The Bath of Regeneration
The Christian System,
2d. ed. (1839)
In this way the new birth and regeneration are used
indiscriminately by commentators and writers on theology,
and by a figure of speech, it is justified on well established
principles of rhetoric. This leads us to speak particularly
THE BATH OF REGENERATION.
By 'the bath of regeneration' is not meant the first, second,
or third act; but the last act of regeneration, which
completes the whole; and is, therefore, used to denote the
new birth. This is the reason why our Lord and his Apostles
unite this act with water. Being born of water, in the
Saviour's style, and the bath of regeneration, in the Apostles'
style, in the judgement of all writers and critics of eminence,
refer to one and the same act--viz: christian baptism. Hence
it came to pass, that all the ancients (as fully proved in our
first Extra on Remission)
used the word regeneration as
synonymous in signification with immersion. In addition to
the numerous quotations made in our
Essay on Remission,
from the creeds and liturgies of Protestant churches, we
shall add another from the Common Prayer of the Church of
England, showing unequivocally that the learned Doctors of
that church used the words regeneration and baptism as
synonymous. In the address and prayer of the minister
after the baptism of the child, he is commanded to say,--
"Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that this child is regenerate,
and grafted into the body of Christ's church, let us give thanks unto Almighty
God for these benefits, and with one accord make our prayer unto him that
this child may lead the rest of his life according to this beginning."
"Then shall be said, all kneeling--"
"We yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased
thee to regenerate this infant with thy Holy Spirit, to receive him for
thine own child by adoption, and to incorporate him into thy holy church.
And humbly we beseech thee to grant that he, being dead unto sin, and living
unto righteousness, and being buried with Christ in his death, may crucify
the old man, and utterly abolish the whole body of sin; and that as he
is made partaker of the death of thy Son, he may also be partaker of his
resurrection; so that finally, with the residue of the holy church, he
may be an inheritor of thine everlasting kingdom, through Christ our Lord.
Eusebius, in his life of Constantine, page 628, shows that
St. Cyprian, St. Athanasius, and, indeed, all the Greek
Fathers, did regard baptism as the consummating act; and
therefore they call it teliosis, the consummation. These
authorities weigh nothing with us; but, as they weigh with
our opponents, we think it expedient to remind them on
which side the Fathers depose in the case before us. By
these quotations we would prove no more than that the ancients
understood the washing of regeneration, and indeed
used the term regeneration, as synonymous with baptism.
But were we asked for the precise import of the phrase,
'washing or bath of regeneration,' either on philological
principles, or as explained by the Apostles, we would give it
as our judgment, that the phrase is a circumlocution or periphrasis
for water. It is loutron, a word which more properly
signifies the vessel that contains the water, than the water
itself; and is, therefore, by the most learned critics and
translators, rendered bath, as indicative either of the vessel
containing the fluid or of the use made of the fluid in the
vessel. It is, therefore, by a metonymy, the water of baptism,
or the water in which we are regenerated. Paul was
Hebrew, and spoke in the Hebrew style. We must learn
that style before we fully understand the Apostle's style. In
other words, we must studiously read the Old Testament
before we can accurately understand the New. What more
natural for a Jew accustomed to speak of 'the water of purification,'
of 'the water of separation,' to speak of 'the
bath of regeneration?' If the phrase 'water of purification'
meant water used for the purpose of purifying a person--if
'the water of separation' meant water used for separating a
person, what more natural than that 'the bath of regeneration'
should mean water used for regenerating a person?
But the New Testament itself confirms this exposition of
the phrase. We find the word loutron once more used by the
same Apostle, in the same connexion of thought. In his letter
to the Ephesians, he affirms that Jesus has sanctified (separated,
purified with the water of purification,) the church
by a loutron of water--'a bath of water, with the word'--'having
cleansed it by a bath of water, with the
word.' This is still more decisive. The king's translators, so fully
aware that the sense of this passage agrees with Titus iii. 5.
have, in both places, used the word washing, and Macknight
the term bath as the import of loutron. What is called the
washing or bath of regeneration, in the one passage, is, in the
other, called 'the washing' or 'bath of water.' What is called
'saved' in one, is called 'cleansed' in the other; and what
is called 'the renewal of the Holy Spirit' in the one, is called
'the word' in the other; because the Holy Spirit consecrates
or cleanses through the word. For thus prayed the Messiah,
'Consecrate them through the truth: thy word is the
truth.' [John 17:17].
'You are clean through the word that
I have spoken unto you.' [John 15:3]
To the same effect, Paul, to the Hebrew Christians, says
'Having your hearts sprinkled from a guilty conscience, and
your bodies washed with pure water' [Hebrews 10:22]--the
water of purification,
the water of regeneration: for the phrase 'pure water'
must be understood not of the quality of the water, but metonymically
of the effect, the cleansing, the washing, or the
purifying of the person--'having your bodies, or persons
washed with pure water,' or water that purifies or cleanses.
No one, acquainted with Peter's style, will think it strange
that Paul represents persons as saved, cleansed, or sanctified
by water; seeing Peter unequivocally asserts that 'we are
saved' through water, or through baptism, as was Noah and his family through
water and faith in God's promise. 'The antitype immersion does also now
save us.' [1 Peter 3:21].
Finally, our great Prophet, the Messiah, gives to water the
same place and power in the work of regeneration. For
when speaking of being born again--when explaining to
Nicodemus the new birth, he says, 'Except a man be born of
water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of
God." [John 3:5].
May not we, then, supported by such high authorities,
call that water of which a person is born again, the
water or bath of regeneration?