4. But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared,
4 cum autem benignitas et humanitas apparuit salvatoris nostri Dei
5. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
5 non ex operibus iustitiae quae fecimus nos sed secundum suam misericordiam salvos nos fecit per lavacrum regenerationis et renovationis Spiritus Sancti
6. Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior;
6 quem effudit in nos abunde per Iesum Christum salvatorem nostrum
7. That, being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
7 ut iustificati gratia ipsius heredes simus secundum spem vitae aeternae
Either the principal clause in this sentence is, that "God hath saved us by his mercy," or the language is elliptical. Thus it will be proper to supply, that they were changed for the better, and became new men, in consequence of God having mercy upon them; as if he had said, When God regenerated you by his Spirit, then did you begin to differ from others. But since there is a complete sense in the words of Paul, there is no necessity for making any addition. He classes himself along with others, in order that the exhortation may be more efficacious.
The answer is easy. in no other way did the fathers taste the goodness of God under the Law, than by looking at Christ, on whose coming all their faith rested. Thus the goodness of God is said to have
"God so loved the world", says John, "that he gave his only-begotten Son." (John 3:16.)
Paul also says in another passage,
"Hereby God confirmeth his love towards us, that, while we were enemies, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8.)
It is a customary way of speaking in Scripture, that the world was reconciled to God through the death of Christ, although we know that he was a kind Father in all ages. But because we find no cause of the love of God toward us, and no ground of our salvation, but in Christ, not without good reason is God the Father said to have strewn his goodness to us in him.
Yet there is a different reason for it in this passage, in which Paul speaks, not of that ordinary manifestation of Christ which took place when he came as a man into the world, but of the manifestation which is made by the gospel, when he exhibits and reveals himself, in a peculiar manner, to the elect. At the first coming of Christ, Paul was not renewed; but, on the contrary, Christ was raised in glory, and salvation through his name shone upon many, not only in Judea, but throughout the neighboring countries, while Paul, blinded by unbelief, labored to extinguish this grace by every means in his power. He therefore means that the grace of God "appeared" both to himself and to others, when they were enlightened in the knowledge of the gospel. And indeed, in no other way could these words apply; for he does not speak indiscriminately about the men of his age, but specially addresses those who had been separated from the ordinary ranks; as if he had said, that formerly they resembled those unbelievers who were still plunged in darkness, but that now they differ from them, not through their own merit, but by the grace of God; in the same manner as he beats down all the haughtiness of the flesh by the same argument. "Who maketh thee to differ," or to be more highly, esteemed than others? (1 Corinthians 4:7.)
It is madness, therefore, to allege that a man approaches to God by his own "preparations," as they call them During the whole period of life they depart further and further from him, until he puts forth his hand, and brings them back into that path from which they had gone astray. In short, that we, rather than others, have been admitted to enjoy the salivation of Christ, is altogether ascribed by Paul to the mercy of God, because there were no works of righteousness in us. This argument would have no weight, if he did not take for granted, that everything that we attempt to do before we believe, is unrighteous and hateful to God.
"He that believeth in the Son of God
hath passed from death into life." (John 5:24.)
Yet, shortly afterwards, by introducing the word faith, the Apostle will shew that we have not yet actually attained what Christ procured for us by his death. Hence it follows, that, on the part of God, our salvation is completed, while the full enjoyment of it is delayed till the end of our warfare. And that is what the same Apostle teaches in another passage, that "we are saved by hope." (Romans 8:24.)
Now the Apostles are wont to draw an argument from the Sacraments, to prove that which is there exhibited under a figure, because it ought to be held by believers as a settled principle, that God does not sport with us by unmeaning figures, but inwardly accomplishes by his power what he exhibits by the outward sign; and therefore, baptism is fitly and truly said to be "the washing of regeneration." The efficacy and use of the sacraments will be properly understood by him who shall connect the sign and the thing signified, in Such a manner as not to make the sign unmeaning and inefficacious, and who nevertheless shall not, for the sake of adorning the: sign, take away from the Holy Spirit what belongs to him. Although by baptism wicked men are neither washed nor renewed, yet it retains that power, so far as relates to God, because, although they reject the grace of God, still it is offered to them. But here Paul addresses believers, in whom baptism is always efficacious, and in whom, therefore, it is properly connected with its truth and efficacy. But by this mode of expression we are reminded that, if we do not wish to annihilate holy baptism, we must prove its efficacy by "newness of life." (Romans 6:4.)
"I will sprinkle on you clean waters, even my Spirit."
(Ezekiel 36:25, 27.)
And indeed, the words of Paul agree so completely with the words of the Prophet, that it appears clearly that both of them say the same thing. For this reason I said at the commencement, that Paul, while he speaks directly about the Holy Spirit, at tine same time alludes to baptism. It is therefore the Spirit of God who regenerates us, and makes us new creatures; but because his grace is invisible and hidden, a visible symbol of it is beheld in baptism.
Some read the word "renewing," in the accusative case, thus: -- "through the washing of regeneration and (through) the renewing of the Holy Spirit.", But the other reading -- "through the washing of regeneration and of the renewing of the Holy Spirit" -- is, in my opinion, preferable.
When he, says,
Still this does not prevent him from returning immediately to praise divine mercy; and he even mingles both blessings together -- that our sins have been freely pardoned, and that we have been renewed so as to obey God. This, at least, is evident, that Paul maintains that "justification', is the free gift of God; and the only question is, what he means by the word justified. The contest seems to demand that its meaning shall be extended further than to the imputation of righteousness; and in this larger sense it is seldom (as I have said) employed by Paul; yet there is nothing that hinders the meaning of it from being limited to the forgiveness of sins.
When he says, by
1 "Perhaps the reader will give me leave to add a short expository lecture upon the most distinguished parts of this very important paragraph. I.-We have the cause of our redemption; not works of righteousness which we have done, but the kindness, the love, the mercy, of God our Savior. To these, to these alone, every child of man must ascribe both his fruition of present, and his expectation of future blessedness. II.- The effects, which are-1. Justification, being justified, having our sins forgiven and our persons accepted through the righteousness of Christ imputed; all this without any the least deserving quality in us, solely by his grace and most unmerited goodness. 2. Sanctification expressed by the washing of regeneration-that washing in the Redeemer's blood which cleanses the soul from guilt, as the washing of water cleanseth the body from filth, which reconciles to God, give' peace of conscience, and thereby lays the foundation of an universal spiritual change-the renewing of the Holy Ghost, whose influences, testifying of Christ, and applying his merits, introduce an improvement into all the faculties of the mind, something like that annual renovation and general smile which the return of spring diffuses over the face of nature. III-The end and consummation of all-that we should be made heirs of the heavenly kingdom, and live more in the assured hope, hereafter in the full enjoyment, of eternal."-Hervey.
2 "It remaineth that we declare what is the office of the same, what he, is unto us, as the Holy Spirit; for although the Spirit of God be of infinite, essential, and original holiness, as God, and so may be called Holy in himself; though other spirits which were created be either actually now unholy, or of defectible sanctity at first, and so having the name of spirit common unto them, he may be termed holy, that he may be distinguished from them; yet I conceive he is rather called the Holy Spirit, for the Spirit of Holiness' (Romans 1:4,) because of the three persons in the blessed Trinity, it is his particular office to sanctify or make us holy. As, therefore, what our Savior did and suffered for us belonged to that office of a Redeemer which he took upon him; so whatsoever the Holy Ghost worketh in order to the same salvation, we look upon as belonging to his office. And because without holiness it is impossible to please God, because we all are impure and unholy, and the purity and holiness which is required in us to appear in the presence of God, whose eyes are pure, must be wrought in us by the Spirit of God, who is called Holy, because he is the cause of this holiness in us, therefore we acknowledge the office of the Spirit of God to consist in the sanctifying of the servants of God, and the declaration of this office, added to the description of his nature, to be a sufficient explication of the object of faith contained in this article-'I believe in the Holy Ghost-Bp. Pearson on the Creed.
3 "When we wish to ascertain the method of our salvation, we must begin with the Son of God. For it is he who hath washed us by his blood-it is he who hath obtained righteousness for us by his obedience -- it is he who is our Advocate, and through whom we now find grace it is he who procured for us the adoption by which we are made children and heirs of God. Let us carefully observe that we must seek all the parts of our salvation in Jesus Christ; for we shall not find a single drop of it anywhere else." -- Fr. Ser.
4 "Par la grace et misericorde de Dieu." "By the grace and mercy of God."