Reply to Brother D.H. Goble:
There was a remarkable display of the power of God in the calling and conversion of Saul, and it was so clearly the work of God as to leave no room for caviling. Up to that moment he had lived a conceited self-righteous Pharisee, professing more than ordinary piety, but his piety was of that kind which all self-righteous Arminians possess, the more of which they have the greater their hatred to the saints, and violent opposition to the truth. Alive without the law, unsubdued by the least sense of weakness, verily believing that he ought to do many things contrary to Jesus, and regarding it a pious work to persecute the saints of God, he was still breathing slaughter against the disciples of Christ until the very moment when startled by the voice of God from the skies, and all the lights of nature in which he had trusted were put out by that light from heaven, which so far out shined the refulgent brightness of the meridian sun, as to cause him to fall blind and helpless to the ground. Shall we ask what means he had been using, what terms he had accepted, or what conditions he had complied with, to procure this wonderful change? His last breath was slaughter, and the very next succeeding breath was prayer! Helpless and prostrate on the ground, a sin-stricken, heart-broken, subdued and perishing sinner, who did not know the Savior by whose almighty power he was now arrested, and into whose hands he had fallen a helpless captive. A learned and popular divine, a graduate from a Theological school, perfectly versed in all the Jew’s religion, who had made religion his study from his infancy, and with his pockets full of religious tracts or letters from the high priest, and dignitaries of the Mission Society, whose missionaries were compassing sea and land, and himself a zealous missionary, with the field of labors assigned him by the Board, to do their bidding at Damascus, now lies prostrate before the Lord. Stricken down by a power he had not invoked, by the Savior whom he had not known, subdued and passive he now enquires, “Who art thou, Lord?” And, “What wilt thou have me to do?”
Both questions are answered. He is informed that it is Jesus whom he was persecuting, that had stricken him to the ground, and for what purpose he had appeared unto him, and of what he would have him to do. “Rise and stand upon thy feet.” We doubt whether he had power to rise, until Jesus bid him rise, even as he called Lazarus to rise from the dead, and come forth, so there was a power attended the command, which brought the prostrated sinner to his feet. And now, what next? Has he appeared to Saul in wrath, to make him an example of vindictive justice, and pour on him the just retribution for his dreadful crimes? O no! “For I have appeared unto thee, for this purpose; to make thee a minister, and a witness.” But what kind of a minister? Why, such as Jesus always makes; a Baptist minister; for he was not allowed to enter the ministry until he was first baptized by Ananias. And a Baptist of the Old School faith and order, for he believed all things which were written in the law and in the prophets. Acts 24:14.
In those apostolic days it was not pretended that any but God himself could make gospel ministers. For this purpose of God, Christ had appeared to Saul, to make him a minister and a witness; and as a competent witness he must needs be qualified to speak things he knew and testify things that he had seen. To supply this ability Christ appeared to him, and was revealed in him. Not only was he to bear witness of the things which he had then seen, but things also in which the Lord would also appear unto him. He would appear to him in delivering him from the people, (Jews) and also in delivering him from the Gentiles, unto whom the Lord sent him. And he would also appear unto him in opening the eyes of the blind, and in all the miracles which the Lord wrought through him as an apostle; and in turning the Gentiles from the darkness of pagan idolatry to the light of the gospel, and from the power of Satan, unto God, that they might receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith that is in Christ. For this purpose of God, which Paul had no part in purposing, Christ had appeared and still would continue to appear to him. So that whether the presence of Christ was apparent to others or not, he was manifestly apparent to Paul in every deliverance he experienced from Jews or Gentiles, and he appeared to him in the opening of the eyes of the blind, in turning men from darkness to light. And of all this Paul was a faithful witness. He never pretended, nor tolerated the idea that eyes were opened, or sinners converted to God by any art, power, virtue or work that he of himself was capable of performing. It is true God wrought many wonderful miracles by Paul, and used him as his mouth, and spoke by him, as he had formerly spoken by the prophets, but these were none the less the works of God himself, and the words which he spake by the mouth of Paul were none the less God’s words, and the light these words imparted came only from the Sun of Righteousness. The apostles are called stars. Revelation 12:1. And so also are the angels, or messengers of the churches. Revelation 1:20. Stars are said to be dark bodies of themselves, but they are reflectors of the light of the sun. So this treasure, of which we write, is committed to earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power thereof may be of God, and not of man, or of earthen vessels.
God used his apostles, and so he also uses his gospel ministers, not to give life to the dead, nor eyes to the blind, but to edify and enlighten the living to whom he has given life and eyes. Every heaven-born child has spiritual life, and spiritual eyes, but how many of them are in darkness. Once they were darkness, but now they are children of the light. Some are like those Gentiles to whom Paul was sent, greatly needing to be taught the way of the Lord more perfectly. The eyes of the learned and eloquent Apollos were opened, and his mind enlightened concerning the baptism of John, and of the gift of the Holy Ghost, by the unpretending Priscilla and Aquilla.
When our esteemed correspondent called on us to explain this text, we inferred that it was not clear to his mind, and in the hope of opening his eyes, eyes which he now has, so as to present to his sight the truth, that seeing it he may be turned from darkness, or obscurity on this subject, to the light, we have attempted to let such light as we have so shine that others who have eyes, or spiritual discernment, may see, and glorify not us, but God. As the preaching of the gospel in truth and soberness discloses hidden mysteries to the saints, it tends to their edification. But it never gives spiritual discernment to them from whom God has withheld it. When the quickened sons of God are allured and drawn blindly into error, the presentation of the testimony of the word of the Lord by his witnesses turns them from darkness to light, and as they never go into error only by the influence and power which Satan is permitted to exercise over them, so the faithful ministry by which they are enlightened turns them from the power of Satan unto God. Among the Gentiles unto whom the Lord sent Paul were the churches of Galatia, which had become bewitched by the power of Satan, through his Judaizing teachers, and Paul’s labors were owned and blessed of God for their restoration, and deliverance from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.
“And that they may receive the forgiveness of sins.” None but Christ has power on earth to forgive sins. No preaching, even of Paul, can procure the forgiveness of sins, nor is it designed for any such purpose. Then, why, you ask, was Paul sent to the Gentiles that they might receive that forgiveness? If the executive of state has reprieved a convict from the gallows, why is a messenger sent to bear the joyful message to the poor condemned wretch? You answer, that the prisoner may receive it, and enjoy the benefit of it. So were these Gentile sinners redeemed, and for them there is forgiveness provided, and it is with the Lord, and he has ordained that they shall in due time receive it. Hence Paul, and all other gospel ministers whom Christ has made, are sent to preach repentance in Christ’s name, and in his name the forgiveness of sins, that they may receive it. Paul was a witness of the resurrection of Christ; for as a risen Savior he had appeared to him to thus qualify him, to proclaim among the Gentiles that Christ is exalted to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance unto Israel, and remission of sins. This forgiveness is the immediate work of God, but our reception and enjoyment of it is quite another thing. The atonement was made many centuries ago, in which Christ obtained eternal redemption for all his people. But when did we personally and experimentally receive it? Not until by the ministration of the gospel the glad tidings came unto us. And how very slow have some of us been in our reception of it. O, says one, I am too great a sinner! It is too much for me to hope. But when the preaching of the word comes to such, as it came upon those who were pricked in the heart on the day of Pentecost, then they gladly receive the word, and with the word comes the assurance that their sins are forgiven, and they with joy receive it.
When through the ministration of the word the poor quickened and heart-broken sinner receives the forgiveness of his sins, he is prepared to follow Christ in the ordinance of baptism, and to enter in through the gates into the city, and have a right to eat of the tree of life, and drink freely of the water of life. As children, and heirs, they can now take their place among the consecrated - set apart, who are in the church, where the heirs have their inheritance, being thus sanctified, or set apart, by faith that is in Christ; for it is only by the faith of the Son of God they can enter into this rest which remains for the people of God. Gospel ministers who are witnesses prepared by and for the Lord, are instructed to “Open the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in.” They are to point out the footsteps of the flock, administer the word and the ordinances, by baptizing them that believe and give evidence that they have received the forgiveness of their sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded them. And to such the assurance is given that he who has appeared to them to make them ministers and witnesses, is with them always, even to the end of the world.
September 1, 1869.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 471 – 475