By Wm. M. Smoot
For the Virginia Annual Meeting of Anti-Means, Old School, Predestinarian Baptists
To all of like precious faith, greeting.
Dear Brethren: We hail with joy the favored opportunity of addressing you in the holy and precious fellowship of saints. Gathered together “with one accord in one place” we would write you of the holy things of that Kingdom “whose God is the Lord.” We realize anew the gracious power and sweetness of that which binds us together as one people, knowing no North, South, East or West, but kindred in Christ, and “companions in tribulation, and in the Kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.” Though separated from you by many miles, dear brethren, yet there is a nearness, an eternal, vital oneness, and we feel the holy fervor of that fellowship which permeates the whole body of which Christ is the eternal Head, and which glows in living, immortal power in every member thereof.
What subject could we write you of greater interest than that salvation experienced by us all, and by which lost and helpless sinners shine in immortal perfection before the throne of God? For nearly forty years our brethren here have been accused of denying the salvation of sinners, with many other absurd and false accusations circulated against us. We know of nothing calculated to comfort and encourage the saints in their mortal pilgrimage but a revelation of the Truth as it is in Christ Jesus in the salvation of His dear people from both sin and death.
We must follow the Divine order, however, in presenting the subject of Gospel Salvation. The eternal, unconditional, and personal election of the Church in Christ, the chosen Seed, comes first in that order. Eternal vital union is the foundation of all other divine truth. Before all worlds were made, or time was brought into existence, this eternal choice in Christ, the chosen Head of all the members of His body, in an eternal oneness stood in union with the eternal Godhead. Let it then be distinctly understood that this is not the election of sinners of Adam’s race. This would, if that was so, make the election to be “in Adam,” and not in Christ, as amply taught in the sacred Scriptures. Nor is it the existence of a family of spirits in full development in all eternity, as so often foolishly charged by our adversaries. But it is the existence and choice of the Church in the chosen Seed thereof, which seed develops the generation of Jesus Christ in time. – Psalm xxii, 30 & Matthew i, 1. In that spiritual birth by which this development is made, the personal existence of the child of God in Christ is manifested. The birth develops that existence; hence the Redeemer says, “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” – John iii, 6. That spiritual child was in Christ as the spiritual seed when Christ “was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.” The birth simply develops this personal existence. We see this in Adam “who is the figure of Him that was to come.” The natural birth of an earthly child simply develops the personal existence which this child had in Adam when Adam was created’ hence the Master says, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh.”
The eternal choice is in Christ and not in Adam, and the birth manifest the chosen child whose existence was thus “hid with Christ in God, the Father, before the world was made.” It is not the natural man born over again, and he, the natural man, by that birth becoming the child of God, entering into, or seeing the Kingdom of God. For it is manifest that if the man born of the Spirit is the man who sees and enters the Kingdom of God, and if the natural man is born of the Spirit, then he must after such a birth both see and enter into that Kingdom – which is too obviously false, by experience. This reasoning contradicts the testimony of the apostle where he declares that the “Natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” – 1st. Cor. ii, 14. The text does not add “until he is born from above.” But the development of this generation of Jesus Christ is in these vessels of mercy, afore prepared unto glory, called in the Scriptures the old man, the strong man, the natural man, the outward man; while the indwelling child of God within, and that which is born of God, is called the new man, the stronger man, the spiritual man, the inward man, and the new creature.
Take notice that this is not the natural man born again, or born of God, exhibiting one man with two natures; in one of which nature he is born of the flesh, and in the other, born of the Spirit. The whole benighted religious world holds that concept. But each birth reveals an existence in the parent seed of the flesh, and of the spirit of Adam and of Christ. Nothing, we suppose, is more clearly taught in the Scripture that the existence of these two men, each the parent seed of his family – the one natural, the other spiritual, the one the “figure” of the other. “The first man Adam,” we are informed, “was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.” – 1st. Cor. xxv. 45. In the development of the generation of each of these two men, by a birth, we trace the linage of the child born back to the parent’s seed. This is what we understand the master to have taught in the language, “That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit.” This exhibits a natural and a spiritual seed, a natural and a spiritual birth, a natural and a spiritual progenitor, developing a natural and a spiritual generation.
Notice particularly that this is not the regeneration of the natural generation, and this regeneration constituting the generation of Jesus Christ, but it is the development of two characters of seed manifesting two orders of births, and developing a natural generation by the first, and a spiritual generation by the second. “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ” (Matt. i, 1) unfolds and reveals this heavenly generation in these vessels of mercy, yet not made out of them. To this agrees the inspired testimony, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same.” – Hebrews ii, 14. The blending of these two generations into one duplex being, in which “flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh,” and wherein the old man, after the order of his father, “is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,” and the new man, “which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” – Ephesians iv, 22-24, reveals the wonderful “mystery of godliness.” The regeneration of this spiritual generation, in their being brought from under the law in the person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the eternal and chosen Head of the Church, brings us to a brief discussion of the subject of salvation.
We should bear in mind that it is the Child of God, and not the child of Adam, which is the subject of Gospel address; that the new man is the motive power in that duplex being to which we have referred, and not the old man. Instead of its being the same feet that once carried us to the gambling den that now carries us to the house of God, thus making the old man carry the new man; it is the old man which is brought into subjection by the new, as it is written in the type, “the elder shall serve the younger.” – Genesis xxv, 23.
But now let us regard the child of God as a partaker of flesh and blood, as developed or made manifest in a mortal body, born of the flesh, yet a “vessel of mercy,” in an outward man, a man that is born of corruptible seed of flesh and is yet flesh. In this relation only is he subject “to bondage.” And the revelation of this eternal, spiritual life, the manifestation of this inward man, who is born of God, is the eternal and abiding testimony, the everlasting seal of the salvation of the mortal vessel which holds the heavenly treasure. In this mortal body he groans, longing to be delivered, and hungering and thirsting for the things of the heavenly Kingdom. “We ourselves groan within ourselves.” This groaning is not the result of the quickening of a dead sinner into spiritual life, but it is the manifestation of that which is already born of God. The quickening is in the Spirit and not in the flesh. “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing.” – John vi. 63.
The child of God, in his mortal pilgrimage, realizes ever the weakness, the mortal passion, the sin and death of that which is born of the flesh. When he would do good, “evil is present with him;” – And which do you suppose desires to “do good”?- flesh or spirit? The good that he would he does not, but the evil which “I would not,” he says, “that I do.” Tempted, distressed, beset on every side, weary of earth and sin, he looks with heavenly longing to the unending rest of his immortal home. “‘Tis there that he is delivered from earth, himself, and sin, and filled with the fullness of God. In this mortal fleshly body he groans, “waiting for the adoption, to-wit, the redemption of our body;” – Romans viii, 23. – waiting for the adoption of his flesh – that which is born of the flesh, but is not born over again, or born of God; waiting for the “birth” from the dead of that which is thus born of the flesh; waiting for the appearing of our Lord from heaven, “whom shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself” – Phil. iii, 21. Most assuredly this world is not his home. “Here he has no continuing city.” Bound with a mortal chain, and oppressed with many a care, he clings with undying devotion to the Cross of the dear Redeemer as his only refuge. The hope which animates him is the hope of salvation, the abiding testimony of the Spirit, “the anchor of the soul.” Amid all the storms that beat upon him this hope abides, “entering into that within the veil.” All that he has, is, or hopes to be, rests upon that which is embraced in the Christian’s hope.
The hope of the Gospel! What thoughts cluster around it! What sweet affections are there! In the love they bear it, saints have forsaken the friendships of earth, its nearest and most tender ties, its wealth and fame, the popular reputation, yea, all, to follow Jesus. Through commotion and division, derision, through flames and flood, they follow where He leads. His providence, His predestination directs the path, and they know by precious experience that they have not yet attained unto the resurrection of the dead, nor the adoption of sons. But when this mortal body falls in death, when the glorious and wondrous change of the resurrection is complete, when that which is born of the flesh is born from the dead, and the royal army of Heaven in bright phalanx shall stand upright, redeemed from every nation and kindred of earth; when, in immortal splendor, “the saints of all ages shall in harmony meet,” then, and not until then, shall they comprehend the fulness of that salvation, the “volume of His deep decrees,” which embraces every chosen vessel of mercy, every heir of immortal promise, which raises from the dust of earth to the splendor of eternity, adopting the sons of earth, changing their vile bodies, fashioning them like unto the glorious body of our Lord. Can more be done for the natural man? Can there be more perfect salvation for a lost and helpless sinner than this?
In the hope of this salvation we greet you, dear brethren and sisters, believing that we “are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Corner stone: in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” – Eph. 2:19-22.
We have enjoyed a refreshing season, we trust, from the presence of our God. A large and attentive congregation has attended our church meeting, and our brethren feel comforted, and are led to rejoice in the testimony of the Lord's unfailing goodness.
William M. Smoot, Moderator
James Posey, Clerk