Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
I. THE NEW CREATION. By necessity of birth the state of every infant is guilty, and, therefore, subject to con-detonation. Original sin rests on its head, and subjects it to the penalties of death; so that in law it stands as a criminal convicted, and, therefore, incapable of heavenly privileges. But by the laver of baptism made a recipient of heavenly prerogatives, and thus far innocent in the sight of God, it is capable of receiving those spiritual privileges, which are Divinely ordered to flow from this source. It becomes incorporated into the Church, and, consequently, a member of Christ; whence proceeds its adoption as a son, and its title to an inheritance in the kingdom of heaven. And not only so, but a principle of new life is infused into him. His very nature is changed. In understanding, will, affections, and conscience, he is altogether different.
II. THE ORIGINAL CAUSE OF REGENERATION. Creation is a prerogative solely vested in God. No finite being possesses it. Man is incapable of changing his own state and nature; as incapable of effecting his own regeneration as of bringing himself originally into being. St. John speaks of the regenerated as "born of God"; St. Paul as "partakers of the Divine nature"; and again, as being "His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works."
III. THE IMPULSIVE OR MOVING CAUSE OF REGENERATION — the will of God The original expression signifies, not "will" merely, but "good will"; that is, a decree of the mind caused by His grace in behalf of fallen men. Man's regeneration could not proceed from any advantages accruing to God; for the salvation of a thousand worlds could not add to His happiness, nor their destruction detract from His felicity.
IV. THE INSTRUMENTAL CAUSE OF REGENERATION. AS God in His providence always works His pleasure by instruments, so it is in the kingdom of grace; and that which there effects His purposes is the gospel or "Word of truth." By a single expression of His will He might convert the millions that are on earth; but He prefers treating them as reasonable beings with a moral agency, and using means to make them workers together with Him in their own regeneration. And the means He adopts is "truth," Divine truth, as expressed in the gospel of His Son, and as set forth in the means of grace flowing through His Church. How these effect their purpose, the mode of their operation, is a mystery hidden in the secrets of God. He has drawn a veil as ranch over His mode of re-creation, as over the philosophy of His own essence, and the original principle of things animate or inanimate. But thus much we do know — that, though He can beget without the Word, the Word cannot beget without Him. It is as seed, which the dew and sun of heaven must act upon, or it will never yield a grain to the will of the sower.
V. THE FINAL CAUSE OF REGENERATION — dedication to God. Christians are "a kind of first-fruits of His creatures," the spiritual antitypes, whereof the law-type of the first-fruits was a figure.
1. For, first, they have been redeemed from a bondage worse than that of Egypt. They have been "bought with a price," and hence are no longer "their own, but His who redeemed them." They answer, then, the character of first-fruits in the object of the oblation, being God's by right of purchase and possession.
2. Hence, also, like the first-fruits, they are separated from the rest of their kind. They differ from the unchristian world in nature, in maxims and principles, in spirit and temper, in company and conduct.
(John Budgen, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.