Dear Brother Beebe: I am permitted this once more, through the mercy of God, to write you a few lines. I have received two numbers of the “Signs.” They were gladly received, and as long as I can raise the means I wish them continued to me, although I hardly feel worthy to read them. I hear very little of the doctrine they contain, but much about the do and live doctrine. I am surrounded by Arminians of different kinds, and I seem to be like one alone, and they seek my life also. “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal. The Lord knoweth them that are his.”
Brother Beebe, when it is so that you can, I wish you to give your views on II Timothy 2:20,21. I have but very little satisfaction in conversing with Baptist brethren, which would be a great comfort to me. I believe the all-seeing eye and the protecting hand of God is over his children wherever they may be. I cannot think our Savior suffered all that he did to redeem his bride, and then will finally leave her in bondage. Some of the heirs may stray afar off; but all who are born of his spirit will desire, like the prodigal, to return, and to fill even a servant’s place. I can say, that is my case. I will close by asking you to remember me when it is well with thee.
Granville B. Hickey.
April 7, 1869.
Reply: The passage on which brother Hickey desires our views, reads, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and made meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.”
The apostle in this connection was exhorting Timothy, as a minister of the gospel, and as a bishop, [or pastor] in the church of Christ, to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and also in reference to those faithful men unto whom he should commit those things which he had heard of Paul among many witnesses, that they might be able to teach others also. Not that Timothy had any power to call or qualify men for the ministry, but as an Elder he would have occasion to lay hands, by solemn ordination, on faithful brethren, such as God had called and made faithful. And in this, he was instructed not to lay hands suddenly on any man. He also instructs Timothy in regard to the indispensable qualifications of a faithful gospel minister. In his first epistle, the third chapter is devoted almost exclusively to a description of the characters, gifts, and general characteristics of those who should be thus recognized and set apart to the work. And in this chapter in which our present subject is written, he says, They should not be entangled with the affairs of this life; and they must be partakers of the fruits of the gospel which they are to proclaim. That is, they must be themselves experimentally partakers of the power and consolations of the gospel; and they must suffer cheerfully for the sake of the gospel. And in so setting them apart to the work, he says “Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.” He then tells Timothy of some things which are to be refused, or shunned, carefully avoided, such as profane and vain babblings, which are truly revolting when indulged in by any of the private members of the churches, but quite insufferable in those who minister in holy things. If indulged in to the smallest extent, they will increase to more ungodliness. The disgusting examples of Hymeneus and Philetus are mentioned as a warning. But although the vain and unbecoming conduct of ministers and other members of the church may produce great disorder, and provoke reproach; “Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure.” They cannot remove, nor shake that, for it hath this seal: The Lord knoweth them that are his. The solemn charge is given, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ, whether a minister or not, let every one making profession of that sacred name, depart from iniquity. Now in connection with, and to confirm the foregoing, and to show that the foundation of God cannot be moved, even by the wicked conduct of the ministers who have or do stand in connection with the church, the apostle uses the simile in the text considered. “But in a great house.” The church of Christ is frequently compared to, and sometimes called a house. It is the house of God, and the gate of heaven. A spiritual house, composed of lively stones, and it is the dwelling place of God. It is truly a great house in many respects. As the temple in which God dwells, and which he has chosen for his habitation, and in which he has said that he will dwell forever. It has many mansions; if it were not so Christ would have told us. It’s Maker and Builder is God, and it stands eternal in the heavens. “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” It is exclusively his workmanship.
It is common in all great houses, when properly furnished, to have a variety of vessels, for as great a variety of purposes, and some of gold, or silver, according to the wealth and taste of the proprietor. So in the church, when regarded in her present organization, there is a diversity of gifts. The ministers of the gospel are called vessels, and earthen vessels. “This treasure [the gospel ministry] we have in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be not of men, but of God.” It should not be regarded strange therefore, as the ministers in the church are but vessels containing treasure for the Master’s use, that from her first organization to the end of her development, there should be found in her connection a variety differing in honor and utility, as golden vessels differ from those of wood, or of earth, or as widely as the inspired apostles differed from Hymeneus and Philetus.
The apostles, like vessels of gold, when the Son of man sits on the throne of his glory, also sit with him on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. While Timothy, Titus and others in the primitive state of the church, as vessels of silver, were next to the apostles in honor, and they who purge themselves from the corruptions against which Paul warned Timothy, are vessels of honor, fitted for the Master’s use, in degree as they approach the purity in doctrine, order and practice of the apostles of the Lamb. While all those who are loose and reckless, in their doctrine and deportment, though they may be in connection with the church of God, like Hymeneus and Philetus, and Judas Iscariot, who had even had part of the ministry, or like the Judaizing teachers of the early days, or the workmongrel interlopers, who manage to connect themselves with the church of Christ and to get into the ministry, in the present times, are vessels to dishonor and like Edom, the Lord’s “washpot,” to catch the filth which is washed from the daughters of God’s people, and to draw from the communion of the church such unstable and fickle souls as are not built upon the immovable foundation which bears the indelible seal:
“The Lord knoweth them that are his.”
“If a man therefore purge himself from these.” These things against which Paul has warned Timothy, vain, foolish and profane babblings, and flee also youthful lusts, avoid the heresy of Hymeneus and Philetus, in short, if a minister avoids all that is forbidden, and faithfully performs all that is enjoined, he shall rise to fill a more important position in the house of God, and be accounted worthy of double honor by his brethren. As a vessel meet, or suitable, for his Master’s use, and for his holy vocation, as sanctified, or set apart, above the meaner vessels, which seem only meet to be wash-pots, in containing only that which is unclean.
Vessels in the house of God may differ in capacity, as the vessels of cups differ from the vessels of flagons, and yet be equally honored, and meet for the Master’s use. Indeed in our figure, it is usual to find in a great house, vessels of smaller size and capacity, made of the more precious material. Vessels of flagons are not made of gold or silver, so we see the vessels of God’s holy sanctuary are esteemed precious, according to their purity in faith and practice.
Our subject presents a solemn admonition to those who have entered the ministry. If they would be approved of God and useful to the church to purge themselves from everything incompatible with their holy calling. Alas! How many wooden, earthen or defiled or cracked vessels there are which seem unfit for use in the house of God. Some are entangled in the affairs of the world, some defiled by unlawful connection with anti-christ, mingling with the ministers of Satan, some by serving their own carnal lusts, some allowing themselves to be filled with politics, and very many by vain and profane babblings, mixing up with the foolish jestings and worldly broils that exist in the world. “If a man shall purge himself from these he shall be? vessel to honor.” But even a vessel of pure gold, if it be cracked, will not ring out the right sound, and if defiled or filthy is not fit to drink from; but thoroughly purged from all defilement, the vessels of the house of God are prepared unto every good work. May the Lord wash us from all our defilements, and make us whiter than snow.
July 15, 1869.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 450 – 454