Part 2
Chapter 4Of Efficacious Grace

Section 1John 3:5.

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Since the work of grace upon the soul is here expressed by a being born again, or from above; and since this is ascribed to water and the Spirit,not baptismal water, which has no regenerating virtue in it, nor is it absolutely necessary to salvation; but either the grace of the Spirit or spirit of grace, compared to water (Ezek. 36:25; John 4:14; 7:37-39); we conclude, that this is wrought by the omnipotent and unfrustrable grace of God, in which man is as passive as an infant is in its natural generation and birth. In answer to which it is said,[1]

1. That "the falsehood of this argument is evident from this consideration, that this new birth is ascribed to the word and ministers of God (Rom. 10:17; 1 Pet. 1:23; Jam. 1:18; 1 Cor. 4:15), who work upon us by moral suasion; and since this cannot import, that they produce it by an irresistible action, in which we are purely passive, it will not follow that God, or his good Spirit, doth so convert men, because they are said to be born of God, or of the Spirit." To which I reply, that though faith comes by hearing, and we are said to be begotten by the word of God and truth, as a mean, yet faith is a gift of grace, and of the operation of God (Eph. 2:8; Col. 2:12; 2 Thess. 1:11); which work of faith, as it will be fulfilled, so it is begun and carried on by the power of God, which can never be resisted so as to be overcome. And though ministers are represented as spiritual fathers, yet they are only instruments by whom we believe; and were no more done, than what is the effect of moral suasion through them, the work would never be done at all. Moreover, it does not follow, that because they do not and cannot produce this work by an irresistible action, in which we are passive, that therefore God does not convert men in such a way; since it is certain he makes use of them in such a manner, as that the excellency of the power may appear to be of God, and not of man (2 Cor. 4:7.) Besides, we are never said to be born of the word, or of ministers, but by them; whereas we are said to be born of God, and of the Spirit, which is expressive not of bare means, or mere moral suasion, but of the powerful efficiency.

2. It is observed,[2] that this "phrase is used by the Jews concerning their proselytes, they being then said to be recensnati,newborn babes; and from them our Lord translates the metaphor to his disciples, renewed after the image of God in true holiness, and sanctified throughout in all their whole man." But the phrase of being born of water and of the Spirit,is never used by the Jews concerning their proselytes. It is true, indeed, they have such a saying as this, dlwn ymd rg ryygtn wfqk, One that is made a proselyte, is like a child new born:[3] but then they used this not in a spiritual but in a civil sense, signifying by it, that such ceased from all natural and civil relations to parents, masters, etc. Such an one might marry his mother, or mother's sister, be no longer under obligation to a master, standing no longer in any relation to them, being as a newborn babe; and might be admitted, in civil cases, as a witness equally with a Jew, with many other things of the like nature.[4] And admitting that our Lord had reference to the use of this phrase among the Jews, it was to show, that another kind of birth was necessary to the enjoyment of the kingdom of God, that either the Jews, as being the descendants of Abraham, or than the proselytes, by coming over to the Jewish religion, had. Besides, since in the objection it is observed, that this metaphor is translated to such who are renewed after the image of God in true holiness, and sanctified throughout in all their whole man; yea, it is added, that there is such intrinsic change in the whole spirit, soul, and body,that they may be said to be much more other men, than Saul, when the Spirit of prophecy came upon him: and seeing it is owned, that this change is wrought within us by the operation of the Holy Spirit, why should it not be ascribed to the unfrustrable and irresistible power and grace of the Spirit, in which men are entirely passive?


[1] Whitby, p. 274, 275; ed. 2. 268.

[2] Whitby, p. 275; ed. 2. 268.

[3] Talm. Jebamot, fol. 22:1, 48:2, 62:1, and 97:2.

[4] Vide Maimon. Issure Bia, c.14, s.11; and Eduth. c.13, s. 2.

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