Johann Arndt: True Christianity

Church History
Chapter III.
Of the restoration by CHRIST, showing how man is renewed in him to life everlasting.

1. THE new-birth is a work of the Holy Ghost, whereby man, of a child of wrath and damnation, is made the child of grace and salvation, and of a sinner, is made righteous; so that his heart, with all the powers and faculties of his soul, more particularly the understanding, will, and affections are renewed, enlightened, and sanctified in CHRIST JESUS, and formed after his express likeness. And this change consists of two principal parts; the one, justification-the other, sanctification. Both which the apostle has thus excellently expressed, "The kindness and love of GOD toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness, which we have done, but according to his mercy, saving us by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost," Tit. 3: 4, 5. 2. So that the birth of every Christian man is two fold: The first birth is after the flesh; the second, after the Spirit;-the first from beneath, the second from above; the first natural and earthly, but the second supernatural and heavenly. The one is carnal, sinful, and accursed, as descending from the first Adam, after the similitude and image of the devil; but the other is spiritual, holy, and blessed, as descending from the second Adam, after the likeness and living representation of the Son of God. This is the " renewing of the’Holy Ghost," and the beginning of true sanctification, which follows the "washing of regeneration," by which is given the seal of justification. Thus, by this new and second birth, this blessed regeneration through CHRIST, the Seed and image of GOD is manifested in us, and the man of GOD, heavenly and like unto GOD, is produced. 3. Now, then, let us see how we are regenerated by CHRIST: Even as the old birth is propagated carnally from Adam, so the new spiritually from CHRIST, through the Word of God. " For we are born (says St. Peter,) not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of GOD, which lives and abides for ever." And thus blessed James, " He of his own will begat us by the Word of his faith, or by the Word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures." This Word produceth faith, which faith apprehends in like manner the Word-and in that Word is apprehended JESUS CHRIST, together with the Holy Ghost; and by that Ghostly virtue, force and efficacy, the man is born again, or regenerated. Briefly, regeneration is effected, first by the Holy Ghost, and this does CHRIST call, the being born of the Spirit:-secondly, by faith; whence it is said, " He that believeth that JESUS is the CHRIST, is born of GOD:"-thirdly, by baptism;* as it is also written, "Except a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven." 4. By Adam man came by the chief evils, such as sin, wrath, death, hell, and damnation; for these all are the fruits of the old nature: but in CHRIST man recovers the chief goods,-such as righteousness, grace, blessing, power, heavenly life, and eternal salvation. From Adam man has a carnal spirit, and is subject to the dominion of wicked spirits; but from CHRIST he has the Holy Spirit, with his gifts, and a most quiet reign and peaceable kingdom. From Adam man has an haughty, swelling, proud spirit; but an humble, meek, and simple spirit from CHRIST. From Adam we receive an unbelieving spirit, yea, blasphemous also, and ungrateful; by faith in CHRIST, a believing spirit, faithful, acceptable and well pleasing unto God. From Adam, a disobedient, a fierce Baptism may be a means of regeneration, when an adult person, already penitent and believing in JESUS, is admitted to that ordinance, and a rash spirit is given us; but it is from CHRIST we take the spirit of obedience, gentleness, and of prudence, through faith in him. Again, from Adam we by nature possess the spirit of wrath, of revenge, and of murder; but from CHRIST, by faith, the spirit of longsuffering, mercifulness, forgiveness, and universal goodness. From Adam, man has a covetous heart, and a spirit that is churlish, seeking only his own profits, and catching at that which is another man's; but from CHRIST, the spirit of mercy, generosity, and liberality. Furthermore, from Adam does proceed the spirit of unchastity, and intemperance; from CHRIST, a chaste, clean, and temperate Spirit:-from Adam is communicated to man a lying spirit; from CHRIST, the spirit of truth and integrity. Lastly, from Adam we receive the spirit of the beasts, earthly and brutish; but from CHRIST, a spirit which is celestial and Divine; and for that cause it behooved CHRIST to take our nature on him, to the end he might be conceived by the Holy Ghost, and so abound with the same Spirit above measure, that of hisfulness we might all receive:-yea, for this very cause it was convenient that the Spirit of the Lord, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of GOD, should rest upon him; that so the human nature, in him and by him, should be renewed; and that we, in him, and by him, and through him, might become new creatures, by receiving from him the spirit of wisdom, and understanding, for the spirit of foolishness and sottishness; the spirit of counsel for that of madness; the spirit of fortitude for a base and cowardly spirit; the spirit of knowledge, in the room of our natural and inbred_ blindness; and the spirit of the fear of the Lord,, instead of the spirit of impiety and atheism. Thus we are united in CHRIST-to life eternal; we are, after his likeness, regenerated by CHRIST, and become new creatures. And hence the works proceed which, by faith, may please God: for the works that please him must be all of the new birth; must all flow out of CHRIST, and of the Holy Ghost, and out of faith unfeigned. 5. See, now, and behold You, the most amiable, the most lowly, the most obedient, and the most patient JESUS, and learn you of him. Live even as he lived; live in him. For what was the cause he so lived? That he might be thy example, and the rule of thy life. He, even he only, is the right rule of life. It is not the rule of any man whatsoever, or how holy soever is this rule, but the pattern of CHRIST only; which all his apostles and evangelists have, after him, with one consent, set before us for our imitation. This, this is what they did alone point at. And this is the mystical ground of his passion, death, and resurrection; even that You, O man, together with him, should die from thy sin: and again, in him, with him, and by him, rise spiritually, and " walk in newness of life, even as he walked." 6. Now, therefore, we see how our regeneration arises from the death and resurrection of our Lord JESUS CHRIST: whence St. Peter says, " GOD has begotten us again to a lively hope, by the resurrection of JESUS CHRIST from the dead." The holy apostles every where lay the foundation of repentance, and of the new life, in the passion. of CHRIST; particularly St. Peter and St. Paul: " For if we be dead with CHRIST," because he that is dead is justified from sin, we have then faith, (as the latter of these argueth,) " that we shall also live with him;" we " being dead unto sin, but alive unto GOD, through the life of CHRIST in us." And therefore has the former likewise given this express charge, that we " pass the time of our sojourning here in fear; for, asmuch as we know we are not redeemed with corruptible gold and silver; but with the precious blood of CHRIST, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:" where you see the most precious ransom paid for our redemption, to be urged as the motive for our holy conversation. And St. Peter writeth afterward how "CHRIST his own self bare our sins in his own body on the cross, that we being dead to sin, should live unto righteousness, by whose stripes we are healed." And CHRIST also himself says, " Thus it behoved CHRIST to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remirsion of sins should be preached in his name." 7. By all which it is manifest, that from the death and resurrection of JESUS CHRIST does flow the Christian's true rule and pattern, and that thereby repentance and forgiveness of sins are best preached to us in his name. And so the passion of CHRIST is both the satisfaction for our sins, and also the renewing of our nature by faith; both which are required by GOD to the redemption and reparation of mankind;, because this last is the fruit, and the true efficacy of the passion of CHRIST, working in us the renovation of lapsed nature. This, to conclude, is the means whereby we are born again, born from above, and renewed in CHRIST: neither is the laver of regeneration any other thing, wherein we are baptized into the death of CHRIST, but the dying with CHRIST from our sins, by the efficacy of his precious death, and the rising from sin by the grace of his glorious resurrection.

CHAP. 4. Whosoever does not imitate the life of CHRIST is not a trite child of God.

1. GOD the Father gave us his Son, that he might be our Prophet, our Teacher, and our Master, or Tutor': whom therefore he commanded us to hear, saying, " This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him." Which office the Son of GOD did accordingly most punctually execute; not in words only, but by the example of a most holy and unspotted life. Whereupon St. Luke says, "The former treatise have I made, of all that JESUS began both to do and to teach, until the day that he was taken up," where it is to be observed, that the evangelist places doing before teaching; as if it were not enough to join deeds and doctrine together; but it were also of absolute necessity for the former to have the precedence in any that should set up for a teacher sent from God. For it certainly behooves every one, who would teach others, first to do the things himself which he teaches. Now such a teacher CHRIST evidently manifested himself to be; whose life, therefore, is the true teaching, and the book of life. 2. And for this cause also, the Son of GOD became man, and was conversant among men upon earth, that he might show us a lively example of an heavenly, Divine, innocent, and perfect life; and that we might follow him as a light in the darkness shining before us, and leading us on. For which reason he calls himself, " the Light of the world;" and witnesses concerning himself, " He that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." Whence it evidently appears, that all they abide in darkness, who do not follow CHRIST, by walking in his steps. They all remain, and will remain, in the dark, that follow not this light. And what this darkness is, the apostle teaches us, bidding us " cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light." That we might not be carried away by the common mistake of the world, to think Christianity to be somewhat notional only, and to be more in word than in effect, GOD has been graciously pleased, to set before us his own Son, not only as a ransom and Mediator; but also as a mirror of piety, a glass of life, a perfect idea of a new man, regenerated according to righteousness. He is given unto us for this very end: he, who being in the form of GOD, took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in our likeness, that there might be hereby the same mind begotten in us which was also in him it has pleased GOD to place before our eyes; that so looking unto him we might be more and more renewed after his image. 3. Deplorable experience daily teaches, that our body and soul are all filled with every kind of uncleanness, and polluted throughout with the filth of sin and wickedness, and every abomination and corruption. All which are the properties and works of the devil, operating effectually in the carnal man; and of the depraved and perverse will through which the diabolical operation doth manifest itself. For the depraved will is the root of all sins: and that being taken away, there would be no sin remaining. The power and energy whereof does herein chiefly consist, that it turns man aside from GOD, and averts his from GOD’s will. For whatever departeth from GOD, who is the Supreme Good, cannot but be evil: and whatever is thus averted from the will of this sovereign good, by an inversion of the Divine order, cannot but be most perverse; and is under the highest breach of the original constitution of’ our nature, as derived in the beginning from GOD himself. 4. From whence it is evident, that our flesh and blood are penetrated with the very diabolical nature itself, and that our carnal will is tainted with the Satanical wickedness, and therewith infected as with deadly poison which poison is pride, together with lying, and the whole crowd of both fleshly and spiritual lusts, so repugnant to the Divine nature, and so every way contrary to God; as a certain hellish ferment powerfully working in the soul, and perverting the right order of all its powers and faculties. And by reason of this perverse disposition, and devilish contagion, it is that CHRIST called the Pharisees " children of the devil," as if covetousness, lying, pride, and every evil concupiscence, were the devil himself, with whom the natural man is infected. It moreover follows, that as many as lead a life full of pride, avarice, lust, and envy, they may all properly be said to live in the devil, having the very nature of the devil in them. They partake of the diabolical nature; and they live in him, as he lives in them. Notwithstanding which, they may put on the cover of outward honesty, and veil themselves under a fair show of moral virtues; nay, may make a very specious ostentation of piety; while nevertheless inwardly, they remain still devils: which, though it be a dreadful thing to speaks yet it is nothing but the truth; a truth confirmed both by the word and by experience. 5. Seeing therefore our nature is so extremely depraved, so utterly corrupted; so abominably perverted by the evil one, and so entirely vitiated in all its springs; there is an absolute necessity that it should be amended thoroughly, and to this end, renewed wholly. But how shall this be wrought? After this manner: as the chief evil has pervaded our nature, and intimately tainted it, so must the chief good pervade and tincture this our nature, that it may be made like unto it. That, which the chief evil has corrupted, by mingling itself with it, can no otherwise be corrected but by a thorough and vital penetration of the chief good, even of GOD himself. 6. Now the Son of GOD became man, that hereby reconciling us to GOD, he might make us partakers of the sovereign good; having purged us and sanctified us from evil for that end. Forasmuch as it behoveth that which is to be sanctified, that it be sanctified by GOD and with God-and as GOD is personally in CHRIST, so ought we through him, to be united with GOD by faith; so that we may live in GOD, and GOD in us; CHRIST in us, and we in CHRIST; and that the Divine will may be in us, and we in it, so that we may be made the righteousness of GOD in CHRIST, 2 Cor. v: 19, 2O; which is the only means whereby CHRIST JESUS administers medicine to our corrupted and infected nature. And the more powerfully this medicine does operate in man, so much more deeply does it work upon the distemper, and destroy and pluck up the hidden evil sticking in nature. 7. But oh! How blessed is the man in whom CHRIST is all, and does all! whose will, thoughts, sense, and words, are the will of CHRIST, the thoughts of CHRIST, and the sense of CHRIST; and whose words are CHRIST's, and not his own! whose mind is the mind of CHRIST, according to that of the apostle, "We have the mind of CHRIST." Whosoever lives this hidden life in CHRIST, has overcome the wicked one, and is translated from darkness to light, and from death to life: for he lives now in GOD, and CHRIST is henceforth his life: so that whereas the first and old Adam was before in him as a living soul; the second and new Adam is hereby made to him a quickening Spirit. Thus his meekness is the meekness of CHRIST; his obedience is the obedience of CHRIST; his patience and humility are the patience and humility of CHRIST; and lastly, his life itself is no other than that of CHRIST, by whom and in whom he lives. This is that life of CHRIST in us, whereof St. Paul so experimentally speaks, saying, "I live, yet not I, but CHRIST lives in me." This is to live by the faith of the Son of GOD; this is to follow CHRIST truly; this is to walk in the light of this life, and to bring forth the fruits- of repentance. For by this method the old man is destroyed; and the carnal life declining and setting, the new, spiritual, and heavenly life arises, and breaketh forth as out of a cloud, in its full lustre. And whosoever has this life in him, is a real, not only a titular, Christian; he is a Christian not in word, but in (Iced; not in show, but in truth;,and not in name, but in nature. He is a very member incorporated in CHRIST, a true child of GOD, begotten of God and CHRIST, renewed in CHRIST, and after his image quickened by faith. 8. After this we should continually aspire; we should, from the inmost ground of our soul, and with our whole heart and mind, earnestly pant and breathe, wish and long, endeavor and study, that the kingdom of CHRIST, not of SATAN, may come into us, and that we may lead the life of CHRIST upon the earth, by his Spirit living in us. Let then all our counsels, all our contrivances, all our cares, and all our inward groans and prayers, still aim at this; and let this be all our strife, how we may more and more mortify the old man. For so much as any one dieth to himself, so much does CHRIST live in him; so much of corruption as is done away by the Holy Ghost., so much of Divine grace is introduced; so much as the flesh is crucified, is the Spirit quickened; so much as the works of darkness are destroyed, even so much is a man enlightened; so much as any one loseth of his depraved affection, so much gaineth he of undefiled love. For the decrease of the animal life and love is the increase of the Divine; and by how much the affections of the former, such as self-love, wrath, covetousness, and voluptuousness are lessened, by so much are the contrary affections of the Divine life, such as self-denial, humility, love, contentment, and patience augmented. And as those pass away and die, by the bringing in of these, so is the evil one in proportion cast out; and he being cast out, CHRIST comes in, and lives and reigueth in the heart. The farther then a man's heart departeth from the world, from the desire of the eyes, the desire of the flesh, and the pride of life, so much the more there is of GOD, of CHRIST, and of the Holy Ghost, which flow into him; and so much the more deeply do they enter him, and the more intimately and profoundly penetrate him. To conclude, so much the more as nature, flesh, darkness, and the world, do domineer in man, so much the less is there of grace, of Spirit, of light, and of GOD found in him. 9. This new kind of life is enmity to the flesh, and is its most bitter cross. The life of CHRIST is to the flesh death itself, and to the natural man an insupportable burden; but to the spiritual man it is an easy yoke, a light and pleasant burden, and a most still and quiet Sabbath. And verily, verily, the true rest and spiritual Sabbath of the soul is sought for in vain elsewhere, than in the faith of CHRIST, and in his meekness, humility, patience, and charity. Therefore himself has said, " Ye shall find rest to your souls:" and likewise, " I will give you rest." This you shall surely obtain, by coming unto him by faith, taking his yoke upon you, and learning of him: every thing by this means will be made easy and light., Verily, he that loves CHRIST, will not think it bitter to suffer death for CHRIST: yea rather, it will be unto him exceeding great joy. And this is that sweet, yoke of our Lord, that we are commanded to take on us, that our souls may be refreshed and eased; and being unyoked from sin, may find therein a Divine quiet and repose. 10. Whosoever, therefore, has a mind to take up CHRIST's yoke, and imitate his life with all diligence, let him,, in the first place, shake, off the devil's yoke, by that strength, which is given him from above, that the flesh may not proceed to insult the Spirit, as it has formerly done. All must now be brought under the obedience of CHRIST, and subjected to the wise and righteous discipline of his law; that is, the will and understanding, reason and appetite, with all the carnal desires which did reign in the mortal body, Rom. 6: 12. 11. This flesh indeed is well-pleased to be honored, courted, praised, and to abound with riches and pleasures. But to reduce all these under the yoke of CHRIST; to prefer ignominy, contempt, and poverty before them; yea, to count himself altogether unworthy of any thing, is the cross of CHRIST, whereby the flesh is crucified. This is the humility of CHRIST, which despises these things, which the world so greedily gapeth after. And this is the sublimity of the mind of CHRIST, to trample these grandeurs and pleasures under foot. This is that yoke and burden which are so easy and light to the Spirit, the law of love, the commandments whereof are not grievous, but delightful and pleasant. Lo! this is the way of CHRIST, and no other: walk ye therefore in it. For what else was the whole life of CHRIST, but holy poverty, extreme contempt, and most sharp persecution? Who calve not into the world that he might be served, but that he might serve us; for our sakes took upon him the form of a servant, making himself of no reputation: as coming into flesh to give his very life, for an atonement of our sins, and for a ransom of as many as should yield to follow him in the regeneration. 12. It is the property of the natural man, to pursue after honors, and all such things as appear great; but the spiritual man loves the humility of CHRIST, cleaveth to it, and longeth to be nothing. The carnal man accounts it a folly to live as CHRIST lived, and thinks those only wise that live after their own wills, freely indulging their appetites, and taking their fill of whatsoever their hearts wander after. Such an one, even while he most of all lives in the devil, is so blinded with the thick darkness overclouding his mind, that looking upon his own life, he most foolishly applauds himself in it. And thus it is, that these poor and wretched men, by giving themselves up to follow the foolish light of carnal wisdom, do both fall themselves into pernicious errors, and lead others into the same, to their common ruin. Whereas those, whom the true light has illuminated, are so far from being attracted hereby, that they are struck with the utmost horror of mind when they but cast their eyes upon the gaudy spews of the world, upon the ambition and pride, upon the wrathfulness and revenge, and upon the intemperance and voluptuousness of it. And this causes them, from the very bottom of their hearts, to sigh out their complaints, I Good GOD! Say they, how far is this from CHRIST? Oh! how far from the knowledge of CHRIST, is the man that does thus! How far from genuine Christianity! How far from the disposition of the new birth, or the nativity of the sons of God.' 13. In whom therefore the life of CHRIST is not found, the same is not a child of God. He is wholly ignorant of CHRIST; for he who would rightly know CHRIST, both as the Savior of the world, and as the exemplar of life, must know him to be mere love; must be acquainted with him, as he is mere meekness, and must experience him to be mere patience and humility, by beholding the lively copy hereof in his own heart. These virtues then of CHRIST you must needs have within thee, and must have a most deep love and sense of them in the inmost ground of thy heart, if you wouldest know him truly. After this manner man is made to taste how sweet the Lord is! So is the truth known; so is the supreme good perceived. Then is there an experimental demonstration, that the life of CHRIST does vastly excel every other life, in goodness, pleasantness, dignity, and tranquility; yea, that it does most sweetly conspire with life eternal itself, as being properly the beginning of it upon earth. 14. Seeing therefore nothing is better than the life of CHRIST, nothing pleasanter, nothing more honorable, or fuller of solid satisfaction and peace; nothing ought to come into competition with it. But as it exceedeth all others, so is it above all to be desired, and most earnestly, beyond all, to be wished, longed, and sought for by fervent breathings and prayers. He, who is empty of this saving and experimental knowledge,, not savouring the things which are CHRIST's, cannot know what the peace and tranquility of eternal life is, what the sovereign good, the everlasting truth; what the unperishable word, what the true quietude and joy of the soul; or what, lastly, the true light and the true love are: seeing that all these are no other than CHRIST himself: and he that has CHRIST, has them; for CHRIST is all these to him that believeth in, and adhereth to him alone. Whence his beloved disciple says, " Every one that loves is born of GOD, and knows GOD: but he that loves not, knows not GOD; for GOD is love." And hence, 15. It is manifest, that this new birth, does not consist in any vanishing words, how sound soever they may be; or in an external form, and show of godliness, though never so specious, but in an abiding substance, in the sovereign virtue and power of the mind, the very fountain of all the virtues besides; even in love, which is God. For of whomsoever any one is born, he must have the same properties and essential qualities. He then that says, he is born of GOD, let him demonstrate this by love; for as much as GOD is love. And as he is love, " Whosoever dwells in love, dwells in GOD, and GOD in him." Which is the demonstration of this new and heavenly birth, showing that it proceeds of GOD, for love is of GOD, and hereby do we express our Father which is in heaven; whom without this it is impossible ever to express, or to have the least title to call him by that name. 16. In like manner, the knowledge of GOD consists not in words, or in a certain shadowy and superficial science, but in a lively, amiable, pleasant, and most sweet sensation, a most pure and untainted pleasure, through faith gently insinuating itself into all the recesses of the heart, and innermost senses and powers of the mind, and quietly pervading and penetrating the same with an inexpressible Divine sweetness. Oh! what is it to be filled with the very sweetness of GOD himself, by the means of such a loving faith! This is the true, living, efficacious knowledge of GOD; whereof the Psalmist speaks, saying, " My heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God." And again,’I Thy loving kindness (in this internal Divine sensation of a loving soul) is better than the life itself, or than lives;" that is, all other lives beside the Divine life alone. Where it is plain, that this can be only meant of that lively joy and sweetness of Divine, experimental knowledge, which is infused into a faithful heart, and is shed abroad through the same, as a most sweet ointment. And thus, at length, man lives in GOD, and GOD in man! Thus a man knowcth GOD in :truth, and I known of God!