Very Dear and much esteemed Brother Beebe: It seems that I cannot do without your comforting paper, as I am situated where I cannot hear the Old School Baptists preach, or but very seldom see one of them. Will you please give your views on John 5:29. Some time ago this text got hold of my mind and seemed to worry me very much. “And shall come forth, they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” I seemed to be fully impressed that I had done nothing that is truly good; but I have done evil all my days.
Yours in much tribulation.
February 20, 1869.
Reply: In speaking of the children of God, Christ has pledged his word that he will raise them up to life and immortal glory at the last day. The Scriptures frequently distinguish them from others, as in this text, as they that have done good, which is to us an evidence, but not the cause of their salvation. As it is said, “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.” Whereas, neither their believing or being baptized is the cause of their salvation; nor their unbelief the cause of their damnation; but in both cases it is the evidence. Faith in Christ and obedience to his precepts give reliable evidence of being born of God, while unbelief and ungodly works are evidence of a state of condemnation.
Hence, in the vision of John, Revelation 20, he saw all the dead stand before God, and they were judged out of those things which were written in the books, and whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the lake of fire. Yet they were all judged, “every man according to his works.” The resurrection, judgment and final destiny shall be precisely according to, but not resulting from, their works; for they are judged out of those things which are written in the books. All whose names are in the book of the Lamb were there written from the foundation of the world. See Revelation 13:8, and 17:8. And they are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12,13. “Lord, thou wilt ordain peace for us, for thou also hast wrought all our works in us.” Isaiah 26:12.
From these Scriptures it is abundantly manifest that the works which correspond with the eternal records of the books out of which all the dead, both small and great, are judged before God, are the works which God has wrought in us, and has before ordained that we shall walk in them, and to secure the performance of which God himself works in us, both to will and to do. Hence in the absence of good works, thus defined, we lack reliable evidence that our names are in the Lamb’s Book of Life. No human or saving merit can be attributed to our good works, for they are but the development of what God has wrought in us. And we are expressly and repeatedly told in God’s sacred word of truth that the saints are saved by grace, not by works, lest any man should boast. “By grace ye are saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he hath saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Titus 3:5. Inasmuch, therefore, as God has before ordained that all his saved people shall walk in good works, and he himself has wrought all these good works in them, and worketh in them to will and to do of his good pleasure, we can find no evidence that any are his children in whom these works of God do not appear, and wherever they do appear they are known as the effect, and not as the cause, of our salvation. Just as the good fruit of a tree is the evidence that the tree is good, and not the cause of its goodness. In all who are born of the Spirit, God has wrought the works of repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, with fervent aspirations after holiness, and a loathing of the sins and pollution of their vile nature, the works of love and the law of Christ. And although, like our brother Farthing, and like the apostle Paul, they can find nothing good existing in or emanating from their earthly nature, but groan, being burdened with, and long to be delivered from the body of this death, they are, nevertheless, standing fully justified before God, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and clothed with the garments of salvation and covered with the robe of his righteousness, they have the righteousness of the law of God fulfilled in them, by him who has saved them from their sins, and brought in for them everlasting righteousness, and they shall be raised up at the last day in the resurrection of life.
September 1, 1869.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 484 – 486