G. W. Pool, of Mississippi, has requested our views on John v. 40, and Rev. xxii. 17, and brother Israel J. Miller, of Indiana, has asked for our views on Rev. xxii. 17-19.
Such views as we have, or may be enabled to give on these passages of Scripture, we will give in one reply. On all of these passages our views have frequently been called for and given on former occasions, but as many of our present readers have not access to our files, and as we hold no secret views on the subject of divine revelation, we will cheerfully comply with the desires of our brethren as frequently as they may have occasion to call on us, to the extent of such ability as God may be pleased to afford us, and at that point we desire always to stop, without thinking our own thoughts, or speaking our own words.
The text in John, which is often brought by those who oppose the doctrine of special, discriminating and sovereign grace, to perplex the minds of those who love the truth, reads thus: “And ye will not come to me that ye might have life.” Without considering the connection of the subject, or the occasion on which, or the people unto whom these words were addressed, the advocates of free will and human power rudely detach them from the place where they belong in the Scriptures, and endeavor to make them appear to sustain the idea that the salvation of souls rests upon the will and work of men. And although we are expressly told that the new birth is not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God, who sheweth mercy; that it is not of works lest any should boast, still they show a settled determination to make the Bible appear to be a book of contradiction, and to turn even the truth of God into a lie, by making it seem to say what it does not say, and to teach doctrines opposite and antagonistic to each other. But all those who fear the Lord will revere and tremble at the word.
In this text our Lord was addressing the work-mongrel, self-righteous Jews, whose religious proclivity, and self-confidence, were in the most perfect unison with the doctrine, and delusion which is held and cherished by all the Arminian tribes of the earth, who oppose the truth of God at this present day. Jesus had, as we are told in this chapter, healed the impotent man, and bade him take his bed and walk, and these ancient free-willers sought to put him to death for breaking the Sabbath. He had announced himself to be the Son of God, and they were still more intent to slay him for blasphemy, in making himself equal with God. He had also declared his sovereign power to give life to whomsoever he would, without even asking their consent or co-operation in the work, just as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will; and that the dead did at that time, and should continue throughout all time, to hear the voice of the Son of God, and live. The dead shall hear, and they that hear shall live. And furthermore, this same Son, with the same power and judgment which he then possessed, shall ultimately raise the dead and judge the world at the last day. And that the resurrection of all the human family from their graves should be by him affected by the same sovereign and irresistible power and majesty of his voice, as in their being called by grace from death to life, when they are born again. But these declarations of his power and Godhead did not pacify them, nor did the unanswerable arguments incline them to yield their cherished doctrines of free-will and human power, nor divert them from looking away from the law, and their own willing and doing power for justification, to him as the only Savior, and the only way in which they can come unto the Father. Still, although confounded by his arguments, which they could neither resist nor gainsay, they cherished the prevailing delusion that the law, or the Old Testament Scriptures, possessed eternal life for them, on condition of their obedience to its requisitions. In them (the Scriptures of the Old Testament, the law of works, &c.,) they thought, as all their kindred of all ages think, they have eternal life, and therefore they see no need of Christ to save them. These Jews were as unconscious then, as the Arminians are now, of the truth of the declarations, By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God, and as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse. Hence they clung to the works of the law, to their own willing and doing, for justification and eternal life, and would not, had not the slightest inclination to turn away from themselves, from the law, and look or come to Christ for salvation. They had the same aversion to salvation through Jesus Christ, by sovereign, reigning and almighty grace, as have those who are of the same brood in our day.
Hence the words of our Lord to them, “Search the Scriptures.” The New Testament was not at that time published; the law and the prophets were intended, and in them the carnal Jews thought they had eternal life; but they were mistaken, and so are all who hope for acceptance before God now on the ground of their own wills or works, mistaken. “They are they that testify of me.” The law and the prophets testified of Christ as the Shiloh, the Messiah, the Lord God that should come with a strong hand, and his arm should rule for him, and that he would gather his sheep with his arm, &c. But these carnal Jews were not his sheep, as he had said unto them; and therefore they were the more deluded in thinking that in the law and the prophets they had eternal life. Again, the Old Testament testified of Christ that “A seed shall serve him; it shall be counted to the Lord for a generation.” That they should all be taught of God, and that every one that heard and learned of the Father should come to Christ; that they should be willing in the day of his power. But these legal work-mongers did not possess these characteristics, these marks; they had not the will nor the power. Instead of a will to be saved by him, their will was to put him to death as a Sabbath-breaker, an impostor, and blasphemer. Jesus not only declared their utter destitution of a will to come to him for life, but he declared to them the reason why they were thus destitute of the will: First, because they had not been taught of God; for said he to them, “Ye have neither heard his voice at any time nor seen his shape,” therefore they were not taught of him. All his saints have heard his voice, for says he, My sheep heard my voice, and I know them, and they follow (or come unto) me, and I give them eternal life. (John x. 27, 28.) And they see his shape, for they see Jesus, who is the image of the invisible God, the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person. All who have seen him have seen the Father also, for they are one. He is in the Father, and the Father is in him. These carnal Jews were not manifestly the subjects of saving grace, therefore they could see no attractions in him, for they had nothing in them to be attracted by him. They saw neither form nor comeliness that they should desire him or a knowledge of his ways.
“And ye have not his word abiding in you.” In the absence of his word, they were dead in sin; for his word is Spirit, and it is life, but they had it not, and were therefore dead, and destitute of the power to will to come to him. The word was made flesh, or incarnate, and in him was life, but they had not the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God, and it is God that worketh in all in whom he dwells, both to will and to do of his good pleasure, in working out their salvation with fear and trembling. But as the Word was not in them, they did not and could not will to come to him for life. The Word of God is the Son of God, and life was given to all his members in him, so that he that hath the Son of God, or the Word of God, hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. And he that hath not life, certainly cannot possess the legitimate effects or functions of life. As evidence that they had not heard the voice, seen the shape, nor received the witness which the Father has given of the Son, they had not believed on him, nor in the testimony which he bore to the truth. All who are born of the Spirit, possess the Spirit, which is life, and the fruit of that Spirit is faith, and faith is indispensable to qualify any to believe in Christ, as all revelation of the Son of God is made to the faith, and not to the sense of man; consequently their rejection and unbelief was conclusive evidence that they were yet in their sins, and destitute of either desire or ability to come to him for life.
Another reason which Christ gave, was the impossibility that they should come to him for life unless they were drawn to him by the same power of the Father, which sent the Savior into the world. “No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” - vi. 44. All who are thus drawn, are taught of God, and Jesus says that all who are taught of God come to him, and that of all who thus come to him, none shall be cast out. This embraces all his children, for “All thy children shall be taught of God.” And it embraces all that the Father has given to the Son, for “All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me, and him that cometh I will in no wise cast out.” It embraces all the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, and all who are called by his name, and whom he has created for his glory, “for he shall say unto the north, Give up, and to the south, Keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” But bring how many of them? ‘‘Even every one that is called by my name, for I have created him for my glory; I have formed him: yea, I have made him.” - Isa. liii. 6, 7. All these, therefore, not only must, but by the immutable promise, and decree of Almighty God, shall come to Jesus, and be saved in him with an everlasting salvation. As he has said, “In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified and shall glory.”—Isa. lv. 25. But, “They are not all Israel which are of Israel. Neither because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children; but in Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” - Rom. ix. 6-7. These shall all come to Christ for salvation, and none but these can come: for no man can come unto the Father but by Christ. None can come to God unless they believe that he is; and that belief is the action of faith, and that faith is the gift of God; not of works, but of him that calleth; it is the fruit of the Spirit, and of the operation of God; it is the faith of the Son of God, and Jesus Christ is the Author and finisher of it. None but those who are under its power, have the will, the inclination, or desire, to come to him for life.
“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come.” What Spirit? Whose bride saith Come, and to whom do they say Come? These questions are involved in the correct elucidation of the text. The Spirit of the gospel, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him. The Spirit which is life and immortality. The Spirit which moved on the face of the great deep when all was without form and void. The Spirit that breathed upon the slain, in Ezekiel’s vision, and quickened the dry bones. God, by his Holy Spirit, in the holy calling of all the heirs of salvation, says “Come.” Does not invite them to come, but says, Come, with the same power and effect as when God said, “Let there be light.” He speaks the word and it stands fast: he commands and it is done. An invitation leaves the person or people invited to accept or decline, as they may choose; but in the calling of God by the Spirit, he saith not unto the seed of Israel, Seek ye my face, in vain:
“He speaks, and that almighty voice,
Fulfills his great decrees.”
The dead shall hear his voice, and they that hear shall live. At his voice the south gives up, the north resigns; from the rising of the sun to the extreme west, all who are called by his name, come with singing to Zion, and with everlasting joy upon their head. “And the bride says Come;” and as the bride is the Lamb’s wife, and she is one with him, “They twain shall be one;” she has the Spirit of Christ. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” But, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Therefore, to what the Spirit of Christ says, the bride, the church of God, responds, therefore the Spirit says, come, and the Spirit in the bride says come, and this is said to every one that is called by Christ’s name, as we have seen. Come where? To the River of Life, to the Holy City, New Jerusalem, to the Tree of Life, to the Fountains of living waters. Not to the mountain that might be touched, but to heavenly Jerusalem described in this and the preceding chapter; to the spirits of just men made perfect; to the blood of sprinkling which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel; to Jesus, the Mediator; to God, the Judge of all. This calling of the Spirit and bride is not to the law, to Moses, to human aid, not to some wooden-bench, said to be anxious, not to a system of works, for they were all there before they were called experimentally by the quickening operation of the Holy Spirit. But, come from death to life; from darkness to light; from bondage to liberty; from sin to holiness; from Moses to Christ. “And let him that heareth say, Come.” For they that hear shall live; they live by the spirit of life and immortality which distinguishes the Spirit and the bride. All who hear are brought manifestly into the unity of the faith, and God teaches them a pure language, and in perfect harmony with the language of the Spirit and the bride, he that heareth will reiterate the language of the Spirit. “And let him that is athirst come.” The river of life flows from the throne of God and the Lamb to Bupply the thirsty in the New Jerusalem, with its streams which make glad the city of God. The dead do not thirst, none but the living can desire or appreciate the living waters of the New Jerusalem, to the fountains of which the Lamb that is in midst of the throne shall lead his flock, and beside the which he maketh them to lie down in green pastures. And all as who have an ear to hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches, are welcome to hear, are of those who are addressed, so the gospel, with all its promises, provisions and privileges, is addressed to those who have a desire for them; for none desire or thirst for them until quickened and made alive by the life giving Spirit of our God. To hunger and thirst after righteousness is a blessed state for a sinner to be in. Poor as they may feel, they are called to Come to the waters, and buy wine and milk, without money and without price. “And whoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” As none but the living can thirst; so neither can any in an unquickened state have a will, a desire for the salvation which is of God. We have seen in our investigation of the first text, that God only can work in us to will and to do, or to make us a willing people, in the day of the Redeemer’s power, therefore whoever will, is a subject of quickening power and saving grace, and let him take the water of life. How, conditionally? O, no; there are no conditions resting on the creature. If he has a hearing ear, God has furnished it. If he is thirsty, God has made him so. No man has power to make himself thirsty, and especially no dead man has that power, as all unquickened sinners are like the carnal Jews, without a will to drink of the waters which flow from Christ the Rock of our salvation, it is sufficiently discriminating to say, and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely, it flows freely, and it is without money and without price, and therefore the poor, the helpless, the wretched, and those who have nothing to purchase it with, are welcome to take it freely, and they must have it freely, unconditionally, and without fee or reward, or not at all.
“For I testify unto every one that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.” This is a fearful testimony which Jesus has sent his angel to testify in the churches. Should we add a single condition, to be performed by the creature to entitle him to the water of life, we add to what is written, and whatever we may teach or practice without a clear “Thus saith the Lord,” is an adding to the words of the prophecy of this book, and all who do it shall receive at God’s hand the plagues which are written. Of the nature of these plagues we cannot speak particularly in this already extended article. But it is spoken to those in the churches who should be rebuked and chastised when they presumptuously add to what God has said, or teach for doctrine the commandments of men.
“And if a man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” The Book of Life in this case, as we understand, means the record of the living in Jerusalem, not the record of eternity, in which all the members of Christ are written, and from which they can never be blotted out, but the living in Jerusalem, or those in fellowship, and who have the privilege of his house. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have a right to the Tree of Life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. None even of the children of God are entitled to the fellowship of the church of God, and the privileges of his house, who walk not in obedience to the authority of Christ, as laid down in the New Testament. If they walk not according to this rule, they become the subjects of discipline, and if they persist in their unruly course, they are cut off from fellowship, and their part is taken out of the church, and as long as they continue thus they are to the church of God as heathen men and publicans. They being out of the bounds of the church, find for their companions, dogs, sorcerers, whoremongers, and whatsoever loveth and maketh a lie. This is not what is called falling from grace, for if they are subjects of the grace of God, they shall be brought back with weeping, but they fall from works, for want of grace to preserve them in the order and fellowship of the church of God. Many who have had a name to live, and who have been recognized as orderly members of the church, by disorder have forfeited their part in having a name to live, and as being entitled to the privileges of the church in her gospel order. Therefore take heed, and let him that standeth beware lest he fall; not from grace, but from his steadfastness in the truth.
Middletown, N. Y.
June 15, 1859.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 233 - 242