« PreviousContinue »
The beautiful gate.
« Surely they that are not born again, shall one day wish they had never been born."
I desire the reader for one moment to carry himself back in imagination eighteen hundred years, and to suppose the temple at Jerusalem now standing, and its walls, and towers, and gates, precisely what they were when the feet of the blessed Saviour trod the streets of the holy city. I desire that he will also for a moment permit me to suppose that we have commenced a walk for the purpose of surveying the temple and its environs. Already have we passed through a gate leading to the temple. In the entrance, we met with one of the tribe of Benjamin, and thus addressed him : 66 Can
you tell us what is the name of this gate!" “ Its name is Beautiful,”* said he.
We lingered and marked the peculiarities of the spot with great care and attention. This gate was perfectly unique. No other portal to the temple was like it. It was situated in the outer wall
, on the eastern side, and splendidly ornamented with Corinthian brass-a metal in higher esteem than either silver or gold.f It equalled the sanctuary in height, which was more than a hundred cubits. Its folds were fifty cubits high, and forty broad, and were covered with plates of gold and silver.
We then left this spot and strolled through the spacious courts that surrounded the sanctuary. At length, after having gazed upon every part of this wonderous architectu
* Acts 3, 2.
Regeneration and Renovation. ral pile, we felt almost mazed and confounded by the splendor and multiplicity of the vast and magnificent objects around us.
-Scarcely knowing what course to take in order to retrace our steps, we met with one of the tribe of Levi, and said to him,
— 66 Can
to the Beautiful gate?" “ Yes,” he replied.
But, instead of directing us to the magnificent entrance through which we passed, after we had climbed our weary way up those numerous steps from the valley of Cedron, he led us to the west side of the Temple, and pointed to a gate, not more than thirty cubits high and fifteen broad, which connected the Temple, by means of a bridge over the valley below, with Mount Zion, and said
“ There is the Beautiful gate."
“ This is not the gate we entered. It has none of the marks of splendor which characterized that, and is far inferior in height. We refer to the gate that is situated on the east side of the Temple, and the ascent to it is from the valley of Cedron.”
“Oh!” replied the Levite, “s you mean the Magnificent gate. That is the name of the great eastern gate.
We call this, which leads to Mount Zion, Beautiful, and that Mag. nificent."
Now, although some confusion and inconvenience might arise from the supposed circumstance, that the individuals of two tribes, called a particular gate by two names, no one however, would argue from this, that one of those tribes did not admit the existence of that particular gate.
The foregoing hypothesis, has been stated to illustrate the folly of a controversy between different denominations of christians, in relation to the use and application of the term Regeneration. A difference of meaning is attached to this term. On one of the gates of Zion, some inscribe Regeneration; while others hang up on the same gate, the inscription Renovation. The latter write Regeneration over another gate; thus applying the term Regeneration to one, and the term Renovation to the other.
In the popular sense, the term Regeneration is applied to a change of heart, which is effected through the operation of the Holy Spirit, and accompanied with genuine repentance
Diversity of views in relation to the meaning of Regeneration. and evangelical faith. Whether this be the correct and an. cient use of the term, or a new and modern application of it, it is no part of our object to enquire. This term, however, to the minds of some christians, conveys another meaning. They understand by “ Regeneration,” a change of state, or of relationship. They suppose that this term denotes the external act of translating one from the world to the churchfrom the state of an alien, into a new and covenanted state. These apply the term “ Renovation” to the great moral change wrought in the heart of the sinner, when he is led to “ believe to the saving of his soul.”
Others there are, who apply the term regeneration to all that takes place in Baptism. As baptism is a divine ordinance, they suppose that divine influences are through this medium imparted to the soul. They pretend not to say what change is wrought, nor what benefits are thus conferred—but whatever they are, whether external or internal, they suppose the term regeneration expresses them all.
A third class, though they suppose that the term regeneration necessarily implies the idea of a new moral creation in the soul, also suppose that it implies the sacramental act of being washed by water, and that no person, in strict propriety, can be said to be regenerated, until he has been born of water,” according to our Saviour's explanation of the new birth-66
except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of Heaven.”
There are others, to whom this term conveys other shades of meaning. Now, because these christians use the term regeneration to denote these various ideas, have we on this ac. count a right to conclude that they do not believe in the ne. cessity of that spiritual change, to which, in common and popular use, the term regeneration is applied ?—Certainly not. We might just as well argue that the Levite, in the suppossed case above referred to, did not admit there was any such passage that opened to the Temple, as that of the Beautiful gate, because he applied that term to another gate, which led to Mount Zion, After all, this is a controversy about words, and did not the term regeneration occur in the Prayer Book, and was not the use of it there, made the ground of objection to the Episcopal Church, we would not spend a single moment in discussing what is its proper
Two propositions. and legitimate application—for we can scarcely look upon such a discussion in any other light than as “a strife of words."
In reference to the use of this word in our baptismal offices we cannot but concur in the sentiment expressed by the ven. erable Bishop of the Eastern Diocese, that “ an alteration of some few expressions in our liturgy would render explanations less necessary, and would remove one great obstacle to the success of our labors.” The very fact that so much explanation is necessary to render this word rightly understood, and that those who approve of its use, still understand it in so many different senses, constitutes in our view a reason why it is desireable that some other word should be substituted in its place, in an instrument constructed for sucn general use, and for so solemn and momentous a purpose, as that of admitting members into the Church of Christ.
What we shall principally attempt, by way of elucidating this subject, will be to show,
1. That whatever theories, different Episcopalians may adopt, in relation to the true meaning of the term regeneration, by none of these theories, or the holders of them, is denied the necessity of a change of heart—the necessity of a new and internal moral creation, effected by the power of the Holy Spirit, and having no necessary connection with the act of baptismal washing:
2. That whatever exposition is given to the term Regeneration, as it occurs in the Prayer Book, the use of it, as it there occurs, can be shown to be consistent with the doctrines of scripture.
The present chapter will be occupied in the illustration of the first of these propositions. The second proposition will be taken up in the succeeding chapter.
We are to show, that whatever theories different Episcopalians may adopt in relation to the true meaning of the term regeneration, by none of these theories, or the holders of them, is denied the necessity of a change of heart or of a new and internal moral creation, effected by the power of the Holy Spirit, and having no necessary connection with the act of baptism.
This position will be fully established, if it can be shown, that this great moral change has been insisted upon, as a doctrine of vital importance and as something having no
Testimony of Dr. Miller: Archbishop Usher.-Bp. Hall. necessary connection with baptism, by all the great and dis. tinguished Divines in the Anglican and American Churches, who have used the Prayer Book as a proper ritual, both for conducting public worship, and administering the sacraments of the Gospel.
Dr. Miller, a Presbyterian Divine, who has been long known as one of the distinguished Professors in the Theological Seminary at Princeton, remarks in a recent publication that “nothing can be more certain than that the mass of the English reformers distinctly taught that Baptism is a sign only of regeneration,--that the thing signified, might or might not accompany the administration of the outward ordi. nance, according as it was received worthily or otherwise. In support of this assertion, the most explicit quotations might be presented from the writings of those distinguished martyrs and prelates—Cranmer, Latimer, Ridly and Hooper: and after them, from the writings of the eminent Bishops, Jewell, Davenant, Hall, Usher, Reynolds, Leighton, Hopkins, Tillotson, Beveridge, Burnet, Secker, and a host of other Divines of the English Church, of whose elevated character, it would be little less than an insult to any intelligent reader to att mpt to offer testimony."* And I
also add that these men have in their writings every where taught the necessity of a spiritual regeneration-an internal sanctification, by which the heart is renewed, and wholly given up to God.
As a specimen of the doctrines which they held and taught, take the following illustrations. Archbishop Usher, who died in 1656, says:
Baptism is but the porch, the shell, the outside; all that are outwardly received into the visible church, are not spiritually ingrafted into the mystical body of Christ. Some have the inward grace, and not the outward sign : we must not commit idolatry by deifying the outward element "+
Bishop Hall, who died in 1656, thus addresses baptized persons :
* Miller on Baptism, p. 129. See also in further proof of this" Baptism the Seal of the Christian Covenant,” by Rev. 'T. T. Biddulph, also Christian Observer, vol. XVI. p. 388, and Christian Observer, vol. XV. p. 180.
f Usher's Body of Divinity. See pp. 183, 191, 192, 196.