AN inspired writer has said, "As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters." None who are born of God and taught by his Spirit can doubt that this figure is intended to describe the condition as well as the superior excellence of the church above the daughters. She is called the "Love, Dove, and Undefiled" of her Beloved. The figure of a lily not only describes the modest beauty of the church, but shows, according to the instructions of our Lord, that her exceeding glory, although surpassing that of the regal splendor of Solomon, is not the result of her own labor. She toils not to procure it, she spins nothing that would answer for warp or for woof; her life is derived from an invisible Root, and her head is bowed under the genial rays of the sun. But she is not only like the lily as that flower stands gracefully in the field, or among other beautiful flowers, but she is like the lily among thorns. How truly does the church of Christ answer to the figure in all its fullness of illustration! God has chosen her in a furnace of affliction, and she has ever, in her militant state, been among the rude briars and thorns. The earth, groaning under the curse of the righteous Creator, is destined to produce thorns and thistles, and while this world remains the temporary abode of the church she must encounter them. One of her most prominent sons prayed no less than three times that the thorn might be removed, but was referred to the sufficiency of the grace of God to sustain him and bear him through all the buffetings of Satan. To those who have discernment in spiritual things how admirably does the church contrast with that by which she is surrounded. All that the lily is of itself is merely grass of the field which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, but God has so clothed her as to challenge comparison with the most exalted glory of the earth. All flesh is as grass, and all goodliness thereof [that is produced by human power, or the flesh, for all that is born of the flesh, whether physical or mental, is flesh] is as the flower of the grass; the grass withereth, the flower thereof fadeth away, but the Word of the Lord abideth forever. While the flower thereof, that is, the goodliness of the flesh, or grass, may adorn the meadow, but, in common with the grass with which it is connected, it cannot survive the dissolution of the flesh, or grass; but God so clothes it (the church) in the garments of salvation as to secure the glory as an inheritance which is incorruptible, undefiled, and cannot fade away.
"Defiled and loathsome as we are,
He makes us white and calls us fair,
Adorns us with that heavenly dress,
His graces, and his righteousness.
Consequently the church is enabled through grace to sing, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God, for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness; as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. (Isa. xli. 10.) She "is all glorious within, her clothing is of wrought gold, she shall be brought unto the King in garments of fine needle-work." (Psalms xlv. 13.) All human beauty and creature excellency, compared with the church of the living God, which is the ground and pillar of the truth, is but as thorns. Zion is pronounced in the language of inspiration the perfection of beauty; it cannot, therefore, be improved. Earth has no colors, nor has creation charms to lend which would not obscure her beauty. And although her peculiar excellency appears not to the eyes of an adulterous generation, for except a man be born again he cannot see her, because the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned; still all her attractions are clearly apprehended by those unto whom the Spirit of God reveals her. To them she appears as the New Jerusalem, descending from God out of heaven adorned as a bride for her husband. She looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners. Understanding these to be some of the general characteristics of the church of God, may we not inquire, Where may she be found at this day? We cannot consistently believe that Christ has no church on earth at the present day; and if he has a church now upon earth she must bear the lineaments which are drawn in the New Testament. We shall not find her at the corners of the streets, in harlots' attire, seeking for lovers; from her lips will not be heard the silly boast, "I have peace offerings with me, this day have I paid my vows." (Prov. vii. 14.) She cannot be recognized in any other dress than the garments of salvation which her Lord has given her. The daughters spoken of, Isa. iii. 16-26, with their haughty carriage, stretched forth necks, wanton eyes, and mincing walk, making a tinkling with their feet, with their cauls, and their round-tires like the moon, their chains, and bracelets, and the mufflers, the bonnets, and the ornaments, and the head-bands, and the tablets, and the earrings, and the rings, and nose jewels, changeable suits of apparel, mantles, and wimples, and crisping pins, glasses, fine linen, hoods, and veils, are only the thorns by which the lily of the valley is surrounded. "There are threescore queens and fourscore concubines and virgins without number; my dove, my undefiled is but one, she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bear her." - (Cant. vi. 8 & 9.)
In order to demonstrate the existence of the church of Christ on earth at the present day, we must find a community of saints corresponding to the primitive pattern, of eighteen hundred years ago - a people whose only beauty consists in the comeliness which Christ has put upon them - a people saved by the Lord who is the shield of their help and the sword of their excellency, and whose enemies are found liars unto them - (Deut. xxxiii. 29) - A people dwelling alone and not reckoned among the nations, with no governmental patronage from the powers of the world - a kingdom that is not of this world, nor visible to the world, because they are the sons of God; the world knoweth them not because it knew him not - A poor and afflicted people trusting in the name of the Lord - a persecuted people; for if any man will live godly in Christ Jesus he shall suffer persecution. Their names shall be cast out of men, and they shall be hated of all men for Christ's name sake. They are regarded as the offscouring of all things, accused and slandered in like manner as their divine Lord and Master was; for if these things were done in the green tree they shall be repeated in the dry; if they called the Master of the house Beelzebub they will also call them of his household so.
These are only some of the outlines of the church of Christ. She is also characterized by her "one Lord, one faith, and one baptism." Her faith is as radically different from that of every other professing people on earth as are her Lord and her baptism. Of her faith Jesus is the Author and Finisher; but that of all other religious bodies either originates with themselves or is derived from the doctrines, traditions, and instructions of men. But blessed is she, for flesh and blood bath not revealed these things to her, but her heavenly Father has taught her by his Holy Spirit. She is the opposite of all other sects in regard to her food, her appetite, and the source from which all her supplies are received. Others can and do eat their own bread and wear their own apparel; but she must eat the flesh and drink the, blood of Jesus. Nothing short of the true Bread which came down from heaven, that kind which Moses never gave, can satisfy her; but her neighbors, or the thorns among which she is situated, do not see why the bread that Moses gave is not good enough.
Christ's church is a peculiar people, in all respects essentially different from the religionists of this world. She comprises a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation, and shows forth the praises of him who hath called her out of darkness and translated her into the kingdom of his dear Son. The doctrine which her faith takes hold of is that which cannot possibly suit any body else under heaven. And if there be any who have not passed from death unto life, who fancy that they can understand and lore the doctrine by which the church of God is distinguished, they are deluded. As none knoweth the things of a man but the spirit of a man that is in him, (for the spirit of man being taken from any man but a dead and unconscious corpse remains,) neither knoweth any man the things of the Spirit but the Spirit. And unless we be born of the Spirit, and that Spirit abide in us, we are as dead to all spiritual things, as the human body is to natural life after the animal spirit has departed. It is, therefore, quite as practicable to teach the tenants of the tombs the English grammar, or any science, as to teach the things of the Spirit of God to unregenerate men. The church of God, if found at all, will be found in possession of doctrine which cannot be taught by every or any man to his neighbor, saying, Know the Lord; it cannot be taught nor learned in Sabbath schools, or what are called theological schools; nor can it be derived from reading the bible, or hearing it expounded, even if Paul himself were the expounder, for the natural man cannot receive it; it is spiritually discerned. Every organized body of professors of religion who hold a doctrine which they can teach their unregenerate fellow-men is a branch of anti-christ; and the nature and attainableness of their faith proves that they have not the faith of God's elect, and that their faith stands in the wisdom of men, and not in the power of God. See 1 Cor. ii. 5. The primitive church acknowledged Christ as the only spiritual King, the true and only Potentate, who only hath immortality dwelling in the light which no man can attain unto. That church cannot now be identified where Christ is not so regarded; nor is he so regarded by any church, sect, or people who hold that there is spiritual life anywhere else, or that the light in which he dwelleth can be approached. To approach is to make some advance towards the object; but this no man can do, as the members of the church of Christ know right well. The true church now, as in her primitive days, depends on God to raise up, qualify, send forth, and sustain the ministers of the gospel. Those who heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears, are not the church of Christ. To him who ascended up on high, who led captivity captive, and received gifts for men, they look for all the gifts which the church can need, - to him who reigns, being exalted a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance to Israel and remission of sins, and to him alone they look to bring sinners to repentance and to cause the redeemed of the Lord to return with singing to Zion with everlasting joy upon their heads. To him who opened the doors of death, and rode triumphantly from the grave, who conquered sin and hell, they look for support, comfort, deliverance and victory.
Finally, the church of our Redeemer is the circumcision who worship God in the spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
NEW VERNON, N. Y.
June 15, 1845.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume II