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CORRESPONDENCE

State Road, Del., November, 1899.

Brother Beebe: – I have a mind to write some reflections on a subject that it seems to me is involved in some confusion- Perhaps I should only say that the minds of the brethren do not appear to be entirely clear. The word “law “occupies a large place in the Scriptures, and embraces so much, and such essentially different things, that it need be no wonder that Bible readers become confused. There was a code of ceremonial law given to the Israelites that constituted a system of religious worship that the apostle characterizes as carnal ordinances and a worldly sanctuary. These ordinances were never enjoined on any other nation or people, either before their deliverance by Moses, or since the dispersion of that people. These ceremonial laws required no qualifications of the administrators of them, and they conferred none. The basest of men could serve in the most important and sacred places, the right depending alone on the natural descent. This system of legal worship, which appears to have been entirely shadowy, need not be confounded with other laws of an entirely different character. Man in his created state was in the nature of things under law to his maker. This law embraced the eternal and immutable principles of right and justice, and it had no beginning, and never can be modified or cease to be. It never required anything but right, and that it always must and always will require. It is this law of which the Savior speaks when he says, “Heaven and earth will pass before one jot or tittle pass from the law till all be fulfilled.” This law looks to what the man is, and not merely what he does, or what he does not. It goes to the fountain and spring from whence all actions, words and thoughts proceed. If the fountain be corrupt, all that proceeds from that fountain must be corrupt. The judgment of God is not upon the outward appearance, but goes directly to the underlying principles from which all actions proceed. Without holiness no man can see the Lord. He requireth truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part does he make us to know wisdom. An outline of this law was published from Mt. Sinai, but that did not make it law, or make any change in it. And every creature of God of all the nations were amenable to their Creator under the righteous requirements of this law; and it did not wait for them to commit some crime, but found them all destitute of the love and fear of God. Men being under law, any single precept like that regarding the tree of knowledge could be enjoined upon them. Man was not in possession of that principle of spiritual and eternal life in which love to God was paramount when he so readily yielded to temptation. I have not believed that he had eaten of the tree of life, or that he was in possession of a life that could feed upon that fruit, or that he had any appetite for it. Those of whom we read that shall eat of the tree of life in the paradise of God are evidently subjects of grace. He that eateth of this fruit hath everlasting life; that is, hath the life first, and then feeds upon the fruit of that life. As this law must ever stand, and is destined to be ultimately fulfilled in the saints, I want to examine it somewhat particularly. The Savior sums it all up in the word love. The new covenant provides that he would put his law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and that he would take away the stony heart out of their flesh and give them an heart of flesh. He also says he would put his fear into their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. They not only then obey God, but they love that obedience. They not only do right, but have the principles of right. When we are thus in Christ Jesus, and his salvation in us, there is no condemnation, for there is nothing in us that the law condemns. On such the second death hath no power. This spiritual and eternal life was never hinged upon any conditions, and was never forfeited by the transgression. Nevertheless it was necessary that man should be delivered from his thralldom, in order that the law that had been violated should be honored, and that the inheritance should come to the heirs untrammelled. For this cause he is the mediator (or executor) of the New Testament, that by means of death for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which were called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

Men have been perplexed ever since the days of Job, as to how man could be just with God, or as the apostle puts it, How God could justify the believer, his faith being counted for righteousness! Religious teachers have always been taken up with the idea of actual sins, and punishment of these sins. Hence we may find men objecting to the terms mercy and pardon, as the exercise of mercy and forgiveness would leave the sinner still in all his guilt. Men, whether governors or judges, cannot put away guilt; they can only exempt from penalties, which do not reach the guilt at all. It is not in the power of human laws, nor of human judges, to justify a transgressor. The salvation that is in Christ is not merely exemption from punishment, he came to save the sinner. This salvation has to do with the sinner, who is a sinner before he commits any sins. While ever the man is alienated from the life of God, and an enemy to God and godliness, the law which requires love to God and to holiness, must condemn him, and that condition is a state of condemnation all the time. The apostle informs us that he that believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. His faith embraces a knowledge and love of that salvation that Christ is unto his people, and of the Lord’s work in the experience of his children, and of the fruits of the Spirit’s work, and this love of righteousness is recognized and counted for righteousness. Love to God and love to righteousness has been shed abroad in his heart. Christ says that the Father gave the people to him. “Thine they were, and thou gavest them me.” But that eternal life that God gave them in his Son was above the reach of the law, and above the power of death. They were under law, and involved in transgression. So we are informed he came where they were, under the law that they were under, to redeem them from their thralldom so that they might receive the adoption of sons. Now they are no mere servants, but sons, and under law to Christ, he having purchased them to himself. The universal dominion of the law of God over all the race is evident, for where there is no law, there is no transgression; sin is not imputed where there is no law. The apostle talks law to the Gentiles quite as much as he does to the Jews. That spiritual and eternal life which is given the saints in Christ is also called a law; that is, a ruling principle. “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made us free from the law of sin and death.” One law condemns, another law delivers from condemnation and all fear of death. One law is that over a servant being in bondage, and the other over a child; one demands everything and gives nothing; the other provides for the canceling of all claims against them, and makes them heirs to an inheritance. The prophet away back yonder in Old Testament times recognizes the principle of which I have been speaking thus: “Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord,” and again,” Hearken to me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law.” This blessed experience of growing up in all things into Christ, sometimes perplexes the christian, because he still has to hunger and thirst. This growth is a progressive work, but it is nevertheless a growth, growing up in all things into an experience of the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.

One thing I will yet speak of, and that is the fulfillment in the believer of the righteousness of the law. As an underlying principle of love to God, and to his people, we have no control of our love. We do not love that of which we have no knowledge, nor that which has nothing lovely in or about it. “No man hath seen God at any time.” “No man knoweth the Father, save the Son.” We only know, and only love, what has come to us. If Christ is revealed at all to anybody, it is as a Savior. If we know him as a Savior, we love him as a Savior, because we love that salvation that has come to us. Beyond this our love cannot go. But this love has all the heart, soul, mind and strength, and there is no room for any idolatry. No other Savior but this. As we know the value of our own salvation, and love it, we love it in others, and love them because of it. All that we know and love of Christ we see in them, and we love in them, because the love of Christ constraineth us. This salvation presents us blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke. A new heart has been given them, and a right spirit renewed within them, and so no charge can ever be sustained against them; they are joint-heirs with Christ.

In gospel bonds,
E. RITTENHOUSE.

Signs Of The Times
Volume 68, No. 1.
JANUARY 1, 1900.