Brother Beebe: - The following letter I had written in a private answer to brother Erastus Maynard of Penn., but having occasion to write to you, and thinking that others besides brother Maynard had objections to the conclusion I mention in the 1st Number of the relation of my experience, being led to by certain circumstances, I have concluded to address it to you for publication in the Signs, if it does not over step your bounds.
Brother Maynard, Yours of Feb. 24th came to hand, in which you object to the conclusion I arrived at from my experience in a certain case, and you ask further explanation relative to it. That to which you object is the idea that unregenerated persons may supplicate God's throne and be heard in cases of providential needs. The conclusion I consider a legitimate one from the circumstances I related. I had myself at that time no spiritual faith, and knew nothing of Christ as the way of acceptance with God. I had, as thousands of other unregenerated persons no doubt have, a rational faith in the providential government of God. Hence the conclusion that if I could be heard, other unregenerated persons who were under similar circumstances might be heard. The circumstances I related are to me known facts; and they may be, to you, my brother, facts, so far as you have confidence in the truth of my statement. My being involved in difficulty, my being led to look to God by prayer for deliverance, and my being delivered, must all alike have been under the control of God's providence; or all must have occurred by chance. I leave you to choose which position you please. For myself, I prefer acknowledging God's government in the whole affair. You say, you cannot see how persons can pray acceptably to God unless they have faith. I say, in substance, the same in reference to everything relating to the great matter of salvation, in connection with that to which you object. But since you have led me by your letter more to reflect on the subject, I think perhaps I went too far in saying in reference to salvation, No person can approach God with acceptance but through faith in Christ. I will now say, no person can have the assurance of being heard in reference to any of the blessings of salvation, excepting as he is enabled to pray in faith, nor can he receive and know those blessings, but through the faith of Christ. But the Publican's cry of, God be merciful to me, a sinner, I think was accepted, though he had not, when he uttered it, faith in Christ. And the similar cry of thousands since have been accepted before they had faith to behold Christ as the way of acceptance. They had faith in God, and in their just condemnation as transgressors of His law.
To return to the explanation you request. I understand from the Scriptures that God is the God of creation, of providence, and of salvation by grace; and that although creation and providence are subservient to the great purpose of salvation, yet in many points they are distinct from it; are subject to a different law from the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, to which salvation is subject. Many persons were created in Adam, who have not spiritual life in Christ, and who have never, therefore, by the law of the spirit of life which is in Christ Jesus been made free from the law of sin and death. Yet, these are subjects of God's providential goodness; for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain upon the just and on the unjust. Thus also He is "the Saviour of all men, especially of them that believe." That is, as I understand this text, He saves temporally all men from some calamities and evils to which they might be exposed. It is said, Acts 14:17, "Nevertheless He left not Him-self without witness, in that He did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." I do not see any inconsistency with the purpose of salvation in supposing that as a witness of God's providential goodness to the children of men and of their dependence on Him, He should, in many cases like mine where He has purposed to make manifest His delivering hand, first bring the persons to cry to Him for help. Thus in the 107th Psalm, while there is in it a spiritual reference to God's wonders of salvation, there is also a literal reference to God's providential goodness in delivering persons, when they cry unto Him, out of their temporal distresses. See verses 13, 19 & 28, with their connections. There is nothing there said about their crying in faith; yea, one class is denominated fools. So Nehemiah, whilst he gave to the children of Israel a character very different from that of believers in Christ, speaks of their crying unto God in their distresses and of His hearing and delivering them. Nehemiah 9:27, 28, and following verses. Look at Jacob fleeing from the consequences of the fraud he had practiced upon his brother Esau, and of the deception upon his father Isaac. He is met by a vision at night, in which he is assured of God's providential care and protection over him as the son of Abraham, through the ministry of angels. I have no idea that he then had faith in Christ as the way of acceptance with God; nor had he this faith until he wrestled with the angel, and received the name of Israel, or a prince having power with God and men and having prevailed Gen. 32:24-30. Hence in the instance above referred to (Gen.28: 12-22), we find Jacob bargaining with God by a vow that if God would do so and so to him, then God should be his God, and on his return he would give to Him the tenth of all God should give him. I know it has been generally understood that the ladder which Jacob saw prefigured to him Christ as the medium of communication with God. This is inferred from what our Lord said, John 1:51. I do not so view the matter. I understand Christ's remark to Nathanael to be a contrast to Jacob's vision, and not as a comparison, as of the type and the antitype. Nathanael and the Jewish nation had seen, for ages past, the angels of God ascending and descending upon the ladder which Jacob saw in a vision; that is, they had seen God holding intercourse with that nation through the provisions of that covenant which He had established with Abraham. But says Christ to him, "Thou shalt see greater things than these." Hereafter, ye shall see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." That is, ye shall see God holding communion with His people through Christ Jesus and His atonement; a medium in which there are no rungs or steps to climb.
In conclusion I would say, we shall more clearly expose the delusions of men by which they suppose they are authorized by the Scriptures to believe they can climb to heaven by repentance, prayers &c., as so many rungs of Jacob's ladder, by observing and showing the distinction between the dispensations of God's providence and His grace, than by blending the two together, and thereby denying His providential goodness towards those that are without. Hoping that this may be satisfactory, or if it is not, you will again write me and show its defects, I subscribe myself affectionately yours,
Centreville, Fairfax County, Virginia,
March 12, 1851.
From: SIGNS of the TIMES: Vol.19 (1851)
Select Works of Elder Samuel Trott