First Published by the Shakers in 1823, then this Second Edition in 1848
Objections against the preceding doctrines stated and answered.
1. WE shall now proceed to state and answer some of the principal objections which are often advanced and strenuously urged as conclusive against the doctrines advanced in the preceding chapter.
Objection 1. It is argued that the very circumstance of man's being created male and female, is, of itself, a sufficient evidence that God designed, from the beginning, that the earth should be peopled by them; and the certainty that there was no other possible means provided by which it could be peopled, is an undeniable proof that sexual coition was the means appointed, and the only means ever intended of God for the population of the world.
2. Answer. All this may be granted; but that it is conclusive against the doctrine which we maintain, remains yet to be proved. Man was created in a natural state, like all the rest of the animal creation, (though much superior in form and faculties,) and being a natural man, he was required to keep the law of nature which was given him in common with them. That law required him to propagate his species according to the order of nature, at certain times and seasons, which the law itself dictated. And even admitting that the man had faithfully kept that law, he could never have risen to a higher state, without a superior law, but must have continued in that natural state, and subject to that natural law, like all the rest of the animal creation, to the end of time.
3. But man being destined, as God's representative on earth, to occupy a higher station than any other part of the creation, and God knowing the subtlety of the old adversary, and the weakness and inexperience of the new formed man, gave him a special and positive command, which was calculated not only to prove his obedience, but to be his strength and protection, in the line of obedience, against the snares and devices of the enemy. This command was to the man a law superior to the law of nature, and was calculated to raise him to a state of honor and dignity far above the animal creation; but it required the man's perfect obedience, as the only means by which he could preserve his power, and secure that protection and those benefits which the law was calculated to afford him. Had he kept this law, he would have been a rightful heir to eternal life. And as this law brought the man into a near connection with his Creator; so the penalty of disobedience must be proportionally great; it must necessarily separate him from God in proportion to the nearness which the law had brought him to God: for the greater a man's privileges are, the greater must be his condemnation and loss in misimproving them.
4. But unfortunately for the man, through the subtle influence of the serpent, he was led into disobedience, and thus violated both the law of God and the order of nature. Having been created in a superior state, and favored with a superior law, he was in a condition to govern all the inferior creation, had he kept his obedience. But instead of hearkening to that superior law, the law of his Creator, or even adhering to the law of nature, he yielded to the insinuations of the serpent, through the woman, which wrought upon his inferior, animal passions, and induced him not only to violate the law of his Creator, but also the law of nature. Hence he not only fell from God, but his fall was below the order of nature, and of course below the brutal creation: for they had never violated the order of nature.
5. This being the state of fallen man, all his works of generation, while led by the propensities of his nature, are performed in this fallen state, not governed by the law of God, nor regulated by the law of nature; but influenced by the deceitful insinuations of the serpent, the lawless passion of lust. Therefore it is in vain for man now to plead the original law and design of God, in justification of his conduct in the works of sexual coition: for while he still continues to violate that law by the inordinate and unseasonable indulgence of his lascivious passions, he can have no just claim to it; but will unavoidably separate himself still further from God, and increase the measure of his loss by every repetition of the act.
6. Where is the civil government on earth which, after having confided an honorable and important trust to a distinguished citizen, would not, on finding him treacherous and unfaithful to his trust, immediately degrade him from his office, and deprive him of his delegated authority? Instances of this kind frequently happen in civil governments. And shall a just and righteous God be less careful and scrupulous than civil governments, and in matters too of infinitely greater concern? And with what confidence could any citizen who has been thus degraded, or any of his posterity, having still a copy of his original instructions and authority, presume to plead a right to the privileges and benefits of that authority, after it had been so basely violated? Yet such, in a comparative view, is the nature of the case with respect to the fallen race of man, at the present day, who plead the authority of God, given to Adam in the days of his innocence, to justify themselves in still abusing that authority to a far greater extent than was ever done by Adam.
7. The original law of nature was given of God, and was very good in its place and order, and might have remained so till repealed by the Lawgiver, had it not been violated and basely corrupted: and that it still continues to be violated, in the most shameful manner, has been sufficiently proved. Therefore, those who still plead the law of nature, or the law of God, to justify sexual coition, under a pretended necessity of maintaining the work of generation, ought first to examine their secret motives in it; and if they are able to lay the propensities of lust entirely aside, and enter upon that work without the influence of any other motive than solely that of obeying the will of God, in the propagation of a legitimate offspring, to be heirs of the kingdom of Heaven, then they are able to fulfil the law of nature. But if they are not able to do this, then let them never plead the original command of God, nor the law of nature: for if they cannot come up to the law of nature, how can they obey the law of God? It is therefore a vain pretence for fallen man to lay any claim, either to the law of nature or the law of God; for he has violated both, and forfeited his right.
8. It may be proper to remark here, that it is not the work of generation, in itself considered, in the order of nature, which is condemned; but it is that libidinous and lawless passion which was infused by the serpent at the beginning, and by which the work of generation has been, and still continues to be so basely corrupted; it is that which has filled the earth with abominations, and that is the object of condemnation. If that cursed nature could be entirely purged out of the natural man, so that his feelings could be wholly governed by the will of God, he would feel a very different sensation in this act, and would be in no danger of violating the true order of nature by it. But that lawless propensity has become so incorporated into the animal life of man, that he finds himself utterly unable to separate it. Hence, being completely under the power and dominion of that fallen nature, all his acts of generation, instead of being directed by the will of God, are influenced by the lust of concupiscence. Thus "sin taking occasion by the commandment," has deceived him and "wrought in him all manner of concupiscence," and by it he was slain; that is, he lost that portion of the Spirit of God which was given to regulate and protect him in his natural state, and thus he died to God; and this is the death of the fall.
9. Objection 2. The fruit of generation is a created being, of which God himself is the Creator; therefore the act of generation would be entirely fruitless without the help of God, who blesses it by the formation of a human being, complete in all its parts, and endowed with an immortal soul; hence it appears that God has not only designed and authorized the act from the beginning, but that he is himself the author and finisher of it, and has verily sanctioned it by his own works.
10. Answer. This is probably considered, by many, as an incontrovertible argument in favor of the practice of generation, notwithstanding its present corruptions. But it is a rule in logic that an argument which proves too much, destroys itself, and therefore proves nothing; which is evidently the case with this. For by the same rule we may also prove that God sanctions fornication, adultery, and even the basest kind of incest. And will anyone presume to say that the Almighty sanctions these base crimes, because the act by which they are committed is productive of its natural and genuine fruits? Who would acknowledge the agency or sanction of a pure and holy God in the act of generation between a father and his daughter? And yet, unnatural and abhorrent as such a connection is, it has often produced its natural offspring, as perfectly formed as that of the most lawful wedlock. The act is the same, and the fruit the same, in both cases; and therefore if the agency of God be necessary in the one case, it must be so in the other also.
11. But the truth is, God is not the agent in either case, having from the beginning, committed the agency of this together with all other things which come within the province of human capacity, wholly to man, whose seed is in himself. Yet while man remains in a state of nature, and is wholly ignorant of any superior law, he is required to govern himself by those just and equitable laws of nature which were given him for that purpose; and therein he may be justified until, by Divine goodness, he shall be favored with the superior laws of Divine revelation. These laws which are designed to lead him from a state of nature, and bring him nearer to God, must henceforth govern his actions; and by his faithful obedience he must be brought to God, or he can never find true happiness. Therefore, every lascivious gratification, and even every act of sexual coition, which is contrary to any order of nature, or to any divine manifestation known to the actors, must bring condemnation upon them, nor can they, if guilty, escape God's righteous judgment.
12. It may perhaps still be objected that, as man is not himself a creator, he cannot give existence to any creature without the essential aid of the Creator; and therefore his offspring must necessarily owe their existence essentially to God the Creator. To which we answer:
13. God created man, at first, from the dust of the earth, and endowed him with certain powers and faculties, suitably adapted to his nature, lot and situation; and constituted him a free agent. And as he possessed freedom of will and choice, he was therefore able to act perfectly free, to the extent of his capacity, without any control of his Creator; but as his powers and faculties were confined to certain limits, he could exercise them to the extent of those limits, but no further. His agency extended to the power of life and death; he was able by the power of procreation, which he possessed, to give life to beings like himself, and to take it from them: beyond this he could not go. But having laws given him to govern his conduct, and regulate the powers he possessed, he must of necessity be accountable for all his conduct. Thus man being a free agent, and having power to exercise his faculties in doing good or evil, in all cases, and under all circumstances, within the limits of his capacity, he does, in fact, prove his faithfulness or unfaithfulness by his own works, and thereby merits and will receive his reward according to his works.
14. Objection 3. This doctrine condemns and wholly rejects sexual coition, as corrupt and unclean in the sight of God, and contrary to the gospel of Christ. But upon the supposition that the whole world should embrace this doctrine, and actually live according to it, the human race would be extinguished from the face of the earth, in the space of little more than one hundred years.
15. Answer. This objection destroys itself; and proves directly the reverse of what the objectors intend: It proves that the principle of continence is not of the world; and "therefore the world hates it." And as it is agreeable to the example of Christ, and is able to control the passions of nature, it must therefore be a heavenly principle, a principle which rises above the sordid propensities of an earthly nature.
16. Mankind, who are sunk and lost in the fallen nature of the flesh, are very forward in devising means to support that nature, and always ready to object against any testimony which condemns it. It is not the extinction of the human race which the objectors fear; the smallest apprehension that their carnal pleasures are in danger, is far more alarming to them. Their pretended anxiety to prevent the world from coming to an end, is but a hypocritical mask to cover their lust. Millions of the human race may be cut off and destroyed by the horrid wars which are waged among mankind, merely to gratify the ambition of rulers, and glut the bloodthirsty passions of man; and these scenes of destruction may be approved and encouraged by the great body of the highest professors of Christianity; and yet no fearful apprehensions are discovered about extinguishing the human race in this way.
17. But when souls are called upon for their own salvation's sake, to deny themselves and take up their crosses against their carnal pleasures, the cry of these hypocrites is, The world will come to an end! As though it were a duty incumbent on man to preserve the lawless abominations of lust, which have so long corrupted the earth, lest the prevailing influence of this doctrine of continence and purity should destroy the world, by putting an end to all its iniquities. It appears evident from the language of these objectors, that they consider the doctrine of Christian celibacy, which is designed to make an end of sin, and bring in an everlasting law of righteousness, as more inconsistent, unreasonable and unjust than the bloody mandates of war, which are attended with consequences far more distressing and deplorable to humanity.
18. It appears to be the general opinion of the professors of Christianity, that the world is to be destroyed by fire; and many seem to imagine that a deluge of fire and brimstone will be poured out upon the earth, and destroy all its wicked inhabitants at once. But we would ask, which would appear the most reasonable and consistent with Almighty wisdom and righteousness; to destroy the filthy abominations of sin by the purifying fire of the gospel of Christ; which mercifully allows lost souls to take up a full and final cross against their lustful passions, from which all these abominations spring, so that all who are willing, may be purified from their corruptions and become heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven; or by a deluge of natural fire and brimstone, to deprive them forever from all hopes of future happiness, which, according to the prevailing opinions of modern Christians, must be the natural consequence?
19. We firmly believe the world will come to an end, and that it will be destroyed by fire. And we also believe and confidently testify, that this fire has already commenced; because we have felt its operation upon our own souls, and have found it to be, in very deed, a consuming fire to lust and pride, and every other corruption of man's fallen nature. This fire, we have no doubt will burn with increasing power, and many will yet feel its purifying effects; and all who come fairly into it, may depend on having their lust and pride, their selfishness and avarice, their deceit and hypocrisy, their envy, malice and hatred together with all their evil deeds and evil imaginations, effectually consumed by its power; and when this burning is completed, they will find themselves among that happy number "upon whom the ends of the world are come." But those who shall be found unwilling to come into this fire, by the way of the cross, and to consign their lusts and corruptions to its purifying flames, will at length be compelled to feel the fire of those very lusts burning in them, with inextinguishable fury, and they will not be able to help themselves.
20. Objection 4. But this doctrine seems to involve in it some unanswerable difficulties: for, admitting the abuses of sexual coition by the wicked, can that be any reason why Christians should reject it? If every gift of God were to be rejected because it has been abused by the wicked, we should be deprived of nearly or quite every blessing we enjoy, and should even be obliged to refrain from eating and drinking, because these privileges are abused by drunkards and gluttons. What should occasion such an opposition between the doctrines of Christianity, and the laws of generation, in themselves considered? Was not God the author of both? Did not the same God who created man male and female, and commanded them to increase and multiply, also send his Son Jesus Christ to introduce Christianity into the world, and to preach the gospel to the married as well as to the unmarried? Why then cannot a man be a Christian, and still live in a state of matrimony, and generate offspring, provided he does not abuse his privilege?
21. Answer. We should suppose that a proper attention to the remarks in the preceding chapter might preclude the necessity of these questions; but the inveterate force of opinions so long established, and so congenial to the carnal mind, seems not easily overcome. Let the objectors bear in mind, and candidly consider the essential difference between the work of the first and second Adam, the cause of that difference, and the absolute necessity of maintaining a proper distinction between the children of this world and the true followers of Christ, and they will find no occasion to ask questions of this kind.
22. We would observe in the first place, that a divine blessing, though wickedly abused, is still a divine blessing; and the abuse of it by the wicked, can be no reason why the righteous should be deprived of the privilege of enjoying it, so long as it is given and continued by Divine Goodness. But there is an essential difference between a divine institution given for the government of mankind, and now in actual force, and one which has been disannulled to make room for a new and more permanent institution, even admitting that the disannulled institution had not been abused while it was in force. The disannulling of the law of Moses, and the establishment of the gospel institution by Jesus Christ, is no evidence that both were not of Divine origin: and though the Jews, as a people, still cleave to the law, and reject the gospel, they cannot be saved by the law; nor can they be saved by the gospel while they stubbornly reject it. Their rejection of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which was first sent to them, and which had been long foretold by their prophets, has ever been considered as very dishonorable to their nation, and a striking evidence of their great darkness, blindness and wickedness.
23. And shall the people of this generation, and in this enlightened age, bring a still greater dishonor upon themselves, and manifest a greater degree of darkness, blindness and wickedness, than the Jews did? Will they still cleave to an institution which, by its subjection to the violations of lust, has been attended with a curse to mankind ever since the transgression of Adam and Eve in the garden? And will they still continue these violations under the deceitful pretence of obeying a divine institution, when in fact, lust is the moving cause, and the greatest object in view is the gratification of their carnal pleasures? Yet when we view the inestimable sacrifice which mankind make to secure these sordid and momentary pleasures, what a contrast appears! It is nothing less than the sacrifice of a divine institution of peace and righteousness, purity and holiness, the most invaluable ever offered for the benefit of mankind. But we shall proceed to point out, more clearly, the distinction between the children of this world, and the children of God.
24. The Kingdom of Christ and the kingdoms of this world are essentially different from each other; and this difference ever has been and ever will be strictly maintained in Christ; and no less is the distinction between the subjects of the different kingdoms. The children of this world are pursuing the things of this world, and living in the fallen nature of the first Adam; but the children of God are seeking salvation from sin, and redemption from that fallen nature. Those who follow the example of the first Adam, follow the example of a fallen progenitor, and like him, beget a fallen offspring. And though mankind should continue in this practice for a hundred thousand years to come, they would still beget a degenerate and corrupt race, and still degenerate more and more; and in that way they could never be redeemed, but must still sink deeper and deeper into loss. But those who wish to find redemption, must find it by following the example of the second Adam, who came to lead mankind out of the nature and fallen state of the first Adam, into the nature and life of Christ.
25. The first Adam was created a natural man; "he was of the earth, earthy;" his work was to increase and multiply and replenish the earth in the order of natural generation; and had he not violated that order, and transgressed the law of his Creator, he might have done it in innocence and justification. He would not then have been instigated by the power of lust, to gratify the base and sordid propensities of an animal nature; but influenced by the agency of the divine law, he would have acted from the pure motives of duty. In so doing, instead of a degenerate race of murdering Cains, whose ruling passions are lust and rapine, he would have propagated an uncorrupted seed, whose innate innocence, nourished by the wise and godly example of their parents, would have been a powerful protection against the future insinuations of the adversary; and if a part should afterwards have yielded and fallen, they could not have corrupted the whole human race.
26. But Adam having yielded to the insinuations of the serpent, and violated the law of God, and by his example taught his posterity to do the same, he has corrupted the whole earth. And shall Christians now continue to follow his base example? This is not the example of Christ; and therefore those who follow it, cannot with any propriety, be called the followers of Christ
27. Jesus Christ, the second Adam, the Lord from Heaven, is a quickening Spirit; he came not only to redeem mankind from that loss into which the first Adam had plunged them, but to raise them to a state far superior, even to eternal life, from which they could not fall; therefore he could not do the work of the first Adam. His work was to increase and multiply and replenish the Kingdom of Heaven, not by begetting a corrupt seed, after the example of the first Adam, but by redeeming lost souls through the work of spiritual regeneration. His work was therefore, diametrically opposite to that of the first Adam. And can Christians continue to do the works of the first Adam? If so, they must be the followers of the first Adam; they cannot be the followers of Christ: for it is impossible that they should follow both at the same time, seeing their works are so essentially different from each other. And this is the difference between them: The only true followers of Christ, are those who deny themselves of all the carnal propensities of a fallen nature, who do the works of Christ, and walk in obedience to his example; and these may, with strict propriety, be called Christians.
28. On the other hand, those who live in the works of generation, follow the example of the first Adam. By doing his works, they necessarily become his followers; and therefore are not true Christians: for, "As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly."
29. People may profess what they will; they may be called Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Baptists, Methodists, or what not; yet so long as they live in the works of the first Adam, and follow his example, they do not follow Christ. Those who assume the name of Christians, do thereby implicitly profess to be a spiritual people. But what evidence do they give of being a spiritual people, while they live according to the propensities of a carnal nature? We would request the candid observer to notice the lives and conduct of those who, notwithstanding their profession, are led and governed by the same natural propensities as the non-professor, the Deist and Atheist, and compare them with those who, agreeable to their profession, do actually deny themselves of all the natural propensities of a carnal nature, and manifest by their fruits that they are governed by a superior law, in living a life agreeable to the example of Jesus Christ, and then say whether the practice of the former or latter appears the most consistent with the spirit of Christianity.
30. Here is the deception which has so long blinded the eyes of the professors of Christianity; they see not the most essential difference between the first and second Adam: hence in their works they are the real followers of the former, while they follow the latter in profession only. The idea of following both at the same time, proceeds from the same delusive principle, which supposes that because we are the natural offspring of the first Adam, we are therefore bound to follow him in the work of generation; and that this is no impediment to our becoming the spiritual offspring of the second Adam, and following him in the regeneration. So readily is the carnal mind of man led to believe that which it most desires, however contrary to the dictates of reason and truth. This is literally blending the flesh with the spirit, which the apostle Paul declares "are contrary the one to the other."
31. As well may we talk of a man's traveling both east and west at one and the same time, as of his following Christ in the regeneration, while living in the works of generation. The thing is impossible; because the work of regeneration is the operation of the Spirit of Christ upon the soul, which destroys the nature of sin, and raises the soul out of the fallen nature of the first Adam, into the spiritual life of Jesus Christ the second Adam. And this can never be gained by any soul short of crucifying the flesh with all its affections and lusts. Yet so unwilling are mankind to have the fallen nature of the flesh crucified in themselves, that they will use every means in their power to nourish and preserve it, as though they were even unwilling to go to heaven without it; and will therefore contrive any way to carry it along with them. But their contrivance will all be in vain; for that nature must die before the soul can ever live to God, or find an entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.
32. All professors of Christianity will agree that mankind are lost in Adam; and that there is no redemption but in and through Christ. For as in Adam all die; so in Christ shall all be made alive." If in Adam all die, then it follows that the works of Adam bring death; consequently we must quit these works before we can be made alive in Christ. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God." So testified Christ: and here let it be again repeated: It is impossible for souls to find salvation from sin, under the light of the gospel, revealed in this day, short of utterly renouncing the work of generation, and crucifying the flesh with all its affections and lusts. Nor will any soul ever pass through the new birth and be redeemed to God, until the whole of that fallen nature, root and branch, is entirely destroyed out of the soul; and the longer a soul lives in the indulgence of that nature, the more difficult, painful and distressing will it be for that soul to crucify it; and this, he will find, must be his own work, or he can never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. If a man "must be born again," he must, in passing through this birth, be raised out of that nature in which he had his first birth; and become dead to all its propensities.
33. Objection 5. But if this be so, says the objector, what is become of the good old patriarchs and prophets? They lived in the works of natural generation, and, as you say, followed the example of old Adam, in this respect, and not the example of Jesus Christ; your doctrine must therefore exclude them from the Kingdom of Heaven: and are they all lost ?
34. Answer. They could not follow the example of Jesus Christ; because he had not then appeared; and he could not set them an example before he made his appearance. Those who lived before the coming of Christ, were under "the law of a carnal commandment;" and while they strictly obeyed that law, and lived up to the light of God, given in their day, they found justification before God, and were blessed of God and protected from evil according to the measure of their light and obedience; and this was all they could do in that day. They could not be redeemed from a fallen nature in that day; because, as Christ had not then appeared, the work of redemption could not take place. But Christ having been promised as their Redeemer, to appear in the fullness of time, they lived and died in the faith of that promise; they looked forward to a future day, the day of full salvation and redemption.
35. Hence the apostle, in speaking of the faith of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the rest of the patriarchs and prophets, says, " And these all having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." These having been faithful to walk according to the light which was revealed in their day, were owned and blessed of God: they departed in faith and rested in hope, believing the time would come when the promised redemption would appear. Their having left their earthly tabernacles, and consigned those mortal bodies to the dust long before the day of redemption appeared, could not exclude them from its benefits when the time was fully come. For the work of redemption being a spiritual work, must operate upon the soul, whether in the body or out of it; and therefore the separation of the soul from the body, cannot prevent this operation.
36. The patriarchs and prophets, having been faithful unto death, and having rested in hope, and waited with patience God's appointed time, for the gospel of Christ to appear, their faith directed them into a willing obedience to it. They had now to pass through its purifying fire, in order to cleanse them from the fallen nature of the first Adam, before they could gain their redemption and be made perfect in glory. In this work of purification they were united with those of the same faith in the body; so that those who are present in the body, and those who have departed out of it, become one in Christ, and being joined together in the same spirit and under the operations of the same gospel they are made perfect in righteousness together. Thus they become the real followers of Christ in their disembodied state, not having had that privilege while in the body; and in this manner, they with us are made perfect.
37. This doctrine will doubtless appear new and strange to those who have always been bound, by the tradition of their fathers, to a different faith. And as they have been taught to believe no doctrine but what can be proved from the scriptures, they will naturally ask, where is the scripture evidence of this? But let the dark veil of the flesh be removed from the eyes of the mind, and no one will then ask for scripture evidence to prove a doctrine which must carry with it, and in it, the most certain conviction. As the scriptures are but a record of those events which were revealed and brought to pass in former dispensations, it cannot be reasonably expected that they should contain doctrines which were not to be made manifest until the fullness of time came; unless it were by types and shadows, or the mysterious revelations of prophecy, which are but imperfectly understood, if understood at all, before the fulfilment takes place. Yet the spirit of the scriptures, if not pointedly expressive on these subjects, is in every respect conformable thereto, without a single instance of anything to the contrary.
- End of Part IV, Chapter 2 -
1. WE shall proceed to answer a few more objections which are frequently advanced against the doctrine of celibacy and continence.
Objection 6. The primitive Christians did not all live lives of celibacy, but many of them lived in a state of matrimony, as we find in the New Testament, and the apostle Paul tolerated them in it, as appears in his first epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 7th, where he gives directions concerning husbands and wives. Were not these people Christians?
2. Answer. If they were Christians, the same apostle calls them carnal, and severely reproves them for their carnality. But as the time had not then arrived for a full revelation of the man of sin to be made, and as that revelation was necessarily connected with the second coming of Christ: therefore these Corinthian Christians, who were with so much difficulty persuaded to renounce their former licentious practices, were tolerated in living, in some measure according to the course of the world. The same toleration was also extended to other gentile churches; but the church of Jerusalem seems to have preserved a greater measure of purity than any other. For it is evident that without abstaining from all fleshly connections, they could not have lived together in one united interest as they did. And though it is clearly evident that the primitive Christians had received a far greater measure of divine light than had ever before been revealed on earth; yet while they were still under the veil of the flesh they could not have a full sight of that way of redemption which they still waited for; and therefore they were justified in walking in obedience to that degree of light which they had received; and as this was all they could then do, God required no more of them.
3. But the apostle Paul evidently saw further; he clearly saw that a day of further light and greater purity must necessarily take place, at the second appearing of Christ. Peter and John, and doubtless others, had similar views, and looked forward to a day of greater purity and holiness. But they also saw that a falling away would first take place, in which Antichrist would rise and exercise great power and dominion: " For that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first."
4. The falling away of the primitive church, which was attended with the introduction of a flood of corruption, in morals and manners, was the occasion of those dark and deceitful doctrines which have blinded the eyes of the professors of Christianity to the present day. In every age, the great object of the spirit of Antichrist, in all his works, has been to counterfeit the religion of Christ. And what more effectual method could he devise, than to attach erroneous meanings to the names of Christian doctrines, and to blend them with practices which have not the most distant connection with the pure gospel of Christ? Hence arose that universal deception which supposes that generation and regeneration are perfectly consistent with each other: that Christians may practice the generation of the flesh, and at the same time be subjects of the regeneration of the spirit; that is, that they may at once live according to the flesh and walk according to the spirit, regardless of the apostles testimony that, "these are contrary the one to the other." Hence also, the resurrection of the soul from the fallen nature of the flesh, is understood to mean, a resurrection of the natural body of flesh and bones, from the moldering ruins of the grave.
5. The names of these and many other doctrines of the gospel, are retained, while the real substance is wholly perverted and lost in Antichristian darkness. This is undoubtedly the principal cause that modern professors of Christianity do not discover the real distinction between the flesh and the spirit, and see the utter impossibility of following Christ in the regeneration of the spirit; while living in the practical generation of the flesh. Hence all those Christians, so called, whether of primitive or modern times, who, under their Christian profession, have lived in the practical works of generation, can be viewed in no other light than as carnal Christians; and with all their Christianity, they can never gain complete possession of the Kingdom of Heaven, until they are completely purified from the nature of the flesh, and all its corrupt and debasing propensities. And though in consequence of having obeyed the light which they had received, they may be free from condemnation; yet they cannot find their redemption short of passing through the purifying fire of the gospel.
6. Objection 7. The doctrine of celibacy appears to be condemned by the scriptures, particularly in Paul's epistle to Timothy, where he gives the following testimony in plain terms: "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats."
7. Answer. Perhaps no passage found in the sacred writings has furnished a more popular argument against a life of continence than this. It is indeed considered by many as sufficient to condemn the doctrine of celibacy altogether; and it is often urged as a testimony of condemnation against every religious society whose faith leads them to maintain such a life, however fair they may be from "forbidding to marry," or " commanding to abstain from meats." But a little examination will readily show that it furnishes not the smallest proof against a life of conscientious celibacy, either in a society or an individual.
8. The objectors evidently suppose that the apostle's expression is to be understood in a literal sense; otherwise it would be useless to advance it as an argument in their favor; and therefore, for the sake of a fair examination, we will admit their literal construction.
9. Forbidding and commanding then, according to this sense, must necessarily imply power to enforce what is thus forbidden and commanded; otherwise no effect could be produced thereby; and of course the prediction of the apostle would have been of little or no importance. In order therefore to render the passage applicable to any society or denomination of people, that society must not only positively forbid to marry, and command to abstain from meats, but it must actually enforce its commands and prohibitions by a power sufficient to effect the object. It must also fill up the whole character described by the apostle; otherwise the charge must fail in its application: for there can be no real consistency in the charge, unless it be applied to a people in whom that character is fully displayed; and certainly it cannot, with any consistency, be applied to the United Society. With this Society, a life of continence and celibacy is a matter of conscience, proceeding from their religious faith, and therefore needs no "forbidding to marry" in the case; because the cross of self-denial is a voluntary act; and surely the apostle's prediction cannot apply to any such people.
10. Protestant writers have generally charged this, "forbidding to marry" upon the Church of Rome; and if we are to consider the apostle's expressions in a literal sense, there appears to be some foundation for the charge. It is stated by bishop Newton that, "As long ago as the year 386, Siricius held a council of eighty bishops at Rome, and forbade the clergy to cohabit with their wives. This decree was confirmed by Innocent at the beginning of the fifth century; and the celibacy of the clergy was fully decreed by Gregory VII, in the eleventh century; and this hath been the universal law and practice ever since." These facts are confirmed by other ecclesiastical writers. We find in Mosheim's, that Pope Gregory, in the year 1074, assembled a council at Rome, in which it was decreed, "That the sacerdotal orders should abstain from marriage; and that such of them as had already wives, or concubines, should immediately dismiss them, or quit the priestly office."
11. But these things afford no evidence against the doctrine of Christian celibacy and continence, but rather the contrary. For these measures being adopted at such an early period of the apostasy, evidently show that the purity of the primitive church at Jerusalem, in this respect, was well known in the church of Rome; and that their object was to preserve the appearance of it in that church. But the lordly rulers of that corrupt church, having lost the true spirit of the gospel, by which that purity was maintained in the primitive church, attempted to make a show of sanctity and deceive the world, by counterfeiting this purity. And being wholly destitute of the true Spirit of Christ, which leads to purity, and of that divine love which governed the primitive church, they were under the necessity of enforcing their doctrines by arbitrary decrees. Thus their counterfeit purity and continence became a matter of compulsion, not of choice; and was therefore contrary to the very spirit of the gospel, which allows liberty of conscience to every soul.
12. But with all their arbitrary decrees and compulsive power, which were professedly designed to restrain the corruptions of the ecclesiastical orders, and to preserve and maintain purity among the dignitaries of their church, they never could reach the source of human corruption, nor restrain the libidinous passions of man.
13. Their established fasts, including what they call lent, or forty days abstinence from animal food, are considered by Protestants as of the same arbitrary character, "commanding to abstain from meats." With a view to keep up the appearance of sanctity, after they had entirely lost the real power of the gospel, it seems they enjoined upon their subjects these days of abstinence, with other religious ceremonies, and thus required them to observe ordinances which, for want of true faith, they otherwise never would have observed as religious duties. But even admitting that their religious ordinances were of Divine authority, as they pretended, what could they gain by compulsive obedience? Forbidding and commanding, for the sake of enforcing religious duties, where there is no faith to induce a willing obedience, will answer no good purpose. God must have a willing people to worship him, or they can never worship to his acceptance.
14. But the United Society can have no occasion for any such coercive laws; nor will the faith of the Society admit of any compulsive or hypocritical obedience. Nor can any obedience which does not proceed from faith, be of any use, for without faith it is impossible to please God. Religion must be a matter of free and conscientious choice, or it cannot profit any soul. It is the true Spirit of Christ in the soul which must and does enable anyone to bear the cross of self-denial. Without this, all "forbidding and commanding" is arbitrary and useless.
15. Hence the charge of "forbidding to marry," even when viewed according to the sense in which the objectors understand the apostle's testimony, can by no means apply to the United Society, who consider marriage, as practiced by the world of mankind, to be merely a civil right, sanctioned by the laws of every civilized nation, and with which the Society has never had any inclination to interfere. Can any reasonable person suppose that the apostle, in that prediction, alluded to a life of conscientious celibacy, when he himself lived such a life, and plainly declared that he would that all men were even as himself? Surely the apostle would not condemn himself, and live in opposition to the dictates of his own prophetic spirit.
16. If we are to understand the expression, commanding to abstain from meats, in a literal sense, Protestants can charge nothing upon the papists that will not apply with equal force to themselves. To observe days of fasting (say they) we judge both scriptural and rational; and a religious fast requires total abstinence from food." And what did the papists more? But the United Society maintain no such principle; and therefore the charge, considered in a literal sense, cannot possibly apply to this Society. And if the charge fail in respect to meats, it must of course fail in respect to marriage: for in the apostle's prediction, they are connected, and both are made to apply to the same class of people.
17. But we view the apostle's testimony in a very different light from that in which it is generally understood. We do not suppose that the prediction had any further allusion to that civil institution which is generally called marriage, than a significant figure. "The Spirit speaketh expressly," saith the apostle. This prediction was therefore given in the language of the Spirit. And according to the testimony of the same apostle, "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." How then should the natural man be able to understand what the spirit meant by "forbidding to marry?" Yet the lovers of carnal pleasure profess to know all about it, and confidently pervert the language of the Spirit into an argument to condemn the United Society, and favor their own carnal gratifications.
18. The apostle's testimony undoubtedly alluded to spiritual marriage. This appears evident from his own language on other occasions. "He that is joined to the Lord, is one spirit." And again; "Neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord. This is a great mystery," saith the apostle; "but I speak concerning Christ and the church. For I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." In this consists the true spiritual marriage, or marriage of the Lamb, by which souls are enabled to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit. "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should he married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God." This is the marriage which the apostle invariably maintained, and is that which was forbidden by those apostates of whom he spoke; and which the lovers of carnal pleasure among all denominations, have always opposed, as being contrary to their carnal corruptions; because they are "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God."
19. In this sense, the charge of "forbidding to marry," which the lovers of carnal pleasure are so ready to charge upon the United Society, may with strict propriety be retorted upon themselves. For, not content with the free and unlimited indulgence of their darling pleasures, they have ever been loud in their vociferations against that life of virgin purity which the apostle so strongly recommends as the only true spiritual marriage. While on the other hand the United Society, though they have conscientiously borne the cross of self-denial themselves, have ever been willing that all who differ from them in opinion, should freely act according to the dictates of their own consciences, without any disposition to molest them in their pleasures, or hinder them from marrying whenever they please.
20. Objection 8. Jesus Christ himself did not condemn marriage; but on the contrary he not only honored a marriage with his presence, but gave it an extraordinary and most miraculous sanction, by turning water into wine for the guests to drink. What greater evidence could anyone ask to prove his divine approbation?
21. Answer. His enemies adopted the same mode of reasoning to prove him "a gluttonous man, and a wine bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners;" and doubtless they felt as much confidence in the strength of their argument as our objectors do in theirs. And why should they not? Did he not honor with his presence the assemblies of publicans and harlots? Did he not eat and drink with them, and work miracles for them? And where was the true-blooded Pharisee that would not have condemned a man for a winebibber, and a promoter of drunkenness, who would go and turn so much water into wine after men had well drunk? And could any man that would frequent the assemblies of such base characters, escape the scandal of being a partaker with them, or the charge of encouraging them in their wickedness?
22. So reasoned the Scribes and Pharisees, and so will all carnal men reason when they want to subvert the testimony of truth for the purpose of promoting their own carnal views. And indeed if we are to consider the attendance of Jesus at the wedding, and his miracle of turning water into wine, as any evidence in favor either of marriage or drunkenness, it must unquestionably have by far the greatest appearance of favoring the latter: for there is not the least evidence that he sanctioned the former, neither by word or work; but his enemies found a very plausible reason to charge him with sanctioning the latter.
23. But with all their reasoning and all their evidence, they could never prove that the Lord Jesus ever sanctioned the evil practices of these sinners, or authorized them to continue in sin. It is true he did not condemn this darling practice of the world; nor did he condemn the adulteress, though she was taken in the very act; but after convicting her accusers, he bid her "go and sin no more," He was not sent into the world to condemn the world; that was not the object of his mission: "but that the world through him might be saved." In making these visits, the Savior of the world had a noble object in view, which was to preach the gospel to poor fallen creatures, who were thus lost in sin and wickedness, and to teach them, by precept and example, a better manner of life. It was therefore necessary that he should come down to them in their fallen and lost state, and find them where they were lost, and render himself accessible to them, in that state, in order to reclaim them, or they never would have been saved by him, but must still have remained under their loss.
24. The miracle of turning water into wine, on that particular occasion, which is the only instance we have on record, and doubtless the only one which ever took place, was for a far more important purpose than to sanction matrimony or promote intemperance. "This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him." By this he showed forth the divine authority of his mission, proved his Godlike power, and confirmed the faith of his followers. But this was not all: It was designed and eminently calculated to be a figurative representation of his own spiritual marriage at the period of his second coming, and of that heavenly wine, which he afterwards spoke to his disciples of drinking with them, in his Father's Kingdom.
25. Objection 9. This doctrine of celibacy, if generally admitted, would overthrow the institution of matrimony; the consequences of which would be, very shocking to society. Abolish this institution, and all those civil and religious ties which bind families together, would be severed at once. The legal descent of inheritance, the property of heirs, and the ties of consanguinity would be no longer known. Those social connections which unite husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters, and on which depends the very foundation of human society, would be entirely destroyed, and mankind would soon be reduced to a state of anarchy and confusion.
26. Answer. This objection, if applied to mankind in a natural state, would indeed appear formidable; but when applied to the followers of Christ, it is more specious than solid. As an objection against the doctrine of Christian celibacy maintained by the United Society, it is without foundation. That practical celibacy and Christian continence, which we consider as the great privilege of the true followers of Christ, in this day of his second appearing, is very far from interfering with any useful institution of civil society. The children of this world and the followers of Christ, are two distinct orders of people. "The children of this world marry and are given in marriage;" and have a natural right to all the civil institutions of the country to which they belong, so long as they are subject to its laws and ordinances. "But they who shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage." The followers of Christ are governed by the law of Christ, which is a law of justice and holiness; and so long as they do not interfere with the civil institutions of men, they cannot be chargeable with severing the bonds of civil society.
27. We consider matrimony to be a civil institution, and as such, it is both useful and necessary for mankind in their natural state; but it does not belong to the true followers of Christ; and for that reason they have nothing to do with it. As members of a Christian institution, established by the law of Christ, and wholly unconnected with the civil, political and religious institutions of the world, it is inconsistent with our Christian faith to interfere with any of their concerns. But at the same time, we are perfectly willing that every such institution, which produces any beneficial influence on its members, should be freely supported by those to whom it belongs, and whose concern it is to support it; and it is right and just that all people should act their own faith in this, as well as in all other matters.
28. The apostle Paul taught the Corinthians that it was "better to marry than to burn;" and we have ever acknowledged it better to marry than to do worse. We readily admit that the institution of marriage is useful in its place; because it has a tendency to prevent many evils in society which could not otherwise be avoided. And for mankind, in their present state, it is absolutely necessary; because without it, the excesses of lawless lust would destroy every vestige of good order in society, and produce confusion and ruin among the human race. We will even admit that marriage is honorable in a state of nature, where the parties enter into it from honorable and conscientious motives, and are honestly and sincerely united in their endeavors to make an honorable use of it. But its frequent, fraudulent and shameful abuses are disgraceful to the parties, and cast a shameful blot upon the institution itself.
29. But though we acknowledge the marriage institution to be both useful and necessary for the world in its present state; yet for the followers of Christ, who are called to forsake the course of the world, and to crucify the flesh with all its affections and lusts, it is neither necessary nor useful, but the contrary; it therefore forms no part of their duty, and can have no place among them. Their union is spiritual, and needs no fleshy support; their parentage is spiritual, and produces no fleshy offspring; their relation as brethren and sisters is spiritual, and can have no dependence on fleshy relation; their inheritance is spiritual, and cannot be controlled by human laws and institutions. Their temporal property, which is necessary for the support of the body while in this life, is regulated by a sacred compact, being, by mutual agreement, consecrated to religious uses, for the benefit of the whole body; and as such, it descends to their spiritual heirs in the same united capacity. So that all those difficulties concerning temporal property, so common among natural heirs, are prevented by the very nature of the institution, and unless its rights are infringed upon by lawless usurpers from without, the descent of inheritance occasions no uneasiness to the Society.
30. This spiritual relation in the church of Christ, is produced by "the law of the Spirit of life." It is the relation claimed by Jesus Christ, and he acknowledged no other. "Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in Heaven, the same is my brother and sister and mother." This relation is governed by the law of Christ, which is a law of righteousness and peace; and this law which governs the church of Christ, supersedes the necessity of human laws and human institutions to regulate its internal concerns. And we have found by experience, that this law is a superior remedy against all those scenes of confusion and disorder, which are so common in the domestic circle, under a state of matrimony; and that it is more eminently calculated to promote the true spirit of union and harmony in society, than all the laws and institutions of matrimony, or any other law or institution ever devised by man.
- End of Part IV, Chapter 3 -
1. AS circumcision was an important institution given to Abraham, as the typical father of the faithful, and was continued to his posterity, as a primary and abiding institution, through all the law and the prophets, until the coming of Jesus Christ, it will be necessary to make some remarks upon the subject.
2. It is generally acknowledged that the ceremonies under the law were typical of gospel ordinances; that they were figures or shadows of something to be fulfilled in substance under the gospel; and that these "carnal ordinances," as the apostle calls them, plainly pointed to the spiritual work of Christ in his first or second appearance, or both. But among all the types of the law, none could be more important than that of circumcision, not only because it was the first, and the foundation of all the rest; but also because it was the very seal of the covenant of promise given to Abraham, and typified a most essential institution to be given to the faithful children of God in the latter day, and which was to be a peculiar mark of distinction between them and the rest of mankind.
3. A figure, to constitute a real type, must have a proper resemblance to the substance which it is designed to prefigure; otherwise it is not a type. It was therefore necessary that the institution of circumcision should bear a real analogy to that gospel institution, which it was intended to point out. It is a prevailing opinion among many who consider water baptism as a gospel institution, that it was designed to supply the place of circumcision under the law; some indeed suppose that circumcision was a type of water baptism. In this however, there must appear an obvious inconsistency; for there is no kind of analogy between baptism and circumcision; and water baptism itself, was but a type of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This appears evident from John's own testimony: "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me, is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire." Therefore, to say that circumcision was a type of baptism, is nothing less than calling it a type of a type, which is an absurdity.
4. The circumcision of the male in the flesh of his foreskin was a significant mark of mortification in that particular member of the flesh in which is found the seat of its carnal pleasures. This seal of the typical covenant made with Abraham, was the most lively figure ever given to man, of the mortification of the very source of iniquity, by the spiritual work of Christ, and of the complete destruction of that carnal pleasure received from that source, in the act of sexual coition.
5. As circumcision was the seal of the covenant of promise to Abraham and his posterity, under the law; and as none were considered as God's covenant people without this seal, whatever degree of conformity they might observe in other respects; so it was a very plain manifestation that the seal of the covenant in Christ, was to consist in the cutting off, and total rejection of fleshly lust, by a life of self-denial and the cross. This is the very foundation of the true cross of Christ, and the separating line between the children of this world, "who marry and are given in marriage," and the children of the resurrection, who "neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like unto the angels;" because they live a spiritual life. And without this seal, this distinguishing mark of the cross of Christ, no soul can be in the real covenant of Christ, revealed in this day, whatever profession he may make, or whatever duties he may perform, in other respects.
6. This figure is so obvious and striking, that it seems as though none could mistake it, excepting those who are blinded by an obstinate determination to maintain the carnal life of the flesh, at all events. There is nothing else to which circumcision, as a type, can bear any consistent analogy. "By the law is the knowledge of sin." But as the law was only figurative of spiritual things, and not the real substance; therefore if its types do not bear a plain resemblance to their antitypes, then it is in vain to seek by them to find the knowledge of sin. Man has been too long imposed upon by false systems and imaginary theories, which have no foundation in truth, nor any consistency in themselves. Certainly a figure of so much importance as circumcision evidently was, under the law, ought to be well considered by those who profess to be under the light of the gospel; lest, unhappily, they lose both the knowledge and the benefit of the most important principles of the gospel.
7. Let those who consider water-baptism to be the antitype of circumcision, (for if it was substituted under the gospel in lieu of circumcision, it must be the antitype,) consider also, that upon this principle, the antitype is not so mortifying to the flesh, nor so deep and lasting as the type. This clearly involves the absurdity of making the shadow of a substance more substantial than the substance itself. What figure could have been formed, under the law, to represent more plainly the cutting off and rejection of the carnal works of the flesh, under the gospel, than outward circumcision, or cutting off the foreskin of the flesh? This not only wounded the flesh in such a manner that the mark remained visible ever after; but it took blood, which is the life of' the flesh, from that very member in which is found the seat and centre of all the pleasures of lust.
8. The object of the covenant with Abraham, which was established and confirmed by this seal, was to show that under the gospel dispensation, the everlasting seal of the spiritual covenant, which was to distinguish Christ's chosen people from all others, must be that cross which destroys the life of fleshly lust. "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 that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God." This then is the true seal which hath praise of God, but not of men: for nothing is so opposite to the natural inclinations of fallen man as this seal, which is, in very deed, the cross against the lust of the flesh.
9. It may perhaps be objected that circumcision, when compared with this cross, is not a perfect figure; because males only were the subjects of circumcision; and therefore it could not properly typify that cross, which seems to be enjoined on females as well as males. True indeed, males only were the subjects of circumcision; but if sexual coition ceases in the male, it must cease in the female of course.
10. But there was another legal ceremony respecting women, which was sufficient to balance the cross of circumcision in the male, and which was not only a confirmation of the impure nature of the works of generation, but an evident token that these works were to be excluded from the church of Christ, which is the spiritual sanctuary of God. A woman who brought forth a male child, was counted unclean, under the law, seven days; and on the eighth day the child was to be circumcised. And even then, the woman was not allowed to come into the sanctuary, nor touch any holy thing, for the space of forty days from the birth of her child. After the birth of a female child, the time of her uncleanness and separation from the sanctuary was doubled, extending even to eighty days. After this she was required to bring a sin-offering and a burnt-offering to the priest, at the door of the tabernacle, where they were to be offered, before she could be admitted into the sanctuary with those who were accounted clean.
11. Therefore, as circumcision was a figurative ceremony of purification to the male; so likewise these legal injunctions were figurative ceremonies of purification to the female; and both were designed to typify that state of purity and separation from all the works of generation, which were to be required of the church of Christ under the gospel dispensation. But why was the time of the woman's separation from the sanctuary doubled after she had borne a female child? This was to show that the female could not find her lot and order in the spiritual creation of God, until the second gospel dispensation, or second appearing of Christ, when the Spirit of Christ, manifested in a woman, should redeem the female character, and bring her into her proper lot and order in the new creation.* [ * The man found his lot and order in the first appearng of Christ, who appeared in the male, (in the person of Jesus,) which was the first gospel dispensation, or antitype of the first temple. But the second gospel dispensation, which was pre-figured by the second temple, was first manifested in the female, and was called the second appearing of Christ, in which the woman, as well as the man, is restored to her proper lot and order in the new creation. ]
12. Again: The law enjoined ordinances respecting sexual coition, which applied to both male and female, and which clearly pointed out the sinfulness of that nature in the sight of a pure and holy God. Every act of that kind excluded the parties from the camp, and from the society of those who were accounted clean; they could by no means be admitted into the sanctuary, nor come before the Lord at any time, nor partake of any holy thing, without being first ceremonially cleansed and purified from those works. When Moses was ordered to sanctify the people, and prepare them to appear before the Lord at Mount Sinai, he commanded them saying, "Be ready against the third day: come not at your wives." If this was not an unholy act, why did Moses give this charge?
13. As the ceremonies of the law were but types and figures of things to come, they must have their antitypes, and be fulfilled in substance under the gospel. If therefore these works of the flesh were not, in their very nature, unclean, and if they were not finally to be excluded from the spiritual sanctuary of God then we would ask why they were declared unclean under the law, and excluded from the sanctuary of Israel, which was but a type of the true gospel sanctuary? Was the law more pure than the gospel? Or was uncleanness under the law to be counted cleanness under the gospel? Was the type more pure and holy than its antitype? Or in other words, can we rationally suppose that the temporal and typical sanctuary of Israel was more pure and holy than that sanctuary of holiness which is established in the church of Christ, as a spiritual sanctuary? And if those works of the flesh which were so pointedly marked out under the law, were not sinful, why did the law require a sin-offering? Will God require a sacrifice for sin where there is no sin? Certainly not.
14. These injunctions and restrictions were evident tokens of the unclean nature of those acts, and plainly typified the purity which God would require of souls under the dispensations of the gospel. In nothing short of this can the types and shadows of the law be answered with any degree of consistency. In nothing short of this can the righteousness of the law be manifested in us, "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
15. Hence it is evident that circumcision and other legal ceremonies clearly pointed to a life of self-denial and the cross of Christ, by which souls receive the washing of the regeneration, and the purifying fire of the gospel, which is the real baptism of the Holy Spirit; and that nothing short of this can entitle any soul to the privilege of entering into the camp of the saints, and worshiping God in the spiritual sanctuary, of which the camp of Israel, and the sanctuary of Jacob were but types and figures.
- End of Part IV, Chapter 4 -
1. THE advocates of war who make a profession of Christianity, often urge the example of the Jewish wars, directed by Divine authority, as an argument in justification of the lawfulness of war under the dispensation of the gospel. And though some of them endeavor to enforce this argument upon the principle that the nature of God is unchangeable, and that the nature of man is essentially the same in all ages; yet the argument would doubtless appear very inconsistent, even in their own view, did they but consider the most essential difference between the law and the gospel, and the nature, tendency and design of God's work, as it respects the final lot of man. The same argument would apply, with equal force, to all the ceremonies of the law, and indeed to everything which God ever commanded or authorized among men, whatever might be the occasion or circumstances which required it.
2. When God deals with mankind, he always deals with them according to their situation and circumstances, and in a manner best calculated to answer his own Divine purposes, and at the same time, to give them a fair opportunity of proving themselves by their works. The work of God is an increasing work, and has always been attended with an increasing degree of light to man, from one dispensation to another, ever since the fall. And as the light of God has increased among mankind; so righteousness has increased in those who were obedient to that light. In the same proportion also, has wickedness increased with those who were disobedient.
3. But the light of God to man, from the fall to the coming of Christ, was very limited. Even under the law, which was given to regulate man in his natural and fallen state, and which was but a shadow of things to come, he could have, at most, but an imperfect sense of a future state, compared with what was revealed after the coming of Christ. For this reason, the promises and blessings to the faithful and obedient, and the threatenings and curses upon the wicked and disobedient, were mostly of a temporal nature.
4. By the law was the knowledge of sin; and the work of the law, as it respected the then existing state of the Israelites, was to search out and condemn the transgressions committed under it, hence the severity of its penalties. The law was a law of justice, and, in most cases, enjoined immediate execution upon the offender. It required strict and ample justice between man and man, and between God and man. It required "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." It inflicted the penalty of death by stoning and burning for specific transgressions, such as profaning the sabbath, blaspheming the name of the Lord, rebellion against parents, adultery, fornication and the like.
5. The law also enjoined the total destruction of the wicked inhabitants of the promised land, with all their possessions, wives and children. In some cases it gave no quarter in battle; but death and destruction was the decided portion of enemies, without pity or compassion. These severities, considered in a natural view, at the present day; would appear shocking to humanity. Yet they were executed by Divine authority, and when viewed in their true light, they appear not only perfectly consistent with all the displays of Divine Justice, but they are also full of solemn instruction and warning.** [** We presume that no one will dispute that the All-Wise Power who is able to give life, has a just right to take it away by any means that may answer the purpose of his Divine Wisdom.]
6. The law was figurative of a future state of things which were to take place under the gospel; and therefore it is not improperly called, "a law of types and shadows." But its most mysterious injunctions had a more particular reference to the last gospel dispensation, which was to accomplish a final settlement with all souls, in which the mystery of God was to be finished, and every creature to be rewarded "according to his works." The rewards of obedience, and the penalties of disobedience, under the law, were designed to show that every work must finally "be brought into judgment, with every secret thing;" and that every one must receive his reward according to the nature of his works.
7. As the law required "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth;" so the future punishment of sinners; for every injury done to their fellow creatures, must be repaid in exact proportion to the nature of the offence, without any mitigation whatever. As stubbornness and rebellion against parents, after all their endeavors to reclaim the rebel, was punished with death and destruction; so rebellion against the law of Christ, under the gospel dispensation, after the warnings, reproofs and instructions of the gospel, will finally cut the soul off and consign him to destruction, without the possibility of recovery. As the profanation of the sabbath and blasphemy against God, were equally sinful, being rebellion against the sacred ordinances of the law, and were condemned to the same punishment; so those who wilfully and wickedly violate the Divine laws of Christ, under the light of the gospel, must share the same fate. As adultery, fornication, incest, and all manner of uncleanness of that nature were punished with death and destruction, by stoning or burning; so all kinds of impurity and defilement, so contrary to the perfect purity of the Spirit of Christ, unless purged from the soul by the purifying fire of the gospel, must prove its final destruction.
8. The destruction of enemies in war, with all that pertained to them, was designed to show that, in the spiritual warfare of Christians against their carnal corruptions, which are the enemies of the soul, no quarter can be allowed. Every evil propensity, together with all the corruptions which have been engendered by the indulgence of these propensities, and everything which has any connection with a life of wickedness, must be utterly destroyed and purged out of the soul, before it can find complete redemption. This is the work required of every Christian soul under the dispensation of the gospel. But as God, by his providence, assisted the Jews against their enemies, while they were perfectly obedient to his commands; so Christ, by his Spirit, will assist every honest and faithful soul, in this work.
9. The destruction and expulsion of the heathen nations out of the land of Canaan, was just; because it was the just reward of their wickedness, and was necessary to prevent their contaminating example from corrupting the nations of the earth. It was also a very striking figure, and was eminently calculated to show that all sin, all manner of wickedness, and everything which had a tendency to gender evil, must he purged out of the church of Christ, and be driven from the spiritual Canaan; otherwise the whole church is exposed to be corrupted, and its members ruined and lost. As the children of Israel were warned of the danger of suffering one of the heathen nations to remain in the land; so Christ warns his people against tolerating one sin in his church.
10. But "the law made nothing perfect;" and therefore "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." As the dispensation of the law was a temporal dispensation, it was beneficial to the Jews in a temporal view. Its blessings to the obedient, and its curses on the disobedient, were mostly limited to this life; and though it took the life of the body, it could not decide the final state of the soul in the spiritual world. This was to be the work of the gospel: for Christ came "to redeem them that were under the law," as well as them that were not; because the law could not do it. For the same reason Moses was under the necessity of enforcing obedience by promises and threatenings of a temporal nature; while Christ was able to enforce his precepts by the retributions of eternity.
11. Thus the operations of the law, by being confined to this life, could only extend to those who were under the law; while the operations of the gospel can and will extend to all souls, throughout all ages of the world, whether in the body or out; for no soul can ever obtain redemption but by the gospel. Therefore a future state of trial was reserved for those who had lived under the law, as well as for all others, both for those who had been obedient to the law, and those who had not. This was just and equitable; not only because it gave to those who had lived in subjection to the law, a further opportunity of proving their subjection to the gospel, which requires a greater cross against the evil propensities of a fallen nature than the law enjoined;*** but also because it afforded another trial to those who had abused their temporal probation under the law, by which they might (if they chose) seek their redemption by their obedience to the gospel. And to this they might be the more strongly excited by a remembrance of the punishments inflicted upon them for transgressions under the law. [***Those evil propensities which pertain to the fallen nature of man, and which lead him into sin, can never be destroyed by the death of the body; for they are propensities of the mind, not of the body; therefore nothing but the gospel of Christ which operates upon the mind, and which is the power of God unto salvation can ever purge these corrupt propensities out of the soul. Hence nothing short of the gospel can ever redeem the soul from the reigning power of sin. -See James 4:5 ]
12. "For this cause was the gospel preached to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the Spirit." "For this cause also Christ once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit; by which also he went and preached to the spirits in prison," who for their wickedness had been destroyed by the flood in the days of Noah. As man first fell into sin in this world, it was necessary that the gospel of salvation should first be preached on earth, to men in the flesh, and thence descend into the world of spirits, to the millions who had never heard it in this world. And that Jesus Christ, after his crucifixion, did actually descend into the mansions of the dead, and there preach the gospel to lost souls, is as true as that God is a just and equitable Being. After his resurrection, he appeared to his disciples and commanded them, saying, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."
13. Hence it is evident that all must hear the gospel by some means or other. And as "there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved," but the name of Christ; so none can be saved who have not in truth heard that name. But as the greater portion of mankind have died without even hearing the sound of that name in this world; therefore they could have no chance of knowing the way of salvation in this life. But so sure as God is righteous, they will have a fair call of the gospel of salvation; for the everlasting destruction of such souls from the presence of God, without their having ever known the means of escape, would effectually destroy the attribute of righteousness in God.
14. Therefore, Christ having come to open the way of life and salvation for all souls, that all might have a free offer of the gospel, and receive their just reward in a future state, he has himself preached the glad tidings of salvation, both in this world and in the world of spirits; and has also commissioned his ministers to do the same. Hence his faithful and true witnesses, after putting off this mortal body, will find a work to do in preaching the gospel to those benighted spirits who never heard its peaceful sound in this world; and millions of souls who, ignorant of the true spirit of the gospel, have been compelled to shed each other's blood, and give up their lives on embattled plains, will joyfully embrace these merciful calls, while those ambitious rulers, who impiously waged the war under a Christian profession, together with their bloodthirsty chiefs, who marshalled their hosts on the sanguinary field, and profanely compelled the battle in the name of God, will in their turn be compelled to reap the reward of their own doings in the regions of darkness and despair.****[ **** The doctrine of a probationary state beyond the grave, will probably appear new and strange to those who have always considered death as the closing scene of man's probation for eternity. But it is a doctrine perfectly consistent with all the precepts and instructions of Jesus Christ and his apostles, and one which was maintained by the primitive church while the church stood in its greatest purity. It is also a doctrine which has been clearly and explicitly taught by Mother Ann, and fully confirmed to the society by many visions and divine revelations, to the present day. But after the declension of the primitive chruch, and during its corruptions under the papal heirarchy, this gracious doctrine of the gospel, so just and equitable, and so full of mercy to the fallen race of man, like that of the confession of sin, (commonly called auricular confession,) was sacrilegiously perverted to the purpose of extroting money from the deluded multitude. And hence these doctrines were both rejected by the protestant reformers, and rendered obnoxious to the people upon the supposition that they were the inventions of the church of Rome.]
15. These solemn truths may perhaps be treated with contempt and ridicule by the incredulous advocates of war; but they will yet be seen, felt and acknowledged as serious realities. If the advocates of war who profess the Christian religion, did but understand and duly consider these things, they would never more plead for a barbarous and sanguinary principle because it was once authorized by the Almighty, in a barbarous state of society, and among a benighted race of beings who, at that period, were incapable of receiving anything better; and which the Divine Being wisely improved for an instructive lesson to future ages and generations, who ought by this time, to be better able to view it in its true light.
16. Notwithstanding the Jewish wars were authorized by the Almighty; yet when Jesus Christ appeared, he became "the end of the law for righteousness;" and therefore he disannulled all the laws of war, together with all those sanguinary and ceremonial statutes which had been authorized under the dispensation of types and shadows, and began to establish new laws for the government of his followers. "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy: But I say unto you, Love your enemies." From that period, no follower of Christ ever had any divine authority to engage in war. And had all who have since professed the Christian name, been faithful to obey this precept, this earth might have been, long ere this time, a terrestrial paradise.
- End of Part IV, Chapter 5 -
1. THE work of God from the beginning was intended and wisely calculated to be an increasing work. This appears evident from the account we have in the scriptures of the progressive operations of the work of creation and providence. In the creation of the natural world, as recorded in the first chapter of Genesis, the work of God came forth in a regular gradation, from less to greater degrees of perfection. After the earth was formed and established in its order, the grass of the field, the herbs and trees succeeded in their order. Then followed the living animals in their order; first the fishes of the sea and the fowls of the air, whose life and perfection exceeded all that had been displayed in the vegetable creation. Next followed the beasts of the field, which occupied a still higher grade in the order of the animal creation, being more highly important, because they were designed for more general and essential service. Man, the last of all, came forth as the most noble part of this lower creation: and in man, including male and female, was the order of the natural creation completed.
2. But there was still to be an increasing work in the order of Divine Providence. The fruits of the earth, in their established order, each according to its kind, must come to perfection in their proper times and seasons, under the influence of the natural elements, by a regular and gradual increase from the seed to the full grown plant or tree, and from the blossom to the fruit in its maturity. The same regular increase is observable in all the animal creation. The human race also, from the conception to the birth, and from infancy to manhood, in the order of nature, are brought to their highest attainments of natural perfection by the progressive hand of time. The ages of the world also have their regular and gradually increasing operations upon mankind, in bringing them from the lowest state of ignorance and barbarism to the highest degree of civilization. The productions of man in the works of art are also gradual and progressive, from less to greater degrees of perfection.
3. When this progressive increase in the natural world is seen and understood, why should it appear strange or unreasonable to believe that, in the spiritual world, there is also a regular and gradual increase from the lowest to the highest degree of perfection? If the natural world and the things therein contained, as we have already stated, are figurative of spiritual things, it must appear perfectly consistent; and that it is so in reality, the experience of every truly spiritual man and woman can bear witness. The scriptures are also sufficiently plain and explicit on this subject. David, under the influence of Divine inspiration, says, "The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon." So also the prophet Malachi; "But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings, and ye shall go forth and grow up as calves of the stall." The prophet Isaiah, in his prediction concerning the coming of Christ, says, "Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end." Here is an express declaration of an endless increase.
4. As the work of God, in the formation of the natural creation, was a progressive, increasing work; so all the works of his providence and grace on earth, among his chosen people have been attended with a progressive increase from one dispensation to another; and the preceding has ever been preparatory to that which followed; and all have been designed and calculated to show forth in a figure the great and last dispensation of God's grace, in which his spiritual Kingdom is to supersede all other kingdoms in power and majesty, and whose increasing glory, purity, peace and righteousness will endure forever.
5. From the fall of man to Abraham, the only law revealed to man for his protection, was the law of nature. This law was plain and obvious; and all who kept it, found justification before God, according to the work of the day in which they lived. To this the apostle Paul had reference in his epistle to the Romans, where he says; "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law, are a law unto themselves; which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another." Hence in every age, those who had no other law, were required to keep this. And as there was no other law given to any people before Abraham, therefore all were bound by it; and whoever violated it, must necessarily fall under condemnation.
6. This law of nature dictated that man should not violate the order of nature; that is, he should not commit any kind of violence or injustice against any of his fellow men; that he should not murder, nor defraud his fellow creatures, nor injure them in any way or manner whatever. It also taught that he should not violate the times and seasons of nature, in any manner: for the law of nature has its regular order, which the natural man could not violate with impunity. These things were plain to the understandings of men in a state of nature who had never received a superior law, nor been so far corrupted by the influence of the spirit of evil, as to lose the knowledge of moral good.
7. Man in a state of nature, and under the influence of this law, would not plant nor sow the seeds of the earth out of season; nor would he even generate his own offspring out of season. In short, he would not perform any duty out of season, nor neglect any in season. Instead of remaining idle, he would perform the duties of the day while the day lasted, and take his rest at night; and therein he would be able to find justification and peace, and live to God's acceptance according to that order. But whenever he began to hearken to the influences of evil, a train of disorderly sensations began to spring up in his mind; and he was then led to violate the order of nature which had before been his protection; hence followed a successive train of evils.
8. Adam, before his fall, in addition to the law of nature, had the express command of God as an additional protection. This he violated; and his first transgression was that which struck at the very order in which his offspring were to be propagated; so that, instead of producing an offspring subservient to the order of nature, he generated one which soon began to show from whence originated his disorderly and unnatural conduct. By the first fruit of Adam's transgression the first murder was committed; and henceforth those of his posterity who readily followed his example, began to corrupt themselves with wickedness: so that long before the flood, wickedness greatly abounded among them; "and the earth was filled with violence." And so few were there who kept the law of nature and refrained from acts of violence, that at last none were found worthy of God's protection, except Noah and his family.
9. "Noah was a just man." Instead of violating the order of nature, and corrupting his seed by inordinate affections, "he walked with God," and begat no children until he was five hundred years old; and even then, instead of being led by the corrupt inclinations of a fallen nature, he went forth by the permission of God, according to the law of nature: for it is said, "he was perfect in his generations." In obedience to the command of God, Noah built an ark to save himself and his family from the flood: and did all that was commanded him to do. Thus Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord," by his obedience, and was preserved from the flood of waters which swept off the rebellious children of violence.
10. After the flood a new generation of men began to multiply upon the earth, who, instead of following the righteous example of Noah, chose rather to follow the influences of the power of evil, and soon corrupted themselves with lust and pride, which increased among them till the building of Babel, when God confounded their language, and scattered them over the face of the earth.
11. But God having respect to the work of his own hands, always preserved a chosen seed to bear testimony against the violations of the law of nature, to support the belief of one invisible, everlasting and true God, and to maintain the line of distinction between good and evil, obedience and disobedience, until the coming of the promised Messiah, who was to commence the work of redemption, and effect the salvation of all who were willing to become his true and faithful followers. But this great salvation could not be effected at once; it must be brought to pass through the progressive operations of Divine Providence, which were designed and wisely calculated to enlighten the minds of mankind, and gradually prepare their understandings for such an event; and ages must pass away before it could be fully accomplished.
12. This line of distinction between good and evil, between the sons of violence, and that chosen seed by whom the testimony of the true God was to be preserved in the earth, necessarily required a cross against that fallen nature from which disorder and violence always proceeded. Hence the first manifestation of God to man, after the fall, from which proceeded a law enjoining an external and practical cross upon that nature, was made to Abram. He was first called to forsake his country and his kindred, and received the promise of a blessing as the consequence of obedience. This was a striking figure of the requirement and promises of God under the gospel dispensation. Here was a cross required of Abram before be could receive the promised blessing, or even be entitled to the covenant of promise. This was doubtless a cross against the feelings of his nature, which would have inclined him to cleave to his native land and his father's house. But he took up his cross and obeyed the call of God; and, for so doing, he was blessed, from time to time, with still greater manifestations of the notice and favor of God.
13. After this, God made a covenant with Abram; and after changing his name from Abram to Abraham, and renewing his promises with many additional circumstances, God required him, as a token or seal of the covenant of promise, to circumcise the males of his family. Here was established the first outward sign of a practical cross against the fallen nature of the flesh; and here let it be remembered, that this first permanent cross which God required of his people, was one which pointed directly to the very nature and foundation of man's loss from God.
14. Abraham being found faithful to obey the commands of God thus far, and to keep the law of circumcision, God, according to his promise, blessed him with a son in his old age. And here it is worthy of remark, that this child of promise was not generated according to the will of the flesh, in the days of his youth; for the inordinate propensity of carnal gratification could claim no share in the promise of God; but that it might be made manifest that the promised seed could not be begotten according to the will of the flesh, Abraham and Sarah were both advanced in years; "and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women." Hence this child was given to be Abraham's heir in the line of the promise; and from him was to issue, in the line of succession, that promised seed in which all the families of the earth were to be blessed.
15. God having noticed Abraham's faithfulness thus far, determined to make a final proof of his faith and obedience, and to give him an opportunity of showing himself worthy of the confidence placed in him, and of the honorable station to which he was appointed, as the typical father of the faithful, and the legitimate progenitor of that peculiar people who were to typify the chosen followers of Christ, the Lord from Heaven, the Father of the new creation, and the faithful Redeemer of his people. Accordingly God commanded Abraham to take his only son Isaac, whom he loved, and offer him for a burnt offering.
16 Abraham was now undoubtedly brought to the greatest extremity of trial. Here was evidently a greater cross required of him, than that which was required of Adam at the beginning. But Abraham did not stop to query with God, how he would fulfil his promise if Isaac should be sacrificed; he did not plead his great affections for his beloved son; he did not dispute the present command of God, as being contradictory to his former promise; he did not object to it as an act of murder, and urge the word of God to Noah; "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." Nay; instead of urging these objections as insurmountable against the fulfilment of the promise of God, (as many at the present day, urge the necessity of the old command to increase and multiply, in order to prevent the world from coming to an end,) Abraham immediately went forth in obedience to the command of God, and made all the necessary preparations to accomplish the solemn and awful task. And having proceeded far enough to prove his faith and obedience, he was released from the dreadful sacrifice, with the blessing of God, and was ever after honored as the friend of God.
17. In these displays of the will of God to Abraham, was laid the foundation of all the most important types and figures under the law, and of all the succeeding dispensations of God to man. The law of circumcision was the first visible sign which pointed to the destruction of the root of sin. And the offering up of Isaac was a prelude to all those ceremonial sacrifices under the law, which had a special reference to the great sacrifice of the Son of God, and to the final sacrifice, in his followers, of all the ties and beloved objects of nature. The posterity of Abraham, in the line of the promise, were henceforth greatly distinguished from all other people, by the peculiar notice and favor of God.
18. After the children of Israel, the promised seed of Abraham, were released from their Egyptian bondage by Moses, (an eminent type of the deliverance of God's people from the bondage of sin by Jesus Christ,) they received the law of God from Mount Sinai, which brought with it an additional cross against the fallen nature of man, and was a further manifestation of God against those carnal and sensual indulgences in which the generality of mankind lived. Here the work of God was attended with an increasing testimony against sin, and additional restraints upon the gratifications of the flesh.
19. Hence those chosen people were still further separated from the rest of mankind by their obedience. And such was the strictness and purity of the divine law, that those who violated it were cut off from among the children of Israel, by the penalties of the law and the righteous judgments of God. And though they were still under the veil of the flesh, and still allowed to increase and multiply in the order of natural generation; yet the restrictions of the law were such that they could not violate the order of nature with impunity." Therefore, those who lived under the law found a much greater cross against the carnal indulgences of nature than had ever been required before. And henceforth, while the Israelites continued faithful in their obedience to the law, they were more noticed of God than any other people on earth, and were more highly distinguished by temporal blessings and divine manifestations. These blessings and privileges were the fruits of the cross which they bore, and by which all who were truly faithful, were justified according to the measure of the work of God in that day, and rested in hope of the promised redemption in Christ, when he should appear.
20. The law and the prophets continued until John, who was the forerunner of Christ, and came to bear witness of him. John came with a sharp and powerful testimony against sin, and preached the baptism of water unto repentance; saying, "Repent ye: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." And again; "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
21. All who heard the testimony of John, and were willing to obey it, began to prepare themselves for the coming of Christ and his Kingdom, by taking the first step which John's testimony required: and that was, to confess their sins, and be baptized with water unto repentance. "Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins." The ministration of John was a necessary prelude to that of Jesus Christ; and his baptism was a figure of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and of fire. As the baptizing or washing with water, as practiced in that day, will cleanse the body from outward pollution; so the washing of the waters of life will cleanse and refresh the soul; and so also the fire of the Holy Spirit will purify the soul from sin, and burn up and destroy that fallen and corrupted nature in man which is the operating cause of all iniquity. Hence it is evident that John's baptism was a type of, and a prelude to that of Jesus Christ: and John himself also testified, saying, "He must increase, but I must decrease."
22. The way being sufficiently prepared by John's ministration, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was ushered into the world, to be the head of the new and spiritual creation of God, and the Savior and Redeemer of his people. He was begotten, not in the order of natural generation, by the will of man, but by the power of God. "He was made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life." Born of a virgin, whose chastity had never been contaminated by any lawless act, he became the end of the law for righteousness to all who believe and obey him. To such therefore, the law was no longer necessary to curb the licentious passions of human nature: for those who received and obeyed his testimony, found it a far more powerful restraint upon the carnal propensities of man's fallen nature, than the law of Moses ever had been.
23. Those therefore who obeyed the gospel, were free from the law; because the gospel, by fulfilling the real spirit and design of the law, superseded its outward ceremonies, and rendered them useless. Not that believers were now left at liberty to indulge themselves in all those carnal gratifications of the flesh which were forbidden by the law; but that the purity of the gospel was such as to supersede the necessity of the law, by saving all who obeyed it, from those filthy pollutions which were kept within certain limits by the law, but could not be subdued by it.
24. The object of Christ's first manifestation was to lay the foundation of salvation by the cross; to take upon himself human nature; to crucify that nature, and to suffer in the flesh and die to a sinful nature in the person of Jesus, and rise to God, that he might, by his sufferings, death and resurrection, be able to open the new and living way of eternal life to his followers; that he might thereby become the first-begotten of God, and firstborn from the dead.
25. Having entered upon his ministry, he commenced a new and spiritual work, and began to reveal the real nature and substance of the law of God, and showed what it required of man; that it taught mankind to love God with all the heart and soul, and their neighbors as themselves; that this was the real spirit of the law and the prophets; and the object of his mission was to fulfil this law himself, and teach all his followers to do the same.
26. To accomplish this great object, he introduced the most pure and simple system of morality, and taught that all disorder and every kind of violence must be done away; that the true spirit of the gospel was, Peace on earth and good will to man; and that nothing contrary to this pure spirit could find an entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter the Kingdom of Heaven." He also taught that nothing short of this spirit of purity and holiness could ever overcome the nature of sin, or destroy the deplorable effects of the fall in the soul of man; that this overcoming power could be gained only by self-denial and the cross; and that there was no other way to find salvation and redemption. "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me." Again; "Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple."
27. Under the ministration of Jesus Christ, we find a far greater increase of the work of God than had ever taken place on earth since the fall of man. In this increase was manifested a cross against the carnal nature of man proportionably great; far greater indeed than had ever before been required of man; a cross against all the corruptions of man's fallen nature. This, of course, created an opposition against the testimony of Jesus, from the unbelieving Jews, which betrayed their darkness, blindness and ignorance of the real nature of the law; and clearly manifested their hypocrisy in pretending to keep it, by observing some of its outward ceremonies, while in their hearts they were enemies to God. This opposition from these unbelieving hypocrites, against the Lord Jesus Christ, was carried to such an extremity of persecution, that he finally gave up his natural life to his persecutors, and suffered the painful and ignominious death of the cross.
28. The ministration of Jesus Christ opened a new era to the world. It taught mankind what they had never known before; that the real work of God was not to build up the kingdom of this world, and to render the earth a durable habitation for man; but to prepare them for an eternal and immortal state beyond the grave. It taught them that the dispensation of the law and the prophets came short of "the power of salvation from sin; that it could never make the comers thereunto perfect;" and that the work of those dispensations was but preparatory to that great and important work which was to redeem mankind from the fallen nature of the flesh, and fit them for the Kingdom of Heaven. Hence the words of Jesus; "Among them that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding, he that is least in the Kingdom of Heaven, is greater than he." This is an evident proof that John himself was not in the Kingdom of Heaven, and that none before him had ever entered it. The Kingdom of Heaven, therefore, which John declared to be at hand, and for which he was sent to prepare the way, was first revealed by Jesus Christ, as a state to which all the former dispensations of God to man, were but as types and shadows, and preparatory events.
29. But the revelation of Jesus Christ in the flesh, was but the commencement of this great and glorious work. He was the beginning of the new creation of God. He came to open the way of salvation from sin; to declare himself "the way and the truth, and the life," and set an example of righteousness to mankind; and to show what his followers must be, in order to inherit a place in his Kingdom. And all who believed on him and received his testimony in that day, became "a kind of first-fruits" of his Kingdom.
30. Jesus Christ having finished his personal work on the earth, ascended to his Father; and, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, established the primitive church, which was to serve as a pattern of the true order of his church in the latter day, but as this church afterwards declined and fell away, his Spirit was, by degrees, withdrawn from the earth, to establish the heavenly order of his Kingdom in the world of spirits. This was agreeable to what he had spoken to his disciples before his crucifixion: "In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would not have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am there may ye be also." Hence the work of Christ, after the establishment of the primitive church, and before he could make his second appearance on earth, was to prepare and set in order those heavenly mansions for the reception of those faithful souls who, through the work of the regeneration, should finally be found prepared to inherit them.
31. In the meantime Antichrist rose, and began to infuse his spirit into the members of the Christian church and by artfully disguising his false doctrines with sacred names, he so far succeeded as to undermine the primitive church, and establish his kingdom upon the ruins thereof. In process of time he filled the world with his dark and benighted systems of religion, and, for sacred truth, established many corrupt and pernicious principles which were continually at variance with Christian purity. By these means he filled the earth with corruption, religious persecution, blood and fire; and maintained his deplorable reign for the space of twelve hundred and sixty years.
32. During this long and gloomy reign of Antichrist, the only true spiritual work of God on earth, by which he revealed his will to man, was intrusted to chosen witnesses, who bore testimony to the purity of the primitive church, and condemned the depravity of the times, and the corruptions of those false churches which had assumed the name and authority of Christ. This period was indeed a gloomy night of darkness; but these witnesses, like stars in the night, often broke through the gloom and gave a glimmering light to honest souls. These witnesses prophesied of the coming of Christ's Kingdom, and the great increase of the work of God in the latter day. And although amid the universal gloom which prevailed, all appearances seemed far distant; yet there was still an increasing work in the world of spirits, by which a foundation was gradually preparing for a more extraordinary increase of the spiritual work of God on earth, than had ever taken place since the foundation of the world.
33. But the day of full redemption was yet to come; the real and effectual work of which could not be accomplished but through the travel of regeneration only; and this spiritual travel could not fully take place till the way was prepared for it. When the appointed time arrived, the way was opened, and this long predicted day was ushered into the world; and that work which was designed to establish the Kingdom of Christ on earth, and effect the final regeneration of souls, then commenced in very deed. Here began a new and very important manifestation of Divine goodness; the great and last display of God's grace to a lost world, which superseded all former dispensations, to which they are but preparatory events, and in which all the types and shadows, and prophetic signs of the law and the prophets, concerning the day of redemption, began to be eminently fulfilled.
34. The important period having arrived, the work of this great millennial day has now commenced, and is yet in its beginning; but it is an increasing work. The Kingdom of Christ is now established on earth, and his reign is begun; and henceforth he will rule and reign till all enemies are put under his feet; and, "of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end."
- End of Part IV, Chapter 6 -
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