G. H. Lang



IN connection with the study of truth, and of prophecy in particular, I have more than once commended in print the following remarks by Dr. Robert Daly.  They were written in 1838 and are found on page 9 of the Preface to The Letters and Papers of Viscountess Powerscourt.  He said:



I consider the whole Church of Christ to be much in the dark with regard to prophecy, and more or less in error concerning it; and that the best way to correct the error, and attain more light, is to encourage free discussion upon it.



Therefore all sober and fair examination of a subject is to be welcomed, from whatever side it proceeds.  But it can only be deplored when controversialists endeavour to create prejudice by unwarranted assertions.  For at least one hundred and twenty years there have been serious and competent students of the Word of God who have believed it to be the clear teaching of Scripture that the honour of reigning with the Lord in His kingdom is a privilege not guaranteed to every child of God, though it is offered to each such in this age.  This involves that sharing in the raptures or the first resurrection, which will remove to the heavenly regions those who are to reign there with Christ, while open to all believers is not assured to all, but to those only “who are accounted worthy to attain to that [the Millennial] age and the resurrection which is [out] from among the dead” (Luke 20: 35).  We consider that this view alone answers to the many conditional statements of Scripture and also supplies both needful stimulus to holy living and check against the abuse of the grace which provides such a great prospect.



Upon so important a theme concentrated examination is needful and helpful, but there are some who seek to discredit the doctrine by alleging that it negatives the truth of the eternal salvation of those who are born of God through faith in the Son of God and His atoning work.  No accredited teacher of the view in question will admit this, for it is of the essence of our view that we emphasize heavily the contrast between life eternal as a free gift and sharing the glory of Christ as a reward.  The assertion serves to give some very greatly needed body and weight to their opposition, for without it there would be no warrant for alleging that the doctrine impinges upon the faith of the gospel.  The fact that it is found necessary to use this makeweight is silent testimony that the view is consistent with the faith.



The sure way to rebut this unjustified allegation is to oppose to it the following statements by leading persons who have advocated the doctrine of Selective Rapture and Resurrection.



The great theme of the return of the Lord Jesus was studied afresh by godly persons from about the year 1825, and it was generally held that all believers alive at the time of the event and all the dead of this Christian age who had life in Christ would be rapt or raised to share the kingdom and glory of the Lord.  But there were some of the earliest of those students who doubted this last opinion and thought that the high honour of reigning with Christ was contingent upon faithfulness to Him in this life.  But in those early years such divergence of opinion was never regarded as challenging the faith or as imperilling fellowship or as restricting public ministry.  There was then too much theological knowledge, balanced judgment, and above all too much brotherly love to hinder friendly discussion.



Statements upon this subject are on record by Anthony Norris Groves, R. C. Chapman, and Lady Powerscourt, the lady in whose Castle in Ireland were held conferences for the study of Scripture which had profound influence.  Groves’ words may be read in my Anthony Norris Groves page 298, Lady Powerscourt is quoted on page 292, and R. C. Chapman on page 32 and more fully in my First Fruits and Harvest, 29, 30.  On pages 28 and 29 of this last treatise it is shown that Hudson Taylor held the same view, and others of his generation who did so were W. Fuller Gooch and Samuel H. Wilkinson.



Upon the matter of the eternal security of the regenerate Lady Powerscourt wrote:



Death has left its sting in the humanity of Christ, and has no more power to harm his child.  Christ’s victory over the grave is his people’s ... Omnipotent love must fail before one of his sheep can perish: for, says Christ, “none shall pluck my sheep out of my hand “I and my Father are one”; therefore we may boldly say, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me Letters and Papers, 285.



What one who held the views in question regarded as the basis and character of salvation is seen in these words of A. N. Groves: 



O, what a blessed passage is that in Rom v. [5] “If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more being reconciled we shall be saved by His life Yet the more I feel of this assurance of such unmerited love, the more hateful sin appears in all shapes, and the more my soul desires entire devotedness to the whole will of God, and conformity to my gracious Lord.



And again:



Is it not a sweet fruit of unconditional salvation that it has taught the soul to esteem God’s will concerning all things to be right?  Imperfect obedience to the divine will can only be, I conceive, the fruit of imperfect love.  (Memoir of A. N. Groves, 189, 234).



The expressions are to be noted: “assurance ... such unmerited love ... unconditional salvation and this as the basis of holiness of life.



R. C. Chapman wrote:



How great the blessing - redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of the grace of God.  Let us but keep this in view, this perfect eternal redemption, and all is well.  Then has patience her perfect work, and we submit to the hand of God, not because we cannot resist, but because God is love and is our Heavenly Father.



What think you of Christ then, my dear Sister?  I know your answer.  He is altogether lovely.  He is now sitting for us at the right hand of God, and the stability of His throne is our strong foundation. (Selected Letters, 2, 3.)



And again:



Moreover, my soul, know thou the day makes haste to come when that which is in part shall be done away; this body of death is not for ever; but the workmanship of the Spirit of Christ shall endure for ever; for the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.  (Hymns and Meditations, 166, 167.)



Here also note the expressions “eternal redemption strong foundation ... shall endure for ever



Passing on to the middle of the last century the chief exponent of these views in question was the learned Robert Govett, M.A., of Norwich, Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford.  Among his voluminous writings is The Righteousness of God the Salvation of the Believer.  On page 376 he deals with Rom. 8: 31, “What therefore shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who shall be against us  He says:



The intentions of Almighty power and wisdom must needs be fulfilled.  Satan with his angels and evil men are against us, and would gladly destroy.  But all opposition will not avail to frustrate the salvation of God’s providing.  The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, are engaged on our behalf.  Here is our security that we shall enjoy eternal life (page 376).



And again:



The believer then, made a son of God by the love of God in Christ, shall certainly attain at last the glory of eternal life (page 551).



In the latter part of the last century and the beginning of this a Cambridge classical scholar, G. H. Pember, M.A., became a leading exponent of prophetic Scripture and of Selective Resurrection.  From pages 28-30 of The Church, the Churches and the Mysteries we cite these statements as to the eternity of salvation.  The theme is John 5: 24-29.



With His most solemn formula the Lord introduces this wondrous and gracious revelation, that, at the moment when we receive His word, and believe the testimony which His Father has given concerning Him, we have crossed the boundary which separates life from death - aye, and have done so before the awful judgment throne is set up between them.  In that instant, by the word of His power, by that mighty working whereby He is able to subject all things to Himself, a germ of immortality has passed into our being, which - like all the gifts and callings of God - when once given, can never be withdrawn ... Such being the case, how could we ever perish? How could God sanction so great a waste as the destruction of those whom He has created anew in Christ Jesus, and made perfect in Him! ... True, then, were the words of the Lord when He said: “Whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die  And true, also, the words of the Apostle: “And this is the record, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life, is in His Son.  He that hath the Son hath the life: he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life  The first, then, of the three mighty acts is a resurrection of the spirit, or the spiritual resurrection, which involves everlasting life, and is identical with the new birth, or the new creation in Christ Jesus.  It is an absolute and undeserved gift from God, and can only be obtained as such.



Mr. D. M. Panton, B.A., Editor of The Dawn, followed Mr. Govett in his ministry at Norwich.  His major pamphlet is The Judgment Seat of Christ.  In a full treatment of this vast theme there are not unnaturally some things I should not say, but it is a searching treatment of its solemn subject, too searching, I fear, for some Christian readers.  But it has helped many.  A worker in a distant land, able and zealous, became somewhat of a trial to fellow-workers by her persistent efforts to get many things ordered by her views.  I sent her this pamphlet.  She wrote to say that since she had therein learned that the Lord is the true and only competent judge, and that He duly takes in hand all matters, she no longer felt the need that she should strive to rectify everything.  For years thereafter she proved a valued co-worker.  The paper opens thus:



It is the joy and wonder of God’s Grace that all saving merit in our Lord’s life and death becomes ours on simple faith: “for by grace have ye been saved THROUGH FAITH; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory” (Eph. 2: 8, 9).  A sinner’s works, so far from saving him, have actually to be repented of - “REPENTENCE from dead WORKS” (Heb. 6: 1):- for “the FREE GIFT of God” - unfettered therefore by any obligation on the part of the Giver, and thus completely severed from our merit - “is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6: 23) ... We thus draw eternal life solely from the Son of God.  “God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He that hath the Son HATH THE LIFE; he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life” (1 John 5: 11, 12).  Eternal life thus rests for ever on simple, saving faith, which produces immediate regeneration, incorporation into Christ, the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, and indefectible life.  “He that believeth on the Son hath EVERLASTING life” (John 3: 36).



These unequivocal utterances might suffice to show that the leading advocates of Selective Rapture and Resurrection have declared plainly that the eternal security of the believer in Christ is emphatically part of their teaching.   Here I should much prefer to leave the matter, but it is the case that at the present time I myself am the principal writer upon the same side, and it is to nullify as far as possible my writings and influence that present criticisms are mainly directed.  It is the more regrettable that writers of today should bring the complaint that the doctrine in question negatives the doctrine of eternal security, for they are acquainted with my writings and must know that I have declared emphatically my conviction of the eternal security of the regenerate.  I ask the unbiassed reader to ponder these three statements from three of my books on these subjects.



On pages 14, 15 of Firstfruits and Harvest it is said that



It is at this point that the “if of the Word of God come in, and are so solemn and significant.  Whenever the matter is that of the pardon of sin, the justifying of the guilty, the gift of eternal life, Scripture ever speaks positively and unconditionally.  The sinner is “justified freely by God’s grace and “the free gift of God is eternal life” (Rom. 3: 24; 6: 23), in which places the word “free” means free of conditions, not only of payment.  Eternal life therefore is what is called in law an absolute gift, in contrast to a conditional gift.  The latter may be forfeited if the condition is not fulfilled; the former is irrevocable.  But as soon as the sinner has by faith entered into this standing before God, then the Word begins at once to speak to him with “Ifs.”  From this point and forward every privilege is conditional.  One of my present critics wrote a long attack upon my treatise The Revelation of Jesus Christ.  He had therefore read the following very definite avowal on pages 14 and 15 in the Preface:



This book is written by one who is thoroughly persuaded that the teaching of Scripture is that no justified and regenerate persons can ever be finally lost.  Devout and learned men have held the opposite; and they support that view by many solemn passages, such as John 15, Heb. 6, and others.   In my Firstborn Sons, Their Rights and Risks I have endeavoured to show that these portions of the Word are harmonious with the belief that no person once saved can be lost eternally, but that they do contain a searching warning message to the child of God, especially as regards the millennial kingdom.  It is upon this line that some parts of Revelation are here expounded; but I must ask once and for all that the reader, when he comes to these passages, will remember that it has been here avowed in advance that salvation from the lake of fire, once secured by faith in the precious blood of Christ, is unforfeitable.



Yet in spite of this avowal my critic alleged and alleges that my views contradict the truth of eternal security.  Present critics know well that two years ago I issued an extended commentary entitled The Epistle to the Hebrews.  This sets forth at length the privileges that grace grants to the obedience of faith and also the penalties incurred by godlessness in believers.  Now at the very heart of this exposition there is a special discussion to prove the eternal security of all the regenerate.  It occupies nearly six pages of small type and runs to over 3,000 words.  The concluding sentence reads:



Happy indeed is he who, as touching his status as righteous before God, sees Christ to be his all, for thus will he be assured that his judical acceptance by God is necessarily as eternal as the righteousness of his Surety.



It is greatly to be desired that in future critics will be honest enough to acknowledge that those they oppose believe as they do upon this matter, seeing that the proofs of this are here made public.



NOTE.  An example of the criticism deprecated may be found in a recent discussion entitled Who Will Go when the Lord Comes? by W. R. Lewis and E. W. Rogers.  It is issued from the office of “Echoes of ServiceBath; by Post 3s. 3d.  The Introduction opens as follows:



There fell into the hands of one of the writers recently a book in which was the following: “The initial condition upon which man may aspire to this beatific vision is the atoning work of the Redeemer ... But the final condition for realizing in fact that which the atonement has made possible is set before us in the clause … “Pursue the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord” ... The eternal security of the believer depends solely upon the sovereign grace of God.  It is altogether independent of works.  It is “not of works lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2: 9).  Salvation is effected alone through the work of Christ on the Cross, and His resurrection, appropriated by faith, applied to the believer by the Holy Spirit. To this nothing can be added



It is to be observed:



1.  That no references are given to any books in which it is said the doctrines rejected are taught, not even to the one quoted; so that readers are precluded from testing either the quotation or its context.



2.  The reader is left to assume with the writers that what the writer quoted meant by “this beatific vision” is the same as the “eternal security of the believer,” that is, “salvation,” as it is added, “Their future salvation is no contingency The rest of their book follows this assumption, and on it is based the charge that, according to the writer and others, “salvation” is not by grace alone but is “by the work of Calvary plus something of human endeavour  This is the only really weighty element in their strictures.



The writer cited was dealing with Heb. 12: 14: “Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord  In the paragraphs just immediately preceding the words quoted he showed that “the Lord” in this verse is not Christ, because every eye shall see Him at one time of judgment or another, according to Rev. 1: 7: Phil. 2: 10, 11: John 5: 22.  He added that, “It is therefore to some face to face vision of God the Father that our clause refers,” and he cited numerous passages in support.  This therefore was “the beatific vision” which he considered this scripture to make conditional upon sanctification.  In the very paragraph quoted he made this unmistakably clear by describing “the beatific vision” as “the fullest and highest bliss possible through the blood of Jesus, even this supernal vision of the face and presence of Him Who before was personally inaccessible to man



Early in the same chapter the writer had stated clearly his belief as to the standing and security of the believer.  He dealt with the words of Heb. 12: 24: “Ye have come unto the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better than that of Abeland said:



No matter what is the privilege now known, or hereafter to be gained, all our standing and hope is based upon the atonement of Calvary ... And to all eternity, and in whatever height glory we may reign on Mount Zion, we shall discover our security to stand in that eternal redemption.



“I stand upon His merit:

I know no other stand,

Not e’en where glory dwelleth

In Immanuel’s land



Even these critics will surely acknowledge that some privileges and rewards attached to salvation may be lost without imperilling salvation, and the writer was dealing with the vision of God the Father as the highest of these possibilities.  It was only by disregarding his plain definition and the whole context that his term “the beatific vision” was made to seem equivalent to “salvation” and thereupon the unjust charge formulated that he taught that [eternal] salvation depends upon grace and law, faith and works.  Thus the critics gravely perverted his teaching, created an entirely false issue, and completely misled their readers.



                                                                                                                              - G.H.L.



The book in question (now out of print) is my

Firstborn Sons, Their Rights and Risks, pages 75-77, 65, 66.