We do not feel inclined to prolong the discussion of the points involved by an attempt to review what is contained in his letter which we publish in this number. We simply refer our readers to those articles and communications to which his present letter purports to be a reply, for our views, and for the views of our brethren, on the subject of regeneration and the new birth. If we have, any of us, contended that Christ is the mother of his members, or if any thing published in the “Signs of the Times,” by any fair inference involves any such absurdity, we have been, and still are, unable to perceive it. It has been our design to set forth the scriptural doctrine that Christ is the Everlasting Father of all his spiritual seed; the Second Adam, the Lord from heaven. We have, in common with all our brethren, understood that our natural seminal existence was given us in the earthly Adam, that we were in him when he sinned, and that death passed upon all, in him, and that in him we all die; but we did not know that that doctrine of seminal relation would make Adam the mother of mankind. We have understood, also, that the Second Adam is the Lord from heaven, a spiritual head, in whom as our spiritual seminal head, that spiritual life which was with the Eternal Father and was manifest, was given to us. And according as we have read the record of the three that bear record in heaven, attested by the concurrent testimony of the three that bear witness on earth, that this is the record, that God hath given us eternal life, and that this life is in his Son, so that he that hath the Son of God hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. Consequently we found ourselves obliged to believe that all who have eternal life have the Son of God; we had therefore accepted the inference that our eternal life, and all spiritual blessings were given us in Christ, according as God had chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, and that all spiritual blessings, including our relation to God through the Spirit, as sons of Christ’s sonship, as heirs through and by virtue of his heirship. And as Christ himself declares that he is the resurrection and the life of his people, we had really believed that our resurrection, life, regeneration, new birth, and all things that qualify us for a spiritual inheritance in glory were spiritual blessings, which were given us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world; and that God had provided no other medium through which any spiritual blessing ever did, or possibly could, descend from God to men; or by or through which any man can come to the Father. But after all, if this involves the conclusion that Christ is our mother, we will only say we had not so understood it. Our extreme dullness of comprehension may, however, result from the fact that our carnal mind has not been remodeled, nor our old man revised, nor any of our earthly faculties born over again, nor made spiritual and pure: for it is ours still to go bowed down with a sense of inbred depravity and indwelling sin. And if our eternal destiny depended on our finding in us, that is in our flesh including all in us that is born of the flesh, one good thing, we could not find it; we should certainly be lost. If brother Vanmeter, and the host of those who hold his views on this subject, who are urging him to defend the theory, have the faculties of their earthly nature made spiritual and holy, we would not deprive them of all the comfort it affords them. We will only say it is not so with us; they are far more holy than we. We groan, being burdened; and what in them is made spiritual and holy, in us is but the body of this death from which we look for no deliverance until our mortality shall be swallowed up of life.
We had never before been informed of our maternal relation to the covenant. We had supposed that the Jerusalem, which John saw descending from God out of heaven adorned as a bride prepared for her husband, was the mother of all those who, as Isaac was, are the children of the promise. We had been led to so understand it from the frequency of their being in the Scriptures spoken of as being her children, the sons of Zion, children of the kingdom, and we had also inferred it from the declarations of the Scriptures that she is the wife of him whom we believed was, and is, the only spiritual progenitor of all the spiritual posterity.
With the exception of what we have noticed, we have discovered nothing in this communication that was not as fully expressed in the former, and that has been repeatedly met.
The note which brother Vanmeter did not design for publication was not marked as private or confidential; and as we gathered from it that he also felt the infirmities of a fleshly nature, and hoping that we were not so widely separated in our views as we had feared, we were elated, and hastened to make it known to the brethren. But as he has now resumed his first position, we feel disposed to close the discussion on the subject. As many brethren seem opposed to controversy in the “Signs,” we leave our readers to compare what has been written on all sides, and may God grant us light and counsel from above, and lead us all into the way of truth and righteousness, for our Redeemer’s sake.
We are not conscious of any unkind feeling towards brother Vanmeter, and feel inclined to believe that the difference in our views arises from his attributing to the faculties of our old depraved, sinful, dying nature, what we regard as the development of the new man which is born of God. But should we prolong this discussion, it is feared that both of us may demonstrate some traits in our natural faculties, minds, understandings and feelings that could hardly be thought were born of God, or come directly from heaven. That which is born of God cannot commit sin. If born of incorruptible seed, that seed can produce nothing but what is as pure and incorruptible as the seed; we must of necessity conclude that all impurities, betrayed by us after that birth, arises from our fleshly nature. However others may think, we dare not impute them to any thing that is born of God.
The foregoing remarks were written soon after we received brother Vanmeter’s letter, which drew them forth, and it was then our design to publish both the letter and the remarks as soon as we could conveniently make room for them in our columns. But on after reflection, it occurred to us that a protraction of the discussion was causing excitement among the brethren who are strongly averse to controversy, and we feared that the insertion of the letter, with or without our editorial remarks, would have a tendency to make the difference between Elder Vanmeter and ourself seem to be far greater than it really is. We cannot persuade ourself that our personal experience differs; although we have so differently construed each other’s use of words.
Brother Vanmeter speaks of the same warfare in his own experience which we find raging in us, between our flesh and spirit, between the old man and the new man, in us. We have differed very widely in our interpretation of the meaning of some words which have been used by both of us. As, for instance, regeneration, the new birth, soul, faculties, etc. But avoiding our manner of employing these words, we are probably as well agreed, in regard to the experience of the children of God, as it is common for brethren of the same faith to be. Let us then avoid “doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife,” etc., and we shall the better promote each other’s peace, and more sacredly keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.
October 15, 1868.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 276 – 279