LIVING faith invariably proceeds from a living source, and can never emanate from the carnal mind, which is enmity against God, which is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. All men are by nature carnal, the whole fountain of the heart is corrupt, all the intellectual powers of man are corrupt, the thoughts of his heart are evil, and that continually: however we may manage the outflowings of the human mind, still the fountain and all the streams are earthly, sensual and devilish; nor can they be otherwise until the fountain be broken up, and a new heart and a new spirit be given and received. “First make the fountain pure and the stream will be pure;” “First make the tree good and the fruit will be good.” In illustration of this doctrine, we shall offer a few remarks on 1 Cor. 1. 22 and 23: “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a Stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness The Jews were connected with Abraham only by carnal ties; they were the natural but not spiritual children of that patriarch, and the covenant which embraced them, together with all such as were bought with Abraham’s money was based on carnal provisions Their circumcision was outward, in the flesh; their worship was the observance of carnal ordnances, a worldly sanctuary, and their rewards or obedience anti punishment for transgression were temporal: the former consisted in corn, wine and oil, peace, plenty and exemption from pestilence, the land of Canaan, and national prosperity: for disobedience they experienced the reverse of these things. Their religious instructions were communicated by presenting external considerations to their natural minds anti as there is no stability in the natural mind, they required that such evidences as they could comprehend should be often repeated. At one moment the simultaneous cry is heard from them, “All that the Lord cornmandeth us, that we will do;” at another they as unanimously demand of Aaron to “Up and make us gods to go before us; for as for this Moses, we wot not what has become of him.” These evolutions were as common among the Jews the time that Christ and the Apostles were preaching among them, as in the days of their fathers, in the wilderness or in the land which the Lord gave them. From tradition and habit they could conceive of no other faith than such as rested on signs and moral suasion tangible to their carnal perceptions: hence they were constantly solicitous for external signs.
When our Lord scourged out the merchants and brokers from his temple, they demanded of him a sign, seeing he executed these things; and when he reproved the greedy avarice of those who crossed the sea of Tiberias, in hope of feasting again on loaves and they said to him, What Sign shewest thou then, that we may see and believe, what doest thou work Our fathers did eat manna in the desert, as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven.” Only the day preceding, these men were fully convinced that Christ was truly that prophet that was to come: they believed on him, and it was necessary that Christ should avoid them, as there was danger that this set of carnal believers would come and take him by force and make him king; but in less than twenty-four hours they required another sign, and as their carnal expectations were crossed they turned back and walked no more with him. This example is of itself sufficient to show how far natural faith will go, and how infinitely short of saving faith it must fall; but other examples are given in abundance. On another occasion when they had witnessed his power in casting out devils, and had blasphemously charged him with casting out devils by Beelzebub, they came to him and said, Master, we would see a sign from thee! How astonishing, when they had seen him heal the sick, give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and raise the dead, that they should still require a sign; but such is the nature of natural or dead faith, like our natural bodies, which in regard to spiritual things are dead, though they may be fed with earthly food to overflowing; yet they require to be fed again and again, because these bodies are perishable, and the food on which they are sustained is earthly, perishable food. Faith produced by moral suasion is always of this perishable kind: the devils possess it, and it makes them tremble; but it never made them love God, nor can it work by love nor purify the heart – Jesus answered them: “Au evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of the prophet Jonas:” and this sign being the same that Paul preached, as we shall presently show, was not adapted to their carnal capacity, they stumbled at it, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed. Still they required a sign! And when they had accused him before Pilate, and by perjury obtained the sentence of death against him, they continued to reiterate their demand for a sign, and proposed that if he would come down from the across to which they had nailed him, they would believe on him. The very terms on which they proposed to believe would, if acceded to by our Lord, have destroyed the foundation of the faith of God’s elect, as it would have inevitably overturned the whole work of salvation by the death of Christ, and raised au insuperable barrier to Paul’s preaching Christ crucified, as the sign of the prophet Jonah. But, although Jesus came not down from the cross to gratify their carnal lust for that description of testimony, yet there were such evidences given as could not fail to produce rational conviction on their minds, and such as caused them to cry out, Surely, this was the Son of God! They could in no other way rationally account for the darkened sun, the quaking earth, the rending rocks, the opening graves and rising dead. If it were possible that a rational conviction could ever lead to a genuine faith, we should suppose this instance was sufficient to secure all the advantages that could result from natural conviction. But alas! how vain and unproductive of recociliation to God! No Sooner had the darkness of three hours Subsided, the dire convulsions of nature ceased to agitate their guilty senses, than they went on to procure a Roman guard to watch the sepulchre; and when they learned that he was risen from the dead they hired the guard to testify that his disciples had stolen him away while they were sleeping.
If to convince man as an intelligent being, that the scriptures are the testimony of God, and that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior of his people, by presenting arguments or signs to their natural minds, were sufficient to make them true converts to the christian religion, what deficiency was there in the signs which were presented to the carnal Jews Or what superior facilities have the workmongers of this nineteenth century, for carrying home to the human mind stronger natural conviction than were produced by raising the dead, casting out devils, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, stilling the tempest, withholding the light of the sun at noon, convulsing the earth, rending the rocks, opening the graves, and causing the slumbering tenants thereof to come forth Has the natural mind of man become more susceptible to the light of truth? Are the natural prejudices of the human heart more easily overcome by reason, or do these modern daubers with untempered mortar really believe that they possess wisdom and Power superior to that of Jesus the Head of the church?
Among the Gentiles also there are those whose characters and condition correspond with the description given of the Jews; these also require signs, external evidence, carnal conviction, or what is more classically termed moral suasion, such as may be set home by arguments, books, tracts, excitements, enlisting selfish feelings, fame, honor, respectability, and the hope of avoiding punishment and securing a reward. Perfectly adapted to the carnal wishes of such, is the coming and development of that Wicked, whom the Lord will consume with the spirit of his mouth, and destroy with the brightness of his coming. Even him whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteous ness in them that perish. The two-horned beast mentioned in Rev. xiii. 11, is also represented as exercising like external evidence, addressed to and taking effect on the natural powers of the human mind. “And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them that dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by means of these miracles which he bath power to do in the sight of the beast. Rev. xiii. 12-14.
[TO BE CONTINUED.]
New Vernon, N. Y.,
Feb. 1, 1843
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 2
Pages 141 – 145