“Salt is good; but if the salt have lost its saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.” – Mark ix. 50.
An explanation of the above passage, through our columns, has been requested by a friend in Pennsylvania. The preceding verse reads thus: “For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.” Doctor Gill has favored the idea that the salting with fire has reference to the fire of hell, into which the enemies of God shall finally be cast: but he has not informed us in what manner he has avoided the doctrine of universal damnation, which seems to be implied in his view of the subject. How everyone shall be salted with the fire of hell, and yet some escape the vengeance of eternal fire through the blood and righteousness of the Redeemer, involves a paradox of no easy solution. And if the fire of hell, in the sense in which the doctor has defined it, be the salt intended in the text, it is hard to comprehend how such salt is good, and how it may lose its saltness, or why the disciples were charged to have salt in themselves.
The whole discourse of our Lord mentioned in the connection of the text, was addressed to the twelve disciples whom our Lord named apostles, and the same unto whom he had said, Mathew v. 13: “Ye are the salt of the earth; but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.” These disciples had been disputing among themselves upon a subject which is hardly settled yet among some of the disciples of our Lord, viz: “Who should be the greatest.” And a reaching after power which did not belong to them, was detected in the answer of John, that he and his colleagues had forbidden one whom they found casting out devils, because he followed not them. Occasion was afforded for our Lord to instruct them concerning the order of his kingdom. In these instructions he informed them that “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.” He also, as we understand this subject, instructed them how order should be preserved in his kingdom, among the members of the body, or church. The members of the church are set as the members of the human body, and each to supply its appropriate place, so that the head may not say to the foot, I have no need of thee, nor can the ear say, Because I am not the eye I am not of the body; “For as the body is one, and bath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body,” &c. – 1 Cor. xii. 12, 13. Keeping in view this figurative description of the church, the discipline shall dispose of offenders in the church, without respect to the stations which they may occupy. When Judas, who was one of the twelve to whom these instructions were given, should offend, he was to be cut off, and cast out as salt that had lost its savor, and his having had part of the ministry, being numbered with the apostles should not entitle him to the fellowship of the saints any longer than he walked according to the order of the gospel. And if Paul or an angel from heaven should preach to the body, any other gospel than that which had been preached, let him be accursed or cast out. However important their standing in the church, when any offend by any departure from the laws of Christ, or from time faith once delivered to the saints, they are to be dealt with according to the rule. By the expression “It is better for thee to enter into life maimed, &c., than having two hands [or a perfect set of members], to be cast into hell,” we are not to understand that the church will enter into her ultimate glory with spots, blemishes, or imperfections; or that she is liable to sink down to the perdition of the ungodly, by her connection with disaffected members here; for such a conclusion would seriously conflict with the plain testimony of the scriptures. “All that the Father giveth me shall come unto me, and him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” – John vi. And, “I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” – John x. 27. Salt is good; literally speaking it is very useful to season our food, and to preserve from putrefaction that unto which it is applied. So the apostles of the Lamb, and all the members of Christ’s mystical body are useful, and the gifts on them bestowed are for, the comfort and edification of the church of God. “Ye are the salt of the earth.” For the elect’s sake the world standeth, the wheels of nature continue to revolve, and shall continue until all the elect be gathered into the fold of Christ. But, they are the salt in reference to their connection with the body of Christ, preserving the pure testimony of truth, when and where the body is in danger of being corrupted by false doctrine, or unauthorized institutions.
As salt acts upon flesh to preserve it, so the gifts of the Spirit act upon the church to preserve her from the corrupting influence of the doctrines of men and of devils, with which she must frequently come in contact. And that spiritual food on which the saints are fed, is seasoned through the gifts by which it is communicated to them. They receive it with a peculiar relish when delivered in its simplicity, as the Holy Ghost giveth utterance to his messengers. But if the salt have lost its saltness, wherewith will ye season it? The question arises, if the apostles and ministers of Christ, in possession of the gifts conferred on them by the Holy Ghost for the edification of the body of Christ, be the salt, how can they lose their savor or saltness unless they fall from grace, according to the doctrines of arminians? To which we may reply, that when such ministers of Christ depart either from the testimony of the truth or from the order of the gospel, they lose their savory usefulness to the church of God: “I keep my body under,” says Paul, “lest while I preach to others, myself become a castaway.” Not a castaway from the inheritance which he possessed in Christ Jesus his Lord; for he was persuaded that neither life, nor death, nor angels, nor things present or to come, should be able to separate him from the love of God in Christ Jesus his Lord; but a castaway from his usefulness in the church. To illustrate, let us suppose that Paul, instead of warring with hi flesh, and keeping his body under, had indulged in the lusts of the flesh; had gratified the depraved appetite of nature, and eaten and drank with the drunken; had become disorderly in his conduct, a railer, a striker, a brawler, a drunkard, or an heretic, could he continue as a useful minister of Christ, and an example to the flock under such circumstances? By no means: for the Lord had given charge, that if the right hand, or right eye should offend, it must be cut off and cast away from the fellowship of the church, or, if not, the whole body would be involved in hell fire. By hell fire in this case we understand the same as that mentioned by James iii. 6: “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature, and it is set on fire of hell.” into this description of hell fire, or tormenting strife and disorder, the whole body of the church must be plunged when she would retain in her connection those who walk not circumspectly, who conform not to the spirit and doctrine of the gospel. How many instances of this kind have our churches witnessed in these last days! Members who have held important stations in the body, as right hands, or right eyes; hands to labor and bear the burdens of fatigue and toil; eyes for discernment, penetration, wisdom, &c., and because they have been so very useful in the church, they have been suffered to bring in heresies and corruptions, without feeling the lash of discipline: the notion has been indulged in that they cannot be spared; if we withdraw our fellowship from them we shall lack their hands to labor among us; we shall suffer for want of eyes to see with; as we were wont to depend on them for counsel, &c.: therefore they have been sustained in connection with the church like members of the natural body when mortified, until infection of the limb has reached the vitals and thrown dire confusion into every part of the church. The King himself has decided that it is better to cut off such right hands, pluck out such right eyes, than that the whole church be plunged into such disorder and fire of hell.
Salt may become unsavory by accumulating filth, so that instead of seasoning our food it would ruin it; and instead of preserving that to which it is applied, it would render it unfit for use. Even so it is with those who are denominated the salt of the earth, when they depart from the truth and are turned unto fables; when they cease to preach the doctrine of Christ, and preach for doctrine the commandments of men; when they cease to preach the gospel, and labor to sustain the institutions of men, they have lost their saltness; their preaching becomes insipid to the saints; it is sickening, having no savory relish: and for this cause many are sickly among the churches, and some have fallen asleep. And when such is the case – when those who have preached Christ crucified, with whom we have taken sweet counsel, become disorderly in their conduct or corrupt in their public improvements, their savor being lost, wherewith will ye season it? The lack of saltness in this sense cannot be supplied by anything we may provide. There is nothing in the world that can supply the place of salt: nor can any doctrine be in vented which will feed, comfort, edify and build up the saints of God in the absence of the gospel of the blessed Savior. “It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men.” Our Lord has shown that it is hazardous to the peace of the church to retain them in fellowship; they must be cast out, and even in the world, or in anti-christian connection with the world, if they are subjects of grace, they are good for nothing but to be trodden under foot of men. The world or worldly churches have but little or no use for them, and they are destined to learn that the way of transgressors is hard. We could give numerous instances which are within our knowledge for illustration, such as a Grennell, a Ball, a Matthias, a Judas, and a thousand others who having lost their savor as ministers of Christ, have become detached from the church of God, and are now trodden under foot of the swine among whom they mingle. Christians can no longer hear them preach with satisfaction or edification, and the world have men to whom they give the preference, so that those who have observed lying vanities, find by sad experience, that they have forsaken their own mercies.
Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another. Let the truth of God dwell richly in the hearts of his people, his ministers and all who stand in connection with the church of God. Be not carried about by divers and strange doctrines. “Abide in me,” says Christ: as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, neither can his disciples bear fruit except they abide in him as their living Vine. Try the spirits – prove all things; and, “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God’s speed.” And as the peace and fellowship of the saints is predicated on the reception of the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship – so, in pursuing the course marked out by the great Apostle and High Priest of our profession, the saints shall have peace one with another.
Before we close our remarks it may be proper to offer a few observations on the verse preceding the text we have under consideration. “For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.” God has chosen his people in the furnace of affliction, and Peter has exhorted them not to think it strange concerning the fiery trials which are to try them: it is the common lot of all God’s people. The Sun of Righteousness is like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap; and he shall sit as a Refiner and Purifier of silver: and he shall purify the Sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. – Mal. iii. 2, 3.
As salt is intended to preserve and keep from putrefaction that unto which it is applied, so are the fiery trials which the saints endure calculated to refine them – burn up their pollution and dross, their hay, wood and stubble, that they may be saved so as by fire. Every one of the children of God shall realize the saving benefits of that refining fire which is ordained to purify the sons of Levi: and these fiery trials are as salutary in their effects on the children of God, as salt is literally when applied to our provisions. Every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. The saints being by fire salted, preserved from confidence in the flesh – from all alloy, shall offer their offerings or sacrifices in righteousness, or salted with salt. Our Lord seems to allude to the law concerning offering, Lev. ii. 13: “And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering; with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt.” The offerings of the saints, when offered in righteousness shall be offered as the law directs, and as typified by the offerings under the ceremonial law. As the bodies of the saints are to be presented as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which of our reasonable service, they must be kept under: we are to walk circumspectly, in. all the ordinances of the house of God blameless, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Our sacrifices of thanksgiving, the incense of our prayers and devotion before the Lord must be salted with the rich savor of the spiritual gifts bestowed upon the saints.
New Vernon, N. Y.,
April 1, 1843
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 2
Pages 248 – 254