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Sermon Notes on Matthew 5:8
By A. P. Williams, D. D.

[p. 85]
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

"I. "Who are the pure in heart?
"II. Why are they blessed?
"1. Who are the pure in heart?
(a) Sincerity is not purity of heart. Paul was very sincere while a persecutor.
(b) Orthodoxy is not purity of heart. Many hold the truth in unrighteousness. Romans 1:18.
(c) The heart is the seat of the affections, fountain of actions.
(d) Two kinds of a heart — carnal or fleshly, deceitful. Jeremiah 17:9. Then there is the spiritual, such as we receive in regeneration. Ezeekiel 11:29; 36:36. Jesus says make the tree good and his fruit good, or make the tree corrupt and his fruit corrupt.
(e) How may we know that our heart is pure? By their fruits ye shall know them. Paul specifies the fruits of the flesh and of the spirit in Galatians 5:19-23. Compare Mark 7:21-23. Remember that if we live after the flesh we shall die, but if we through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body we shall live. Romans 8:14. 'They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh.'

"We consider:
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"2. Why they are blessed, (a) Shall see God. See. Enjoy. When? Here — especially hereafter. David says: 'Whom have I in Heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth I desire beside thee.'

"'Blessed are the pure in heart.'"

This brief outline is a fair sample of the amount of manuscript he took into the pulpit with him. It is a fact that the really great preachers have, almost without exception, preached with but little or no manuscript before them in the pulpit. There are Fuller, Graves, Broadus, Spurgeon, Hall, Ford and Williams who were never known to preach from manuscript. There never has been a man who could preach as well as any of these, who read his sermon. Sermon reading is not consistent with the best preaching. However closely a man may write his sermon, he should be able to preach it without the use of the manuscript. Read much to become full of the subject; write much to be accurate in the ex­pression of thought, but speak, speak, SPEAK, when you enter the pulpit. Manuscript is to a ser­mon what a wet blanket is to the body — it has a cooling effect.

We publish an article of Dr. Williams' on Regen­eration, which was written for Ford's Christian Re­pository, April, 1866, and republished in that magazine in December, 1899. As will be seen, it is a clear and strong statement of the subject as it ia taught in the Scriptures.
[p. 87]

By A. P. Williams, D.D.

In these days of religious inquiry and discussion, much is said on almost every subject connected with Christian Theology. Every now and then I meet with something on this subject. I had supposed that it was generally very well understood, both in regard to what it is and the means by which it is produced. But it seems that in this I have been mistaken. There is no uniformity in sentiment here, even among Baptists. Some of our brethren confine the term in its meaning to the very work of the Spirit in the process of conversion, while others extend it so as to include the entire process. The former exclude instrumentality in the work, while the latter recognize the truth as the great instrument employed in effecting it. Now, why this diversity of opinion? Is it because the Bible does not afford sufficient light to clear up the question? Or, is it because we receive our notions from theologians who treat this, as well as every other, subject, as a part of their system, and interpret it to suit?

It is, perhaps, too much for me to claim that I have ascertained the truth in regard to this subject, and ask the brethren to hear me as they would an oracle; but I will "show mine opinion."

The term "regeneration" is used but twice in the New Testament: By the Saviour in Matthew 19:28.
[p. 88]
"Ye which have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." And by Paul in Titus 3:5. "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."

In the former of these examples it is difficult to tell precisely to what the term alludes. According to the punctuation in our version, it alludes to the renewing of the heavens and the earth at the com­ing of the day of God. But there are some who think that the comma should not be after the word "me," but after the word "regeneration," believ­ing that the Saviour expressed by the term some­thing in which the persons addressed already had followed him. I incline to the sense the punctuation gives it. If this is its sense, then the term cannot be confined to the very first act in the process of the renewal of the heavens and the earth; it must take into its meaning the whole process. When the work of regeneration is done the new heavens and the new earth stand out complete.

In the latter passage the context sheds no light upon the meaning of the word. Paul simply states that God saves us "by the washing of regenera­tion;" but we are left to study the meaning of the word from its own grammatical import. Regenera­tion is a compound word, made up of the word "generation" and the prefix "re." The word "generation" is expressive of the work of producing
[p. 89]
or giving existence to a thing. Hence, regen­eration must signify the reproducing of a thing. This leads us back to the contemplation of the thing first produced. In other words, it leads us back to the contemplation of the man as he came from the hands of his Maker. Well, the testimony of the Bible on this subject is, "God made man upright." (Ecclesiastes 7:29.) Hence, God produced man, in com­mon with everything else which he made, "very good." (Genesis 1:31.) We view man then, as he came from the hands of his Maker, as a holy being — innocent in life and pure in heart. But man fell. In his fall he experienced an internal as well as an external change, and the internal preceded the ex­ternal, the heart and the life both became corrupt. Therefore, while the Bible so abundantly testifies that man's "way is perverse before God," it as abundantly testifies to the corruption of the heart. Of man, as he was before the flood, it says: "Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6:5.) Of man, since the flood, it says: "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked." (Jeremiah 17:9.)

It is in consequence of this that man is said to be "dead in trespasses and sins." With respect to the heart he is destitute of love, therefore of life; for love is life (1 John 3:14, 15). His mind is carnal, enmity to God, this enmity is identical with death (Romans 8:6). With respect to his life, he is dead in law; for it is written, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of
[p. 90]
the law to do them." (Galatians 3:10.) As a con­demned criminal he is bound over to death, and is obnoxious to the "wrath to come."

Hence, in his regeneration, man is made alive in every respect in which he can be said to be dead. He is made alive with respect to his heart when the love of God is shed abroad therein by the Holy Ghost. (Romans 5:5.) Hence John says, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." He is made alive in law when the sentence of condemnation is re­voked. The Apostle says: "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature;" of course, then, re­generated; but "there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ." (Romans 1:8.) I do not see anything in the Scriptures that will justify us in regarding any one as regenerated who is still in his sins and under condemnation. When the work of regeneration is finished the "new man" must stand out before us, and we must be able to say of the sin­ner, "he was dead but is alive again." Hence I am inclined to the belief that regeneration includes all that God does for us in making us his children. If it does, then it includes more than the mere begin­ning of the work — more than the mere vitalizing of the affections. It includes also our deliverance from the wrath to come. The whole work is expressed in the following passages of Holy Writ: "I will put my law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts. * * * I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (Jeremiah 31:33, 34.)
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If the former part of this work, only, were done for a man, he would be alive with respect to his heart, but he would be still dead in law; for until his sins are forgiven he remains bound over unto death. If the latter part, only, of this work were done for him, he would be still dead in his affections. But, thank God, these two works always go together. They are the internal and the external of regeneration. Where God creates in man a clean heart, and renews within him a right spirit, he also washes him thoroughly from his iniquity, and cleanseth him from his sin. Hence Jesus, in his conversation with Nicodemus, expresses the whole work by "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God;" while he expresses both parts of it by "Except a man be born of water and the Spirit."

Viewing the subject in this light, the work of re­generation is effected by two distinct efficient causes, the Holy Spirit and the blood of Christ. The for­mer producing the internal, and the latter effecting the external; while the Holy Ghost sheds abroad the love of God in the heart, the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin.

Cambridge, Mo., April, 1866.
[Ben M. Bogard, editor, Pillars of Orthodoxy, or Defenders of the Faith, 1900. - jrd]

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