[The following editorial should prove interesting since the book by Elder Lemuel Potter has recently been put back in circulation by those that do not believe in absolute predestination or the eternal vital union of Christ and His elect.
The reader can readily see that the seeds of discord were being sown among the wheat with articles of the type Potter set forth. Notice the date at the end of Beebe's reply. The inroads of conditionalism had begun to take place.]
"Unconditional Election Stated and Defined, or Denial of the Doctrine of Eternal Children, or Two Seeds in the Flesh." By Elder Lemuel Potter, Member and Pastor of the Baptist Church, Grayville, Illinois.
A copy of this work has been sent us, probably by the author, and courtesy requires an acknowledgment of the receipt of it. It may also be expected that we should review the work. We have not the time to examine it as carefully and thoroughly as would be requisite to form a judgment of the merits of all that is contained in the 125 octavo pages. From the cursory glance over some of its pages, we find much to approve, especially in his scriptural arguments in defense of unconditional election, and in refutation of what is commonly known as the Two Seed doctrine in the flesh of the human family. But of what he denominates the "Doctrine of Eternal Children," it being a doctrine of which we do not remember that we ever heard before, brother Potter must excuse us for asking for more light. On pages 51 and 52 he says:
"This is not news to the Lord; he knew this would be the state of mankind, as well in the very dawn of eternity, so to speak, as he does now; and he made a choice in Christ before the world began of a people for himself, out of the polluted race of Adam. In this he showed mercy to the objects of his choice. Hence, he chose them in Christ before the foundation of the world; not because they were holy, or possessed any degree of holiness, but that they should be holy and without blame before him in love. In the covenant of grace in Christ before the world began, all the means necessary to their redemption and final salvation were ordained in Christ, and this is what the apostle means when he says, 'Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began (I Timothy 1:9).' Those people were given to Christ in the covenant, and have sustained a covenant relationship to him ever since, or from all eternity. They are his by gift, not that they are his because they were in him, as the plant is in the seed, and have emanated from him in that sense. This people are a special people to the Lord all through the Bible; and as a distinguishing mark between them and the others, he calls them sheep, and the others goats. This difference is made between them by the mercy of God in choosing them to salvation. In the covenant with Abraham, they are embraced in the promise, 'In thee, and in thy seed, shall all the families of the earth be blessed.' This is the seed that David speaks of: 'A seed shall serve him, and it shall be accounted unto the Lord for a generation.' Here is the Lord's seed; and the fact that they are called a seed does not argue that they are as old as the Lord. But we are told that they must be everlasting children, for Christ is said to be an everlasting Father, and there could not have been an everlasting Father without everlasting children. 'And his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).' This is a prophecy; and a prophecy is not the telling of what has been, but what shall be. He shall be called, The everlasting Father; not has eternally been. The believer in Christ shall have everlasting life, or hath everlasting life. Does that argue that he eternally had everlasting life? Then those people are called sheep, and they are in every inhabited portion of the earth. 'My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them (Ezekiel 34:6).'"
We fail to comprehend how God made choice of a people in Christ if that people did not in any sense exist in Christ when the choice was made. We do not understand that the flesh and blood of the people chosen in Christ existed in him, nor that he himself existed in the flesh until his incarnation, for in their flesh and blood relation they did not exist until their creation in the earthly Adam, in common with all others of mankind. Still we are informed in the word of divine revelation that the saints at Ephesus and the faithful in Christ Jesus were blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places IN Christ Jesus, according as he hath chosen them in him (not into him) before the foundation of the world. We cannot conceive of the existence of Christ as the Son of God, begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, only in his Mediatorial relation to his eternal Godhead, as the Father, and as the Head over all to his church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. We have understood that he is the Word that was with God, and also that he is the Word that is God. The Head of the church is Christ, and the Head of Christ is God. The fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily in him. He could no more sustain his Mediatorial relation if he and the Father were not one, than the church could inherit eternal life if they were not one with him, even as he and his Father are one. We think we agree with brother Potter, if we understand him, that Christ did not exist in flesh and blood (except in purpose) until he was made flesh by incarnation, by being made of a woman, and conceived by and born of the virgin Mary. But we do believe that he did exist as the Son of God, as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, from everlasting. His Mediatorial names or titles, Jesus and Christ, are expressive of his relation to the Father as a begotten Son, and to the church as her Head and spiritual and eternal life. The name Jesus signifies Savior; and he is the Savior of his body, the church, which he could not be if he were not truly God, for he says, "I am the Lord, and beside me there is no Savior (Isaiah 43:11)." This is all expressed in his name Jesus. Christ is a name or title signifying Anointed, used interchangeably to signify the same, which will be seen by comparing Psalms 2:2 and 45:7 with Acts 4:25-27. Both titles are applied to the Mediatorial relations borne by him to the Father and to the church, without the least disparagement of his eternal power and Godhead, and the Word which was and is and must forever continue to be the "true God and eternal life."
If we have read correctly the record which God has given of his Son, as the Head of the body, the church, he, as the Head of the church and Savior of the body, is not only the begotten, but the only begotten of the Father; and we infer that the begetting of the Head includes the begetting of the spiritual body, and all the members of the body of which he is the Head. We know of no other way in which the members of Christ's body can be partakers of the divine nature, or inheritors of eternal life. If the life which was given us in the earthly Adam was eternal, it could not die; but the life which was with the Father, and was manifested, according to I John 1:2, and which was given us in his Son, according to I John 5:11,12, is emphatically eternal life, which was with the Father, and is hid with Christ in God. And this life which was given us in the Son of God was included, with all other spiritual blessings, in the unspeakable gift of God's dear Son. Brother Potter says (but by what authority he has failed to tell us), that "Those people" (of whom Paul speaks in II Timothy 1:9) "were given to Christ in the covenant, and have sustained a covenant relationship to him ever since, or from all eternity;" and that "They are his by gift, not that they are his because they were in him, as the plant is in the seed, and have emanated from him in that sense.
Here it seems to us that brother Potter fails to discriminate between the life which was given us in the Son and was and is so identified with his Sonship that no man can have it separately from him as the Son of God, as John says, "This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." The eternal life of which the record speaks is so identical with him that no man can have the one and not the other. We say that, as it appears to us, our brother has failed to discriminate between this eternal life given us in the Son, and that mortal life which was given to us in, and emanated to us from, the earthly Adam. Death has passed on all the posterity of the earthly Adam, for that all have sinned. But the life given us in the second Adam, who is the Lord from heaven, being hid in God, is pure, for it is Christ, the anointed Head and eternal life of the church, which is his body. In the earthly Adam we all die. Eternal life is not an extension of our Adamic life. As the sons of Adam, we are creatures of God; but as sons of God in Christ, we are children and heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ to an inheritance which is incorruptible, undefiled, and cannot fade away. If our spiritual, immortal and eternal life had been given us in the earthly Adam, all the children of the earthly Adam alike would, in being born of the flesh, have derived it from him, and would not, after being born of the flesh, require to be born again, of an altogether different seed, to develop in us a spiritual life, as the production of an incorruptible seed, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.
As to a covenant relationship from all eternity, to our dull comprehension, brother Potter has not made this matter clear; in fact, we are so much in the dark, that we do not know in what part of the Bible such a relationship is recorded. Until very recently, we do not remember to have ever heard of it before. But he describes it negatively, as not proceeding from Christ, as plants from the seeds which produce them. If we understand the assertion, it denies that the people of Christ were his children at all, only that they are children of Adam which the Father has given to him in a covenanted gift; but this covenanted relationship is sustained by gift. Now, if brother Potter can explain to us what vitality a simple gift or covenant can impart, he will tell us what we confess we do not know. We read of many covenants in the Bible. God made a covenant with Noah, Abraham, Moses, Israel and David; but we are not aware that any of these brought those who were embraced in them into any vital relationship to himself. We have read also of a covenant which God has made with his chosen, in which he has sworn unto David, in which David, according to the testimony of the apostles, personifies Christ; but this covenant recognizes both the type and the anti-type in seminal and vital relationship to their respective seeds. "I have made a covenant with my chosen: I have sworn unto David, my servant." What are the provisions of this must solemnly attested covenant? "Thy seed will I establish forever, and build up thy throne to all generations." "He shall cry unto me, Thou art my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation. Also I will make him my first born, higher than the kings of the earth." This is a clear declaration of vital relation, even that of Father and Son. My Father, my First Born! And this covenant and oath of God secures to Christ, as his first-born Son, a seed which shall serve him, and be counted to him for a generation. (See Psalm 22:22.) This firstborn son, as the anti-type of David, shall be a progenitive Head, shall have children as his own seed, which were chosen in him, and blessed with and in him with all the spiritual blessings which are secured by the covenant of the sure mercies of David. "My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness, that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established forever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven (Psalm 89)." Was David a type of Christ? Did his seed exist in him before they were born? Did his children proceed from him as plants from the seeds which produce them? If so, by what authority shall we say that the seed of Christ did not exist in Christ as their seminal Head, and proceed from him as the vine from its roots, as the branch from the living vine, and as plants from the seed? Jesus used a similar figure in relation to himself, with a solemn double asseveration: "Verily, verily I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit (John 12:24)." Peter testifies that those who are born again, are born of incorruptible seed, by the Word of God, and that the subjects of this birth are a chosen generation; and all generations are produced by the seed of which they are generated, as plants are produced by the seeds in which their existence and vitality were contained before they were brought into visibility.
We presume that brother Potter believes, as we certainly do, that the Son of God is the begotten Son of the eternal Father, and stood in that vital relation to the Father before the world began, as the Son. Now if the children of God were chosen and blessed in him before the foundation of the world, and we accept the testimony of Christ himself, and of his inspired apostles, that they are the body of which he is the Head, would it not be a singular anomaly that a head should be begotten and born, and the body and members of that head only adopted? The Scriptures abound with figures illustrative of the union and relationship of Christ and the church. We are told that Adam is the figure of him that was to come; and that Adam was first formed, then Eve (I Timothy 2:13). In the book of the generations of Adam it is written, "In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created (Genesis 5:1,2)."
We cannot think that Adam was like God in the supreme glory of his eternal perfections; for if like God he had been immutable, he could not have fallen in sin and transgression. If he had been like God in any of his infinite attributes of wisdom, power and dominion, he would have been independent, and not a subordinate being. Yet he was created in the likeness of God, in the sense intended in the declaration referred to, and in the sense in which God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them (Genesis 1:26,27)." "So," in this manner, according to this purpose, was man created, and to this extent did he, as an image, delineate and figuratively portray the second or anti-typical Adam, who is the Lord from heaven.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, in his Mediatorial Sonship, is the image of the invisible God, the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person; the appointed heir of all things; by whom also he made the worlds. (Hebrews 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15.) Adam as a type, "is the figure of him that was to come. He was created in the image and likeness of Christ, as the heir of all terrestrial things, having dominion over all created things, and as the seminal head and progenitor of his race; and of him, when he, not being deceived, had followed his bride into the transgression, it was said, "Behold the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil, etc. (Genesis 3:22)." The inspired writer to the Hebrews, in Chapter 2, verses 5-10, explains very clearly in what sense Adam was created and made in the likeness of his Creator, and is the figure of him who was with God, and who was God, and whose name is called "the Word of God." He took not on him the nature of angels, for they could not set forth his dominion. "For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honor, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, [the glorious anti-type of whom Adam is the figure] who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings."
Adam's name and life and posterity were all called Adam; so the church of God had her spiritual and eternal life hid with Christ in God, and named in his name, living in his life, and in him blessed with all spiritual blessings, according as they were chosen in him before the foundation of the world. In all this the earthly Adam is the image or type of him that was to come. Adam, as the seminal head and progenitor of all the race of mankind, is the figure of Christ, as the seminal Head and spiritual progenitor of his spiritual seed, which he saw when his soul was made an offering for sin. He is their life, and that life in him is eternal life. It was with the Father, and given to his seed in the Son, or Sonship of the only begotten of the Father. It is only in this begotten relation that any vital union can be developed between God and the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. No covenant contract of conveyance, or gift, or adoption, can constitute vitality. Our union to God must, to be a vital union, be begotten of God the Father in Jesus Christ his only begotten Son; as it is written, "The gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord."
We hope that it is not in any derisive, sarcastic or scoffing way that any of our brethren would speak of the eternity of the existence of the children of God in Christ, as the head and source of all spiritual union and communion with God through Jesus Christ our Lord, as "eternal children."
It is with deep concern that we have observed of late, among some who claim to be Old School or Primitive Baptists, a disposition to sap the foundation of the Christian's faith and hope in God, by ignoring the vitality of our union to and with God in Christ. They are willing to admit an eternal union, if we will give up the vitality of it, and call it a covenant union, or in any way deprive it of vitality; but it seems to us that a union without life would be a dead union, it could not make us partakers of the divine nature. But when we claim that the life on which our relation to God as his children rests was given us in Christ Jesus, with all other spiritual blessings, before the foundation of the world, although this heart-cheering doctrine is so fully declared in the Scriptures, an effort is made to call down onus, and what is far worse, on the doctrine, the obliquity and ridicule of those who do not entertain the same views that we do.
Much of the confusion in the minds of the saints, we think, arises from a failure to discriminate between Adam and Christ. In the earthly Adam we all die. Why? Because we were all in him in the transgression. By that one offense sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. Did all men sin in the first offense of Adam? That occurred almost six thousand years before the birth of any of the men of the present generation. But if we had not been in Adam as our seminal head and progenitor, could we have sinned in him? Could death have passed on us as men that had sinned, if we were not in him as his posterity or children? If we were not children of Adam when he transgressed, and death thereby entered and passed upon us, when did we become his children? Did Adam call his wife's name Eve because she was the mother of all living before any of her living children were born? Did Levi pay tithes to Melchisedec before or after he was born? Were Jacob and Esau children before their birth, or was it not until afterward? These questions relate to our natural life, as children of the earthly Adam, and who is the figure of him that was to come. Then tracing the analogy of the figure, we ask, Are we the children of God in Christ today? If so, were we his children yesterday? He is the same yesterday, today and forever. If we are his seed, or children now, were we his seed almost two thousand years ago, when his soul was made an offering for sin, and when we saw his seed and was satisfied? If we were the children for whom he hung bleeding on the cross, nearly two thousand years before any of us were either born of the flesh or born again, how long have we been counted to the Lord for a generation? Can any one tell more accurately than did the inspired psalmist? "Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God (Psalm 40:1,2)." Our earthly life was given us in Adam when Adam was formed of the dust of the ground; but our spiritual life was given us in Christ when Christ was given to the Head of the church, and all spiritual blessings were given us in Christ before the foundation of the world, even as all earthly or temporal blessings were given us in Adam after the foundation of the world. Through the earthly Adam sin has reigned unto death, even as grace has reigned through righteousness by Jesus Christ our Lord. God's children were children before they were partakers of flesh and blood, even as Christ was the Son of God before he took part in like manner of the same flesh and blood. So he partook of our nature to redeem us to God, who in our fleshly nature had sinned; and we whom he has redeemed, in being born of his incorruptible seed, receive of his spirit, of his life, which was given us in him before the world began, and so are we made partakers of his divine nature.
We have not attempted to review the pamphlet, nor have we even read it all, as our time is closely occupied; we have offered our objections to some views, but in no acrimonious spirit. We candidly believe that much of the discord that has disturbed the saints has arisen from a want of clearer understanding of each other's views.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Middletown, N.Y. June 1, 1880.
Re-published in The Remnant
Volume 12, No. 4 - July-August, 1998