“HE that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
OUR views upon the above declaration of scripture are solicited by brother J. M. Whipple, of Massachusetts.
Throughout the sacred scriptures the Lord has drawn a line between believers and unbelievers, and by the same has divided the sons of Adam into two distinct classes. To the one or to the other of these we, each of us, of necessity must belong. The believers are in the New Testament designated from the others as those who when manifested by the gospel do believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the illustration of the above text let us consider briefly, first, the believer; second, the thing believed; third, their manifest exemption from condemnation; fourth the unbeliever - how demonstrated as such, and to what they are condemned.
1. Who are believers? The current notion among men is that every one who professes faith in Christ, irrespective of what may be his sentiments, provided he is sincere in ‘believing something, is in an evangelical sense a believer; hence men may believe with the Arminians, that the sinner is saved by works and justified by the deeds of the law; or with the apostle, that salvation is of the Lord, and not by works, &c.; and yet their characters are to be established by their sincerity rather than their faith; but our bible speaks of those who shall believe a lie, that they all may be damned, &c. The characters who believe in Christ, in the sense intended in the text, are such as have been taught of God. How shall they believe on him of whom they have not heard? And what preacher except the Lord himself can make the dead hear his voice, and live, he says by Isaiah, “I will cause my glorious voice to be heard.” By the Psalmist, “Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound.” And by the apostle, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the (logos) WORD OF GOD.” And Christ himself says, “The hour is coming, and now Is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” But who are they that are thus brought to believe in Christ? The answer is at hand: “As many as were ordained unto eternal life.”
2. What do they believe? The text says they believe on his name, i. e., on Christ’s name. But is it enough that we believe that such a being visited our world eighteen hundred years ago, was born of Mary, wrought with Joseph, baptized by John, accused by false witnesses, delivered to be crucified by Pilate, that he died on the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, &c. Is this all? Does this constitute saving faith on his name? Certainly not; for if this were all, devils were believers of all this, and thousands of unregenerated men believe this, but we apprehend that for me to believe on his name, I must have an evidence that he is my Savior, that he was delivered to die for my offences, that he arose for my justification, and that by his stripes I am healed; an evidence to this amount no man can possibly enjoy in an unregenerate state, for it is the Spirit that beareth witness with our spirits that we are born of God; and this is the only infallible evidence we can have, that God for Christ’s sake has pardoned our sins, or that we are healed by his wounds. This we say is by the Spirit applied, and the carnal mind receiveth not the things of the Spirit. And again, “No man can call Jesus Lord but by the Holy Ghost.” Hence the unregenerate cannot be reckoned among believers, whatever they may believe or assent to; for although they should swear that the Lord liveth, yet verily, the Lord says they swear falsely. They must, to constitute them believers, receive the spirit of truth. “Even the spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not,” &c.
3. Believers are manifestly freed from condemnation. “There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness unto every one that believeth.” “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned.” Hence the very fact of their believing on Christ as their Savior, in strict agreement with the whole tenor of the gospel, is a manifestation of their adoption by grace vine into the family of Christ, and demonstrates the fact that they were predestinated to the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.
Upon this very principle, it was required by the primitive Baptists that all who were admitted to the waters of baptism should be received on a profession of faith in Christ, and this faith is always made manifest by works, but not by law-work, or the works of the flesh, or pursuing the cunning devices of men, or obeying the commandments of men; all this would prove nothing on this point, for even the Pharisees performed abundance of such work. But the work which proceeds from the faith of God’s elect are works of obedience to Christ, showing that the soul relies or believes on him as the King, Prophet, Priest and Lawgiver, Example, &c., and a faith which does not exhibit all this is dead faith, being alone.
Not he who worketh, or he who useth means, supports popular institutions, sits on an anxious bench; or he who speaks with the tongues of men, or angels, who gives his goods to the poor, or his body to he burned; but he that believeth on Christ, relies on him, trusts his whole interest for life and death, for time and eternity, on his blessed name; this soul shall never be brought into condemnation, for he has passed from death unto life. These shall never be ashamed or confounded, world without end.
4. The unbeliever. This character includes all who are not included in the number of those who believe on Christ. We must be either believers or unbelievers; there is no neutral ground; we are either the children of God or the children of the wicked one; heirs of Christ or heirs of misery; we either gather with the flock of Christ, or we scatter.
This dreadful character belongs to many who stand in the estimation of the world eminently pious; and whose faith is deemed by men far superior to what we conceive to be the faith of Jesus. But -
“The painted hypocrites are know!!
Through the disguise they wear.”
This character, as our brother W. will discover, did embrace, at the time the words of this text were uttered by the lips of Jesus, the most popular and respectable religious denomination on the earth - the Pharisees. “Ye believe me not because ye are not my sheep,” &c. “If ye were of God ye would believe on me.” The unbeliever is made manifest by an exhibition of the glorious gospel of the Son of God. For the gospel is light, and no less so because the blind have no eyes to comprehend it; and whatsoever maketh manifest is light. The gospel makes manifest. “It shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all people.” Jesus says, “If I had not come, &c., ye would not have had sin; but now ye have no cloak for your sin.” The very fact that Jesus had come as the light of the world, and that they who were in darkness had no eyes to comprehend that light, was fail testimony that they were blind. An exhibition of his eternal truth took from them the cloak or covering of falsehood under which they had hid themselves, and they stood detected and condemned. They did not occupy the ground of probationers, in a state of trial, but were condemned already; and the demonstration of their condemnation was their unbelief. If they were of God, if they were ordained to eternal life, they would believe; but they did not believe, hence they were not of God, nor ordained to life, consequently they were weighed in the balance and found wanting; condemned and waiting their awful execution.
But unto what are they condemned? To die in their sin; for if, says Jesus, “Ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” “He that believeth not shall be damned.”
To conclude. Reader, on which side of this line dost thou stand? Art thou a believer in Jesus? do you trust alone in him for salvation and eternal glory? or art thou an unbeliever, trusting in an arm of flesh - human works or personal virtues? “Be not deceived, God is not mocked.”
ALEXANDRIA, D. C.,
February 24, 1837.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 354 – 358