Elder Beebe: Will you please give us your views through the “Signs of the Times,” on II Peter 2:20,21. “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” If you will grant me an answer you will favor one who at least desires to know and love the truth. Yours truly,
Leavenworth, Ind., April 25, 1869.
Reply: The seeming obscurity in which this chapter is veiled to the minds of some honest enquirers after the truth, will be measurably removed by a careful observance of the different classes or description of characters spoken of by the apostle. While admonishing the saints to add to their faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, with all diligence, and so to demonstrate their calling and election, he proposes to put them in remembrance of some things that should be of importance to them after his decease.
In thus stirring up their pure minds so that his admonitions might be held in perpetual remembrance throughout all time, he first assures them of the perfection of the Scriptures as a record of divine truth; not like the cunningly devised fables or doctrines of men, but a revelation from the immutable God, and so perfect and unchangeable that they can admit of no improvement, amendment or alteration, which men may deem necessary to adapt them to the state or condition of any succeeding ages or contingencies. God who has spoken by his prophets in times past, and through his dear Son, in the inspiration of the New Testament, is of one mind and none can turn him; therefore when he speaks the word, it stands fast, and cannot be altered in the least and still be his word. Not even the evidence of our eyes and ears, our frames or feelings, our depressions or transporting joys, are to be held by the saints as of equal authenticity with that more sure word of prophecy to which the saints shall do well that they take heed. The holy Scriptures are a light to the children of God, which shineth in a dark place, and shall continue to shine with ever increasing refulgence, until the perfect day.
In solemnly warning the saints to steadfastly adhere to the Scriptures as their only reliable rule of faith and practice, this apostle took occasion in the chapter from which our subject is selected, to apprise them, as the other inspired apostles had done, of the corruptions, false doctrines and apostasies that should come in the last days; and among the important things which he would have them remember when he should be with them no more in the flesh, was that there should be false teachers among them, even as there were false prophets among the people of Israel. And that these false teachers should bring in [into the church] damnable heresies, of the most revolting kind, even denying the Lord that bought the church to which they stood united, and into which they should bring their heresies. And these false teachers should come in privately, slyly, and deceptively, as the false prophets had, by subtlety and deception insinuated their falsehoods on the people of the old dispensation. So should these false teachers creep in privately into the churches, bringing in their heresies. The venders of palpable error seldom present their heresies openly at the first, but cautiously, watching the manner in which they are regarded, and when they have “by much wantonness beguiled those who were clean escaped from them who live in error,” they are then emboldened to press their pernicious doctrines with more effrontery, until unstable souls are corrupted and allured into their snares, and divisions and disorders are brought into the church. In their wicked efforts they should succeed in drawing away, not only a few, but many shall follow their pernicious ways, and so many as to render the way of truth exceedingly unpopular, even with the professors of Christianity, so that the way of truth, as laid down in the holy Scriptures, and taught by the Spirit in the personal experience of all the saints, shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they [the false teachers] make merchandise of you, [who are thus allured and led away from the truth] whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not; that is the judgment and damnation of false teachers, which shall infest the church of God.
Following the words of admonition and instruction through this chapter, we should be careful to observe the discrimination made between the false teachers, and those who are allured and deceived by them. The false teachers spoken of are no doubt all of them like the false prophets, by whom they were prefigured, impostors; but of those who are allured by them, there are many of the dear children of God, but not all; for nominal professors, and carnal hypocrites who have a nominal standing in the church, but no vital relish for the truth as it is in Jesus, will be the most ready to receive with greediness the heresies which shall be introduced, and to use their influence with the false teachers to beguile unstable souls, who, although they know and love the truth, are not sufficiently stable and firm to resist the pernicious influence of their cunning adversaries. Some who had clean escaped from them that live in error, and who had purified their souls by obeying the truth, should be captivated, and follow the pernicious ways of their betrayers.
Observe, the apostle speaks of all these, including the false teachers with all who are drawn away from the truth, as being among the people of God; members held in standing in the churches of the saints. Of course, they have all professed to receive, to know, and to love and walk in the truth as stated and established by Christ and his apostles. Not even the false teachers could have imposed so far upon the saints as to have got into the churches, if they had not renounced the corruptions of Judaism, Paganism, and all the other wicked isms which were prevalent, and to do so through a knowledge of the truth as taught by the apostles, and this was called “purging their souls, by obeying the truth.” As the errors of Paganism and Judaism had corrupted their souls, or minds, while they held them, when they renounced them, even though it were like the dog disgorging the filthy contents of a foul stomach, or a sow washed from the filth of the mire, but still retaining their peculiar natural propensities, yet the dog has ejected the filth, and has so far purified his stomach, and the sow being washed, has put off that defilement in which she was so polluted, still with their natural propensities unchanged, the one will soon return to his vomit, and the other to the mire, and thus demonstrate that in their cleansing there has been no radical change in their nature or propensities.
We do not believe that God’s people are either dogs or swine; but so far this true proverb is applied by the apostle, we are constrained to believe that they sometimes act like them, in the particulars to which the apostle applied the figure; and hence we regard the proverb as applicable to all, whether nominal or real disciples, who after having renounced the corruptions which had defiled them, relapse into them again.
A pagan who is rationally convinced of the absurdity of worshipping a god that he has made with his own hands, and renounces Paganism, or a Jew, who like the five thousand when they had eaten of the loaves and fishes, were rationally convinced that Jesus was the true Messiah that was to come, and enrolled themselves as his disciples, and desired to have him for their king; when they heard his doctrine, and learned that his subjects were to live alone on him, and eat his flesh and drink his blood, immediately relapsed into their former condition, returned to their ejected vomit, and to the filth of the mire.
Our country now fairly swarms with false teachers, who once publicly renounced the world and its pollutions, and professed faith in our Lord, who have gone to their vomit again, and are now zealously engaged in efforts to draw away disciples after them.
And is it our privilege to say that there are now none of the dear children of God, who after having received the knowledge and the love of the truth, have turned back to the beggarly elements of the world of which they were once so thoroughly sickened as to eject, and renounce them? And can it be said in truth that their course in this is altogether unlike the dog and the swine in the true proverb?
Let us now see how far the words of the apostle in our text will apply to these unstable characters described. “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end of them is worse with them than the beginning.” A spiritual knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ is eternal life. Matthew 11:27, John 17:3. But natural conviction, like that of Nicodemus, and those who crucified Christ, when they witnessed the wonderful demonstrations at his crucifixion, and such as devils evinced, when they confessed that he was the Son of God, may be brought home to the natural understanding of graceless men; as though the mental, or traditional convictions of the natural judgment of men, by external signs which they witness, they may be convinced of the absurdity of Judaism, or Paganism, or undisguised infidelity, and from that conviction, they may renounce some or all of these isms, reform their lives, so far as their outward practice is concerned, and thus escape the pollutions which are in the world; be orthodox in their creeds or professions of faith, and precise and circumspect in their deportment; the drunkard may quit his wine, the profane swearer may become more chaste in his language; and thus escape much of the pollution that is in the world; but when the day of trial comes, they will deny the faith to which they had subscribed, and apostatize from their profession, and their last end be worse than their beginning. They began by reformation, but have relapsed into the very abominations which they had discarded, and the canine proclivity of their unchanged nature will incline them back to their filthy vomit, and their swinish nature will desire the filthy slough. So that their last end is worse than their beginning.
And in the application of this admonition to those of the children of God who are unstable, irregular, and like children tossed about by every wind of doctrine, who, although they are not dogs, nor swine, are allured, deceived and betrayed by false teachers, until they are induced to act like them, their latter end is worse with them than the beginning. This is illustrated by many examples given in the Scriptures. The saints in the Galatian churches had begun well; but when false teachers had bewitched them, they were in a worse condition than when they were running well, at their beginning.
“For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they had known it to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” We are told that, He that knoweth his Master’s will and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes; but he that knoweth not, shall be beaten with fewer stripes. All who are received into the church of Christ assume the yoke of Jesus, receive the holy commandment which is given to all who are of the household of faith; and as long as they walk according to the holy commandment, they are held in fellowship; but when they depart from it, the discipline of the church, if faithfully administered, will cut them off, and cast them out, whether they be real or only nominal disciples. And they who do that which they know is a violation of the law of Christ, and a transgression of the holy commandment which they have received, are far more reprehensible than those who have only mistaken the track, and made a misstep through ignorance, or from want of better instruction. We may illustrate this by adverting to the case of many who stood with us, battling manfully against the pollutions which are in the world, and the innovations which were being made upon our faith and order before the New School Baptists were expelled from the church of God, who with a full view of the abominations of anti-christ, which they once so clearly pointed out, with their eyes open, like those who count it pleasure to riot in the day-time, have plunged into the very depth of the wickedness against which they once so ably protested. Is not their case far worse than that of those who have been trained in Sunday Schools, and the like institutions of human invention, where every ray of the light of truth is excluded? “But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb. The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.”
The times foretold by the holy apostles of the Lamb, in which false teachers and false doctrines should abound, and in which many shall depart from the truth, and be turned unto fables, are now open to us, and it becomes us to seriously consider the solemn admonitions which are given us in the Scriptures. We know that the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And that he will never suffer one of them to finally be lost; and that should only cheer and encourage us in this dark and trying hour, but it should stimulate us to give the more earnest heed to the admonitions given, lest at any time, or under any circumstance we should let them slip. Not to secure our final inheritance in glory, for that is secured already in the ample provisions of grace given us in Christ Jesus our Lord; but rather that we may escape the pollutions that are in the world and honor our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If indeed we have the spirit of Christ, it will be our meat and our drink to do his will; and if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his. A mere profession will not suffice, to have a name to live, when we are dead, will avail us nothing; for all such will probably be soon scourged out of the church by the faithful administration of the laws of the kingdom, or allured by the spreading abominations which prevail. If we, or any of us love the wages of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to sport in the day-time, the mark is a fearful mark, for it is a mark of the beast. But if we love holiness for holiness sake, and mourn because of the depravity of our corrupt nature, it is a reliable evidence that we are born of God, taught by his Spirit and shall ultimately reign in glory.
July 1, 1869.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 440 – 445