The way of eternal life
Ronald D. Dennis, trans. and ed., Defending the Faith: Early Welsh Missionary Publications (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2003).
D11 DAVIS, John. Ffordd y bywyd tragywyddol, a ddarlunir yn yr ysgrythyrau santaidd. (The way of eternal life, which is portrayed in the holy scriptures.) Merthyr Tydfil: Printed and for sale by J. Davis, Georgetown, 1850.
12 pp. 17 cm. Welsh Mormon Writings 38.
John 5:39–40 is cited on the title page of this pamphlet: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and that are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” Numerous other scriptures are quoted throughout the text as John Davis presents his definition of the phrase eternal life. He ends his discussion with John 17:3: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.”
AS PORTRAYED IN THE
“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.”—CHRIST.
BY JOHN DAVIS, MERTHYR.
PRINTED AND FOR SALE BY J. DAVIS, GEORGETOWN;
FOR SALE ALSO
By the Saints in general, and many Booksellers,
throughout the South and the North.
There is nothing more important than eternal life. The entire human race is searching for it in some way or another. The pagan searches for it as faithfully and as honestly as does the Christian; and the one supposes he can have it as well as does the other. To obtain eternal life women are burned with the dead bodies of their husbands, and they throw their children in the Ganges and under the wheels of the Juggernaut; and to obtain the same thing, the Welsh Christians worry about the different religions in the churches and the chapels. All agree that eternal life can be had; but they do not agree about what it is, or about the way it can be obtained. Each one determines that he can have it in his own way. The pagan is just as determined and faithful as is the Chrisian; the one, as well as the other, upon dying, testifies of their hope for a better world. The pagan is martyred for his belief as readily as is the Christian, if not more so; both are prepared to seal their testimony with their blood. If making great sacrifices, sealing one’s testimony with one’s blood, dying peacefully, &c., are the signs that a man is on the way to eternal life, the pagan is on just as good a road as is the Christian. While one believes that the Bible is the way, the other believes that some other book is. Things like these lead multitudes to decide that eternal life is only some old wives’ tale, and that no one knows anything about it. But, yet, since this last class does not know what eternal life is, they ought to be slow to condemn others, for others have as much knowledge as they. Perhaps the pagan or the Christian, in their faithfulness, strike their foot at the door of life; while there is no hope for them, because of their unbelief.
Indeed, inasmuch as the pagan is far away, while we live in the “garden of Christianity,” it is fitting to search how much Christians know about their eternal life, leaving the pagan in peace. The eternal life of the Christians is decided in the Bible, that which they say is an infallible book. They believe that only in the Old and the New Testaments is eternal life to be had, and there is no use for anyone to inquire about it in any other place. People in the time of Jesus Christ were precisely of the same opinion, with this difference; namely that the Christians believed that eternal life was in the two Testaments, while the others believed that it could be obtained only in the Old Testament. But we doubt such an opinion, because it is contradictory to their own Bible. Jesus Christ said the following to the early believers:—”Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to ME, that YE MIGHT HAVE life,” (John v, 39, 40). Those people thought, as do the Christians now, that eternal life was to be had in the scriptures; but Christ shows that it is in HIM that eternal life is to be obtained, and not in any other place. It is true that the scriptures testify of Jesus Christ, but they testify that it is in Him, and not in them, that eternal life is obtained. There can be no life in paper and ink; but such can testify where life is to be obtained; and that is all that the scriptures do. The scriptures are very beneficial, then, not to give eternal life themselves, but to show where one can obtain it. Well, “search the scriptures,” dear Christians; but do not think that eternal life is obtained in the scriptures: the scriptures testify of the way to obtain it, namely by coming to Jesus Christ in the manner the scriptures describe. “Searching the scriptures” is good, but going to Christ, so that we might have life, is far better.
But before going to Jesus Christ to inquire about eternal life, it would be well to “search the scriptures,” in order to find out what that life is. The scriptures, especially the New Testament, testify clearly about it; and, therefore, “search the scriptures.” In John xvii, 3, it says,—”And this is life eternal, that they might KNOW thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Now, it is seen that knowing God and his Son Jesus Christ is eternal life, and nothing else. He who knew best is the one who spoke the words, and it is logical that they are true. It will not do to allow the opinions of men to be given higher consideration than a specific utterance of Jesus Christ: “This is life eternal,” said he, “namely that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” By searching the scriptures further, we see in Matt. xi, 27, that “neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” If one can know the Son, he will come to know the Father also; for the Son promises to reveal him. Consequently, there is no reason for anyone to fear that he cannot have eternal life, for it is just a matter of having knowledge of Jesus Christ.
At this point, having obtained the scriptures to testify that knowing the Father and the Son is eternal life, and that one can know the Father through the Son, we can search the scriptures next, to find out what is meant by KNOWING the Father or the Son. In Matt. xvi, 15—19, Jesus Christ asks his disciples, after hearing that the people were saying that he was John the Baptist, Elias, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets, “But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Now, we see that Peter knew without a doubt, that Christ was the Son of the Living God; but it was not in the common way that Peter came to know Christ, rather through a revelation from his Father. Everyone knew that he was “the carpenter’s son,” for flesh and blood (or men) could reveal that; but no one could know that He was the Son of the Living God, without a clear revelation from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” On this rock of revelation Christ proceeded to build the church. He did not dare to build it on any other foundation. This was the “foundation of apostles and prophets,” and their foundation was knowledge and revelation.
Well, says someone, if knowing Christ, in the same way as did Peter, is eternal life, how can anyone in this age know him, since he is in heaven? It is true that it is said that knowing is life eternal, but how is it possible for anyone to know Jesus Christ in that manner, in this age, when God does not speak from the heavens to anyone? But let such remember that the Holy Ghost, or the other Comforter, had not been sent to the world at that time. The work of the Holy Ghost was to testify of Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of the Living God (John xv and the xvi); and in 1 Cor. xii, 3, it says, “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord [or that he is the Son of the Living God], but by the Holy Ghost.” It is that Spirit that co-testifies with the spirits of the disciples of Christ, that they are the children of God, and joint-heirs with his Son. It is He who explains the depths of the things of God, and indicates the mind of the Father and the Son. There is a way, then, to know that Christ is the Lord, by the Holy Ghost, without any reason for God himself to speak from heaven. The other Comforter does that for him.
Thus, we see that the scriptures testify that knowing Christ is the Son of God is life eternal, and that being able to know Christ through the Holy Ghost is scriptural. Believing in Christ is not enough, rather one must know him through the other Comforter. That is the witness of the scriptures. When someone receives the Holy Ghost, he has proof that it is Christ who sends him, and that he is the Lord; then, according to the scriptures, a man is on the way to eternal life.
Now, since we have found the furthest end of the way to eternal life, according to the description of the scriptures, we can continue to search further, so that in the end we can also find the beginning of this narrow, but blessed way. We have come so far along as to know that it is the Holy Ghost who reveals Jesus Christ and his Father; and next we can search the scriptures to learn what is the Holy Ghost, and whether one can receive him now or not; and if so, how. The Holy Ghost is something that can come from heaven to the earth, and fill persons with its presence and with that which composes it. (Acts ii, 4). The Spirit is an element for baptizing, as well as with water (chap. i, 5). Water is not similar to the earth or to the air, but nevertheless the three are substances; and if the Spirit is different from anything we know about, that is no proof that the Holy Ghost is not substance. How can nothing fill a void? only a substance can fill it. If nothing of substance went into the temples of the disciples on the day of Pentecost, how can Luke say that they were “filled?” Also, if the Holy Ghost is not substance how is God going to pour it on every flesh, in the last days? and how could anyone know that he received it? How did John know, on the isle of Patmos, that he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day,” if something of substance was not surrounding him? It is logical, then, that the Spirit is something of substance, about whose presence one can know. Now, again, what is the Holy Ghost with respect to his office and his work? We have the scriptures to provide the answer. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John xvi, 13). Furthermore, “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom;” and to another the word of knowledge, faith, the gifts of healing, the working of miracles, prophecy, &c. (1 Cor. xii, 7—10.) “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will,” (verse 11). That is the office and work of the Holy Ghost; and if the Spirit does not do those things now, how much better is anyone for receiving it?
The next topic is, is there a promise in the scriptures that one can receive the Holy Ghost in this age? or, is there a promise that men can receive their “baptism of the Holy Ghost,” or their “being born of the Spirit,” in this age? If there is a way, it is worth searching the scriptures to grasp hold of it; because without receiving the Spirit, one cannot know the Father and the Son; and without knowing them, one cannot obtain eternal life. Peter proves (in Acts ii, 38, 39), that the promise extends to this age; he says, “and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; for the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” We see by this that the promise of receiving the same Spirit that was received on the day of Pentecost is to all that are afar off, for the purpose of baptizing all through the same Spirit into one body (1 Cor. xii, 13), according to the promise of John and Christ in Matt. iii, 11; and Acts i, 5. If baptizing and being born of the water is to continue the same way to save man, it is necessary that baptizing and being born of the Spirit is to continue the same way also; and, consequently, men must receive the Spirit in the same way now as in the primitive time; otherwise, they cannot enter into the kingdom of God. It is “one Spirit,” and he, like God, is unchangeable.
Well, then, if there is a promise in the scriptures of having the Holy Ghost in these days, it is also likely that they will show the way to receive it; and the way to receive it is the way to receive eternal life. Let us search the scriptures, then; and we shall see in Acts viii, 14—19, these phrases:—”Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (for as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.” Again, in Acts xix, 6, it says, “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.” We see that Simon knew perfectly well that it was by the laying on of the hands of the apostles the Spirit is received, and no one dares to lay on hands without the “authority” in their possession, which cannot be possessed for money, because it is a gift of God. Now, it is the scriptures that testify of these things; and if the Christians of this country are consistent with themselves, they ought to believe their Bible, anyway. If someone says in this place that there was no one except for the apostles who laid on hands in the early times, let such a person read the account (in Acts ix, 17) about Ananias when he laid his hands on Saul, so that he would be filled with the Holy Ghost. No one considers Ananias an apostle; and thus it is logical that the power of the elders is the same way; otherwise, it would be necessary for an apostle to be in every branch of the church, in order to lay hands on those who have been baptized. There was nothing in the hands of the apostles and the elders that differed from the hands of other men, only that they held the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and possessed the authority to let in and cast out. It is they who stand at the strait gate to receive everyone into the strait way that leads to eternal life. The apostles did not lay their hands on anyone to receive the Holy Ghost, if they had not been baptized before that, as we can see by searching the scriptures. One must be born of the water before being born of the Spirit, unless God makes an exception, as he did for the family of Cornelius, to clear away the Jews’ prejudice about them. An exception is never to be taken as the rule. The rule is this, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God;” namely being baptized with water first, and afterwards with the Holy Ghost and with fire.
By now, by searching the scriptures, we have gone so far back along the way of eternal life that we have come to the first strait gate, namely the baptism of water, which leads to the second, and forward along the narrow way, namely the way of life. There are also officers in authority at this gate, like the other, and they have keys to authorize passage. This gate that pertains to the kingdom is the most contemptuous in the sight of men, and few there be that choose to enter. In this one, being born of water takes place, which prepares one to be born of the Spirit. Jesus Christ was at this gate when he was in the river with John, who was the porter; for it is written, “To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice.” This gate frees all from their sins; for Peter says, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts ii, 38). Again, Ananias says to Saul, “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts xxii, 16); but “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,” by doing his will. “The baptism of repentance, for the remission of sins” is the only baptism God ordained; and since repentance is inseparably connected with baptism, infants cannot be baptized, because they cannot repent, since they have not sinned against anyone. There is “one baptism,” and that must be administered by one who knows that he is a lawful servant of God, and has been called, as was Aaron. Immersion is no more a baptism than sprinkling, if the one who performs it does not possess authority; and we see, by searching the scriptures, that Paul baptized the twelve in Ephesus, the second time, because their first baptism had not been performed by an ordained servant. (See Acts xix, 1—7). Had they been baptized by John, or some other authorized servant, they would not have been ignorant about the Holy Ghost; for neither John, nor any other of the servants of God, ever forgot to tell everyone about it. Telling about it was the chief task for all of them; for without it no one can be saved. (Matthew iii, 11). It is not reasonable to think that those twelve were not baptized properly with respect to the form; therefore, it must have been the authority that was missing. God has never sent one of his servants to baptize for “being born of the water,” without commanding him to proclaim also concerning “being born of the Spirit.” If anyone wishes to search further about this topic, let him read our treatise on Baptism. Now, we have shown, briefly, the strait gate that goes from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light; and this must be the one that is the beginning of the way to eternal life.
But before anyone can be baptized, or be born of the water, it is required that there must be in him some qualification for that; otherwise, everyone could go in. In the kingdom of darkness all are sinners rebelling against God, for not having obeyed him; but as for little children, we say, as did Jesus Christ, “Of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus did not command that they be baptized, rather he left the example of blessing them; and all who believe the scriptures, and search them, should follow him in everything. Well, then, the scriptures show that every man must repent before he can be baptized. “Repent,” says John, “and bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance;” “and they were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matt. iii, 1—8). “Repent,” is also what Peter said on the day of Pentecost; and as many as “gladly received his word were baptized.” Repentance is not moan ing and weeping, but a determination to leave that which is bad, and walk in a “newness of life.” Neither is a lot of time required to repent; for we have the account of three thousand who repented and were baptized in a few hours on the day of Pentecost. Knowing the way to repent is greatly advantageous to go in through the strait gate properly, so as to achieve eternal life.
But before anyone can repent, it is necessary for him to believe first, as the scriptures testify. It is said about the three thousand who were baptized on the day of Pentecost, “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent,” &c. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Everyone who is of age and of sound mind has the ability to believe. It is not the Holy Ghost that causes anyone to believe; otherwise, all the disciples of Christ would have received the Spirit before the day of Pentecost. The Spirit is given after being born of water, and not any time before that.
But before anyone can believe, it is necessary to have a preacher; for the scriptures say, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? * * So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. x, 14—17.) We see from this that one must hear from a preacher before believing, and the preacher must be sent and have the authority, and the divine treasure, namely the gospel, in his “earthen vessel;” otherwise, no one can be judged for not believing. Just because a preacher has read the commission of the twelve apostles, and has learned languages, &c., in the university, is not proof that he has been sent by God. If that commission belongs to him, then he should remain in Jerusalem, as did the apostles, “until he be endued with power from on high.” (Luke xxiv, 49.) No one is worthy to go out into the world, any more than were the apostles, with first receiving of that power, so that he may be a WITNESS unto God unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts i, 8.) For “this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matt. xxiv, 14.) Thus, no preacher can preach for a witness, unless he himself is a witness; and no one can be a witness, without possessing knowledge and assurance; “for our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.” (1 Thes. i, 5.) God does not send servants to speak their own opinion and mind, rather to speak his opinion and his mind; or in other words, to preach for a witness.
So that men will not be deceived by false preachers, they ought to search the scriptures; and there they can see how to recognize the true preacher. The servant who has been sent always preaches the first principles, namely those which start people in Christ; such as, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost,” &c.; and then teach them to “keep all things.” “But though we,” says Paul, “or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Gal. i, 8.) A sign of false teachers is that they teach otherwise, saying that this thing or the other thing is not needed in this enlightened age, and that it is great presumption for anyone to say that he knows that he is sent of God, and that the signs are to follow the believers, &c.; and the sign of true teachers is that they say that Jesus Christ and all his apostles are true, and that one should not preach anything other than that which they preached. Well now, may our readers search the scriptures, to see if things are so; and if they do, may they come unto Jesus Christ, that they may have life, life in the way the scriptures describe.
Now, we have searched through the scriptures, and have seen that the Christians of this country know very little about the eternal life that they think is in their Bible. We have shown that such a life is not to be obtained in the scriptures, and that they merely testify of the One who can give eternal life. This life and also the gate of being born again have been portrayed by us in the language of the scriptures; we have also noted in detail the way to achieve them, so that all can comprehend them, by going to them in a believing and repentant manner under the guidance of a servant sent from God, namely one of the Latter-day Saints. Thousands have done so in this age, and have come to a knowledge of the truth.
The preachers of the Saints are sent by God, and they do not “preach any other gospel:” therefore, may all believe, repent, and be baptized for the remission of sins, so that they can receive the Holy Ghost and know the Lord Jesus, and so that he will reveal his Father to them; for “this is life eternal, that they might KNOW thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
The way of life is a narrow path,
A path contrary to the paths of the world;
Strait is the gate that opens to it—
A watery grave is the requirement for all.
Sin is washed away by the water,
By the Spirit we are made children,
And by traveling on the path of life
We shall overcome all carnal desire.
By the Spirit one comes to know
God and the Lord Jesus Christ,
For this is life eternal
That cheers even the saddest.
Who elects to receive life?
Let him come to Christ to obtain it by faith:
Who wishes to remain in slavery,
While he is able to be free?