|Salvation by Grace Alone|
The Gospel Messenger--August 1893
“IF THOU BE THE SON OF GOD.” ...
Dear Friends, I was looking at some old "Messengers" and ran across this article by Sister Phillips. I cannot believe that I have let this one remain hidden for so long as it is truly a great writing. Rebecca Anna Phillips of Macon GA is one of my all time favorite writers. Her knowledge of the Scriptures was vast and she used it to bless the church in many ways. I have been told that when Elder Hassell could not answer a difficult Bible question he sent it to Sister Phillips. Smart man, he. DM By Sister R. Anna Phillips
DEAR BRETHREN AND SISTERS: We are commanded to “consider the Apostle of our profession,” Jesus Christ. I have meditated a great deal about his temptation in the wilderness, and why had he need to be tempted, and I conclude that in order to become the author of eternal salvation to man, he must be made very man and be touched with a feeling of all his infirmities in his own personal flesh, and become obedient by the things which he suffered as our Exampler, and to be able to teach with the authority that personal experience gives.
It is written he was tempted like as we are, and we are tempted by suggestions to our mind. Then Jesus was tempted, not by an audible, visible devil, but by suggestions of Satan as an evil spirit. See Him, immediately after the righteous work of baptism, and the opening heavens, and the Father’s loving voice of approval, and the Holy Spirit in bodily shape abiding on him, driven of the spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted pf the devil, and we would naturally suppose this would follow disobedience and doubt. Hence, let his disciples stand in the presence of the Father with reverential fear and trembling; nor yet conclude they are forsaken when driven hence to be tempted; for when driven of the spirit, it is to perfect your faith. So Jesus was driven of the spirit into the wilderness of wild beasts of prey, to be tempted of Satan, and he was there forty days and nights, and that without food; and no wonder he was afterwards hungry.
The first and grand aim of Satan in tempting any child of God is to cause him to doubt his divine sonship, and in order to do this, he always assaults a weak point, or takes advantage of any urgent distress or pressing necessity; as in this case, the extreme hunger of Jesus. He knew that Jesus was the Son of God, yet hear how he dare approach Him, “If thou be the Son of God, command these stones that they be made bread.”
How surely has Satan assaulted the faith of every child of God with this same “if?” only varying his demand according to the besetting weakness or pressing necessity of the subject, as thus: “If I were a child of God, would I not delight in his law day and night, and live in the light of his countenance? If I were born of God, would He permit such poverty, and hardships, and calamities to attend me? If a child of God, would I live in so much darkness and doubt, and be so vile and sinful? In short, if I am a Christian, would I do and be so and so? If a Christian, could I be and do so and so?” While to others— more in accordance with the above—under extreme pressure, is suggested that, if a child of God, who has all power and the right to draw from his own store without leave or loss to man, then why not cause the laws of nature to deviate and yield to his necessity and relief? As a stone turned to bread, is God using his own power and prerogative and means for his own child?
I know some brethren who seem to think the laws of nature in general are very favorable to them; indeed, that God shows special partiality to them in all natural things, and thus forestalls and prevents all calamities—all hard places in nature to them. True, God does favor his chosen even above nature in the things of nature; but not by changing the laws, but their operative effect, either as yielding more abundant good of the usual kind or as empowered by his unseen hand with special power and potency beyond. For instance: to the obedient, liberal giver of their worldly goods as commanded, is the promise that their seed sown shall yield a more abundant increase—1 Cor. ix. 10. And the ravens that carried food to Elijah were not changed, nor their habits; it was their nature to seek and store food, but the nature and special deposit of that food was of God, to feed Elijah. Man would call this accident or chance; we know it God’s special providence.
But mind you, these special favors and blessings are for the obedient and faithful, and not such as tempt God, or would live by these manifestations, or the doctrine of “election and predestination” alone, to the neglect of an every day godly walk and conversation, which has more weight than any mere belief; no, not to these, nor such as feel worthy and merit and look for them. Another great advantage the Christian has—while God does not remove nor lessen the obstacle or temptation, He does give grace sufficient to surmount, to overcome. So, in the example before us, God did not remove or lessen the hunger, but gave grace, to overcome the temptation to make bread of stones. Jesus would not do anything for himself that you cannot do for yourself, though he could have made bread as easily as increase the loaves and fishes. And there is nothing more urgent or distressing than hunger. Thus, Jesus withstood not only as our great Exampler, but also as a Teacher and Preacher, whose mission is now before him, and who must not only live by every word, or obey every law of God, but also must teach the same with that authority that personal experience alone gives; and hence replied, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.”
The devil then carried him into an exceeding high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory thereof, in a moment of time, and said, “All these will I give thee if thou wilt fall down and worship me.”
This temptation also, in degree, is common to the child of God. Ah here is riches and glory, and fame and pleasure! how many of the Lord’s dear children have looked and longed and staggered and fallen down and worshiped Satan and made shipwrecks of faith and all spiritual good and joy for this life? What Christian has not been upon some high mountain of imagination and beheld the glory and thirsted for the pleasure of possession of worldly wealth? And never one but what the devil was there—indeed, unawares, had led them there—to promise to supply, if they would fall down and worship him. How many in business has he told, “If you will equivocate and lie a little here and cheat and defraud a little there, and not be so conscientious and trusting in God, I will give you to reap a rich reward in money?” No doubt but he is bold enough to tell some they ought to lie and cheat and defraud and deceive in common with others of like business occupation, in self defense, and that if there is any harm in it, the guilt is with those who originated the custom. And he will tell you that people expect you to do so, and that otherwise you will make nothing. But, dear children of God, consider the Apostle of your profession:
God gives no such latitude; it is a falling down, and a falling down to worship Satan. Jesus gave the only right and safe answer, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” Then Jesus was carried to the holy city and on the pinnacle of the temple, and the devil said, “If thou be the Son of God cast thyself down, for it is written he shall give his angels charge concerning thee, lest at any time thou clash thy foot against a stone:
Herein, also, is every child of God tempted, and some, I think, cast themselves down before fully understanding the nature, degree and origin of the temptation. Let all know that any suggestion corresponding to the above is of the devil. To how many is this suggestion, “If I am a child of God, I am saved; and if saved, saved eternally, however I may sin—however I may cast myself down in the filth and scum of the earth, and for time become a castaway by living, after the flesh?” And such, like Satan, can quote Scripture when occasion requires, and instead of “he will give his angel charge, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone,” he will quote some strong point in the doctrine of the “final preservation of the saints.” But I quote “His servants ye are whom ye yield yourself servants to obey.” If such are saved, it will be to burn their works and save them “yet as by fire.”
Some others, I think, have listened to this suggestion till it has become a point of doctrine that if born of the Spirit they need make no precautionary measures to prolong or preserve life, health or property, but the idea is that God will look after these things. Also, concerning the church and their relative duty, that if the church of God, they need not try to upbuild it, or pray for more laborers in the vineyard, or revivals, or conversions, or yet to encourage our wish with a hope to be baptized, or teach their children the word, faith or reverence of God, or even constrain them to go to their meetings, etc., as all this is God’s work for a “set time.” And such generally live on the bread of predestination alone. All this, and much more; is to fall from the pinnacle of the temple, or that exalted position of active faith that works by love and purifies the heart to the daily honor of God; that position of perfection and beauty highest in the living temple and nearest God on earth, and this one “falls down” indeed to lose it.
In conclusion, whenever a suggestion comes with that prefix “if,” indicating or implying that besetting doubt of divine sonship, always remember Jesus as once beset with the same “if;” also, his extreme ease and condition in that terrible wilderness—yours can never be so bad—pray for grace to follow his example, and be not faithless but believing.
Affectionately, R. ANNA PHILLIPS
Submitted by Elder David Montgomery
|Salvation by Grace Alone|