A bit of history

Greg Quail

New Birth and the Believer’s Two Natures

During the last century certain theologians, proclaiming themselves as true representatives of “reformed” doctrine, have ridiculed the idea that there are two natures in a believer.

In the citations that follow, it is evident that “reformed” leaders through the 1500s, 1600s, 1700s and 1800s recognised the fact that believers have two natures.

But it is also true that this fact did not form a pillar of their doctrinal system. It does not appear that the subject was well understood by the reformers or their doctrinal heirs.

By contrast, the recovery of truth in the 1800s was not confined to dispensationalism, prophecy, and the assembly. A significant element of this recovery involved what are sometimes called the doctrines of grace. As J N Darby played a significant role in this recovery, citations from his writings are also listed in this review.

C H Spurgeon came a little later. He was unquestionably a lover of Puritan writings and an exponent of Calvin’s doctrines. But unlike those whose writings filled his own library, he was very clear on the subject of the believer’s two natures. This raises a question as yet unanswered. Where did he learn this doctrine? A couple of citations from Spurgeon will also be given.

In 1887, Daniel Steele, Professor of Didactic Theology in Boston University wrote a book called A Substitute for Holiness—or, Antinomianism Revived. Its subtitle was The Theology of the So-Called Plymouth Brethren Examined and Refuted. […]. Steele, rightly or wrongly, attributes the doctrine of the believer’s two natures to those he calls Plymouth Brethren.

What is true is that the connected themes of new birth, the two natures, deliverance, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit did form a pillar in the doctrinal system of men such as J N Darby. These connected themes are integral to the recovery of truth that marked the first half of the 1800s.

I go on with what I admit and fully receive. I fully receive that sealing by the gift of the Spirit, founded on the precious blood of Christ, which sets at liberty, by which the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts and we cry, “Abba, Father” in the consciousness of being sons, know we are in Christ and Christ in us, loved as Jesus was loved—a wonderful place in which rest of heart is found. This I not only admit, but have pressed it some fifty years. Indeed it has distinguished characteristically the labours of those with whom I am associated. Not only so, but a multitude of souls in receiving it have found the power and presence of God more sensibly than at their conversion. (CW23:279)[1]


[1] This form of abbreviation—used throughout this article—designates The Collected Writings of J N Darby, Vol.23, page 279.

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