Clay Village, Ky., Dec.20, 1880.
DEAR BRETHREN EDITORS OF THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES: - In the seventeenth number of the present volume of the SIGNS, I see some requests for my views on several passages of scripture, some of which I do not feel capacitated to write on at present. The first is from brother John K. Johnson, of Missouri, and as I have heretofore written and published my views on Rev. 12:8, in my writings, I refer him to what is there written.
Then comes the request of U.J. Bell, saying, “Will brother J.F. Johnson, of Kentucky, give his views through the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, on Gen. 3:15, especially on the seeds, and oblige one that desires a spiritual understanding of the scriptures.” Incapable as I feel of instructing brother Bell, or others, I will try briefly to comply with his request.
The Lord is here speaking of some of the dreadful consequences that were to succeed the terrible fall of our primeval parents. That direful fall made it necessary for the exhibition of the glory of God, and the deliverance of his people, that a decisive conflict should occur between Christ, the seed of the woman according to the flesh, and the subtile serpent who had beguiled our original parentage.
In this conflict Christ was ordained to be delivered, by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, into the hands of the serpent and his cohorts, to be crucified and slain. It ordained that he should save his people from their sins. Terrible fall! To bring upon the immaculate Son of God this mournful event. Poor man! Taken captive by the devil, led by a most implacable enemy, bound by the manacles of sin, and even delighted with the chains that bind him. But,
“Here Satan was nonplus’d in what he had done;
The fall wrought the channel were mercy should run,
In streams of salvation that never run dry,
And all for the lifting of Jesus on high.”
With wonder and amazement we look back beyond the verge of time at the infinite counsel and prescience of God, in which it was decreed that the beloved Son of God should be brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and like a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. He had done no violence, no deceit was found in his lips. “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him,” to put him to grief.
But in this tragical transaction the serpent and his seed acts a conspicuous part. By his subtilty he has plunged the entire race of man into a dismal vortex, and down, down they are going to inevitable ruin, where all must ultimately land, unless rescued by the arm of omnipotence. Could we see no further than this doleful scene, it seems that the serpent had achieved a final victory over the whole family of poor imbecile man; but it opens the way for a final and decisive combat between the two seeds; and at a specific time the two belligerents must meet and decide this momentous contest. But my brother wants my views especially on the seeds. The seed here, as in many other places, has reference to posterity, or lineal, hereditary descent. The seed of the woman here, doubtless, refers to Christ, who is to bruise the serpent’s head, but we identify with him all the election of grace, all that were chosen in him before the foundation of the world, all that are born of that incorruptible seed that liveth and abideth forever. “For a seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.” Ps. 22:30.
The prophet announces the coming of this seed that was to bruise the serpent’s head in the following language. “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isa. 7:14.
So far as the seed of Satan is concerned, we are not to understand that he has procreative or generating power to produce flesh and blood. When the Savior said to the Jews, “Ye are of your father the devil,” John 8:44, he had reference to him as the father of the wicked spirit that prompted them to act as they did; we might say their wicked spiritual father, as God is the father of his spiritual children.
That wicked spiritual seed of the serpent is called “the seed of the wicked,” Psalm 30:28, “seed of evil doers,” “children that are corrupters,” Isa. 1:4, while the Lord’s spiritual children are called “the seed of the righteous,” Prov. 15:21, “the holy seed,” Isa. 6:13, “a godly seed,” [seed of God – in the margin] Mal. 2:15.
But the Lord said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed,” and that malevolence has existed between the two seeds ever since, and still remains in the same state of opposition that has ever characterized it. “It [the woman’s seed] shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
Here the sanguinary contest, the bloody drama that must seal the destiny of myriads was announced. Like a long quarrel or irreconcilable controversy the strife went on until it finally came to blows. But what a combat! Indeed it seemed like a bloody assault of the one part, without any resistance on the other. The seed of the woman is dragged as a prisoner at the bar, but makes no resistance. Behold the meek and passive Son of God! Buffeted, spit upon, clothed with a mock robe and derisively hailed king of the Jews, crowned with piercing thorns, nailed to the cross – put to death. What was Satan and his cohorts aiming at here? To kill the Son, the Heir, and seize upon the inheritance. But they are engaged in a conflict with omnipotence. God’s power and wisdom are making their wrath to praise him, to make that wrath work for the good, the salvation of his people and the glory of his name. What! Is Satan working for the salvation of God’s people? He certainly did in that case, though unconsciously, work to accomplish that very end. He and his allies put the Savior to death, and that death, though they slew him with “wicked hands,” a wicked design, and were therefore inexcusable; yet that death completed the eternal redemption of his people, their everlasting and full salvation from their sins. Thus the serpent bruised his heel. But why was it said, Bruised his heel? The heel is the lower and hinder part of the body. The Mediator, or man Christ Jesus existed ere time began; but his body followed; was “made of a woman, made under the law.” Hence it was the afterpart, and he was put to death in the flesh. Therefore, it was his body, after part, or heel that was bruised.
But he was to bruise the serpent’s head. His highest aspirations were to be contravened or defeated. Hence the apostle said, “Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them, who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Heb. 2:14,15. Thus the serpent’s highest calculations and most sanguine anticipations were destroyed, and wonderful to think, it was done by “death.”
“But see the wonders of his power;
He triumphs in the dying hour;
And though by Satan’s rage he fell,
He dashed the rising hopes of hell.”
But does not the serpent still continue to bruise the heel of the woman’s seed? His people here on the earth constitute the lower and latter, or hinder part of his body, the church, and how often we feel with sore dismay his daily bruises.
“But let not all this terrify,
Pursue the narrow path;
Look to the Lord with steadfast eye,
And fight the fight of faith.”
Jesus has bruised, and will continue to bruise the head of the serpent. In the first open conflict he bruised his head – destroyed his works on Calvary, made him the unconscious agent of pulling down his own diabolical kingdom, and will continue to bruise until he, upon whom the spirit of the Lord is, shall be pleased “to set at liberty them that are bruised,” as the apostle has said to his brethren, “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” Rom. 16:20. Thus a conflict was promulgated in the bud of time between two contending powers, one almighty, the other permissive; for when the serpent was permitted to bruise the heel of the seed of the woman on Calvary it was in exact accordance with the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. These two contending powers have been engaged in deadly conflict ever since its annunciation, and these powers will continue to be active belligerents as long as time endures. The religion of Christ and the religion of anti-christ both receive impetus from those powers, and the warfare will continue to rage until one is finally and effectually subdued. But it is a conflict of no doubtful eventuality, no doubtful termination.
One of the agents that gives impetus to this conflict is omnipotent, the other only permissively. The struggle that the child of God is daily engaged in is the result of the working of these agencies. The spirit that works in the children of disobedience operates in the flesh and its opposite in the spirit, in consequence of which the flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. But from the time of the ringing of the tocsin of war until now, the battle has been raging; but the seed of the woman has long achieved a signal victory, and has it in reserve for each of his followers, and each one may eventually say, “Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory.”
Yours as ever,
J. F. JOHNSON.