Brother Beebe; Being confined at home today by reason of the snow and heavy rains for two or three days past, I feel impressed to write in connection with the following words: “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things; but one thing is needful, and Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:40,41.
The sisters above named had one brother, Lazarus, making up a small family, which Jesus often visited, where he was kindly received, and on the occasion referred to in the text it seems that Martha was much interested to provide for the temporal comfort of the Savior, and having so much to do, and feeling, no doubt, that her sister Mary was equally interested, was moved in feelings to see her sister so carelessly sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to what he was saying, instead of helping her make the necessary preparations for the occasion, and in the heat of feelings, no doubt, spake to the Savior as follows; “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.” These sisters, I have no doubt, were both subjects of saving grace; not because they first made choice of it, as the good part, but because they were subjects of God’s choice, he having freely bestowed his grace in their salvation. Then, of course, that was not that good part which Mary had chosen, but it must have been divine instruction Mary chose to receive from him who was able and willing to give. These sisters may, to a greater or less extent, represent the saints in pilgrimage here on earth, where they in their flesh bear relation to this world, and are of the earth, earthy; and in their spirit, relation to the kingdom of heaven, or to God their heavenly Father. Referring to this last relation, Jesus said to his disciples, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” John 15:19. Again, John 17:16, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Of the other relation, [both of which were in Peter] Jesus said unto him, “Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art an offence unto me; for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” Matt.16:23. There can be no doubt but Peter was then a subject of grace, but was influenced by the flesh. And again, when he said, “Though I should die with thee, I will not deny thee.” Matt.26:35. The flesh had the advantage of him. But after Peter had denied his Master, according to what Jesus had told him, and the Lord turned and looked upon Peter, and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out and wept bitterly. Luke 22:61,62. Then he was influenced by the Spirit of truth, and was in a much better condition than when so self-important. The flesh always inclines us to think highly of ourselves, to seek diligently after the treasures of this world, to the neglect of the reasonable duties our Master requires of us, to have no time to seek for that better part, [divine instruction] and to want help even from our brethren in worldly pursuits. While the Spirit prompts us to be content with such things as we have, and having food and raiment, to be therewith content; to think ourselves less than the least of all saints; to seek diligently for divine instruction, by searching the scriptures, in prayer, and in constant attendance upon the ministration of the word preached by God’s ministers, and to feel sensible of our entire dependence upon the God of our salvation. It has been a matter of no little importance with me for many years past, to decide for myself whether I am influenced by the flesh or the Spirit in my devotions, in praying, reading, preaching or in private conversation. I know that too often I have been moved from selfish motives, which have proved to my mortification and distress, so that I am fully convinced that everything that is contrary to depraved nature, to the cutting off of all human glorying, must be by the Spirit. “For the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” Gal.5:17. We can get no better sample of christian exercises than the experience of the apostle Paul, who wrote, “For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin; for that which I do I allow not; for what I would, that I do not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find a law then, that when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” Rom.7:14-25. Here the apostle speaks of controlling powers, under the appellation of laws. The law of sin which was in his members, and the law of God in which he delighted after the inward man. These different moving powers were both in him, and entirely opposite one to the other, so that he could not do the things he desired. Then of course Paul was no free agent, and if he was not, who can be, seeing he was an inspired apostle, and a chosen vessel to bear the name of the Lord to the Gentiles? But notwithstanding, his inability to control, yet he strove successfully to keep under his body, or carnal nature, to that extent that he denied himself daily, in obedience to his Lord and Master, and counted all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord, and counted them but dung, that he might win Christ, and be found in him, not having his own righteousness, which was of the law, but that which was through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. Phil.3:9. The church at Laodicea, under the influence of the flesh, in a lukewarm condition, claimed to be rich and increased with goods, and had need of nothing, when in fact she was wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. Is it unreasonable to suppose that saints individually or collectively, under fleshly influence, cumbered about with much serving, or over much careful about the things of this world, may be, or get in the same condition? I think not. Hence the importance of watchfulness, prayer, and constant self-denial. A great difference is often discovered in church members; some in conversation are ready, active and inquisitive about worldly matters, careless about attending their church meetings, and when present, often sleeping under preaching; but when out, pleased to converse about worldly enterprises, and anxious to get help even of brethren to devise plans to more successfully pursue the world and heap up its treasures, giving no evidence that they are exercised or interested in the spiritual things of the kingdom of God. Such are but little company or pleasure to the poor way-worn preacher or the spiritually minded christian. Others in conversation show, that they want information in the scriptures of divine truth, are generally at their meetings, and wide awake under preaching, speak often of their darkness, doubts and fears, with the many surprising changes they realize; discharging their religious duties even at the sacrifice of worldly comforts and treasures; thus proving that they are exercised and greatly interested in the spiritual things of the kingdom of God, and like the devoted Mary, have made choice of that better or good part, which shall never be taken from them.
I have written more than I expected, and will close, wishing peace to all that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.
Your brother in tribulation, and I hope, in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.
Near Lexington Georgia, Jan.28, 1872.