Harrisburgh, Ia., February 24, 1856,
My very Dear Young Friend: – I received yours a few days since, and read it with deep emotions. Your aged father and myself have rode hundreds of miles together, preaching the same Gospel, and for many years we have stood harmoniously together, in prosperity are adversity, while many whom we have once esteemed as friends, have turned away and are become our fiercest revilers. These have served to rivet my confidence in him, and cement such an attachment, that I feel s strong interest in the happiness and prosperity of his family. Add to this the general desire I feel for all who love our Lord, and loath themselves and their sins; and you may believe that I read your letter with more than ordinary interest.
Your account of the travail of your mind is all very familiar to me. I well remember when I was tossed on the same tempestuous seas, when there was no port in sight – no beacon-light to guide me – when, without compass or anchor, I drifted among the whirlpools of despair. You seem to have tried every refuge, but all proved ineffectual, either to remove your burden or afford you hope and peace. By this it seems very certain that this work is not of yourself, nor under your control; your exercises must then have been produced by a power and controlled by an influence irresistible, such as all your means and exertions could neither retard nor hasten. In this school the children of God are brought to know their own weakness and vileness.
This you seem to have learned. You say you can clearly see how God can be just in your condemnation as a transgressor of His good and holy law, and that you feel that you are exposed to its just penalty; but how the same God can be just in justifying he same guilty and justly-condemned sinner – this, though not precisely in your words, is in substance what you say. This, my young friend, is a distinguishing trait in those who are regenerated; no others are so troubled much about God’s justice in this matter. They suppose that when they have done all they can to please God and to get religion, that God would be very unjust and cruel, if He did not save them. But the regenerated sinner has no claim to justification or salvation built upon his own righteousness, which He regards defective and as filthy rages, and which can never answer as a plea for acceptance with God, or as an offset for his offences. He looks at his corrupt nature, and vile transgressions, and brings them up before a holy law and just Judge, and feels that the sentence is just, for the law is holy and the commandment is just and true; but says, the apostle: “I am carnal, sold under sin.” So we consent to the law that it is good; but we clearly see and conscientiously feel that by its deeds no flesh can be justified. And so God, as a just Judge, is surely just in pronouncing the penal sentence of that law upon the guilty. But how the same just God, sitting in judgment by the same law, with the same guilty offender arraigned, can be justified as a just Judge, and the Justifier of that guilty sinner is one of the profound mysteries of God’s purpose of grace, which can only be known by revelation of the Spirit, and can only be understood by the children of God, and by them only after they have been stripped of their self-righteousness.
My young friend, I know that I cannot reveal this mystery to any unregenerate sinner, and I am equally as sure that the regenerated sinner will never receive solid and abiding comfort until he does, at least in some degree, understand this mystery which God, for wise purposes, has hidden from the wise and prudent, and revealed unto babes. This revelation stamps on them a peculiarity of character and of sentiment, which ever afterwards distinguishes them from all others. Then, to see and feel the justice of God in our condemnation, as subjects of His law, and His justice in our justification, as redeemed subjects of His grace, and of His heavenly Kingdom, is the peculiar privilege of the heirs of salvation. I have long believed that all who know and feel the first part of this mystery, will also know and feel the second; but that knowledge may be in various degrees, and perhaps, at best, but imperfectly known in our present state. I will, however, endeavor to open this mystery, as well as my little knowledge and space will permit, and if God should give you eyes to see it, you may, perhaps, have pleasure in reading – if not, my scribble will be in vain, except the consciousness of having done my best to an enquiring friend, the son of an old and tried friend.
Now to the point: I need not say anything to you on the first part, for the justice of God in the condemnation of the sinner, you clearly already see. I shall, therefore, only speak of God’s justice in the justification of sinners.
We read – “There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” This man, Christ Jesus, was made of a woman; made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law. This Redeemer, then, was to redeem men from under the law, and this He effected by means of death for the transgressions which wee under the first covenant,” or law. Now, if they are redeemed from under the law, they are no more under it, and what therefore the law saith, it can say it only to them that are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world (of the ungodly) may become guilty before God. But ye, the redeemed, are not under the law, for Christ has redeemed us from under it, so that the law wherein we were once held in bondage, being dead, as to its having any power to condemn those who are redeemed. We read that Christ’s righteousness is at this time declared, that God might be just, and yet the Justifier of him that believeth. These believers whom God is just in justifying, are, in themselves ungodly in their nature; for God justifieth the ungodly, so the righteousness of Christ which is reckoned to, and placed upon all that believe. Thus, all God’s chosen people are IN Christ, and IN Him they were chosen, so IN Him they are made holy, as He is holy, and accepted; yes, they are made the righteousness of God IN Him; for Christ is made unto them wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption., and Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. They that are left under the law are under its curse; but they that are redeemed from under it are no more under its curse, but have redemption in Christ, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.
Now, if God proceeds, as a Judge, in our case, as subjects of His law and under its curse, as offenders, we are justly condemned; but if we are already redeemed from under the law and its curse, by Christ Himself, the Mediator, then, in Him shall all the seed of Israel be justified and shall glory, for, by His knowledge shall My righteous servant justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. It is God, as a Judge that justifies, and it is Christ as a Redeemer that died. Here an important question may arise. How could God be just in punishing the innocent Redeemer for the sins of the guilty?
The legal relationship subsisting between Christ and His Church, in which Christ is the Head, Husband, Life, Shepherd, Surety, and Elder Brother, and so legal Redeemer of His body, members, bride, flock, insolvent debtors, and younger brethren. Redemption is to buy back again; not to purchase an original title. But a previously confirmed title, in eternal union in Him, gives to the lawful Owner a legal right to redeem the involved property. Christ had such a right of property in His people by seed substance, by the gift of His Father, by His office as Mediator, of His Father’s will, and by all the relations, spiritual and legal, that made them one in law. Vested in this legal right, the imputation of all their sins and debts to Him is just and legal, and the demands on Him to meet the legal consequences and satisfy the entire demand, is imperative and just; and when He rendered to the law a full equivalent for all its just demands, and so fully redeemed them from all iniquity, they were then and there saved, for they were as legally free from the law and its condemnation as though they had never been involved in its transgression.
Christ was delivered for our offenses, and having put away our sins by His death, He arose again from the dead for our justification; thus becoming our Saviour. He died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and was buried, and arose again on the third day; and hence we may clearly see that God is just in the condemnation of every sinner that is in Him that were under the law, and that He is equally just in justifying every sinner that has been redeemed from under the law, and whose sins have been fully and legally put away forever by the law-fulfilling righteousness and cleansing blood of Christ. This constitutes our salvation.
When we truly see are feel ourselves to be as we really are, exceedingly sinful, what sin is, and have a proper conception of the holy law which we have so long and so frequently, and so wantonly transgressed, and consider the inflexible justice and holiness of our Judge, it is no wonder we cry – “Guilty!” before Him. And that we can see no way in which He can be just in our justification. But when, by the same Spirit that has made us alive and enabled us to see and feel this, our opened eyes are directed to Christ, as the Way and the Truth, and the Life – we can see that. As by the disobedience of the earthly Adam, all his unborn seed fell under condemnation; even so, by the obedience of Christ – who is our heavenly Adam – all His unborn seed are redeemed and justified unto life. Each Adam, as a head, acted for his family, respectively. This may start another momentous question:
Am I one of Christ’s family? This can only be known by signs, and family traits and characteristics. A few, only, of these, my sheet will allow me to mention. “Love is of God, and he that loveth is born of God.” “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” “How can you love God whom ye have not seen, and hate the brethren whom ye have seen?” “If we love him that begat, we shall also love them that are begotten of Him?” So we see that love is of God, and His family or children are brethren, and by their brotherly love they are known. “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye love one another.” Now, my young friend, have you not this infallible family trait? If you love God keep His commandments. To hunger and thirst after righteousness, is another family trait; and God, in His will, has made ample provision for His children, and He has said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.” The mourner, the hungry, the thirsty, the poor in spirit, the weary, the heavy ladened, the sin-sick and the dying, are some of the blessed traits of character which are peculiar to the heavenly family which is redeemed by Christ.
Have you none of these traits, my dear young Friend? Still another trait of this family is the constant presence in them of two belligerent parties, powers or principles – namely, the flesh and spirit warring against each other, so that we cannot do the things we would; for when we would do good, evil is present and with our mind we serve the Lord, but with the flesh, the law of sin. Sin is in our members, and it makes us cry: “O, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” When, to will is present, how to perform that which is good, we find not. Cannot my young friend, sighing deeply, confess that he has them deeply engraved on his heart? Still another family trait is “faith.” He that believeth on Me,” said Christ, “believeth on Him that sent Me.” “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved.” “Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God.” “Unto you it is given, on the behalf of Christ, not only that ye should believe on Him, but also that ye should suffer for His sake.”
These peculiar traits are fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, goodness, faith, &c. Faith is a submission to Christ and reliance upon Him alone for our justification and salvation; renouncing every other name and all other righteousness but His. Can my young friend deny that he has this family trait? If you have these traits of the children, or a good degree of them, listen to the Savior’s voice, who says, “If any man will be My disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” For brevity’s sake, I have not quoted the many texts verbatim, nor referred to the books, chapters and verses, but have referred to the substance, and passed on;- you can read them, and I hope you may clearly see that all of God’s children are redeemed already by Christ; and therefore are not condemned with the world. And may you find that the Holy Ghost has stamped so many of the marks and traits of God’s children on your heart, that you may enjoy a good hope through grace, and tarry no longer in the tents of the world, but confess your Lord and Master, and be found among those who are followers of God, as dear children, and walking in love. May God direct and keep you, and lead you by His Spirit, and give you peace in believing.