Biblical Doctrine, Plainly Stated

By William S. Plumer, 1875


I. Faith and Repentance are proofs and properties of a new nature. This is also true of hope, love, joy, peace, patience, forbearance, temperance, meekness, gentleness, goodness, courage--and all the Christian graces. But Faith and Repentance occupy so prominent a place in the beginning and in the whole history of the Christian life, that it was deemed proper to give to each of them a distinct consideration. But this was done the better to open the way for the consideration of a change of heart.

II. It is clear from many parts of God's word that in the divine plan of mercy, a change of heart is required in order to salvation. It is called by various names, but, when fairly considered, they all lead us to the same conclusions respecting its nature and necessity. Let us consider some of the forms of speech used in Scripture to instruct us on this great subject.

III. Sometimes the great change we must undergo in order to salvation is expressed by God's pouring his Spirit upon us, putting his Spirit within us, thus anointing us to God, and thus making us temples of God. Read and compare Isaiah 44:3-5; Ezek. 36:27; Joel 2:28; 1 Cor. 3:16, 17; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16. When this change takes place, it is as when at the dedication of the temple "the glory of the Lord filled the house." 1 Kings 8:11. That day it became a temple, and must be treated as a holy place. If we regard the indwelling of God's Spirit as in a person, then that person was the Lord's, and should fearlessly and openly profess his love and fear of God.

IV. As sin consists very much in lack of conformity to law, or in lawlessness towards God, so the change of heart is sometimes well represented by "writing the law of God on the heart," so as to give to men a love for God's holy precepts, and giving them a heart to remember and practise all it requires: "After those days, says the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people," Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10; 10:16. People thus wrought upon love to keep the commandments. Their aims and desires are holy.

V. The very core of depravity is hardness of heart, a dreadful lack of right sensibility. So the change of heart required of men is sometimes expressed by giving them true and proper tenderness swaying their whole nature: "I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony [or unfeeling] heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh." Ezek. 11:19. Compare Ezek. 36:26, 27. Jer. 32:39, 40, etc.

VI. Often do the Scriptures compare the needful change of heart to circumcision. "Circumcise your heart, and be no more stiff-necked." Deut. 10:16. One of the promises is: "The Lord your God will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your seed, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, that you may live." Deut. 30:6. Compare Jer. 4:4. Now the use of circumcision was chiefly to teach us the spiritual truth that we must be changed in heart: "For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God." Romans 2:28, 29; compare 1 Cor. 7:19; Phil. 3:3.

VII. Sometimes the needful change of heart is in Scripture spoken of as a transformation. "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:2. The word rendered transformed is in 2 Cor. 3:18 rendered changed—"changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." In Matt. 17:2, Mark 9:2, it is rendered transfigured. It expresses a thorough change. One of the Lexicons quotes a remarkable sentence from Seneca: "I see that I must not only be amended, but transfigured." The whole man must be changed.

VIII. Sometimes the great change is spoken of as a renewal. "Be renewed in the spirit of your mind;" you "have put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him." Eph. 4:23; Col. 3:10. Elsewhere Paul speaks expressly of "the renewing of the Holy Spirit," Tit. 3:5. Everyone knows what it is to renovate, to take away all that is defective or wrong, and replace it with that which is sound and strong, thus making the thing as good as new.

IX. At least once the great change is spoken of as a translation. "Who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son." Col. 1:13. The verb used conveys the idea of removal from one country and settlement into another. Elijah was carried from earth, and thenceforward his home was in heaven. He was translated. Heb. 11:5. The verbs in the two cases are not the same in the Greek; but they both may be fairly rendered translated. In the great change issuing in salvation God thoroughly changes both man's state and man's heart, and brings him into the kingdom and under the government of the Son of his love. There is no change greater than this.

X. Again, this change of heart is styled a calling. All converted people are called to be saints. Romans 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2, 24. This calling is both holy and saving. 2 Tim. 1:9. It is heavenly. Heb. 3:1. It is from heaven. It is excellent. It is a call to heavenly bliss. It is unto God's eternal glory by Jesus Christ. 1 Pet. 5:10. See also 1 Thess. 2:12; 4:7. This saving calling is effectual. It changes the heart and life just as it did those of Saul of Tarsus. When Christ calls and gives grace to obey the call, heaven is secure.

XI. Sometimes a change of heart is spoken of as a creation, or new creation. Thus David prayed: "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." Psalm 51:10. It is essential to salvation, for "in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature," or a new creation. Gal. 6:15. All real Christians are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works; and the new man is created in righteousness and holiness. Eph. 2:10; 4:24. This creation makes men new creatures indeed. It is marvelous to all; to none more than to him who is the subject of it.

XII. Sometimes the New Testament speaks of a change of heart as a passing from death unto life, or a resurrection from the dead. 1 John 3:14; Eph. 2:6. Jesus Christ used this form of speech in the boldest manner: "As the Father raises up the dead, and quickens them; even so the Son quickens whom he will. . . . Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live." John 5:21, 25.

XIII. Another name for a change of heart is the new birth, regeneration, or being born again. Our Lord declares it necessary to salvation, and says we should not wonder at his urging it. John 3:3-7. It is certain that men will never believe on the name of Jesus, if they are not born of God. John 1:12, 13; 1 John 5:1. The washing of regeneration is the sure method adopted by the mercy of God to save us. Titus 3:5. In this great change much honor is put upon the word of God as the instrument. 1 Pet. 1:23. Whoever is truly born of God has learned to despise the wealth, the honors, and the pleasures of the world as a portion. Such a one hates sin and loves holiness. 1 John 5:18. He longs after conformity to God. He never makes a trade of sin. "Everyone born of God overcomes the world." 1 John 5:4

XIV. All these modes of representing a change of heart show:

1. That it is a great change—a change so great that every fit form of speech is used to magnify it. It is a change celebrated in heaven itself. Luke 15:7. It is the setting up of God's kingdom in a human soul, that shall live and exult forever. Passing from earth to heaven is not a greater change in one's state, than is a passing from death to life in one's heart and character.

2. A saving change of heart is internal. It is in the inmost soul. It is a writing of the law on the heart. It is not any outward reformation, nor submission to baptism. Simon Magus was baptized, but he was in the bond of iniquity and in the gall of bitterness still. Acts 8:23.

3. It is not a partial change, but it is thorough and universal: "Old things are passed away behold, all things are become new." 2 Cor. 5:17. It changes men's aims, and hopes, and fears, and views, and lives.

4. It is a change above nature. It is by the Holy Spirit, by the power of God, even "the exceeding greatness of his power to us who believe, according to the working of his mighty power." Eph. 1:19.

5. It is a vital and essential change. Without it there is no salvation. Men may be saved without money, without friends, without honor, but not without the new birth. John 3:3, 5.