Compassed about as we are with all the infirmities common to our brethren, it cannot be reasonably expected that we should feel ourself capable of expounding every passage of scripture which may be presented, in a manner satisfactory to our own mind, for we think there are but few if any who can more sensibly feel their inability to go beyond that which the gracious Lord may be pleased at times to afford us in understanding the unsearchable riches of the sacred volume of inspired truth. With such ability as we have, we have felt constrained to respond to the earnest solicitation of such as have regarded themselves babes in the kingdom of our blessed Lord, and we have taken great pleasure in trying to aid them in their investigation of the doctrine of God our Savior, in the hope that such views as we have been able to present may be made useful to them, and that they may be led more deeply into the glorious fulness of the subjects on which their minds have labored. But when the old experienced elders, whose abilities so far surpass our own have presented their queries, and asked our views on portions of the word, we have not so generally felt satisfied that they could ask simply for information sake. Be that however as it may, we shall not question the purity of Brother Suydam’s motive in asking of us our comments on the text proposed, which reads as follows:
“Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; lest there be any fornicators, or profane person as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birth right.”
Our time and space admonish us to make our comments brief, presuming on the old proverb that “A word to the wise is sufficient.” The admonitions of the inspired writer of this epistle were addressed to a peculiar people recognized by him as “Holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, and who had come to mount Zion, and unto the city of our God,” etc., who in the spiritual fraternity of holy brethren, and in the fellow citizenship of the heavenly Jerusalem, were solemnly bound to observe all the laws, ordinances, admonitions and instructions which belong to the people of the living God. The admonition embraced in the text embraces a solemn charge in regard to three specified points of order, to be observed in the house of God.
First - Lest any man fail of the grace of God.
Second - Lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.
Third - Lest there be any such person as Esau, etc.
First. We cannot understand the text, as implying that there is a liability, or even a possibility, of failure in the grace of God, to secure the eternal salvation of all on whom it is bestowed, or to whom it was given in Christ Jesus, before the world began, for such a construction would sorely conflict with the general testimony of the scriptures, and tend directly to check the faith and confidence of the saints in that grace by which they are saved. But there is a sense, in perfect harmony with the doctrine of God our Savior, in which the saints are liable to fail of the grace of God and in that sense we should look diligently for and guard studiously against the liability of seeming to fail of the grace of God.
As an illustration of our view, we refer brother S. to chapter 4, and first verse of this epistle. “Let us therefore fear lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” Though all the promises of God in Christ are yea, and amen; still the saints are liable, though their doubting, and unbelief, to seem at least, to come short of them. This, as every tried saints can testify when in doubt and unbelief, we cannot comfortably rest on the promises of God. - Though we do not feel disposed to dispute the truth of God, or the promises which he has so graciously confirmed by two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie; yet lacking confidence in the Spirit’s work in applying these immutable promises to us personally, we of course, come short of resting on them and like those Israelites whose carcasses fell in the wilderness, and who could not enter into Canaan as a typical rest, so neither can we under such circumstances enter into the spiritual rest, the gospel sabbatic rest, because of unbelief, but when our faith triumphs over unbelief, we who believe do enter into rest. All the rest, and all the sweetness of the gospel enjoyed by the saints, is grace developed. The saints in the gospel are not under the law, but under grace, have not come to the mount that burned with fire and blackness, but to the heavenly Jerusalem, or vision of peace; therefore the grace which they are liable to fail of is that grace of God by which they enjoy their birth-right in the house and family of God. In looking diligently for examples of such failures, we may meet with instances wherein those in the genuineness of whose christian experience and calling we have no doubt, who either from a propensity to doubt the evidences of their adoption, or from want of stability in the doctrine, or from a restless, uneasy peevish or fretful disposition, seem to be carried about by every wind of doctrine, and are tossed to and fro, so that they really enjoy but very little rest or quietude. In this sense then, they fail of the grace of God, that is of the present enjoyment of it. But
Secondly. Under the charge embraced in this division of our subject, we shall find that a failure of so enjoying the manifestation of divine favor or grace, as we have briefly hinted at in the foregoing, sometimes has a tendency to produce roots of bitterness, which are attended with trouble and defilement. The christian in whose deportment the spirit of grace does not seem to predominate, who becomes uneasy, restless and fidgety, renders himself far less desirable as a companion of the sons of grace, and yet labors under the mistaken notion that his merits are not duly appreciated; jealousy, the green-eyed monster, as it is called, gets a sly but death-like grasp on their disordered mind, the seed is sown, the root is formed in the fleshly soil which is so remarkably genial to its growth, and the root springs up with rapid but malignant haste, bitterness and defilement are its legitimate fruits. Has not our brother S. in his long experiences in the house of God observed cases, not only among the private members, but even among the ministers who occupy the walls of Zion, where roots of bitterness have been in this, or in a similar manner produced? If brother Suydam has forgotten, we will stir up his pure mind by way of remembrance. When some thirty years ago he was a resident of this part of the country at a time when “many departed from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils,” and also at a time when many who had long stood with us, (say in the Warwick Association, for example) were defiled, and so much defiled that we were under the stern necessity of withdrawing our fellowship from them. - Even since the division of the professedly Baptist denomination have we not witnessed, from time to time roots of bitterness springing up? The blessings of the New covenant come down. The unity of brethren as described in Psa. cxxxiii is compared to the oil which was poured on Aaron’s head, and which ran down and like the dew of Hermon, which descended upon the mountains of Zion. And truly every good and perfect gift cometh down from the Father of lights; but roots of bitterness which trouble and defile the saints come from an opposite direction. They, like modern revivals and humanly devised religious institutions, invariably spring up or are got up according to the language of Ashdod. The sons of God are solemnly charged to look diligently, a mere superficial observation is not enough, but Jerusalem must be searched as with lighted candles, and where these pernicious roots are found, however long they may have been bedded in the traditions of those we love; they must be removed. It may require some digging with the mattock; but we shall find, “on all hills that shall be digged with a mattock, there shall not come thither the fear of briars and thorns.” Isa. vii. 25. Sometimes these roots have required a diligent search, in order to find them. Men have from time to time crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation; ungodly men, turning God’s grace into laciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Jude 4. At least the mediatorial existence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the bosom of the eternal Father from the ancients of eternity, as the Head of his body, the church, and as the life of his members, has been denied by some of them of late. Whatever the root may be, or by whomsoever sown or planted, we rejoice in the assurance that every plant which our heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up. These roots produce much trouble among the saints, as we are told by our Lord, it is impossible but offenses shall come among you; but woe unto that man by whom they come. What trouble was brought upon the churches of Antioch, Galatia, and at Corinth; and there were those also who troubled the saints of Thessalonica, and Paul would that they who troubled the saints were even cut off. But he admonished those who were troubled to “rest with us.” Nor is it uncommon for many to become defiled, from the same cause of defection, especially where the disorder originates with persons who hold prominent positions. Many are apt to drink in the poisonous theories, doctrine and disorders, or to sustain those who are sowing them broadcast, and thus do they become defiled. Indeed we have been misinformed, if there are none even in the latitude of our esteemed brother, who by listening to the false representations made to them by designing men, have become so far defiled as to effect their fellowship for and confidence in some of their brethren, with whom they had enjoyed uninterrupted fellowship for many years, if not even to the extent of drinking in the same sentiments which have never failed to produce the like results. By this remark we do not mean to reflect on brethren in the vicinity of brother Suydam, for so far as our knowledge extends, the brethren of that locality are as sound and orderly as the saints in any other part of our acquaintance. But where shall we, in this day of rebuke and blasphemy find the people of our God perfectly free from the troubles and defilement occasioned by wicked men and seducers, who shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived? May the Lord enable us to look diligently to this matter, and may he graciously preserve us from the defilement of error, and from the trouble consequent therein, and rid and deliver us from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood, that our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner-stones, polished after the similitude of a palace, that our gardens may be full, affording all manner of store; that our oxen may be strong to labor; that there be no breaking in, nor going out, that there be no complaining in our streets. Happy is the people that is in such a case, yea, happy is that people whose God is the Lord. Psa. cxliv 11-15.
Third - Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat, sold his birthright. There are sometimes to be found in what we call the visible church of Christ some whose standing and connection with the church is like that of Esau in the family of the patriarch Isaac. So far as a nominal standing is considered they have been received on profession of their faith, and regularly admitted to fellowship, and to the communion of the church. Like Esau they have a birthright, so far as relates to nominal membership in the church, though like him, they may be destitute of the saving love of God in their hearts. Their association with the family of God did not lessen their relish for sin, nor give them a love for holiness. Their strong propensities may be so disguised as to evade the observation of the saints, and like their proto-type, they may display much zeal both in willing and in running; but that predominating love for the world which is deeply rooted in them will be very likely some time to discover itself, especially when a conflict arises between their carnal appetites, and a conformity to the order of the kingdom of our Redeemer. On such occasions the latter will be abandoned, and the former gratified. The birthright is not so sacred with them, as their relish for carnal enjoyments is strong and unconquerable. There were many of this class became disciples to our Redeemer when he was here in the flesh; and they followed him from place to place, but not in the regeneration. Their fidelity was severely tested by our Lord, whose Omniscient eye saw all the deception and hypocrisy of their hearts; and he charged on them that they followed him for the sake of the loaves and the fishes, of which they had eaten and were filled. They desired the meat that perisheth, but had no hungering after that bread which came down from heaven; and when plainly told that except they ate the flesh and drank the blood of Jesus, they had no life in him, they protested against the doctrine, discarded their birthright, and apostatized from their discipleship. But when they went away and left the little company who had nowhere else to go because Christ had the words of eternal life, their place was to be occupied in succeeding ages by others of like character who have ever infested the christian profession. The church is most solemnly and frequently admonished to beware of them. Occasionally we have striking illustrations of the kind. So long as there is nothing appears to cross their trace, while they can find smooth sailing, and their aspiring ambition can be gratified, they make no demonstration, perceptible to the saints, of their heartless forms, and empty professions. But when their profession or conformity to rules observed in the church of God comes in collision with their vain desires, ambitious notions, and lofty aspirations for distinction, their birthright is trafficked away; the mess of pottage is secured; the authority of the church to call them to order is denounced and defied; and they go to their own company. We have had some painful exemplifications of this in some of whom we have made a difference, pulling them out of the fire, while we have hated their garments spotted with the flesh; who after becoming indebted to the kindly office of well-meaning, but mistaken brethren, for all the standing they ever had among us, have on the first opportunity, turned on those who have warmed them into activity, and tried to sting them to death and not unfrequently for the base purpose of elevating themselves, gratifying their carnal desires, or obtaining some morsel of meat by sinking, if possible, their benefactors. What to them is a birthright which deprives them of carnal gratifications and which requires subjection to the authority of Christ to his church?
But we presume the inspired writer designed to admonish the saints that carnality and inordinate desires are not confined to those who never knew our God. Christians carry about with them a body of sin, their carnal nature is as strongly disposed for self-gratification as it ever was, only through grace abounding they are sometimes enabled to keep their bodies under, or in, subjection. The birthright of the saints is by no corruptible seed; but of an incorruptible seed, by the word of the Lord which liveth and abideth forever. This birthright they cannot sell, for this life into which they are born, is hid with Christ in God, and the inheritance to which it establishes their claim is incorruptible, undefiled, and can never fade away. But the privilege of their birthright, so far as it relates to the privilege of the house of God, the fellowship of their brethren, and their enjoyment of social intercourse with their Heavenly Father’s children, may be sold for morsels of carnal gratification. Many examples of this may be brought, as for instance the child of God who yields to the carnal desires of his flesh, the miser, the drunkard, the glutton, the fornicator and the profane person. Christ our Lord has commanded his people to deny themselves, take up the cross and follow him. And his grace has appeared, teaching us that denying ourselves of all ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteous, and godly in the present world. But are there instances wherein some of God’s dear children have for the gratification of an extravagant thirst, drank to intoxication when they were fully aware that by such indulgence they were wounding the hearts of their brethren, and sacrificing the fellowship of the church, and thus selling their birthright; and so also in regard to all the other self-gratifications referred to above.
Before we leave this part of the subject, permit us to enquire if there are no cases in which christians have bartered away their rights of birth, in the privileges of Zion, at a very cheap rate, say for one morsel of meat? Have none of them absented themselves from the solemn feasts of Zion, rather than not secure the earnings of a few hours, rather than offend some gossiping friends who have called just in time to prevent their going to some appointment of the church, or has not the gratification of a lazy sluggish propensity kept them from their privilege in the assembly of the saints, even when there has been no other impediment in their way.
Once more, are there none who have sold their houses and lands, where they have been near to, and in the midst of the saints, and where they have had the privileges of the ordinances of the house of God, who for the consideration of a prospect of making more money, have sold out the privilege of their birth, pulled up stakes, and moved entirely out of the reach of all social privileges with their brethren? Let us look diligently to this matter, lest there be found in us an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the Lord.
Brother Suydam, and all our readers, will you please accept the foregoing as being about as well as we can do for them in expressing to them what has been on our mind in regard to the subject embraced in the text. The very best that we can write on any subject connected with the precious things of the kingdom is but poor. May the Lord give us all a clearer light and enable us to walk in the light as children of it, until it shall be his pleasure to call us hence to an abode in the unsullied glory of his immediate presence. - Amen.
Feb. 15, 1854
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials – Volume 3
Pages 26 - 35