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CONTROVERSY ON JUSTIFICATION.

While we wish for a free discussion of every subject of general importance to the household of faith, we regret that our brethren differ so widely on a subject on which they are so well agreed. Unfortunately some of our correspondents either do not understand themselves, or they do not understand each other. Some of our brethren have labored, in this discussion, to establish the doctrine of the eternity of the counsel or purpose of Jehovah, the doctrine of predestination, the eternity of the love of God, and of the election of grace. All this is quite irrelevant, inasmuch as these sentiments have not been assailed, but are alike dear and sacred with all parties concerned in the discussion.

Apprehensive that we have not yet been fully understood on the subject of justification, we will here give a brief statement of our views on this subject in language so plain, if possible, as to prevent any who are not willfully blind from accusing us of Arminianism or Unitarianism.

First. We hold and believe that the people of God are the church of God, and mystical body of Christ, and in this relation to him they had a vital existence in Christ, as their divine and spiritual Head, and Mediatorial representative, from the ancients of eternity.

Second. Existing as they did in Christ, they were recognized as the bone of his bones, and the flesh of his flesh, a part of himself, one with Christ as Christ is one with the Father; in this complete identity with their glorious Read, the body, which comprised all the election of grace, (not as being elected into, but created in him,) were loved with the same love, precisely the same in quality, quantity, date and duration. Also, as thus identified with Christ, were interested in and participants of his inherent and eternal perfections, which needed no law righteousness, of obedience or sacrifice, nor any act whatever, for justification.

Third. That the term justification, as used in the scriptures, in no case has reference to that perfection described in the foregoing paragraph, but is invariably used in a forensic or law sense, and in every instance on record, where the word is used at all, it refers directly and exclusively to that justification which legally, honorably, effectually and forever acquits and clears the people of God from actual sin, guilt and transgression. Now seeing that justification is that by which we are delivered from the demands and penalty of the law which had cursed us as guilty sinners, can any suppose that we were delivered before we were involved, washed in his blood before we were defiled, or his blood was shed? Is it not far more becoming and consistent for us to believe what God has revealed on this subject? He has informed us that “by his stripes we are healed,” and that “by one offering he has perfected forever them that are sanctified,” that he was delivered for our offences, and raised for our justification; and lest we should still mistake the doctrine, Paul has given us a very lucid illustration of the doctrine in the fourth and fifth chapters of Romans. Hear him. “As by the offence of one (Adam) judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one (Christ) the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life; for as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one (Christ) shall many be made righteous.” To be made righteous, in the sense of the above scripture, could not possibly mean what had already been done eternally, but a work requiring that actual obedience, and that even unto death, should be rendered to the same law that condemned us, in the first Adam, by Christ as the second Adam, which is the Lord from heaven. How Adam could prefigure Christ, as declared in the above texts, and how all the sacrificial offerings under the law, could be typical of a work actually performed eternal ages before the former was created or the latter were presented, we are not able to conceive.

Fourth. Everything is, and eternally was, naked and open to the eye of God. He saw from everlasting the whole history of his people, and in his all-wise decree provided, prepared and ordained every link of the adorable chain of salvation, not leaving the smallest particle in the work of redemption, calling, justification, or of the ultimate glorification of his people, to be determined by the will or works of angels, men or devils. All was ordained, and God has even declared the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” But the execution of what he had purposed, in regard to the deliverance of lost sinners from guilt, condemnation and death - their final and everlasting justification through his blood, from all things from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses, was securely ordained in the hands of a Mediator, to be duly executed in due time.

If to believe the above doctrine constitutes us unsound in the faith of the gospel, in the estimation of brethren whose opinions we highly regard, we deeply regret that such should be the case.

In this number will be found the communications of our esteemed brethren, Marven and Poteet, in defence of eternal justification. It was not our intention to attempt a review of them at this time; but we will however venture a few remarks.

It is, to us at least, somewhat remarkable that no two who have written against our views appear to be agreed among themselves. Brother Marven objects to What he denominates a time justification, and so do we. That purpose of grace which was established in eternity, and executed through the obedience and death of Christ in the flesh, by the which he has canceled the demands of the law, put away our sins, and blotted out the hand-writing of ordinances, in our estimation deserves a much better name; for by it “he has perfected forever all them that are sanctified; it being provided for and secured before all time, and being in duration everlasting, although based on what our Lord performed and suffered in time, is entitled to all that consideration given to it in the scriptures of truth.

In reply to brother Marven’s queries, we say:

1. All the Old Testament saints have gone to heaven.

2. On brother Marven’s position that they are eternally just and pure, they could need no washing, and they who were never imperfect could need no pardon; why wash that which is already whiter than snow? And why pardon those who were never guilty, seeing our Lord has informed us that just men need no repentance? But according to our view, we can with propriety answer that all the elect of God, from Abel to the end of time, were washed and made clean in that blood which Christ shed on Calvary; for we see no more difficulty in its application, to the removing of the guilt of God’s people before, than to those after the death of Christ. Our brother M. will understand us to say, we believe that all the Old Testament saints went home to glory, being washed, pardoned, and freely justified, through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ; even before that blood was actually shed. As to brother Marven’s view of the atonement, looking back as well as forward, we have published the same idea on that point.

3. To his third question, we answer affirmatively. They had that righteousness by faith, and on that righteousness they all went home to glory.

Brother Poteet takes different ground. Brother Marven, if we understand him, makes eternal justification proceed from eternal love; but brother Poteet makes eternal love proceed from eternal justification; for he cannot conceive how God could love his people unless they were justified. According to brother P., the saints never were concluded in sin, sin never was charged on, or imputed to them; every mouth has not been stopped, nor the whole world become guilty before God; as he explains eternity, very justly, to be without beginning or end; the saints had no sin prior to eternity, nor can they have any after eternity expires, as it cannot expire, and throughout its duration he has then completely justified. Hence, if the position can be established, Christ did not die for the elect; for he came not to gain the righteous, but sinners to repentance. If brother Poteet is one of those happy beings who was never sinful, polluted, vile, and justly condemned by the holy law, he has decidedly the advantage of us. We were conceived in sin, and our only hope is that, while we were yet sinners, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly, and that God for the great love wherewith be loved us, even when we were dead in sin, hath quickened us together with Christ, &c.

We agree with brother Poteet that all spiritual blessings were embraced in the grace given us in Christ before the world was, including election, calling, regeneration, justification, perseverence, and final glory, but shall we therefore say that our brother Thomas Poteet, whom we love, dearly love in the Lord, was eternally regenerated, because we believe that blessing was secured to him in the purpose and grace of God, before the world began? Surely not.

ALEXANDRIA, D. C.,
October 5, 1838.

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 452 – 457