"The Gospel in
the Book of Galatians" part two
by Ellet J. Waggoner (1888).
"The Law in the Book of
by George I. Butler (1886),
THE GOSPEL IN THE BOOK OF GALATIANS
First part of Waggoner's Debate
Till the Seed Come"
The School Master and the Coming Seed
The Role of FAITH
Kept in Bondage
Under the Law
Grace, Law and the conscience
Were Isrealites Justified by Faith or by Law?
The Elements of this World
Christ Born Under the Law
More on "The Elements of this World"
Rejectors of Grace Desire to be under Condemnation?
Conclusion: Perfect Harmony between Grace and Law
I will now give a little attention to the expression, “till the seed should come to whom the promise was made,” and show how it harmonizes with the other expressions in the verse as I have explained them. First, I will quote a reference which you make to that. You say:— “Another argument, a very late invention, designed to avoid the conclusion that the ‘added’ law terminated at the cross, we briefly notice. It is the claim that ‘the seed’ has not yet come, and will not come till the second advent of Christ. It would be hard for the writer to really think that any believer in Christ would take that position, had we not read it in our own beloved Signs of the Times, of July 29, 1886.— p. 46.
If this had been written by some men I should think it was deliberate misrepresentation; for it certainly does woefully misrepresent the view which I take and have published. I have carefully re-read my articles to see if by any unfortunate expression I had conveyed the idea that Christ, the promised seed, has not yet come, and I find no hint of such an idea. I have not, however, the slightest thought that you would willfully misrepresent any person, and I can only attribute your failure to state my position properly, to a too hasty perusal of it. It is not at all surprising to me that in the little time which you had to spare, burdened at the same time with a multitude of cares to distract your mind, you did not grasp the whole of the argument, especially as it was one to which your mind had not been previously directed. But although your misrepresentation was unintentional, it does none the less convey an erroneous impression of my teaching.
The argument which I put forth is not so late an invention as you think. I have held the view for several years, and it was not original with me. But even if it were entirely new, that in itself would be nothing against it; for “every scribe which is instructed into the kingdom of Heaven, is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.” Matthew 13:52.
It is true that I held, and still hold, that the coming of the seed spoken of in Galatians 3:19, means the second coming of Christ; but that does not imply that Christ has not already come, or that He is not now the seed. You often preach that the Lord is coming, and you no doubt quote such texts of Scripture as Psalm 50:3, 4; 1 Corinthians 4:5, and scores of others. Now if a man hearing you preach such a sermon, should go off and say that you did not believe that the Lord came 1,900 years ago, he would be no more out of the way than you are in saying that I have taught that Christ has not come. In the Old Testament we have many references to the coming of Christ; some of them mean His first advent, and some His second. The only way we can distinguish between them is by the events mentioned in connection with the references to the coming. And so we must decide here in Galatians 3:19.
There is only one ground on which you can claim that the coming of the seed cannot refer to the second coming of Christ, and that is by claiming that He will not be the seed then; that He is the seed only at the first advent. But such a claim cannot stand for a moment, for Christ is as surely the seed when He bruises the serpent’s head, as when He Himself was bruised. He will be the seed when the promise is fulfilled to Him.
The matter, then, stands just this way: Christ is the seed; therefore to say, “till the seed should come,” is equivalent to saying, “till Christ should come.” Then the next point is, does the expression, “the coming of Christ,” necessarily apply to the first advent alone? Certainly it does not, for there are two advents, and the simple expression, “the coming of Christ,” may apply to either. Therefore, so far as the expression, “till the seed should come,” is concerned, there is no reason why it should not apply to the second advent as well as to the first. Indeed, we might say that there is an antecedent probability that it should refer to the second coming of Christ, for that is the more prominent coming of the two, and it is the one which we always think of when the expression is unqualified. But in every case of this kind, the context must decide what coming is referred to.
The application of Galatians 3:19 to the first advent of Christ arises largely, I think, from a careless reading of it. You argue as though it read, “till the seed should come of whom the promise was made.” But it is, “till the seed should come to whom the promise was made.”
The apostle is not dealing with the idea that the seed was promised to Abraham, but he is speaking of the promise that was made to Abraham and to his seed, the seed being Christ. Now if you can find a single promise that was fulfilled to Christ at His first advent, there will be some show of reason in applying Galatians 3:19 to the first advent of Christ. But you cannot. There was absolutely nothing that Christ then received; no part of the promise was fulfilled to Him. He received only rebuffs, reproaches, mockings, poverty, weariness, scourging, and death. Moreover, the promise “to Abraham and his seed” is a joint promise; but certainly no promise was fulfilled to Abraham at the first advent of Christ, for Abraham had then been dead 2,000 years.
That the apostle connects the coming of the seed with the fulfillment of the promise to him, is evident from the simple reading of the text. A certain promise had been made to Abraham and his seed, and a certain thing was given for a special purpose, until the seed to whom the promise was made should come. The idea that inevitably follows from the reading of the text, letting each clause have its proper weight, is that at the coming referred to, the seed will inherit the promise. I shall give something more on this point a little further on.
But there is no need of any conjecture as to what the promise is which is referred to in this verse.
The eighteenth verse reads thus: “For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise;” and then the nineteenth verse continues: “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made.”
This shows most conclusively that the promise referred to is the inheritance. This promised inheritance is the whole world (Romans 4:13); and there is no need of presenting argument to show that the inheritance is still future. Christ has not received it, for we are joint heirs with Him; and when He receives it, Abraham and all those who are His children through faith, will likewise receive it.
This makes of no value your argument that
But you say that even this promise is not fulfilled till the end of the thousand years, and that therefore if the coming of the seed is not till the fulfillment of the promise, “the seed cannot come till the end of the one thousand years; for the land is not inherited by Abraham till that time.”
This argument might indeed be called a “late invention.” I am certain it is a new one among our people. It is true that the saints do not dwell on the earth till the close of the one thousand years, but it is not true that they do not possess it, or inherit it, till that time. If they do not, then what does Christ mean in Matthew 25:31-34, where He says that when He comes in His glory and all the holy angels with Him, He shall sit upon the throne of His glory, shall separate the righteous from the wicked, and shall say to the righteous, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
The mistake into which you fall is in supposing that the saints cannot possess the earth till they dwell upon it. If that were true, it would apply equally to Christ, that He cannot possess it until He dwells upon it; but we read, in Psalm 2:8, 9, these words of the Father to the Son: “Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession; Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
We learn from this, as well as from Revelation 11:15-19, and other texts, that Christ receives the kingdom just before He comes to this earth. And it is not until after the uttermost parts of the earth are given to Him for His possession, that He dashes the nations in pieces like a potter’s vessel. If Christ did not possess the earth, He would not have the right to do this. The wicked subjects of Satan now claim possession of the earth, which has been promised to Christ. When that promise is fulfilled, and the earth is given into His possession, then He will rid it of those who have usurped dominion. He inherits the earth while the wicked are still upon it, but He cannot dwell upon it until they are removed. We say He cannot dwell upon it, not because he has not the power, but because He cannot take up His abode upon it while it is so impure. The fact, however, that He does with the nations according to His will, rooting them out of the earth, shows that the earth is in His possession.
This same argument applies to the saints. They are joint heirs with Christ. This means that they receive their inheritance at the same time He does. When He comes to this earth, having received His kingdom, He calls them to inherit it with Him. They do not at once dwell upon the earth, but they dwell in its capital, the New Jerusalem, and possession of the capital of any kingdom is usually considered as evidence of the possession of the kingdom itself.
Moreover, the saints during the thousand years sit upon thrones, judging the wicked, and determining the amount of punishment that shall be given to them. Thus they are sharers with Christ in the work of ridding their common possession of its incumbrances. It is just as though you and I should be joint heirs of a farm. At a certain time we are given possession, but we find that it is entirely overrun with thorns and briars; and so before we take up our abode upon it, we clear off this growth of rubbish and burn it up. The wicked are the tares that cumber the farm that is promised to Abraham and his seed; when Abraham and his seed shall be given possession, they will clear it of this foul growth, and then will dwell upon it. This brief argument shows clearly, what I thought was already established among us, namely, that Christ and the saints possess the kingdom when He comes the second time.
Having settled these points, namely, that the “promise” means the inheritance of the earth, and that this promise to Abraham and his seed is fulfilled at Christ’s second coming, we are prepared to go on. The prominent idea in this chapter is by what means the promise is to be obtained. The promise is the uppermost thought in this verse. The apostle is showing that the inheritance is gained solely by faith, that it is not of the law, but of faith in the promise, and then he carries us down to the time when the promise shall be fulfilled. That the “coming” that is referred to is the second coming of Christ, when the promise shall be fulfilled, is a most natural and easy conclusion, and makes harmony of the text. I think you overlooked a parallel text which I quoted in my articles. It is Ezekiel 21:26, 27: “Thus saith the Lord God: Remove the diadem, and take off the crown; this shall not be the same; exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high.
I will overturn, overturn, overturn it; and it shall be no more, until He come whose right it is; and I will give it Him.” Here we have unmistakable reference to the seed, in the words, “He whose right it is.” And it is plainly declared that when “He whose right it is” comes, the inheritance will be given Him. These words were written nearly six hundred years before Christ’s first advent, yet it is not necessary for me to enter into an argument to convince you that the first advent of Christ is not referred to here.
In Galatians 3:19 Paul is speaking of the inheritance, and says, “till the seed should come to whom the promise was made;” in the text just quoted from Ezekiel, the prophet is speaking also of the inheritance, and says, “till He come whose right it is.”
Now why is it any more absurd to say that the first expression refers to the second coming of Christ, than to say that the second refers to that event? If you say that the coming of the seed has no reference to the second advent, because when the coming spoken of takes place the ceremonial law is to terminate, you beg the question entirely. If you say, as you do in your pamphlet, that applying that coming to the second advent, and the law which is spoken of to the moral law, would make the moral law terminate at the second coming of Christ, I have already answered that, for I have shown that “till” does not of necessity mean “termination.”
I believe most emphatically that the law referred to is the moral law, and that the coming of the seed is the second advent of Christ, but I do not believe that the moral law is going to terminate when Christ comes; and Galatians 3:19 does not indicate that it will.
In order to establish your point, that the coming of the seed cannot refer to the second advent of Christ, it would be necessary for you to show that Christ was the seed only at the first advent, and that He is not the seed since then. But Genesis 3:15 says not only that the serpent should bruise the heel of the seed (at the first advent), but that the seed should bruise the serpent’s head (at the second advent). When Christ comes the second time He is still the seed. So when Paul says, “till the seed comes,” it need no more be confined to the first advent than when he says, “till the Lord comes.”
Lest it should be objected that Christ does not bruise Satan’s head at His second coming, but only after the close of the 1,000 years, I will remind you that the wicked are not punished until after the close of the 1,000 years; yet they are said to be punished at the coming of the Lord. And so they are; for the second advent, like the first, covers a period of time. The first advent of Christ covered all the time of His earthly ministry; the second advent covers all the time from the appearance of “the sign of the Son of man in heaven,” until the wicked are destroyed out of the earth.
"THE SCHOOL MASTER AND THE COMING SEED
The argument thus far on the coming of the seed has been negative, in order to meet some of your objections. I will now give some positive argument that the coming referred to is the second advent.
In doing this I shall also proceed to consider verses 22-25, for they have an intimate connection with verse 19. Verses 24 and 25 read thus: “Wherefore the law was our school-master to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a school-master.” By no manner of reasoning whatever can these verses be made to apply to the ceremonial law. The reference must be to the moral law, and to that alone, as I shall show.
Seventh-day Adventists often speak of the great light which “we as a people” possess. But “we as a people” will derive no benefit from that light unless we as individuals possess it in our own hearts. I repeat, justification by faith is something that each individual must experience for himself. Thousands who lived at Christ’s first advent knew nothing of this experience, while thousands who lived long before He came, were actually brought to Christ for pardon, and they received it. Abel was counted righteous through faith; Noah was heir of the righteousness which is by faith; and Abraham actually saw Christ’s day, and rejoiced in it, although he died 2,000 years before the first advent. And this most positively proves that the apostle, in the third chapter of Galatians, is speaking of individual experience, and not of dispensational changes. There can be no Christian experience, no faith, no justification, no righteousness, that is not an individual matter. People are saved as individuals, and not as nations.
A word of explanation may be in place right here. The term “under the law,” if it be applied to the ceremonial law, cannot have the same meaning that it does when applied to the moral law. When used with reference to the moral law, it means “condemned by the law;” but it cannot have that meaning if it should be applied to the ceremonial law, because that law condemned nobody. So with the supposition that the expression refers to the ceremonial law, we must conclude that not to be under it means not to be subject to it; but when we refer it to the moral law, we come to no such conclusion, because “under the law” means condemned by the law.
I have already noticed your idea that the word “faith” is here synonymous with “Christ;” that the apostle means that before Christ came we were kept under the law; that the law was our school-master to bring us unto (the first advent of) Christ, that we might be justified by Him; and that verse 25 means that after Christ is come we are no longer under a school-master.
I believe that this is the position that is usually taken by those who hold the ceremonial law view, and it is the only position that can be taken if the ceremonial law is referred to. The only thing that it lacks is proof. There is no warrant whatever for making the term “faith” synonymous with Christ. Besides, if that were true, then the text would teach that no man was justified until Christ’s first coming, which is preposterous and unscriptural. For this reason we must conclude that the ceremonial law is not under consideration in this verse.
It is evident that verses 19 and 24 are closely related, that is, when the law entered, or was added, it was in the capacity of a pedagogue, to bring men to Christ. Now to abolish the law before it has brought to Christ all who can be induced to come to Him, would certainly be an act of injustice. The law must retain its office of pedagogue or task-master, until all have come to Christ who will, and this will not be until probation closes and the Lord comes.
In its office as pedagogue, it is not against the promise, but works in harmony with it. Thus: God made the promise to Abraham that he and his seed should inherit the earth. This promise was made to Abraham, not because of his inherent righteousness, but because of his faith, which was accounted to him for righteousness. The promise was confirmed in Christ, that is, none but those who exercised faith in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins could be heirs of the promise. But forgiveness of sins depends upon repentance of sin, and repentance of sin presupposes a knowledge of sin, and a knowledge of sin can be obtained only by the law. Therefore the law acts as a pedagogue, overseer, or task-master, to overwhelm men with a sense of their sin, that they may flee to Christ to be justified by faith. And this office it must perform until all those who can be influenced to come to Christ have come, and the promise is fulfilled.
Then the law will no longer have the capacity of a task-master. God’s people will all be righteous, walking in the law, and the law will be in their hearts. They will not then need the law written in books or on tables of stone—that is, the added law—because they will have direct access to the throne of God, and will all be taught of God. Thus the law was added, or spoken to be a pedagogue to bring men to Christ; but when all who are worth saving have been brought to Christ, it will cease to have that capacity. But this no more implies the abolition of the law when the Lord comes, than the fact that the law entered at Sinai implies that there was no law before.
There was just as much law before it was spoken upon Mount Sinai and written out for the benefit of mankind, as there is today. And when the law shall cease to be a pedagogue, because it has brought to Christ all who can be induced to come, and all earthly copies of the law shall have been destroyed with the earth, the law will still exist-the foundation of the throne of God, unchanged to all eternity as it has from all eternity.
Perhaps the following from the pen of Elder J. N. Andrews may be considered worthy of perusal. It is from his reply to H. E. Carver, in the Review and Herald of September 16, 1851 (vol. 2, No. 4):—
Here the apostle Paul, who was converted since the time when it is said the law was abolished, ‘had not known sin but by the law.’ Romans 7:7. ‘By the law is the knowledge of sin.’ Romans 3:20. Read a full account of Paul’s experience in this school, also his deliverance from the carnal mind, which ‘is not subject to the law of God.’ Romans 7:7-25; 8:1-7.
The instruction of the law is absolutely necessary, for without it we can never know our guilt in the sight of God. It shows our just condemnation, its penalty hangs over our heads; we find ourselves lost, and fly to Jesus Christ. What does He do to save us from the curse of the law? Does He abolish the law that He may save its transgressors? He assures us that He did ‘not come to destroy’ it; and we know that the law being ‘holy, just, and good,’ cannot be taken back, without destroying the government of Him who gave it. Does the Saviour modify its character, and lessen its demands? Far from it. He testifies that ‘one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled. Matthew 5:18; Luke l6:17; James 2:10. And He shows that those who in heart commit any act of iniquity, are transgressors of the law. Matthew 5:22, 27, 28; 1 John 3:15.
If the Saviour did not abolish or relax the law, how can those who have fled to Him ‘for refuge,’ hope for salvation? What does He do to save the transgressors from the sentence of the law? He gives up Himself to die in their stead. He lays down His own ‘life a ransom for many.’ Matthew 20:28. ‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ John 3:16. Man, though justly condemned, can now be pardoned without dishonoring God, or making void His law. God can be just, and yet the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Romans 3:25, 26.
Had the law been abolished at the death of Christ, it could not have been a school-master many years afterward to bring the Galatians to Christ. Paul testifies that he ‘had not known lust except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.’ But an abolished law could never have convinced him of sin as a transgressor. James 2:8, 9; Romans 4:15. We cannot know sin ‘but by the law,’ but if the law was abolished by the death of Christ, the world has never known its sinful state, or realized its need of a Saviour. We may state on the highest authority, that the law brings us to faith for justification, and that faith does not make void the law, but establishes it. Galatians 3:23; Romans 3:31. The fact that the law is our school-master to show us the claims of God, and our own just condemnation, is direct evidence that it has not been abolished, hence, though we have been pardoned through the death of Jesus and thus rescued from its righteous sentence, we can never violate its precepts without being convinced by it as transgressors.”
In your pamphlet (page 50) you make considerable of the words “the faith” or “that faith,” as though the word “faith” were used in a different sense than a personal faith in Christ. But I repeat again,
The theory which you hold, when traced to its conclusion, inevitably makes God have two plans of salvation, one for the people before the coming of the Lord, and another for those after. It makes the Jews judged by one standard, and the Gentiles by another. But the position which I have briefly outlined is consistent with itself, and is consistent with the plainly revealed truth of Scripture concerning the plan of salvation.
"KEPT IN BONDAGE"
You say (page 51):—
This I can readily do. First, sinners are, in the Bible, represented as being in bondage, in prison. See 2 Peter 2:l9; Romans 7:14; 2 Peter 3:19, 20; Zechariah 9:l2; Isaiah 61:l; Psalms 68:6; l02:l9, 20; Acts 8:23; Hebrews 2:14, 15. Note this last text particularly. Christ died to “deliver them who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage.”
It is sin that brings the fear of death, therefore it is sin that causes men to be subject to bondage.
Second, whenever men are in prison, it is the law that puts them there. Only a few weeks ago I heard a Judge pronounce the death sentence upon a murderer, and I took particular note of his statement that he was compelled to pronounce the sentence; that he was simply the law’s agent; that since the man had been found guilty, the law demanded his death, and that he was simply the mouthpiece of the law.
It is the law which arrests the criminal; the sheriff is simply the visible agent of the law. It is the law which locks the prisoner in his cell; the jailer, the iron walls, and heavy bars which surround the prisoner, are simply the emblems of the iron hand of the law which is upon him. If the government is just, and if the man is indeed guilty, there is no way in which he can escape the punishment, unless he has a powerful advocate who can secure his pardon from the Governor.
So it is with the sinner against God’s government. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, so that there is no possibility that he can escape arrest. As soon as he has sinned, he is seized by the law, and is at once under condemnation of death, because it has already been declared that the wages of sin is death. Now he is shut in on every side by the law. There is not one of the commandments which is not against him, because there is not a man on earth who has not broken every one of them.
At first the sinner may not be conscious of his imprisonment; he has no sense of sin, and does not try to escape. But when the law is so applied to him that he can realize its claims and his failure to meet them, he is convicted. To carry out the figure, we might say that the Spirit of God causes the prison walls to close in upon him, his cell becomes narrower, and he feels oppressed; and then he makes desperate struggles to escape.
He starts out in one way, but there the first commandment rises up against him and will not let him go free. He turns in another direction, but he has taken the name of God in vain, and the third commandment refuses to let him get his liberty in that direction. Again he tries, but he has committed adultery, and the seventh commandment presents an impenetrable barrier in that direction, and prevents his escape. So with all the commandments. They utterly refuse to grant him liberty, because he has violated every one of them, and only those who keep the commandments can walk at liberty. Psalm 119:45. He is completely shut in on every side.
There is, however, just one avenue of escape, and that is through Christ. Christ is the door (John 10:9), and entrance through that door gives freedom (John 8:36). Since the sinner is in prison, and cannot get freedom except through faith in Christ, it is exactly the truth to say that he is “shut up,” to the faith which may be revealed to him. The translation “kept in ward,” affects the case for you not in the least. It is the same as saying that we were kept in prison. Pharaoh’s butler and baker were put “in ward,” in the same prison where Joseph was. Genesis 40:3.
Now it is not the Jews alone who are spoken of as “shut up.” You yourself say that the Jews were in as bad case as the Gentiles were. The twenty-second verse of this third of Galatians also says that “the Scripture hath concluded [literally, “shut up together”] all under sin.”
This shows in what the shutting up consists. They are in jail because they have sinned. So Paul says to the Jews, “What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise; for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin.” Romans 3:9. And again he says that “God hath concluded them all [margin, “shut them all up together”] in unbelief.” Romans 11:32. These statements are identical with that in Galatians.
Now notice that in all places the shutting up is said to be for the same purpose. Galatians 3:22 says that the Scripture hath concluded or shut up all under sin, “that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” In the third of Romans Paul shows that Jews and Gentiles are alike under sin, in order to prove that “the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ,” may be “unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference; for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Verses 22-24. And in Romans 11:32 he states that God hath shut them all up together (both Jews and Gentiles) in unbelief, “that He might have mercy upon all.” All are in the same bondage—all are under the law—and none can be delivered from their prison until they come to Christ. He is the only door to freedom.
Let me ask you if you think that it is the ceremonial law that shuts men up under sin? If you do, then you hold that the ceremonial law is a rule of righteousness, and thereby you detract from the ten commandments. But if you do not hold this opinion, and I cannot believe that you do, then you admit that it is the moral law that shuts men up and acts as their task-master, to drive them to Christ; that they may be justified by faith. How anybody can hold a different view, I cannot imagine.
"UNDER THE LAW"
Again you say:—
It would have been more to the point if you had quoted some instances outside of the one under discussion, to show that “under the law” is ever used in the sense of “subject to the law.”
To be sure, you quote from Greenfield’s Lexicon, where it is stated that the word hupo is used with the sense “of subjection to the law.” But you should remember that it is the province of lexicons simply to give the meaning of a word, and not to decide upon points of doctrine. When Greenfield says that hupo means “under,” he states a simple truth; but when he says that it is used in the sense of “subjection to the law,” he gives merely his opinion upon a text of Scripture; and his opinion on the meaning of a text of Scripture is no better than that of any other man.
Indeed, I think that if you had examined Greenfield a little more closely you would have left his opinion in this matter out entirely, for he cites Romans 6:14 as an instance of the use of the word hupo in the sense of “subjection to the law,” and that is the only text that he does give as an illustration. There is no more doubt in your mind than there is in mine that that text refers to the moral law, and to that alone. So if you accept Greenfield as a commentator, you will read that text thus: “For ye are not subject to the law, but under grace.” This would suit the enemies of the truth, but I know that you do not accept it.
Your argument from
Greenfield is certainly an unfortunate one for you.
I agree with that most heartily, The law does not leave the man when he comes to Christ, but the man’s relation to it is changed. Before he was “under the law,” now he is “in the law” (Psalm 119:l) and the law is in him (Psalm 37:31). He is in Christ, who is the personification of the law, and in Him he is made the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21.
"LAW, GRACE AND THE CONSCIENCE"
Again you say of the moral law:—
If conscience has the power in itself to make a man conscious of his guilt, what office, pray tell me, has the law? What is the use of the law, if the conscience alone convicts of sin? And if conscience possesses the quality of making a man conscious of his guilt, why is it that all men are not equally conscious of guilt? The reason, and the only reason that can be given, is that some men are better instructed in the law than others are. You cannot escape the conclusion that it is the law which produces the sense of guilt in the man’s conscience, by which he is driven to Christ, unless you deny that by the law is the knowledge of sin.
Since it is the sense of guilt in the man’s conscience that makes him go to Christ, and nothing but the law can produce a sense of guilt, it is emphatically the law which drives men to Christ. That is the office of the law to sinful men—to overwhelm them with a sense of guilt, and so to drive them to Christ that they may be justified by faith.
True, the ten commandments say nothing about Christ, but does the sense of guilt in the man’s conscience say anything about Christ? That is, does every man have naturally a knowledge of Christ? Of course not. But the law begets in the man a consciousness of guilt. The law does this only by the aid of the Spirit, of course, for the word of God is the Spirit’s sword. But when the law, through the Spirit, has produced this sense of guilt, the man feels oppressed and seeks for ease from his load, and is forced to go to Christ, because there is nowhere else that he can go.
In trying to avoid my conclusion, you have in the above quotation deliberately walked into it. There was nothing else that you could do.
"WERE ISRAELITES JUSTIFIED BY FAITH OR BY LAW?"
Here you yourself admit the charge which I have brought against your theory, namely, that it virtually makes two plans of salvation.
If the “great system of justification by faith” was not reached till the cross of Christ, pray tell me whether anybody was ever justified before Christ came, and if so, how?
My reading of the Bible convinces me that “the great system of justification by faith” was known as soon as sin entered into the world. I read that “by faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous.” Hebrews 11:4. And in Psalms 32:1, 2; 68:6, 13; Isaiah 1:18; 53:10, 11; 65:6, 7; Habakkuk 2:4, and scores of similar texts, I find the clearest reference to the great system of justification by faith.
Some say that we have a better knowledge of the plan of salvation than the ancients had. Indeed, in one meeting of the Theological Committee, both you and Elder Canright claimed that the patriarchs had very limited, if any, knowledge of Christ’s real work; and you sustained Elder Canright in his assertion that Christ introduced the gospel at His first advent. I do not think that you would have taken such a stand, only that your theory drove you to it. But Christ and Paul based all their instruction concerning that great system upon the Old Testament, and I have never seen a man with so much knowledge of God that he could not study with profit the words of David and Isaiah concerning justification by faith.
In Great Controversy, vol. 1, in the paragraph beginning at the bottom of page 58, I read that angels held communication with Adam after his fall, and informed him of the plan of salvation. Certainly if Adam was ignorant of the great system of justification by faith, it was not because of the incompetency of his teachers.
After the battles which we have had to wage with Campbellites concerning the value of the Old Testament Scriptures, and the unity and universality of God’s plan of salvation, it seems almost incredible that anyone should be called on to defend, against Seventh-day Adventists, the idea that the well-informed Jew had a full knowledge of Christ, and was justified only through faith.
The quotation from your pamphlet which I made last, closes thus:
Again on page 64 I read:—
“All God now requires is a humble heart, repentance, and confession of sin, faith in the precious blood of Christ, and a determination to serve God and obey all His requirements.”
THE ELEMENTS OF THE WORLD I will now pass to a brief notice of your comments on chapter four; and first your arguments on the “elements of the world.”
You say (page 58):—
I have never been guilty of the absurdity of claiming that these “elements” are the commandments of God. I am just as confident as you are that they refer to something else.
Paul tells me what they are, when he says they are the “elements of the world.”
You say this means the ceremonial law. Will you please tell me what the world had to do with the ceremonial law? If the ceremonial law was the elements of the world, then the world ought to have adopted it, instead of despising the Jews because of it, for we know that the world will love its own. And will you tell me how you reconcile the statement that the ceremonial law is the elements of the world, with your previous statement that it was “given by angels”?
It does not change the argument a particle to translate the word “rudiments.” I readily grant that the rudiments of the world in Colossians 2:20, mean the same as the “elements of the world” in Galatians 4:3. I also claim, what I think you will hardly deny, that the term “rudiments” in Colossians 2:8 has the same meaning that it has in the twentieth verse. It is precisely the same term.
Now in Testimony No. 7, in the chapter on “Philosophy and Vain Deceit,” Sister White quotes Colossians 2:8, and says that she was shown that this verse has especial reference to Spiritualism. That is, philosophy and vain deceit, or Spiritualism, is “after the rudiments of the world.”
Will you claim that there is any connection whatever between the ceremonial law and Spiritualism? Is Spiritualism according to the ceremonial law which God gave to the Jews? Impossible. But it is according to the elements of the world, to the carnal mind, which is enmity against God; it is “according to the course of this world [according to the rudiments, or elements of the world], according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience; among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind,” when “we were by nature the children of wrath.” Ephesians 2:2, 3. The “elements of the world” are “the things that are in the world,” namely, “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” 1 John 2:15, 16. These are not “of the Father,” but are “of the world;” they are practiced by those who know not God, and to these things we were all subject before we were quickened by grace. It is not, as you say, on page 57, that “their being under these ‘elements,’ or ‘rudiments,’ brought them into ‘bondage,“’ but their being under these elements was in itself the bondage—the bondage of corruption.
CHRIST BORN UNDER THE LAW On page 58 is a paragraph which contains some points that I wish especially to notice, and so I quote it entire. It is the following:— 58
“In verse four, where Paul speaks of God’s sending forth His Son,
made of a woman, we have the expression, ‘made under the law.’ We
have already considered the meaning of this term, ‘under the law,’ and
have already shown that it does not always mean under the
condemnation of the law, but rather under the authority of the law, or
under obligation to keep it. The term evidently has this meaning here.
Both the revised version and the Diaglott translate ‘made under the law,’
‘born under the law.’
Greenfield, in the definition of the original word, which has a great variety of significations, quotes its use in this fourth verse with the definition, ‘subject to the law.’ This evidently is the correct sense in which it should be used. It is not true that our Saviour was born under the condemnation of the law of God. This would be manifestly absurd. That he did voluntarily take the sins of the world upon Him in His great sacrifice upon the cross, we admit; but he was not born under its condemnation. Of Him that was pure, and had never committed a sin in His life, it would be an astonishing perversion of all proper theology to say he was born under the condemnation of God’s law.”
1. Concerning the meaning of the term, “under the law,” you say that you have shown that “it does not always mean under the condemnation of the law, but rather under the authority of the law, or under obligation to keep the law.” I have carefully reread all previous references to it, and while I find several assertions to that effect, I find not one item of proof.
To be sure you quote from Greenfield, but I don’t consider his assertion as of any more value than that of any other man. I cannot take the space here to quote all the occurrences of the term, “under the law,” and show its meaning; but I wish to make this point: In Romans 6:14, 15, and Galatians 5:18, the expression occurs, and there cannot be the slightest doubt but that it means “condemned by the law.” You would not dare give it the meaning, “subject to the law,” in those places. There can be no controversy concerning its use in those texts.
Now it is a fixed principle in biblical interpretation that controverted texts must be settled by appeal to texts which are uncontroverted. Moreover, consistency requires that any term should have the same meaning wherever it occurs in the Bible, unless the context shows beyond question that it must have a different meaning.
Now there is no place in the Bible where it does not make good sense to interpret “under the law” as “condemned by the law.” But in the texts which I have just referred to, it cannot possibly mean “subject to the law.” If the limits of this review would warrant it, I would show by positive evidence from Scripture, and not by quotations from commentaries; that “under the law” invariably means “condemned by the law,” and that it cannot by any possibility mean anything else. Of course I except the two places, 1 Corinthians 9:21 and Romans 3:19, where it is not found in the original.
2. I must protest once more against your dependence upon the opinion of commentators. You say: “Greenfield, in the definition of the original word, which has a great variety of significations, quotes its use in this fourth verse, with the definition, ‘subject to the law.’ This is evidently the correct sense in which it should be used.”
Why is it evidently the sense in which it should be used? Because Greenfield says so? Must we accept everyone of Greenfield’s opinions as of final authority in matters of faith? I am not prepared to do this. Do not misunderstand me. I am not casting any reflections upon Greenfield as a lexicographer, but as a commentator. When Greenfield gives a simple definition of a word, it is to be accepted, provided it agrees with the definition given in the classical lexicons; for words are not used in Scripture in a special, scriptural sense, but in their ordinary acceptation. But when Greenfield, or any other man, says that a word which has several different shades of meaning is used in a certain sense in any specified text, he is simply giving his opinion, not of the meaning of the word, but of the meaning of the text. And when he does that, anybody may challenge his opinion, and demand the proof.
If we are to quote the opinions of men as authority, on points of doctrine, we might as well turn Papists at once; for to pin one’s faith to the opinions of man is of the very essence of the Papacy. It matters not whether we adhere to the opinions of one man, or to the opinions of forty; whether we have one Pope or forty. Because a man has written a commentary on the Bible, or on any part of it, that is no reason why his opinion should pass unchallenged. He is only a man still. Seventh-day Adventists, of all people in the world, ought to be free from dependence upon the mere opinion of men. They should be Protestants indeed, testing everything by the Bible alone.
3. Now as to the rendering of the expression “under the law,” in Galatians 4:4. I have no fault to find with the rendering, “born under the law,” but think that it is the correct rendering. I will go farther than you do, and will offer some Scripture evidence on this point. John 1:1, 14: “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” The word rendered “made” is the same as that in Galatians 4:4, and evidently signifies “born.” The Word was God, yet was born flesh of the Virgin Mary. I don’t know how it could be so; I simply accept the Bible statement. Now read Romans 8:3, and you will learn the nature of the flesh which the Word was made:— “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” Christ was born in the likeness of sinful flesh.
Philippians 2:5-7: “Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ
Jesus; who, being in the form of God, counted it not a prize to be on an
equality with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant,
being made in the likeness of men.” Revised version. Now note the next
verse: “And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself,
becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross.” And
now compare the above with,
Hebrews 2:9: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”
These texts show that Christ took upon Himself man’s nature, and that as a consequence He was subject to death. He came into the world on purpose to die; and so from the beginning of His earthly life He was in the same condition that the men are in whom He died to save.
Now read, Romans 1:3: The gospel of God, “concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David accord ing to the flesh.”
What was the nature of David, “according to the flesh”? Sinful, was it not? David says: “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Psalm 51:5.
Don’t start in horrified astonishment; I am not implying that Christ was a sinner. I shall explain more fully in a few moments. But first I wish to quote, Hebrews 2:16, 17: “For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.”
His being made in all things like unto His brethren, is the same as His being made in the likeness of sinful flesh, “made in the likeness of men.” One of the most encouraging things in the Bible is the knowledge that Christ took on Him the nature of man; to know that His ancestors according to the flesh were sinners.
When we read the record of the lives of the ancestors of Christ, and see that they had all the weaknesses and passions that we have, we find that no man has any right to excuse his sinful acts on the ground of heredity. If Christ had not been made in all things like unto His brethren, then His sinless life would be no encouragement to us. We might look at it with admiration, but it would be the admiration that would cause hopeless despair.
And now as another parallel to Galatians 4:4, and a further source of
encouragement to us, I will quote,
2 Corinthians 5:21: “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
Now when was Jesus made sin for us? It must have been when He was made flesh, and began to suffer the temptations and infirmities that are incident to sinful flesh. He passed through every phase of human experience, being “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”
He was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” “He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4); and this scripture is said by Matthew to have been fulfilled long before the crucifixion. So I say that His being born under the law was a necessary consequence of His being born in the likeness of sinful flesh, of taking upon Himself the nature of Abraham. He was made like man, in order that He might undergo the suffering of death. From the earliest childhood the cross was ever before Him.
4. You say:
You are shocked at the idea that Jesus was born under the condemnation of the law, because He never committed a sin in His life. But you admit that on the cross He was under the condemnation of the law. What! had He then committed sin? Not by any means. Well, then, if Jesus could be under the condemnation of the law at one time in His life, and be sinless, I see no reason why He could not be under the condemnation of the law at another time, and still be sinless. And Paul declares that God did make Him to be sin for us.
I simply give Scripture facts; I don’t attempt to explain them.
“Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness.” I cannot understand how God could be manifest in the flesh, and in the likeness of sinful flesh. I do not know how the pure and holy Saviour could endure all the infirmities of humanity, which are the result of sin, and be reckoned as a sinner, and suffer the death of a sinner. I simply accept the Scripture statement, that only so could He be the Saviour of men; and I rejoice in that knowledge, because since He was made sin, I may be made the righteousness of God in Him.
What a wonder! Christ had all the glory of Heaven; we had nothing; and so He “emptied Himself,” became nothing, in order that we might be glorified together with Him, and inherit all things. Christ was sinless, the very embodiment of holiness; we were vile and full of sin, having no good thing in us; He was made sin in order that we might be partakers of His righteousness. Christ was immortal, having life in Himself; we were mortal, doomed to eternal death; He suffered death for us, in order that we might share His immortality. He went to the very lowest depths to which man had fallen, in order that He might lift man to His own exalted throne; yet He never ceased to be God, or lost a particle of His holiness.
5. Again; why was Jesus baptized? He said that it was “to fulfill all righteousness.” We may not say that it was simply as an example; for that would be really denying the vicarious nature of the atonement. It must have been for the same reason that He died, namely, for sin. Not His own sin, but ours; for as in His death, so in His life, our sins were counted as His. And thus it is that He could be all His life, even from His birth, under the condemnation of the law. It was not on His own account, but on ours.
I think that I have shown clearly, by abundance of Scripture testimony, that Christ was born under the condemnation of the law, and that this was necessarily incident to the fact that He was born of a woman; “for man that is born of woman is of few days, and full of trouble;” and this was literally true of Christ. He was in all things like His brethren, in His life of temptation and suffering, and even to length of days; for His earthly life was exactly the length of an average human life.
6. I must make one more argument, taking your standpoint. I will allow for the moment, what is not true, that “under the law” means “subject to the law,” and that the law referred to is the ceremonial law. Now the statement is that Christ was made “under the law, to redeem them that were under the law.” He redeems none who were not in the condition which He was made. And since only the Jews were subject to the ceremonial law, your theory would make it that He came to save only the Jews. I am glad that a proper interpretation does not oblige us to limit the plan of salvation in this way. Christ died for all men; all men were under the condemnation of the law of God; and so He was made under its condemnation. By the grace of God He tasted death for every man.
7. But this requires that I should show another absurdity in which your theory lands you. The ceremonies of the Mosaic ritual were simply the gospel ordinances for that time. They were the things by which the people manifested their faith in the gospel of Christ. But your theory, besides making Christ die for the sole purpose of allowing the Jews to stop offering lambs, etc., makes Him die to deliver them from the gospel. If that were true, what kind of state would they then be in? And again it makes Christ die to redeem men from that which had no power to condemn. In short, it nullifies the whole plan of salvation, and makes nonsense of it. And so it is most positively proved that Galatians 4:4, 5 cannot by any possibility refer to what is commonly called the ceremonial law. It does refer to the moral law, by which all men are condemned, and from the condemnation of which Christ redeems all who believe in Him, making them sons and heirs of God.
MORE ON THE "ELEMENTS OF THIS WORLD"
In your claim that these elements refer to the ceremonial law you say:—
“The language concerning ‘elements of the world’—these ‘weak and beggarly elements’ to which they desired to return, under which they had been in servitude—it is utterly inconsistent to apply to the law which is ‘spiritual,’ ‘holy, just, and good.’”—p. 60.
That is exactly the truth. Those elements of this world, those weak and beggarly elements, must be the exact opposite to the pure and holy law of God; and the opposite of that holy, just, and good law is sin. And sin, as I have already shown, is the elements of the world. It is that which worldly men practice by nature. It is that which comes naturally from the human heart (Mark 7:21-23], and which, therefore, are the first things—the elements—that people practice.
I marvel how you can read Galatians 4:3 in connection with verses 8-10, and then say that the ceremonial law is referred to. Those elements to which they had been in bondage, and to which they wished to return, were the elements which they practiced when they knew not God, and the service which they did to them that were no gods.
You yourself say:
“The language clearly shows that the persons referred to had in some period of their lives been the worshipers of other gods.”
Then why not frankly admit that these elements to which they had been in bondage were the sinful practices of licentious idolaters?
But I pass to your crowning argument on this point. I quote from page 65:—
If it were not so serious a matter, it would be amusing to see the argument which you bring to identify the elements of the world with the ceremonial law. One would think that on this point, which you say is an important link, and which is indeed the point upon which your theory must stand or fall, you would pile up the Scripture argument; and so indeed you would, if there were any to pile up; but instead we have the opinion of Dr. Schaff, Dr. Clarke, and Dr. Scott—three very good men, no doubt, but three men who are responsible for a vast amount of doctrinal error and false theology.
After quoting Dr. Schaff’s view that these weak and beggarly elements apply only to Judaism, you say:
Let me construct an argument from Dr. Schaff. He says:—
“The Christian Church keeps the first day of the week, which celebrates the close of the spiritual creation, just as the last day celebrates the close of the physical creation. We have the fullest warrant for this change.”—Bible Dictionary, art. Sabbath.
And now having announced this dictum of the infallible Dr. Schaff, the Sunday-keeper may say, “We trust our friends who still regard Saturday as the Sabbath will consider this well.” Would you admit such an argument as worthy of a moment’s consideration? Would you say, “There can be no question but that this position is correct,” because Dr. Schaff says so? I know you would not; yet if you really regard your argument on Galatians 4:8 as of any value at all, you will be obliged to accept it.
I want to call special attention to your argument here, in order to reveal the inherent weakness of your position. You say that the “elements of the world”—those “weak and beggarly elements”—are identical with the ceremonial law. Then you add, “There can be no question but that our position on this point is correct.” If there can be no question on this point, it must be because it is so well fortified by the clearest proof as to admit of no argument. And what is the proof which you quote? The mere words of Dr. Schaff, Dr. Barnes, and Dr. Scott.
Then the inevitable conclusion is that you regard the statement of those men as sufficient to establish any point of doctrine. But I do not. I don’t consider their statement as sufficient to establish any doctrine. I don’t consider their statement sufficient to help, even to the slightest degree, to establish any point of doctrine. Further, I do not consider the statement of any man on earth as of sufficient weight to help establish any point of doctrine. The word of God alone can decide what is right; it alone can establish a point of doctrine; and when it has spoken, nothing that any man can say can make the case any stronger. And when a thing cannot be proved by the Bible, it cannot be proved by what any man says, no matter how good he is.
All men understand this; all men know that the word of God is better than that of any man; and so they always appeal to the Bible instead of to man, whenever they have anything that can be sustained by the Bible. I sincerely hope that at this late day we shall not have introduced among us the custom of quoting the opinion of doctors of divinity to support any theory. When our Sunday friends quote the opinions of commentators concerning the supposed change of the Sabbath, we all say that it is because they have no scriptural authority to bring forward. If I am wrong in arriving at the same conclusion concerning your quotation to prove the identity of the ceremonial law with the elements of the world, I trust you will pardon me, and will convince me of my error by bringing forward some Scripture evidence.
If you want the opinion of a man on this subject, I will quote one for you. It is the opinion of a man whom I regard as being as much superior to Dr. Schaff as a biblical expositor, as Dr. Schaff is superior to me in the knowledge of Greek and Latin. I refer to Elder J. N. Andrews. In his work The History of the Sabbath, in the foot-note on page 186 I find the following statement concerning Galatians 4:10.
I cannot refrain from saying that I trust our friends who sometimes endeavor to apply these “rudiments” to the ceremonial law “will consider this well.”
I will add, also, the following from Elder Andrews:—
“The bondage of the Jewish church did not consist in that God had given them His law, but because they were its transgressors—the servants of sin. John 8:33-36. The freedom of the children of ‘Jerusalem which is above,’ does not consist in that the law has been abolished, but in that they have been made free from sin. Romans 6:22.”—Review and Herald, vol. 2, No. 4.
REJECTORS OF GRACE DESIRE TO BE UNDER CONDEMNATION? But I must not prolong this letter much further. I pass to a brief notice of your strictures upon my argument upon Galatians 4:21. You say:—
“Here we have the expression ‘under the law’ repeated once more. We have already dwelt at some length upon this phrase, and have claimed that its uses in the letter to the Galatians referred to being subject to the law, under its authority.
But one of our friends who is enthusiastic in his devotion to the view that the law in Galatians is the moral law, goes so far as to claim that in every case where this expression is used, it signifies being in a state of sin or condemnation; i.e., in a position where the penalty of the law hangs over one’s head. That penalty is the ‘second death’ in ‘the lake of fire.’
We have, then, according to that view, these Galatian brethren desiring to be in a state of guilt, which would expose them to the lake of fire. ‘Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law,’ with this equivalent expression substituted, would read, Tell me, ye that desire to be under the condemnation of the law—Tell me, ye that desire the condemnation of the second death.
We have known men to desire many strange things, but we never before knew one to desire the second death. But if that view of the subject is correct, and this jaw is the moral law, and all these expressions ‘under the law’ mean under its condemnation, then we have no possible escape from this conclusion. But to think of these new, zealous converts to Christianity desiring to go into a state of condemnation, exposed to such a doom, is too preposterous for a moment’s consideration.”
I gladly acknowledge that I am the identical one of your friends who has claimed that in every case where the expression “under the law” occurs in the original, it signifies “being in a state of sin or condemnation, that is, in a position where the penalty of the law hangs over one’s head.” And I trust that I shall never be counted as your enemy because I tell you this truth.
You make sport of this idea, and say that you never knew anyone who desired the second death. My knowledge is not very extensive, but I have known that very thing. In the eighth chapter of Proverbs, Wisdom, which is the fear of God, is personified and in the last verse of that chapter she says, “All them that hate me love death.” There you have a plain Bible statement that there are some that love death. It is not to be supposed that men deliberately desire death, but they do deliberately choose and love the course which must result in death, and consequently they are said to love death.
In Acts 13:45 we read that Paul and Barnabas said to the Jews who had rejected the word of God, “contradicting and blaspheming:” “Seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” Here we have a similar statement. The apostle did not mean to indicate that those self-conceited Jews thought that they were not fit to enter Heaven; on the contrary, they thought that they were the only ones who were worthy of that privilege. But they were unwilling to receive the only truth which could fit them for everlasting life, and so they could justly be said to be unwilling to receive everlasting life.
So Paul could say to the Galatians who were turning aside from the gospel of Christ, that they desired to be under the law. Not that they deliberately chose death, but they were seeking justification by something which could not bring them justification. They were losing their faith in Christ, and being removed from God (Galatians 1:5); and such a course, if carried out, would inevitably bring them under the condemnation of the law. I see nothing absurd in this position. If it is absurd, then you must attach absurdity to the words of Solomon in Proverbs 8:36.
Let me prove the point in another way. You will admit that a man’s own way, if followed, will always end in death. Says Solomon: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.“ And this way which seems right to a man, is his own way. Now since a man’s own way is the way of death, it can truly be said that all who love their own way love death. The Galatians had turned to their own way, which is opposed to the ways of God. And so they were desirous to be under the condemnation of the law.
But I have already made this letter longer than I anticipated. I have done so only because I have a deep sense of the tremendous importance of this question, and I am morally certain that your theory is opposed to the truth. That those who have held it have not oftener been discomfited by the enemies of the truth, is due rather to the providential blindness of those enemies, than to the strength of the argument with which they have been met on this question.
CONCLUSION: PERFECT HARMONY BETWEEN GRACE AND LAW
I have written this brief review, as I did my articles in the Signs, with the desire to vindicate the law of God, and to show its perpetuity, its binding claims upon all mankind, and the beautiful harmony between it and the gospel. The law of God is the groundwork of all our faith. It may be said to be the backbone of the Third Angel’s Message. That being the case, we must expect, as we approach the end, that all the forces of the enemy will be concentrated upon it. We shall have to do more valiant service for it than we ever yet have done.
Every point in our argument will have to be subjected to the test of the most rigid criticism, and we shall have to fortify every point. If there is any inconsistency in any of our arguments, we may be sure that the enemies of the truth will not always remain blind to it.
I know you will say that it will be a humiliating thing to modify our position on so vital a point as this, right in the face of the enemy. But if a general has a faulty position, I submit that it is better to correct it, even in the face of the enemy, than to run the risk of defeat because of his faulty position. But I do not see anything humiliating in the matter. If our people should today, as a body (as they will sometime), change their view on this point, it would simply be an acknowledgment that they are better informed today than they were yesterday. It would simply be taking an advance step, which is never humiliating except to those whose pride of opinion will not allow them to admit that they can be wrong. It would simply be a step nearer the faith of the great Reformers from the days of Paul to the days of Luther and Wesley. It would be a step closer to the heart of the Third Angel’s Message.
I do not regard this view which I hold as a new idea at all. It is not a new theory of doctrine. Everything that I have taught is perfectly in harmony with the fundamental principles of truth which have been held not only by our people, but by all the eminent reformers. And so I do not take any credit to myself for advancing it. All I claim for the theory is, that it is consistent, because it sticks to the fundamental principles of the gospel.
Before I close, I cannot refrain from expressing my regret to see in your book (on page 78) the expression, “The much-vaunted doctrine of justification by faith.” Do you know of any other means of justification? Your words seem to intimate that you think that doctrine has been overestimated.
Of one thing I am certain, and that is, that those who have held to the theory of the law, which you are endeavoring to uphold, have not overestimated the doctrine of justification by faith; because that theory leads inevitably to the conclusion that men are justified by the law. But when I read Romans 3:28, and read also that Paul knew nothing among the Corinthians but Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and that “the just shall live by faith,” and that “this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4), and that Paul wanted to be found when Christ comes, having nothing but “the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Philippians 3:9), I conclude that it is impossible to overestimate the doctrine of justification by faith. You may call it a “much-vaunted”doctrine if you please; I accept the word, and say with Paul: “God forbid that I should glory [or vaunt], save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”
Hoping that you will read this letter in the spirit in which it is written, and that you will believe that I have written it with only the utmost good-feeling and brotherly love for you personally, and praying that God will guide both of us and all His people to the most perfect knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, I remain your brother in Christ,