WHEN the celebrated A. Toplady said, in reference to a controversy with John Wesley, that “To shoot at crows, was powder thrown away,” we thought it rather an ill-natured remark; for we are of the opinion that a becoming courtesy is due to all our religious opponents.
As the challenge of this dignified rabbi of methodism is universal, our readers, as well as ourself, are interested in the issue. The confidence that he expresses in his ability to meet and put to silence all such as differ from his notion of things, at once developes his zeal and his modesty. Unused as we are to combat with giants, it may seem presumptuous in us to, with only our “shepherd’s bag, our sling and a few smooth stones from the brook,” to look him in the face; but since we heard of the “Dialogue between the Methodist preacher and a Barber’s Block,” we have thought there may be some possibility of surviving an encounter with this uncircumcised Philistine.
Our opponent infers from the 7th page of our current volume, that we hold all who are not Predestinarian Baptists, as haters of the truth, and wonders if we think that God’s elect, in our day, is limited to the Predestinarian Baptists, &c. His inference, to say the least of it, is far fetched, and is neither said nor implied in any article on the page referred to; but as the ruling gentleman expresses a desire to know our thoughts in relation to the extent of the election of grace, we will inform him that we believe that God has absolutely chosen or elected in Christ Jesus, a portion of mankind, embracing an innumerable people, to be, in the fullness of time, called by grace, out of every nation, language, kindred and tongue under heaven, effectually and savingly, to a knowledge and supreme love of the truth, as it is in Jesus; of which truth Predestination is one very prominent branch, and so important, so radical and fundamental, that in its absence every other principle of the doctrine of God our Savior would be rendered precarious and uncertain. Its extent in our day is precisely what has been its extent from the ancients of eternity. In its hight and depth, its length and breadth, it is bounded in every particular by the good pleasure of the sovereign, eternal and immutable will of God. If we believed that the Predestinarian Baptist church, at this day, embraced all the elect, or in other words, that all the chosen of God were already gathered into the fold of Christ, we should henceforth look for no more ingathering of the redeemed; but so far from Such a. belief are we, that we confidently believe there are many of God’s elect yet to be brought to know and love the truth, who are yet in nature's darkness, alienated from God, and strangers to the spirit of his grace. And, for the special edification of our very reverend querist, we will add that, for aught we know to the contrary, there may be some among the poor benighted and deluded Methodists, over whom he has the dignity to preside, who are included in the purpose of grace; and who will ultimately, by virtue of the election of grace, (which doctrine now they hate) be brought to know, love and rejoice in the predestination of God. But while we cheerfully admit the possibility of some of the elect of God, in their depravity being sunken down even to the corruption and abomination of methodism; we as confidently deny the possibility of a single soul among them being saved in their methodism. They may be saved from it, but as the testimony of the Bible is true, they cannot be saved in it.
Now, if what is asserted in the “Signs of the Times” is true, we are called on to answer the following interrogatives of the ruling Elder of methodism, viz:
First. “By what law or rule will those be judged at the last day, for whom Christ did not die?”
To this question we reply, those for whom there is no redemption are judged already by the law of God, and by that law they are condemned already and the wrath of God abideth on them. This judgment is passed upon them, and their sentence is already pronounced by the sovereign Judge of the quick and the dead, and this decision is absolute, and from it there is no appeal. This sentence of the Judge, based upon the holy law which they have transgressed, consigns them in all their guilt and methodism to the withering curse of God, and their judgment now, of a long time hungereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. The judgment of the last day, to which we suppose our querist alludes, is but the day when the fullness of that almighty wrath to which they are already adjudged, shall be meted out to them. Anticipating our answer, our combatant objects, and asserts that the law of works was given to man before the fall; that by it all mankind are already condemned to die, and concludes from that death there can be no resurrection, only by the death of Christ. This objection thus stated to our views, arises from the blindness of the mind of its author, who being ignorant of the spirituality of the law of God, understands it only in reference to a natural death, or dissolution of our mortal bodies; but should he ever experience the quickening work of the Holy Ghost, and learn the spirituality of the law, he will be heard to exclaim with Paul, “When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” Then would his old legal notion of his personal holiness be shaken to its base, his filthy, ragged suit of human righteousness explode; his methodism ignite and be reduced to ashes, and all his fancied claim on God for acceptance would give up the ghost.
Mr. Ackers supposes that the atonement of Christ was as necessary to open the way of. damnation by a resurrection of the body, as to carry out the provisions of grace in the salvation of the elect of God; for he contends that they could not be raised from the dead, unless the law by which they were condemned was satisfied by the death of Christ. But, suppose for the sake of illustration, the law was satisfied in behalf of all mankind by the vicarious sacrifice of Christ, so that the messy doors of death could no longer hold his prisoners; and the ungodly were raised from that death, what would become of them? If Christ died for them all, he died to redeem them from all iniquity, and to purify unto himself a peculiar people; this supposition therefore involves a universal salvation of all mankind; and if so what becomes of methodism? What becomes of gospel condemnations If the demands of the flaming law of God are satisfied, Christ and the gospel came not to condemn men, and the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin: it must then of necessity follow that all mankind, or at least as many of them as are finally raised from the dead, are saved, and in that case what becomes of Mr. A.’s judgment of the last day, which he admitted in the former part of his letter?
But why waste our time in debating this point. If the resurrection of the ungodly, to a resurrection of damnation, implied a release from that death in which the ungodly are involved as transgressors of the divine law, then there would be some kind of plausibility in the quibbling of our antagonist; but such is not the case. The sovereign Judge has himself declared that they shall never see life; and yet he has affirmed that the hour is coming when all they that are in the graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth, and that portion of them of whom we are now writing, shall rise to a resurrection of damnation.
Second. The second question of our opposing champion, is but little more than a transposed repetition of the first; but as he has appended to it some startling declarations, by way of limiting the omnipotent God, and letting us know what he vainly supposes divine omnipotence itself cannot do, we will briefly notice his presumption, and leave him to urge his unequal war against that God whom he so audaciously blasphemes.
Who has authorized this pampered worm of the dust, this creature of yesterday, this ruling Elder of methodism, to connect the power of Christ to raise the dead, and to turn the wicked into hell, with his vicarious death and sufferings, so as to make his power and right to trample his enemies in his fury, and dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel, to depend upon the mediatorial sacrifice made for his people? Yet he has so asserted. Presumptuous man! Though he were the pope of Rome, instead of a ruling Elder, his assertions are arrogant and blasphemous. Know then, infatuated man, that the resurrection and eternal perdition of the ungodly, is but the execution of the law by which you have already admitted they were condemned, and from the penalty of which they cannot be released, until every jot and title of the law is fulfilled. That Christ has received all judgment; that he doth now preside over the destiny of all beings, and that too in his mediatorial character, we believe; but that which we understand involved in his mediatorial work, was to bear the sins of many, save his people from their sins, redeem them from the curse and dominion of the law by the sacrifice of himself bringing in for them everlasting righteousness, and to bring home to ultimate glory all that the Father gave him; and in reference to the ungodly, God has given to him the neck of his enemies, that he may rule them with a rod of iron, and break them to pieces, &c. He stood engaged to honor the law, by which the sons of Adam stood condemned: this pledge he has redeemed by the complete deliverance of his people or elect from their guilt; and on the part of his enemies he is still holden responsible to honor, the law by carrying its decisions into execution! According to the eternal counsel he has redeemed his people, and is now gathering them from the ends of the earth, and causing them to experience the joy of his salvation. He is also, as the Mediator, now presiding as Head over all things to his church, and in that character, and in that union and connection with his church as the members of his mystical body, will he thunder upon his adversaries. He will continue in his official character to preside, and hold all the power in heaven and on earth in his hand, over all flesh, until he has given eternal life (experimentally) to as many as the Father has given him; and until all his enemies are made his foot-stool, until every soul for whom he died shall receive the consummation of glory, and all enemies shall sink down to their eternal perdition.
Third. The third question of our opponent carries a false-hood on the face of it; for the scriptures, so far from every where teaching that the resurrection of the unjust is through Christ, as the Mediator, has given no intimation of that kind anywhere. The unjust shall be raised by him, but not through him; for he is appointed Judge of the quick and the dead, as well as Mediator of the New Testament. Another palpable error is expressed in the statement of the question, viz: That the resurrection of the unjust is a reversion of the sentence of the law of God, and implies a satisfaction rendered to that law. Not even in the resurrection of the saints, and their deliverance from the curse and dominion of the law, is the sentence of the law reversed, or in any jot or tittle annulled; Christ came not to destroy the law, nor the prophets; but he declared that heaven and earth should pass away, but not one jot or tittle of the law should fail, until all was fulfilled. He came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it.
By virtue of union and relationship existing previously between Christ, the Head, and his church, the body, he appeared in the flesh, was made under the law, to do and suffer all that the law could, or did require or inflict, as the Head and identity (in law and justice) against whom the sins of his church were charged; and he did endure the sentence of the law, without the least abatement, so far as it related to him as the Head, or his members as his body.
Fourth. This fourth question is a transmigration of its predecessors, into a new shape; and as with the authority of a ruling Elder, he demands,on what principle, made known in revelation, will the sentence of the law unto death be reversed in the resurrection of the unjust, if Christ never tasted death for them; and with an air of triumph becoming one of his superior dignity, after dashing to pieces the man of straw he has so ingeniously put together, he demands, Who, of all the predestinarians that ever lived, or that now live, can answer the question? What a puzzle! Predestinarians of all ages, give place! Here comes the master spirit, a real Goliath, to defy the whole army of the Living God! Nor does his ambition suffer him to stop at challenging the armies of the Lord; but the Commander also. For God is the Predestinator of all things; and having confidence in his own decrees, is what this assailant of his power and truth denominates a Predestinarian. Let the potsherds of the earth strive with the potsherds of the earth; but who art thou, 0 ruling Elder, that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
Aside from the foolish, ridiculous way of triumph, assumed by his reverence, this question has already been answered in the foregoing remarks. As in the prophecy of scripture, A child shall put his hand on the hole of the asp, so have we, in this instance been permitted to do; for as there is no reversion of the law, nor of its sentence of death, so no principle is either required or given in the scriptures to that effect.
Fifth. Does not the resurrection of the just, &c., depend for its truth, upon the fact that Christ died for them, and purchased their deliverance from that curse, of the law? We answer, No. Christ has bought his people with a price; but of any other purchase that Christ has ever made, the bible saith not. He has purchased his people - they are called the flock of God which he purchased with his own blood; but all the blessings of the New Testament, including the resurrection of the just, are unbought, unincumbered, incorruptible, undefiled, and can never fade away. they are all the gift of God, freely bestowed, not of debt, but by grace.
Sixth. The sixth is another version of the same old question, and demands, How the unjust, for whom there is no Mediator’s death, satisfying the law, shall nevertheless arise from under that sentence?
As he has stated his one question in half a dozen different shapes, perhaps he may expect as many answers; but we shall dismiss this part of the subject when we have once more told him, that the resurrection of the ungodly to damnation, is no reversion of the law, nor release from its sentence.
The balance of Mr. A.’s letter is devoted to the benevolent work of informing us of what he considers the Predestinarians ignorant; and for one, professing to believe the doctrine of Predestination, we most cheerfully confess that in this part of his letter he has judged us rightly; for we do not know how the whole human family are redeemed from the law of works, and yet a large portion of them left finally to perish on account of their works. We never expect to be let into this secret short of some arminian school; for the bible holds forth no such nonsense. The old Wesleyan cavils, In regard to the atonement, we have been somewhat familiar with from our youth up; but to understand or discover any affinity his sentiment bears to the scriptures, is infinitely beyond us; excepting that the scriptures have taught us that such evil men and seducers shall come, and that they should wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
In turn, as it is but fair, we will state a few questions to Mr. A. and his brotherhood.
1. By what divine warrant do you denominate the restrictions placed upon Adam prior to his transgression, the law of works, in distinction from the Sinai law?
2. You say that salvation by the death of Christ, from the curse of the law, both as to the works it requires for justification and from death, as its penalty, is a universal salvation. Can you tell us for what manner of works those shall be damned, who are saved from the law of works, and from the penalty of the law, and yet have failed to be interested in that salvation which is connected with eternal glory?
3. How much, if any, are those benefited by the salvation from the works, curse and penalty of the law, by the death of Christ, who finally perish?
4. If Christ died alike for all men, and some men, as you state, shall finally perish, did Christ, or did he not die in vain for those who perish?
5. Does that salvation which you admit is connected with eternal glory, result from the death of Christ, and that redemption which he has accomplished by his death? or,
6. May not a large portion of the human family be interested in the death of Christ and his salvation, and yet be damned at last? and if so,
7. Is there any connection between the atonement of Christ and the salvation which is with eternal glory?
8. Do you with your deluded thousands believe that the salvation which is with eternal glory, is of grace, or of works? If of grace, what grace? seeing the death of Christ is in the case of so many of no effect: And may not those for whom Christ died be the recipients of his grace, and after all be damned? If of works, pray tell us how men can be either saved or damned by works, when all men, as you tell us, are redeemed from the law of works; since the scriptures declare that where there is no law, there is no transgression, and that sin is the transgression of the law. And, don’t forget it - tell us:
9. What is the ground of your hope for acceptance with God, seeing that you find no eternal glory connected with that salvation which is through the atonement of Christ, and that deliverance from the curse and penalty of that law?
10. Finally. Do you not believe that after Christ has made a full atonement, and by it satisfied the demands of the law, removed the curse, and borne the penalty, to the full and complete satisfaction of the law, that God, the Spirit, strives woos, entreats, beseeches, and exerts his utmost power to save many, who, notwithstanding all this exertion of Omnipotence, continue obstinate, and at last perish in their sins? And do you not believe that very many sinners of that sort, on whom the blood of Christ, his groans on Calvary, his intercession in heaven, and all the striving of the Spirit has failed to convert, have been converted, and many others may yet be converted by their own works, by the exertions of arminian preachers, camp-meetings, anxious-benches, straw-pens,* Sabbath Schools, Mission Societies, &c., with their kindred institutions?
Last. If the Lord has provided for, and labored to effect the salvation of any who, by their obstinate resistance of his power and grace, are not finally saved, what assurance have you arminians that these obstinate sinners will consent to be damned at last; and if the Lord has not power to control them now, what evidence have you that he will be more mighty, or they less obstinate then?
*We do not know that we use precisely the technical term to designate the little enclosure where the converts prostrate themselves, near the rostrum, at camp-meetings.
NEW VERNON, N. Y.,
December 1, 1841.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 728 – 737