Dear Brother Beebe; This morning I awoke very early, and with much interest the enquiry rushed into my mind, Why do you pretend to render service to God; and why do you not get on smoothly and enjoy yourself in your devotions, like many other professors of religion you see? Then followed a train of reflection which brought me to conclude that notwithstanding there are so many different denominations in the world, with their different notions and forms of devotion, all professing to worship God, yet there are but two motives, one fleshly and selfish, and the other spiritual, heavenly and divine. These were manifested in the two sons of Adam, Cain and Abel. Cain was the elder brother, and a tiller of the ground, and was first to make his offering to God, of the first fruits of the ground, which was the best he could do. Abel was younger, and a keeper of sheep, and was last in making his offering, “of the firstling of his flock and of the fat thereof.” These two brothers and their offerings plainly represent the church of Christ and the church of anti-christ, and also the two natures or motives found in every believer in Jesus Christ. One born of the flesh, of the earth; the other born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God, of incorruptible seed, by the word of God which liveth and abideth forever. Cain represents anti-christian movements; first, in that he was foremost to make his offering; second, in that his offering was the production of the earth, and of his own industry; third, in that his works were without faith in God, or in Jesus Christ, and were moved by selfish or fleshly motives, and of course claimed all the glory and benefit to himself; and lastly, was greatly offended because his offering was rejected, and his brother’s respected. See the same disposition now manifested by the devotees of anti-christ. They are eldest in manifestation, foremost in their devotions, industrious in the use of means, men, money and education, according to human science, confiding in them apparently to accomplish the evangelization and salvation of the world, and by their works proving that they have no confidence in God, his word, or his promises, but boast of what they have done, and are doing for God; glorying in their shame, instead of glorying in the Lord. Again; Cain hated God in his divine sovereignty, and though his brother had done him no harm, yet because God had respect to Abel’s offering, Cain in anger rose up and slew his brother. Even so the church of anti-christ [or such as are actuated by selfish motives] manifest hatred to God and his truth, by persecuting, misrepresenting, and trying to destroy the humble followers of Jesus Christ, who have done them no harm, and would not if they could. Abel’s offering was made last, of the firstling of his flock and of the fat thereof, and being moved by faith he did not glory in himself, nor yet in his offering, but in the Lord, to whom he was spiritually devoted. Hence his offering was acceptable, and well pleasing to God. Even so the true worshippers of God seem far behind in their devotions, and when they have discharged their duty in obedience to God’s revealed word, see so much imperfection in themselves and in their devotions, that they cannot glory in them; but they do glory in the Lord and the truth of his word, and have no disposition to persecute or injure such as do not agree with them religiously; yet they dare not go with, nor encourage them in devotions contrary to God’s word, and in days past have laid down their lives rather than denounce the faith or form of doctrine in which they were established.
These opposite motives are strikingly illustrated in the case of Isaac and Ishmael. The latter was the eldest, and was born after the flesh of Hagar, Sarah’s bondmaid. Isaac was younger, and was by promise born of Sarah, and was the legitimate son and heir of Abraham. As then the son of the bond woman mocked, and was filled with prejudice and hatred to Isaac, even so the church of anti-christ, actuated from fleshly, selfish motives, hates and persecutes those who give evidences that they are the children of God, and are Christ’s, Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Again, in the case of Jacob and Esau the same thing is manifested. Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him; and he said in his heart, “The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.” These were twin brothers. Esau was born first, red all over, like a hairy garment; representing desperation. Jacob was born last, with his hand taking hold of Esau’s heel; representing what is written concerning the fleshly and spiritual families. I Cor.15:46; “Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterwards that which is spiritual.” Notice how God carried out his purpose. Notwithstanding the inclination of Isaac their father towards Esau whom he loved because he did eat of his venison, for he was a cunning hunter, a man of the field, representing the cunning craftiness of the teachers of anti-christ, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and the broad field [the world] in which they operate. But Rebekah loved Jacob, who was a “plain man, dwelling in tents;” representing lowliness of mind, which so much adorns the followers of Christ. Isaac willed to bless, Esau who ran to make ready pottage for his father, but God designed differently, and moved the mother and Jacob to make everything ready; not only the pottage, but the hairy skins for his hands, and the smooth of his neck, with Esau’s goodly raiment, so that Jacob received the blessing before Esau returned; and truly the last was first, and the first was last, and the elder was made to serve the younger. “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” Therefore the proclamation of gospel truth is called the preaching of the CROSS, which is to them that perish foolishness, but to them who are saved it is the power of God. Surely, Jacob represents the whole church of God, loved in Jesus Christ with an everlasting love, redeemed by his blood, and therefore his people are personally quickened and called with a holy calling, and drawn with loving-kindness. While Esau represents those who glory in their shame, and perish in their sins, whereunto they also were appointed; and mortals dare not say there is unrighteousness with God. Before these twin brothers were born, or had done good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth, it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” Rom.9:11-13. And before they were born, they were spoken of as two nations, and two manner of people, one stronger than the other. Gen.25:23. The church of Christ and anti-christ, spoken of as the flesh and the spirit, lusting one against the other, so that the saints, collectively or individually, cannot do the things which they would. Gal.5:17. The believer in Jesus Christ has the same soul and body after he becomes a recipient of grace that he had before, and both make up or compose what is called the carnal mind, or old man, not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be, and with these he cannot learn, understand, nor love things which are spiritual, heavenly and divine. But being born again, not of blood, nor of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God, of incorruptible seed, by the word of God which liveth and abideth forever. This is called the new man, the mind of Christ, or Christ in you the hope of glory. With this mind he learns, understands and loves God, and things are heavenly and divine. This spiritual mind in all his people is one and the same spirit, and is called the soul of his turtle dove. Ps.74:19. This is the younger in manifestation, while the soul or man in which it dwells is the elder, and shall serve the younger. The Spirit of Christ in the believer is like leaven, which in its workings leavens the whole lump, and all its benefits will not be realized by sinners saved by grace, until they are finally raised in the likeness of Jesus. Some brethren seem to contend that the subject of a spiritual birth, in the soul he had before, is made holy and free from sin. If this were so, surely our thoughts and actions would be holy and without sin; for the body without the soul would be inactive and dead. Man while he lives is a living soul; but when that vital principle leaves, the body is a lifeless lump of clay. And I fully agree with Job in the following language: “Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my soul; I would despise my life.” Job 9:21. The great change affected by the spiritual birth is not remodeling soul or body, but the implanting of a spiritual, heavenly mind, which in its powerful workings subdues, controls and keeps under, to a greater or less extent, the evil propensities of fallen sinners, while some of its fruits are love to God and his people, hatred to sin, &c., so that the subject of grace does worship God in the spirit, rejoices in Christ Jesus, and has no confidence in the flesh.
Brother Beebe, since writing the foregoing, I noticed a communication in the “Signs” of March 15th, present volume [Vol.39, 1871,] over the signature of brother John A. Thompson, of Lebanon, Ohio, not so much finding fault, but rather enquiring of Elder T.P. Dudley about some remarks he had written on the subject of the christian warfare, with your kind and cautious advice given in your editorial; and I have withheld this, fearing it might get up some unpleasant feelings, or excite more investigation and discussion on the subject; but as they are the views I entertain on the subject, I have concluded to send them on, and they are at your disposal, requesting your readers to examine them closely, and if they are contrary to sound scripture reasoning, throw them aside, and charge it to my weakness, or ignorance on the subject. Anyway, I feel that I have abundant reason every day to mourn over my own carnality in soul and body. I am sure that if my soul, spirit, or life, should leave the body, it would be a life-less, inactive, thoughtless lump of clay, as much so as Adam was before God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, which constituted him a living soul. But while I mourn over my depravity and carnality, I do rejoice in Christ Jesus, in whom I hope for everything of a heavenly and divine character; and while I remain in this world of sin and sorrow, I hope that I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Your brother in tribulation, and, I hope, in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ,
Near Lexington Georgia, Feb.,24th, 1871.