Dear Brother Beebe; I send you the following for correction, if necessary, and for publication, if you think it will do no harm.
“The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will shew them his covenant.” Ps.25:14.
The secret referred to in this text is the Lord’s, and is made known to his people in no other way but by revelation of his Holy Spirit. The fear spoken of is not slavish fear, but is the beginning of wisdom, to depart from the snares of death. This secret is made known to the heirs of promise in all its parts, beginning when first quickened by the Holy Spirit, and continuing to be made known during the whole pilgrimage of the children of God while here in the flesh, and it continues to be the secret of the Lord. Therefore his children cannot make it known to their nearest relatives or friends, no, not even to one another; but each is taught it in his own experience, just as God is pleased to make it known by revelation of his Spirit; and just in proportion as he makes it known to his children in their individual experience, just so far they agree and understand each other, and as they are all taught of the Lord precisely the same things, so far as the secret has been revealed to them, they unite in a church capacity by making known to each other so much of this great secret as God has taught them in their experience; such as their sinful, ruined, helpless condition, the justice of God in their condemnation, and then his goodness in the pardon of their sins for Jesus’ sake. This made known by the applicant to the saints, who have learned not only the first lessons, but much more of this secret, the young believer is received in the bosom of all in brotherly love and christian fellowship; for no matter how much of this secret the children of God learn, they never forget their first exercises. In this way the Lord continues to add to the church daily such as shall be saved. All such as have been taught this secret can understand each other, because God has turned to them a pure language spiritually, and they understand the preaching of the gospel and the written word of God, just in proportion as this secret has been revealed to them by the Spirit. Natural men cannot learn this secret in the schools of men, “for the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” illustrated by the following cases. When the Gileadites, under Jephthah, had smitten the Ephraimites, and taken the fords or passages of Jordan, and the Ephraimites and others who had escaped wanted to go over Jordan, they were required to pronounce the word Shibboleth, and when they could not frame to pronounce it right, but said Sibboleth, they were slain at the passages of Jordan, so that there fell of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand. Just so it would have been in the great contest and division of the Baptists near a half century ago, had those who stood firm in the faith excluded every one who could not frame to pronounce the word Shibboleth clearly, or speak and contend for sound doctrine, instead of going after Dr. Fuller and others, who brought in privily the strange, unscriptural, modern, missionary institutions after the doctrines and commandments of men, and not after Christ. But the imposition had gone so far, that through the fear of man, with a kind of false lenity, they gave them letters of dismission and let them go, instead of excluding them; more lenient than Jephthah was to the Ephraimites, for he never allowed them any passport. And now the only reason why so many zealous professors of religion cannot frame to pronounce the word Shibboleth clearly, is simply because God has not revealed his secret to them, and the pure language of salvation by sovereign, reigning grace has never been turned to them; hence in their conduct and conversation they are deficient in pronunciation, as can be plainly discovered by all such as are spiritually minded. Not infrequently offer themselves to the church under certain circumstances, from improper motives, to pass over Jordan, or be baptized, and cannot frame to pronounce the word Shibboleth clearly, or give satisfactory evidence that God has revealed his secret unto them; then the church should be faithful enough to reject them, even if it mortifies them to death in their feelings. In Gideon’s army of thirty-two thousand there were only three hundred that could lap water like a dog, which was unnatural, but not more contrary to nature than for a poor sinner to be taught the secret of the Lord – salvation by grace, independent of works. If a proper test could now be made among all who profess to worship God, it could not be expected that three hundred our of every thirty-two thousand could give evidences that God had revealed to them his secret, or that they could frame to pronounce the word Shibboleth clearly, or could lap water like a dog. “And he will show to them his covenant, or his promise, concerning them,” such as, “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities I will remember no more.” “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.” “Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” A thousand other promises are embraced in his everlasting covenant, and also it is written and promised, “My mercy will I keep for him forevermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him. His seed also will I make to endure forever, and his throne as the days of heaven. If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments, if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments, then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my loving kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.” Ps.89:28-34. As Israel under the old conditional covenant was blessed and prospered in obedience to God’s law, and was punished with severe judgments and death for disobedience, and both the blessings in obedience and curses for disobedience pertained alone to the world, even so obedience to the New Covenant rule by the saints is enjoyed in this life, and disobedience punished by the chastening rod in this life, while works of obedience before nor after they believe, have nothing to do with preparing or taking them to their final heaven above, neither can disobedience disinherit them, or hinder their happiness in eternal glory. Hence Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” And if any child of God “will love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile; let him eschew evil, and do good, let him seek peace, and ensue it.” I Pet.3:10. Nowhere is it written in the scriptures, If any man wishes to go to heaven, let him do good works of obedience to God. Heaven is not obtained by any such process, but it is a heritage, given by the eternal God to his people in Jesus Christ before the world began; and when they are all taken home to heaven, then shall the kingdom be delivered up to God the Father, and his secret fully understood.
Brother Beebe, do with this as you think best.
Yours in love,
Near Lexington Georgia, May 11, 1876.