Brother Beebe: I feel very anxious to see your views on the following passages of Scripture: I Thessalonians 5:15, and Titus 3:8. If when you have leisure you will write on either or both these texts, I will feel greatly obliged.
February 13, 1869.
Reply: It is a pleasure to us to labor, to the extent of our very limited ability, for the edification of the children of God, and frequently when searching out the truth for them our own mind has been enlightened and many passages have been opened with comfort to our understanding. But it would be presumptuous in us to favor the idea that we are able to unseal the revelation of God to the benefit of even his living children, a particle farther than it is the pleasure of our Father in heaven to make it clear to our own mind. We often tremble, while we look at a file of many letters, from all parts of our wide spread country, calling on us to explain some passages which seem obscure to those who send them. We tremble not because our labor is called for, but lest our brethren and friends should look to us for that counsel and wisdom which they should ask of him who giveth liberally and upbraideth not. There never was a man on earth, if we exclude him who is God, man and Mediator, endued with sufficient wisdom to expound correctly all that is contained in the Scriptures. The prophets sought diligently to learn the full import of the words which God had spoken by them; and the apostles confessed that, without Christ they could do nothing. And if the holy prophets and apostles exclaimed, Who is sufficient for these things? May not such as we veil our faces and exclaim,
“How shall affrighted mortals dare,
To sing thy glory or thy grace?
Beneath thy feet we lie so far,
And see but shadows of thy face.
Who can behold the blazing light?
Who can approach consuming fire?
None but thy wisdom knows thy might,
None but thy word can speak thy name.”
Still God has made it the delightful privilege of even the most feeble of his children to “Speak of the glory of his kingdom, and to talk of his power.” And when we give our views on these sublime and heavenly things, we give them only as our views, and all the saints should compare them first with the Scriptures, and then with their own experience, that they may be satisfied that they are true before they endorse them.
The passages now proposed by brother Kugler are of more plain and practical import than many on which we have sometimes been called to write. Both are found among the faithful admonitions given by the apostle, to be observed by the saints. We will consider them together. That in I Thessalonians 5:15, which reads, “See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.” And the other, Titus 3:8, “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God, might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.” Both admonitions are in reference to the deportment of the saints. In the first is but a reiteration of the charge so frequently given by our Lord Jesus Christ to his disciples. In his Sermon on the Mount, and in all his instructions, he forbid that they should, under any provocation whatever, render evil for evil, or railing for railing. They were commanded to even love their enemies, cherish the most kindly feelings even to their bitterest enemies. His own example when on the cross writhing in bitterest agony, his prayer was uttered on their behalf. “Father, forgive them.” This Christ-like spirit was also exemplified in Stephen’s dying prayer for them who were murdering him in a most cruel manner. “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” Had Stephen rent the air with imprecations of vengeance on his murderers, or had he prayed for retributive justice to surprise them, could he so well have displayed thereby the meek and gentle spirit of his Lord and Maker? Under the law that knew no mercy, an eye was exacted for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; but not so in the kingdom of the Redeemer. “Do good to them that persecute, and despitefully use you.” And the apostle, enthroned in judgment, ministers to us this rule without any abatement of its spirit and requisition. And the charge comes home on every saint, not only for his own observance and obedience, but the church is required to see that none, that is, none of the brethren or members of the church, shall do it. That is, the church is required, in the exercise of that spiritual authority with which Christ has invested, to see that none be held in fellowship who render evil for evil, either to their fellow members, or to any body else. No exceptions are made, under any peculiar circumstances; not even at the peril of their own lives are they allowed to depart from this divine command. But they are commanded to be as wise as serpents, and as harmless as doves.
The other passage is of very similar import. It is a solemn charge to Titus, as a minister of Christ, and having the oversight of the flock of God, that he should never, on any account, or for any cause whatever, negative the divine rule, but affirm constantly the same decisions and rules. An affirmation is sometimes substituted for an oath; but in our text we understand the apostle to enjoin on Titus, and on all other ministers of the gospel, and on all the saints, that in their preaching, and no less in their practice, they should bear their faithful testimony affirmatively to the truth, in deed, as well as in their words. The rules for the government of the church of God were not laid down temporarily, to be revised, and changed to suit coming emergencies, nor to be once presented by affirmation, and then forgotten, but to be affirmed constantly, throughout all time. The things to be thus constantly and perpetually affirmed are couched in a “faithful saying.” And as the saying is faithful, it not only includes the peaceable deportment of the saints, but all good works; nor does it leave the saints to guess at what works are good, and what are evil; for in the faithful saying, the man of God is thoroughly furnished unto all good works. All the works of the Christian which God approves are specified in the faithful sayings of the Scriptures. Whatever they enjoin are good, no others are. And these good works are enjoined on them that have believed. All believers are to be baptized. “If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest.” And they are to continue steadfast in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers. There are many of the duties which are enjoined upon the saints by the law of Christ, which the apostle has grouped together in this epistle, all of which are enjoined by divine authority on all who have believed in God, and which they are to be constantly admonished to be careful to observe, and to maintain. They are to be maintained by affirmation, by word and deed, in the face of all opposition of the world, the flesh, and the devil. The word maintain implies a vigilance, a careful watchfulness, a close observance, and strict obedience. A godly walk and conversation cannot be maintained in a careless or indifferent way. The believers in God are required to give the most earnest heed to the things which they have heard in the faithful sayings of Christ and his apostles, lest at any time they should let them slip. “These things are good and profitable unto men.” We are not to suppose that anything that we can do can be profitable unto God; for when we have done all that he has enjoined, we are to confess that we are unprofitable servants. The psalmist said unto the Lord, “My goodness extendeth not unto thee; but to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent in whom is all my delight.” Psalm 16:2,3. In a careful maintenance of the good works enjoined upon those who believe in God, the saints are comforted and edified, the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, the sick and imprisoned are visited, and the widow and the fatherless are cared for. A strict observance of all things whatsoever Christ has commanded us is profitable to the saints, and reflects honor and praise upon the name of him who has called us by his grace and given us a place in his house, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified.
September 1, 1869.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 475 – 478