Citations regarding the believer’s two natures

Greg Quail

New Birth and the Believer’s Two Natures

Searching for “two natures” in the writings of post-Reformation Christian authors is difficult. Their use of the term is common—but it normally refers to the divine and human natures of Christ.

There are references to “two natures” in the believer but these are rare. This does not appear to be a subject clearly understood by the Puritans. It is, however, very common in Spurgeon.

Calvin. Commentary on 1 John (1551)

(This is his only reference.)

He says that they sin not who are born of God. Now, we must consider, whether God wholly regenerates us at once, or whether the remains of the old man continue in us until death. If regeneration is not as yet full and complete, it does not exempt us from the bondage of sin except in proportion to its own extent. It hence appears that it cannot be but that the children of God are not free from sins, and that they daily sin, that is, as far as they have still some remnants of their old nature. Nevertheless, what the Apostle contends for stands unalterable, that the design of regeneration is to destroy sin, and that all who are born of God lead a righteous and a holy life, because the Spirit of God restrains the lusting of sin.

John Owen. The Doctrine of the Saints Perseverance (ch.15). 1654

That in every regenerate person there are, in a spiritual sense, two principles of all his actings,—two wills. There is the will of the flesh, and there is the will of the Spirit. A regenerate man is spiritually and in Scripture expression two men,—a “new man” and an “old,” an “inward man” and a “body of death,”—and hath two wills, having two natures, not as natural faculties, but as moral principles of operation; and this keeps all his actions, as moral, from being perfect, absolute, or complete in any kind. He doth good with his whole heart upon the account of sincerity, but he doth not good with his whole heart upon the account of perfection; and when he doth evil, there is still a non-submitting, an unconsenting principle. This the apostle complains of and declares, Romans 7:19-22. (p.644 Ages Digital Library edition)

That there is a plurality, yea a contrariety of wills, in the Scripture sense of the expression of the will of a man, was before from the Scripture declared; not a plurality of wills in a physical sense, as the will is a natural faculty of the soul, but in a moral and analogical sense, as it is taken for a habit or principle of good or evil. The will is a natural faculty. One nature hath one will. In every regenerate man there are two natures, the new or divine, and the old or corrupted. In the same sense, there are in him two wills, as was declared. (p.647 Ages Digital Library edition. At this point Owen is arguing against ideas of John Goodwin concerning the cause of sins in believers.)

Thomas Scott. Essays on the Most Important Subjects in Religion

16. On the Believer’s Warfare and Experience (1793)

It is however requisite, more particularly to enumerate and consider the enemies, whom the Christian soldier is called to encounter, if we would fully understand the important subject. The apostle, having said, “The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would;” proceeds to show what are the works of the flesh, and the fruits of the spirit; from which enumeration it is evident, that the flesh signifies our old nature as born of Adam’s fallen race, with all its propensities animal and intellectual, as they are contrary to the spiritual commands of God; and that the spirit as striving against it, signifies the new principle infused and supported by the Holy Spirit, renewing our souls to holiness, and so teaching, disposing, and enabling us to love and serve God: For “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit”.

C. H. Spurgeon

He refers to the “old nature” 284 times from 1859 to 1883

It is usual with many writers, especially with hymn writers, to confound the two natures of a Christian. Now, I hold that there is in every Christian two natures, as distinct as were the two natures of the God-Man Christ Jesus. …

And I would have thee recollect, Christian, one more thing, and that is, that this evil nature of thine is very strong and very powerful — stronger than the new nature if the new nature were not sustained by Divine power. How old is my old nature? “It is as old as myself,” the aged saint may say, “and has become all the stronger from its age.” There is one thing which seldom gets weaker through old age — that is, old Adam; he is as strong in his old age as he is in his young age just as able to lead us astray when our head is covered with grey hairs, as he was in our youth. We have heard it said that growing in grace will make our corruptions less mighty; but I have seen many of God’s aged saints, and asked them the question, and they have said “No,” their lusts have been essentially as strong, when they have been many years in their Master’s service, as they were at first, although more subdued by the new principle within. (No.83, Indwelling Sin. 1 June 1856.)

Some have imagined that the old nature is turned out of the Christian: not so, for the Word of God and experience teach the contrary, the old nature is in the Christian unchanged, unaltered, just the same, as bad as ever it was; while the new nature in him is holy, pure and heavenly; and hence, as we shall have to notice in me next place — hence there arises a conflict between the two. (No.235, The Fainting Warrior. 23 Jan 1859.)

J. N. Darby. The Christian Witness 2:374 (1835)

It is well to distinguish between sins as the fruit of our evil nature, and sin. The Holy Ghost detects not only sins in the act, but sin in the nature. Thus we are led to the knowledge that we are all alike, all in one condition. The Holy Ghost lays bare that in nature which the law could only notice in its earliest actings.

The moment I have a new nature, not only do I detect the acts of the old nature, but “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, good doth not dwell but I have this comfort, that hating and judging the evil, I know that it is put away. Not that this should make us careless; no, our privilege is to judge it before it has brought forth the bitter fruits.

Have you judged it thus in the nature? If it is there, it is condemned. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” By presenting Jesus: a perfect man, He making Him to be sin, condemned it on the cross.

If you cannot say you are without sin in your nature, living in all the spotlessness and purity of Jesus, you are in yourself lost; but recognizing Jesus as the offering for you (though in yourself a poor failing wretched creature), you can be presented to God even as He is, because you are presented in Him.—Therefore the word is, “fear not.”

J. N. Darby. Review of Dr Bonar’s work Entitled “The Rent Veil”

CW 23:259

Dr Bonar resists truth in every shape. In another book he mocked at the conflict of two natures in us, and that in a way which makes it mocking Paul’s own words on the subject. Here the object is to set aside the sure settled standing of the believer before God. Dr Bonar is evidently not in the liberty wherewith Christ sets us free, and he naturally teaches from the ignorance in which he is as to it. Only it is a sorrowful thing when ignorance is taught. He gives no sort of heed to the statements of scripture. He invents views of his own, and sets them forth as truth, with entire neglect of the word. Happily this enables us to detect how utterly groundless his statements are.

Collated Citations from J. N. Darby

Sinful human nature is called “the flesh”

And that God took a special people out of the world to shew us clearly what flesh (sinful human nature) was, when subject to law… (CW10:113)

New birth gives a new nature

Christ is our life, and that we have received a nature which in itself is sinless, and that, looked at as born of God, we cannot sin because we are born of God. It is a life holy in itself, as born of Him. But, besides that, we have the flesh, though we are not in it; and the practical result in respect of our responsibility as to the deeds done in the body does not, even if we have this new life, meet the just demands of God, if we should pretend to present them as doing so. That is, righteousness is not made out by our being born again. (CW7:281) it is a nature coming from the Spirit “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Everything born follows—is of—the nature of that which begets it. (CW10:189)

Christ could speak of a new nature needed in order to enter the kingdom; but He could not then call on any one to reckon himself dead. He could connect that nature with God directly—in the statement of what it was, and what He was; and that was peculiarly suited, as is evident, to His person—a divine revealer of what He knew and of man’s partaking of the divine nature. This was indeed the excellent part. But for our deliverance another truth was to be connected with this—the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. (CW10:194)

The other element of the new birth and the power by which it is wrought is, according to scripture, the Holy Spirit. “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” as that which is born of the flesh is flesh. And “so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.” That new nature or life given to us, which is contrasted with the flesh, is attributed to the Spirit, divinely and essentially so. Every life has its nature from that of which it is born. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (CW15:324)

“That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” There is the communication of a new nature in believing; and, when born of God, the truth sanctifies and cleanses. (CW21:124)

First, He makes us partakers of the divine nature—the same nature as Himself. This gives the capacity—I do not say power. The new nature is capacity; the Holy Ghost is power. The new nature is entirely dependent and obedient. The Holy Ghost being there gives me power. (CW21:312)

“Again” means “anew, completely, from the beginning,” not a modification of the old thing. In Luke 1: 3 it is “from the very first.” It is the same word. I know many think the new birth is an action of the Holy Ghost on man as he is, especially where there are no decided views of truth; as if the Spirit of God found a man, body, soul, and spirit, in a bad state, and then put him, body, soul, and spirit, in a good state. But the testimony as brought here is received of nobody: “wherefore when I came, was there no man; when I called, was there none to answer”; that is the condition, and then what is done is that they are born of God. (CW25:235)

We are born of the Spirit, thus we get the new nature, but then, besides the new nature we want power and liberty, and therefore, consequent on redemption and our cleansing by blood the Holy Ghost, who is God, dwells there to work in the new nature, and this gives living power. For if I have the new nature only, this gives good desires, but I do not accomplish them, as in chapter 7; but here it is “if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.” It is not merely that we have new thoughts and desires, but He, who is really God, dwells in us to give us power to accomplish them. (CW26:86)

“That which is born of the Spirit, is spirit,” partakes of the nature of that of which it is born; this is, in truth, the new nature. (CW33:147)

Two things are brought to light when these principles have been laid down; first of all, the necessity of this new birth, in order to enjoy the promises made to the Jews for the earth; and secondly, that this work was of God, who communicated this new nature. (CW33:148)

Two natures

The way in which, in this one chapter, we find the highest state to which a Christian can be elevated, an exceptional one, no doubt, as an experience, and the lowest condition to which he can fall, and all the practical principles on which the divine work is carried on between these two extremes, is very striking. In the beginning of the chapter we find a saint in the third heaven, in paradise, where flesh could have no part in apprehension or in communication. He knew not whether he was in the body or out of the body. There was no consciousness of human existence in flesh; so he could not tell, nor could he utter what he had heard when he returned to the consciousness of flesh again. Such is the saint at the beginning of the chapter. At the end we find one, perhaps many, fallen into fornication, uncleanness, and lasciviousness, and unrepentant yet of their sins. What a contrast of the highest heavenly elevation and the lowest carnal degradation! And the Christian capable of both! What a lesson for every saint, though he may reach neither extreme, as a warning; and how suited to give the consciousness of what natures are at work and of the elements which are in conflict in him in his spiritual life down here! (CW7:238)

There cannot be “an excessive distinction or division” if there be two opposed natures; still less so, if one be divine, the other sinful. If two, there is division; if one be divine, the other sinful, there cannot be excess in distinguishing them. (CW23:298)

Dr. Bonar openly ridicules the idea of two natures, or anything equivalent to it, in the Christian. (CW29:187)

The common doctrine is that you are born again, but this is viewed as a change of the old man. They say that you were body, soul, and spirit before, and that you are only body, soul, and spirit after, only in a changed state, and that it is an exaggeration to speak of anything more—of two natures—of any new nature added. (CW31:170)

First, that which is born of the flesh is flesh (John 3), a positive specific nature, which has its own lusts and delights, such as they are. Its works are manifest—may be seen; Gal. 5: 19-21. The mind of the flesh is enmity against God. The renewed mind knows that in me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good thing; Rom. 7. The fruit of the Spirit is in formal contrast with its works; not only so, but it lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against it, and these are contrary the one to the other; Gal. 5: 17. They that are after the flesh mind the things of the flesh; but if we live after the flesh, we shall die. If through the Spirit we mortify its deeds—for it is a nature which has its deeds—we shall live; Rom. 8. (CW29:197)

The apostle has thus celebrated deliverance with thanksgiving, but the great deep truth learned in the conflict, that of the two natures, abides, and their character in view of the claim of God. (CW33:380)

New birth is an earthly thing

John 3, when (having referred to the necessity of regeneration for the enjoyment of earthly things with God, as they had been revealed in prophecies which the master in Israel ought to have known) the Lord says, “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?” and then at once refers to the cross, the lifting up of the Son of man—taking Him (and us with Him) out of these earthly things. (CW8:89)

… it goes on to the millennium on the earth, and there you must get men born again to have part in the kingdom. (CW25:235)

But as the passage speaks of the new birth, it does not treat of the heavenly glory; for this the cross must be brought in also. (CW33:145)

Two things are brought to light when these principles have been laid down; first of all, the necessity of this new birth, in order to enjoy the promises made to the Jews for the earth; and secondly, that this work was of God, who communicated this new nature. (CW33:148)

New birth prepares one to receive Christ to be redeemed

If the Spirit of God quickens a soul, it will have wants that are not satisfied; but if it has gone and drunk of Christ it will be satisfied. (CW16:398)

A man must be born again—born of water and of the Spirit, if he has to say to God. … there is a moral necessity for it, because, until born again, the sinner cannot have one desire or anything in him suited to God. (CW21:131)

…if we have been under law (and being born of God, without the knowledge of redemption, put us under it in spirit, a state described at the end of the chapter) … (CW23:344)

There may be souls in that state now, quickened but not having received the gospel of their salvation; and so doubting and fearing. (CW26:230)

True, if we are born again, there are new desires, the evil of the flesh is felt. But this is not liberty and power. But where the Spirit of God is, there is liberty, with God and from sin. It is the fruit of redemption by Christ—of the ministry of righteousness and the Spirit. Christ has redeemed, justified, and cleansed us. (CW26:167)

New birth and Romans 7

But when, by means of the new birth, he understands the spirituality of the law, then he knows not only that he has committed sins, but that the law of sin is in his members. This is the subject examined by the Holy Spirit in chapter 7. (CW7:133)

… to shew him how intolerable sin is to God, and that the nature of man is not changed. (CW7:133)

… described the conflicts of the soul that is born again (CW7:133)

Ask many a true-hearted saint what is the meaning of “When we were in the flesh,” and he could give no clear answer—he has no definite idea of what it can mean. Ask him what it is to be in Christ—all is equally vague.

A regenerate man may be in the flesh, as to the condition and standing of his own soul, though he be not so in God’s sight; nay, this is the very case supposed in Romans 7, because he looks at himself as standing before God on the ground of his own responsibility, on which ground he never can (in virtue of being regenerate) meet the requirements of God, attain to His righteousness. (CW7:244)

But though renewed, the person finds himself without strength, discerns evil in his nature as distinct from himself, delights in the law of God yet sees another law in his members bringing him into captivity, and so learns in conscious wretchedness the value of Christ for deliverance no less than pardon, though this in no way alters the two natures. (CW23:334)

New birth, in itself, leaves one “in the flesh”

The natural man, we know, is in the flesh, nor does the law quicken him. But there is a further case. Suppose him quickened and under the law: still the law takes up man in the flesh, in principle, as to his position and conscience, and condemns him in the very thing in which he stands, as to his own consciousness before God, that is, his own personal responsibilities, but according to God’s intention.

Now, as regards my conscious position, I am always in the flesh, that is, as a child of Adam, on my own responsibility, till I know myself to be dead with Christ, and redeemed out of it. The being born again only makes me apprehend the spirituality of the law, the force of “Thou shalt not lust.” … Thus the fact of being quickened by God does not give deliverance, while the conscience is under the law … but it gives through the law the deep sense of the need of deliverance, because we cannot succeed in what we really desire. The law and flesh, and sin and death, go together, they are correlative. (CW26:72)

“When we were in the flesh.” It is Christian intelligence applied to the judgment of the state of (not an unrenewed person in mind and desire, but) one under the law. (CW26:160)

New birth is not the “new man”

Abraham had to be born again; but he did not know anything about putting off the old man and putting on the new. You never find this in the Old Testament. You find there the knowledge of sin working, but the Old Testament saints did not make a difference between the old man and the new. The moment that death came in, the believer and man took his place with God in Christ, I get the old man and the new. (CW27:83)

New birth is distinct from the indwelling Spirit

And this is simple, when we consider who are regenerated, and who are sealed; for unbelievers only can be regenerated, believers only can be sealed. (10:239)

I see no reason, now the Comforter is come, why we should not be sealed the instant we believe; but believing must come first, or there is nothing and no one to seal, for believers only are sealed. (CW10:247)

It is undoubtedly true that we are first regenerated and then sealed and baptized into one body. (CW10:254)

Another very grievous error connected with this, is the notion that the giving of the Holy Ghost is the same as being born again, or necessary to it. This error is common to Evangelicals and Anglicans. … as to doctrine, no person receives the Holy Ghost till after he has been born again (CW15:331)

When the leper was cleansed, he was washed with water, sprinkled with blood, and anointed with oil (the figure of the Holy Ghost): the word of God applied to us in the power of the Spirit, the water—the blood, now the blood of atonement—and the anointing. Being quickened, born again of water by the word, must go first; and then the blood; but the Holy Ghost is there too, and the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us. (CW21:109)

First, He makes us partakers of the divine nature—the same nature as Himself. This gives the capacity—I do not say power. The new nature is capacity; the Holy Ghost is power. The new nature is entirely dependent and obedient. The Holy Ghost being there gives me power. (CW21:312)

If he is born again and washed by the blood of Christ, the Holy Ghost can dwell in him. We must never confound the quickening of a soul with the presence of the Spirit which seals Christ’s work. The Holy Ghost quickens my soul, and brings me under the blood of sprinkling whereby I am as white as snow: after this the Holy Ghost comes to dwell in me as thus washed clean. (CW21:210)

I admit, and insist on, the sealing as distinct from conversion and quickening. (CW23:230)

So, in the Old Testament, the leper was washed with water, then sprinkled with blood, and then anointed with oil. So we are washed with the word, sprinkled with Christ’s blood, and then anointed with the Holy Ghost. It is not being born again. That applies to the Holy Ghost’s work in unbelievers: it is after we believe that we are sealed. (CW26:144)

That a person may be born again, and not have received the Holy Ghost, is perfectly certain according to Scripture (CW31:263).

The Holy Ghost shed abroad in the heart is quite another thing from the new birth. We must, of course, be born again to be able to receive the Holy Ghost, but the sinner needs something more than the new birth. In this passage the Holy Ghost is looked upon as the seal given to the believer of the value of the blood of Christ, and of the perfect purification in which he participates by the application of this blood. Washed from his sins, he becomes the habitation of the Holy Spirit. He is the unction, the believer’s seal, and the earnest of glory. By Him we cry, “Abba, Father,” Gal. 4: 6. By Him we know that we are in Christ, and Christ in us; John 14: 16-20. And here, in this passage, we learn that by Him also the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. The ordinance of God for the purification of the leper (Lev. 14) furnishes us with a striking type of what takes place now with the believer. The leper was first washed with water, then sprinkled with blood, and finally anointed with oil. So now, also, a man is first converted, then made a partaker of the perfect purification wrought by the blood of Christ, and finally he receives the seal of the Holy Ghost. (CW33:332).

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