WHILE preaching at the Delaware Association last May, we expressed our dissent from the popular view, that the glorified spirits which now surround the radiant throne of God, would, after the resurrection of the bodies of the saints and the dissolution of this material world, be called from their lofty mansions in the heavens, to undergo a fearful examination, in order to ascertain whether they were destined for heaven or hell; or that such as are now suffering the vengeance of eternal fire, will require to be put on trial, either to dissipate doubts on their own minds, or to convince their soverign Judge in regard to where they belong. Unable as we were at that time to express our mind fully upon the subject, we were not surprised that some of our brethren desired a more full explanation of our views. Regarding this as their right, we felt a pleasure in promising to explain what were our views, through the "Signs of the Times," especially as what we said on that occasion was not fully understood. Our frequent absence from home since we returned from Delaware, has prevented our giving earlier attention to the subject; nor shall we do much more even now, than to open the way for a friendly discussion of this subject.
Upon all subjects involving the contemplation of time and eternity, such is the weakness of human capacity, that we are apt to confound the one with the other in inexplicable jargon, and then leave the subject as a profound mystery. By some means, either by divine revelation, (as many believe) or by tradition, (as we are rather inclined to suspect) the notion is prevalent that the final destiny of mankind will not be known until after the end of time; that prior to such knowledge, these etherial heavens and this terrestrial globe shall be wrapt in annihilating conflagration, and cease to be. At that time, it is supposed, the assembled race of Adam shall be summoned to attend the grand assize in one promiscuous mass; when Christ, the Judge of quick and dead, shall robe himself in garments of dreadful majesty, ascend the throne of final decision, and then proceed to the examination of mankind; each in his turn to be examined, and then, as his case may be, take his place at the right hand or left. If these views are correct, are we not from necessity driven to the conclusion that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, all the patriarchs and prophets, the thief that went with his Redeemer to paradise, the apostles, and all the primitive saints, must at that dread day vacate the sphere of their divine, employment, and stand with trembling and dire anxiety before the dread tribunal? How many of the dear lambs of the flock of Jesus have trembled at the thought of being finally unable to make a good and sufficient apology for every deed done in their bodies. That there are passages of scripture which, in the manner we have generally, heard them expounded, would go far to establish such conclusions, we are not about to deny; but whether these scriptures have been rightly understood, and their testimony properly brought to bear upon this subject, we wish with due caution to examine.
As this article is only designed to present the outline of the investigation before us, we will notice a few things for. the consideration of our brethren, and leave them to reflect until a further opportunity shall be afforded to pursue the investigation.
Subject to the correction of brethren who have clearer views on this subject than we, we shall for the present assume the position, that on the part of God, all his works were known unto him from the foundation of the world; that the disclosures of time or eternity can add nothing to his certain knowledge of beings or things; that in his all wise and gracious purpose, every provision of grace was made that can possibly be requisite infallibly to secure the perfect safety of all the saints; and that he having predestinated them to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself, and having made them accepted in the Beloved, has as perfect knowledge of who they are, where they are, and to what they are destined, as he will have when all his saints shall sing the eternal anthem in the highest heavens. If this position can be established by the unerring word of truth, then the notion that arminian preachers, meeting-house walls, graveyards, &c., will be called on at some future judgment day to witness in the case of each individual of mankind, is a fallacious delusion.
We apprehend no difficulty in proving to the satisfaction of all consistent Old School Baptists, that God has chosen, predestinated, and effectually secured the salvation of all that will be eventually saved; so that no possible contingency can ever add to, or diminish from the number; and that their names were enrolled in the Lamb's book of life from the foundation of the world. And it is certainly worthy of remark, that two important events have demonstrated the utter impossibility of overturning the counsel of God upon this subject. The events to which we allude are, one, the introduction of sin into the world; the other, the powers of earth and hell combined in the tragedy of Mt. Calvary; but in both, the Lord has triumphed most gloriously. Of the first, the poet has justly said:
"Here Satan was non-pluss'd in what he had done;
The fall wrought the channel where mercy should run;
In streams of salvation that never run dry,
And all for the lifting of Jesus on high."
That mighty blow aimed to prostrate all our hopes, to blast forever all well grounded expectation of immortality, was overruled by the omnipotent arm of God, to further, instead of hinder the accomplishment of Jehovah's immutable designs. In the crucifixion .of our immaculate Redeemer, although it was emphatically their hour and the power of darkness, yet they could do only what God's hand and counsel had before determined should be done. We might also consider the violence and deadly opposition that has always been manifested towards the people of God in all ages of the world; yet not one of the stakes of Zion has ever been removed, nor has any of her cords been broken. Still Zion stands, like the pillars of Jehovah's throne, unshaken; and from age to age defying the storms of human wrath, the rage of men and devils. The election of grace is this day precisely what it always was, and what it shall ever continue to be. Upon the other hand, thousands of men and millions of money are annually employed to swell the number of those who shall be saved; yet, although they may make many proselytes, by land and by sea, they will find it much easier at last to wash out the color of the Ethiopian, and change the Spots of the fierce leopard, than to enlarge the society of the world of glory.
If it be admitted that the number of the redeemed of the Lord is immutably fixed and unalterably decreed, how can we consistently suppose that there remains any uncertainty requiring a final decision. when time shall be no more?
That the elect of God, in their connection with Adam, became involved in his transgression, and were by the law doomed to wrath and condemnation, is a truth that appears on the pages of holy writ; but so far as the law of God is concerned, they have been brought to judgment; all the accumulated guilt of all the family of God, from the creation of the world till the great burning day, has been weighed in the balance, and the exact amount required at the hand of our adorable Head and legal representative; by him the debt was canceled, and Sinai has ceased to thunder. This was a judgment day indeed, when Jesus bore our griefs, carried our sorrow, and the chastisement of our peace was laid upon him. But glory to God in the highest, by his stripes we are healed.
But it is contended, that Jesus himself is appointed the Judge of quick and dead; and that the destiny of all beings and all worlds hangs on his sovereign decision. To this divine truth we most cheerfully subscribe; and we do rejoice that all power in earth and heaven is vested in his hand; that his judgment is final, decisive, and from it there is no appeal; but does it necessarily follow that his judgment must be delayed until the heavens shall be no more? By no means. When he had satisfied all the requisitions of the law, had done and suffered all that was written of him in the prophets and in the psalms, when he came triumphantly forth from the tomb, having led our captivity captive, he was proclaimed the blessed and only potentate, the King of kings and the Lord of lords; and having thence ascended to his Father to receive a kingdom, he was divinely recognized in that office; and he who had but so recently stood to be judged at Pilate's bar, was now proclaimed the sovereign Judge of quick and dead. For unto the Son, God said: Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever. "I have set my King upon my holy hill of Zion." He went up with a shout, even with the sound of a trumpet. He went to receive a kingdom, leaving with the saints the kind assurance that he would come to them again; that he would associate his little flock with him in that kingdom; for he had redeemed them, and made them kings and priests unto God, and they. should reign with him forever. Nor did he leave them comfortless; he told them it was needful for them that he should go away; but he would return before some of them should see death; and also what should be the sign of his coming; nor was that coming, nor those signs to be deferred until the end of time, as many have vainly imagined; but it should take place when he should descend with a shout, as he went up, and come to be admired by all who waited for his appearing; but to take vengeance on the Jews, to break up and forever abolish the temple worship, destroy his enemies by the spirit of his mouth, and consume them by the brightness of his appearing. On that great and terrible day of the Lord, should appear the sign of the Son of man in the clouds of heaven; and then would he send his angels (or ministers) with the great sound of a trumpet, (the gospel) to gather together his elect; and then, having effectually abolished the middle wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles, he should sit upon his throne, and the twelve apostles that had followed him in the regeneration, should sit with him on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Then, at that very time, should all the nations of the earth be gathered before him; and he would separate them the one (nation) from the other, (nation) as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats, and set the sheep on his right hand, and the goats on his left, and say to the former, Come ye blessed; .and to the latter, Depart ye cursed.
This judgment day was ushured in about eighteen hundred years ago; and the division of the sheep of Christ from the goats has been progressing from time to time to the present, and will still progress, until every ransomed soul is effectually brought to occupy his place at the right hand of Jesus, and all the goats are placed with the accursed at his left hand. The very ministration of Jesus is in every expression carrying forward this work of judgment; his gospel echoes forth the sound, Come ye blessed; and is drawing the line between ;the precious and the vile, bidding every goat depart.
If Jesus our Lord did not assume his judgment seat when he came in the execution of these long predicted judgments on Jerusalem, in what capacity did he pour out the vials of divine wrath on that important occasion? His judgment in this case was rendered, viz: that all the blood of his servants that had been shed from the days of Abel, should be required of that generation, and that their judgment day should be more fearful than was that of Sodom and Gomorrah.
But it was foretold by prophets, that he should judge his people. In relation to them, he judges between them and all the other kindreds of the earth. "He calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out." He putteth them forth and goeth before them, &c. In the execution of this judgment, the experience of all the saints shall witness, When God speaks life to them, they rise from the state of death in trespasses and sins, and forthwith are brought into judgment. The awful throne appears, and they are arraigned; the mountains of their guilt are set in order before them; the law of God in flaming precepts, which they have violated, bears startling testimony against them; its sentence of death and damnation is thundered forth, and they confess the judgment, and sink in deep despair. In this their experience they are brought to see the law fulfilled, justice amply satisfied, and their souls redeemed by Jesus Christ their Lord. They see that he who bore their sins in his body on the tree, sank down beneath their weight in death, has risen indeed, and has ascended the throne of state, received his kingdom presides as judge supreme on his holy hill Zion, and from his mouth they hear the joyful decision: "Thy sins are forgiven." Far as the east is from the west, they are removed: the new covenant is presented; the law of Christ is written in their hearts, engraved on their minds; he will be their God and they shall be his people; he will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities he will remember no more. Now we conclude this judgment is conclusive and final, and the truth of God is pledged that their sins shall be remembered no more. Is it not inconsistent then for us to suppose we shall have to account for them all after the general resurrection of the dead.
That there is a day appointed when God will raise the bodies of all his saints, we fully believe; but not to try them, whether they be his or not: for they shall rise first; and their very appearing before the resurrection of the ungodly, will fully determine that they are his; they shall meet him in the air, and so shall be forever with the Lord. When they arise from their graves they shall come forth arrayed in immortality and incorruption, with bodies made like the body of their glorious Lord - not to be judged, but to shine in the radiant glory of Christ eternally. After the resurrection of the saints the wicked shall also be raised to a resurrection of damnation; for this is the decision of their righteous Judge, pronounced on them more than eighteen hundred years ago; and their resurrection and damnation will be but the execution of their sentence, as already passed upon them; for they are condemned already, and the wrath of God abideth on them, and their judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
From what we have written, the reader will understand us to believe that when Jesus calls a sinner from death to life, and gives him the assurance that his sins are forgiven, those sins shall be no more remembered; that the soul thus delivered shall no more be brought into condemnation; he is freely justified by grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; and this judgment is final and eternal; and in his resurrection he will only receive what is awarded in the judgment already rendered; that the wicked, dying in his sins, is already judged, and his sentence irrevokably pronounced by the sovereign Judge, so that when he ariseth at the last day he shall receive precisely according to the decision already made. We have not to wait until the heavens be no more, to learn our final destiny. If washed in the blood of Christ, arrayed in his righteousness, we are saved; if otherwise, we are lost, irretrievably lost, eternally lost!
We have extended this article beyond what we designed; but still there are several things connected with this subject that will require attention hereafter, among which several passages of scripture which have been supposed to establish the popular doctrine of judgment deferred &c. We wish not to impose our views on any brother, but having been called on, we frankly present them, and shall gladly hear from brethren on this subject.
New Vernon, N. Y.,
July 15, 1841.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 691 - 698