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ETERNAL UNION OF CHRIST AND THE CHURCH #2.

Newton County, GA., April 4, 1858.

BROTHER BEEBE: - I had concluded not to write any more by way of discussion with brethren, upon what is called the “eternal union of Christ and the Church,” inasmuch as it does not appear to be profitable to many of the readers of the MESSENGER, and it seems to be almost impossible to be understood upon the subject. But since brother Moore has expressed his views, and presented the difficulties and objections which are upon his mind, I have concluded to write again, not by way of discussion, but simply for the relief of my own mind. I shall write with deference to the views and feelings of brother Moore.

I must confess if I was going a voyage to sea, I should choose a ship or vessel whose hull I knew to be completely sound, and the masts, rigging, and sails, in good order to encounter the stormy billows and convey me safe to my destined port. Just so in relation to a professed system of salvation, I desire something as sound and as substantial as the eternal throne of Jehovah, and that will convey me safe over all the storms, vicissitudes, and trying scenes which surround the pathway of the saint in his pilgrimage through this vale of tears to that heavenly world on high. Such a system of salvation has God revealed from heaven in the person of his dear Son. That system or plan was hid in God, or concealed in the secret place of the Most High under the shadow of the Almighty until he spread abroad the starry sky, and laid the foundations of the earth, and spoke all created things into manifest existence. The revelation of the glorious plan of salvation is in time, whereby the subjects of grace are made to speak forth the high praises of our God and King.

I understand that it was embraced in the grand counsel and purpose of Jehovah in the creation of this world, and all things which were created, to develop or manifest the church in an earthly or natural state of existence in the loins of Adam, and to exhibit the riches of his grace and mercy in the salvation of sinners in and through our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul said, “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one, much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Christ Jesus.” Rom. 5:17. Here are the two Adams. The first Adam {by order of manifestation} is of the earth, earthy – a natural man; the second Adam {by order of manifestation} is the Lord from heaven – a quickening Spirit. The first, the seminal Head of the natural family, the second the seminal Head of the spiritual family. Both families had an existence in their Progenitors before their birth or manifestation. Hence the language of our Savior to Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again.” John 3:6,7. I must acknowledge to my mind it does appear that every intelligent person that has any idea of cause and effect in the nature and operation of things, must rationally see at least the force of scriptural illustration in relation to the two births.

I understand the Scriptures to teach that Christ Jesus, not only existed in his eternal, underived Godhead, but also in his Sonship as the Head of the church, ere time began, Prov. 8:22-31, John 1:1,5 & 17:5. And every Scripture which speaks of him in his manifestation, both before, and at the time of his humiliation under the law, confirms his actual or real existence anterior to time, and before his incarnation. He proceeded forth and came from God, or the Father. It was said to Mary, “therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35, Isaiah 9:6,7.

Jesus said on a certain occasion, “Verily, verily I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground, and die, it abideth alone; but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit.” John 12:24. Hence I understand Jesus had reference to himself under the figurative expression “a corn of wheat.” Christ is declared to be the “ONLY BEGOTTEN Son of God.” “He saith not and to seeds as of many, but as of One, and to thy SEED {speaking to Abraham} which is CHRIST.” Gal. 3:16. He was alone the embodiment of the church of God, as Adam was alone the embodiment of the human family when his bride existed in him. A grain of wheat will not germinate alone by itself, but put it into the ground and it dies, but in its death, it will germinate and put forth fruit after its kind. Christ was alone in his sufferings and death as the seminal Head of the church under the law and its curse, but in his resurrection from the dead he is declared to be the Son of God with power. He is therefore the resurrection and the life in the bringing forth and manifestation of the children of God. “And if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” Rom. 8:17. Every person that is called by grace knows that before he experienced the resurrection power of the Son of God in the forgiveness of his sins, that he did experience a death under the law, and under its curse. I am writing experimentally.

Brother Moore has written in a manner which is calculated to produce the impression upon the minds of brethren, that the spiritual life-union of the church in the Sonship of our Lord Jesus Christ before the world began, conflicts with election, predestination, the Mediatorial character of Christ, purpose, experimental union, and other kindred principles of truth, while in fact this spiritual life union is the foundation for election, predestination, Christ as Mediator, purpose, experimental union, &c. Paul said, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” I Cor. 1:30. On the principle of relationship, and ownership, Christ died for his people, he died for the ungodly. On the principle of substitution alone, there can be no legal transfer, or imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ.

It is folly to suppose that the mortal bodies, and human souls of the saints existed in the Sonship of Christ before the world began. It is scarcely necessary to use words to explore such a construction of the sentiment of eternal, or spiritual life-union. Every person of common intelligence knows that the mortal bodies, and human souls of the saints come into manifest existence by ordinary generation in Adam. They became sinners in Adam, but are experimentally called, justified, and glorified in Christ Jesus.

Speaking of the resurrection, Paul said, “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” I Cor. 15:49. And then speaks in the subsequent verse how it shall be accomplished.

The abundance of Scripture brother Moore has quoted in reference to the state of sinners by nature, and the bestowal of spiritual blessings upon them, whereby they are called by grace, and receive the spirit of adoption, and are manifested heirs of immortal glory, is very much to the point in regard to the effect of a prior cause, Christ the life of his people, and that life manifested when they are born of God.

I do not expect to be able to remove the difficulties which present themselves to the mind of brother Moore in relation to the reception of the sentiment of eternal, or spiritual life-union. I have no disposition to strive for the mastery in a discussion with him. I am willing to give my views, and also to receive his views so far as I can understand and believe them. I will here state that so far as the writings of uninspired men are concerned on religious subjects I take no man, nor class of men as a standard of my religious views. The Scriptures are the only standard, and so far as my views or the views of any man are in accordance with the Scriptures, they are right, otherwise they are wrong. As much as I may respect the writings of Dr. Gill and others, I cannot believe all that he or they have written. As I have a degree of confidence that brother Moore has not intentionally and designedly garbled and perverted the sentiment of “eternal union,” as some others have done. I still continue to respect him as a brother in Christ. He has given his views, and presented the difficulties and objections which are in his way. I will notice his objections in the order in which they stand. In relation to the phrase “eternal union of Christ and his church,” he says, “1st. It is not scriptural.” I admit that the phrase is not found in the Scriptures, but the sentiment is there in its fullness and glory. Words are ordinary in their signification and use, and have no other meaning only such as are put to them, and often require explanation so as to be understood in their use. He says further, “2nd. It confounds the distinction between the things of time and eternity.” Here I must differ from him. I understand that it establishes the distinction so fully, that it makes the things of time, so far as eternal salvation is concerned, to be founded upon the things of eternity. Further he says, “3rd. It destroys the broad and obvious distinction between cause and effect, recognized everywhere throughout the Scriptures, the life of Christ, the cause of life in his saints.” Here I again differ from him. Instead of destroying the distinction, in my judgment it fully establishes it. “4th. To most minds it represents the creature as holding a kind of partnership with the Creator in his eternal underived existence.” No such representation can justly be drawn from the premises, as I understand the subject. “5th. It confounds ‘the election of grace’ with a kind of necessity.” As I am not certain what is meant by this last specification, I will pass to the next. “6th. To most minds it represents the sinner of the most desperate character, as being in union with a spirit of holiness.” In no sense will this representation apply only as we understand that the sinner after he is born again has to exclaim like Job, “Behold I am vile,” or like Isaiah, “Wo is me, for I am undone, for I am a man of unclean lips,” &c., or like Paul, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Every saved sinner {experimentally saved in the present tense} has a union to the spirit of holiness and loves holy things; yet exclaims, I am a sinner of a desperate character, not in his actions or conduct, but in a sinful nature. “7th. It represents a branch as growing in two different stocks at the same time.” The church of God in her militant state possesses the life of Christ, and the natural life of Adam, both existing in the person of the saints. The saints manifestly are the church of Christ. Their earthly location which is temporary is in time, in different parts of the habitable earth, while their spiritual location is in Christ Jesus. While the outward man {the Adamic man} perishes, the inward man {the spiritual man} is renewed day by day. “8th. It represents to most minds that the saints lost nothing by the fall, and the sinner gains nothing by redemption.” It may so appear to the minds of some, but it is not correct. I cannot tell what the representation of those with whom brother Moore is conversant, has been upon the subject, but to my mind no such representation is deducible from the sentiment of “eternal union.” The saints are sinners by nature and are lost by the fall, lost as to the holiness of God’s character and the purity of his law. By redemption the bodies, and souls of sinners {elect sinners,} are brought into union experimentally and manifestly with God the Father, and Christ Jesus our Lord, in time, and at the resurrection. They sing, “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.” Rev. 7:10. If they had never been lost in Adam, and saved in Christ Jesus, they never could have sung the foregoing song. “9th. It represents a sinner who is dead as united to Christ who is life, or that the sinner is not really dead, being united to Christ, and needs no quickening.” To my mind it appears plain that no such representation is deducible in a correct view of the subject. Sinners are dead in trespasses and sins until spiritual life is communicated and they are quickened, and united to Christ experimentally. “10th. It destroys the distinction between purpose, and existing realities.” I think not brother Moore. It was not a reality that I personally existed before I was born, but it is a reality that I did exist in Adam {not in purpose} before I was born. If I am a child of God {and God knows whether I am or not,} it was not a reality that I had a personal or individual existence in Christ, anterior to time, but that I did exist in Christ in a spiritual sense, I certainly believe.

Just so in illustrating the subject now before us, in relation to the distinction between purpose and existing realities. It was not an existing reality that the church had her existence in her militant state before time, but it is a reality now. It will be a reality that she will exist in her triumphant state in the world of unsullied glory. This will be the accomplishment of God’s purpose of love and mercy which had its real existence in the eternal Mind and in the Sonship of Christ before the world began.

My communication has rather assumed the form of discussion, though I did not intend it when I began. I wished to relieve my own mind only. I could write more upon the subject at issue, but I cannot reconcile my own feelings to the strict propriety of doing so. Some may say that what I have written is mere abstractions, or a system of metaphysical reasoning. Be that as it may, God is my judge, and I feel to rest upon his word and promise. With a sort of fearfulness of mind that my communication will produce more disquietude among the saints than it will profit and edify, I submit it for publication. There is some probability that I shall not write any more upon the subject, any further than what may be embodied in the great subject of gospel truth.

Without possessing any unkind feelings towards any person under heaven, if I know my own heart, I close this imperfect scribble.

J.L. Purington.