FAYETTEVILLE, Ga., Oct. 18, 1915.
DEAR. BROTHER KER: – The SIGNS, so far as I know, is the oldest Old Baptist paper now being published, and I suppose it has, from the beginning until now, contended for the same gospel principles, and I hope it will never change. It has been the same during the few years I have been taking it. I have never seen any wrangling or fighting in it as in some others, and for these reasons I want to continue to take it as long as I can, though I cannot read it much. Please pardon me, but I am writing this to express some of my thoughts, and for you to see if we agree, and as I have been accused of being rough, and object to the Bible way, I will say that what I write is in good feeling, and not to fight. I suppose you know that those who advocate the principles set forth in the SIGNS are called by some “absoluters,” but I do not believe you advocate a “can’t help it” doctrine. The “can’t help it” people hide behind predestination for an excuse for their sins, but you, I believe, feel accountable to God for your sins. A brother wrote me he saw these words over your signature: “When men and women are brought into the church through a sound and faithful ministry they are established in the doctrine of absolute predestination of all things, and will not therefore tolerate for one moment the idea of ‘permissive decrees.’ They are also rooted in the truth of salvation by grace, hence when some Ishmaelite comes along preaching ‘conditional time salvation’ they refuse to receive him into their houses or bid him Godspeed.” Sound Old Baptists here believe the same concerning predestination as most of the SIGNS’ readers, but have a different form of expressing it. I do not believe you believe in the absolute predestination of all manner of evil in the same way as the good that comes to pass. If God predestinated sin he would he the author of sin. I believe he predestinated all good, and if we must use predestination in connection with sin, he predestinated to allow or permit sin, which is nothing more nor less than permissive decrees, as I understand it. As sin dwells in the human heart, it is by nature ready at any time to do anything it craves when allowed to do so, does not have to be predestinated. Wicked people wanted to kill Christ as soon as they heard he was born, but could not lay hands on him until God’s appointed time, and he did not have to predestinate the act, but permitted it. I asked the brother where he found those words, but he only said he saw them over your signature. I do not believe in conditional time salvation as some people preach it. They say our time blessings are stored away for us and we get them by obedience. If this were the case these blessings would be given because we worked for them and God owed us for our works. We might work a million years, but would be the same weak, sinful, dependent creatures, and still owe all our time and service to our Lord and Savior. We can never pay what we owe. He has done for us what we never could do, and now for gratitude and love we are to obey his commands, not to gain rewards, but because it is our duty; not expecting blessings nor deserving them, but feeling that we owe a life of consecration to his service if we should never receive another blessing in time, and when the blessing comes the humble christian receives it as a gift, not a debt, with rejoicing. The lives we live do not make us christians, but if we are christians we should honor the gift by an “orderly walk and godly conversation,” and when we have done all we can we are unprofitable servants, for we have not done more than our duty. If a child of God obtains blessings by obedience, why does He allow them sometimes, and some more than others, to grovel in darkness, sorrow and afflictions so much? It seems that the most obedient sometimes suffer the most. We are taught to not add to nor take from the word of God, under penalty of punishment, then why use the word “absolute” when it is not in the Bible? Predestination itself is strong enough, and the word “absolute” does not make it any stronger than God made it, and I am sure if he had intended for us to have used it he would have had it put on record. Paul said if eating meat made his brother to offend he would eat no more meat, and as “ absolute” is offensive to some of God’s dear people we should leave it alone. I agree with Elder Chick in volume 81, page 216, I do not believe a person who loves God and wants to obey him will use “absolute predestination of all things” as an excuse for his sins, but I do know such expressions are used to turn people from the, SIGNS, and many who have heard of these things, or have read only one article containing such expressions, will not subscribe, but would do so if they knew what the SIGNS advocates, or if “absolute” was left out. We are commanded to not add to, nor take from, the things written in “this book,” which I suppose means the Bible. You use the word “absolute,” which is not in the Bible. Is this not adding to? Why use it? It is absolutely unnecessary, does not belong there, and is offensive to many sound Old Baptists. Brother Ker, I inclose a stamp for reply as soon as you can, and I want to know if you can tell where those words quoted from over your signature can be found, if you remember having written them. I want to read all the article. My SIGNS are scattered. It was written in Elder Chick’s lifetime.
This is for your disposal. Hoping it will not offend, I beg to be remembered at the throne of grace.
GEORGE W. JACKSON.
THE letter from him, inclosing stamp for reply, and now published in this number of the S1GNS on page 49, was duly received, and the delay in replying thereto has not been neglect, but because we thought it better perhaps, lest in writing we misunderstand each other and brother Jackson become farther separated from us in his feelings. A five minute talk on any subject, where disagreement exists, is better than weeks of writing; however, as we cannot have that opportunity, and as we feel an open reply better than a private letter, we shall endeavor to answer some of his questions and also make some comment upon a few ideas suggested by him.
Before entering into the matter we want to assure brother Jackson of our love and fellowship for him as a subject of divine grace, and that what we may say will be done in the very best of feeling, with desire for mutual understanding and agreement.
First, he says he supposes the SIGNS has from the beginning contended for the same gospel principles. “It has been the same during the few years I have been taking it.” We are glad of the statement above that nothing but gospel principles have been published in the SIGNS during the time brother Jackson has been a subscriber. We have dear and aged brethren who have read its pages for more than fifty years who say the same thing, hence in the judgment of a few at least the SIGNS has never published anything contrary to sound doctrine. This is the highest tribute that could be paid the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, and we fully appreciate it. Brother Jackson says: “I suppose you know that those who advocate the principles set forth in the SIGNS are called, by some, ‘absoluters,’ but I do not believe you advocate a ‘can’t help it’ doctrine. The ‘can’t help it’ people hide behind predestination for an excuse for their sins, but you, I believe, feel accountable to God for your sins.” Yes, we are aware of the fact that genuine Old School Baptists are called “absoluters,” and so far as we are personally concerned we do not object to the term, but so far as hiding behind predestination as an excuse is concerned, we have never known a genuine Old Baptist to do it, and our acquaintance extends throughout the States and Canada. Predestination of all things never licensed a man to sin, nor does it in any sense excuse a man for his sin, and should the most faithful member of any church of our acquaintance fall into temptation and sin, then come to the church saying, “I could not help it,” such statement would not be for one moment accepted or credited. Man has ever been accountable to the law of God for his transgressions, regardless of predestination. No, brother Jackson, we do not advocate the doctrine of ‘can’t help it’ as an excuse for sin, but we do most emphatically advocate that the children of God do and have always done thousands of things contrary to their plans, purposes and intents because they could not help it, God overruling their plans and purposes for their good and his declarative glory. For example, going back over the history of men called to leadership, called to prophesy, called to preach, who ever did any of these things because he wanted to? Hence if not because he wanted to it must have been because “he could not help it.” David said, “I will keep my mouth with a bridle, * * * my heart was hot within me; while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue.” The burning within caused him to speak, hence he spake because he could not help it. This is the kind of ‘can’t help it’ doctrine the SIGNS has ever advocated, and we should feel sorry indeed to think it would depart from this principle of Bible doctrine.
Further, brother Jackson says: “A brother wrote me he saw these words over your signature: ‘When men and women are brought into the church through a sound and faithful ministry they are established in the doctrine of absolute predestination of all things, and will not therefore tolerate for one moment the idea of permissive decrees. They are also rooted in the truth of salvation by grace, hence if an Ishmaelite comes along preaching conditional time salvation they refuse to receive him into their houses or bid him Godspeed.’” We do not remember whether the above quotation embraces our exact words or not; however, we fully believe the statements therein embraced, and have presented both by pen and from the stand the same things over and over again, if not in the same language. Absolute predestination of all things whatsoever come to pass was one of the principles upon which the SIGNS OF THE TIMES was founded; this can be seen by the prospectus published in 1832. It has ever been advocated by every editor of the paper, though many things take place in the world that none of us understand, nor do we know how they can work for good to them that love God, but we must believe they do if we credit the divine record as being true. David tells us the steps of a man are ordered of the Lord. The word “good” in that text is supplied, showing that it was not in the original manuscript. Jeremiah tells us, It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. The Savior, speaking of lesser things, tells us the very hairs of our head are all numbered; and even though two sparrows are sold for a farthing, not one of them shall fall to the ground without our heavenly Father. These are phases of “absolute predestination” as we believe it. With reference to “conditional time salvation,” we are frank to say that we do not believe in salvation at all that is conditional upon the part of the sinner. Salvation is salvation, nothing more, nothing less, and the blessings of grace come to the children of God because of salvation, not because of any obedience or other works rendered by them. Spiritual blessings were given the elect in Christ Jesus according as God had chosen them in him before the foundation of the world. If therefore because, or according, as he had chosen them in Christ, it surely is not because of obedience rendered by the subject of grace. If according to the latter, and much obedience should be rendered, there would be a possibility of a shortage of blessings. On the other hand, if little obedience be rendered there might be a surplus of blessings. Surely all quickened sinners know that God does not work that way. There were exactly enough blessings treasured in Christ for the family of God while. sojourning here, and every one of them will be experienced by the household of faith; not one shall be left over, nor shall there be one short. Certainly sound and faithful churches would not receive, the second time, into their houses, nor bid God-speed to those who preach unsound doctrine.
Further, brother Jackson says: “If God predestinated sin he would be the author of sin. I believe he predestinated all good, and if we must use predestination in connection with sin, he predestinated to allow or permit sin, which is nothing more or less than permissive decrees, as I understand it. * * * Wicked people wanted to kill Christ as soon as they heard he was born, but could not lay hands on him until God’s appointed time, and he did not have to predestinate the act, but permitted it.” In tracing sin to its origin all will find that by the transgression of one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin. “Sin is the transgression of the law,” hence the sinner is the author of sin. Did God permit Satan to be self-existent, or did the Lord make him? Did the Lord make him upright, and through his own will and doing he became subtle? No, God by his own hand formed the crooked serpent. (Job xxvi. .13.) The Lord did not make him straight and he became crooked, but he made him crooked, and “who can make that straight which the Lord hath made crooked ?” Did God choose a people in Christ Jesus unto salvation with any uncertainty about the fall of Adam? By no means; then it follows that sin, and death by sin, were in the plan, and that salvation must come through that link in the chain. Again, Christ, according to the purpose of God the Father, must be the seed of the woman, and had not Adam transgressed the law and brought sin into the world there never could have been any development or multiplication of Adam, human family, hence no Jesus the son of Mary. It will be noticed that we have not used the word “predestination” in what we have just said about sin entering into the world. We have used the words “purpose” and “plan,” but who is the man that can make a distinction between God’s purpose, plan and predestination? If he purposed it, he planned it, hence without question predestinated it. “Permissive decrees” have no place whatever in the purposes and plans of God, and we think our dear brother Jackson will agree with us, and he can readily see that his own language establishes this assertion. He says, “Wicked people wanted to kill Christ as soon as they heard he was born, but could not lay hands on him until God’s appointed time.” If wicked people can do wickedly at will, and wanted to kill Christ, why did they not do it? Brother Jackson answers the question very correctly: “They could not until God’s appointed time.” Then it follows that they could not be wicked in that one thing, at least, until God’s predestinated time. Is there any difference, brother Jackson, between “God’s appointed time” and his predestinated time? We think not. Surely in this we are agreed. We understand brother Jackson not to deny predestination, but he objects to the word “absolute” in connection with the word predestination, and says as long as it is not in the Bible, why use it when it offends some brethren? The word predestination is not in the Bible either, and as long as it is not why use it? might be asked. We admit that the word “absolute” adds nothing to the strength of the word predestination, but it was used by the Elders and brethren when the division took place in 1832, we think to simply emphasize what sort of predestination they, as original Baptists, believed in. For this same reason we have used it during our ministry and connection with the SIGNS OF THE TIMES. A little further on brother Jackson says, “Why use it (absolute)? It is absolutely unnecessary, does not belong there and is offensive to many sound Baptists.” We ask, Why did brother Jackson use the word “absolutely” in connection with the word “unnecessary”? Does it add to the strength of the word “useless,” which the word signifies? We imagine he used it in the same sense we stated above: to emphasize the word “unnecessary.”
Brother Jackson tells us that God did not have to predestinate the killing, crucifixion, of Christ, but permitted it. What does the Bible say about it? Listen: “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” Now, if delivered and slain by wicked hands, according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, was it by “permissive decree”? If God had no purpose in the death of Christ his Son, but simply permitted it because wicked men wanted to do it, might not Christ have died a natural death had God not permitted it, hence no salvation, had not wicked men wanted to slay him? God hath created all things, yea, even the wicked for the day of evil; therefore when the day of evil comes the wicked will always be on hand as the sword of the Lord, to do his will. Surely all Old School Baptists will admit that the death of Christ was according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, therefore absolutely predestinated of God. Now a most important question, brother Jackson, confronts us all: If God predestinated the death of his Son Jesus Christ, which was the vilest of sins ever committed, and in predestinating was not the author of that sin, could he not with equal glory predestinate all sin and yet not be its author? Those who crucified Christ were held just as accountable to God for that sin as though God had not predestinated, purposed, planned it. They could not hide behind predestination to cover their sin, nor could they say they could not help it, in the sense of giving excuse for their wickedness.
With reference to leaving off the word “absolute” in our writings and preaching, we would have no serious objection to doing so, and especially if it is so objectionable to our brethren, but never can we modify the doctrine of “predestination of all things whatsoever come to pass.” It is Bible truth, Bible doctrine, and we shall earnestly, yet lovingly, we hope, contend for it; but be it understood once for all, that neither the SIGNS OF THE TIMES nor the Old School Baptists of our acquaintance excuse a man upon the ground of predestination for his sins, be they what they may. One man might take the life of another, and the act be predestinated of God for some wise purpose known only to himself, yet the church would exclude the man and the law deal with him. Did not Moses slay an Egyptian and hide him in the sand? To what purpose? That he should leave Egypt for forty years, become the herdsman of his father-in-law, and at the appointed, predestinated, time be at the right place where God would speak to him out of the bush that burned with fire yet was not consumed, that Moses might be prepared to lead the children of Israel out of bondage, according to the promise of God made to Abraham four hundred years before. All was unquestionably predestinated of God. Did not David, king of Israel, put Uriah at the head of the battle that he might be killed, in order that David have Uriah’s wife? If the Lord predestinated that David should be the father of Solomon, did he not also predestinate that Uriah’s wife should be his mother? If so, how could the birth of Solomon come except through that channel of wickedness? David was held accountable for his sin, and suffered in consequence of it all the rest of his life. Did not the Lord in days of old send lying spirits into men when it fulfilled his purpose and plan? Did he not purpose the wickedness of Peter in his denial of Jesus, to the end that Peter should be prepared to strengthen his brethren? Did he not purpose the training and life of persecution of Saul of Tarsus, to the end that he might magnify his grace in his salvation? Time and space forbid that we continue along this line on the subject of predestination, for really there is no end to the grand theme.
Now in conclusion, we want to say to our dear brother Jackson that we hope he may read and receive what we have written in the same spirit in which we have set forth our views. We have nothing but the very kindest feeling toward him, and would not intentionally hurt his feelings, much less his usefulness among his brethren. We have tried to be as clear as possible and as kind as we know how to be in expression. We now leave the subject for him and all who may read to consider and try with the “thus saith the Lord.” K.
Elder H. C. Ker
Signs of the Times
Volume 84, No. 2.
January 15, 1916