Sent: Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Subject: CHARNOCK vs SHEDD,
BERKHOF and Followers
STEPHEN CHARNOCK ON REGENERATION vs THE
THEORY OF W. G. T. SHEDD AND LOUIS BERKHOF
A brother "wrote me up" a few days ago, alleging that I
was a "Campbellite" on faith.
I did not publicly deal with his
article since I was of the opinion that he was simply victimized by a
misunderstanding, and few, if any, would come to such a conclusion about my
In a follow-up article today, he does say, "I may have been too harsh in my
approach to this," but after he made a phone call to me today to discuss the
matter, I am still not sure that he understands my view. Frankly, I don't
understand his view, as he keeps affirming both sides of the issue. At
one time I can agree with what he says, then he retreats back to the other side
with which I cannot agree.
Briefly, my view or understanding is the same
as that of Stephen Charnock, the 17th century Puritan, that the Word
of God is the instrument in the act of regeneration, and the Holy Spirit is the
efficient cause or power in the Word.
This view is in contrast
to the view set forth by the Pedobaptists, Dr. Shedd and Dr. Berkhof, and some
of their modern-day disciples.
Charnock teaches regeneration, or new
life, comes about through the use of the means of the Word whereas
Shedd and Berkhof teach that regeneration is a "direct operation" apart
from the use of means. This is the same view advocated by the Primitive
Baptists, or Hardshells, which they adopted after their split from regular
Baptists in the early 1800s.
This latter view makes a veritable
"Pelagian" out of the lost sinner, capacitating him with "life" and
"ability," before he actually becomes a believer. In modern times it is
called "pre-faith regeneration."
In a message dated 8/2/2005
9:47:36 PM Central Daylight Time, this brother in an email to other parties,
It is my
opinion that Bob does not understand what regeneration is, he somehow
separates being made alive from regeneration. However his contention is
against some of the reformed Commentators who taught that regeneration was
without the means of the word of God.
Below I am quoting
Stephen Charnock (1628-1680) on Regeneration, as it was believed
by the Puritans of the seventeenth century. The post-seventeenth century
"ordo salutis" adopted by Pedobaptist theologians such as W. G. T. Shedd
and Louis Berkhof is a departure from this view.
Both Shedd and
Berkhof acknowledge their departure in their theological writings, as follows:
see Berkhof on pages 466, 470, 476. Systematic Theology; Shedd, Vol. 2, pages
This view of Shedd and Berkhof is that "LIFE" is
imparted by a "DIRECT OPERATION" by the Holy Spirit WITHOUT THE USE
OF MEANS. It is a sort of "deposit" of "life" which constitutes the sinner
with "ability" in order to become a believer in Christ.
Shedd specifically states in several instances in his presentation:
"Regeneration is the origination of life. . . .The influence of
the Spirit is distinguishable from that of the truth; from that of man
upon man; and from that of any instrument or means whatever. His energy
acts DIRECTLY upon the human soul itself. . . . That the influence
of the Holy Spirit is directly upon the human spirit, and is
INDEPENDENT EVEN OF THE WORD ITSELF . . . God operates directly
upon man . . . The appointed means of grace are the Word, the
sacraments, and prayer. NONE OF THESE MEANS ARE USED in the instant of
regeneration . . . regeneration is a DIRECT OPERATION of the Holy
Spirit upon the human spirit. . . . Regeneration is NOT EFFECTED by the use
of means. . . . the Word of truth is a means of conversion, because
REGENERATION HAS PRECEDED, and has imparted spiritual life to the
soul." (Dogmatic Theology, Volume 2, pages 494-507).
this view to the view of CHARNOCK and other 17th century
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; . . .
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. . . .
It first 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. . . .
How admirable, 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! . . .
How 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.
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 man 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.
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 agent.
For the complete work by Charnock see
the following website: