Regeneration And Faith According To Two British Reformed Confessions -- By: Michael A. G. Haykin

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 01:1 (Jan 2009)
Article: Regeneration And Faith According To Two British Reformed Confessions
Author: Michael A. G. Haykin

Regeneration And Faith According To Two British Reformed Confessions1

Michael A. G. Haykin

In 1582 John Davidson (c. 1549-1603), the powerful Scottish Presbyterian preacher known to some in his day as “the thunderer,” received a letter from a Huguenot correspondent in La Rochelle, the bastion of Calvinism in western France. Soon after, Davidson wrote to another Calvinist contact, the English Puritan John Field (1545-1588). “It is no small comfort brother,” he told Field, “to brethren of one nation to understand the state of the brethren in other nations.”2 This seemingly casual remark is illustrative of the deep sense of solidarity that prevailed among Calvinists in Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. One can rightly speak of a Calvinist International,3 which, though it received its strength from numerous tributaries besides the life and work of John Calvin (1509-1564), shared common distinctives of doctrine, praxis, and spirituality.

Now, one of the most important of these distinctives was the conviction, grounded in Scripture and attested to by experience, that entry into the Christian life is wholly dependent upon God’s grace. Consider, for instance, the Tetrapolitan Confession, one of the earliest Reformed confessions, which was prepared in 1530 by the German Reformers Martin Bucer (1491-1551), Wolfgang Capito (1478-1541)

and Caspar Hedio (1494/5-1552), and which maintained that “the beginning of all our righteousness and salvation must proceed from the mercy of the Lord.” In being merciful to fallen men and women, God first “offers the doctrine of truth and his Gospel” through various preachers that He sends forth to herald the good news about Christ. Due to the fact, though, that “the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:14), God, the Tetrapolitan Confession continues,

causes a beam of his light to arise at the same time in the darkness of our heart, so that now we may believe his Gospel preached, being persuaded of the truth thereof by his Spirit from above, and then, relying upon the testimony of this Spirit, may call upon him with filial confidence and say, “Abba, Father,” obtaining thereby sure salvation, according to the saying: “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”4

Here, regeneration is likened to the illumination of a dark place and its effect is radical indeed. It caus...

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