Maurice On Regeneration. -- By: George F. Magoun
BSac 42:165 (Jan 1885) p. 174
Maurice On Regeneration.
In his notice of F. D. Maurice in the Nineteenth Century, Mr. Shorthouse, author of the novel “John Inglesant,” emphasizes the keynote of that singular man’s teaching, as others have done. It is this: Men are natural saints; “not children of God by election or adoption; not disciples or followers by choice or opinion; but children by natural birth, elect in virtue of the common humanity, by which alone every human being is the son of God.”
This is a step in advance even of the old Unitarianism, to which Maurice was born. His membership and ministry in the English Episcopal Church never disinfected him of it. Unitarianism of old required development of character, action, and education, in order to piety. Maurice’s theory requires nothing but natural birth. The Unitarians said, Men are born to be saints, though they actually grow up profligates, thieves, murderers. Maurice said, This is not denial enough of old Christian doctrine; we are all born saints—actual saints—anyway.
A modified and tentative form of this absurdity is heard now and then in orthodox pulpits. All men are children of God, it is said, but those who become Christians are more so. They are distinguished, or prominent, as such; that is all. The well-known difference between natural descent (indicated by the words, “child,” “children”) and “spiritual adoption” by the new birth, as an entire moral change, is ignored. Both ideas are indeed figurative; for God is not the father of men, good and bad alike, by natural propagation, but by creation; and everybody can see that spiritual adoption is a purely figurative name of a religious reality. Both therefore are distinct from Maurice’s “natural” birth-relation to God. Literally, there is no such relation. It is God’s creative power that is exercised in our natural birth, and it creates us natural persons, not saints. It is even unthinkable how the creation of a personal nature, physical and mental, could of itself possibly produce a character, or moral rectitude. This must needs be the result of moral influence exerted upon the soul, acting after creation, giving direction to free will. All this Maurice’s figment leaves out. And so it leaves out new birth, etc., sanctification by the agency of the Spirit, etc., etc., and reduces Christian experience to nature, or—evolution! It is
BSac 42:165 (Jan 1885) p. 175
true, Maurice’s hypothesis came before Spencer’s, but it naturally falls in with it. Both can interpret all that Scripture says of God’s producing holy character in the soul as an example of derivative production through differentiation by created agencies, or evolved ones, without such supernatural actio...
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