Lawrenceburg, July 22,1863.
BROTHER BEEBE: - In the sixth number of the current volume of the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, I find the following request:
"Will Eld. J. F. Johnson, of Kentucky, give his views on Luke xix. 10, and oblige an inquirer after truth?"
The verse reads thus: "For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." This is a very plain declaration, and conscious as I am of my insufficiency to do justice to the plainest portion of holy writ, I will, nevertheless, try to "oblige an inquirer after truth." As Jesus passed through Jericho there was a man named Zaccheus, the chief among the publicans, or tax collectors, who sought to see him; and because he was "little of stature," and, I suppose, could not see over the crowd, ran before and climbed up into a sycamore tree. When Jesus came he called him down, saying, "Today I must abide at thy house." He came down and received him joyfully. The multitude murmured, saying he was gone to be a guest with a man that is a sinner. Just like the Arminians are yet - think that the Savior should have nothing to do with men until they cease to be sinners. Perfectly in accordance with the theory that teaches people that they are to be saved by their own good works. Zaccheus was rich, but how soon was his love of lucre lessened when he joyfully received the Savior! He was ready to distribute half his goods to the poor, and, if he had wronged any man by false accusation, would restore four-fold. Gladly receiving Jesus is, and should be, followed by honesty and uprightness. All such recipients should show their faith by their works. Jesus said to him, "This day is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham." "For (in consideration of a sonship with Abraham) the Son of Man is come," &c. Whether this was a son of Abraham according to the flesh I am not prepared to say. Perhaps not, as the Jews so readily branded him with the epithet, "sinner," a term usually applied by them to the Gentiles. He was doubtless a son of Abraham according to Paul's definition. He says, "They which are of faith the same are the children of Abraham." And again, "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Gal. iii. 7, 29. At any rate, salvation had come to his house. All the seeking for salvation that work-mongers talk so much about is not worth a groat. But, when Jesus comes to poor sinners with it, then it is a priceless boon. The dear Redeemer does not come to make overtures of salvation upon terms and conditions, but says, "My own arm brought salvation." "The Son of Man is come." Where did he come from? He says, "I came down from heaven." "Ah!" says a would-be-called old fashioned Baptist, "as God he came down from heaven, not the man Christ Jesus. He did not exist as man until he was born of the virgin Mary. It is unreasonable to suppose that the man existed in heaven. It could not be." Yes it could, for he DID thus exist in heaven, and come down from there to do his Father's will. Is it not strange that men will come right out and deny a fact that is confirmed in the scriptures as positively as language can state it, and by words, too, so simple and plain that they are not susceptible of a misunderstanding? What are some of those words? Here they are: "No man hath ascended up to heaven but HE THAT CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN, even THE SON OF MAN which is in heaven." And again: "What and if ye shall see THE SON OF MAN ascend up where HE WAS BEFORE." Paul reasons on the case thus: "Now that he ascended, what is it but that he descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things." That is proof, clear enough for those who wish to know the truth.
"Who is this that comes from far,
Clad in garments dipped in blood;
Strong, triumphant traveler,
Is he man, or is he God?
I that speak in righteousness,
Son of God and man I am;
Mighty to redeem your race,
Jesus is your Savior's name."
What did he come for? "To seek and to save that which was lost." Will he fully and finally accomplish the work? He will, for his counsel shall stand and he will do all his pleasure. The mission of the Son of Man is very explicitly spoken of here. How many believe it is as it is, without any ifs and buts, without adding to or taking from it? Now, suppose we should find just below this text one saying, The Son of Man is come to beseech men to seek him, and to offer terms by which they may be saved, if they comply with those terms, and thereby make a way possible for all to be saved. How strange these two passages would look side by side, and yet no doubt a large majority of the religionists of our day would prefer such an interpolation to the genuine text. If there was a bible gotten up precisely in accordance with the present working theory of religion, there never was a book that was a more complete counterplot to another than that would be to the present bible. In it we should have the resolutions, works, offerings and righteousness of men, opposed to the purposes, work, blood and righteousness of Christ to save us. Then would come our doing, holding out faithful, &c., to keep us, instead of the power of God. There, too, we should have evil for good and good for evil, darkness for light and light for darkness, bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. See Isaiah v. 20. That class of religionists may talk about a translation of the Bible loud and long, but that will never answer their purpose. They must have another book, expressing radically different sentiments. A "translation" is simply taking a sentiment as expressed by one language and expressing the same sentiment in another or different tongue. One with half an eye, therefore, may readily discover that a simple translation of the Bible will never reach the case. "To seek that which was lost" is a part of his mission that he has never assigned to another, until he first finds them and sets his seal or mark upon them. When that is done we may look for them, and when we discover the mark (circumcision of the heart) then we recognize them, and should we even find them previously to that, we should not know them. He has called upon his people, too, to seek him after he has found and vitalized them; but while they are dead in sin, and without strength, such a requisition would be wholly superfluous. This text perfectly accords with the general sentiment expressed in the scriptures on the subject. It is said in Ezekiel xxxiii. 11-16, "Behold I, even I will both search my sheep and seek them out," and so on to the sixteenth verse, where he says, "I will seek that which was lost and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and strengthen that which was sick." But he came to save as well as seek. The "discipline" of a certain church, no, the discipline of a certain society, says; Question: What is the duty of the preacher? Answer: To save souls. And again, to the preacher: You have nothing to do but to save souls; therefore spend and be spent in that work, &c. If they "save souls" they are saviors. Away with such saviors! Poor, little things - no, nothings, less than nothing, and vanity; for the Son of Man is come to save. There is one that is able to save. The fullness of the Godhead dwells in him bodily. All power in heaven and earth is there. There was no more certainty in his coming than that he would finish the work that he came to do. So far as the flesh or temple in which he dwelt was concerned he was "made of a woman, made under the law to redeem them that were under the law." To accomplish that he must meet that law by obeying its commandments, walking in its precepts and suffering its penalty. He, therefore, in the prosecution of that important work, toiled assiduously while encountering all the opposition that incarnate fiends could use, all the malice, hatred, revenge, calumny, insult and cruelty that they could heap upon him. Yet, in the endurance of all this, he prosecuted the momentous work with a purpose unmoved, with a zeal unabating, with an endurance and a forbearance before unknown. "Why did the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing?" "The kings of the earth stood up and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against his Christ." Many were his foes, but mighty was his arm. No penalty of the law too heavy for him to bear, no cruelty of enemies too severe for him to endure, no debt against his bride too immense for him to cancel. In the garden of Gethsemane, when pressed under the weight of our sins and the wrath of a sin-avenging and violated law, the gloomy billows of trouble went over, the poignant arrows of grief pierced, and the terrible throes of anguish wrung his holy soul. Then to Calvary - but here my language must fail to depict the terrible, bloody, ghastly, suffering scene of Golgotha! But, while we mourn over the tragical scene, there are two reasons why we should rejoice, too. First, he suffered for our sins. Secondly, he was able to bear the enormous weight when it would have crushed all his children down into remediless ruin. Thus he could perform in a few hours what men and angels would have failed to do in time or eternity, and when it was completed immaculate lips exclaimed, "IT IS FINISHED!"
"He dies! the Friend of sinners dies!
Lo! Salem's daughters weep around,
A solemn darkness veils the skies,
A sudden trembling shakes the ground!
And did he bleed, for sinners bleed?
And could the sun behold the deed?
No! he withdrew his sickening ray,
And darkness veiled the morning day!"
But he has come to seek and save "THAT which was lost." This word that is a definite one. There is a specialty expressed by it. The church, while in a state of warfare here, sustains two relationships, one spiritual and holy, the other natural and sinful. Each one of the whole fraternity possesses alike these two natures, brought to view in the scriptures as two men. Zaccheus was one of that progeny, a son of Abraham, according to Gal. iii. 7, 29, possessing in common with the rest an "earthy" and a "heavenly" man. Now it is that earthy man that the Son of Man came to seek and to save from the curse of the law, redeem to God by his blood. Permit me, while on this part of the subject, to disabuse the minds of some who have been told that some of us (including myself) preach that Christ came to save a set of holy, spiritual children that were never lost. This monstrosity, too, has been hatched by and crawled out from some who have gone out from us, because they were not of us, but still assume to be of the old order of Baptists, but their more appropriate name is anti-union Baptists, if we may apply the name Baptists to them at all. I never heard any one advance such an idea. It is simply an absurdity, a fabrication from first to last; and I would fain hope that nothing worse than ignorance has originated it. That earthy man had "gone astray like a lost sheep" and was lost, wandered "far off," "being alienated from the life of God," &c., but there has never one of them yet gone so far as to be beyond the scan of the all-seeing eye of the good Shepherd. They were his before they took their desperate plunge in their earthly head. His Father gave them to him, and he had as lawful a title to them as ever a shepherd had for sheep, and therefore the right to redeem, seek and save them, which work he will surely consummate, and crown the climax in the final release of the last one, to the glory of his own name and their everlasting felicity. Although he abhorred the sin, he loved the sinner still, and gave himself for it. Was not this a wonder of wonders? What great and marvelous wonders he may have wrought elsewhere we cannot say, (for nothing seems too great for him to do,) but surely this world was never the theatre of a more marvelous work!
"He formed the sun, fair fount of light,
The moon and stars to rule the night;
But night and stars, and moon and sun,
Are little works compared with One.
He rolled the seas and spread the skies,
Made valleys sink and mountains rise,
The meadows clothed with native green,
And bade the rivers roll between.
But what are seas, or skies, or hills,
Or verdant vales, or gliding rills,
To wonders man was made to prove,
The wonders of redeeming love!"
It is truly astonishing and marvelous in the extreme that Christ should come,
"To suffer in the traitor's place,
To die for man, surprising grace!"
Yet such is the fact, "that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and rose again the third day, according to the scriptures." Yes, astonishing as it may seem, he bent his downward course from his residence, where, wrapt in unstained glory, which he had with the Father before the world was, beyond the reach of woe and misery; still, for the unparalleled love he had for poor sinners, traitors, "he became a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief," while we hid our faces from him; but,
"He, came to seek, he came to save,
He came to triumph o'er the grave."
He has done all that, and seated upon a white horse, emblem of purity and power, with a crown upon his head, fit emblem of a royal victor, a bow in his hand, with which to carry dismay and discomfiture into the hosts of anti-christ, and thus equipped, "he went forth conquering and to conquer." Ah! my brethren, with this triumphant Leader to marshal the hosts, lead the van, and bring up the rearward myriads that he came to seek and to save, we shall weather the storm, skim over the billows and outride the hurricanes that threaten us here. He is "traveling in the greatness of his strength." There is majesty in his name, might in his arm, but mercy in his march for all the redeemed. The Lord's people, by the death, resurrection and ascension of the Redeemer, was not only to be saved from the curse of the law and the condemning power of sin, but from all its annoying consequences. This deliverance is still progressing to a glorious and happy termination. Not only "delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of his dear Son," but saved from all the persecutions of outside enemies, and the more distressing annoyances of indwelling ones. The un-compromising war that is incessantly waged between the flesh and the spirit, blasting our comforts, bewildering our hopes, subjecting our faith to the severest trials, increasing our misery, cultivating our doubts and augmenting our fears, must all end well, for this conflict is drifting to no uncertain termination. Tribulation is an unavoidable portion of the saints, of this world, but Jesus has overcome the world.
"Then let not all this terrify,
Pursue the narrow path;
Look to the Lord with steadfast eye,
And fight the fight of faith."
The Captain of our salvation has grasped and holds the palm of victory, and all his shall ere long be seen with "palms in their hands," sharing his triumph. Then let us, while here, sing with David, "We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners." For David also says, "Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth." Under its ample folds we may fearlessly face each foe, and by-and-by we shall unite our voices, all in harmony and sweet melody, and chant the song of Moses and the Lamb. Moses sang once, and we shall all ere long sing anti-typically, "I will sing unto the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and song; he is become my salvation."
The Son of Man is come,
To seek and save the lost;
Triumphantly he'll bear us home,
He's met and paid the cost.
J. F. JOHNSON.