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Home arrow 50 Yrs Among The Baptists arrow Justification and Kindred Subjects: Chapter 3
Justification and Kindred Subjects: Chapter 3 PDF Print E-mail
Written by J.H. Oliphant   

God’s design in creation is to manifest his own perfection. "Of him and through him and to him are all things." All things are to him as the first cause, and through Christ instrumentally, and not in the sense that he is inferior to God, but through Christ are all things, and to him, to his own glory and praise. He is before all things and by him all things consist. "By whom also he made the world."

Botany, zoology, geography, geology, anatomy, physiology, astronomy, and philosophy and all true science show the infinite power and wisdom of God.

I can think of no higher end than God’s glory, the manifestation of his own eternal perfection; and in his works his "eternal power and Godhead" are clearly seen.

If we could imagine the material universe, the earth with its animal and vegetable kingdoms in existence; with no intelligent being capable of appreciating, of judging and contemplating the wisdom and power manifested in them, it would seem a vain and needless work of God to make all things. But if God would manifest his perfections, it is plainly necessary that he also bring into existence beings with mind, judgment, and reason, capable of appreciating his works.

So God created man in his own image. If we consider man before the fall, or while fallen; or in his regenerated state, or in heaven at last, he is in every state a CREATURE of God. He sustains the relation of a CREATURE to a Creator, and the notion that we pre-existed in God as a seed and descended from him as children denies the creatureship of man, denies that God is the only original, self-existent being. It represents God as being as dependent on man for his perfection as man is dependent on God for his perfection. Jesus is the only being who can claim to be the Son of God in the highest sense. God is the "everlasting Father" with respect to His Son, who in the same sense was the eternal Son. We are the children of God in some modified and explained sense, and not as Christ is a Son of God.

God made man a rational being, with mind, reason, judgment and understanding, and gave him dominion over fish, fowl, and every living thing. He endowed man with understanding capable of contemplating the wonders of his work.

In the material universe, only the power and wisdom of God are seen. God’s higher and more sublime perfections are not seen, in the material universe. His justice, truth, holiness, mercy, etc., are not seen in the physical universe; for the display of these perfections a moral government is essential. His government of matter displays his power and wisdom, but for the display of his higher perfections he must needs have a government of mind --- a moral government.

Can any say it is wrong that God shall have a moral government --- a state of things, in which his justice and holiness shall be manifest?

Universalists, and some others, insist that God cannot in reason employ his great power to punish his offending creatures for sins against him. What is this but to say that he shall not have a state of things in which his justice shall be manifested? They allow that some of his perfections are manifested in creation to an infinite degree, but they seem unwilling that his higher perfections shall be manifested also. If we recognize the right of God to have a moral government, a government of mind, we must allow that his infinite perfections shall be displayed in that as truly as his infinite perfections have been displayed in the material universe; that his justice, holiness and mercy shall be as fully displayed in his moral government as his power and wisdom have been displayed in his government of matter.

It is clear to my mind that a moral government is essential to the development of God’s moral perfections --- a government of mind; one in which loyalty to himself can be required, one in which he can rule by law, in which he can fix a penalty for disobedience and faithfully execute it, and promise blessings in obedience and faithfully give those blessings.

Freedom of will is essential to moral government. The governed must be capable of voluntary action. I am not able to see or conceive how there could be vice or virtue, right or wrong, good or evil, loyalty or disloyalty, without a state of things in which the governed act voluntarily, from choice, etc. God’s government of man is moral. He gave law to Adam, who was the federal and seminal head of all his race. He made covenant with all the race in Adam. He made covenant with Abraham relative to the promised land in which his offspring were interested. Also with Noah and David. Paul, in Romans v., shows Adam to have been a representative person and that he stood as the representative of all his race. The law given him was reasonable in its requirements. To say that God shall not thus give his creature---man---a law for the regulation of his conduct and the manifestation of his loyalty, is to say he shall not maintain moral government among his creatures, and that he shall not have a state of things in which his most important perfections shall be displayed.

To say he gave the law to Adam and then coerced him into obedience or disobedience would make the law a nullity. If it be a test of loyalty, the action of man must be voluntary and from his own choice.

Some have argued that the sin of Adam was absolutely decreed, because it was foreknown. This reasoning never seemed clear to me. I admit that God’s foreknowledge of some things rests upon his positive decree of those things. No doubt the world, with its size and form, was foreknown to God because he determined to make it as it is. So of all his works, both in providence and grace; all were foreknown because all were determined.

But may not God’s foreknowledge embrace things of which he is not the author? If so, then his foreknowledge of those things does not rest on the same principle that his foreknowledge of things of which he is the author rests. If we say he is the author of sin and therefore he foreknew it, we destroy all distinction between right and wrong, good and evil. Adam’s fall in sin was such that the penalty of death was justly visited upon him. Satan’s connection with that crisis was not such as to apologize for sin. There was no excuse for it; for had there been an excuse for it, it would not have been sin. "By one man sin entered into the world." God foreknew the sin of Adam, with all its consequences, yet he permitted it. (I use the word "permit" in the sense of not hinder). Men may cavil and find fault with God in this matter. He could have confirmed Adam in holiness so as to prevent the fall, but when we say he SHOULD HAVE DONE SO, we deny his right to a moral government of his creatures. His wisdom is infinite, and what he did was best. He acted wisely. It was greater wisdom on his part not to prevent the fall of Adam, than it would have been to have done so. If we deny this, we impeach the wisdom of his procedure.

The children of Adam were begotten and born after the fall. It is a fixed law that in procreation everything shall produce its equal. On this principle the only begotten Son of God was equal to God, and those who hold that they are the children of God, procreatively should claim equality with him. Had God suspended the law that makes the child, or offspring, equal to the parents, so that Adam’s offspring had been holy, untold mischief would have come among God’s creatures. It would have put an end to SPECIES AMONG HIS CREATURES, animal and vegetable. But he did not suspend that law. So we are the offspring of a fallen parentage, hence fallen ourselves.

It has been said that if Adam represented us in the transgression and fall, he also represented us in repentance. If he was saved, and we presume he was, it was not upon his repentance, or after obedience, that he was saved, but through the atoning merits of Christ. Adam was the head whence came death and ruin to us; Christ is the source whence comes life and salvation to us. Adam and Christ were both put on probation and trial; each had freedom of will, acted voluntarily, and each was biased to that which is good. Adam fell in sin and ruin; Christ lived true to God and brought deliverance to all he represented.

When I say Adam was endowed with freedom of will, I do not mean that he was not under law. He was not free in the sense that God’s law did not require obedience of him. He was not free as God is free. Adam, and every intelligent being, is dependent on God for existence, while God is free in this respect. He alone is thus free. All intelligent moral beings are under some kind of obligation to God, and hence none can be free in the sense that they are not under the law.

Adam, before the fall and after the fall, and all his fallen race, as well as those regenerated and born again, and those now in heaven or, who shall at last reach there, all are free moral agents in the sense that they act voluntarily, that is, willingly choose that which suits them and is most agreeable to them. That this is true, is essential to moral government. In order that men’s actions be praiseworthy or blameworthy, virtuous or vicious, it is necessary that they act voluntarily. The most complicated machinery is not a moral government, but physical. Man is free in the sense that he is not a machine. The parts of a machine do not act from choice; hence, though a ponderous wheel kill a man, it is not blameworthy. Man does act from choice; hence, if he kill a man, he is blamable. A sense of right and wrong---a conscience---is put within all men, "who knowing that they which do such things are worthy of death." This is true of all the race of men. This law of God, or sense of right and wrong, is cast in the very mold of man, and is universal. Herein men, all men, differ from the animal. The works of God in creation are vocal to man, proclaiming the being and authority of God. The stars above his head, the sun and moon, the rolling thunder, the flashing lightning, the rushing storm and every work of God, all testify to man of the being and authority of God. God’s goodness to man in supplying his wants, the sun, air, rain, dew, the earth, the sea and everything in made to yield some good to man, and these things increase the obligation of man. It would be as easy to reason sunshine out of the world as to convince mankind that we are not blamable for our sins, accountable to God for our conduct in the world. And yet despite all this, despite conscience, despite this sense of right and wrong, despite every argument that appeals to our reason and all the merciful surroundings of man, he sins; he sins, knowingly, openly, without excuse; he not only "does these things, but has pleasure in them that do them."

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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.