Isa. xlv. 21.
WHILE in a state of alienation from God, we are naturally inclined to question the justice of our sovereign Judge in consigning to perdition those who have violated his holy law, without providing for them the means of saving themselves from the wrath to come; hence many have concluded that the death of Christ was as indispensible to sustain the justice of God in the condemnation and eternal punishment of those who finally perish, as to open up a way for the salvation of such as are eventually saved. But however unregenerate men may view this subject, it is certain that nothing is so difficult to the mind of a quickened sinner as to comprehend the principle on which God can be just, and at the same time the justifier of such as have sinned against him. For the solution of these great mysteries, the ingenuity of men has been prolific in the introduction of various systems and doctrines; but after all that has been said on the subject, we remain, until divinely enlightened, as ignorant of the great doctrine of justification as though the efforts of mortals had never been called into requisition on the subject. From the theories of men it therefore becomes us to turn to the scriptures, and to the spirit of truth by whom the scriptures are opened experimentally to our understanding.
By inquiry at the sacred oracle, we learn that all the human family are violators of the holy law of God, and as such they are, of course, justly condemned. The language of the law is, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die;” and God has informed us, in his word, that “death has passed on all men, for all have sinned.” Now if justice required that salvation should be provided for us, and placed within our reach, before God could justly consign us to our punishment, it would fully imply that we were not justly condemned by the law; and if any are prepared to challenge the justness of our condemnation by the law, it will devolve on them to prove, either that the law itself is unjust, or that we are not violators of its precepts, and that neither of these positions can be sustained, the word of truth declares that “The law is holy, just and good;” and as before stated, all have sinned. This the apostle clearly demonstrates from the fact that all are mortal, and from the fact that none could die if they were not sinners. “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law,” &c. Hence the force of the apostle’s conclusion, “That every mouth might be stopped, and the whole world appear guilty before him.” Inasmuch, therefore, as the whole world are guilty before God, and justly condemned by the holy law, God was under no obligation in justice to provide for any a way of escape from the wrath to come. Hence we see that the law, as an administration of death, slays us, and leaves us without hope, where no created eye can pity, or arm deliver us; and to add, if possible, to the hopelessness of our condition under the curse of the fiery law, we are by nature so completely depraved that we are unconcious of our lost estate; nay, we feel abundantly able to deliver ourselves from the horrible pit, and by our own efforts to bring the Lord under an obligation to number us at last with the redeemed. Poor deluded mortals! how strangely they forget that they are condemned already, and that the wrath of God abideth on them, while thousands of Arminian teachers are laboring with their might to confirm them in the false notion that their die is not yet cast, and that they are still probationers, in a state of trial, to see whether they will or will not eventually deserve to be condemned.
How awfully absurd and unscriptural the idea that Jesus our Lord must die to open up a way of condemnation for those who perish; but this absurdity arises from the false notion that sinners are condemned and damned for rejecting the gospel, and that they could reject no gospel if no gospel had been offered to them, and that no gospel could have been offered had not Christ died for them. But be not deceived, dying reader. Christ came and died, not to condemn the world, they were condemned before he came, and that, too, independently of his coining. It is the legitimate province of the law to condemn, while nothing short of grace can save. It is as far from the province of the gospel to condemn as it is from the law to justify or save.
We will now pass to the consideration of the way of saving sinners. And first, as our object is to enlighten and edify those who are prepared by grace to receive the truth in the love of it, we will inquire, Are sinners justified and saved by grace, or by works, or by a union of both? Ultra Arminians affirm that salvation is attainable by works for all mankind, and these scoff at the idea of salvation irrespective of the meritorious works of the creature. Moderate Arminians hold that salvation is jointly of grace and works, and these ultimately carry out their system to the same extent with the ultras, by resting the whole matter of salvation, as we will presently show, on works. Divine revelation assures, “Fog by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.” - Eph. ii. 8, 9. In contradiction of the sentiment that salvation is of works, as held by ultra Arminians, the text last quoted declares, it is not of works; hence to contend for that doctrine amounts to no less than Deism and infidelity; besides we would inquire, What kind of works shall we suppose possess such power? Are they the works of the law? No. “By the deeds of the law no flesh living shall be justified.” It follows then, if by works at all, it must be by works contrary to law. Again, we ask Is it by righteous works; No, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done.” If by works, then it must be by works of unrighteousness. How daringly presumptuous then must be the man who in the face of these scriptures will still assert that men, by their own works, can save themselves.
Let us examine what we have denominated moderate Arminianism - that which ascribes salvation jointly to grace and works. Paul assures us that, “If it be of works, then it is no more of grace, otherwise work is no more work; and if it be of grace, it is no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace.” This one text then disproves the doctrine in question, and settles the matter forever, that it cannot be by both grace and works - it must be entirely of the one, or of the other. The above mentioned scripture declares it is not of the latter, it must therefore be exclusively of the for. mer. But we promised to show that this double refined, or moderate Arminianisin, amounts in the end to nothing short of ultra Arminianism, or the doctrine of salvation exclusively of works. True, they tell us that grace has placed us in a salvable state, that by grace Christ has died for all mankind, grace has opened the way of life, furnished us with ability, placed the means in our hands, &c.; but do they not also tell us that this same grace is given alike to all mankind? And notwithstanding they say that all were equally interested in this grace, yet they tell us that some, yea, a vast proportion, of these subjects of grace are now in hell; consequently, agreeably to their system, grace saves none. For instance, again, if Christ died for all, and a part of those for whom he died are in hell, does it not prove that something more than the death of Christ is required to save sinners? If the grace of God’s special, eternal, immutable, invincible love, the grace of redemption through his blood, forgiveness of sins, regeneration, adoption, sanctification, &c., were given to all men, and for the want of their co-operation in the work, all this grace is utterly lost in their case, does it not bring these polished Arminians on a level with their brethren who hold works, to the exclusion of grace, as the foundation of a sinner’s acceptance before a holy God? But it is a fact, let them deny it if they dare, that the Arminians do hold, preach and profess to believe that a man may be a subject of grace, an heir of Cod, may be washed in the blood of Christ, and be interested in the grace of regeneration, sanctification and adoption, and yet, if he work not, he will go down to perdition at last. How inconsistent therefore for them to pretend to believe that grace has anything to do with salvation; while at the same time they rest the whole on the works of the creature. But we have not so learned Christ.
ALEXANDRIA, D. C.,
November 30, 1837.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 400 – 404