Dear Sir: Will you do a subscriber the favor to give your views, through the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, on Matthew X. 34-36? I have had much meditation on the subject, and shall be very much pleased to hear from you on it. A compliance with this request, at your earliest convenience, will much oblige your Baptist brother,
A. H. CHALMERS.
Georgetown, Texas, Jan. 10, 1860.
Reply: The text proposed for consideration read thus, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.”
The carnal Israelites in regard to the predictions in the Old Testament, of the coming of the Messiah, and of his character and work, had from the letter of the word inferred that he was coming to set up a temporal kingdom, to restore Israel to her national independence, and to preside literally on the throne of David, forever, and by his power and majesty would awe the hostile nations to peace, or destroy them as independent nations and consecrate their gain unto himself, for the enlargement of his own dominion. When they read that his name should be called the Prince of Peace, &c., they seemed naturally to infer that the peace which he should command, was such as they had enjoyed under the old covenant when the Lord delivered them from the sword, the pestilence and the famine. That is, that it should be of a temporal nature. But when he explained this matter to the disciples, they were astonished; and, although instructed by him on the subject, were very slow to comprehend the precise meaning of his words. At one time they asked him if at that time he intended to restore the kingdom to Israel, and at a still later period they said, “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel,” that is from the Roman government.
It is very true that Jesus Christ is, in a spiritual sense, the Prince of Peace, and that 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, even forever. (Isaiah ix. 7.) And that he is the peace-maker and giver to his people. Having come to redeem them from the curse and dominion of the law, to satisfy the claims of eternal justice on their behalf, to carry their sorrows, bear the chastisement of their peace, that with his stripes they should be healed. He has made peace by the blood of his cross. That is, he has made reconciliation or atonement for them, and he has broken down the wall of partition which was between the Jews and Gentiles. Of twain to make one new man, and so making peace.
Also, in an experimental sense, all subjects of his saving power and grace, when they receive the atonement, experimentally, do have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom. v. 1.) And truly great peace have they that love his law, and nothing shall offend them.
But in the sense of the text on which our views are called for, he did not come to send peace on the earth; but his coming was unavoidably to have an opposite effect. The work which he came to do would certainly draw out against him the most virulent opposition and persecution. He came to judge and to make war, and with his bow and his crown to ride forth conquering and to conquer. But as his kingdom is not of this world, neither himself nor his subjects were to use carnal weapons in their warfare. For our weapons are not carnal, but spiritual, and mighty through God to the pulling down of the strongholds. No war was made by him upon the persons or property of the enemies or his cause and kingdom; but instead of rendering to them evil for evil, when he was reviled he reviled not again; and he taught his disciples by his precepts and by his example to love their enemies, to do good, or act kindly toward those who should persecute and spitefully use them. This doctrine he exemplified when on the cross; he prayed for his murderers, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Still his coming was designed to send a sword, or to send divisions upon earth; and such division as should develop the awful depravity of the human heart, and expose its enmity against God. “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth.” He had not come to new-model earthly governments, nor to interfere with secular affairs of the kingdoms of this world, nor to authorize any of his subjects to usurp authority or vice-gerency over the political institutions of this world. He had not come to decide the rights of Caesar to demand tribute from the citizens of his provinces, nor to regulate the relations of earthly thrones and powers one to another so as to place them upon more amicable terms with each other, nor to give directions or models for human governments, so as to avoid the contentions and strife of conflicting nations. Neither had he come to so change the arrangements of heaven, or so modify the providential government of heaven, as to suit it to the taste and feelings of the children of this world. He had not come to reconcile the world or the devil to his cause or kingdom, to his doctrine or the institutions of his spiritual kingdom. Neither his doctrine, nor his examples, were calculated to please or satisfy the carnal sons of men, but rather to irritate and draw them out into opposition.
“I am not come to send peace; but a sword.” Not such a sword, however, as earthly warriors use, for he admonished his disciples that those who used that kind of sword should perish by it. But the sword which they were to use is “The sword of the Lord.” It is described as a very sharp sword, and having two edges, so as to cut both ways; and it is mighty, through Christ, in putting to flight the armies of the aliens. This sword cannot be obtained from the armory which produced those rifles for which Mr. Beecher and others took up contributions in the Puritanic churches of New England and Brooklyn, a short time since, for we are informed that it proceeds out of the mouth of him on whose head were many crowns, and on whose vesture and thigh was written, King of kings and Lord of lords; whose name is called, THE WORD OF GOD. This sword was considered indispensable by the inspired apostle, when he admonished the saints, saying, “And above all things, taking the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Above all things. Whatever else we may lack, we cannot do without this sword. As David said of the sword which he found in the House of God, we may also say in truth, “There is no other sword like it.”
In the immediate sense of the text, we presume that our Lord used the word sword, figuratively, to signify that his coming to earth, and his work, and the commission which he would give to his servants should occasion great and violent opposition, contention and separations among men. As he himself encountered the wrath of wicked men and devils, so his followers should endure the same. These things had been done to him, in the green tree, and should be repeated on his disciples, in the dry tree. The opposition which he encountered was not unexpected. He knew full well, and told his disciples beforehand, that he should be delivered into the hands of the wicked, and of what they would do to him. And “Truly against the holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, were gathered together both Herod and Pontius Pilate with the men of Israel, and the Gentiles, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done,” and as Peter charged on the Jews, “Him,” Jesus, “being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.”
So also did he fully understand to what extent his children should be persecuted, harrassed and opposed by the dragon, the beasts, and the false prophets and all that they should endure from the world, the flesh and the devil. He came not to prevent this, but to be the occasion of its development.
“For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother,” &c. Not that christianity, or the Spirit of Christ in his people, will make children less dutiful, obedient or affectionate to their parents, by any mean; for that is not the case, as we see by the admonitions which are given by the apostles, to children to honor and obey their parents, servants their masters, and subjects their superiors in authority.
And the inspired writer portrays the most unchristian character to be one who is without natural affections. How then does his coming set a man at variance with his father,? &c. The version of this given Luke xii. 52, 53, may serve to illustrate viz: “For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three, the father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” See also Micah viii. 6. From these passages we learn that families will be divided by the discriminating grace of God, in calling some of them to a knowledge and love of the truth, and leaving others in their enmity to oppose them. In this application, we have very many examples where those who are born of God, and taught by the Spirit, have to encounter the opposition of fathers, mothers, and near and dear kindred in the flesh, and in some instances, according to the word, some have literally delivered up their own children to be put to death for their faith in and fidelity to Christ; but great has been their reward in heaven. Whether by the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law anything allegorical or figurative is intended, we will not presume to decide; but of this we are certain, that families have often been divided, and have become embittered against those of their number who, for the sake of truth, have renounced their traditions.
“And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” Not only in the division and alienation of families, but every child of God has more or less experience of this last expression in his own person: the flesh warring against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh; the world, with its alluring vanities; Satan with his temptations, but more than either of them, does the christian stand in fear of himself. O, says he, my carnal, wicked nature, my wretched, wandering mind, the pride of my heart, and my proneness to depart from the precepts of the Lord; are foes of my own household more potent, more subtle and mischievous than all others combined. “O, wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
In connection with this subject we probably ought to offer a remark on Luke xiv. 26, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” This passage, of course, cannot mean that we are literally to hate those of our kindred whom God has commanded us to love and honor. But we are to loathe that corrupt depraved nature, of which we are born of the flesh. Our love to God will centre only in that which is pure and holy; and that love which only cleaves to the earth and earthly things cannot qualify us to be disciples of Jesus. We hate fallen, polluted, depraved human nature in our nearest and dearest relations, even as we hate it in ourselves. Not in a manner that would lessen our filial affection and kindest regard for them as parents or husbands, wives or children. When we learn what it is to hate our own lives, from a deep-felt sense of our human depravity, we shall the better understand in what sense we must hate those who are our flesh and our blood. To be a disciple of Jesus, we must love him supremely, and be ready to forsake all, however near or dear by the ties of affinity or consanguinity, and to make any other sacrifice if it be necessary, to follow him. We should be ready to part with every fleshly gratification, and prefer Jerusalem above our chief joys. We cannot serve two masters; we cannot serve God and mammon. If we sow to the flesh, we shall of the flesh reap corruption; but if we through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the flesh, we shall live, and if we sow to the Spirit, we shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
To our “Baptist brother” we will say, according to your request we have given such views as we have on the subject of your inquiry. If they shall, under the blessing of God, serve to elucidate the subject to your mind, or to edify others, we will have occasion to be humble, and to give thanks to God. Should any others have a more clear light on the subject, we hope they will let it shine.
June 1, 1860.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 353 – 358