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THE NATURE OF ALL THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST?

Monroe Co., Miss.
May 20, 1870.

DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - Your paper is a source of comfort and instruction to me, and I cannot see how I am to do without it. If you will send me authority to receive subscriptions, I will do what I have time and ability to do to secure patronage.

You will much oblige me too, by instructing me upon the following subjects, either through the “Signs of the Times,” or privately.

Is corporeal death any part of the penalty of the violated law? If not, was Christ’s physical death any part of the atonement? The reason I ask your views upon the questions is, they are questions of controversy here, and I desire to know the truth.

Hoping to hear from you soon, I remain, yours in hope of life,

W.C. Smith.

REPLY. We should cautiously avoid vain speculations in all our researches after a knowledge of spiritual and divine things. No rules of human reason, science or philosophy, however luminous and useful when applied to the things of nature, can afford a single ray of light upon the things of the Spirit of God, and it is therefore that the natural man, however brilliant in intellect or erudition, cannot know the things of the Spirit; because they are spiritually discerned. It certainly is not given to us to sit in judgment over the sufferings which Christ endured when bearing our sins in his own body on the cross, and to decide which of all his sufferings were the most essential or efficacious. Nor does it well become us to say that any of them might have been omitted. God has spoken in vision to his Holy One, and said, “The enemy shall not exact upon him; nor the son of wickedness afflict him.” Psa. 89:22. Beyond that measure of suffering which eternal truth and justice required, neither the malice of men, nor rage of devils could exact. In weight and measure, time and place, his enemies with wicked hands could do no more than God’s hand and counsel had before determined should be done. They would have done more if they could; they would have broken his bones, and they would have prevented his resurrection, but they could not exact upon him; for the remainder of their wrath God restrained.

Corporeal death was and is unquestionably a part of the penalty of the divine law. Sin is the transgression of the law, and by the transgression of one man sin entered, any death by sin, or; in the words of the apostle, “That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Rom. 5:21. That this death penalty includes the death of the body, or corporeal death, is settled by the sentence from the mouth of God. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Gen. 3:19. Whatever else was included in the penalty, as consigning man, as a convicted sinner, to death, without the hope of resurrection or deliverance from death, short of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, certainly involved corporeal death, or the mortality of the body. We do not say, nor believe that corporeal sufferings abstractly considered could satisfy the demands of the law of God, or atone for the transgressions of any who have sinned. If every member of the human family should endure all the corporeal agony which our Redeemer suffered physically when on the cross, it could not abate their guilt nor lessen their condemnation. No human sacrifice or sufferings, nor even the torments of damnation, if forevermore endured, could purge us from guilt, or in the least degree atone for our transgressions. Bat with all this premised, it still is true that “Without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sins.” All the sufferings of the dear Redeemer were indispensable to the accomplishment of the salvation of his people. This truth is established by his own words. “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?”  “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures. And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day.” Luke 24:25, 26, 45, 46. “These things,” must include all things which he suffered in mind or body, in soul or in spirit, in the garden or on the cross, in the world or in the grave, physically or mentally, in living any in dying; all, all were required for our salvation. Nor could the powers of hell extend his sufferings beyond the exact requirements of eternal justice. That our blessed Savior, while in the flesh, did suffer corporeally, cannot be doubted, in taking on him our infirmities, he could suffer hunger, thirst, and physical pain. The piercing thorns which tore his temples, the cruel scourging in the hall of Pilate, the ponderous weight of the cross that crushed him down, and the writhing agony of his crucifixion – can it be possible that there was no corporeal or bodily sufferings in all these? Who then shall dare to say that this suffering was uncalled for by the inexorable demands of that holy law which his people had transgressed, and which he came to fulfill? “Surely,” may his redeemed say, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Isa. 53:4,5.

Let us plunge still deeper into the consideration of this subject. We do not contend that human sufferings, whether in body or in spirit, if they were only human, however intense, could have any redeeming power or efficacy, merely as such; but what was the nature of all the sufferings of Christ? To answer this enquiry correctly we must show that he, “who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Phil. 2:6-8. Could our Lord have endured the death of the cross without corporeal sufferings, or could he have suffered that corporeal death in obedience to the law, if the law had not demanded it? “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death.” Heb.2:9. Could angels, without corporeal bodies, have suffered death? Or could Christ, without a corporeal body, have been put to death in the flesh? Or could he have become obedient unto death, without dying? The scriptures not only testify of Jesus that he suffered in the flesh, and bore our sins in his own body on the tree, and that he was put to death in the flesh, and that the divine law required all this, but we are also informed of his sufferings in his soul and in his spirit. It was written in the law and in the prophets, which he came into the world to fulfill, that he should pour out his soul “unto death.” And when the appointed time was fulfilled, he came as it was written of him in the volume of the book, and was heard to say, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour; but for this cause came I unto this hour.” John 12:27. “He groaned in spirit.” John 11:33. “He was troubled in spirit.” John 13:21. And finally at his death he cried, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit; and having said thus, he gave up the ghost,” or spirit. Luke 23:46. All his sufferings of soul, body and spirit, are grouped together by our Lord himself, in the expressive interrogative, “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things,” &c. Which, if any of them all, might have been omitted, and yet the great purpose of all have been secured?

But the question may arise, How could the sufferings of the spotless Lamb of God, who knew no sin, who was holy, harmless, and separate from sinners, meet the demands which law and justice held against guilty sinners? The heavens and earth may be astonished in the contemplation of this enquiry. The mystery is wrapped in the great mystery of godliness, wherein, “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” The All Creating Word which was with God, was made flesh, and dwelt among us. And to be made flesh he must needs be made under the law, which all flesh had transgressed. And to be made of a woman under the law he must be made sin, for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels,” for angels were pure celestial beings, without corporeal substance. “But he took on him the seed of Abraham.” These were in the flesh, under the law, in guilt and condemnation. And in taking on him the seed of Abraham, “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of them all.” “For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall be joined to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh.” Perfectly identified with the seed of Abraham, in the flesh, the law recognizes him as a subject, and he acknowledges the law’s dominion over him, and as he is one flesh with the seed of Abraham, he is legally held responsible for all the sins of that seed. The spirit that confesses that Christ is come in the flesh, not only admits that he was born of the virgin, and sojourned in the flesh, but it confesseth that he has come in the flesh of Abraham, legally identified with the legitimate seed of Abraham. “For if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to promise.” In the flesh of Abraham their father, Christ sojourned under the law with his members, and in that identity with them fulfilled every jot and tittle of the law, and finally met all the penal demand of that law, bearing all the sins of his people in his own body on the cross. In, and as the seed of Abraham, he finished transgression, made an end of sin, slumbered in the tomb, and in due time arose from the dead. When he died for that seed, then were they all dead, legally, effectually, and to all intents and purposes. And when he arose from the dead, all that seed was quickened together with him, and they were raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in him. The old relationship in which they stood to the law and to its curse, expired when Jesus cried with a loud voice, “It is finished,” and gave up the ghost. Raised up together with him, the church is delivered from guilt and wrath, and purged from all uncleanness, and thoroughly cleansed by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost which he has shed on his members abundantly. We do not mean that all the seed whom Christ redeemed were at that time born again, experimentally; for millions of them had not, at that time, been either born of the flesh, or of the Spirit. But we do say, as our firm conviction on the subject, that in the death of Christ upon the cross, the relationship of that people to the law, and to the curse of the law, was so completely and effectually dissolved, that there remained no more condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. That when Jesus died, the wrath and condemning power of that law under which he suffered was completely exhausted on him, and when Jesus arose from the dead for their justification, all that seed for whom he died and arose, were as fully justified in him as they will be when they ascend to their final glory. And when in the fullness of time each member of the body of Christ shall be personally called, the same blood which freely flowed from Jesus' bleeding veins, when he was crucified, will be experimentally applied to them for the remission of sins; and that the same life and immortality that quickened and raised up the crucified body or Christ, will experimentally quicken every one of them. Suppose I have executed a bond and mortgage on my house and lot, and my friend without my knowledge has canceled and destroyed that bond, though I may not be apprised of it until I am expecting to be turned out of house and home, still that bond is dead, and just as void of force as though I were fully aware of it. How was it in our experience? Jesus, as our Resurrection and our Life, had his eye on us, but we were strangers to him, and enemies by wicked works. We saw and felt our wretchedness, and felt our helpless poverty. But how little did we think that that very Jesus whom we had persecuted had hushed for us the thunders of the divine law, almost two thousand years before we were born. But the joyful assurance was no less welcome because that our redemption was sealed so long ago.

In conclusion: The atonement on which we rely for salvation, is based upon the one sacrifice which Christ through the eternal Spirit has made unto God, when he as a Lamb without spot or blemish gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. And in him we therefore have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins, and are freely justified through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

We thank brother Smith for his kind proposition to extend our circulation, and not only authorize, but earnestly request him, and all other brethren and friends, to do what they can in procuring subscriptions and remittances for us.

Middletown, N.Y.
June 15, 1870.
Elder Gilbert Beebe