Series 2, Lecture 12: 1 Peter 1:23-25 and the Link Between Regeneration and the Scripture primarily in the writings of William Ames, 1641 (video)

The Author of regeneration according to John 3 is the Holy Spirit. John 3:6-7, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh: and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I say unto thee, Ye must be born again.” Demarest writes, “The Holy Ghost is the Author of regeneration: but the truth, word of God, or gospel, is the instrument he uses in imparting this spiritual life.”[1] Ames and Demarest recognize the continuity of the relationship between seed and word, “seed” a commonly used symbol for the natural generation of new life (Psalm 126:6; Luke 8:11; Mark 4:14-15; 2 Cor. 9:10; 1 John. 3:9) and the literal “word of God.”

Commenting on 1 Peter 1:23 Ames asserts that “The word is the incorruptible seed or principle”[2] for the regeneration the Apostle writes of. He does not separate the message of the Scripture with the words of the Scripture. God’s words are in the words of the text. He writes,

“Because it is the word of God, (as it is in the Text); which liveth and abideth for ever, whose nature it resembleth in this, that the operation is not momentary or temporary, but abideth for ever.”[3]

            The living word used by the Holy Spirit to regenerate a lost soul, to continue to be used to regenerate those who would be saved, must be an eternal word. To eternally save, the word must itself be eternal. Ames’ quote assigns the eternal life-giving power of God’s Word not simply to the substance of the truth but to the words that convey the doctrinal substance he identifies as the “Text.” The apographa (the original language copy – apo, from) as the Protestant Reformers’ exemplar of the autographa (Original) served as the basis of their translation work. Upon translation to a receptor language the authoritas verborum, “the external and accidental authority that belongs only to the text in the original languages,” was lost.[4] That is, the words of Ames text did not look like the Original’s words. They had changed their shape; the Greek and Hebrew being translated into English characters. However, what remained in translation was the authority of the substantia, or res, the “formal, inward authority that belongs both to the text of Scripture in the original languages and to the accurate translations of Scripture.”[5] The substantia doctrinae or the doctrinal substance of the receptor language is what Ames says is the means the Holy Spirit uses to regenerate a lost soul. The substantia doctrinae abideth forever.

[1] John T. Demarest, Translation & Exposition of the First Epistle of the Apostle Peter, 1851, 93.

[2]Ames, Commentary, 30.

[3]Ames, Commentary, 31.

[4] Muller, Dictionary, 51-52.

[5] Muller, Dictionary, 51.

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