[The following article is a fair sample of the views of limited Predestinarians. It does not seem appropriate to let it pass without a reply.]
David said, "Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days" (Psa. 55:23), and Solomon said, "The fear of the Lord prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened." (Prov. 10:27). Also, "Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?" (Eccl. 7:17).
Some men claim we have a set time to die, but if that were true how could deceitful men fail to live out all their days? How could the fear of the Lord prolong our days? How could the years of the wicked be shortened? And, how could anyone die before their time? These are questions I have never heard or seen answered. Have you?
The first commandment with promise is, "Honor thy father and thy mother - that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth" (Eph. 6:3 & Ex. 20:12). It is quite obvious that as a general rule how we conduct ourselves has a direct bearing on how long we live. This could not be true if we had a "set" time to die and could not go beyond it or fall short of it. —Elder Ralph Harris, "Advocate & Messenger."
Reply: Elder Ralph Harris, whose name is attached to the above comments, is numbered with those Primitive Baptists calling themselves Old Line. More properly they should be called limited Predestinarians since they do not believe that God has predestinated all things. Elder Harris is not likely to hear or see his questions answered among the camps wherein he circulates, so we shall be pleased to afford him some little portion of our understanding of the matter, should he be situated to receive a Thus sayeth the Lord.
On a number of points important to the questions he asked, Elder Harris has not made himself clear. Does the Elder mean to apply those Scriptures he quoted above to all mankind - or are they to be restricted to the elect only? Are some of them applicable to only those not elected of God to eternal life? It seems clear that however he applies the texts, he has created for himself several additional questions, other than those he claims never to have seen or heard answered.
Elder Harris alludes to "some men [that] claim we have a set time to die." It is obvious that he does not number himself among those that make such a claim. However, we have no hesitation in saying that we do believe, not claim, that man, all men, have a set time to die. Perhaps the word set makes Elder Harris uneasy, but it should not, as we shall shortly show.
One other important matter Elder Harris has left hanging in doubt in his brief observation is, does he believe God knows all infallibly? Perhaps we should ask Elder Harris - does he believe God knows all by any circumstances? To admit that God knows all that shall come to pass is to admit that all shall come to pass exactly as God knows things. If then, God knows all things infallibly, then all things shall infallibly transpire, just as He knows them. Any other conclusion only impugns the wisdom of our great Master. If, according to Elder Harris, man has no set time to die then we can safely conclude that he may die at anytime, sooner or later, and God, at least, has no knowledge, direct or indirect, in the matter of when, or how, man shall die. We suppose Elder Harris will grudgingly grant that God may have knowledge of the bare fact that man shall at some time die, since according to Paul "it is appointed unto man once to die (Hebrews 10.27)."
It would be interesting to learn if Elder Harris believes Adam had a set day (time) to die. According to the plain declaration of the Lord in Genesis 2.17 where God said, "for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die," Adam was going to die - and the Lord knew it. God knew exactly when Adam would die and it is beyond belief that Adam would die some time other than when God knew it would take place. This was no "iffy" proclamation by the Lord. Certainty was stamped on every word. Perhaps Elder Harris contends that this was a different kind of death - so all he has said relative to a set time has no bearing on Adam and Eve. Or perhaps Elder Harris would apprise us how God could possibly know that, or if, Adam would eat of the tree without the day (time) being set. Did the Lord command Adam simply on the hunch that the man and woman would indeed partake of the forbidden fruit? We will leave this business for Elder Harris to ponder and direct our attention to his questions.
The first question proposed regards a quotation from Psalm 55.23, "Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days." Elder Harris asks how, if it were true that man had a set time to die, could these bloody and deceitful men fail to live out all their days?
Accordingly, we ask - who are these bloody and deceitful men whom Elder Harris would consign to an untimely (an iffy, no fixed time) death? There are only two characters in all the Scriptures that we are aware of that are identified as bloody men, namely Moses and David. It seems strange that the only two persons identified in the Word of God as bloody men were these two notable figures of Christ, but we shall, nevertheless, examine the account of each.
Of Moses it is recorded: "Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision (Exodus 4.25,26)."
Are we to assume then, based on what Elder Harris has divined, that Moses really had in excess of 240 years to live, but actually only lived to the age of 120 years (Deuteronomy 32.7) because he was a bloody man? Moses is, remember, one of only two persons so identified in Scriptures as a bloody man - and Elder Harris clearly contends that Psalm 55.23 puts the skids under at least half of their days. This would have to include Moses as well as all other bloody men. It is not difficult to conclude that since Moses did live to be 120 years of age, had he not been a bloody man he would have lived to be 240 instead of 120; this according to the views of Elder Harris. What else can we conclude from his strong pronouncements?
But, perhaps, Elder Harris will be generous with Moses. He could maintain that it was only the disgruntled wife of Moses that accused him of being a bloody man. Fine! But since we cannot then take the word of his wife on the matter, whose word shall we take? That of Elder Harris? Someone else? God did not call Moses a bloody man, so who did, other than his wife? Well, to be sure, the Scriptures do record her testimony, so we will in turn ask Elder Harris, what think ye of Moses? Was he a bloody man or not? If he was not a bloody man then Elder Harris has only David to point to as an example of bloody men and the consequences thereof. If Moses was a bloody man did he live out all his days or just somewhere around half of them?
Although there are many, we feel at least one other question needs to be asked about Moses. It is this: if he lived out all of his days were they not then set at 120? If not set at 120, then was it not just as likely that God would have killed him at any moment rather than when He did? Does Elder Harris possibly hold that God had no set time in which to take the life of Moses? Or does he believe God had an unset time, but might change it at a whim? If God had a time for Moses to die, then was it not certain and set? Would the possibility exist that a wild herd of camels or other beasts could have come thundering by at a random and trampled Moses to death before God could take his life on the mount?
It appears to us that Elder Harris has the wrong slant on this business.
Unlike the case of Moses, the language of the Bible respecting David being a bloody man is extremely clear. Elder Harris says bloody men shall not live out half their days as we recall, so we must examine the case of David.
"And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial: The Lord hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the Lord hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son: and, behold, thou art taken in thy mischief, because thou art a bloody man (2 Samuel 16.7,8)." There is little question, Shimei, if no one else, thought David to be a bloody man. That being the case, would David then only live out half his days as has been contended by Elder Harris? That is, after all, the doctrine he has contrived from the text in Psalm 55.23.
David died at 70 years of age, (II Samuel 5.4,) so by the wise calculations of Elder Harris, David would have lived to be about 140 - had he not been a bloody man. We are made to wonder, however, since we now have two possible time frames in which to set the life of David, was either the 70 years or the 140 years time frame certain? If the 140 was not certain, then how could this bloody man David live exactly half of it, 70 years? Was it simply by chance that David lived to the age of 70? But we who trust the Word of God for these things are not left to such vain speculations simply to uphold a conditional system.
It might be once again argued that Shimei was not an authority on whether or not David was a bloody man. That is not the issue, however. Shimei did say David was a bloody man and, moreover, he had divine authority to do so. "And the king said, What have Ito do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? so let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so (II Samuel 16.10)?" Either David was a bloody man or God instructed Shimei to lie about the matter. Surely Elder Harris does not prefer the latter conclusion.
Since it is clearly established that David was a bloody man, then, according to Elder Harris, David fell short of his allotted time by some 70 years. Simple mathematics tell us that if David did live 70 years, but since he was a bloody man he only lived out half his days, then all his days would total 140 years. But - just think of all the confusion it would have caused had David listened to the likes of Elder Harris and not sinned away half his days. Things would have had to be much different. Even the wise appointments of God would have been thrown into confusion. First, it is certain that David would not have committed the bloody and deceitful deeds pertaining to the sordid affair with Bathsheba, the attending murder of her husband, and the attempt at a cover-up, had he followed the doctrine according to Elder Harris. Then, we ask, what of Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba? Can it be explained how Solomon could have been born if David had not taken another man's wife? It should not be necessary to add other examples of the chaos that would have resulted from David living above bloodiness 140 years instead of the 70 years he did live.
"And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom (II Samuel 7.12)." Elder Harris may not recognize the relationship of this text to the subject, but this is the word of the Lord to David by the mouth of Nathan and we are persuaded of its accuracy and certainty as well as its bearing on current matters. We point out two items. First, David had days to be fulfilled and that means they were certain. How else could they be fulfilled if they were not certain? Second, David's seed, Solomon, was certain to sit upon the throne after David's days expired. To those that tremble at the Word of the Lord this is plain enough. Both David and Solomon had a set time for sitting on the throne. But if David had no set time to die, and might just as well live to be 140 years old by avoiding bloodiness, then where would Solomon reign for the second 70 years of David's life had David lived out all his extra days and continued to occupy the throne?
Should it be suggested that the expression "when thy days be fulfilled" did not mean that David had a set time to die then perhaps the following verses will make it somewhat plainer: "Now the days of David drew nigh that he should die; and he charged Solomon his son, saying, I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and shew thyself a man (I Kings 2.1,2)." It is beyond dispute that "the days of David drew nigh that he should die" means that David had a portion of days, and that with each succeeding day his time was a day closer, unless you believe with Elder Harris that David could have avoided being a bloody man and prolonged his time to die. Then the text could have read, "Now the days of David multiplied that he might not die."
Moreover, since David had a set number of days, and since he clearly told his son Solomon that he was going the way of all the earth, then does it not follow that all the earth have a set number of days as well? If these verses do not mean such, then we shall be glad to give Elder Harris, or any of his fellow Limited Predestinarians, a hearty leave to explain to us what they do mean.
In an effort to be fair to Elder Harris, we acknowledge that the text in Psalm 55.23 said "bloody and deceitful men" and not just bloody men. However, it will be even more difficult for Elder Harris to identify his deceitful men than it was for him to put the finger on any specific bloody men in the Scriptures, for there is not a soul named. Not one! Thus we must either resort to having Elder Harris decide who are these bloody and deceitful men that die a premature death or find something from the Word of God that is more in harmony with Psalm 55.23 than the propositions of Elder Harris.
Happily, we may dismiss a blessed portion of the sons and daughters of Adam from the odium placed on bloody and deceitful men. They are identified by the ancient prophet in the following: "The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid (Zephaniah 3.13)." Surely then this remnant, also called the remnant according to the election of grace (Romans 11.5), shall live out all their days, neither missing the one or gaining the other. How can it be otherwise? These, God's children, are free from deceit, for the Lord has Himself set them free. Thus they shall live out all their days with the assurance that at the appointed hour their Lord shall call them home.
The text supplied us by Elder Harris, Psalm 55.23, tells us in no uncertain terms who shall not live out half their days. They are the bloody and deceitful men of the earth. So then, those who are not bloody and deceitful shall live out all their days. To the last one, we may add. Are there alternatives to this conclusion? We know not any.
Another text we feel is worthy of considerable and appropriate attention, lest we be remiss in our response to the opinions of Elder Harris, is: "That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts (Ephesians 4.22)." It appears that Elder Harris and those of similar views have never been enlightened by the Holy Spirit on the great distinctions between the old and the new man. If they have been so enlightened, they remain strangely silent. Does not the apostle say that the old man is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts? The obvious antithesis to this is that the new man is not deceitful. But - according to Elder Harris, if the old man is indeed deceitful then he must live out only half his days. What then will become of the new, or inward man? Must his time on earth also be shortened due to the deceitfulness of his body of corruption and death? We feel nothing more need be said. The notion that the text, Psalm 55.23, teaches that death is contingent on conduct is absurd. How could the long life of many wicked and bloody men be explained if the text must be understood as Elder Harris understands it? How can we explain the brevity of life of so many honorable and lovely saints throughout time?
"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die: a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted (Ecclesiastes 3.1-2)." Shall it be contended then that Solomon did not really mean that we had a set time to be born and a set time to die? Set time or not, Solomon says there is a time for these things, and all but pure fools know what is being said. Every soul that ever lived came into the world at the exact time God before appointed and they all left at the exact time God before appointed. Otherwise what would have kept, say, Abel from surviving the murderous attack upon him by his brother Cain? The problems following such a survival would have been serious indeed. Since Abel died God appointed Eve another seed, Seth, instead of Abel, whom Cain slew (Genesis 4.25). But had Abel lived then God would not have had to appoint Seth in his place. That would leave us to wonder if God had before planned for Seth to be the seed or did He have to get up the plan "on the spur of the moment" when Abel died an untimely death? Another question worthy of consideration is, did Abel die an untimely and early death due to the bloodiness of Cain, or was Abel secretly a bloody man himself which forced God to kill him? We need not elaborate on the confusion this doctrine entails. The problems all vanish as a vapor in the wind when the sublime truths of God's Word are humbly received. If God is pleased to cut off a bold sinner from the face of the earth and verbally condemn him for bloodiness and deceit we who tremble at His presence dare not ask the reason why. If on the other hand God, in His great long-suffering withholds His fierce judgment from the wicked for a season, we again must hold our peace. Who may say unto Him, "What doest thou?" Above all else, there needs be no strange or novel slants forced on Scriptures to seem to make them hang over the heads of the human family as conditions to be pursued at the peril of loss of life.
Elder Harris states that "It is quite obvious that as a general rule how we conduct ourselves has a direct bearing on how long we live." Well, to be sure, it is not quite so obvious to us. Example: was the conduct of Stephen such that God had him stoned after his first sermon, launching him off into an untimely death? Or was the case of Stephen an exception to the "general rule"? But to become somewhat personal, we shall ask if Elder Harris believes that how he has conducted himself is the direct reason for his life being spared to this point? Does Elder Harris believe that possibly a small part of the reason for his still being among the living could be the grace of God? Furthermore, has Elder Harris given any consideration to the positive assertion of Paul that to die is gain? That being a truth beyond dispute, then would it not follow that if our conduct was wicked and bloody enough then the Lord would shorten our unfixed days and call us home early? Thus the shortest and quickest way to heaven and its benefits (to die is gain) is by bad conduct. No one holding such doctrine should ever accuse an Absoluter of preaching a doctrine that leads to sinning.
It could well be questioned why God did not shorten the life of Saul of Tarsus since he conducted himself so wickedly in his early days.
We have neither time nor disposition to answer further the questions raised by Elder Harris. But - should this little portion reach him, he can no longer say that he has never seen them answered.
James F. Poole
Volume 11, No. 3