Dear Brother Beebe; As I have written nothing for the Signs lately, and as I am confined at home by constant rain and inclement weather, I feel impressed to offer a few thoughts for the reflection of your readers.
God, of his great mercy, and for some purpose known to himself, has spared us to enter upon a new year, while many have gone to the house appointed for all living. I feel ashamed of my ingratitude, but I cannot help it. I wish I could feel more humbled and thankful to the God of all our mercies.
I will offer a few thoughts on the subject of vain, or spurious religion, and that of pure and undefiled religion. As I think it of great importance to make a proper distinction between them. All such as have been actuated from improper motives have been more forward, bold and numerous. Cain was first to make his offering, of the first fruits of the ground. The prophets of Baal were first and more numerous in preparing their altar and offering, and more zealous in calling upon their god to send down fire. Esau was born first, [the elder] and was more industrious to prepare savory meats for his father. The proud pharisee was first to make his formal prayer, while he stood in the temple “and prayed thus with himself.” Ahab’s prophets, about three hundred in number, were first to advise him to go up to Ramath Gilead and prevail, while Micaiah was last and alone to tell him the truth. And as in these cases, even so it is now, and has been in ages past, with all nominal professors or false religionists. They have been more forward, bold and numerous, wise in the wisdom of the world, wealthy, sincere, industrious, and careful to behave morally correct, careful to hide from men, and bind others to constancy in formal prayers and ceremonies, and in giving liberally to sustain their institutions falsely called benevolent, endeavoring to keep up the impression that in proportion to their good works and liberality they are acceptable with God, and prospered in the world. Such as are actuated from proper motives are entirely different. Being quickened by the Spirit of God, they believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of them that seek him diligently. They pray to God of stern necessity, and in great secrecy; and as led on by the Spirit of God, they lose confidence in their works, prayers, reformation, and in themselves, until under a sense of their own depravity they are made to hate their own life, and are cut loose from confidence or pleasure in all earthly relatives or worldly charms, and are made to acknowledge the justice of God in their banishment from him, and then without reserve are made to give up all for lost, and call upon the name of the Lord in reality, “Lord, save; I perish,” or, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Then, entirely unexpectedly to them, God by his Spirit reveals the way of salvation by and through Jesus Christ, independently of all their works, but for his own name’s sake, according to his own purpose and grace which was given them in Christ Jesus before the world began. Whereupon they are made to worship God in the spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, or in the system of salvation by works. They love God for what he is in his sovereignty and in all his glorious perfections, so far as made known by revelation of his Spirit. Such are generally the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom. And as to the wisdom of this world, they are quite destitute, but wise unto salvation; and they are but few compared with the many who claim to be worshipers of God. They are slow to make a public profession of religion, because they fear God and tremble at his word; and they often delay or neglect to take up the cross, fearing they may be deceived and are not fit to be in the church with the humble followers of Jesus Christ. And when they do move forward in discharge of duty, they can hardly tell why, but under deep impressions of duty, and love to God and his people. They desire to be careful to go according to God’s word, and had far rather make no profession than to be deceived in their hope, or impose upon the church. But in going in the way God has directed, they invariably suffer persecution for Christ’s sake, and like Jacob of old, go halting all the days of their life, or of their pilgrimage here. Yet they are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed at the last time. Of this poor and afflicted people God has ministers of his own calling and qualifying, generally poor illiterate men, who preach of stern necessity, from an impressive sense of duty, and not for applause of men, nor for worldly gain. Their poverty, want of education, the many failures they make in attempting to preach, with the opposition and persecution they meet with, are well calculated to keep them humble, and sensible of their entire dependence upon God, which otherwise they might forget. The saints to whom they minister are equally poor and destitute in themselves, and therefore can make every reasonable allowance for them.
I have noticed with much interest at all the associations I attended last fall, the abundant evidences given of brotherly love, and no disposition to strive about words to no profit; but all, like children of the same heavenly family, easy to be entreated, and all pleased with the simplicity of the doctrine of the cross of Christ, which the brethren preached in great plainness and purity, so far as I was able to judge, for which I do feel thankful, if there is one particle of gratitude in my poor heart.
My dear brother, I greatly desire to meet with you once more in the flesh. You are about ten years older than I am, and I feel sensible of my failure in physical as well as mental powers. We must soon pass away from this vain and sinful world, after which, I have no doubt, you will be forever at rest. But as for myself, I often fear and tremble, lest after all I may be mistaken in my hope of a better world. Anyway, I have been convinced for many years past that if I am not a subject of grace, I never shall be.
May God bless you, and spare you all your appointed time upon earth, to publish and vocally proclaim the glorious truths of the gospel of his Son, is my earnest desire and prayer, for his name’s sake.
Your affectionate brother in great tribulation,
Near Lexington Georgia, Jan.20, 1871.