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11 minuten leestijd

(No. 72)

Grand Rapids, Michigan

November 16, 1948

Beloved Congregation:

LN my preceding letter I wrote something about the thief on the cross, who according to God’s sovereignty, was Packed as a firebrand out of the fire. To be sure that man was a striking example of sovereign grace.

The one thief remained what he was: a wicked scorner, for he even reviled the Lord Jesus. True, he was willing to be delivered out of his misery, but his sin was no burden to him if only he could be rescued from the cross.

Free grace had destined the other one to be the first fruit of the New Testament Church. Very properly a minister, in a catechism class, observed that in the confession of this thief who was converted to God, there are five things noteworthy :

1. He admonished his neighbor. “Dost not thou fear God?”

2. He condemned himself and owned his guilt, “We indeed justly.”

3. He justified God, and accepted his punishment, “We receive the due reward of our deeds.”

4. He believed that Jesus was without sin and immaculate, for he said, “But this man hath done nothing amiss.”

5. He acknowledged Jesus in His Godhead and in His Kingship, for he prayed, “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.”

Clearly the characteristics of saving faith manifested themselves in this thief, but it was also evident that he could not find life in the confession itself, no, he felt the need of the Savior.

However, not to enter any further into the conversion of this thief, we should consider the fact that in the Word of God there is but one example recorded, viz. of this man, who received grace in the last moments of his life, and to whom heaven was opened and assurance was given of an entrance into Paradise.

Truly, it is God’s sovereignty to teach one man more theology in one hour than another during his whole life. However, it is not for us to venture on what God can do.

Nevertheless, all these divers ways which God employs in the gathering in of His people at different ages, shall prove to be the praise and honor of God’s great and holy Name. Still, that example of the thief grants us liberty to preach the gospel and to show forth the way of salvation even till the end of a person’s life. God is gracious and of great mercy in Christ to all that call upon Him in truth. Oh friends! there is just one thing in our life that counts, and that is whether God has made a beginning with us and whether it is true. If God has made a beginning, then He will undoubtedly perfect it. The end does not decide it, but the beginning. Clearly and distinctly has the apostle Paul declared it in Phil. 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it (in the margin, will finish it) until the day of Jesus Christ.”

And if it has been true in our heart that we have learned to know the time in which we were cut off from Adam and implanted into Christ; a time in which we learned to know a godly sorrow; learned to hunger and thirst after the righteousness of Christ, then the God of all truth shall in His time make it true in our hearts.

The times of our shakings, doubts, and fears may be many in our life; frequently we may be seized with sorrows and vexations, but God crowns His own work that shall be to His honor and glory forever. Well may those that are at ease in Zion and trust in the mountain of Samaria, quake and tremble! What an awakening it will be, not only for all the unconcerned, but also for all that have journeyed and lived with God’s people, but who were never added to the Church of God himself and who have never learned to know what was experienced by His people. To count on an entrance into heaven and then plunge into hell, how dreadful it will be: that self-deception, that missing the mark forever!

There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge in the grave wither we go, and in the place of eternal woe the gospel shall never again be preached. When death enters, the time of grace ends. May the Lord yet open the blind eyes, ere it shall be too late forever. May God Himself bind the seriousness and the weight upon the hearts of young and old. The times in which we live are so dark. God does so withhold His Spirit, and the hardening of hearts increases steadily. The consideration of the growing carelessness should cause our hearts to tremble and shudder. May God have mercy on us and on our children. Impressions of death and eternity are as it were obliterated in many. Hearts and thoughts are filled with games and sports. Generally speaking, the cry is for eating and drinking and playing. What will become of it if God gives us over unto ourselves?

Boys and girls, do break with sin! Forsake the foolish and live; and go in the way of understanding. May God convert you and give you to abhor the world and sin, but may He also create in you a desire and love to walk in His ways.

If there are among us souls that are fainthearted on account of their guilt and sin, and because they miss God, O that you might be encouraged. May the consolations of the Holy Spirit become the portion of the disconsolate.

The door of grace is still open. It is still possible to be saved. Christ came to seek and to save that which is lost. The blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cleanses from all sins.

No hearts are too young to be converted to God, and on the other hand, no hairs are too gray to take refuge unto God. Do not postpone until tomorrow, but “today, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” It cannot but exceed your expectations if you might find grace in the eyes of God.

If you cannot pray, then groan; if you cannot breath any more groanings, then let your eyes be ever toward the Lord, Ps. 25:15.

Be, all of you, commended to God.

Your minister,

Rev. W. C. Lamain

(No. 73)

Grand Rapids, Michigan

November 23, 1948

Beloved Congregation:

In this letter I shall gladly, with the Lord’s help, comply with your request for an explanation of the meaning of the word “regeneration” which occurs so many times in God’s Word.

In Scripture the word is used in two ways. I am thinking first of all of Matth. 19:28 where we read: “And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” The word is used here to denote the restoration of all things at the end of the ages. The curse which followed upon the fall in Paradise and came upon the world shall then be completely removed. In principle, the judgement of the world, considered as God’s creation was already removed when Christ arose. Christ’s triumph was complete. The very root and substance of the new heavens and the new earth which the elect shall one day inherit lies in the resurrection of Christ.

There is also another meaning of the word “regeneration.” When Christ spoke to Nicodemus concerning regeneration in John 3. He meant the miracle which God performs in the hearts of His people when He quickens them to newness of life. This work of God is described in various ways. In the Scriptures of truth we read of a divine “deliverance,” Col. 1:13; of a “taking away of the stony heart and giving a heart of flesh,” Ezek. 36; of a “renewing,” 2 Cor. 5:17 etc.

Our well-known divines understood by this word “regeneration” not only the spiritual conception but also the spiritual formation of the new creature and the spiritual birth itself. Since we are finite creatures and can form only one idea at a time, we must distinguish between calling, regeneration, conversion, faith, and sanctification, but the Holy Scripture sometimes includes in one word all of these together.

Regeneration can be explained as a supernatural divine act whereby the Lord, for the sake of Christ’s merits, implants in the heart of the elect sinner who is by nature dead, fallen, and unclean, a new divine life through the incorruptible seed of His Word which is made fruitful by the infinite power of the Holy Spirit. It is called a birth, a being born again, a new birth, or a being born from above not only because it takes place after ones natural birth and is wrought from above but also because of the close similarity there is between them. Let me mention a few things which will make it clear that we can speak correctly of a “new birth.”

Natural birth is a mystery. David declared with animation: “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” Not one of even the most learned men of the world is able to understand the phenomenon of natural conception and birth. And though we are blessed ever so many times in a natural way with the birth of a child it remains a miracle still. So it is also with the new birth which is wrought by God.

“The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them.” 1 Cor. 2:14. These things go beyond the natural understanding. We can indeed marvel at and admire the works of God but we can never comprehend them. One moment Saul of Tarsus is a bitter persecutor of Christ and His Church and the next moment he is a preacher of Christ and a hearty friend of the Church. One day the jailor is a sworn enemy of the Church and the next day he is a great friend of God’s servants.

Thus we could multiply examples. We may well exclaim: “How great are Thy works, O Lord!” The birth from above is beyond our understanding.

Natural birth is effected by means of a seed. This second supernatural birth can likewise not be affected other than by the seed of the Word bedewed and fructified by the Holy Ghost. For proof of this from God’s Word consider first of all Jas. 1:18: “Of His own will begat He us with the Word of truth …”: then 1 Peter 1:23: “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God which liveth and abideth forever.”

This word of God is compared to seed and it teaches us that although it is small to all appearances it is nevertheless effectual in working. Although it lies hidden at first, it continues to grow and at last bears most precious fruit.

Throughout all ages God has used His word as a means of conversion. Without it there is no conversion to God possible. Either we are brought to the means or the means are brought to us. “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” By His Spirit God causes the Word to become “quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, …” Accomplished by the Spirit, the Word brings forth fruit worthy of faith and repentance.

For those who perish the Word is a savor of death unto death but to those who are saved it is a savor of life unto life and the power of God unto salvation. Blessed are those who may learn to know something of the power of the Word in their hearts and lives.

The Lord willing, I hope to continue the next time. Only this remains to be said: God’s counsel is hidden from us. “Secret things are for the Lord our God.” I pray you, young and old, great and small, redeem the time and take advantage of the opportunities which God still grants you while He spares you and extends your time of grace. Do not neglect placing yourselves under the pure means of grace. Maybe a seed will fall which will be for your eternal gain. May God bless His Word for Jesus sake!

Hearty greetings to all

Your well-wishing minister,

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