(Reply to Sister Mary Poston.)
Before we notice the passages on which our sister has asked our views, we will attend to a previous request in her letter, in which she has desired us to instruct her, and teach her the way. From the distinct manner in which the Lord has enabled her to pronounce the Shibboleth, we have unquestionable assurance that she is a pupil in the school of Christ, and a class-mate of those of whom it is written, “And thy people shall all be taught of the Lord,” and of whom the blessed Redeemer has said, “Every one therefore which has heard and learned of the Father, cometh unto me;” and again, “And he that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.” Taught of God, she knows that Jesus Christ himself is the Way: no man cometh unto the Father but by him. As Jesus said to the disciples, “And wither I go, ye know, and the way ye know.” But if our sister desires, in the language of the spouse, to inquire, “Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?” perhaps the best response will be found in the next verse, (see Cant. i. 7, 8).
The text in Hebrews vi. 4-6, is urged by the inspired writer as a reason why the saints should leave the shadows of the old covenant, which could make nothing perfect, and go on to perfection, which is found in the new covenant, or gospel kingdom, wherein dwelleth righteousness: not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection from the dead, &c. Under the old covenant, when offerings were made for sins, there was a remembrance again made of sins, every year, and new offerings were required from time to time, under the Levitical priesthood, but now, under the superior priesthood of Christ, the one offering which he has made, presents the only foundation for the doctrine and institutions of the gospel. Instead therefore of our attempting to lay a new foundation, we are to remember, that other foundations can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ, for should this one atonement which he has made, fail us, we would be hopelessly, and forever lost. “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted he good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance,” &c. That is if those who have passed from death unto life, who are born of God, and are led by the Spirit, in all the experience of the saints, if they, if christians, should fall away from their interest in the blood of Christ, no blood of beasts, offered on Jewish altars, could reclaim them, or afford for them a foundation for repentance, or faith, for they were but figures in the first place, and now even as types of good things to come, they are abolished, and to renew one for whom Christ has died and arisen from the dead, again to repentance, if it were possible they could lose that interest, or fall away from that foundation, would require that to be done which it is impossible ever to be done, namely, the crucifixion of Christ again.
There was in the first place no other way for the sinner to be justified before God, only that which is through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and if he has died for any of us, redeemed us from all sin, and freely justified us from all things, and as an evidence of having done all this for us, he has quickened us, and enlightened us, made us partakers of Christ, who is the heavenly gift, and made us partakers of the Holy Ghost, fed us on the good word of God, which is of itself both spirit and life, and given us a foretaste of heaven, now if it were possible that a saint should lose his interest in all this, would he not, in order to be saved, require the same display of matchless power and grace, as in the first instance? If in the first there was nothing short of the blood of Christ that could cleanse him from sin, nothing short of the crucifixion of Christ could satisfy for him the penal demand of the law, could anything less than the crucifixion of Christ again, the shedding of his blood anew, and the whole work of redemption again performed, renew him, or restore to him what Christ’s one offering had done for him?
The impossibility then of saints falling from grace, and being restored again to a gracious state, is perfectly absurd. And the inspired writer in this text, instead of representing that a saint can or may so fall, and be again renewed, most emphatically declares that it is impossible, and as reason why he declares it is impossible, he shows that it would require that Christ should again suffer and be put to open shame, and that can never again be done. And the holy Apostle says, in verse ninth of the same chapter, “But beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.
“Better things.” - Better things than what? Better things than they should fall away from the foundation on which God has built them. And why was he thus persuaded? Because, “When God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the vail; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
Well might these considerations persuade the apostle better things of the saints than that they could ever fall away from Christ, their foundation, for before they can fall, the two immutable things wherein it is impossible for God to lie, must both change and fail; the promise and oath of God, must fail, the strong consolation given to heirs of promise, must fail; the hope which they have as an anchor to the soul, must cease to be either sure or steadfast, and the everlasting priesthood of Christ must also fail, for these are the things which accompany salvation. But some have supposed that our text describes an almost christian. Such a thing as an almost christian never existed either in heaven or earth. We are either christians or we are not. We are either dead in sins, or quickened together with Christ; we are either born again, or we are not born again; we love God or we hate him; there is no middle ground or intermediate place. Those who were once enlightened, are made alive from the dead; for “in him [Christ] was life, and the life was the light of men.” Therefore until quickened by immortal life in Jesus Christ, we are under the power of darkness, and it is impossible to see the kingdom of God, or the things of his Spirit, until we are born again. Christ is the heavenly gift; he is the unspeakable gift of God, for God has given him to be head over all things to his church. The gift of God is eternal life, and John says of Christ, “This is the true God, and eternal life.” And Christ says they that eat his flesh and drink his blood, or who eat of him as the bread that came down from heaven, shall never die. None but saints are partakers of the Holy Ghost. “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.” Again, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the Sons of God.” But all men have not the Spirit of God. When the promise of the Holy Ghost was made to the saints, it was in these words, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”
“And have tasted the good word of God.” Christ says, “The words which I speak unto you, they are Spirit and they are life.” “To whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.” “Being born again, not of a corruptible seed, but of an incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” Can any but God’s children taste of that word? Certainly not; neither can any others taste of the powers of the world to come. If there are now living on the earth any who have any other evidences, over and above those stated in our text, we have never met with them, and the Scriptures, unless we have sadly misread them, point out no other or stronger evidences of being in a gracious state. Let us, while we rejoice then that our God has made it as impossible that these shall fall away, as it is that Christ should be crucified afresh and put to an open shame, take heed to the admonition, to leave the rites and legal ceremonies of the old covenant, in which were embodied the principles, elementary parts, or first lessons, the types and shadows of good things which were to come, but which have now come, and go on to perfection, for the law made nothing perfect, but Christ in the gospel, or new covenant has, as our High Priest, by one offering perfected forever them that are sanctified.
We would be glad to help the mind of sister Poston on the text in Jude; but have only room here to say that we understand the angels here spoken of, to be the same of whom Peter speaks in 2 Peter ii. 1-4, as false prophets or teachers, who are represented in Revelations xii., as forming the train of the great red dragon, and who made war with Michael, and prevailed not, but were displaced from the church, and cast out into the earth; these are held under chains of darkness. God has hidden from them the things of his Spirit, and though they attempt to make a science of divinity, and may be ever learning, yet shall they never be able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
October 15, 1857.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 36 - 40