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EPHESIANS 4:13

Brother Beebe: I see in the Signs, of July 1st, 1860, that you take some exception to the use of the term soul, when applied to Christ in his preexistent state. I used it as a distinctive term, not that I had any preference to that term; and it would have been better, perhaps, to have used one that was clearly Scriptural. Brother Beebe, in speaking of the character and nature of Christ, you say, “To which the Church shall be conformed when we all come unto the unity,” etc. Now, by noticing that connection, you will perceive that the Apostle was speaking of the gifts which the Lord gave to the Church, which was for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till (not when) we all come in (not unto) the unity, etc. It appears, brother Beebe, from some of your remarks, that you had some fears that I held a doctrine that man had no soul until he was regenerated. I have examined my letter, and I do not think that it contains that idea; at any rate, I have no such idea. The term soul is evidently used in different senses: sometimes as a peculiar property in the body, and is the man, whether in the body or out of the body, as in Rev. vi. 9; also 1 Cor. xii. 2, and many other similar passages. It is also used as the whole natural man; for we are told that the Lord God formed man (not a part of him) of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man (the same man that was formed) became a living soul. It does not say that man received a soul by the breath of life being breathed into his nostrils, but, man became a living soul. Again, in Ezek. xviii., where the Lord is speaking of his dealings with national Israel, under the Jewish law, or old covenant, in verse 4: “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” If we read on to the 20th verse, there we will find him saying, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die: The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” I am aware that those who preach conditional salvation generally run to the old covenant to try to prove conditional salvation and falling from grace. But if they would only read the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy, where the blessings pronounced in the law to Israel, and the curses therein denounced against them, are condensed, they would find that all the blessings and cursings therein are temporal, and pertain only to time. Some persons appear to be so afraid of Universalism that they want to make every place where Hell, cursing, damnation, destruction, etc., are mentioned, to apply to all eternity: while the truth is, there are many, very many, places where they are spoken in reference to time. If, because Hell is used figuratively in regard to time, it proves there is no future punishment, then Heaven being used figuratively would prove that there is no future happiness. One is just as certain from the Scriptures as the other future misery is just as certain to the Devil and his angels, as future happiness is to the blessed of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. But where Hell, etc., are spoken in reference to time, let us use them where they belong, and thereby we will keep the Universalist from getting the advantage of us.

Brother Beebe, I have extended this letter to the length you see, although my object was to let you know that you need not be afraid of offending me by the privilege you took with my letter. There are none of us so wise, but that what we know is only in part; and in this way we can be a help to each other.

Yours in that sweetest of all bonds, Christian
JOSEPH ARMSTRONG

Brother J. Armstrong’s Reply to our remarks on his letter, which appeared in our number for July 1st, are satisfactory to us. When we referred to Eph. iv. 13, our object was to merely call attention to what is there presented in regard to the stature of Christ, as applicable to him in his mediatorial relation as the Head of the body, the Church. In chapter i. 19-21, the mighty power of God, which he wrought in Christ in his resurrection, exaltation, etc., is brought savingly to bear upon his entire Church; for that God hath given him, Christ, to be the head over all things to his Church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. This body, we are told, in chapter iv. 4, is one body, animated by one spirit, even as the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus are all called in one hope of their calling. This Head and body is the perfect man of which we understand the Apostle to speak in the 13th verse; and the measure of the stature of this perfect man requires the whole church, for the church is the fulness of him. Those who have been called by grace to a saving knowledge of Christ, have already come in the unity of the faith, and others are yet in an experimental sense to come in the unity of the faith, and till we all so come, the gifts which are for the perfecting of the saints and for the edifying of this body shall be effectual for the purpose for which Christ, the Head, received and gave them, namely, for the edifying of this body. - The measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, or the measure of the church, which is that fulness, was as perfect when the body with its Head were set up in the counsel and purpose of God, which he purposed in himself before the world began, as it will be after all the members of that body shall have been brought into this unity. The unity of the faith is the unity of the spirit. And there is one spirit, and there is one faith, even as there is one Lord, one baptism, one hope of our calling, and one God and Father of all. We do not perceive there is any difference in our views on this subject.

We did not intend to express a suspicion that our much loved brother held that men were destitute of souls previously to being born again, for we had no such suspicion; but our allusion was to the Headship of Christ, not as a progenitor of souls, but of spiritual life - as, Adam was made a living soul, and as such was the progenitive head of all mankind, of their souls as well as of their bodies. But Christ, as the second, or anti-typical Adam, was made a quickening spirit. Or, in other words, all spiritual, holy, heavenly and eternal life was given to the body, the Church, in Christ as the Head of the Church, and all who are brought in the unity of the faith, receive it in the one spirit which is born of God, as coming from the Eternal Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

With the various senses in which the words soul, souls, hell, etc., are used in the scriptures, we perfectly agree in the remarks made by brother Armstrong. These remarks are only designed to show that we are not aware of any difference between us upon these subjects.

Middletown, N.Y.
November 1, 1860.

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 421 - 424