Saturday, January 7, 2017

Salvation by Grace a Bible Doctrine - Elder James Oliphant

When I first joined the church I found I was not able to understand the Scriptures. I believe that all men are born with bias to conditionalism. This was "the first liquor put in the pot" and "the odor of it is often hard to get entirely rid of." It was so with me. "Choose this day whom ye will serve." (Joshua 25:15) It was some time before I saw that this text could be harmonized with the views we hold. Also "Work out your own salvation." (Philippians 2:12) I applied this to all men and it was hard for me to see that this text did not support the conditional theory. "Whosoever will" (Mark 8:34) was hard for me to see. I studied hard and things came right to me. I believe that the idea that there are two salvations helped me much to harmonize the Scriptures. "Give diligence to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you shall never fall." (II Peter 1:10) When I saw that these words applied to the children of God and not to the world it was all plain to me. I saw how it agrees with the doctrine of salvation by grace. "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he had offered his son Isaac upon the altar?" (James 2:21) Had Abraham done this while unconverted it would teach different to what it does. "We see how then that a man is justified by works and not by faith only." (James 2:24) In some sense the people of God are justified by works. It took me some time to fully get this distinction but when I did get it, it served as a key to many texts.

As difficult a text as any to me was first Peter 1:22, "Seeing you have purified your hearts and obeying the truth." Elder L. Potter explained to me. He said the word "through the Spirit" showed that they had the spirit and were prepared by it to obey. He also said the 23rd verse showed that they were already born again. This opened it all up to me. Sinners dead in sin never purify their souls in obeying the truth. No person does so before he is born again. These difficulties were all removed from my mind and I came to believe that there is no text that makes the new birth depend on conditions. It occurred to me that there is no place where being born again is taught as a duty. When this truth dawned on me, it was much help. I read every text I could find concerning the new birth and it is never taught as a duty it is never commanded. I feel sure no one was ever commanded to be born again. The need of it is taught but not as a duty. Potter regarded this as an important truth and powerful argument in support of our doctrine.

I cherished the idea that it would be unjust not to give all a chance to be saved. This thought was long in my way but I came to see it different. I reasoned that if it would be unjust to damn a man without a chance to be saved, the Lord would not do it so on this theory. And so a chance to be saved would be a misfortune. No nation feels bound to provide a chance for its criminals to escape. God's procedure in this agrees with that of the wisest and best government of Earth.

I sought to know whether a conditional or unconditional would most suit my own case. From all that I know of myself, I need an unconditional plan of salvation. It agrees with the justice of God. I have many friends that reject what I believe and cannot agree with it but I now expect to die believing it, if I die in my right mind.

Messenger of Peace - December 1916

Special thanks to Elder David Montgomery for his labors in compiling the excellent two volume collection of Oliphant's writings.

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