DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: – I have been looking at the distinction you have made between a “wrought out” and a “brought in” righteousness, and must confess that I cannot see the force of it, though I have no doubt that it is both plain and important to your mind. The righteousness of Christ in which the church is interested, I understand to result from the vicarious obedience rendered by him to the law of God, which obedience is imputed to the church, and regarded in the eyes of justice as her act: as when a surety pays the debt for which he became responsible, it is regarded in the eyes of the law as the act of the principal, as much so as if he had paid it himself. But that the act of redeeming the church was not that by which she enjoys a title to heaven, or a preparation for it, is clear to my mind, and ever has been since I was led to reflect on the subject, and if I understand you, we accord fully upon that point. The church is represented as the wife of Christ, but I never believed that Christ’s mission to earth was to purchase or to marry a wife, but to redeem her.
As to the union of Christ and his church, it, in my mind, was eternal, and the bond is the everlasting love of God. Now if the period can be fixed upon when God did not love the church in Christ, then we can tell when the union between them did not exist: but Jeremiah says, The Lord appeared unto me of old, and said, Yea I have loved thee with an EVERLASTING LOVE, and therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee. And Paul says, I am persuaded that neither life nor death, nor angels, &c. &c. Shall be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Here then the love of God in Christ Jesus constitutes the bond of union. Moreover, it is evident that the gift of Christ is the result of the love of God: – For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on him might not perish, but have eternal life.
Redemption, as you justly remark, supposes an interest in the object redeemed. The term is also used in reference to the ancient mode of obtaining persons taken prisoners by paying a ransom price for them. This has been done by our government since my recollection. A number of our citizens were taken by the Algerines and made slaves of, and were redeemed by our government at a certain price. This ransom, however, did not change their relation to this country. They were citizens before they were taken captive; they were citizens when in captivity; and they were no more citizens after deliverance. But though their redemption did not change their relation to their government, it made an important change in their circumstances: it relieved them from a very painful servitude, and restored them – not to citizenship, but to the enjoyment of those privileges which they had been deprived of by their captivity. I understand the effect of the redemption of Christ on the church to be similar: not to secure an interest in her, but because he had an interest in her before her embarrassment; and not to make them citizens of his kingdom, but because they were citizens. He redeemed them from the captivity into which they had fallen in consequence of their connexion with Adam and partaking of the fall in common with others. Now I cannot believe that the fall dissolved the union between Christ and them, or in any wise affected his interest in them. View them either in the relation of wife or citizen, therefore, their redemption could not be that by which they became entitled to those privileges arising from the relation of wife or citizen. Thus, if my wife should commit a criminal offence, and unless I should pay a certain sum, must suffer the penalty incurred, and to relieve her, I should pay the demand, this act of mine would not make her my wife, nor entitle her to the right of inheritance. This right results from the marriage contract. To some this view may seem to undervalue the redemption of Christ: but it cannot detract from the real value of any act to refuse to attribute to that act anything which is not the legitimate effect of that act. Hence I cannot see how a refusal to attribute to redemption that which is not properly the result thereof, can detract from its value. To me there appears great beauty in being enabled to give to everything in the great economy of salvation, its proper place. There is no order of which I have an idea, in which the old adage, “A place for everything, and everything in its place,” is so clearly exemplified as in the economy of salvation. We suppose the church to be the wife of Christ, and the relation to have existed before her fall: but by the fall she became obnoxious to the wrath of God: Christ, from his love for her, assumed her responsibility, and under that assumption, cancelled the mighty debt by the sacrifice of himself. Now although this act did not make her his wife, it delivered her from an embarrassment which must have forever debarred her from the privileges of that relation. By this act of his the claims of justice against her are fully satisfied. The door to heaven, which otherwise must have been closed forever against her, is thrown wide open. But to appreciate fully the value of redemption, is out of our reach. Before we can do this fully, we must be able to comprehend the extent of the misery of the damned, and the happiness of the saints in glory: for without redemption she must have suffered the former and have been debarred the latter.
Not only did the church incur the penalty of the law of transgression, but she imbibed all the pollution of sin, and became alienated from Husband, and, in common with others, hated him with a perfect hatred. Hence Paul says: For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God, by the death of his Son, &c. Thus the enmity is on the part of the church, and it is necessary that the enmity be conquered and reconciliation on her part effected, before she can enjoy the privileges secured to her by the marriage contract, and to which she has been legally restored by redemption. For if taken to heaven in an unreconciled state, it would be no heaven to her. For a woman who had left her husband from hatred to him, to be forced back without a reconciliation on her part, instead of promoting her happiness, would increase her misery: but let her be fully reconciled to him, and it would be very different. She would not then need violent coercion to bring her back; but she would voluntarily return, and be prepared to appreciate the value of a restoration to her privileges.
In contemplating the economy of grace, we find everything necessary for the complete salvation of the church, provided: not only a restoration to her privileges by redemption, but a preparation for their enjoyment contemplated. “All thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children.” This instruction is necessary to a correct knowledge of our true character and condition, as fallen and helpless sinners; of our infinite obligation to Christ for his eternal love towards us, in giving himself a ransom for us, that he might thereby reconcile us to God. It teaches us to hate sin and to love holiness, and thus prepares us to participate in those pure and holy enjoyments which await the saints in glory.
“O glorious hour! O blest abode!
I shall be near and like my God!”
Heaven is not a mere negative idea with the saints: by which I mean that they do not merely look to it as exempting them from torment; but view it as a positive happiness, where they will be free from the least taint of sin, and bask forever in the ocean of holiness. When Christ shall be ALL IN ALL, in the fullest sense, and when he will possess their undivided affections, and not until then, will the hope of the saints be finally and fully realized.
But here I must stop. The subject is too sublime for my limited mind. It is too deep for my short line of fathom; but I am sure that nothing but the regenerating influence of the Holy Ghost could ever prepare me, or any other fallen and contaminated sinner for the enjoyment of such sublime and holy pleasures as await the ransomed of the Lord.
Dear brother, I submit these few imperfect remarks for your disposal, and remain, as ever,
Yours in the love and afflictions of the gospel,
P.S. By afflictions of the gospel you will understand me to mean that reproach, &c., which they who trust in the living God, have ever been called to endure.
Signs of the Times
Volume 16, No. 4
February 15, 1848