EPHESIANS VI. 12.

Dear Brother: If it be not asking too much, I would like to have you publish your views on Eph. vi. 12, last clause, “Against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

D.M. VARNER
Somerton, Ohio, March 18, 1861.

Reply: In our polyglot Bible, we have the marginal rendering of this clause, wicked spirits, instead of spiritual wickedness. The apostle has very clearly presented the church of God as the body of Christ, in this epistle, and traced the vitality of the whole body to Christ, as the Head of the body, and the church as the fullness of his body, who filleth all in all. And, having given the more cheering assurances of this vital and indissoluble union, its eternity and vitality, in closing the epistle he is inspired by the Holy Ghost to urge upon the saints such wholesome admonitions as they require; such as loving one another, as Christ has loved the church. The relative duties of husbands and wives, children and parents, servants and masters; for although in the body of Christ, which is spiritual, they are all one, yet in the flesh their relations to each other are unchanged, and their relative duties are as imperative, by the law of Christ, as they were before, so that the husband, the wife, the parent, the child, the servant and the master cannot disregard these relations and duties, without disloyalty to Christ, who is their Head. In urging these with all other obligations which devolve on the saints, and knowing the many temptations and oppositions rising from the flesh and from Satan to a faithful performance of all that he enjoins, he exhorts them to put on the whole armor of God, and describes the armor of God, from head to foot, as in all respects differing from and opposite to that kind of armor which is used in contending merely with flesh and blood, or with our fellow-men, for instead of a carnal warfare requiring carnal weapons, such as Sharp’s rifles, or any other kind of rifles or earthly weapons, we require the whole armor of God, that we may be able to stand, for our conflict is against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. By principalities we may understand all the organized forces of the kingdom of Satan, which indeed are many. As in the type, Babylon had an hundred and twenty and seven provinces, and the number of the antichristian beast is the number of a man, six hundred, three score and six, so we may infer that the organized powers of spiritual wickedness has its plurality, its rank and file, its officers and subalterns, against them all the saints are called to wrestle; and against powers, such as the powers of darkness, and the powers of our own corrupt nature, and against the rulers of the darkness of this world. The darkness of this world is what this world calls light, for the rulers of it put darkness for light, and light for darkness. Among the rulers of the darkness of this world we may class the clergy and the professors, who teach what they regard as the science of divinity, and oppose their science to the light of divine revelation. By their schools of divinity, including their infant schools, Bible classes, Sunday and Theological schools, together with such machinery in connection as Missionary and Tract Societies, their pulpit and printing influences, they certainly control to a very great extent the darkness and delusions of this world, corrupting the infant mind with false notions in regard to spiritual things, nurturing in them a prejudice against the truth, which must, if not arrested by divine interposition, ripen into violent hostility, and, perhaps, open persecution. And in their higher schools heaping teachers, having itching ears, which in the present running capacity of their machinery, they can supply to order. If anti-christ requires Catholic, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Methodist or New School Baptist preachers, those institutions can turn them out in any quantity or quality required, provided only that a paying amount of cash accompany the orders. And if to thicken the darkness and involve the country in anarchy, abolition preachers be required for the north, or fire-eaters for the south, the gearing of the engine is easily shifted to accommodate that object, so that their graduates may be prepared to cry, Lo here, or lo there, as will most effectually intensify the darkness, delusion and fanatacism required to turn away the ears of men from the truth, and incline them to fables.

Spiritual wickedness, or the abominable corruptions of high places by wicked spirits, appears to us to signify wickedness which assumes a religious or spiritual garb, having a tendency to corrupt in high places, embracing all the antichristian abominations of the man of sin, the son of perdition, whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all deceivableness of unrighteousness, with all signs and lying wonders. This wicked had already begun to work in the apostolic age, but was restrained until the time when the let or hindrance should be removed, and that wicked revealed. Some of the characteristics of this wicked are given by inspired writers, thus, “Who opposeth and exalteth itself above all that is called God, so that he as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” - 2 Thess. ii. 4. These characters are too clearly drawn by the pencil of inspired wisdom to admit of any doubt that the spiritual wickedness against which the saints are called to wrestle, contend and struggle, is the same which we are now resisting; it has become more fully developed since the date of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians; evil men and seducers have waxed worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. None doubt that the inauguration of the pope to his pontifical throne, and his usurpation of the spiritual affairs of the church, and his claim of divine power also to rule over the temporal affair of the kingdoms of this world, was, so far, a fulfillment of what Paul had predicted, and it would have been happy for the world if the whole development had been confined to the papal beast. But alas, the image of the beast presents the same outlines. As the pope assumed the control of the spiritual affairs of the church of God, so he took his seat in the temple of God; and as in claiming, as vicar of God, an absolute right to subject the temporal governments of the world to his mandates, he exalted himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped, for Christ as the King of Zion had made no such claim, in his spiritual connection with his church, but had distinctly declared that his kingdom is not of this world. And as all that the christian worships as God is embodied in Christ, so the pope exalted himself above all that is called God, by assuming such power as Christ disclaimed. It is true that Christ is exalted in his providential power as the God of the whole earth, and has power over all flesh, the King of kings and Lord of lords, but it is equally true that he clearly draws the line between his kingdom and this world; between his spiritual and his providential governments. When he was called on to divide an inheritance for certain heirs at law, he said to them, “Who hath made me judge?” &c., declining to decide their temporal matters. The high places of the papal spiritual wickedness were the assumed headship of the church, and a place so high in temporal power, as to rule over the kings and potentates of this world.

But we have intimated that this spiritual wickedness in high places is not confined to the papal beast. The setting up of the image of this papal beast by the protestant, or two-horned beast, which rose up out of the earth, and the investment of their image with all the power of its prototype by them. See Rev. xiii. - “And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him.” Is it not obviously true, that the Reformed church, which came out of the papal establishment, exercised the same power, that is the civil and ecclesiastical and temporal power that some of the potentates of the earth were enlisted and elevated as being by the grace of God, Defenders of the faith, &c., and that they did exercise that power by pains and penalties, and enforce their faith by armed forces in the field? But this is not all: the same power of all signs and lying wonders, and all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish. For John testifieth in verses 12-14, “And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them that dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell upon the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.”

The same self-exalted spirit which was betrayed by the two-horned beast, has made its marks so as to give evidence of its existence in all the so-called puritanic and other protestant establishments so far as they have had opportunity. Their violent persecutions have been restrained in our country, since the organization of our national confederacy, by our constitution, which very wisely provided that no religious denomination should be preferred by the government. This restraint, however, has never set easy on the Puritans or Protestants, the former of which had previously, from their landing from the May Flower, at Plymouth, enjoyed the luxury of whipping, banishing, burning, torturing and driving out of the country the Baptists, the Quakers, the witches, and, in short, all who could not, or would not, embrace their creed; while the latter had power to deprive the saints to some extent of their religious privileges, by arresting and imprisoning their ministers.

But even under the best form of constitutional government the world has ever known, which has guaranteed to every citizen of our great republic liberty to worship his God according to the dictates of his own conscience, this spiritual wickedness, though restricted and restrained, has continued to exist, and to make some astonishing developments, by aspiring to the high position of the temple of God, to a seat, a power and dignity; assuming the seat of God, by professing to have authority from heaven to do what none but God can do: the conversion of sinners, the evangelizing the heathen, the salvation of mankind, the calling, qualifying and employing of ministers, the organization of churches on creeds, rites and policies of human invention, ignoring the New Testa­ment, and with it the supreme authority of Christ. And down to the present day they claim and receive from men the honors and reverence, the confidence and prerogatives which belong alone to God, and they exalt themselves above all that is called God, by claiming for their human contrivances a far greater efficiency in the salvation of men than they allow to God’s method of salvation. This is spiritual wickedness in high places. But it is not in the nature of this wicked spirit to be satisfied with its extravagant and blasphemous assumption of ecclesiastical influence, its insatiable desire for temporal power demands the reins of our civil government, and the right to control the domestic institutions of the states and territories of our country, and to direct the action of Congress, threatening the states and the nation with the thunderbolts of heaven, if they do not respect their aspirations. The demoralizing and corrupting influences are manifest in the growing degeneracy of the citizens of our country, in the prevalence of crime of every revolting name, and upon the high places of our government in the alienation of fraternal fellowship and genial co-operation, in the disruption of the bonds of our federal union, and in fanning the flame of discord, prejudice and hatred, and in urging our country into the horrors of a civil war.

To wrestle against all this, the saints are not to use carnal weapons, such as the enemy relies upon. We require the armor of God, and no other armor will do for the disciples of the Lamb of God. But may we have on the whole armor of God, and having done all to stand, having our loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, and our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, above all taking of the shield of faith, wherewith we shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked, and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying always with all prayer, &c.

Middletown, N.Y.
April 15, 1861.

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 481 - 487