THE text 1 Cor. vi. 13. The apostle makes use of what seems to have been used in his day as an adage, by which he illustrates the transitory character of natural things, and by a striking contrast sets forth the redemption of the body, which is applicable to the church as the mystical body of Christ or the individual bodies of the saints. Neither the church as a body, nor the individual bodies of the saints, being redeemed from corruption, are to be polluted by unlawful connection with the world. The Corinthian brethren had probably been guilty of applying to the secular powers to adjust matters of aggrievance between them, which, according to the law of Christ, ought to have been settled in the church; and although as a citizen of the world, “All things were lawful” for Paul that were lawful for other citizens of the same commonwealth, “Yet all things were not expedient;” and in his estimation it were better to forego one's privilege than to carry our matters before the unjust for their decision. If as a body the church be married to Christ, it is a breach of chastity for her to appeal to any other Lord: “He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit;” and this separation from the world in our church or religious capacity, is as imperiously demanded as constancy is enjoined by the connubial bands.
Heb. xii. 1. The “cloud of witnesses” in this text, we understand to be the same spoken of by the prophet, “Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain, so the Lord shall make bright clouds.” - Zech. x. 1. In illustrating the nature and the power of faith, the apostle has cited a cloud of testimony in the preceding chapter; in addition to which time would fail him to speak of Gideon, Barak, Sampson, Jepthah, of David also, and of all the prophets. This cloud, like that which once overshadowed Christ and the two disciples, embodies the law, the prophets and the apostles, with their entire testimony centring in our Lord Jesus Christ, and all producing but the one sound, the voice that came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son, hear ye him. By this same cloud the gospel church is still encompassed about, and upon this glorious reality the apostle predicates his exhortation: “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” Many speculations have been offered in regard to the weights and besetting sin mentioned in this text; but to our mind the figure taken from the Olympic races is intended to show that under the gospel dispensation the saints are called to run a spiritual race, in order to which it becomes us to cast aside every weight calculated to impede our progress. Coming out from Judaism, these brethren were much encumbered with Jewish traditions and legal ordinances which belonged to the worldly sanctuary of the old covenant; these would be great hinderances to gospel saints, as we see from the account given of the churches at Antioch and Galatia. Of the latter Paul says: “Ye did run well, who did hinder you?” The weights by which they were hindered, evidently were those legal rites and ceremonies which belonged to the former dispensation, and which were now abolished and blotted out with the hand-writing of ordinances, which were nailed with the Redeemer to his cross. The apostle says, “Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years;” these observances he pronounces “beggarly elements,” whereunto they desired again to be in bondage.
In being stripped therefore for their spiritual race, the christian church was required to lay aside every particle of Jewish rites, to touch not, taste not, and handle them not; for as the true substance of what these former ordinances were but the elements or shadows had come, there was no longer any need of the shadows. These Jewish rites could no longer point forward to a Messiah to come, nor to a spiritual kingdom to be revealed; and as a continued observance of them would imply a still looking for the coming of Messiah and fulfillment of the former promises of his coming, it would of course involve a denial that he had already come. And if Christ had not already come, and become the end of the law for righteousness to all that believe, they were running in vain in regard to gospel ordinances, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.” “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” Hence we see the necessity of laying aside the law as a rule of life, being lawfully delivered from its dominion and its curse through the redemption of our Lord Jesus Christ as the apostle testifies, that if under it at all we are bound to continue there, and as to continue in one place would prevent our running a race, we are altogether disqualified for the christian course if loaded down with legal weights and impediments. These weights are spoken of by the inspired apostle as a yoke of bondage, and as a yoke which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear; and the apostles considered that it would be tempting God for them to lay that yoke upon the necks of the gospel saints.
It is frequently urged by arminian speakers and writers that we should, as christians, take all these weights along with us; for, say they, if we are not under the law as a rule of life we are at liberty to sin. But they betray a lamentable ignorance both of the law and of the gospel. While the apostle commands that we lay these weights all aside, he commands that we should run the race set before us, (the gospel course) “Looking unto Jesus (not Moses) as the Author and Finisher of our faith.” Our Lord also admonishes his disciples on this subject: “He that putteth his hand to the plough, and looking back, is not fit for the kingdom.” Should we run the christian race, looking to Moses or his law, we would have to run backwards, and that would disqualify us for the kingdom of the Redeemer.
If a man in ploughiug should place his back to the plough, and look back instead of looking forward, he would be likely to make very crooked furrows; so in running the christian race or following the gospel plough, we must look forward unto Jesus as the Author and Finisher of our faith. Jesus has gone on before his people, and has commanded his people to follow him; and except they follow him they cannot be his disciples. Who then shall dare to say that in following Jesus we shall be liable to sin? Or that the heaven-born souls, looking unto Jesus and pressing towards the mark for the prize of their high calling, will need Moses with his flaming sword to urge them onward in a different course from any ever taught by him?
When these United States were colonies under the British Government, our citizens could not enjoy a republican form of government, and at the same time maintain a loyalty to the British crown; but when redeemed from the British yoke by the blood of our revolutionary patriots, we as free and independent states had an indisputable right to form our constitution and enjoy our own distinct form of government. So when we were under the law of Moses we were not allowed to claim allegiance to Christ as our King, but were bound to continue or remain in all things written in the book of the law under which we were held in bondage; but when by the obedience and blood of Christ we were delivered from the yoke of bondage, we could, without the charge of rebellion or treason to the old law, bow down to the sceptre of Christ and claim him as our Sovereign and King. In receiving him as our King we receive him as our Law maker, our sole Legislator, and we are, in this relation to him, to regard his law, now written, not on tables of stone, but on the fleshly tables of our hearts, as the only and infallible rule of our faith and practice. The sin that so easily beset the Hebrew disciples is undoubtedly the sin which doth also easily beset the disciples of Christ at this day. There was with them a lamentable want of faith and confidence in Christ, and a strong propensity to be again in bondage to the law. The apostle marveled that the Galatian brethren, before whose eyes Jesus Christ had been evidently set forth crucified among them, were so soon or so easily beset or bewitched with this legal heresy. In order that we then as christians should make good progress in the divine life, we must be stripped for the race, we must lay aside every weight and the sin that doth so easily beset us, and look unto Jesus as the Author and Finisher of our faith.
The other and last passage proposed by A Stranger, is 1 John iii. 9: “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
This passage is in perfect harmony with those on which we have just offered our opinion. The contrast is most strikingly drawn between the condition of those under the law, and those who are born of God. Those Israelites to whom pertained the giving of the law, were Israelites by a corruptible seed, a carnal or fleshly relationship to Abraham’s family, being born in his house, &c., and this seed was not to remain but for a limited period. When the Pharisees came to John’s baptism, pleading that Abraham was their father, they were informed that that seed was no longer valid - that it was corruptible and perishable. And our Lord declared most positively to a ruler of the Jews, “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” “Marvel not that I said unto you, Ye must be born again.” That seed and birth which brought them into Abraham’s house did not qualify them for membership in a Baptist church, neither did it secure them from sin, death and hell; for by grace publicans and harlots were to be brought into the spiritual kingdom, and of these stones God was able to raise up children to Abraham, while the children of the kingdom, the natural seed of Abraham, were to be cast out. The children of the flesh were not counted for the spiritual seed; but “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” The principal difficulty in understanding this text is the declaration that “whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.” This has led many to doubt their own experimental knowledge of the new birth; they find so much corruption, depravity and sin in their nature that forbid the thought that they, of all men, are exempt from sin. But let such remember that neither their nature nor their natural bodies are yet born of God. Their bodies are indeed destined to be, when the Spirit of him that brought again from the dead the body of our Lord Jesus, shall also quicken their mortal bodies in the resurrection, then shall they be free from sin in body as well as spirit.
Sin is the transgression of the law, (see verse 4th, same chapter) but whosoever is born of God is redeemed from the law of sin and death. They are not under the law, but under grace. There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit; for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. has made them free from the law of sin and death. Being therefore no longer under its dominion, they can no longer transgress the law, and consequently they cannot commit sin. in that sense. Although they can and do transgress the law of the kingdom to which they now belong, they cannot be convicted of guilt or sin by the law from which they are delivered; nor is it necessary, seeing that the law of Christ provides that for the transgression of its precepts the offender shall be beaten with many stripes, and this chastisement shall be administered in love for their good, but not in wrath, as sin is punished by the law of sin and death.
It is by the implantation of that seed which remaineth that we have the evidence that we are the sons of God; and this seed is life, it is Christ in you the hope of glory; and this. principle of life in us is called the new man, which after God. is created in righteousness and true holiness, and of which the Lord has said, Thou art all fair, my love, I will behold no spot in thee. Although the apostle Paul possessed this abiding seed in him, yet he was constrained to acknowledge that in his flesh dwelt no good thing. He found, as all who are born of God do find, a law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin that remained in his carnal members. Hence we hear him saying, “But ourselves also, which have received the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” - Rom. Viii. 23.
NEW VERNON, N. Y.
Oct. 15, 1842.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials – Volume 2