Brother Beebe: - If it will not be too much trouble, please give us your views on Matthew 18:10, especially on the last clause. Also on Matthew 13:26, and oblige your unworthy brother.
Reuben D. Compton
Near Hardinsburgh, Kentucky
Reply: - The first text on which we are desired to express our views is as follows: “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10) These words are spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ in solemn admonition to his disciples, warning them of the magnitude of the wickedness of offendmg any of the little ones of his kingdom. “Woe to the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come: but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” The world is hostile to the kingdom of Christ, and in it the saints must have tribulation; there is a needs be for this, and God has assured us that these things shall, with all other things, work together for good to them that love God, and who are called according to his purpose. Yet the final benefit of tribulations, offences, and opposition from the world, under the over-ruling power and providence of God to the saints, shall not shield the world, nor the men of the world, from the retributive woe pronounced on them because of offences. It were better that a mill stone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. But these offences shall not only come from the outside world, or that portion of the children of men who make no profession of godliness, but from that worldly, earthly, sensual and devilish nature which all the saints have to grapple with while here in the flesh. “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary one to the other.” And as the apostle James reminds us, from these lusts which war against the Spirit in all the children of God while in the flesh, comes wars, and even fightings among the children of God. And if any man flatters himself that he has not these sinning lusts or hostile propensities, which war against the Spirit, in him, he deceiveth himself, and the truth is not in him. Therefore Paul, in his address to the Elders of Ephesus, says, “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29,30). And our Redeemer himself also warned his disciples that a man’s foe should be those of his own household. In this 18th chapter of Matthew, Christ as the Head of his Church, and King of saints, has laid down his law for the government and discipline of his members, and accompanied his precepts with the most solemn warnings and admonitions, as in our text, he says to his disciples, “Take heed.” Their most profound attention is required, dangers stand thick, which are to be apprehended; no heedless or careless deportment will be approved. The most important consequences are involved. “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones.” The Saviour would not command them to take heed if there were no danger of their doing that which he warns them to avoid. It is true that the incorruptible spirit of life and immortality in them which is born of incorruptible seed by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever, can not sin, because it is born of God, and therefore would require no warning, if it were not that those who are the subjects of this heavenly birth have also a carnal or fleshly nature which is born of the flesh, and which is of corruptible seed, and which warreth against the Spirit.
The old man, or carnal nature is to be put off, guarded against, and crucified with its affections and lusts, and the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness, is to be put on. It is therefore in consideration of our depraved earthly natures that Christians are the subjects of these solemn admonitions; for with their mind (having the mind of Christ) they serve the law of God, but with the flesh, the law of sin.
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones. The little ones intended are those who bear the characteristics set forth by the Master in the commencement of the chapter. “And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily, I say unto you, except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven,” etc. The disciples then, including the apostles, must become as little children, as an indispensable qualification to fill their position in the kingdom of heaven; and thus qualified they will assume to be but little children, - honest, simple, dependent, confiding and humble. To offend then the humble child-like disciple of the Lord Jesus was what even Christians were and are so liable to do, as to require this explicit warning from the Lord. To offend, however, in this scriptural sense of the word, means to cast a stumbling block, or an impediment in their way, to mislead them, or to cause them to offend, or to do that whereby they are diverted from the pathway of holiness, or thrown out of the fellowship of the saints, or deprived of any of their spiritual privileges, or in any way to do them wrong. This being what we understand to be the admonition given to the primitive disciples, and binding on the saints now, and throughout all time, we will pass to notice the more weighty considerations by which our Lord enforced the admonition, which will bring us to the part of the text on which brother Compton more especially desired our views.
“For I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.” The principle difficulty with many has been to understand in what sense the word angels is used in this text. Many interpretations have been offered by the learned, and the curious, which we hold to be altogether speculative, and unfounded. Some brethren, whom we highly esteem, have favored the idea that each saint, while here below, has an angel commissioned from the regions of glory, to keep a vigilant watch over them, and each has his respective angel. But we know of no scripture to sustain that idea. We know that the angel of the divine presence is always with them, and the angel of the everlasting covenant has a mediatorial charge over them; but their angels, in our text, is in the plural number, and in the possessive case, and implies that each saint has his respective angel, which is his own angel, and in communion with, and in the immediate presence of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the scriptures the term, or name, is given to the heavenly host, as to those who came to Abraham, to Joshua, to Hagar, and others, and appeared to the shepherds on the plains of Judea to announce the birth of our Redeemer; it is also applied to the ministers of the gospel, as messengers of the Lord; it is applied also to the devil, and his angels, or spirits which are in the world. But the sense in which it is used in our text is to designate the spiritual life, or identity, of every saint. A spirit without a material body is called an angel. The Sadducees denied the resurrection of the body, and they also denied the existence of angels, or spirits; but the Pharisees confessed both. In this sense the term was applied to Peter, when the damsel announced to the disciples that Peter was at the gate knocking for admission, they supposing it to be impossible that Peter was personally there in body, said, “It is his angel,” by which they evidently meant it was his spirit, without the material body of flesh, or in distinction from his fleshly body, which they supposed was chained, and strongly guarded in the prison. These instances will suffice to show that the spiritual identity of the saints, in distinction from their earthly bodies, are denominated angels. So also when Christ shall come to raise up their bodies, at the last day, all his holy angels shall come with him, and their risen bodies shall meet them in the air, and so shall they be forever with the Lord. Paul says, “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh; yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more,” etc. (II Cor. 5:16) As the members of Christ’s spiritual body, the saints are only known as a spiritual people; neither male, or female, Jew or Gentile, bond, or free, but they are all one in Christ Jesus. They are not identified as members of Christ by that which is born of the flesh, but by that which is born of the Spirit, and consequently, is spirit, or angel. The spiritual life of the Christian is, therefore, what we understand to be intended in our text by their angels. These do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. Our fleshly eyes have never seen the Father at any time, nor can the eyes of our natural understanding, by searching, find him out; for the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, for they are spiritually discerned. But while the eye hath not seen, the ear hath not heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for them that love him, God has revealed these things to his saints by his spirit; for the spirit (or new man) searcheth all things: yea, the deep things of God. Yet he himself is judged of no man.
Understanding then that the new man, the spiritual man, the inner man, is the angel, and this angel is the life which was given us of the Father, is it not a manifest truth in the experience of all the saints that this life is hid with Christ in God, and that in him they do always behold the face of the Father - that they have fellowship with the Father, and with his son, Jesus Christ. In heaven they do always behold the face of my Father. And certainly to see him, to behold him, is a heaven of heavens, to his saints; for in his presence is fulness of joy, and at his right hand are pleasures forevermore. God hath raised us up together with Christ, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. And he hath shined in our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. For Christ is the image of the invisible God. He is the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of his person.
When we contemplate the near and vital relationship of the children to their Father, God, and their intercourse at his throne, the view they have, by faith, of his awful majesty, does it not clothe the admonition of our text with inexpressable importance? They are in communion with the eternal God, they dwell under the shadow of the Almighty, what fearful responsibilities rest on us, brethren, that we should take heed that we offend them not! “Touch not,” saith he, “mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm; for he that touches them touches the apple of mine eye. Could we, as Christians, always realize how precious God’s little ones are in his sight, would it not lead us to love one another with a pure heart fervently? Every act of kindness, love, sympathy, and brotherly kindness done to them, even to give to one of them a cup of water in his name, is done to Jesus. “I was hungry, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; for inasmuch as ye have done it to these my disciples, ye have done it unto me.” Saul was persecuting Jesus by persecuting and breathing slaughter against his disciples. They are one with him, and he makes their cause his own.
The other text, Matthew 13:26, reads, “But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.” This is part of a parable which Jesus spake to his disciples; the object of which was to instruct them in regard to his kingdom. He has not, as some have supposed, applied this parable to the peopleing of this world, but he has applied it to his kingdom, which is not of this world. In this parable he says, “The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.” This parable, we think, has a primary application to national Israel, in the type, according to Isaiah 5:1-7, but in its anti-typical design, it is peculiarly applicable to the kingdom of heaven, under the gospel dispensation. The house of Israel, as a vineyard of the Lord, was planted wholly of a right seed, but Israel became amalgamated with the heathen, and, as the degenerate fruit of a strange vine. So in the organization of the gospel church in her visible and external order and ordinances, it was planted wholly of a right seed. John the Baptist, as the harbinger sent before the face of the Messiah, and to make ready a people prepared of the Lord, when he announced that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, refused to make any ready who did not bring forth fruit meet for repentance. And when the Church was organized on the day of Pentecost, there were no tares among the wheat. They gladly received the word, and were baptized, and added to the church. And they all continued steadfastly in the apostolic doctrine, and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. These all showed by their fruit that they were the production of pure seed, for they were all of one mind, and they had the mind of Christ. Another evidence of the purity of the wheat we infer from the fact that the Lord was himself the sower, and he never sows any but pure seed. The Lord, we read, added to them daily of such as should be saved. In the early days of the gospel church there was but little apparent encouragement offered to carnal men to identify themselves with the saints; for the persecution raged violently against all who professed to be disciples of Jesus. The exposure to disfranchisement, confiscation, imprisonment, cruel scourging, banishment and death, was not palatable to ungodly men, and it hardly seemed probable in the judgment of men, that the devil would attempt to sow his tares among the Lord’s wheat. Like seed in the earth before the blade springs up, the productions of the field are undeveloped. “But when it was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.” So in the progress of the gospel kingdom, in her visible order, the enemy has sown among the wheat, and this has been done while men slept. Darkness suits the workers of iniquity, their works are works of darkness, and they love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. And darkness, or night, with the saints is the time when they are apt to sleep, or yield to dreams of security, unconscious of what the enemy is about. In baseless fabrications, or delusive dreams, they some times fancy the Lord is bringing in his redeemed, and they talk of great revivals. New instrumentalities are found to be amazingly successful in bringing converts into a religious profession, the church grows as with the corpulency of dropsy, and while men sleep, they dream that this is all gold, silver, and precious stone, and can not be persuaded that it is hay, wood, and stubble.
The converts, when developed by their fruits, prove to be only graceless proselytes, and though like tares among wheat, they may grow among the members of the church of God, they will never bear, or bring forth, fruits unto holiness. They serve to hinder the growth of the wheat, and to produce disorder and confusion in the church, and at last they are destined to be separated from the pure grain, and their end is to be burned. The important lesson taught by this parable seems to be that Christians should not sleep, as do others, but be vigilant, knowing that their adversary, the devil, goeth about as a roaring lion; and that it is his policy to corrupt the order of the church by mingling his tares among the wheat, to produce dissensions and disturb the union and fellowship of the people of God.
Again, we are taught that the religion of our Lord Jesus Christ is not a mere habit that may be acquired by association with Christians, for although unregenerated sinners may have a name to live when they are dead, though they may be held nominally in fellowship with the saints, and allowed to participate in the privileges of the church, it will not change them from tares to wheat, nor qualify them to bring forth fruit unto God. Their fruit shall ultimately demonstrate that they are the production, religiously, of vile seed, which an enemy has sown. The church had not been organized long before such tares appeared among the wheat, as, Demas and Alexander mentioned in II Tim. 4, Hymeneus and Philetus, Diotrephes, and an host of Judaizing teachers, of whom Paul said, “I would that they were cutoff.” And, we are most solemnly warned that in the last days should come perilous times, when many should come, who have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof; and of the sort which creep into houses, and lead captive the silly, etc.; when these tares shall turn away their ears and be turned unto fables. But the church will be more or less infested by this sort until the final separation shall take place, at the end of the world. But to the saints it is consoling to know that the foundation of God doth nevertheless stand fast, having this seal, “The Lord knoweth them that are His.” The separations shall be made under his supervision, and every trembling saint shall be gathered with the wheat, and all the tares shall be bound in bundles, and cast into the fire.
The tares are the only description of religious professors who feel no doubts or fears in regard to their position, while every saint, with fear and trembling, asks every day in secret ejaculations of the soul - Lord, am I thine, or am I not?
February 15, 1863
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 5
Pages 315 - 323