“AND David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because of this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.”
Once upon a time we visited a section of country where there was a church which had been withdrawn from by other orderly churches because of the doings of certain of her numbers. There came a lady to our meeting who, while not a member of the visible church, had been a follower of the Old School Baptists for many years. She was more or less conversant with the circumstances surrounding the case and on perhaps a number of occasions had attended the meetings held by said church. We could not question her deep concern for the truth and for the welfare of Zion. We were, however, made to question whether the understanding which she appeared to have regarding the doctrine of predestination was the correct one. While engaged in conversation with her she inquired if she might ask us some very plain and pointed questions, to which we replied she might. Her first question was, “Do you believe in the predestination of all things?” Our answer was, “Yes.” Second question: “Was not the doings of the parties in question among the all things predestinated?” and if so, “Why would the church of their membership be withdrawn from on account thereof?” We replied that while their actions were unquestionably embraced in the infinite purpose of Almighty God, nevertheless we could not admit that the fact of this being so exempted them from the responsibility of their deeds, or their accountability to God. We related here the following incident which was told to us several years ago by Elder John G. Eubanks as having taken place in one of the churches of his early pastorate in the State of Georgia: At their Saturday afternoon business and conference meetings, it was the custom for any who had wronged a brother or sister to confess his fault and ask forgiveness. On one occasion a brother arose and said in substance, “Brethren, I reckon you all heard about my getting drunk the other week. I went down to the shucking-bee and they had a log of corn whiskey and I got good and drunk.” and then added, “But according to the doctrine which brother Eubanks preaches it was predestinated that I should do it, so I couldn't help it, nevertheless I thought I would tell you about it.” Whereupon an old Deacon arose and said in so many words, “Brethren, I have listened to what the brother had to say, but I do not believe that predestination stops where he seems to think it does. I believe it was predestinated that we should exclude him, and I so move.” This brought the brother to his senses, and he then apologized and begged forgiveness.
We believe all this is apropos to our subject. In taking Bath-sheba while she was yet the wife of Uriah to be his wife and then murdering Uriah, which in effect was what he did, because he would not be used as a tool to cover up his own wickedness, David committed a great and terrible sin, and it displeased the Lord. David thought the secret was locked up in his own bosom, forgetting that there was a God who discerneth the thought and intent of the heart, who declared he would bring “this thing” out in the open before all Israel. This God sent his prophet Nathan unto David, and by use of the unsuspecting parable of the ewe lamb presented the enormity of the crime. “David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” The prophet then replied “Thou art the man.” What a blow this must have been to David. After this he most certainly could not have found fault with a just and holy God had he condemned him to death. But right here is where grace stepped in, and Oh! how amazing it was.
Nathan said unto David, “The Lord hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” Later, we want to say more about this “putting away,” but for the time being, let us not that David made no pretensions at all by way of excusing himself, neither did he attempt to hide under the cover of predestination. On the contrary, he confessed to being guilty, and said, “I have sinned against the Lord.” He had despised the commandment of the Lord and had done evil in his sight, and for this the Lord said the sword should never depart from his house. It was a great mercy that he was given to confess his sin. We believe that herein is to be found the key which unlocks the Scripture that declares that David was a man after God's own heart. It is good to confess our faults to God and to one another. Where this is done there is hope. We think the words, “Thou shalt not die,” as they are used in this connection, are one of the strongest texts to be found anywhere in the Bible for the doctrine of salvation by grace.
Even though the Lord had put away his sin and he should die, “Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.” How true this was. Some seem totally indifferent to the effect their deeds have upon the cause of Christ. Either they do not realize or else do not care. The Lord's people should endeavor to shun even the appearance of evil. It is further stated that “the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.” We wish that this might sink deep down into the consciences of those who treat such things lightly. “The child also that is burn unto thee shall surely die.” The child that was to be born was the outcome of David's relations with Bath-sheba while she was yet the wife of another. This brought shame and disgrace upon Israel and gave the enemies of the Lord great occasion to blaspheme. Such actions spring from the lustful desires of the flesh and the fruit thereof, or that which follows, must surely die. James tells us that sin when it is finished bringeth forth death. That God had an infinite purpose in this we cannot deny, for he had even decreed the number of days the child was to live. The record is that on the seventh day the child died. To our mind, this shadows forth the perfections of God's purposes even in wickedness. David was made to mourn and fast over this child, but afterward God gave him another son, even Solomon, by the same union, but Bath-sheba was then his true and lawful wife, Uriah having been put to death. Here it is seen that God's judgments are unsearchable and his ways past finding out, for had there not been this union between David and Bath-sheba Solomon would not have been born; had there been no Solomon, there would have been no Jesus, since the absence of this link would have broken the chain of the lineage through which the Son of man came; and had there been no Jesus, there would have been no Savior, and had there bee no Savior, no sinners could have been saved. What an awful thing to even contemplate! How glad we are that Nathan said unto David, “The Lord hath put away thy sin.” Wonder of wonders it is that God should overrule the wicked acts of men and cause them to work for the good of his people and his own glory. Herein lies the strength and comfort of those who wait upon the Lord and trust him for his grace. They are compelled to stand still and see his salvation, and this they do by reason of being so hedged in with circumstances, over which they have no control, that they cannot do otherwise.
We would like to say more with regard to Solomon. The name implies wisdom. Wisdom is the child of experience. Sometimes experience is a very bitter teacher. In order to know anything, first-hand, about God's wondrous love, it is necessary that we have an experience, or knowledge of grace, which means the bestowal upon us by God of a favor that is unmerited on our part. The lady to whom we have already referred also spoke of the love of God, and then asked if we could cease loving God's children even though they do wrong. We believe it is utterly impossible for one born of the Spirit not to love that which is begotten of God. This does not mean that we are to love the sin which even God's people commit. If the mind of Christ be in us, we will hate sin wherever it is seen. Let us remember that Jesus stood for both order and doctrine in the church which he established. Hear ye him on this point: “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that the whole body should be cast into hell.” Is there any one among us who would refuse to have an arm or a leg amputated if it be found that blood-poisoning or gangrene had set in, and we become convinced that the cutting off of such member is essential to the life and well-being of the body? The unity of the body of Christ is such as to cause great distress and suffering to all the members when such action is necessary, but if a member be sick unto death, there is no choice. Every possible effort should be made to save the offending member, but when this is impossible, it should be removed.
True love has a very definite way of manifesting itself. Let us see how Solomon discovered it. It is recorded when he was king that two women stood before him, “And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house. And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house. And this woman's child died in the night; because she overlaid it. And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear. And the other woman said, Nay; but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son. And this said, No; but the dead is thy son, and the living is my son. Thus they spake before the king. Then said the king, The one saith, This is my son that liveth, and thy son is the dead: and the other saith, Nay; but thy son is the dead, and my son is the living. And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other. Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it. Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof. And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment.” - 1 Kings iii. 17-28 Here we have unmistakable proof of true love. The woman who was willing to have the living child divided was not the real mother. One who is willing to divide the church to-day in order to gain his own ends is not manifesting the love of the Good Shepherd who gave his life for the sheep.
Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” When the lot was cast and the blame for the distress to the vessel and crew was seen to lie at Jonah's door, he promptly commanded that they should cast him overboard. Here is another example of genuine, true love. The apostle Paul said, “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”
In conclusion, we would restate our unshakable belief in the sovereignty of our God. If we did not feel positively certain that he doeth his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand, we would of all creatures be the most miserable. It is this doctrine that keeps us from despair and assures us of our final perseverance over all enemies, including death itself, regardless of how that may come about. We are aware of the fact that what is perhaps the largest so-called church organization in our country denies this by the refusal of their priests to officiate at the funeral of a suicide. We cannot believe it possible that one for whom Christ died shall ever be eternally lost, but this does not license or encourage us to take matters in our hands. Neither does this doctrine justify erring brethren in pursuing a wrong course. Remember, the “child of the flesh shall surely die.” The mouth of Him who cannot lie hath spoken it. We are, therefore, not the least bit sympathetic towards those who deliberately live after the flesh or who persist in following a course which is harmful and disturbing to the peace of Zion, and then run to predestination for cover. Nor have we yet been able to discover a better method of proving one's love either for an individual or a cause than by their actions. These invariably speak louder than words. We would most earnestly commend for the consideration of all who teach, Paul's admonition to Timothy: “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt save thyself and them that hear thee.”
Submitted in love for the careful consideration of all who may read. - R.L.D.
Elder R.L. Dodson
Signs of the Times
Vol. 102, No. 2 – February, 1934