It seems necessary at this time that the editors of the SIGNS OF THE TIMES reaffirm their faith and hope in the resurrection of the dead, as we see and hear from some quarters false statements and accusations of us regarding this subject. But of two things we assure our readers: we absolutely refuse to be drawn into unpleasant controversy on the subject, and to adopt the phraseology used by some in expressing themselves. Our objection to controversy is because the resurrection is a mystery known only to God, hence it is foolish for men to fight and try to kill each other about it. The prophets, when testifying concerning the coming of Jesus, did not understand how such things as they declared could be, nor did they know when those things should take place. (1 Peter i. 10-12.) That glory, or knowledge, was reserved for those who lived and now live in the gospel dispensation. So also the resurrection being glory beyond this life, all men must wait until it is experienced by them before they can understand how it shall be.
Our reason for refusing to use the language adopted by some of our brethren is because such language is unwarranted by the Scriptures. We cannot therefore consistently nor conscientiously use it in expressing our views of the resurrection. It does not seem enough to some for the editors of the SIGNS to constantly affirm their belief in the resurrection of the dead, but our false accusers want us to declare that we believe in the resurrection of a “natural” or “mortal body.” This we now, once for all, refuse to do, let the result be what it may. Whatever the resurrection is, or shall be, it is entirely spiritual, nothing natural or mortal about it, if the Scriptures be true, and we believe they are, and shall stand unmovable by them, regardless of what any man since the apostles' day has said, does say or shall ever say. The “body is sown a natural body: it is raised a spiritual body.” “It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption.” “It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory.” These statements are by Paul, the servant of Jesus Christ by the will of God the Father. He makes the distinction very positive between the natural body and the spiritual, saying, “There is a natural body and there is a spiritual body.” There is no connection, or relation, between the natural body and the spiritual body. There is no relationship between corruption and incorruption nor is there likeness between dishonor and glory. While the editors of the SIGNS object to being told over and over again that the dead are raised natural, both in body and form, (which assertion cannot be sustained by the Scriptures) they make no fuss about it, never make the slightest reference to it, except when driven to do so by persecution and false accusations. We do not like to fight, but when there is no way out of it we can and shall, and our enemies may depend upon it. We do not propose to sit idle always and allow ourselves to be misrepresented and slandered to the sacrifice of ourselves and our subscribers, who love us and the SIGNS for the truth's sake. We are glad to say to our readers that most of the bard and hateful things said of us are said by those who are either very friendly toward or editors of some other paper published in defence of the Old Baptist cause, so said. These are enemies of the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, and would gladly sacrifice it and its editors in building up the publications with which they are associated. This is the underlying principle that is prompting much of the persecution of the SIGNS and its editors, and not that they care so much as to what the editors believe, preach or write. The SIGNS OF THE TIMES has lived longer than any medium of correspondence of its kind in this country. Many others, like gourds, have sprung up, as it were, in a night, and been cut down in about the same length of time. The chief reason we have for believing the Lord is with the SIGNS is that it stands and has ever stood all the assaults of its enemies. There are some at the present time who are connected with other Baptist papers, either as editors or often contributors in different parts of the country, who have never stood for the declarations of the Black Rock Convention in 1832, nor have they stood with the “SIGNS Baptists,” but are known as “Clark Baptists,” who would now champion the doctrine advocated by Elder Gilbert Beebe on the resurrection of the dead, but they are quite silent on the doctrine of “absolute predestination of all things,” “eternal vital unity of Christ and the church,” “the new birth,” &c., as Elder Gilbert Beebe believed, wrote and preached. Their leader, Elder John Clark, of Virginia, long since dead, and Elder Gilbert Beebe declared nonfellowsbip for each other because of differences of opinion on such points of doctrine long before some of these, now wise men, were born. Bars of nonfellowsbip were raised by these people many years ago against the Beebe or SIGNS Baptist because of the wide differences on doctrine not one of these men would be received, nor put up to preach, in what are call by them Beebe Baptist churches, anywhere from Virginia to Maine. How strange that they should persecute the editors of the SIGNS when they have no use for them nor for the principles of doctrine they advocate! One of these men, now located in California, wrote us last spring, asking if we subscribed to a certain editorial written by Elder Gilbert Beebe on the resurrection of the dead. We, in reply, asked him if he subscribed to the views of Elder Gilbert Beebe on “absolute predestination of all things,” “eternal vital unity of Christ and the church,” “the new birth,” and so on, and remarked that when he answered us we would answer him. When he acknowledged our letter he said if we did not care to answer his question we need not do it, and that he was not alone in the desire to know, but he failed to make mention of our questions, much less to answer them by saying one thing or the other. He never has stood with the “SIGNS Baptists,” though now, strange to say, is preaching for some of them. We wonder how long they will stand “Clark Baptist doctrine.” We have no pleasure in writing such things, and have tried our best for several years to avoid it, but when pressed, repressed and trampled upon we have to defend ourselves, and shall endeavor to do so in such a way that there will be no mistake as to where we stand and what we believe.
Regarding the resurrection of the dead, all men should remember that it is but one point of doctrine, and if all who do not use Elder Gilbert Beebe's words in presenting their view are heretics, let it be remembered that all who deny other fundamental principles of the doctrine advocated by him, and sustained by the word of God, are heretics also, hence why should one heretic denounce another. “Consistency, thou art a jewel.” Why should men declare nonfellowship for each other because they cannot see and understand the unfathomable mystery. Another thing that should be remembered is that because a man preaches the resurrection of the natural bodies of the saints, it is no reason that he should be regarded as being an overly sound Old School Baptist, because the rankest Arminians in the world believe it and preach it. If the resurrection is a literal thing, in other words, if a natural body is raised, then the Armenians are not dead in sins and to the doctrine of God, for they have sight to behold what Paul and John did not see, therefore must be regarded as the children of God with special revelation.
We, the editors of the SIGNS, object to the expressions, “this identical body” and “this mortal body” in speaking of the resurrection of the dead, and absolutely refuse to use them in expressing ourselves on this subject, for the reason that the Bible nowhere uses them when speaking of the body that shall be raised. The word “identical” means “the same not different;” hence the resurrected body is not the identical body that is sown, because it is changed and raised spiritual. The word “mortal” means “subject to death, destined to die; as, man is mortal.” Therefore the body after death is not mortal, for the reason the life that made it mortal, subject to death, has taken its flight. The definitions of the above words are not a fancy of the mind of a heretic, but that of authority on the English language. When Paul in Romans viii. 11, speaks of the Spirit of him that raised up Christ from the dead quickening the mortal bodies of the saints, if so be that God dwells in them, he had in mind an experience in time, as it seems to us, more than the resurrection of the dead at some future time. None of us should forget his statement in chapter seven, verses eighteen to twenty-five inclusive. Here he speaks of the two men, inward and outward man; that he, according to the flesh, and with the flesh, served the law of sin, but with the mind (of Christ) he served the law of God. He longed to be delivered from the body of death, or, in other words, “the dead body because of sin.” The body of Paul and the bodies of the Romans were then dead because of the sentence of death upon them, and the bodies of the Saints now are no less dead for the same reason. When a man is condemned and sentenced to die by the law, in the eyes of the law he is already dead; so also the sentence of God's law being upon sinners, their bodies are dead (yet mortal) as Paul said, because of sin, condemnation and judgment of the law. But he said the Spirit is life because of righteousness, and by the Spirit those dead bodies should be quickened that they should serve God and rejoice, as Paul did from time to time, in the hope of the glory of God. David in his day realized the deadness and nothingness of the flesh, and asked the Lord to quicken him that he might be quickened and run after God.
It is because the editors of the SIGNS do not use the expressions, “identical body” and “this mortal body,” as being raised, that we are accused of not believing in the resurrection of the dead. We do, however, believe most firmly and assuredly in the resurrection of the dead, for without it there can be no salvation; but we much prefer the use of Bible language in expressing ourselves. Such language will stand all the assaults of our enemies. If some of them dared they would accuse Paul and John of being nonresurrectionists, inasmuch as they use the “identical” language we adopt. The resurrection was a mystery to Paul, and it is to the editors of the SIGNS. John saw and handled the resurrected body of Jesus, yet he said, It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; not as when he saw and handled him. It has not appeared as yet to the editors of the SIGNS as to what we shall be, hence we must leave it to those to whom it has been revealed to tell the people how the dead are raised. Paul however, stamped the man who would ask such a question as a “fool.”
It has been and still is, our desire to give our readers a clean sheet of unadulterated gospel, not one of strife, contention and bloodshed. The SIGNS is about the only paper of its kind in the United States today that is free from controversy, backbiting and murder. We desire to continue along the same lines of love, peace and unity. Truth always condemns error, and to contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints, means to continue in the doctrine, to be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, preach the truth, write the truth and stand pat on Bible language and proper definitions of language; and inasmuch as our Bible is written in the “English language,” let us at all times give to the people what the language means regardless of men's notions and ideas, let them be what they may.
Elder H.C. Ker
Signs of the Times
August 1, 1920