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FLESH & WORLD.

Alexandria, VA., Jan.14,1873.

DEAR BROTHER WOODSON: - Your favor of the 7th, instant I received yesterday, and with pleasure I perused its contents; I will now proceed to answer your question relative to the words flesh, world, &c., in John 17. The prayer of our Lord to his Father, is in reference to the glory of our precious Redeemer in his Mediatorial exaltation, in his kingdom on the throne of his glory, above all earthly kingdoms and governments. God has set his King upon his holy hill of Zion, or upon Zion, the hill of God’s holiness. The decree has gone forth, for God says to his Son, “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron, thou shalt dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Psa. 2:7,9. He asks of the Father for the glory given him. Here is the glory and the power. “As thou hast given him power over all flesh.” &c. Jesus said on another occasion, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Matt. 28:18. As he has all power in heaven and in earth, of course all flesh in its limitation to kingdoms, governments, nations, the heathen, the uttermost parts of the earth, all men of every nation, are held in subjection to his will and purpose; to break them with a rod of iron, and to dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. His power over all flesh, is in relation to his giving eternal life to as many as the Father had given him. His prayer particularly is for his disciples, the apostles, until we reach the twentieth verse of the chapter. And the word world, is evidently used in an opposite sense from them for whom he prayed. Whether the world here spoken of has reference to the universe, mankind in general, the Gentile nations, or the Theocracy of the Jews; the special consideration is, that as Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, neither were his apostles, no more than himself, of this world. Hence the all flesh, and the world, are spoken of in contradiction from himself, and his apostles in his kingdom on the earth. When I say his kingdom on the earth, I hope to be distinctly understood as having reference to the kingdom spoken of in Daniel 2:44, “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” And to see this kingdom a man must be born again, and to enter therein he must experience the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost. It is the kingdom which our blessed Lord came into the world to set up and establish among all nations. In the days of his flesh he preached the gospel of the kingdom of God, “saying the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye and believe the gospel.” Mark 1:15. This is the kingdom he speaks of, “that is not of this world.” John 18:36. Again, “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace.” &c. Heb. 12:28. When the end cometh our glorious Lord will deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power. I Cor. 15:24.

I think it is very apparent that from the beginning of our Lord’s prayer until we reach the twentieth verse, himself, with his apostles, are particularly considered, as I before stated. He says, in the twentieth verse, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” Again, “And that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as thou hast loved me.” One important consideration claims attention here, which is overlooked by many Bible readers. Christ had not yet suffered; the wall of partition environing the nation of the Jews, and excluding the Gentiles, had not yet been removed, and Christ’s kingdom still in embryo, and compared to new wine found in the cluster, which could not be destroyed for there was a blessing in it; {Isa. 1:8} had not yet appeared; therefore in consideration of the ingathering of the Gentiles as well as Jews into his kingdom, he says, “that the world may believe that thou hath sent me.” The Gentiles were often called the world in distinction from the Jews, as for instance, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” John 3:16,17. Then the Gentiles is meant, or referred to, and spoken of, and the distinguishing characteristic, that “whosoever believeth in him,” presents most conclusively who he is, or may be, that believes in him, or knows him to be the Son of God, sent into the world to save sinners. God so loved the world, certainly embraces, or includes Gentiles only, and hence the church and people among the Gentiles called his sheep, alone is presented in the subject. Another scripture presents the same truth. “And he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” I John 2:2. Here both Jews and Gentiles are all included in this propitiatory sacrifice. Which shall believe on me through their word. What is it to believe? It is the work of God to believe on him whom he hath sent. Those who believe, are by nature children of wrath even as others. In this state of nature, all men, Jews and Gentiles, are alike involved.

Addressing the church at Ephesus, Paul says, “Wherefore, remember that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh who are called uncircumcision by that which is called the circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world; but now, in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace who hath made both {Jews and believing Gentiles} one; and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain {Jews & Gentiles} one new man so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby; and come to preach peace to you {believing Gentiles} which were afar off, and to them {believing Jews} that were nigh.” Eph. 2:11-17. Not only to believe, but to know Christ as the Son of God, and the Savior of sinners, is altogether by revelation. Christ’s kingdom has come, is set up, and established in the hearts of his people. His church mostly made up of Gentiles in contradistinction from the Jews, believe, know, and receive the word of God, and his apostles, in reference to eternal salvation.

A fictitious belief, based on tradition, education and surrounding religious influence, and a fictitious knowledge grounded on human ability, free agency, or works of the creature, or in other words a lying spirit has gone abroad {as in the case of Ahab} deceiving with a profession of religion, a supposed ability, and righteousness of the creature. The idea is by the means of Sunday Schools, missionary societies, and other religious appliances, to evangelize the world, and to make men believe and know that God sent his Son to save sinners. Also, that God is waiting to be gracious to sinners, on the principle that as soon as they will come to him, he will save them. Very few, if any, worldly religionists will positively deny that salvation is of the Lord, but to make this salvation available, sinners must take the first step towards God in accepting the terms of the gospel, or they cannot be saved. On this principle, the meritorious work of salvation is in the creature, and not in the glorious work of our exalted Redeemer.

The everlasting oneness of God’s people in Christ Jesus is most beautifully presented in the words, “That they all may be one; as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they may also be one in us.” Again, “and the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are one, I in them, and thou in me; that they may be made perfect in one.” This is the foundation, the ground work of the indivisible union of Christ and his people. The kingdom of God is indivisible, is not divided, is not mixed up with the hundreds of religious denominations in the world, neither can it be. The visible organization of the church and the kingdom of God is dissimilar from all others, and it stands alone.

There can be no proper way to understand the scriptures only as we keep in close connection what we read, and have our understanding enlightened by the Holy Spirit, or opened by our blessed Lord, to compare scripture with scripture, and to behold the glory and fullness of the scriptures in our own experience. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth {or discerneth} all things, yet he himself is judged {or discerned} of no man.” I Cor. 2:14,15. If Christ died for all the family of Adam, all of them will be saved. But as he died only for his elect, or in other words for his sheep, and as his sheep are mostly Gentiles after the flesh, they will in time be called, justified and glorified. They are all those who believe in Christ Jesus through the word of the apostles. All others are unbelievers.

Jesus says, “I pray for them {his disciples} I pray not for the world.” Again, “I have given them {his disciples} thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” We are obliged to conclude that none but believers, whether Jews or Gentiles, white or colored, male or female, believe and know that the Father sent his Son into the world to save his people only.

Brother Woodson, whether I have met all the points requested in a satisfactory manner, of course I am not able to say, I am certain if I have not satisfied your mind, it was not on account of a lack of desire to do the best I could under the circumstances. If I have not correctly presented the subject, I confess I do not know how to understand it. If the Primitive, or Old School Baptists in this country and in other countries, are not the people who believe and know by blessed experience, that God sent his Son into the world to save sinners, I know not where they are to be found, for there is no other people in a church relation who contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. In truth they are the church of God, and answer the description by Paul in his epistle to the Philippians, chap. 3, vs.3, “For we are the circumcision which worship God in the spirit and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” I do not write, calling in question your belief on this point, nor the purity of your motive in asking my views.

Let me hear from you again; Yours sincerely and affectionately,
Joseph L. Purington.


P.S. There is a sense in which the devils believe and know Christ to be the Son of God. Christ “suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.” And behold they cried out, saying, “What have we to do with thee Jesus thou Son of God? Art thou come to torment us before the time?” Matt. 8:29, Mark 5:7, Luke 8:28. As they knew Christ, his servants were also known, as in the case of a certain damsel possessed with the spirit of divination. “The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.” Acts 17:17. “Thou believest there is one God; thou doest well; the devils also believe and tremble.” James 2:19.

J.L.P.