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I JOHN 3:15.

Covington, GA., Dec.29, 1858.

DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - Brother L. Gass of Green County, N.Y., has requested in a private letter my views through the SIGNS on the following scripture: “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer; and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” I John 3:15.

In this epistle the inspired apostle dwells very fully upon the love of God in a description of its nature and blessed effects. In this chapter he contrasts the difference between love and hatred in a clear and lucid manner. He also shows the difference between the works of God and the works of the devil. The subject contained in the text is one of importance, and should be carefully elucidated. Such views as I have I will express for the consideration of brother Gass, and the readers of the SIGNS in general. If my views are not right, they are such as I have.

Man in his fallen condition is in a state of sin and death; death hath dominion over him. But those that have passed from death unto life sustain a spiritual relation to God, and to Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore “as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Rom. 5:21. A great deal has been said in the religious world about what is called the new birth, or what change a sinner undergoes in the work of salvation. I am not disposed to controvert the subject, but in the way of expressing my views I will simply state in the passage from death unto life an important change takes place. Where sin had dominion, now grace reigns. Upon what principle is this changed produced? We answer the new, or inner man is of God, the production of incorruptible seed. That seed is Christ. I do not understand that the rational powers and faculties of a sinner are made spiritual, or that his soul and body are new-modeled and changed from their former state to that of complete perfection and purity, but the relation he sustained to the earthly Adam is so changed that he is now recognized as a child of God in love with heavenly things, possessing within himself all the component principles of a new creature, or new man in Christ Jesus, which cannot sin because it is born of God. This constitutes the brotherhood among the saints of God. It is impossible for the new, or spiritual man to hate his brother for being of heavenly production; he is holy, lovely, and excellent in his character; but when we consider that the saints in the earthly house of this tabernacle possess a fallen corrupt disposition, which is opposed to God and holiness, we no longer are at a loss to understand from whence cometh wars and fightings among the saints.

The same spirit that was in Cain when he killed his brother, is the spirit of wickedness which is of the devil, for he that committeth sin is of the devil. Cain slew his brother because, his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. Hence John could say, “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.” On the same principle the fallen and depraved disposition of the saints is as wicked as that which actuated Cain, or that is in the world. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies &c.” Gal. 5:19,20. “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law.” Gal. 5:22,23. Here we have a description of the works of the flesh, and of the fruit of the Spirit, both existing in the persons of the saints so that they cannot do the good that they would do. Hence they are directed to “walk in the spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, for the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” Gal. 5:16,17.

We have now an insight to the meaning of our text as I understand it. John says, “He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” Paul says, “For to be carnally minded is death.” Rom. 8:6. When the carnal fleshly mind of the saints predominates, or has the ascendancy, it will cause one to hate his brother. And, “whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer;” yes, it is a murderous spirit such as Cain possessed when he killed his brother. A man is a murderer when from malice aforethought with a premeditated design he takes the life of his fellow creature. It is not an uncommon thing when a church is in difficulty to see brethren and sisters at variance with one another, manifesting a hateful spirit towards each other. Perhaps they had formerly been at peace, united in brotherly love and fellowship, but now an opposite spirit is manifest. A hard acrimonious, hateful spirit predominates or has the preponderancy. There is an evident design to injure one another. A murderer; yea, those that are most guilty retaliate on each other, while the innocent suffer, and perish as to their joys and comforts, the cause is dishonored, and suffers reproach, and many sorrowful and weeping hours are experienced. Truly this may be called a death. Further it is murder in the first degree, a heinous crime, and its baneful effects may be seen for years to come. Brethren may become alienated in their feelings towards each other under the exercise of a hard unyielding spirit.

“And ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” The course of a murderer is a violation of the laws of the land; a criminal act which subjects him to trial and punishment. Sinners as transgressors of God’s holy and righteous law are in a state of criminality and death. The wrath of God abideth on them. The saints being under law to Christ, are amenable to the laws of the King in Zion, and whenever they transgress Christ’s commands in any way to the wounding of the brethren, there is a criminality attending it which will not pass unpunished. It is the same spirit that is in the world; for it is of the world, and it is the work of the devil. No man in a literal sense that will take the life of his fellow-creature from malice aforethought, can have eternal life in him, so on the same principle there can be no eternal life in that murderous spirit of hatred and bitterness which will cause one brother to hate another for the sake of gratifying a selfish depraved disposition. Neither is there any eternal life existing in the body of this death, or bondage of corruption. Paul was assured that in him {that is in his flesh} dwelt no good thing. He speaks of keeping under his body {for he knew there was no eternal life in it,} and bringing it into subjection lest by any means after he had preached to others he should be a castaway. Not fall from grace and be lost eternally, but be a castaway as to his usefulness in the church of Christ. Such an example is praiseworthy among all the saints.

Eternal life does not exist in Adam, it did not originally before his transgression, and it never has since. It is not found in graceless men, neither has it any existence in the fleshly and fallen nature of regenerated persons. It has its existence in Christ alone for he is the true God and eternal life. That eternal life was with the Father and is manifest unto his people. “And this is the record that God hath given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” I John 5:11,12.

The conclusion from the premises is that while all spiritual blessings are given to the church in Christ Jesus, by whom the saints are made partakers of God’s grace, that the spirit which causes discord, variance, and distress among the Lord’s people, must emanate from a wicked source, and is the work of the devil. All unrighteousness is sin, and he that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. We can rejoice, however, that for this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. All power is given unto him in heaven, and earth. Blessed be God, he must reign until he hath put all enemies under his feet. And the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. And when the end cometh he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority, and power.

How encouraging is the reflection to all the weary pilgrims of Zion’s King. What a tribute of praise and thanksgiving is due to the almighty God for such an expression of stupendous grace and mercy. Oh, that we might love him with all our heart, soul, might, mind, and strength while time endures with us, and finally love, honor, and glorify him forever in the realms of immortal glory. May this be our happy portion for Jesus’ sake.

Though I am removed far far away from the dear brethren and sisters in the northern and eastern States, with whom I did once associate, yet the bond of christian love and friendship, I hope, is not impaired which once existed between us. I promised to write to many of them, but have failed in several instances to do so, not from a lack of christian friendship, nor out of disrespect in any instance. I am situated so as not to have as much opportunity to write private letters as I once had, having more to claim my attention. I hope as much devoted to the cause I profess to love now, as I have at any time within the last twenty years as I still continue my feeble labors in the service of my Lord and Master. As I write considerable for the MESSENGER, I have not as much opportunity to write for the SIGNS.

My christian love and best respects to yourself and family, and to all the dear brethren and sisters in Christ.

Yours in christian bonds,
Joseph L. Purington.