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“THERE is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. - 1 John v. 16.

BROTHER JAMES MURRAY, whose letter will be found in this number, has requested our views upon the above text. Such views as we have we hold as a kind of common stock to be handed out whenever called for. It is not to be presumed that any one man on earth has a correct understanding of all the scriptures of truth. They are only made known to the people of God in such measure as the Lord sees it. The exposition given by us, or any other man, ought to be received with due caution, and only considered satisfactory so far as sustained by the general tenure of the scriptures.

The passage before us is one on which we have long desired a satisfactory exposition. This apostle defines sin to be a transgression of the law, in its general sense; and that law says that the soul that sinneth it shall die: therefore there can be no sin by him that is under the law that is not unto death. For what the law saith it saith to him that is under the law. Here, then, seems to be the difficulty in understanding the apostle. He says there is a sin that is not unto death; and, again, there is a sin unto death: and in this connection he says that all unrighteousness is sin, or all that is not right is sin. The apostle has been very particular in drawing the line between those who are born of God, and consequently are delivered from the law of sin and death, who cannot sin (unto death) because they are born of God, because they have an Advocate with the Father, or, in other words, because they are not under a law that condemns to death and consigns to hell those that transgress - and such as deny that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, and who are, notwithstanding their christian profession and their connection with the church, anti-christ: these stand connected with a law that condemns them, as sinners, to death; and these our Lord in his intercession with the Father (John xvii. 9) prayed not for; neither as Advocate with the Father does he advocate their cause: hence the apostle does not say that he, the saints, shall pray for such. But there is a sin not unto death, (as all that is not right is sin. Christians, who are delivered from the curse and dominion of the law of sin and death, may transgress the law of the kingdom and subject themselves to many stripes, yet their sin is not unto death, and all christians are to pray for their erring brethren, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth and one convert him, let him know that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death and hide a multitude of sins.” See James v. 19, 20.

Again, if we take the Sinai code, as a figure of the government of the spiritual kingdom of the Redeemer, we shall find that some offences subjected the offender to immediate death, the eye should not pity, nor the hand spare; while other offences required chastisement, or the offering of sacrifices, that the offender might live, and be retained in the congregation of the people. So in the church, the common infirmities of christians must be borne with, and those whose errors are like those referred to by James, should be prayed for; for they are not unto death; if the offending, erring brother can be converted from them he may remain in his place in the church of God; but those who bring in damnable heresies, denying the Lord that bought them, shall bring upon themselves swift destruction. If they deny that Christ is come in the flesh, they are anti-christ; they must die; (that is, be put away from the fellowship of the church.) They must go out from us, that they may be made manifest that they are not of us. “I do not say that he shall pray for it.”

September 15, 1841.

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 713 – 715