A little over fourteen years have passed since I was enabled by grace to find a home in the Gospel church and among the people of the most high God. I have been thinking of the years that are past, of the changes they have wrought and of the goodness of God to me in so many thousands of ways. For years I had struggled under the horrible bondage of sin, with a deepening sense of my guilt and helplessness, when it pleased the Lord to open to me the portals of salvation in and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As the everlasting doors were lifted up, unveiling an “eternal inheritance,” I saw with other eyes, and began to speak with another tongue of the wonderful works of God. The doctrine of God our Savior had been obnoxious to me, as it ever is to the dead, carnal heart; but now, in a flood of living beauty, I saw, I hope, to some extent the mystery of the sacrifice of Christ. How far-reaching, how comprehensive, how glorious the way of salvation appeared: I could exclaim with Paul, “Great is the mystery of godliness!” “O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” I saw the total depravity of every human heart, and from that horrible pit of total depravity came all human woe. Truly “darkness was upon the face of the deep.”
First of all the precious lessons clearly written in my experience was salvation by rich and sovereign grace. I knew it for myself. I had felt its precious power in opening a loathsome dungeon, in breaking the iron chains that held me in a horrible bondage, in leading me out in the wondrous liberty of the sons of God.
Election, a point of doctrine that seems so dark to my natural mind, now shone with beauty, but not with the clearness of after years. As the years have rolled on, I hope that I have seen with increasing clearness under the surface and into the depth, at least to some extent, of the election of grace. “Behold My servant, whom I uphold,” says the Lord by the prophet, “Mine elect, in whom My soul delighteth.” No one has seen election clearly who fails to see it as an act anterior to time.
Election is something deeper than a mere purpose; it is an actual choice, before all worlds were made, of a people existing then and there IN our Lord Jesus Christ; existing in the sense in which Christ was and is, from everlasting the Life of His people. Their eternal life was there. I have no reference in this remark to their life in the earthly Adam, but to their life in the heavenly Adam. Thus Christ is called the “elect of God,” and the whole elect family is elected in that election. It can be readily seen that the whole human family existed in Adam as he stood in Eden, before a single one of them was born; not in their individual development, but their natural life was there. So too, the whole elect family of our God existed undeveloped in the Lord of life and glory when He was set up from of old, “from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.” Their spiritual life was there! There is the manifestation of this in time, as the lines of election are drawn in separating from the sons and daughters of the earthly Adam “the vessels of mercy which He had afore prepared unto glory.”
In connection with the doctrine of election, and from a clearer view of it, the eternal, vital unity of Christ and His Church were opened with great beauty to my mind and heart. Now I could see, as I had never seen before, the divine principle upon which the Redeemer laid down His life for His people, and the way in which that offering became effectual in the salvation of the “members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.” For the first time in my life I could see the Gospel of such expressions as, “I am the Vine, ye are the branches.” “And He is the Head of the body, the Church.” “And not holding the Head, from which all the body, by joints and bands, having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.”
Along with all of this, and interwoven with that exalted view of election, came some conception of the “three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost: and these three are One.”
More bright and plain this seems to me as the years go by. One eternal Omnipotent God in each of the three relations that He sustains to His people; the same Mighty, undivided, indivisible and eternal One IN the Father, IN the Word, and IN the Holy Ghost; but in each instance revealed He stands in a different relation to His people. They have an Eternal Father, an elder Brother and Savior, and an ever-present Comforter, and He is one only true and living God.
But back of all these sweet revelations of Truth, and reaching heavenward in the most exalted conception of glory, I hope that I have seen something of the sovereignty of that high and holy One, from whose infinite wisdom and Almighty power the great way of salvation sprang! In such a view, how insignificant all else appears! What are men or devils, principalities or powers, things past, present or to come? We worship One who
“Can dash whole worlds to death,
And make them when He please.”
From this exalted and proper view of the sovereignty of our God comes that point of doctrine, hated by most, which has been the sweet solace and comfort of ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of saints in every age of time: I mean the “absolute predestination of all things whatsoever cometh to pass.” I am not fearful that this pure and holy character of the holy God whom we revere could be injured by the base aspersions of a sin-cursed world. Towering in the most exalted heights of heavenly purity, enshrouded in a blazing light of refulgent glory, “the great White Throne” of our God cannot be darkened by the small shadows of earth. The same Mighty One who holds the angels in light, chains the devils in hell. From that all-predestinating Hand falls all the events, circumstances and incidents in every minutiae that are found upon life’s pathway from the cradle to the grave, from the beginning to the end of time. Nothing short of this will do for Bible predestination. All carnal reasoning of the natural mind upon the subject, and every system short of the absolute predestination of God, must give way before the blazing light of the Gospel, as chaff upon the summer threshing-floor. Hesitate not, ye heralds of the sacrifice of Christ, to lift high this glorious doctrine. It will bear the closest Scriptural scrutiny. Fear not to proclaim unto the uttermost, what our God had been pleased to reveal of Himself. All worlds, with everything upon and around, and in them, were created for His good pleasure, and are but scaffolding drawn around the Building of Grace, to remain until the last elect vessel of mercy shall be manifested in time. Then shall the curtain of time be rolled away forever. As easily as that All-creative Word brought the innumerable creatures of space, the things of time, into existence from nothing, so easily shall that dreadful Word roll them back to nothing again.
The heavens above shall hear His voice, the earth beneath shall tremble at His Word. But I would not suggest that any should undertake to eat this iron-bound doctrine of predestination with soft-shell teeth. It will break through every soft way. “Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
When first I came to the Church, I found it hard to understand why I should have such a wretched, wandering mind. I had not a clear view of what Paul meant by such expressions as, “The good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.” I felt keenly the Christian warfare, but could not see the source from whence these things came; at least my mind was not clear upon that subject. Why was I so prone to err? Gradually and with great comfort I began to see that in the new birth my nature had not been changed; that there was an “old man” and a “new man;” two contending armies were there; and that grace but held in subjection this mortal body, until the glorious change for which we are waiting shall come. Then I began to see in a clearer light what death accomplished in the Christian’s experience, and the glorious bodily resurrection from the dead. I hope that I could understand something of the cause of that longing cry of prophets and apostles, and holy men of God in every age, for deliverance from a body of sin and death, “from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” “For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of ONE; for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren * * * Forasmuch, then, as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy Him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."- Hebrews ii, 10-15.
The resurrection from the dead; what bright and solid anticipations cluster here! What glorious prospects! What eternal enjoyments are here! It is a bright light, so far, and yet so near, revealing the heavenly and immortal glory; a light that falls upon the pilgrim’s pathway, encouraging him all along the toilsome journey of life. It is the crowning work of salvation, the heavenly anticipation of his hope. And in referring to the resurrection, I desire to express my firm, unwavering belief in the resurrection of the bodies of the saints. All ideas of the resurrection, aside from this, are mythical, and not based upon the Word of God. We shall see the accomplishment of the good pleasure of our God toward His people when time and its creatures shall be rolled away; when the redeemed, clothed in the radiant beauty of the immortal heavens, shall ascribe eternal praise unto the Lamb, in an exulted shout of victory over sin, death and hell forever.
To this glorious perfection my longing spirit has turned, at times, with an ardent desire to be clothed upon with “an hose not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” As one by one of the precious children of Grace with whom I have taken sweet counsel in the holy worship of the sanctuary are called from time to eternity, each departure seems to sunder a link that binds to earth, and brings heaven nearer. The family circle is gathering there, and why should we not wish to be with them? I look back over the fourteen years that are passed, and how short they seem. How rapidly they have rolled away, but O what changes they have marked, what a varied surface they present, hills and valleys, joys and sorrows, life and death. All along their way are evidences of God’s goodness and mercy, sometimes overwhelming testimony that sinks me down in the dust of humility. But I feel sad when I think of my own perverse returns. Then comes the caverns of gloom and doubt, times of trial and conflict. Underneath them all are the “everlasting arms.”
I have given a brief summary of my understanding of some points of “the doctrine of God our Savior;” that which I have endeavored to preach wherever God in His Providence has opened the way, and with what ability He has been pleased to give. Many hundreds who have believed and rejoiced in these things have been called away during the past fourteen years. I have the satisfaction of knowing for myself that many hundreds, yea, thousands more, all over this great land, north south, east and west, rejoice and believe in them to-day. In this number are included very many able ministers of the New Testament, who are divinely called and qualified by Him to proclaim the Truth (not truths) of the Gospel of the grace of God, and to defend with heavenly weapons against the growing attacks. “Behold his bed, which is Solomon’s: three score valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel. They all hold swords, being expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh, because of fear in the night.” – Song of Songs, iii. 7,8.
But there are many, many tender lambs of the flock, dear brethren and friends of Truth, who cannot see some of these deep and precious, wonderful things. We must not, we cannot, force them upon any. The true minister of the sanctuary must labor with patience, and in meekness and love, instructing, encouraging, warning, rebuking and comforting with the comforts of the Gospel the people of our God. This is a great and glorious work. Paul says, “Who is sufficient for these things?” and replies, “Our sufficiency is of God.”
I have written, I hope, in the love and fear of God, with the love of His cause and of His people, and with a supreme desire for the welfare of Zion. Soon must we who are now young and active in the cause of Truth and in the ministry, lay our armor by, and be done with the things of time forever. The sword must pass from our hands into the hands of others. We would not, we cannot steady the ark. God will take care of His church, His doctrine, His people, ever! But to labor in that particular sphere which He has assigned to each one, and according to the ability that He giveth, is the supreme object of the child of grace.
We rejoice to know that our God is above all else, and we bow with sacred reverence at His feet. May we lean upon His strong and everlasting arm, find rest in His holy presence, and be guided by His Spirit. Truly, without Him we can do nothing spiritual, or good. At His feet are found the consolations, instructions and comforts of His love; and from that place of holy, humble worship the feeblest child of God is enabled to soar into the exalted heights of bliss. When left to ourselves, how easy to err from the path of Truth and righteousness. How much we need the constant guiding hand of our God. What a precious consideration, that He will never leave nor forsake His people, that He will sustain them ever through all the way of time, and until the vaulted heavens shall give way before “the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” It is there our longing desires shall be answered, our heavenly anticipations fully satisfied, as we awake with the likeness of the blessed Redeemer. We wait with patience the heavenly summons, knowing that the discharge shall be final and complete, and that the care-worn traveler shall enter forever the portals of rest. – Rest eternal, unbroken rest! How soothing the thought to the weary, heavy laden ones! He is filled with humble reverence at the amazing mercy and goodness of his God, counting that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us,” when “death is swallowed up in victory,” and all eternity filled with the unending praise of God.
William M. Smoot,
February 12, 1885.