Dear Brother Beebe: I do not like to trouble you too much, but it seems so impressed on my mind that I cannot well avoid it; to ask your views on Psa. cxxv. 5, particularly on the latter clause, “but peace shall be upon Israel.”
Penningtonville, Pa., Dec. 10, 1860.
Reply: The inspired singer in Israel has expressed the security of God’s people in very strong language. “They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abideth forever. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even forever.” But in the text proposed for consideration, another description of character is brought to view. A people who do not trust in the Lord, who are not like Mount Zion, do not abide forever, but turn aside to their crooked ways, and are led forth with the workers of iniquity. The first described are called the Lord’s people. God is their defence; he is round about them as the mountains environ Jerusalem, and as elsewhere expressed, “He is a wall of fire round about them, and a glory in their midst.” The eternal God is their refuge, and underneath them are his everlasting arms. They shall not be moved, God shall help them, and that right early. Immovable as the Mount of God, and as securely environed by the divine presence, and as invulnerable as Mount Zion on the sides of the north. Beautiful for situation, and perfectly impregnable in her security. Trusting in God and having no confidence in the flesh, they shall be kept by his mighty power, through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.
But, “As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways.” Who are these? and from what do they turn aside? It is true that God’s people do not always feel that confidential trust in God which they desire to feel, and that they find in them a carnal and depraved nature, which often turns aside from the strait and narrow pathway of holiness, to the beggarly elements of the world, causing them much sorrow and lamentation, but still their trust for life and immortality is in God; that is, they have no other trust; they know if it were possible for that to fail them, all would be gone. But the psalmist seems to make a distinction between those apostates, of whom he speaks as turning aside, and Israel, for “The Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity, but peace shall be upon Israel.”
Those who turn aside, must be those who have stood, nominally at least, in the ranks of the Lord’s people, or no turning aside would be required to pursue their crooked ways. The christian course is straight forward, pressing towards the mark of their high calling, and looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of their faith, but those who pursue any other course, or follow any other leader, religiously, travel in a thoroughfare marked out by the old serpent. Serpents and vipers cannot travel in a straight path, it is contrary to their nature. Those who were called serpents and vipers, by John the Baptist, and the Shepherd of Israel, were remarkably zig zag in their course. At one time they came to John, desiring admission into the Baptist community, at another they boastingly profess to be Moses’ disciples. Sometimes they are delighted with the gracious words spoken by the Redeemer, and anon they attempt to cast him headlong from the brow of the hill. Their piety is at times shocked at seeing the disciples eat corn on the Sabbath, at another they could hire men to swear falsely against the Son of God. With disfigured faces they made long prayers in public places, and with felonious avarice devour widows’ houses. In modern times their serpentine course may be traced in their pathetic appeals for ameliorating the sufferings of the Hottentots, and the barefooted Indians of distant regions, and in grinding the faces of the poor at home, or in weeping over the cruelty of the heathen nations, and in furnishing Sharp’s rifles to murder the citizens of our own country; in distributing copies of the Scriptures, and repudiating the doctrines of the Bible. These are some of their crooked ways, but all their ways are equally crooked. Such as turn aside to their crooked ways, (for no man can pursue them and at the same time walk in the order of the house of God,) the Lord shall lead them forth. By his judgments, choosing their delusions, until they shall be led forth from the society and fellowship of the people of God, to mingle with their fellow workers of iniquity.
The true character of the workers of iniquity may be clearly inferred from the description given of some of them by our Lord. Many of them shall say, Lord, we have prophesied in thy name, preached, cast out devils, and done many wondrous works. But he shall say unto them, Depart from me ye workers of iniquity, for I know you not. The development of anti-christ in the last times, should be with all signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; but a very prominent mark is, his coming is after the working of Satan; or working of iniquity. All anti-christian working is upon the ground of distrusting God. As they know not the true God, therefore, they cannot trust him to save his people, and consequently they set about the work to establish their own righteousness. While God’s people both labor and suffer reproach because they trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of them that believe.
But we are desired to dwell more particularly on the last part of the text, “But peace shall be upon Israel.”
The judgments of God in scourging out from the fellowship of his people those who turn aside to their crooked ways is in itself eminently calculated to promote peace upon them that remain. The psalmist prayed to be delivered from strange children. And in Psalm cxx. he complains thus, “Woe is me, that I dwell in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar. My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war.” And in cxxii. he says, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee.” This is what all the children of God desire, and for it they pray. And Paul exhorts, first of all, that prayers and intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men: for kings and for all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life, in all godliness and honesty, &c. And in all the apostlic salutations to the saints, the prayer ascends to heaven, that grace, mercy and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, may be with them. Peace is a special gift of God. “My peace,” said Jesus to his saints, “I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. And the inspired prophet testifies, “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall perform this.” For he of whom Isaiah prophesied, is the Prince of Peace. Israel is God’s chosen and redeemed people; they were once in a state of hostility and rebellion against God; enemies to God by wicked works, but now hath he reconciled them by the sacrifice which Jesus offered of himself for them. He has made peace by the blood of his cross, and that peace shall be upon them. His law, the law of the Spirit of life, which is in Christ Jesus, is written in their heart, and wrapped in their affections, and it is written, “Great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them.” A most beautiful illustration of this assurance is found Isaiah liv. 11-13, “O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of precious stones. And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.
In the present agitated state of our country, where since the days of Puritanic cruelties in the colonies, of hanging reputed witches, and the cart-tail whipping through the streets of the eastern cities, and the incarceration of Baptists in some of the southern colonies, we have enjoyed religious rights, which in the threatened dissolution of our constitutional guarantees may be taken from us, we cannot assure ourselves that the blood of martyrs shall not hereafter flow. But even in that event, those who trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion. And although always at war with anti-christ, the church shall assuredly enjoy that peace which the world cannot give nor take away. But let those who turn aside from the teachings of the Scriptures, to their crooked ways, know the Lord will lead them forth with the workers of iniquity. “Come out of her my people,” saith the warning voice from heaven, “that ye be not partakers of her crimes, nor receive of her plagues.”
Middletown, N. Y.
January 1, 1861.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 443 – 447