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§ 4. Objection.
The same objections which are urged against other doctrines of grace are pressed against the Augustinian view of the nature of regeneration. These objections are of three classes.
Denial of Supernaturalism.
1. The first class of objections are founded on the denial of Theism; or at least on the denial of the Scriptural doctrine of the relation of God to the world. It is an assumption common to most of the forms of modern philosophy that the only agency of the Supreme Being (whether personal or impersonal) is according to law. It is ordered, uniform, and in, with, and through second causes, if such causes are admitted. Everything is natural, and nothing supernatural, either in the outward world or in the sphere of things spiritual. There can be no creation “ex nihilo,” no miracles, no immediate revelation, no inspiration in the church sense of that term; no supernatural work upon the heart, and therefore no regeneration in the sense of an immediate operation of almighty power on the soul. Those who depart from their principles so far as to admit the person of Christ to be supernatural in its origin contend that the supernatural in Him becomes natural, and that from Him onward the diffusion of spiritual life is by a regular process of development, as simply natural as the development of humanity from Adam through all his posterity.
This is purely a philosophical theory. It has no authority for Christians. As it is contrary to the express teaching of the Scriptures it cannot be adopted by those who recognize them as the infallible rule of faith and practice. As it contradicts the moral and religious convictions arising from the constitution of our nature, it must be hurtful in all its tendencies, and can be adopted by those only who sacrifice to speculation their interior life.
Resting on False Psychological Theories.
2. A second class of objections are founded on certain psychological theories on free agency, on the nature of the soul, and on the conditions of moral obligation. No theories on these, or any other subjects, have any authority, except those which underlie and are necessarily assumed in the facts and doctrines of the Scripture. If any theory teaches that plenary ability is essential to free agency; that God cannot control with certainty the acts 38of free agents without destroying their liberty; or that free acts cannot be foreseen, predicted, or foreordained, then such theory must be false if the Scriptures assert facts which imply the contrary. If a theory teaches that men are responsible only for acts of the will, under their own control, that theory must be rejected if the Bible teaches that we are responsible for states of mind over which the will has no direct power. The facts involved in the evangelical doctrine of regeneration, as stated above, contradict the theories on which the arguments of the Remonstrants, Pelagians, and others against that doctrine rest, and therefore those theories must share the fate of every doctrine which contradicts established facts. This has been demonstrated over and over in different ages of the Church. The principles involved in these objections have been discussed in the preceding pages, and need not be again considered.
Objections founded on the Divine Perfection.
3. A third class of objections are drawn from the supposed inconsistency of this doctrine with the moral perfections of God. If all men are dead in sin, destitute of the power to restore themselves to life, then not only is it unjust that they should be condemned, but it is also incompatible with the divine rectitude that God should exert his almighty power in the regeneration of some, while He leaves others to perish. Justice, it is said, demands that all should have an equal opportunity; that all should have, by nature or from grace, power to secure their own salvation. It is obvious that such objections do not bear peculiarly against the Augustinian system. They are urged by atheists against Theism. If there be a personal God of infinite power, why does He permit sin and misery to hold joint supremacy on earth; why are good and evil so unequally distributed, and why is the distribution so arbitrary?
Deists make the same objections against the divine authority of the Bible. They cannot receive it as the Word of God because it represents the Creator and Governor of the world as placing men under circumstances which secure in some way the universality of sin, and then punishing them with inexorable severity even for their idle words.
It is also plain that the different anti-Augustinian systems afford no real relief from these difficulties. Admitting that regeneration is the sinner’s own act; admitting that every man has all the knowledge and all the ability necessary to secure his 39salvation, it remains true that few are saved, and that God does not interpose to prevent the great majority of adult men in the present state of the world perishing in their sins.
Augustinians do not deny these difficulties. They only maintain that they are not peculiar to their system; and they rest content with the solution of them given in the Scriptures. That solution agrees with all the facts of consciousness and experience, so far as consciousness and experience extend. The Bible teaches that man was created holy; that by his voluntary transgression of the divine law he apostatized from God; that in consequence of this apostasy all men come into the world in a state of spiritual death, both guilty and polluted; that God exercises no influence to lead them into sin, but on the contrary, by his truth, his providence, and by his Spirit exerts all that influence over them which should induce rational beings to repent and seek his pardoning mercy and sanctifying grace; that all those who sincerely and faithfully seek reconciliation with God in the way of his appointment He actually saves; that of his sovereign grace He, in the exercise of his mighty power, renews and sanctifies a multitude which no man can number, who would otherwise have continued in their sins. With these representations of the Scriptures everything within the sphere of our knowledge agrees. Consciousness and experience testify that we are an apostate race; that all men are sinners, and, being sinners, have forfeited all claims on the favour of God; that in continuing in sin and in rejecting the overtures of mercy men act voluntarily, following the desires of their own hearts. Every man’s conscience, moreover, teaches him that he has never sought the salvation of his soul with the sincerity and perseverance with which men seek the things of the world, and yet failed in his efforts. Every man who comes short of eternal life knows that the responsibility rests upon himself. On the other hand, the experience of every believer is a witness to him that it is of God and not of himself that he is in Christ (1 Corinthians i. 30); every believer knows that if God had left him to himself he wodd have continued in unbelief and sin. Why God intervenes to save one and not another, when all are equally undeserving; why the things of God are revealed unto babes while hidden from the wise and prudent, can only be answered in the language of our Lord, “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.” (Matthew xi. 26.)
The more popular and common objections that the Augustinian doctrine of regeneration leads to the neglect of the means of 40grace, “to waiting for God’s time,” to indifference or despair; that it is inconsistent with exhortations and commands addressed to sinners to repent and believe, and incompatible with moral responsibility, have already been repeatedly considered. It is enough to say once more that these objections are founded on the assumption that inability, even when it arises out of our own sinfulness, is incompatible with obligation. Besides, it is the natural and actual tendency of a sense of helplessness under a burden of evil, to lead to earnest and importunate application for relief to Him who is able to afford it, and by whom it is offered.41
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