THERE is a peculiar sweetness and heavenly excellence in the manner, the language and the doctrine of this appeal to the understanding and heaven-bestowed knowledge of the scattered saints to whom it was addressed by the inspired apostle of the Lord Jesus. The circumstances under which they were struggling when this letter reached them at Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, and the thrill of heavenly rapture that warmed their hearts with gratitude to God and the Lamb on reading this divine communication, were happily alluded to by J. W. C., in one of his letters published in our last number. No learned rabbi of the Hebrew family, nor polished graduate of our modern schools, has ever been able to communicate the truth of heaven in such God-honoring and soul-cheering language. This uneducated fisherman, having received his knowledge of Christ from God, and not from flesh and blood, was abundantly qualified to feed the sheep and lambs of Jesus with the good and wholesome doctrine of God our Savior. Into what insignificance are all the learned and classical rules of modern theology, whereby men endeavor to divide the gospel into doctrine, experience, exhortation, and what they call practical godliness, sunken, when contrasted with the clear, forcible and heaven-inspired words of this servant of Jesus.
In the first verse of this letter he announces himself an apostle of Jesus Christ to the strangers scattered abroad. In the second he encircles them all in that election of. grace, which is in accordance with the foreknowledge of God the Father, and through the sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience, and to the atonement or sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, and pronounces on them the apostolic benediction.
In the third he ascribes blessings to the Father of our Lord, and shows that he is not only the Father of our Lord in that he has begotten him from the dead, but that he has begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the same quickening display of the exceeding greatness of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead. The vitality of this hope is nobly expressed, a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus. Both the hope and the soul by it inspired are animated with the same life from the same source, by the same-resurrection. He who died for our offences was raised for our justification.
In his fourth verse he connects the christian's lively hope with an incorruptible, undefiled and unfading inheritance which is reserved in heaven for them.
In the fifth verse he shows that not only the inheritance, but also the heirs, are reserved, and preserved by the power of God unto the consummation of the glory of the latter, to be revealed at the last time. How very striking the contrast between this doctrine and that of the popular divines of this degenerate age. It is at this time falsely declared and finally believed by a vast majority of professors of christianity that the saints are kept only, if kept at all, by the power of n; by the persevering efforts, resolutions, prayers, virtues, works and sacrifices of men. Such men may have a hope, but alas! their hope shall perish; it has no origin in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, but with the volition of their own will; is not begotten of God, but founded upon a false conception of the character and attributes of God, and sustained by a delusive notion that they have made themselves by their own works, too holy to remain in danger of his wrath. The saints are begotten of God, and by the power of God they are preserved to their inheritance, and by that same power the inheritance is reserved in heaven for them. Immutable certainty animates and cheers the faith of all the heirs of salvation, while the strong decrees of God, the two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, the oath, the promise, the pledge, the earnest already received, link the hears of promise and their ultimate inheritance in such indisoluble bond that neither life nor death, nor angels, nor principalities, nor power, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, can disconnect them.
In verse sixth the apostle shows, to the eternal confusion of every Arminian workmonger, that this doctrine neither produces apathy, presumption nor sorrow in those to whom it belongs; so far, indeed, from being adverse to a life of godliness in the saints, in it they greatly rejoice, even when surrounded by circumstances of the most disheartening character; and while manifold temptations, for the time being, if need be, cause heaviness, yet do they still greatly rejoice in this blessed doctrine.
In the seventh verse he shows that all their trials, temptations and consequent heaviness are, in quantity, quality, duration and result, regulated by the needs be mentioned in the preceeding verse. They cannot be dispensed with, for they are precious – very valuable for the trial of their faith be found unto praise, and honor, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
The apostle goes on to show that the faith of the saints supersedes the necessity of carnal sight. Whom having not seen, ye love. In whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing ye rejoice, with joy unspeakable and full of glory. The joy of the saints in the doctrine of Christ, in the faith of the gospel, cannot be described; no tongue can convey the knowledge of it to the carnal sense of man; for it is unspeakable. And this faith, leaping over the intervening “moments of pain and months of wo,” puts the heaven-born soul into the possession of his estate. “Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.”
In sweetest harmony with his declaration in the second verse, that their election was according to the foreknowledge and prior design or decree of God, he proceeds to show that of this salvation the ancient prophets had early intimations, which led them to a diligent inquiry as to the time, that the spirit of Christ, which was in them, did signify, when it testified of his coming beforehand, and of his sufferings, and of the glory that should (not that might) follow. It was revealed to the prophets of Israel, that their predictions had reference to gospel times, and were concerning the same things which the gospel was and is the faithful reporter of, for these very things were reported to the scattered saints by them that had preached the gospel unto them, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things, he adds, the angels, (or messengers, as in verses 10 and 11,) desire to look into.
Inasmuch, therefore, as God had blessed the eyes and ears of these New Testament saints, that they should see and hear things that kings and prophets were not permitted to see nor hear; the apostle presents this distinguishing goodness of God to them, not as an opiate to lull them to sleep, but as a strong incentive to gird up the loins of their mind, to be sober, to hope to the end, for the grace that was to be brought to them at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Whether the apostle here alluded to the revelation of Jesus, when he should be revealed on the throne of his glory, and those who had followed him in the regeneration sitting on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes, or the glory that should be developed, when he should call them to behold his glory in the consummation of their happiness in the eternal heavens, will not effect the general doctrine in its bearing on us at the present day; and as all our brethren are not agreed upon this point, we wish not in these remarks to agitate the subject. That to which we desire more particularly at this time to call the attention of our readers is, that the doctrine of sovereign, invincible, electing, preserving and infallible grace, sparkling with inexpressible beauty in every verse of this chapter, has a certain and infallible tendency to produce in the saints holiness of life and deportment. On the consideration of this, the inspired writer founds his exhortations to the saints, to be sober, not fanatic; to hope unto the end; to be obedient children; not fashioning themselves according to former lusts; to holiness; to call upon the Father, in their devotions at his throne of mercy and grace, and to pass the time of their sojourning in the fear of the Lord.
Unto all these things the apostle exhorts his brethren, not as a price for their salvation, but from the assurance they had of salvation by grace alone.
“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold,” &c., “but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb, - without blemish and without spot, who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, who by him do believe in God,” &c., the most desirable treasures of the earth lose all their value when compared with the blood of Jesus. Gold and silver, however highly regarded by men, are but corruptible things; they must perish with other substances of the earth, neither is there any investment we can make of the precious metals that can exempt them or any thing that they can buy from corruption. The some, nay the many souls which Mr. A. Judson proposes to save from quenchless fires of hell, with gold and silver jewels, are not-redeemed as were those unto whom the apostle made the foregoing appeal. Not all the treasures of earth would answer the demands of law and justice for the transgressions of those who were elected according to the foreknowledge of God.
“The blood of Christ and that alone
Hath power sufficient to atone.”
If all the glittering treasures of the earth could possibly have been received as an equivalent, the precious blood of Christ would have been spared; the tears he wept, the cries he uttered, the agony he endured, and the blood he sweat in the garden, might all have been spared; his crown of thorns, the rugged cross, the spear, the nails, the darkened sky, the quaking earth, the rending rocks, dividing veil, retreating sun, opening graves, and all the awful grandeur of Mt. Calvary might have been averted. One sovereign word from his lips could have made the whole globe disclose at once all the treasures it contained, and as it all belonged to him, with it, and not his blood, the debt might have been cancelled.
But the subjects of this address knew better; they had not been nor could be redeemed with such corruptible things. The sacrifices required by the Jewish ritual could be obtained in any quantity for gold and silver; but they could not purge the conscience of those who presented: them from sin or from dead works, hence the superior virtues of the flowing blood of our Lord Jesus is an incentive to holiness of life and deportment to every soul unto whom that blood has been experimentally applied.
The blood of Christ shed for the redemption of his people was as the blood of a lamb without blemish and without spot, answering to the types used under the former dispensation. No blemished lamb was admitted in the type, and so the spotless Redeemer was found holy, harmless, separate from sinners, and higher than the heavens.
“For he who could for sins atone
Must have no blemish of his own.”
How distinguishing and how abundant was that grace that made known to the primitive saints that neither the scrutiny of the law nor of justice could find any spot or blemish in him who laid down his life for his people. Nor could one fortuitous circumstance be found in connection with this redemption; nothing premature or unlooked for in regard to the character or qualifications of the Redeemer, the amount or manner of his sufferings, the virtue or efficacy of his blood, the time or place of his crucifixion, the number or the identity of those for whom he endured the cross and despised the shame. Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who by him do believe in God that raised him up from the dead, &c. Of the decrees of God we have no knowledge beyond what is his divine pleasure to reveal unto us. The developments of these last times establish the sublime truth that he was ordained, for those who by him do believe in God, before the foundation of the world. Hence, Paul speaks of him as “The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” - Rev. xiii. 8. There is a wide difference between being ordained for his people, before the foundation of the world, and his being a Lamb slain from the foundation. The provision of grace and mercy, the counsel, and decrees of God were prior to the work of creation, and the foundation of the world was laid for the ultimate accomplishment of those previous designs; but the manifestation of this foreordination was figuratively from the foundation of the world; from the firstling of the flock which Abel offered, and all the rivers of blood flowing from the altars of the patriarchs and of the family of Israel, until he was personally, anti-typically and really offered, when he cried with a loud voice and yielded up the Ghost on Calvary.
The definite nature of the atonement is also clearly asserted by the apostle in this connection. Not for every one; not for those who by themselves, by an exertion of inherent powers of what they call free agency, but for such as by him do believe in God, and for them exclusively. How mortifying to the flesh; how withering to the pride of those who talk of bringing men to believe in God, by the power of “moral suasion,” by human agencies of any kind whatever, to hear that the application of the redemption effected by the precious blood of Jesus was made exclusively to those who by him do believe in God, leaving all others who by any other name or means profess to believe in God among the thieves and robbers, who enter not by the door of the sheepfold, but climb up some other way, unprovided for.
The ordination before the foundation of the world, is that which has unchangeably fixed the destiny of all the heirs of salvation, and the manifestation of the immutable decrees are intended to establish their faith and hope in God. Those happy souls to whom this grace is given obey the truth: for it not only has a tendency to lead them to holiness, but the truth shall make them free. They have purified their souls, not by substituting something of their own in place of the blood of Jesus, but by obeying the truth, forsaking error, and thus throwing off all the pollution of unbelief. The happy consequence of believing and walking in the truth, besides releasing from error, is that it directs the faith and hope of such purified believers to God, while all such as participate not in this truth through the spirit, continue in error, and their faith is still in human agency, and their hope is based upon their delusions. This purification of the soul, by obedience to the truth, is connected with unfeigned love of the brethren. There is no deception in their love who obey the truth; they have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty; no longer do they walk in craftiness, nor do they handle the word of God deceitfully. All pretensions to a love of the brethren by those who obey not the truth, are as heartless as the kiss of Judas Iscariot, and as mercenary as those of modern missionary fund-gatherers.
(TO BE CONTINUED.)
NEW VERNON, N. Y.,
March 1, 1842.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 754 – 762