IN reply to the inquiry of brother I. T. Crooks, we cheerfully give our views on the subject of Righteousness. Certainly a more important subject could not be presented for our prayerful consideration. To us, the subject appears naturally divided, and we will therefore consider, first, that righteousness which the church have in Christ by inheritance, and secondly, that which we consider a legal or law righteousness, both of which we believe are essential to our acceptance with God into the state of ultimate glory.
We fully agree with brother Crooks that a law righteousness could not give life to those who were dead, and we also contend that a legal righteousness can only be possessed by such as have previous life. In speaking of righteousness, as an inheritance of the saints, the doctrine of union to Christ is necessarily involved. To come to the point, we believe the scriptures justify the belief that the church of God were created in Christ before the world began, and being sanctified by God the Father, were preserved in Christ Jesus; that they had life given them in him, and as certainly existed in him, who is the beginning of the creation of God and the firstborn of every creature, as did Eve exist in Adam in the day when God made man male and female, and called their name Adam. Thus Christ, being set up in his mediatorial character, from the ancients of eternity, stood as fully identified with his church as a mediator, as he did in his Godhead with the Father. As a spiritual Head, the church was his body; as an Everlasting Father, the church were his children or seed; and as a Husband they were his bride in him after the similitude of Adam. Hence we hold that perfect, eternal, immutable, uncontaminated and everlasting righteousness which Christ possessed belonged by union or relationship to all who had life given them in him, embracing even as many as the Lord our God shall call. The righteousness of which we speak does not belong to the saints by virtue of any contract, engagement, law-works, or debt-canceling, either per. formed by him or his people in eternity or time; it is based upon our unity to and identity with him from everlasting. This inheritance of righteousness in Christ Jesus was not corrupted when we fell in Adam, for it is incorruptible; neither did it thereby or subsequently suffer the slightest blemish, for it is undefiled; nor did our fall into sin dissolve the ground of our title to that inheritance, it being founded on relationship, “if sons, then heirs,” &c., for it cannot fade away - it was not in oar hands to lose or forfeit; for it is reserved heaven for you who by him do believe in God.
It appears to us as absurd to suppose that our spiritual life results from a law righteousness, or obedience to law, as it would be to believe that Christ himself is the product of law righteousness; for Christ is our life; and when he who is our life shall appear, then shall we appear with him in glory.
Second. Although our fall in Adam subjected us to the curse of the law under which Adam, as the natural head and representative of his race, was created, and by our transgressions of the law in him we became captive, sold under sin, and were disqualified for the enjoyment of the heavenly inheritance, yet the inheritance itself, being incorruptible, was still reserved and could not fade away. The consequence of the fall to the people of God was the loss of all that innocence which Adam originally possessed; and as we had no spiritual life in Adam, (our spiritual existence and righteousness being hidden in the secret place of the Most High,) we became dead in trespasses and sins, helpless and depraved, guilty and condemned, without hope and without God in the world.
The impediment in the way of our possessing our divine inheritance, instead of consisting in a want of provision on the part of God, or a non-existence of such a righteousness in Christ, lay in the fact that we had actually sinned and come short of the glory of God. The requisitions of the divine law had not been fulfilled, and justice demanded our imprisonment. The law did not require that we should have had righteousness in Christ from everlasting; but the only ground on which justice could release us was that every jot and tittle of the law should be fulfilled.
For the deliverance, then, of his people, it was required that Christ should come in the flesh, be made under the law, fulfill its precepts, bear its curse - when lo! he spake, “I come to do thy will, O God.” This we needed, not to make us sons, but to put away sin; not to produce life, but to justification of life; to remove the impediment, to deliver from captivity, &c. In effecting this deliverance for us, it was either necessary or it was unnecessary that Christ should come and do and suffer all that the Father gave him to do and suffer; and if brother C. says it was indispensibly necessary, then he admits all that we contend for; but if he says it was not necessary, and that the church was already acquitted by virtue of that eternal righteousness they had in Christ before all time, then we are at issue; for we would esteem his position as virtually saying that Christ died in vain or unnecessarily.
What we have written above in reply to brother C. we have written at a late hour at night, ready to depart on the morrow to an association. We have but just touched the subject, but will perhaps, should providence favor our present inclination, resume the subject at some future period not far distant, when we hope to be able to give our views on the subject more at large. In the meantime, may the Lord direst our minds to his blessed word as our only standard.
ALEXANDRIA, D. C.,
June 15, 1839.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
pages 506 – 508