Brother Beebe: - I am aware that this, by many, may be considered as mere speculation; and it may not appear to any to have the same importance attached to it with some other subjects. There is, however, with me one consideration alone besides others which I shall notice, which renders it, I think, not an uninteresting nor an unimportant enquiry; that is, whether we as Old School Baptists will conscientiously carry out our professed stand by allowing the Scriptures to decide for us, on all points of doctrine, that is, receiving the doctrine as therein revealed, or whether, to carry out certain systems of the schools we will hold and contend for principles which subvert the plainest declarations of Scripture.
I have been led to this subject by the remarks of Brother Janeway, in his communication opposing my "Thoughts on Justification." He quotes the following passage therefrom. "It is, I think, a mistaken notion that justification is what entitles the saints to heaven. Equally erroneous is the notion that Christ, by His death, purchased heaven for His people. Their union to Christ as His bride, their being the children of God, is what entitles them to the heavenly glory." He then remarks: "I believe the above sentences to be egregiously false," and refers me to the arguments, which he quotes at some length, of an English author, as justifying his condemnation of my remarks. But as neither this author, nor his arguments, possess with me sufficient weight to decide this point in contrary distinction from the Scriptures, I must be allowed to bring forward the testimony of Scripture, in the case, in justification of those remarks which my brother considers so false. "To the law and to the testimony" (Isa. 8:20), is what I wish to have inscribed as my motto in the spirit, and in the letter, of all my discussions of religious subjects.
In bringing forward the revelation of Scripture on this point, I shall, first, give its testimony concerning the title to the heavenly kingdom; secondly, concerning the object of Christ's death. First: Concerning the title to the heavenly kingdom, the Scriptures not only speak of the heavenly kingdom as being a gift, and a gift freely bestowed, as in Luke 12:32; Rom. 8:32, and 6:23, &c., but also as an inheritance. 1st. It is expressly called an inheritance. "Which is the earnest of our inheritance &c." Eph. 1:14. "Giving thanks unto the Father which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light" Col. 1:12. In this text we have two ideas distinguished, which I apprehend that brother J. and others confounded, namely, the title, which is that of inheritance, and the making us meet for being actual partakers thereof. The latter they have mistaken for a purchase of the title. See also I Pet. 1:4 and other texts.
2nd. The saints are denominated heirs. I will write a few of the texts on this point. "For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect" Rom. 4:14. Compare this with Gal. 3:18. "For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise &c." I have in these a twofold testimony, and that Divine, that it is not a legal righteousness or justification which entitles to heaven. Again Rom. 8:17 - "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ;" and Gal .4:7 - "And if a son then an heir of God through Christ." These are the two texts which brother J's author quotes, and tries to explain away. He seems to suppose that they are all on which we rest our proof, for the idea that the title to heaven is derived from inheritance, and not from purchase. He also mistakes in supposing that we found the right to all spiritual blessings in adoption, such as pardon, liberty, peace &c. We believe these come to us in consequence of our being predestinated to the adoption of children, not as the inheritance, but as that meetness for it, which is spoken of in Col. 1:12, and that the right to these could only exist in our being redeemed from under the law. Not only do these texts represent the title of saints to glory as being that of heirship and founded on their being sons of God, but the one, Rom. 8:17, places their title on the same footing with Christ's. If Christ's title to that glory which He had with the Father before the world was, was the purchase of His blood, then is the saint's title derived from the same source; not otherwise? One more text on this point: "If ye be Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise" Gal. 3:29. He does not say according to a purchased right.
3rd. The new covenant is represented under the idea of a testament Heb. 9:15-17. Hence the Scriptures are very full and pointed in representing the title of the saints to heaven as an inheritance, in distinction from a purchased right. See this distinction illustrated in reference to the possessions of natural Israel in regard to the year of Jubilee Lev. 25:14-55.
Second. The testimony of Scripture as to the object of Christ's death. I will under this head commence with some of the types of the Old Testament. It will be admitted, I presume, by our brethren, that the redemption of national Israel from Egypt, and bringing them through the wilderness into the promised land by the hand of Moses, Aaron and Joshua, was typical of Christ's redeeming spiritual Israel from under the law, and bringing them home to glory. I will then ask: Did God thus redeem Israel from Egypt &c., to purchase for them a right to possess the land of Canaan or was it to fulfill the promise He had made unto their fathers to give it to them for an everlasting possession? The latter I presume my brethren will admit was the fact. If any do not, let them look at Gen. 17:8; Exod.32: 13; 33:1; Deut.9:4-6 & 10:15. If they do admit the above, what becomes of the notion of Christ's purchasing or meriting heaven by His death and obedience to the law? If Christ's obedience to the law is that which entitles the saints to heaven, why was it that Moses and Aaron must both die short of the promised land, and that Joshua alone could be allowed to lead Israel into their possessions? And, on the same supposition, we might say that there was a law given which did give life; contrary to what is implied in the Apostle's remarks in Gal .3:21.
Again, the sin offerings and other sacrifices under the law were evidently typical of that one offering which Christ should make of Himself. These, in their relation to national Israel, were not to purchase their title to their typical inheritance but to remove their sins that they should not mar their possession of that inheritance. The law concerning ceremonial redemption does not present the right of redemption as a privilege to purchase a. title to the land of the Israelites; but is founded on a previous, unalienable title which they had, by inheritance, to their possessions, and was designed to remove the hindrances which were in the way of their peaceable possession of such inheritance. See Lev. 25:14-17; 25:28.
The New Testament account of Christ's death will be found exactly to correspond with those Old Testament types, in reference to the design &c. thereof. "But now once in the end of the world hath He appeared" for what? "To put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many." Heb. 9:26-28. "He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin," - for what object? "That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" II Cor.5:21. "Who was delivered for our offenses, and raised again, for our justification" Rom. 4:25. The Scriptures go farther in defining the spiritual object to be attained by Christ's death; as in Gal. 4:4,5 - "God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" Eph. 5:25-27. "As Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church &c." Titus 2:14 - "Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people &c." If Christ gave Himself for these objects, I would ask brother J. what He had left to give for the purchase of heaven? It will be readily seen that I have selected but a few of the many texts having a bearing upon, or a direct reference to, this point. But if we allow those to speak according to their plain, legitimate meaning, we shall be convinced that Christ gave Himself, not as a purchase price, but as a ransom, a redemption price; not to purchase or redeem heaven, for His people; but to redeem them from under the law, and meeten them for heaven. The Apostle speaks in Eph. 1:14 of the redemption of the purchased possession which some may understand to mean heaven. But if any do understand that heaven is the purchased possession, I would like for them to tell me what idea they can have of its being redeemed, after having been purchased. Besides there is no corresponding passage of Scripture to support this idea. And, remember that it is in the mouth of two or three witnesses that every word shall be established. But understanding by the purchased possession the church of Christ, and we have our two witnesses to support the idea; thus: "Ye are bought with a price" I Cor. 6:20; 7:23. "To feed the church of God which He hath purchased with His own blood" Acts 20:28. But as I have showed from other Scriptures, this purchase is a redemption purchase; not a purchase of title. And the idea of redemption as applied to this purchased possession is perfectly consistent, according to the sense in which the term is used in I Cor. 1:30, and in other passages, as meaning the complete deliverance of the whole flock of Christ.
In reference to the absolute necessity of the people of God being redeemed from sin and from under the law in order to their being brought to heaven, we consider the Scripture to be full of this doctrine. And for myself, I cannot conceive of any way how creatures could be made to partake of the privilege of sons of God but in that way unfolded in the Scriptures, namely; their being left to fall under the curse of the law, whereby occasion was given for their Spiritual Head to be manifested as their Redeemer, to deliver them from under the law, and from sin. Without death to the law, we never could have been severed from it. And while under the law we never could partake of the privilege of the sons of God. See Rom. 7:1-6 & Gal. 5:18. Neither can I conceive that Christ as the Messiah, being once made of a woman and made under the law, could ever have re-possessed that glory which He had with the Father before the world was, without finishing, by His perfect obedience, the redemption of Himself as the Husband, Surety &c., of His church, and of His church in Him, from all the demands of law and justice. Hence; Luke 24:26; John 17:4,5; Heb. l:8,9 & 2:9,10. But all this, the Scriptures teach me, are the means which God had appointed in His eternal purpose for bringing the many sons unto glory, not to purchase glory for them. But the sentiment that Christ purchased or merited heaven by His death is not merely a departure from the plain language of Scripture, but also involves other errors. It degrades the personal merits of the Messiah as He was set up from everlasting and His church in Him. For as He and His church were one, if He had no merits, independent of His blood, by which to present His church, as in Him and one with Him, as proper objects of His Father's love, and worthy to be recognized as sons and heirs, with Him of God; it must have been the merits of His blood only that entitled Him to be appointed heir of all things. But very differently from this is the testimony of the Scriptures concerning the glory of the Son of God. See Col. 1:15-19 & Hebrews chapter one.
Again the idea of Christ's purchasing heaven by His blood, savors too much of the cold speculations of a mercantile transaction to correspond with the riches of Divine grace as revealed in the Scriptures. For according to this, although God was willing that His predestinated sons should be made partakers of heavenly glory, and therefore appointed for them a Surety who should purchase it for them; yet He could not bestow it upon them as the bequest of a Father, but must have an equivalent for it. Some are fond of talking about the provisions of the everlasting covenant being suspended on conditions to be performed by Christ, and about the great contracting parties in the covenant &c.; but this savors entirely too much of the wisdom of this world. To suppose the Divine Three meeting in council to devise ways, and close a bargain concerning the redemption of men, each proposing and accepting of terms &c., by which they enter into contract infinitely degrades the idea I have of God, of His unity, His dignity, His sovereign majesty &c. And as neither the above, nor any equivalent terms, are used in the Scriptures relative to this subject, I feel at liberty to enter my protest against their use. It is contended by the school men, and those who derive their system from the schools, that the term, covenant, implies the idea of a contract; but this I deny to be the case as we find that term used and explained in the Scriptures. When God made a covenant with Noah &c. (Gen.9), was there anything like a contract between God and Noah? Did Noah propose any of the terms of this covenant? Did its being established depend in any measure on his giving his consent to the terms? Very different from all this. God established a covenant with Abraham, Gen. 17, also with David, II Sam. 7:4-17; 23:5 & Ps. 89: 19-37. Is there anything like contracting, like proposing and accepting conditions between the parties in either of these? Does not God in these declare His Divine sovereignty, saying I will, and thou shalt, whilst at the same time He gives them the strongest ground to rest their faith and hope upon? If we look at the new covenant, Jer. 31:31-34, we shall find it in conformity with the others. The shall of Jehovah establishes all! If we look at the promises which the Father makes unto the Son as in Psa. 89 as above quoted, in Isaiah 42:1-9; 49 & 53 &c., we find them made in the absoluteness of Divine sovereignty and freeness; no condition, no ifs to clog that freeness. Hear the language of the Son, "Then said I, Lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart." Psa. 40:7,8; Heb. 10:5-10. What harmony and oneness does this express in the Godhead! What loveliness and beauty in the Divine freeness with which the Son does the will of His Father, and offers Himself in the place of burnt offerings and sacrifices, for His people! How different would it appear if we were to suppose Him adopting, instead of the above declaration, language suiting the idea of a contract, and saying, seeing O God, that according to stipulations, thou hast prepared a body for me, Lo, I will come and fulfill my part of the contract? What a letting down of dignity there would be even to the littleness of human bargaining.
Once more, the notion of Christ's having purchased heaven by His blood, tends greatly to diminish the view which the Scriptures and our experience give of the exceeding evil of sin; for according to this notion, it was not for our sinfulness and vileness alone, that debarred us from heaven; a title to heaven must be purchased. Neither was it our sins, and to redeem us from the curse of the law alone that caused Christ to bleed on Calvary, but His blood was in part shed for purchasing a title to heaven.
If on the other hand we will let the revelation of God speak for itself, in this maimer not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, making known that the kingdom of glory is an inheritance given, in the better Testament, to His Son and to the church in Him, as His bride, bone of His bone, and as joint heirs with Him, of which Testament Christ is made the Surety or Executor, we discover the whole transaction to be a display of the rich, free and sovereign love of God, as of a father to his children, in Christ; and the barrier to our felt enjoyment of it - not the want of freeness in the gift, but our vileness as creatures of the dust, and sunken, by transgression, under the curse of the law. And the pureness of Divine love, and the riches of Divine wisdom is displayed in God's predestinating His people to the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ, constituting them one with Him in that He, which was, in Him, which they derive from Him, and which is thus the light of men; by which union, on the one hand, they are entitled with Him to the heavenly inheritance, and on the other hand, He was involved in their accountability, as creatures, to law and justice, and bound to meet the demands thereof in their behalf, whereby their complete redemption and justification from all demands of law and justice were secured. Pure justice thus shines forth in the infliction of the penalty of the law upon Christ, and the heavenly inheritance, whilst it comes to the heirs as the free gift of the Father, comes to them through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, by which His love to them, as His bride, is sealed by His heart's blood.
Hence, in the Scriptural view of redemption, instead of beholding the deadened colorings of a mercantile transaction, we see every attribute of our Jehovah God shining forth with heightened lustre and glory, all Secretly combining and harmonizing, in the predestination, calling, justification and glorification of the elect sons of Adam.
Our sins, as they are seen contrasted with the love of God and felt to be a barrier to our enjoying that love which nothing but the fountain of a Saviour's blood, applied by the energies of the Holy Ghost, could remove, appear indeed as exceeding sinful and odious; and whilst the value of a Saviour's blood and righteousness is enhanced by a sense of our vileness and sinfulness, we are humbled in the dust on account of that vileness as contrasted with the stupendous love and favour of God to us.
From those Scriptural considerations, I feel fully justified in maintaining that it is not justification from the law which entitles the saints to heaven, and that the object of Christ's death was not to purchase heaven for His people. Whether brother J. and others will ever in this life see eye to eye with me on this point and on the subject of justification I know not. I desire that we may, providing it be as the Scriptures teach. But if kept by the grace of God I trust I shall adhere to the doctrine as taught in the Scriptures, as far as my mind is enlightened to understand it, whether thereby I go, with, or against, my brethren. And I cannot feel that my Old School brethren are justified in blaming me for not going with them, wherein they fail to show some direct Scriptural authority for their belief or practice; neither do I wish to blame them for not seeing with me on every point, so far as the Holy Ghost is pleased to teach them or me, we shall be made to see whoever else may remain blind, and however strong our prejudices may have been in opposition. May He teach us all to know, to feel, and to live more and more the truth as it is in Jesus.
One word more, if my brethren cannot agree with me on these points, I think from what I have now written they will discover that my views do not clash with the doctrine of Sovereignty in predestination, election &c., nor with the richness and freeness of the gift of grace that bringeth salvation, nor of the fullness there is in Christ to present His people faultless before God; neither in the sovereignty and perfection of the work of the Holy Spirit. Why then are my brethren so alarmed?
Centreville, Fairfax County, Virginia,
April 24th, 1838.
Select Works of Elder Samuel Trott