Brother Beebe: If you have light upon the subject, please give your views on Romans 5:14, especially who were the them there mentioned, and by so doing much oblige yours in great tribulation,
Gibson Co., La.,
February 18, 1864.
Reply: The whole verse reads, “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.” The grand theme of the apostle, as we understand him, was to show how sinners are justified and saved by grace through their vital relationship to our Lord Jesus Christ. In his illustration he refers to their being made sinners in the earthly Adam, by his transgression of the law of God under which he was created. All who have, or hereafter shall descend from the earthly Adam were created in and identified with him. As his descendants they are partakers of his nature; and as their entire development is subsequent to his transgression, his posterity all participate in the sin of his offense, by the which judgment came upon all men unto condemnation. Being in him from his creation, we sinned in him before any of us were brought into personal manifestation. Hence when death passed upon him, it passed on all that he was, as the embodiment of his entire race. In this as in many other important things, Adam is, as our text affirms, the figure of him that was to come. As Adam’s offense brought judgment unto condemnation and death upon all his seed as such, so the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Lord from heaven, and whose righteousness is the righteousness of God, is after the same similitude, imputed to all his seed, that to all who are or ever shall be born of God as his chosen generation, unto justification of life. As it was totally impossible that any who were in the loins of the earthly Adam to escape the guilt and consequences of his disobedience, so it is also and equally impossible that any who were created in Christ Jesus, chosen and embodied in him before the foundation of the world, should fail to participate in his righteousness, and the free gift by it, unto justification of life.
Incidentally, in the elucidation of his subject, he shows that, although from Adam to Moses the divine law had not been presented fully in its perceptive form; yet, the descendants of Adam were included in his condemnation. This is proved by the unremitting reign of death. As the sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law, and sin is the transgression of the law, and death the consequence of sin, so death has passed on all men, “for that all have sinned.” “For until the law,” that is, until it was given by Moses, sin was in the world; it did not require that a law should be given, and again transgressed, in order to involve those of Adam’s children who lived from Adam to Moses. Sin being during this lapse of about twenty-three hundred years, in the world, as it proved was the case, by the reign of death as the consequence of sin shows clearly that all the posterity of Adam were sinners and doomed to die, as they had all sinned in him, in the first transgression.
By those who “had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression,” we understand those who had not during that period transgressed any express command in the manner in which Adam had. The word similitude, simply means likeness, or manner. The one offense, or transgression of Adam consisted in his doing what God had expressly forbidden him to do. Paul says, in verse thirteen, “sin is not imputed where there is no law.” For instance, if man had been created a free agent, or actor, having liberty to do as he pleased, he could not have been convicted of sin in following the inclination of his own mind. But being a restricted agent, and having received an express command from his Creator, his disobedience to that command was sin. If the liberty to eat of all the trees of the garden had not been abridged by the express exception of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam’s eating of that tree would have been no transgression; hence the strength of sin is the law. It is sin for us to do what God has forbidden us to do; and equally so, for us to leave undone what he has commanded us to do. There were many thousands who died in the space of time indicated, from Adam to Moses; and of that number we may reasonably conclude there were at least some who died as soon as they were born, who had not sinned after the manner, likeness or similitude of Adam’s sin; having been conscious of no law or commandment to them expressly given, and deliberately disobeyed. For Adam was not deceived, although the woman was; but Adam knew that his eating of the tree was a transgression of the command of God. To sin after the similitude of his transgression could not then have been possible for unconscious infants, or any others who were unconscious of disobedience to God. Yet they died, as well as all others of their race; which proved that they were sinners; although incapable of what we sometimes call actual personal transgression, after the manner of Adam’s transgression. Had death only reigned over those who sinned in the manner or similitude of Adam’s transgression, Adam would not have been as striking a figure of him that was to come. Adam’s transgression landed all his posterity in guilt, judgment, condemnation and death; thus showing in the nature of the figure that the righteousness of Christ should deliver all his seed from condemnation and death. The argument of the apostle that those who had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression demonstrates the position by him assumed, that all have sinned in Adam, and that sin being upon all his race, death, which is by sin, reigns over them all. It does not require that we should in our own individuality be born into the world and in our own persons actually transgress the law, as Adam did, to make us sinners, for we were involved in sin and death at the very moment that Adam was; for we were there, and to us in him was the command given and transgressed; consequently death, in passing on him, passed on us all. It therefore follows that we were conceived in sin, and go astray from the womb, speaking lies; for, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one (Job 14:4).” Hence we see the throne of death set up, and his cruel reign extended to all the seed of Adam: even them who had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s sin. It is certain that his unborn posterity had not sinned after the manner or similitude of Adam’s transgression; that is, they had not in their individual persons consciously transgressed any law or commandment, in the way, manner or similitude of his sinning; but were all held, as involved in the sin which they committed in him, and so death passed upon all for that all have, and had sinned.
“Conceived in sin, O wretched state,
Before we drew our breath;
The first young pulse began to beat,
Iniquity and Death.”
Thus as guilt, condemnation, ruin and death came on all the children of the earthly Adam before the first of them were born, and allowed no exemption to any of his then undeveloped seed so the free gift of justification to life comes by the second Adam, on every one of the seed of Christ; and was extended to them in him, before the world began, consequently before any of them were brought into manifestation as the sons of God by a spiritual birth. “That as sin hath reigned unto death,” by the earthly Adam; “Even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” So as our sin by Adam reigned unto death; so our righteousness in Christ, the righteousness of God given to us in him, has reigned by him unto eternal life, to as many as the Father hath given him.
March 15, 1864.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 6
Pages 7 - 10