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THE POSSIBILITIES AND DYNAMICS OF THE REGENERATE LIFE
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
How easily these early disciples break into doxology! Whenever some winding in the way of their thought brings the grace of God into view, the song leaps to their lips. The glory of grace strikes the chords of their hearts into music, and life resounds with exuberant praise. It is a stimulating research to study the birthplaces of doxologies in the apostolic writings. Sometimes the march of an argument is stayed while the doxology is sung. Sometimes the Te Deum is heard in the midst of a procession of moral maxims. The environment of the doxology varies, but the operative cause which gives it birth is ever the same. From 2the height of some ascending argument, or through the lens of some ethical maxim, the soul catches a glimpse of the “riches of His grace,” and the wonderful vision moves it to inevitable and immediate praise. I am not surprised, therefore, to find the doxology forming the accompaniment of a passage which contemplates the glory and the privileges of the re-created life. It is a Te Deum sung during the unveiling of the splendours of redeeming grace. Let us turn our eyes to the vision which has aroused the grateful song.
“Blessed be the God and Father . . . who begat us again.” [Verse 3] “Begat again.” That is one of the unique phrases of the Christian vocabulary. It is not to be found in systems of thought which are alien from the Christian religion. It is not to be found in the vocabulary of any of the modern schools which are severed from the facts and forces of the Christian faith. The emphasis of their teaching gathers round about terms of quite a different order, such as culture, training, discipline, education, evolution. The Christian religion has also much to say about the process of evolution. It dwells at length upon the ministries of “growth,” “training,” “increasing,” “putting on,” “perfecting.” But while it emphasises “growth,” it directs our attention to “birth.” While it magnifies the 3necessity of wise culture, it proclaims the necessity of good seed. So while the Bible lags behind no school in urging the importance of liberal culture, it stands alone in proclaiming the necessity of right germs. You cannot by culture develop the thorn-bush into a ladened vine. You cannot by the most exquisite discipline evolve “the natural man” into the “measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” If we had merely to do with perverted growths, then the trainer and pruner might twist the crooked straight. But we are confronted with more than perverted growths; we have to do with corrupt and rotting seed. If all we needed was the purification of our conditions, then the City Health Department might lead us into holiness. But we need more than the enrichment of the soil; we need the revitalising of the seed. And so the Christian religion raises the previous question. It begins its ministry at a stage prior to the process of evolution. It discourses on births and generation, on seeds and germs, and proclaims as its primary postulate, “Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
Now, man is not enamoured of that dogmatic postulate. It smites his pride in the forehead. It lays himself and his counsels in the dust. 4It expresses itself in an alien speech. Men are familiar with the word “educate”; the alien word is “regenerate.” Political controversy has familiarised them with the word “reform”; the alien word is “transfigure.” They have made a commonplace of the word “organise”; the alien word is “vitalise.” They have made almost a fetish of the phrase “moral growth”; the alien word is “new birth.” And so we do not like the strange and humbling postulate; but whether we like it or not, the heart of every man bears witness to the truth and necessity of its imperative demand. Man be comes incredulous of the necessity of the new birth when he surveys the lives of others, but not when he contemplates his own. We gaze upon the conduct and behaviour of some man who is dissociated from the Christian Church, or who indeed is hostile or indifferent to the Christian faith. “We mark the integrity of his walk, the seemliness of his behaviour, the purity of all his relationships, the evident loftiness of his ideals, and we then project the sceptical inquiry, Does this man need to be begotten again? I do not accept one man’s judgment as to the necessity of another man’s regeneration. I wish to hear a man’s judgment concerning himself. I would like a man to be brought face to face with the life of Jesus, 5with all its searching and piercing demands, and with all its marvellous ideals, so marvellously attained, and I would like the man’s own judgment as to what would be required before he himself, in the most secret parts of his life, is clothed in the same superlative glory. I think it is impossible to meet with a single unconverted man who does not know that, if ever he is to wear the glory of the Son of God, and to be chaste and illumined in his most hidden thoughts and dispositions, there will have to take place some marvellous and inconceivable transformation. Let any man gaze long on “the unsearchable riches of Christ,” and then let him slowly and deliberately take the inventory of his own life, and I am persuaded he will come to regard the vaunted panaceas of the world as altogether secondary, he will relegate its vocabulary to the secondary, and he will welcome as the only pertinent and adequate speech, “Ye must be born again.”
Into what manner of life are we begotten again? What is the range of its possibilities, and the spaciousness of its prospects? The apostolic doxology winds its way among a wealth of unveiled glories.
“Blessed be the God . . . who begat us again unto a living hope.” [Verse 3] It is a hope affluent in life, It is a vivifying hope. There are hopes 6that are inoperative, ineffective, uninfluential. They generate no energy. They impart no power to work the mill. But the spiritual hope of the redeemed is living and life-creating, operating as a vital stimulus upon the consecrated race. How the Bible exults in the use of this great characteristic word: “Living Bread!” “Living Water!” “Living Fountains!” “The Living God!” The word conveys the suggestion of superabundant life, exuberant energy, an over flowing vitality. It quickens the sentiments. “We rejoice in hope.” The dispositions dance in the radiant light! It vitalises the thought. The mind which is inspired by the glorious expectation is grandly secure against the encroachment of the evil one. Hope-inspired thought is its own defence. It energises the will. The great hope feeds the will, vivifies it, makes it steadfast and unmovable. Into all this powerful hope are we begotten again by the abundant mercy of God.
“Begat us again . . . unto an inheritance.” [Verse 4] With our regeneration we become heirs to a glorious spiritual estate, with all its inexhaustible possessions and treasures. How the apostles roll out the New Testament music by ringing the changes upon this eagerly welcomed word! “Heirs of salvation!” “Heirs of the kingdom!” “Heirs together of the grace of life!” “Heirs according to the hope of eternal life!” 7The apostles survey their estate from different angles, that they may comprehend the wealth of the vast inheritance. With what fruitful words does the Apostle Peter characterise the nature of these possessions! It is an inheritance “incorruptible.” It is beyond the reach of death. No grave is ever dug on this estate. It is an inheritance “undefiled.” It is beyond the taint of sin. No contamination ever stains its driven snow. The robes of the glorified are whiter than snow. It is an inheritance “that fadeth not away.” It is beyond the blight of change. The leaf never turns. “Time does not breathe on its fadeless bloom.” Into this glorious inheritance are we begotten again by the abundant mercy of God.
“Begat us again . . . unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” [Verse 5] Here conies in the graciousness of spiritual evolution. All the steps on the work of salvation are “ready,” right away to the ultimate consummation. There has been no caprice in the arrangements. There need be no uncertainty in the expectations. There has been no defect in the preparations. There is no lack in the resources. What is needed for the ripening of the redeemed character has been provided. At every step of the way “all things are ready.” The glorious possibilities range from the seed 8to the “full corn in the ear”; from the new birth to the “salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Such is the inspiring prospect, and such are some of the glorious possibilities of the redeemed and re-created life.
“We have searched this glowing doxology for glimpses of the new-begotten life. We have gazed upon its fascinating range of possibilities. Has it any suggestion to offer of the dynamics by which these alluring possibilities may be achieved? I have already dwelt upon the vitalising energy which flows from its living hope. Are there other suggestions of empowering dynamics by which even the loftiest spiritual height may be scaled? Let us glance at some of these suggested powers.
“According to His great mercy.” [Verse 3] I am glad and grateful that the pregnant passage is prefaced by this word. The regenerated soul is just enveloped in “great mercy.” Now mercy implies sympathy. “We cannot have mercy without sympathy. “Without mercy we cannot have leniency; but leniency is only thin, pinched fruit compared with the fat, juicy fruit of mercy. “Without sympathy we may have giving, but unsympathetic giving is like the cold, outer threshold, while mercy is like a glowing hearthstone. Mercy implies sympathy. 9Go a step further. Sympathy suggests the choicest companionship, the rarest of all fellowships. Where there is true sympathy, there is the most exquisite companionship. If, then, our God and Father enswathes us in “great mercy,” He visits in the sweetest fellowships. Therefore in the redeemed life there can be no loneliness, for in the Father’s presence all possible loneliness is destroyed. The mercy which implies companionship accompanies me as a dynamic from my faintest breathing as a babe-Christian on to the consummation when I shall have become a full-grown man in Christ.
“Begat us again . . . by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” [Verse 3] His resurrection opens to me the doors of the immortal life. If He had not risen, my hope had never been born. The breaking up of His grave means the breaking up of man’s winter, and the soft approach of the eternal spring. Because He has risen, death no longer counts! That Life, which in death defeated death, and converted “the place of a skull” into the altar of the people’s hope, is the dynamic of the regenerate soul, and makes the life invulnerable.
“By the power of God guarded unto salvation.” [Verse 5] Here is another aspect of the gracious energy which enables me to convert possibilities into 10achievements. I am “guarded.” The “power of God” defends me, hems me in, and secures me from every assault. My Father’s power is my garrison. He engirdles me, like a defensive army occupying a city wall, and makes me invincible against the menace and attacks of the devil. “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people.” Such are the adequate resources, and such the wonderful equipments of the regenerate life. The land that stretches before us is glorious. The power to possess it is equally glorious. They may both be ours “by faith.”11
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