Roadhouse Station, Ill., November 6, 1868.
Dear Brother Beebe: - I now sit down to write a few lines to you, and must say that your editorial in reply to brother Vanmeter has been a mystery to me in one or two points. I must say there is a contradiction abroad somewhere; and it is for instruction I write. You stated, and truly too, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh," nothing else, "and that which is born of the spirit is spirit," and nothing else. Now you say that the same that was born by ordinary generation is in time born of the spirit. If I understand you, it leaves me in the same fix that Nicodemus was in. I will say that if the same man is born again, it is spiritual and I suppose it is incorruptible, and if this is the case, sin cannot approach it. Then this mortal has put on immortality, in part, but I find no such Scripture; but find that we have this treasure in earthen vessels, if in us at all, and the excellency is not of men, but of God. This is the same leaven which a woman hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. Now if the Adamic man is born and made spiritual, it is all leavened and is not a progressive work, as I have thought, to be completed in the resurrection. Now I think this new birth is clearly set forth in the words, "Christ in you, the hope of glory." You made one point, that the inward man and the outward man are commensurate, and after the new birth there is but one man, and he is solely of the Lord, and I won't have such an idea. To be born is to develop. Now in developing godliness through the prepared or subjugated body, there is a manifestation of righteousness which was not there before. Now if it perfected the Adamic man, Paul did not understand it clearly when he said that with his flesh he served the law of sin, and "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death." Now this same body that was born first is born again, and the second birth leaves it still a body of death. Being born again surely does not make it spiritual, or it would not die.
Dear brother, I would be well pleased if you would write me a letter and give me your views on the inward man, and what it is, and also the outward man and what he is, just in as short a way as you can, and direct it to Road House Station where you send the "Signs". And as my time is up in December, I want you to stop it then. I write you in good feelings for instruction.
Reply to Brother Murray: - Dull and bungling as we are in expressing our views, we are surprised sometimes at our failure to make our views intelligible to our brethren, and still more surprised that any of them should understand us so very differently from what we mean. If we were as unsuccessful on all points in attempting to make ourself understood as we have been on the subject of the first and second birth of the children of God, we would return our pen to the wing of its mother goose, and leave the statement and defense of the truth to abler writers. We have not been without our fears that the late agitation on the regeneration and the new birth, at least to some of our readers, had a tendency to darken counsel, rather than to edify. Whatever we publish as our views on any subject, we give only as our views, holding none of our brethren responsible for them, only so far as they find them sustained by the Scriptures and made plain to their understanding. We neither ask nor desire any one to accept as true what we hold, or set forth, any further than our views are sustained by the unerring Scriptures of truth. And we have confidence in the Old School, or Primitive Baptists, that they will carefully compare what we publish with that sacred standard before they endorse it. But we must request them to consider candidly what we say before they condemn it; and in no case allow themselves to misconstrue or misrepresent what we advance. By our words we are willing to be judged; whether by them we be condemned or justified.
In replying to our brother Murray, we will make this one more effort to express, as explicitly and plainly what are our views, as we can.
First. It is our firm conviction that all the men, women, and children who belong to the elect family of God had an existence in Christ Jesus before the world began, and consequently before they had any of them been born at all, either of the flesh or of the Spirit.
Secondly. That their existence in Christ before the world began was so personal that no change could possibly be made, the inheritance of every one of them, for time and eternity, was assigned to each personally, definitely and unchangeably. That they were all of them loved personally, blessed with all spiritual blessings personally, and personally chosen in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, and that each and all were so definitely identified in the choice, love, grace, and gift of God that no one of them could possibly be misplaced, overlooked, or fail to fill the destiny appointed or to receive the spiritual blessings which were given them in Christ, or any one of them fill the place in the body of Christ which God hath ordained for another.
Thirdly. That they were all regarded as the children of God, and heirs of immortal glory before they were any of them made partakers of flesh and blood; and consequently before any of them were born of the flesh or of the spirit.
Fourthly. We hold that it was the counsel, purpose and ordination of God to bring all these heirs of glory into manifestation by a first and a second birth, preserving through both births the identity they had with him before the world began.
Fifthly. That their identity, individuality, and personality being anterior to their first and second birth, depended on neither the one nor the other, except to subserve the great purpose of God in their manifestation, which he ordained should be in the fullness of the dispensations of times.
Sixthly. That their first birth, or their being born of the flesh, was ordained for their manifestation in the flesh, as the children of the first Adam, of whose nature they were to partake, in whose transgression, depravity, and the mortality they were to be involved. And that until they were born of the flesh, they could not see the natural world into which they were to be born. And that when any one of them is born of the flesh, that man is born once. That man who was chosen of God, in Christ, is now born of the flesh, and can see the world into which he is born. That man, who was a man before he was born, now by his birth partakes of humanity, mortality, and corruption, and requires to be redeemed from sin, death and condemnation.
Seventhly. That very man, who was a man, as chosen of God in the election of grace, and whose name was written in heaven, in the book of the Lamb, and has been born of the flesh is by his one birth only revealed or manifested in the earthly nature which God ordained for him; but before he can be made manifest in a spiritual nature he must be born again. As there is natural life given to this man in his earthly birth; for that which is born of the flesh is flesh, so there is nothing natural given to the same man when he is born again, as that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Eighthly. The vessel of mercy whom God afore prepared to glory by his first birth receives his mortality and in his being born again the same man receives his immortality. "I give unto them eternal life (John 10:28)." "That he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee," etc. Now being born of the flesh, and born again of the Spirit possesses both flesh and spirit, which Paul says are contrary the one to the other; he now possesses both mortality and immortality; his mortality is born of the flesh, and the flesh continues to be mortal as long as the man, so born, remains in the flesh. The immortality is born of the Spirit of him who only hath immortality, and continues to abide in the man who has experienced both births and possesses both conflicting natures which must both continue in him until the one is swallowed up of the other; until the flesh shall yield to the spirit, until this mortality shall be swallowed up of life. Then, but not till then, shall this mortal put on immortality, and this corruptible put on incorruption, the spirit shall then triumph over the flesh, when the flesh shall go down to the grave, and there be sown a natural body, and thence be raised a spiritual body, changed and fashioned like the resurrected body of our Lord, who has already risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.
1. Now let us consider Christ as the first fruits, the perfect sample of what his saints shall be in their resurrection! Was Christ the Son of God, and perfectly identified in that full relation to the Father before he was born of the virgin, or begotten from the dead in his resurrection? Did his being made of a woman, under the law, or his resurrection constitute him the Son of God, or did he exist in his Mediatorial glory with his Father before the world began, the same as he will when the world shall be no more? See John 17:5. Had he the same glory with the Father before the world was that he ascended to when he went up with a shout?
2. Did Christ in his incarnation possess two whole and yet distinct natures in his one person? Was he both God and man at the same time? Was he properly the Son of God, and the Son of Man; and did his Godhead compose any part of his humanity or his humanity compose any part of his Godhead?
3. Was he the subject of two births, one of the virgin, when he was made flesh, and the other when he was quickened from the dead by the Eternal Spirit, in his resurrection from the dead? Before answering these last interrogatives, read Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:35; and Acts 13:33.
If then it be admitted that Christ possessed two whole natures in his one person, the one called flesh, which could suffer and die, and the other Spirit, which could not die, but had power to quicken and raise the dead, is it hard to infer that those who bear his image can also, being born first of that flesh of which also in like manner he took part, and then being born again of an incorruptible seed which liveth and abideth forever, be while here in the flesh, possess two distinct natures? The one born of the flesh, the other born of the Spirit, the one human, the other divine? One mortal, the other immortal; the one depraved and possessing in it "no good thing," the other perfectly immaculate?
It is testified of our Savior, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1-3 & 14)." Would it now be proper for us to raise the question, What part of the Word was made flesh? We are told it was the Word which was God. No less the Word because it was made flesh, no less God because identified with flesh.
So with the men, or people, which were with, and in, Christ before the foundation of the world, they are no more, nor are they any less, the people of God because they are made flesh, born of the flesh, and are thereby partakers of the transgressions, pollutions and mortality of the flesh, than they were before the world began. The man who was chosen in Christ Jesus in eternity was in time born of the flesh, defiled and involved in guilt and transgression, and washed from pollution and guilt by the atoning sacrifice of Christ. That same man, who was a man chosen in Christ from everlasting, and who was born of the flesh, and made flesh, is born again of a heavenly birth, receives a spiritual life from God, which is distinct from the life received by him in his first birth, and in his two-fold nature of flesh and spirit, dwells among us. Brother Murray has entirely mistaken, and misread us, in regard to our "making the point" which he condemns that the inward man, and the outward man are commensurate of the new birth. Such a thought never entered our heart; nor have we ever contended that our Adamic nature is born over again in the new birth, nor that it ever has or ever will be made spiritual. It is certainly not so now, and if it was it would cease to be Adamic; for Paul testified that Adam was not spiritual but natural; that Christ the second Adam is spiritual. To be spiritual then is to partake of the life and nature of Christ, not of Adam.
We have not time to discuss this subject in private correspondence with those who do not choose to patronize the "Signs". We have about all we can do in addition to our pastoral and other ministerial labors to write for the "Signs". We are very prone to be prolix in our articles, but the shortest way in which we can answer the last questions proposed we say: the outward man is the flesh, that is born of the flesh; and the inward man is the spirit, that is born of the spirit.
Brother Murray has mistaken us in regard to the old nature, which is born of the flesh, being born again of the spirit, and made spiritual. We hold, as we have tried to explain, that the subject of grace had an identity before he was born at all, either of the flesh or of the spirit; when born of the flesh, the fleshly nature produced by that birth became identified with him, so that he who before existed in Christ is now manifest in the flesh, and receives a fleshly corruptible, and depraved, dying nature. And the same person, man, or identity, who has received this earthly nature (it must be the same, or some other), also receives a spiritual, pure, incorruptible, imperishable and heavenly nature which is born of the Spirit, with which he also becomes identified; and that this man, person or identity retains both these antagonistic natures, and is identified with both, as long as he continues in the flesh, and until the one of them shall be swallowed up of the other, until the mortal shall put on immortality, when death shall be swallowed up of victory. In this complex state in which flesh and spirit are component parts the same person, we may properly speak of the man or person who is born, and born again, as a sinner, and of the same man or person in whom both natures now exist, as a saint. He is as black as the tents of Kedar; and at the same time, he is as white and comely as the curtains of Solomon. Or, as Erskine says:
"To good and evil, equal bent,
I'm both a devil and a saint."
"I am crucified with Christ," "I am dead with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." Paul uses the personal pronouns, I and me, identifying him, in both natures, thus, For I know that in me (that is in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing, for the good that I would, I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is therefore no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I see another law [or governing power] in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O, wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of Christ; but with the flesh the law of sin (Romans 7). Now when we can comprehend how the apostle could himself, with his mind serve the law of God without the concurrence of his fleshly nature, but in direct opposition to it; and how he himself could with his flesh serve the law of sin, without involving his spirit, in any participation in that service; and how he could say without contradiction, "I myself serve the law of sin, and yet it is not I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." I serve the law of sin; I myself, serve the law of God; but in such a way that it is not I, but sin that dwelleth in me. I am a wretched man, involved in a body of death; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ that liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, etc. Then we shall have less trouble in distinguishing between the flesh and the spirit, the old man, and the new, the outer man and the inward man, the natural man and the spiritual man; and how these two opposite natures emanating from opposite sources and produced by distinct births, can form the elementary parts of a Christian. Then shall we all better understand the words of our Lord, in which he has informed us that "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit;" and we shall be less likely to conclude that anything earthly is born of the Spirit, or anything spiritual is born of the flesh.
December 1, 1868.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 299 – 306