance belongs as a privilege. But best of all in St. John: Behold .

. that we SHOULD BE CALLED and WE ARE the sons of God.3 In this however, as in all, our Lord Himself gave the word: If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed;4 that is, by the possession of a place among the children, and the children's freedom. If God were your Father, ye would love Me: here, as the context shows, regeneration or the possession of new life is meant

1 John 1:12; 2 1 Pet. 1:3,4; 3 1 John 3:1,2; 4 John 8:36,42


Regeneration is the final and decisive work wrought in the spirit and moral nature of man when the perfect principle of spiritual life in Christ Jesus is imparted by the Holy Ghost

Many and various descriptions of this fundamental change are given in Scripture: showing its relations to the several Persons of the Trinity, to the penitent faith of the recipient, to the means employed in effecting it. The best method of acquiring a clear view of the teaching of the word of God on this subject is simply to arrange and classify these descriptions

I. The Divine Agent in the new life is the Holy Trinity, Whose agency is that of generation and creation: each of these terms being respectively the centre of a circle of phrases

1. The Persons of the Sacred Trinity are Severally Agents. It is said of the Father: Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth.1 You hath He quickened.2 So God, generally, or God and the Father; Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . Who hath begotten us again!3 The Son quickeneth whom He will.4 I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly,5 perisson: the higher, deeper, fuller life which is the result of Christian regeneration, in contradistinction to the preliminary life that precedes the new birth, as well as to the imperfect privilege of the older economy. It is, however, the adoption of sonship which is more expressly ascribed to the Son: to them gave He power to become the sons of God6 by privilege who were born of God. But the Holy Ghost is the specific Agent: as the Administrator of redemption He is a quickening Spirit.7 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is horn of the Spirit is spirit.8 There is no more exact translation of New-Testament thought into ecclesiastical phrase than that which gave the Holy Ghost the title: to Kurion to soopoion, the Giver of life

1 Jas. 1:18; 2 Eph. 2:1; 3 1 Pet. 1:3; 4 John 5:21; 5 John 10:10; 6 John 1:12; 7 1 Cor. 15:45; 8 John 3:6

2. The Divine operation presents three general classes of terms

(1.) Some refer to generation. The simplest is that of begetting: every one that loveth Him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of Him,1 tón genneésanta. The idea is modified in St. Peter's begotten us again,2 anagenneésas. In one passage the mother's function is used in the original, though disguised in the translation: of His own will begat He us:3 apekúeesen, as before in ver. 15 the same peculiar verb is employed, bringeth forth death.4 These are united in the general word quickening: the Son quickeneth whom He will, zooopoieí. This is modified again: quickened us together with Christ.5 St. John's is a remarkable variation on the thought: whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because His seed remaineth in him.6 All these descriptions are very impressive as adopting and applying to Christians the sacred language first used of the ONLY BEGOTTEN [GOD], which is in the bosom of the Father.7(2.) Again many other terms refer to creation

St. James unites this idea with the former: begat He us . . . that we should be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures.8It is both creation, new creation, and the secondary creation of renewal, If any man be in Christ he is a new creature:9 ktísis, creation or creature. He is created in Christ Jesus unto good works. It is however a secondary creation, or reduction of the soul to order out of its chaos: by the renewing of the Holy Ghost,10 anakainoóseoos. Here we must remember the analogy of the genesis of all things at the beginning: there was an absolute creation of matter, or calling that which was not into being; and there was the subsequent fashioning of that matter into forms which constitute the habitable Cosmos. The latter is the creator on which the Scripture most dwells: whether it regards the physical or it regards the spiritual order. Just as the sleeper is dead and the dead is only asleep, —awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead,11 so the creation is only a renewal, while the renewal is no less than a creation. (3.) These sometimes are united. And have put on the new man, ton neon, which is renewed,12 tón anakainoúmenon. And be renewed in the spirit of your mind,13 ananeoústhai and that ye put on the new man, tón kainón ánthroopon, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. It is well to note, without pressing too far, the distinction between the two forms, neos and kainos, and their combinations. The former refers to time: the new man is entirely different from his FORMER self. The latter refers to quality: the new man is different from his former SELF, and the idea of a great change is more marked. In these passages the creating act of God is regarded as a process issuing in the new character; as a process in which He uses the co-operation of man. But in another passage the creating idea is used rather of a definite act: for we are His workmanship,14 poíeema, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. We are saved apart from our own merit, through a new Divine energy that prepares us for works which then are good: good because they spring from a renewed nature, are performed under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and for ever renounce all claim to goodness independent of His grace

1 1 John 5:1; 2 1 Pet. 1:3; 3 Jas. 1:15,18; 4 John 5:21; 5 Eph. 2:5; 6 1 John 3:9; 7 John 1:18; 8 Jas. 1:18; 9 2 Cor. 5:17; 10 Tit. 3:5; 11 Eph. 5:14; 12 Col. 3:10; 13 Eph. 4:23,24; 14 Eph. 2:10

II. As wrought in man, regeneration is described in many ways: there is a greater variety of indirect and figurative definitions of this blessing than of any other in the covenant of grace

1. The terms indicating the spiritual birth take the lead. Christians are born of God,1 ek toú Theoú; they are children of God; they are born again,2 ánoothen, which is the same as from above: indeed the expression has rather a local than a temporal meaning, and is strictly from above, or from heaven, that is, born of God, according to St. John's interpretation in the epistle. As describing regeneration it must have the preeminence, being our Lord's own first and only formal word on the subject. When He adds: the wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit,3 we are taught that the preliminary grace of the Holy Ghost has its mysterious issue in the new birth of him who has been born (ho gegenneeméno, in the perfect, the completion of a process). It is, as we have defined it, the full filial life. The word distinguishes the new product from that which is born of the flesh;4 it is a paliggenesia, and indicates the bestowment of a new life according to the original idea of man in the Divine mind

1 1 John 3:9,10; 2 John 3:3; 3 John 3:8; 4 John 3:3,6,7

2. It is a resurrection from a state of death; from death, and not merely a rising up generally from sin: as those that are alive from the dead.1 (1.) It is therefore the same man who was dead in trespasses and sins;2 and the idea seems to be that the new man is raised up within the old: to be nourished and grow while the latter dies. This follows the analogy of our Lord's words: except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone.3 The old nature is mortified with Christ and the new rises from it. But the analogy in other respects fails. The true life of the spirit is life in death, and death unto life; but it is not the dissolution of the old nature that feeds the new germ. (2.) Hence the stricter view of this interior new birth is that of a resurrection in the fellowship of the risen Savior, and connects it with the fellowship of His atoning death unto the condemnation of sin. In other words the new life is the counterpart of the death to the law. Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death that, like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.4 He that is united to the Redeemer by faith, of which baptism is the sign, is justified from sin; but this cannot be without a spiritual resurrection with Him, of which the rising out of the water is the symbol, as descending into it is the symbol of the former. In this passage regeneration is regarded rather as a process following the instantaneous death: that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.5 Hence the expression, Reckon ye also yourselves [to be] dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. The same instantaneous life with Christ, followed by the same death in life of spiritual mortification, is taught in the Colossian epistle. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses . . .. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth.6 (3.) Spiritual Circumcision in union with Christ is another aspect of the same truth. The uncircumcision of your flesh7 is spiritual death as contrasted with dead in your sins as the condemnation of the law. And in this fulfillment of the symbol, in the taking away the foreskins of your heart, that inward circumcision which is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter,8 we have the New-Testament antitype of a large series of Old-Testament types of the future regeneration

1 Rom. 6:13; 2 Eph. 2:1; 3 John 12:24; 4 Rom. 6:4,5,7; 5 Rom. 6:6,11; 6 Col. 2:13;3:5; 7 Jer. 4:4; 8 Rom. 2:29

3. It is the introduction into a new world. This follows from the former: the children of this resurrection are quickened or raised into newness of life.1 They have new tastes, appetites, dispositions, senses adapted to a new state of things. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.2 Of this change our Lord spoke when He said: except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.3 Christians, having ascended with Christ, sit in the heavenly places;4 they are required therefore to set their affection on things above.5 This aspect of the new birth conjoins it with Illumination. It is Let there be light!6 in the soul. For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath shined in our hearts:7 which connects the New-Testament spiritual genesis, or palingenesis, with the natural one of the Old Testament

1 Rom. 6:4; 2 2 Cor. 5:17; 3 John 3:5; 4 Eph. 1:20; 5 Col. 3:2; 6 Gen. 1:3; 7 2 Cor. 4:6

4. It is sharing, in a deeper sense than any yet referred to, the life of Christ. Our Lord at the outset of His teaching spoke of that which is born of the Spirit:1 at the close He represented regeneration as being union with Himself: I am the Vine, ye are the branches.2 Because I live ye shall live also.3 And, between these, He spoke of Himself, received by faith, as the life of the soul. Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood ye have no life in you.4 This is sometimes said to be Christ in you,5 and Christ formed in6 the nature. It is more than a federal fellowship in His death and life, such as results from faith in the common Redeemer and exhibits regeneration in some sense as a corporate blessing. It is the mystical communication of a certain Divine-human virtue of the Saviour's being which cannot be defined in words. Thus we become partakers of the Divine nature.7 To this referred one of those profound sayings which our Savior uttered, without interpretation, to be pondered by His people for ever: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it MORE,8 perissón, that, like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.9

1 John 3:6; 2 John 15:5; 3 John 14:19; 4 John 6:53; 5 Col. 1:27; 6 Gal. 4:19; 7 2 Pet. 1:4; 8 Rom. 6:4; 9 Heb. 10:16

5. It is a new law established in the heart; according to the terms of the evangelical covenant: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them.1 The law set up within is a definition of the new birth which connects it with justification that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.2 Love is the fulfilling of the law.3 This also connects it with the Holy Spirit not only with His agency, but with His indwelling: the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.4

1 Heb. 10:16; 2 Rom. 8:4; 3 Rom. 8:10; 4 Rom. 8:2

6. Lastly, regeneration is the renewal of man into the Divine image. This specific view is certainly not peculiar to St. Paul but he gives it special prominence: the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him.1 A careful study of these words yields much important truth. (1.) The standard of the renewal is the original image in which man was created. At the moment of the impartation of the new life that image was restored, as is more directly affirmed in the parallel passage, which after God is created,2 ánthroopon tón katá Theón ktisthénta: the new man was once for all created anew; and the subsequent knowledge, and holiness of truth, are the end for which it was created. (2.) When St. Paul adds, where there is neither Greek nor Jew . . . but Christ is all and in all, he tells us that the new creation is specially related to Christ as the Archetype of this new image; which indeed was true of the original image that sin defaced, but is now more fully revealed. (3.) While the mysterious regenerating act was the restoration of that likeness, it is implied that the renewal, for this is the term, is a process ever going on towards completion. The pristine image was by one offence marred; but by many successive stages is it entirely restored. We all with open face beholding (or receiving) as in a glass the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.3 Thus the new image is gradually retrieved; the Holy Ghost is filling up and deepening the outline continually; and the regenerate life, like righteousness and sanctification, has its issue in perfection

As the one regeneration leads to a continuous renewal, so the one image re-engraven leads to a continuous transformation: be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.4 (4.) Once more, and this is of great moment, the object of this change, or the subject of this renewal, is the whole spiritual nature of man. Not his body; for its regeneration will be its resurrection: the body is (and remains) dead because of sin,5 and must undergo its penalty. Doomed as it is to dissolution it must be presented in ceaseless oblation as the instrument of the spirit which is life because of righteousness, laid on the altar of service for the present and of hope for the future. But the spirit as the seat of reason, or the immortal principle in man, and the soul, as the same spirit linked with the phenomenal world by the body, are, in all their complex faculties which are a unity in diversity, brought under the regenerating power of the Holy Ghost. We read that the natural man, Psuchikós dé ánthroopos, receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God:6 that is, the man whose spirit is subdued to the animal soul, soulish, having not the Spirit.7 But this does not signify that the soul itself, apart from the spirit, is the only defaulter: the spirit also is in the transgression; and the regenerate man becomes ho dé Pneumatikós, he that is spiritual,8 only through his spirit being inhabited by the Spirit Divine. Neither is the soul without the spirit, nor the spirit without the soul, the seat of sin or the subject of regeneration. It is man who is renewed. (5.) Lastly, regeneration is therefore not the removal of anything infused by sin into the essence of the spirit or soul. It is not said that we receive a new nature: though no language is more common than this, it must be very carefully restricted and guarded. Partakers of the Divine nature9 we are; but as received into our own nature renewed. The heart is the man, the self; and the promise is, a new heart also will I give you.10

1 Col. 3:10,11; 2 Eph. 4:24; 3 2 Cor. 3:18; 4 Rom. 12:2; 5 Rom. 8:10; 6 1 Cor. 2:14; 7 Jude 19; 8 1 Cor. 2:15; 9 2 Pet. 1:4; 10 Eze. 36:26

7. We cannot review these various aspects of the new life without being impressed with the feeling that it is in some sense the central blessing of the Christian covenant

Justification is unto life, and this life is devoted to God in sanctification. But the life, as the life is in Jesus, is the unity of all. I am the Way, the Truth, and THE LIFE.1 The last book of the New Testament tells us that all its teaching concentres in the Word of Life,2 perí toú Lógou teés Zooeés: The testimony revolves again in its final accents: this is the true God and eternal life, words which closely follow St. John's last and most striking summary of the entire doctrine of the new birth. Whosoever is born of God,3 ho gegenneeménos ek toú Theoú, is he that is be-gotten of God, ho genneetheís ek toú Theoú; he sinneth not but keepeth himself: the whole world around him lieth in the Wicked One; but he, or rather we, are in Him that is true, even IN HIS SON JESUS CHRIST

Thus the Bible closes with all the elements of the doc-trine of Regeneration. It is the Divine begetting of the filial life of Christ in us: thus it is once for all. It is the progressive life which regarded in its perfected ideal cannot sin: thus it is the renewal into a finished birth. And it is that very eternal life which, begun on earth, will be consummated in heaven

1 John 14:6; 2 1 John 1:1; 3 1 John 5:18-20

III. Regeneration is described with reference to the means employed in the economy of grace. The Divine act is always represented in connection with instrumentality. God begets by the word of truth; our Lord gives His life, and not only sustains it, in the eating and drinking of Himself; the Holy Spirit instrumentally regenerates through the ordinance or sacrament of baptism. These points we need only now indicate briefly: they will be more fully discussed when we reach the Means of Grace and the Sacraments

1. The Word of God is the instrument and power of regeneration

(1.) Not as the absolute authoritative voice which calls into new life, but as the truth which is applied to the understanding and to the feelings, and through them to the will. It is the word of conviction or reproof in the preliminary process: the reproof in the understanding which enforces on the sinner the Lord's word Ye must be born again,1 which excites in the heart a profound sense of need and desire for the true life of the soul, and thus prepares the spirit, unregenerate as yet, but animated by the preliminary life of repentance, for the full power of regeneration. This influence of the truth is sometimes regarded as a fruit of the new birth: it is really a preparation for it

1 John 3:7

(2.) It is the instrument, further, as it is the vehicle of the presentation of the Savior Himself, the Truth, the supreme Object of trust. Embraced by the faith which is at once the last act of the unregenerate and the first act of the regenerate soul, He becomes the Life as well as the Truth. Of the word which offers and conveys the quickening Lord it is said by St. Peter that it is the incorruptible seed;1 though St. John means more by a seed of God that remaineth in2 the human spirit. In St. James it is the engrafted word:3 where we have a remarkable variation on the ordinary language of Scripture. Not we are engrafted into the Vine; but the Vine is engrafted into us: rather the Divine word with its doctrine is inserted into the nature for regeneration

1 1 Pet. 1:23; 2 1 John 3:9; 3 Jas. 1:21

(3.) But, more generally still, it is the Word of God which is the instrument of every Divine operation in the human heart: man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.1 The word is His sovereign and gracious will. As it is not the bread which sustains the life, but the Divine virtue of the bread, so it is not the preaching or the sacrament but the Divine virtue in both which imparts the life

Every energy of God from heaven at last goes back to His word

1 Mat. 4:4

2. Baptism, also, as the sacrament of the new birth, or rather of the soul's entrance into Christ, gives regeneration both a special name and a special character. The baptism with the Holy Ghost1 is one of its definitions. The rite is the washing of regeneration,2 loutron, the bath. It is the symbol of the putting away of sin, and in this is like its precursor, circumcision. This latter symbolized by the cutting off a portion of the natural body the destruction of the body of sin.3 Baptism, a gentler rite, symbolizes the entrance into Christ, in His death and life: not the washing away of sin only, which refers to its relation to justification or forgiveness. It is the pledge of the gift of regeneration, abiding in the church: the symbolical laver which for ever assures of the invisible flowing of the Fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness.4 So long as the evangelical loutron is in the Christian sanctuary, so long is there regeneration for all its members. It also seals it to the believer, whether as a gift already imparted, as given in conjunction with the rite, or to be fully given hereafter. Its close connection with the blessing of which it is the sacramental symbol is exhibited throughout the New Testament: from our Lord's words, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,5 which must not be emptied of their meaning, through the teaching and practice of the Acts of the Apostles, down to St. Paul's last words to Titus already quoted. The water in the doctrine of Christ becomes the laver in the Apostle's teaching

1 Mat. 3:11; 2 Tit. 3:5; 3 Rom. 6:6; 4 Zec. 13:1; 5 John 3:1


Adoption is the term occasionally used to signify the Divine declaratory act by which those who are accepted in Christ are reinstated in the privileges of forfeited sonship for the sake of the Incarnate Son. It is used also of the state to which these privileges belong

I. The term is used only by St. Paul, It was perhaps taken into the Christian vocabulary from the Roman law. Cum in alienam familiam inque liberorum locum extranei sumuntur, aut per praetorem fit, aut per populum. Quod per praetorem fit ADOPTIO dicitur; quod per populum ARROGATIO. If the new son was received from under the authority of his natural parent the act was Adoption; if one who was his own master was adopted it was Arrogation. The Greek term, uiothesia, is explained by Hesychius: ou phusei alla Thesei. St. Paul uses it with three applications. First, of the Israelites, to whom pertaineth the adoption,1 that is, the special election among the nations. Secondly, of the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus:2 that we might receive the adoption of sons3 unto which we were predestinated.4 Finally, of the full manifestation of the children of God in their perfect investiture with all their privileges: waiting for the adoption.5 This corresponds with the final regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory:6 a remarkable instance of the true relation between the terms regeneration and adoption. Both are used of the final restitution of all things, and both regard that restitution as being chiefly the restoration of man to his original and lost estate

1 Rom. 9:4; 2 Gal. 3:26; 3 Gal. 4:5; 4 Eph. 1:5; 5 Rom. 8:23; 6 Mat. 19:28

II. As to the thing signified it may be regarded first as the act of God, and then as conferred on man: the Divine declaration and its human result

1. Adoption is connected with the Triune God. (1.) It is the Father who adopts into His own household: of Whom the whole familyall paternity or race relation—in heaven and earth is named.1 (2.) But it has special reference to the Son: it is in union with Him, the Son, that we become sons; we are adopted into the house by Christ, the Son over His own house,2 who imparts to us as His brethren a share in His own prerogative: if the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.3 (3.) It is declared and attested by the Holy Ghost: the Spirit of adoption.4 It is administered to faith, as the common faith which saves but as having in this case its specific object: the promise, that is, of the higher covenant, I will be a Father unto you.5 Not that the penitent sinner in coming to God regards every special blessing he needs as the object of trust. His faith is but one, and directed to one object; nor does he at the first make any distinction; afterwards, however, when he comes to understand his privileges, he learns to direct his confidence towards God under several aspects. And this, that He is a Father, is one that can never be forgotten. The seal of this faith is the testimony of the Spirit who beareth witness with our spirit—not to our spirit, but with it and through it—that we are the children of God.6

1 Eph. 3:15; 2 Heb. 3:6; 3 John 8:36; 4 Rom. 8:15; 5 2 Cor. 6:18; 6 Rom. 8:16

2. As received by man, adoption defines the peculiarity of the filial relation as a sonship restored in respect to its privileges

(1.) It is not the sonship of creation which is signified. The angels are the sons of God;1 as also those who bear authority among men: I have said, ye are gods; and all of you are children of the Most High.2 The human race in its origin received this designation: Adam, which was the Son of God.3 Hence the prodigal son is still a son. Even after the moral image departed the natural image remained; the original prerogative can never be entirely taken away. For this my son was dead and is alive again:4 language put into the lips of an earthly father, but most assuredly only as the human echo of a Divine feeling

1 Job 1:6; 2 Psa. 82:6; 3 Luke 3:38; 4 Luke 15:24

(2.) Nor is it the sonship of likeness: in the Hebrew idiom we read of the children of light and children of this world,1 and of the wicked our Lord said with that meaning only: ye are of your father, the devil.2 In the sense of conformity with His will, and followers of His example, Christ exhorts us to walk worthy of our filial relation: that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.3 And we are predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son.4 The relation of sons, however, precedes the conformity

1 Luke 16:8; 2 John 8:44; 3 Mat. 5:45; 4 Rom. 8:29

(3.) But it is the restoration of prodigals to the household of God, and maybe regarded in two lights: first, being a simple reinstatement in the original position of children of the creating Father; and, secondly, it is altogether a new endowment, being an investiture with the special prerogatives of brethren of Jesus, the Firstborn among many brethren.1 This distinction, however, is not often to be observed. The new relation of sonship by adoption has indeed revealed more fully the primary and inextinguishable Fatherhood of God, but that is scarcely remembered by reason of the new glory of His Fatherhood in Christ

1 Rom. 8:15


The privileges of entrance into the family of God by adoption—which as privileges are connected rather with adoption than regeneration—are distinctly exhibited in the New Testament. They are filial access in the confidence of devotion : freedom from all kinds of bondage; the advantages of the election; the assurance of a constant guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit; and the enjoyment, first in earnest, and then finally, of the Christian inheritance. These all of course have relation to the other blessings of the new Covenant so far as these blessings are one in their diversity; but they are specially connected with the Christian Sonship

I. Access to God in filial confidence is the first prerogative. Ye have received the Spirit of adoption in Whom we cry, Abba, Father.1 This is the secret of all Christian devotion and worship. The temple which our High Priest has consecrated is always the house of God : the house with a meaning unknown to the ancient economy, one in which the worshippers worship as children. After quoting the declaration, I will be their God,2 St

Paul adds another passage from another place, and will be a Father unto you.3 This addition is a very striking instance of the change which Christianity has introduced in the relations of His people to God. Of Solomon it had been said: 1 will be his Father, and he shall be My son;4 and again, I have chosen him to be My son, and I will be his Father.5 The Apostle extends this special privilege to all believers in Christ; an extension of which a distant hint had been given: bring My sons from far and My daughters from the ends of the earth,6 where St. Paul found the sanction of the inclusion of the daughters. Our Father!7 is the new invocation. This impresses its character on worship, public and private; and on all the communion of the soul with heaven. Christian fellowship with God is filial in and through His Son. It is assured confidence in Him as a Father

1 Rom. 8:15; 2 Exo. 29:45; 3 2 Cor. 6: 16, 18; 4 2 Sam.7: 14; 5 1 Chron. 28:6; 6 Isa. 43: 6; 7 Matt.6: 9

II. Whatsoever belongs to Liberty or Freedom, in the New-Testament sense of the word, is linked with sonship. The Savior said, the truth shall make you free;1 and then declared that the sons in the house, made free by the Son, are free indeed, eleutheroósee óntoos eleúthero: with an emphasis on the ontoos which meant more than the contrast with Jewish delusive freedom, the deep word being left, like many others, to be interpreted by the Spirit and to be understood by the meditation of faith. We are redeemed from under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.2 Between son-ship and bondage there is no affinity. The law has become a law of liberty.3 It is written in the heart, and obedience must spring from filial love. The Christian privilege is thus contrasted with that of the Jews, who were under the law and knew not the great redemption: though the ancient people were one collective Son, they were as such under tutors and governors4 in an estate of discipline which differeth nothing from a servant, that is, until the time appointed of the Father. In itself it is emancipation from every yoke: we are not under the law but under grace.5 Grace is the new law, working by faith through love an obedience which is acceptable to God. Here justification and adoption join: the former is a perpetual sentence of release from the condemning law, the latter guarantees the strength of a new and better obedience. But, as compared with the great future, there is still a bondage to corruption, so far as the body is concerned and its infirmities. Waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body:6 the resurrection will bring in perfected freedom

1 John 8:32,36; 2 Gal. 4:5; 3 Jas. 1:25; 4 Gal. 4:1,2; 5 Rom. 6:14; 6 Rom. 8:23

III. The privileges of the Election of God belong to the filial relation which is sealed by admission into the ark of the Christian family. Israel was the chosen people, to whom pertaineth the adoption,1 in St. Paul's eyes even yet untaken away; their election and their adoption were one and the same prerogative. In Christianity the election is still synonymous with adoption, but it is personal and not national: rather it is both; for the elect are the foreknown brethren of Christ and family of God glorified in eternity, even as they are one by one gathered out of the world into the Divine household through their obedience to the evangelical call. The Father has predestinated us unto the adoption of children,2 which is, being interpreted elsewhere, to be conformed to the image of His Son,3 God's children as such are elected out of the world; they are, like their Elder Brother, and for His sake, chosen of God and precious,4 and are unspeakably dear to their heavenly Father, Who orders everything for their welfare: all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.5 Their highest prerogative as separated from the mass is that they are accepted in the Beloved6 or found in Him,7 and regarded with the same complacency which rests upon their Head: Mine Elect in whom My soul delighteth.8 Jesus is our Election as well as our Righteousness and our Sanctification: The Father hath chosen us in Him,9 and our election is no more and nothing less than our union with the Redeemer

1 Rom. 9:4; 2 Eph. 1:5; 3 Rom. 8:29; 4 1 Pet. 2:4; 5 Rom. 8:28; 6 Eph. 1:6; 7 Phil. 3:9; 8 Isa. 42:1; 9 Eph. 1:4

IV. Another special prerogative of the adoption is the personal and never-failing direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God:1 this may be regarded as meaning, conversely, they that are the sons of God are led by the Spirit. He who testifies within them that they are children is given to them as a never-absent Guide: their religion is a life, a walk, a conversation in the Spirit.2 They walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.3 What the following of Christ is in the gospels, the following of the Holy Ghost is in the epistles. He is at all points, under all circumstances, and in the whole economy of life down to its minutest detail, the Monitor of the children of God. And this He is to them as they are children. Everywhere in the New Testament this special direction is promised to Christians as the adopted sons of the Father. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God;4 but ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.5 St. John makes the promise to the Apostles extend to all the little children: submitting to His teaching, with perfect renunciation of carnal wisdom, they are led into all truth,6 at least as the truth is in Jesus.7 It is of the adopted children that St. Paul says: the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit Itself maketh intercession for us . . . according to the will of God.8 He is in us as the Spirit of regeneration; our regenerate nature itself cries unto God; but it is the Spirit of our adoption Who beareth witness with our spirit9 of regeneration, in this sense also the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.10 It is impossible to exaggerate the blessedness of this interior and exterior guidance of the Holy Ghost given to the children of God. He is literally to them all and more than all the present Savior was to His disciples

He that is joined unto the Lord is one Spirit,11 Who, common to Jesus and His brethren, is the everpresent Finger of God directing and Power of God defending the followers of Christ

1 Rom. 8:14; 2 Gal. 5:25; 3 Rom. 8:4; 4 1 Cor. 2:14; 5 1 John 2:20,18,28; 6 John 16:13; 7 Eph. 4:21; 8 Rom. 8:26,27; 9 Rom. 8:16; 10 Mat. 10:20; 11 1 Cor. 6:17

V. The inheritance to which Christians are called is the last privilege of their adoption. Of God's ancient children-people it was said: I loved him, and called My son out of Egypt;1 that is, from the land of bondage. Moreover: saying, unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance.2 And they were in all respects types: in their redemption from Egypt, in their journey to Canaan, and in their possession of the promised land

1 Hos. 11:1; 2 Psa. 105:11

1. The Christian inheritance belongs to the children of God in a twofold sense. And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.1 (1.) Sin condemned and disinherited man: justification removes the condemnation, and adoption restores the inheritance. That inheritance is the abundance of the privileges of the covenant: it is the whole fullness of the promises; but especially it is God Himself. The enjoyment of the Supreme Source of blessedness is the supreme good of the soul. (2.) Hence, that most sacred and eternal inheritance which the Son hath in the Father is in some as yet unknown sense shared by us. Our heirship in God is no other than our joint heirship of God with Christ. The only allusion to the eternal decree of man's salvation is that we are predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son.2 This conformation, which is also transformation, is our eternal blessedness: it allows nothing beyond, for it is the perfection of man in the perfection of God. Now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when it shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.3 The utmost and highest hope of Christianity is derived from its privilege of sonship. As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness.4 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.5 It is not however the justification of the former passage, nor the sanctification of the latter, but the adopted sonship which cries: 1 shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness!6

1 Rom. 8:17; 2 Rom. 8:29; 3 1 John 3:2; 4 Psa. 17:15; 5 Mat. 5:8; 6 Psa17:15

2. They enter into an heritage of which they have now only an earnest. The inheritance of Christians is in its deepest meaning reserved in heaven.1 Under whatever aspect it is viewed the Christian heritage is enjoyed only in its firstfruits. This is declared by St

Paul: ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption, of the purchased possession.2 When Christ shall claim us as His possession we shall claim Him as ours, in Whom also we have become an inheritance. 3 It is after speaking of the Christian inheritance that the epistle to the Hebrews says: for we are made partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.4

1 1 Pet. 1:4; 2 Eph. 1:13,14; 3 Eph. 1:11; 4 Heb. 3:14

3. That participation awaits the believer: we are waiting for the adoption,1 which will change our body of humiliation, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body;2 and will enable us in our integrity of body and spirit to appear with Him in glory.3 The death of the Testator4 has put us in possession of a portion of the goods that fall to us under His covenant-testament. But we must die ourselves to enter upon the vast remainder. Then will He at the last great distribution say to every one of His brethren: all that I have is thine!5 It is He who closes the New Testament with the promise of the filial inheritance: he that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God and he shall be My son.6 Thus does the new covenant echo at its close the final promise of the old: and they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.7

1 Rom. 8:23; 2 Phil. 3:21; 3 Col. 3:4; 4 Heb. 9:16; 5 Luke 15:31; 6 Rev. 21:7; 7 Mal. 3:17


The variations in opinion on this general subject may be class under these heads: the various theories of the relation of the new birth to the sacrament of baptism; differences as to the measure of human co-operation admitted; its place in the Ordo Salutis, or plan of salvation; its effect upon the various constituent elements of human nature; and its value as a Divine gift in respect to the other blessings of the Christian covenant

I. A certain theory of Baptismal Regeneration appears in the first ages of the Church, which seems in some measure to have merged the internal regeneration into the external adoption

1. The first question will be considered again more fully when we reach the doctrine of the Sacraments; a brief statement, rather historical than polemic, is however necessary here also

(1.) This was probably one out of many results of Jewish influence on Christian thought

During the interval between the Old and New Testaments the converts to Judaism were said to be born again: "a convert is like a newborn child." As to his new position he was called a Proselyte: either of the Gate, as admitted to civil privileges and a place in the Court of the Gentiles; or of Righteousness, as circumcised and baptized and bound to the whole law. The term therefore answered to the Christian Adoption. So Maimonides: " The Gentile that is made a proselyte, and the servant that is made free, behold, he is like a child new born. And, as to all those relations he had whilst either Gentile or servant, they now cease." But there was in Judaism no other regeneration than that of this external adoption

(2.) Early Patristic literature similarly fell into a vague style of connecting the two. It represented the new birth as a translation into the Christian estate, an initiation by baptism into the Christian mysteries. The internal renewing process was faithfully taught; but was not connected always with the scriptural term: in fact, regeneration was equivalent to adoption simply. The new life was spoken of as renewal or renovation; and thus adoption, instead of being a concomitant of the new birth, was its precursor. The Regeneration was understood in the same broader meaning which our Savior gave it when He spoke of the final restitution of all things; only that in their view this regeneration was simply the establishment of the new order of Christianity

(3.) In this sense baptismal regeneration has been understood by very many advocates of infant baptism in every period. They use the term with a larger meaning than it generally bears: as the external estate out of which the new birth grows. Baptismal regeneration accordingly is, in the case of children, baptismal adoption, as baptism undeniably seals to the children of Christian parents their place in the family of God; it is also a seal or pledge of a regenerating grace awaiting all Christian children duly baptized, the pledge being the preliminary grace that rests upon them and prompts to personal dedication in due time when that pledge can be by themselves redeemed

2. In a stricter sense the doctrine of baptismal regeneration is held by the larger part of Christendom: that, namely, which holds the sacraments to be the preeminent and proper Means of Grace. The Roman Catholic, Oriental, Lutheran, and Anglican communions, though in varying language, hold that regeneration is generally connected with baptism as its instrument. The Lutheran Augsburg Confession says: De baptismo docent, quod sit necessarius ad salutem. And what this necessity means is taught by Luther's Catechism: Baptismus operatur remissionem peccatorum, liberat a morte. The English Article xxvii

gives its sentiment thus: " But it is also a sign of regeneration or new birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive baptism rightly are grafted into the church: the promises of forgiveness of sins, and of our adoption to be the sons of God, are visibly signed and sealed." Here it is obvious that a certain distinction is made between regeneration, of which baptism is the sign, and adoption, of which it is the instrument

The Westminster Confession declares the same; with both a needful and a needless qualification. " Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated or saved without it, or that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated. The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in His appointed time." In these weighty words the regeneration of infants in baptism is clearly asserted to be possible, and, in the case of the elect, certain. But the addition of the words " not tied to that moment," and " in His own appointed time," may seem to allow that the full regeneration is reserved for the period when the infant shall be capable of receiving the gift

3. By many the regeneration of the soul is regarded as sacra-mentally pledged and promised in virtue of the general grace bestowed upon mankind in redemption. Baptism is therefore a sign of the blessing into which preliminary grace is to mature; and the seal of its bestowment if that preliminary grace is used aright. It should be remembered that in this scheme regeneration stands connected with all the blessings of the Christian covenant, as in the sentences quoted from the formularies above. Baptism is not more intimately allied with the new birth than with remission of sins and sanctification to God

There is, according to the Nicene Confession, " one baptism for the remission of sins," that is, one baptism unto pardon, regeneration, sanctification, and all the benefits of our Lord's passion. Children baptized are externally pardoned, adopted, and made holy: the internal reality corresponding with these is sealed to them by the preliminary grace that belongs to the family of redeemed man, and especially to the children of the household of faith. Baptism in this doctrine, which carefully stated is irrefragable, is the sign and seal and instrument to adult believers of their pardon and renewal and sanctification. To the children of believers it is the sign and seal and instrument of imparting these blessings so far as they are capable of them: original guilt is removed, the bias to evil is counteracted by initial grace, and adoption into the household of faith is absolutely conferred. If what may be loosely called the germ of grace is regeneration in the infant, then it becomes new birth in the adult

4. The strict systematic dogma of the two mysteries which makes baptism the sacrament of birth, and the eucharist the sacrament of nourishment, may have some measure of truth in it so far as the word means the sacramental emblem. But it must not be forgotten that our Lord speaks of the sacramental eating and drinking of Himself as connected with regeneration. If the words of St. John's Gospel are referred to the Lord's Supper then we have a eucharistic regeneration as well as a baptismal: Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, ye have no life in you: it is not, ye have no abiding life.1

1 John 6:53

II. The measure of human co-operation has been much contested

1. Extreme Calvinism holds that the life of regeneration is given by an act of as absolute sovereign power as that which gave physical existence: therefore, as there are undeniably some stirrings of spiritual life in penitents, and the beginnings of tendency to life even before true repentance, these are all regarded as evidences of renewal, and regeneration is placed before all other blessings of the Spirit. Man in this theory is purely passive. This doctrine effaces preliminary grace, so far as that grace tends to spiritual activity: such grace is preliminary no longer, but the very regeneration itself. It forgets that wherever the human will is a factor, there can be no pure passivity; and that the actual state of the soul in which it is passive under the regenerating power of the Spirit is itself produced by a self-surrendering faith of the penitent desire

2. Pelagianism, at the opposite extreme, reduced the great change to an act of the human will: as it is always in man's power to choose, and act accordingly, he really may regenerate himself by fixing his purpose fully on the Good. Semi-Pelagianism admitted that the first conversion requires Divine power, but claimed that the human will in its freedom is that power itself; and as to the regeneration of the soul it has always regarded that as the Divine blessing on human determination. But this dogma in every form lowers grace to external teaching and inducements: nature itself is in a sense grace, and the operation of the Holy Ghost effects nothing that the human will does not under His influence itself accomplish. The error in every Semi-Pelagian theory is that of forgetting that the Holy Spirit always ends, even as He always begins, the work of goodness in man without human concurrence. He begins before co-operation joins Him; and cooperation must cease at the crisis where He finishes the work

3 Synergism in the Lutheran church differed little from the latter; but its esteem of the sacramental blessing of baptism gave Divine grace its full honor in relation to baptized children. Arminianism in its doctrine of universal prevenient grace carries back the Synergism, or co-operation between God and man, to the nature behind and before baptism. In certain American schemes, which represent regeneration as the right ultimate choice of the soul, there are some errors to be noted. (1.) This choice is a conviction and desire before regeneration, and may be called conversion; or, in its higher form of entire consecration of the will, it is a fruit of renewal. It cannot be regeneration itself. (2.) The state of the soul before God is more than merely its present will and act or exercise: it has a disposition or character underlying this with which the new birth has most to do. (3.) Therefore, in common with almost all errors on this subject, these Semi-Pelagian rather than Arminian theories imply a failure to distinguish between the preliminary grace of life and the life of regeneration

III. Regeneration is sometimes erroneously placed first in the order of the bestowment of Gospel privileges. The release of the sinner from condemnation must take precedence, his new life then begins in its fullness, and that life is consecrated to God in sanctification

But in many confessions regeneration takes the lead, and this doctrine is maintained in various forms by parties fundamentally differing as to the nature of the blessing itself

1. All advocates of sacramental regeneration ex opere operato hold this opinion, at least in the case of infants baptized. Generally, a distinction is established between the regeneration which confers at the outset a germ of spiritual life and the renewal which goes on, with varying and sometimes very irregular processes, to the end. Conversion, on that scheme, is placed after regeneration, which is reduced in its significance to the infusion of a principle of grace neutralizing, or rather contending with, the vice of nature; and, when fall from grace makes it needful, counteracting original sin as a principle of concupiscence

2. The Latitudinarians who believe in the regeneration of mankind in Christ, and allow no subsequent regeneration as necessary, of course entertain the same notion. By some it is so far modified as to admit a difference, so to speak, between the regeneration that imparts to all the first germ of life, and the new birth or the full consummation of that life. The error of this system, in its best forms, is simply its effacing the distinction between the universal grace which is unto life and life itself. Its sufficient refutation is that one saying: If any man be in Christ he is a new creature.1

1 2 Cor. 5:17

3. This order is quite essential to Calvinism, which allows of no life in the soul of man other than regenerate life, and makes regeneration the precursor of conviction, repentance, faith, and conversion. The first spark of sovereign grace decides all: that once kindled introduces the rest, and can never be extinguished

4. Calvinism and Sacramentarianism and Latitudinarianism strangely agree, therefore, in denying the possibility of the repetition of regeneration. It is certainly true that the New Testament speaks of one washing of the man who needeth not save to wash his feet;1 also that it declares the impossibility of renewal unto repentance,2 in the case of certain apostates, though not of renewal generally; also that it describes the extinction of the Spirit's life as very difficult. The renewal of regenerate life, however, is never absolutely denied. The theory of the Gospel as laid down by our Lord Himself indicates one regeneration and constant renewal unto its perfection as a full birth of God. But the infinite grace of the new covenant is not bound to that one theory: the high ideal is not to be rigorously pressed

1 John 8:10; 2 Heb. 6:6

IV. It is important to notice the many views which are held by philosophic theologians as to the relation of the new birth to the constitution of human nature. This is literally an illimitable subject in itself, though limited in regard to the present question. The true principles of the question are simple

1. Regeneration is the restored life of the whole nature of man: it is a new heart, the heart being the soul or self, including though distinct from the mind, the affections and the will

These three are one in human nature, and in regeneration, which, in its full meaning, is a new creation or a renewal of the inmost personality

2. It is not a change in the substance of the soul, nor in its individual acts; but in the bias towards evil which is the character. That bias, however, is not destroyed though it is arrested and made subordinate. In perfect regeneration, which is equivalent in another region of thought to entire sanctification, that bias is utterly suppressed and destroyed

3. Hence there is in regeneration no distinction between the spirit and the soul, between the pneuma and the psuch. The regenerate is spiritual, inasmuch as the Holy Ghost reigns in his spirit: not because by the impartation of the Holy Ghost he has acquired that element, or even attained to the supremacy of the spirit in his nature. Both these are true in the popular and figurative speech of Scripture, which sometimes speaks as if the spirit in man is latent until possessed by the Divine Spirit, and as if the unregenerate spirit is no better than an animal soul. But the development of this view into a theory of human nature as unrenewed and renewed leads to great confusion

V. Lastly, divergences in regard to the value of regeneration as a principle of new life have been more or less anticipated

1. The lowest degree is that assigned by those who regard it as the merely being born into a condition or constitution of things. Against this virtual annihilation of the specific gift of the new birth enough has already been said; too much, however, cannot be urged in opposition to a notion which limits the high estate of regeneration to a blessing unconsciously received. All men are born into the new constitution of grace; multitudes of Christian children are baptized into it. But regeneration is more than this universal blessing of redemption

2. Next comes the opinion of those who make it the mere infusion of a germ, so slight that (1) it can scarcely be distinguished from the universal preliminary life that is the gift of redemption, and (2) it is utterly inconsistent with the high views of the ascendency of the regenerate life which Scripture teaches. The lowest doctrine sanctioned by the Word of God includes freedom from the law of sin and death

3. Some descriptions of this blessing pitch it in so high a strain as to be utterly inconsistent with the common facts of experience. St. John and St. Paul must be reconciled in the true doctrine of regeneration, even as St. Paul and St. James in the true doctrine of justification. St. Paul speaks of a conflict between the flesh and the Spirit, which are contrary the one to the other1 in the ordinary regenerate estate; St. John declares that the ideal and perfect new birth, or being born of God,2 is inconsistent with sin, it cannot sin. The one Apostle refers to regeneration in its earlier stages; the other to its perfection. But neither of them denies that a child of God may relapse into sin and need forgiveness. And St. John's sublime doctrine in this text must be harmonized with that of St. Paul, as well as with his own words: If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father.3

1 Gal. 5:17; 2 1 John 3:9; 3 1 John 2:1