Brother Beebe: – After reading the last number of past volume of the SIGNS, I was led to reflect upon the length of time you had occupied the responsible position of Editor, and also of the many conflicts you had passed through during that time, and how wonderfully you had been sustained by Israel’s God.
You commenced the publication of the SIGNS surrounded by vile enemies of the Truth, and, so far as pecuniary aid was concerned, it was anything but tittering: but notwithstanding the promiscuous of foes, in combination with their malicious efforts to prevent the circulation, and consequently the publication of your paper, it has been sustained twenty-five years!
The paper has not only increased in its circulation, but has been greatly enlarged and improved, so that it now contains a large amount of good reading matter; the mechanical part is well executed, and the SIGNS is now of great value as a medium through which the scattered flock of Christ can learn something of each other’s welfare.
After I finished reading your editorial headed,“Reflections on the close of the year,” I read the fifth chapter of the 1st Epistle of John; and as I was drawing near the close of the chapter, I was very forcibly impressed with the sublime language contained in it, more especially with the 11th and 12th verses, which reads thus, “And this is the record that God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son; he that hath the Son, hath life; and he that hath not the Son, hath not life.”
The language of Scripture is simple and plain, so far as the declaration is concerned especially the larger portion of the New Testament; but as simple as the language is, none can understand its spiritual meaning while in a state of nature; neither can the heaven-born family while in the flesh, comprehend its vital import any farther that it pleases God to give them an understanding of the same; and it is possible that God’s dear people – even the servanys of the church – may often speak and write concerning certain portions of Scripture, and, in thgus doing, advance sound doctrine, yet give no just explanation of the text, which they have taken as a foundation for their remarks.
I hardly know whether It will be either profitable or expedient for me to attempt a brief exposition of the above text: but I feel inclined to submit a brief view of the text as it now seems to present itself in my mind, and if you think proper you can publish it or no.
“And this is the record.” The literal signification of“record,” is a register, an authentic or official copy of any writing, or an account of any facts or proceedings entered in a book for preservation; or the book containing such account or copy; therefore in examining a record three important points are necessary, as connected with it, in order to an understanding of the same and a belief of its validity; and,
First, Was the recorder a contemporary with them, by whom the acts, recorded, were enacted? If so, did the recorder possess the capacity tgo understand the nature of such acts? Was he free from any bias of mind? Did he simply record the acts as they transpired without mixing any of his own peculiar ideas with them?
Second, Has the record been preserved in its primitive purity? Are the same facts on the record, as when first written?
Third, Do they who read the record possess the ability to understand its import? If so, do they read it without a prejudiced judgment? Do they have their minds already formed as to its merits, from hearsay, before they read it?
Nearly all modern histories, instead of being a record of facts as they actually transpired are so deeply imbued with the author’s opinions that they lose their force as records of facts, and, as an illustration of this, let any who is acquainted with the facts connected with the“Baptist Denomination of New England and other portions of the United States,” read a history of them, as published by one Benedict, and they will find it loses its force as a“record;” for many things, which, doubtless the author did not like, are suppressed; consequently the record lacks validity.
For a record to possess validity, and be understood, the three preceding points must be connected with it, viz: the recorder was in possession of the facts; was a man of truth; and they who read it, must have the capacity to understand it.
The children of God, who have been experimentally brought to knowledge of the Truth, know that the two first named points are wanting in no particular whatever; but they often fear that they are lacking in the last qualification in every respect.
The record of eternal truth was given by The Lord God:“For the prophecy came not in the old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were move d by the Holy Ghost.” God raised up Moses as the lawgiver unto Israel; consequently Moses gave, or declared unto Israel the law of God; therefore it was delivered unto them in purity, without any of man’s notions mingled with it, emanating directly from God, through Moses unto Israel; and for that reason Israel was under the most solemn obligation to abide by its righteous requirements.
Though thousands of years have passed away since Moses received the law, in Mt. Sinai, written by the finger of God upon tables of stone, yet in its vitality it remains in force to this day for the Jews; for it says“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, might , mind and strength, and also thy neighbor as thyself.” When the young man made his plea for salvation upon the ground that he had kept the law (for he said“all these things have I kept from my youth up, what lack I?) the adorable Redeemer immediately brought him to the test: for“Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasures in heaven; and come and follow Me;” but when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.” Did not that prove that he had not kept the law?“Thou shalt not covet.” Did it not prove that he was in the same condition that Saul was prior to his being brought to a knowledge of the spirituality of God’s law;“for.” Said he,“I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.”
All the truths contained in the divine record were present in the eternal mind before any of them were communicated to His servants; for the declaration by the mouth of Isaiah is,“Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying,“My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.” Notwithstanding the many revolutions that have taken place among the family of man, the record is not changed, and one positive proof of this is the hatred that men, in a state of nature, express against it; and it is seldom that the criminal loves the law that executes him.
“That God hath given to us Eternal Life, and this life is in His Son.” The Lord God being self-existent and eternal, nothing existed before Him, and everything but Himself is a creature, whether it be in heaven or upon earth; and, furthermore, before anything material or immaterial was spoken into existence, every event that was to transpire was eternally fixed in His mind – even grace was given to the church in Christ, His Son, before the starry curtains of the heavens were spread abroad, or before the Universe was spoken into existence; therefore as long as grace and truth have been treasured up in Christ for His bride, He has been her Husband, Mediator and Redeemer;“For in all their afflictions He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; and Her bear them and carried them all the days of old.” – Psalm lxiii. 9. Furthermore,“For unto us a child I born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace, there shall be no end."-
Isaiah ix, 6-7.“For thy Maker is thy Husband; the Lord of hosts is His name, and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall He be called."- Isaiah liv, 5.“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; the same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made; in Him was Life; and the life was the light of men."- John I, 1-4.
Eternal life was given by the Godhead, unto the church in His Son; and as none but God could give eternal life, it certainly shows that this life was given to the church before Adam’s dust was fashioned to a man; consequently the good deeds of man, or the vile ones, thus to speak, could not, and did not influence the Eternal mind in that transaction, which was too profound for a seraph’s eye to discern, but it was according to the good pleasure of God’s will. As eternal life was thus given to the church, the doctrine of eternal election must certainly be true; for where there is a Head there must be of necessity be a body; for there is one body and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.
Has there ever been a time when this body and Head have been separated? If there has not been a time, the doctrine of eternal vital union must be true.
They who object to this doctrine of eternal vital union between Christ and His church, seem to lose sight of the distinction between the oneness of Life existing between Christ and His mystical body, and the experimental knowledge of this union, as made manifest in the vessels of mercy after having passed from death unto life; yet, surprising as it may appear, those who object to the doctrine of Paul, who declared that the church was“created in Christ,” hold forth by their arguments, as advanced from the pulpit, and held forth through the Press, that members of the church are“created in Christ;” for they say that the members of the church were in Christ, only in prospectus, but after being born again then are members of Christ’s body. But I may be met with the reply, that is not what we mean, at all! If it is not, what is meant, why not couch their expressions in language sufficiently explicit to be understood; for their language leads directly to this result and no other, which doctrine is diametrically opposed to the general tenor of Scripture. Could a man sow wheat upon his farm were he not in possession of it? Every sane mind must respond, No! Does not Peter set the matter fully at rest with every believer in Christ? Says he,“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” He says it not only lives (the incorruptible seed) but abideth forever.
Paul, in his Epistle to the Galatians, is very exact in this matter, for he says,“He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and‘To thy seed,’ which is Christ.” The inspired Psalmist in ancient time, said,“There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.” Now, if the union between Christ and His bride was only in purpose, we must of necessity change Paul’s and David’s declarations, and consider that the church is born of seeds, instead of seed, and that the streams make glad the river; but not only their language must be changed, but the entire Scriptures; for God has already redeemed unto Himself a people out of all nations; but as has been already observed, men seem to lose sight of the oneness of life existing between Christ and His people, and individual experience of the children of God. That life is repeatedly called“eternal life.” So that oneness must also be eternal. The family of man is only a development of Adam, and natural life was given to them in him, and from him, as a federal or seminal head, the millions of human beings who have been on the earth descended by natural generation: and an inspired Apostle declared that Adam is the“figure of Him that was to come;” therefore Christ is the seminal Head of that spiritual body, called“His bride,” which vessels of mercy are to be developed through an earthly head before being born again, or brought experimentally to know their interest in Him.
When we are enabled by faith to view this eternal union, we can see that upon the strictest principle of justice“mercy and truth” could meet together, and“righteousness and peace kiss each other.” This union caused the dear Redeemer to leave the realms of glory, and be made manifest in the flesh – caused Him to lay His head as low as the beasts of the stall, and be in that humble position that He should be set at naught, be despised of men, and be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief – in fact He must pass from the manger to the bloody cross, and His soul travail through death, and finally, when all was completed, yo His mediatorial throne, where He will intercede for His people till the last elect vessel of mercy is gathered in. Had there not been an eternal vital union between Christ and His church, would He have endured the cross, despised the shame, with such meekness, simplicity and perfect obedience, for them who were by nature His enemies? Certainly not. Then how glorious appears the record unto Christ’s meek, humble, and obedient followers, which says,“That God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.”
May not the inhabitants of the Rock sing and shout aloud the praises due Israel’s God and King, realizing that their life is hid with Christ in God.
“He that hath the Son, hath life.” When any of the fallen race of Adam are brought by divine grace to see and know the awful state of man by nature, and feel the force of that Scriptural declaration,“the wages of sin is death,” there is life, and such a life as they possessed not by nature; for as God teaches them by His Spirit, and brings them to acknowledge that their condemnation is just, their own goodness becomes awful, in their own estimation, their own righteousness appears as a filthy garment, and their own strength perfect weakness: and, strange as it may appear to graceless hypocrites, a person in such a frame of mind, has a deep regard for the Truth of Scripture – even those portions which pronounce such awful woes upon the enemies of God; therefore it is life that causes sensations, either of pain or sorrow, or of joy and praise. When a person is under a work of grace, a proclamation of the Gospel is, at times, very piercing to the heart, for the poor soul can say,“I feel that if I am cast off, it will be right, for I am such a rebel against God that I cannot see how I can be saved consistently with justice, nevertheless, if I make my bed in the regions of endless woe, I desire to be kept from sinning against God.” Now those are some of the sensations that follow life; and where there is no life there is no such sensations. If a dead man should be pierced in the heart with a sword, it would cause no pain, but the body might be moved by the operation, and there might be the mark left on the corpse where the sword had pierced; so the Gospel may be faithfully preached in the hearing of men who are dead in sin, and the proclamation may be of such a nature as to pierce them through and through; but will it cause them to loved the law of God and believe the Scriptures? No. After God’s dear people are brought to deliverance, and truth is forcibly made plain before them and to them, it leads them sooner or laster to comply with the requirements of Christ, and the ordinances which are binding upon His dear people, which are some of the fruit they bear; proving thereby that they have passed from death unto life.
“He that hath not the Son of God, hath not life.” However far men in a state of nature may go in external rites, if they have not“passed from death unto life,” they are still strangers to the cross, and the record, as presented in the Scripture, is not believed; and as a proof that it is not believed, they go exactly counter to the commands, and deny its vitality, both by precept and example.
Dear brother Beebe, amidst all the confusion and turmoil in the religious world, the foundation stands sure,“having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are His.”
William L. Purington
December 25, 1857.