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REPLY TO BRETHREN: SONSHIP & UNION.

BROTHER BEEBE: - I would not reply to these brethren, and especially so soon after sending you a communication on a similar subject, were it not that they have given so wrong representations of the views of myself and others, on this side of the question, that I cannot for the truth’s sake, nor for the sake of my standing among brethren consent to leave the matter here.

Discussions on religious subjects, when conducted in a spirit of enquiry after truth, and of mutual submission to the testimony of the scriptures as the standard, are calculated to be both pleasant and profitable. But when otherwise conducted, they may as well be let alone, any further than as they may be in defense of truth. For these reasons, I am constrained to reply to these brethren, and in so doing, review some of their positions. I desire to do it, as briefly as I consistently can, in candor, and in love of the truth. I esteem these brethren as christians, as Old School Baptists, and on account of my intercourse with them. In my communication, in the 10th number, present volume of the SIGNS, in replying to brother Barton’s query concerning the churches being created in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, I took the ground, that the expressions “created in Christ Jesus,” naturally involved the idea that his church was created in his creation, as the Head of his church, and of course, as far back as he stood as her Head. I referred to I Cor.15:45, as sustaining the same idea, and also to Rev.3:14 & Col.1:15 as further justifying the application of the idea of creatureship to our Lord in reference to his headship. It used to be that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word should be established; but it seems it is not so now. These brethren in replying to that communication, do not notice the text, Eph.2:10 {“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, &c.,”} although I founded my main arguments on it. The other three scripture passages above named they notice, and how they dispose of them shall now occupy our attention.

They ask, “Do the Scriptures give any information of anything being created before the beginning?” If they mean by beginning the beginning of the creation of God; I answer no, for Christ is that beginning. But, if they mean by it, the beginning of time, as in Gen.1:1, I say yes; for in that beginning God created the heavens and the earth, but Christ, being the Beginning of the creation of God, and the First born of every creature, must in this sense have been created or brought into existence before these, and therefore before time. As no other reading has been attempted to be given to these texts, Rev.3:14 & Col.1:15, I still think them good authority as they read. But as they do not satisfy these brethren, I will produce other corresponding texts. In John 1:4, we read, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” This is said of the Word as he in the beginning was with God, and was God. John 1:1. Will any person after candid reflection say of this life that is so particularly spoken of as distinct from the Word, as being described to be in the Word, and again as if to prevent mistake, it is said, and the “life was the light of men,” not simply that it was the light, &c., that it is itself the Word or the essential existence of the Godhead? If not, must they not admit that this life was produced, that is begotten or created existence in the Word, or be driven to the necessity that there are other self-existencies than God, and therefore other gods? If then this life was not a self-existence, then it may properly be termed a creature, as being produced of God. Remember, Christ is that light. Again, in Isaiah 51, the LORD, or Jehovah addressing himself to that personage in the singular number, of whom he calls himself, verse 13, The LORD thy Maker, and in verse 15, says, “I am the Lord thy God,” says in verse 16, “And I have put my words in thy mouth, and have covered thee in the shadow of my hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people.” These brethren certainly must admit that this personage of whom the Lord says, that he is his Maker and that he hath covered him in the shadows of his hand, &c., is not himself the essential self-existent God, in the sense in which he is spoken of; but that he is a creature. This is said of him before the planting of the heavens, &c., and therefore the beginning of time. It cannot with any consistency be said that this was spoken merely by a decree of fore-ordination of what should take place in time, because it is expressly said, “I have put my words in thy mouth, &c.,” that “I may plant the heavens, &c.,” and therefore spoken of as an antecedent work, preparatory to planting the heavens, &c. {I have left it for these brethren to decide for themselves who this personage is, whether Christ personally as the Head of his church, or the church as in him; they amount to the same thing. By a comparison with Isa.49:2, I should think it is Christ personally; but then his church was thus in him. Ps.90:1,2, & 91:1, and Prov.8, as compared with chapter 7.} Other like texts I might quote, but if these can be thrown aside, fifty might be, I therefore forbear.

I next pass to their notice of the two texts, Rev.3:14 & Col.1:15. They say in reference to them, “We desire to give the fairest construction we can, according to the tenor of truth.” Why not according to the reading of the texts? This tenor of truth I presume is the same with the analogy of faith, which we have heard so frequently spoken of. Brethren, I would reason with you a little on this point, if it be not taken as presuming in me, considering my inferiority to you, and my being so full of inconsistencies myself. But whatever I may be, I would like to see in my brethren a going on to perfection, and not a setting down satisfied that our fathers have provided for us a sufficiency of knowledge, and that their cisterns are better to draw from, than the fountain of living waters. Brethren, if we consider, that not only the matter of the Scriptures is by divine inspiration, but also that an Apostle has said, “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual,” {I Cor.2:13,} shall we not feel bound to respect each text, and the words of it, as resting upon the authority of God; unless the text be an interpolation, or the translation be not a correct representation of the original? Second. Is not this tenor of truth or analogy of faith, a matured opinion, we, or others, have formed of what, to be consistent as we think, must compose the parts of God’s revealed truth? If so, and we further consider that our knowledge is so imperfect as to lead Paul to say, “If any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing, yet as he ought to know,” {I Cor.8:2,} would it not much better consist with that humility which becometh us, to admit the truth of what each portion of Scripture declares in reference to the subject spoken of, and according to its plain import, than to implicate the Holy Ghost with saying what is not so, that our views of the tenor of truth may stand?

To return to our subject, we will now notice how this tenor of truth works in reference to those texts. First. In reference to Rev.3:14, “The beginning of the creation of God.” They quote the text, and without attempting to show that there is any mistake in the reading, or that the word beginning does not properly mean beginning, but beginner, they try to show that the text does not mean what it says. Their modus operandi it is not necessary for me to notice. They next come to Col.1:15, “The First-born of every creature.” By quoting the following verses, in which in connection with the 15th verse, Paul is giving such a representation of the Son of God and Redeemer as to show that in his complex person, He in all things has the pre-eminence. But they would thereby make the impression that he is not the first-born of every creature, and of course that in this particular he has not the pre-eminence over his brethren, and is not like them, though verse 18 says, “That in all things he might have the pre-eminence,” and Heb.2:17, reads, “In all things it behooved him to be made like his brethren,” in that they are born of God, and he not according to these brethren, for if born of God he has a derived existence, and therein is a creature in distinction from the self-existent Godhead. The same course of reasoning would also prove that he is not the First-born from the dead. For if his being God forbids the idea of his having a created existence in personal union with his Godhead, he never could have been in the state of the dead, to be born from it. They ask in reference to the declaration, “Who is the image of the invisible God,” former part of verse 15, “Can a creature be the image of the invisible God?” It seems Adam was created in the image of God, {Gen.1:27,} and so is the new man renewed after the image of him that created him. {Col.3:10.} But wishing to answer them more fully on this point, I will ask them, if according to their views the Son as such does not exist as God, and only as God? If so, is he not the invisible God equally with the Father? And third; Can the invisible God be an image of the invisible God? I say, no; for an image, according to the general and natural import of the word, means a visible representation former of some person or idea; as the image of liberty, &c. I do not believe that the self-existence, as such, of God was ever represented in an image, but all the attributes of God I believe are expressly represented in and through the Son or Christ. And I know not that God has ever been represented or declared to men, but by Christ. John 1:18. If God is declared in the works of creation, all things were created by the Son, {Col.1:16,} but then God “made the worlds by him,” as Solomon made all the vessels for the temple through Hiram. I Kings 7:14-48. See Heb.1:1-2. So “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.” II Cor.5:18,19. Thus we see that God acts through Christ or the Son as an agent, and therefore as the Son, Christ must have an existence distinct from the invisible God, though personally one with him. From the notice we have taken of the attempts of these brethren to deny the correctness of the declarations of these several texts, we see the tendency of their attempts to square the Scriptures according to their views of the tenor of truth. And it is evident that the dispute about these texts, is no longer between me and them, but between them and the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost says that Christ, is the beginning of the creation of God, and the First-born of every creature, and that his people were created in him, &c.; they, in effect, say it is not so. Hundreds of other texts might be named on which the same dispute would arise; but I will forbear.

I now come to the wrong representations these brethren have given of the views advanced by me and others, on this subject. When I first read their piece I felt so sensibly the injustice of their representations, that I was ready to pronounce the whole a base slander and there leave it. But on a little reflection I concluded that these brethren did not design to slander us; that they honestly, though strangely, had misconstructed our views. One wrong representation is found in this sentence and connection, “Now the fancied system of our dear brethren, that this eternal new creation has nothing to do with the soul or body; the soul is not prepared for eternal life by its implantation nor any influence at all to control any of the disordered passions of nature,” &c. This contains such a sweeping charge that I hardly know how to get at all its points, without taking it word by word. But let us examine the two, and see which has the advantage in these particulars, the life with which they fancy they have been quickened, or the life with which we fancy we have been quickened; though indeed, I did hope, this being quickened was something more than fancy, both in them and us, as also the system of doctrine taught in the Scriptures. They believe that the Holy Ghost is the quickening power, but that he does not create little gods in them; of course it is not a communication of himself, so as to become their life, and that he does not purify the Adamic nature in whole or in part, of course neither soul nor body is changed; but he implants new spiritual life in the soul; and this spiritual life is entirely distinct from their natural life, &c. This life then must be a creature, a distinct existence, created in them by the Holy Ghost. Is it any better to be created in them, than to have been created in Christ Jesus? As the quickening of each individual must be a distinct putting forth of the power of the Holy Ghost, the life in each must be a distinct creature, having no relation to one another, other than of being alike the creatures of the Holy Ghost; and they are creatures of time too. Hence, there is no being the seed of Christ, no actual relation to him as a head, no being of his bones and his flesh in their life. If these brethren can make any thing different out of the description they have given, I cannot. No wonder they want a bond of union to form a body of Christ out of these separately existing branches. There is no analogy to such a body as this in any kind of body God has ever formed. Christ says, “I am the vine, ye are the branches,” but they would have his body made up as they make brush brooms to sweep their yards. The life with which we believe the soul is quickened is Christ – Christ in you the hope of glory. Col.1:27 & 3:3,4. Christ who is the Son of God, the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth; begotten or created in the Word, and his people in him, and thus ever existing in personal union with the Godhead, both from eternity, and as he is manifested in the new birth in the believer, as he says, “As thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.” Again, “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.” John 17:21,23. Thus Christ our life existed as the Head and Husband of his church, before the heavens were planted, or the foundations of the earth laid, in the secret place of the Most High, in the shadow of God’s hand, and as one with God, and therefore as God whilst he is the Son of God. Hence when persons are born again, born of the Quickening Spirit, they are manifested as members of Christ’s body, as his seed, and through him – the only begotten of the Father, they are born of God, and are the sons of God. Now if your life dwelling in the soul as a detached lonely creature, can prepare the soul for heaven and exercise an influence over the person, &c., one would think that Christ in the soul and God in Christ, would be quite as likely to produce these effects. You say the soul is not prepared for eternal life by its implantation. Why, it is eternal life in the soul, {John 3:36, 17:2-4 & I John 5:12,} not a creature of time as you describe, but a life existing from eternity in union with God, and existing to eternity with him. You say the eternal new creation, meaning by this epithet the Christ of God, as the Christ, has nothing to do with the souls and bodies of men. Strange he has not, with his people, when they are his sheep that shall never perish, the gift of his Father, and he is their life, their Redeemer, their salvation and their sanctification. But perhaps you have reference in the remarks above noticed to my having spoken of the new man in the believer, as a dependent infant, that cannot bring forth its fruits of love, faith, patience, &c., only as the Comforter, the Holy Ghost brings them into exercise. If your life gives you an independency in these things, and strength to love and to exercise faith, patience, &c., at your own pleasure, I have only to say, {I speak in this only for myself,} your experience and mine in this differ significantly. To will and desire is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not, only as an influence independent of me, may graciously bring these fruits into exercise, in a measure, and that but momentarily. But perhaps you meant by this charge, to imply that our belief is not as productive of good works in us, as is yours, in you. If so, whilst I positively deny the correctness of the charge, as it relates to the brethren implicated with me, for myself, I am dumb, if a child, I am the vilest, and am still the chief of sinners. Lord save, or I perish, is my cry.

Another wrong representation of my views, and the views of others, is found in their having throughout their communication, spoken of our views, as though we held that Christ as the Head of his church existed personally distinct from God and therefore distinctly as a creature. Where as we have never admitted that as a person he is a creature, but on the contrary, whilst we say that as man he was a creature, and that as Son, or as the Head of his church, or as Mediator, and Christ he is a creature; that is, that the existence in him which constituted him these, was not self-existent, but was brought into existence of God, yet that he took both of these existences into union with himself as God, the latter in eternity, the former in time, thus existing as God, as the Son of God, and the son of man, in one complex person. He thus exists as a distinct person, having distinct personal qualities from the Father and the Holy Ghost, but one with them in the Godhead, thus constituting him a fit and adequate person to be the one Mediator between the one God, and men. And thus in his complex person, whilst he is one with the church, he is one with the Father, whilst he is the husband of the church, he is her Maker and Lord; and whilst he is the elder brother of his people and joint heir with them, he is their God, and the alone proper and delightful object of their worship. This is the ground I occupy and have occupied, how far the brethren implicated with me, agree with me in all these points is not for me to say. When it is recollected that in the close of the communication to which these brethren have replied, I remarked among other things, in substance, that his being created as the Head of his church no more conflicted with his essential Godhead as God; than his being made flesh did, I think these brethren on reflection will acknowledge they were not warranted from the premises, not from former communications, to give the representation they did of my views, and therefore that the charge is unjust. I am willing to meet these brethren in argument in reference to the proper grounds we each occupy, and if they from the Scriptures can show that they are right, and I wrong, so be it; but I do not like this fending off these blows aimed at an effigy of their own, and christened with my name.

One more remark of theirs I will notice; they say in a parenthesis in reference to our having advocated the doctrine of the church’s having been created in Christ as her Head, &c. “Which has caused so much unnecessary talk and writing.” Why brethren, if you could be divested of your notions, of making your views of the tenor of truth a standard by which to determine the meaning of Scripture, so as to receive as truth just what the Scriptures declare as such; and could give up the idea of a begotten person in the Godhead, which amounts to a begotten God, shape it as you may, and look at the Son of God, self-existent as God, but begotten as the life and head of his people, and they in him, you would see such glory and majesty in the undivided Godhead, such a fullness and excellency in Christ as the Head of his church, and as the one Mediator; such glory and stability in the union of Christ and his church, as having commenced in eternity and not subject to the changes which attend time things; such security in the believers life being hid with Christ in God, and such harmony, beauty and fitness in the whole scripture testimony, that you would feel, if you were to hold your peace from declaring these things, as though stones would immediately cry out.

It would be useless to ask to be excused for the length of this communication, but I will ask the brethren to forgive me, and to forgive anything which may appear harsh or incorrect.

S.TROTT.
Centreville, Fairfax County, Va., July 18, 1849.