FLESH AND SPIRITS.

The scriptures speak of all the human family as of one common earthy origin. All are and were created in the first man Adam, of whom Paul testifies that he is of the earth, earthy; also that he was made a living soul, that he was not spiritual, (in the sense in which the second Adam, which is the Lord from heaven, is,) but he was natural. Although he possessed the spirit of a man, yet it was a natural spirit, or a spirit adapted to his being as a natural man. But when sin had entered into the world by his offence, he, with all his posterity, were involved in his transgression; all became alike depraved, guilty and condemned to die. Death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. In our relation to the earthy Adam there is no distinction; all are alike, so far as that relation extends; all are natural men, depraved, fallen, helpless sinners, under the sentence of death. And as death passed on all men in Adam before any of his posterity were born, the mortality of all is alike inevitable, and none are or can be exempt from the irrevocable sentence, which remands our bodies to the dust of which they were formed, and our spirit (natural spirit) to the God who gave it. So far, then, as the relation of the human family to the earthy Adam is considered, there is no difference; God “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” If there is any difference in the nature of mankind in their relation to or connection with the earthy Adam, we know not where to find it. Paul says, “As is the earthy [Adam], such are they also that are earthy.” – 1 Cor. xv. 48. And in Romans iii. 9 and Ephesians ii. 2 the same apostle testifies that we all (both elect and non-elect) are by nature the children of wrath, even as others; and that all those which were in Rome, called to be saints, are in their nature in no wise better than those whose damnation is just. All the children of Adam are in their nature alike, and are called natural men, to the full extent of their relationship to him in whom they have received their fleshly or earthly being; and as the stream can rise no higher than its fountain, nothing can be developed by or from Adam that was not in him, nor can the natural man produce any element either good or bad that does not belong to his nature. And therefore, although it is certain that god has chosen out of the tribes of mankind a people unto salvation, and that chosen people are redeemed from sin, death and hell by the precious blood of Christ, and that he has predestinated them to be conformed to the image of his Son, and ultimately to bear his image, and to be clothed in his immortality in their final resurrection from the dead, still they must experience that death to which all natural men are condemned in that natural men are condemned in that Adam in whom all have sinned and all die. Hence it is said of the natural man, “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body; but it shall be changed in the resurrection from a natural to a spiritual body, and be fashioned like Christ’s glorious body, but not until this mortal shall put on immortality. And this is testified of the saints, whose mortality shall pursue them to their graves, and only leave them when raised in spiritual, immortal and glorious bodies, when death shall be swallowed up of life and immortality.

Hence it is that God’s chosen people, who are redeemed from sin, death and hell by the blood of Christ, and predestinated to the adoption of children, after they have been born of the flesh, and fully manifested as natural men in the flesh, must be born again, of the Spirit, before they can see or enjoy the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom, not of this world, and the things of the kingdom of God are spiritual things, as righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost; and “the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Before we were born of the flesh as natural men, we could see or know nothing of the things of nature; a birth of the flesh was necessary and indispensable to qualify us to see and enjoy the things of the natural world, and it is equally indispensable that we should be born again to qualify us to see or receive the things that are spiritual. As a birth of the flesh brought us forth in our flesh as natural men, so we must be born again, of the Spirit, to make us manifest as the children of God. The same chosen and redeemed people who have been born of the flesh must be born again, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. These two births are distinct and dissimilar. The first is of a corruptible or natural seed, which is natural and corruptible like its earthly progenitor; the second birth is spiritual, and of incorruptible seed, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever, and the life which is produced by this incorruptible seed is spiritual, incorruptible and immortal. The natural man, which is born of the flesh, is not by the new birth changed from a natural man to a spiritual man, for it is to be sown a natural body in death, and raised a spiritual body in its resurrection; but not till this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality, can this change take place. It is true that in the new birth Christ, who is our life, is formed in us the hope of glory; but it is also true that “If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you,” (it does not read, If your mortal body has become the Spirit that raised up Jesus; but if that Spirit dwells in you, if indeed you have this treasure in your earthen vessels, and your bodies have become the consecrated temples in which God by his spirit dwells, then) “he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his spirit that dwelleth in you.” Your mortal bodies are not yet quickened by the Spirit. They are still the bodies of this death which made Paul a wretched man, and a captive to the law of sin which was still in his members, even a long time after God had revealed his Son in him. And he says, “But ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” – Rom. vii. 23, 24; viii. 10, 11, 23.

Much has been said by some whose motives are open to the scrutiny of the all-seeing eye of the eternal Judge, by way of stigmatizing us as holding what has been called the Parkerite two seed doctrine. We have uniformly repelled the charge as being untrue; but while we ignore the peculiar views of Elder D. Parker, we firmly believe in the bible doctrine of all the seeds which are set forth in the sacred scriptures. We believe there is an incorruptible seed, by which the sons of God are born, and which Jesus saw when he poured out his soul unto death, and that seed shall be counted to the Lord for a generation. And we are bound also to believe, from the same testimony, that there is a seed of evil doers upon the earth, who are called a generation of vipers, and are said to be of their father the devil. But in neither case do we understand or believe there is any distinction expressed or implied between them in reference to what they are as the children of the flesh, or as natural descendants of the earthly Adam. We have in the preceding part of this article shown, and proved most conclusively, that all the chosen and redeemed people of God are by nature the children of wrath, even as others, so that it is not nor can it be in their earthly nature, that any are identified either as the seed of the serpent or as the seed of Christ. In our earthly nature we do not differ, nor are the elect people of God in any wise better than those who are denounced as the children of the devil. Cain was a legitimate son of Adam, but he is said to be of that wicked one who was a murderer from the beginning, who, when he speaketh a lie, speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it. When our Lord told the persecuting Jews that they were of their father the devil, he said also that he knew that they were the seed of Abraham. Their fleshly descent from Abraham’s loins neither constituted them the children of God nor the children of the devil; but the spirit by which they were governed gave evidence of the paternity of the spirit by which they are characterized, and of the state they were in. The apostle John says, “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” – 1 John iii. 8-10

To our mind the apostle is not speaking of our fleshly nature s being born of God and of incorruptible seed, which being born of God cannot commit sin, for notwithstanding Paul’s spiritual birth, he found sin dwelling in his fleshly members; neither do we understand him to say or mean that our natural birth of the flesh is that which constitutes us the children of the devil, for those whom he calls the children of God, and those whom he calls the children of the devil, are perfectly alike in their fleshly birth. But that which he personifies as a child or son of God is that which is born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, but of the spirit of God; for as many as are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons or children of God, and his spirit in them testifies that they are born of God. And the flesh, which is born of the flesh, and in which, even after the new birth, there dwelleth no good thing, still wars against the spirit which is given them of God, so that the christian, who has his present complex being, is manifested in his birth of the flesh as a child of Adam, and in his spiritual birth as a child of God, and possesses, so long as he continues in the flesh, an earthly, carnal nature, which is born of the flesh, and also a spiritual life, which is born of God.

So, on the other hand, those who are manifest as the children of the devil, differ not in their natural birth of the flesh from all others of mankind; but they are manifested as children of the devil by the indwelling of the spirit of the devil. He, or that spirit in the children of men that committeth sin, is of the devil. He, or that spirit in the children of men that committeth sin, is of the devil. The seeds of sin were sown in the beginning by “the old serpent, which is the devil and Satan.” He allured or beguiled the maternal parent of our race to lust after the fruit which God had forbidden. “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” – James i. 15. The spirit of wickedness, of falsehood, of murder, and of all opposition to God and to holiness, is of the devil, and is what constitutes the relationship of which John is speaking. The spirits which are in opposition to God, to truth and to holiness, are of Satan, and therefore John admonishes the saints to “Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they be of God;” and he informs us by what standard to try them, and how we are to know them. The spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God; the spirit whom the world cannot receive, nor see, nor know, is of God; the spirit of truth and holiness, of love, and of a sound mind; the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father; the spirit of humility, of meekness; the spirit which in the christian wars against the flesh, crucifies the old man with its affections and lusts; the spirit of grace and supplication, which helps our infirmities, and maketh intercession for us according to the will of God; all these are of God, and all who posses and are led by them are born of God, and are the sons of God and heirs of immortality. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but het spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given us of God. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, because they are spiritual discerned. “But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.” – 1 Cor. ii. 12-15.

“As many as are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God;” for none can receive or be led by the spirit of God in any other way but by being born of God. “But if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” It is then the spirit of God in us which is born of God, and in which we are manifested as the children of God, who is the Father of our spirits; even as the fathers which we have had of our flesh, who have corrected us, and to whom we have given reverence, are the fathers of our fleshly nature. – Heb. xii. 9. Our flesh is not born of the spirit of God, or it would not still require to be changed at the resurrection from a natural to a spiritual body, from a corruptible to an incorruptible, from a mortal to an immortal state; for that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Neither is the spirit in us whereby we are sealed unto the resurrection of life and immortality born of the flesh. These two natures, though found in all the saints while here on earth, are not only distinct, but they are antagonistic, and so greatly in conflict that the one is at war with the other, and so much so that the christian, who possesses both, cannot do the things that he would. Every christian, while in the flesh, feels most sensibly and painfully the malignant enmity of the flesh in its violent lusting against the spirit, often bringing him into captivity to the law of sin which is in his members. Nominal professors and graceless hypocrites may feel no such warfare; they may imagine that the elements of their fleshly nature are so changed and reformed as to need no watching or self-denial. They tell us that the faculties of their nature are so changed, that the same elements of their flesh which once loved sin now love holiness, and in them the love of sin is dead. There is nothing now in them that is not made spiritual by the new birth; and we doubt not that some of the dear children of God, whose daily experience disproves the theory, have inconsiderately drank in the theory, and given countenance to the baseless infatuation. The desires for holiness and love to God, which are felt by every heaven-born subject of grace, are not improved faculties of our old, carnal nature, but they are the direct and legitimate fruits of the spirit which is given to us in the new birth; while all the fleshly propensities of our old, earthly nature, though held in restraint, are still lurking in our flesh, and requiring to be vigilantly watched, denied, crucified and resisted, lest they should bring us into captivity to the law of sin which still remains in our members.

“‘Tis thus with Israel now on earth,
Few are their days of real mirth;
Their inbred lusts their souls annoy,
Disturb their peace and damp their joy.

“Though free from sin by Jesus’ blood,
They feel their fetters and their load;
In chains of guilt compell’d to groan,
Oft seeking rest, but finding none.

“A daily cross, a stubborn will,
A heart replete with every ill,
Affections prone from God to go,
Are bounds that only Israel know.”

Let all who are of the circumcision which worship God in the spirit, and in the spirit only, who rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, examine carefully their own experience before they scoff at the doctrine of a warfare between the old man in them, which is after the flesh, and the new man in them, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

In conclusion, we have given as our understanding of the testimony of the scriptures our belief that as children of the flesh, all mankind are alike the children of the earthly Adam, and that the relationship implied by the terms, children of God, or children of Satan, is in reference to the spirit that dwells in them, by which our standing and characters are developed and demonstrated. “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning;” and whosoever is born of God doth not, cannot sin, because he is born of God. “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil; whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” – 1 John iii. 8-10

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Middletown, N. Y.

Signs of the Times
Volume 48, No. 22
November 15, 1880