Sent: Thursday, April 15, 2004 6:29 PM
There were some significant errors in numerical references in the earlier email, so we are sending this Corrected Copy. We have also added a thought or two and some links to the Internet to the article. -- Bob L. Ross



One of the Baptist champions of the past was ABRAHAM BOOTH (1734-1806), well-known for his great book, The Reign of Grace, which is still in print and also online.

He also wrote a great work entitled, Glad Tidings to Perishing Sinners, in which he refutes the view of "pre-faith regeneration." It is one of the works which helped Baptists of that age avoid the pitfalls of hyper-Calvinism. We hope this article might have some influence against any tendencies in that direction in our time, as there are some pockets of "hybrid Calvinism" which are promoting the "pre-faith regeneration" theory.

C. H. Spurgeon said of Booth and his book:

"I have read with some degree of attention a book to which I owe much for this present discourse—a book, by Abraham Booth, called Glad Tidings to Perishing Sinners. I have never heard any one cast a suspicion upon Abraham Booth's soundness; on the contrary, he has been generally considered as one of the most orthodox of the divines of the last generation. If you want my views in full, read his book" (The Warrant of Faith, page 539, Sermon #531, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume 9, year 1863).

Here are excerpts from Booth's book, which, to my knowledge, is now out of print. Beginning on page 119 of the 1813 London edition:

It is objected, 'Though it be not necessary for a sinner to know that he is born again, before he believe in Jesus Christ, yet regeneration must precede faith. For the heart of a sinner being naturally in a state of enmity to the Divine Character, he will never turn to God, while in that situation, for pardon and acceptance.'

In answer to which, the following particulars are proposed for consideration.

Before this objection can be justly considered as valid, it must be evinced, not only, that regeneration precedes faith; but also, that it is necessary to authorise a sinner's reliance on Jesus Christ: than which, few sentiments are more foreign from the genuine gospel.

[Theory:] Regeneration must precede faith.

This, though assumed as a certain fact, may be justly doubted: for the page of inspiration does not warrant our supposing, that any one is born of God, before he believe in Jesus Christ; or, that regeneration is effected by the Holy Spirit, without the word of grace. For we are taught, by the sacred writers, to consider the word of truth, with regard to adults, as the means of regeneration, and of many other happy effects. They teach, for instance,

   That it is the instrument of enlightening the mind, of awakening the conscience, and of softening the heart.

"The entrance of thy word giveth light" -- Psalm 119:130.

"The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" -- Ephesians 6:17.

"Is not my word like as fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer, that breaketh the rock in pieces?" -- Jeremiah 23:29.

Compare 2 Corinthians 10:4, 5; Revelation 1:16, 2:12, 16; 19:15, 21.

   That it is the instrument, or seed, of regeneration.

"The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live" -- John 5:25.

"The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" -- John 6:63.

"In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel" -- 1 Corinthians 4:15.

"My son, Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds" -- Philemon 10.

"Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" -- James 1:18.

"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever" -- 1 Peter 1:23.

See also 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2:4.

    That they only, who believe in Christ,
are the children of God.

"As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" -- John 1:12.

"Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" -- Galatians 3:26.

"Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God" -- 1 John 5:1.

    That it is the mean, in the hand of the Spirit,
of Conversion, of Sanctification, and of Salvation.

Of Conversion:

"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul" -- Psalm 19:7.

"He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" -- 2 Thesssalonians 2:14.

Of Sanctification:

"He that received seed into the good ground, is he that heareth the Word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit" -- Matthew 13:23.

"Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you" -- John 15:3.

"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth" -- John 17:17.

"That they also might be sanctified through the truth" -- John 17:19.

"God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed, from the heart, the model of doctrine into which ye were delivered" -- Romans 6:17.

"The new man, which after God is created in righteousness and holiness of the truth" -- Ephesians 4:24.

"The gospel, which is come unto you, as it is in all the world, and bringeth forth fruit" -- Colossians 1:5, 6.

"The word of God, which effectually worketh in you that believe"  -- 1 Thessalonians 2:13.

"You have purified your souls in obeying the truth, through the Spirit" -- 1 Peter 1:22.

Of Salvation:

"The gospel of Christ -- is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth" -- Romans 1:16.

"The gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved" -- 1 Corinthians 15:1, 2.

"The word, or doctrine of the cross, is to us who are saved the power of God" -- 1 Corinthians 1:18.

"The engrafted word, which is able to save your souls" -- James 1:17.

Booth continues on page 122:

Such is the language of inspiration, relative to the high importance of revealed truth, in the great plan of salvation Ry Jesus Christ! Hence, it appears, that few things are more evidently contained, or more strongly asserted, in sacred scripture, than the INSTRUMENTALITY OF DIVINE TRUTH IN RENEWING THE HEARTS OF SINNERS.

For it is there described as the honoured mean, as the seed of God (1 Peter 1:23-25), by which the Holy Spirit effects regeneration, the sanctification, and the consolation, of those that are saved.

But it is impossible for us to conceive of the mind being enlightened, of the conscience being relieved, of the will being regulated, and of the affections being purified by the word of truth, any further than it is believed. It may therefore be concluded, that regeneration is not, in order of time, prior to faith in Christ, and justification by him.

To contend, indeed, that regeneration must be prior to faith, and to justification, is like maintaining that the eldest son of a nobleman must partake of human nature, before he can have the filial relation to his father which constitutes him an heir to the paternal estate, and entitles him to those honours which are hereitary in the family. For the human nature, derived from his parents, and the relation of a son, being completely of the same date; there is no such thing as priority, or posteriority, respecting them, either as to the order of time, or the order of nature. THEY ARE INSEPARABLE, NOR CAN ONE EXIST WITHOUT THE OTHER.

Thus it is, I conceive, with regard to regeneration, faith in Christ, and justification before God. For, to consider any man as born of God, but not as a child of God; as a child of God, but not as believing in Jesus Christ; as believing in Jesus Christ, but not as justified; or as justified, but not as an heir of immortal felicity; is, either to the last degree absurd, or manifestly contrary to the apostolic doctrine.

Consequently, as they are the ungodly whom the Spirit regenerates by the truth, so persons of that character are warranted to believe in Jesus.

Mr. Booth then gives the quotes from Stephen Charnock, to whom we have often referred, contained in Charnock's A Discourse of the Word, the Instrument of Regeneration.

He follows the Charnock quotatation with the following from Dr. John Owen:

This [regeneration] is wrought by the word. We are born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God. Wherein, not only the thing itself, of our regeneration by the word, but the manner of it also, is declared. It is by the collation of a new spiritual life upon us, whereof the word is the seed. As every life proceeds from some seed, that hath in itself virtually the whole life to be deduced from it, by natural ways and means; so the word in the hearts of men is turned into a vital principle, that, cherished by suitable means, puts forth vital acts and operations. BY THIS MEANS WE ARE BORN OF GOD, and quickened, who, by nature, are children of wrath; dead in trespasses and sins. So Paul tells the Corinthians, that he had begotten them, in Jesus Christ, by the gospel. It is the INSTRUMENT OF GOD for this end; and mighty and powerful, through God, it is for the accomplishment of it. (Owen on Hebrews 2:2, 3, 4, Vol. I, page 178).

Abraham Booth goes on his book to consider some of the objections and arguments of the hyper-Calvinists of his day who taught "pre-faith regeneration." It is noteworthy that some of the same thought is expressed today by some hypers, Hardshells, and hybrid Calvinists.

I looked in the index of James White's book, The Potter's Freedom, and noticed he has no reference to great passages used by Mr. Booth which teach the necessity of the means of the Gospel or Word in regeneration. No reference to John 6:63; 1 Corinthians 2:4, 4:R5; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14; 1 Peter 1:23. The absence of such passages in White's books is consistent with his "pre-faith regeneration" theory.