NOTE [04/22--2005] :
I have often referred to and quoted from
the Puritan Stephen Charnock on the subject of Regeneration or the New Birth, as
well as from his co-pastor, Thomas Watson (died 1686). They shared the
same view on the subject (see pages 153, 154 of Watson's BODY OF DIVINITY).
Watson said >>There are two means of our effectual
call: (I) The 'preaching of the word,' which is the sounding of God's
silver trumpet in men's ears. . . . (2.) The other means of our effectual call
is the Holy Spirit. The ministry of the word is the pipe or organ; the
Spirit of God blowing in it, effectually changes men's hearts.
Charnock is more extensive than Watson in his work, A
Discourse of the Word,
the Instrument of Regeneration, and the
following adapted excerpts are exemplary of Charnock's treatment of the subject.
Charnock and Watson are consistent with the Westminister Confession of Faith
[aka 1689 London Confession and the Philadelphia Confession] which teaches
that effectual calling is by BOTH the WORD AND SPIRIT, whereas
those today who follow the theory of Louis Berkhof, R. C. Sproul, and James
White hold a post-Westminster "ordo salutis" position, which is
acknowledged by Berkhof in his Systematic Theology (pages 466, 468, 470,
471). This new-fangled non-creedal phantasmagoria is being palabberated by James
White in a public debate today in Oklahoma City.
For the complete work by Charnock
see the following website:
[God] uses natural instruments in natural effects,
and likewise spiritual instruments in spiritual productions. God may blow in an
extraordinary way upon the soul by a divine breath without any instrument, as he
did immediately upon the prophets, or as he gave light to the world the three
first days of the creation without a sun, but since only by the sun and stars.
But God seems here to have fixed his power: Rom. i. 16, the gospel is 'the power
of God to salvation;' not that his power shall always attend it, but that he
will exert his power, at least ordinarily, only by it; no other organ through
which the wind of the Spirit shall blow, no other sword which the Spirit shall
manage but this, Eph. vi. 13. . . .
Adam and Eve were the first
after the fall wherein God did constitute his church, whose regeneration and
conversion were wrought by that promise of the seed of the woman made to them in
paradise; . . . What regeneration Adam had was by this word of the
gospel. Had not Adam believed it, he would not have delivered it to Abel;
and Abel had not sacrificed, unless he had been taught so by his father, or
immediately by God; but most likely by his father, because God does not use
extraordinary means, when ordinary will serve. And Abel was regenerate, for it
is said 'by faith he offered' this sacrifice, Heb. xi. 4: and it was faith in
Christ, faith in the promised seed, for all of them in that catalogue, Heb. xi.,
did eye Christ by faith, as well as Moses. of whom it is particularly
expressed, ver. 26, that 'he esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than
the treasures of Egypt.' Considering all this, it is evident, that the ancient
restoration was by the revelation of Christ and the gospel as the only necessary
means. Abraham, it is likely, had some external word in his father
Terah's family, by tradition from the patriarchs, and had the revelation of the
promise made to him by God, Gen. xviii. 19. And it was wrought then in an
ordinary way by instruction, for, for that Abraham is commended, and no doubt
but Isaac and Jacob did the same, so that all along this change of the
heart was wrought by a declaration of the word of the gospel. . . .
seems to be the standing instrument of it to the end of the world. Some indeed
think the conversion of the Jews shall not be by the declarations of the word in
a way of preaching and instruction, as the Gentiles were brought in, but by a
visible appearance of Christ, which they ground upon Zech. xii. 10, 'They shall
look upon him whom they have pierced,' they shall see Christ in the clouds as
pierced by them, and understand Paul's conversion by an extraordinary light
shining round about him, and a voice from heaven, to be a type and pattern of
God's manner of the future conversion of the Jews, which is intimated, 1 Tim. i.
16, that the mercy he obtained was 'a pattern for them which should hereafter
believe on him to life everlasting'. Whether this be so or no, yet however the
conversion is by a revelation of that which is the matter and substance of the
gospel, it is the revelation of Christ himself; and if, like Paul's conversion,
by a voice, as well as by sight, by instruction as well as apparition; but it
seems to me to be the perpetual standing means of regeneration. . . .
is necessary, by God's appointment, for all the degrees of the new birth, and
all the appendixes to it. When God shows his own glory for a further change, he
represents the species of it in the glass of the gospel: 2 Cor. iii. 18,
'Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image,
from glory to glory.' It is the ministration of the Spirit in all the acts of
the spirit. If the Spirit quicken, it is by some gospel precept; if it comforts,
it is by some gospel promise; if it startles, it is by some threatening in the
word. Whatsoever working there is in a Christian's heart, it is by some word or
other dropping upon it. . . .
The Spirit makes the word not only the fire
to kindle the soul, but the bellows to blow; it is first life, then liveliness
to the soul. It is through the word he begets us, and through the word he
quickens us: Thy word has quickened me,' Ps. cxix. 50, 93. It is by the word God
gathers a church in the world; by the same word he sanctifies it to greater
degrees, Eph. v. 26. It is the seed whereby we are born, the dew whereby we are
refreshed. As it is the seed of our birth, so it is the milk of our growth, 1
Peter ii. 2. Faith comes by hearing, and salvation after faith by the
'foolishness of preaching,' 1 Cor. i. 21. . . .
As God created the world
by the word of his power, and by the word of his providence bid the creatures
increase and multiply, so by the word of the gospel he lays the foundation, and
rears the building, of his spiritual house. . . .
As it is not a natural
instrument, but the only instrument appointed by God, and therefore, upon these
and upon other accounts, a necessary instrument, so it is an instrument which
makes mightily for God's glory. . . .
God begets by the word; the chief
operation depends upon the Spirit of God. No sword can cut without a hand to
manage it, no engine batter without a force to drive it. The Word is objective
in itself, operative by the power of the Spirit; instrumental in itself,
efficacious by the Holy Ghost. The Word of Christ is first spirit and then life.
'The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life,' John vi.
63. The word is the chariot of the Spirit, the Spirit the guider of the word;
there is a gospel comes in word, and there is a gospel comes in power, 1 Thes.
i. 5. There is a publishing of the gospel, and there is the 'fullness of the
blessing of the gospel,' Rom. xv. 29. 'There was the truth of God spoken by
Peter and Paul, and God in that truth working in the heart: Gal. ii. 8, 'He that
wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same
was mighty in me towards the Gentiles.' The gospel in itself is like Christ's
voice; the gospel with the Spirit is like Christ's power raising Lazarus; other
men might have spoken the same words, but the power of rising must come from
above. It is then successful when an inward unction drops with the outward dew,
when the veil is taken from the heart, and the curtain from the word, and both
meet together, both word and heart; when Christ kisses with the kisses of his
mouth, and the man embraces it with the affections of his heart. The light in
the air is the instrument by which we read, but the principle of that light is
in the sun in the heavens. The word is a rod, a breath, but efficacious in
smiting and slaying the old man, as it is the rod of Christ's mouth, the breath
of his lips, Isa. xi. 3; a rod like that of Moses to charm us, but as it is the
rod of his strength, Ps. cx. 2; a weapon, but only 'mighty through God,' 2 Cor.
x. 4; a seed, but brings not forth a plant but by the influence of the sun. The
word has this efficacy from the bleeding wounds and dying groans of Christ. It
is by making his soul an offering for sin that he sees the travail of his soul
in his new born creatures. By his blood are all the promises of grace confirmed;
by his blood they are operative. The word whereby we are begotten was appointed
by God, confirmed by Christ, and the Spirit which begets us was purchased by the
same blood. To conclude: the word declares Christ, and the Spirit excites the
heart to accept him; the word shows his excellency, and the Spirit stirs up
strong cries after him; the word declares the promises, and the Spirit helps us
to plead them; the word administers reasons against our reasonings, and the
Spirit edges them, the word shows the way, and the Spirit enables to walk in it;
the word is the seed of the Spirit, and the Spirit the quickener of the word;
the word is the graft, and the Spirit the engrafter; the word is the pool of
water, and the Spirit stirs it to make it healing. . . .
presents the promise and then answers the pleas the stubborn heart makes against
it, yet by the same gospel, it fetches demonstrative arguments from that quiver
to satisfy a cavilling understanding, and motives from thence to overcome a
resisting will, it silences the fears, points to the way, excites the soul to an
acceptance of Christ, all by this gospel, and so draws us, as a man draws a
child, by presenting some alluring object to him. The Spirit immediately himself
touches the soul, but by the word, as an instrument proposing the object, and
drawing out the soul into an actual believing. . . .
The word is the
glory of God in a glass, and imprints the image of the glory of God in the
heart. It is a softening word, and produces a mollified heart; an enlightening
word, and causes an enlightened soul; a divine word, and engenders a divine
nature; it is a spiritual word, and produces a spiritual frame; as it is God's
will, it subdues our will; it is a sanctifying truth, and so makes a sink of sin
to become the habitation of Christ. To conclude: this is certain: the promise in
the word breeds principles in the heart suitable to itself; it shows God a
father, and raises up principles of love and reverence; it shows Christ a
mediator, and raises up principles of' faith and desire. Christ in the word
conceives Christ in the heart; Christ in the word, the beginning of grace,
conceives Christ in the soul, the hope of glory. . . .
then, is the power of the gospel! It is a quickening word, not a dead; a
powerful word, not a weak; a sharp-edged word, not dull; a piercing word, not
cutting only skin deep, Heb. iv. 12. That welcome work does it make, when a door
of utterance and a door of entrance are both opened together! . . .
powerful is this gospel word, which changes a beast into a man, a devil into an
angel, a clod of earth into a star of heaven! . . .
This is the glorious
begetting by the gospel, which enables not only to moral actions, but inspires
with divine principles and ends, and makes men highly delight in the ways they
formerly abhorred. . . .
Its power appears in the subjects it has
been instrumental to change. Souls bemired in the filthiest lusts, have been
made miraculously clean; it has changed the hands of rapine into instruments of
charity, hearts full of filth into vessels of purity; it has brought down proud
reason to the obedience of faith, and made active lusts to die at the foot of
the cross; it has struck off Satan's chains, and snatched away his captives into
the liberty of God's service; it has changed the most stubborn hearts. The
conversion of a great company of those Jewish priests that were most violent
against it and the author of it, is ascribed to the power of the word: Acts vi.
7, 'And the word of God increased, and a great company of the priests were
obedient to the faith.' How many were raised to life by Peter's sermon! More
souls turned than words spoken upon record. It subdues the will, which cannot be
conquered but by its own consent. Light can dart in upon the understanding
whether a wan will or no, and flash in his face though he keep it in
unrighteousness. Conscience will awaken and rouse them, though men use all the
arts they can to still it. The will cannot be forced to any submission against
its own consent; the power of the gospel is seen in the conquest of the will,
and putting new inclinations into that.
Some word or other was the
instrument to beget you (I speak of people grown up). The apostle's
interrogation is a strong negative. There is no believing without hearing, Rom.
x. 14. Hearing goes before believing; he lays it down as a certain conclusion
from his former arguing: 'So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the
word of God.' If you conclude yourselves new begotten, how came you by it? Is it
by the word, or no? That is God's ordinary means. If you be not renewed by this,
it is not likely you are renewed at all; no other instrument has God ordinarily
appointed to this end. . . .
The word of truth is God's instrument, and
it should be ours; what is the end of the word, should be the end of our
preaching. . . .
Highly glorify God for the word of truth, which is so
great an instrument. How thankful should we be for an intention, to secure our
estates from consuming, houses from burning. bodies from dying! The gospel, the
word of truth, does much more than this: it is an instrument to beget a soul for
God; an instrument whereby God makes himself our Father, and us his children. It
is but an instrument; let not the glory be given to the instrument, but to the
For the complete work by Charnock see the following website:
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