Elder Beebe: - Please give your views on Jeremiah 2:33, and oblige an Inquirer After Truth.
REPLY: The passage proposed for consideration reads as follows: “Why trimmest thou thy way to seek love? therefore hast thou also taught the wicked ones thy ways.”
This searching appeal was made by the Lord God of Israel to Jerusalem by the mouth of Jeremiah the prophet, after having rehearsed some of the wonderful works of God in his dealings with Israel, in breaking for them the Egyptian yoke, and conducting them in safely through the dreary wilderness, and putting them in possession of the promised land, and their ingratitude to him for his signal mercies, and their rejection of him as their God, their transgression of his laws, and their abominable idolatry. This righteous reproof, though in interrogative form, clearly implies a charge of inconstancy, a departure from the Lord, and a restless desire to secure the love of strangers, and to impart the knowledge of her ways to the wicked.
In the few remarks which we design to make on this text, we will notice that the Jerusalem which is addressed and reproved in our subject, is a type of the church of God under the gospel dispensation, and her wicked lewdness and idolatry prefigures the waywardness of those under the present dispensation, who having espoused the cause of the Redeemer, and professed allegiance to our Lord Jesus Christ, have, like their prototype committed the same two evils which are charged on Israel in the thirteenth verse, namely: “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” If we would read the rebukes which the Lord administered to national Israel to profit, we should remember that these things were written for our learning, and examine carefully whether we are not to some extent involved in the abominations by which Israel was polluted. If we are the spiritual Jerusalem, of which the former was only the type, then we also have been redeemed from an house of bondage, and led forth by the mighty hand and outstretched arm of the God of our salvation. We also (but in a spiritual and experimental sense) have been preserved from the perils of the wilderness; we also have witnessed the awful majesty of almighty God, as he displayed himself from the clouded summit of the trembling mount which was convulsed at the presence of Jehovah, and we too have heard in thunder tones the proclamation of his fiery law. We have also professed to have entered into the land of rest, the gospel kingdom. “For we which have believed do enter into rest.” We have ceased from our own works, as God ceased from all the works which he had made, when he rested on the seventh day. We have renounced all hope in every other name, we have solemnly engaged to take on us his yoke, and learn of him who is meek and lowly; and like Israel, we have repeatedly said, All that the Lord our God has commanded us, that will we do. But how have we kept the pledge? As individuals, every saint is heard to confess with deep contrition his short-comings. But the reproof was applied to Jerusalem, collectively, when in a state of deep degeneracy, when her priests had ceased to inquire after the Lord, and they who handled the law were utterly ignorant of God. We cannot conceive that this state of things is always applicable to the whole church of God, neither was this at all times the case with the old Jerusalem. If we understand the bearing of this subject in its typical bearing, it is applicable to the church, or to any branch of the church of God, whenever and wherever they depart from the Lord as their only fountain of living waters, either in doctrine or practice, in faith or in order, in departing from the precepts, ordinances or spirit of the gospel of our salvation.
The special charge implied against Jerusalem was that she trimmed her way, or shaped her course with a view to seek the applause of the world, or to seek love. Not satisfied with the love of God which passeth knowledge, which is unspeakable and full of glory, but seeking for the illicit love of strangers. Jerusalem, in the type stood in matrimonial relation to the Lord, and hence whenever she went into idolatry, or after other gods, or whenever she fell in love with and worshiped the works of her own hands, she was charged with the crime of adultery. So the New Jerusalem which John saw coming down from God out of heaven, was called the bride, the Lamb’s wife, and bound by the most solemn obligations of fidelity to our Lord Jesus Christ, bound to love and serve him only, and to be satisfied with his love. When, therefore, the church or any of her branches become fascinated with the world, or the fashions thereof, and desirous to become popular and pleasing to the world, or to be in league with Antichrist, her desire betrays an adulterous inclination. When that inordinate desire predominates, she shapes her course, or trims her way to seek their applause, and secure their love, although the Husband of the bride has plainly admonished her, that if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. Can he whose love for his bride was so great that he for her sake became poor, that he bare her sins in his own body, that he gave himself for her, that he might redeem her from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works; can he whose love for his bride was stronger than death, be satisfied with the divided affections of his bride in return? Or will he allow her to seek for love among strangers? Except a man hate his father and mother, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple, saith the Redeemer. It may seem strange that the bride of the Lamb of God should ever find it in her heart to depart from him when well she knows that in his presence is fullness of joy, and at his right hand are pleasures for evermore, but so it is; though the ox knoweth his owner, and the stupid ass his master’s crib, yet Israel doth not know, the Lord’s people do not consider.
But let us consider the symptoms of inconstancy: How do churches, when in pursuit of unlawful love, trim their way? Their legitimate way is the way of holiness, it is to follow the footsteps of Christ, it is to worship God in the Spirit, to rejoice in Christ Jesus, and to have no confidence in the flesh, but to be pleasing and fascinating to strangers, her ways require trimming. This term implies both cutting off and putting on. As when we trim a tree or a vine we lop off some or all its natural branches, but when we trim a dress, or a person, or a house, or carriage, we put on such ornaments as we may fancy will please the taste and command the admiration of beholders. The term in both applications is appropriate in setting forth the degeneracy of churches, and individual christians when suffered to depart from the simplicity of the gospel in order to gain the applause of the world, or to be at peace with anti-Christ.
First, there is a lopping off. We perceive that those whose treacherous love and favor we are lusting after, cannot bear our way, as it has been plainly marked out in the divine rule, and as long as we so tenaciously contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints, we cannot have their company; we must be a little and despised flock, our name must be cast out as evil, and we must be regarded as the offscouring of all things; and in that case, the noble ones of the earth, the learned, the wealthy and the great, will not mingle with us; but if we will trim our way by avoiding those things which never fail to make diviners angry, say less about the divine sovereignty of God, the total depravity and utter inability of men, lop off eternal unconditional election, predestination, the special irresistible work of God in regeneration, the infallibly efficacious calling of all the chosen and redeemed people of our God, and the special atonement of Christ, as being exclusively for the elect, and even if we are obliged to believe in our hearts that all these are clearly demonstrated in the Bible, as the truth of God, still quit giving offence to the enemy by preaching them publicly; trim a little and perhaps we may convince the world that we are not quite so bad as they have taken us to be. When we have succeeded in trimming down the preaching so as to prevent any offensive doctrine to ring from our pulpits we may next set about trimming the ordinances. Baptism as instituted by Christ himself is objected to by those whose love we court, but what they have substituted in its place is so modified as to suit the world. Then as we would gain the esteem of strangers, let nothing be heard in defense of truth, nor in opposing or exposing error on that, or on any other subject. And as the world regards us as too tight-laced in regard to our communion, so long as we exclude from the table all unbaptized persons, and all others who do not walk in the faith and order of the divine rule, by being more accommodating, we may fill up our churches, and compare favorably in members and in respectability with other denominations around us. It has been the practice of the gospel church in all ages to require an evidence of a regenerated state of all whom they admit to baptism and church membership, but if we would please the world that practice must also be trimmed, and if applicants cannot enter in among us by the door, what harm, if we just let them climb up some other way?
One source of annoyance to the strangers in the untrimmed way of Zion has always been that our watchmen, whom God has set up on the walls, have been in the habit of sounding an alarm whenever they have seen the enemy approaching. How uncourteous that practice seems! Why not let them come, who knows but they would be good friends, if we would only let them come in peaceably? When we see the wolf coming, if he has wrapped himself snugly in sheeps’ clothing, does not that show that he loves the sheep, and desires their company? Why then scare them away by our alarm; who knows but what if we let them in, they will conclude to become sheep themselves some day? Can there be any reasonable doubt that this kind of trimming would cause the offence of the cross to cease? And if the world cannot be persuaded to join the church, the church would join the world, and so the distinction so much complained of would cease.
As trimming implies a putting on as well as trimming off, it may imply such decorations as the carnal mind may suggest to attract the attention and fascinate those who could never appreciate the beauty of the church of God as her Savior has arrayed her. In Isaiah 3:16-23, the daughters of Zion are described in their fancy trimmings, haughtily walking with stretched forth necks, and wanton eyes, mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet, displaying the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, the chains and the bracelets and the mufflers, the bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the head-bands, and the tablets, and the earrings, the rings and the nose-jewels, the changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins, the glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the veils, etc. Inspired wisdom has employed the foregoing figures to set forth the folly and wickedness of the church, or any of her daughters, or branches, when dissatisfied with the garments of salvation in which God has clothed his church, and desiring to be fashionable, and to please the world, and to allure and draw to her embrace those who have never passed from death unto life, she trims her ways to seek love.
Look at some branches of the church which stood on gospel grounds forty years ago, were then satisfied to dwell alone and not be reckoned with the nations. Where are they today? Abroad and seeking love. See how they are lumbered down with tinkling ornaments, with Missionary Societies, Tract Societies, Sabbath School Unions, Theological Schools, and educated ministry, cringing to Antichrist, and mincing as they go to seek for proselytes. Why have they put on all the fashionable institutions common to the daughters of Babylon, if it be not to seek love, aye, forbidden love? Their necks are stretched forth with haughtiness as they mince along, tinkling with the ornaments of their feet to attract the adulterous gaze of a wicked and adulterous generation. In short, everything attached to the name of religion, which is not divinely authorized by the great Head of the church, has been thus put on, by way of trimming, whether it be in doctrine or practice, and all to secure popularity, to make converts, to fill up churches, and gratify a wicked propensity to worship the works of men’s hands.
Wherefore hast thou also taught the wicked ones thy ways? Many, if not all, of these tinkling ornaments, especially Sunday and Theological Schools, Bible Classes, Tracts and Missionary Societies, are put on for the avowed purpose of teaching the wicked her ways. That is, for teaching religion, for saying every man to his neighbor, and every man to his brother, “Know the Lord.” The professed object is to make converts, to evangelize the heathen, and teach the ways of Zion to the world.
We might enlarge upon this subject, but our time and space will not allow us to pursue the application of the figures in all their bearing. But in closing our remarks, suffer a word of admonition. To the ministers of the word, we would repeat the solemn warning given by the apostle, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (I Tim. 4:15) To the churches we would repeat the solemn warning, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:8,9) “Ye did run well; who did hinder you, that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” (Gal. 5:7-9) To all the saints we would repeat the command of the Lord, “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.”
January 15, 1862.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 5
Pages 114 - 120