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Explanation Of Views Heretofore Advanced On Justification.

BROTHER BEEBE: - In offering an explanation of my views of the scriptural doctrine of Justification, it seems necessary to give a very brief view of my understanding of the distinct headships of Christ and Adam, and of the distinct relation which the children of God bear to each.

In reference to the headship of Christ, my understanding is that the children of God derive from him a real principle of life, a spiritual life which constitutes them children of God, manifests them to be of his flesh and his bones, or one with him; and which is as distinct from the existence they derive from Adam as a head, as Christ is from Adam. Brother Beebe, in giving his views on Eph.2:5, {No.4, of present volume of the SIGNS,} has so fully anticipated me on this point, that I need not now dwell on it. I will just repeat in substance what I said on this point, in my second communication on Elder Water’s pamphlet, namely; that as the children of God as they were produced in Christ, being one with him, and with him, sons and heirs of God, like him they stood, not under the law, but under grace. Hence I cannot conceive that in this, their standing in Christ, and oneness with him from eternity, as he ever dwelled in the bosom of the Father, they ever needed to be, or there was any room for their being justified from the demands of the law, their existence in Christ being as independent of the law under which creatures exist, as was that of the Son of God their Head. And they also, were like him pure and holy.

But, whilst it was the pleasure of God to bring forth Christ as a head, from everlasting, having his posterity in him, called his seed; it was his purpose that this spiritual seed should in time, become one with creatures of the dust, and be manifested only in this connection; and that the individuals thus quickened, should in this complex existence, as born of two heads, in their first, and second birth, be recognized as the sons of God. Hence for this purpose, man was to be created, of the earth earthy, in the image and after the likeness of his Creator; that is, Christ, having his bride and his posterity in him; and to be created a rational and accountable being. From the posterity of this man, as present with God in eternity, an election was made of those predestinated to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself; and given to Christ, to be by him, preserved, redeemed, and quickened with that life which was in him. Hence the purpose of God, given to the elect in Christ from before the foundation of the world, as I understand it to be developed in the scriptures, instead of being a purpose to hold them from eternity justified from the demands of the law and freed from sin, was a purpose to create them in Adam under the law, and leave them in him, to fall into sin and depravity, that they might thus become proper subjects to be redeemed from under the law, and that, becoming dead to the law, and of course, to their relation to Adam, as their head under the law, through an application of the law by the Holy Spirit, they might in their whole complex persons as born of Adam, and born again of Christ, or of the Spirit, be recognized according to their second birth, as members of Christ’s body, and sons and heirs of God; and through Christ’s conquest over death and the grave, to be raised with their bodies changed to spiritual and incorruptible bodies, to live and reign with Christ in glory. And thus where sin reigned unto death, the grace given them in Christ before the world began, shall reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord; making even the reign of sin subservient to the eternal purpose of bringing the elect to reign in glory.

Having premised thus much concerning the two headships, and the distinct relation which the people of God bear to each; that from the one, the first Adam in reference to the manifestations of the elect, they derive an earthly, but rational and accountable existence, together with depravity and condemnation; from the other, the Lord from heaven, a spiritual, eternal and heaven-born life. I will now show what part I understand Justification to bear in this great and glorious purpose.

I will here repeat, what I have heretofore said, that Justification is a legal term, and relates to the law under which man was created. The text {Rom.3:24,} “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus;” compared with Gal.3:13, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us,” would satisfy me that Justification relates to the clearance of the elect from the law, were their no other texts to the same point. Hence it is a provision made in Christ to meet the situation of the elect, as under the law in their relation to Adam.

It appears to me, that God, in his purpose to unite that life which was in the Word, with human beings created under the law, and left to fall into sin, designed both to make them know and rightly appreciate the good of holiness, of submission to God, of the heavenly inheritance, &c., by their experience of the contrast thereof, sin and misery, and thus making the forbidden tree to them, truly the tree of knowledge of good and evil, also to make himself known to them, and angels, in his glory as the only object of love, trust, &c., by a display, in their salvation, of all his divine attributes; his justice, holiness, sovereignty and power; as well as his love, mercy, &c. Whilst God therefore created man under a law as the standard of eternal right, and left him to his own creaturely weakness, and thus to fall, that creatures might see manifested their entire dependence on God, and that sin might appear as exceeding sinful, in being a transgression of that which is holy, just and good, and the love and mercy, &c., of God might be fully manifested in redeeming, saving and glorifying such transgressors; his holiness, justice and truth must also be maintained and shine forth in their deliverance. This could not be done, without the inflexible purity and majesty of the divine law being maintained. This again could not be done by inflicting its rigorous demands on fallen creatures, without sinking them to eternal ruin, as showed in the case of devils and impenitent men. Nor by inflicting those demands on another, on their account, excepting it should be one on whom the law had no demand on his own account, one who could honor the law and live, of whom the law could in justice demand and receive satisfaction in behalf of those for whom he undertook; and who by stepping into their law place could actually represent them, so that his obeying and bearing the curse should be as though, they did it in person. These requisitions could be found in none but in Christ. On him therefore help was laid; he perfectly answered to the occasion. For, as I have on a former occasion observed, Christ in being brought forth in that life which constituted him the Head and Representative of his people, was not brought forth as a distinct being or person, but that life was conceived in him as God, as the self-existent and independent Jehovah. This life never existed in a relation distinct from him as God, so that he, who is Christ, and the Head of the Church, having his people in him, is the essential Jehovah, equally with the Father. And the Church as the bride of Christ, and his people as the seed of Christ, are nowhere known as distinct from Christ, but as personally one with him. He is the Head, and the Church is his body, the fulness of him, that filleth all in all. Eph.1:23. He is the life of his people, and their life is hid with Christ in God. Col.3:3,4. Hence, the law, or any enemy spiritual or temporal, before it can come at that life which constitutes the believer a son of God, must come at Christ. This being the relation in which the Church, and children of God have ever stood in to Christ, being in him and one with him; they as such have ever been dealt with and viewed only in and through Christ. No evil could come to them in this relation without coming through Christ, and no good comes to them but through him. Hence, Christ could and must represent the Church and people of God, or they could not as such be represented; for I know of none having a right to represent a bride but her husband, or an unborn posterity but their head. Hence, I cannot think that the Church could have been justified before the foundation of the world, excepting in and through her Head and Husband Christ as representing her; and if this had been the case, he could not afterwards have been condemned, or made a curse as her representative.

Again, Christ being the self-existent Jehovah equally with the Father, he was dependent on, and accountable to none; no law therefore could bind him, none could exact of him obedience as in himself considered. Hence when he condescended to be made under the law, that as Husband and Representative of the Church, he might meet and cancel the demands the law had against her, he could obey in her behalf; which no created being could do, because on such, the law would have a previous demand on the ground of their creaturely existence. And the law could in right demand and receive of him obedience, when he thus came into her law place, in being made flesh, seeing that the Church was represented by him, she being in him. Until he proved inadequate to answer all the demands of the law against his Church, the penalty could never reach her; seeing it was, as she antecedently existed in him, that in her members, she was afterwards created in Adam under the law; hence, he as her then representative, was of right considered her Surety, that the law should be honored. When he thus by his obedience unto death, fully satisfied the demands, law and justice had against his people, it was as though they had made the satisfaction in person.

And as the act of Justification is nothing other than a public declaration by the judge of the clearance of a person against whom charges had been preferred, so I understand the act of the Justification of the Church was, when the eternal Judge declared her cleared in, and through her Head and Husband, from all the demands of law, by his resurrection from the dead without seeing corruption; or, in other words, when it was thus made manifest, that through the satisfaction rendered by Christ as the Substitute of his people, the divine law was honored, and eternal justice now harmonized in the entire deliverance of his people from the demands of the law, and from sin.

Here perhaps some further explanation may be necessary. It may be asked how the transgressions of the law by the elect could involve Christ in accountability to the law as their Head, if, as I have said, there is a plain distinction between the headships of Christ and Adam, and between their respective seeds or posterities, and the law has a demand upon the elect, only as they exist as the seed of Adam.

I answer, 1st. That I certainly do not conceive that the natural life of the elect, that corrupt nature which they derive from Adam, constitutes at all, their union with Christ; they never derived it from him as a Head. Hence in their experience, they must die unto Adam as a head, or to the law which is the same thing, before they can be married to Christ, or made manifest in their union to him. Rom.7:1,6. The elect children of Adam were given to Christ in the everlasting covenant, they were his portion, {Deut.32:9,} as such they were known and preserved of him, in their seminal existence from the creation of Adam on down to their being born in the flesh, and from that, until they are born again, so that not one of their ancestry could be destroyed until their descent was or is secured. In reference to their natural life, they only stand in the above relation to Christ; they do not actually exist as members of Christ’s body, until they are born again, born of that life which is in him.

But, 2nd. Christ as the Head of his Church, was the Head of her as composed of the elect quickened by life which was in him. This was the eternal purpose as has been showed, in the production of that life, that it should be communicated to creatures of the dust, and that it should be made manifest only in its communication to such creatures. For the accomplishment of this purpose also, Adam was created and the elect in him, that this life should be communicated to them; they are born that they should be born again. And as the elect when born again are recognized as members of Christ’s body, or as his posterity, so as Adam represented all his posterity that ever should descend from him, involving them all in depravity by his fall, all being known to God; thus Christ represented all his posterity that should be born of him, known as his from eternity, given to him, that they might be made partakers of the life which was in him, and left to fall that they might be redeemed by him, &c. Hence as Adam was constituted in his creation the head of his posterity as they should be born into the world, and therefore when they come into the world they are born in a state of depravity, so Christ in being brought forth, and constituted as the Head of his Church and people, was thus constituted their head as they should be born again; and therefore when born of God, whether before the coming of Christ in the flesh, or since, they are born into a state of Justification, and of peace with God, those before the coming of Christ being thus born in anticipation of Christ’s redeeming them from under the law, and their faith embracing him as revealed by types and in promise. Hence again as Adam was the head of all his posterity by anticipation of their being born of him, so Christ was the Head of his posterity in anticipation of their being born of God, and as Adam’s posterity were involved in his previous transgression by their union to him, and as he went with his bride into transgression, so Christ was involved in the previous transgression of his posterity by his union to them, and he voluntarily without being deceived, went with his bride into the transgression in which she had gone. The union in both cases being so close, that where either the head or the body had transgressed, the other must be involved in the same transgression, vice versa, when the Head, as did Christ, honored the law, the body were considered as honoring it in him, and were therefore in him justified from its demands, by virtue of the same union, which involved him in the transgression of his body.

Again. I would remark, that as it was only in and through Christ, that the people of God could be justified, or in other words, that the law could be honored, and the justice of God made apparent in delivering them from under the law, so it is only as persons are born again that their individual Justification can be manifested, for it is only by this second birth that they are made manifest as members of Christ’s body. Herein I think some seem to err, in supposing that it is the elect as such that are justified. God can view them redeemed and justified, because their second birth is as present with him as is their first birth; but as creatures they cannot be known in their relation either to the first or second Adam, only by their being manifested. Hence as has been showed, Justification through Christ being a Justification for his people as represented by him their Head, so the scriptures I think speak of none being righteous or justified in a gospel sense, but believers. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness. If I could be made to know any as being of the elect while in a state of unregeneracy, I should think myself required by the scriptures to speak of them as children of wrath, even as others, {Eph.2:3,} and to say unto them, “Except ye are born again, ye cannot see the Kingdom of God.” John 3:3. But when they are born again, they are born right into that state of Justification in which Christ has placed his Church by redeeming her from under the law. And this is what I understand to be experimental Justification or Justification by faith. And as the experimental Justification of the Old Testament saints was in anticipation of the redemption of Christ, so that redemption looked back to their Justification, and manifested the justice of God therein, as well as in the Justification of those that believe in Jesus under the gospel. See Rom.3:35,26.

I will now notice the text, {Songs 4:7,} which some think cannot consist with the idea, that the act of Justification of the body of Christ did not take place until Christ was manifested to take away our sins. This text I apprehend is like Psa.45:13,14, a prophetic description of the gospel church. Yet I admit that it is true of the Church of Christ; as such, in all ages, in certain views of her, that, “Thou art all fair my love, there is no spot in thee.” I will show wherein. 1st. The Church as brought forth in Christ, and ever being in him, must always have been viewed of the Father as having that spotless purity, and heavenly glory which he, her Head and Covering possesses as the only begotten of the Father. 2nd. The body of Christ as manifested in the world, whether in its scattered state under the former dispensation, or in its collected state under the gospel, is and must be composed only of those who are actual believers in Christ as revealed either in promise before his coming or in gospel testimony of his having come; hence it is composed wholly of such as are born of God, and therefore born into that state in which the righteousness of Christ, as a spotless robe, covers them, leaving no legal blemish on them.

One word now to those who seem so hard to comprehend how the saints under the former dispensation, could receive the effects of Justification in their experience, if the body of Christ collectively, were not then actually justified. 1st. Was the infallible purpose of God which he purposed in Christ Jesus a sufficient authority for him absolutely to promise Christ unto the fathers as a Redeemer and Savior? 2nd. Was the absolute promises of God made unto the fathers sufficient authority to warrant the faith of the Old Testament saints therein, and for them to rest upon in the hope that they should be redeemed from under the law and saved from their sins by the promised Messiah? If so, I can apprehend no difficulty in their enjoying peace with God; not in God’s accounting them righteous as foreseeing that Christ would bring in everlasting righteousness in their behalf. But if these were not sufficient grounds for God’s promise and their faith, then I conceive there could have been no safe grounds short of Christ’s having actually died on the cross for their redemption before they became sinners.

There are some points which have been brought into this discussion which I might have noticed, but I pass them.

I have given, I hope such an explanation of my views of Justification as will be understood by those who are disposed candidly to examine it. And such I trust, whether they receive my views as correct, or not, will not find anything in them so very alarming to an Old School Predestinarian Baptist as to justify the demand to have them excluded from the SIGNS. It is true that the ingenuity which could deny the truth of a self-evident proposition and which had been advanced by an inspired Apostle, in order to represent me as taking false grounds. See Elder Waters’ pamphlet, {page 12,} on the text Rom.4:15; “For where no law is, there is no transgression;” and which, for the same object attempts to show by a Greek criticism upon Heb.9:26, that instead of Christ’s having appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, the putting away of sin was a something which previously existed, abstractly from, and independent of Christ’s coming in the flesh, and which he, when he appeared in the flesh, entered into as a something prepared to receive him. See pages 11 & 12, of same pamphlet. I say, the ingenuity that can thus torture both the letter and the doctrine of scripture, can make anything but truth and sense out of this explanation I have given. My object however in writing this was not for the accommodation of such, but for the satisfaction of those who would not designedly misapprehend me. Brother Allen thinks I was not sufficiently plain in giving my views in my “Thoughts,” but it is to be remembered that “My Thoughts” were not written so much to illustrate my views, as to assign some of my objections, and the ground of them, to the use of the expression eternal justification by Old School Baptists. My views of the subject were but incidentally and briefly given. I thought that probably that communication would produce such enquiries or discussions as would lead me to a full expression of my views. Instead of this however, it drew forth attacks and answers such as I had no anticipation of. The kind of opposition my “Thoughts” met with from many Old School Baptists, was to me entirely unexpected, as coming from such, and I really cannot to this day see what there was in that communication which could give such offence to those who are Old School Baptists in principle. I had conscientious objections to the use of that term among us, as calculated to convey wrong notions, and which was not in itself a scriptural term; those objections or some of them, I published, designedly for the candid consideration of my brethren; in doing this I tried to use language respectful to their feelings. I will not pretend to say that in answering some of those attacks, I have pursued a correct gospel course. I find it very hard for me to obey the Apostle’s injunction, “Be ye angry and sin not.” Eph.4:26. And I certainly have felt wounded by some things published, and others not published in the SIGNS. But having given the above explanation, I have done I think with the discussion, in this way, of the subject of justification, unless I should have occasion incidentally to touch it in discussing other subjects.

There are some points touched in this communication, my views of which brethren may not fully comprehend, and at which they may feel objections; should they feel disposed to bring forward their objections to those points in such a way that the subjects may be discussed in the spirit of meekness, I shall have no objection thus to discuss them, and to explain my views fully on them. I entertain no views which I do not conscientiously believe to be truth and supported by scripture; I am therefore not ashamed of them, nor unwilling to have them canvassed in the spirit of candor; but of the kind of discussion, such as the greatest share which has been had on the subject of Justification, I think myself we have had enough through the SIGNS.

Before taking my leave of this subject, I wish to express my thankfulness that such able advocates as Brethren Goldsmith, Beebe, and others have stepped forward to my aid in discussing it. I also would say that I think I have felt grateful and humbled before God when brethren have acknowledged themselves either instructed or comforted by my writings on the subject of Justification, as some have done through the SIGNS, and others in communications to me.

Centreville, Fairfax County, Va., March 5, 1839.