Dear Brother Beebe; Being confined at home by inclement weather, and having no appointment this fifth Sunday to call me away, I feel inclined to write in connection with the following text, Eccl.12:13. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter; fear God and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.”
Not many days since, my attention was called more particularly to this subject, from listening to a funeral sermon by a Methodist minister, in which he eulogized our departed neighbor to the highest degree, for keeping the commandments of God in the different relations of life, as the head of a family, as a neighbor and citizen, a regular attendant at church, and always ready to pay his quota in support of the ministry and other church expenses, and therefore his departed spirit was in heaven; and throughout his discourse he urged the importance of keeping God’s commandments, as a preparation for death and to meet God in peace. What a strange conclusion, that a creature, a servant, or even a son, could inherit the estate of his father, master, or Creator, by keeping his commandments. Adam never inherited the good things of this world by fearing God and keeping his commandments, for they were all created and given to him, and by disobedience he forfeited every claim to them, and to his life, and he never had any promise of or claim to heavenly and eternal blessings. By his disobedience sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned; and all must readily perceive that since that time none can be justified by rendering obedience to that violated law. The children of Israel did not inherit the land of Canaan by fearing God and keeping his commandments, for God gave it to them by promise made to Abraham. Gen.12:7. After they entered that fertile country they enjoyed its blessings by obedience to God’s law, and by disobedience brought his judgments upon them; both of which [blessings & curses] were confined to this life, and had nothing to do with spiritual and heavenly blessings. When they feared God and kept his commandments, it was well with them, and they ate the fruit of their doings; but when they disobeyed God’s law, it was ill with them; for the reward of their hands was given them. As they received the law immediately from God, through Moses, written upon tables of stone, even so the children of the new covenant or gospel kingdom received the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus immediately from God, in their personal experience, written not with ink, nor on tables of stone, but upon the fleshly tables of the heart, with the Spirit of the living God. II Cor.3:3. As the happiness enjoyed by national Israel in obedience to God’s law, and sufferings for disobedience, all belonged to this life, even so the happiness of the children of God in obedience to the New Testament rule, and chastisement for disobedience, all belongs to the time they remain in this wicked world, and have nothing to do with securing to, or depriving them of the inheritance of all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Eph.1:3-6, 11. “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” Again, 18th verse, “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.” Here we are taught that the saints had obtained an inheritance in Christ Jesus according to God’s purpose and predestination, and that Jesus had an inheritance in the saints; so that the inheritance in both cases must have been upon the unchangeable principle of eternal relationship in which his people stood to God in Christ Jesus in the covenant of redemption, and in oneness of eternal life freely bestowed upon them independent of duties or doings on their part; because they belong to Jesus. First, as a gift or heritage from his Father. Secondly, they are his by redemption. And thirdly, they are his by conquest. Then who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. The saints when manifestly born of God realize in their own experience an earnest or foretaste of this never failing inheritance, being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth forever. They are no more under the law, or ministration of condemnation, but under grace, or the ministration of life and peace; delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, and can no more come into condemnation, because they have passed from death unto life. The law of sin and death can no more rise up again in its claims against them, than it could again require the humiliation, sufferings and death of Jesus, their head and representative. Yet, the saints are not without law, but are under law to Christ. The fruit of the Spirit in them is love, connected with the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom. A good understanding have all they that do his commandments. Ps.111:10. Jesus told his disciples in the following language, Luke 17:10, “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all these things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do.” Just so it is with all his children to this day, no matter what gifts he bestows upon them, and what ability to exercise them, as commanded in the New Testament, after all they must say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment.” I John 4:18. The fear that hath torment, all fallen beings have. Adam said, “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid; because I was naked, and I hid myself.” Gen.3:10. This fear is connected with hatred to God, his word and ways, and inclines its subjects to go from God, and never come and appear before him, if it could be prevented. The fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom, none have until born of the Spirit. And yet it is due to God that all his creatures fear him and keep his commandments; and nowhere are we told to fear the devil, nor authorized to serve him. It is not only the duty, but to the best interests of all men, as far as possible, to live morally right. It is the duty of all to repent or turn from outbreaking sins, and from that of worshiping idols. And yet if all that was done to the greatest extent, it would perform no part in preparing them for, nor entitling them to heavenly blessings. Hence poor depraved mortals feel in their rebellious hearts to say, “What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? And what profit should we have if we pray unto him?” Job 21:14. These things being incontrovertibly true, how vain to believe or teach salvation from sin, and justification and peace with God, by works, or by poor helpless, depraved mortals fearing God and keeping his commandments, when, if this could be done to the letter and in spirit, it never could prepare them for, nor give them a right to heaven; for except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.
I have written more than I intended, and must close by saying to the readers of the Signs of the Times: Dear brethren and friends, how stands the case with us? Have we been taught of God to know our lost and helpless condition, and have we in our experience been brought to hope in his pardoning mercy through our Lord Jesus Christ? Are we made daily to mourn over our depravity, weakness, darkness and ignorance in divine things? Are we of that class who are poor and afflicted, unpopular, and despised by popular religionists of the present age? Are we truly the circumcision which worship God in the spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh? If so, who has made us to differ from another? And what have we that we have not received? Let us not be high-minded, but fear. Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall – not under the law and its curse, but under reproach, by disgracing ourselves and the profession we have made. The most popular doctrine of the age is salvation by works, and by the use of means. But the true doctrine is salvation by grace, independent of works, or mortals, or of the use of means. And let it be with me as it may, I do rejoice in such truths as the following: “It is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed.” Rom.4:16; Isa.43:5,6. “Fear not, for I am with thee. I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west. I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” When Jehovah says he will do this, how presumptuous in mortals to say it may not be so, and cannot be so, unless we use the means. Again, “The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing,” &c. Zech.4:6. “It is not by might, nor by power, [of men, angels or means,] but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” So then, it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. I also rejoice that his people are kept by his almighty power through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time. Let us be not weary in well doing, for in due time we shall reap, if we faint not.
Your unworthy brother in tribulation,
Near Lexington Georgia, Jan.22nd, 1871.