“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began; but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
No subject has ever so much engrossed the attention of men as that of salvation; and if we had not some acquaintance with the blindness and ignorance of the carnal mind, we could not but wonder at the variety of, and conflicting sentiments of men in relation to it. But it must be admitted that God is of one mind, and none can turn him, and that his laws are immutably the same, and that the transgression of it in all ages is sin, and it condemns every transgressor of it, consequently there can be but one way of salvation from it. It is admitted, we believe, by all who admit the truth of revelation, that the way of life and salvation is taught in the Bible. But different men construe the same Scriptures in different ways. But the portion before us is so plain and intelligible, and so perfectly free from all ambiguity, that we cannot conceive how common candor can give it but one and the same construction. In this epistle Paul desires Timothy to stir up the gift of God which was in him, and which was communicated to him for the purpose of comforting and instructing the saints in this only way of life and salvation. Paul said to him, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of the Lord, nor of me his prisoner; but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel, according to the power of God; who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling.” If we attempt to contemplate salvation in its true character, we must go back in our contemplations to the revelation which the eternal Jehovah has made of himself. And as nothing can have an existence without an origin, so must salvation have an origin, and that origin is God himself. And as we know nothing of him, only as he is pleased to reveal himself to us, may it be his pleasure to communicate that knowledge and wisdom unto us, that we may speak as becometh sound doctrine which cannot be gainsayed. If God is infinite in wisdom, and if salvation be his work, he must have known from eternity the whole arrangement, for it was his work, and so is the consummation of all the plan. We are told that all the works of God were known unto him from the foundation of the world. And in relation to salvation, we are informed that the whole arrangement was made before any human being who would need salvation was formed. Jesus Christ was set up as the Savior before the dust of the earth, from which man was formed, was spoken into existence. Said Christ, in speaking under one of his titles, (viz, wisdom,) “I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.” “Rejoicing in the habitable parts of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.” This language carries our minds back to the utmost stretch of human comprehension. It throws our contemplations into the boundless ocean of eternity, and that ocean we can neither fathom nor explore. But as far back as our comprehensions can go, so far back we can trace the salvation of God; and we must content ourselves to roam within that scope which God has been pleased to allot to us. If we inquire for what purpose Christ was set up, we are met with the answer, the Head, Mediator and Savior of the church. God gave him for a covenant of the people, a light to the Gentiles, and his salvation to the ends of the earth. Hence we read of the church being chosen in him before the foundation of the world. The elect of God, or those who were chosen in Christ, are those of whom Jesus said, “And my delights were with the sons of men.” This truth is presented also by David, in that passage in which it was said by the Savior, “My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there were none of them.” - Psalm cxxxix. 15, 16. Whenever we approach the subject of salvation we enter upon a theme as high as heaven, and as boundless as Deity itself. And the ever astonishing and wondrous plan of salvation which was established in eternity, and is fully developed and consummated in time, is what Paul in this epistle to Timothy is discoursing upon. But salvation cannot benefit any but the lost. None can be condemned by the law but those who have transgressed it, and none can be delivered from its curse but those who are under it. Hence Jesus came not to save the righteous in their righteousness, but he came to save his people from their sins. In the fullness of time, and after the creation of the world, God made man, and by transgression he fell, and in him all his posterity fell also, and they are all born into the world, yea, they are conceived in that depravity which Adam possessed after the fall. And let us here understand what it is that brings us into a state of condemnation. Some people tell us that sinners are damned because they do not close in with overtures of mercy; because they do not believe the gospel, and improve the means of grace which God has spread before them. But there is not one word in all the Bible which will countenance this sentiment, but all the testimony of the sacred volume is in contradiction to it. Let us begin with the beginning of this subject, and endeavor to take our start in the channel of truth. What was it which caused the fall of Adam? Was it in consequence of his doing something which God had not commanded him to do? Certainly not, but it was his doing what God had forbidden him to do. It was what he had done which brought the curse. And so it is with all condemned sinners. They are not condemned for what they have not done, but it is for what they have done. They are condemned for sin, and sin is a transgression of the law. And this is the case also in law among men. No man was justly condemned by the law of his country because he had done nothing, but because he had committed some act which was a violation of the law of the land. And the sentiment called gospel condemnation, is entirely without foundation in truth, and in the Bible. But as all admit, Adam transgressed; he did that which God forbade his doing. And as his posterity were then all in him, and he had fallen under the curse, as he was, so are they all by nature, and are brought into their natural existence the degenerate plants of a strange vine. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Sin is the natural element of all the posterity of Adam, for they have descended from him since his fall, and they have his fallen nature, and like him are sinful. They inherit his carnal mind, and his carnal mind is enmity against God. Hence the fallen state of man is a lost state, for by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation, consequently all the elect of God are by nature under the curse and condemnation of the law, and are without hope in the world. “Without holiness and perfect righteousness, none can stand before God.” All mankind are condemned, and the wrath of God abideth on them. Alas, how deplorable the condition of man. The earth is shrouded in the sable mantle of gloom, and man is cast out of Eden’s bliss, and is groaning under God’s awful curse. Was God taken by surprise through the development of this sad state of things? Is he discomfited and disappointed in his purpose in consequence of something having occurred which was unknown to him before the creation? By no means. It is true that sin entered into the world; misery and death are here, but let all heaven rejoice, and earth be glad; let the mountains leap for joy, and the inhabitants of the rock sing, a ransom is found. Before man was formed, or sin had entered the world, the God of wisdom and salvation had given his elect, grace in Christ, that where sin abounded, grace should much more abound. Jesus was set up before man was formed, to save him under the awful state of sin into which God was pleased to suffer him to fall, and from that dreadful death consequent upon it. Christ the Savior is declared, and of him it was said, He shall bruise the serpent’s head. The serpent could only bruise the heel of the church, but Jesus shall bruise his head. The covenant engagements of Father and Son in the salvation of the family of God now begin to be developed. The great and eternal plan of salvation begins to be opened, and by manifestations, types and shadows, Jesus Christ is presented to the people.
The offering of the lamb by Abel, pointed to that salvation and Savior which were provided before the birth of time. Salvation was ratified in the eternal counsel, and now God begins to make that salvation known to the heirs of it. God saved his people with an everlasting salvation; but it requires the entrance of sin into the world, and the fall of God’s children in it, with rolling time, and transpiring events, to reveal that God, to man, who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, and to fully manifest and apply this salvation unto them. The types and shadows all pointed to this, and prophets and righteous men desired to see the Savior. In the fullness of time, a multitude of the heavenly host was heard to announce his advent into the world. And as without perfect righteousness none can have peace with God, Christ himself is the peace of all the church. God has made him to be unto them wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. This is the salvation which is presented in the text. “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling.” We have touched upon salvation as an act of God before man was formed, and now pass to take some notice of it, in the personal manifestation of it to, and the volition of it in, the heirs of glory. And the first thing in this branch of salvation is the calling already described in the text. But as there are various opinions upon the subject, it may be well for us to examine the Scriptures of truth, and hear what they say about it. Many suppose that the preaching of the gospel constitutes this call. That sinners, who are dead in trespasses and sins, and who sit under a preached gospel, receive this call, and that the volition of their will turns the scale whether they are benefited by it or not, or decides the event whether the call will be effectual or not. Now this position is not true, and finds no support in the Bible, for no man but he who has been regenerated or quickened by the Spirit of God, can hear the gospel. The sinner who is dead in trespasses and sins, possesses (spiritually) no living or spiritual capabilities. “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.” The preaching of the cross is, to them that perish, foolishness. Why is it foolishness to them? Because they possess no spiritual life which enables them to discover the Spirit and glory of it. The wisdom of this world can never attain to it, for God has hidden these things from the wise and prudent. The apostle, in his epistle to the Corinthians, has put this subject in a clear and decisive light, “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and wisdom of God.” Here the most sluggish mind must discover that the same preaching had a different effect upon different characters. To one it is a stumbling-block, to another folly, and to the third it is Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. What makes the difference, for certainly the message is delivered irrespectively to them all, so far as the act of preaching is concerned? The different effects are caused by that grace and Spirit which has made the hearers to differ. The seed sown on the rock, where there is no earth, will remain inactive, while that which is sown in good ground will germinate and bring forth fruit. Those to whom the gospel was Christ the power of God, and wisdom of God, had already been called with an holy calling, while those to whom the same sermon was a stumbling-block, and folly, had not been called. If this be not true, then the language of Paul to the Corinthians is contradictory in itself, and has no meaning in it at all, and is altogether abortive. Who will dare charge the Spirit of inspiration with this? This holy calling is a work beyond the power and control of man, and is one which God has never committed to the hands of man. Christ said, “He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Yet he preached to those self-righteous pharisees, whom he came not to call, and on one occasion at least, those of them who heard him preach a sermon on sovereign grace, were all filled with wrath. If the preaching of any being could constitute this an holy calling, we should certainly suppose that the preaching of the Lord of glory would effect it, but this holy calling is the work of almighty power. It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing.” Said Jesus, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” The elect of God by nature are dead in trespasses and sins, and must be quickened; but preaching cannot quicken them. How then are they to be quickened? We will turn to Jesus Christ, for an answer: “For as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so [by the same almighty power, and in the twinkling of an eye] the Son quickeneth whom he will.” This is what we understand by an holy calling, a heavenly calling, or as men sometimes denominate it, an effectual calling. It is an holy calling because it calls them to holiness; they are called to the Holy God through Christ, and the life communicated in it is a holy life. It is the life of Christ communicated to them. The reason why they are called is, they are the saved of the Lord, and they are now called into the enjoyment of that salvation. “Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling.” Salvation precedes the calling, and the calling brings the heirs of salvation to Christ, and they are put into the enjoyed possession of an existing, finished and eternal salvation. “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.” This calling is not to make them the heirs of salvation, but it calls those who are already heirs, into a knowledge of their heirship, and the enjoyment of their inheritance.
Many contend that something must be done by the sinner; some preparatory steps are to be taken by him; some righteous acts are to be performed by him, or the Lord will never save him. If he be an heir of glory, he is already saved, and in his unregenerate state, he possesses neither the power nor the will to perform any righteous act, for his mind is a carnal mind, and is enmity against God. But let us hear what the text says: “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us: [when we began to be religiously inclined, and to seek the Lord, and to get religion? Nay, Verily. No such language ever stained the pages of holy writ, or divided the crown of Jesus]. But, according to his own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” This purpose is an eternal one, and this grace was given to all the heirs of glory in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, when they were chosen in him, and blessed in him with all spiritual blessings, and which were to flow to them in time; and this holy calling is one of these blessings, and it reaches them in consequence thereof. These things are embraced in the expressions, purpose and grace. If we ever had grace given to us at all it was before the world began for there is no succession of grants from God. What christians receive from day to day, is the manifestation of the blessings of an original grant, or covenant. It was not in consequence of any goodness which the Lord foresaw in any of the children of men, that he established the economy of salvation, but it was according to his purpose and grace from eternity. His own sovereign will decreed it, and death and hell cannot disturb it. There is a fullness in it, and a certainty of its being all accomplished. That God, who has numbered the very hairs of our heads, has not forgotten one blessing which will be for our good, and he who suffers not a sparrow to fall to the ground without his notice or permission, has not failed so to secure these blessings, that the devil shall never be able to rob us of one of them. What can be more comforting to the tempest-tossed pilgrims than a knowledge of this heavenly truth? What submission and patience it produces in us while being rolled and tossed hither and thither, to know that the Lord rules and reigns, and guides and governs all our affairs, and that all things work together for our good, and that they flow unto us under the controlling hand of God. This is grace, not to be thought of but with tears of joy, not to be mentioned but with shouts of praise.
In inseparable connection with the foregoing, is the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. What is this appearing for? Is it to effect some new arrangement, or to establish some new purpose, to render man savable, and leave the event at the volition of the will of man? Now this question is answered by inspiration, and the answer will out ride and shine amidst all the opposition and rage of men and devils in earth or hell. Jesus came to make manifest that salvation, purpose and grace, which were given the heirs of glory in himself before the world began. He came to make manifest and apply the salvation of God to his children, “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ.” The appearance of Jesus Christ was in accordance with this salvation, purpose and grace, and it presents a theme of the most devout contemplation. In this appearing it is made known to the church of the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. What is his appearing? If we visit the manger, we will find a babe wrapped in swaddling bands, and there, in the appearance of a helpless babe, we see the Conqueror of death and hell. We see him in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead. But we here behold him, who in his mediatorial character is meek and lowly in heart, just entering into his humiliation. He takes not on him the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham, and unto us is born this day a Savior, which is Christ the Lord, and his name shall be called Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins. Here is fulfilled that prophetic strain of Isaiah: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Jesus is made under the law to redeem them that were under the law. He delivered them from the curse of the law, being made a curse for them, as it is written, “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” His people being entirely destitute of righteousness which would be acceptable to God, they being ignorant, unholy, and condemned, Christ was of God made unto them wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption. Daniel had foretold that the Redeemer should make an end of sin, bring in everlasting righteousness, and seal up the vision and prophecy. Some people talk about Christ’s working out the righteousness of the saints. The Spirit of inspiration has said, “This is the name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Our righteousness is Christ’s righteousness, for he is our righteousness, and so far from his coming into the world to work it out, he came to bring it in. And as Daniel has said, he shall make an end of sin; prophetic annunciation! He has put away sin (from the church) by the sacrifice of himself. His people were under the law and he must go where they are, and as they are under the condemnation of it, and under the sentence of death, he must die to redeem them therefrom. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” If we follow him to Calvary we will there hear him cry, “It is finished!” It is done! He bowed his head and died, and through his death the law is forever silenced, and powerless over the church, and through his resurrection from the dead the church is everlastingly justified. “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” He was the plagues of death, and the destruction of the grave. This is the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who hath swallowed up death. This is the testimony which Isaiah bore of him, “And he shall swallow up death in victory.” He did not swallow it up in merely falling, but in victory; in his glorious and triumphant resurrection from the dead. He has abolished death in bowing to its requirements, or in laying down his life, and then taking it again. He triumphed over it. In that he died, he died unto sin once, but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God; death has no more dominion over him. But why has death no more dominion over him? He has abolished it, triumphed over it, taken away its sting, and disarmed it of its power. At his command the massive bars retreat, and the grave gives way before him. Where was the life of the church when Jesus laid down his life? Is the life of the church in Christ? The apostle has told us that Christ is the life of every believer in him. In this light, we can easily comprehend him when he speaks of Christ’s dying unto sin once, but now living unto God, and then turns his discourse to the saints, saying, “Also likewise reckon ye yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ.” And again, “If we be dead with him, we shall also live with him.” The bodies of the saints must die, but in Christ they triumph over death, and are enabled to sing, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” Jesus had offered himself without spot to God, and by that one offering hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. He was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification. He laid down his life a voluntary sacrifice, and took it again, and through his resurrection from the dead, life and immortality are brought to light through the gospel. The church lives in Christ’s life, and her immortality is in his immortality, and because he lives she lives also, and because he reigns she reigns with him. Her all and in all, is in him, and where he is there she is also. She is the heir of God, and joint-heir with Jesus Christ in all things, and if she suffers with him, she will be glorified with him, for all things are hers, and she is Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. And if we seek the living among the dead we cannot find him, for there is no life in the law, nor in a dead savior, but the life is in him who was dead, but is alive for evermore; lives at the right hand of God, where he maketh intercession for the saints, according to the will of God, and heaven and earth are appealed to in vain, to lay a single charge to God’s elect, for God has justified them, and who then can condemn them? Christ has died, yea, rather, is risen from the dead, and he was delivered up for their offenses, and raised again for their justification.
Middletown, N. Y.
Sept. 1, 1854.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 3
Pages 117 - 128