“And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.”
Our Lord was in discussion with the Jews, who professed a sacred regard for the Scriptures of the Old Testament, and for all the requisitions of the law which was given to their fathers; but they rejected Christ as the true Messiah which was to come. They had charged him with a desecration of their Sabbath day. Christ asserted his power not only to heal the sick, but also to raise the dead, and judge the world, and claimed that his honor and glory was identical with that of his Father, so that he that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father, for he and the Father are one. He also referred them to the testimony that his Father bore of him, and to the testimony of John, and the works which he wrought, and finally to the Scriptures on which they professed to rely as the infallible truth of God, and in the preceding verse, he said to the Jews, “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come unto me that ye might have life.”
From this Scripture and its connection, as well as from all other parts of the Scriptures, we are clearly taught that no external evidence presented to the natural intellect of man, can possibly make men savingly acquainted with our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Son of God, and the only Savior of lost, helpless sinners. These Jews were exalted to heaven in regard to their opportunities, and, as he had frequently reminded them, they had been more highly favored in regard to external evidence than any other nation or people under heaven. To them pertained the giving of the law; to them the Scriptures were given; to them all the prophets had been sent; to them John the Baptist had come in the Spirit and in the power of Elijah. To their shepherds the angelic messengers had brought down from heaven the news of his wonderful birth in Bethlehem; to them he had personally come in the flesh, in precise agreement with all the predictions of their prophets, and in harmony with all the types and shadows of their law. In their hearing he had spoken as never man spake, preached as never man preached; in their presence he had healed the sick, cast out devils, raised the dead, and performed many wonderful works; but with all this mighty array of testimony before their eyes, they could not regard him in his true character, as the fountain and source of life and immortality, or they would come to him for life, instead of seeking to be justified by their own works. If these Jews, with all the testimony which was presented to their natural understanding, were still destitute of saving faith in him, how preposterous that Gentile sinners, with more limited opportunities, should become more savingly acquainted with him, as the true God, and eternal Life, without a special revelation of him to them as such, by the Father. “No man knoweth the Son but the Father, and he to whom the Father will reveal him.” These Jews, as we see, were as destitute of will as they were of power to come to Jesus for life, for they neither possessed the ability or disposition to look to him for life and salvation. As to their will, they thought they had eternal life secured to them in the Scriptures, inasmuch as they understood the Scriptures to signify that salvation was of the Jews, and like all Arminians of every other age, their will was enlisted in the vain hope of being justified by the deeds of the law, and to inherit eternal life as a consideration for works of righteousness which they had done, or intended to do. Therefore they had no disposition, inclination, desire or will to look to him, or come to him, that they might have life. Another evidence that they had not the will was, they did not believe that he had power to give eternal life to any of the children of men; for they did not believe on him as the Son of God. Furthermore, they saw no necessity of coming to him for life, as he had just told them, they thought they had eternal life in the Scriptures. They had mistaken that temporal life, which was promised to the children of Israel on condition of their obedience to the law, for eternal life, and claimed that they were Abraham’s children, and never in bondage, and hence they spurned the idea of being made free. The reason why they had not the will to come to him for life, is very clearly stated in the thirty-seventh and thirty-eighth verses of this chapter. Speaking of the Father who had sent him, and who had borne witness of him, he said to them, “Ye have not heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. And ye have not his word abiding in you, for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.” They could have no will to come to Jesus, as the only Savior, unless God worked in them, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
We are aware that many are taught that sinners, in a state of unregeneracy, are only deficient in their inclination, and that if by moral suasion their natural minds could be convinced by argument, or otherwise, that it would be to their interest to come to Christ, their wills would yield, and there would be no other impediment in their way. Allowing this theory to be true, there would be no need of a Christ to save a sinner at all. Every intelligent being knows that the human will of man is accessible to the power of man; and if nothing more were required than a change of will, the selfishness of man may be successfully appealed to by the eloquence of revivalists, and their carnal will enlisted to be happy here and hereafter, and if this were all the difficulty, the work would then be done. But this idea conflicts not only with the Scriptures, but also with the experience of every quickened sinner. Every subject of grace will testify that when their blind eyes were opened to discover their sinful state, they were not only willing, but would have given worlds, if they possessed them, to see a way possible for them to be saved without a sacrifice of the justice and truth of God. This is what filled them with deep despair, not that they were unwilling to be saved; but that there were impediments in the way which none but God was able to remove. They knew that they could not be saved in their sins, and the knew not how they could be saved from their sins. Nor could this difficulty be removed from them, until Christ was revealed to them as their Savior. They then felt they knew, and they confessed that their salvation was wholly of the Lord, from first to last, that it was not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God who sheweth mercy. But to settle this point eternally, Christ has declared, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” - John vi. 44. The caviling of Arminians, that the Father draws every one of the human family, is silenced by the declaration that Christ will raise him up at the last day all that are drawn by the Father to him. And in the thirty-seventh verse of this same chapter he says, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me: and he that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” This settles the matter effectually and forever. The emphatic testimony of Christ himself is an end of all controversy with all who fear God. We cannot honor the Father except we honor the Son, and certainly cannot honor the Son if we believe not his testimony on this, as well as on all other subjects.
That all unregenerate men are destitute of a will to come to Christ that they might have life, is certain from the testimony of the Scriptures, especially from the words of the Savior himself, and the reason why they are destitute of the will, is because his word abideth not in them; and the reason why his word abideth not in them is, because they are not “Born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” - 1 Peter i. 23. And, “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.” - 1 John iii. 9. “Of his own will begat he us, with the word of truth.” - James i. 18. The testimony is not, That of our own will begat he us, by the word of our power. But it is just as our blessed Redeemer has said, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” - John vi. 63. “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.” - John v. 21. Here we have, in this last passage, an illustration of the manner in which the Son of God quickeneth whom he will. How does the Father raise the dead? Does he wait until the dead are willing to come to him for life? Does he promise to the slumbering tenants of the graves, that if they are willing he will raise them and quicken, or give them life? Certainly not. “The Lord shall descend from heaven with a shout, [not with a proposition, a proffer, or an invitation, but] with the voice of the arch-angel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” - 1 Thess. iv. 16. “We shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised.” - 1 Cor. xv. 51, 52. “Even so,” or exactly so, precisely so, “the Son quickeneth whom he will.” Will-worshipers, free-agents, and all Arminians, in whom the word of life does not abide, may, with the Jews, rage and blaspheme, but helpless sinners saved by grace, will exclaim in the fullness of their enraptured spirit, “Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are all thy ways, thou King of saints.” “We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty; which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.” - Rev. xv. 3, & xi. 17.
Middletown, N. Y.
June 1, 1855.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 3
Pages 209 - 214