IF Christ died for all the human family, with one and the same view, why is it the greater part of them live and die, without ever hearing of his name? If hearing of it is not necessary to salvation, why should so much time, expense, and affliction, be imposed on the world? If Christ has suffered all that is necessary to make reconciliation to God, what has chilled his love, that, either by withholding the means for men to use to save themselves, or by limiting the displays of regenerating grace, by which he saves them, he should not save with ease, those who cost him pain and blood? If Christ has not died for all, those for whom he did not die, have no more cause to complain than the felon has, because no other appears to die for his crimes; and yet, to a spectator, this looks like a respecting of persons.
The law of eternal right, will always be binding on rational beings, as long as the perfections of God, and the faculties of men exist. This law enjoins on all men to believe all that God reveals, and do all that he commends. That God revealed the true Messiah, and the Messiah gave infallible proofs that he was the anointed, is certain; therefore, all who saw him and his works, and did not believe in him gave God the lie; and, all who do not believe the record that God has given of his Son, make him a liar. It is, moreover, true, that all who do not believe shall be damned; are condemned already. The light is not the condemnation, only by ex. posing the evil deed, of breaking the law. To believe that men. will be condemned for simply not believing that Christ died for them, is preposterous; and, if he did not die for them, it would condemn them for not believing a lie. If a prince falls in with a family of vicious habits, and marries one of them, and frees her from her debts, and reclaims her from her vices; does this deliver the rest of the family from the restraints and penalties of the law? Can they justify themselves, by pleading that the prince has married one of the family? That men were made good at first, is clear; and, that God requires them to be as good as he made them; and, in case they have relapsed, to cast away all their sins, make themselves new hearts, and renew right spirits within them, is also clear; but, from this, does it follow, that men are bound to be better than Adam was, to posses eternal life – the unction from the holy one – new covenant blessings, which came not by Adam, Abraham, or Moses, but by Jesus Christ? A question here arises, whether a destitution of the Holy Spirit, of the grace of eternal life, is a sin? That men will be condemned for their sins without it, is certain; but, will they be condemned because God has not granted unto them repentance unto life, and given unto them the water that springs up to eternal life?
A word of experience. In the years 1772-73, etc., when my mind was so solemnly impressed with eternal realities, as to turn me from the power of Satan, unto the living God; Whether from the Bible I read, the preaching I heard, the teachings of the Holy Spirit, or some other cause, I did as firmly believe the following articles, as I believed that Jesus Christ was the Saviour of Sinners.
1. That all men were guilty sinners, and that God would be just and clear, if he damned them all.
2. That Christ did, before the foundation of the world, predestinate a certain number of the human family for his bride, to bring to grace and glory.
3. That Jesus died for sinners, and for his elect sheep only.
4. That those for whom he did not die, had no cause to complain, as the law under which they were placed was altogether reasonable,
5. That Christ would always call his elect to him while on earth, before they died.
6. That those whom he predestinated, redeemed and calmed, he would keep by his power, and bring them safe to glory.
7. That there would be a general resurrection, both of the just and the unjust.
8. That, following the resurrection, judgment would commence? when the righteous sheep would be placed on the right hand of Christ, and admitted into life eternal; and the wicked on the left hand, doomed to ever. lasting fire.
In the belief of those articles, and what was collateral therewith, I began my ministerial career in 1774, with but very little thought how many and weighty the consequences of these premises were. But, now, after an experiment of fifty-seven years, and after going over the ground thou sands of times, with all the research and candor in my power, I dare not pull up stakes and make a new start. Many uncertainties arise in my mind, many questions spring up that I cannot answer; but, every other system that I explore, has greater difficulties, and worse conclusions.
Sometimes a query arises in my mind, whether a gracious God could not have revealed his designs in a manner so clear, that there could be no doubts or disputations about them ? But, here I am checked. If revelation were otherwise, or if my capacity were so enlarged that I could solve every question that ever arose in my mind, that same enlargement of mind would unfold ten thousand more questions, which, as yet, I hare no stretch of thought to conceive of. There would be no getting through the dark place, unless creatures should be omniscient.
The doctrine of the trinity is too profound for my intellect. That there are three that bear record in heaven, God has said, and I believe; and that is all. The Holy Ghost, in some places, seems to take the lead of the Father; see Phil. iv. 20; Col. i. 8; ii. 2; iii. 17. Why should not the Arians, from this, believe that the Father was appointed by the Holy Ghost to do what he does ? That Christ is the first – God over all – Ubiquity itself, I believe; and, I have wished that those who deny that Jesus is Jehovah, would begin at the beginning of the Christian alphabet, and tell how a Virgin could conceive and bear a child; if they can do that, they will as easily understand how the same child can be the mighty God and everlasting Father.
The doctrine of redemption by the blood of Christ, is the only foundation for the hope for pardon that I have; and yet, in all its ramifications, it absorbs me. Why should God admit of a vicarious atonement in the Christocracy, and forbid it in the Theocracy, and indeed in all civil governments ? Is it possible for the guilt of criminals to be transferred to one who is innocent? If Christ had no guilt, in what did his sufferings consist? The principle of universal atonement and limited grace, which is now very popular, gives no relief to but one hitch of the mind. When the mind is burdened with the thought, “why does God love Jacob more than Esaw;” to answer, “a general atonement is made for all alike,” may ease the first thought; but, when we are told that many will gain nothing by the atonement but an aggravated curse, the heart sickens to think that God would be at so much expense to get a pretence to condemn men. In the 8, 9, 10, 11, of Romans, Paul rests the subject logically. He vindicates the sovereignty of God with the hand of a master; but, when he undertook to wade into the goodness and equity of Jehovah, he found the waters swell from the ancles to the knees – to the loins – to the heart; and, rising to the chin, before his mouth was stop. pod, he cried out, “Oh! the depths of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out.” And there he has left me to grovel still. Not. withstanding I find myself at great loss about many things, yet, in one point of light, I rejoice that the ministration of life is hidden from the wise and prudent, and many of its essentials, or stronger points, from the saints of God. Sin has sunk men into such guilt and pollution, that any scheme which human minds can understand, would be utterly in. competent to restore. It requires a plan, formed in infinite wisdom, and executed in infinite wisdom and love, to meet the sinner's wants, and relieve his woes; and, if thus founded and executed, how incompetent the limited wisdom Of man must be to comprehend it. In this view of the subject, if I could comprehend the gospel system, I should not dare to trust in it.
I have personally known more than one thousand Baptist preachers in my life; nearly one half of them have gone the way of all the earth; but few remain who have been in the ministry as long as myself; and the time of my departure is at hand. Soon I must test the reality of the religion I have preached to others, and feebly labored to possess myself. My only hope of acceptance with God, is founded on the mercy of God, flowing through Christ. Unless my soul and my services are washed in the blood of the Lamb, and perfumed by the intercession of the great High Priest, they will – they ought to be rejected.
Farewell, my friend; we are strangers to each other; nor do I expect to see your face in this world. Should we both be so favored of the Lord as to be admitted into Paradise, perhaps some friendly angel or kindred spirit may point you out to me, and say, “this is James Whitsitt;” or will the knowledge of disembodied spirits be so intuitive, that they will know each other without introduction?
Many things have crowded into my mind while I have been writing, which I have entirely suppressed; and, those articles that I have touched upon, have been so concisely handled, that I find, by review, they are left obscure; but, I never copy off, but trust to the original draught.
In unknown regions days and dates are unknown. Ask not after my Name, seeing it is Secret.
Elder John Leland
Published in 1832
The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland
Originally Published in 1845
Pages 624 – 627