BRETHREN G. BEEBE & SON: – If you feel so inclined, and have time, please give your views on 1 John iv. 14. I have read your paper about a year, and am so well pleased with it that I want it continued another year.
Yours in hope of eternal life,
E. S. LEGGETT.
Little Red, Ark., March 6, 1880
REPLY: – The text on which our brother desires us to write reads thus, “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.”
1st. By the pronoun we, the beloved disciple and inspired apostle John includes with himself those who are by a spiritual experience made competent witnesses of the truth as it is in Jesus; not only his companions in apostleship, but all who bear the peculiar characteristic marks which he has so faithfully given, by which the children of God and heirs of immortal glory are identified in this epistle and through the scriptures.
2d. Of those, who being taught of God, born of the spirit, of incorruptible seed, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever, and thereby made competent witnesses, it is said, “And we have seen.” None others have seen the kingdom of God, of which we testify; for “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Things “which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his spirit.” “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things.” – 1 Cor. ii. 8-10, 13-15.
Those who are truly born of the spirit of God are called the children of light; for in him, of whose spirit they are born, it is written, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” – John i. 4. “And he [Jesus] turned him into his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see.” – Luke x. 23; Matt. xiii. 16. In the twelfth verse of the chapter in which our text is found, and in the immediate connection with it, John says, “No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us his spirit.” It is no element of our earthly nature that hath ever seen God at any time. This is a positive declaration, and admits of no exceptions. Even when God shines in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ, it is not seen or perceptible to our carnal or fleshly mind, which is born of and educated by the flesh; but it is a revelation of the Spirit to that faith which, John says, is born of God. Flesh and blood cannot reveal it, neither can flesh and blood comprehend it. God shines in our hearts, but the darkness of our fleshly nature comprehendeth it not. To our mental powers, which are born of the flesh, it is like the wind, which we may hear and feel, but we see it not, neither can we tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth. If it were a manifestation to the fleshly elements of our earthly nature, illuminating our natural mind, then the most wise and learned and prudent of our race would have the clearest understanding of it, and the undeveloped mental capacity of babes would be much less capacitated for comprehending it. But is it so? Jesus rejoiced in spirit when he said, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.” – Matt. xi. 25,26. If the wise men of this world could by searching find out God, or by their intellectual sagacity, or by study, come to a knowledge of God, they would be able to save themselves; for “this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” – John xvii. 3. Even the eyes of those whose understanding God has opened, and of whom our apostle says, in our text, have seen, invariably find their human reasoning faculties incompetent to see or to search out the things of the spirit of God. The science and philosophy accessible to the natural capacity of the human mind, is called the wisdom of this world, and is adapted to the elements of this world, but it can extend no further. It has pleased God in his infinite wisdom, that man by the wisdom of this world shall not know him. This is just as true of christians as it is of infidels. Although the christian is taught of God, yet the teaching of the Spirit is spiritual, and can only be spiritually discerned. Our earthly nature has no spiritual discernment, and the divine instruction we receive is given to our faith, which, being born of God, is a fruit of the Spirit, and therefore has spiritual discernment; for it is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen or comprehended by the natural mind of man. Christians have a natural mind, which is called a carnal (fleshly) mind, and it is enmity against God: not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. From this carnal mind in the fleshly nature of the christian arise all the reasonings, doubtings, fearing, murmurings, and lustings which oppose our spiritual mind. Our earthly nature, which is called the old man, retains all the elements of a depraved nature; and although by the new birth of the Spirit the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness, is born and developed as the production of the incorruptible seed, which cannot sin, because it is born of God, still the enmity of the flesh, which is born of the flesh, remains with us as long as we continue in the flesh, and its opposition to God and the things of the Spirit is never so fully felt and realized before as subsequently to the new birth. The Shulamite, in whom we see as it were the company of two armies, is a stranger to us until we see and feel it in the conflict raging within us between the flesh and the spirit. The fleshly nature, which is called the old man, has never seen God at any time, and is the fool that saith in his heart, “There is no God.” Self is its idol; it neither sees, knows nor loves the true God. But the spiritual or new man, born of the Spirit, has a saving knowledge of God, has seen the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ; and having seen the Son, has seen the Father also, and is taught of God to know that the Son is in the Father, and the Father is in the Son, and that the Son and the Father are one and the same God. The world by wisdom knows not God, neither does the worldly wisdom of the christian’s carnal mind know him; yet he is revealed by the Holy Spirit to the faith and spiritual understanding of all who are born of God. If we had not to encounter the questionings, reasonings and caviling of our sinful nature, we would suppose a mere reference to the daily experience of every christian would be a thoroughly convincing demonstration that in every christian dwells both the men of whom the apostle speaks in this chapter (1 John iv. 12, 14): the old man, our earthly, fleshly nature, which never saw God at any time; and also the new man, which has seen the Son, and consequently has seen the Father also, and would be fully convinced that in the mystery of godliness Christ and the Father are one.
As competent witnesses, “We have seen and do testify.” By the mouth or pen of the prophet, God ahs said to Jacob whom he has created, and to Israel whom he has formed, “I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God.” – Isa. xliii. 12. A competent, true and faithful witness is one who speaks that which he knows, and testifies that which he has seen. – John iii. 11. John testifies of those with whom he identifies himself as divinely qualified witnesses, “that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) that which we have seen and heard declared we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” – 1 John i. 1-4.
The witnesses to testify in this most vitally important cause must be divinely and experimentally qualified, and in a manner that no human institution or theological drilling can supply. To testify that of which we have no knowledge is to testify falsely. As the Lord said of the carnal Israelites, “And though they say, The Lord liveth; surely they sware falsely.” – Jer. v. 2. Not because the thing itself was untrue, but because they did not know whereof they affirmed. They had not the requisite knowledge of the fact, and could not in truth testify to that which they knew not. So this apostle testifies that many false prophets are gone out into the world, and admonishes the saints to try the spirits, whether they be of God, and gives an infallible rule by which to try all who profess to be prophets of the Lord. He says, “Hereby know we the spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God.” “They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” As an indispensable evidence that they are the true and approved ministers of Chris, they must not merely admit the incarnation of Christ, but, if we rightly understand the apostle, they must give evidence that he has come, by his spirit, into their flesh; as he further says, “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his spirit.” We should observe that it is the spirits that are to be tried, not merely the words uttered by the prophets that are gone out into the world. John does not say, Every man or every prophet that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God, but every spirit that maketh this confession is a spirit which is of God; for “No man can call Jesus Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” Many false prophets may say that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, while the spirit by which they are led denies him; hence the rule given by which they are to be detected is to try their spirits rather than their words. Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light; therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness. – 2 Cor. xi. 14,15. By trying the spirits we are to distinguish between the spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, (John xiv. 17,) and the spirit of error, which the world can receive. For the many false prophets who have gone out into the world are of the world; they speak of the world, and the world hearth them.
“If any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” And if we are led by the spirit of God, that will prove that we are born of God, and are his sons. And it is not enough for one to say that Christ dwells by his spirit in his flesh or in his heart, while he is breathing slaughter against any of God’s children; for “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil; whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God; neither he that loveth not his brother.” “He that loveth not his brother, abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer; and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life [or Christ, who is eternal life] abiding him.” “And this is the commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the spirit which he hath given us.” If Christ by his spirit dwells in us, his indwelling will be manifested by that gentle, long-suffering, patient and forbearing spirit which he manifested in the days of his flesh. “Not as Cain, who was [in the spirit by which he was led] of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” We “who have seen and do testify,” do not bear our testimony in words which are falsified by our works, our walk and bearing one towards another; but we testify by an exhibition of the fruits of his spirit, which are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance; and not by the works and passions of our depraved nature, which are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcrafs, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envying, murders, drunkenness, reveling, and such like. – Gal. v. 19-23. But rather “laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speaking, as new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of ht word, that ye may grow thereby: if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” – 1 Peter ii. 1-3. If we testify that Christ has truly come in our flesh, and is formed in us the hope of glory, that he controls our affections, suppresses our carnal passions, that he reigns in and rules over us, causing us to love one another with a pure heart fervently, even as God for Christ’s sake has loved us, then shall all men know that we are Christ’s disciples. “Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.”
Having briefly considered the credentials, or some of the marks by which the ministers of Christ are to be distinguished from the false prophets which are gone out into the world, we will now pass on and consider the testimony which they are to bear, namely, “that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” This testimony, involving the sacred relationship of the Father and the Son, and of the subordinations of the Son, who in eternal Deity or Godhead is one with the Father, in his Mediatorial relations to the Father and to the church, is commissioned and sent by the Father into the world to do with will of the Father, and to finish the work which the Father gave him to do, presents a mystery of godliness too deep for finite minds to comprehend or explain. The vain attempts to solve this most profound and sacred of all mysteries has produced a greater amount of contention, bitter strife, cruel persecution, and even bloodshed in the religious world, perhaps, than any other cause. Ecclesiastic prelates and papal councils have sought to enforce their dogmas or decisions by such appalling arguments as prisons, confiscations, tortures, fires and sword, and Protestants have in turn displayed much of the same implacable cruelty in trying to enforce their peremptory decisions; and even some whom we regard as brethren beloved for the truth’s sake have manifested but little forbearance towards those who cannot adopt the peculiar terms in which they express their views on the subject. But we conclude that those who testify only what they have seen, as revealed to them by the spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him, and who are willing to rely implicitly on the record which God has given, will be satisfied to adopt such forms of expression on this sublime and glorious subject as are used in the scriptures. If what has been given us by inspiration of the Holy Ghost has been misunderstood, and to some extent misinterpreted, by honest inquirers after the truth, it is not strange that uninspired brethren should fail to make themselves clearly understood by their brethren. Jesus our Lord has testified, saying, “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” – Matt. xi. 27. The depth of this unsearchable and incomprehensible mystery, without controversy is too profound for our finite comprehension; it is higher than the heavens, deeper than any depth that we can fathom, and as broad and boundless as eternity. Amazing thought: God was manifest in the flesh! He who was manifested in the flesh hath a name written that no man knew but he himself, and his name is called, The Word of God. In his wonderful record as bearing this name we are informed, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” – John i. 1. How he could be the one only living and true God, and yet be with God, is a divine mystery too profound for our limited understanding to comprehend. But we know it is so, because this is the record God has given of his Son. We cannot say there were two Gods, for, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” – Deut. vi. 4,5. “I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me.” “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” – Isa. xlv. 5, 22. To our understanding, the scriptures testify to us but one true and living God, and positively deny the existence of any other beside him. In equally positive terms we are assured by the same divine record that the Word which was with God in the beginning was God, and to him as the only wise God, who is before all things, and by whom are all things, the creation of all things is ascribed. “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” – John i. 3. To which testimony the apostle adds the following corroborating testimony: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him; and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” – Col. i. 16,17. This to our mind settles beyond all controversy the all-important truth, that all the supreme glory, power, might and majesty of eternal Deity belong to Christ, and in their refulgent brightness and eternal fullness belong to him, as it is declared in the very first sentence of the bible, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth;” and that God who created all things, the inspired apostle testifies was and is the same Word, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature.” “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell.” – Col. i. 14, 15, 18, 19. Now this being the testimony of the scriptures, whether we can comprehend it or not, it must be and is the eternal truth of God; and to deny that Christ is the true God and eternal life, that he is the only wise God our Savior, is to deny that he is a Savior at all, for he was said, as we have before repeated, “I am the Lord, and beside me there is no Savior.”
But our Savior Jesus Christ is not only the true, supreme, self-existent, independent and eternal God, who created all things, but he is “God manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” – 1 Tim. iii. 16. “The Word” which was with God, and which was God, “was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” – John i. 14. In his advent to the world his name was called “Emanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” – Matt. i. 23. In the habiliments of flesh and blood, John testifies, saying, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” “And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.” – John i. 14, 16. We do not understand that his Godhead was changed from Deity to humanity, but he was manifested in the flesh. “He took on him the seed of Abraham;” and, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same.” – Heb. ii. 14. “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” – Phil. ii. 6-8.
When our adorable Redeemer speaks of his entire subordination to the Father, we understand him to be speaking of Mediatorial Sonship, of which he says that he “came into the world not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” – John vi. 38. “And I am not come of myself; but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. But I know him; for I am come from him, and he sent me.” – John vii. 28, 29. “Then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that hath sent me is with me; the Father hath not left me alone: for I do always those things that please him.” – John viii. 28, 29. “Jesus said unto them [the carnal Jews], If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and cam deform God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.” – John viii. 42. “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No man taketh it from me: but I lay it down of myself; I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” “Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.” – John x. 17, 18, 36, 37.
These quotations from the writings of John we think fully justify his declaration in our text, that “The Father sent the Son,” and that the Son came in obedience to the will of the Father, and that as the Son of God he could of himself do nothing; that it was the indwelling Godhead of Christ that made him in his Sonship the efficient Savior of his people. That is, as we understand, if he were not God, as well as the Son of God, or if he and the Father were not one in eternal identity as God, he could not do the will of the Father, and finish the Mediatorial work that was given him to do.
We have understood that in the numerous scriptures wherein our Lord Jesus Christ is called God (Heb. i. 8), the true God (1 John v. 20), the eternal God (Deut. xxxiii. 27), the only wise God (1 Tim. i. 17, Rom. xvi. 27), the might God (Isa. ix. 6), he is spoken of in his identity with the Father; not as a begotten Son, but in his self-existent supreme Deity, as one and identical with the Father, as he himself declares, “I and my Father are one” (John x. 30); while all the titles he bears, as the child born, the Son given, the Wonderful, Counsellor, Prince of peace, Son of God, Son of man, Prophet, Priest, Mediator, Redeemer, Shepherd and Bishop, Apostle and High Priest, Head over all to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all, are relative titles, expressive of what belongs to his Sonship. In his sonship he is the only begotten Son; begotten of and subordinate to his Father. In this begotten Sonship he is the Word that was with God, and in his eternal Deity he is the Word that is God. The same was in the beginning with God. In all the glory of the eternal Father he was glorified before the world was; and with the glory of God’s own self, which he had with the Father before the world was, is he now exalted far above all heavens. – John xvii. 5. As the Son of God and the Mediatorial Head of the church, “his goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” – Micah v. 2. And as the Son of God, “We have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” The purpose of the Father in sending his Son into the world is very definitely declared in our text. It was to be the Savior of the world, and he is truly the only Savior that has ever come into the world. No other name under heaven has been given whereby we must be saved. Beside our Emanuel there is no Savior; but “This is a faithful saying, and worth of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” – 1 Tim. i. 15. Therefore our apostle says, for the consolation of the saved, “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation [atoning sacrifice] for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John ii. 1, 2. This declaration is true, from the fact that he is a Savior, and the only Savior in all the world; but it does not justify the conclusion that he came commissioned from the Father to save all the world, in the unrestricted application of the term. The word world, in its full signification, includes the natural heavens and earth, with all things which in them are. He did not come to save the natural world, for it is to be burned, with all the works of men, and not saved beyond the time appointed. None profess to believe that our Lord came to save the inanimate things of nature, nor even all the animate creatures in the world; he came not to save the beasts of the field, fowls of the air, nor fishes of the sea. But we are informed by an angel from the throne of God that “He shall save his people from their sins.” – Matthew i. 21. Arminian scoffers amuse their simple hearers by telling them that we make a-l-l spell part; but are they willing to admit that Christ is absolutely the Savior or any portion of the world? We understand them to hold that Christ came to make it possible for everybody in the world to save themselves by performing certain conditions, accepting certain overtures, or by using certain conditions, thus making a-l-l to mean none at all. John, in speaking of the saved of the Lord, speaks of them as all the children of God in the world, whether Jews or Gentiles, and, like Peter, applies the promise of salvation to all that afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call; and in distinguishing them from the rest of mankind, says, “And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.” – 1 John v. 19. Thus applying the words world, and whole world, to all the saved people of God in all the world, and also to all the unbelievers in the world who are not saved, who still lie in wickedness, and for whom Christ does not pray. – John xvii. 9. But it is hardly worth our while to argue or contend with cavilers; for should we convince their judgment, it would not satisfy them unless they are quickened by the Spirit and taught of God. If we could fill their mouths with gall, we could not make them love it. The gospel of God our Savior will ever be unto the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness; but unto them who are called of God and taught by his spirit, it is Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. – 1 Cor. i. 23, 24.
We have seen and do testify that Christ is the Savior; and if he is a Savior he saves. An effort to save, if unsuccessful, is not sufficient. One who tries and fails, is not entitled to the distinguishing appellation. There are thousands of infatuated mortals on earth who profess to be laboring for the salvation of sinners, who, if they could succeed, would be saviors. But they are all certain to fail, for “Salvation is of the Lord.” Neither is there salvation in any other, for God has himself said, “I, even I am the Lord, and beside me there is no Savior.” – Isa. xliii. 11.
As Jesus Christ is the Savior, and as besides God there is no Savior, the testimony to us is clear, that Jesus Christ is God as well as man, and the only Mediator between God and men; and as the head of the church is Christ, so the head of Christ is God. As the church, the body of Christ, could not subsist without Christ her head; so Christ, if he were not God, one with the Father, dwelling in the Father, and the Father dwelling in him, could not be the Savior of the world, for he says, “Verily, verily I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” Again, “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just: because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” – John v. 19, 30.
In our remarks on this awfully sublime and vitally important subject, we have not consulted the decisions of Prelates of the papal hierarchy, the enforcement of which has drenched the earth with blood; but we have sought instruction from God by search the divine record, deeply conscious of our infirmity and liability to err; but with no desire to impose our views on others, any further than they shall be found sustained by that testimony that shall stand and reflect eternal honor to our God, and to his Christ, when all the speculations and doctrines of men shall pass to their final doom. If in this, or in any other article we have ever written, we have uttered a word derogatory to the Deity, humanity, or Mediatorial character or titles of our blessed Savior, we have failed to write what we most sincerely believe; and may God forgive, and our readers one and all attribute our failure to truthfully present the subject in perfect harmony with the divine testimony of the holy scriptures to our lack of ability. But we dare not flatter ourself that, with our very limited ability, we shall ever be able to do justice to so grand and glorious a subject, or escape the criticism and animadversions of those who watch for our halting.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Signs of the Times
Volume 48, No. 9
May 1, 1880