Warwick, Orange County, N.Y., March 5, 1857.
DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - I have been a reader of the MESSENGER for some years past, and much indebted to the Editor and Patrons for the very many lessons of comfort and instruction received from its columns, and would gladly remunerate them were it in my power to do so. For twenty years I have been trying to proclaim the doctrine of salvation by grace; and in that time, studiously endeavored to take the Word of God for the man of my counsel. It would seem that I should have been able ere now, to communicate some lessons of utility to the children of Zion; but alas, although that Word is so replete with wisdom and instruction, I feel the need of being taught the first principles of the oracles of God. But I suppose that if none of your Patrons would write until they found a competency in themselves to edify others, you would have but few contributors to your pages among the Old School Baptists. I will therefore, try to hand in my little mite, for the consideration of your readers. If you have a department in your paper for the communications of the unworthy and weak ones, place mine under that head; if not, dispose of it in any way you think best, and I shall not complain.
I propose to exhibit the children of God by descent, and his children by adoption. The subject in the form proposed may seem new, but don’t be alarmed at this, when it is said, “At our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved.” (Song 7:13. See also Matt.13:52).
The brethren and sisters have frequently written things in the SIGNS and MESSENGER that were new to me, and which, upon examination, I found to be older than the hills. Those things, however new to us when first learned, are very different from the machinations and inventions of the new-fashioned, work mongrel religionists of the present day.
It shall be my aim to look out for the ancient land-marks, and wend my way along “the old paths, where is the good way;” yet, I may err, but if I do, “let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness; and let him reprove me, it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head.” If I should oppose a strict investigation of what I write, I should be careful that others would conclude that I was conscious of trying to sustain a weak position. And if I hold an error, my friend who convinces me of it, is certainly a valuable one to me. But I proceed to the subject.
Some, in writing and speaking of the children of God, seem to make no distinction between those born of God, and those adopted by him. Yet, when we consider what is really a birth, and what is an adoption, we discover a wide contrast. Men sometimes make children heirs to large estates by adopting them, but one who is a child by birth could receive no advantage by being adopted by his parent, for his birth entitles him to heirship without adoption. A birth, necessarily involves the idea of a pre-existence in the parentage, not so by adoption. The child born, always partakes of the nature of the parent; but this is not the case with the one adopted. Those born are children by a lineal descent; those adopted are made children by a legal process from first to last. But there are two kinds of births spoken of in the Scriptures, each kind exhibiting the nature of its parentage. One is born of the flesh, and is flesh – the other is born of the Spirit is spirit. One is earthy, the other heavenly. “As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.” The earthy child heirs the inheritance of its earthly parent by its birth from an earthy parentage; the heavenly child heirs the inheritance of its heavenly parent, by its birth from a heavenly parentage. But, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” [which is a spiritual kingdom,] by its flesh and blood birth, and [as it is corrupt,] “neither doth corruption inherit incorruption,” and that all the earthly or fleshly children are corrupt is evident, for “God looked upon the earth, and behold it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth,” (Gen.6:12). They are “strangers, aliens, foreigners, the children of the flesh,” [by birth] and therefore, the only way for them to become heirs of, and participate in spiritual blessings, is by the law of adoption.
According then to this Bible theory, the whole Arminian system of works is swept by the board at once, for who ever heard of an inheritance being obtained by working for it? These two kinds of children proceed from the different heads. One of these heads is the figure of the other. (See Rom.5:14). Then, as the first head (Adam) [manifestly] was the progenitor and embodiment of all his seed as a figure, so the second head (Christ) [manifestly] was the progenitor and embodiment of all His seed as the substance. Both of these heads were originally good, but one became corrupt. Hence the head being corrupt, all that proceeds from it is corrupt, and thus we have a “sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil doers, a children that are corrupters,” and, “turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine.” (Isa.1:4 & Jer.2:21). The other is incorruptible, (I Pet.1:23), and therefore all the attempts of men and devils to corrupt it have proved abortive. Form this Head proceeds the seed of the righteous, a godly seed - the good seed, (Prov.11:21; Mal.2:15 & 13:38); and are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, &c. In Jer.3:14, those backsliding children who are strangers and alienated from the Lord are commanded to turn to Him, who says, “I am married unto thee,” [and marrying is another legal process,] and He also says He will bring them to Zion, and they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord, and the Supreme Judge of heaven and earth, who sitteth upon the throne alone can legalize these matters. But now comes the important question to be answered, [verse 19,] which is; “How shall I put thee among the children, and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the hosts of nations? And I said, Thou shalt call Me, My Father,” &c. The question may be stated thus; How is a strange child to be put among the children of a parent, to whom that child is a stranger, and obtain a heritage [or inheritance] with the children born of that parent, and also to stand in the relation of a legal heir to that inheritance, and lawfully call that father his father? We answer, that the question can be solved upon the principle of adoption, and it can be lawfully done, in no other way.
The scriptural definition of the word adoption is [according to Mr. Brown] “putting among God’s children.” Paul represents the Lord’s people, as being “predestinated unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ,” and says that God sent his Son “to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons,” and tells those sons, “ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (See Eph.1:5; Gal.4:4,5 & Rom.8:15). The children of God by descent, are spiritual children; because, “born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God,” and “God is a spirit.” There is a visible difference manifested in the Scriptures between the children born of God, and those adopted by Him. Those born of the Spirit, are not divided into sexes; they are all one in Christ. Those adopted, are thus divided; therefore, the Lord says, by the Apostle, “Come out from among them [idols and idolaters,] and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (II Cor.6:17,18). And again, “bring My sons from far, and My daughters from the ends of the earth.” (Isa.43:6). Those spiritual children constitute the spiritual kingdom of God, which is invisible to natural eyes, and therefore, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. The Lord in a wonderful display of His providence and grace, gives the children by descent, and those by adoption an introduction to each other in this world, and causes them to dwell together for a time; and when that is done, the two different natures possessed by them are soon developed. They are very antagonistic, and consequently disagree very much. &ldqu;The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other.” One is called the outward man, because external and visible to the external or natural eyes. The other is called the inward man, because internal, and therefore invisible to external or natural eyes. Hence, Christ said to his disciples, “The kingdom of God is within you.”
When these children of the spirit and the children of the flesh are brought together, they constitute what is called the “Shulamite,” or as it were, the company of two armies. These armies are belligerent ones, and war is the inevitable consequence. As one is earthly, and the other heavenly, they differ very much, as to their food, drink, raiment, and many other particulars. The earthly child cannot subsist on heavenly fare, nor the heavenly one on earthly productions. Therefore, they look for their different wants to be supplied from their respective places of origin. The supplies of one are obtained from the earth, at the expense of much toil, sweat and perplexity; and then, only calculated to sustain a temporal and transient state of existence. Those of the other, are regularly sent down from heaven, without works, money or price on the part of the recipient, and calculated to sustain and perpetuate an eternal state of existence and therefore, “though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” As one proceeds from a corrupt and sinful head, it is a sinner by nature and practice; and, “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” The other is born of incorruptible seed, and “whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” And, as death is the effect of sin, and no effect can exist without a cause to produce it, that child “shall never die;” and as it is begotten and born to an inheritance which is incorruptible, undefiled and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for it, it must and will enter into the full possession and eternal enjoyment of that inheritance, by virtue of its birth, or being born of the Father who hath blessed it with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world. And, as the other is born of corruptible seed and is corrupt, and only sustained upon temporal elements, it is mortal and must die. Thus the two that are brought together in this world, are destined to separate for a time, each one to return to its place of originality, as all things according to the laws of nature must. Then, as the one is born from above, and the subject of a kingdom which is not of this world, its tendency is upward; it leaves the earthly house of its tabernacle, and wings its way to a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens; while the earthy child must, when temporal elements no longer can sustain it, yield up its transient life, which like a flickering taper, vanishes away and leaves it to return to the earth and corrupt beneath the cold clod of the valley, and mingle with its mother earth. But hark! What cheering words, I hear! What a hope inspiring message reaches us from the celestial throne! “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.” Yes, and where the spirit of adoption has been received, we have the assurance that, “the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” “The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit: the redemption of our body.” Oh, glorious consummation of the work of adoption! Then, and not till then shall we be prepared to enter into, and truly appreciate the heavenly inheritance of the saints in light. As we near the dreary valley, the eye of faith lit up by the light that looms beyond, beholds the Sun that shall illuminate the resurrection morn with bright and eternal brilliancy and swell the gladdening anthem,
“I see, I think I see,
A glimmering from afar,
A beam of day that shines to me,
To save me from despair.”
Hope, anchored within the veil, maintains its hold and we are assured that this corrupt, dishonorable, weak, natural body shall be raised in incorruption, glory, power and spiritual. “Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, death is swallowed up in victory.”
Your brother truly,
J.F. Johnson. - 1857