Friend Beebe: - In closing I will request your views through the Signs, on Jeremiah 9:5 "They have built also the high places of Baal to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind."
This text and its connection, presents in striking language the awful depravity and base idolatry of the kings and rulers of Judah in departing from the laws and institutions of the Lord, which were strictly enjoined upon the children of Israel as the peculiar people of God. They were commanded to reverence, worship and obey no other god than Jehovah, and all the rites and ceremonies, offerings and ordinances by which they were to serve him were restricted to those which were instituted, ordained and commanded them by him. Under no pretense, not even of serving or honoring him, were they allowed to deviate from what he communicated to them. If the altars of rough stone seemed unsightly and antiquated they were not allowed to apply the tool of the workmen upon it, nor to supercede it by building altars of brick. What God commanded them, comprised all that they had liberty to do. If in any case they went beyond the word of the Lord, the cutting reproof was severely applied, "Who hath required this at your hand?" To do what God had not commanded was equivalent to a leaving undone what God had commanded; and in either case they were guilty of a transgression of the law. Their existence and prosperity as a nation, in a temporal point of view, was connected by the covenant under which they existed, with their obedience, and their calamities, and temporal visitations of wrath from the hand of God, was connected with their disobedience. Thus they very strikingly typified their spiritual priesthood and holy nation which is embraced in the spiritual kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we may hereafter have occasion more fully to observe.
The kings of Judah and of Israel were many of them exceedingly prone to idolatry and to do that which is evil in the sight of the Lord and to cause the people of Israel, to depart from the law of their God.
As a general thing these wicked princes were not lacking for prophets well trained to suit their wicked designs, who, to please their kings, and secure royal patronage were ever ready to use their own mouths and say, The Lord saith; even when God had not spoken by them. The example of all the prophets of Ahab, with one mouth, and with a lying spirit therein, saying to him and to Jehosaphat, "Go and prosper, and the Lord will deliver Ramoth Gilead into your hand," is but one instance among hundreds which might be referred to. But of all the instances of rebellion against God, perhaps none on record is more horrible than the case presented in our subject. They had not only set up another god in defiance of the command, "Thou shalt have no other god before me," but they had instituted ordinances of the most revolting in-human and murderous character, by which places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire, for an offering to Baal. Frightfully, barbarous and brutal as these excesses may seem, they were performed under a cloak of high toned piety. These murders were committed as a religious devotion, and under the idea of improvements in their divinity. And from some expressions in the text, it would seem that they even claimed that they had express authority from the God of heaven for their abominations. But in the words of our text the profane and blasphemous imputation is repelled; and God, by the mouth of his inspired prophet Jeremiah, emphatically declares that he had not commanded, nor even contemplated commanding them to do such things. The holy mind of God was not the fountain from which, nor into which such corruption's, could possibly flow. "Which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind."
We are not to understand by any words used in our text, that the wickedness of the kings of Judah, has been bidden from the pre-science of the omniscient God, who has with unerring accuracy declared the end from the beginning; for all things are naked to his eye. Indeed such a conclusion would betray a lamentable ignorance of the perfection's of our God, and of the general tenor of divine testimony. The plain and evident meaning of the words, when construed so as to harmonize with the whole revelation which God has made to us of his infinity, is that he had never commanded, nor intimated by any communication made by him, in all the law and the prophets, that he required this abominable wickedness from their hands, and farther, that he had never contemplated, or designed to authorize any such things, nor had such a purpose ever existed in his mind. If such a thought had ever found place in his mind, it would be there yet; for He is of one mind and none can turn him. It really seems passing strange that any who profess to believe that God is immutable, should for a moment suppose this or any other portion of the scriptures would bear a construction involving a sentiment in contradiction of the immutability and prescience of the eternal Jehovah. We can with as much propriety assail, or dispute the holiness, truth, and justice of God, or any other of the attributes of his infinite being, as to question his immutability. He has said, "I am the Lord, I change not, therefore the sons of Jacob are not consumed." The Lord does not say, nor intimate, that the wickedness of the idolatrous kings was new to him. He was speaking of what he had not commanded, spoken nor thought of commanding.
Now as we hold, according to the word, that these things which were written of old were written for our instruction, it is proper that we should inquire prayerfully, what lesson of instruction this record presents for our benefit, either in a way of admonition, or edification.
The Kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem were a type, as we have already intimated, of what we call the visible church under the gospel dispensation. As the old Jerusalem, which is Mt Sinai, in Arabia, and in bondage with her children, was the type of the New Jerusalem, so the inhabitants of the former Jerusalem must represent the inhabitants of the latter whom Christ has made kings and priests unto God, and may we not proceed still farther and say, as the king and inhabitants in the inhabitants in the type manifested a strong propensity to idolatry, so in the anti-typical church, there are sometimes to be found some who betray as strong a disposition to depart from the simplicity of the gospel of our Redeemer, and lead off into idolatry, answering in the figure, to that charged in our subject on the men of Judah?
For instance, Baal was a very popular and fashionable god, with the kings of Judah, he had many prophets and many worshippers in the days of Elijah, while the prophet of the Lord was companionless and alone, at least he so supposed. When Ahab and Jezebel served Baal, nearly all the inhabitants of Jerusalem followed their example. There were times when idolatry prevailed, to an alarming degree; but occasionally a Jehu, or some other kings was raised up to destroy the idols out of the land; but still after all the reformations, some vestiges of idolatry always remained; enough to prove that the children of Judah and Israel were a stiff-necked and rebellious people.
Now let us search diligently and see if there are no idols among the professed children of God, or of our spiritual Judah, under the present dispensation. Why did the beloved disciple and apostle John exhort, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols"? Covetousness is idolatry, and is there no covetousness among the professed people of our Lord?
The principle of idolatry is that which draws the mind always from God, from Christ, to trust in and to ascribe to the works of our own hands that honor which belongs exclusively to God. If Jerusalem, that is the church of Christ, were to be now searched as with lighted candles, can we flatter ourselves that no idols would be found among us? Would none be found ascribing salvation to means, instrumentality's, efforts, missions, funds, free-will, or human power? Alas, there is too much reason to fear that the most devoted servants of the living God, like Jehu, after displaying their zeal for God in destroying the idols out of the land, would be found to have retained some favorite idols for their own use, as Jehu did. Ah little children, remember the admonition, Keep yourselves from idols.
Now there were many idols among the ancient Israelites, but as we have said, Baal was a very popular god, and it had become fashionable to worship him, and to make the most extravagant offerings to him. The principle object assigned for this strong propensity in the Israelites to worship Baal and other idols was that they might be like the nations round about them, which were altogether given to idolatry. Now should we suppose for a moment that modern missionism, or human means, for the salvation of sinners, or any or all of the religious inventions of the present age for the professed purpose of executing or aiding in the execution of that salvation which the scriptures ascribe alone to our Lord Jesus Christ, were the Baal of the present day, how many, dear reader, could you find within the limit of your acquaintance, who have in no sense of the word bowed down to this Baal? That God has a reserved people now as well as in Elijah's day we do verily believe; a remnant according to the election of grace; and O, that we may be found among them, as the reserved and preserved of the Lord.
But there is one thing farther we wish to call the attention of God's dear children to, namely, the false pretentions on the part of wicked rulers in religious professions, who plead their idolatrous doctrines and practices, that in them they are doing God a service. That he has in some way enjoined on us the work of saving sinners, or of procuring and securing our own individual salvation. But does not the subject under consideration suggest the enquiry, Who hath required these things at our hands? If Christ our king has so commanded us, then we can easily point to the chapter and verse in the New Testament wherein such command is recorded, but if no such authority can be found in that sacred volume, is it not a fearful consideration, that he shall not only judge the world in righteousness at the last day, but "The Lord shall judge his people"? It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, when Christ shall declare that he has given no such command, has instituted no such ordinances, has uttered no sayings to justify such things, and that it has never entered his mind either to command or to approve of them.
Again, in the type, the kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem were charged with building the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire, burnt offerings to the popular and fashionable idol. And are there not at this day such rulers among the people, who are charged with making God's people howl, in consequence of their oppression and idolatry, and by leading them clandestinely into bye and forbidden paths, subjecting them to the fire, and all in honor of some popular and fashionable idols of the present age. Within our own observation, if we are not greatly mistaken, we have witnessed the desolation of churches, which were once in a flourishing condition, their sons or members have been made to pass through fiery trials, and those who have ruled them, have manifestly been the cause of leading them into their difficulties; and all this in honor to some principle of the modern idolatry, they have departed from the faith, the order and the practice of the gospel of the blessed god. This advantage they have generally gained by holding out the pretence that the Lord has commanded or authorized their course. But the Lord said of such prophets of old, that he had not spoken by them; and we may also rest assured that God has not spoken by any of the prophets, teachers, or rulers of the present time who are now thrusting with side and shoulder, that that which is lame may be turned aside from the truth. We are well assured that Christ the great Captain of our salvation has not commanded anything to be preached or practiced in his name which cannot be found on divine record; neither has it come into his mind to give any such authority. Therefore, "If I, or an angel from heaven, preach unto you any other gospel than that which the apostles preached, let him be accursed." May God, our heavenly Father, deliver us from all idolatry, will-worship and delusion, and banish from our hearts every rival to the government of our only and blessed Potentate, the Lord of lords, and King of kings, to whom, with the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory, honor, praise, and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
January 15, 1854
Elder Gilbert Beebe