"And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God."
Christians are not to be indolent or inactive. God has called them by his grace, quickened them by his Spirit, written his law in their hearts, and translated them from the power of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son; and all this is done for them, not only to secure their ultimate happiness in the world of glory to which they are destined, but also that they should shew forth the praises of him who has loved them and given himself for them. To this end God has blessed them with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, according as he hath chosen them in him before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and without blame before him in love. The apostolic benediction in our text is not pronounced on as many as stand still, but as many as walk according to a certain rule, to which we propose to call the attention of our readers presently.
The frequent admonitions addressed to the saints, in the New Testament, to be vigilant and active, plainly show that the saints of our God have a race set before them, which they are called upon to run, a warfare in which they are to fight, hardness which they are to endure as good soldiers, burdens to bear, and offices of love and kindness to perform in the house of God, all of which demand constant diligence and activity. It is certainly to be lamented that at this day many who seem to entertain a hope in Christ, who love God and who delight in the society of his people, relish the doctrine of salvation by grace alone, who mourn when Zion mourns, and rejoice in her prosperity, and yet seem to feel but little if any conviction of the importance of the Savior's command, to take up their cross and follow him. It is true they are ready, in theory, to admit that it is both the duty and privilege of all heaven-born children, to walk in all the ordinances of the house of God, blamelessly, and to follow the footsteps of their Lord and Master in all his ordinances, but still indulge the idea that it is proper for them to remain inactive, because they feel impressed with a sense of their unworthiness, and because they are sometimes oppressed with gloomy doubts and dismal fears, in relation to their hope. Should all of the redeemed family of our God, who are subject to the like doubts and fears in relation to their personal interest in the blood and righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ, take the same position, there would be very few, if any, left to walk according to the rule of our apostle. Those timid, tried, tempted children of God, who are thus excusing themselves from taking an active part with the saints, because of their sense of unworthiness, would not hesitate a moment to recognize all others who relate to them the same exercises, as the children of God. Indeed nothing short of these very exercises would be by them received in evidence. Should any, for instance, relate to them the very experience which they are so anxious to obtain for themselves, they could not fellowship it. Suppose one should come forward and say, "I have no doubts, no fears, I have no sense of unworthiness, I feel perfectly satisfied that I am worthy, and that all is right on my part"; the poor, self-abased, trembling lamb of the flock of Christ would reject such an experience as delusive and vain. And yet many of them will excuse themselves from bearing the yoke of their dear Lord, because they have not the same exercises. It is certainly the case that many if not all of God's children will recognize in others, evidences which they condemn in themselves, and ask for themselves such evidences as they would at once condemn in others.
But, to return to the consideration of our text, "As many as walk." Although many may seem to stand still, our text implies that there are some that walk, and on them the peace and mercy of God is pronounced. But it is not only necessary that God's living children should walk, but it is still more important that they should walk correctly, uprightly, or according to the apostolic rule. Many may have a zeal which is not according to godliness. And the saints are commanded to withdraw themselves or turn away from every brother that walks disorderly. Not because they do not walk at all, but because they do not walk orderly. The feet of the ungodly are swift to shed blood, and many walk in forbidden paths, in a way that seems right unto a man, but the end of which are the ways of death. Some, in walking as described in the Scriptures, walk as those who go to the correction of the stocks, or as the young man of whom we read in the seventh chapter of Proverbs, who walked after the strange woman, not knowing that her house is the way to hell, leading down to the chambers of death. Some walk in the light of their own eyes, and of the sparks which they have themselves kindled, but from the hand of the Lord they shall lie down in sorrow.
As the apostle speaks of a rule by which the saints are to walk, how important it is that we search diligently for that rule. Where shall we find it? Whatever may be said in favor or against the rules of morality or religion, which have been adopted by good men or bad men, we certainly have a right to consider all rules unsafe for us, which are not clearly laid down in the Scriptures of truth by divine authority. The Old School Baptists profess to take the New Testament as our only infallible rule of faith and practice in all matters relating to the kingdom of Christ. Of the correctness and infallibility of this rule there can be no doubt. "To the word and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, [which is our rule] it is because there is no light in them." "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." And as the Scriptures thoroughly furnish the man of God with a rule for every good work, no other rule can be required, as he has no other than good works to be engaged in, and it follows also that all works performed by any other rule, or not by the Scriptures, must be evil, as they cannot be god works. Many works of a religious pretention are reputed good by men of the present degenerate age, for which the Scriptures furnish neither rule nor authority. But the Scriptures reject all such as the works of darkness, the hidden things of dishonesty. How important it is that we work, as well as walk, according to the divine rule, since every man's work shall be tried so as by fire, and our God is a consuming fire. Nothing unauthorized by him will be accepted as obedience, or regarded as works of righteousness.
A rule is an exact measure; just so much and no more, therefore if we take the New Testament as our rule in religious matters, that rule requires us to observe all things whatsoever our Lord Jesus Christ has commanded, and as we are not allowed to do less, so we are equally reprehensible if we attempt to do more. To suppose that we can please God by doing what he has not commanded, or by leaving undone what he has commanded, is to set up our own wisdom above his, and thereby insult his divine majesty. The Judaizing teachers pretended to aim at a higher standard of holiness than that which was held forth in the gospel, but they entangled the saints with the yoke of bondage, and sadly bewitched some of them. When Israel of old had no king, every man did that which was good in his own eyes; but the spiritual Israel has a King, and if we were capable of judging for ourselves, we would need no rule. Inasmuch, therefore, as God has given a rule, it becomes us to walk according to it.
But it was our design to call the attention of our readers more particularly to the rule for the christian walk, as stated in the chapter which contains our text, and its connection. The New Testament rule is introduced by Paul, in settling the disorders which disturbed the churches of Galatia; and having so applied the rule as to detect and expose the wickedness of the doctrines and commandments of men in religious matters, he proceeds to admonish the saints to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. That liberty he shows to be of a spiritual nature, and only to exist where the Spirit of the Lord is. He draws the contrast between the fruits of the Spirit and the lusts of the flesh, and presents the rule which requires the crucifixion of the flesh with the affections and lusts; "For," says he, "if we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." Walk after this rule and we shall not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another. This rule is to be faithfully adhered to in our relative duties one with another. It reads thus: "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one." Here is the command. It is not given to the carnal, or to those christians who have not, or do not, crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts, but it is given to them what are spiritual. The rule will not allow any but the spiritual to be engaged in the restoration of erring saints. But not even the spiritual are to act, only in strict accordance with the rule. How then shall they restore such an one? Suppose they could restore the delinquent in any other way than that commanded, would that answer? Certainly not. The rule requires that it shall be done in the spirit of meekness. Why should this be so essential, seeing the erring brother is restored? Because the spiritual brother or brethren are liable also to be tempted, and there is no other safe course but strict adherence to the rule. Again, "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." All this is to be done according to the rule; for he says, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. He that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." How fearful the admonition! By laboring with carnal or fleshly motive, even in our professed labor to restore an erring brother or sister, although our brethren may be mocked, and think we have done our duty to the rule, according to the letter and spirit of the gospel, God is not mocked. His piercing eye detects the lack of humility in us, and the fleshly, selfish motives in our hearts, secreted from our brethren, and will assuredly turn on us a harvest of corruption. Well might the apostle say, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature." This is the rule on which the holy apostle insists, that outward circumcision, which is in the flesh, availeth nothing. He is not a Jew now, who is one outwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart in the Spirit, whose praise is not of men but of God. We are the circumcision which worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Here we see the spiritual and antitypical circumcision is the manifestation of the new creature, or the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness, and hence it is said, "If any man be in Christ Jesus he is a new creature." While then, the new creature and the old creature both exist in us, there is strife, and the rule demands that the old man be put off, and the new man be put on, and in this spiritual frame, with the flesh and its affections crucified, the world crucified to us, and we to the world, we are to walk in all the ordinances, laws and institutions of the house of our God. This is our rule, and the only divinely authorized rule for us. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
But in Paul's day there were "Many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: whose mouths must be stopped; who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake." – Titus i. 10,11. They are all unruly who walk not according to this rule, and who depart from this rule, whatever they may substitute for it, are vain talkers and deceivers, and their influence has been sadly felt in the church at a much later date than that in which Paul wrote to Titus.
In conclusion, we will remark, "This rule," is in perfect harmony with the whole letter and spirit of the gospel of God our Savior. While the doctrine of the gospel teaches that salvation is wholly by grace, through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast, this rule is applied only to them who are already saved, quickened and born of the Spirit. It excludes all the fruits of the flesh, and until we are born again we can bear no other than fruits of the flesh. First make the tree good, and its fruits will be good. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that comprehends all that we are or can be, or can produce until born again; and after the new birth, this rule excludes all the lusts of the flesh, and approves only of the fruits of the Spirit. This rule, therefore, calls for none of the works referred to as a means of procuring a new birth, but directs their manifestation as the evidence that they who are capable of walking according to this rule are certainly born of God, and led by the Spirit.
The unregenerate, and more particularly among them, the Arminian workmongers and will- worshipers, can see no reason why, if our doctrine be true, christians should work at all. They tell us that if they believed our doctrine, they would live as they list; they would take their fill of sin, and live upon the theory, once in grace always in grace. We are not at all surprised to hear them belch forth such doctrines, for these sentiments are the natural productions of the flesh, and show plainly that those who hold them have never been born again, and consequently possess within them no fountain that can send forth any other streams than those selfish, muddy and polluted waters. The rule cannot apply to them, for if they should crucify their flesh with the affections and lusts thereof, there would be nothing of them left, it would use them up. But where God has implanted the spirit of immortality, the fruits of the Spirit will be produced in evidence thereof. Again, it is often slanderously reported that the doctrine of the gospel, as held by us, leads to inertness, if not to licentiousness. But those who are instructed in the school of Christ, know that the truth of the gospel and the practice of the gospel go harmoniously together; and the rule securing peace and blessedness to the Israel of God, unites the doctrine and practice of the gospel together. The immortal and incorruptible seed implanted in them, is born of God and loves holiness, loves truth, loves righteousness and loves all that is approved and lovely in the sight of God.
Middletown, N. Y.,
November 15, 1856
Elder Gilbert Beebe