“They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” – Romans ix, 8.
Beloved Brethren, and companions “in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ:” It affords us pleasure to again greet you, through the abounding grace of God; and to give expression to our tender love for you in the Truth of the Gospel: and our unalterable devotion to the doctrine and order which distinguishes us from every other people (religiously speaking) under the canopy of heaven.
Dear Brethren: - We have certainly no new thing to write you, no new doctrine to advance; but to pledge again, by the grace of God, our changeless love for that doctrine which our fathers believed and maintained throughout the long and eventful travel of Gospel Churches in our native State.
“Ye who ask for some new doctrine;
Some new way of Gospel life;
Ye who seek for other pathway
Than our God doth wisely give,
Ye who Heaven itself would lower,
Unto mortal heart and mind,
Think not in our Gospel travel,
Teaching new and strange to find.
“For we love the old worn pathway
That we know is tried and true,
Where our dead have passed to glory,
To that life forever new,
Other teachings – so misleading,
Full of worldly pride and lust,
But the faith our fathers died in
Is the only faith for us.”
Therefore to “stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance” of the deathless and priceless principles which are now and ever have been “most surely believed among us,” we will call your attention to Romans ix, 8: “They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.”
In the superficial manner of discussing this subject among professed Primitive Baptist of the Means order, this testimony has been referred to as simply distinguishing the difference between Israel under the law, as the literal descendants of Abraham, and Israel under the Gospel Covenant as gathered from Gentile lands.
That the subject taken with its connection may have a reference of this character we are willing to admit, but that this is not its first and important meaning we positively assert. The cursory reader skimming over the surface of this subject may see nothing deeper than the view we have named, but one led of the Spirit to consider the depth of the apostolic argument, is not willing to be confined to such a superficial and simplistic view.
The immediate connection of this subject runs through several chapters based upon the identical point so clearly set forth in the text: “The children of the flesh, these are not the children of God.”
Are any who claim to be Old School Baptist willing to take a converse proposition to this declaration of the apostle and claim for “the children of the flesh”, that these are the children of God? We presume that it would be difficult to find any so bold, and yet this is the identical position (under cover) to which the arguments of this class of Baptist lead.
The apostle is writing to a church whose “faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” Romans 1, 8. Much of his argument in the first chapters is devoted to elucidating the principle laid down in Acts x, 34, 35; “Of a Truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation, he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him.” He sets aside forever the idea that the Jews had an inherited right to Gospel grace. “For the promise that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.” – Romans iv, 13. “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Romans 11. 28, 29.
Through this line of argument he leads us to consider the Headship of Christ. He takes up, first, the figure (Adam) of that natural headship; and clearly shows that “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Chapter v, 12. From the figure he traces the substance: “much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in Life by One, Jesus Christ.” Chapter v,17.
Having brought clearly the head in view, he calls attention of the body of that Head, “them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Chapter viii,1. From such premise how could any other deduction be drawn then, “If the Head be spiritual, the body must also be spiritual.” And as had also been so clearly shown, “every seed producing its own kind” (Genesis 1:11,) that as the development or body of the first Adam were lost and polluted sinners, Life eternal could not come through such a polluted source; but must come through Christ the last Adam (born of incorruptible seed.) And, How, we ask, could this eternal life ever be developed except by a birth of the Spirit? And how could there ever be such a birth without this pre-existing life? Birth is not the cause, but it is the development of life; the quickening eventually and inevitably brings to a birth.
If the pre-existing life is flesh it can but produce flesh by birth. If the pre-existing life is Spirit, the development by a birth must necessarily be spirit: for, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” John iii.6. The apostle in the testimony under discussion clearly presents the subject in the same light as did Jesus to Nicodemus. He traces the two distinctly separate and antagonistic characters of life; the one fleshly, sensual, and devilish; the other spiritual, pure and holy. And these are as stated, two separate characters of life; each life previously and personally existing in its own distinct and separate seed or head.
Each life is developed by a birth. Each birth from a separate origin: this is not two principles as in one man – but two men in one duel character. “What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies.” Song. vi.13. Two distinct orders of life, developing from two distinct orders of seeds; developing two distinct men: “the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,” (Ephesians iv.22;) the “new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians iv. 24.)
These are not mere principles, but men; all the sophistry of Means Baptist to the contrary notwithstanding. The inspired penman in our subject follows the usual order of Scripture testimony in first telling what the thing is not, then what it is. No amount of work upon the Adam man, short of the transforming change at the resurrection of the body, will produce any change in his corrupt nature. He is “enmity against God” (Romans viii, 7,) he is “not subject to the law of God,” even after the new birth any more than antecedently. He serves the law of sin. (Romans vii, 25.) To quicken such a life will only cause it to be more active in producing fruit, will but quicken its evil tendencies, hence there is absolutely no such thing as a “sinner being quickened” from a state of nature to a state of grace. Such is not the case experimentally. This new-modeling process is pure Arminianism, and aims to accomplish what the apostle distinctly declares cannot be accomplished; i.e., making children of God out of children of the flesh.
The testimony of all ages proves the Truth of the apostolic assertion. “They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God.” Who indeed were the wicked Canaanites, but lineal descendants of Noah? And trace the genealogy of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; of David, and of others, and it will be readily seen that the generation of these men, with all of their piety and zeal, were but a generation of evil doers. And why indeed should not this be the case when every seed “produce after its own kind.”
If the Adam-sinner is born of the Spirit, he would become “spirit;” for “that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit,” (John iii,6) hence as his nature is (supposedly) changed he would necessarily bestow upon His offspring His own nature; and they would also be spirit. “A spirit hath not flesh and bone.” But the testimony of Scripture proves them to be flesh, and frequently of the worst kind.
The fact of their being flesh shows that the natural man is not born of the Spirit of God. It was said of Jacob; “The children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth.” * * * “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” Romans ix, 13. From this testimony there can be no question of Jacob’s being born of the Spirit, yet trace the nature of his children. He says of them in their wickedness; “Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land.” Genesis xxxiv, 30. “Then shall ye bring down my grey hairs with sorrow to the grave.” – Genesis xlii ,38. Who were Korah (Numbers xvi. 1-3,) Dathan, and Abiram, who perished in their rebellious idolatry? they were the sons of Levi, and of Reuben; lineal descendants of Jacob, of Isaac, of Abraham. Who was Abimelech the wicked Judge of Israel (Judges ix, 1-5,) but the son of Gideon one of the most favored Judges of Israel? Who were the idolatrous kings of Judah and Israel but descendants of Abraham, and many of them direct descendants of David, the “sweet singer of Israel.”
But we need not go back of our own times to see the evidence of the Truth of this record. We have only to scan the lives of our own children; and the children of the dear saints who have gone before us; who are mixed with every false way, with every wicked and idolatrous practice.
A beloved and faithful Saint may live a spotless life, setting as example in a life of holiness, of purity and of grace; and yet his children brought up under his own parental roof, with all the holy admonitions and sacredness of such a life, may give no more evidence, bear no more fruit unto holiness, than the dumb brute; thus evidencing the truth of what we are discussing, - “THE CHILDREN OF THE FLESH, THESE ARE NOT THE CHILDREN OF GOD.”
“But the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” We are informed in Hebrews vi, 13-20, of the character of the promise to which reference is here made. “For when God made promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no greater, He sware by Himself, saying, Surely blessing, I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiple thee.” The reader will recognize that this blessing was given without consideration of worth or merit on Abraham’s part. “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love.” – Jeremiah xxxi, 3. This everlasting love must have had an everlasting object upon which it centers. The promise runs co-equal with the love of God. For “to Abraham and his seed were the promises made: He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to Thy seed, which is Christ.” – Galatians iii, 16.
If the promise ran on a fleshly line, why could not Ishmael receive the blessing, for he certainly was the natural son of Abraham: but it is written, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” - Genesis xxi, 12. Isaac was born when “Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.” - Genesis xviii, 11. The God of heaven had promised the birth of Isaac who was born contrary to nature.
The promise was made to both Abram and Sarah when old in years, whose names were changed to indicate their fruitfulness in the Lord. For “they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.” - Galatians iii, 7. The children of promise then are the seed of Christ (Galatians iii, 16;) and are born “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” They come “down from God out of heaven;” each of them takes up his abode in a body “afore prepared unto glory,” – prepared to receive the in-dwelling heavenly, spiritual child (Hebrews x, 5;) for they all partake of flesh as Christ their elder Brother partook of flesh. – Hebrews 2:14.
And the mortal body in which they dwell while here on earth, is sealed by the in-dwelling spirit (child) of God unto “the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body.” Romans viii, 23. “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit of Life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.” - Romans viii, 10,11.
Paul speaks of the “hope of the promise,” unto which, he says, “our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come.” Acts xxvi, 7. He again speaks of “the hope and resurrection of the dead.” Acts xxiii, 6. This is the grand and glorious culmination of the promise.
“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.” - Philippians iii, 20,21.
Our present meeting has been a season of refreshing we humbly trust from the Divine presence, saddened by the absence of some who met with us here at our last session six years ago who have been called to their immortal home. Our churches report, by the grace of God, healthy travel, with continued interest and zeal in Gospel things; blessings which can come alone from the bountiful hand of our God. Our next meeting is appointed to be held, if the Lord will, at Mt. Pleasant, Fairfax County, Virginia, at the usual time in August, 1912, when and where we hope again to greet you in bonds of love.
William M. Smoot, Moderator.
L. H. Potter, Clerk.
The Sectarian, Vol. XXII, No. 9,