Part 2 Chapter 6

Section 111 John 3:9.

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

He that is born of God is one that is regenerated by the Spirit and grace of God; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit,or spiritual; it is a new man,a new creature,which neither does, nor can commit sin; though it is as yet imperfect, there is no impurity in it, no bias, tendency; or inclination to sin, but all the reverse; it is born of an incorruptible seed which remains, it is a principle of grace which is of God, and can never be lost. Hence it follows, that regenerate persons cannot cease to be so. In answer to this, it is said,"[1]

1. "That these words cannot be intended to signify that he who is born of the Spirit and the word,can never fall from that state is evident; partly, because he hath been proved already that the Holy Spirit may depart and quit his habitation; and so he who was once born of the Spirit may cease to be so; and partly, because men may not continue in the word, nor the word abide in them, nor they in Christ, and may lose their interest in God, and the things which they had wrought, as is clearly intimated by these exhortations (1 John 2:24, 27, 28; 2 John 1:8, 9)." But it has been also already proved that the Holy Spirit does not finally and totally depart from true believers. Nor is it possible that he that is once born of the Spirit can cease to be so; a man can be but once regenerated; and he that is once born again cannot be again unborn. Nor do the exhortations referred to intimate that regenerate persons may not abide in the word, or that in them, or they not in Christ, or that they may lose their interest in God; but are so many encouragements to the performance of duty, as a means of their final perseverance.

2. It is argued[2] that "as those words of Christ (Matthew 7:18), and those of the apostle (Rom. 8:7), do not prove that corrupt tree cannot cease to be corrupt, and become good; or that the carnal mind cannot cease to be so, and become spiritual, so neither do these words prove that he who is born of God cannot cease to be so." But it should be observed, that as the words of Christ and the apostle referred to, prove that a corrupt and carnal man cannot become good and spiritual without the powerful and efficacious grace of God, which can only make him so; so these words prove that a regenerate man cannot cease to be one, or in such sense sin as to be lost and perish; for this reason, because there is a principle of mighty grace in him, which overcomes the world, the flesh, and the devil. Again, it is urged,[3] that "as these words in Matthew 12:34, John 7:7, and John 12:39, and John 14:17, do not signify an impossibility that it should be otherwise, but only their present indisposition to the contrary, and the aversation of their minds from those things which it is said they cannot do: so those words do not import any impossibility that they should do so, but only that they have at present that frame of spirit, which renders them strongly averse from sin, and indisposed to yield to any temptations to commit it." But it is easy to observe, that the apostle does not conclude the regenerate man's not sinning, or not being able to sin, from any present precarious frame of spirit; but from his constitution, as being born of God, and from the seed of God, a principle of grace remaining and abiding in him.

3. It is said,[4] that "the interpretation which many of the ancient fathers give us of these words, are a demonstration that they believed not the doctrine of the saints' perseverance;for they expound the words thus; He that is born of God sinneth not, neither can sin,quamdiu renatus est, whilst he is born of God; because he ceaseth to be a child of God when he sins." Whether the ancient fathers believed the doctrine of the saints' perseverance, or not, will be considered (God willing) in an after part of this work. Who the many of the ancient fathers are, that give this interpretation of the words, we are not told: not Ignatius, nor Clemens of Rome, nor of Alexandria, nor Irenaeus, nor Justin Martyr, nor Cyprian. Tertullian comes the nearest to it, when he says,[5] Haec non admittet omnino qui natus a Deo fuerit, non futurus Dei filius si admiserit; He that is born of God, will not at all commit these things,speaking of some grievous sins; should he commit them he would not be a child of God. His meaning I take to be this; should any one that professes to be born of God, commit such and such things, it would be evident that he was not a child of God: but he adds afterwards, We know that every one that is born of God, sinneth not;scilicet, delictum quod ad mortem eat, namely, the sin unto death.


[1] Whitby, p. 466; ed. 2.446.

[2] Ibid., p. 467, ed. 2.447.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Whitby, p. 467; ed. 2.448.

[5] De Pudicitia, c. 19: p. 741; ed. Paris.

Gill Index