In chapter 13 of this work ("Hardshells on Faith - Conclusion") I cited these words of Elder Sarrels from his "Systematic Theology."
"The regeneration of man changes his soul essence. Faculties, affections, and dispositions are not personal entities, and are therefore not subjects of regeneration. God regenerates man, not his attributes or properties." (Page 342)
Thus, I have anticipated a more fuller examination of this issue. The issue of the nature of man's inability, or degeneration, is determinative of the nature of man's regeneration. Thus far, I have shown how Hardshells generally err on the nature of man's inability and on his regeneration. I have cited Calvinist authorities who have insisted that man's inability is not natural or physical but strictly moral. I have also cited Elder J. H. Oliphant, a leading Hardshell authority at the turn of the twentieth century, who also affirmed that man's inability was not physical or natural, agreeing with Dr. Edwards on the topic. I also cited from the London Confession of Faith where the Old Baptists of that confession affirmed that man has lost all ability of will. I also have cited leading Calvinists on the affirmation that regeneration is not a change of man's soul substance, but is strictly a moral change. I then began citing leading Hardshells from the twentieth and twenty first centuries that show that the view has now become common to affirm that man's inability is physical as well as moral and that the change in regeneration is physical (non-moral) as well as moral. In this posting I will cite extensively from Elder Sarrels on this point. Let us now look at some additional citations from Elder Sarrels on this matter.
"A change of direction does not make one a new creation. Only a basic change of one's nature can account for and explain that fundamental spiritual work which is wrought in the soul by the quickening power of God." (pg. 307 of his "Systematic Theology")
"Lastly, regeneration is solely the work of God, a work which makes man in his soul essence a new creature." (pg. 307)
"Regeneration makes man in his soul essence a new creation...The birth from above does not produce a "creature," it makes anew the creature which already exists. The already existing soul substance is fitted to be a proper residence and vehicle for the spiritual life which God "promised before the world began"; that is to say, the soul essence is changed from natural to spiritual. The renewing in Titus 3: 5 does not mean a "renovation" of the soul, but a change of its nature." (Pg. 308)
"Sin is not a mere pimple on the soul, a barely detectable fleck on its surface; it is a virulent, loathesome canker which has invaded every nook and cranny of the soul substance." (pg. 324)
"This complex operation, which in its ethical aspects involves the atonement of Christ, still confronts naked reason as a matter which has to do only with the regeneration of man's soul substance...From Reason. Since the regeneration of substance can be effected only by creative power..." (pg. 327)
"The changed essence which results from the renewing work of the Holy Spirit, and the nature of the life coincident with this changed essence, clearly indicate that they are different in kind from all things solely natural. In regeneration the essence of man's soul is changed from natural to spiritual, and the life coincident with this changed essence is spiritual life." (pg. 328)
Sarrels cannot help but keep repeating his assertion that regeneration is a change of man's soul "essence" and "substance." He denies that regeneration is merely moral transformation, but that man's soul substance is changed. He does not define exactly what is the nature of the change except to say that it is a change from "natural" to "spiritual." I will comment on this further after we have looked at all the pertinent citations from Sarrels on this issue.
"Even if man were able, through the exercise of any solely natural power, to participate in his regeneration, he would be morally unable to do so." (pg. 328)
"Regeneration is not a mere enlightening of the understanding and a rectifying of the volitions. To clarify this statement, we consider:
a. The view that man's original faculties are retained, and that they are only given a change of direction. "Regeneration is the giving of a new direction or tendency to powers of affection which man possessed before. Man had the faculty of love before, but this love was supremely set on self. In regeneration the direction of that faculty is changed, and his love is now supremely set on god" (Strong, Systematic Theology, 825)." (pg. 338)
"Faculty implies substance which underlies and conditions it. It is impossible to think of faculty as being different in kind or grade from the substance to which it belongs, or in which it inheres. We cannot think of the faculty of human love as being linked biologically with the brute. The faculty of love in man is a faculty peculiar to human nature, or human essence. The fall did not change the grace of human nature. Man was as truly human after the fall as he was before it. After the fall man was a sinful human being, but still a human being." (pg. 338)
In the first citation above it is clear that Sarrels believes, like elders Winfrey, Crouse, and Gowens, that man's inability is not strictly moral, but physical or constitutional. Even it the soul were willing to please God, it could not do so. This is opposed to what the leading Calvinists have taught on the subject, as well as what was taught by Elder Oliphant. Sarrels denies that regeneration is strictly the giving of new directions to man's existing faculties, or a "rectifying of the volitions" or will of man, disagreeing with the words of Augustus Strong who was stating the original Calvinist and Baptist position. Sarrels affirms that the faculties cannot be changed in their direction without a change in the "substance" of the soul. Man's inability to love God was not simply due to a lack of will, but also to a physical inability.
"However, it is inconceivable that man's faculty should undergo a change of direction while the substance in which it is grounded should remain unaffected. The wrong direction of man's faculty of love is the sensitive needle which indicates the way the self or ego faces. Sin sank its deadly fangs deep in the soul essence of man, not merely in his faculties." (pg. 338)
"The only way to change the direction of man's love is to change the essence which this love manifests. To make regeneration have to do only with man's disposition, or the direction of his love, is equivalent to treating the symptom while ignoring the disease...It ignores the essence reality of man and attempts to deal with his qualities. Working on direction without coming to grips with that which directs, is like dealing with phenomena while ignoring the reality which underlies and conditions them." (pg. 338)
When Sarrels says that "it is inconceivable that man's faculty should undergo a change of direction while the substance in which it is grounded should remain unaffected," he does not prove anything. Just because it is inconceivable to Sarrels does not mean it is not true. His statement that the direction of man's faculty of love indicates the way the self or ego faces also does not prove that the substance of the soul or the faculty of love itself undergoes a physical (non-moral) change. First of all, Sarrels does not even define what he means by "soul." Is the essence or substance of man's soul different in saved and unsaved persons? When he speaks of the "disease" of the soul, he implies that it is a disease in the soul substance and not merely in the moral disposition of the soul or in the direction of the soul faculties. Man is indeed a morally diseased soul, but saying this does not mean that the physics of the soul are altered.
Yes, indeed, man's moral nature is polluted. But, his soul is not less of a soul. The pollution has not altered man's soul as respects its basic make up. Having dirt on the body does not change the physics of the body and having moral filth on the soul does not change the physics of the soul.
"c. The view that regeneration involves simply the enlightening of the understanding and the rectifying of the volitions. "Reverse the lever of the affections," says Dr. Strong, "and this moral locomotive, without further change, will move away from sin, and toward truth and God" (Systematic Theology, 825). We reply that this is no more than an "about face" religion, and is basically identical with the reformation theory. According to this view, the same old locomotive which you had before regeneration still stands before you unchanged. It is now only moving down the track in the opposite direction. This cannot be the truth regarding the fundamental change wrought by the Holy Spirit in the new birth. The disappointing end to which this view directs us is clearly shown by the following statement by Dr. Shedd. "In this regeneration, we are restored by the grace of Christ to the righteousness of God from which we fell in Adam" (Dogmatic Theology, II, 492) This makes regeneration to be a restoration to a former state, instead of a resurrection to a new and higher state. According to this view, as Dr. Strong states it, regeneration "is not a change in the substance of either body or soul" (Systematic Theology, 823). Certainly this whole concept is in direct conflict with such Scriptures as Titus 3: 5; Phil. 3: 21; Rom. 8: 29." (pg. 339)
"But we do not agree with him when he says "The new life is rather a new direction and activity of our affections and will" (Ibid, 824). To be sure our affections and will have a new direction, but to equate "direction of faculties" and "life" is wide of the mark. This statement from Dr. Strong, strictly interpreted, leaves out the man to whom the faculties belong, and ignores the new life coincident with the changed nature." (pg. 339)
But, regeneration is a restoration to what man lost in his degeneration. On this I will enlarge upon later. Sarrel's disagreement with Dr. Strong puts him also into disagreement with Elder Oliphant and with the leading Calvinists and Particular Baptists of primitive times. Further, Sarrels keeps affirming what he has not at all proven from Scripture. Where is his scriptural proof for a change in the physics of the soul substance resulting from both the fall and from regeneration? Where is the evidence that a change in direction of the faculties of the soul necessitates a change in the substance of the soul? Where is the evidence that a change in the object of love and affection necessitates a change in the physics of the soul?
"God has not explained just what he does to the soul of man to fit it for the heavenly state, and it is probable that if he had explained it, we still could not understand it." (pg. 339)
This is an amazing admission from one who is vehement in his assertion that the physics of the soul is changed in regeneration. Sarrels can affirm that the soul essence or substance is changed but he cannot explain the nature of the change. It is true that no one can fully comprehend the change that an individual goes through in being born of God. Yet, of this we can be certain. It is a moral renovation and not a change of the physical substance of the soul. When I say that I changed my mind, I do not mean that my mind went through a physical or metaphysical change in the substance or essence of my mind.
"Faculty is an endowment of a substance-reality, and our minds refuse to stop till they come to the substance-reality endowed with the faculty. Faculties are native to man, not to themselves, and it is man, and not his faculties, who is the subject of regeneration. There is an essence-ground to which faculties are native, and it is this essence-ground which is washed in the blood of Jesus Christ and made a new creature...Without the renewing of the soul substance the faculties would be directed from the level of man's original state, which is natural." (Pg. 340)
"B. Positively. Regeneration is the regenesis of the soul substance, a being born from above." (pg. 340)
"What is to be done to the body is comparable to, or perhaps identical with, that which is done to the soul in regeneration. Man, the entire man, must be born from above." (pg. 341)
Much of what Sarrels wrote in these citations continues to be repetition. Rather than explaining what he means by such statements, he simply keeps repeating what he has already said, as though saying something over and over again, argumentum ad nauseum, proves his point. Sarrels affirms that the change of the body in the resurrection is the same as the change of the soul in regeneration. But, they are not the same and cannot be the same. The body is physical, but the soul is spiritual. The one is physical but the latter is moral. On this I shall enlarge upon later.
"The regeneration of man changes his soul essence. Faculties, affections, and dispositions are not personal entities, and are therefore not subjects of regeneration. God regenerates men, not his attributes or properties." (pg. 342)
"a. Negatively: Regeneration does not bring into being essence which does not previously exists...Regeneration adds nothing to man's substance, nor does it take anything from it. Rational man, as a constitutive whole, is to be regenerated and taken to heaven. We do not hold, nor does our view in any way imply, that God creates a new soul for man in regeneration, or that he creates any new substance in the soul, or that he adds new substance to it. On the contrary, we hold consistently and unequivocally that the very soul substance of man, nothing more, nothing less, is changed." (pg. 342)
"b. Positively: Regeneration changes man's soul substance so that, after being born again, it is said to be "spirit," or spiritual (Jno. 3: 6)." (pg. 342)
"Regeneration does not restore the lost man to his former state, it "raises him up" from his state of nature and from his death to sin to a new and higher state, where he can "sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." (pg. 342-343)
"The erroneous view that regeneration does not and need not change the soul substance stems from the failure to take into account the real nature of man apart from sin." (pg. 343)
Sarrels thinks that the great Calvinists of the past, such as Edwards, Owens, Charnock, Hodge, Strong, and others, are all wrong in denying that regeneration does not cause a change in the soul substance of a man. He thinks the Old Baptists who wrote the London Confession were all wrong. He thinks Elder Oliphant is all wrong. Yet, he does not prove wherein they are wrong but simply thinks that his assertion of their error is sufficient.
"Man, by creation, was not a spiritual being. He was made "lower than the angels," and as an earthly creature was not prepared "to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." He was a natural man (I Cor. 2: 14), and was not, with respect to grade of life, fitted for heavenly existence. If man had never sinned, a re-genesis of both soul and body would have been necessary in order that he share in, or have fellowship with the divine nature." (pg. 343)
"Sin did not change the soul substance of the natural man into a different grade of substance. It depraved it, but it did not transmute it downward. The fall was not from one type or grade of substance to a lower one; it was simply the vitiation, or moral breakdown, of that substance. Man was as truly human after the fall as he was before it. If before the fall of man's soul was spiritual as the angels are spiritual, then indeed all he needs is to be cleansed and restored to his former state." (pg. 344)
Sarrels, by these statements, shows that he does not understand what is meant by the terms "natural" and "spiritual" as used in Scripture. Sarrels assumes that the change from natural to spiritual involves a change in the substance or essence of the soul, but he no where proves such an assertion. Sarrels shows where such a view of his leads. He says that man in his original righteous condition, prior to his sin and fall, was in need of being made spiritual, that Adam needed to be regenerated or born again even in his unfallen state. In this he affirms that the man that God originally made had a soul that was physically and naturally unable to have communion with God, or to please God, or to do anything that is spiritual. This is no little error.
Adam was indeed a spiritual man when God created him. To deny this is to deny that he was under the law of God which Paul says is "spiritual." (Rom. 7: 14) Further, to deny that man was originally a spiritual man is to deny that man is spiritually dead because of sin. To have died spiritually implies that one was previously spiritually alive. Sarrels affirms that those who do not have spiritual life have no ability to please God. Then, how can God justly condemn Adam for disobeying his spiritual law?
Adam was originally made in the image and likeness of God and this must mean that he was spiritual. In describing the experience of regeneration Paul says:
"And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him." (Col. 3: 10)
"And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." (Eph. 4: 24)
Thus, as Adam was made in the likeness and image of God, so he was created in righteousness and true holiness, and had spiritual knowledge of God.
"All that man possesses as the result of his original creation is natural and not spiritual." (pg. 307)
"The seed or germ of the eternal, spiritual life, of the Bible was not in man as the result of his original creation." (pg. 341)
But, these statements are not true. Thomas Boston in his work "Human Nature in its Fourfold State," in section one, on man's state of innocence, wrote:
"Thus was man made originally righteous, being created in "God's own image," Gen. 1:27, which consists in the positive qualities of "knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness," Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24. "All that God made was very good," according to their several natures, Gen. 1:31. And so was man morally good, being made after the image of him who is "good and upright," Psalm 25:8. Without this, he could not have answered the great end of his creation, which was, to know, love, and serve his God, according to his will; nay, he could not be created otherwise, for he must either be conformed to the law in his powers, principles, and inclinations, or not—if he was, then he was righteous; and, if not, he was a sinner, which is absurd and horrible to imagine."
"The penalty was death, Gen. 2:17, "In the day that you eat thereof, you shall surely die." The death threatened was such as the life promised was, and that most justly; namely, temporal, spiritual, and eternal death." (see here)
If man was "natural" in the same sense in which fallen sinners are said to be "natural," then God made man so that it was impossible for him to obey his law, which is spiritual. When Paul says that God made Adam a "natural" man (I Cor. 15: 46) he does not exclude man being "spiritual" in some sense. In the same text Paul says that Christ, the second Adam, was spiritual. But, Christ being spiritual does not exclude him also being natural, a man of flesh and blood. So, Adam being natural does not exclude him being, in some respects, spiritual.
"In the work of re-genesis, or regeneration, no new substance is originated. If a new substance were created in the new birth, this would be genesis, nor re-genesis, creation, not re-creation. Regeneration changes the soul which man already has. It is as Scripturally and philosophically sound to hold that the soul substance of the natural man must be re-created--changed from a natural substance to a spiritual substance--as it is to hold that the body substance to a spiritual body substance." (pg. 344)
If God regenerates the old substance of the soul, as Sarrels admits, and adds no new substance to it, then he has contradicted himself. He has said that God gives the soul a new physical ability that it did not have previously. And, he has said that a new ability, or new faculty, implies a change in the substance of the soul, so that the soul has what it did not have previously.
Sarrels, in his work, admits that the angels have spiritual life and that some of them fell. Thus, he admits that those who were spiritual became natural. Then why does he have difficulty admitting that Adam likewise was spiritual and became natural?
"Regeneration, then, is that intrinsic and essential change of the soul substance which fits it to possess the eternal life which God promised before the world began." (pg. 344)
But, Adam as he was originally made was made fit for eternal life. Interestingly, it was the Pelagians who insisted that man would have died even if he had not sinned, affirming that death was a consequence of being made natural. Again, Sarrels is affirming that Adam, as originally created, still needed to be regenerated to have eternal life.
Sylvester Hassell, in answer to the question - "Was Adam made a spiritual man, and did he die a spiritual death when he ate the forbidden fruit?" - wrote (emphasis mine):
"No other man was ever like Adam, or even had his exact experience, and we can only know of him what the Scriptures teach us. It is worse than useless to speculate as to Adam or any other subject beyond the plain teachings of the Scriptures. The truly humble soul does not desire to indulge in such speculations, or to hear or read such speculations from other (Psa. cxxxi.; Isa. viii 20.; Acts xvii. 11; 1 Tim. Vi. 3-5; 2 Tim. Iii. 15-17). We know from the scriptures that Adam was made with a body and a soul (Gen.ii 7; Ecc. Xii. 7), and yet that he was made a natural man (1 Cor. Xii. 7), and yet that he was made a natural man (1 Cor. Xv. 45-49). Though he had a human spirit, he was not spiritual in the sense in which God’s children are who are born of the Divine Spirit. And we know, from the Scriptures, that, when he ate the forbidden fruit, he died to the pleasant communion that he had before with God, became dead in trespasses and sins (Gen ii. 17; Eph. Ii 1), and that he became subject to Divine wrath and to physical and eternal death unless saved by Divine mercy. Gen iii. 17, 19; Rom. V. 12, 21. Some call the death in trespasses and sin spiritual death; if by the phrase “spiritual death” they mean death in trespasses and sins, let us bear with them, and not make our brother an offender for a mere word or expression, when he means only what that Scriptures declare (Is. xxix. 21).” (From Gospel Messenger of Oct., 1902 - see here)
In these words Hassell shows a reluctance to confess that Adam was a spiritual man. Yet, he does admit that being "dead in tresspasses and sins" is all the same as saying that one is in "spiritual death." I too saw this difficulty that Hardshells had with affirming that Adam died a spiritual death when I was with them. This difficulty arises chiefly from the fact that they think that to affirm that Adam had spiritual life and died to that life, then it may be possible for those who have spiritual life in Christ to also lose their spiritual life. But, this difficulty need not exist. Though the spiritual life is the same, the keeping of it is not. Adam was responsible for keeping himself spiritually alive, but those who are spiritually alive in Christ by regeneration are kept alive by the power of God.
Elder Sylvester Hassell also wrote:
"As shown by the Scriptures that I have cited, and by the Holy Spirit in our experience, regeneration is a Divine, supernatural, miraculous, irresistible, everlasting change, back of the will and below consciousness, not in the substance but in the state of the soul--a change in the prevailing and governing principles, disposition, tastes, and habits of the soul, which constitute character, and determine volitions and actions, by which change the understanding is illuminated, the affections consecrated, and the will rectified, so that the regenerated sinner habitually, though not always, hates and puts away sin, and loves and practices righteousness, and at the same time, the more grace he has in his heart, the more he feels and mourns over the remains of indwelling sin." ("Interpreting the Scriptures-The Error of Denial of a Change of the Soul in Regeneration," see here)
In these words Hassell would agree with Elder Oliphant and disagree with later Hardshells such as Crouse, Gowens, Winfrey, and Sarrels. He states that there is change "not in the substance of the soul." One wonders why later Hardshells felt it necessary to advocate that both degeneration and regeneration involves a change in the substance of the soul? Is it not because they have imbibed Pelagain ideas?