DEAR ELDER BEEBE: – Does preaching that the atonement was made, or that it was through or in consequence of it that we have temporal blessings, amount to heresy? If so, is it a heresy of sufficient magnitude to declare non-fellowship for it? A reply to the above through the SIGNS at your earliest convenience will greatly oblige one who desires to act according to the truth.
Yours in much love,
R. W. HARRELL.
Belton, Texas, Feb. 7, 1881.
REPLY. – The word atonement in our language is defined by Webster to signify reconciliation, satisfaction, and specifically in theology, the expiation made by the obedience and personal sufferings of Christ. In all the atonements made by the Levitical priesthood, the shedding of the blood of the sacrifices demanded by the law was for the ceremonial remission of the sins of those exclusively for whom they were offered. All the sacrifices under the ceremonial law were but shadows of the great atonement which was to be made by the great High Priest of our profession, when he through the eternal Spirit should offer himself without spot unto God, and by which he with his own blood should obtain eternal redemption for all for whom that offering should be made, and by which he should perfect forever them that are sanctified. The offering of Christ was not to procure temporal mercies, but for the remission of the sins of his people, and that he might redeem them for whom the atonement was made unto God by his own blood, and cleanse them from all sin, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Temporal mercies in the providence of God come alike upon the just and also upon the unjust; but so far are they from showing that the ungodly are partakers of the peace-speaking blood of atonement, the apostle shows that they are indicative of the wrath of God. “What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?” – Rom. ix. 22.
It is held by some that incidentally the ungodly are benefited by the atonement of Christ, because it is said that for the elect's sake all things now exist. But this we regard as a far-fetched and exceedingly speculative inference. It is true the word must continue until all the redeemed of the Lord shall be gathered into the fold of Christ, but it must also stand until all the ungodly shall have filled up the cup of their iniquity.
Heresy, in a scriptural sense, may apply to any doctrine or sentiment held in opposition to bible truth, or subversive of the truth as it is in Jesus, and as set forth in the holy scriptures. Happy and highly favored of the Lord must that christian be who is perfectly free from misconceptions as to the true meaning of every part of the scriptures of truth, if indeed such an one can be found on the earth. It is subversive of the teaching of the Spirit for us to denounce as a heretic, or make a brother an offender for a word, as we at present are in an imperfect state. We see but in part, we know but in part, and are not to tolerate in ourselves a censorious or criticising spirit towards our brethren. The magnitude of heresy is ascertained by its virulence and hostility to the truth, and by its tendency to overturn the faith of the disciples. Some were to be reproved, some rebuked sharply, and others to be delivered to Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.
We may declare non-fellowship for an error, while we still believe that the brother who holds it is a beloved child of God. In the case stated by our friend Harrell, the church were the evil of which he speaks exists is most competent to judge whether the preaching of which he speaks is subversive of the faith to the extent that disorder, confusion and contention are so engendered by it that the peace of the church requires a withdrawal of fellowship from the offender.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Middletown, N. Y.
Signs of the Times
Volume 49, No. 14.
July 15, 1881.