VIEWS ON GEN. 3:22.

DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - I some months since received a letter from brother Duggan, of Louisiana, requesting my views on Gen. 3:22, former part: “The man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.” I would hereby inform brother Duggan that the reason of my so long neglecting his request, is that I have been so much from home that I have the past fall had but little opportunity for writing.

He requested me to answer his request either through the SIGNS OF THE TIMES or SOUTHERN BAPTIST MESSENGER. I had intended giving my views through the MESSENGER, until recently having seen some numbers of a periodical, called the EARTHEN VESSEL, an English Baptist publication, in which your name, brother Beebe, and mine are mentioned by a New York correspondent, in connection with some gross perversions of our views and some unwarranted assertions, as also in reference to brother Goble, of New York, who is also mentioned. I have no disposition to enter into a discussion with this New York correspondent on the points referred to, nor to occupy your pages with a refutation of his slanders. But as an expression of brother Duggan’s text will lead to an expression of our views on the points referred to, I have concluded, with your permission, to give the exposition through the SIGNS, as being more likely to meet the eyes of some of the readers of the EARTHEN VESSEL, than if published in the MESSENGER.

I will just mention, in connection with the above, that I saw in that paper, the EARTHEN VESSEL, a communication from another, and probably an English writer, in which he attempts to explain the doctrine of the Trinity, and to refute the notion of the pre-existence of the soul of Christ Jesus. Whether it was designed as a refutation of this American heresy or not, I cannot say. As to the absurd idea concerning the pre-existence of the soul of Christ, we have no affinity with it. This writer, in explaining the Trinity, asserts that the Three: The Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost – are three distinct persons, or subsistencies, and that these three compose the one God or Jehovah, thus representing the God of the Scriptures as a compound of three distinct subsistencies, or real beings. God has nowhere thus declared himself; saying, We are the Lord, or We are God, as it should read, if such doctrines were true. But he declares, I, even I, am the LORD. Again, Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God – not we are God. Isaiah 43:11,12. Hence men who say such things as above cannot be God’s witnesses, on that point.

But I will pass to a consideration of our text. In the expression, “The man is become as one of us,” there is, manifestly, a reference to distinct persons. It is true, Unitarians, as they style themselves, say, that in expressions like this, God conforms himself to the custom of kings, who, to express their dignity, use the plural number in speaking of themselves, as modern editors, and some correspondents, who would assume the dignity of editors, do. But there is in this text a distinction in the persons, in the expression one of us, that refutes all that reasoning, showing that when God says us he means us in the plural. On the other hand, the Trinitarians, as they call themselves, contend that when God uses the plural pronoun, saying, Let us make man, &c., he refers to the several persons in the Godhead, and that it expresses a consultation among these distinct persons concerning the making of man. But when we come to consider the expressions of our text, I think we shall find their position as lame as that of the Unitarians. Although the correspondent of the EARTHEN VESSEL, before referred to, seems to make the persons composing the one God but component parts of God; yet Trinitarians generally, I believe, hold that each of the persons is God. If they do not, the Scriptures clearly declare that the Father is God, the Word is God and that the Holy Ghost is God. If, then, there is but one God, as the Scriptures fully declare, each of these persons must, if each is God, be that one God. How, then, could it be said, as one of us? It should be as us; for if, upon that position, man became as one, he became as each one, or as the three, for each is alike God. Again, although God absolutely, of his own infinite understanding, knows good and evil, yet man in this way never has, nor can know good and evil as God knows it. Man knows good and evil only by experience, and that in contrast; in this sense, it cannot be supposed that God knows it; he cannot experience evil, nor depend on contrast for his knowledge of good and evil. Hence it must be manifest that the one of us must be a person distinct from the Godhead. Such person is found in the Mediator, the Son of God; for, in order to be a proper Mediator between God and his people, he must be a person distinct from each. As such, he is clearly revealed in the Scriptures. His being revealed as the Son of God, reveals his distinct personality from God. The idea of son is that of a person whose existence is derived from another. In Heb.1:1,2, we read, “God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets; hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.” There are in this text several ideas that call for particular notice in treating on this subject. First: That this person by whom God hath spoken unto us, &c., must be a person distinct from God, who spake by him. Second: That this person cannot be a distinct person in the Godhead, and therefore God equally with the Father. For I am certain that no one of those who contend for distinct personality in the Godhead, would, on a moment’s reflection, if the idea could be separated from their notion of personality, admit that God, as such, could be an heir, much less would be appointed heir. Is not God the sovereign Creator of all things? As such, has he not the absolute right to them and the sovereign control of them? How then, can he be said to inherit them? And from whom could he inherit them? Hence then, his being appointed heir, and therefore his sonship and personality must be distinct from his being God. Third: The expression, By whom he made the worlds, shows that this Son and Person, who is thus distinct from God, was concerned in the creation of the worlds, and hence he evidently was the person whom God addressed when he said, Let us make man, &c., and of whom he spake in saying, The man is become as one of us. I will endeavor to show wherein this personality, and therefore the sonship consists. First: It is manifest that the sonship and therefore personality of Christ does not consist in his manhood or being made flesh, for in his manhood he was made of a woman – made of Mary – and therefore could not in that manhood have been present at the making of the worlds. But as Son, he was present, as God made the worlds by him.

By turning to John chapter 1, we will find clearly revealed a person distinct from God and yet with God in the creation; for he was in God in the beginning. “For in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And in verse 4, we are told, that, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” It does not say that he, the Word, was the light, &c.; but distinctively the life was the light of men. And verse 5, “The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehendeth it not.” As the life is the light, whatever is said of the light belongeth to the life. In verses 9 & 10, it is said of this light, “That was the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.” It is, therefore, clear from these quotations, that this life or light by whom the world was made is a person, and as such is distinct from God, from the Word, in whom he the life or light, was. Christ is identified both with, this light as such and as the life. In John 8:12, Jesus saith, “I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life;” thus showing that the light which he is, is the light of life. Again, in John 12:46, he saith, “I am come a light into the world that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.” He thus connects faith with being enlightened by him. In Eph.5:8, the children of God are characterized as children of light. It reads, “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord; walk as children of light.” Does this not show that being light is one with being born again? Again, in Col.3:3 & 4, the brethren are told, “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life shall appear,” &c. Christ is here directly declared to be the life of his people; not only so, but the life which he is, evidently is identified with the life that was in the Word; for it is hid in God. Once more, the Son is identified with this life; for in John 5:11 & 12, we read, “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. Now, it appears to me, that any person who is willing to take the plain declarations of Scripture for his guide, independently of creeds, confessions of faith, and traditions, will be satisfied from these quotations, that the life which was in the Word, existed in God from the beginning, was personally distinct from God, for it is the light of men, was in the world, is that eternal life which God hath given to his people, and is their life; that it is one with Christ or the Son of God; and that he, this life, was with God in making the worlds, that he made the worlds by him. Here, therefore, I might with propriety rest the conclusion on this part of my text; that the one of us, is no other than Christ the Son of God, as he existed in the beginning, in God as the life of his people. But I am aware that if I leave it here, the same old cry of a created Mediator will be reiterated against us. For if this life, which is the Christ, the Son of the living God, is a person distinct from God, in whom he was, he cannot, as such, be self-existent; for there is but one Jehovah, one self existent God. The very idea of sonship clearly implies a derivative existence from another as his Father. There are in the Scriptures an abundance of expressions conveying a similar idea. In Prov.8:22-25, we read, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before his works of old.” Here, under the idea of wisdom, he is presented to view as distinct in being and person from the Jehovah who possessed him. In verse 23 he says, “I was set up from everlasting.” In verse 24, “When there were no depths I was brought forth.” In verse 25, he adds, “Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth.” He is declared to be “the only begotten of the Father.” In Colossians, chapter 1, he, the Son, is declared to be the “image of the invisible God, the first born of every creature.” And in Rev.3:14, he styles himself, “the beginning of the creation of God.” If there is any definite meaning in words, these and other declarations of Scripture which might be quoted, clearly show that the Son, as such, has a derivative and subordinate existence. We contend that these characteristics of the Mediator belong only to his sonship as such, and not to his Godhead, that as God he is Jehovah, absolutely self-existent, as one with the Father. The Trinitarian party charge us with representing him only as a creature. Yet they themselves admit that his manhood is a created existence, and do not suppose that this admission in any way destroys his essential Godhead. And if his creatureship as man does not destroy the essential Godhead of his person as Mediator, neither can his derivative existence as the Son and the life of his people make him any less God, as he is one with the Father. Thus, the Scriptures support our views of a trinity of persons in the Mediator. In the first chapter of John, after declaring that the Word was God, and that the life that was in him was the light of men, and that this light, as before showed, was presented to view as a person, the Evangelist goes on to say, not that the light was made flesh, but that the Word, and therefore God with the life in him was made flesh, and “we beheld his glory as the glory of the only begotten of the Father.” Thus, whilst he was man and Son, he was the brightness of God’s glory and express image of his {God’s} person. The Godhead shone forth in him.

The truth is, we do and have contended that Christ is a perfect Mediator between God and his people. In order to be such, it is not enough that he should be entirely impartial between them, but he must be equally identified with each, so as fully to appreciate each case, and be equally interested in each. None could sustain that independent stand to enable him to act with impartiality but he who is the self existent God. And none could truly appreciate what is due to the justice, the honor and glory of God, but he who is absolutely God. And how could he as truly feel for the welfare and happiness of his people, and impartially advocate their cause, unless he was as completely one with them as he is one with the Father? Now, Christ’s being made flesh, would not constitute such oneness with his people, as he has with the Father; for he was only made in the likeness of sinful flesh. Rom.8:3. This manhood was not in itself considered one with theirs. They did not derive their manhood from him, as their natural head, neither did his flesh, like theirs, descend from Adam. It is true, his being made flesh was necessary to his representing his people under the law, and to perfect him as their High Priest through suffering, and to make him a compassionate High Priest, by having been himself tempted. See Heb.5:8,9 & 4:15. And this could only have been in consequence of his previous union with his people.

But in Christ, being the life of his people, we see in this life a oneness – he the Head, and they the Body – he as the antitype of Adam, the Husband, and they his Bride. This life is one in the Head, and in all the members of his Body, as in the Vine and its Branches. The Branch was in the Vine, and one with it from its first existence; though it was not manifest as a Branch, until it shot forth. Its manifestation as a branch, neither constitutes nor destroys its oneness with the vine. It remains the same one vine, with all its branches, that it was before the branches shot forth. So the whole believing Church is but one Christ, the Life that is hid in God; the Life that was in the Word in the beginning. Thus says 1st Corinthians 14:12, “For as the body is one and hath many members, and the members of that one body being many, are one body; so also is Christ.” See also verse 27. It is Christ in every member the hope of glory, that manifests a child of God, a distinct branch of the one vine.

Some persons seem to suppose that by this union of Christ and his people, we mean that the natural man was from the beginning in union with Christ. The natural man was one with the earthly Adam, and remains in union with him under the law, until he is killed by the law; then, when born again, born of the Spirit, or Life, he is born into life and all the blessings of Christ’s redemption; and stands manifest as a child of God and one with Christ in that life which is in him, and by which he is quickened.

But to return. We have in Christ, thus a perfect mediator, as being God and being the life of his people, both being actually united in him, and therefore represented by him, as he says in John 17:21, “That they all may be one; as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.” Again, “I in them and they in me, that they may be made perfect in one.” As this oneness was from the beginning so he was in the beginning as Mediator, as it is said of him, Isaiah 63:9, “In all their affliction, he was afflicted and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them and he bare them and carried them all the days of old.” I will now notice the other part of the text. “To know good and evil.” The idea has been entertained that man knew good and evil, in knowing a state of innocency, and then knowing a state of guilt and transgression. Man’s goodness in innocency, was like that of Ephraim and Judah as the morning cloud and early dew; there was no real goodness in it, because it was not substantial. The text does not read, “knowing good and evil,” as though it was something he had then learned, but “to know,” that is, he is now by transgression placed in circumstances to know good and evil. This man is to know, as one of us – that is, as the Mediator, was to know it. Now the Mediator was made to know by experience what it was to bear sin, and all the consequences of it, such as condemnation and death. And he knew the good of redeeming his people, of conquering death in their behalf, and of entering into his glory as their forerunner. So his people are made to know the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and condemnation and death by the law, and by faith are made to know the superior value and goodness of the righteousness of God, which is by the faith of Jesus Christ, and which Christ is to his people, and the good of that inheritance which is spiritual and heavenly, over that earthly inheritance which Adam lost by transgression, &c.

This will give an idea to brother Duggan, of what I understand by the good and evil which man knows, as the one of us knows them, or which he knows in common with Christ. We have fellowship with Christ’s sufferings under the curse of the law, and participate in the redemption; and are to be with Christ and behold his glory, and are joint heirs with him, &c. The good in the text is placed before the evil, and it is true we must be somewhat enlightened in the knowledge of God and of his goodness, before we can know the evil of sin.

I have also, in the views above given, supposed that the man here represented the elect of God, not that I do not understand that all the human family were created in Adam; but I understand that Adam or the man was a figure of Christ in his creation, and thus represents Christ and his church and people; and, in fact, that this was the grand end of his creation. The Lord’s portion is his people, &c.

These are the views I have of this subject, and as such I give them, leaving to others to give us better views if they have them, and subscribe myself yours in love,

S. TROTT.
Dec. 26, 1859.