“He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?” – Isa. xxi. 11.
BROTHER BEEBE: – The above scripture has occupied my thoughts for some days past, and such conclusions as I have arrived at, I will, with your permission, submit to the consideration of those brethren who peruse your columns, hoping that they may be entertaining and profitable to some of the household of faith. The prophet Ezekiel is informed of the duties and responsibilities, that rest upon a watchman whom the people of any land have appointed to that station, in case of foreign invasion, and he is expressly told that he is set a watchman unto the house of Israel; and he is accordingly admonished of the fearful responsibilities that he is placed under. Isaiah, occupying a similar position in regard to national Israel, we conclude was also a watchman, in the same sense that Ezekiel was. The expression before us, I think simply presents the Edomites, or inhabitants of Mt. Seir, as mocking the prophet. If that be correct I will leave it there, as I designed only to have to do with the subject mast of the inquiry, Watchman, what of the night? In the first place let me say to you, that the night dispensation has passed away; that the reflected light that shone from Jewish rites and ceremonies, as of moon and stars, is lost in the glorious beams of our rising sun. Hence, this inquiry, which was one of vast moment to the saints of that day and time, is of little importance to us. The shadows of the night have fled, and the sun has risen. Now the saints are children of the light, and children of the day; and not of the night, nor of darkness. 1 Thess. v. 5. The calling and duties of a watchman are taken and made use of as a figure, or perhaps as a parable in the instance we have cited, to show to the prophet some important truth which would be more forcibly conveyed by such a figure than in any other way. We do not understand a watchman to fully represent one of the Lord’s prophets, but only to be a fit representation in that particular in which he designed to instruct the prophet. This I believe is the case with all the figures or parables made use of in the scriptures. The particular point of similitude in the figure before us, I take to be this, that as a watchman, in case of neglect or refusal to blow the trumpet and sound the alarm when he saw the sword come upon the land, was held answerable for the slain; so the prophet who should neglect or refuse to hear the word from the mouth of the Lord unto the house of Israel, the blood of those who perished (naturally,) out of the nation of Israel would be required at his hand. This is probably as far as the resemblance goes. There are at least some points in which there appears to be no resemblance. As for instance, the citizens always select and appoint their own watchmen; but the prophets received not their appointment of national Israel. There was also a wide difference in the messages they had to bear, one being the word of the Lord, and the other, an alarm from the approach of a foreign foe.
We will now proceed to inquire, whether ministers are watchmen in the sense that the prophet was, or whether there are watchmen at all in that sense in the gospel church.
To the first inquiry, although many ministers, I doubt not, have considered this figure to be applicable to themselves, I shall answer negatively. A very large amount of evidence appears to me to rest against such an understanding of this subject. In the first place the church of Christ does not stand in need of watchmen in that sense. They are designed for the night; but it is said of the Zion of God, that there shall be no night there. They are designed for a season of warfare, but the message to Jerusalem is, that her warfare is accomplished. Their place is upon the walls of the city, but Jerusalem is encompassed with a wall of fire that no enemy can ever approach. Among all the numerous gifts for the edification of the church, there are no watchmen, neither are they any where named after the organization of the gospel church. It seems to me that any minister who understands this figure as applicable to himself must shrink from the fearful responsibility. That is, understanding it spiritually as it is applied to Israel naturally. But not so: That such responsibility rests upon the minister, I think is no where taught in the word, neither is his calling at all similar to theirs. The gift of the ministry is declared to be, for the perfecting of the saints, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Their message is not one of war, but of peace, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that publisheth peace.” It is not to bring evil tidings, but good, even good tidings of good. Destruction is no more to be feared, for the city is walled with salvation. Although the gates are opened continually, no watchmen need be there, devouring beasts of prey need not be feared: no lion or any ravenous beast shall be there, neither shall there in any wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination or maketh a lie. All these things love darkness and will not come to the light; but in this city as we have said it is light. No brethren, who ever heard of watchmen being set, in the day time, in time of peace? He will make her officers peace, and violence shall no more be heard in the land, wasting nor destruction within her borders. We can see no more resemblance between a watchman, and a minister of the New Testament than between light and darkness. Instead of the painful task of alarming and terrifying the daughter of Zion with threatenings from the fiery mount, or with the rapid strides that the man of sin is making, it becomes the privilege of the minister to say unto her, “Thy God reigneth.” Fear now, “Behold, thy King cometh unto thee; he is just and having salvation.” Though a sword should come against Jerusalem, it is declared that no weapon that is formed against her shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise in judgment against her she shall condemn.
To sum up then in few words: we do not believe that any sword will ever come upon Zion to take away any person from among them, and consequently their blood cannot be required at any minister’s hand. The gospel message is a joyful sound, it is the publication of salvation, it is good tidings unto the meek, it is setting at liberty the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. Moreover it is food for the hungry, it is water of life for the thirsty, and it is comfort for all that mourn. It is the delightful privilege of the minister to bear witness of these things. They are the Savior’s witnesses, and they testify of him. Perhaps I have written enough on the subject. Let those who desire to know the truth, carefully examine the scriptures whether these things are so. The following are the passages which have a bearing upon this inquiry, Ezekiel iii. 17-21, and xxxiii. 1-10, and Isa. liii. 8, 62, and Jer. xxxi. 6. If we allow ministers to be watchmen at all, we must confine their duties as such to spiritual Israel, and not to the world at large, and the dying in iniquity spoken of, to something else than eternal death. But you may understand me as dissenting from such a view of it. The duty of watchfulness is common to all the saints: “What I say unto one I say unto all, watch.” As individuals the case is different. There is a constant warfare between the flesh and spirit, and we have need to be ever upon the alert. If the term Watchman is admissible at all in the gospel church, I will not confine it to the ministry, to the exclusion of all the rest of the saints; for I think there is no sense in which it will apply to them, but what it will apply with equal force to others whose privilege it is to see the kingdom of God.
In conclusion, let this song be sung in the land of Judah. We have a strong city, salvation will God appoint for walls and bullwarks.
Yours in the fellowship of the gospel,
Kingwood, N. J., August 6, 1849.
Signs of the Times
Volume 17, No. 16.
August 15, 1849.