Alexander Campbell The Christian System: CS - 08-08 The Purposes of God Concerning Man

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Alexander Campbell The Christian System: CS - 08-08 The Purposes of God Concerning Man

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The universe issued from the goodness of God. Not to display his power and wisdom, but to give vent to his benignity, God created the heavens and the earth, and peopled them with all variety of being. Infinite wisdom and almighty power do but execute the designs of eternal love. Goodness is the impulsive attribute which prompted all that the counsel and hand of the Lord have executed. The current of the universe all runs on the side of benevolence. "Abundant in goodness and truth," all God's designs are for the diffusion of bliss on the largest possible scale. Evil there is; but, under the benevolent administration of the Father of mercies, there will be as much good, with as little evil, as almighty power, guided by infinite wisdom, and goodness, can achieve.

We may conjecture much, but can know little of the origin of moral evil in God's dominion. Its history on earth is faithfully detailed in the Bible; and that, in the divine prudence, is all that is necessary to our successful warfare against its power, and blissful escape from its penal consequences. It is not necessary that we should analyze and comprehend the origin and nature of darkness in order to enjoy the light of the sun. The influences of light and darkness upon our system are quite sufficient, without any theory, to induce us to eschew the former, and delight in the latter. "By one man sin entered into the world," says Paul; and "by one tempter sin entered into man," says Moses; and "lust when it conceives brings forth sin, and sin when it is perfected brings forth death," says James the Apostle, and these are the land-marks of our knowledge of the matter.

To limit the contagion of sin, to prevent its recurrence in any portion of the universe, and to save sinners from its ruinous consequences, are the godlike purposes of the common Father of all. The Gospel, or Christian system, is that only scheme which infinite intelligence and almighty love could devise for that benignant and gracious end. This purpose, like all God's purposes, is eternal and immutable. The scheme or theory was, therefore, not only arranged before the Jewish and patriarchal ages, but before the foundation of the world.

The promises made to Eve, to Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David, etc., are positive proofs that the plan was laid and the purposes perfected before the world began. For why, we ask, could God promise the conquest of Satan by the son of Eve, the blessing of all nations, by the son of Abraham, etc. etc., if a scheme if this import had not been previously established? The moment that Adam, Eve, and the serpent were judged dates the first promise of a glorious conquest over our adversary by a descendant of Eve. That promise, and the consequent institution of sacrifice--the altar, the victim, and the priest, are ample proofs that the plan was completed and a remedial system adopted antecedent to the trial of our first parents.

But this is not to be inferred even from the premises clear and forcible as these are. It is expressly and repeatedly declared. Two things are evident as demonstration itself:--The first,--that all the purposes and promises of God are in Christ--in reference to him, and consummated in and by him; and, in the second place, they were all contemplated, covenanted, and systematized in him and through him before the foundation of the world. These two propositions are so intimately connected, that they are generally asserted in the same portions of Scripture. For example: "He hath saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began; but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ." 2Ti_1:9-10. Again, "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; but has in due time manifested his word through preaching." Tit_1:1-16; Tit_2:1-15; Tit_3:1 "He has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." Eph_1:4. Indeed, Jesus himself intimates that the whole affair of man's redemption, even to the preparation of the eternal abodes of the righteous, was arranged ere time was born: for, in his own parable of the final judgment, he says, "Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit a kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Mat_25:34. And Peter settles the matter forever by assuring us that we "were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world." Christ, then, is the Lamb that was foreordained, and "slain from the foundation of the world." Therefore, says Jesus to his Father, speaking doubtless in contemplation of his work, "Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world;" and thus, as Matthew quotes a Prophet speaking of him, "he uttered things which had been kept secret from the foundation of the world."

Evident then it is, that the whole remedial or gospel system was purposed, arranged, and established upon the basis of the revealed distinctions of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and by these, in reference to one another, before the foundation of the world; and that all the institutions and developments of religion in the different ages of the world, were, in pursuance of that system, devised in eternity, and consummated some two thousand years ago.

Jesus of Nazareth, the promised Messiah, was elected, or rather was always the elect, the beloved of God, and appointed to be the foundation of the new creation. "Behold," said Jehovah, seven centuries before his birth, "I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner, a sure foundation," called by Peter "an elect stone," though disallowed by the Jewish builders. Again, by the same Prophet he is called the elect of God: "Behold my servant whom I uphold, mine elect in whom my soul delights! I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles," etc. "He shall be for salvation to the ends of the earth."

In consequence of these gracious purposes of God, the WORD was made flesh, and dwelt among us--the Son of God was sent by his Father--became a Prophet, a High Priest, and a King over men, that he might be the mediator and administrator of an Institution of Grace. He became the righteous servant of Jehovah, a voluntary sacrifice for us--died, was buried, and rose again--ascended where he had been before--then, in union with his Father, sent the Holy Spirit, who proceeded forth from the presence and by the authority of the Father and the Son, to consummate the sanctification of his people. He is now placed upon the throne of God--head over all things to complete the triumphs of his cause--to lead many sons to glory--to raise the dead, judge the world, and revenge Satan and all that took part with him in his rebellion, whether angels or men--to create new heavens and a new earth, and to establish eternal peace, and love, and joy through all the new dominions which he shall have gained, and over which he shall have reigned: for he must reign till all his and our enemies shall have been subdued forever. Then he shall resign into the hands that gave him his empire, all that species of authority which he exercised in this great work of human deliverance. Then God himself, in his antecedent character and glory, as he reigned before sin was born and his administration began, shall preside over all things in all places for ever and ever.

The present elect of God are, then, those who are in Christ, and not those out of him: for it was in him that God has set his affection upon them, and chose them to eternal life before the world began. God is not, indeed, in this whole affair a respecter of persons. It is at character, and not at person, that God looks. He has predestinated all that are in Christ "to be holy and without blame before him in love," and, at his coming, to be confirmed to him in all personal excellency and beauty, and to share with him the bliss of a glorious immortality. So that "we shall be like him"--he is the first born, and we his junior brethren, bearing his image in our persons as exactly as we now bear the image of the earthly Adam, the father of us all.

In all these gracious purposes of God, two things are most remarkable:--First, that he has elected and called certain persons to high and responsible stations as parts of a grand system of practical philanthropy--such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, David, Paul, etc. These were chosen and elevated not for their own sakes, so much as for public benefactors and blessings to the human race. It is not for its own sake that the eye is so beautiful, or performs the functions of vision; nor that the ear is so curiously fashioned, and performs the office of hearing; but for the general comfort and safety of the whole body. So stand in the family of God--in the body of Christ, all apostles, prophets, preachers, reformers, and all specially called and chosen persons. As the Lord said to Saul of Tarsus, so may it be said of all those sons of oil--those elect ones--"I have appeared to you to make you a minister and a witness for me--to send you to the Gentiles," etc.--to make you a public benefactor. Next to this remarkable fact is another still more remarkable;--that, according to the purposes of God in reference to the whole human race, things are so arranged and set in order, that all enjoyments shall be, as respects human agency, conditional; and that every man, in reference to spiritual and eternal blessings, shall certainly and infallibly have his own choice. Therefore, life and death, good and evil, happiness and misery, are placed before man as he now is, and he is commanded to make his own election and take his choice. Having chosen the good portion, he is then to "give all diligence to make his calling and election sure."

1 In the original the phrase in these two passage sis pro chronoon aionoon, translated sometimes "before the time of ages"--before the Jewish jubilees or ages began; and means that God's purpose to call the Gentiles was antecedent to the covenants with Abraham and the Jews. Thus understood, it only proves that the purposes and promises of God in Christ were formed and expressed before the days of Abraham. But it is equally true as respects the beginning of time: for the phrase pro and apo katabole kosmou, found ten times in the New Testament, literally indicates the foundation of the world. We quote Eph_1:4.--Mat_25:34.--1Pe_1:19-20.--as unequivocally declarative of this.